Chicken On The Stick

I had a wonderful lunch with Homercles yesterday. He even treated. Thanks again H. I'm finding that I don't eat nearly as much as I used to be able to when I go to buffets. Maybe my dieting this summer reduced the amount of food that I am used to eating at any given meal. Or, perhaps it's now that I am older, and make more money than I used to years ago, that I don't feel the need to get the most food that I possibly can for my dining dollar. It's nice to be able to leave a buffet now being full, perhaps a bit too full, but not to the extent that I feel like I am going to be sick.


Dead Pool

After reading Greenman's posting about submitting a list of names for The Dead Pool, I decided to join in as well. I will be sharing with everyone the list of names of 15 celebrities whom I expect to die in 2005. Writing that last sentence really gave me a remorseful feeling, but what the heck, it's all in good fun.

I've Been Sick

I have been sick for the past few days. It all began after going out to dinner on Monday night. At first I thought it was food poisoning, but that probably wouldn't have lasted this long. I had to push back my lunch with a friend until tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be feeling better for that.

I did get an encouraging phone call. While I am waiting to hear back from the interview I had last week, I got a call from another company that does similar work about a job. I interviewed for a job with this company last spring, but I did not get the job. They have another opening now, and they would like to interview me again. It would be really nice to have two job offers to choose between.


Enjoying Vacation

I am really enjoying my vacation. It's giving me a change to catch up on my TV court shows. As I am writing this, I am watching Judge Hatchet. My girlfriend is upstairs with a friend of hers from college who is visiting for a couple of days. She, my girlfriend that is, thinks my interest in court shows is odd, but I really enjoy them. I'd watch a DVD, except Jeopardy! starts in just 15 minutes.

Yesterday we braved the mall and some other stores to do some shopping and to return some gifts. I had to return one of the three copies of the Clue DVD that I received to Best Buy. I now have a credit there of a little over $10. At Target, I returned one of the two copies of Ed Wood that I received. I have a credit of a little over $20 there. I was going to buy the first season of Home Movies on DVD, but they were out. I'll probably check Target in Cedar Rapids when I'm there on Wednesday. The lines for returns were not bad at all. I was expecting them to be a lot worse.

I did buy a few things while we were out. I got a pair of Dockers at JCPenney. I got a couple for Christmas, but I needed one more. I'm getting rid of most of my older pairs of pants since during this summer I went from a size 40 down to a size 36. The 40s are way too big! If I loosen my belt, they drop to the floor. I'll be taking those to Goodwill some time this week. I also bought a few calendars on sale.

Speaking of weight loss, Christmas was not good to me. Last Sunday when I weighed myself, I weighed 210 pounds. Yesterday morning when I weighed in, I weighed 217 pounds. I really should not be going to a buffet with Homercles on Wednesday, but oh it's so good. Besides, it's not like we go there all the time. After Wednesday, I'll have to resume watching what I eat. I'd really like to drop another 10 pounds.


Happy Festivus

Homercles beat me to the punch on this one, but I too would like to wish a happy Festivus to everyone. In the spirit of Festivus, someone put up a sign next to a Nativity scene located on public property in Bartow, Florida, to commemorate Festivus. The town said, that when they approved a Nativity scene on public property, they'd have to allow similar other religious, and non-religious, displays.

Public Education

In a letter in yesterday's Des Moines Register, Edward Moses of Knoxville states is writing about the problem of too many sources of funding for public schools in Iowa, with money coming from the federal government, state government, property taxes, state income tax surcharges, and local option sales taxes, the last two of which only apply to some school districts in the state, not all of them, although he neglects to mention that. Anyway, in part of his rant, he criticizes teachers for wanting to make a decent salary. He writes:

The "greatest generation" was usually taught in one-room schoolhouses, and generally by a high school graduate or even an eighth-grade graduate. How did they accomplish so much with so little? The teachers used to put the students first instead of crying where they rank in salaries around the country. And nowadays it would appear that home-schoolers are outshining the public school students.

Mr. Moses asks how members of the "greatest generation" could accomplish so much when being taught by teachers who were merely high school graduates. I admit that I was not educated at that time, so I have no firsthand experience of what went on in schools then, but at that time, not as much education was necessary to get by in the world. Students in these one-room schoolhouses were not taking classes as advanced as many that students today have the option of taking. Were high school students better educated back in the 1920s than they are today? According to the National Association of School Boards, since 1920, literacy rates, graduation rates, and college attendance rates have all increased greatly.

Next, Mr. Moses implies that today's teachers are complaining about where their pay ranks nationally instead of putting students' education first. Now most teachers who I know personally do but their students first. Many of these teachers are spending some of their own money to make sure they have the supplies that they need to teach. They also work longer hours than required by their contract to ensure that students have every opportunity. One of my coworkers is regularly at school before 7:00 although we don't have to be there until 7:30, she, as well as many others, is there routinely past 3:00, when out contract time is over. Just because public school teachers perform a service that is intended to help people doesn't mean that they have to sit silently when their salaries start to decline in comparison to teachers in other states. Teachers deserve to make a decent living too.

Finally, Mr. Moses ends the paragraph quoted above by stating that home-schoolers appear to be "outshining public school students." I don't know if home schooled students are doing that much better than public school students as a whole. Certainly there is a large part of the home-schooled population that does do better than a great number of their public-schooled counterparts. News reports often show home-schooled students winning spelling bees, geography bees, and other academic competitions. Some of these students spend a significant amount of their time preparing for these competitions. Also, I'd be willing to bet that most of my students could do a lot better if I had the opportunity to work with them in groups of four or fewer instead of teaching 20 to 30 of them at a time.

I was going to just let this letter go without comment, but I am just tired of people unfairly criticizing public school teachers. Now I know that the author of the letter most likely won't see this, I could write a letter to the paper instead, but I'd have to edit it down some as I'm sure it's too long. Besides, my main point in writing this was just to blow off some steam from frequently reading letters in which my profession is criticized.


The Interview

I hope I didn't get my hopes up too high regarding the job I interviewed for today. Overall I think the interview went pretty well. I think I came off well to at least the first three of the people with whom I interviewed, one of them being the person who has the final decision in the matter. I think I did alright with the fourth person who interviewed me, although I could have done a little better. The part of the whole process where I think that I maybe didn't perform up to par would be in providing a work sample. I had one hour to complete a writing assignment for them, and was told that I may not complete it, and that it was alright if I didn't. I didn't quite get done, and I think I could have done better. Maybe that's just my quality of never thinking that I did my best that's coming through. I've felt that way before after completing reports or presentations in my graduate classes, but except for one A- that I received, I've gotten an A in each graduate course that I have taken. Alright, that's out of a total of four classes, but still, that's not too bad. Now I just have to wait, oh, and fill out and mail in the application form. I'll be working on that tomorrow.

That Darn Cat

It looks like my girlfriend and I have a problem with one of the cats. Monday, my girlfriend caught one of the cats pissing on the carpet at the edge of the living room. She had previously had this problem with the cat when she still lived in her apartment. I don't want to get rid of this cat--it's my favorite of the two cats--but we may have to if we can't stop this. She solved the problem before by putting a box for the cat in the area where he was peeing. We don't really want to do that now however. Besides just not wanting a litter box in the living room, if I get the job in Iowa City for which I am interviewing today, I don't think having a litter box in the living room will be all that helpful when it comes to selling the house. Hopefully we can figure out something.


Violent Games Can Be Good

Whoever said that violent video games were bad. From FOXNews.com, here's an article about some armed robbers who were scared away from a house by the video game Grand Theft Auto. Apparently, after they broke into the house, they heard a loud voice saying "This is the police! You're surrounded!" They fled, thinking it was really the police, but instead, the voice came from the video game.


The Christmas Celebration Begins

This weekend, my Christmas gatherings began at my girlfriend's parents' house. I had a good weekend. We had some good food, and I got some decent presents already. Although, I did get two copies of the same DVD, Clue, and I found out from my mother that I'm going to be getting another copy of it this weekend. I guess I'll be taking two of them back. I also got DVDs of Ed Wood, Amadeus, and ALF Season 1. Now I just need to get through one more day of school and a job interview on Wednesday, then it's time for my vacation to begin.


A Long Night

I had a long evening last night at work. The school district I work for requires each of its teachers to work three extra duties outside of the normal school day during the school year. This does not include conferences that are held in the evening as on those days, we don't have to go into work as early, so the total number of hours we work in the building that day are the same as any other day. These extra duties are without any extra pay. This is one area in which our association, or union, as some may refer to it, could negotiate with the school district. It would be nice if I could get a little extra compensation for spending an extra four hours at school for announcing at a wrestling meet. It's not like I was actually doing something that is related to my job, teaching! Any schmo of the street, well maybe not anyone, but most anyone could speak the names of those who are wrestling and name the winners into a microphone. Now I have been told that I am quite good at this. I guess I have an excellent voice for it, and I do try to do it with some flair, but if I had my way, I would not have spent practically my entire day at work. Anyway, I got someone to work the wrestling meet I was assigned to work this Saturday since that's when we are doing Christmas at my girlfriend's parents' house. My other extra work duty isn't until April, when I get to take tickets at a soccer game. That shouldn't as long, especially since they usually let the ticket-taker leave when the game is a little over half over.


