I'm not sure if this is a spoonerism or simply a transposition of words, but several times last week, I called Orphan Black-- the Canadian sci-fi show about clones-- Orphan is the New Black . . . and while this was certainly a mistake, it does make sense on a sub-conscious level, because I "broke up" with Orange is the New Black half-way through the second season . . . I loved the first season, which was fast-paced and dark and funny, but the second season the episodes were longer and much heavier (and even though I still love Orphan Black and plan on continuing our relationship, I am glad to be finished with season two . . . I need to watch something less "black" for a while).
I don't consider myself susceptible to things other people fall prey to-- broken bones, arthritis, back pain, mortality, the constraints of the space/time continuum, etc. --but I've been waking up every morning at 4 AM and sneezing my brains out, and then repeatedly sneezing throughout the day, while suffering from red eyes and an itchy nose; despite these symptoms, I've put off buying any allergy medication because I can't accept the fact that I'm allergic to something-- pollen or dust or ragweed or whatever is out now . . . I keep waiting for the dry weather to break and figure my allergies will disappear once we get some rain, never to return, as there's some part of me that thinks if you just endure the allergy, your body will "get used to it" but I'm not sure if that's scientifically true or not, and I don't feel like checking.
Charles Seife may come off as a stick-in-the-mud, but his new book Virtual Unreality is chock full of examples of the "trickery, fakery, and cyber skullduggery" that exists on the internet; for instance, the art of sockpuppetry . . . type 1 sock puppets are created so that a person gets more attention or authority or notoriety for an opinion -- if you're an American student in Edinburgh and you want to blog about the Middle East, it's much better to do it as a "gay girl in Damascus" . . . and it's popular to create a type 1 sock puppet and then have this puppet come down with a fatal malady, so that you garner loads of attention and sympathy as you "die" on-line . . . type 2 sockpuppetry is even more sad and nefarious: you create on-line personas to agree with your real online presence . . . to bolster reviews and denigrate your competitors, to laud your writing and opinions, and to provide reinforcements for on-line feuds; it's always embarrassing when you get caught doing this, as Scott Adams found out several years ago (and because of the permanence and persistence of information on the net, real or false, though Adams made this error in 2011, it's easy enough to resuscitate the story years later . . . so be wary out there).
After I gave my spiel at Back to School Night-- and the way it works is that you run through your day's schedule, except that each "class" is seven minutes long-- and so after I talked to the parents of my third period class, a kind and lovely mom stayed after the bell and told me "I have two kids here in the high school and my daughter is a senior so I wasn't going to bother seeing any of her teachers, but she told me that I had to come see you, so you're the only one of her teachers that I visited" and I thought this was a very sweet compliment, but then when I went inside the English Office, Stacey repeated the identical story . . . a mom had two daughters, one a senior, one a junior, and she was visiting the younger daughter's teachers, but she was making one exception: Stacey's Philosophy class and so Stacey and I compared notes and it turned out that the mom who said this to Stacey was the same mom who said it to me . . . but it's still a nice sentiment, even if it's only half true (or could it be one third true? did she say the same thing to her daughter's math teacher?)
For me, finishing Megan Abbott's novel The Fever was like surviving a nasty roller-coaster ride without puking-- I don't like roller-coaster rides-- and there's a part of me that doesn't like Megan Abbott novels, because they are so disturbing . . . and while I acknowledge that the writing is sharp and the plot moves and the characters creep off the page, the topics of this book are malevolent and particularly disturbing: hypochondria, seizures, algae in the drinking water, HPV vaccines, panic, social media rumor-mongering, peer pressure, and inscrutable teenage girls . . . despite this, I couldn't put it down, this is the kind of book that you read over coffee and breakfast before work at 6:15 in the morning, just to get through a few more pages: nine algal blooms out of ten.
I am a disorganized person, and I don't write lists or keep a calendar or use any other aid to remedy my scattered brain . . . or so I thought . . . but a particularly observant colleague of mine recognized that some people-- women especially-- use bags to order their lives, and that is certainly the way I do it; I have a bag for my school stuff, a bag for my laptop, a cooler for my lunch, another cooler for water bottles, a smallish bag for my high school soccer coaching, a large hockey bag for my youth soccer coaching, two bags of soccer balls, a portable AED in a bag, a gym bag, two PUG goal bags, and, finally, a small backpack and a large backpack for spontaneous excursions . . . and I can hide a mess in each of these bags, but it's a contained mess; I keep all my school stuff in packed folders-- again, each folder hides a mess-- and I'm trying to shift my lesson plans and writing to Evernote, which is an application which allows you to access digital "bags" from anywhere there is wifi . . . most of my bags live in my car, and this system works well for me, as I can store and remove them when necessary, and-- once a year-- I clean them out and find all sorts of interesting and surprising treasures.
