Friday, March 31, 2006

And The Wind Shall Follow You Home

This is me reading the paper in Tulsa, while Monkey shopped for provisions last Saturday. I didn't mean to post this, but I did accidentally, and I have to wait so long for pics to upload, that I didn't want to delete it, so....
A blustery day in Central Standard. The winds of Oklahoma seem to have followed us home. After a rainy start to our drive yesterday, the skies of Missouri opened up clear and warm. We arrived home under sunny skies at about 3:30. Unpacked. Monkey checked her email, made a grocery list and headed to the Hyve for provisions. I decided to try to make it to basketball.

Unfortunately, no one else (save Sports Editor and some other dude) showed up. I was home by 5:30, but the evening was not lost. Coach and Mrs. B were having folks over for Margaritas and socializing at Club Sonora.

The Monkey and I arrived and enjoyed the spirits and company of the usual suspects (and Mr. and Mrs. Sports Editor, among some new folks). Around about nine, however, the excitement began in earnest as the sirens wailed through the now cloudy and lightning-filled night air.

That's right, friends and neighbors, another tornado warning. Two this month. No touchdowns that I am aware of, no hail this time, either. I think if we had more hail, every insurance company in the country would forsake our poor state (along with the east coast, the west coast, and the gulf coast). They would choose to do business only in Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas, where all it does is snow, and the wind blows hard, but straight.

At any rate, some of us huddled in the basement momentarily, but, try as they might, the weather folk couldn't really terrify us as much as they did last time. Honestly, it didn't seem that their hearts were in it, this time. I don't know why. Maybe it was because of Spring Break (which everything in this town is being blamed on (Husband: "Hey, the roof is leaking!" Wife: "Huh, must be Spring Break."... Child: "Mommy, my gold fish is floating." Mother: "Oh, dear. I think it's Spring Break."... Patient: "I don't know, Doc. I fell asleep last night watching Conan O'Brien. When I woke up this morning, I was blind." Doc: "See it all the time. Spring Break, you know."), by the way).

When the novelty of the tornado warning wore off (right quick), we all just settled into talking about music and schools and graduate classes and books and movies and meatloaf and African languages (of which, Aunt James was surprised to learn, there are more than one) and The Sopranos and children and bagles and birds and blogging and PT Cruisers. By midnight plus, Monkey and I sat with Mr. and Mrs. B and wound down the evening. I fine return to our adopted, temporary homeland.

Hey, by the way, here's a pic of the new car. For some reason, Monkey and I have taken to referring to it as "The Penguin." Of course, you can see my shadow on the front quarter panel. I've never claimed to be much of a photgrapher. Should have stood on the other side, but the background wasn't as picturesque. Ah well, next time....

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Horse versus Dog: Horse Wins.

Okay, before I start, I want to thank My Favorite Berry and her 'rents for being kind and generous and allowing Monkey and I to stay at their farm in Oklahoma. Many things about the trip were relaxing. Monkey and I read alot, took a few walks, played Scrabble and Backgammon. The solitude was great. The fresh eggs (straight from the chicken's cloaca!) were great. The weather was generally good, but windy.

But, to be perfectly honest, Oklahoma just didn't do much for me. I am trying to give it the benefits of several doubts. It's an in-between season, so the trees are still bare. It has not rained much lately (this is an understatement), so the ground is dry and gray. The grass is burnt and yellow. Most of the state has been dealing with wildfires, so it's not surprising that much of the time, the gusting winds were scented with smoke. But, even with all that, it's not much to look at.

Granted, again, My Favorite Berry and her parents visited on Wednesday evening, and that was great. As well, we met a few other Oklahomans, and, really, they were genuinely nice, interesting people. It's just that, physically, I can't give you much for it. I don't even know how the cattle can live on such scant resources. But, worst of all, is the horses. (Obviously, this is a photo of sheep, which were housed very close to the horses.)

On Sunday, our first full day at the farm, Monkey and I took Ripken for a walk on some trails that wander about the Berry farm. To get to the "back forty," one has to meander through the horse pasture. Off we went, through the dried mud and manure of the horse pasture, through the big red metal gate, and off into the oak savannah of the Oklahoma countryside (complete with tank batteries and pump jacks for the oil well, of course). Our walk was blustery, but relatively pleasant. We saw a live armadillo (one of three on the trip) and several turkey vultures and crows. We waded a shallow stream (Ripken's favorite part).

After about an hour of hiking around, we headed back. Wade the stream, through the gate, out of the savannah and into the pasture. Where Ripken saw the horse. And the horse saw us. The horse ran toward us. We yelled at Ripken to stay. He stayed. The horse got closer. Ripken stopped staying. Ripken approached the back right side of the horse, the horse kicked out and caught Ripken just inside his left eye and down his snout.

Ripken went spinning away from the horse, into the dust. He tried to rise, but could not. He tried to rise again, but realized he was not getting up any time soon and lay prone on the dirt. I picked up the dog, who was bleeding near and into (and, for all I knew, from) his eye, Monkey distracted the horse from the gate, and I carried Ripken the considerable distance to the house (Recall from a very early post that the dog is officially fat.).

