Thursday, December 31, 2009
95/96 - Champaign. Began the night in Murphy's Pub, ended in my crappy little one-room apartment.
96/97 - Tempe. Matt Scholz and I scoured secondhand stores for polyester '70s outfits. Partied on Mill Ave.
97/98 - Living in Seattle, but spent New Year's in Portland. Made out with a complete stranger on the street.
98/99 - Seattle. Standing near the Space Needle when the new year turned.
99/00 - Tucson. The details are too embarrassing (and hazy) to disclose publicly.
00/01 - Lexington. Hosted a party at my apartment for some Amazonians. Truly pathetic, even by Amazon manager standards.
01/02 - Living in Lexington, partied in Louisville. Louisville, if you're not aware, is a really cool town.
02/03 - Lexington. Hung out at a coworker's house. Was a jerk to my girlfriend.
03/04 - Edwardsville. Fell asleep at 10. Slept through the new year. Wheee.
04/05 - Laramie. Had returned from Lander after an unfortunate sledding accident in Sinks Canyon left me in remarkable pain. Watched ball drop in my dorm room.
05/06 - Denver. Jenn and Phil's. Good times!
06/07 - Denver. Jenn and Phil's. Good times! Again!
07/08 - Lander. Played Wii at Chad and Melissa's.
08/09 - Denver. Jenn and Phil's. Good times! Again again!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
So I went out and it was frigid, the kind of cold that doesn't feel too bad for the first ten second or so, but which suddenly pierces you. Normally the truck doesn't like to start in this kind of weather, though it does start. Let me repeat that: the truck always starts. Without fail, my '99 Toyota Tacoma will turn over regardless of weather. Sure, it moans and sometimes requires multiple tries and a little sweet talk, but it always starts. The sun will rise tomorrow, the Lions will not win the Super Bowl, and my truck will start.
But on Tuesday the truck wouldn't start. Sputtered once or twice but didn't turn over.
Hmm, I thought to myself. That's odd. Hopefully the Subaru starts or we're truly hosed.
So, I trudged back inside, grabbed the Subaru key, and returned to Dante's 9th circle. I should note here that while the Tacoma's always been left to its own devices, we thought we'd treat the Outback well and keep it plugged into a block heater on subzero nights. We even bought a little timer so that we don't warm the thing all night; it's set to come on at 4:00am or so and run until 9:00am, which should give the heater plenty of time.
But the Outback wouldn't start. Wouldn't even turn over. I sat for a moment, my breath puffing out in enormous clouds of vapor and my hands well beyond numb. This was one of those moments in which one's world is clarified sharply: It's Very Freaking Cold, and we don't have an operational car.
I tried it a few more times, and then something even more curious happened. The key would not turn. It would insert just fine, but it would not turn at all.
Not good, I thought to myself.
Back inside, Kathryn informed me it was 20 below out. Okay, no problem, I've walked the mile to school in weather like this before, having set a personal record of 18 below two years ago. We formulated a plan: I'd walk to school and Kathryn would call her boss and let her know what's up. Meanwhile, we would just have to wait for the weather to warm up - say, to above zero - before trying the cars again.
The walk, however, proved colder than I'd remembered. Every inch of skin was covered except for a thin strip by my eyes, that that strip was stinging and remarkably painful within two blocks of the house. Luckily my neighbor, the school's band teacher, pulled up next to me and I jumped in.
"Dude," he said, "it's 27 below. What are you doing?"
Throughout the week, we waited for the weather to warm up. On days when the temperature peaked in the single digits - and single digits really did feel warmer than one might imagine - I tried the truck. Still nothing. Worse, it didn't sound like a battery problem, it sounded like an electronic or firing problem. Worse still, the hood was frozen shut so I couldn't even see if anything was obviously wrong.
Fast forward to today. At 11:00 this morning it was a balmy 9 degrees outside, so I went out to try again, armed with a jug of water and gloves with the right index finger missing, thanks to Rigby's mid-day snack on Thursday. I managed to get the hood up, and promptly called my brother over to see if a jumpstart would magically fix the problem. He arrived, we hooked up the wires, and. . .
Fast forward through two teacher friends trying to help us out: One of them gave Kathryn a ride to Napa for starter fluid while the other idled his truck next to mine, jumper cables hooked up just to ensure the battery was okay. Still nothing.
Fast forward though another sharp moment in which I struggle to realize that I'm not a Sudanese refugee or Bangladeshi street urchin sniffing glue instead of eating; I am a middle class white dude whose cars are broken.
Fast forward through a phone call to a towing service that agreed that I was screwed.
Suddenly, the doorbell. My coworker with his '93 Mercury Sable that usually sits unused in front of his house - ours until we're squared away. Incredible.
