Sunday, August 31, 2008

Okay...one post on Trig Palin

I've spent a lot of today deciding if the major rumors--that Trig Palin is Sarah Palin's grandson rather than her son--are true. I've concluded that they are not. Even the Daily Kos is backing off, pointing out that the Anchorage papers checked it out at the time. I buy it.

I'm pissed off it ever grew into something as big as it did. First of all, these nasty rumors hurt a 17-year-old kid unnecessarily. Second, it's shown that my party has its own whacked-out subset that will spread rumors with all the validity of "Barack Obama is a secret Muslim" variety...and that they'll grow just as big.

Still, the true story--that Sarah Palin gave a speech, drove to the DFW airport, flew from Dallas through Seattle to Anchorage, then drove 45 minutes to Wasilla, and did it all when she knew she was a 44-year-old woman leaking amniotic fluid--makes Palin look just about as bad.

I don't have to write why.

My HS buddy Jenni has done so just about perfectly.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thanks to the Portland street drummer

who my wife heard broadcasting my baby's heartbeat to the world.

Need research help

I'm looking for an approximate number of referees in the U.S., or even that of a subset that I could extrapolate into a good guess.

Can't find a number at NASO.
Can't find one at NFHS.
Not at IAABO.

Can't find a number at the Washington Officials Association.

Can't find a number of teams that play HS basketball anywhere (from which I could extrapolate to a good number).

Can't find a thing!

Anybody out there care to help?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gov. Palin's youngest child

As you all have found out by now, Sarah Palin, Sen. McCain's new running mate, chose to carry her youngest son to term. To raise him, even.

I guess I don't see what's so shocking or unusual about that.

But the tone (at least as I read it) of this Time magazine piece indicates that I should give Gov. Palin a big pat-on-the-back for doing that:

She's a committed Christian who's pro-life in practice as well as in theory; she recently gave birth to a son that she knew would have Down Syndrome.


Something bothered me about that sentence, and I think I know what it is:

Embedded in that sentence is the notion that we as a society now believe that the best option--the default option, even--for a woman pregnant with a child who will have Down Syndrome is to abort the child. The author is congratulating Palin for taking the unusual step of not aborting a handicapped child.

I poked around and found this pretty stunning article from the National Down Syndrome Society. It cites a Georgetown University study which states that, when explaining a positive result for a prenatal Down Syndrome test, "nearly 25% of physicians admit to emphasizing negative information or actively urging parents to terminate their pregnancies." Further, another study finds that "mothers who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are often given an inaccurate, incomplete, and sometimes offensive description of Down syndrome from their medical providers."

I'm going to vote for Obama in part because I believe that repealing Roe vs. Wade isn't a good idea.

But the fact that Gov. Palin is actually being praised for having her own child just because the child will be disabled is jaw-droppingly depressing. It demonstrates how little value we give the disabled. In fact, it shows that we believe it would be better if they were never born.

I don't see how anyone, pro-choice or otherwise, can say this is a good thing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Aggressive glurge

A colleague sent us all inspirational glurge email today. It was typical inspirational schlock. Hated it.

But I was struck by how the email ended:

Pass this message to 7 people except you and me. You will receive a
miracle tomorrow ( if you don't think so...look out your window when you
wake in the morning and think about it )

If you choose not, then you refuse to bless someone else.


Wow. Talk about a passive-aggressive sick ending to glurge.

(I chose not to "bless" someone else.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Loads of hits the last couple of days...

--from team handball enthusiasts, especially from Iceland. Bummer about the finals, guys. Feels sad. I now will begin 4 years of not watching the sport. (Maybe I'll find some on-line somewhere for the 2009 World Cup.)

--from a surprising number of people searching on The Swimmer Formerly Known As Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana. Have I started a gathering place for her fan club?

--from many, many, many people wanting to know if Sue Bird is dating anyone.

Hey! She's my pretend girlfriend. So get your pretend hands off pretend her.

When students evaluate me

Not every year, but most years, I hand out evaluations to my students on the last day of school so they can evaluate how I did. Names are optional in order to encourage honesty. I tell myself that I won't look until the end of the summer, so I can do so dispassionately. Usually I don't have that kind of patience.

