Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Words of the Day



WindWalkerCamp will open for campers 14 June. Stay tuned.

Peace, y'all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


QUIDDLER is one of the funnest games in the world (quoth the English teacher; and yes, dammit! I said "funnest".) Several months Zak and Lauren were in town and they and Austin and I got into a game wherein Zak said, "Why don't we keep a list of all the words we come up with and write a short story with them to see who wrote the best?"
So we did.
Below are those compositions, anonymously presented, of course . . . we will have open balloting for one week from today. It's like Chicago politics: "Vote early; vote often."

Composition A

The lazy yid slumped at the helm like a soggy yarmulke on a pile of sock. Needless to say he tracked a slow, sloppy course and left lax and torn every fid and clew about the ship. A nicotine haze covered a drunk moon quark-dim with sleepy light and even the zoea below swam on their hands and knees. The pilot's tin jug, calico'd from pure UV and salty air sounded every bit like the bony rasping hiccups of the ghosts that haunt these waters. Though they were generously rationed rum, this distant son of Abraham preferred his ale from the agave. He'd spilt this night no less than a quart of the clear bier on his beard so it smeared, in fact, to his gut and to each rib. It was said his ship sailed queer, surely the dud of the fleet, the admiral's ire and constant gripe.
Even now she was well hind of her convoy through this perilous range that had found more than a few ships with crews even more bold than hers and of greater unity laying on the sea floor like sox in the hamper. Indeed, this was no river Om. The sea was confused with deep troughs and every man braced his rack, clingy, like a pauper to the pew. "Oh to man the rails of one of the admiral's doves," he thought. "For sure a far cuter cutter than this flaccid frigate." It was, he mused, as if someone had tried to chisel a mum but instead had pulled from the lathe a wooden weiner, such was his ship. Had she legs, they'd be knock-kneed, had she an arse, she'd be dragging it. "Bah," he sighed, "a right pile of matchsticks."

Composition B

Small bells on the shop door jingled as we entered Om Gourmet Grocery in the university town of Athens, Georgia. OGG is just one of the thousands of small businesses in America that have been forced to become more innovative as the state of the economy worsens. Luxury items are the first sector to decline in economic straits. The store, where you might once have come for a quart of cold pressed olive oil, a wheel of rich European quark, a tin of rosewater lozenges, a case of specialty Yorkshire ale, or an amber jug of organic agave syrup, has now downsized their luxury import inventory to make room for stock that will appeal to a more frugal consumer base. Shop owner Martha Hind says, "More of our customers are mending torn clothes rather than buying new, and embarking on small-scale home improvement projects themselves rather than hiring professionals, so we're actually expanding our grocery to include more non-food items, like tools and textiles. We've even had requests for a lathe by some local DIY enthusiasts! So, we're listening, and trying to respond."
Even armed with her flexible business strategy, Hind worries that they can't hang on much longer, and is frustrated by a perceived lack of leadership from Washington. "Frankly, I feel like the President is, well, sitting on his arse -- going along with a bailout plan that rewards the corporate fat cats who created this problem in the first place... I'd like to think this new pile of candidates have a plan for us average Americans, but honestly, I don't have a lot of faith in them either."
We asked each of the candidates, on the trail in Athens before their final debate, for some reassurance that their leadership plans will put the worst behind us.
Staunch White Sox fan Barack Obama employed a sports metaphor in his answer. "What we have here is a ballgame with no referee! And the Bush administration's economic policies have turned out to be a dud in terms of protecting the American people. But, let's be clear -- now is not the time to gripe, or try to stoke our partisan ire. Now is a time for unity.
Dem running-mate Joe Biden added that we should be wary about the big rescue bill Congress has passed. "It's like throwing cigarettes at a nicotine-addict... I don't think it's sound policy, and my friend John is trying to push it through without taking any time for review or dissent. At odds with his own party, all he can do is lurch and clank from one position to the next. And John, if you're listening -- just because you can see the bank from your house doesn't make you an expert on the economy. Haha... Listen folks, I've known John for 35 years. Don't worry, he can take a good rib now and then.
GOP candidate John Mccain, heretofore mum on the subject of the crisis, told us, "My friends, Washington has become too lax in its oversight of wall street, allowing greed and corruption to cripple the system. If we don't take bold action, we'll be watching what's left of our crumbling economy carried out on a funeral bier. Additionally, we must cut pork barrel spending, and my friends, I know how to do that. Just recently, 'that one' asked for a 3.2 million dollar earmark for researching the DNA of crab zoea! My friends, this is ridiculous and it's got to stop!"
Governor Palin's response? "What we have to do in order to shore up our economy is create job creation under the umbrella of job creation which will allow us to create new jobs. Also, with trade missions and the global threat, we must seek to try to stop Ahmadinejad from being such a weiner. If, God-willing, John McCain and I are so blessed and so privileged by the American people to serve, we will seek to let the doves of the free market fly up and shield us, ya know, from those harsh, clingy UV rays of Fannie and Freddie who would seek to bring harm to us and our allies. As Ronald Reagan said so wisely, "'A yid in the pew is cuter than a ghost with a beard.' And that is what I would seek to tell the American people in this time of crisis. Also, fid." In an attempt to clarify Palin's queer statement, we contacted Palintologist, Tina Fey "Oh -- that's classic Palin gibberish." Fey remarked. "It's what I call a verbal 'pile of sock.' Her words have no pairing or relationship with reality, and that doesn't seem to bother her. Trying to interpret what she's saying is like trying to match a pile of single, mateless socks. Frustrating. Annoying. Senseless. Don't even try." In short, none of the candidates have a definitive plan for untangling this clew of economic anxieties. Luckily for them, no matter what they say (or don't), studies show that most Americans will go with their gut on November 4th rather than their opinion on the range of platform issues. On our way out of the shop, we asked one more patron who he thought would be best suited to lead. "Bah!" He smiled, shaking his head, "I'm waiting until 2012."

Composition C

It is an ancient Yid
And he boldeth one of them.

‘By thy long beard and pile of sock
Now wherefore gripest thou me?’

‘The Tin Queer’s pew is opened wide,

And this is range of rib ;
Lax sox are torn, the wiener set :
May'st hear the clingy clank.’

He ires him with his skinny gut,
‘There was a lathe,’ quoth he.
‘Hold off! un-jug me, grey-beard arse !
'Eftsoons his ale dropt he.

He clews him with his cuter fid--
The Wedding-Ghost stood mum,
And jingled like a uv’s child:
The Mariner hath his quart.

The Wedding-Ghosts sat on an agave
They cannot choose but hear;
Oh spake on that ancient Unity,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

The quark was cheered,
then bier was cleared,
Merrily did nicotine drop
Below the dud, below the doves,
Below the zoea top.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor om nor motion ;
As idle as a painted hind
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And fey damned boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very pile did rot:
O Bah!That ever this should be!
If slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

OK, Friends and Neighbors.
There you have them.
One of the players wussed out and would not be persuaded to grave upon the tablets of your minds.

Read On!
(Or off.)

More later.


Monday, October 27, 2008


  • I have lately been considering my life and my goals.

    I am not a formal school teacher at the core of my being. I am a daddy, a loving husband, a teacher, a student, a wandering spirit.

    I absolutely must get back into the forest, onto the plains, out on the water, up in the sky again before I go out of my rabbit-assed mind.

    Some of the goals I have written down - and lost track of with the press of events - include
    1. Own and pilot a DC-3. Fly the airplane to Europe and back.
    2. See Macchu Picchu.
    3. Own and wear a hair-out leather coat made from the hide of a cow from my own ranch/farm.
    4. Learn to play the cello.
    5. Play in a recorder consort again.
    6. Get back into the sky - in a square parachute now. Those look like easier landings than the ones I made in my round rigs.
    7. Buy and drive another TR-3, a sweel little small-mouth -3. They only come convertible-topped.
    8. Write and publish a book on the educational values of camp and travel the world promoting the book - and the camp.
    9. Get a blue frapped rope with a square knot tied in it tattooed around my left ankle.