Fast forward through a trip to Riverton punctuated by a stop at the gas station (more frozen things - this time, the borrowed car's gas hatch) and McDonald's.
Fast forward to Walmart, which immediately gives me flashbacks to my college days in the Champaign store's toy department. After the first hour I begin singing, to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus, "This Walmart trip will never end, never end, never end. / This Walmart trip will never end - please shoot me now." Kathryn is a remarkably good sport, although we're both getting mopey.
Fast forward to home. We try to replace bathroom fixtures in the basement and have major problems. We both begin to lose it.
Fast forward to five minutes ago, when Kathryn yelled out the door at the neighbor's dog. Barley is a Yellow Lab and incredibly stupid, even for a Lab. His favorite trick is omnidirectional woofing with no pause.
We're both ready to start over.
We're not sure what we're going to do about the vehicles. Right now the plan is to get the Subaru towed, somehow, to our mechanic's place outside of town and get the Toyota towed, somehow, to the Toyota dealership because they do good work too. I don't even want to know what the damage is for either vehicle, although I will say this: Subarus are a dream to drive on snow, but maintenance costs are unreal. This is probably the last Subaru we'll own. The Tacoma? Well, it's been practically hassle-free for ten years now. If the motor's shot, I'll have a hard decision to make.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
That "manager" bit is important because it allows me to retroactively rationalize being callous with so many people. Confession time, Dear Reader: we AM's used to sit around
Mostly, however, we laughed because we were a tight group and absolutely no one – not the Operations Managers above us, not the team leads below us, not the HR lady in whose office we all had had at least one meltdown – knew what it was like, managing that many people in those circumstances for that company.
We received and were responsible for acting upon well over 75 emails a day. Depending on your department ("area"), you probably had an employee not meeting production requirements and therefore had a write up looming, and you definitely had a crisis somewhere that you didn't know about. So while you had people scattered throughout the 700,000 sq. ft. building doing God-knows-what-but-probably-not-what-they're-supposed-to-be, you also had meetings and always a deadline of some sort. It never stopped.
And so being an Area Manager was part cajoling, part data analysis, part grunt work, and part babysitting, and every now and then, an email from three weeks ago would result in you getting smoked by anyone from your OM up to some random MBA in Seattle (a little warehouse manager humor: Q: What does "MBA" stand for? A: "Manages By @&%"). If you somehow didn't adequately think through or respond to what was in your realm of the 'Zon utterly trivial but was a game-changer in someone else's realm, well, it wasn't pretty.
Education, thankfully, is not like that. Sure, sometimes I forget to disseminate an important piece of information to the department, or I'll space a meeting, or at my very worst, I'll forget that a student had provided a perfectly acceptable reason for not turning in an assignment on time, and that the lowered grade in the book is therefore entirely unfair and mean and definitely my fault.
No, education is about soul, and passion for content, and being honest, and being kind to someone because they are alive and fragile and just plain deserve it – everything that was crushed out of me by the competitive, insecure shade of myself that still, occasionally, growls in the corners. Mostly I've got it tamed.
This month marks the 10 year anniversary of my excursion to
I don't miss the 'Zon a whole lot. The place almost drove me completely and thoroughly insane, but that's a story for another post. For now let's leave it at this: my hardest, most exhausting day as a teacher is still far more glorious and rewarding than Amazon ever was, stock options, managerial salary, business cards and all. So on days like today, when I'm absent from class and find out that not all of my students were angels and that some classes clearly read my instructions and some clearly did not, I like to think back to my door desk and break-away lanyard and business cell phone and remember how happy I am to be a teacher.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Anyway, Chris was in the Phoenix airport for some reason that escapes me just now, and we briefly talked about Phoenix and the last time we were both there, which is another post for another time. Out of the blue, Chris said that he wanted to run a marathon.
"You mean, like a half marathon?" I asked. I knew where this was going and my knees were suddenly on their knees, begging me not to do it.
"No," he said, "like a full 26.2 miles. I want to run a marathon before I'm 40, and apparently the first step in running a marathon is telling people that you're running a marathon. You in?"
And of course I said yes, because for one thing, I've wanted to do something physically challenging for a long time, just to prove that I'm capable of doing it. But beyond mere self-interest I wanted to do it because I can't think of anything cooler than running a marathon with my best friend. Well, playing Hendrix's interpretation of "Born Under a Bad Sign" on my Strat through a Marshall 100w stack with Rothfuss on drums might be cooler, but only just.
