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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

School Car…

A teacher I subbed for a couple of times last year called and asked if I would take his class of 31 fifth graders. With that call, my first official substitute assignment for the 2006/07 school year will be on Friday 9/1.

Today I took “School Car” in for a free oil change (w/coupon) and of course it wasn’t actually free. The oil change WAS free but the list of “other” suggested repairs wasn’t included.

The “School Car” is a twelve year old Saturn four door with 135,000 miles on the clock.

The ignition key sometimes jams in the ignition and can’t be removed without significant effort and repeated shots of “Liquid Wrench”.

The head liner in the rear half is separating from the roof and flaps when the windows are down like a sideways flag.

The transmission has a tendency to howl a bit at speeds above 40mph. It does wet itself in the driveway with what appears to be oil, tranny fluid, and maybe a hint of coolant.

At least two of the tires have had repeated shots of “flat fixer” over the last few years to try and stem the loss of overnight tire pressure. The tires are showing “worry line” age cracks in the sidewalls.

As a result, “School Car” is no longer allowed to meander more than about ten miles from home anymore.

So I wasn’t surprised or unbelieving when the service guy called with a litany of several “other” pressing maintenance items that should be taken care of.

The “suggested repair” bill would have totaled maybe twice what the car was worth IF it were in better condition. So we opted for just ONE of the more pressing repairs.

With that, I’ll have to work at least two solid weeks of Kinders to pay it off. With some luck and a traveling virus or two, I might earn enough subbing during September before the credit card bill arrives.

I don’t know when “School Car” will finally succumb to ravages of time and friction but I hope to make it just one more year.

…then maybe one more year after that.

I’d really hate to risk “School Car’s” younger sister to the possible abuse of the school parking lot.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

128 Students Suspended...

This has to be some kind of record.

"...HAMMOND, Ind. - Classrooms were a little less crowded at Morton High School on the first day of classes: 128 students were sent home for wearing the wrong clothes."

The full story here:

Friday, August 25, 2006

Last Days of Summer....

The last days before school starts should be at the beach, right?

Seacliff State Beach, CA is a 40 minute trek over the Santa Cruz Mountains from our house. (traffic permitting)

The Palo Alto
aka: "The Cement Boat"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sub Season #3…

The schools aren’t back in session until next Tuesday the 29th, but the substitute season started today with an unexpected job assignment call.

It was a multi-day assignment.

Next Tuesday through Friday.


Their first real experience in “real school” and they get a substitute right off the bat?

Sorry! I can’t do it! Declined, matters of compelling importance just came up.

Nope, Nope, Nope, Nope.

(At least I know I’m currently “activated” for this year…)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mystery Meat...

Remember the old tales about the school caferteria "mystery meat" dish of the day?

Maybe the residents of Turner, Maine have found the source...

"...It was charcoal gray, weighed between 40 and 50 pounds and had a bushy tail, a short snout, short ears and curled fangs hanging over its lips, he said. It looked like "something out of a Stephen King story..."

Sourced from:

Monday, August 14, 2006

Testing, testing, video testing...

In my ongoing effort to continue retirement, I've been working on the minimizing expenses part of the process.

One of those recent choices has been to disconnect the second phone line used for my cheap dialup ISP and get DSL.

My dialup ISP was $5/mo. but the 2nd phone line was $11/month. The taxes on the 2nd line are $9/mo!! Add all that up and it's cheaper to go to DSL on the house for $13/mo

In addition to faster access, I can now try out some stuff that would be just too painful using dialup. Like online videos more than a minute or two long and attempting to embed videos in the blogger.

This short test vid is our gargage guy who , for some reason, likes to move and leave the containers in front of the mail box. Maybe he's got a beef with the mailman or with me. Who knows but the video is short so it makes a good subject for me use as a test to see how it works.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

California H.S. Exit Exam - Quote of the Day!!...

The Judge Ignazio Ruvolo has it right on target! Social grade promotion should not override actually passing the classes needed to advance, and passing grades should reflect actual learning.

State Appeals Court decision:

"...The state is apparently short-changing 20,000 students who failed California's high school exit exam but is not required to give them diplomas, a state appeals court ruled Friday.

While sympathizing with students whose schools failed to teach them what they needed to know to pass the test, the Court of Appeal panel in San Francisco refused to reinstate an injunction that would have entitled them to receive the diplomas they were denied in June..."

"A high school diploma is not an education, any more than a birth certificate is a baby''
--Presiding Justice Ignazio Ruvolo

Sourced From:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Eight and a Half Grade Class...

Pretty inventive practical joke for graduates of the eighth grade class:

Cube Farm...

After working in “the industry” for more than 30 years, I initially found the classroom environment a bit unnerving. There are times when you want some peace and quite, time to reflect to think things through before acting. This doesn’t exist in a classroom. I have at most 30 minutes to read the teacher lesson plan and execute that plan for next five hours until the class day ends. I have nothing to take home from the current day’s work except maybe a few observation notes that will probably end up posted here.

Having spent more than 3/4 of my previous working life in a cube farm, I would find that sometimes the job stayed with me even after the work day was done. I would sometimes have the best ideas about a problem on the drive home, in the shower the next morning or even a walk around the block. It was an interesting and engaging profession. If the job got boring or the conditions not to our mutual understanding, I could easily leave and find a more suitable project to work on.

It doesn’t seem to be that way anymore. Outsourcing and management directives to “do more (work), with less (people)” have taken its toll in the valley. It has a lot of former co-workers keeping the current job in an attempt to just “hold on until I can afford to retire”.

