A Peacful Colony

Last week I gave my students a test on the English colonies in North America. One thing we looked at was how colonies tended to be more successful if they attempted to maintain good relationships with the native population and if they required some degree of religious tolerance. Below is an example of a student who may not have fully understood the concept.

Actual Test Question:
"King Charles II has rewarded your loyalty with land in North America. Now you are the proprietor of a new English colony in America. You want your colony to be successful and to grow. Discuss how you would deal with the American Indians in your area. Also, talk about how you would handle the issue of people with different religious views mixing together in your colony. Be sure to mention how other proprietors or colonies might influence your decisions."

Actual Answer (student's name changed and spelling corrected):
"With my land given to me I shall name my colony [Bob]ville. With the American Indians on my land I would first make great friends with them, then once I get enough guys I will kill them all in their sleep. With different religions I would make different states in my colony so at one state it [would be] Catholic and another is Quakers. I will make it a law to hurt someone of a different religion just like what they did in Maryland."

A Time of Renewal

If you are visiting the ol' blog for the first time in a while, you will notice a new look and, if you look closely, a new blogging platform. The reason for this is that the forces of evil hacked my old blog's index page and used it to spam innocent people. In an effort to correct this, I have changed blogging packages and begun anew.

I am going to make an effort to import the content from my previous blog. If it works everything should be just dandy. If it doesn't work well, then, that's just the way the cookie crumbled for the Elfin Blog and we'll have to move on. Either way, thanks for visiting.


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Give Me Your House, I Want to Build a Mini-Mall

I found this interesting bit today regarding our Supreme Court's recent mistake.

The only problem I have with it is that last comment which reads, "Telling of how the left's lust for government power really affects the poor, isn' it?" We have a conservative court. Otherwise, a very significant listing of examples of how Americans really just want to fuck each other over for money.

Hootie: She Is a Famous Dog

My wife and I love our dog. And now the world will too. See our famous dog here.

The Way to Amarillo

With my summer off, I've been spending a great deal of time surfing the web. It's a reasonably good pastime when it's 95 degrees outside. I think my favorite video that I've come across so far is a makeshift Neil Diamond video put together by some troops in Iraq. It makes me happy. Neil Diamond pretty much always make me happy.


I'm not sure, but it almost looks like they filmed it on a phone.

Supreme Court Decides: Shopping Malls Are More Important Than Your Property

Today the Supreme Court ruled that city and other local governments can take your house for pretty much any reason as long as it fits some local ex-student coucil president's idea of "the public good." Basically, the Court decided that local governments are allowed to use eminent domain to take people's homes and businesses, even if they aren't blighted, for "public use." Local governments have been pulling this kind of crap for a long time, but this is the first time the Supreme Court has given such a broad definition of eminent domain.

I understand that there are times when eminent domain may be the necessary last option in order to build something that truly is in the public's best interest. Roads, or dams, or even a hospital might be projects that I would think could fall under the definition of the public good. Even the careful redevelopment of a "blighted area" could be a reasonable case for using eminent domain. I can also appreciate that progress must sometimes include the violation of certain people's rights when no other options remain. But the Court has essentially given big business and investors, and the local governments that court them (no pun intended), a green light to ruin people's lives and happiness so they can bring Americans another Walmart or Target or, in the case of the Connecticut residents who took their case to the High Court, a fucking hotel.

The Court ruled today that local governments are in a far better position to decide what is in the best interests of their citizens than a federal judge. The problem is that local governments are far more corruptable than a federal judge, and stand to gain financially and otherwise by allowing and using a wide definition of the public good. Meanwhile average Joe's right to pursue happiness, not to mention his whole way of life, can be uprooted and destroyed because a small group of people would rather have hotel or a shopping mall instead of his house or farm. I find it hard to believe that a shopping mall, or a hotel, is ever more important than the property rights of an individual. In a day and age when our rights are constantly being chipped away, we need the Supreme Court to defend them, to ensure that the Constitution remains strong and protective of our rights and property. The High Court sadly failed in that duty today, to the greater peril of us all.

