Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Fridayest of Frietag of all Venerdi.

“This is it, this is life, the one you get, so go ahead and have a ball.”

Tomorrow is The Last Day Of School for this year.

As always, it’s bittersweet.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m ready for it, looking forward to it.  I’m exhausted, my nerves are frazzled and if I paid attention to my stress-induced physical symptoms I’d probably be on all kinds of medication.  (They always disappear before the next weekend).

But at the same time, there are some 800 people that have, peripherally at the very least, been a part of my daily life and that I will not see at all for a couple-three months.  About a third of them I may never see again.  That’s part of life as a teacher, you accept it even if you don’t completely get used to it.

So, tomorrow is going to be a great day.  I’ll be relaxed as I drive home.  I’ll do nothing all weekend except relax some more. 

But every now and then, I’ll miss the interactions, the laughter, the kidding around, the questions and answers and those spontaneous comments that stick in my mind.

“Money is temporary, but cooking is forever.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lost … and Found.

I got home from going out to the Great Salt Lake to take some pictures and as I put my camera case on the counter I noticed my school keys were not hanging on the lanyard hooked to the case handle.

F&@%.  Yup, I said it.  At least once.

I rummaged through the trunk of the car, hoping that they had fallen off in there.  No luck.  That meant they were somewhere between my house and the Great Salt Lake, including a stop at Liberty Park.  I seriously considered just giving up here, assuming I’d never find them, and fessing up at school tomorrow.

First stop – Liberty Park.  I parked outside the park because, well, it’s Memorial Day and driving through the park would take forever.

There was a family gathering at the table I sat at and I went up to them and asked if they had seen any keys around the table.  They were incredibly sweet and even grandma helped search the grass around the area.  No luck yet.  I headed off to retrace my steps and they assured me that if they found the keys they would let me know when I passed going back to my car.  I went halfway across the park, asked if anyone had turned anything in at the concession stand, found a parks worker and she let me look in their lost & found, and even went to the Tracy Aviary gift shop.  No luck, nowhere.

I’m halfway out to the Great Salt Lake, on I-80 going about 90 MPH (145 KPH) when two Highway Patrol cars on the other side of the freeway flip on their lights and head off towards the median.  More cursing, lost keys and a ticket.  I pull into the right lane and slow down to a legal 75 (121) and the adrenaline rises as I see them in the left lane catching up to me.  Please, just let me get to the exit so I don’t have to sit on the side of the freeway to get the ticket.

My signal is on, I ‘m headed into the exit lane as they blow past me because it wasn’t me they flipped around for.  My luck is getting better, I start to feel like maybe, just maybe, I’m gonna find my keys.

I spent 20 minutes retracing my steps, deducing where I sat and the paths I walked, rummaging through dry grass and under rocks.  I’m about to give up and start up the hill back to the car. 

There they are!  Relieved that I found my keys and happy I took the time to come back out to look for them, I head home.

From now on, the keys go in the camera case.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nikkor 55-300mm zoom lens.

I went out and bought a new lens today.   I’ve been wanting a good telephoto lens, my old one must be run manually and when taking pictures of the assemblies and sports events at school, it’s hard to focus, adjust the shutter speed and f/stop without missing the action.

And of course, on the way home I stopped off at the park to see what it could do.  Here are some of the pictures I got today.  These pictures are downsized, but they are the full, un-cropped pictures.  They are mostly pictures of the birds at the park, with one requisite mountain picture and one I messed with a bit.  First the bird pictures, and as always, click on the picture to see a bigger version.

My, what a unique necklace you have there.

This a cropped version of that last picture.

The main picture here is with the lens fully zoomed out.  The inset is the car’s license plate from another shot with the lens fully zoomed in, and then cropped and enlarged.

And the mountains.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Quelle duh, # deux.

Usually when I read an article about some parent suing the school, I think “Oh, great, what are they blaming us for now?”

But as I read this article in the Salt Lake Tribune this morning, my thought changed from “Here we go again…” to “Why the hell did they need a real gun as a prop in a school play anyway?”

The school was doing the play “Oklahoma!”  They needed the sound of a gunshot to come from offstage and the administration let them use a real gun with blanks in it.  They had safety procedures in place, the gun was kept in a locked box.  It was only to be handled by an adult, during transportation and for the actual shots.  Good for them, but frankly it would scare the hell out of me to even have a locked gun around teenagers.  They are notorious for doing stupid things, even the ‘good’ kids.

