Friday, April 30, 2010

Poem a Day Ending?

Today is the last day of April and of the Poem a Day Challenge that I have been participating in over at Poetic Asides.

I still haven't written yesterday's poem yet, and it's still too early in the morning for me here on the west coast to see today's prompt, but I will write both poems today. When I have done that, I will have written thirty poems in thirty days.

I also decided last night, which I continued this morning, to share some of the poems I have written. I posted several in the comments sections for the appropriate days over at Poetic Asides. I am also going to post them here. I just don't see myself pursuing publication of my poetry, so I'm just going to post them here.

And then I'm going to try my hand at the poetry prompts over at NaPoWriMo. I didn't realize so many great things were going on during National Poetry Month!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Booking Through Thursday

God* comes to you and tells you that, from this day forward, you may only read ONE type of book–one genre–period, but you get to choose what it is. Classics, Science-Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Cookbooks, History, Business … you can choose, but you only get ONE.

What genre do you pick, and why?

*Whether you believe in God or not, pretend for the purposes of this discussion that He is real.

- Booking Through Thursday

Today, I'd have to say history. It's the type of book that I'm reading the most lately. It also has the advantage of being true. I've read things in history books that put fiction to shame. And it is a creative endeavor, putting together a compelling story from something that actually happened.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

So, It's Sunday

Woke up Friday morning and realized I hadn't blogged on Thursday. So much for NaBloPoMo for April. And then I just wasn't in the mood to say anything on Friday; mostly because I was mad at myself for forgetting. I mean, how hard can it be to find a few minutes just to jot something down?

Some days I write a lot, because I get inspired. Other days, it's just an update on something that happened that day, just to put something down. Part of me thinks Emerson was right, foolish consistencies and hobgoblins and all that, but then I think that's just sour grapes.

I wrote everyday last November for NaNoWriMo. I didn't blog everyday that month, but I did write more than 50,000 words, so I know I can write everyday. And this month, not only did I try my hand at NaBloPoMo again, but I've been writing poems for the Poem a Day Challenge.

Okay, so I haven't written a poem every day. I started the month writing a poem each day, but then I started to fall behind. I wrote three or so last weekend and got mostly caught up; I think I was only one poem behind schedule. And this week I fell even further behind. (I blame it on the stress of standardized testing.) But already this morning, I wrote three poems. I have three more to write and I'll be caught up again.

I will write thirty poems this month. I may have failed the NaBloPoMo challenge of blogging everyday, but I will write thirty poems this month. (There are thirty days in April, right?)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

WWW Wednesday

I got this idea from Should Be Reading:

What are you currently reading? That's the problem. I'm reading too many things. I haven't read anything in The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan for weeks now. I'm also reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss and The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century, edited by Harry Turtledove and Martin H. Greenberg. The latest thing I started reading, which is my current favorite is Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship That Saved the Revolution by David A. Clary.

What did you recently finish reading? See above. I haven't been finishing books recently. I keep starting new ones. I honestly can't remember the last book I finished, but it was probably Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone.

What do you think you'll read next? I really want to read Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. I've had the book for a while, and wanted to read it before I saw the movie. But now that I've already seen the movie, I want to read the book as well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Theatre of All Possibilities

My class put on a performance of "California or Bust!" today with two actors from the Theatre of All Possibilities. They did two assemblies at our school and did a fantastic job. Many of them brought things they could use for costumes, which was a nice bonus. Thanks, parents! But mostly, they really threw themselves into their performances, and had a good time. I didn't hear a single complaint about having to perform, and a few of them even mentioned to me how much fun they had. It was a great thing to do for themselves and everyone else at the school the day before we start our standardized testing for another year. I'm proud of them, and, again, very pleased with the people from Theatre of All Possibilities. They do an excellent job in bringing theater to students.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Poem a Day Sites

So, for some reason that I cannot recall, I typed "Poem a Day" into Google yesterday, and came up with interesting results, including:

Those were all on the first page of search results, which is far as I allowed myself to browse. The last one, of course, was the one I was looking for, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found, which is why I'm sharing it with you now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Quiet Sunday

Nothing big today. A very quiet day. A family friend came over and went out with the wife and kids, so I got to stay at home and have some quiet time for myself. They went out for brunch, then went to the beach and the park. I stayed home, read, watched movies, and worked on my poems for Poem a Day. I'm all caught up now, except for today's poem. I even spent some time typing them up and doing some minor editing.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

One Reason I Don't Want to Teach Anymore


It's not the students. It's the parents. Not all parents, mind you, but there's always a couple every year that make it more challenging than it needs to be. Teaching well is already challenging enough. Don't believe me? Try it yourself. Walk a mile in my moccasins, and then tell me it's easy.

So... this isn't even directed at any parent of my students. This is about what I observed today at my son's swim class. There were some other parents sitting in front of us, and this one dad comments on how the teacher should get out of the pool and help the students with their dives. The other two moms sitting near him agree, nodding their heads and saying similar things.

I overhear this, and my blood starts to boil. I want to say something, but I refrain, as usual. And they keep talking, so clear in their own minds that they can teach better than the qualified swim teacher who has been successfully teaching their children for weeks and weeks. It's so easy to sit back, watch someone else do their job, and think you can do it better. We all have thoughts like that. I do. I'm not saying I'm any better than these people. But I have the discretion to know when to keep my mouth shut.

This is one of the things about teaching I dislike the most. I wanted to tap this guy on the shoulder and offer to come watch him do his work, just sitting there talking about how I could do it better than him. It's like being a quarterback from the comfort of your couch.

And then, sure enough, the teacher sees that they're not doing as well as she probably hoped, and she climbs out of the pool and begins to help them just as the dad had been talking about. Do these parents acknowledge her for doing this? No, they do not. They do not see that she has been assessing how they can dive, and then modified her teaching technique accordingly, which is what I saw. No, they don't do that. Instead, the moms congratulate him on his keen observation. "Look," one of the moms says, "it's like she heard you through the glass."

At this point, my blood is boiling over. I lean close to my wife, point at the three parents in front of me, and say quietly, "This is why I don't want to teach anymore."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Poem a Day Update

I've fallen behind on my poems. I'm three days behind schedule, which is ironic because the prompt for yesterday, tax day, was to write a deadline poem. Now, I have to write a death poem, a deadline poem, and a (blank) island poem.

I'm planning on getting caught up this weekend. I like to mull the prompt over in my head and see what ideas come to me, which often happens when I'm driving, but sometimes it just works better to sit down and start writing.

I did that the other day for Tuesday's prompt, which was to write a love poem or an anti-love poem, two concepts that I decided to combine into one poem. Once I sat down and started to write, ideas just came to me, and I ended up writing a longer poem. The first stanza needs to be reworked or cut entirely, but the rest of the poem came together once I got writing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not About Tax Day

So, it's tax day. We filed our taxes a couple of weeks ago, and have already received our federal refund. This is big for us because we (my wife and I) are procrastinators. But enough about that...

Took the day off work and went with my wife to UCSF. We had been invited to have lunch with her doctor and get to see some of the facilities where they are doing amazing research. Everybody has their thing that they donate to, their own personal cause. For us, it's vision research. We donate to That Man May See.

You could go to their website and maybe learn a thing or two, but it doesn't do the people there any justice. We are grateful to the wonderful doctors and researchers at UCSF, in particular the ones working in the Ophthalmology Department. They not only treat patients, and my wife has been a patient there for about seven years now, but they do research that leads to better treatments that one day will benefit patients. The clinician-researchers do work that... well, it practically leaves me speechless.

My heart appreciates all they have done for my wife. My head appreciates all the geeky science that they are doing. And my wife's doctor is one of these clinician-researchers. He works in the clinic and treats patients, but he also does research, working on things that he hopes one day to bring to the clinical trial stage, where it's actually being tested on, and benefiting, people. My wife is one of those people. She was helped immensely from a clinical trial, and has continued to do well with the treatments she has received since that time.

