5-7-5...It's Haiku Day!

I just love haiku.
They are educational.
They make me happy.

Please read my haiku.
They were really fun to write.
Poems make me laugh.

A New Pope

Today I watched, with my students, history being made as a new Pope was announced. I felt tears come to my eyes but I fought them back (because to let a tear fall in front of your 8th graders will kill the rest of the class period). It's not often we get to watch one of the last vestiges of history and tradition being carried out before our eyes, especially when you live in a country so disconnected from the past and from God. I will not forget the day Pope Benedict XVI was announced. May God bless him, the vicar of Christ on Earth.

Job Application Letter to HP

Dear Hewlett-Packard Company,

I recently read an article in the news that you have named Mark Hurd as your new Chief Executive Officer and President. While I realize you may have received many applications for this position, you seem to have overlooked mine. I respectfully request that you hold off on moving forward with your decision to name Mr. Hurd as your CEO and President until you have at least read this application letter.

I would be an excellent choice to lead your great company for many reasons. In addition to outstanding communication and interpersonal skills, I have ample management experience and vision to lead your company into the future. I have held management positions in the food service industry as well as in the computer retail industry. Specifically I was a dining room supervisor at the now rejuvinated Ground Round Restaurants for three years while in college, and I worked as a customer service supervisor at MicroCenter where, by the way, I saw a lot of your products in our shop. Trust me, if I can be an effective leader and an example to others in those shit jobs, I would be perfect for your board room. I am currently a middle school teacher, and you can just imagine the kind of management experience I have gained in that job.

Another reason you should consider me over Mr. Hurd is that I have a great familiarity with your products as a user and as a salesperson. In fact I have owned two HP printers in my time, beginning with the legendary DeskJet 500. That thing is a tank! I still have it somewhere and it has never stopped working. Currently I use a DeskJet 832C and I love it. That little baby got me through graduate school. Finally, I have spent hours fixing my mother-in-law's HP Pavillion. Man, what a pain. But you should know it's mostly her fault, and I think the Pavillion series are strong products over all.

I also have ample sales experience involving HP products. When I was a Macintosh sales rep at MicroCenter, pretty much the only decent printers that would work with them were yours. Man, Apple must love you guys. In any case, I think that you will find I have excellent product knowledge and the ability to undertand the technical aspects of the CEO position. I won't even need help hooking up my computer in my office (and that's money saved).

Finally, I have reviewed the salary and benefits package that you have offered to Mr. Hurd, and I want you to know I would be a much more cost-effective choice. I am prepared to accept the job of CEO and President of your company for 10 percent of the value of Mr. Hurd's package, item for item. Just think, I haven't even accepted the job yet and I am already saving your company millions. Consider what other opportunities for growth and sensible economic decisions I can bring to HP.

In summary, I would not only be a fine choice to lead your great corporation, but I would be a much less expensive one. I propose you give me one year, and if you are not satisfied with my progress at that time, I'm sure Mr. Hurd will be happy to step in. I suspect, though, that you will be surprised at what I will do for your company, and at a fraction of the cost of Mr. Hurd.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

Elfboy

I'm a Spring Break Rocker!

Yesterday I was flipping around the tele and decided to check out what was on the On Demand TV channel. There's a great free service they have called Mag Rack, which the cable company bills as a video magazine rack. In particular there is a set of programs called Guitar Xpress, which is a bunch of free guitar lessons for everyone from the beginner on up. They have shows on getting started, chords, and how to play songs, etc. It's pretty cool, and it beats paying for guitar lessons.

So I decided to check out one program in particular called Basic Soloing. It was great. As sort of an intermediate-beginner, I have become interested in how to add a little spice to my guitar playing, more than just practicing chords, and I have been unsure of how to proceed. I know improvisation and good guitar solos depend a great deal on scales, but which ones to learn? This program showed me everything I needed to know to get going. I was playing and improvising with some basic blues scales in minutes, and since the show was On Demand, I could pause and rewind as often as I needed. What a blast!

