Sunday, December 31, 2006


Dream House

Ahhhh. Just had a sip of coffee from one of the nice mugs Miss Lola got for us. Did I mention she's getting married in a few months? She'll be Miss Loto then. And the coffee was brewed in a nice new coffee maker that the Matron got for us. It's no Guitar Hero I or II, but still, a pretty good deal.

Miss Tori and I made the move to our dream house this year. It's been quite a journey. We got engaged. I moved in with her. We got married. The Hermitage finally, finally sold. We had to drop the price there, which was a bummer. Fortunately, the same market downturn that forced us to drop the price was more than made up for in the purchase of the dream home.

I thank my stars every day for Miss Tori, who, even though I was tired of looking and just wanted to go home, convinced me to go to just one more development. We really liked it because this was the only place in which almost every single lot had enough back yard to put a pool on the right side, left side, or directly behind the house. If you've looked at houses in California, you'll know that the usual practice is to cram lots so densely that on the side yards, you can usually touch the side of the house with one hand and touch the fence with your other hand. Sometimes you don't even have to stretch to do it. Maybe your back yard is sixteen feet deep. The large lots alone pretty much sold us.

The next hurdle is the inside. Every place we had looked before, I did not like. It wasn't just dislike, though. I would actually get angry at the models. Look at this crappy island in the kitchen! GRRRRR! And this is supposed to be a breakfast nook? It's nothing more than the bare floor between the island in the kitchen and the couch in the living room! It's empty floor! It is not a nook! ARRGGGHHHH!!!!! Hulk smash puny kitchen! Hulk make breakfast nook pay! Ok, so maybe I'm exaggerating, but seriously, is it just me? Isn't a nook sort of like a little offset space attached to the side of a room?

This was pretty much what I was expecting when I walked into the models of our development. Maybe I was still a little giddy about the lot sizes, I don't know, but as we went through the models, I found myself saying "That doesn't suck," or "This isn't lame," or "I don't hate that." Perhaps selecting a home based on negative affirmation is silly, but for my alternately wired brain, me not hating something bears some equivalency to someone else loving something.

We picked out some lots we liked and signed up for them since the development is still in the building process, and waited for the Hermitage to sell. One nice point was that every time we came up, the available homes were showing discounts, and some of them were significant. We quit looking anywhere else. Finally the sale went through, and we hustled on up to see what was available.

Do you ever have those moments in which you can't believe how fortunate you are and how amazing it is that things have fallen into place in just the right way to give you the best possible result? Somebody once said that luck is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet. We got lucky.

Looking at the available homes, we saw that most of them were freshly built. At the time, I think they had completed between seventy and eighty homes, with perhaps another forty still to be built. The goal of the developer is to sell houses as they are finished, and they adjuast the pace of the building process to match that. They don't want to be starting construction on six new houses if they've still got twelve sitting there waiting to be bought. However, sometimes things happen.

While the freshly built homes were on lots in the seventies, we noticed one home sitting on lot forty-six. Turned out that the people who tried to buy it had some financing problems and had to back out of the purchase. It was still new and unlived in, but it wasn't exactly freshly built either. Discount it. It was an empty home in the midst of an otherwise fully sold cul-de-sac. Another discount. Bad market conditions. Another discount, plus installing backyard landscaping (in California, it is common for a developer to only landscape the front yard that you see from the street, and leave the back yard bare dirt).

When we toured the models, our second favorite floor plan was the best we could afford, and our favorite was beyond our means. Suddenly, we had our favorite plan, a landscaped back yard, and a price we could afford. We jumped, and here we are.

My favorite feature? Why, the shower heads, of course. This is probably the first time since I was twelve that I can actually stand under a shower. You shorties don't understand how nice that is. You have the luxury of standing right under the shower head and having it drop straight down onto you. You don't have to do the limbo rock or otherwise contort yourself to rinse the shampoo out of your hair. When you're washing your face and your eyes are closed and you go to rinse the soap off, you don't have to worry about smashing your nose or your lips or your teeth against some metal fixture. To you, it's nothing. You wouldn't even notice it. To me, the high shower heads in this house are a wonderful luxury.

Sometimes, it's the little things that make life sweetest.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Happy Holidays

Hope everyone had a good one. If you need me, I'll be busy playing Guitar Hero II, or watching Miss Tori play. The thing is addictive.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Reach Out, Reach Out And Secure Your Phone From Being Stolen . . .

