28 February 2008

1 in 100 in Prison

I found some of the numbers in this article staggering. 1 in 100 Americans are in prison. But just as scary, if not more so, are the demographic breakdowns. Our society has a long way to go. Read the article and then check out the full 39 page report if you want more info. I saved it and am going to find some ways to incorporate it into a lesson. Should make for interesting conversation, especially the stat that 1 in 9 black males aged 20-34 are in jail.

A Delicious End to Black History Month

As a culmination of Black history month, each year some of the staff & faculty bring in all sorts of soul food and put on a mammoth spread of food for the teachers. I had heard the rave reviews of years past, so I made sure to not forget to sign up and pay my $5. Today I ate so much food that I kinda felt I should go back and pay an extra stipend to cover my share. Luckily I was not the only gluttonous teacher. There was fried chicken, ribs, brisket and smoked turkey. Cornbread, cornbread sticks and hot-water cornbread. Stuffing, black-eyed peas, and red beans & rice. Scalloped corn, macaroni & cheese, sweet potatoes, greens and green beans. There was a guy who had is from Africa and had made a chicken curry dish. And endless desserts to finish with. I was part of the last shift to eat and there was still lots of food to go. My favorites were the greens, the brisket and the red beans & rice. Yum. I was fortunate to have my planning period right after lunch, so I had some time to process & digest my feast before having to teach again. I felt sorry for those that had to go and try to be active and engaging while painfully stuffed.
Ok, so what is next month that we can have a potluck for?

26 February 2008

Apologies

I know that I've been super lame on the posting lately. I've sorta been staying away from the laptop lately cuz it brings me down when I'm on it. The sound driver is still non-functional and I have to call HP to continue to work on it and I'm disgruntled about their tech support so I'm not looking forward to doing it. I'll be back in force soon, as soon as I can listen to music while typing.

A Starbucks-free Night

Starbucks is closing nearly all locations for three and a half hours tonight so they can have a company-wide training and energizing meeting. It is part of a plan of the new CEO. Rivals, including Dunkin Donuts, are taking the opportunity to lure Starbucks fans who are looking for someplace to fill their fix. From 1pm-10pm they will be offering 99 cent lattes (FREE at Chicago & Philly locations).

22 February 2008

Tech Support

After a couple 30 minute calls and a two and a half hour call with Keerthan in India (for a fee), in am sure of two things. 1 - I will be over my minutes this month, 2 - my sound driver is still not working. I've never wanted to reach out and punch someone in Bangalore so bad before. I have an scheduled call with Keerthan's senior tech person on Sunday to look forward to now. Maybe I'll put him/her on hold for 20 minutes just to start the call off right. :)

Physics & Siphoning

I witnessed first-hand for the first time tonight, how it is that siphoning actually works. I'd heard stories about putting a hose in someone's gas tank, taking a big pull on the hose and then letting it flow into your own tank, but I always wondered how & if that really worked. Well...let me tell you, it does. This is the relevant, real-life type lesson plan that my district would flip over. I made myself a drink earlier tonight and (thanks to homebase's twisty-straw purchase) put a straw in it. As I walked back to my spot, I took a pull on the straw. It was shaped like an upside-down J, curling over the lip of the glass. When I set it down, the level of the end of the straw was below the level of the liquid in the glass and it started pouring all over the table. I sat there, spell-bound, for a moment, with that look that I crave and live to see in the face of my students.
My neighbors had better be locking their gas tanks. :)

Catching Up

So, in the interim of my not posting...I have dropped $300 to get a new blower/fan put in my car, so the unbelievably loud screeching is a thing of the past and I am unafraid to turn on my heater, dropped another $300 to put a new hard drive in my 16 month old laptop and an continuing to get thing back to the way they used to be on my machine, and now my iPod is all jacked up so I might, if my luck holds up, just get to screw with getting that all set back up. Luckily to help keep my sanity there has been lots going on. I ventured down to Veteran's Memorial Auditorium to watch our girl's basketball team play their substate game (and win by 3). I just LOVE watching basketball down there! To me it is so sad that they moved the big show to Wells Fargo Arena. Anyways, it is very fun to have some of the players on the team in class and see how excited they are. I'm excited too, I can't wait to get out of class on Wednesday! Also, I attended a fashion show of our Sheroes club to benefit a local charity last night and it was at a very cool venue and it was pretty entertaining to see students with big, extreme hair styles, cool outfits, and a chance to show off on the catwalk. They didn't miss their chances and really hammed it up and it was a good time, and a great cause. They kids were so excited about it, and amped up to invite and encourage people to attend, and very happy to see people in attendance. And I maybe got some fashion ideas for the spring season!
Lastly, I broke up my first fight this week. I've been looking forward to this since student teaching and I have to say that this first opportunity was not all I'd hoped it'd be. I pretty much got between to girls after the first punch/slap had been thrown and separated them so they could yell threats at each other until the campus monitors showed up. Hopefully, next time I'll be able to really pull some kids off each other.
All that being said, it is Friday, I made it and can't wait to enjoy the weekend.
Slainte!

