Saturday, November 24, 2007

Why Gift Cards Are Sentimental and Save Christmas

No, seriously. My debate coach has written a gorgeous essay.

Old letters

We're unpacking, and still lack internet access. But here I am, taking a break at the public library.

Today, in the course of unpacking, I came upon a box filled with memorabilia from my college and just-post-college years. They consist of sports programs and theater programs (which I'm keeping...they'll be awesome in our dream basement...guests here for sporting events can grab a random program from a random sporting event from my past!).

And letters. A fair amount of letters. These are from back in the days when we wrote letters.

I suppose that generation X are probably the last generation who have permanently documented many of their friendships and relationships in paper form. People even 8 or 9 years younger than me had email ubiquity by the time they got to college. I admit I've saved a few emails...in fact, I encountered a printout of some favorite college emails today--but it's simply not the same. The tactile sense of friendship in a letter...I prefer that.

That said, I had saved way more back in the early 90s than I felt the need to hang onto today. I set aside a couple of the more sentimental or historically significant ones, and started to toss many of the rest...

and then I thought of something that my parents did recently.

When my folks lived in Mexico, I sent them a letter just about every week. They were simple, wacky, journalistic things, where I'd tell them what I was up to and try to make them laugh. Recently, and much to my surprise, they offered to give them back to me. They felt that the diary-like content would be more valuable to me than they were to them. At first, I guess it felt funny...I had surrendered ownership, and I guess I wondered if it was like sending back a gift. But their point...that they were valuable as a historical document to me more than to them--was legitimate.

So I surveyed the letters from four high school buddies. Three I'm in sporadic contact with; one I last spoke to about three years ago, and prior to that, it was more like ten years. Letters that were about me--mostly advice about whatever my crisis du jour may have been--I tossed. Letters that were mostly about them--going over the daily lives of their senior years of high school, first couple of years of college, junior years abroad--I set into a pile.

And here's where you come in.

Would it be stalkerish to offer to send these to my old friends? I'm incredibly grateful that each were my friends during those topsy-turvy years, and these little bits of news from them were wonderful. But I don't need them anymore. The misadventures of X's freshman roommate or the challenges of Y's women's studies classes aren't needed in my box-o'-memorabilia anymore. But they might be very valuable to my old friends.

If an old buddy you were sporadically in contact with (but still consider a friend--we've all been invited to each other's weddings, etc) offered you the letters you sent him/her in another era, how would you feel? Would you accept?

Friday, November 16, 2007

If you want to get to know me...

this won't help.

I still owe Spoon a response to this, and I want to report on the very cool film we saw at the first Socially Responsible Movie Night (SRMN) gathering, and I want to chat about football, etc. But I won't. Instead, I'll play this meme my wife just did.

The rules:
1) Answer questions and type into google image search
2) Post pictures from first results page

(Like my wife, I will go for whimsy as often as I go for accuracy. So, even after reading this, you will know nothing about me...or will know fictional things about me, which is even more fun.)

1. Age at next birthday:


























2. A place you'd like to travel:





















3. Your favorite place:

































4. Favorite object:


























5. Favorite food:






















6. Favorite animals:




7.




















7. Favorite color:





















8. Town where you were born:






















9. Town where you now live:





















10. Name of past pet:





















11. First name of a past love:































12. Best friend's nickname:


















13. Your screenname/nickname:

















14. Your first name:





















15. Your middle name:























16. Your last name:















17. Bad habit of yours:



























(believe it or not, Lynndie England pointing at prisoners in Abu Ghraib came up for what I typed in. I passed on putting it here, even as a joke...)

18. First job:






























19. Grandmother's name:




















20. Your college major:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pun intended?

Actual quote from one of Barry Bonds' lawyers:

"This came out of left field."

Just like Barry looks like he will...

Huling Brothers salesman found guilty

This remains one of my most-viewed posts--it was in reaction to folks at a car dealership allegedly bilking a clearly mentally ill man first out of cash for a truck, and then later stealing his life savings.

Alleged no more. One of the fuckers was found guilty today. I hope he's in jail for as long as the law allows.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Debate: more than what we use to catch de fish

I was very happy during my couple of years of not-coaching. I'd sleep in late on Saturdays, wake up, and say to my wife: "Hey, guess where we're not this weekend? Auburn High!" or something similar.

But when I made the move to the new school, I agreed to coach again. There wasn't a real team...my predecessor took the kids to one meet per year and took the entire stipend for that one weekend of work. I'm a big fan of forensics, and I wanted to be sure kids at the new place had an opportunity. I feel like academics isn't valued as much as it could be in this community or in its homes. I also feel like kids' relationships with teachers are too-often adversarial. So I wanted to create a place where academically-oriented kids could be nerds and do extra work without being weird. Also, after so much conflict with kids all day, I wanted to create a place where I could have better relationships with kids. Coach-student relationships are always more impactful than teacher-student relationships. When I look back over my 10 years teaching and think of students who are still in touch with me, almost all were on the team...only a few were just in the classroom. Add onto that the fact that the debate circuit and schedules in SW Washington are much saner than in Seattle (we're out by 8:30 on Friday, out by 7:00 on Saturday), and that I don't have to drive 90 minutes to find a competition (it's more like 15), well, we have a much more pleasant experience. Finally, I've hired my wife on as assistant coach, so rather than time away from her, Debate is a cool thing we do together.