After a few phone calls, we found a vet who said he'd meet us at his office (down the road) in half an hour. We met the vet, he stitched up the dog (after a shot of sedative), and asked us to leave him overnight. There proceeded much wailing and crying and gnashing of teeth, as Monkey and I dealt with this traumatic incident. The upshot of it is as follows: fourteen stitches and a lost tooth for the puppy dog, A horse pill and a half of anti-biotics every day (turkey does the trick nicely, by the way), no walks through the horse pasture anymore, no swimming with stitches, lots of loving from Monkey and me.

The rest of the trip was just hanging out (read three books), taking a couple of walks without the dog (bummer), and being happy that our baby boy was in relatively decent shape after his ordeal.

In other trip news, the birding was not great (I didn't do a whole lot), and the beer at the gas station is 3.2%, but we did see and hear several coyotes, a couple of red shouldered hawks, and the aforementioned armadillos, and the steaks at Freddie's are top notch (the cabbage rolls and BBQ bologna ain't bad neither).

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Oklahoma Bound

Well, I've never been to heaven,
But I've been to Oklahoma
--Three Dog Night, "Never Been to Spain"

After today, I will be observing radio silence until Thursday, at least, since Spring Break is upon us, and Monkey and I are hitting the road. We are leaving for Oklahoma in a matter of hours, looking forward to a relaxing several days on the gracious Scott's Berry Farm.

It is a beautiful, but cold morning, after a happy hour of epic proportions (at least in number of attendees) to usher in Spring Break. But we are all alive and well, and ready to drive (or be driven).

I'll tell you all about it when we get back, but, for now, be happy for me...I have floated to the top of my Mizzou bracket (Now, I just need UConn to lose), and I found six dollars in my pants on Friday morning!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Behold The Power of Threes

They say things happen in threes. Yesterday, I guess this held true. First, immediately after posting, the point on my pencil broke while I was writing myself a note. In the grand scheme of things (well, in any scheme of things), not a big deal. About twenty minutes later, I was making a transparency when the copier jammed. As I tried to remove the misfeed, I dropped some really important part of the machine, and it broke (perhaps a slightly larger deal--I don't think I have to pay for anything, however). Much later that evening, as I took off my glasses to go to bed, one of the arms fell off (in my mind, this is a big deal--I'm not blind, but I do wear my glasses almost all the time). Just like that.

I am hoping today that three great things happen to me to compensate.

Will write more soon for food.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The End of Fifth Hour (And I Feel Fine)

Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce, Lester Bangs
--REM, "It's The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"

Oh, my. It seems so long ago since last I wrote. So long ago, as a matter of fact, that I am typing this entry on company time! It's that important.

Don't worry, it's my planning hour. The churlen are not flinging themselves (and others) about the room unsupervised. That comes later.

I did feel it important to simply shout out to y'all. It's only Wednesday, but Saturday seems a long time ago. We've had more basketball (not much going my way, there), the first day of Spring (that is NEVER bad), a BIG snowstorm predicted (with the requisite snowday buzz from the usual suspects), the disappointment of a serious dearth of snow (less than one of the predicted five to nine inches), and the slog that is the week before Spring Break. Not to mention an up-until-one-AM-since-third-quarter-grades-are-due-tomorrow grading binge on Monday. I am straight up beat and ready for a trip to Oklahoma (where the corn will not be as high as an elephant's eye in March). We leave Saturday, with Ripken along for the trip. Should be fun.

Golly, I haven't even mentioned the New and Improved Chicken Nuggets, with (Oh, yuck!) pork gravy on my mashed potatoes, the Great Sandhill Crane Chase of last Sunday, or the Sunday Sopranos party I bagged to do, yes, more grading. But, alas, the bell is about to ring (it's so regimented here...wouldn't it be nice to have no bells, no grades, just reading and writing and digging on literature...pleasant thought, Hippy!).

Gotta go! Peace.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cornhusker Monkeys

I can't say that I'm sorry for the things that we done
At least for a little while sir me and her we had us some fun
--Bruce Springsteen, "Nebraska"

Well, not the most pleasant song to be quoting from, but it carries the name of the future spot of the Monkey House, Lincoln, Nebraska.

That's right, Monkey (whose real name is DOCTOR Monkey, in case you didn't know), has been offered and has accepted a job with the Counselling Psychology Department at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln (they like to abbreviate it UNL, but we all know that is really the University of Northern Louisiana). Hooray!

Her job starts in January, and I'm going to stay at my school until the end of next school year (what is that? Um, June 2007). So, as much fun as our Internship seperation of 2004-5 was, we thought we'd do a miniaturized version for six months of 2007. Of course, six months and 500 miles is infinitely different than a year and 2000 miles (which is a pretty good Pretenders song--remember I like the Pretenders?). Anyway, it is deep in the future (by my standards), and I'm sure I'll be bringing all manner of somethings up about it in the future. Everyone should be happy to know, however, that at this point a) Monkey does not ever twirl a baton on the front lawn and b) I do not own, nor plan to possess, a sawed-off .410.

In an related/unrelated vein, I always wondered one thing about the song, "Nebraska": How did they find TEN people in the bad lands of Wyoming? When I was there, I was on the Interstate in broad daylight, and I think I only saw five people in two days or so.

