Sunday, February 26, 2006

Another bastard criminal in the world...

Thank God for my credit card company. I just got a call from them asking to verify some charges on my card lately.

"$30.00 to the Seattle Mariners?" Guilty as charged.

"3.48 to Sun Systems?" Huh. I don't think so. I don't remember doing that.. "Hold on, let me check...They're in Taiwan." Oh. Well, no.

"How about one cent to a company in New York?" Absolutely not. I'd remember putting a cent on my credit card.

I'm a statistic, folks! Somebody lifted my credit card number.

Doing a little thought about this, it has to have been stolen from on-line. This is the credit card I almost never use anymore--it's the Fun Purchase credit card. It wasn't somebody going through my trash, or it wouldn't have been used by a Taiwanese company or a New York company. In fact, that's how they caught them...they figured it was unlikely that I'd use my credit card in New York and Taipei at the same time. They'd already shut down my card when I tried to buy Padres tickets with it last night, and for that I'm thankful. There were only four fraudulent charges on it--the most expensive or which was for $6.17. It appears clear that they were testing the card out and going to use it for big stuff later.

Thankfully, there is no damage to any of my other accounts (as of now). I've called the other credit card company and my bank, just in case. I've changed my passwords. And I've put a fraud alert out on my credit report. Still, at this writing, it looks like it was localized to the one card, and stopped before any serious damage could be done.

Hey! Fuckers in Taiwan and New York! GET A JOB like I have! You know, doing valuable work that doesn't hurt people, and then getting a real paycheck!

I'll feel better tomorrow (when I'm not a Republican anymore), but right now, I'd like to put you in a burlap sack alongside the guy who broke into my wife's car and kick you all repeatedly in the nuts.

See? You can trust me.

Taken from RealSuperGirl...

You Are 20% Evil

You are good. So good, that you make evil people squirm.
Just remember, you may need to turn to the dark side to get what you want!


Perhaps I should put in some work to increase the score...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Way to go, Ladies!

Congrats to Kenyon's women's hoop squad, who held #1 seeded Wittenberg scoreless for the last 8:02 of the game en route to a 52-37 semifinal victory on Wittenberg's home floor.

Kenyon takes on Denison for the NCAC Championship (and automatic NCAA bid) Saturday afternoon. Last year, Kenyon had the #1 seed and went down to Denison in the championship, dashing my NCAA hopes.

This year, it's personal. Dammit.

This season, Denison has beaten us twice: by two points at their place and by one point at ours. But we shall endure on the neutral court.

Go Ladies. Stomp the Big Red.

UPDATE: Well, damn. We lose the final to the Big Red for the second year in a row.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Biathlon

SPOILER ALERT (aka GREG ALERT):

Don't read this if you're Greg and you want to be surprised by the tapes you'll be given in about 48 hours.

Two things I noticed watching the biathlon today on TiVo:

1. How is it that countries with stricter gun control can beat us?
2. I don't like the look of a German carrying a flag and a gun simultaneously.

Other Olympic observations:

The best Olympic coverage is on overnight--be it USA or CNBC or whatever. It's almost all Swankette and I have been watching. When it's live, they have to focus on, you know, the sporting event. I swear I haven't had to fast forward through more than one or two human interest stories the whole fortnight.

Bummed our male curlers lost. Damn Canadians! But the Finns are just too tough. I like them to win it all now. And if I'm wrong, who'll remember?

Cross Country skiing is a lot more fun to watch than I thought it would be.

I missed pairs figure skating, which is too bad. It's the sexiest sport ever.

There should be Winter Olympics every year. It does a great job of filling in the space between the Super Bowl and Opening Day.

A bunch of my fellow Christians

seem to have gotten it right. I hope this starts a trend.

Received a note from my Congressman.

Unfortunately, it's not about educational equity, the issue I wrote him about. I guess he just added me to the mailing list for whatever he sends out.