    Come play with me in my camp in the Ozark foothills.
    We'll have archery, riflery, raku pottery, rockets, model airplanes, quilts, haka, ukuleles, lumberjacking, butterfly collecting, mountainbiking, canoeing, arrowsmithing, flint knapping, homemade ice cream, homemade root beer, tree houses, trebuchet contests, stargazing, sundialling, birdhousing gardening. Just kind of fun stuff.

    I'll stop with those right now; my wings are pushing too tightly against my shirt to let me type . . . I'm going to go fly.

    Pax, y'all. And love.

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

Driving the truck to work Thursday morning last week (I'm hauling a lot of projects back and forth to my woodshop up there - I have access to bigger tools there), Christoper Hackett, the d.j. on the NPR station announced free tickets for caller number two.

When he mentioned "free tickets," I was already digging, deep, friend. The light had just turned red; I had the number preprogrammed; I punched the button; the light turned green; I missed it; the guy behind me swerved around my parked behind and turned to the right in front of me . . . and I was caller number two.

Kathryn and I have a date tonight to hear some wonderful stuff at Caruth Auditorium on the SMU campus . . . I love their music.

We're debating whether to wear starched western shirts and blue jeans or Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes. This is the day after spending two nights on an air mattress in a tent at Ladybird State Park in Fredricksburg - that's where we slept during the permaculture workshop. That weekend's sleeping arrangements were a blast from the past. Mariachi music from the north, giggles from the south, and capture the flag from the west across the creek. At different, unholy hours during the night aircraft landed and took off. With the dawn came the heady (so to speak) aroma, not of woodsmoke, but, shall we say, of someone burning rope. Return with us, now, to the '60s.

I'll let you know how the evening went, but I absolutely love live music, and St. Martin's is chamber-orchestra. Bliss!

Pax, y'all.

Permaculture Workshop

Kathryn and I went to a Permaculture workshop in Kerrville this past weekend. That was a mind-blowing experience.

I was surrounded by barefoot Ph.D. hippies who knew more about the way the biome works than anybody in business casual ever taught me. I loved getting knee-deep into discussions about rainwater catchment and storage systems. Seriously into specifics. Gawd! It was great!

We also checked out sumac berry tea, raw food lunch, alternative-building systems, natural-building systems (not the same thing), earth plasters, worm farms, alternate cattle breeds/heritage breeds. Lots of stuff.

Google "permaculture." There are options in the world.

Pax, y'all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just thinking

I have been teaching school for fifteen years now.

That's longer than I have done anything except be married to Kathryn.

Before that I spent eight years in the Navy.

The entire time I have done those things, I have been thinking about how to set up the best summer camp in the world. Not exclusively, just parallel processing.

Today I was standing at the front of my classroom -- and these are good, sweet kids who enjoy the work I assign them to master a valuable skill -- and, looking out the windows on the back wall (west wall) I could see the raggedy-assed gray clouds scudding above the trees. The greens of the trees included that bilious tint from light that had filtered through cloud. I could hear the creak of the windows as the wind tried to push them through the brick wall.

I wanted to breathe deeply, but all I could get was the recycled, processed exhalations of 2200 kids and adults. I wanted to feel the wind tugging at my shirt and pinching my cheeks, but 72 degrees of mechanically-handled air circulated through my small, enclosed world, ignoring the fluctions of sun and shadow. I wanted to celebrate the faint warmth of weakened sun in the blustery wind chill . . . and there I stood in unchanging 72 degrees, short-sleeved in October's sixty-two degrees.

I have to get outside!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I broke a hundred cumulative miles today. Every twelve days now, at 8.4 miles/day, I'll clock another hundred.

It was Japanese Flying Weather this morning -- 49 degrees F. I donned the camouflage-gray sweatshirt for protection from the elements and "high visibility."

My route is nice. Civil automobilistas - lots of room on the road. Lots of patience at the lights. The road parallels the greenbelt for a mile or so; I'm going to check out the walking paths for that section of the ride tomorrow.

Pax, y'all.

The Lord giveth, and . . . uh . . . well, you see . . .

I live in a generous Universe which provides all I want and need if I know to ask the right questions and where to look.

I recently moved PinewoodDerbyWorkshop back into the garage, and I've built a couple of new workbenches for tools against the wall. I need a workbench in the middle of the space now for assembly.

Biking home I found a slightly used heavy-duty sturdy oak dining table someone had set on the curb. I asked, and she said, "Take anything you want." It's so big I'm planning to take it on up to Missouri over Thanksgiving Break. Now I'm looking for chairs . . .

Another three families had portable basketball backboards on the curb. Aha! The next day I went back, and the City had collected two of them. So I moved on to the third. The clunky, cumbersome beast didn't really fit in the bed of the truck, and I had only brought one wrench. So I set it back on the curb, and the owner of the house drove up.

I walked over to his side of the driveway and said, with my best grin and bonhomie, "I sure hope you're throwing this out!"

"Well, actually, I'm not . . ." he replied, also with a grin.

I explained that it was on the sidewalk, and I made the assumption. He noted that someone must have moved it from up against the house . . .

The Lord takes care of fools and the Hardage.

Pax, y'all.

Tom Swifties . . .

If you have to ask . . . well, google the term.

Last night I assaulted Morgan with . . . "Where's my file?" Tom rasped.

She counterbatteried with . . . "You son of a bitch!" Tom barked.

I supposed Tom could have growled as well.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I love this place!

My Architecture babies want to draw these buildings!
"I wanna draw, Mr. Hardage!"
OK. Put shingles on your roof.
"What're shingles?"

" . . . uh . . ." And I launch into how the cedar loggers on the Pacific Northwest coast cut the trees into cants that are cut into standard lengths, then quartered, then independent shingle/shake makers cut shakes with a mallet and froe and either leave them as shakes or resaw them into shingles. And they look at me like calves at a butcher.

So we go outside by the tennis courts, and I show them (asphalt)(for you aggies . . . that is not a birth defect) shingles on a roof across the alley, and I wax prosodic about light and shadow lines on the asphalt shingles, how they're supposed to look like wood shingles . . . and they look at me.

Then I tell them about the brick, how you can see by the intensity of the shadows that the mortar joints are raked with a square tool. I show them how the mortar in the school's walls are raked with a round tool, and you don't have the play of the light there . . .



So I ask an Assistant Principal "Can I take my babies alley crawling tomorrow - there're only a dozen of them - to look at what they're supposed to be drawing?"

"Ask the Principal."

"Oh, Captain, my Captain . . ."


That was all. Just, "yes." No paperwork. Just, "yes."

So I went and told the SRO we'd be out in the world, and he's cool with keeping the good citizens calm about my mob of banditos prowling their streets point at their residences; he's even calling Dispatch ahead of time.

Gawd! I love this place.

Pax, y'all.

Back in the Saddle!

I have found a new route! It's 1.3 miles longer than shooting straight down Josey Lane, but I didn't get honked at once, cut off, or sworn at all morning!

Huzzah. Now I have to see how it works going home.

I'm like the ant and the rubber tree plant. I have high hopes.
High apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes.

Pax, y'all.

More Joys of Quiddler

Check this link!


Oh frabjous day!

It only puts out one puzzle per day, so you can argue with it all you want, you only get one puzzle. So far I have gotten four points higher that the score once. I was proud of myself till I saw that other people had gotten twenty points higher.


So I did it again.

Pax, y'all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Joys of Quiddler

  • Zak and Lauren were in the area over the weekend for one of Zak's bicycle races. We got to see them for a good part of Monday afternoon and evening. We fell into a couple of rounds of Quiddler, naturally. Doesn't everybody.

