Thursday, June 5, 2008

Out with the old and in with the new...

Late last year, our friends Buddy and Debbie, decided to build a new house. There was one small problem. They already had a house on the property. The solution was simple. Tear down the old and build the new.

Here's video of the old house being torn down,



and here's a slide show of the progress of the new house week by week, starting today and working back to January 15.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Al Capone and Internet Safety

I'm sure you are all aware of the suicide of 13 year-old Megan Meier, a St. Louis teen who thought she was talking to a 16 year-old boy who was actually an adult neighbor.

Today, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles announced a four count indictment against, Lori Drew, the adult accused of being instrumental in Megan's death.

I think this is an extremely interesting case for many reasons. If you look closer at the indictment, you realize that there were no cyberbullying or harassment laws in place that could be used to get justice in this case. The US Attorney had to get creative and took a page from the Al Capone prosecution book. While there were laws against what Capone was doing, no one could get the goods on him for murder or other heinous crimes. However, they were able to put him away for tax evasion.

What has happened in the Megan Meier case is that the US Attorney has applied laws that are typically aimed at hackers and used the MySpace Terms of Service as a key portion of the issue. I am sure that this will catch the attention of the ACLU and EEF and you will be hearing charges that this prosecution is too broad and may be leading us down a slippery slope.

I seriously doubt that anyone will be prosecuted for minor violations of TOS as they might suggest. The US Attorney took great pains to emphasize that the decision here was made on the merits of this particular case. It was the death allegedly as a result of the actions of an adult online. That indeed is a serious case and anyone thinking that the US Attorney would be going after someone for anything minor is either delusional or paranoid.

Cudos to the US Attorney for seeking justice for Megan.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Can I Get a Doctor Here!

Ok, it's time for some no BS talk. I'll begin by making it clear
that the opinion about the state or educational technology and
Internet safety education are my opinions and not necessarily those
of WiredSafety.

Thirty-eight years ago I was a new teacher sitting in classroom with fifteen other new teachers. The then Superintendent of Rockaway Schools, Bob Linette, was conducting the class and asked us one by one what we thought of the American educational system. One by one each person sung the praises of our system. I was the last to reply and when he asked me, I said it stunk. The silence and looks on the faces of the other fourteen people said volumes.

Without pausing, he asked me to explain. I asked him and the group what part of their day was the math part, what part was the science part, what part was the social studies part? I said we were supposed to be teaching kids about life and how to success. I failed to see how this achieved that goal. I felt that school should be more like life, that kids should be solving real world problem and doing real world work. When I was done, he just said, "You're absolutely right."

Those three words set the course of my career and from that day on, I never looked back. Ever since then I've been trying to get schools to change the way they deliver instruction. It's thirty-eight years later and things have changed very little. Yes, technology is now in the picture, but technology implementation without changing how we deliver instruction is not going to work. In many ways technology has worsened the situation. There was already disconnect between curriculum and the skills that the 20th and 21st century required. With kids knowing more about technology than the teachers, the gap became a chasm.

As a result, the state of educational technology infusion in this country is a shambles. I'm not talking about the cables, routers, and computers. They are nothing to brag about, but compared to the hardware, the effective implementation of technology is in such a state that if it was in an episode of M.A.S.H., it would be on a gurney, with Hawkey and BJ doing everything they can do to keep it alive as it was heading for the operating room.

Lack of visionary leadership, lack of technical support, lack of professional development, budget constraints, NCLB, pressure to perform on high stakes tests that measure all the wrong things, and other mandates that hamstring teachers, make them little more than paper shufflers and test tutors. Yes, there are pockets of excellence. There are exemplary schools and programs, and there success stories, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

I've spent the last ten years of my life trying to make a difference in this arena. Now I've retired from that life and have perhaps jumped from the frying pan into the fire. I'm attempting to develop Internet safety instruction that schools can use.

If you believe what I say about the state of educational technology in this country, then it isn't a stretch to realize that the state of Internet safety education is in worse shape. If teachers don't have the time or expertise to implement effective use of technology in the core curriculum, expecting them to implement Internet Safety instruction is total folly. It's like strapping a couch to the back of a sprinter and asking him to run a marathon.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm an optimistic masochist or because I graduated from Rube Goldberg High School and McGuyver High School, but I liked the challenge. Two years ago I started a program that I felt dealt with both problems at the same time. I coined the phrase
and began my program of CyberSafety through Information Literacy. It was a series of lessons that could serve both as professional development for teachers and Internet safety instruction for students. The lessons are aligned to the National EducationTechnology Standards and other core curriculum standards. Instead of being add-on curriculum, it could be integrated into the existing curriculum in a number of ways.