Because this last year was such a struggle (so very, very many kids who did jack all year...failed about a third of my sophomores) I was so worn down in June that it was especially important that I not look at them in June. I was too exhausted to learn from them. So I intentionally left them in my classroom so I'd discover them upon my return.

That return was a couple of days ago.

What would my kids say? How would everyone react?

Incredibly, these evaluations are unrelentingly positive. I'd actually say a higher percentage of kids were kind to me than at any point at the old school...and I was really well-liked at the old school.

It absolutely blew my mind. I was girded up for some rough reading, and it didn't happen at all. It was a damn love fest.

Q: IF YOUR BEST FRIEND HAD ME NEXT YEAR AND YOU COULD WAVE A MAGIC WAND AND CHANGE ANYTHING, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT THE WAY I TEACH?

A random sampling here...just from the top 7 or 8 evaluations:

Nothing. I would be happy for my friend.
Your [sic] awesome. Your [sic] strict enough, which is very good, but you've got lots of good crazy to make people like the class.
Nothing. You're a great teacher.
Mr. TRP you're a great teacher I hope I have you next year.
NOTHING. I think your [sic again...gotta work on this, clearly] a great teacher, prob the best English teacher I've had.


It continues similarly, with only one outright slam in 90 sophomore evaluations (which, of course, will stick in my craw a little, but such is the nature of doing these things).

Q: MR. REFPOET FAILED MROE STUDENTS THAN HE'S EVER FAILED THIS YEAR. WHAT SUGGESTIONS DO YOU HAVE THAT HE COULD TRY TO REDUCE THAT NUMBER?

I'm not sure. Most of the things you were doing seemed good to me.
Well, personally, I think it was the essays and people being lazy.
I think you can probably just make sure and continue to ask those who struggle if they need help and eventually they will say yes.
It's more in the students. IF they don't want to try, then don't force them.


and, most tragically,

IN all honesty, working at a different school. This probably won't happen here at [...] because we have a rep for bad students.



So here's what I don't get.

Both research and common sense show that students do better work when they like their teachers. I think all of our personal experience supports this, whether we were A, B, C, or marginal students.

But even a cursory look at my evaluations reveals that I have a significant subset of students who really like me--often effusively so--but who don't do a damn bit of work.

I'd rather be disliked and have students succeed than be liked and have students fail. (Any teacher worth a damn would agree.)

So how do I teach kids that if you like a teacher, the way you show that is by busting your butt in the class? And that this means far more to a teacher the important-but-not-transcendent act of just being friendly (which, of course, they should also practice)?

First day of school is next week. It'll be easier because I've deep-sixed the sophomores, and will now teach juniors almost exclusively. They're far more mature, and the worst Bartlebys will have dropped out or moved on.

But how to teach work ethic?
How to teach work ethic?
How to teach work ethic?
How the hell do I teach work ethic????
How do I parlay the fact that I'm liked into actual student work and perhaps get more kids diplomas in the process?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More little-known facts from my Fox Sports On--This-Date-In-Sports Calendar

As painful as this accomplishment is...

Don Baylor, of the New York Yankees [sic--why set this off with commas?], tied an MLB record with his 189th hit by pitch on Aug. 24, 1985.


this one would be even more painful.

The second umpire in MLB History to call 5,000 games, Bruce Froemming did so on Aug. 16, 2006.

I missed my blogiversary.

But it's now been four-years-and-a-day since this adventure started with this post.

I never thought I'd start a blog. Indeed, I may still not be starting a blog...this may always be the only entry I have.


Nine hundred and some-odd entries later, here I am, still enjoying this, still anonymous to the world beyond my friends, and still cantankerously spewing opinion.

Thank you all very, very much for reading--thus giving me a reason to write.

Maybe I'm a one-issue voter...

but I wish my boyfriend hadn't picked the plagiarist, and I wish he hadn't picked a guy from a deep, deep blue state worth only 3 electoral votes.

It's not enough to affect my vote, but it's disappointing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

If you have a heart, you will watch team handball...

because Iceland is in the finals.