The New Computer's Here!

My new computer arrived today! But, before I write about that, let me say that my phone interview went quite well. The interviewer, who I actually had met before, told me that I met all of the qualifications for the job, and my previous experience in test item writing really helped to make me an ideal candidate for the job. Also, the fact that I have taught science, as well as math, helps some as well. I'm sure my interviews next Wednesday will go just as well.

Now to the fun news. As I have already stated, my new computer arrived today! While at work, I checked online and was disappointed that FedEx had stopped by around 2:00, before I got home from work. So, I planned on going to their location in town to pick up my new computer after 5:00, when the note they left indicated it would be back. Just as I was about to leave, the FedEx truck pulled up in the driveway and off came my computer! UPS attempted to deliver the new printer today, but I'll worry about getting that tomorrow. Anyway, I'd write more now, but I need to get back to installing software and transferring my documents to my new computer.


More Interviewing

Tomorrow my job interview continues. I am going to have another phone interview with the test writing company with which I am seeking a job. This time I will be speaking with someone involved in the position that I would be working in. The remainder of my interview is going to be at their facility next Wednesday. I think I will feel fairly comfortable at that interview as I have worked with, or at least met, most of the people with whom I'll be interviewing then. I hate to say it, but I believe that I may be setting myself up for a big disappointment by getting my hopes up so high about this job. At least if I don't get the job, I still have my teaching job. For the most part it's not all that bad. It would be better though if I didn't have to teach four sections of Algebra 1. I wouldn't mind having two sections of that and maybe two sections of Algebra 2, or possibly Pre-Calculus. Those classes, along with the AP Calculus and Computer Programming that I currently teach, would make for a pretty good schedule.

Tomorrow is also the day that my new computer is supposed to arrive. According to the tracking information online, the three boxes containing the CPU, the monitor, and the speakers, should all arrive by 4:30 tomorrow. As I'll be at work with my phone interview until around 3:30, I'll probably end up having to pick it up at FedEx. The printer, which I don't really need, but it was free so I took it anyway, was shipped today. I'll figure out something to do with it. I'll either give it to my parents, whose ink jet printer isn't working well, or I'll give it to a friend of mine who could use a printer.


Movie Weekend

My girlfriend and I saw three movies this weekend. Last night we went to a sneak preview of Spanglish, the new Adam Sandler movie, which was followed by Christmas with the Kranks. Spanglish was alright, not necessarily a movie I would buy, but it was good, although it was a bit long and it kind of dragged on at points. Christmas with the Kranks was funny. Once again, I don't think it's a movie I'll rush out to buy when it comes out on DVD, but it was good. This afternoon, we rented Badder Santa, the unrated version of Bad Santa. It was quite funny. I am wondering what was in it that was not in the R rated version. There were quite a few uses of the F word, so maybe that was reduced.


No Big Surprise Here

I just took an quiz to determine what my dominant intelligence is and the result was no surprise.

Your Dominant Intelligence is Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

You are great at finding patterns and relationships between things.
Always curious about how things work, you love to set up experiments.
You need for the world to make sense - and are good at making sense of it.
You have a head for numbers and math ... and you can solve almost any logic puzzle.

You would make a great scientist, engineer, computer programmer, researcher, accountant, or mathematician.

How Libra Am I?

Thanks to Matt, I found a quiz to see how much I match my zodiac sign. It looks like I'm a bit out of balance with my fellow Libras.

You are 53% Libra


Dude, I'm Getting a Dell

My computer problem is solved, or at least it will be within a week or so when my new computer arrives. I've been looking at getting a new computer for a while now. My old computer had been acting up quite a bit. And quite frankly, I was looking for an excuse to buy a new computer. The problem with ordering one online is the wait for it to arrive. Plus, I have to be home when it comes to sign for it, or else I'll have to go pick it up from UPS. Now I'll have to figure out what to do with the free printer that they are including. I meant to select "no printer," but I forgot to do so. Well, it's free, and so is the shipping, so at least it isn't costing me anything.


My Computer's Dead

I think it is anyway. Earlier this week, I started up my computer when I got home from work and it started making a strange whirring sound. It did that a couple of times, so I opened up the machine and blew out the dust using a can of compressed air. After that, it sounded just fine, however, the computer suggested that I start it up in safe mode. When it did that, it ran some diagnostic which said that I'd have to reinstall Windows. Well, instead I shut it down and restarted it without reinstalling Windows, and it seemed to work. Not being a complete fool, I decided that I had better back up all of the files on the computer that would be impossible to replace. I spoke with my girlfriend's brother, who works with computers for his job, about what my computer was doing. He said that it could possibly be the hard drive going out, especially since the machine is almost four years old.

Anyway, it worked fine the next day, but yesterday morning when I went to start up the computer, it told me that there was a registry/configuration error and that I would need to run SCANREG to correct it. Well, safe mode of Windows Me wouldn't start up, and when I put in the emergency recovery CD, it didn't run. It started running the CD, but the restore program did not run. I think I may try a few more things before I give up entirely, although I would really like to get a new computer. The only thing is that I really don't want any extra debt showing up on my credit report, since I may be looking at buying a new house in the next few months.


House Hunting

I know it's a little too early to start looking for a new house in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area, as only today did I hear from the company with which I had a phone interview that they wanted to see me for an interview in person. However, last night I was looking at houses on Realtor.com just to see what is out there, and what should appear but the house in which I lived for almost the first 17 years of my life until my family moved to another house in the same city. While I have considered the possibility of moving back into the house when I've seen it up for sale in the past, I don't think I'd want to live there. The neighborhood's nice and all, but it would be a little strange living there again. Besides, the house is a little small; it's about a hundred square feet smaller than my current house. Also, there is only one bathroom, and I'd like to have at least one and a half. Although I wouldn't want to buy the place, it would be fun to take a look inside if there should be an open house there.



At just 43 degrees, it was a little cold outside, but I decided to go for a bike ride anyway. This was the first time I was out on my bike since August 23. It was a pretty good ride, although a bit of the trail I rode on was pretty rough. As I did earlier, and copying Homercles, I am including the data from my bike ride here:

December 4
Distance: 6.81 mi
Time: 0:31:08
Average Speed: 12.9 mi/h
Maximum Speed: 21.5 mi/h

Totals for 2004
Distance: 829.78 mi
Time: 62:02:26

Strange Dream

I had a somewhat bizarre dream last night. It wasn't so much that the dream itself was strange, but it took place somewhere that I haven't dreamt about for quite some time. I was dreaming that I was working at the drive-thru window at the Hardee's restaurant that I used to work at in Cedar Rapids. The funny thing is that I haven't worked at that Hardee's restaurant since the summer of 1995. I had worked at that particular location during the summers of 1990 through 1995. While I was in college, I worked as a shift leader of the Hardee's located in the Maucker Union on the University of Northern Iowa campus. I worked there from 1992 through 1997, when I left campus to student teach. I then worked there during the summers of 1998 and 1999 when I was between teaching jobs and staying at my parents' house for the summer.

When I worked at Hardee's I occasionally had nightmares about work. Usually it was about a continuous onslaught of customers. They just kept coming and wouldn't stop! Even after closing the restaurant, they just kept coming in! Since I've began teaching, I've had scary dreams about students who just wouldn't leave at the end of the school day. I wanted to go home, but they just wouldn't leave! Anyway, this dream, which included the manager I worked with in Cedar Rapids until 1994 when she moved to Hawaii and a few of my current students who were, in the dream, fellow employees, simply involved me taking orders at the drive-thru and dealing with a couple of complaining customers. I wonder if this dream has any deep meaning to it. Oh by the way, the Hardee's I was working at in the dream had the old menu, not the new Thickburgers.


Back to Working Out

I've started working out again on the Bowflex. I had intended to start working out a month or so ago, but I got really busy the rest of the week, and I didn't continue. Right now I am planning on using the Bowflex every other day. I hope to get some type of aerobic exercise on the alternate days. Tomorrow I am hoping to get out on my bike. I haven't ridden it since August, I think. It should be warm enough. I think the temperatures are supposed to be in the 40s.


An Excellent Interview

This afternoon I had a telephone interview with the company I worked for this past summer in Iowa City. I think that the interview went quite well. The interviewer said that she would like to meet me for an in-person interview some time. She has to set it up however with the person in charge of the department for which I would be working. I am really excited about this career possibility. If you have read my blog, you would know that I have been frustrated with my current career quite a bit recently. I really think that a major change like this may be just what I need. Well, I don't have the job yet, but that won't stop me from being optimistic, and it hasn't stopped me from starting to look at houses for sale in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids areas.