Inexperienced teachers could run the Flash based lessons and let me provide the instruction. Because the software allows teachers to control all phases of the presentation, including sound and sequence, as inexperienced teacher became more comfortable with the material,
they could make it their own by substituting their narrative for my audio tack and by selecting what to present and when to present it.

Now I think it's time to take the next logical step. We at WiredSafety have found that two of the most effective tools for getting teens to listen to our message is to have it delivered by other teens and to have the message wrapped around real stories about real people and real events. Our Teenangels have stories of their own that they relate. You can find out more about them by visiting Teenangels.org.

We at WiredSafety have stories activities and suggestions that we relate to parents, teachers, and teens in our presentations. Some of those stories are already contained in my CyberSafety through Information Literacy lessons. Over the coming weeks and months, I'm going to begin extracting those stories, add new ones, offer short suggested actions and activities, and create a library of 5-10 minute learning objects that teachers and parents can use whenever they have
time or whenever they see a teachable moment.

I'll blog about them here and post them on the WiredSafety site. As they begin appearing, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Maybe together we can help Hawkeye and BJ get a patient off the critical list.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Move Over Bob Vila

In 9th grade, my favorite class was wood shop, but I was in the college track and there would be no way for me to pursue my interest in high school. I often said that if I hadn't gone to college, wood working would have been my path of choice.

Well now that I am retired, that path is open to me. For the past 40 years, I have had to made do with the basics. I had a decent collection of hand tools, a power drill, circular saw, table saw, but that was about it. If I had a job to do, I used what I had, borrowed, or rented, but now it's time to get the right tools for the jos which I'll write about in an upcoming post

Between garage sales, Craig's list, Amazon.com, VermontAmerican.com, Home Depot, and Lowes I've added a 9" band saw, a table sander, a full set of cordless hand tools, a router and router table, a Dremel with assorted bits, a drill press, router table and plunge router attachment, and an Arrow ET200 electric brad nail gun. I'll talk about my projects in another post.

Literally every one of the tools paid for itself after the first or second use, including the nail gun, but the nail gun was the only tool that turned out to be a huge disappointment.

It jammed once or twice and I always had to finish the last quarter inch of the nail with a hammer, but hey what do I know. I never used a nail gun before and figured since it's electric rather than the professional air compressor type, that's not unusual. It was still a hundred times better than driving them in by hand.

Two days ago, I was using it to build some storage bins. About a dozen brads into the project a spark few out of the top and the gun died. I took it back yesterday and exchanged it. A half dozen nails later, the new one broke.

What's going on here. I told Jill and being the ever practical shopper that she is, she suggested that I check it out on the Internet to see what the story was. I found 30 reviews on Amazon and 24 of them were negative, with 21 of the 24 gaving it one star. I have never seen a product that badly reviewed.

So it was back to Home Depot to get the right tool for the job. It was the $59 Arrow vs the $189 Porter Cable air compressor and brad gun combination. I wondered how much difference the extra $130 would make. After using it, I would guess it made at least $200 worth of difference. Aside from the nail gun, there are loads of other uses for the air compressor.

I spent another $15 and got the tire inflation kit. Hey and if I get a tire changing machine and lug wrench gun I can complete with Mr. Goodwrench. Hmmmmmm... I'm beginning to wonder if I'm in need of some sort of intervention.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Honey Bees and Haliburton

According to Science & Spirit magazine, Scientist at Los Alamos Labs have confirmed that ordinary honey bees can sniff out explosives even in amounts as minute as a few parts per trillion. This poises them to be right on the front line in the fight against terrorism.

Bees are strapped to small boards and exposed to the scent of explosives. They are then rewarded with honey and water. Very quickly, like Pavalov's dogs, they learn to associate the smell with the reward and stick out their tongues whenever they smell explosives.

Scientists explain the the bees are comfortable in their holder and are unharmed. When they finish their tour of duty, they are returned to the hive where they live out the rest of their lives.

The article doesn't go into any detail about how the bees will be trained and deployed in greater numbers, but based on past history, I've provided a little speculation.