It's like my friend who wrote Donny Osmond a marriage proposal when she was 8, but all she got back was instructions on how to join the fan club (and how much to pay).

Better than nothing or worse than nothing?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This could get to my head

Let's suppose you were facing a big crisis, and wanted to know "what does it mean to say that there are various kinds of truth?"

Let's suppose that, in looking for this answer, you turned to the internet first. (I mean, screw your teachers and clergy. Go to Google!)

The #1 page: Bertrand Russell.
#2? Buddha (okay, not so much him as an Australian student answering questions about him).

Next comes a broken link, so we skip that...

and #3 is TeacherRefPoet.

If I were Jim, I'd write a funny blog entry trying to actually answer the question--start my own series. But this doesn't happen to me often enough for me to do as well as Jim does.

Most searches that come here are along these lines:

sue bird bare feet
sue bird boyfriend
diana taurasi gay
diana taurasi boyfriend
diana taurasi girlfriend
observations teacher form
observations student form
i hate steven singer

That's why it was so cool to see that I can be up there with Russell and Buddha.

Meme as blog CPR

Pankleb has hit me with the "7 songs" meme. And since it's been so very long since I've posted much, I'll use it to try to jump start things. Also, to avoid work.

"The rules: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to."

Well, mostly I've been listening to Jack these days. No DJs means they won't spoil Olympic results. It's actually going to be hard to come up with 7. But I'll try.

"Daughters," John Mayer. This has coincidentally come up on the radio a lot lately (including, to my surprise, on Jack). I simply find it sweet, and with having a baby a tangible possibility for the first time (but not until we have a house...so settle down, potential grandparents!), the sweetness is sort of hitting home.

"One," Aimee Mann. This CD happens to be in my car right now. This cover is gorgeous. Love Aimee's voice.

Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Thoroughly enjoyed seeing this last weekend at the Seattle Symphony. I also liked the thingy they did first that I've forgotten. Schumann--not so much. And I'm trying to become more classical-music literate this year. So far...not very good results.

John Williams' Olympic Fanfare, or whatever it's called. The Olympics always remind me of it. I used to play it for my 6th grade math students before we did what I called a "Math Olympic Event."

"Moment of Forgiveness," Indigo Girls. At some point in the last 5-ish years, Amy Ray has gone all soft and sensitive. I like that.

"I Don't Want to Lose Your Love," Santana and Los Lonelyboys. They're dreadfully overplaying it on The Mountain (my usual station, on hiatus during the Olympics because they give event results). And yet--incredibly--I still like it. It's staying catchy.

"Sweet Home Alabama," Skynyrd. Not a fan of this genre, but as I struggled to come up with a 7th song, it popped into my head.

Who to tag?

Nobody. Just write it if you want to.

NBPTS

and not much to report. I'm working hard...damn hard...on my NBPTS certification, which is causing some stresses in my life. For instance, I had the PERFECT lesson on videotape. Kids engaged, thinking the big thoughts, I'm on a roll with several small groups...one of those days where I feel like the GREATEST TEACHER EVER. I give it a look late Sunday night...and...

Four big pops on the microphone in the middle. Houston, we've lost about 20 seconds of sound.

Damn. The NBPTS people give several stern warnings along the lines of "any stoppage in video or sound will be considered editing, and we'll disqualify you, you dipshit loser scumbag Cheater McCheaterpants." But this wasn't editing...it was a malfunction. And this lesson was so far ahead of all my other videotaped small group lessons that I really, really had my heart set on it. But do I risk disqualification? I was up until 1:30 AM ruminating in front of the VCR over this very issue. Does the sound cut ALL the way out? Would any reasonable person call what is so obviously a malfunction "editing"? My beautiful, marvelous, darling wife--thank GOD for her!--actually came out to visit me at 1:00 AM because I was so worked up about it.

