Thursday, August 24, 2006

The First Days of School

The First Quiz

I spent three and a half days covering early British history, culled from a variet of sources, most notably the Oxford Illustrated History of Britain and Some of my slides read things like, "55 B.C. Julius Caesar invades." Parts of the textbook read, "Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55 B.C." I said things like "remember the date 55 B.C."

Skimming the quizzes, I suspect perhaps I didn't drill them enough.

I keep forgetting the basics: Seniors + work = whining. Even with the best of them.

The good news: I'm looking forward to Round Ten tomorrow morning. As W.C. Fields said, "If at first you don't succeed...quit. No sense being a damn fool about it."

Obviously, Fields is no help to me whatsoever at the moment. Never thought I'd say that.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Drug-Sniffing Chihuahuas

I think I'm going to hurl, he's so darn cute

Yes, I'm a freak for these damn dogs. So is Layback. They're training these water-bottles-with-legs wonders to become security dogs, according to MSN.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The First Days of School

First Full Day

Not too bad, all things considered. It's always a relief when the students don't bum rush me on the first day. Good of them to wait until Labor Day.

Of course, my room are still a mess. The LCD on my ceiling is nice and everything, but at present it's purely decorative. My first classroom is still about as spacious as a broom closet, and my seventh hour classroom has been disembowled by a newly-transplanted teacher in there. However, as I cracked to a co-worker, "We'll break the 180-day mark next week. There's cause for celebration."

So you trudge home after a hard day's work, only to remember: there's work yet to do. There's lesson plans to finish (writing "Medieval introduction" on the syllabus in June was a piece of cake compared to coming up with an actual Medieval introduction for August); AV requests to put in; AV presentations to construct so the AV request isn't completely pointless. And so on.

But not tonight. At least, not all of it. I've got a book to read and a steak to cook.

I came up with a pretty good one-liner if anyone wants to steal it:
Me: Make sure you back up all your work. That's why I always have my flash drive. Everything I work on, I put on that.
Student:What if you lose it? Do we still get a zero?
Me: That's why I save it on the server here, too.
Student: What if the server here crashes?
Me: Well I also e-mail myself copies of the work too.
Student: Just for sake of argument, what happens if the e-mail doesn't work? Or there's a virus?
Me: Then God obviously hates you. No wonder I'd give you a zero.

Monday, August 07, 2006

8 Ways I Have Proved Myself an Idiot in the last Seventy-Two Hours.

What's that, you ask? Only eight? Not an even ten? Go screw yourself.

8. Thought garage door was broken until I pushed on it. Real hard. Neighbors stared and murmured to each other. Two teenaged girls giggled from across the street. I swallow and strike a masculine pose.

7. Popped my head into my new classroom today. Met resilient wall of storage boxes. Surly, overworked custodian supervisor tells me I had to put in a work order in order to move me into a room I don't want, with no filing cabinets, not enough space, no windows or ventilation and science lab-type counters along the perimeter. "Sign here, asshole. In triplicate. What are you gonna do anyway, I'm union."

6. Hauled Kim's VCR and stereo into bedroom in effort to set up after hours entertainment studio. Universal remote won't connect, so I waste ten minutes on the Web, twenty minutes on hold with Zenith, and eighteen talking to a representative of Magnavox Televisions. After giving her my model number, I'm informed my television doesn't exist. And I say, "That makes sense. Thanks."

5. Bumped into a former student at Union Station and spoke with her for about twenty minutes. As I filled her in on the goings-on at her alma mater and congratulated her on what I was sure was an outstanding internship, she continues to look puzzled, confused, and then downright petulant. Ten minutes later, as I'm walking down Adams Street, I realize she was a student from a different school, and that she was probably headed to an actual career.

4. Spent forty-five minutes checking answer keys on my Amazing Series of Vocab Tests only to discover the answers in the back of the book. Straight to the liquor cabinet--"Oh, look here! John left tequila! And it's only a year old!"