The fact that the research was done at Los Alamos leads me to believe the government will give lucrative no bid contracts to Blackwater for training the bees. There will be major costs associated with fitting them with proper uniforms and I shutter to see the invoices for the honey and water used in the training. It has to be at least $1500 a gallon.

Of course, not all bees are patriotic and some might resist the training efforts. However, the boards to which they are attached will be specially designed to flip over easily. Since the bees are already strapped to boards and it is a simple matter to turn them over and then utilize the water meant for the sugar as incentive to cooperate.

It may not be long before bees organize when they realize what it happening and rather than sticking their tongues out when they smell explosives, they may stick them out at random times in order to confuse and taunt their trainers.

Returning to the hive after their tour of duty is not necessarily in the cards. With the high cost of training, it is likely that their tours will be extended two or three times and large numbers of bees may never make it back at all and others may elect to become private contractors, thus giving rise to another industry; the manufacture and sale of stylish sun glasses for their multi-faceted eyes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Net Nutrality and Me

There has been a lot of discussion on the IP mailing list about Comcast allegedly improperly throttling back some user accounts who have been using bit torrent and peer to peer technologies to transfer large or multiple files. Comcast denies they are doing that but critics are not convinced.

Up until this week, I was taking a neutral stance on the issue, but something happened to me personally to tip the scales.

I've had intermittent problems with FTP over the year, but usually it's something that resolves itself in a few hours or over night, but this week was different. All of a sudden it was if I had turned on a water hose and then someone put their foot on it. A packet would go out and then my connection would be at a stand still. Eventually another packet would go and on it went. The net result was either a failed upload or an upload that made me year for the good old days of two hundred baud acoustic couplers.

I endured this for three days thinking it would clear up. Finally, I called tech support. Unfortunately they didn't have any appointments for six more days. I made my appointment. I waited a few more hours and then called again to see if perhaps there was a cancellation and I could get an earlier service call.

This time I explained that I was creating a course for a major university and my tutorial files had to get uploaded. Lo and behold, I was in luck. The very next day, there was not just one opening. I had my choice of visits, 9-11, 11-1, 1-3, or 3-5. Gee, what an amazing coincidence.

I chose the 9-11 slot. As I sit here writing, it is 10:00 and I have yet to see a tech. I am willing to bet that I will not see one today. Do you know why? It's because amazingly, my FTP speed is now at over 1 Mbps.

So what happened? Well here's one possibility. The tutorials I was uploaded were created with software that adds mp3 files for each slide. As a result, in a period of a few days, I had uploaded hundreds of mp3 files that were incorporated into the tutorials. Could it be that these mp3 files tripped some sort of alarm that resulted in my account being throttled? Could it be that when I called and explained that I was not some teeny-bopper pirating music that they took the foot off the garden hose? I have no way of knowing, but it is certainly a coincidence.

I'll watch for a repair man. If he comes, we'll chat and I'll add a follow up to this entry. Anyone want to make book on whether there is a follow up?

Monday, March 17, 2008

That's Why They Have Email Verification

The subject line was "Welcome to MySpace" and the message began:
Hi Andrea -- Thanks for joining MySpace!
Here's your account info for logging in:
E-mail: AWOLINSKY_@_COMCAST.NET
Password: *******

It went on to provide a link for me to confirm the email address and open the account. I'd better make sure that I don't click the confirmation link or whoever set up the account is in business.

Ok, that's one of my email addresses, but my name isn't Andrea and I didn't open a MySpace account. What's going on? Is someone impersonating me? No, they're using my address and a different name. That's why the confirmation email came to my address. Lemme see what's going on here. I think I'll log in with the information provided in the confirmation message.

After I login, I go directly to the profile the person set up. Andrea says she's a 27 year old female from Cambridge, MA and that's all she has, but that's more than enough.

BTW - I've changed Andrea's name and location for obvious privacy reasons.

I'm going to assume that Andrea just made a typo on her email address. If her last name wasn't Wolinsky, I would have just gone to the account and canceled it and let her figure out what was going wrong, but I couldn't do that to someone with such a regal last name. :-)

With the little information she left, in about a minute, in a single search I was able to determine that she lived with her parents. I had their names, address, ages, and her phone number. A phone call and an email straightened thing out, but it just goes to show how things can go south in a serious way with the unintentional sharing of information.