Martin Sheen. Nothing to say about him. "Nebraska" just got me to thinking. Sissy Spacek, too, now.

The NCAA Tourney is kicking my butt. My first round picks were not very good, but I am still alive. I have potential to do well, I just didn't pick the right upsets. JPB is on top of our Mizzou pool. Congrats to him. My Favorite Berry is right behind him. That girl never ceases to amaze me. She's got skills. I wouldn't be surprised if she DID have nunchuck skills! Monkey and I are swimming around in the middle waters, while our old poker/Trivial Pursuit nemesis, Doctor Phat is benthic as a mu'v'.

A single-location happy hour with Coach B (back from the Heartland Hailstorm Tour), Aunt James (just all geeked up for Built to Spill--in APRIL), and Boring Election (who may actually vote, this time--also in April). The Monkey appeared after a presentation in Fulton, and we (Monkey and I), pushed our dinner plans back to tonight, on account of St. Patrick and the late hour. Watched a little ball and hit the hay. Monkey dreamed of Sunday, since Boring Election invited us over to watch The Sopranos, and Monkey hasn't been able to watch it since we have no pay station access here at the Monkey House.

In an odd coincidence Monkey and Boring Election found out last night that they are sisters in PJs, as both of them have Monkeypants! What a small world (with a plethora of Monkeypants designs, too).

Yesterday was my parents wedding anniversary. Thirty-eight! Wish them a good one, and tell them, next time, don't get married on a holiday (especially one in mid-March--it snowed on their wedding day in B-more).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

My Dog Don't Know From Tornado Warnings

And then he looked at the dog
--Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant"

Let it be known that even if I get not another pick right on my school NCAA pool, I did correctly pick the winner of the play-in game, last night. Go, Monmouth! Poor Hampton, they just looked plum tuckered out after running through the MEAC Tournament, winning four games in as many days. That's alot of basketball in a week (last night's game was their fifth in seven days)! A win for them would have been simply amazing.

Long day at work today. A morning faculty meeting at 6:45 and then working on the Review until 5:10 this afternoon. Phew! I am ready for the weekend. Really, I am ready for spring break, but that is not for another week. I just need to hang on. I also need the kiddos to hang on with me. They can get awful squirelly sometimes, especially when a break is imminent.

Of course, you all know by now that Monkey and I survived the tornado/hail extravaganza here in Central Standard. But the episode this weekend put me in mind of a previous story I told some friends. The following is a reprint of an email sent to friends and family on March 1, 2000.

Greetings All!

I've had a whale of a time out here on the left bank. My latest adventure leads me to believe it's going to be mildly exciting out here this spring. The weather has been quite warm, and last Thursday they were predicting thunderstorms. The day started out sunny, but the clouds rolled in thick and fast. After breakfast, I took the dog out back. I looked up at the sky, and it was about as dark as I had ever seen a sky. I decided to bring the dog in quick, but he didn't want to come in, so I had to chase him. Unfortunately, I don't have the 4.5-second-40-yard-dash speed I used to have. Nowadays it's more like, "Forty yards? I'm calling a cab!" Needless to say, I couldn't actually catch the dog, and my few attempts to corner him left me sprawled upon the grass in not-very-comfortable configurations. And then it started to rain.

There must be something in the air on the East Coast that actually causes the rain to break up into drops when it falls. We don't seem to have that here. I've gotten less wet in the shower than I did after two minutes chasing my hound through the torrents of a Missouri downpour. Luckily, my neighbor came out to see why I was sliding around in the mud in the middle of a rain storm, and that was just the distraction I needed to collar the dog.

We stayed inside most of the day, listening to the thunder and watching golf. After lunch, the Emergency Air Raid siren went off. I checked my watch. It wasn't noon, and it wasn't Wednesday. I figured the Canadians had finally launched the surprise attack they've been planning since 1812. I expected the Army recruiter to be banging on my door any second, spouting some patriotic slogans, like, "Let's show those Canucks what a dollar is supposed to buy! or, "Remember the English Measurement System!" or some other blood-stirring, flag-waving jingoism that was supposed to fill the impressionable high school student with the desire to shoot marauding Canadians.

Just as I was whipping myself into an anti-Canadian fervor, the soothing voice of the golf announcer was replaced by a too enthusiastic meteorologist telling me to kiss my ass goodbye because there was a tornado heading my way! I acted fast, grabbing my transistor radio, a bag of Cheetohs, and a change of underwear, and headed for the crawlspace. That's when I realized there was no way in hell that the dog was ever going to try to climb down the ladder to safety.

I tried reasoning with him. I tried bribing him with Cheetohs. I tried wrapping my underwear around his head and dragging him in. No dice. As I stood on the bottom rung of the ladder, just my shoulders and head poking up out of the hole in the floor, looking commandingly into the sad brown eyes of the dog, I heard the splash of water running in the crawlspace. I stuck my head down into the space and saw water gushing through the vents into the crawlspace from the backyard. This is great, I thought, I get to choose between getting blown to Oz or drowning in my own crawlspace. Luckily, they lifted the tornado warning just as the water was lapping at the eyelets of my boots.