3. Got bombed at 11 a.m.on the Monday before the Monday before I go back to school. See #6.

2. Cleaned out garage, currently filled with Kim's detritus from medical school. Stacked boxes carefully on side of wall, leaving room for the car. Realized I'd stacked them over my detritus, including school files for August, my tool box and extremely fragile fishing gear. My back screams at me as I dig them all out.

1. In renewed effort to be healthy, bought several pounds of fresh vegetables: carrots, spinach, tomatoes, collard greens and kale. Made room for it in the fridge by throwing out the carrots, spinach, tomatoes, collard greens and kale I bought a month ago in an effort to be healthy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The idiots are filming themselves! Come see the idiots!

The world is going to hell.

Virginia Heff, in her NY Times blog Screens, profiles LonelyGirl15, a homeschooled teen who passes all the time she's stuck in her bedroom because of domineering parents, making short autobiographical/philosophical video posts (called vlogs, I guess) for the world to see. She just sparked controversy over a tiff between her and her producer/boyfriend danielbeast. Her parents won't let her go hiking. No, wait, her parents do let her go hiking. And so on.

I still remember when blogs were all the controversy: "What, now semiliterate idiots can vomit their meaningless opinions all over the Web?" "What, the vacuum of cyberspace is now filled with musings about how annoying it is when someone eats all the chocolate out of the Neopolitan ice cream?" Meaningless tripe, all of it. I should know. Just look at this page, for god's sake.

Well, I guess the joke's on me--now we don't even need to be sub-sub literate. We can post videos instead.

I'm not particularly talking about Heff's primary subject. Lonelygirl knows enough about lighting and editing to avoid visual incoherence, and although there's only so much depth you can squeeze out of a lazy eye, it does function as a metaphor quite nicely.

But then I made the mistake of looking at some of the responses she got, ranging from the rambling to the snooty to the downright nasty. Look out, web talent scouts. Got your hands full here. Yowza.

Web videos sound great until you start wading through them. It's enough to make me long for the days of scrolls and quill pens. If all this is the stuff replacing books and films that require a few neurons firing, I don't want to be around when they put together 3-D filming techniques. Watching some frat bozo drink beer through a watering can from all possible angles of his living room would just be too depressing.

And the comments. Need I get into the comments? They outweigh the posts by pages, and the videos by hours. And who cares anyway?

For example, Rupert Brooke was born on this day, in 1887. If his "The Solider" had had a comment function when first published? "Hey, uh, Rupe, if that's your real name, I just want to say, like, your poem sucks? Um, I liked the extended metaphor of the soil as homeland and everything, but like, you could have said something about American involvement. We totally saved your asses. Wilson for Winners in '16!"

In my own effort to contribute to the Web's detritus, let me pose what the volume of empty-headedness of 75% of youtube's content says about the direction of our media culture? That it's easier and easier to find your own voice because of the ease of access to all these nifty tools? Or that it's going to be harder for anyone to be heard fighting against the cacophony of crap cluttering up the bandwidth anymore?

The world is, like, so going to hell.

Well, maybe I'll be proven wrong. I doubt it--I rarely am. But maybe video publishing will unearth a new generation of thought-provoking, challenging media for the world to consume. Of course it will, because I am so getting a vid camera! With an appropriately shaded nook in my classroom and enough interesting lesson plans, I could...get myself fired.

Just realized, folks--before I noticed, I'd spent forty minutes looking at a bunch of posts about a teen girl on camera. All because of a NY Times article. Which won't do me any good. Thanks to our beloved president and the Patriot Act, right now my ISP is on record at having drooled over adolescent video blogs. Send me cigarettes when they send me to the Pen.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Free Josh Wolf!!!

This is the first time the government has gone after a blogger's sources officially. Obviously, they'll be after me next.

And a federal appeals court just ruled that the government can look at journalists' phone records. This creates an alarming precedent, unless, of course, we can trust the government to use this precedent to go after genuine threats to security, rather than the muckraking that has unearthed so many bureaucratic ills. Obviously, they'll be going after Janice Effington, of 1034 S. Halsted, Apartment 2D. (She knows why.)