You could argue that the kid is really to blame.  He broke into the locked box, he handled the gun when he knew he wasn’t supposed to and he was stupid enough to shoot it off.  And all that is true.

But why even take the risk when there is absolutely no need to?  The gun would never be seen, they were going to fire it off stage.  It would have been a lot easier, and safer, to just use computer sound effects.  I Googled “gun sound effects” and got over 13 million results in .14 seconds.  I clicked on the very first link, and they had about 75 free downloadable MP3 files.

I’m sorry.  Normally I’m on the side of the educators, who usually are doing their best to provide a safe environment for all their students.  But in this case, in an attempt to provide authenticity to a play, it was a stupid risk to take.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Quelle duh!

You check your bank statement and discover that $69,300 was accidentally deposited in your account.  What do you do?

  • Contact the bank and let them know there was an error?
  • Let it sit in your account and see how long it takes them to figure out there was a mistake?
  • Immediately go out and buy a new car, pay for a vacation and try to spend it all before anyone notices the error?

Well, if you choose the third option, you could end up facing criminal charges, just like this guy from Trevose, PA.  By the time Wells Fargo caught the mistake, he had spent all but about $2,000.  He’s being charged with theft and receiving stolen property.  Lesson: Don’t get your financial or legal advice from the game of Monopoly.

My older brother had this happen to one of his retirement accounts.  He got the statement one Friday afternoon, he still has the statement that shows a balance of $514,000,000.  Yup, 514 million dollars.  The banks were closed by the time he looked at the statement, so he got to wait the weekend before contacting them.  So he still can claim that he was a half-billionaire for a weekend.

Personally, in either case I wouldn’t have spent any of the money, but I might have been tempted let it sit in the account and see how long it took the bank to find their big boo-boo.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Schedule from Heaven.

The master schedule for next year is locked in.  Which means, short of any dire circumstances, all the teachers know what classes they are going to teach and which period.

I couldn’t have asked for a better schedule.  Actually, it’s pretty much the schedule I did ask for.

All 3 math classes are in the morning, when the kids are still relatively fresh, sedate and most inclined to be willing to learn and cooperate.

My 3 keyboarding classes, which is more of an activity based class, are in the afternoon.   A much better class to have after they’ve had a lunch of sugar and caffeine.

Having the math classes all together and the keyboarding classes all together also means that I only have to change classrooms once a day.  This year it was math-keyboarding-math-keyboarding-math, 4 class switches a day.  Bleah!

Bonus points – my prep period is the period lunch is done in.  Which means I get to go to first lunch or second lunch, which ever one I’m in the mood for.  It also means that I have an hour and a half break at once, I could actually go out for lunch once in a while.  Wahoo!

Monday, May 21, 2012

In time and space.

The theme for this week is “Far from home.”

When I was a kid living in Massachusetts my parents bought some land up in New Hampshire.  The deed to the property, probably originally dating back to the 1700’s, read “20 acres, more or less”.  My parents should have had it surveyed when they bought it, because when they sold it 2 decades later, the surveyor found it to be about 12 acres.  It was 80 miles (129 km) from our home, near the town of Bradford, New Hampshire.

The cabin my dad and uncle built seems to be gone now, I spent some time on Google Maps going up and down the Old Sutton Road looking and couldn’t find it.  It had an old wood burning stove for heat and cooking and we got our water from a hand pump just down the hill.   At the time, those 80 miles seemed like a long way away, but it was always a lot of fun to get out into the wilderness.

In August of the same year the previous two pictures were taken, we left for a year in Europe.  My dad taught one semester at the University in Grenoble, and my parents enrolled us 4 kids in the public schools there.  There was no FSL (French as a Second Language) class for us to take, so we just muddled our way through.  I remember coming home and taking a French class in Middle School and being as fluent in French as the teacher.

For the first time in my life we lived in an apartment, on the 10th floor of a building that had intermittently working elevators.  Still, it was worth the trek every morning for our baguette and croissants.  I took this picture from the window of our apartment.

I had my own little instamatic camera and took a ton of pictures even back then.  Unfortunately these are the only three that seemed to have survived the move out here to Utah.

