Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ice Planet Hoth: A Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn't Want to Live There

Will you stand by me against the cold night,
Or are you afraid of the ice?
--Crack the Sky, "Ice"

More snow is descending on Central Standard as I write. Since mid-January, it has been winter time with a vengeance here, ladies and gents. Not much snow since the ice and such a few weeks back, but it has been coldcoldcold. And this house has more gaps in it than...something with alot of gaps in it. So, it's not the warmest house on the block. The ice around the side of my house that man and beast have to contend with when beast has to do what beasts have to do is tenaciously hanging on (and seemingly getting slicker by the day). Tonight, along with temps in the teens, we get maybe two more inches of snow. I hope none of the snow blows into the house through any of those gaps. It is tough going 'round these parts.

I just finished a pretty interesting book: Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. It's a good read, if you like books that are short on any real plot and long on character development. Set in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the early 1950s, it has a sort of Faulkner/Steinbeck-The Sound and the Fury-meets-Cannery Row feel. (Side note: This ain't the Cannery Row Steinbeck knew.) I liked it. Now, on the recommendations of Monkey, Boring Election, and Captain Morgan, I am doing myself a favor and increasing my cultural IQ by diving into East of Eden. Those of you familiar with my profile know that The Grapes of Wrath is one of my all-time favorites. I have enjoyed Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flats, The Red Pony, The Pearl, and the aforementioned Cannery Row, but I've not read Eden. With so many stellar recommendations, I can't miss on this one, either.

I facetiously told Captain Morgan at work today that it was a goal of mine to have read every book written in the English language (including this one, damn Tom Palmer's opinion) by the time I retired from teaching. It's really not a bad goal. Unattainable, sure, but what's wrong with unattainable goals? It beats one of my other life goals: never being arrested (though that's really a pretty good goal, too, I think).

Another interesting recent read: Lost Horizon by James Hilton. This one is sort of Somerset Maugham-ish. Short and exotic, in a Himalayan vein.

So, without further ado, I will read me some lit'racher, as the snow falls softly down. Wish I had a fireplace....

By the way, Crack the Sky=the best Ohio River Valley band ever to play at Hammerjacks, hon. (And I'm talking about the John Palumbo-Vinny DePaul-Joey D'Amico Crack the Sky, here.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Dubious Proposition

An email arrived in my school inbox this afternoon from a member of our school's wellness committee (don't even ask me what they do) that read, from the best my memory can recall, as follows:

"Please respond Yes to this email if you favor the following proposition. If you are not in favor, DO NOT respond to this email. Would you favor a school year calendar for 2008-2009 that does not allow for a spring break?"

My first response to this was, "Wha' ?" No spring break. Somebody on the wellness committee must have been unwell. Somebody had to be smoking crack, sniffing glue, hovering too closely to the whiteboard. This had to be a joke.

My next response was, "Who in the hell is gonna be in favor of that?"

But it's real. Someone is proposing doing away with spring break. But nobody gives out the details. If we eliminate that break, does school end a week earlier, or do we get "compensated" for five more work days? Why is this being proposed? What data leads someone to believe that eliminating that break would be (as all things in edumucation must be) in the best interest of the churlen?

Then, I realized that I would be somewhere else in 2008-2009 and decided not to give it another thought. Until I wrote about it just now.

Funny but sad: the girls basketball team played their crosstown rivals last night at home, but the gym roof was leaking so much icemelt onto the gym floor that the game had to be suspended with the home team down by one with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter. Thousands of worked up spectators were sent home with no resolution. What a terrible state some of our facilities are in. They plan on resuming the game on Monday, once again, in our gym. Gee, I hope it stops leaking by then.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oh, My Aching Back!

Saturday night brought more snow to Central Standard. About four inches fell overnight. Monkey and I went out to dinner and to see The Painted Veil. As we drove downtown, the snow began to fall. The walk from the restaurant to the theatre was undertaken in a swirl of wet, blowing snow. It was pretty, actually. The movie, by the way, was really good, and the film started pretty much on time.

Of course, Monkey and I also went see Babel at the same theatre on Friday night. That movie didn't start on time. A sign on the door said that they were having a "ruff day," and that the movie would start at 10:15, instead of 10. A 10 o'clock movie on a Friday night is a difficult enough proposition for me, but I figured 10:15 was hardly different than 10. Of course, time went by, as Monkey and I stood in the crowded lobby of the theatre waiting for the prior movie to let out. And time went by. And time went by. The movie started at 10:50. Yowza! And, the movie was 150 minutes long, or so! I must admit, I napped a bit, here and there before the end of the movie at nearly 1:30 AM. That notwithstanding, I can still say, with some certainty, that the movie was okay. Not great. I wouldn't have nominated it for an Oscar, but somebody did.

Anyway, the Saturday night movie let out at about 10:30, and when Monkey and I trooped outside, it was a winter wonderland. The drive home was uneventful, although, as you know, lots of people don't know how to drive in the snow. They either act like it is not snowing, or that they can only drive as fast as they can walk. We encountered both types.