Read the fantastic relevant entries on this blog by Dan Steinberg, a Washington Post reporter.

(And by the way, Mr. Steinberg, thank you for going beyond another Phelps or Redeem Team or gymnastics story to get to this far more interesting story.)

Some highlights from Steinberg's stories:

I was walking toward the mixed zone this evening when I ran into the first lady of Iceland. Dorrit Moussaieff asked me how she could get onto the playing surface, so that she could help celebrate her tiny country's stunning trip into the men's handball finals.

Then she tried to bring me onto the floor, where 14 large Icelandic men were glorying in the craziest athletic accomplishment in their country's history -- a 36-30 win over Spain in the Olympic semifinals.

"I don't think I can go this way," I said.

"Yes you can; if you're with me you can," she said, approaching the arena guard. "I'm the wife of the President; that's the President," she said, nodding at me while dragging me past the guard.

And so I passed through the tunnel and onto the floor, nominally the president of Iceland.


And this quote from Iceland's President, who gives an inspirational speech that, in a movie, would make me hurl, but in real life, I eat right up:

It's not just a message for us in Iceland. I think it's a message to the entire international sport movement, that anything is possible. You can have young guys growing up in a small country like Iceland. Working hard in their employment, using their spare time to train. And they can come here to China and play the finals. And return to Iceland, each and every one of them, with either silver or gold.


Then this incredible factoid:

The handball team's preliminary game against Denmark drew nearly 60 percent of the country's 100,000 televisions, and that the game attracted a share of about 100.

Meaning every TV set that was turned on in the country was tuned to handball.


And, to boot, Iceland's captain, Olafur Stefansson, has a degree in humanities, once considered entering a Buddhist monastery, and has blogged about changing Iceland's education system.

To reiterate...the population of Iceland is 300,000. Honest to God. That's smaller than Wichita, Kansas.

They have three Olympic medals. Summer or Winter. Ever. (1956 Triple Jump, 1984 Judo, 2000 Pole Vault.)

How can anyone not be compelled by this story?

The game will be on Sat/Sunday overnight on USA Network. I'm TiVoing it. Go Iceland.

(Credit where it's due: This Sporting News entry led me to Steinberg's cool stuff.)

Handball action!

My girlfriends from Norway get by Korea on a razor-thin decision at the end of a lightning-fast break. BloggingRef's all over that call. Incredibly, he seems to like handball as much as I do.

I'm rooting for Hungary and the adorable Monika Kovacsicz (who's got some game at right wing) to take the women's bronze.

For the men...well, it's a no-brainer. I still like swooping Mirza Dzomba, so I'm rooting for Croatia to beat France.

But Iceland is in the other semifinal against Spain. Dude...Iceland! Three medals in HISTORY, and none of them gold. How can anyone root against Iceland, which, as this article points out, has a population less than Toledo, Ohio?

Man, I love the Olympics.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A quick Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoariamanana update

In her 50m freestyle heat, she swam over a half second faster than she did at last year's World Championships, clocking in at 28.54, in what I'll assume is a personal best. It was good for 6th in that heat, which was won by Sharon Paola Fajardo Sierra of Honduras.

Her time was 60th best, down from 55th best in Athens.

But perhaps more importantly, her Beijing athlete page has been amended to list her name as merely Tojohanitra Andriamanja. That's a change from Athens, where she was Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana, and a change from earlier this Olympics, where the site had her listed as Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana.

I wonder what gives?

Go Norway.

I had chosen Croatia as my men's Olympic Handball team because I like the swooping play of Mirza Dzomba from the corner. (But if Iceland makes the semis, I may switch. Seriously. ICELAND a shot at a medal?)

But I needed a women's team to follow as I TiVo the rest of the handball.

I made the decision as I watched my first women's game today...Norway against Romania.

Norway seemed to have a disproportionate percentage of hot players.

Note their big mug-you-in-the-middle chick Else Lybekk. Lybekk gets extra hotness points because her non-handball pictures are sort of ho-hum, but when she's trying to kick someone's ass, she looks hot as all get-out.














Now, note the similarly hot Katja Nyberg:



Go Norway.

