Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Breaking electoral news.

Matt Blair scooped me, but this news deserves to be spread far and wide:


ALL HAIL
SENATOR FRANKEN
(DFL-Minnesota)

Yup, seems as if the Minnesota Supreme Court decided that Franken did, in fact, have more votes cast for him than Norm Coleman, the somewhat slimy incumbent Republican.

I fully expect Julia Sweeney to declare she's running for Congress in 2010.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Freedom. Sweet, horrible freedom.

Today was the day to which I've been looking forward for ten months.

It's Monday, I woke up at 9:39, and I wasn't late for work.

It hasn't fully sunk-in that I have my life back for two whole months — it takes about two or three weeks to reach my Full Relaxation Potential (FRP). However, once FRP is achieved, the following things start to happen:
  • days of the week will no longer matter
  • time will be a mere suggestion (except when meeting up with other people, paying bills, and so on)
  • my handwriting will deteriorate from lack of use to roughly match that of a six-year-old's
  • bedtimes get later
  • wake-up times get much later
  • I can stand to look at a red pen again (albeit from a distance)
As Will-Ferrel-as-Robert-Goulet once suggested, "You get the idea." Mind you, because not everybody gets this nice chunk of time off, it's not as fun and exciting as it could be; after all, most of my friends have jobs which require working during July and August (imagine that!).

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Those friggin' slackers... they get two months off in the summer! [begin snarky, sarcastic tone] I wish I had two months off in the summer.

To this, I have a few stock responses:
  1. If you do your job right, and I think I do, you'll be well burnt-out by the end of ten months of going hard every day.
  2. We pack twelve months' worth of work into ten, so what are we going to do with the rest of the time?
  3. Most people don't have to pre-schedule their bathroom breaks during their workday.
And, of course, my favourite:
  1. You're more than welcome to join us.
That last one is usually met with something like, "Ah, well, I could never do that job, I don't have the patience to work with those little hellraisers." Some of us do, though, and we like a little bit of time away from them, thanks.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bountiful baseball, dopey dances and hooray for holidays.

1. Baseball

Our baseball (read: "co-ed recreational slo-pitch") team played in a tournament this weekend, spanning Saturday and Sunday, in addition to our regular Sunday-night doubleheader. So, in conclusion, between 10:30am Saturday and 8:30pm today — a 34-hour span — we played seven games.

What did I do on Saturday night after playing four games that day, you ask? I watched most of a baseball game on TV.

Maybe I need help.

2. Dances

In the early '60s, there seemed to be an explosion of pop songs encouraging listeners to "Do The x", where x represents some sort of animal (e.g. monkey), common human action (e.g. twist), or inexplicably inanimate object (e.g. mashed potatoes).

These songs are all stupid. Every last one.

I was listening to Little Steven's Underground Garage tonight, and an exceptionally dumb one came on a few minutes ago. It was done by none other than The King himself, and it was called "Do The Clam". It was from one of his cheesy movies in the '60s, which were absolutely terrible but somehow made money... thank you very much, Colonel Tom Parker.

(If you want to hear the true birth of what we now call rock and roll, and Elvis at his most raw but very best, go here and have a listen; this version is from the '68 Comeback Special and may be even better. His style fused together white rockabilly with black R&B — so scandalous at the time, that right after he recorded this song in Memphis, the bass player remarked, "Damn, get that on the radio and they'll run us out of town." Oh, how times have changed.)

3. Holidays

Five more days of cleaning up, organizing and preparing for September, and then it's off to Wimbledon!

(Sorry, that was Krusty the Klown's line. I'll just be off to Chicago and then Calgary.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

This is bigger than I thought.

I'm still sorting through the logistics of driving solo to Calgary, and... wow.

That's a long way.

Ten years ago, I lived in Calgary and took four fairly-long days to drive out there, and took three ridiculously-long ones to come back. I had a travelling companion each time (on the way out, a random fellow student who needed a ride; on the way back, a childhood friend of my dad's who wanted to visit family and friends in Ontario).

I'm no fan of doing the straight-through, drive-in-shifts thing — I did that on a trip to Florida once, for a wedding a few years ago, but only because time was tight. Besides, I'm going out solo and bringing back the one-and-only (thank goodness) Hubert, and if I spent that many consecutive hours in a car with him, only one of us is coming back alive, and it sure as hell is going to be me.

Two straight 13-hour solo driving days... can it be done? I've done 14 hours in one day before (Chattanooga to Toronto), but that was (a.) with two awesomely-fun other people, one of whom was frequent site-contributor and full-time blogger ECB, and broken up by (b.) an impromptu wine-tasting in Kentucky, (c.) a giant-Jesus sighting just north of Cincinnati, and (d.) one of the absolute craziest thunderstorms I've ever seen, let alone tried to drive through, just south of Toledo.

Does anyone out there have stories of marathon drives? Comment and share, and maybe I'll consider flying instead.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Riots in Tehran.

You need to see these pictures. They're big, so maximize the browser window that pops up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Make it seven.

No, I'm not talking about Jim Balsillie's website urging people to rally around bringing a seventh NHL team to Canada (namely, the financially-troubled Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton) — but that's definitely worth visiting, and I'm on the mailing list.

Today was the last day of classes of my seventh year of teaching.

Yeah, I know, I can't believe it either. But, hell, if I hadn't taken two years off, it would've been the end of my ninth year. I think having the break in the middle really helped me relax and refocus, and approach the gig more like... well, me.