I genuinely hope that the work that President Obama is doing to bring health care to all U.S. citizens is just the first step. There are many things wrong with health care in this country. But today, I'm not going to gripe about taxes, or the government, or both. Instead, today, I'm going to be grateful for when health care does work. I've seen it first hand. And I saw other people today, other patients, who have also been helped and who are grateful.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Standardized Testing

Today was kind of a strange day. One of my fellow teachers and I put on a presentation today for parents at our school about the GATE program and preparing students to take the upcoming standardized tests.

Then, at my son's school, I attended a meeting put on by his teacher about their after-school program and how to help your child prepare for standardized tests.

It was most interesting to be on both sides of that discussion in the same day, first as a teacher, and then as a parent.

Truth is stranger than fiction. You can't make this stuff up. If you read it in a novel, you wouldn't believe it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NetFlix on the Wii

In today's mail, we received the Wii disc that allows us to stream video from NetFlix on our television. This is something I've been doing for some time on my laptop, but now everyone in our family can enjoy movies or television programs on our big TV.

I know, I know... this seems absurd after the last two posts, but that's life. I can't be bitter every day. I'm worn out and discouraged by the state of the economy and its impact on public education, but I can't stand on my soapbox every day. Sometimes, I just want to come home, relax, and watch some TV with my boys.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Value of Education - Part 2

Okay, I'm still angry and depressed... So, no arguments today. Just a few facts and figures for you to contemplate.

According to my Time Almanac for 2007, on the Smartest States, 2004-2005, California ranked number 43.

According to my New York Times Almanac for 2008, for 2004-2005, California ranks ranks 32nd for expenditures per student. (California ranks first for the number of students enrolled, of course.)

According to my World Almanac for 2009, for the fall semester of 2005-2006, California's expenditure per pupil was $8,834. The national average is $9,557.

I also searched for information on the internet. According to the U.S. Census Bureau for 2003-2004, California spent $7,748 per pupil and was ranked 26 amongst the 50 states. That year, New Jersey was the most at $12,981 and Utah the worst at $5,008. The national average was $8,287.

I also found information collected by the NEA for 2007-2008. California spent $8,883 and was ranked 44. The national average that year was $10,589. The District of Columbia spent the most, at $19,077 and Arizona the least, at $6,189.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Value of Education

Today's topic: the big mistake we're making in not valuing public education.

Look, I know the economy's bad. I have friends who are looking for work. I have friends who are already preparing to look for work because they might be laid off soon. I'm afraid of losing my job because the economy is so bad and the unemployment rate is so high.

But... we can't be short-sighted and undercut public education. Wasn't it some of that short-sightedness that got us in this economic mess that we're in? I think it was. We like the quick fix here in America. We want it easy and we don't want to work that hard to get it.

Well, that doesn't work, does it? We can't all win the lottery. Most of us have to work for what we have. And that's a good thing to teach our children as well. But who's going to teach the children?

Teachers are getting laid off all over the place. I know it's happening in the district I'm working in. It's going to happen to at least one person I know, and, very likely, far more than one. It's going to happen in the district I live in. I know, because I talked to my son's teacher.

But these are the people who are actually teaching our children. We can't lay them off. They have to keep working. Everyone knows they already aren't being paid what they're worth, and now we're going to take their jobs away from them.

They're going to suffer; they're now unemployed. The teachers still employed are going to suffer, because their class sizes are likely to go up. (We won't even mention the morale of the teachers who will miss their laid off colleagues and friends. Oops. I did mention it.) Which means the children are going to suffer. They're not going to get a good education.

And, ultimately, we're all going to suffer. Who's going to hire these poorly educated people, when they finally finish high school? The business people who don't want to pay any taxes to support public education will be amongst the first to complain about the failures of the public educational system that they helped hamstring.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot. We are making bad decisions that will come back and bite us in the butt. We're thinking short-term. And we can't think short-term about young people and their educations. We always have to think long-term, about where they are now and where they'll be a year from now, and five years from now, and so on.