Social Distortion Rocks

In a rare weeknight outing, I saw Social Distortion at the Promowest Pavillion on Thursday night. This was the first time I've ever seen them live, and I was not disappointed. They put on an incredible show. The band sounds every bit as good live as they do on their albums. Mike Ness' raspy, melancholy, and often furious vocals laid down over the driving guitars made for pristine Social D. Of course, with a band like Social Distortion every song is a rock n' roll joy, but some of the highlights were their renditions of greats like "Sometimes I Do," "Story of My Life," "Prison Bound," and "Ring of Fire."

Mike Ness still possesses all the energy and ferocity of his earlier days, now accompanied by a wisdom gained through years of learning lessons the hard way. All of this comes out in his near perfect guitar playing and vocals. He was ably backed by the other members of the band, especially by the skilled guitar playing emanating from Jonny "2 Bags." The crowd fed off this energy and made for an exciting concert experience.

If I had any complaints about the show at all they would be, first, that the bass and low end sound at the Promowest occaisionally overpowered some of the vocals and guitar. Whether this was on purpose or simply the way the sound works at the venue, I do not know. My only other gripe is that the band played almost all of their songs that a fan needs to hear except "Ball And Chain," and despite the amazing set list of the night, I must say I left with a sense of disappointment at not getting to hear the song that turned me on to Social Distortion so many years ago. Perhaps if they had taken the stage just ten minutes earlier, rather than at ten o'clock, they could have squeezed it in.

In any case, I will go back to see them again, to be sure, and the show served only to further strengthen my love and respect for one of the best rock bands of our time. I give the show 4 1/2 out of five stars.

I'm Creepy

Yesterday I passed on the link for my web site to a colleague for whom I have much respect. She said my web site and blog were "creepy" and "self-serving." I just think that's cool.

The "End of the Year"

Being a teacher, I am perpetually on an American academic year. To me, years are marked by school, and not as much by January 1st. The end of the school year is always a time marked by the anticipation of a nice long break, the stress of managing 120 students who are also anticipating a nice long break while keeping them motivated (and keeping myself motivated), and the anxiety of not quite knowing what to do with the summer.

I always feel guilty for not working during the summer, but each year a lack of motivation and a job that will bend to my schedule works against my half-haearted goal of a part-time job. This year, for example, I was hell-bent on working to make some extra money, but as my summer schedule becomes clear, that becomes difficult. I have classes for much of June (teachers must stay up on things after all), and my wife and I want some time off in early July. I can't imagine too many places that would be willing to hire me with such limited availability.

Of course, I do also enjoy the time off, but after I get rested and relaxed, the last half of July starts to drag and I am bored during much of August. By the time school nears again, I am ready to go back. Most people say how lucky I am to have that time, and I am, but I think humans need to be reasonably occupied most of the time. Of course, I never seem to accomplish all those goals I set for myself at the start of summer, like the fabulous lesson planning with a dated syllabus for the next year, or that novel on which I keep meaning to work, or those guitar lessons I want to start. I do keep getting a little better each summer, but it's slow going.

A couple of my eighth graders almost died today. These boys haven't exactly been the picture of good behavior this year anyway, and now that the end is near for them, they are really pushing their limits. The sounds of flatulence during a test, and constant giggling at inappropriate times try my patience and judgement. I have to remind myself how they must be absolutely dying to get out of school, and that Lincoln's disciplining of Gen. McClellan is far from their thoughts of girls and a summer at the pool. Of course, fart sounds are always funny as well, which makes it all the more difficult. But I also don't want to allow a few bad apples to spoil the experience of the final days of eighth grade for all my students. The point is that by the end of the year, I will be ready for a break, because no matter how I handle my current crop of misbehaving kids, it'll wear me out.

Then of course, there's the kids you wish you could keep another year, just to see how they continue to grow intellectually. As a teacher I am so proud of them and happy to see them move on to new and better things, to a world of more opportunity, but I am also saddened to know that I won't get to teach them again. I guess no matter what, it's just the end of another long (or short) year.

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