But a few phone calls and a few internet clicks led me to see mine was a FAQ. And the answer? "NBPTS allows for malfunctions in audio of up to 30 seconds, as long as no critical content is lost." Woo-hoo! Now, all I gotta do is mention the malfunction in my paper. It's 4-5 lines I won't be able to use to talk about how cool I am, but hey, I'll take that if it means I get to use the cool lesson.

Tonight, I write the draft on that lesson.

Washington State had damned well better keep the $3500 annual bonus for national board certification, because if I find out I'm doing all this work for no financial reward, I might disembowel myself.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Weird.

I briefly served as an assistant basketball coach (both boys and girls) when I taught elementary school in Louisiana. I remember Misty--a tall, freckled, sensitive sixth grader who played very well at post.

I'm 99.9% sure that this kid is the same person as the woman eliminated from Survivor this week.

I'm getting old.

Friday, February 17, 2006

What's a bowler to do?

One problem with teaching:

As much as I like being a part of the community where I teach, sometimes it sucks. Back in my dating days, I dated a teacher from a school about a half hour away for a while. Since neither of us wanted to be seen by students, we would have to arrange to meet in neutral locations far away from either of our schools. To be honest, it felt kind of cool--like we were doing something naughty and clandestine. But if the relationship had lasted beyond a couple of months, it would have become old in a hurry.

More to the point is tonight's discovery: if it's 8:45 on a Friday night and a teacher gets an urge to go bowling with his wife for the first time since the day he proposed to her, it's hard to find anywhere to go where he won't get weird looks from alarmed students of his.

Come to that, there's nowhere to bowl on a Friday night where Swankette and I would not have brought the average age in the place up about 5 years.

And beyond that, they charge $5.60 per game or $28 per lane hour, not including shoes. And that price goes up when they start the massive lights and music.

I need to become President of the United States if for no other reason than I would live in the only home I know of with its own bowling alley.

Standing up for the alma mater

My new friend Pankleb is, as it turns out, a one-time matriculant of Oberlin College. And we're having some witty fun ragging on each other's sports programs.

Lords and Ladies! The time has come to represent!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Happy condom day

My dear friends, near and far,

Today is the day that I teach high school juniors how to put on a condom.

It's holidays like this that cause me to sit and reflect on where I am in life...and where I am is a place where I'm teaching 16-year-olds proper prophylactic uses. Not that I complain about that; it's my favorite lesson of the year (I'm guaranteed 100% attention).

Here's hoping you can celebrate the spirit of condom day with someone you love.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Ahmed

I had a bad day at work recently. A big decision didn't go my way. I was bummed and angry.

I skulked out of school and headed across town to ref a ballgame...getting there very early to beat the traffic, eager to do a little running to sweat the bad day out of my body, ready to be careful not to take my bad day out on players/coaches/fans.

I stopped into Subway to get some protein into my body.

An affable guy was making my sandwich. I learned later his name was Ahmed. He looked up at me and started friendly, polite converstation.

How's your day going?
Not good.
Not good?
Yeah. Not good.
Oh, I'm sorry. What's wrong?

--This is a point where I'm not exactly sure how to handle stuff. I mean, do I want to get into a conversation with the Subway guy? I guess I'll do it, but I'll be vague.