21 February 2008

Computer Meltdown

Well, I don't really care to go into detail right now, but my wonderful laptop which had given me zero problems in the 16 months I've had it, decided to have a hard drive meltdown last Sunday evening. An "unmountable boot volume" turned out to mean $280 of repair and an all new hard drive. So I am looking at a computer that looks brand new, meaning I have to download and reinstall all the programs I use. I also I looking forward to having the Buffalo come to the rescue and be able to restore all (or nearly all) of my pictures, music, etc. The worst thing I lost is my bookmarks. :(
Life goes on.

17 February 2008

Short stories

A friend at school gave me a few short stories to read recently and I just thought I'd share them. Spotting and analyzing symbols and themes in literature is not something I am good at, so I do find it pretty interesting when I hear or read about all the information that is being shared 'between the lines'. That said, I do enjoy the detail in character and plot development in full length stories that is not possible in short stories. There's just a feeling of unanswered questions or untold parts of the story that I don't like when I read short stories. I always want to know, "What happened next?" or "Why'd they do that?" or "What is this character really like?"
  • "Where are you going, Where have you been?" by Joyce Carol Oates
    • This one was interesting, captivating and more than a little creepy and unsettling.
    • Full text can be found here.
  • "A Woman On a Roof" by Doris Lessing
    • I didn't care for this one too much. It didn't feel like it was developing at all and failed to get much out of it.
    • Full text can be found here.
  • There was one other one but I can't remember the title. If I do, I'll update the post.

13 February 2008

Bring on Space Weapons Says U.S.

It is a sad thing to be embarrassed by your country's actions. When Russia and China can get together and present a ban on weapons in space to the United Nations and the good ol' U.S. refuses to go along with it, it makes me shake my head and wonder what sort of common sense the politicians and diplomats are using when they make those kind of decisions. "Instead...the White House favored “discussions aimed at promoting transparency and confidence-building measures.”" Wow, Don't go overboard there! Wouldn't it be a strong, positive signal to set some sort of standard or guideline for keeping weapons, violence or war from this 'final frontier'? No, the White House is "opposed any treaty that sought “to prohibit or limit access to or use of space.” And we wonder why the rest of the world has less-than-fond feelings towards us.

New Ireland Manager


The new manager of Ireland's national soccer team will be Giovanni Trapattoni. He is very well known in soccer circles and has an impressive resume, with 30 years of head coaching experience including stints at top-level teams such as the Italian national team, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Fiorenina, Benfica and Stuttgart. He's coached club teams in four countries so I don't think he'll have any problems transitioning to the Irish squad. An interesting and fortuitous sidenote, an Irish billionaire has offered to pay part of the coaches wage package to enable the FAI to land such a quality manager. The Ireland squad needs it. They are coming off a very poor run of games under Steve Staunton so changes will be needed. I'm excited to see what happens. World Cup 2010?! I love how omnipresent soccer is in other countries. The Prime Minister was on the air within "seconds" of the announcement to comment on it. I can't see that happening here in the U.S. when a new national coach is announced.

Poorly Phrased

Last week I was explaining a market simulation that we were going to do in class (which turned out to be a lot of fun & a good lesson) and as I shared how if you wanted to sell your commodity, you would have to find someone who wanted to buy at a certain price. The prices ranged from $3.80 to $5.30. Unfortunately, I didn't think and picked a poor example price, "So you need to find someone who will agree to $4.20." It brought lots of laughs and comments.
I wasted little time in topping that in class today. After having the students work on a supply & demand curve problem, I wanted them to hold up what they came up with. "Show me your curves" was probably not the best way to say it. Again, laughter and inappropriate comments ensued. When you are giving directions, comments, feedback, asking questions for six hours a day, you are bound to say some silly things. I can only imagine what someone walking by the door would think if those comments were all they heard.

09 February 2008

Obama Cares About Nebraska

One more reason for Nebraskans to get behind the Obama movement, according to a Washington Post article about his recent visit to Omaha, "It was the first time in 20 years that a major presidential candidate campaigned in Nebraska during the primary season." While it may not make you all feel as cool as "first in the nation" Iowa, it's a start! :)

addendum: Way to go Cornhusker state! Obama wins with 68% of the Democratic vote.

Bobby Fischer

I don't think I posted anything when Bobby Fischer died last month. Today I ran across an article in the NY Times with an accompanying video clip that got me thinking about him again. I read Bobby Fischer Goes to War when I was living in Chicago and it really rekindled my fondness for chess that had been dormant for years. I searched around a little and found a couple other video clips that were worth sharing. video 1, video 2, video 3.
Two interesting side bits of interesting info I found while browsing:
Esperanto - an international made-up language?! I'd never heard of it!
László Polgár & his 3 daughters - Wild story of a father who decides to use his three daughters as a psychology experiment and creates all of them into grandmasters. This article from Psychology Today is fascinating.