Once out of the hole, I went to look out the window. I was amazed to find that now I was the proud tenant of waterfront property! The backyard was full of murky runoff which was now about six inches deep. I immediately rushed out to the backyard to furiously sweep the water out of the yard and around the side of the house. In the rain. Again. I think my feet are still wrinkled.

Well, I saved the house. The water stopped running into the backyard about two days later, and everything has been fine since. The landlord came by two days ago and dug a trench along the side of the house, but I don't know what good that's really going to do. And I still haven't figured out how to get the dog down the ladder.

And tornado season hasn't even officially begun.

From somewhere over the rainbow....

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Longest Post

Okay, here's a selection from some journal entries I have written during writing time with my kiddos. I will spare you my discussion of hailstorms and disappointment at the Terps not being in the NCAA Tournament until a later date.

We will begin with early in the year entries and proceed toward the present. The particulars for those who need to know ALL the details: All of these entries are handwritten in a black marbled college ruled composition book of 100 pages. The ink is generally black roller ball, blue ball point, or purple Pilot Precise rolling ball. The handwriting is generally difficult to read. They are numbered consecutively beginning with #6 (I don't know where the first five are (I wrote them on scraps of paper--poor planning)). They are each written, along with the twenty students in my 3rd hour (which started the year with 30), in a span of ten minutes at the start of class. I hope you find them entertaining, informative, inspirational, enlightening, and/or all of the above.
#7 (no date)

I changed the plan. We were supposed to do an in class writing over Equiano, but I felt like it was more important to do some reaction to the text. We'll see how that works out. I have so much to plan for...each year seems like I am just rebuilding the same wheel over and over again. I guess this is just the way I work. I would hate to work with the same texts and activities year after year. I would get bored. I love writing with the students. I like sitting at the desk and writing, almost as if I am one of them. I think they like it, too. I think we will be doing great things this year. I like the psychology of the class for the most part. It seems pretty cool to me. I need to do a better job of incorporating grammar and vocabulary into lessons and readings. I think the stuff in the textbook is good for ideas, but not as a whole. I can't find my Teaching Poetry book. I don't know what happened to it. I looked for it last night in all my book cases and looked in the piles on my desk, but I couldn't find it. I miss it alot right now. It is wierd--something exists in your life and you don't think about it and then, when you need it, if it's gone, you can't believe you didn't think about it. A quote from Lincoln: "He is a friend who gives me a book I have not read." Or something like that. I have to remember where I saw that quote. Was it in one of those teacher books? Can't remember that guys big deal. Writing at this point just to write; there is nothing in my head. I imagine a student who is writing as much as I am is complaining about his hand hurting. Mine is a little sore right now. I really love this pen. I got it for my birthday (wedding present?) from Monkey. I should let her know that I use this pen.

#14 (no date)

no time-- clerical stuff

#23 (11/17/05)

The nature of time. Space. Space time. I wish I better understood quantum physics. For some reason, I just can't get it. It is a lack of prior knowledge, an unfamiliarity with the language, and a poor ability to think spatially. Why is that so hard for me? Can I improve at it? I believe yes, but more importantly, how can I use that to understand how some of my students have problems understanding things that I get? I don't know. I am preoccupied today. That is no excuse. If I can't understand the.... Maybe I can understand it, if I write about it. Or talk about it. Although writing would be better. The ideas of the black hole. Theoretically. As a particle or whatever approaches a black hole, an observer outside of the black hole sees the particle slow and the wavelengths of light sent from it expand to an infinitessimally small speed that never reaches--O wait, how can the wavelength expand; the length shifts redder, which means it gets smaller. Anyway, it appears that the particle never gets to the black hole to the outside observer.

#24 (11/18/05)

Woohoo! My man DW just will not be quiet. But now, he's good. Overhead time will follow this + then Phillis Wheatley. What will we see? Don't know. I am dying of hunger and finding that my journal entries are getting more and more pedantic as time goes by. Really getting into HDT [Henry David Thoreau] this year. Wonder if the kiddos are? How can I make sure students are doing their work and still give them class time to go over material. The ear--it is the oddest thing--ridges and folds and shapes bizarre. What determines the ear? They are all so different. Some attached at the lobe, some not. Some growing backward from the head, some growing straight out. Some ovals, some circles. And when one looks at an ear, one says, "That is a good ear," or, "That is a bad ear." What determines this assessment? My idea of a good ear is surely not the same as someone else's. What determines what is good or bad? Is one ear shape more successful than another? Is one considered most attractive (more than others)? Is one design better at being an ear than another? For some reason, this applies to other things, too, like breasts and eyes and mouths, but I find it most wierd when thought about in terms of ears. But really what makes any one thing intrinsically more attractive than another?

#25 (11/21/05)

Free writing. Focus on writing. HD, in a letter accompanying some early sections of "Helen in Egypt" said she had gone five years without writing a poem. That is something! I haven't gone that long, but I haven't been very dilligent about it. [The rest is drivel...moving on!]