On Sunday morning, the snow finished, I went out to shovel the walk. The snow was wet and heavy. I did not follow proper shoveling procedure (lift with the knees, etc.). Near the bottom of the driveway, my back went pop. Ouch! Being a numbskull, I finished the last few square feet of driveway and gingerly stepped back into the house, where I stayed all day, sitting up against a pile of cushions with a heating pad on my back. Of course, with the NFC and AFC championships on the tube that afternoon, I probably would have stayed on the sofa most of the day, anyway, only without the heating pad and the cushions (and the ibuprofen).

School the past two days has been bearable. The back is sore, and it occasionally catches on me, but I am improving. No basketball this week, at any rate. And, guess what? There are rumors of snow on the weekend horizon. I will lift with my knees, this time, if need be.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

School Days on Ice Planet Hoth

Now, I'll grant you that other areas of this fair state, buck up against one river and sliced across by another, have had a far worse time with Old Man Winter than these parts have, but, it's been bad enough. We had another cancelled school day on Wednesday, while all hands were brought to bear on the ice, chipping and treating, chopping and hauling. By today, the powers that be decided it was safe for us to return to school. Of course, when I turned into the relatively ice-covered teacher parking lot this morning at 6am, some dude in a front loader was still pushing chunks of ice around the circle drive that the busses use in the mornings. They finished just under the wire, it looked like.

The break was hardly inconvenient, since we just finished first semester, so today was a brand new day in so many ways. Of course, grades were supposed to be done by Tuesady morning, so that got pushed back a bit. After all, you can't go through life expecting no inconveniences. I mean, without an inconvenience or two every day, we forget to appreciate the conveniences we do have, like electric light and central heating (which we don't always seem to have at school--the heating...they do the electric lights alright).

So, it was good to be back after Winter Break II. If you add up all the days we have had school since December 19, you would come up with a grand total of seven. And three of those were exam days. Crazy. In a good sort of way, I guess.

At this point, we've used all of our built-in snow days, so another major storm will push our end date back. That's never fun. The hardest part, however, might be the fact that the poor kids have to suck it up with no days off until President's Day on February 19. Barring further winter weather, of course. What a travesty. I don't know how some of them are going to make it.

Oh, by the way, the beard is gone. I was getting to know my beard, and my beard me. It was a good beard: kind, warm, and given to engaging bits of contemplative fancy. Sometimes, we talked for hours about absolutely nothing. And, it was great, don't get me wrong. There was an undeniable connection between my beard and me, a connection that was a few millimeters more than skin deep. But, like many relationships begun on a whim, after awhile I just kind of got bored with it. Which begs the question: do I get bored with my regular face? And I guess the answer is yes, or I never would have felt the need to bring a beard into my life to begin with.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Downside of a Snow Day

Tomorrow has been cancelled. Schools are closed on Tuesday due to the ice which has been slowly building up here for the past four days. It is currently snowing (lightly), and we appear to be out of the precipitation woods, but the powers that be seem to think that it will be just too dangerous tomorrow to have school. That is fine by me, except....

You know what Tuesday means to me. I'll miss my nuggets, for sure. With next week's Tuesday being an early release day, that means no love next week, either. I will endeavor to persevere, however. And Wednesday will just have to be an adequate day to start second semester.

It is nice, on some level, to me, the December 1 snow storm notwithstanding, to be visited, finally, by real winter weather. It is cold. As it should be. I don't know if global warming is a permanent thing. It seems clear to me that our habits of burning excessive amounts of carbon-based fuels, of clearing every tree in sight, of not regulating more stringently the emissions of manufacturers have had some negative effects on our climate. Yet, how are we to really tell if this current warm up is not just a natural trend that will, after some time, be it a decade or a thousand years, reverse itself? I guess we can't know for sure. One thing is clear. I truly miss winters that are as they once were advertised, with hard, extended freezes, when only the most fool-hardy (or just plain hardy) wore shirt sleeves and shorts to go out. Frisbee, dammit, is not a winter sport. Nor should it be.

So, a bit of ice and wind is actually a pleasant thing, for me. Frozen ponds and drifting snow. The loss of such things is the real tragedy of global warming. Even if their presence sometimes curtails our enjoyment of a chicken nugget here and there.

By the way, I've been half-heartedly working on a children's book for my two nephews. Here's the first verse I wrote for it, "Turtles Belong Outside"(I need an illustrator). It somehow reminds me of something my grandmother used to sing to my brother and me as kids. Not this particular verse, but things like it. This, by the way, like all good literature, is based on actual events.

Turtles Belong Outside

Found a turtle outside
And I brought him indoors.

I showed him to Monkey;
he peed on the floor.

I showed him to Puppy;
He peed one more time.

