Monday, February 27, 2006


Journey Of The Lost Children, Part Three

Part one. Part Two.

When a semester ends, students get five credits for each class in which they've gotten a D or better. What do you do when the kids haven't had a steady teacher for the whole semester? That's what administrators are for. Then you hear stories a few weeks later that everyone passed with a C. Nevermind that many of them, perhaps even most of them, deserved to fail. For a few of them, this will be the only grade they get in high school that isn't an F. For some unfortunates, the C will be a drag on an otherwise high GPA.

Five weeks into the spring semester the white flag is raised. We're giving up on the new teacher. We could put the kids back in the classes from which they were drawn. However, that would be a major reworking of schedules. I'll cut through the details, but two teachers gave up two classes each, and will be taking these abandoned classes as whole units. Goodbye, old 3rd period; hello, fresh class of kids who've solidified and bonded as a single class with little or no supervision for twenty-three weeks. I feel sorry for those teachers. The responsible thing to do would be to send these kids back to their original English classes and break up these unhealthy groups. We were advised that these kids need to do work and all; we can't just let them slide all year. Still, we also need to remember when dealing with these students that there's really no way to know what they have and haven't done, so we need to be patient and understanding about it.

Good to know. So if we have no idea of what they have or haven't done, how did they all get those passing grades and one semester of credit on their transcripts.

Should they get credits, or not? What do you think?

P.S.- After a few "incidents," our new policy is that girls are not allowed to go to the bathroom alone. A few boys have asked the question I'm sure you're all thinking: Why do we (the boys) have to go alone? What am I supposed to tell them? Either the district is sexist, or they don't care if boys are assaulted. I go with the second choice, because how could a fine liberal institution like this be sexist?

P.P.S.- And did I mention that at lunch, students are no longer allowed to gather in groups of more than three? It creates an intimidating, gang-like, environment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Spring Take Two

Last week I took some poor photos of this blooming dwarf peach tree, the critically hailed Fuzzy Spring.

Let's take a look at what a week can do. Nobody guessed the mystery plant, so no gold stars for you! Settle for the pics of the Bird of Paradise:

Here's Fuzzy Pink one week later, with a second white bloom next to it:

Hopeful wasn't just the title of this angle from last week, it was prophetic. Last week:

And this week:

Last week, the fuse was lit. This week, they exploded:

Last year, the dwarf peach had a run in with a falling pine branch. I didn't know if it would survive. Interestingly enough, it seemed to grow a lot more after the damage than it had before. You'll see the black smudge shadow where it was cracked:

And from a better angle:

And closer, if fuzzier:

Yep. It's a tough little tree. And here's a bonus pic of Princess Candy, next in line to the throne, keeping an eye on things:

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


It's Not Just George!

I ran a bit a while back, a scene for Seinfeld, with George and Jerry taking a cab to go to lunch. Is that a genre? Fanfic? You may have read it on a tip from Bill at So Quoted (So Quoted, So Quoted. Heh heh heh.) who was kind enough to give a link. It could have been better, I'm sure, even in ways I can't see or recognize, but I was still pleased with how it turned out. I'm not saying it was perfect or anything, but if it's the first thing you read on this site, the rest of it is probably going to be all down hill.

And looking back, I botched the George taking his parents to Sizzler thing. That was the payoff. The setup that should have come earlier, didn't. It was in my head all along, and as I read the scene I never missed it. When I got to the payoff, it worked for me because I knew the setup. But this is way off topic. Here's the relevant bit:
Jerry: Did you just say smorgasborg?

George senses the potential for ridicule: Smorgas- what, why, what do you- ?

Jerry: I thought I heard you say it a minute ago but I know I just heard it now. You said smorgasborg.

George knows he's caught: It's not smorgasborg?

Jerry: No, it's smorgasbord, smorgasbord, with a "d" at the end.

George bluffs: Actually Jerry, it's you who is mistaken. It is smorgasborg, with a "g" at the end.

Jerry: George! It's smorgasbord. It's Swedish. It means sandwich table. What do you think? You go for the mashed potatoes and they tell you you're going to be assimilated?

Now we're on topic. Got a hit earlier, someone googling "smorgasborg definition." So it's not just George, after all.

Fuzzy Spring

I see the dwarf peach tree is blooming, seemingly overnight. I'd noticed the buds over the last few days, and now a few are finally opening. Unfortunately, my little digital camera is so old and cheap, it's almost not worth the effort. Everything looks fine through the viewfinder, but the pics themselves have varying degrees of non-focus. This camera is so old, it doesn't even have a viewscreen to check the pictures. I have to hook the thing up to the computer to see how they've turned out. And so I give you fuzzy spring. First, we have Green Shoots A Poppin:

You'll note the green fuzzy in the center. That's the peach tree. On the far right, you'll see the nibbled tip of a large leaf of another plant. A gold star for whoever can guess the plant.