I wrote a rather long blog entry yesterday afternoon about my weekend, and it has disappeared! I deleted one entry which I wrote later in the evening when I saw that it had been posted twice, but I didn't try to remove the earlier writing. Shucks. Has anyone else ever experienced this here?

The Mighty Has Fallen

I just got done watching today's Jeopardy! and, as you may have heard by now, Ken Jennings, who has won over $2,500,000 in his 75 appearances has finally lost. He would have remained the champion had he correctly answered the Final Jeopardy question, which I got correct. The final question, in the category Business and Industry was:

Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees only work four months a year.

The answer to the question is in the comments for this entry.



I received a phone call this evening from one of the two companies that I am looking into applying for a test development position with. I have a phone interview this Wednesday afternoon for a position with them. Hopefully it will go well. I'll be sure to let you know.


Turkey for Me and Turkey for You

I had a good Thanksgiving dinner yesterday at my girlfriend's parents' house. The food was pretty good, although I missed some of the foods that I would have had at my grandparents' house. We'll be spending Christmas day there however, so I'll get plenty (too much?) of great food then. One thing I missed was my grandmother's fresh cranberry salad. It's just not the same eating it from a can, especially when it still has the can shape to it. Anyway, I managed to not eat too much. While there we also played a game of Trivial Pursuit 20th Anniversary Edition, which I, with a little help from my partner, won!

My girlfriend and I went shopping this morning. First however, we stopped by my doctor's office. I had a physical Wednesday after school just to make sure I am fine. He wanted to check my cholesterol level, so I had to fast for 12 hours before returning to have my blood drawn. I bought a few Christmas presents this morning as well as some items for myself. I'll probably finish up my Christmas shopping online.

This afternoon my girlfriend went to a movie with my mom and my sister. While she was out, I put up the Christmas lights outside. I didn't put up too many lights, although more than last year. Hopefully I don't end up burning down the house.



I'm sorry about my little bitch-fest from last night. It was a tough day. Today was somewhat better, although as I have been spending the last few hours grading tests from last Friday, I was at first a bit frustrated. However, now that I have finished grading them and have the data about the grade distributions in front of me, I feel somewhat better. I was expecting my later two Algebra 1 classes to have more failures for the test than the first two, but the opposite was the case. In fact, the class that I expected to do the worst, actually had the fewest failures, only three, and two of those three students never pay attention in class. We'll spend tomorrow going over the tests.

Now I have something else to complain about. The Fareway grocery stores where I live have decided that they will no longer accept empty beverage containers at their stores. Instead, they think I should take them to my "conveniently" located can recycling center over six miles away. Apparently, the state bottle law requires stores to take back containers that they sell unless they contract with a conveniently located recycling center to do it for them. I'd like to see their definition of convenient as going six miles in the opposite direction of where I'd like to go is hardly convenient. And what are people who don't drive to do? I think that I'll be letting my local Fareway store know that they'll no longer be getting my business. I just hope now that Hy-Vee doesn't follow suit. Perhaps if the state would increase the handling fee that the grocery stores receive, this wouldn't be a problem.


Frustrating Day

I've been feeling a little frustrated with work lately. I enjoy teaching. I like helping students to learn. What has been so frustrating lately is the students who just don't care. That is one of the problems with teaching a class which is required for graduation. It's one thing if a student just doesn't do anything in class and doesn't bother anyone else, but it's completely different when a student interferes with everyone else's education by interrupting class. I have called parents, which was effective for a few days, and I've sent students to the office, which only has any effect if there are serious consequences from the administration. I guess I'll just have to begin repeatedly sending the same students out of class until they get the message that they will not be keeping others from learning!

Now, today is one of the days that makes making a decision about my job after this school year somewhat easier. I checked today and I noticed that the test development jobs that I have previously been contacted about are still open. At this rate, I am guessing that they may still be open in February which is when I plan on applying for them if I decided to go that route. The two companies that the jobs are with seem to act rather slowly in their hiring decisions.

I keep trying to think through the pros and cons of the career decision that I am trying to make. I have spoken with a former coworker of mine who left teaching at the end of the 2002-2003 school year. She had taught for three years and now works as a real estate agent. She has told me that she doesn't really miss teaching too much. She misses the kids, but that's it. There are a lot of other aspects of the job that she doesn't miss.

Anyway, I'll write more about that later. One of the cats just knocked down the Christmas tree. I'm going to see if I can figure out something so it doesn't fall down again. Hopefully nothing on it broke.

I Survived the Weekend

I survived this weekend without gaining much weight. When I weighed myself for my weekly weigh-in on Sunday, my weight was up five pounds from last week's weight. As I suspected, my weight this morning was back down closer to where it was the week before, just one pound higher. I probably had extra water weight due to the high degree of salt in the ham from Saturday's dinner.

Yesterday my girlfriend and I put my Christmas tree up in the basement. It was tough finding places to plug in all of the Star Trek and Star Wars Hallmark ornaments that have lights and sound because they won't connect to some of the newer light strings I have. Tonight, we're putting her tree up upstairs.

Before I sign off for now, one of my students showed me this T-shirt. I thought it was funny and am considering getting one for myself.


Las Vegas Here We Come!

In four months, that is.

I booked airline tickets for my girlfriend and I to go to Las Vegas during my spring break in March. We are going to arrive there in the morning on Monday, March 14, and leave that Friday afternoon. We also have reservations to stay at Binions Horseshoe Hotel and Casino on Freemont Street in downtown Las Vegas. This will be the first time I have actually stayed at a casino while visiting Las Vegas. The last time I went, I stayed at a Days Inn, and prior to that, I stayed at a friend's apartment. I feel that we got a fairly reasonable price for our vacation. Oh I can't wait until March! Now I have to save up some money so I have some to spend while we are there.


My Lightsaber Color

I just had to jump on the bandwagon of people learning what their lightsaber color should be, so here it is.

Teal is your Lightsaber's color.

The color Teal signifies trustworthiness, devotion
and healing. It is also the indication of a
spiritual guide and natural teacher.

What Colored Lightsaber Would You Have?
brought to you by Quizilla

The Diet Is On Hold

I need to get back to watching what I eat. I just finished eating half of a large pizza and some breadsticks from Papa John's. If I'm not careful, I'll gain back the weight that I have lost. I think however that the remainder of this month will make watching what I eat fairly difficult. This Saturday my girlfriend and I are going to her grandmother's house for an early Thanksgiving dinner. Then we are having supper in the Amana Colonies to celebrate my great uncle's birthday. I better bring along the Pepto-Bismol. Then of course there's Thanksgiving dinner a week from today. Then on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, we have a wedding to go to in Iowa City. That will involve some eating and perhaps too much drinking. Finally on Sunday, I'm getting together with Homercles for lunch at a fantastic Mexican restaurant. Oh well, I'm sure I won't gain back all 35 pounds that I have lost since Memorial Day.

Is the Grass Greener?

A couple of days ago, I was talking about the possibility of moving somewhere else, something that I do often. Ana, as I predicted she would, made a comment about me not ever being happy where I am and that perhaps I would eventually decide that the grass isn't necessarily any greener elsewhere. I've come to realize that it doesn't really matter where I live as long as I am doing something that I enjoy and have people whom I love and care about nearby.

I would like to find a different job however. Not necessarily a non-teaching job, but a job with someone besides my current employer. The school district that I work for kind of treats its employees like crap. A few years ago, while negotiating the contract with the local education association, they removed all of the language they could from the contract without bargaining. I believe that this action got taken all the way to the state Supreme Court which ruled that they could remove some of language that was beneficial to teachers from the contract without bargaining. Some of what was there was put in, in exchange for other changes that were more beneficial to the school district, and which required bargaining. So we have been screwed over on some of those issues. As Iowa law prohibits public employees from going on strike, we don't really have much recourse. About all we could possibly do would be to work exactly to the contract, only working our contract-required hours, doing the absolute minimum that our contract requires. Of course the school district knows that we won't do that. Most people who go into teaching do it because they care about kids and we are not likely to lessen the quality of education we provide to our students just to make a point. Hopefully either the school board will see that they should start treating us better, or if that doesn't work, I hope I can find a better job.


Good Night

I know it's morning, and I am not going to sleep now, but I had quite a long sleep last night! I don't know why, but I was completely exhausted yesterday afternoon. I started dozing off while watching Seinfeld at 6:30 yesterday evening. I was so tired that I went to bed at 8:30! TO top it all off, I have a radio that comes on at 6:00 and then the alarm goes off at 6:15. Ususally I get up before the 6:15 alarm goes off, but I must have drifted back asleep before the alarm went off, because it went off this morning. Hopefully with all that sleep, I'll be wide awake today.

On another topic, I've been looking for affordable trips for my girlfriend and I to go to Las Vegas during spring break in March. Going on vacations is tough in my chosen occupation. The only times I can go during the school year, except for an extended weekend, are during winter and spring vacations, and that's when the rates seem to be higher. I'm not complaining though. I still get nearly three months off during the summer. Maybe we'll have to plan our vacation for then.