    At the beginning of the second round, Zak piped up with this great idea, wherein the co-conspirators at the table agreed. (Kathryn was teaching a student.) Here's how it shakes out.

    Zak, Lauren, Austin, and Dad have to write a short story using each and every one of the words on this list, which were those arrived at in a single round of Quiddler played 22 September 2008. The stories must be completed not later than 6PM, Carrollton time, Monday, 29 September 2008. The stories will be submitted to the family to be judged for "literary merit." Hah! Your ballot will count as
  • most excellent – 4 points
  • merely excellent - 3 points
  • damned good - 2 points
  • hell; I could’ve written that - 1 point

    Points (4,3,2,1) will be awarded as well for shortest story (mercy, indeed) as well.

    The winner has bragging rights --- this time. Till the next game.
  • bah
  • ale
  • this
  • pile
  • clew
  • dud
  • torn
  • them
  • to
  • fid
  • sox
  • the phrase "pile of sock" (don't even ask)
  • bier
  • lax
  • tin
  • cuter
  • on
  • quark
  • ghost
  • weiner
  • ire
  • agave
  • om
  • clingy
  • jug
  • bold
  • hind
  • yid
  • rib
  • is
  • queer
  • fey
  • pew
  • then
  • arse
  • range
  • zoea
  • they
  • doves
  • clank
  • quart
  • mum
  • uv (we allowed this one)
  • gripe
  • unity
  • beard
  • lathe
  • gut
  • nicotine
  • oh
  • if
  • jingled

    The stories will be posted on the Patriarch’s blog: http://www.moondogdelight.blogspot.com/.

    Vote Early; Vote Often. (Only once counts.)

    If you want to write your own - you may, of course. All entries must be emailed to the (Senior) Alpha Male of the family in time to be posted. I will put them out simply as numbered pieces - nobody will know for certain-sure who wrote which till the balloting is over.

    Please get your ballot in by Monday, 6 October, for tallying.

    Pax, y'all.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Another Haiku Site!

Look at this one . . .
What a treat!


Pax, y'all

The sublime and the ridiculous

Website Kelli found.
Emailed as a shining gift . . .
Treasure from the East.


Pax, y'all.

Friday, September 19, 2008


When paychecks were on paper the Principal of this campus used to have cookies in the office on paydays -- I guess it sweetened the deal. Now paychecks are electronic.

This school still has cookies in the office on paydays.

Loads of cookies. No Cookie Police counting how many you snitch.


Still warm.

Some of them are still sticking together!

OMG! it's classy.

Pax, y'all

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I really want to ride my bike to work. That is important to me on several levels. So, last night Kathryn and I saddled up the truck and noodled around backstreets to/from school.

There is a high, mostly level route on the east side of Josey that is 4.2 miles door-to-door. There is a low, hilly, long pull route on the west side of Josey that is 4.something miles (I didn't pursue this one).

I drove the eastern route in the truck this morning to school, watching the traffic with a more educated eye. Mucha mas calma, gracias a dios. (Are the adjectives right, Holmie?) It took twenty peaceful minutes on four wheels; therefore, dividing the wheels by two multiplies the time by a factor of 1.5 - rule of thumb - to estimate time to bike it.

It will be infinitely more satisfying to arrive at school able to walk, rather than being wheeled in on a gurney.

It's 62 degrees Fahrenheit outside this morning.

Pax, y'all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Working in a Museum . . .

I know my teaching buds out there will appreciate this . . .

I am still - four weeks into the school year - shoveling out the flotsam of earlier teachers in this CADD labb (It giggles me much to double the "b" in "labb").

I learned from my neighbors that the reason my teacher computer workstation is where it is is because the last guy to have the labb originally had it on the drafting board at the front of the classroom. He just kept piling papers up, and he kept moving the computer to the top of the pile. When it became too unstable, he cadged another desk and moved the computer there. Today I finally got to the surface - uh, the original surface of that drawing board. I felt like Lord Carnarvon when, opening Tutankhamon's tomb, who said . . . "I see things . . . wonderful things."

There, taped to the working surface of the board, preserved for the ages in vinyl sheet protectors, was a complete six period set of seating charts for school year 2003-2004. God, I love this place.

In cabinets and lockers and drawers at the back of the room (the west wall --- of the Temple?? ---) I have unearthed drafting tools from an earlier age. I'm planning to box these up and see if anyone in the Third World can use the donation. These are in semi-pristine condition; it's just that no office around this town uses them any more. Everyone's gone electronic. Back to Lord Carnarvon . . .

I have found hand-rendered and -lettered drawings of machine parts that should be framed and mounted on walls for public display. Oh! the humanity! These are, honestly, artwork -- from the late eighties, early nineties. They're too big to scan, and, were I do do so, it's impossible to appreciate them at monitor-scale.

Pax, y'all.

OK; You Scared Me

I got up this morning and realized I don't intend to ride my bicycle to school in the mornings any more. It's not scary. It's terrifying.

People honk at me because I'm in their way.
They honk at me from the next lane so I won't suddenly swerve in front of them.
They honk at me to let me know they see me or to give me an attaboy.

People try to squeeze past me without getting out of their lane . . . even when there's no traffice in the next lane.
People cut in front of me when they pass - I guess to let me know I shouldn't be taking up road space.

As scary as it is on the street, the sidewalk is worse . . .
g the little loopies where the walk meanders around utility poles . . .
g the branches of trees down at eye level . . .
g the ledges where the subsoil has heaved the sidewalk up four inches . . .
g the guy wires that stay the utility poles where they anchor through the sidewalk . . .
g where the sidewalk goes away altogether for shopping center landscaping, forcing me into the roadway when the motorist isn't expecting me . . .
gthe 90-degree bends in the sidewalk that pedestrians have no problem with . . .

I'm too young and pretty to become a traffic statistic. I don't get to contribute to reducing my carbon footprint this way. I don't get to reduce my country's dependence on foreign petroleum.

I wonder how long it takes to walk the three miles?

For now, I'll just burn the oil, I guess.

But I am going to petition the City Council for a bike lane.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I feel so pumped!

I don't have a clue which Saturday morning cartoon I watched as a kid, but there was a recurring line: "The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the sea is a smooth as glass."

Well, that pretty well describes today.

I am pumped to be standing in this classroom working with these children sharing what I am about the nature of how incredibly valuable each one of them is and how to express that glory that each of them is with lines on the page.

I just want to shout. I want to jump up and down. If I could bottle this and sell it, Bill Gates would borrow money from me.

I worked like a horse this summer figuring this stuff (engineering graphics) out. It was work. My joy came when I was able to draw a model of Ray Haroun's 1911 Marmon Wasp in which he won the first Indianapolis 500. After my class do the assigned exercise I have cobbed together, we can have "guided dork-around-with-it time" or "free-dork." Today in freedork, Julio drew Pacman eating a snake (thoroughly segmented), and Adrian drew a pirahna (all teeth and eyeballs). There'll be time for work after while. Right now I just want them to get comfortable with the tools.

My architectural graphics class, al otro mano, is harder . . .

There goes the bell . . .


Monday, September 15, 2008

New Books

One of the most challenging skillsets to master is to eat a nectarine, either crisp or mooshy, while blogging . . . I can do that and read - no prob - but keyboarding . . .

UPS just delivered my latest treasure, Robert Battlestone's Odysseus Unbound. This gentleman posits that Odysseus' Ithaka is today's Cephalonia, not the island currently so identified. He offers over five hundred pages, including maps, satellite photos, images, and appendices to make his point. Oh, Joy! Multimedic argument. I love it. I have my highlighters and pencils handy. Plus half a dozen translations of the Odyssey, of course, just for cross-checking. This gives me shivers.