#33 (12/13/05)

I wonder how to tell you of the color of my shirt. It's like a burlap sack or the butternut of old Confederate uniforms. Sometimes I think it is gold and sometimes I think it is brown. It is like copper. It is flecks of mica in top soil. It is a background for blue or maybe (when feeling bold) red. Shiny black buttons. It is a neutral color, evoking no emotion. It is sharp. It is lukewarm (because copper makes it cold--metal cold). This description is not going well. It is earthy, for sure. Not of the sky at any rate. Definitely of the earth. The ground in winter. Can the ground in winter be warm? In fall? Hands in the soil, nails bleeding from scrapes on rocks and roots, little stones rubbed between the fingers. The brown of a Yukon gold potato skin. The light gold of autumn. Harvest. Withered, dried pumpkin vines, their large prickly leaves curled and black around the edges. Flattened blackening orbs signify the passage of fall into winter. Snow comes soon. No more shirt. Well, that was better than I thought it would be. Writing is shifting gears now. Winding down. Finding a new thing to be.

#37 (1/18/06)

Back to it for real. Announcements interrupted our writing. Well, I'm writing, but I have little to say, so I am just going to say I have nothing to say. Maybe I should read this journal entry out loud as an example of how much you can write when you have nothing to say. Because I have nothing to say today, which rhymes: say and today. Though I have nothing to say (which is not really true, since seven things just ran through my head while I was thinking of something to say--I just didn't choose to say them), anyway, since I have nothing to say, I am simply going to mention how I have nothing to say in some different ways. Nothing to say=me. I have something to say, which is nothing. This is me with nothing to say. If there is nothing to say, then I must be writing in my journal. I have never had so much nothing to say (except for the previously mentioned seven things that ran through my head while I was thinking of something to say). Anyone with something to say can't be me, because I have nothing to say. By the way, I have nothing to say. If this journal were a song, it would sound like this: . Is there anything more exciting than a journal entry full of words that add up to nothing to say? I can't believe that I have been saying nothing for nearly (almost exactly) nine minutes. One more minute of nothing and this will all be nothing more. I can't believe how sore my arm is. Nothing hurts! Nothing on this page or the previous page. Nothing is all.

#53 (3/9/06)

Math class. DW asked me about math class. Walt Whitman has nothing to do with math class. Walt Whitman wrote about the learned astronomer; how the lecture of the astronomer, filled with numbers and facts, physics and chemistry, was nothing--completely incomprehensible. But after the astronomy lecture, walking out under the magnificent stars (in the mid-19th century, the stars would have been numerous and awe-inspiring--very little light pollution), he was filled with a spiritual understanding of all those scientific theories that the astronomer was prattling on about. This is very transcendental. Very Romantic. Coming to terms with all things on one's own. Not accepting the time-honored beliefs of previous generations simply because they are time-honored, but experiencing and contemplatingthings for oneself and understanding them and accepting them without influence from others. This, in the eyes of Transcendentals, is the truest form of understanding. Truth without societal corruption is the only form of truth. Personal truth. And, in a perhaps naive aspect of the Transcendental train of thought, since it was truth, all men and women would arrive at the same truth personally. At this point in history, "truthiness" was not a concept. Truth was absolute. Today's world seems to leave that belief behind.

#54 (3/10/06)

Yesterday, I was discussing the idea of absolute truth. Well, at least, I had come to a point in my discussion of Whitman's poetry that had led me to the idea of personal truth being, in the eyes of Transcendentals, universal truth (if it is truly arrived at). Whitman's poetry, heavy on self-referential pronouns and pronouncements, embraced the concept of the individual being part of/the same (on some level) as the universe. To paraphrase, I am I, and being I, I am you. I am universal as you are universal. I sing myself, and in so singing, sing you, too. And so it goes. This is a beautiful (on a personal and on a molecular/subatomic (at this point my grasp of the universe breaks down a bit--quantum physics mess me up (life was good (though tenuously grasped) in Einsteinian times, but now I have no idea what some of the contemporary physicists are talking about)level) and true idea. Reminiscent, for me, of a book I read in a movement class I took back in my theatre-Bohemian days. I think it was called The Universe is a Green Dragon, and it postulates (though it is not a postulation--it's true), that the matter we are made from and the matter that the universe is made from are the same kind of matter. Furthermore, since matter can not be created or destroyed, we are made of the universe (present at the Big Bang).

#55 (3/13/06)

Right. So, Friday we were digging on the Big Bang. Over the weekend, we in Central Standard heard a number of big bangs, as hailstorms, accompanied by some funnel clouds and a tornado or two, ravaged the area. Saturday, the Civic was dented in a dozen places by golfball-sized hail. Sunday afternoon brought tons of hail to the area north of the Monkey House, but just a minute or so of slightly-larger-than-golfball-sized hail to our front yard. The weather forecasters on the TV were barely audible , as what sounded like a city full of bricks rained down on the roof of the TV station not two miles from the Monkey House. A funnel cloud was spotted in our town, but no touch downs. At about midnight, more hail fell on the Monkey House, but no additional damage seems to have occurred. What is a Transcendental concept of that kind of nature? The awful, destructive kind? I would imagine that they understand that as just another aspect of the face of God. Not all happiness and peace, the Transcendental God. After all, a universe created in explosion and fire and dust (the scientific, 5 billion year old version of creation) was not the work of a 24/7 pleasant diety--the diety of nature, red in tooth and claw. Peaceful at times, but destructive always. After all entropy is the natural natural state, a constant movement toward disorder. The brick wall falls ("Something there is that does not love a wall."--Frost, "Mending Wall"), the grass covers the parking lot, left to its own devices ("I am the grass; I cover all."--Sandburg, "Grass"), nature consumes all, eventually.