The Weekend

I had a great time this past weekend. Friday after I got home from work, my girlfriend and I, along with my parents, went to the Twin Cities to visit my sister. She lived in a suburb of Saint Paul. I hadn't seen her condo before. She just bought it a few months ago, and I was quite impressed with it. It was better than my house, although it cost over twice as much.

The main reason for our visit was to see my sister play in a concert. She plays the violin with the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra, America's only GLBT orchestra. It is an orchestra made up predominantly of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals, although my sister does not fit into any of those categories, not that there's anything wrong with that (to quote Seinfeld). The person welcoming us to the concert, their first of the season, was pleased at the turnout especially considering Cher was performing across town with the Village People opening for her. The concert was really good. It made me wish I had a group with which I could play my cello, although my dad would have to get around to finishing repairing it first.

Earlier in the day we went to the Science Museum of Minnesota in Minneapolis. They had an exhibit on Chinasaurs, dinosaurs from China. They really didn't look all that different from the other dinosaurs they had in their museum.

Another interesting exhibit was a collection of Questionable Medical Devices. One of the devices was an x-ray type of machine that was used in shoe stores to fit children's shoes. Also on display was the prostate gland warmer from 1925 shown below. According to its 1918 patent application, the 100-degree heat would stimulate the "abdominal brain!." You wouldn't catch be trying that out.

Prior to the concert, several relatives came over to my sister's place for dinner. My grandmother who lives in the Twin Cities came, as well as an aunt and uncle, two cousins and the husband of one of them, and my sister's boyfriend. It was nice seeing all of these people again, as well as meeting my sister's boyfriend.

On Sunday, we went shopping at the IKEA store by the Mall of America. There were a lot of interesting things available at IKEA, but we didn't get anything. Maybe we will on some future visit. We didn't make it to the mall because my sister had some things she needed to do later in the afternoon and we were running out of time. Before returning to Iowa, my parents, my girlfriend, and I visited my grandmother at her apartment.

Going out of town to some place more interesting than where I live always makes me wish I lived there instead of here. The Minneapolis/Saint Paul area may actually be a possible place for me to move to in the future. Before you decided to comment that I am always talking about moving and that I never seem happy about where I live, I am thinking about next spring when my girlfriend graduates with her master's degree. She hopes to find a job in an area related to her degree, youth and human services. It may be easier for her to find a job in a larger city than in a smaller one, and as the demand for math teachers is relatively high, I shouldn't have too difficult a job finding a math teaching position in a larger city either. The main negatives of moving to the Twin Cities as I see it is that housing would be a lot more expensive and it gets really cold!


Time to Buy a New Computer?

Is it time for me to break down and buy a new computer? I would really like to, although it just seems so wasteful as my current computer is only three and a half years old. I know that's old as far as computers go, but it runs all of the software I have. I keep thinking about buying some games, but I am afraid that they wouldn't run on the system I have. I suppose that's one reason to upgrade to a newer system. Also, my computer has been acting up quite a bit lately. About two or three times a week, it locks up while I am shutting it down, and occasionally it won't boot up properly, so I have to shut it down and restart it.

I am seriously considering backing up everything on the machine and then reformatting the hard drive so I can get a clean start. Of course, then I'll have to reinstall everything. On the other hand, if I bought a new machine I'd have to reinstall everything anyway. I suppose I should go with the less expensive option first, although Best Buy does have two years interest free financing on computers this week.

Have a good weekend everyone. After I get off work today, my girlfriend, my parents, and I are going to the Twin Cities for the weekend to visit my sister. She has a concert this weekend that we are going to attend. We'll probably also visit my other relatives who live there while we are there.


The Wrath of the FCC

Fearing fines from the Federal Communications commission, several ABC stations will not be showing the movie Saving Private Ryan this evening in commemoration of Veterans' Day. ABC has shown the movie before in its entirety, but since the Janet Jackson breast bearing incident and Bono's using the f-word on TV, they fear that they could possibly be fined because of the excessive violence and the use of profanity. The network's contract with Steven Spielberg says that they can't edit the film, so they can not delete the profanities. Now the FCC fined CBS over an incident over which it had little, if any, control. Some of the ABC affiliates who would like to air Saving Private Ryan have attempted to get a waiver from the FCC, but the FCC denied them the waiver. Personally I think that airing the film would be a nice tribute to veterans, but I guess the moral majority has spoken.


Parent-Teacher Conferences

Tomorrow and Friday I will be conducting conferences with the parents of my students, at least with those parents who show up. I am really looking forward to meeting with parents of some of my students. Unfortunately, it usually seems that the parents with whom I really need to speak with don't show up. These are the parents of students who don't do their homework, don't pay attention in class, or just don't show up for class often enough to know what's going on. So, after conferences are done on Friday, I'll probably end up making a lot of phone calls home, or if I can't get a hold of anyone, sending letters home instead. I'm also hoping the parents of the students with which I have behavior problems come to conferences. I think there is a good chance that many of them will come.

It's also nice meeting the parents of the students who do really well in class. One problem with meeting with those parents though is that I don't always have much to say. Their child is well-behaved, completes his or her work, does well on tests and quizzes, and seems to understand the material being taught. When they ask for suggestions on what they can do to improve, it can be very difficult to come up with something, since that are already doing so well.

Well, we'll see how things go. On the bright side, I don't have to be to work until 1:00 tomorrow afternoon. Of course, I do have to stay until 8:30. But afterwards, some of us teachers are having a conference of our own at a local drinking establishment.

An Odd Search

People have been stumbling onto my blog lately by searching for the Hardee's commercial with the woman riding the mechanical bull. I made a reference to it a month or so ago, which accounts for that. Of course I just made a reference to it again. Anyway, now someone has found me by searching Google for "hardees commercial pregnant." I don't recall when I used "pregnant" in any of my blog entries.


I Don't Understand

I just do not understand some of the views of the Bush administration. The Republican party, which traditionally has been about limiting the influence of the government on the lives of people has decided that a law approved by Oregon voters in 1998 needs to be blocked. The law permits doctors to assist certain terminally ill patients to die more quickly. This is a law that the people of Oregon voted in favor of, apparently the Bush administration is saying that Oregonians shouldn't be able to make decisions like this for themselves. I find this quite ironic considering that I keep hearing news stories in which conservative groups tout the fact that the people of eleven stated have decided to ban gay marriage and that decisions like this should be left to the people, not to judges. Would not trying to change this law be a slap in the face of those who believe that the people should be able to decide what laws govern them?

Why My Job Is Hard

I found these two news stories online today. Both of them have something in common, and that is irresponsible adults. Both of them were irresponsible in their own way. One of the things that makes my job difficult, and it's not the only thing mind you, is parents who are not responsible. I just want to make sure that no one reading this is taking this as a personal criticism. Most parents are quite responsible, but the parents who let their kids control everything and do whatever they want, when they want to, really make teaching more difficult. Some students with parents like these expect to be the center of attention in class and for me to cater to their every whim. Well I can't, and shouldn't, do that. I have about 29 other students at a time who I have to worry about, but some of these students just can't take "no" for an answer.

I don't have any children of my own, so perhaps I am a bit out of line here, but I believe that if more parents were to set well defined boundaries for their children, the children would be able to become more responsible for their learning in school.

Anyway, whatever your opinion, I'm sure that you'll agree with me about the parents described here as not being very responsible.

The first story is about a father who let his nine-year-old son drive a car in an occupied parking lot. The kid ran the car into a Jeep in the parking lot. The father felt that everyone was blowing the incident out of proportion.

"They're making a big deal out of nothing," said the father, Robert Samuel Sr., 46, of 2813 Burnet Ave. No one was hurt and the damage to both cars was minor,
Samuel said.

While the damage was minor, it could have been much worse. If Mr. Samuel wants to let his nine-year-old drive a car, maybe he should make sure it is somewhere where no one else is put at risk.

This first article really doesn't even compare to the second one. This story involves a 29-year-old woman who allegedly had sexual relations with an eight-year-old boy, a friend of her daughter. I didn't believe this story when I first heard about it yesterday, but when I read this follow up article, I was outraged. The "adult" in the situation had the gall to blame the eight-year-old for the incident.

The divorced Birch Drive resident has told investigators the boy a playmate of her own 7-year-old daughter was the aggressor in their relationship. Imre said he ordered her to dump an adult boyfriend and told her not to take birth control pills.

If this statement is even true, why didn't she tell the boy "no!?" I mean really,the boy was eight years old. I seriously doubt he could have forced himself on her. Besides, why would he make any comments about her not taking her birth control pills? That just doesn't make sense. She was supposed to be the adult there. The child should not have been the one to make a decision like that.

Veterans' Day

Yes, I know it's two days early, but today at school we had our annual Veterans' Day assembly. We don't have school on Thursday because of parent-teacher conferences, otherwise I'm sure the assembly would have been then. It was a very nice assembly. All of the veterans on the school's staff were acknowledged as well as the JROTC students and students who have signed up to join the armed forces upon graduation. To everyone who has served in the armed forces, I'd like to say thank you. Without your sacrifices we wouldn't have the freedoms that we now enjoy.