The other book I'm working on/playing with right now is Deepak Chopra's Peace is the Way. We're hosting a seven-week book study in our living room, in amongst the piano, keyboards, and plethora of stringed instruments, and I've decided to augment the dozen or so guiding questions presented in the facilitator training manual for the event. "Little did they know, heh heh, " snorkled I in my best Snidley Whiplash imitation. I'm on my third page of referents - so far only twenty-two questions, and I'm only on page (4) of the actual text. It's something of a dense read, with a lot of author-assumed knowledge and vocabulary in it. I don't know yet whether I'll put in my EnglishIsNotForSissies website or start another one.

Speaking of that website, I'm about halfway through A.M.Smith's The Good Husband of Zebra Drive.

The nectarine is history, along with its guard detail of a dozen sesame-peanuts. Oh, the privation.

Last night I ordered Kage Baker's Sky Coyote, book two in her The Company series. Time travel, enlightened(?) science, ultimate responsibilities, humanity in immortality. Delicious sets of interlocking questions to consider. Then on a whim, I googled, the lady, and paged through her website. Very tasty, indeed. You really should read her The Garden of Iden. She'll set the hook way deep in your jaw. You'll have to get it on Amazon or eBay.


We have tickets!

We have tickets to Garrison Keillor's book signing 10/20 here in Dallas.
I love listening to this man. I feel like he's this generation's Mark Twain.
So, let's all sing the Powdermilk Biscuit jingle . . .

Has your family tried 'em,
Powdermilk . . .
Has your family tried 'em,
Powdermilk . . .
If your family's tried 'em,
you know you satisfied 'em,
They're a real hot item . .

Powdermilk biscuits in the bright blue box; they give shy people the strength to do what must be done.

Made of all natural ingredients by Norwegian bachelor farmers.

Heavens, they're tasty.

Life is Good.

Lemme start a list of good things in my job . . .

1. I have almost all really good kids . . . a couple of slackers - one's already dropped; another just won't last long (that's his option).

2. The kids want to be in here.

3. I'm teaching this through a sense of play. Once we've been playing through the material - the commands, the views, the drawing layers . . . THEN we'll do the "serious" stuff, the stuff you can make money with by working for the man . . . or yourself.

4. There is a restroom - lockable - forty-seven steps from my desk. (I counted them when I wasn't in a hurry just now.)

5. The two other guys teaching adjacent to my cadd-labb are seasoned old horses, and nothing much excites them.

6. There is very often the smell of fresh southern yellow pine sawdust coming from the construction skills lab next door. Dios mio! that is a wonderous aroma.

7. My gradebook is caught up; my grades are exported; my lesson plans for the week are turned in. Schweeeet.

8. The two periods a day I am in Plato Lab (computer-driven academic credit recovery) the aide who really runs the lab always has truly fine jazz playing in the background, and my soul often soars beyond the metes and bounds of this mortal coil.

9. I get to help kids one-on-one learn stuff; therefore, I get to learn stuff. Today, among other things I learnt what cnidaria were. Sounds like something right out of Star Trek. Actually, these might be the inspiration for the survey 'droids in Star Wars.

Other manifestations of good . . .

10. We have moved our shop and studio out of the storefront and back into the house. This lets us refocus our efforts into a tighter beam, not having to go through all manner of machination to fund/justify/make happen one aspect of our lives.

11. We are hosting a book study of Deepak Chopra's book Peace is the Way on Wednesday nights at our home.

a. this keeps mental stimulation at elevated levels
b. this gets new people into our home
c. we met new people at the training/organization meeting

12. A wonderful story I heard at the meeting (11.c.) . . .

A tall, slender, beautiful woman there grew up on a ranch outside Kress, Texas, out in the big, wide emptiness between Amarillo and Lubbock. (God, is it ever pretty out there!). When she was a girl, the family had a pump handle in the kitchen for water and oil lanterns for light. When daddy wired the house as part of the rural electrification program, he loaded everybody into the truck and drove them into town, saying repeatedly, "Don't look back." "Don't look back." They motored into town, bought groceries and a treat. When they drove back to the place after dark . . .

. . . she saw her two-story house lit up like a castle in a book of fairy tales . . .

I think her daddy was a magician. What a glorious gift to give his wife and kids.

Other manifestations of good . . .

13. Ike roared through DFW rather like a lamb . . . we had strong breezes - not what you'd call winds, even, and some light rain. It was all rather pleasant. Good sleeping weather.

14. Found a Polish deli/grocery on Forest at I-75 that has a delightful selection of sardines. I bought Porguguese, Croatian, Spanish, and Moroccan sardines . . . twenty-eight dollars' worth. You really ought to track down the Angelo Parodi brand (I've savored these before) - lightly smoked, skinless, boneless . . . "heavens, they're tasty." And we bought two tins of a Spanish (Roland brand) antipasto . . . sardines, carrots, peppers, olives, onions, spices . . . and mixed them up with a bowl of white rice . . . I had a small bowl, Kathryn had a small bowl, Morgan didn't get any, Jenni came by and got a taste . . . and Austin snarfed almost of the dish.

Life is good.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Missouri Land

I found my photos from Summer '07. These will show you how incredibly beautiful it is up there...this is the turn to the left (west) to the flying field across the Gerald Creek. I was forced to name the creek Gerald because I had to Ford it . . . This is the height of summer, mind, and squarely in the middle of the photo is where I caught my Luna Moth - at night - I spotted him in the headlights, jumped out with the net and charged into the darkness after him. My first swing with the net knocked him out of the tree ------DAMN! he's not in the net! There he is in the grass! Saaaawooooooosh! I'm a lousy golfer; the grass just collapsed, and I had to take another swing - an overhand smash to trap him with the net against the ground to finally get him into the net. I folded the net over to trap him in there and the Ranger and I clambered across the creek to the Launch Control to put him in the killing jar. Did you know months can scream? You want to talk about depressing . . . I waited up with him while he died so I could pin him in my collection box while he was still flexible.His wings were so incredibly soft and flexible - they just sort of rolled up on my fingers and tongs while I was working with him. But I got it done by around 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. Then it was all right to go on to bed. Gawdawg! but he's a pretty corpse in my box.]This view looks directly west after Fording the Gerald. Right where the sunlight is the brightest is where the road takes another fork. Going straight and slightly doglegging to the left goes on up the hill to the Buffalo Natural Area. This is 486 acres of Missouri State land, and it's on my west fenceline. And it's just incredible - walnut trees a couple hundred years old, deer, turkey, skunk, armadillo, fox, coyote, rabbit, every tree God made in North America, some of 'em bigger than for of us can reach around . . . I like it.

After taking that turn to the right I mentioned, you come up this rise that is cooled by the trees and it just keeps coming till you get to the sentinel walnut I stopped the dozer man from flattening. this is the gate, the statue-in-the-fountain-drive that opens into the flying field. I plan to plant daffodils and anything else that is deer- and rodent resistant. There's plenty enough to eat out there; I don't need to supply the salad bar.

Notice how the land has a little slope to it? Hah! It's a lot easier to walk toward the creek than away from it. And you see how thick the trees are across the field? That whole area was that way before George and Randy bulldozered it down. It was a shame to tear up/down all the forest, but there was nowere to see the sky. Now you can see where you are and still be embraced by the wood. It's enchanting on a midsummer night with the fireflies putting on a lightshow and the owls hunting up and down the creek in accompaniment and the Milky Way overhead turning so slowly you don't see it unless you drift off and wake back up in your chair. Kathryn and I launched daylight parachute fireworks out there that 4th of July. Those are so cool! This gargantuan monster mortar tube lobs seven or nine aerial bombs up into a sky of crystal blue with horsetail streaks of strato-cirrus cloud . . . and the bombs blow up, of course, and spray a dozen or so colored-tissue parachutes all over the sky to drift down in the echoing silence after the booms. It's like being a little kid again and blowing dandelions in technicolor . . . This is all I can handle right now; I need to get lesson plans together for the rest of the week. But I can breathe a little deeper knowing that little slice of heaven is up there waiting.