Oh, it's just stupid work stuff. I'll be in a better mood tomorrow.
Sure. I know bad days at work.
Yeah. We all do.
Last week, I was robbed.
Huh?
Yes.
Geez. What happened?
A man walked in. His language was terrible. He had his hand in his pocket and told me not to move. He told me to give him all the money.
(Pause. I have no response to that.)
I grew up in Afghanistan. Guns don't scare me. I've had to clean up human meat from the streets.
(I swallow and glance down at my sandwich. There are no veggies on it yet. Turkey, ham, and bacon on wheat. Three kinds of meat.)
I said to him: "I'll give you the money, but first you have to show me the gun.
Man! You've got to give him the money!
I know that now. My sister told me later.
What happened?
He wouldn't show me his gun. So I know he didn't have one. There was nobody around. I told him to show me his gun. His language was awful...you know how they can be.
(I'm not sure who "they" are, but I can forgive this indelicacy. I've never had anyone demand money of me.)
He kept telling me not to move. I took a step. He said not to move. I decided not to jump over the counter to him, in case he had a knife. I ran this way [runs back past all the sandwich makings] and headed out towards him. He doesn't scare me. I grew up in Afghanistan.
Geez! What happened?
He ran away before I could get out to him.
Dude! That's incredible! Don't ever do that again. Give him the money! It's not worth it!
I know that now. My sister told me. And the police.
Wow.
Yes. The police said I shouldn't have done it.
Wow.
Veggies?
Um...Lettuce, black olives, pickles. And mustard.
Yeah. I was mad at him for 15 minutes.
The robber? Just 15 minutes?
Yes. But I won't let myself hate him for long. I have too much to be happy about. I'm here in the United States. I work hard. I work a lot--7 days a week. I send all of my money back to my family. They're in Pakistan now.
Oh, man. Northwestern Pakistan? Up by Afghanistan? (I think of bombs. Many, many bombs.)
Yes. I must send them everything I can. I want them to join me, but right now that is not possible. It is just my sister and me. I have to work all I can. Make it a meal?
Please.
(Pause. I have grown very fond of this man very quickly.)
Do you ever do anything for yourself?
No. I can't. I have to send everything I can to my family.
What do you do for fun?
I don't have time for fun. I work seven days a week.
Couldn't you work six-and-a-half days a week and try to do something for yourself on the other half day?
No. Sometimes I take a half day, but I rest. I want to send everything I can to my family.

Not long thereafter, another customer entered. I ate my sandwich. I recentered my life. I shook Ahmed's hand. I needed to meet him.

I have an urge to send him a movie theater gift certificate or something, just to thank him for getting me back where I needed to be. But the more I think about it, the more I think that's a bad idea.

After all, he works seven days a week. He loves the United States and his family. And nothing scares him anymore. Being robbed by a thug is hardly a concern.

My bad day at work? Not so bad.

Not bad at all.

I have a new best friend.

My state representative emailed me back. It took him about 12 hours.

He started his email by saying "I'd love to have a longer conversation with you, in person." That ain't too shabby. He stated that we in Washington have a slightly different way of dividing money for schools than most other states, and that a kid in the tough part of Seattle gets way more money than a kid in a rich suburb. To me, this just solidifies that fact that it's not money, but economic segregation, that is making the difference.

I wrote him back and told him so.

He said "I thought you might have read Kozol!" (shocker) and gave me three possibilities for fixing segregation. They were:

  • Pay bonuses for teachers with National Board Certification to teach in Title I schools.
  • Place attractive programs in schools in economically challenged areas.
  • Draw boundaries for school assignment in ways to include economically disparate communities.
    The first two would help (indeed, the second is stolen from my wife's plan), but I'm skeptical that it will make the difference. The third is more promising to me, but I'm imagining the segregation of most cities' neighborhoods and trying to figure out what a map would look like that would be palateable to advantaged city parents. But even if a chunk of them flee to private schools, it'd be worth it because of the improvement of scores for the rest. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

    I'll address those in my next reply to the Representative. And I'm hoping to take him up on his offer of an in-person meeting at some point, too, although my schedule is pretty well booked until the legislative session ends.

    By the way: this guy's a Democrat. Haven't heard from my state senators yet...both Republicans.

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    I say I want a revolution...

    Just sent this out to my state senators and representative.

    Representative--

    I am a high school teacher who lives in (hometown). While I have mixed feelings about the WASL (I don't like the time I have to sacrifice fun, engaging, higher-level-thinking units for the drudgery of test prep), I am not afraid of accountability, and am willing to put in work to be sure my students all pass the WASL. My concerns about the WASL are rooted in two issues you don't mention in your recent legislative report--poverty and segregation.