In the end, no harm was done, everyone had a good chuckle, and I have another anecdote to tell in my presentations.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Breakfast in Vienna

No, I haven't become a world traveler like my son, but today I breakfast at the Vienna Inn in Vienna, VA.

The inn first opened its doors in 1925 as an ice cream parlor, later it became a cafe and in 1960 it was purchased by Mike Abraham and renamed the Vienna Inn. It's colorful history including being voted one of the 200 best drinking establishments in US in 1984, is well documented at their web site.

The building is basically unchanged as are the tables, chairs, and booths which appear to be original, are obviously well past their prime, but the atmosphere is still there and the breakfast was home just the way mom would make it. After two days at a technology conference in Arlington, it was a delightful change of atmosphere and cuisine.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

It must be the hour...


It's 3:45 AM and I've been having trouble sleeping tonight. I was going to give it another try, but first I checked my mail, a nasty habit. Among the spam was a name on a from line that started me laughing and if I don't stop, I'll be awake for the rest of the night.

The name was Francisco Hawkins and he was selling me Prada shoes.

I know it's just the hour, but the picture of a suave, Spanish hillbilly, shoe salesman slipping a pair of size 10 1/2 Prada heels on to my foot is going through my brain (what's left of it). At least they are a color that compliments my mustache.

On that note, I'll try to get some sleep. I'm not sure whether I'm looking forward to dreaming or dreading it.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Harvard, tech firms seek to create safety Net

It's a big step in the right direction, but regardless of what this task force accomplishes, it will only be a part of the solution. Without education and increased parental involvement, children will remain at risk.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Technology Workshops Can Be Heaven or Hell

Today I did a Web 2.0 in Education workshop for a small group of teachers in Absegami High School in South Jersey. It was NOT what I had expected.

When they originally asked me to do the workshop we discussed the fact that there might be a lot of material that might be blocked and that we needed to make sure that some of the key sites we were using would be open. The person I spoke to confirmed my fears and said that many of the teachers complained about the amount of blocking that takes place. Having done workshops around the country, I have come to see this as the norm. My expectations were set by my past experiences and while I loved the idea that they were asking for a workshop that pushed boundaries, I was a bit apprehensive.

About a week before the workshop, I sent her 7 URLs and asked her test them. I had about 30 others that we would be using, but felt that these 7 were important. I could live with blockage of the others. Based on workshops that I had given in the past, I expected that no less than two would be blocked. I was pleasantly surprised when she said that only Ning was blocked, but that she had put in a request to have it unblocked. Wow, they have an unblocking procedure that people actually use!

I learned a long time ago that when I do workshops that push technical limits or even challenge the status quo that I had better have plans A, B, C, and D in place and hope that I don't have to go to plan E. To make a long story short, I was able to go with plan A. (See me do a happy dance.)

The first thing I did was to show up an hour early so that I could test everything ahead of time. I came prepared with my material on CD, two different thumb drives, a copy that I could access online, and a copy on my own laptop. I logged in with the temporary login they gave for trainers, popped in the CD, and tried to drag the folder to the desktop, but it wouldn't let me do it. I did a quick check of My Computer, found the network directory assigned to login and dropped it there. Nice housekeeping!

The first thing I noticed was that I there weren't any speakers for my computer. I called down to the office and in 5 minutes I had two people hooking me up with speakers. During the five minutes I was waiting, I printed out a document I had forgotten to print ahead of time. The printer was on and ready for me, not something to be taken for granted.

Next I opened my presentation and began checking the links one by one. Ning was opened as per her request and the only sites that were blocked were 3 sites that expected to be blocked and would have been shocked if they were not. They were YouTube, SecondLife and Teen SecondLife. Imbee was also blocked, but that's not surprising in the least. In talking with one of the folks hooking me up with speakers, he made it clear that they try to be as responsive as possible to unblocking requests and that YouTube is often unblocked for periods of time for teacher requesting its use. Kudos to the techs and those who put the policy in place!

Ok, I was set, but how would things be for the teachers? There were about 25 computers in the lab, most of which were in sleep mode. I woke up the sleepers and turned on the others. Every mouse was functioning and only one computer failed to boot. Impressive!

I had done all of my testing and had lots of time before the workshop, so I headed to the teachers lounge. Things just kept getting better. I found vending machines with a nice selection of drinks and goodies. Not only did the machines accept my rumpled $1 bills, but the selections I wanted were in stock and fresh. Yum!