Monday, August 25, 2008

C'mon, Pearl Harbor Day!

My life is so working.

I just got an email from a Cub Scout Den Leader to schedule his den for a workshop December 6 or 7. This is before scouting even gets started for the year in the elementary schools. I love pinewood derby . . . look at the discipline involved.

You have to start with a block of pine (actually spruce, pine, fir, or larch . . . some of the white pines are so soft you can crease the block with your thumbnail; the Douglas fir is so dense, you can cold-cock a running horse with the block). This car can max out at seven inches long by two and three-quarters wide (including the wheels). The height doesn't matter unless you are terminally into speed. Then you go for thin, and you use high-dollar tungsten weights.

Depending on the Pack rules, you may or may not relocate the wheels from the pre-sawn slots. Otherwise, dork around with the wheels at your own peril. You can't machine them to reduce tread/track contact or to reduce their mass (lighter wheels begin turning faster from a stop).

You can use lead (Pb), except, since California [I think it was] determined that people shouldn't eat lead weights, almost everybody uses zinc (Zn) to add mass. Or you can spend the money and spring for tungsten (W). This is so cool. Look at the specific gravities . . .
Zn ---- 7.05
Pb ---- 11.35
W ----19.62
OK, kids, let's use our thinking caps . . . which element gives you more mass for your ducat? Uh, by a factor of almost 3, for sweet Pity's sake. You can really shave a car body down thin with that. And, uh, which mechano-bod has to have all this drag-inducing wooden frontal area just to carry the largest volume of mass? This is so cool. (Did I already say that?)

And then there's wheel lubrication - no liquid lubricants . . . says that right in the rules. Now, of course, I have a moral/ethical question. If a hypothetical racing team of a dad and a lad spray a penetrating aerosol on the (linoleum nail) axles so that the axle is wet, push that through the bore in the wheel a couple of times from each direction, then clean the wheel with a pipe cleaner three or four times till it's dry, and, finally, wipe the axles with a very clean cloth till they're dry - and never lube the wheels again for the life of the car . . . is that a liquid lubricant. In the immortal words of Anna's friend the King, "'Tis a puzzlement."

Last year over four hundred racing teams came through my shop and built their cars using my bench-mounted tools. That's because Grampa, who even had a metal lathe in his garage so he could repair his own lawn mower (we're talking about grinding and milling cylinders here, folk) or car, died and gramma sold all his stuff, and his son went to college and got a mindworker job instead of a handworker job, and his son never even saw a hand tool, much less machine/bench tools . . . and since shop in school is only for socioeconomically challenged kids who aren't smart enough to get mindworker jobs . . . well, that's why I have my shop. Actually, that's the excuse for my shop. Really, I just like to uncle and grampa everybody; Lord, but that's fun.

I have a bud at the end of the block, across the alley, named Jim. His boy and mine joined Cub Scouts at the same time. The kids are in college now, but Jim and I still race each other at our old Pack's Derby. We'll work for months (I've been working on a tank for over a year) on one of these silly-assed little wooden race cars, then saunter nonchalantely down the alley, and say, "Hey, man, look what I just whipped up in the shop this afternoon." We both know he's lying through his teeth . . . but, dammit, maybe he did just bang that out. "looks good, bud; how's it run?" (Evokes Kicking Bird's query of Dances With Wolves' pipe, doesn't it.)

Anyway. I think I'll finish this tank. The turret spins. The commander's hatch opens and closes. The gun tube elevates and depresses. I have entrenching tools and picks in a little cage on the engine comparment. There are shielded headlights, a tow chain, hollow exhaust pipes . . . and I'm fabricating (non-functioning) tread out of two weights of paper, glued one atop the other and separated where they are visible from beneath the fender skirting.

It's either that or grade papers . . .

First Day

First day - finally got my class lists, just not my gradebook.
I have wound up with around 75 kids that are CADD students and another two classes of total 20 or so kids in a Plato (credit recovery, computer-driven) lab. It surely makes for an easier transition, even with two preps. One class is Architectural Graphics, three classes are Engineering Graphics. I know what I'm doing with the three classes, but it's tap-dance-and-whistle time for Architectural.

Things went so smoothly it was anticlimatic. No drama in my life at all. Well, actually the Principal did catch me in the hall to tell me to go ahead and put in my flower box under the windowsills. (I have the only windows on the entire west side of the building. Is that cool, or what?) I can't drill into the masonry to hang them, so I'll put some torsion rods into the openings and hang the boxes from those. Oh, man. Dirt, flahrs, bulbs, color, weather, rain, stuff outdoors. Check this grower's website about flowers and the women who grow them. I love to read his page just for the stories . . . I'm putting it in my links section.
http://www.buydaffodilbulbs.com/ Besides, he has such a subtle page name. There's a link on his page to another cool spot: http://www.chineseshuixianhua.com/. I'm waitin till he opens back up.

It's all good, isn't it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First Day Tomorrow

Back up at school for three hours after church doing last-minute stuff with new materials in a new campus . . . must have been twenty cars in the parking lot. That's just ridiculous, but, I guess it's the nature of the beast.

----Time out; I have to check on a sardine label bid on eBay. Still twelve minutes to go. ----

I read Shelly's comments . . . sounds like a torero putting together her traje de luces. I'll probably wear khakis, a collared shirt, and my SASes like I have every day for the past fourteen years. Since I'm planning to ride the bike every day, I've made a little rat's nest in a corner of the lab where I can drive up with the truck and hang shirts and trew and stash meine Schuhe in a dark corner. One of the local cleaners delivers; I'm looking into the possibilities there.

---- Back to check on the labels . . .

" 25 vintage Telmo Brand French Style Fancy Fried American Sardines labels, Distributed By Franklin MacVeagh & Co., Chicago, Ills. These seldom-seen labels are close to 100 years old. They were discovered in a barn near an old factory site here in Maine. "

. . . these are todally dudical. I got into a bidding war over this same lot about a month ago, and it got over $25 plus s/h. I quit when it passed my limit. Then all of a sudden - same dingdong day - they were back on the market in a second-chance auction. Uh . . . no thank you. Smelt Hamletic . . . Five minutes to go ----

Where Shelly has manicured and pedicured herself to a fare-thee-well (I'm just going to remain sans comment about the parts in the middle . . . well, I'm gonna clean my fingernails and wash my feet . . . who cares? They're clad in leather (sounds kinky) . . . the feet.

---- Back to eBay . . . they're still mine at 2 mins 13 seconds . . . I'm clicking the "refresh this page button like a channel surfer . . . YES! . . . they're mine at less than half the bidding war price.

Is this cool, or what? Look at the saturation of the colors and the wonderful Deco linework and the curved text. Remember, this was all done without photolithography or Microsoft programs. Oh, man, oh, man. What a prizeI And there are twenty-five of these puppies in this lot. I can sweeten my collection and turn around an resell the rest to another addict like myself. You know what? I don't care if anyone buys them or not. These are schweet.

OK; so maybe it's an acquired taste, but I feel like Scrooge McDuck with another canvas bag of "gold coins that were used as a trade currency throughout Europe before World War I. Each coin's weight was 3.4909 grams of .986 gold, which is 0.1107 troy ounce, AGW, actual gold weight. Gawd, I'm going to miss teaching English and being able to pun with my smart buds.

I'm gonna go watch a movie, eat a little ice cream, and bring myself down slowly from all this excitement.

God Bless All Here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Last Days Before School . . .

Jeez-ola Peaches . . .