Next up in the gallery is Fuzzy Pink:

This was the bloom that caught my eye as I passed today. It looks much better on the tree. Sorry about that.

Maybe this next one will be better? You be the judge. I call it Pinker! Closer! Fuzzier!:

Lots of peach pits on the ground below. This unfortunate tree gives lots of fruit, but it's never very sweet. Some I may have picked too early, but others I waited til they dropped off the branch with just a look, and those didn't taste any better. However, about the only peaches I've ever eaten were form a can (packed in syrup!) or in a cobbler. Maybe peaches off the tree just aren't that sweet? Let me know.

Here's some welcome green, always nice to see after a mild, central-California winter. I just call this one Hopeful:

Here are a couple of nice buds, not quite open yet. Last of all, The Fuse Is Lit:

This tree almost didn't survive an accident last year. It's funny how I can hate almost everyone on earth, but I have a sentimental attachment to this tree. Maybe I'll try to get a shot of the damage, and the progress of the buds, if I can get the camera to do any better.

Monday, February 13, 2006


When A Stranger Calls

Even I could tell this was a bad movie.

I never saw the original, from 1979. I do remember the commercials (I was ten then), and that signature line, "We traced the call, and it's coming from inside the house!" Maybe it was just me, but that line knocked my socks off. When I started seeing comercials for the new version, I knew I was going to see it.

Here's Scott LeBrun commenting over at IMDB on the 1979 version:
Carol Kane plays Jill, a babysitter who receives ominous phone calls all night long from psycho (Tony Beckley) who repeatedly asks her if she has 'checked the children'. This goes on until the cops are finally called to the scene - just 21 straight minutes of well-crafted suspense. However, the film takes an unfortunate detour for the next hour, focusing on the pursuit of the killer (who's managed to escape from a mental hospital, naturally) by John Clifford (Charles Durning), the original detective to arrive at the crime scene, who's now a private detective (this all takes place seven years later). The film follows Beckley around as he wanders aimlessly around the city and starts harassing dour, middle-aged Tracy (Colleen Dewhurst); then he picks up a paper with Jill's picture on the front and decides to pay her a visit for old time's sake.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the movie I saw.

In the 2006 version, the film opens on a carnival operating in a heighborhood peppered with oil wells. Oil well goes pump pump. Merry-go-round goes round round. And in a house that we see from various perspectives in relation to the other two images, a phone goes ring ring. After several calls and rising panic within the girl answering the phone, we hear a scream. The people in the movie don't hear it because of the carnival noise. Cut to the next morning, and a hardcore detective pulling up to the crime scene. He gets to the girl's bedroom, and almost throws up. We never see what he saw, but we do get to see that it took four bags to carry away whatever remains remained. We don't know what was done to the poor girl to require the four bags, but we do know there was no murder weapon. The guy apparently gets medieval bare-handed style. But that's just an intro, cause now we're going to a town a couple of hours down the highway where the real movie happens. Which is unfortunate, because the best part of the movie just ended.

I don't notice acting performances very often. I usually leave movies talking about the story, not who played what. But I noticed the acting in this dud. We meet ill-fated baby sitter Jill and a couple of her friends at the high school, and all I could think was, "These girls are really bad." It wasn't just the girls.

It just wasn't that scary. Even the big reveal moments, the ones that make you jump, didn't. There was only one brief moment of graphic violence, and that was when Jill was fighting back against the killer.

The main problem with the film was that the stranger was just that, a stranger. Any movie needs an antagonist, but even when we see the bad guy's face at the end, it's no one we know. Yes, there were the phone calls, but the voice isn't what kills, it's the guy doing the talking. Even Michael, Jason, and Freddy actually took people out. The Stranger does kill a couple of people. It might be more accurate to say that a couple of people were killed by the Stranger, since we only see the victims near the end of the movie. You don't need to go full blood and guts mode to have the bad guy at least be in the same frame as the victims.

Jill's friend comes to the remote house for a short visit, but when she tries to leave, she fumbles with her keys and the wind rustles the bushes. Then she drops the keys! And she has to bend down and get them! And when she stands up again THE KILLER IS GOING TO BE RIGHT THERE!!! But he's not, and she gets in the car. She backs up almost to the gate and sees a fallen branch is now blocking it. She looks in the mirror. She looks at the door lock button. She decided to go for it! She opens the door and runs to the branch! The wind is rustling, or is it the killer?!? And then the CAMERA MOVES REALLY FASTAND THE KILLER GRABS HER!!!! Ooops, no he doesn't. The camera moves fast and the scene ends. Near the end, we see her body in an upstairs bathroom. Doesn't look horribly mangled. She might be sleeping off a drunken binge that ended with her praying to the porcelain gods. We didn't even get that much of a thrill from the maid. During a chase scene we spot her head sitting at the bottom of the fish pond.