I do feel a bit guilty though. During the assembly, some of the speakers kept using the phrase "freedom isn't free." In itself, it is a good sentiment. However, it is also the title of a song from Team America: World Police, and hearing it kept making me think of the song distracting me from the assembly. In fact, I had it running through my head for the remainder of the day.


Topless Voting

A woman in Louisiana cast her vote for George W. Bush last week while topless, except for her bra. This article reminded me of the episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine gets her friend Sue Ellen a bra, since she never wears one, but Sue Ellen wears it as a top. Later in the episode, Jerry gets into a car accident while he is distracted by looking at the woman walking down the street wearing a bra. Hopefully this woman's wearing of a bra at the polling place didn't distract other voters from voting as they wished. Of course I read the article and understand why she did what she did, so much the high moral standing of the Republican party.


Partying and Movie Going

Last night my girlfriend and I went to the birthday party of a cousin of hers who was turning 16. We went to a local pizza place, but because there were so many people, we didn't get much pizza. We ended up going to McDonald's after the party because we were still quite hungry. Anyway, there were quite a few adults at the party as well as some young kids, and of course a fairly big group of teenagers since the birthday girl was 16. As one group of girls came in, another cousin of my girlfriend referred to them as "hookers in training" due to the way they were dressed, and it did seem appropriate. Some of them were barely wearing anything. Fortunately my girlfriend's cousin goes to the other high school in town, so none of the party goers were students of mine except for one, another cousin of my girlfriend.

After the party, we went to a movie with some friends of my girlfriend. After purchasing our tickets I heard someone call me over to them using my last name. That could only mean one thing, one of my students was in the theater. I looked over at a group of college-aged women and one of them said "hello" to me. It was a student I had four years ago when I taught at a small high school south of Iowa City. She looked familiar, but I didn't remember her name. She did tell me, and that did help me to remember her a bit more. It's usually nice to be recognized by former students. I also ran into a student from last year when we were at McDonald's. That made me think about the number of students who I have taught over the years that I have been teaching. I estimate that I have taught around 750 students in the seven or so years that I have been teaching. Anyway, we went to see The Incredibles and it was great! It was a really fun movie and I wouldn't mind seeing it again, although I'll probably wait for it to come out on DVD. Oh, and before the movie was the trailer for the new Star Wars movie.


Voted Fraud?

I just got off the phone from talking to my mother. She was telling me about allegations of voter fraud in both Florida and Ohio. She was telling me about voting machines in Florida that registered more votes than there were voters. She gave me the address of a website she said I should check out to learn about it. I think I'll hold off until I find something from the mainstream media. I sure pray to God that this allegation is not true. I don't think we, as a country, can go through another four years of people bitching about how Bush "stole" the election.

In other election news, I just heard that South Carolina has changed its constitution to allow bars to serve alcohol from containers other than mini-bottles. This is going to cause some problems for bartenders who have never served drinks from a full-sized bottle, but it will provide a lot less glass that needs to be dealt with.

Now away from the election. Last night my girlfriend and I went to Cedar Rapids for a wedding reception for a friend of hers. They aren't actually getting married until next weekend, but it's going to be a very small, private ceremony. The reception was at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library. There were some excellent hors d'oeuvres being served, plus an open bar, but since I had to drive back to Waterloo, I only had two drinks in the hour or so that we were there. I did however, eat way too many crab cakes. I had a bit of an upset tummy on the drive home.


The War on Terror Comes Home

It looks like the war on terror has turned toward a homeland target. In February of this year, Education Secretary called the National Education Association a group of terrorists. Last night an elementary school in New Jersey has been fired upon by a National Guard F-16. Fortunately no one was injured as the "attack" took place at 11:00 in the evening.

Ok, it was an accident, and lead bullets with no explosives were used. Also, Rod Page did apologize for the "terrorist" comment, but I found this story interesting.

Angry Students

The last couple of days, listening to students talking, I have come to realize that many of the high school students I work with are truly angry about the outcome of the election. Some of them just can't believe the outcome. I'm not happy about how things turned out, but that's how it's going to be, so we'll have to deal with it. Homercles has made an excellent point that the Democratic Party really has skewed too far to the left. If they want to get back a broader base of support, they need to come back toward the ideals of mainstream America.

Related to the election, yesterday a student in one of my classes asked me who I voted for. I didn't answer him, but another student indicated that I had voted for Kerry. This had come up previously. I admitted that I had. He asked me how I felt about the outcome of the election and I indicated that I was not surprised. I had been kind of expecting Bush to win. This student then asked me why I voted for Kerry then if I didn't think he would win. I explained to this student that I based who I voted for on who I thought would be the better president, not on who I thought would win. This isn't an election for the homecoming queen or student government; this is the real thing with real consequences.


A Record Day

Today a record was set, and no, I am not talking about George Bush getting more popular votes than any previous presidential candidate. The Republicans are making a big deal out of this, but to put it in perspective, John Kerry received the second most popular votes of all presidential candidates to date. Instead I am talking about Ken Jennings beating the record for the most money won on a TV game show. As of the episode of Jeopardy! that aired today, his total winnings are $2,197,000. Now that's a lot of money!

Oh Well

It looks most likely like we will have four more years of George Bush. I'm not too pleased with that idea, but I guess I will have to live with it. Thinking about it, my life won't really change that much due to his being President instead of John Kerry. I guess I can be pleased that I'll get to keep my big tax cut that will allow me to take my girlfriend and myself out to dinner a couple of times a year. I still won't have to worry about how the government will pay its bills. My future children will have to take care of that, not me. I'll still be protected from Saddam Hussein and his non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Hopefully Kim Jong-Il doesn't decide to come after us. Hey, I'm not gay, so I guess President Bush doesn't mind if I get married as I would strengthen the institution of marriage, not degrade it. I wasn't planning on having an abortion anyway, so if a new Supreme Court with justices appointed by Bush makes abortion illegal once again, it doesn't affect me. I have health insurance through my job without any additional expense. Hopefully I won't need to insure more than just myself as the cost it outrageous. I still have a job and because of the current trend in standardized testing, I may even be able to get a better one. I'm still free to express myself and read whatever I want to, as long as what I read doesn't make the government think I'm up to no good.

Now I am still disappointed that I have a President who thinks that my colleagues and I in public education aren't doing our jobs, otherwise he wouldn't have promoted legislation that takes choices away from the states and instead gives them to the federal government. But I suppose I can live with that since I am thinking about changing careers anyway.

At least now we will have a president for whom more people voted for than his opponent, although a margin of 51% to 48% is hardly a mandate.

It was nice that George Bush decided not to give a victory speech yet, instead giving John Kerry time to "reflect on the results of this election." What the fuck does that mean? It sounds like Kerry was a bad boy who was sent to his room to think about what he did. Oh well, I guess this is just another example of George Bush's "compassionate conservatism."


That's Enough for Now

Ok, I told myself earlier that I would stay up until this thing was decided, but I've decided that there is no point in doing that. This could end like 2000, and we still won't know for a week or so. Besides, CNN is reporting that Florida's absentee ballots may not be done being counted until Thursday, and I'll be damned if I am going to go that long without sleep. Well, with CNN currently having the electoral vote 197 to 188 in Bush's favor, I am off to bed.

Poll Watching

I spend two hours this evening poll watching. I sat at a polling place and checked off voters from a list I had of voters the Black Hawk County Democratic Party was targeting in its Get Out the Vote campaign. I didn't work until 7:00 tonight, so it wasn't very busy. Also, I didn't witness any voting irregularities. No one was kept from voting who should have been allowed to vote. There was one woman who had recently moved to Black Hawk County from Bremer County and had not changed her voter registration. Because she was not registered in Black Hawk County, she was not able to vote. One voter came in about 30 seconds before the polls closed she was the final, and 675th voter at the precinct today.

What is the Problem?

I read an article on CNN.com today about a high school where the students are being required to wear photo badges while at school so they can be easily identified as students as the school. Apparently several students and parents are complaining about this. I can see students not liking this policy, but parents? Some of the parents views requiring students to wear the badges to be "an infringement on their rights." What rights exactly would those be? I am required to wear photo identification at my job, which is at a high school. I was also required to do so at the company where I worked this past summer. In a large organization, requiring people who are supposed to be there to wear identification helps everyone to know that they are where they are supposed to be. I can see this as being unnecessary at a small high school where everyone knows everyone else, but if this is a large school, the policy seems to me to make some sense.