When the participants arrived, I had them go online to a survey I had posted to an Adobe Connect server. They took the survey which gave me their wants and set the priorities for the workshop. Then I asked the group how many of them felt that there were too many things blocked by their network. They were unanimous in their agreement that too much was blocked.

At that point, I let them know that I have had the good fortune of having given workshops all around the country and that they had one of the best run and most open networks I had come across. I told them that most teachers would be overjoyed to have the access that they had, but that their complaints are no less valid than the others. The more you use the technology the more access you need. The fact that they were complaining about their access told me that they WERE using the technology. That was further supported by the fact that never once throughout the entire workshop did I have to stop to assist anyone with basic technology skills. What a joy to be able to teach instead of being tech support!

One little anecdote that might give you some feeling for this group centered around our discussion of Wikipedia as a good starting point, but with the need for additional citations. One gentleman said that he and his students were aware of the problems with accuracy, but allows Wikipedia as the only citation. I was a little puzzled. It was not typical behavior to embrace Wikipedia so wholeheartedly. I asked him to explain why. He said that it's very convenient and he only uses it when he wants students to understand a general concept or the significance of the contribution of a particular person. I then asked him what subject he taught. He told me "wood shop".

No way I can argue with his logic. Outstanding and clearly not typical!

I could list a half dozen other incidents that told me folks were doing things right. Such as the fact that we had 15 minutes left at the end and no one left early. Everyone was visiting sites we had discussed and about half of them were constructing their iGoogle pages which I had introduced as a way to get them started moving to the Web 2.0 world.

Having a small group is hardly basis for judging the performance of an entire staff, but if they were representative of what is going on in the district, Absegami is doing things right.

I left the building with a smile on my face, more refreshed and exhilerated than when I had started it and decided to go another 40 minutes out of my to head to Atlantic City to treat myself and my wife to a White House steak sub!

I want to passed on my observations and compliments to the teachers, tech staff, and administrators in the district and I want more workshops like this one!

They didn't ask me to take a customer satisfaction survey

It was something I did. I'll admit it and I told the tech up front what happened. After doing a system restore or two to try to clear up a problem with some sound recording, my Bluetooth cordless keyboard stopped working.

I explained the situation to the tech and told here that I thought there was software corruption and that we needed to do a clean install of everything related to the Bluetooth, mouse, and keyboard. She was friendly and very patient, but had here protocols to follow. She exhausted her data base resources, did online searches, and consulted with her supervisor, but after 2 hours and 10 minutes the only thing that was accomplished is that she managed to make the cordless Bluetooth mouse stop working also. We never did get to uninstalling Bluetooth.

The fact that the mouse failed as well, supports my contention that the problem is software driver related. So what was the resolution of the call? They are shipping me a new mouse and keyboard. What will happen when it arrives? Hopefully, by pairing with two different devices, things will clear up. If not, (which is what I suspect) I will be back online with tech support, but at least I will have a new mouse and keyboard.

Now I won't mention which company I was dealing with, because what happened to me it typical of so many customer support centers right now and I have had favorable tech support calls with them before.

Phone support is my personal vision of hell. Having been in a position of supporting teachers in technology in a face to face world is daunting enough, but I can only imaging the frustration felt on both ends of the line when there is a problem that is tricky or and ID-Ten-T problem (ID10T) on either end of the line.

Of course, in this case it helps that I'm retired and that I have a USB mouse and keyboard that keeps me in business. The only thing I lost so far was 2 hours and 10 minutes, but I did learn thing as we trouble shot, I will be getting a new mouse and keyboard, and I have a new blog entry.

How's that for a glass that's half full?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I Can't Hear You...

You know the old joke about the guy walking around with a banana in his ear. A friend sees him and says, "Hey Joe, what's with the banana in your ear?"

To which he replies, "What did you say? I can't hear you. There's a banana in my ear."

Well, my cat might say something similar. While some cat's love to have their ears scratched, mines does too, but he likes it even more when you scratch from the inside out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Web 2.0 in Education

Next week I'll be doing a Web 2.0 in Education workshop for Absegami High School. Here's a quick peek at some of the sites we will be visiting and discussing. This trailer was created using a new Web 2.0 beta called Animoto.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Different Way of Life

In NJ, it often seems as if it is legal to run over j-walking pedestrians. Indeed, you get extra points if it is a little old lady with a cane, but it's different here in Amesbury, MA. Not only do you not get bonus points for bumping of careless crossers, you can get a $100 fine for not stopping for a pedestrian at a crosswalk.

