Thursday, October 29, 2009

Random Question Friday!

One of my classes meets on Thursdays, and with the drive to Riverton I'm away from a good portion of Thursday evening. This means missing some truly funny Thursday TV, plus one new show that has me hooked. I'm always a sucker for narratives involving the space/time continuum, and ABC's FlashForward combines that with a little mystery. Plus, who woulda thought Jonesy from The Hunt for Red October and Harold of Harold and Kumar infamy would ever work together?

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.

Comment away!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where We Are and Where We're Going

The netbooks seem to be working to some degree, although it feels awfully strange to be spending this much time (3 days and counting) on technical functionality and setup, and not language arts content. At this point, however, we simply must get all students on the same page. Once everyone's gmail and blogs work, we'll return to our regularly scheduled language arts programming.

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

What We Do When We Deserve a Break

Kathryn and I are both in grad school, and our daily lives have never been more hectic. My classes are fairly typical MA-level education stuff, but hers? Oh man. She's enrolled in the University of Wyoming's Executive MBA, a two year program that requires untold hundreds of pages of reading per week, plus online discussion questions, plus rigorous exams. Sure, I have to read quite a bit, and yes, I have a 20 page paper due in a few weeks, but my little workload is like a satchel of pamphlets next to her external frame pack loaded with 42 hardcover copies of War and Peace.

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.

And Away We Go!

When I first became a teacher, I realized that paper shuffling is a major part of an English teacher's life. I also realized that much of that paper shuffling could easily be handled by simply moving many activities and assignments online. So, I vowed that within five years I'd have a paperless classroom.*

Back in August I found out that I'd received a grant for a classroom set of netbooks. They've arrived, and we're just beginning to get ourselves set up. It should be an adventure. 


*"Paperless" here means that I cut back on the tree slaughter, not that we don't write papers anymore. That first one is a noble goal. That second one is just plumb silly.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


After a loooong day of traveling I walked in the door last night at 11:30 or so. KG's being plagued by a nasty cold - we hope it's only a cold, anyway - and this morning we're watching the Illini. I doubt I'll write much about the Illini this year, mostly because I couldn't adequately express myself without using startling profanity.

Today's agenda includes hacking up downed tree limbs, mowing/mulching leaves, and playing lots of guitar. More on that later.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Via Con Dios, San Antionio!

We finished our work yesterday afternoon and most of our flights depart after 4:00, so yours truly and roughly 30 other Wyoming teachers are killing time this morning. I walked to a nearby IHOP - a significant feat, given that Texans don't believe in sidewalks or, presumably, walking - and had breakfast with possibly the worst cup of coffee I've ever had at a restaurant. We're excluding church, school function, and gas station coffee for obvious reasons.

Anyway, here's what I've learned:

1. Texas is infatuated with itself.
2. San Antonio drivers aren't all that terrible. Way better than Chicago.
3. One group's shrine to freedom is another group's tribute to oppression. Still, just sitting there in front of the Alamo was very, very cool. Communing with ghosts, etc.
4. I would be an awful traveling businessperson.

I volunteered to drive one of the group vans and I'm responsible for turning it in full, so in another hour or so I'm off to the gas station to fill 'er up. Shortly after that I'm taking the first group to the airport, returning to the hotel, and taking the last group. Upon completion of those tasks, I free myself of 15 passenger van hindrances for the rest of my life. Oy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Week in San Antonio

Sunday - See below.

Monday - Sit all day in 8 x 8 cinder block room. Eat complimentary chocolate. Spend the day reading student responses. Head downtown for dinner, circumnavigate the riverwalk, eat yummy corned beef at an Irish pub.

Tuesday - Sit all day in 8 x 8 cinder block room. Eat complimentary chocolates. Read more student responses. Head to a local burger joint for dinner.

Wednesday - Sit all day in 8 x 8 cinder block room. Eat complimentary chocolates. Read more student responses. Eat yummy Texas BBQ at a placed called "Smokin' Mo's."

Thursday - Sit all day in 8 x 8 cinder block room. Eat complimentary chocolates. Read more student responses and finish at 2:00. Schlep a few teachers to local mall. Look for travel guitar at music store. Fail. Purchase What is the What at Barnes and Noble. Eat blackened catfish and the best hushpuppies of my life.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Stars at Night Are Big and Bright

We'll ignore, for now, the self-conscious ramblings and celebrations of a former blogger coming back to the fold. Rather, let's dive in:

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.
Paul: Indeed.

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