Now I know nothing can replace regular lessons with a good guitar teacher, but when your budget is tight this Guitar Xpress thing is great. I can honestly say that I can take or leave digital cable, cable in general, and even television all together. This is the first time since Sesame Street and maybe the occaisional Nova or National Geographic special that the television has given me real value for my dollar. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an Am Pentatonic blues scale to practice.

Meijer Checkout Revelations

This afternoon I went to the local Meijer to pick up a few groceries and some postage stamps. As I was checking out, making small chit-chat with the lady running the register, a man came up in line directly after me. He placed eight packs of Rayovac D-cell batteries on the conveyer belt and waited for me to finish. He was tall, large, and wore a working man's clothes. I guess that he was an electrician or other skilled tradesman. As the checkout lady rang up my 12-pack of Sam Adams, she checked my driver's license. Now since the month is covered up by my wallet, I always make sure to tell the person checking it that my birthday is in July, which I did. After a moment she asks, "What number is that again? Six?"

"No," I say, "seven. July 23rd."

Then the man with a stock pile of batteries jokes and says, "That means he's seventeen." For a moment the lady pauses and looks concerned, then looks at me, smiles, and sort of chuckles.

Not be out done I laugh a good fake-supermarket-humor laugh and say, "Man, I wish," in my best 'we're all in this together' tone of voice. Then things got, well, odd.

The guy goes, "Man, you know there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish I could go back. If I could just have another chance." After he said this there was a pause, as if he was waiting for a responce. I looked at the checkout lady, but she was clearly not going to be any help.

Unsure of how to respond I lamely answer, "Yeah."

"I mean I made a lot of mistakes," he continued. "I should have gone to college instead of sitting around and getting high all the time."

Now what the heck was I supposed to say to that? How do you respond to that? My first instinct was to agree, and say, 'Man you've got that right. You really look like you should have laid off the drugs.' Upon further review though, that seemed rude, despite my good intentions of being agreeable. I said nothing instead, and blushed. Then the man says something like, "I have regrets everyday."

Already feeling like an asshole, I smile and nod understandingly and say, "Tell me about it." I walked away pushing my cart, feeling like a big douche bag. I'm not sure what to take away from this incident. I feel bad for that guy; someone so unhappy with life that he felt the need to confess this at the Meijer checkout lane. Perhaps he thought I was younger than I was and was trying to teach me a lesson, spurred on by the sight of my twelve pack. Nonetheless he did, in fact, look as though he had experimented with a few too many chemicals in his younger days and perhaps continues to this day. I'm not sure what the point is here, other than I might take care to avoid all conversation while purchasing groceries from now on. I mean I don't mind being polite, or even jovial, but that was just strange. All in another day's shopping at the local Meijer I guess.

Some Good Friday Reading

Today, owing to the fact that it is Good Friday and to the fact that I am on vacation, I sat down and read the gospel according to Mark in one sitting. This isn't all that hard to do, as it is the shortest of the four gospels in the Bible, and I did it in about two and half hours. I only stopped a few times to read a foot note or two, to look up a word in the glossary, and to check the maps in the back of the Bible for a geographical reference. Instead, I focused on the text, the story being told. I've never done that. I've never really tried to read one of the gospels as a narrative. Usually if I read out of the gospels it is to follow along in church, or to look up a specific passage. I've never just sat down and read the gospels; not in twelve years of Catholic school or as a teacher in one now.

I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged I was. Normally I have the attention span of a duck, but I had no problems staying focused. Of course, I know the story well, so I suspect that helped, but I enjoyed reading the story. Mark's gospel was also a good choice too as it is told in vivid detail and at a fast pace. Despite it's short length though, it has detail that the other gospels don't and I liked that as well.

I think the thing that most pleased me about my morning read though, was that there were a few passages that I really related to, that really struck a chord with me. I think that if I added up all the passages from Mark that I have read in my life before today, they would include much of the book, and yet never before have I gotten as much out of it as I did today. How cool is that? After years of schooling and being exposed to the Bible, I still sat down today and made connections that I've never made before.