The theory of slasher killings is that the sinful are punished, and it holds up here. Jill's friend, the dead one in the bathroom? She kissed Jill's boyfriend. What did the maid do? Who cares? She's just a housekeeper.

I think this movie sounds better on paper than it could ever possibly be. "We traced the call, and it's coming from inside the house!" is a great line. If I worked at a studio, I would approve the movie based on that. Well, it might be a great line, and could be a great moment, I'm afraid it's just not enough to hang a whole movie on. If I can tell it's a bad movie, you know it's got to be terrible, and I love everything, except King Kong.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Journey Of The Lost Children Part 2

Please check part one, here.

The Lost Children finally have a class. It's run by a sub. The sub will get things started in anticipation of the arrival of the permanent teacher. Because there never was a permanent teacher, there are no lesson plans for the sub. The sub has no curriculum. Maybe there are books. You can imagine how difficult that situation is for a sub. And I didn't even mention the kids.

The Lost Children are a diverse group. A few are angels, but for many of them, their greatest talent is making life for a teacher hell on earth.

A sub can handle a great many things. A sub does not have to handle a great many things. Imagine you work in an office. Most of the people there are jerks and treat you terribly. You have an offer from another office for the same hours and pay. Are you really going to stay with the jerks? No. And since our district is chronically short on subs, they can pick and choose which assignments they will or won't take.

When I began my career, I had a similar situation. I subbed for a teacher who had been promoted out of the classroom. They offered me a chance to take the classes for the entire second semester. One day with those kids was enough for me. I thanked them politely, but declined. Who needs the grief?

The Lost Children have had several subs. There were at least four subs who came and went quickly. Frequently there would be one, two, or three days between subs. Their behavior became worse and worse, until finally, around November, We found a long term sub to take over. Mr. X lasted four weeks. He would have lasted longer, but he was let go. Who says you can't get rid of bad teachers.

Mr. X may very well be a nice man, with family members who love him, but he was a disaster in the classroom. Where do I begin? Kids would leave his class early. Maybe two, maybe five, maybe more, leaving five, ten, or even in one case, twenty minutes before class was over. Kids went out the back window of the classroom. Kids tagged on the walls inside the classroom during class. Kids gambled in class (they're quite the dice players, wouldn't you know). One report suggests that, at least once, some kids actually smoked pot during class.

How did they do all this? Apparently, Mr. X might suffer from narcolepsy, because he actually fell asleep, maybe on a regular basis, during class. Finally, the school had enough. A few administrators waited for him before school one day and sent him home again as soon as he arrived.

By this time, we were near the end of the first semester, so they hired a short term sub to finish out the last two weeks, thinking they would just get a new teacher when the second semester started. She was nice enough, but they hired her to be there for the next two weeks, and never did give her any indication that she would be brought back for the second semester. Guess what? The second semester started, they didn't have a permanent teacher lined up, and she didn't stick around. Why would you, after being dangled on a string like that?

Three weeks into the second semester, the Lost Children have had three or four more subs, and several days with no sub. Where do they go when there's no sub? ISS. Remind me if you want to hear about the scam that is ISS.

What's that? The semester is over, and the kids need grades? Yeah, I felt the same way. We'll get into that next time.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Stones At The Super Bowl - My 19th Nervous Breakdown

I swear, for a half a second there, when Jagger was waving his arms around, I saw old man waggly back of the arm flab. I could handle the craggly face; it didn't make me see him as old. Heck, Keith has looked about a hundred and ninety since he was seven. I've always thought of Mick as this cut, rock-hard body type of guy, you know, a rock immortal. And now the king is dead. I'm more disturbed by this than I was by Janet Jackson's nipple. I don't even care about Iran anymore.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Don't Speak Lightly Of The Ring

Miss Tori and I are reaching that inevitable point at which relationships that don't end, end up at. Which brings up the question of the ring size. I managed to work it into conversation a couple of weeks ago, you know, just for future reference. Nice and casual. Yeah, right. Turns out there's nothing casual about that. It was just a minor tremor, but I learned my lesson.

So when she called today, to mention she had found out her actual ring size (her previous guess was rather off), I made certain not to exclaim something like, "Thank goodness you told me before Friday!" Somehow, I don't think she would be amused.

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