Four hours on a Saturday in a new building, copying syllabi (two preps) intro worksheets . . . in the immortal words of Captain Jack Aubrey, looking at a hull model of a French frigate, "What a fascinating modern age we live in . . ." The copy machine is a Ricoh monster-truck. The lights are off, the copy room is still, only Hardage is moving, tentatively pushing random buttons to see if the machine will talk to me . . . aha! Click! and with a series of solenoids slamming shut and vacuum pumps generating absence, honest-to-God eight feet of machine fires up like an F-15 on the catapult of the Enterprise. You have to turn your head to see the source of the noise. The beastie is huge! And it all comes to life with flashing green and red lights atop the control console - at eye level . . . I'm expecting to hear, "Danger, Will Robinson!"

I got my copying done. Well most of it, anyway. I ran out of paper. Other people had been there ahead of me . . . maybe tomorrow.

I came home to veg-out and watched Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy. ROFLMAO. That is really a delightful piece of work. What a terrific line of . . ."Professor! What does an intellectual genius like you want with a simple young nurse like me?" to the accompaniment of ripping fabric. Really; go rustle up a copy from Amazon.com or eBay and watch it with someone you enjoy talking to and thinking with. So much laughter that the back of your head hurts where your jaw muscles attach.

Mental Health Break!

Last year I took off a week to ride around our forty-five acres with George and his D-6 Caterpillar bulldozer (tracked front-end loader). Oh, Lord, have mercy; what a rush. I'm starting to get an idea how George Patton felt driving through Germany!

So, here we are at the top of the hill clearing out a circle in the trees for a council-fire ring, and we stop to . . . ah . . . water a tree . . . and I smell wood smoke. What a happy smell. Uh, the smoke is coming from the pile of tree/brush we just trod over! Damn! NO water left - this is the top of the hill. I'm sprinting across the clearing grabbing up a stick to beat out the fire with. It's in a punky, rotten log, so I start digging out the coals that are glowing in the daylight! The more I dig out, the more I find. Fifteen, twenty minutes - I get them dug out. OK. But there's more smoke back across the clearing where I just ran from. OGodOGodOGod! More running, more digging, more scooping rocky dirt to smother embers - no open blaze. Thank you, Father.

Another trip back to the first pile and the fire's out, but George and I hear the crackle of flame and smell - OSHIT! THE ENGINE'S ON FIRE! Bail off the Cat!

The little yellow-painted thumbturn screws that hold the engine compartment closed won't open. Did you know that it is humanly possible to bend heavy-gauge metal when one is excited enough? George and I stepped into the Twilight Zone and bent metal to get the engine compartment open. The only water we have is our water bottles. That doesn't impress the gods of fire. The oil and fluids that drip out of the engine and puddle on the bottom of the engine compartment . . . that's what's aflame. So I'm ripping up handfuls of hardscrabble dirt and rock and tossing it into the sump.

Then George starts sounding his Death Rattle . . . he's 68, lean as a snake, weathered as an old Paiute moccasin in the Mojave desert . . . the man has stress-induced asthma, his inhaler's in his truck down on the flat, and he's leaning against the 'dozer trying to get enough air not to die. Finally the fire in the engine sump goes out.

But smoke has started again across the clearing. This is not a fun afternoon so far. Exciting for sure, but not much fun. Scared witless. All I need now is to burn down the woods. The cellphone doesn't work down in here, so we can't call the VFD, and the neighbors are about a mile away through the trees. That's the same way the crow flies, by the way. So I'm back being a forest ranger/smoke jumper when George yells, "The fire's back up in the engine!" and guns the dozer down the roadway we've just bulled out like a Russian in a T-38 on his way to Berlin. I get the hilltop fire out again. I hope. And I hear the dozer engine revving and the treads shredding vegetation --- then the scream of limestone as the beastie slides (Thank God it didn't roll) off the top of the hill and down to the creek. I later learn that we now have two paths up/down the hill.

Then all the noise just stops.

And there's not a sound in the woods. Even the birds are still.

I start reenacting the Battle of New Orleans . . ."I ran through the briars, and I ran through the brambles; I ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go." Greenbriar is a real bitch. I am being polite, Mom. I get off the hill and pelt down the road (it's gravel). There stands the 'dozer, engine off, smoking gently. No George. No sound. OGod! He's dead somewhere on the road!

Nah. Here he comes, sauntering back up the road with an empty milk jug, sucking his inhaler like a kid with a Dr. Pepper, cutting the top off to make a bailing bucket. Now I'm standing in the creek - in my boots, yet - bailing creek water into the engine compartment, and now the damn fire is out.

Uh, it's not really wise to run heavy equipment with an engine compartment full of rocky mud and sh....tuff. So we unbolt this 100-pound skid plate to get access the the beast's steel gut, and the young guy (that's me) gets into a semi-erotic configuration with this caterpillar and starts pulling out all the mud and the blood and the beer I have been shoving in there in the first place. The smile is because there's no smoke on top of the hill, either. You can laugh or cry. It's easier to just laugh.

Then we bolt the skid plate back on, and just let the machine sit in the road. That's enough for that day.

When I got back to town and back to school, I learned that that same day -- at that same time -- the fire sprinkler in the hall outside my classroom blew and put, I'm told, a couple of inches of water on the carpet and partway up the walls. The Principals shut down my classroom and herded my kids into Kay's class and Dawn's class. Actually, they herded them into Kay's room, but she was so tough on 'em some of them just sort of migrated over to Dawn's.

A little psychokinetics goes a long way . . .

I love being in my classroom; but I flat smooth would not take for that day.

The 'dozer worked fine the next day. And that evening's bath in Buffalo Creek was uniquely refreshing.

This is the road we pushed up the hill when we were calm. I didn't have the strength to take a shot of the one George cut coming off the hill. It looks a lot like this one, except theres some bare-naked limestone up just below the crest where the treads slipped.

Missouri Visuals

This front gate photo is my screen saver at home. It keeps the dream alive. This was taken in at the end of last summer ('07) when I had been starting to build the first structure and working on my tan out there all summer. The grass is kept mowed just by driving back and forth on the road, and the trees on the right are still browned-off at the way George and his bulldozer came through and cleared a mountain-bike trail down that hill.

This is what it looked like the day it was put in by George's son and grandson -- Tim and (damn; I forgot it the instant I went to type it in . . . the kid rides bulls in high school rodeo! He's a good kid, too. They dug those holes in by hand and strung the barbed wire back to the blackjack trees to keep the riffraff out.)

And, finally, this is what the front gate looked like when I finally got back up there this summer, between CADD classes at Mountain View and the first day of in-service . . .

Needs a little work with the lawnmower, but, you know, it feels so way, way different from mowing the lawn back in town. I'm not sure that I could articulate that.

Lord have mercy, but I love it out there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Missouri Visual

Maybe Katie or Mary can identify this incredible creature. Yes; dammit; I know it's a butterfly; I just don't know all his Latinations. I stalked him while he was at lunch on a thistle. Spread your hand as wide as you can . . . that's how big he was. This was the weekend of 8/11, after CADD classes at Mountain View, before In-Service. Large dose of mental health.

A Movie and A Book

The Movie:
IOUSA. It's a documentary about current American monetary and fiscal policies. It's the scariest damned thing I've seen since I was a little kid and went to horror movies. In the time it took to watch the movie the National Debt (notice how that is capitalized?) increased by $85 Million. King George II almost doubled in six years what it took the other 42 guys ahead of him to do. If you are feeling too good, if you are feeling giddy with the promise of life and spring and butterflies . . . go see this thing. I'm not saying it's not good . . . it's incredibly informative; it's just a major downer.