A big thumbs up for the MorningStar Chipotle Black Bean Burgers . . . going vegetarian is less taxing on the environment, saves loads of fresh water, and is morally the right thing to do; not only that, vegetarian options are more delicious than ever (unfortunately, I've gotten into the habit of putting several pieces of cold-cut ham and/or several slices of bacon on top of my veggie burger, which makes it even more delicious but might not count as eating vegetarian).
Last year, when the Wawa checkout guy asked me how big my coffee thermos was, I said "20 ounces, I think" and since then I've always paid the twenty ounce price for my refill, but the other day-- when I forgot my plastic coffee thermos in my classroom-- I bought a sixteen ounce coffee in a disposable cup and when I returned to school I poured the sixteen ounces of coffee into my plastic mug, so that it would stay warm longer, and I found out-- to my chagrin-- that my plastic coffee cup only holds 16 ounces: the paper cup to plastic mug transfer filled my plastic mug to the brim (it's obviously larger because it's insulated, so I am an idiot) but I am too embarrassed to tell the folks at Wawa that my cup only holds sixteen ounces, and so they are still ringing me up for twenty ounces . . . but I did catch a break on Friday, because there was a new checkout girl, and when she asked me what size my mug was, I told her "sixteen ounces" and so I guess I'll just have to wait until the entire staff turns over before I consistently pay the proper price for my mug.
One of the advantages of living in a small town is that people you know might see your kids doing something stupid and report it back to you so that you can address the matter . . . and so apparently my son Alex has been getting on his skateboard and letting our dog -- who is a very fast runner-- pull him down the giant hill into Donaldson Park . . . and, of course, Alex does this stunt without a helmet because you only have to wear a helmet when you ride a bike (even though getting pulled by a dog that weighs the same amount as you down a poorly paved road into a three way intersection with frequent park traffic and no braking method whatsoever is far more dangerous than riding a bike) and while I admire his courage-- as I was scared to skateboard on a flat surface when I was a kid-- I've advised him to wear a helmet because (relatively recently) as a society we've decided that kids should protect their heads as best they can from concussions (though I sustained a number of them, and look at me . . . I'm fine!)
To baseball fans a "four-bagger" is a home run, but if you own a dog, it's a particularly full day of fecal clean-up; last Tuesday, I bagged one in the morning, two in the afternoon (old piles I found in the yard) and a final bagful during our evening constitutional.
While my son Alex is very good at entertaining himself, my other son -- Ian-- often has trouble in this department, and he's also stubborn and doesn't take suggestions very well, but I've figured a way out of the dilemma; when he's roaming the house, annoying people and breaking things, I need to give him a list of choices that does not include the thing I want him to do . . . because it's a power thing with him, he hates succumbing to anyone's will; the longer the list, the better chance that he'll do what I want . . . so if I he needs to practice the piano, I'll say to him: "Ian you could do art or unload the dishwasher or read a book or go outside and juggle the soccer ball or collect bugs or take out the garbage or clean your room and play with Legos" and he'll say back to me "Okay, I'm going to play the piano."
I hadn't talked to this particular neighbor since Hurricane Sandy, but I saw him the other night while I was walking the dog and there was a small metal cage-trap in his driveway and he says to me--like we hadn't skipped a beat-- "I just trapped a possum" and I say back to him, "Yeah, they're around" which is a fairly lame reply, but I deny that in the heat of the moment you could have done any better.
For the past few months, my grill ignition lighter has been performing poorly, but last weekend -- serendipitously-- I ripped the cap off the ignition lighter button with the grill cover and was shocked to discover that there's a battery underneath the lighter button . . . and so I changed the battery, found the cap under the grill, screwed it back on, and now the ignition lighter works like a charm and my propane ignites instantaneously (and if you already knew there was a battery inside your grill ignition lighter, that you have to access by unscrewing the cap, because you read the grill manual cover-to-cover when you bought your grill, then I hope you contract a horrible skin rash).
My 5th Generation iPod Nano died the other day and I'm trying to make do with an iPod Touch-- which I know is an absurd statement, since an iPod touch is essentially a tiny computer and I should be counting my blessings that technology has advanced so far in such a short time (I've spent a great deal of my life using a Sony Walkman) but I can't stand the touch screen-- my fingers are too fat too accurately enter any information, and though my mother gave me a tiny turquoise jeweled stylus to aid me in poking at the screen, my wife made fun of me for it-- and so I'm solving my problem by going retro (slightly) and I am buying a 6th Generation iPod Nano, which still has the analog buttons and the wheel; in other words, if we're going to debate this topic, then I say: buttons! buttons and wheel all the way!