I've had friends ask me what I'm like in the classroom, with the kids. I usually tell them that I'm pretty much the same guy I am when I'm outside it, minus the profanity. If you're anything less than 100% genuine with teenagers, you'd better believe they'll know it: suddenly you're not a human anymore, you're a talking box of answers, and it's way easier to brush off a talking box of answers than it is to brush off a thinking, feeling, human being. (Besides, who wants to play the role of a talking box of answers for a living? It'd get pretty old pretty fast, I'd think.)

Part of the problem that some kids have at school, as far as I can tell, is that they have too few teachers who are human beings. I mean, sure, all of us have to put on our "teacher hats" when we get in the room and, for example, not tell them that we nearly passed out in the cab back to our apartment after hitting up the bars on Saturday night. There's a pretty clear line between professionalism and boorishness, and for some of us it takes a while to figure out where that is.

Seriously, though... try to remember the best teacher, professor, instructor, whatever, that you've ever had.

Got it?

Alright. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts ("donuts" if you're south of the border) the thing that first came to mind was their humanity, personality and overall approach, rather than something like, "Wow, I really learned how to factor a quadratic equation from her, real good! Boy-howdy, she was a swell teacher."*

Of course, that doesn't mean teachers should only skate by on personality; ultimately, we're accountable to the kids, their parents and society at large, within the framework of the curriculum the government approves, and guided by our professionalism. But hey, time flies when you're having fun, and seven years... wow. I feel like I'm still just getting started.
* Mrs. Gordon was a pretty good teacher, too, though.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One day to go.

Tomorrow's the last day of classes before exams and summer break.

I got a pile of marking so big it makes Oprah look like Rudy Huxtable.*

I think it may be time to employ the "stair method" of marking... find a set of stairs, huck the pile of papers down 'em, and they're graded on how far they make it.

(Naaaaaah... I'm not an English teacher. Heyoooooo!!!!!)

* I've said it before and I'll say it again: she's turned out really well.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A preview of Miller Park.

My proposed Midwest Baseball Tour/Driving To Calgary trip is well into the planning stages, and as it stands I'm going to see three baseball games.

One of them is going to be the Cardinals and Brewers, in Milwaukee at Miller Park, which is about six years old. Yes, it's named after the brewery (which paid handsomely for the naming rights), which is pretty well expected seeing as how the entire team itself is named for the beer industry.

If you know me well, you'll know that I'm serious about my baseball. My favourite 36-hour period of my life last year included seeing three baseball games in three different cities (Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland), and a few short days later, there I was, laying flat on ECB's guest bed, sleeping off an afternoon of drinking beer in the sun at Wrigley. It ruled.

Now, on to Miller Park, home of the Brewers and the $1 "Uecker Seats" (obstructed-view top-level seats; you buy them and probably move elsewhere). Apparently the tailgating going on in the parking lot beforehand is a sight to behold, and strangers will offer you booze and bratwurst if you look thirsty and/or hungry. Once inside, there's a mysterious condiment you can only get in Milwaukee called — I kid you not — Secret Stadium Sauce. So I obviously have to try that.

Plus, there's the Sausage Races in the 6th inning, Bernie Brewer sliding down his slide — although unfortunately no longer into a comically-oversized beer stein — and some knowledgeable and passionate baseball fans. (While I enjoy having a major league baseball stadium in my city... well, the fans are weird here. They're mostly polite and cheer only when the scoreboard tells them to, and when a possibly-booze-infused heckler lets loose for a few innings, as one would truly expect at a baseball game, I shit you not, people complain to security and they get tossed out of the place.) Read more about the place here.

Anyone want to come along?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Routers, trips and exams.

1. Routers

I resent the fact that there's a big warning sticker on the sleeve containing the CD that came with my new wireless router saying "RUN THIS BEFORE YOU PLUG ANYTHING IN OR YOU WILL DIE" (I'm paraphrasing). There's this program that shows you animated little pictures about how to plug this into that, in what order, and as far as I can tell, that's it.

But the main thing that chaps my ass is that this idiotic how-to program only runs in Windows. That means I gotta boot up in Windows, which makes me a pretty unhappy camper. Vista is all clunky, it's a hog, and every time I start it up it wants to install a bajillion megs' worth of updates. (I install them, of course, because Microsoft's stuff has a history of security holes big enough to drive a combine through, and if my ass is sitting out there on the Inter Nets with old spyware lists, I'm bound to get cornholed.)

For anyone out there who's installed a bunch of wireless routers... I can just plug them in and not "install" them, right? I can just configure them through a web browser, like every other router I've seen, yes?

2. Trips

Yes, I get two months off. And yes, I earn every goddamn second of that vacation.

To that end, my big adventure will involve driving out to Calgary, picking up the one-and-only (thank goodness) Matt, and hauling him back to the land of McGuinty and smog. Along the way I'll stop off in Chicago for a few days and partially return the houseguest-favour (thanks, sweetcakes!), and catch games at Wrigley (hopefully), Miller Park in Milwaukee, and perhaps a semi-pro game in the one, the only, heart-of-baseball-in-America... Duluth, Minnesota. Then it's two long days, truckin' it out to Calgary: one to Moose Jaw, another to Cowtown.

By the time I get to Calgary, the Stampede will be wrapping up. When I lived out there ten years ago, I went to as many Stampede Breakfasts as I could, and did end up hitting the Stampede for a day... I'm not really a fan of fairs, and this was just a big one with a western motif. Good to say you've gone to it once in your life, I guess. (By the way, tickets for rodeos and the chuckwagon races are nearly impossible to get.)

On the way back I'll hit my ninth Canadian province: Manitoba. Newfoundland, I'm coming for you soon! (And I'm bringing my liver with me.)

3. Exams

Five more teaching days, then we're into finals. I am so stoked about this, you don't even know.