There you have it. I hope you stayed for the end! It's a bit disappointing to see how small these writings look when they are typed out, but, then, how much can you do in ten minutes?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Writin' and Ballin' (Who Stole My "g"s?)

Just about every day, I have my kiddos write for ten minutes at the start of class. They sometimes have a prompt to write to, but they always have the option to simply freewrite. I don't expect any of them to continue writing every day once they complete my class, but I think the process of writing improves the more you do it. I know there are studies that show that a certain number of minutes spent reading every day (I think the number is around 90) increases students' reading ability (the more you read, the higher your reading grade-level). And it doesn't matter what you read.

Of course, any study like that is mildly suspect, because you can't isolate kids for months and deny them any other stimulation except reading for 90 minutes a day. As a result, it might be possible that the kids who scored high on reading level assessments, who read for 90 minutes each day, also had parents who gave them opportunities to practice their verbal skills, or they also did alot of crosswords, or drank alot of apple juice, and that had some effect on their reading level. More than likely, this is not the case, but scientifically, you have to think it might be possible.

Anyway, my point is that I think writing everyday has some positive effect on my students' writing ability. Maybe they improve their handwriting a bit, maybe they become quicker thinkers when they have to brainstorm, maybe they get better at adding detail, or they become less "editorial" during the drafting phase (a quality that hinders many writers--they censor their ideas before they get a word on the paper, like writer's block, only it's self-imposed).

Right. Which leads me to the real point of all this: I write with my kids everyday. It's good practice to model what you ask kids to do, it shows them that I truly do take what I am asking them to do seriously, and I enjoy doing it. The past two days, I have been disappointed when the timer went off and I had to stop writing. And, I planned to bring my journal home and transfer my entries from the past two days here into "Central Standard," because I thought they were interesting. But, I left it at school. I may go up there at some point today (I have some serious organizing to do--it happens every year at this time, piles of papers and projects everywhere (it's the end of third quarter)), so maybe I'll get them up here, after all. I don't know. Then again, they may not be as interesting in 12-point black Times New Roman as they are in purple roller ball ATR's handwriting. We shall see.

The end of the week was good. I got a little bit of grading done (I went to the library). An odd episode occurred when I stopped into Panera, to grab some food and do a little work before going to the library. There in one booth was a foreign language teacher from my school. There in another was a social studies teacher and his family. I thought, "Hey, it's teacher night!" It was odd, but not too odd. This is still a small city (less than 100,000). I had the turkey and artichoke sandwich with a caesar salad (it was too warm for soup, as Monkey says). Not bad. I don't eat there a lot, and the sandwich didn't convince me that not eating their often is a bad thing, so....

Thursday night was terribly interesting. Here's what I did: played basketball, read the newspaper, went to bed at 9:45. Woo hoo! How on earth I make it to work every morning is beyond me! (Remember the days of going hard seven days a week and barely making it to work a) on time and b) able to function? I am kind of glad those days are gone, but they were fun, for a while.)

Yesterday was a moveable happy hour and disappointment as the Terps fell to Boston College in the ACC Tourney. Now, we in the Monkey House wait on pins and needles for Sunday, to see if the Terps are going to the Big Dance. Fingers are crossed. The Tigers lost in their first round Big 12 game to Nebraska (isn't it ironic?), so their season is officially done (it was done, for all intents and purposes, after they beat Kansas (1-11 after that)). And so, bracket madness is about to begin.

All that and a bag of chips.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Early Release

No, you of the dirty minds, this entry has nothing to do with sexual functions, troubling or otherwise. If that's what you're looking for, move on.

Today was an early release day. Which means that students are released, after spending 30 minutes in each class, at 11:50 am. We shepherds of future generations are then required (after a gracious one hour lunch period) to head to meetings (sometimes three in one afternoon) and piles of papers (usually more than three). This afternoon consisted of a lunch time book group to discuss the oft-maligned (in this space, anyway) A Million Little Pieces. I think you all know how I feel about it. At one, a meeting of 11th grade English teachers convened to discuss the results of some standardized test flavored practice essays, in an effort to calibrate our instruction and assessment of an increasingly important, yet consistently (it seems) irrelevant state-wide student assessment instrument. Yes, people, it was as much fun as it sounds. Actually, those present were some of the favorite minor characters in my life, so I enjoyed myself to some degree.

At two, it was off to make copies for tomorrow, do some grading (sadly, one whole paper...hey, that makes two today, and only 86 to go!), and secure the cabin for departure. Then, home again, home again, jiggety jig!

Tonight, Monkey has her all-girl book group here at the Monkey House. I am going to make myself scarce for a few hours. I don't know if I want to go to Lakota and grade/read among the gentle hustle and bustle of a low-key java joint, or if I'd rather go to the university library for some totally quiet grading. I have time to decide, but I am currently leaning toward the library. Everyone should have such simple problems to solve in their life!