We can't make this up in the future. The opportunity will be lost. And if we can make some sort of patch, it will cost us more. There's going to be a lot of remediation, and it's going to be expensive.

And when, in the future, people complain to me about the sorry state of public education in this country, I'm going to remind them that they are the public, and if there's a problem with public education, it's their problem too, and they should have spoken up sooner, done something when it mattered, instead of looking out only for themselves, so that they can quarterback from their sofa. Because you know they will. The economy will get better, and teachers will get hired again, and class sizes will go back down, but the damage will be done. And the teachers will get the blame, but we're all to blame.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Poem a Day: Horror

It has seemed some days like the Poem a Day prompts were tailor made for me. One day the prompt was to write a history poem. And that prompt came the day after I bought a book on the Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington, Adopted Son.

Yesterday, the prompt was to write a self-portrait poem. And that fell on my wedding anniversary. That was a particularly easy prompt to respond to.

And it happened again today. Today's prompt is to write a horror poem. And last night I watched The Host. The other day on Digg I came across an article about movie monsters, which reminded me of the scary one in Cloverfield, and which also mentioned The Host, which I already had on my NetFlix queue, so I streamed it on my laptop. While I haven't written my horror poem yet, I do recommend The Host. And I want to watch Cloverfield again.

Friday, April 09, 2010


Today's topic for big is easy. My wife and I have been happily married for nine years now. We've been together as a couple for much longer than that, but we made it official nine years ago today, April 9th, in Las Vegas.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Poem a Day Update

While I have not yet written a poem for today's prompt, I have written a poem every day so far this month. So, now it's time for me to quit fooling around on Facebook and Digg, and write a poem about a tool...

100 Pixar Characters

I found this graphic on Digg. I'm always amazed by the creativity that I see other people display via the internet. I have a fondness for the wonderful films and shorts that have come from Pixar Studios. And I don't think I ever realized before just how many of their characters are small in size, though often big of heart.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The 80s

Had an urge to go to the movies today. Needed a break. And I needed to reward myself for all the hard work I've done this past week already.

The big decision was how to go back to the 80s tonight. Should it be via comedy and Hot Tub Time Machine or action and the remake of Clash of the Titans?

I went with action. And it was a good movie, not great, but good.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Trip to the Dentist

Today's big event: I get to take the boys to their dentist for a check-up and a cleaning. This is not such a big deal for my younger son, who has a very easy-going personality. But for my oldest... that's another story. Going to the doctor or dentist is almost always an ordeal with him. He almost always seems to work himself up, being very anxious about what might happen. Going to the dentist is particularly difficult, because he's very light sensitive, and even though the light they use doesn't shine into his eyes, he starts to get stressed out. And when the dentist actually gets into his mouth, or tries to take x-rays... I wonder if I can get an anti-anxiety pill for him to take before going to the dentist.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Back to Work

Today's big news: I had to go back to work. My spring break is over. It was good to get back to the routine, which might be part of the appeal of blogging every day, as well. But, man, am I tired.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Facebook for Introverts?

My big thing today: I logged onto Facebook for the first time in weeks.

There needs to be something for us introverts. Not something so crass as a GetOutofMyFace but something less stimulating than Facebook, maybe something like IWanttoBeAlone.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Movie Hype

Okay, today's topic is about a couple of movies - and hype. That's the big topic for today: hype, exaggerated or extravagant claims.

Yesterday, I took my two boys to see How to Train Your Dragon. I enjoyed it. It was a really good film, that works well for children and adults. "What does that have to do with hype?" you say. Well, a couple of days ago, I stumbled across an article titled The 15 Worst Opening Weekends in Box Office History. What initially caught my attention was that it started with How to Train Your Dragon.