The Book:
American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Holy Printing Presses, Batman! This boy can write! Gods, demigods, sprites, dwarves, pantheons from around the world cascade and crash into the techno/drug/cultural icons of today in an unhibited (do not leave this lying around your classroom; a couple of passages are . . . uh . . . mental-image-astonishing - but you do get the picture, and the violence and language are explicit and graphic) Armageddon. It's an exploration of the roots of religion and their relevance to current life. You will visit iconic American sites with Old World deities in modern garb; you will ask all the right questions as you read; you will reach all the right conclusions; you will be wrong. And Gaiman put a twist into it . . . he's given you so many indicators, but you read right over them. This is a serious, enthralling read. It is not for the faint of heart or conviction. The answer a power greater than a god gives the protagonist's question is, "Believe." Another glorious wordplay is delivered by a television commentator . . . "This is still God's country; the question is: Which gods?"
This one is meat for much discussion.

New School - Pre-Kid Days

I'm lovin' it. It ain't G-Hall at Lowery, but it's going to be a good year.

Uh, I have a designated classroom budget from the campus. Oh, and I have a designated classroom (curriculum) budget from the District. Fifteen years into the program, and someone has decided that I might be trusted to figure what I need most in my classroom. Kowabunga! Buffalo World!

I got my hands terminally dirty today . . . and I'm not through. The senior guy downstairs in my department taught this program fourteen years ago. Then the guy next door between us had it for a couple of years, then an anonymous guy had it, then the guy I replaced had it for six or eight years. Follow that? OK. I'm cleaning stuff out of all manner of closets, cabinets, and file drawers . . . and I found brochures promoting the class from the first guy on the list - fourteen years ago! tucked in cabinet - forty or fifty copies of the stuff. And parts and pieces of drawing boards and tables and equipment that have been landfill and recycled into Japanese Zero fighter planes. My favorite is the wall cabinet that was chained shut with a combination lock on it. I phoned my predecessor to ask what was in the cabinet and if he remembered the combination. He replied, "You know, I just used to pull those doors open and peer into the crack." Uh . . . I borrowed the boltcutters from Robert the Construction Tech guy next door. That cabinet had dried ink, dried tape, broken tool parts . . . it's empty now.
People I don't know yet have stopped me in the hall to thank me for opening the blinds on the west wall. Uh . . .

I'm gonna have a good time.

I asked Robert if he'd build me (have his students build me) a stand-up window box to go under my west wall windows for daffodils, irises, gladiolas . . . you know, bulbs . . . "Draw it up; give me the plans; I'm visual." Learning experience time: my kids draw it; his kids build it. Bofus plant it. Everybody who comes in the west (back) doors gets to enjoy it. You gotta love it.

More later; taking Kathryn to the movie. IOUSA - documentary.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Second Day of In-Service

Once again in the cafeteria with hand-held microphones and tripod-mounted speakers and reverbs when the speaker strolled too close to the speaker . . . you know the sound . . . the owl getting a vasectomy with a plastic spoon and two rubber bands . . . Newman Smith is one of the top 5% high-performance in the country according to at least one study (not by a staff member). They'll be offering Arabic next year, even.

The speaker today was a retired English teacher - the IDEA is to have the kids write 20-minute essays each six weeks (we're on a 9-week schedule) in their other disciplines. You can't imagine the relief that washed over me when I heard that. I just got a permit to commit literature . . . in public, mind you. The engineers are going to be in for you, and you don't want even to think about what the architects are going to have to go through. Heh heh heh. The Principal's behind it all. This is going to be a good year. That was in the building - the Convocation - now that was a different matter altogether. CFBISD filled Prestonwood Baptist Church (Fort God as it's known in the neighborhood {till the trees grew taller and a new spawn of commercial buildings went up, as you crested the hill on Hebron Parkway, you saw the form of a sleeping dragon with its head tucked under its wing on the far hilltop [alas the dragon snoozes neath an oaken coverlet now]}). I loved the visual irony. I wandered into the sanctuary and was almost knocked over by the blast of the faculty jazz band - really good horns and traps - and the boy (teacher) singer had a nice tenor. Nettie would have enjoyed him. The lights went off, colored lights hit the discoball, the band went away, and a half dozen juniors and seniors put on one of the most poised skits (collegiate quality) re: "what are teachers about" in white light I have ever seen. It was impressive, young Skywalker. The Superintendent got on, said her piece, and got off. Wow. Not "Polly stories", but good nonetheless. The the speaker came on. Neal Jeffrey stutters, but, dog my cats, he 's good; got the audience to honk like a flight of Canadian Geese. Then they finished up with Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog. Helluva show. I'd thought about cutting it, but I'm glad I stayed.

David, the guy I'm following around 'cause I'm still locating offices, restrooms, and the cafeteria, tracked down the guy who has the password that unlocked my lab. Whew, friends and neighbors. It was looking like T-squares and triangles for a while there. Overhead projector, sound, even a pulldown screen. The works. Starting to get set up now.

Got hold of Dawn by phone finally. I figured she must have been hanging in her parachute harness after having fallen off the edge of the world.

I still miss the G-Hall rowdies (and Korah!) from Lowrey, but it was time to flee . . .

Took a photo of el classroom today. I'm still negotiating with the nanogods about letting me load the image into this page. I've already sacrificed 10 bits and a dozen reboots. "Can you hold, please?"

Lucky sumbitch . . .

I am married to the most incredible woman in the world.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Teacher In-Service

It's really odd to start a new year without Kelli or Charlie. Kelli's gone to Denmark with Mads, and Charlie died last spring. Damn. Just, "damn." Charlie wasn't supposed to go yet, and Kelli - I think she was too good with people to be where she was. She did what she was about, and I think that scared people who didn't. Gonna miss both of them.

This is differently the same stuff. Teacher in-service - sitting in a large volume with bad acoustics with some people you know and some you don't trying to catch all the signals that you know you're missing. What do these new guys mean by "red" or "blue"? Playing math games to document the statements "The numbers show . . ." or "Evidence proves . . ."

I've been sitting with a couple of guys I'll be teaching in the same spaces with: David and Robert. David drives in to Carrollton every day from the TCU neighborhood of Fort Worth. Robert is originally from Pennsylvania (I don't hold that against him), drinks green oolong tea and has a 1950+ vinyl record collection. These are good guys. Hooked up again with Chad Bishop from across-the-hall at Lowery. Good feelings. Met up with Brian Shafer from upstairs E-Hall at Lowery. He's still tall. Met the new boys' soccer coach - from Amarillo - by way of South Africa; met the new cheerleader from another northern state . . . 3 1/2 inch heels. We're going to have a good year. Got a change-of-address from Joel Adkins! Remember him? What a gloriously-comptent/compassionate/impassioned geek. He's building an empire down in Kerrville.

My classroom is wall-to-wall computers. As far as the eye can see. And we can't figure the password from last year to unlock the beasts. Where's Napoleon Solo when you need him? But we're still gonna have a good time. I'm looking for a place to plant daffodils here. Not very promising - acres of asphalt (no; that's not an Aggie birth defect) outside my window.

I just drove over to Mountain View JC to pick up my transcripts (10-13 hours a day learning CADD) all summer. It was easier than doing it electronically . . . I don't do well with administrative hassle. Walked up to the window, gave Rafael my student number (we were inc class together), picked up my paperwork, grinned and shook hands, and left. That's how you're supposed to do business.

One of the best parts of MVJC is the drive home. From a dead stop on Keenland Parkway where Vista Real tees in - you can see for twenty-five miles - you release the brake and let the truck roll. It's slow for about half a block while it rolls slightly uphill over a contour line, then down and around a turn to the left - foot off the gas - 47-mph from a flat stop and no engine noise. What a rush. It's even faster when the bed of the truck is full of white limestone for lining the garden.

I'm reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods. It's weirdly serious or seriously weird. The research in this is wonderful, and the wordplay is delicious. There are passages that will drive my politically/morally correct friends nuts-ola. It's a wonderfully wide world. The protagonist, Shadow, asks, "What do I believe? All I have is the evidence of my senses and I have to go where they lead." The answer from Wotan/Odin/Glad-of-War is, "Believe everything." Works for me.