There's nothing like getting to the bottom of a mystery, especially when you break a man under interrogation and he gives himself up . . . Friday, I noticed that there was a black mark on my pull down projector screen, and this made me angry because I use this screen all the time-- I write things on the white board, and then I pull the screen down and project video or a quiz or an image, and the advantage of having the screen, is that I don't have to erase the stuff that's on the white board; it's very convenient . . . but now this big black mark was going to be omnipresent in everything I projected . . . totally annoying . . . and so when this new guy came into my room period nine (he teaches a class in my room while I have lunch) and pulled down the screen, I said to him "I don't know what happened, but there's a black mark on the projector screen" and he said "I'm sorry, that was my bad, all the other rooms have Smart Boards and I mistakenly thought I was writing on a Smart Board" which was, ironically, very dumb, because you write on Smart Boards with these fake computerized markers, but whatever, I was just glad I had solved the mystery, and once I broke him and got him to confess, I lightened up and said, "at least it wasn't malicious, I thought it might have been a student that did it" and then I painted over the black mark with White Out, pleased that I could put one into the "solved" file.
I'll never understand why local cops in movies and on TV shows get so upset when "the Feds" take over their case . . . if some folks from a government agency ever swooped in and wanted to teach my classes or grade my papers, I'd be more than willing to let them.
One of the great things about teaching is that if you find something that works, you get to use it over and over on each new batch of students . . . so when we start the narrative unit in Composition class, which is essential for skills to write a good college essay, I always tell them a bad story first, and ask them to tell me what's wrong with it; the example I use is a true story from when I was in high school, and I played golf-- I was having trouble hitting the ball out of the sand, so my father took me to practice over the weekend at the local course, and then in my match on the following Monday, I hit the ball in the sand trap on the first hole, and-- armed with a few hours of practice, I approached the ball confidently and-- miracle of all miracles-- I holed the shot for a birdie-- and this is a true story, but we quickly determine that while it's true, it's also awful, annoying, self-congratulatory, and boring-- no one wants to hear that "practice makes perfect" because we all know this, and no one wants to hear a story where success comes so easily; I use Dan Harmon's story template to illustrate this-- in a good story, the main character needs to pay a heavy price for his success, and this helped me figure out a better (if fictitious) revision to this story, which came to me in the middle of class last week and will now become a part of my curriculum for the foreseeable future: if I had gone with my father to practice sand shots and he lined me up and showed me the technique and then stepped back to assess my progress, and I skulled the shot and hit my father in the temple with the ball and killed him, and then dedicated my life to improving my golf skills to repent for my egregious error because my ineptitude resulted in patricide and then-- after I buried him, mourned and finally went back to the course and I miraculously holed my first shot from the sand, then we all agreed, and only then, would the story would be a good one, because I would have paid a heavy enough price for obtaining my skills with the niblick.
This time, Dave didn't make the situation awkward, someone else did, and I'll keep it vague to protect all parties involved, but I was coaching my junior varsity team to victory the other day (a big deal, since we didn't win a game last season) when the mother of a certain player decided she needed an extended and serious conference with me about her son during the game-- and while those of us who play sports respect the imaginary boundary around the coach and players, even when the game is taking place in a public area, this mom had no problem walking right through that invisible barrier . . . and because of this I thought the matter was pressing-- a heart condition or an allergy or a death in the family-- but she essentially wanted to tell me to tell her son to get his act together or he would no longer be allowed to play on the team-- which I immediately understood, and told her I would communicate this to her son, but then she wouldn't give up on the story and when I suggested that we could talk after the game, she said that wasn't possible, because she had an exam to study for and then she kept right on talking, while I was trying to sub players in and out, check a kid for a concussion, and change tactics because of a gale force wind-- and though she wasn't exactly heckling me, I still felt like Seinfeld in the episode where Kramer's girlfriend heckles him at the comedy club, and so Jerry goes to her office and heckles her while she's trying to get some work done, but -- in a sense this was my fault, because I should have dealt with her quickly and abruptly, but I'm not very good in awkward situations of conflict, so I finally just turned my back on her and didn't look in her direction for several minutes, and when I finally looked back over, she was gone.
Despite my tendencies towards vasovagal syncope, I am reading Megan Abbott's The Fever, which contains seizures, hysteria, and a mysterious contagion . . . all stuff that makes me dizzy; her last novel, Dare Me, is the scariest novel ever written about cheer-leading (and cheerleaders are pretty intimidating creatures, or at least they were when I was in ninth grade) and this one has the same tone: every sentence has an underlying menace to it.