Ok, ok, I know that even in NJ the pedestrian has the right of way, but there really is a big difference in driver attitude. In NJ, if the car is going to get to the crossing before the pedestrian, the car is going to either accelerate to do it or simply cruise on by.

Here in Amesbury, drivers actually watch pedestrians and stop if they even look like they are about to cross. A walker doesn't even really have to look both ways. If they set out into the street, traffic will stop, unless the driver is from NJ. So I guess it's still wise to look both ways.

We're up here visiting my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson and it's time to get home. One of the first things I did this morning was to look out the back window to see what birds were at the feeder and enter them in my son-in-laws Great Back Yard Bird Count log book.

Yes, on the MA, NH border life proceeds at a more relaxed pace.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Crushed Ego and Broken Contracts

In my 3DWiredSafety blog, I wrote about Internet Safety in the light of an something I had heard close to 50 years ago.

He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool.
Avoid him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student.
Teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep.
Wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man.
Follow him.

That not exactly the way I heard it and the story of behind my exposure to it is a powerful testimony to the impact a teacher can have on a student. My ninth grade English teacher defined a fool as one who knows not and knows not that he knows not.

English with Lyla Filippe was a mixed bag. She was stately and proper, but with a quick wit and sense of humor that could be hilarious, challenging, and humiliating all at the same time.

As a student, I tended to be a bit on the challenging side. I challenged authority, though not in a belligerent way. It would usually be with humor, quips, jokes, pranks, or simply playing devil's advocate.

While I hated diagramming sentences, I loved it when she read daily from South Pacific. When it came to the Canterbury Tales, I read them with difficulty, but tolerated them. If we were diagramming sentences and covering Chaucer in the same day, it bothered me. I could not see how either would help me in the future. I was always the one who queried, "How will this help me when I'm an adult?" and the standard answer of "trust me it will" did little satisfy me. It set the stage for trouble.

John Mahoney sat next to me in class. I have a feeling that he and I were on the same wavelength when it came to this class, though he was more of an English student than I. We both liked and respected Lyla, as we would refer to her out of class, but we both had that impish streak. It was he who put forth the spark that lit a fire under me.

One day while discussing Chaucer, she mentioned that little was known about his early life. I think something in that discussion is what led Mahoney to quip that Chaucer didn't really write the Canterbury Tales and that it was actually Chaucer's grandfather. I picked up on that idea and it became a running thread in our discussions over the next few days. At first Lyla was slightly amused, but as we pressed the point, her patience waned. One day she said, "That's enough. If you can even find anything about Chaucer's grandfather, I'll give you an A."

The gauntlet was thrown down and I picked it up. Over the next week, I scoured the school library and the Vineland public library. Unfortunately, nothing was available. Undaunted, somehow I convinced my parents to let me take the bus to New York and try the NY Public Library. It was there I hit the jackpot. I was able to come back with about three pages of written material on Chaucer's grandfather.

I presented my findings to an amazed and amused class and teacher. It was about two-thirds of the way through the marking period and at that point I had a B average. Resting on my laurels and my upcoming A, I relaxed and skimmed by the rest of the marking period.

On the day before report cards, Lyla would call us up to the desk one at a time to go over our grades. When my time came, I was shocked when she informed me that I had a C-. I was crushed!

Some might say I should have seen it coming, but deals such as mine for a grade were not uncommon. In fact, Chick Cowell, the gym teacher and one of my favorite teachers, would often present physical challenges in return for marking period grades.

Reminding her of our deal, she looked at me and said, "Who do you think I am, Chick Cowell?" I'm not sure which hurt more, her lack of respect of Chick Cowell or the fact that went back on her word. In any case, I simply said bitterly, "No, you are NOT Chick Cowell" and sulked back to my seat.

Neither one of us said anything more about it. I suspect and hope she had no idea how deeply she had hurt me and how much has taken place in that instant. Looking back, I can't hold that against her. She was otherwise even handed and a great teacher. Much of what I learned in her class, but positive and negative, carried over into my 35 years of teaching.  Along with the scar of that day came a valuable lesson that I have applied in adult life. It can be summed up in four words...