Solar Eclipse

I missed it.  Mainly because I didn’t get the equipment to watch it safely.  The clouds and trees didn’t help.

But I did see some great pictures on Facebook that my brother took, and some really interesting ones on Doves Today, a blog I frequent.  Check it out, and be sure you scroll down to see the shots of the eclipse filtering through the trees.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Which one are you?

  • Porn shop operator,
  • Supporter of promiscuous behavior,
  • Someone that believes that, although you’re smart enough to teach your kids about abstinence, everyone else is too stupid to do it themselves, or
  • An “intellectual”?

Because, according to Bill Wright (R-Holden), if you supported the veto of HB363 you most likely fit into one of these four categories.

Thank you Bill Wright, now I have proof that I am an intellectual.  Since I’m a teacher and not a porn store operator, I don’t think people should be sleeping with everyone in sight and I don’t have any children, that leaves only one thing: intellectual.

Of course he meant “Intellectual”, with the quotes and preferable said with a sneer.   Kind of like the way you would refer to a “liberal”, “leper” or “rabid dog.”  But to me, it just means smart.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tradition!

You’d think that a teacher who has spent the majority of his career changing schools more often that a teenage boy changes his socks wouldn’t have developed many traditions.

But I, inadvertently, have developed at least one.

Right now my keyboarding classes are in room 208 and my math classes in 203, even though the rest of the math teachers are on the 3rd floor.   The principal did this to keep my classes close, since I go back and forth between the two at least 6 times a day.

Well, now we’ve thrown in room 314, which is where the announcements studio I’ve been talking about is.   I found out that the teacher in room 316, right next to the studio, is pregnant and not coming back next year.   I figured it would be a lot easier to run the announcements and my classroom if they were right next door to each other, so I asked the principal if I could move up there.

It became official today, my math classes will be in room 316 next year.

Now I can honestly say that I never stay in my first room at any school for more than one year.  Tradition.

  1. First school – room 328 first year, 306 the next 7.
  2. Second school – room 32 for a year, 33 for the remaining 3 years.
  3. Third school – room 121, I was only there for one year.
  4. Room 225 for a year, 110 the next 3.
  5. Started out in B7, moved to A3 for the second (and last) year.
  6. Right now I’m in 203, next year I’ll be in 316.

Tradition!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Success!

After yesterday’s debacle I was a little bit nervous about how today would pan out.  I imagined all kinds of things that could go wrong, which made my sleep a little bit fitful.

Fortunately, it was all for naught.  The intro played smoothly, the sound came through fine.  I switched over to the live camera and held my breath for the 3 second delay it takes the computer to process the feed and send it out on the network.

Bada-bim, bada boom.  Not the smoothest transition, but it didn’t freeze up and we were live!  The tech kid that was taking these pictures, and the school IT person, ran out to the classrooms nearby and came back with the good news. 

It worked.  Nicely.  And instead of hearing “What happened?” all day long from students and staff, I heard words of congratulations.

The district IT guy came in for a chat during my prep period and during our discussion I found out one of the reasons we had all these problems.  All the other schools that are streaming their announcements are using analog cameras and sending it out regular definition.  Since our principal bought us a new video camera, a hi-definition camera, the district people decided to try sending it out hi-definition.  Which will be really cool once we get all the bugs worked out, but at least it’s working right now.  Yay!

I think I’ll sleep well tonight.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

EPIC FAIL and Comedy of Errors.

Have you ever worked on a project for several months, had your deadline thrust upon you 24 hours from launch, just to have it all crash down upon you as over 800 people are watching?

Today I did.

BACKGROUND INFO:

In our district Televisions are becoming a thing of the past, and the district is no longer repairing/replacing them.  Every classroom has a projector hooked to the computer, which is hooked to the internet, and at our school about the only thing a TV is used for is (now was) the morning announcements.  The system we were using is old, everything still had to go through a VCR to make it out to the ancient system that sent it to the TVs in the classrooms.

About two months ago I heard that my old school was streaming their announcements over the network, the teachers just had to show it their computers on the screen at the front of the room.

Since nobody was really in charge of the morning announcements, a crew of students were running it pretty much on their own, I decided it would be fun to get it going right and oversee it.  I talked to the person who was officially in charge of it, but who didn’t want to be, and she was happy to let me take it over.  The principal liked the idea also, and was really happy that I was willing to oversee the switch over to streaming video.