My little black Ipod Nano finally met its match (it suffered through a full wash and spin cycle in the pocket of my work pants) and-- and I'm sure a number of my fanatical readers will be broken up over his demise, as this durable, reliable and adventurous gadget has been a mainstay on SoD since 2008 . . . so I'll be having a burial in my backyard tonight at 6 PM, if anyone wants to attend (but please don't tell too many people about this, because I think burying electronics in the yard breaks several eCycling regulations and I don't want the EPA breathing down my neck, nor do I want this treasured device torn apart and repurposed by a bunch of Jawas).
At the end of my wife's first day of school, a woman had a seizure in the school parking lot, delaying all the buses, and then a bunch of baby bunnies-- abandoned by their mother, escaped their warren and ran amok in very same parking lot-- but a giant man-- the husband of a Hispanic woman with a kindergartener in the school-- rounded up the bunnies and put them in a box, while the Hispanic woman and her friend told my wife, "we will raise up the bunnies and then let them go by the creek."
Sometimes, people use slang but they only know the denotation of the word-- so that the phrase works logically and grammatically-- but when they are told the connotation or the root of the slang, they are shocked by what the phrase actually refers to (e.g. on the first day of school, one of the younger teachers was taking a picture of another teacher for the yearbook, and when she got the photo just right, she said, "that's the money shot!" and we told her that she absolutely could never yell that phrase again in school, and then we told her why; at first she didn't believe us, and said that must be something from "your generation" but once enough unsolicited people gave her the same definition, she realized that though the literal definition of "money shot" was a memorable or impressive picture or image, there was no way to divorce the literal meaning from the derivation of the word).
I heard P.J. O'Rourke on NPR plugging his new book, which is about the "baby boom" generation, and he explained that his generation really did "use up" all the fun in the '70's -- sex before STDs, drugs before "just say no" and America before complete fragmentation . . . and it if you want a visual example of this, read Mimi Pond's fictionalized autobiographical graphic novel Over Easy . . . the narrator's adventures as a waitress at the hippest diner in Oakland is gender-bending, drug-fueled artsy hippie punk fun . . . and the art is easy on the eyes, and the book is a breeze to read-- it's not dense like reading Watchmen . . . but no disco, please.
The kids and I went on an ethnic eating adventure Wednesday to the new dumpling place on Route 27 (Shanghai Dumpling House) because it's been insanely crowded with Asian people since it recently opened-- and we probably chose a bad time for the adventure, as it was hot outside, and hot in the restaurant, and we were hot and sweaty-- the kids had soccer camp all morning and I was coaching in the scorching hot sun-- so it wasn't the kind of day where we wanted to wait on line for lunch, but everything looked good, and so, after a moment of discussion, we queued up and waited for some tables to open; meanwhile the little old busybody Asian lady behind us kept making forays around our flanks to assess the seating situation-- she had a party of four and we had a party of three-- and though she feigned pleasantries, and even went so far as to chat with my kids, I knew her ruse, but despite my knowledge of her intentions, she pulled it off anyway, jumping the line and scurrying to a table of six that was occupied by two other old Asians, who she made some small talk with as her party sat down with them-- the boys and I compared her to a Samurai or a Ninja, but then when we looked those up, we found that they are both indigenous to Japan, so she is neither, just a quick and crafty old Asian lady; the ethnic hazing didn't end there, the place was packed but there was only one waiter, and we had a hard time getting his attention, and then they were out of several things that we ordered and we weren't sure exactly what was going on and what kind of food we were going to get, but when we finally got our food, the kids said it was worth the wait: the pork buns were crispy and delicious, the soup dumplings were amazing, and I really liked the wontons in spicy sauce . . . and I'd like to give some props to my children, who certainly have their shortcomings, but they are always up for a cheap ethnic food adventure, and they really held their own on this one, which was epic and annoying (the next time we go, it will not be during the lunch rush).
I'm usually a day or two ahead on my sentences and they automatically post in the mornings, so if I continue this project for the rest of my life, when I die, perhaps I will still post a couple of posthumous "death sentences" . . . I'm sure this has happened already on the interweb, and I find it creepy and weird (but not as creepy and weird as what happens in Susan Palwick's sci-fi novel Shelter . . . a rich but very sick man who has been downloading his memories "translates" himself into a digital entity so that he can remain in contact with his family, though he is disembodied and physically dead; his daughter finds this creepy, weird, and annoying, as he is always showing up on whatever on various monitors and embodying cleaning robots and such, in order to "visit" her . . . it's a great book if you're looking for some near-future character-driven sci-fi to read).
There should be a name for the disease that I have-- a sickness which defies all statistical logic: whenever I try to switch on a light or a fan, or open a drawer in order to find something in the kitchen, I always choose the wrong option . . . you'd think I'd get it right once in a while, probability dictates that I would get it right once in a while, but I don't.