    Senator/Rep, the fact is that students in richer districts perform better than students in poorer districts. While money isn't everything in education, I don't think it's nothing, either, and as long as property taxes are used to pay for schools, those inequities are only going to get worse. This troubles me. I don't understand why a first-grader in a well-off suburb deserves to have more money put into her education than a first-grader in a poor urban or rural neighborhood...but right now, that's the reality. If you take a look at WASL scores by district, the rule is clear...the more a student's house is worth, the better chance he or she has of passing the WASL. That's not acceptable in a country that values equality of opportunity.

    It's not only money which causes this, either--it's the economic segregation of our schools. When the children of go-getters are in a different (and better-funded) building then other children, that helps to exacerbate the differences. For example, where I teach, it is an assumption that all students will go to college. I wish that this were the case everywhere, but it is not. This also leads, unfortunately, to de facto racial segregation in our schools that makes Brown vs. Board of Ed an unfulfilled dream. (Indeed, we're not even living up to the "separate but equal" dream of Plessy vs. Ferguson).

    I don't have a solution to these problems, but I'm wondering if you've given them any thought. Poverty and segregation are the giant elephants in the room of education reform--but nobody wants to talk about them when they talk about solutions. What would you like to do to combat these problems in education?

    Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely,
    TRP

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Shocked.

    When I blogged about the Super Bowl a few days ago, I didn't even think that officiating would be an issue. But it's gone crazy-nuts.

    I still won't talk about it, but Blogging Ref has some things to say.

    As usual, I agree with him.

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    Super Bowl

    Congrats to the Steelers.

    --I own a Steelers hat, and I think that made the difference.

    --I've been a Seahawks fan for nearly 48 hours now, and it's caused me nothing but pain.

    --No disrespect to the Steelers, but the Hawks lost this one as much or more as the Steelers won it. I haven't seen that many dropped passes to open receivers in a big game in my life. What were there...8? 10? If we catch 3/4 of those (most notably Jackson's lazy effort that resulted in not getting the second foot down for a TD before halftime), the Seahawks have the lead, and can pound Shaun Alexander through the second half. The gameplan was there, and it was effective. The players didn't make plays.

    --Best commercials: Magic Fridge, grabbing the Bud Light from the bear, and "I work with jackasses." And the ESPN mobile ones were beautifully made. In spite of this, an off year for the ads.

    --My niece can write. I know this because she made me several Valentines with my name across them. She is in my heart even more now...

    --This means that baseball is right around the corner. I'm more excited for this season than I have been for any in years, and this is even though the Mariners will likely be below .500 again.

    I just noticed

    the NFC has won the last 8 Super Bowl coin flips.

    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    I-chi-ro!

    Ichiro said this over the summer:

    "The last game of the season reflects the team situation clearly. I had always felt that the value of a player really depends on his spirit in the last game of the season, just as the player would approach the first game of the season. On that last day I couldn't find anybody warming up on the field, and nobody said anything about it. We lost that game without spirit. What's worse, 35,000 fans came to see it, spending their money." (from here)

    I was at that game, Ichiro...and, except for Felix, it was almost unbearably spiritless, just like every non-Felix event after the All-star game. I appreciate him acknowledging my frustrations. (And I used the word "dispiriting" back then, too!)

    Nice to see he cares. I hope he stays around.

    The Seahawks

    When people ask me who my favorite NFL team is, I say that I don't really have one. I grew up in Denver a Bronco fan, and stayed one until John Elway retired. By the time they won their Super Bowls, I was already living here in Seattle. I attended one Broncos/Seahawks game at the Kingdome and rooted for Denver. I cheered lustily for the Broncos at parties with fellow Denverites.