I talked her into buying us some new equipment, giving us a spare classroom (it’s a really small one, because the elevator shaft is inside it) and letting us build an actual set.

The set was done, the equipment set up to do a basic show, we were going to take some mixing equipment from the old studio after we few trial runs, and we were working with some of the district IT people on making the streaming work.

MONDAY:  The district IT person shows up while my classes are taking their end of the year tests and he and the school IT person decide to bring the sound board up to the new studio and hook it up.  After school I join them, find this out and mention that we’re not ready for production and that I have no idea how it was set up in the old studio (well, closet).  “No problem”, the school IT person assures me, “the head tech student knows how it works.”  Ok, good.

TUESDAY: As soon as the announcements came on the old-old fashioned way, over the P.A. system, I knew things weren’t right.  Several minutes later I’m informed we’re going live from the new studio the next day.  My blood pressure would have rung the bell if I’d been hooked up.  So I spend that day running around making sure that it’s actually going to work, and by the time I leave it seems like it would.

WEDNESDAY (today): EPIC FAIL of the grandest proportions.  Everything was working great so we cued the intro video.  We switch from the intro video to the live camera and it freezes.  All anyone sees is a bright light beginning to white out the “NEWS” graphics.  Blood pressure spike again.  I close it out, restart it again.  Nada.  We finally get the video going, but there’s no sound.  I tell the anchors to start doing the announcements in sign language and start playing with the sound.  Someone had decided the microphone was plugged into the wrong place and had changed it.  I get things switched around and now we have sound, but the picture is out.  In the chaos someone had stepped on the power cord to the camera and it was off.  CRAP! Start the camera up again, then try rebooting the whole system.  Finally, we get everything going, or so we thought.  We go through the whole program, take a deep breath and relax, just to find out that all the lock-ups and restarts had crashed the whole system – every classroom froze up and all they saw was the two anchors frozen, staring at the camera.

The district IT person came out after school again today and he, the school IT person and I played with it until after 5:30.  Knock on wood – it’s all ready to go for tomorrow.  Fortunately the district IT guy offered to be there for tomorrow’s broadcast.  May not work, but my blood pressure may stay somewhat level.

Why do I keep offering to do these kinds of things?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Caine’s Arcade.

If you’ve got 11 minutes to spare, it’s a good watch.  If not, you can get the idea watching the first few minutes, but at least for me, once I started I ended up watching the whole thing.

Take a 9 year old boy, spending the summer with his dad at the family’s used auto parts store, add in a bunch of cardboard boxes dad would’ve thrown away, some tape, a few miscellaneous parts and a great imagination.  Add to it an amazing dad that let his son clutter up the front of his store and this is what you get.

Thanks to Aunt Snow over at Doves Today, a blog I frequent, which is where I first saw this.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

And a happy Mother’s Day to all the other moms in my life.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Walk for the Cure.

So what if it wasn’t breast cancer that took my mom when I was 28, it was cancer, and anything cancer related interests me.  Add to that my becoming good friends with the science teacher at my school that did battle breast cancer last year, and I found myself walking with a whole bunch of people wearing pink this morning.

It was fun.  I, the science teacher and her family, 4 students and a father, one ex-student and his mom and little brother, and about 12,000 other people joined in.

It meant getting up at the same time I usually do for school, because we were planning on meeting at the City & County Building at 7:30, and I wanted to take Trax instead of trying to park my car down there.

I found them, those of us who hadn’t picked up our T-shirts yet went and got them and then we waited as the science teacher went through the “Pink CafĂ©” – for survivors only.

We took our time heading over to the starting line, and got there just as the “race” started, right around 8:30.  It was just over 3 miles long, and we got back  around 10:30.

I saw some interesting things people were wearing, but the funniest thing I just heard about.  On the front of one of the survivors T-shirt was the saying:

“Of course they’re fake.
My real ones tried to kill me.”

Gotta love it when someone can go through something like that and come out with their sense of humor intact.  Other things included:

Pink Chef’s hats.

Even though the weather was pretty much perfect, these teenagers couldn’t resist running through the sprinklers.

Yeah, my feet are killing me right now, but it was worth it.  Had a good time, for a good cause.