I'm impressed with how much I'm enjoying building a new team.

At the Old Place, I inherited an active program. Here, there was basically nobody around. I convinced four kids to join the team. They didn't know what debate was. They only joined because they trusted -me-. Three of them were my English students; one brought along a friend. So I feel a bond with these kids, because they jumped into the unknown only because they trusted my word.

It's paying off. I had a kid take 3rd place in LD Debate yesterday, and a first-place speaker award. A second kid took 4th out of 34 in Student Congress.

We're still not at a level I want to be at...the competition in our corner of the state isn't a strong as it is up around the Sound, and my kids are still a little bit deer-in-the-headlights. But, since this team is entirely my own, I feel a LOT more pride of ownership than I did at the old place. Don't get me wrong...these trophies belong to my students and not to me. They did the heavy lifting. But I built this from the ground up. I like that feeling. It's new.

I get sentimental on the way home, and think of my great past competitors, and the little moments I remember about them. Rachel standing up for me the first year. Kim's humor and talent. Michael's hilarious nickname. Nick's love of Aristotle. Katie nearly breaking me, but learning so goddamned much through competition. Matt taking weeks to push his way through one horribly spiteful judge comment. Katelyn taking full down time just to breathe deeply and decide how to respond to a sobbing, overmatched opponent. Lindsey's baseball cutting. Krystyna having a nervous asthma attack when she gave her first speech, but insisting that she needed to get over that fear...and eventually making it to State. Dianna going to Nationals...her first time away from her parents. Sarah's tears at NOT making Nationals the one year she fell short. Drew's social growth. And several others...not all superstars, but all important to me.

I'm in touch with a couple of these kids, and have lost touch with most of the others, but on debate weekends, I think of all of them. The older ones have jobs now; an elementary school teacher, a Newsweek journalist, an assistant to a Congressman.

And when I'm driving the van and my students are stoked about their success and eagerly asking my wife and I what they can do to get even better, and could we make it to state, and what's State like, and what other events can we try...well, I wonder which of these kids will fire off an email to me from their first job after college, which will join the little honor roll procession in my mind.

And it feels good.

It felt good at the old place, but at the new place, I somehow feel more responsible for it. Maybe that's arrogant, but it's real to me. I like that feeling.

The next step: arranging for you to get credit for reading this

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(via Jack Bog)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Did he jump over the moon first?

I'm very glad this couple survived, because

1. It would be a horrible tragedy to die on your first anniversary vacation, regardless of the circumstance.
2. But beyond that...seriously...this is not--absoulely NOT--what I would want in my obituary. Because whatever I had accomplished in life, nobody would be able to get past the first paragraph...and I suspect that it would be next to impossible to hold back snickering at the wake.

(Via Jack Bog.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

IR round...hits a new low...

I hate judging Interpretive Reading because there's always that kid who chooses drunk driving as a topic, with breathtakingly horrible poetry and prose that contains a dead kid looking at his crying parents going past his coffin and saying "Mom, Dad, I'm so sorry." And it's always delivered by the cutest, most earnest, round-faced sophomore girl you've ever seen, so I feel especially guilty at my evil thoughts, and bite the insides of my cheeks until it ends, writing something on the ballot about "I'd like to see you find material more suited to your talents!"

Last week...ugh. A kid delivered an IR on global warming where this was the poem. She bounced along through the silly rhythms and pallid, predictable rhymes, but only after gushing in the intro about how this poem "won an award" for environmentalist poetry. Literary merit? Hello? The internet has been horrible for IR...

But worse, the kid read newspaper articles for her prose. She read them passionately and forcefully, but they were newspaper articles.

She lost to the kid who had terrorism as her topic. I don't remember her poem, and I don't want to.

And both of these kids were such good, sweet, earnest kids, sweetly delivering a sweet, earnest poem by a sweet, earnest poet. Somehow, that makes me even snippier and more evil.

Last kid I had on IR did baseball. Another did cows. Still another: failure at sports. THAT'S an IR, baby.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Exhaustion? Or the paper flu?

I've promised myself a sick day for a while now simply because I'm having trouble enduring the long commute and the early wake-up. Today I took it. Of course, it's backfiring a little bit...I stayed late at work to get things ready for the sub, woke up a 4AM with the realization that I forgot to leave a seating chart (which I prepared and emailed at 4:50), and I've spent today working on papers. Some good stuff from my AP kids, who continue to make tracks...I'd say that, if the exam were given today, about half would pass the essay portion. (The multiple choice we'll work on next week).

The point is that, after a 4-hour grading marathon, I'm feeling exhausted again. Poor, poor me.

I still have some papers to dig out of, but I'll be napping first.

And wife says that we could live in our new place, and be out of here, as early as Thursday. Hurrah. I'm thankful to my in-laws for providing lodging for three months, and I'm also very, very thankful it's coming to an end (and I bet they are too--they get their house back).