I took him outside.
That's the end of my rhyme.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Greetings from Ice Planet Hoth

We are iced in, over here, people. Friday afternoon and night left us a couple of inches of sleet, and last night left us some freezing rain. The main roads may not be too bad, but, this morning, the dog won't go outside after skittering across the front yard, earlier, and I was left standing on the front porch, looking down the slight hill that is our driveway, wondering how I would get the newspaper, not twenty feet away. More is expected today, with some snow to top it off. It's a good thing that exams ended Thursday and there's no school until Tuesday.

In other news--other awful, horrible, no-good, very bad news--the Ravens held the Colts--the Payton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne Colts--to NO touchdowns...and LOST. It was the worst display of offensive incompetence I have seen in a playoff game since...LAST WEEK, when the same Colts made the Chiefs look like, well, the Ravens (of old). I was speechless. It took all I had to even read the ESPN recap of the game. I'll get over it.

Other than that...exams, as I said, are over...a new semester begins on Tuesday (and we all know why Tuesday is special) word on the job front...Monkey came home with a brochure for a house in Lincoln, priced at more than $280K; it's a nice looking house in the pictures, but it is too much house and too much money for us (Monkey wasn't really offering this as a possibilty, she just wanted me to see it 'cause she thought we'd both like it--damn straight I'd like it!)...that is all.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

What Saturday Brought

Yesterday: walked the dog, ran some errands, did some grading, went over to Casa de Coach B with Monkey. Several things occured to me over the course of the day.

*How can the wind be blowing in one's face while walking west, then seem to be blowing in one's face while walking south, then seem to be blowing in one's face while walking east, and then (you guessed it) blowing in one's face while walking north. One might become disoriented. Perhaps one was walking in a straight line the entire time and only thought he or she was making turns.

*Speaking of turns, I am terrible at rolling virtual marbles on virtual tile surfaces. It's a life skill I simply don't seem to possess, yet I have managed to live a relatively full life despite this handicap. However, it brought to mind this hypothetical quandary: suppose my parents had the medical and monetary wherewithal in 1968 to do genetic screening of yours truly, in utero, and this anomaly (my predisposition to be a poor virtual marble roller) were discovered. Now, suppose one of my parents could not bear to bring a child into this world with such a handicap, fearing that somehow the child's inability to perform such a simple-seeming virtual skill would open him or her up to ridicule and impenetrable barriers over the course of life. For the sake of decorum, and my parents' constiutution, let's say they decide simply to splice a gene here and there and somehow manage to create an uberroller, a child with a preternatural ability to roll virtual marbles over virtual tile. How would that have altered my life? What experiences would I have missed? What character-building life moments (that ultimately made me the man I am today) would I have been denied? These ethical questions previous generations have been mercifully spared; however, generations of the near future will be faced with them. Should we not grapple with them ourselves, and spare our children (or rather our brother's children) the divisive debate?

*I always thought Superman used his powers for good, but, as revealed in the film, Superman Returns, the Man of Steel also uses his power to spy on old girlfriends and sneak into the bedroom of his estranged child. Super spooky is what that is.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Marking the Middle

Tuesday brings the beginning of semester finals for me and the kiddos. We're nearly halfway through the school year. It's always a mystery to me, each year, why we have finals after winter break. Coming back to four days of classes before exams seems to make little sense, since there really is not enough time to really start anything new. We do spend most of the time in review and reinforcement activities, which is beneficial, but I think everyone would be better served if we had exams taken care of before the two week break. But, we make the best of what we have.

Monkey starts her new job in Lincoln on Monday. She leaves on Sunday morning and probably will be back here by Wednesday night. It will be a long few months for both of us, and Monkey will be doing a lot of driving. Mix in the imminent house search and my search for a job there (while still teaching here), and it will be a stressful, exciting time. I hope everything falls into place, and that we have everything settled by the first of June. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Otherwise, not much to tell. We saw Running with Scissors last night. It was interesting, and it had some entertaining moments, but I found it to be strangely uneven. Sometimes it was a strangely stylized campy comedy, sometimes it was a family drama. It was too much, for me. Annette Benning was great, and, like I said, it had its moments, but, if you are considering this one, I'd suggest you reconsider it. Not that I am some arbiter of movie taste, or anything.

Oh, if you see Monkey, ask her about her dreadful Mediacom phone experience this past week. I'm sure she'd love to tell you about it!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mark It, Dude

Another year has passed on, both on the calendar and in the annals of the author. Monkey and I celebrated with some sushi and a cupcake.

New Year's Eve was a blast. Aunt James had a party and it was a marvel to see how she had prepped her house for the guests. She cleaned out and painted and decorated her entire garage, all in the space of two days. The woman is a manic wonder. It was a little cold, but it looked great.

Unfortunately, I may have erred when I hit the champagne at midnight. It always gives me a headache, and I should have known that 2007 would be little different than 2006 in that respect. I felt pretty awful for most of yesterday. Ah, another New Year's Day on the sofa. Will I never learn?

I pulled some photos off the camera from XmasFest 2006. Here is one of Monkey and I with Nephew #1. He loves the LCD screen on the camera.