GET IT IN WRITING!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Avenue Q and Why I Love My iPod

Jill and I took a bus ride to New York today to see Avenue Q. My commentary on the show is short and to the point. My sides hurt from laughing and my hands are sore from clapping. The thing is that in retrospect, it wasn't the fact that the plot was anything out of the ordinary. If the lines weren't delivered by puppets I wouldn't have invested the price of two movie tickets, but it was well worth the price of an iPod, which is a rather clumsy segue into my next topic.

We took the bus because is normally a very relaxing, stress free, and economical way to go into the city. A round trip senior citizen ticket from Toms River to NYC is $14. You get there faster than you would by car and you are right in the heart of the theater district.

Normally I take a book and/or my iPod to occupy the time, but this time I took neither, because Jill was with me and we don't share the same musical taste and it would be rude to read.

As things turned out I would have MUCH preferred head sets on a Y-splitter listening exclusively to Air Supply and Brenda Lee. Seated three rows behind us on the left were two twenty something girls and two rows behind us were two twenty something guys. All four talked loud enough for the back third of the bus to hear them.

Now, like I don't know like when you last listened to like four twenty something kids like talking, but like it's like and like bomb like exploded in the bus. Like I really missed my iPod. Like ya know what I mean?

I tried closing my eyes and thinking peaceful thoughts. Perhaps meditating would work, but every time the word "like" was like uttered, it was like a bullet like shattering the glass of my concentration.

The thing is that the guys were just talking to each other and the girls were just talking to each other. Thank goodness they didn't intermingle. Aside from the insanity that would have resulted, I'm afraid I would have had to kill all four of them on the spot in order to save humanity from the progeny that might have resulted from their meeting.

Port Authority was a welcomed site. We left, saw the matinée, and were debating whether to eat in the city or back in T.R. If we hurried, we could catch the 4:30 bus an be in T.R. by 5:45, eat and be home by 7:00. If we ate in the city we wouldn't be home before 8:00. We opted to try to make the 4:30 bus.

We made it with only about 5 minutes to spare. However, because the bus was filling up we had to sit across the isle from each other. No sooner were we seated then who should walk in. Like you guessed it. It was like the two girls! But it seemed that luck was with us. Since we couldn't sit together, neither could they and there weren't even single seats across the isle within shouting distance. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Seated directly behind me were two forty something women who started out in silence. It wasn't long before they struck up a conversation and began talking about husbands, children, and grand children. It was then a chill ran down my spine. One of the pair was articulate, but the other like, um, ya know, had honed her grammar to the point of like, um, ya know, not breaking one grammar law, but three at a time. Where are the grammar police when you want them?

I wasn't sure I could like, um, ya know, keep my sanity, but thankfully their conversation was short lived and they spent the rest of the trip in silence. As we neared T.R. I made a vow never to make that trip again without my iPod.

Like, nuff said?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Assault with a Dead Weapon

This just in from the Mesa County Sentinel. It reads like the classic joke we've all heard a thousand times...

A case against a 91-year-old man accused of rape threats is on hold so he can undergo a competency exam.

Ralph Ridenour, who is accused of threatening to rape a nurse during an October incident at a Palisade nursing home, might not understand the criminal proceedings he faces, Colorado Public Defender Steve Colvin said Wednesday.

Mesa County District Court Judge Brian Flynn granted the defense request.

Ridenour was excused from appearing in court Wednesday and will return to court Feb. 20. He is charged with attempted sexual assault through the use of force, attempted sexual contact through the use of force and false imprisonment.


'Nuff said?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ma Bell and DYFS

I think if the phone company was my real Ma, I'd have to report her to DYFS. I'm getting ready to upgrade my phone and from what I can see, I have an old plan and will have to sign up for one of the new updated plans. However the problem is that my old plan has more features and minutes than I need or can possibly use. Of course the new plan has more features and more minutes, but it costs $10 more per month. Just what I wanted to do... pay more for more that is really less.

Now I'm not the only one in this situation. Wait until you hear this little ditty thanks to governmental watch dog, Lauren Weinstein. In his latest audio blog, he tells us about Proposition S on the L.A. presidential ballot.

In a nutshell, the proposition asks the voters to approve a decrease in the phone tax from 10% down to 9%. Sounds good, right? Wrong! What they don't tell you is that the courts have already ruled that the 10% tax is illegal and that voting Proposition down would likely reduce it from 10% to 0%.

Can you say. "CHILD ABUSE"? Thanks, Ma Bell.