I love being old and humbly arrogant. I know there is more that I don't even know I don't know. By being receptive, by at least listening, I might actually learn something.

This is an incredibly lovely world. Challenging as hell, but terrifyingly beautiful.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Living Room Floor

The Living Room Floor

I can't find my camera right now, but I have some existing photos that I want to share. Kathryn and I are in this really nice house in Carrollton . . . the guy that was the construction supervisor even lives across the alley at the other end of the block. The thing is about thirty years old - story and a half living room with a fireplace at the low end; open loft second living area above; three bedrooms up; master down. It's nice and roomy, and for a while we had five kids (three teenagers) in it with us.

We don't need that much room and had planned to downsize to a smaller house, but . . . this is better. Anyway, two summers ago we did the high wall in the living room and the floor in the living and dining rooms in paint. Yeah; we ripped up the carpet and just put down paint. It's kinda cool. These will show you what the floor looks like without furniture in it.
The upper image shows how the room looks from the foot of the stairs looking toward the front door. The lower image was shot leaning over the upper half-wall. The idea was to paint a checkerboard folded over on itself. This is the present state of the floor right now, two years later, except I have painted Dallas North Airport on one of the red squares and the deck plan of the USS Enterprise (CVA-N-65) on one of the blue ones. The idea is to be able to play with our micro-machines, flying them from one square to another. I will also be coming back to put a second coat down of denser color and paint a vining acanthus pattern twining amongst the squares.
I did paint a gloss black shadow under the concert grand piano (I have no idea what we'll do if we move the piano, and I have since painted the inside of the front door a pumpkin-peach color (a little darker than the wall). I will be outlining the glass with a dark green and putting a visual trimline about a quarter-inch thick on the first bevel of the molding to visually separate the two colors. It's coming along nicely.

This is an image of the front gate to our place, our forty-five acres in McDonald County, Missouri. You have to understand something here. I am a Texas boy from so far back Moses is still looking through his calendar. But, Lord have mercy! that place in the toenails of the Missouri Ozark foothills is just pretty. It is "raht fahn" even. While I'm figuring how to work this blog business, I'll load some more photos of the place. Mostly I have to go back through my image files and label them textually instead of in date order like the camera does it.

This summer I had hoped to spend a week or so up there mowing out the flying field and putting a footbridge over Gerald Creek. I have no clue if that watercourse has a name or not, but since we have to "Ford" it to get to the flying field on the western half of the property, well, naming it the Gerald Creek just seemed to make sense.

But I moved from a forty-mile-a-day gasoline habit (plus tolls) to a less-than-six-miles a day (by bicycle -- ooooh look; Hardage rebottled his pony keg into a six-pack! What a stud!) by moving from Lowery Freshman Center to Newman Smith High School in Carrollton. It is the first time in this career that I have taught in the town I live in. jIt's still not in the attendance area, so I won't be having teacher conferences at the grocery store. Anyway I applied to be an English Teacher. There are lots of those on the ground. So I got hired as a Tech Teacher. I am officially going to be a CADD instructor. So I have spent 8-10 hours a day at Mountain View re-learning how to draw. The first time I did this nobody had computers in the office. As in "nobody." Now nobody uses pens and triangles and isometric circle templates.

We haven't been to Missouri yet this summer.

Then, this summer's income looked to be slow, so Kathryn and I started at looking at our options. What came up as a multi-pronged solution was selling the house we live in (4BR, 1.5 LA, 2Bath, 2 stories) and downsizing. Our family-under-the-roof is down from six kids out of seven in the house to one and a half (Austin is at Paris Junior College). Then we figured out we'd owe the same money for half the house in a neighborhood with narrow streets. So we looked at refinancing -- Lending Tree looks good on the Internet, but you can wind up with some very aggressive loan-packaging operators. Then, at a publishing workshop, we found an organization - and a person/family - selling a software system that lets us move our own money the same way the bank moves our money: and this way we get to keep it. Bottom line: we'll have our everything paid off in around four and a half years (they're saying three, but I'm putting in a pucker factor) without getting medieval on ourselves. They talked about a particular process during a phone call Thursday evening, that I executed Friday morning on the way to class. I spent an hour and a half at the bank, BUT I wound up pulling a $14K credit account out of collection (the interest rate had gone from 8% to 20+% and was killing my lilly-white behind), cutting everything to a fixed interest rate of 3% for a 60-month loan and no sillyassed up-the-interest games. And they offered me another line of credit to boot. "DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!" This program has some possibilities. We're pursuing this.

For my new job at Newman Smith High School as a CADD instructor, I'm taking CADD classes at Mountain View Junior College. It's spanking me like a redheaded stepchild, but I kinda like that sort of stuff. I pulled a 99.15% for Summer I. Working in 3D is a beast till you figure out axis-management. Then it gets to be fun again. But I am getting there. I have been looking at teaching long enough to get my TRS money set back up (I took out six years the first time I quit) and buying five of my Navy years. That's around 36K. TRS will only let me contribute 25K/yr. That's pretty much two years.

Unless this debt reduction program works as advertised; however, Kathryn and I are disciplined enough to make it work, so I expect great things. Plus I'm hitting the Pinewood Derby really hard this year. Last year I had 400 cars go through the shop (http://www.pinewoodderbyworkshop.com/). That is so much fun it's hard to describe, working with those little guys and their dads (and moms) to build their cars . . . I'm shooting for 500 this year by actively pursuing available leads. Southern courtesy - the way my mama raised me has its place and its values . . . but, dammit, when you're polite, a lot of times people stampede right over your . . . so I'm learning to be not so reticent. Plus, since we have the floor space, I'm looking to bring a tutoring center online in the same general space.

What made me see the tutoring center a possibility at all was bailing out of LFC. I had set it up where I was actually pulling in $1200-$1500/month from babysitting (detention) at $25/hour. CFBISD pays $300/mo less than AISD. Well; that's not fun, but the round trip is 5.8 miles instead of 40. The gasoline/tolls rollback is around $12/day . . . tutoring at $40/hr needs 38 kid-hours/month (9-10 kid-hours/week)(2 kid-hours/day) to bring that back up. Uh . . . I can do that. Several times. And I can hire other tutors for $25/hr to take the additional . . .

I perceive exciting options for this coming year.

Since we have two kids in college, and CFBISD pays less than I had been making, I'm going to be focusing on getting the cash flow back up to Lowery levels. I’ll do a kick-ass job for my contract assignment, and I'll just see how it unfolds after school hours.

I went to an Autodesk CADD workshop Friday . . . omigawd! Everybody say together, “Middle School CADD curriculum”. As in -- they have a middle school curriculum already packaged up. Excuse me. If I put a half dozen or a dozen (used) computers into workstations in the tutoring space and explain to parents how their baby can get portfolio academic credit at their school in summer day camp . . . (did I mention they also have a packaged HS curriculum) . . . I'll have to stand a troll with a large bog-oak stick at the front door to protect the hinges. So we draw it - 3D - and build it and play with it and get academic credit for it. Where’s the downside? Oh, and Hardage makes money! YEA!

Now that sets up the North Dallas market. And puts the cash-flow above the projected flowline.

Then - I take a portion of the cash I now have in hand since we've paid off the credit debt (and the mortgage) and pay cash for (off-the-grid solar and wind-turbine) improvements to the Missouri land and cookie-cutter this operation up there. Then I have an excuse for the pilot's license to commute back and forth. Two years of this and I buy the cave on its eighty-seven acres and develop the land above as another camp and the cave below as a separate operation. Then we go for the small Italian hotel.
This is do-able in my world.
One of the branches of this camp thing includes teacher training - especially guerilla training - use the garage; use the living room; rent an office suite; team up with a couple of buds in other disciplines and set up micro-learning nodes. The times are right for the adventurous.