Here We Go

And the end of the election is finally here. People who have not voted early are going to be heading out to the polls, but I am not going to write about the election today. Instead, I am going to write about a change I am making in my life. It is nothing too extraordinary. I have simply decided to start exercising more regularly. This summer I did quite a bit of bike riding, and I believe that it aided in my weight loss this summer. However, for the past two months, my weight has remained fairly constant, so I am going to be working out more. Last night I did my first workout on the Bowflex. I didn't work out for too long the first time, but I plan on increasing my workout as I become in better condition. I also need to get back to bike riding. It's going to be rather cold outside to ride my bike, I am seriously considering buying a trainer to let me ride my bike indoors. Starting exercising kind of made me wish that I had been more active when I was in junior high and high school. I regret that I did not participate in any sports then. Perhaps if I had, I'd be in better shape today.


Happy Halloween

No candy was being passed out at my house tonight. I had bought quite a bit, but then I was invited to a rally where John Edwards was going to speak. I also heard from someone who lives a couple of blocks from me that there wouldn't be many kids trick-or-treating in my neighborhood. So instead, I heard a speech from a local politician about how George Bush has tricked us when it comes to healthcare, jobs, making us safer, the environment, and on other issues. John Edwards gave a pretty good speech about what he and John Kerry will do when they are elected this week. Recently I have been worried about the outcome of the election, assuming the worst, that Bush will win, but polls in the past few days are giving John Kerry a slight edge in the electoral vote count. It's still anyone's race, but at least George Bush doesn't have it locked up yet.

Happy Belated Birthday to Me

Yesterday afternoon Homercles and I finally were able to get together to celebrate my birthday. For the past few years we have taken each other out to dinner for our respective birthdays. This time we added a movie beforehand. We went to see Team America: World Police, which I have already seen, but it's so funny that I wanted to see it again, besides, Homercles hadn't yet seen it. The tunes in the movie, while they may be offensive, are quite catchy and funny. I'll be buying the soundtrack CD when it is finally released Tuesday.

After the movie, we had dinner at Chili's. I do enjoy their food, but unfortunately we don't have a Chili's where I live, so I only get to go there when I'm out of town. We are really lacking some good chain restaurants in Waterloo. Sure we have several dining choices, but I'd really like to be able to go to Chili's, Outback, Bennigan's, or even T.G.I. Friday's without having to drive an hour or more. Of course this could all be remedied by moving! Well, we'll see about that next spring. I may still apply for a job in test development next spring, or maybe I'll even look for a teaching job elsewhere. Some of it depends on where my girlfriend decides to look for a job when she finished her masters degree in the spring.



This year's election has got to be the most divisive election that the United States has ever seen. Ok, I don't know that for a fact as I have only been alive since the election in which Nixon defeated McGovern to be reelected by a landslide. I was only a couple of weeks old then, so I don't really remember that however. The first presidential election that I have any firsthand recollection of would have to be the 1980 election, and I was only eight years old then, so I really don't remember much of that. But of recent elections, this one has got to be the nastiest. Even the 2000 election, with it's problems after the fact, don't compare with the current election as far as attacks on the candidates from their opponents. There are a lot of people who, I believe, genuinely hate the opponent of the candidate they support. I have read about numerous reports of violence and intimidation against supporters of opposition candidates. Admittedly, most of the acts of violence I have read about are against Republicans. That may be because most of the information I get about that type of thing comes from sources who support Republican candidates. Of course, I don't condone such acts against anyone. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and from the polls, it looks like supporters of both George Bush and John Kerry have plenty of company with the election being virtually a dead heat.

November 3, with any luck, we will know who will be occupying the Oval Office on January 20, 2005, and we will all have to get over our differences and learn to get along once again. It won't do any good to keep attacking the winner of this election, whoever that may be, he will be the President, and most likely will be for at least the next four years. I definitely have a preference about who I would like to win, but roughly half of the population will eventually have to accept the fact that their choice for president did not win. The best thing that could happen on Tuesday would be for one of the two candidates, and I don't care who, to win in a landslide. That would show that Americans are united in their choice for a leader. Now I know that won't happen, but it would be nice.

The divisiveness of this election has even worked its way into the school at which I work. We were reminded in a staff bulletin this week that we as school district employees are not to be endorsing or denigrating any political candidate or ballot measure during school hours or while representing the school district. It surprised me that we would have to be reminded of this. I find it hard to believe that a teacher would be doing such a thing during class. Now if it is related to the curriculum, I can see a teacher discussing, and having students discuss, the merits and negatives about both candidates, but otherwise I can't see this happening. A student of mine however, told me Thursday that a teacher of his has been criticizing John Kerry in class. I'm not saying that there aren't any grounds for criticizing him, but it really has no place in a science class. This same teacher has been wearing a Bush/Cheney lanyard for the past few weeks to hold his name badge. Another teacher had a Bush/Cheney campaign sign up in his classroom for a couple weeks until someone took it down overnight. I haven't seen any teachers promoting John Kerry in such ways. I did have a Kerry/Edwards button on my jacket, but when I got to my classroom, that would go straight into the closet.

I haven't made any secret about who I am supporting for president, but I don't make it a part of classroom discussion. Many of my students have asked. And if they ask during class, I don't answer. But never have I attacked George Bush as a candidate for president. I have a rather conservative student who frequently jokes with me about the whole election issue. He will sometimes hold up his planner with the Bush stickers on it just to see if he can get a reaction out of me. He doesn't get much except for my grinning and shaking my head back and forth. Last year, when I had him for a different class, he was flashing some Bush sign at me in class so I had him turn to a certain page of his textbook which happened to have a photo of Bill Clinton. This is all in fun.

We can joke about each others' preferences for president without it ruining our working relationship. This student is one of my better students. He's almost always on task and always gets his work done. This reminds me of a question that I was once asked during an interview for a teaching job. I was asked if I had ever had any students that I didn't like (now I'm not saying that I don't like this student, I do). Of course I've hate students I didn't like. It's human nature to not like everyone! If I had said "no," then they would have known I was lying, so of course I answered "yes." These students are usually the ones who are constantly misbehaving and causing problems in class. The follow-up question was about how I deal with these students. Naturally I treat them professionally, the same, within reason, as everyone else. If they need help, I'll help them. If they do well on their homework, tests, and quizzes, they'll get a good grade. I even try to figure out why they behave the way they do to try to reach out to them and get them to behave better. But I never let my personal feelings about someone affect how I treat them as a student.

Well, I've rambled on enough for now, so I suppose I will end here. I just can't wait until this election is over!


Bye Bye Herky

It's quite a shame. The Herky on Parade exhibit in the Iowa City area has ended, about one month earlier than planned. The reason for the statues being taken down was because of the recent incidents of vandalism to the artistic representations of the University of Iowa mascot. I just don't understand people who feel the need to destroy others' hard work. What satisfaction could anyone possibly get out of doing such a thing? It just boggles my mind. While I was living in the Iowa City area this summer, I had the chance to see many of the statues around town and it helped me develop some pride in the fact that I am a former student of the University of Iowa, even though I finished my undergraduate degree elsewhere.

In thinking about the vandalism of these pieces of art, I am also reminded about the senseless theft of computer parts at the school I teach at. In one of the computer labs, some mouse balls have been taken, as well as keys from keyboards! What the hell is someone going to do with those? Also, a student had stolen the stapler from my desk and rolls of tape from my tape dispenser. It's bad enough taking the tape, but he (and I am pretty sure who took those although I have no evidence) also took the part the roll of tape is fit on to. Now the dispensers are practically useless. I don't know if replacement parts are sold for tape dispensers, so I'll probably have to end up getting a new one altogether. At least the tax credit for teacher supplies (up to $250) has been reinstated for this tax year.


My Political Tendencies

Someone anonymously left a link to a political test on the Political Brew website. I took the test and the results say that: on non-fiscal issues, I rank as a Moderate Liberal (27) and on fiscal issues, I rank as a Moderate Liberal (33). The scores are on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being fully liberal and 100 being fully conservative.

This partially confirms what I have felt about myself, if I give this test any credence, that I am somewhat liberal on non-fiscal issues. I thought, however, that I'd be a bit more conservative when it came to fiscal issues. I am slightly less liberal than on non-fiscal issues, but I guess I'm still a liberal.

It's That Time of the Year

It's the time of the year that I start thinking that I'd rather live somewhere else than where I currently live. Among my choices of places to live are Cedar Rapids, where I grew up, or Iowa City, where I lived for three years a few years back. Both of these cities have the advantage of being a lot closer to more of my friends. However, they have the disadvantage of being very similar to Waterloo, where I live right now.

The one place that I keep thinking about moving to, which would be very different to where I live right now, is Las Vegas! I've written about this a couple of months ago, but I almost took a teaching job there for last school year, but I decided, for reasons that I'd rather not go into right now, that it would be best to stay around here. I have a few problems with moving there however. One is that I would be a long distance from my friends and family. I can deal with being far away from my family. I don't need to see them that often, but I would really miss hanging out with my friends, although I don't get to do that much now anyway. Also, I would probably end up teaching at an inner-city high school for the first few years I would be there. I don't know how successful I would be doing that. I would be worried that I would not be successful, although I probably would be if I worked hard enough at it. One last problem, which wouldn't be impossible to overcome, is that it would just be a real pain moving such a long distance.