Tomorrow: NCAA conference b-ball tournaments begin. Go Terps! Go Tigers! (men and women) You all three need all the help you can give yourselves (the Tiger men need the most, BY FAR).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Short Story and Favorite Lines

Yes! All is right with the world as Chicken Nugget Day was celebrated in all its unnatural glory. Aunt James stopped by my fourth hour to ask if I was going to indulge. Of course, I said yes.

"Okay, stop by my room and we'll go down together."

I said okay, went to the LARC to pick up a new book (I finished A Million Little Pieces--crap), and stopped by her room. Out she comes with the following, "I don't have any money!" So, guess who bought Aunt James lunch today? Yep, I got played.

But, I got to sit down to some fine fake chicken and potatoes, so I'm not complaining.

Just for fun, some of my favorite movie lines (not word for word on all of them, I'm sure), from a short list of some classics (and some crap). Add your own in the comments section, if you like.

Something Wild
"I'm a closet rebel."

"Attempt to be cool."

Better Off Dead
"What a waste of a perfectly good white boy."

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
"I was adjusting your breasts."

--"What does FOC mean?"
--"Well, that's when a man and a woman..."
--"No, F.O.C."

"You think you're so smart just 'cause you can read."

Hollywood Shuffle
"You want wine on your hoecake?"

Animal House
"Does this thing talk?"

"The question here isn't whether we took a few liberties with our female party guests--we did."

"Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"

"Wait 'til Otis sees us! He loves us!"

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
"My hair."

"We're in a tight spot."

"Oh, George, not the livestock!"

"I'm the damn pater familias."

"And stay out of the Woolsworth!"

Raising Arizona
"It ain't Ozzy and Harriet."

"And this here's the divan, for socializin' and spendin' quality time with the family unit."

The Big Lebowski
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

"Who the fuck are the Knutsons?"

"You want a toe? I can get you a toe...."

"You're not wrong, Walter, you're just an asshole."

"This is not Nam, Smokey, this is bowling. There are rules."

"Fuck it, Dude. Let's go bowling."

--"Where you going, Dude?
--"Home, Donny."
--"Phone's ringing, Dude."
--"Thanks, Donny."

Joe Versus the Volcano
"I have no response to that."

"Brain cloud."

"Are you...Joe?"

"We're gonna need a bigger boat."

"Smile, you son of a bitch!"

Spinal Tap
"This one goes up to eleven."

--"That's pretty. What's it called?"
--"'Lick my Love Pump'."

Pulp Fiction
"I had to crash that Honda, baby."

"It's American. Our names don't mean shit."

"That's a tasty burger."

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Wide World of Sports

For sports fans (such as myself), this is the week before the best three weeks in sports. March Madness officially kicks off with Selection Sunday on March 12. This weekend (beginning on Thursday), brings us several major conference men's tournaments. I have a personal interest in the ACC and Big 12 tournaments, but other conference tournaments will be just as entertaining as any. Like Osculator says, March Madness is one of the things that are not stupid (like Sprite and forest land).

In addition, I am intrigued by the World Baseball Classic, which got off to an international start this past weekend. The US team takes on South Africa (who knew they played baseball in South Africa?) Tuesday (that may not be a very competitive game). Some of the best ball players in the world get to face off for their home countries (well, except the several Italian team members who qualify to play for that team because they once ate shrimp fra diablo). As a baseball fan, I am pretty excited about it. I hope it lives up to its expectations.

In an unrelated note, I just want to let everyone know how much I missed the Monkey this past weekend, while she was in Atlanta. She says I never use any blog space to profess my undying love for her. Consider this a profession. (I somehow feel a bit like Tom Cruise, all of a sudden.)

Returning to sports, let me just end this entry with a sad note of disappointment in the Winter Olympics. I remember as a kid really looking forward to the Winter Olympics. Of course, the Miracle on Ice in 1980 was an amazing event. I remember watching Olympic hockey at my buddy Big Red Dog's house, while we drew pictures of battleships and fighter planes, and shot rubber bands at elaborate arrays of plastic toy soldiers (as many eleven-year-old boys do). I also, especially recall the finest Olympics broadcast I remember: the 1984 games in Sarajevo. Every time I think of the devastation that region endured in the 1990s, I think of the quaintly beautiful town that I remember, the snow falling in the night on the medieval Slavic streets. Ironically, much of that devastation was most likely perpetrated by men who, as young boys, drew pictures of battleships and fighter planes, and shot rubber bands at eleborate arrays of toy soldiers. Sure, I have romantic notions of what Sarajevo was. Notions that I am informed of only through twenty-year-old television images. However, my romantic notions are all I have. It's sad, really. At any rate, my point here is that overall, just about everything about the 2006 Turin games broadcast basically sucked. No details are necessary. If you disagree, let me know.