Sing it along with me: If I had a million dollars...

I wouldn't be rich. In fact, I wouldn't be close to it, according to John McCain, who says that $5 million is the dividing line between rich and poor.

(By comparison, Obama said that if one is making $250K or above are "pretty well off.")

What must life look like to someone who could consider someone making $4.9 million a year not rich, but middle class?

UPDATE: The New York Times says that McCain used the $5 million figure "jokingly." But if it's a joke, it's a joke at McCain's expense. (And I don't get it.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

An informal poll

Among Olympic sports (summer and winter), which sport's athletes do you find the most sexually attractive?

I have an opinion, but I want yours first. This poll is open to people of both genders and all orientations.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Helping out

About a block or two from my reunion picnic today, we passed a jogger and her dog on the side of the road right by my alma mater high school. The jogger was down on one knee next to her dog. It was about 90 degrees--hotter than that on the cement.

"That doesn't look right," I thought.

We went down to the next street, turned right, did a U-turn, waited for at least three cars to pass her by, headed back, and pulled into the parking lot. We rolled down the window.

"Are you OK?"

No response.

I got out of the car and went over to her.

"Are you OK?"

She shook her head.

"I'm calling 911."

She shook her head again.

"No. I'm calling 911. Let's get you into the shade. Do you have asthma?"

She nodded her head.

I got my cellphone out and called 911. The dispatch guys were incredibly professional. I'm impressed that they knew to connect me to Littleton, Colorado dispatch rather than to Vancouver, Washington people.

My wife took the dog's leash. I kept my hand on the girl's back. Human touch is incredibly important, and this kid was really scared. Dispatch asked me her age, and since the kid couldn't talk, I eyeballed her and guessed 13 or 14. That probably pissed her off, since she shook her head and pointed upward. I guess she was 16 or 17.

She wheezed loudly, struggling for air. She was damn scared. I would be too if I had an asthma attack while I was out for a run without my inhaler or my cell phone.

Thankfully, another car stopped, containing a medical assistant. She clocked the kid's respiration at 86 per minute. I'm not sure what normal respiration is, but that feels high to me. They got out their cell phone and asked the kid to dial her home number (since she couldn't speak). The paramedics made great time. The parents also made good time. "We try to tell her to use her inhaler," the dad said. "She won't listen." I bet she will now.

She was loaded into the ambulance. I think she was wheezing less. The paramedic said she didn't think it looked like an asthma attack so much as a panic attack. I suppose the former could have led to the latter.

We offered to take the dog and put it into their backyard so the parents could go with the kid. He declined and took the dog.

Everything went as it should. Dispatch, paramedics, other passersby, and kid were great. Even the dog was incredibly well-behaved in a stranger's hands. If he/she had been angry or spooked, it would have made a tough situation tougher.

The only thing that disturbed me was that too many cars passed the kid up. Please, all of you...STOP THE CAR if you see something weird. It's uncool that I was the first and that I was there for 4/5 minutes before someone else stopped to help.

And kid, whatever your name is, I hope you're okay. I'm sorry I got your age wrong. Please listen to your parents about the inhaler.

I love the Olympics.

And they're on again.

First of all--tape or TiVo handball. It's an awesome sport that NBC is showing on its secondary and tertiary stations overnight. You'll be glad you took the time to watch.

Second, you might recall (OK, none of you do) that four years ago, I became a fan of a swimmer from Madagascar named Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana. She was knocked out in the prelims.

I'm afraid that I got Ms. Andriamanjatoarimanana's name wrong. It turns out that her name is actually Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana.

I'll have to do a little research to see what the other names mean. Are they all first and middle names?

Anyway, Andriamanjatoarimanana (I refuse to call her Aina, Tojohanitra, or Tokin', as I don't know her well enough) returns for her second Olympics. She was only 13 in Athens when she swam the 50-meter freestyle in 29.35 seconds, the 55th-best time in the competition. Now she's 17, and she's improved her time to 29.07 as of last year's World Championships. (As a point of comparison, Inge de Bruin won the gold in Athens with a time of 24.58. And TRP could swim 50 meters in about a day and a half...less if you gave him a kickboard.)