If you've been reading my blog in the past couple of months, you may know that I have been contemplating leaving teaching to work in the exciting world of test development. However, I have been feeling a lot more positive about teaching lately and think that it is something that I would like to continue doing for a while. If I do continue to teach, I would rather not spend the rest of my career teaching where I am now. I wouldn't mind sticking around a few more years, but I can't see staying here until I retire. One reason to make a change sooner, rather than later, is that after this school year I will be at the maximum years of experience that the school district in Las Vegas would accept for placing me on their salary schedule. I don't know. I probably won't move. I am just not that much of a risk taker. Although, signing up for on a dating website and going out on a date with someone I met online was a bit of a risk that has turned out alright. I guess this is something that I will have to seriously think about.


A Political Observation

Perhaps it's just me , but it seems that when Republicans use the word liberal in campaign ads, speeches, editorial letters, and so forth, the implication is that it is an insult to be called a liberal. Maybe I am just a closet conservative who is ashamed of his liberal tendencies. Sure.

On another topic, I just finished watching today's episode of Jeopardy! (I tape it so I can see it when I get home from work) and for the first time in quite a while, Final Jeopardy was interesting in that either of the two challengers could have beaten Ken Jennings. Neither one did however, and he will return tomorrow having won a total of $2,065,301.

Well Dammit!

Today in my computer science class I was discussing blogs with a couple of my students and I let it slip out that I have a blog. With that information, and the photo that I had of myself on the blog, they were able to find it in a matter of minutes, despite my lies to keep them off track. I guess my "disguised" photo wasn't too unclear after all. Now I will probably feel that I need to censor myself. Fortunately, the students who found it are fairly trustworthy and said that they wouldn't share the address with others. Hopefully they meant it.

Good Morning!

I have been suffering from a cold for the past few days and I was very tired last night, so I went to bed at 8:30! Unfortunately, I was awoken by a phone call about an hour later from Ana, my friend in Las Vegas. I enjoy talking to her on the phone, but I was just so tired, and not completely awake, so I'll have to call her back tonight. It was tough getting through the day at work yesterday being sick, but I managed. I really don't get sick too often. I considered using a sick day, but it is such a pain to have lesson plans that a sub can follow and expect my AP Calculus students to actually be prepared for a test later this week if I am gone. Most substitute teachers are not qualified to teach that.

Anyway, I tried to post this last night, but Blogger didn't seem to be working. I found this test on Matt's blog (thanks for linking to me, by the way) which is intended to determine who I should support for president. Here are my results:

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%) Click here for info
2. Cobb, David - Green Party (87%) Click here for info
3. Nader, Ralph - Independent (87%) Click here for info
4. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (82%) Click here for info
5. Brown, Walt - Socialist Party (75%) Click here for info
6. Badnarik, Michael - Libertarian (32%) Click here for info
7. Bush, President George W. - Republican (12%) Click here for info
8. Peroutka, Michael - Constitution Party (10%) Click here for info

I was a little surprised that the Green Party candidate and Ralph Nader came up first on my list, but my choice for president came up right behind. Maybe I should have listened to Homercles and voted for Nader. :-)


One Year

It was one year ago today that my girlfriend and I had out first date. We had met online through the dating service Cupid.com. I had tried dating websites before, and had even had one date from one, and I am really glad I didn't give up. We went to Ground Round for dinner, which is where we met for our first date. Before meeting my girlfriend, I thought that I would likely spend the rest of my life alone, but now I don't see this as the cast. Hopefully, this is was first of many years that we will spend together.


F**k Yeah!

This afternoon, my girlfriend and I went to see what must be the first puppet movie that I have seen since The Muppet Movie. We saw Team America: World Police. It was f**king hilarious! There were several instances when the entire theater burst out into laughter, although there was one joke that I don't think anyone but myself understood. The movie had a message to it, that sometimes violence is necessary to rid the world of evil. The puppet sex scene was pretty risqué as it ended up in the movie. I wonder what exactly they cut out. I must say that when this movie comes out on DVD, it will definitely join my DVD collection.

Oh Homercles, I wouldn't mind seeing it again, so if you want to see it next weekend when we get together for dinner, that would be cool.


Must Be Hot in Miami

I found this photo on Yahoo! and I thought I should make it a public service to share it with everyone who happens by here. This photo is of Mexican recording artist Paulina Rubio after performing at the MTV Latin Video Music Awards in Miami. I guess is must be pretty hot down there to necessitate wearing so little clothes.

On a completely unrelated note, at least 18 people have stumbled on my blog in search for the Hardee's mechanical bull commercial. Also, someone found my blog looking for Panera seafood bisque.


How Hard Is It?

The last couple of days, I've read stories in the Des Moines Register about voters-rights groups complaining about voters possibly being disenfranchised because of alleged problems with Iowa voting rules. First, they were complaining about a box on the voter registration form that is to be checked to verify that one is a citizen. How hard is it to do that? Come on, if someone is filling out a form, then he or she really should read it carefully.

Their second problem is with people who show up at the wrong precinct to vote, although in the correct county. They want them to be able to vote using a provisional ballot. I don't see how this can work. Not all ballots in the same county, even in the same city, are not necessarily the same. Sure, for national offices they are the same, but for state and local offices, there may be some difference. The boundaries for state representative districts don't follow county lines. If I were to vote across town, I would be in the wrong representative district, and I therefore would be voting for someone who I didn't have a right to vote for. The voter registration card indicates where one is to vote. How about instead of giving a prospective voter a provisional ballot, the poll workers could give the voter instructions on how to get to his or her correct precinct. Apparently some people are just too dumb to figure out how to vote. Remember Florida in 2000?


Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my 32nd birthday. Last night my parents, my girlfriend, and I went out to eat for my birthday. Since we had somewhere to be at 7:30 -- we went to the John Kerry rally at the Waterloo airport -- we went to a buffet since we wouldn't have to wait for the food. We tried out the New Century Buffet in Cedar Falls. It was pretty good, but from their sign outside I thought there would be a wider of variety of foods. Most of it was Chinese, not that it was bad; it was quite good. It wasn't as good as Cedar Rapids's Metro Buffet, but it was good.

I also got to open my presents from my parents last night. Among the gifts I received was the Star Destroyer Hallmark ornament and Jon Stewart's book America (The Book). I have been told that I need to read it quickly since my mom wants to borrow it when I finish and she has told my sister that she can borrow it too. It's nice of her to lend out my stuff like that.

Anyway, as I stated earlier, I went to see John Kerry last night. After seeing him speak in person, I am even more confident in my vote for him. I really, truly think that he will be better for the United States than George Bush. I'd like to write more on this right now, but I have to get to work.

To Homercles: We should figure out when we are going to dinner. Does next Saturday, October 30, work for you?


Election Signs and Smoking Crack

From the Rocky Mountain News:

A Lakewood Republican stealing campaign signs late one night got nabbed when he ran across a low- hanging driveway chain, fell face first onto a pilfered sign and the concrete and knocked himself unconscious.

If you plan on stealing election signs, you better watch out! They can fight back. And in other news, from the Indianapolis Star:

A Marion County judge on Monday sentenced an Indianapolis woman to 18 months in prison for helping her 5-year-old son smoke crack cocaine.

Andrea Wilkey, 40, held the lighter on Aug. 6 while her son inhaled from a homemade pipe, police say. Her son tested positive for cocaine the next day.

Oh my god! How could someone be so irresponsible! I don't get it! At the end of the article is a statement that she hopes to someday regain custody of her son, who is now in foster care. Heaven help the child if that ever happens. I think I now have a better understanding of the expression "Are you smoking crack?" that people may ask others when they do something stupid. Being on crack cocaine apparently severely impedes one's ability to make any judgments.


Bush Flip Flops Too

This week, during a campaign speech in Daytona Beach, President Bush announced "after standing on the stage, after the debates, i made it very plain: we will not have an all-volunteer army." After noting the not so positive reaction from the crowd, he changed positions stating "we will have an all-volunteer army."


More on the Hardee's Commercial

On Thursday, I wrote a post on the Hardee's commercial that has a woman riding a mechanical bull. I have now found the commercial online if you would like to see it.

Incidentally, someone found my blog while doing a search for "hardee's commercial mechanical bull." My blog entry from Thursday came up second on the list when I checked it out. From checking out the other listings, some people are apparently outraged by this commercial.



Last night my girlfriend and I were eating dinner out. The woman at the table behind us was complaining about her bill. Apparently her husband did not like his dinner so she felt that they shouldn't have to pay for it. From the conversation, it didn't sound like there was anything wrong with the dinner. It wasn't too hot, too cold, too spicy, incorrectly prepared, or different from the description on the menu. He just didn't care for it. My girlfriend and I both thought it was outrageous that she would expect to not have to pay for it simply because it wasn't something he liked. That's a risk people take when trying something new. I've ordered entrees at restaurants that I ended up not caring for, but the thought of asking to not pay for it never crossed my mind. It's not like the restaurant did anything wrong to ruin her experience. Anyway, she told the manager that she would not be returning to the restaurant, and she has dined there quite a bit. I would be willing to bet that with her attitude, they won't miss her business one bit!