Cooking, USOC-style

The NY Times has a great article that takes a look at some of the challenges raised by trying to feed 600+ world-class athletes in a foreign country where food safety standards are not what they are here. I would love to spend a week in the USOC training center and its kitchen, just seeing how they go about getting every possible bit of performance from the human body. The executive chef sounds pretty cool. I love the story about her son coming home and asking her why she'd been abusing him; why he had to discover Twinkies at someone else's house. It reminds me of when I went to college and told my friends that I had never had Fruity Pebbles, Coco Puffs, or Apple Jacks. They looked at me like I was from the moon. Actually, I can't say that I was missing much. I think I tried them all once and never had them again. Froot Loops on the other hand, are mighty fine.

New Army Manual of Operations

I thought this article from the NY Times regarding the Army releasing a new version of their operations manual, the first since 2001, was pretty interesting. Not only the updated view that the aftermath (stabilization, "nation-building", etc) has equal importance as the battlefield operations, but also some of the other comments made. They state that their are currently inconsistencies between what the new manual recommends and current Army practices in Iraq. Also, development of future weapons/tactics are being looked at under this new light and evaluated to see if their use matches the intent of the new manual. Lastly, "combat engineer" sounds like a very interesting job title. I think that would be exciting to do (well, maybe just to job shadow for a while).

07 February 2008

The Indomitable Lions vs. Pharoahs

Cameroon achieved a 0-1 win over Ghana in the semi-final of the African Nations Cup. This puts them into the championship game on Sunday against previous champions Egypt. Now the next challenge is finding a place to watch it. I've been looking around but I don't think it's being carried by any major stations here, but I did find a few places that carry soccer matches that I didn't know about, namely Amici Espresso which carries Fox Sports Channel and is open early on the weekends! Looks like I may have to watch it online. (also, for readers in Omaha...check out Brazen Head, Barry O's, and Firewater Grille)

06 February 2008

Super Tuesday and Snow Wednesday

Watching all the returns last night (and this morning) from the states holding caucuses and primaries was pretty entertaining. The results were very encouraging for Obama. He won thirteen (or fourteen) states to HRC's eight and in many states, he either won of was very competitive after trailing by double digits only a week or two ago. HRC won the big states (NY, NJ, CA) but the delegate count is still very close between the two. I was happy to see Obama do well in New Mexico, after many pundits questioned whether Latino votes would go for him. Missouri was also reassuring. I heard on NPR today that Missouri has never been wrong in their primary; whoever takes that state has always ended up winning the ticket. The state was called for HRC early on but then those people had to retract their statements and it looks like Obama has scraped a come-from-behind win by 10,000 votes, 49% to 48%. So after all the hubbub about super Tuesday, we see the Democratic race still pretty much head to head. So maybe the most pertinitent items are what's next? A week or so ago Obama's camp announced that he had received $32 million in donations in January and now this morning HRC's campaign is stating that she is considering adding to the $5 million she's already borrowed from herself. Her funds are getting tight, no surprise after outspending Obama in Massachusetts (more than double) and California. The pundits say she was trying to offset 'the Kennedy factor'. She did end up winning both of those states but maybe the cash outlays have left the wallet (or purse) pretty light. And as we look at what states are coming up, Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, Maine, Maryland, D.C, Virginia all within the next week. As I said the night of the Iowa caucus, there is a long way left to go.
Super Tuesday was followed by a snowy Ash Wednesday and a very welcome snow day. After grabbing a couple extra hours of sleep, I headed straight outside and grabbed my shovel. While clearing a path to the driveway, a lady came and asked if I had jumper cables, so we then worked to get her Jeep started and her on her way. Then just before I went back inside some guy tried to drive through a drift left by the city's plow in his little Civic and was unsuccessful so I helped to dig/push him out. Other than that, its been a day of church, scrabulous, dishes, lesson plans, and relaxing. The week looks so much shorter after a day off in the middle!

05 February 2008

Ragbrai Route

The overnight towns for RAGBRAI XXXVI have been announced and it looks like a pretty central route. Starting out in Missouri Valley, then to Harlan, Jefferson, Ames, Toledo-Tama, North Liberty, Tipton, and finishing in Le Claire. Full route will be announced in March. I can't wait to get back on the bike and start logging some training miles and really try out those new pedals! The firefly is getting sick of winter!

04 February 2008

Greening the Emerald Isle

This NY Times article is great. It talks about the mindset change and attitude adjustment that caused plastic bag usage to drop 94% in Ireland. I think it is notable that they do not credit the 33 cent tax on plastic bags that was administered. That was only the catalyst, what caused the widespread conversion was the realization that their habits were not environmentally responisble, and in a country that relies on tourism, keeping the countryside clean is critical. And extra credit to them for banning convential light bulbs. Someone has to step up and start making this green changes that everyone likes to talk about, but no one ever seems to adopt. The planet's clock is ticking.

03 February 2008