My exit from the industry was made for me when my job was outsourced. There was some fear of “what next”, but it’s working out. We’re making the adjustments toward maximizing income while minimizing expenses. I think we’re going to be ok.

For my former “cube farm friends” still out there, take a moment and have a laugh. It’s good for you: The Cube Farm Song

Monday, August 07, 2006

Childs Play…

The summer is almost over.

The new school year begins on August/29. I received my renewed subbing certificate this week and made the rounds of school district offices. I’m now on the “reactivated” lists for the 2006/07 school year. I don’t anticipate the first subbing assignment until the following week.

Being “off” for the summer has enabled me to spend a lot of time with the granddaughters. The oldest is just shy of her 2nd B-day and the other is six months younger.

While the moms appreciate the babysitting time, I’m having a blast with child’s play. This is a great age when they are just starting to talk and starting to develop a sense of fun, play and imagination.

Because language is still limited to single words and baby language that only one of us can understand, there are no rules except to have fun, be surprised and laugh often.

The games we play now are strictly for giggles and fun:
  • Stealing grandpa’s chair.
  • Pull/push grandpa over.
  • Walking in grandpa’s shoes.
  • “Reading” picture books.
  • “Almost” singing and dancing with "The Wiggles"

As they get older (5-10), I’ll introduce them to games their parents loved to play:

Astronauts and Indians:
This tickle game involves a storyline invented on the fly when my kids were little.

While they were face down and shirtless, I’d tell them that they are surface of the moon. Astronauts are slowly approaching the landing area in the lunar module which looks, coincidentally, like Daddy’s hand with all fingers pointed down toward the moon’s surface.

After a long decent (including sound effects) the lunar module lands usually in a tickle sensitive location on the lunar surface. (The moon usually exhibits a moonquake on landing.)

The astronauts get out of the space craft and walk all over the moon exploring for rocks. These walks seem to include more the ticklish centers of the moon.

Suddenly, they spot the lunar Indians!

The Indians try to scare the astronauts away by shooting arrows up into the sky. Because of the moon’s gravity, it takes a long time for the arrows to come back down one-at-a-time. They all seem to miss the astronauts and, instead, poke the surface of the moon (in more ticklish areas).

The astronauts run, ticklishly, back across the moon surface and escape in their lunar lander.

They rise higher and higher when “Oh NO!”….They start to run out gas and are headed back to the lunar surface where repeated encounters with lunar Indians ensue.

Game ends when “the moon” has had enough for a while or Dad gets cramped fingers whichever comes first.

Brain sucker:
Every kid in our family knows that I can remove a kid brain by simply placing my hand on top of his/her head and with a scritch of fingers and a sucking sound extract the brain whole and intact.

I can then reverse the process to install said captured brain into a different kid who now would have two brains. Sometimes, I’d just hold the brain in hand while the brain owner would try and pry my fingers open to retrieve the stolen property.

If brainless kid attempted to retrieve original brain from a two brained kid, I would claim that the brain he reinstalled was actually the wrong one and watch the fun while they acted out how to correct the situation.

Each kid also knows that he/she can protect against the brain sucker by covering the head with hat, hands or even a single piece of paper. But beware, the brain sucker is always watching for any uncovered brains to snatch.

It’s not unusual to see kids marching in a line around the room with hands on heads when in reach of the brain sucker only to taunt while singing that ever popular song: “Na, Na, Na, Na, Na…Can’t get my Brraaain!”

Bed Sandwich:
At bed time, I would announce that I was getting hungry and walk down the hall with kid in trail. I would then tell my young one that I wanted to make a bed sandwich to eat.

While pulling back the covers and removing the pillow, I would have him/her help make my sandwich.

The mattress was the bottom piece of bread. Kid would pretend spreading the butter and mayonnaise and add the pillow as a marshmallow.

“What kind of meat should I put in my sandwich?.... I KNOW, I want a kid meat sandwich!.... Now where would I find some kid meat?”

I would snatch the kid meat off the floor plop them in my sandwich. We apply ticklish layers of sheet mustard followed by a blanket of ketchup, and a final bed cover of bread.

All that’s left is to munch and enjoy with kisses my “Kid Sandwich”

I would sometimes have to make two or three sandwiches before the “kid meat” would be ready for sleep.

While I didn’t think of it at the time, I now realize that “kid play” is instrumental in teaching our kids a part of how to be future parents.

I first realized this when my then teenage daughter reported in after a babysitting session that “Kid Sandwich” worked perfectly getting her charges to sleep without the usual tantrum.

Hurray for Childs Play!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Public Speaking...

"The ability to clearly communicate ideas to clients and colleagues is a rare skill, yet one that often makes the difference in whether or not a great concept succeeds."
  • William Hewlett, co-founder Hewlett-Packard
Fear of public speaking is number two right behind the fear of death. Or is it the other way around? It would be at least a close tie for me.

Speaking with clients and colleagues in small groups of 4-5 is one thing but public speaking in large groups is something else. It’s something I don’t do if I can avoid it.

Knowing this, my wife Claudette is surprised that I can walk into a classroom of 20-30 elementary school kids I haven’t met before, execute a lesson plan with only 30 minutes of preparation, and survive the experience without major mental trauma. She has said several times that she just couldn’t do it.

She can, and has on several occasions, got up in front of a couple hundred people in church to deliver a sermon as the quest speaker when our pastor is away.

Now THAT would cause me major trauma. I admire her fortitude and courage to research, write, plan, practice and deliver a “public speech” in church. It isn’t something I would ever voluntarily do.

Between the two of us, we make one pretty good communicator. I just like my audience a bit shorter.