    Once Elway was gone, it seemed logical for me to become a Seahawks fan. But in the late '90s, the Seahawks were a boring team. They couldn't sell out at home, so many of their games were not broadcast locally--and if they were on the road, I had them on the tube instead of a good game. I viewed the Hawks as an impediment to NFL watching...they were actually a team that prevented me from seeing NFL games.

    So now they're in the bowl. I've successfully avoided local media for the last two weeks (thank goodness), but I still am getting this sudden sense of how Seattle's been a latent Seahawks town all of these years. Sorry, but that's crap.

    I've lived in Denver and Pittsburgh. I went to college a couple of hours from Cleveland. I experienced at least Championship Game seasons in all three cities. In Denver, the world totally stopped. In Pittsburgh, there were Terrible Towels in every business window. In Ohio...well, the mentally-ill-acting Browns fans did their thing. In Seattle, sure, there's some excitement, but it's not even close to the same. This is a Huskies town first, foremost...and almost only.

    It's possible these things can change, of course. Seattle became a Mariners town with the magical 1995 season, and it's stayed that way even after a couple of terrible seasons. Maybe a Super Bowl win will do that here. But as of now: no way.

    My plan has always been to join the bandwagon late...when the Seahawks are leading in the third quarter. But there's been a change.

    My kindergartner nephew is excited about the Seahawks.

    I'll be watching the game at my brother's place, on his positively orgasmic huge digital TV. He says he feels a moral obligation to root for his home team. I do not feel that obligation. He also says he wants to root hard for the team so that his son gets the full experience of rooting for a Super Bowl team.

    All right. That second argument has got me. Go Seahawks! I'm on the bandwagon, and a little child has led me. I'll wear my Seahawks NFC Championship T-Shirt I won by answering a Super Bowl trivia question on the radio (do not mess with my Super Bowl knowledge). I'll cheer for the Hawks.

    And at the end of the day, my nephew will be happy. The Steelers are favored only because of east-coast bias. If you except the final-game loss to Green Bay where Seattle played the JV, the Seahawks have not lost since October. They looked not-hot in beating the Racial Epithets two weeks ago, but looked awfully good against Carolina. The Steelers have also looked amazing. But it'll come down to who can control the ball.

    Shaun Alexander will rush for 100 yards...nobody's been able to stop him all year. The Steelers have the second-worst running game in the NFL.

    That'll be enough in a close game. The Seahawks will control the game when it counts. It'll be a nice, physical, close game.

    Seattle 21, Pittsburgh 17.

    (I came up with this score on my own this week, thought it looked familiar, and then realized I picked the same score Jim did. But I won't change it. We're together this week, Jim.)

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Empathy gone wild

    At my game tonight, I encountered a fellow official who is sitting out the season due to injury. I talked to him for a while. He injured himself in the course of his job as a firefighter. When entering a building, he was violently blown backward by the fire, and slammed back-first into a concrete wall. His oxygen tank was on his back, and was between him and the wall on impact. It messed up his back and neck big-time. He says he's rehabbing and he wants to be on the floor again someday.

    In other words, this guy's a hero.

    Now, I had to sit out some years recently while I rehabbed an injury. I didn't become injured while saving lives. I became injured while singing at a Karaoke party. I didn't suffer a painful injury that made it hurt to walk. I suffered an annoying injury that made talking difficult. His rehab probably consists of painful weights and excruciating workouts. My rehab consisted of visiting two different vocal specialists and humming.

    Still, I wanted to encourage my fellow official. So I opened a sentence with: "I don't want to compare your situation to mine..." and then proceeded to compare his situation to mine, basically saying that I know how it feels to be off the floor, that doctors told me I'd never do it again, but I'm back out there, and with some rehab, he'll be back too.

    As soon as I said this, I felt almost unbelievably silly--like going to someone who has lost a spouse to a drunk driver and talking about the time my pet dog was put to sleep when I was 8, saying "I know how you feel." The hell I do.

    Still, I guess misplaced empathy is better than silence. But I'm not confident in this conclusion.