So here's a Good Friday suggestion. If you are in the mood for some reading and a new experience, get yourself a Bible and have a whack at the gospel of Mark. I'm sure if I got something out of it, you will to. The Bible I am reading is the New American Bible translation, which is not very poetic, but an easy and accessible read. It happens to be the official translation for Catholics in the United States, but you can read any translation you want. Specifically though (in case you're interested), I am using The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition, published by Oxford University Press. The explanatory foot notes and study tools are awesome, and I enjoy learning about the authors of the books as well as facts about the text. The full color maps in the back are great, especially when reading Mark because he gives many geographical references. Most of all though, make sure the first time you read something out of it, just read it as it is told. Don't load your mind with a bunch of theological questions or expectations. Just read. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Over-protective Parents

Today I ran across this article, which was based on a poll of the nation's teachers. Among the many interesting findings, most of which correlate with my own teaching experience, was this: "76% of teachers say that special education students who misbehave are often treated too lightly, even when their misbehavior has nothing to do with their disability." This is so true in my experience, most likely more so in my school because we have no specialist or special-ed teacher.

Another finding, also very true in my experience was: "Nearly 8 in 10 teachers (78%) said students are quick to remind them that they have rights or that their parents can sue." I always find it amusing when a student says this, because 10 times out of 10 they don't know what they're talking about. Nevertheless, it is clearly a symptom of our changing culture where everyone must feel good about themselves all the time, and if they don't mommy and daddy are going to sue. Of course, the student usually picks all this up at home, which suggests that the parents are to blame.

Now don't get me wrong. There are poor teachers, and there are teachers who are unfair. In fact, most teachers are unfair at one time or another purely on accident. Teachers are human. The bottom line is that even if a student is punished unfairly by a teacher, or even if a disciplinary action is more severe than the crime warrants, life will go on. The student will survive and it won't make one lick of difference in the long run. If anything the student will learn the lesson that life isn't fair and teachers no exception. The fact is that the vast majority of teachers are just trying to the best they can in a culture where children are increasingly difficult to teach and where teachers are expected, more and more, to teach the values and habits that really should be taught by parents. Yes, there are bad teachers, and yes we should look out for them, but when you can't control your learning environment because the students are holding all the cards, it's time for a change. Parents need to learn that despite the fact that teachers occaisionally make mistakes, most of us a professionals who know a good bit more about running a classroom and teaching their child than they do.

Funny Student Story

Today my 8th graders were presenting their Power Point presentations on a scientist of their choice. According to our science teacher, one of our more colorful students - we'll call him Aiden - did something so funny, so him, that I had to relate the tale.

Aiden is a great kid. Funny, kind, and very original. He marches to the beat of his own drum to say the least. He's one of those kids that goes through about four pairs of glasses a year, loses his uniform clothes, or forgets to wear them at all on phys ed days. He always has something to say that comes from his own unique perspective on things, and most of the time it reminds me that not only are all kids different, many don't think like me at all.

So today Aiden gets up to present his report on his scientist. I'm not sure which one. He reads his report, word for word, from a piece of Kleenex on which he has hastily scrawled some notes. This in itself is not terribly surprising for Aiden. Aiden has a perpetually runny nose and so facial tissue is a big part of his life. What was a bit interesting was that when he finished giving his presentation, he took his "notes" and blew his nose with them and then placed them into his pocket. This of course produced a round of laughter and giggling, but not as much as when he was asked a question and proceeded to pull the now used Kleenex from his pocket to refer to his notes. He did this without batting an eye or stopping to consider what he was doing.

Man, sometimes I love being a teacher.

Nothing Stings As Much...

For a teacher, a misdeed doesn't sting nearly as much as a lie about it from a once trusted student.

A Google Operating System?

I saw this short morsel today. How cool would a Google OS be? I mean odds are it would work, be fairly streamlined, and efficient. And even if it did crash occaisionally, they could have a "pretty and colorful screen of death."

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