Have we really gotten to the point that we're concerned with how much money a film makes on its opening weekend? Is this some kind of barometer for our ailing economy? Are we so desperate for good news that we'll hang onto any bit of it that comes our way? And when it doesn't come to lift our spirits, we lash out at it in disappointment? I'm glad to say that the author of that article, Marcus Leshock, wrote the article to put the whole hype surrounding box office receipts for a film's opening weekend into perspective.

I'm not interested in how much money a film makes. It is not one of the factors that determines whether or not I'll go see the movie on the big screen - and pay a hefty amount of money for that privilege. It's an industry insider kind of thing. And I don't work in the movie business.

I guess that's the point. It is a business. But I don't go to the movies thinking that I'm supporting such and such studio. I don't see them as brand names that draw me. Okay, well, except for Pixar; I'll see anything they make. I'm even less drawn by particular actors than I am by particular directors. Who is directing a movie is usually far more important to me than who's in the movie.

All of which takes me to movie number two: Avatar. This definitely counts as the most hyped movie in recent history. And, for me, it didn't live up to expectations. It exceeded my expectations when it came to visual special effects. There's no denying it. Visually, the movie is a stunner, and it's well worth the price to see it on the big screen.

But the story... Very disappointing. It didn't help that whoever put together the trailer told us the whole plot of the film. I hate it when they do that. Maybe they did it that way deliberately because the story is so much of a retread, that anybody with a reasonable amount of intelligence could see where things were going pretty early on.

I get all the historical references. For me, it's very much a retelling of the European exploration/exploitation of the New World. And that's a story worth retelling; we can't forget our own history. However, it needs to be done well. And Cameron is a bit heavy-handed when it comes to storytelling. It has Pocahontas written all over it. The daughter of the local chief saves the white man, and then romance. Well, that's the myth of Pocahontas. There was no romance between the real Pocahontas and John Smith. And Jake Sully is no John Smith. Did Cameron really give his character the same initials to draw that parallel? Jake Sully is a 21st century version of what we wish John Smith had been.

Sigourney Weaver, as usual, gives a delightful performance. Cameron is wise to continue to work with her. But, the character Giovanni Ribisi plays reminded me too much of Paul Reiser's character in Aliens, the corporate scumbag. Again, the storytelling was too heavy-handed.

The people who go to see films are smarter than Hollywood often gives them credit for being. We like good stories. Give us good stories to see and we'll go see them. And if you can blend story and spectacle, so much the better. But don't think we don't know spectacle without a story.

Friday, April 02, 2010

NaBloPoMo - April - Day Two

So, what's big today?

I have no idea. I already started a list of topics so that I'd have things to write about during the month, but I just can't bring myself to take one of those. They're my back-ups, for those days when I really just don't have any idea what to write - or the time.

Today, I have nothing but time. It's the last weekday of my spring break. So, I have to come up with something...

The poetry prompt for today is to write a water poem. I haven't written my poem for today yet. In fact, I'm a little stumped because it's such a big concept. I have a feeling that today I'm going to write a really long poem, or more than one.

Water is so important, literally vital. Earth has been called the water planet. (I wonder who said that first.?) If I'm not mistaken, it's the only substance that occurs naturally as a liquid, solid, and a gas on Earth. It is so versatile and variable - and yet, so dependable.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April Poem-a-Day Challenge

Okay, as if attempting to blog every day this month wasn't enough, I am also participating in the April Poem-a-Day Challenge as sponsored by Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides over on the Writer's Digest website.

I don't think I'll be posting my poems, but (who knows) I might change my mind later in the month.

Today's prompt: write a lonely poem.

NaBloPoMo - April - Day One

So, it's April, and I'm attempting to blog every day this month as part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).

The theme this month: big.

I'll start off slow. Today's topic, April Fool's Day. Today is the day when we get to joke and pull pranks on each other. As a kid, the best part of the day is telling somebody something, having them fall for it, i.e., believe you, and then getting to yell, "April Fool's!"

Google has already played a big joke on us. Google is now Topeka. Don't believe me? Go check out their blog at Topeka. I can't top that. That's big for today.