Anyway, I'm rooting for Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana. Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana's heat is scheduled for Friday, and you can expect me to provide Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana updates here at Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana Central.

Let's chant it together:

Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana!
Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana!
Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana!
Tojohanitra Tokin' Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Incredible

Didn't notice this until somebody linked here today...

but this post was linked to by a blog at NPR.

N-freakin'-P-R.

Local Newscasters

It's got to suck to be a female broadcast journalist. Every time I come home (well, to a hotel in the "hometown" where I grew up), I tune in the local newscasts. And some of the guys I grew up watching in the 80s are still at the anchor desk.

And almost without fail, these aging men are next to very young, very, very hot young women (I can't find the name of the woman I saw on Saturday night...but man-oh-man...). Only one of the women on the news has been at it for any length of time...and even she's only in her 40s. Will she be elbowed out by some new sexy woman?

The whole Erin Andrews kerfuffle exemplifies the problem. (Hell, for that matter, so do I.) There's still a double standard, and there will be until women in their 60s are as common as men in their 60s on the local news. Men need to be good anchors, but women need to be good and sexy. That's not fair.

Is the same true on your hometown local news? Or is my sexism-detector set to too-sensitive?

(Actually, as I gathered links for this post, I learned that at least one veteran anchorwoman is still on the air in Denver. It's not prime time, but considering her reputation and experience, that might be by her choice. So maybe it's not as bad as I think. But I'd still like input from your hometowns...are older women anchors around, or are the women all young and hot while the men can be older and less-hot?)

Vacation update

Howdy, y'all...

Well, the wife and hedgehog are puttering around Colorado with me, and meeting friends along the way (including her and her).

Dollar Rent-A-Car charged us $6 per day to have my wife be able to drive the car in addition to me. I've never been charged for having a spouse drive before. The woman behind the counter at DIA, when we asked why they'd charge us for something that doesn't incur them any expense, said point-blank that it's to gather up more money. Bye-bye Dollar Rent-a-Car...they're more appropriately named Nickel-And-Dime Rent-A-Car. I won't be back.

Wife wrote a beautiful piece on how pregnancy impacts her viewing of the Columbine Shooting Memorial. (I don't want to call it "The Columbine Memorial," since Columbine is alive, well, and busy.) It was interesting...I didn't cry, but my wife, whose connection to the tragedy is far less personal, was quaking with sobs.

It's incredible how quickly, even after such a long absence, that I fall right back into being at home here. It's kind of cool. Vancouver is home, Seattle is home, and Colorado remains home. It's awesome to have so many places to feel connected with. (Er, with which to feel connected.)

But there are some bumps. The people who own my childhood home very kindly let me inside last weekend. I can no longer see the grocery store, junior high, or even the mountains from "my" window. The trees have grown and blocked everything out. The pine tree that Derek Downey could jump over in 1979 is now taller than the house. Incredible.

Watched the Nats sweep a doubleheader at Coors Field today. Lastings Milledge had a hell of a couple of games. Fun to watch. But it was damn hot. Very few people were around for all of both games. Swankette and I were among them...we moved to a shady seat and the pregnant wife napped against my shoulder for an inning or two while I scored the game.

It must be exasperating to be a Republican in this town right now. My boyfriend Barack is on T-shirts in every stinkin' window of the 16th Street Mall.

Tomorrow...the actual reunion. It'll be interesting to see everyone. I've already brunched with a handful of them. Old friends, even ones I've fallen out of contact with, are invaluable.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

I'm going to spend 13 of the nest 14 days away from here...a week and a half puttering around Colorado followed by a few days of ballgames in DC. Things shall slow down a hair here, though I may put in an entry or two based on my perspectives of the old 'hood and of our nation's capital.

But for goodness sake, don't be worrying about me if I don't post here. I'm busy, yo.

You don't have it

Note to the person who landed on my blog after searching on the following:

"Questions to ask if you have learned helplessness"

If you're asking questions about it, you don't have it. Unless, that is, you're looking for new and different ways to ask "Why bother?" and "What's the point?"