Tomorrow is, of course, Chicken Nugget Day. I couldn't be happier. They better not pull a fast one on me again this week. I just don't know what I'd do. I'd probably eat shitty pizza again, or a cardboard cheeseburger. But, I'd be pissed about it.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Random Thoughts, Take Two

This is my fiftieth entry since I started blogging (I know, it's just a silly word...I almost hate to type it) back in October. Should I pop the cork on a bottle of Dom Perignon, or what?

Do not let the Gub'ment sell off national forest land to finance the Rural Schools Act! I am serious. Write your senators. Write your representatives. Let them know that this is a REALLY bad idea (in a long line of bad ideas that have come out of this administration). Once we start selling off forest land, we can't get it back. Beyond the environmental reasons for opposing this idea, the distribution of money is not in any relation to the amount of land sold from state to state. The Midwest loses 50,000 acres to finance an act under which they receive $41 million. Oregon and Washington sell 18,000 acres to finance the same act, under which they receive $210 million. That ain't right. Here's a plan: stop spending more than half of the federal budget on defense, and don't sell ANY forest land. How's that sound? Education president my ass.

I just scared the shit out of myself. I was staring off into space, pressing the SHIFT key for no apparent reason, when I heard a weird noise. Like a robotic cockroach calling to its mates. I look around the room to find no robotic cockroaches (thank goodness), but I was still a bit freaked out by the strange sound. Then I look at the computer screen. I had activated the StickyKeys function, by pressing SHIFT five times. It's weird, though, because the sound that accompanies the pop up window sounds like it is coming from somewhere behind me. Perhaps my computer has mad ventriloquism skills.

That's a wicked cool word: ventriloquism.

Sodoku is dumb.

Cryptoquotes are excellent.

Monkey can kick my ass at Scrabble, but I'm faster than she is.

I hate awards shows, but the seven minutes I watched of the Independent Spirit Awards on IFC were interesting. Felicity Huffman won Best Actress for TransAmerica, and her speech rocked. Then I got bored and turned off the TV.

Cold coffee is kind of gross.

Hot tuna is also kind of gross.

Even cheese can save neither cold coffee nor hot tuna.

I just remembered today how much I used to love The Pretenders. I was listening to Pretenders II and I got to thinking, "Man, I played this cassette a ton back in the day." Then I thought, "How come you never got Learning to Crawl on CD? You wore the grooves off the LP." Then the drier went off, and I got distracted.

I really need to buy a new pair of shoes for work.

A freshly swept floor, an empty hamper, an empty sink, and clean sheets on the bed: a recipe for love.

I am trying so hard not to hate James Frey's book, A Million Little Pieces. Some of the teachers and staff are reading it as part of an Early Release Day Lunchtime Book Club. (We just can't get enough of the reading and talking.) Maybe I'm just an insensitive asshole, but I keep thinking, "Shut up, already," while I am reading. It just strikes me as so much self-indulgent bullshit. And what's worse is that it is MADE UP self-indulgent bullshit. That's probably what fries my short hairs the most. Like, this dude's life wasn't shitty enough? He had to make it worse? What a freakin' loser. But, you know, other than that, great book. Good choice, Oprah. (That, ladies and gentlemen, was sarcasm.)

'Cause, you know, really, my world would be a better place if Oprah, Martha, the Donald, and Ryan Seacrest (and about a hundred other people whom I only know from their celebrity status) were given a Viking funeral. I'd even be happy with just sending them off to sea in a trireme. No pyre necessary. That's pretty reasonable, ain't it? Or, since it is the 21st century, maybe we could send them into orbit on a French satellite. "Mon dieu," the French might say, "not Monsieur Seacrest! L'American Idol? No. We are sorry, we can not help you." Damn, French.

Alright, that's enough for now. Happy Monday, everyone.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Does Anybody Else Ever Confuse The Ides of March with Blood, Sweat, and Tears? I Know I Surely Do.

In March the mad scientist
Brings a new change
In ever-dancing colors.
--Jethro Tull
Now that February is behind us, I am sure that most of you are looking forward to Spring. I know I am. We still have the potential for some heavy winter weather, but the worst, we suspect, is behind us, once March rolls around. And here it is.
Warm weather and wild thunderstorms can't be too far away.
Monkey is in Atlanta, GA, this weekend, visiting her buddies from internship last year. It sounds like she's having fun. Aunt James and I hit Booche's for happy hour (which turned into happy hours), but I was home and asleep in front of the TV by 9pm. A solo, last-minute trip to Eagle Bluffs this morning was excellent. I spotted thousands of snow geese (along with two other species of geese), at least eleven different duck species, some trumpeter swans, a bald eagle, and the first tree swallow of the year (see, spring is right around the corner). A bit of frozen precipatation fell around 11 am, but it was hardly noticable. I tried to take a walk on some of the trails at the Conservation area, but there were too many geese around and I didn't want to disturb them. All in all, my best outing of the year, so far.
Now, it's errand time. I have a buttload of stuff to read, and I should probably go grocery shopping (but I could do this tomorrow). I need to go to the library, too. Does anybody know when it closes on Saturday?
Well, with so much to do, I should probably go do it. Jersey Girl: send more cookies (and chips)! Many here in Central Standard keep asking who that striking babe with the STRAIGHT hair was that Monkey and I were with at the festival last weekend. My response: "Who?"