Running a marathon next year means training now, and in truth, I have so far only committed to running the Lander Half Marathon. Kathryn, game soul that she is, is on board too. We begin tomorrow evening, adding .5 miles every week until we get to 13 miles.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
This humble blog doesn't have a huge readership yet, but here's your challenge, readers: pick your favorite casting decision involving two actors that seemed bizarre at first, yet worked.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Speaking of, here's what students can expect out of Quarter 2, in very broad terms:
LA 9 - We'll jump into expository writing. Quarter 2 will emphasize verbs, SAE in essays, and understanding and adjusting to the difference between expository and narrative writing. We'll also do some reading along the way, with some vocabulary thrown in for kicks.
Honors 11 - The 18th century is an incredibly interesting time in American history. In a mere 100 years, we went from a bunch of British colonies to an independent nation. Of course, it's far more complicated than that, with many players and agendas that don't often get much press, so we'll take a look at literature from that period. Be prepared to research historical literature, reading primary sources (or the closest we can get) as evidence of our contextual claims.
AP 12 - We begin the first steps of the fall semester's capstone project: the APA research paper. This paper will require several iterations, starting with a five pager, expanding to a 10-12 pager, and as a coup de grace, collapsed into a 2 page memo which students will actually send to law- and policy-makers.
But first, we must master technology. And so tomorrow and Friday, we work with Google Docs and Zoho.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
So we rarely get to spend time together that doesn't involve both of us staring at computer screens, speaking only when the dog makes suspicious noises upstairs.
We both had Very Busy Weeks, and then an old friend from the 'Zon died on Sunday, and I think we both reached a point where we needed to not think about market strategies or sites of socioeconomic oppression or what to cook for dinner.
Thus, for dinner last night, Kathryn treated me to McDonald's, a rarity of rarities. And then we spent a few hours carving pumpkins.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I'm in San Antonio for a conference pertaining to PAWS reading and writing. I'll spare you the details in lieu of an update about the trip so far.
Due to a communication breakdown with the corporate travel agent, I'd been upgraded to first class on the flight from Denver to San Antonio. Now, that's a little like calling shotgun for a trip to the grocery store, but I hadn't sat In First Class in 20 years or so, when as an unaccompanied minor my seat was double-booked and the attendant decided that the beheadphoned teen needed a cushy seat more than the bebriefcased businessman. Uh. Huh huh. If you say so, lady!
Anyway, after an early morning drive to Riverton and a remarkably smooth Riverton to Denver flight, there I was at noon on Sunday, sitting In First Class looking east, and down. About halfway through the flight we crossed a rather large meandering river, the kind of river that pulls double-duty as a border. I'm not bad with states and borders, and part of the Oklahoma / Texas border is clearly defined by a river, so I assumed I was looking at the Red.
That got me thinking about two things. First, the river. I wonder, if rivers could talk, if they would find border duty amusing. I mean, there's no inherent reason that tax rates and license plate colors should be determined by rivers, so surely rivers might find our endeavors silly. The river might smile a little and shake its head at human constructs like taxes and borders. The river might say, "For now, suckers. For now. But get back to me in eight millenia."
Second, geometry. The only math class in which I have ever performed beyond merely satisfactorily (or more likely, awfully), and in fact blazed into advanced territory on a regular basis, was geometry. Maybe I'm a visual learner. Maybe my teacher's personality - he would say things like "that works slicker than giraffe snot" - kept me engaged. Regardless, there was something about geometry that just clicked with me.
So it wasn't a big surprise that calculating our bearing was easy. Now, one could easily do this by consulting a map. But that would be cheating.
The bottom edge of a plane's passenger window will usually be parallel to the plane's center line unless it is a very unusual plane or perhaps an alien spacecraft from the planet Zoltron. Most agricultural grids are laid true N/S, and the bottom edge of the window bisected the grids at a shallow angle, so it was easy to see that we were flying somewhere east of south. Due east is 90 degrees; due south, 180. I'd guess that our bearing was around 150 degrees, but someone should check that.
Meanwhile, sitting In First Class was oddly nerve wracking. I'd bought the latest Popular Mechanics and The Economist in Denver and kept waiting for the suit across the aisle to clear his throat. In my head the conversation would go like this:
Suit: So sorry to bother you, my good man, but is that a copy of The Economist I see?
Paul: It is, sir! It is!
Suit: Could I trouble you to lend it to me?
Paul: Why, no trouble, sir!
Suit: Most excellent! I'd like to check in on the Taiwan situation. Derivatives, you see.
Of course, nothing of the sort happened, although I was the only one to refuse the hot towel before landing. It should be noted here that one of our attendants, the one with intercom duties for the flight, had a full-on Texas accent: "We'd lahk to thank yew fer flahin' with us tuhday!" And as I deplaned I had a sudden vision of Pee Wee Herman with a phone, yelling "The stars at night, are big and bright!"
Up next: Driving in San Antonio; The Alamo; The Riverwalk