At Inner City High, I must admit that most classrooms have an intercom that can be used to reach the office if necessary. Several don't, but most do. Of course, an indivudual teacher may use a personal cell phone to call the office. Heck, on a good day, someone might even answer. Apparently, with the help of some grant money, the district decided to do something about this problem. Unfortunately, they did it in the typical district way, by imposing something that had no input from the people who are involved with the end product. This email came late in the first week of installation:


We all arrived on Monday to find that emergency cell phones had been installed in the classrooms. Over the last few days I have tried to get specifics on the action plan for these phones. Here is what I have been able to find out:

1. The phones were purchased for every classroom in the district through the district funds allocated from the XYZ grant (we submitted a proposal as a school also).

2. Physical plant informed schools two weeks ago that they had purchased the phones and were starting to install at schools. I assumed that they would let us know when they were doing specific schools.

3. Physical plant staff came to Inner City High last weekend and installed the phones. We didn't know they would be here.

4. Checking with Physical plant Monday morning I got the information on the phones which I shared in an e-mail*. They are for emergency use and are programmed to call only the emergency services.
Inner City High Staff:
Many of you should notice the installation of emergency (911) telephones in your classrooms. This is the information that we received from the district. The XYZ grant has provided funding for the purchase of emergency telephones for ~2,000 district classrooms. (Please note that E-911 emergency (cellular) telephones will not be installed in classrooms equipped with a standard telephone or VoIP unit.) The
emergency cellular telephones are programmed to only make contact with 911 operators with all other calls blocked.
(See #7 below--HP) The E-911 telephones will
be contained within a small black box that has been labeled as follows:
"Emergency Telephone"
911 Only
The E-911 telephones will be installed near or behind the classroom instructor’s work station and near an electric receptacle for charging purposes. Additionally, the cellular telephone installation will include a 30 minute timer which will ensure daily battery charging. Finally, the E-911 telephone and timer must remain plugged into the electrical receptacle at all times (unless in use) to ensure that the battery is
fully charged. Mrs. ABC, Telephone/Energy Conservation Technician, will be visiting each site as the E-911 telephones are installed so to address any questions with the deployment and/or operation of these emergency devices. The installation of the E-911 telephones is anticipated to conclude in early 2007.

5. The phones are not secured and began disappearing from rooms immediately.

6. Physical plant cannot tell staff to remove the phones from the room. In case there is an emergency it would be a liability if they told teachers to remove the phones. However, I can tell you to secure the phone for the next two days.

7. After vacation, the phones will be individually modified to make it impossible for them to be activated for any other numbers. Even if the phone is stolen it will be useless and physical plant can remotely put it out of use. They hope this will no longer be an incentive for anyone to take the phones.

8. If you phone has been stolen please e-mail both of these individuals: Mr. 123 and Mrs. ABC. In your subject and message state "Emergency Phone stolen - Room ____, Inner City High School." (Make sure you insert your room number)

If there is not already a specific code for each phone there will be one after vacation and Mrs. ABC will be able to make sure that the phone is inactive immediately. They hope this will mean there is no reason to take the phone.

So for today and tomorrow - do whatever you can to secure your phone. Also, continue to be vigilant about the phone - it can be useful so you don't want it to be missing from your room.

I'll keep us posted on any changes after Winter Break.

So now they have two whole weeks to screw things up! Can't wait to get back!

Saturday, December 16, 2006


What If You Gave A Graduation, And Nobody Came?

The letter goes a little something like this:

As I mentioned at the faculty meeting, we are seeing an alarming number of F grades. We are doing some things for the other grade levels, but for seniors we are going to have an assembly this Friday, December 15th. Only send students with the attached passes. Please do not tell them in advance what it is about.

It's not exactly clear to me how bad the problem is in the other grades, but the word is that more than 50% of seniors are currently failing at least one class that they need to graduate. This is on top of the trend at our school of having an entering freshman class of 1,000 dwindle to around 500 by the time those same kids are seniors.

Who knows? Maybe the system demands it. I know that at our school, most classes have to count on an absent kid or two in order to have enough desks so that no child has to sit on the floor. We're at 2,500 now; how would we possibly handle the 4,000 if no one dropped out?

Maybe the assembly will help. Maybe they will be motivated by the idea that their class is set to break the record for lowest percentage of graduating students.

However, I was a bit disturbed by the solution proposed by the counselors. They want the kids to go to their teachers and get a bunch of make-up work. The message for the kids is that they don't have to be responsible, and if they get into trouble, someone will always be there to give them second chances and clean up their messes for them. And really, the children have been given all the work they need to pass their classes. They chose not to do it.

This wonder solution actually rewards the student and punishes the teacher for the bad behavior of the student! Here's the second message. Counselor says go to your teacher for make-up work and you can pass. The burden has now been subtly shifted to the teacher. If you don't pass, it's because the teacher has not given you enough make-up work.