That's One Juicy Burger!

I found an interesting question in the "Call the Courier" section of today's Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. "Call the Courier" is a daily column in the Courier which invites people to call the paper to ask questions. The paper will then research some of the questions and report on the answers. A lot of the questions simply serve to show people's stupidity, such as the question asking what number to call in order to temporarily stop delivery of the paper. How about checking the phone numbers inside the first page? Duh! Another large share of the questions are asked in such a way that they reveal the motives of their questioners. Anyway, there was one question in the paper that I found interesting. It wasn't so much that the question was interesting, but the editorial comment in the answer that made the item amusing.

Q: Who is the woman who plays on the Hardee's commercial riding the mechanical bull?

A: The actress in that commercial --- which, if Courier office opinion is any guide, women tend to hate and men tend to love --- is Cameron Richardson, according to a staff member at the Hardee's PR department.

In case you haven't seen the commercial, it features a rather attractive woman riding a mechanical bull while holding a Hardee's Western Bacon Thickburger. I have to say that I would definitely agree with the paper's office opinion poll. The commercial, while it has a burger in it, does not focus too much on it, but this seems to fit in with Hardee's latest advertising campaign which tends to target men. It must be working. I had one of these burgers last week, and I probably will have one again. I just can't eat them too often as each one has 876 calories. Add a small order of french fries (which was "medium" when I worked there years ago) to that and the meal has a whopping 1270 calories! That's over half of the calories that I allow myself to eat in a single day.


Dirty Politics

As reported by several media outlets, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 62 TV stations around the country has ordered each of its stations to air an Anti-Kerry film during prime time prior to the election. They claim that this film is news, however it is a blatant abuse of their use of public airwaves. This hour-long movie is simply a free commercial for the re-election of President Bush. I was watching Hannity & Colmes tonight on the Fox News Channel. Sean Hannity and the producer of the film that is to be shown were complaining about how "liberals" must be against free speech because they filed a complaint with the FCC about the impending airing of this film. However, if these same TV stations were to air Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 instead of the Anti-Kerry film, I would bet that they would be among the first to attack the stations planning on airing that.

Back in April, Sinclair Broadcast Group ordered its ABC affiliates not to air the episode of Nightline during which Ted Koppel read the names of American soldiers killed while serving in Iraq. They claimed that this was a political statement disguised as news. I really don't see how this film that they are now planning to air is a newsworthy event, as their vice president Mark Hyman claims, and not just a political statement disguised as news.


Feeling Good

I am really feeling good about myself. As I've said before, I have been watching what I have been eating since Memorial Day. Since then, I have lost 33 pounds. Until the last few weeks, I lost, on average, about two pounds per week. Now that has dropped off a bit. In the past three weeks, I only lost one pound. I hope to resume exercising again soon. I haven't been biking since mid-August. If I get back into exercising, I should be able to lose a little more weight. I would like to lose another ten pounds, then I would a bit happier. Anyway, I've had coworkers mention that I look good from losing the weight. Quite frankly, I don't really see the loss. I suppose that is because it was gradual to me, but until the school year began, my coworkers hadn't seen me since the first of June. Today, a student who I had for class last year asked me if I had lost weight. I am really happy that people are noticing my weight loss!

Another compliment I received today was from the teacher in charge of the ELL (English Language Learners) program at school. She told me that two people, one student and one associate who translates, told her that I do an excellent job explaining what I teach. She was told that of the math teachers that these two have worked with, each of them feel that I am the best at doing this at my school. Part of this is probably because I actually have a degree in the subject in which I teach. We have math teachers at my school who have degrees in other areas instead, but having completed a program in mathematics gives one a deeper understanding of the subject. With that understanding, it's a lot easier to explain why things are the way they are and to show how they are connected to other topics in math. After receiving this compliment, it makes it harder to decide if I am going to continue teaching when the year ends.


Last Night's Debate

First of all, I have to say that I only caught the very end of the presidential debate last night as I went to a high school football game instead of staying home to watch it. If I had not left after the band's half-time performance and instead stayed to watch the remainder of the game, which my team lost 37 to 0, I would have missed that as well. One question that I did see was the one in which John Kerry was asked about abortion. After Senator Kerry responded to the question, President Bush started out with a quip about how it was difficult to decipher what Kerry had said. It seemed pretty clear to me. Anyway, Bush mentioned that Kerry had voted against the ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortions. In his response, Kerry explained his reason for that vote in that it did not include an exception for cases in which the woman's life or health were at risk. George Bush then replied that one either has to be for or against partial-birth abortions, and since John Kerry voted against the ban, he must not be against it. It seems to me that either George Bush chooses to selectively listen to John Kerry's comments, only picking up on the points that make his point, which in this case was a small part of what Kerry said, or he just can't process and completely comprehend the comments of others. Right now I am wishing that I had recorded the debate so I could watch it today.



In last night's vice-presidential debate, Vice President Dick Cheney inadvertently directed people the website factcheck.com, which forwarded them to georgesoros.com, which contains information opposing the re-election of President Bush, including the quote, "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values." He of course meant to refer people to factcheck.org, which is a non-partisan political fact checking website.

UPDATE (8:25 am, 10/9/04): factcheck.com is no longer forwarding to georgesoros.com.

Gays and Pregnant Single Women Need Not Apply

From CNN.com:

A U.S. Senate candidate who said recently that homosexuals should not be teaching in South Carolina's public schools has added another group to his list of poor role models for children -- pregnant women with live-in boyfriends.

So it's not okay for pregnant women with live-in boyfriends to teach in South Carolina public schools but it's perfectly fine for their live-in boyfriends to teach there? So it's just immoral for these non-married women to be pregnant, but it's fine if they are not? I suppose the distinction is made because a pregnant woman stands out more than people from the other groups I mentioned. Jim DeMint, the senatorial candidate who made this comment, has a problem with the moral decisions of pregnant women with live-in boyfriends. I guess they are not good role models, but how is a student going to distinguish these pregnant teachers from pregnant teachers who are married? I doubt that most pregnant teachers would make it a point to inform their students that they are unmarried and live with their boyfriends.

As to openly gay teachers, I don't understand why that is a problem either. I doubt that these teachers, while open about their sexuality, are going to discuss this aspect of their lives with their students either. I steer clear of that subject, and I'm not a homosexual. Why would they discuss it? I had one high school teacher who I know to be a homosexual. I didn't know she was at the time, but I don't think it was a secret to anyone. It just wasn't something that was a topic for conversation in class. It certainly didn't hurt my moral development any, oh wait, maybe it did as my girlfriend, who is not pregnant, is going to move in with me next week.



Today we began administering the Iowa Tests of Educational Development to juniors at the high school at which I teach. Now, my school district, for some reason, only gives this test to juniors. The only reason I can come up with for that is that it saves the school district money. That's really the only explanation that makes sense to me. Anyway, that's not the point of what I am writing about. This morning while driving to work I was thinking about the ITEDs. Much like Homercles, who wrote about the same topic this morning, I too feel that the ways in which this test are used do not make sense.

We, as teachers, are being held accountable for our students' progress, and we should be, to some extent. But, as Homercles asserts, if we are to be held accountable for how well our students do on these tests, they should actually be based on what the state expects us to teach. The problem with that however is that the state does not tell us what specifically is to be taught. Iowa doe not have any specific standards of this type. All under the label of "local control," each school district is left to write its own standards. This seems quite inefficient to me. If we had standards of what specific topics were to be taught, then the state could have a test created to assess these standards, which are after all, what we should be teaching!

Last year, I was part of a group of math teachers in my school district to develop the curriculum for pre-algebra in the school district. One of the tasks we had to undertake was to read through each level of math ITED test, and some of the ITBS levels, and determining which of our school district's standards each item assessed. Some of them didn't assess any of our standards. Quite frankly, the information these items covered don't seem too important. However, since we have to have all students perform at the 40th percentile or better on these tests, we had to add some additional topics to our classes leading up to the tests. Some of these topics make absolutely no sense to be taught in the classes in which they are now taught.

Now on to the topic of having all students scoring at the 40th percentile or better, which is of course IMPOSSIBLE, as a student scoring at the 40th percentile scores better than 40% of the students taking the test. As Homercles points out, 100% of the students taking the test can't do better than 40% of them. I believe however that what actually has to be done is to have all students score at the level which was the 40th percentile when the test was normed in a certain year -- I don't remember which year -- within a certain time period. Now this would be possible, until the test it normed again, but it seems like a goal that is not very realistic.

Another thing that my school district does with this test, which is something for which it was not intended, is to use it as a graduation requirement. Students have to score at a certain level on the math and reading portions of the test in order to graduate. I was told by one of my colleagues last year that we have not had anyone not graduate because of not scoring well enough on these tests, so I guess we must be doing something right. ;-)