Another message? All you need to pass are a couple of worksheets. Your teacher isn't doing anything so important that a worksheet or two here or there can't fully cover it. You may not know it, but I definitely know that the counselors are not suggesting that some student come in for twenty or thirty hours of full lessons after school. "Okay Billy, you didn't turn in the essay we did on November 3rd-5th, so for the next three days, you will come in after school for an hour each day and I will fully teach those lesson plans to you." And that's just for one assignment. Not going to happen. Is a Social Studies teacher going to walk a kid through a ten page, two week research paper? Even if the teachers were willing, and even if there were enough hours in the day to make this possible for every single failing student that a teacher might have, do you really think the kids would show up?

Let's take a little side trip. A kid gets suspended for five days. The relevant counselor or administrator will ask for (or DEMAND) homework for the days the student will be gone. I'll give you three guesses of how many kids have turned in those assignments in the past eleven years. Did you make your guesses? Good. If you guessed any number higher than zero, you need to go back and do some rereading.

The answer is no, they won't show up. BUT, the counselor just told them you would make it all right with some make-up work. So if they don't have to repeat the lessons, which means they don't have to make up the actual work they missed, what work will they be doing? Now we're back to those pesky worksheets.

The third message? It's a nice warm loogey spit in the face of every kid who did work hard, did take responsibility, did the right thing, only to be told that their effort was a waste and that they were suckers for not goofing off and enjoying themselves and just doing a couple of worksheets at the end of the semester.

Oh, and what does a counselor tell a teacher who has a "no late work" policy? If I was building a house, it would be like someone coming in at night and randomly pulling out nails, then complaining about what a lousy construction worker I am when the house falls down. If this was war, we'd call it sabotage.

Maybe next time we can talk about the motives of the saboteurs, unless something even more ridiculous comes up.

Actual Update: Talk about serendipity! I put this up this morning, and the wonderful Joanne Jacobs puts up not one, but two posts intimately related to what you've just read, also this morning?

Actual Update: Yep, it's kids like these that we're supposed to get 100% passing on the Exit Exam, with your job hanging in the balance if you don't.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


We Regret To Inform You That We Have No Record Of Your Existence

Every once in a while, the powers that be decide that it would be in your interests to take one class or another. I took one this past summer. It was pretty much a waste, but it gave me time to ponder things.

I should mention that my boss ordered me to fill out an application form for this class back in April. I gave it to her so she could submit it to the district, which was enrolling people in this class. When I arrived at the class in June, I was informed that the district had not actually signed me up. Fortunately the county people are a little more competent, and I was able to add the class right there. It was then that a colleague and I noticed that we weren't even supposed to be taking this class at that site, but at another location. Naturally, I wasn't notified, since the district hadn't even signed me up. However, my coworker, who was signed up, also wasn't notified. We got it straightened out with the help of the county people, and did our two weeks. The mix-up, you're thinking, was probably a fluke.

Except for the new email I got from my boss, asking what progress I was making in pursuing this class, because as far as she or the district could tell, there was no information about it. My aforementioned co-worker got the same email. So did twenty or thirty others, some of whom I know have completed all of the courses and submitted all of their paperwork. These are the sorts of people in charge of the education of your children.

Next time: What if you gave a graduation, and nobody came?

Monday, December 11, 2006


Happy Birthday

So I've had some numbers of birthdays, between thirty and forty. Tell my why the birthday party for a 90 year old grandfather was more fun than any of mine, and perhaps even more fun than all of mine combined?

More later, but for now, ponder this: You get to the aisle with all the cards. You get to the birthday section. You get to the special birthdays section. You see 16th, 21st, 50th, and so on, until you get to 90th. There is only one 90th birthday card. It's not as if you have ten 90th birthday cards to choose from. So I picked it. Then I wondered, does every store have a different 90th birthday card, or is Grandpa going to open up ten copies of the exact same card? The party was such that the cards were put aside to be opened later, after we all had left. I'll see him at Christmas and ask, but in the meantime, anyone have any ideas? Any Hallmark employees out there?

Monday, December 04, 2006


Wasn't It That Black Guy?

True conversation:

Student One: Who's Abraham Lincoln?
Student Two: He was the president who freed the slaves.
Student Three: I thought that was Martin Luther King.
Student Four, later, in another conversation: Wasn't it that black guy who freed the slaves?

If Lincoln could see into the future and observe this discussion among high school students, he might have put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger himself. For any of you who are similarly tempted, please, don't. If you possess the awareness to be disturbed by this, our society cannot afford to lose you.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Simply, Having, A Wonderful Christmas Time

At Christmas my family will be with your family so you should go there and be all family-like together with them. Sing some Christmas carols and drink eggnog while you roast chestnuts on the fire. Or more likely... eat dinner at lunch time and open your $20 by the tree while Grandma bitches at your mom.

Ah, family.

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