Monday, December 31, 2007

The Last Day of 2007

It is a bit after 10 pm and we are in our PJ’s watching Kathy Griffin on the D-List on Bravo.. Make fun all you want. We have had fun, we just did our end-of-the-year fiddling in the afternoon.

The wife and I sent the daughter to the in-laws and we went to see … Sweeney Todd! It was bloody awesome. I’m not a huge fan of the musical, although I’ve seen several. My wife loves going to see them. I can do without Cats, A Chorus Line, and Phantom of the Opera. Sweeney Todd, however, rates right up there with Les Miserables. We went to see Sweeney Todd at the Landers a few years ago, and it was great. The movie adaptation of Sweeney Todd was boss. Funny and tragic and a great piece of celluloid.

For lunch we ate at Bailey’s, which took the place of Rasta Grill. I ordered the coney and the thing hung off each end of the plate. A half-pound of hot dog, yes a half pound, tends to do that. Food is good and cheap and is an alternative to the pish-posh, overpriced, fare of downtown. Bailey’s is even open on Sundays with $1 hamburgers and chili. Had I had my camera with me, I would have taken photos of the food.

When we got home we put in a Casino Royale (from Netflix). It was undoubtedly the best James Bond movie in 15 years. It was great, getting 94 percent fresh from Rotten Tomatoes.

So there we are. It was a good day. We bought some underwear and undershirts for me, saw two great movies and had good food. Spending time with my wife seems a great way to send out the old year.

Here’s looking forward to a new year.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Year of Blogging in Review

I the ought it might be fun to go back through the archives and pull out some of my favorite FAT JACK blog posts from the past year. Just for kicks and giggles. You can take them or leave them, read them or skip them. These are listed by month starting with January.

God is a Hermaphrodite

The Apple iPhone: It's Finally Here!

What We Need is a New Law

Vote YES on the Litle Anti-Fornication Law
Can you believe that I originally misspelled my good friend's last name? This argument is over, so don't bother emailing him with hate email. This was all in good fun.

A Fun-Filled Night on Non-Learning

In Memory of the Dirty Old Bastard
I sure do miss blogger buddy John Stone.

A Rose by any Other Name
Thoughts on anonymous blogging

What My Mother Taught Me
Thoughts of Mommy on Mother's Day

Quagmire of the Incidental

Special Schools for Special People

Poo Cheerleaders

Teachers Who Teach Teachers
(can be the worst teachers)

What Teachers Make
(Great YouTube video)

The Modern Church

The Religious Right
(You might be a member of the religious right or a redneck …)

Christians and Bigotry

Christians and Bigotry Part 2

Every Child Left Behind

Church of Christ is Not a Protestant Church
(It is the one real church set up by Christ himself, or so say the crazies.)

Just Admit You Are Wrong Already!

Sometimes School Beats the Education Out of Students

Snapping Mad: Beating the Education Out of Students Part 2

Every Child Still Left Behind: Part 1

Dear God …

JUST an Elementary Teacher?

Muslims Seek Reconciliation, Peace with Christians

A Roar for Powerful Writers

I want to thank the Academy … oh wait. Wrong ceremony; wrong speech. Still, we've been awarded "A Roar for Powerful Writers" by none other than our Girl in the Sky. Terribly nice of her to think of us. We like her too.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Only Comic Book Convention for Kids is Back!


The second NYC KIDS' COMIC CON is coming March 29, 2008! And this time, one of the co-sponsors will be the NEW YORK COMIC CON!

The focus of the comicon is to bring young people, parents, artists, and educators together for a fun and enlightening view of the industry. Specifically they are inviting teachers, librarians, and more to show them how the comic book field works and how it can support literacy and other academic goals.

All of this without the gore, extreme violence, nudity or vulgarity. How about that? They report that it will be a full-blown all-age event.

March 29, 2008
10 am- 6pm
Bronx Community College

I would love to go and speak, but I do not know if I can do either. The graduate student’s wallet is pretty thin these days. We will see how things go. I would love to take my wife and daughter and really have a good time.

For more information contact: Alex Simmons at Darkjack@aol.com

'The Hobbit' to Hit the Silver Screen!

Years of disputes between Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have kept the shooting of J.R.R. Tolkien’s children’s book, “The Hobbit” at a stand still. Apparently the problems are over and New Line is moving ahead, according to the official Hobbit movie blog.

Two films will come out of the deal: “The Hobbit” and a sequel to it, which will act as some sort of transition to “The Lord of the Rings” films. “The Hobbit” will be released in 2010 and the sequel will debut in 2011.

No word yet who will director or if any of the earlier actors will show up.

[hat tip: Scoop]

Flakes, One and All


Here's a happy little reminder of what politics is all about. Before you get too on board with any candidate or political party remember: They are all a bunch of flakes.

I've said it before and I am telling you again: There is no such thing as a Christian politician. This becomes truer the higher the office sought. The things one must do in order to be a viable candidate for president compromises even those with the best of intentions and ethics.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The War On Christmas Started with Christians

The News-Leader was particularly interesting yesterday. Roger Ray, the ever controversial Christian lefty wrote a funny piece about the War on Christmas. Crack me up! Here’s a taste:

“In 1659 Massachusetts passed their "Anti-Christmas" law which read: ‘Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas, or the like, either by forbearing labor, feasting, or any other way upon such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for each offense five shillings as a fine to the country.’”

At one point, this so-called “Christian Nation” banned Christmas. What a war this has turned out to be. Maybe everyone should just calm down, celebrate, and quite whining.

Personally, I am celebrating both the religious and the secular and no one is trying to stop me. Quote Charlie Brown: “Good Grief!”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Teaching Religion in Public Schools

The issue of religion in the public schools has risen to a point where it cannot be ignored any longer. Apparently, there is an international push, complete with a final report, to study religion in public schools, according to today’s News-Leader.

Charles Haynes, the writer of the opinion piece, stated: “the report urges nations to take religion seriously in education and provides a human rights framework for including fair, accurate study about religions and beliefs in the classroom.”

I’m all for it. As a pre-service teacher, I think it is important for us to talk about religion, religious culture, and the influence of religion on belief systems and political governments, starting in elementary school. Further, I believe we should do so in a scholarly manner and not a religious manner. I think putting a “human rights framework” into the picture is fine, but the question must be asked: Is putting a “human rights framework” on the religious study a form of religious doctrine?

Some people do not want their religion to be portrayed within a “human rights framework” because they feel that is some sort of liberal, secular way to strip God of his wrath and air condition Hell. I think that goes for some who believe in Christianity and Islam as well as other religions.

It is certainly worth talking about. Let’s face it. I am a Christian but I see Christianity very different than say crazy Fred Phelps. Even if we teach religion in schools, there will be problems and objections.

Donate Money To Teachers & Classrooms

December is the time for giving, what with all the holiday traditions and season of giving. The problems can be that the monies donated to large charities do not always go where they should. That can be frustrating. Others want their money to stay in the city, county, state or even the United States.

How about donating to a classroom? Teachers are always in need for certain books, supplies, software and other educational tools that the school may not able to afford. Teachers always buy things for their classrooms out of their own pockets, but sometimes these expenses can be too great.

DonorsChoose.org allows you, dear reader, to go online and find a classroom that needs you. From the site: “Teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, whom we call Citizen Philanthropists, choose projects to fund.” You choose the project and your own price range.

How cool is that? You can help a classroom out. If I were the teacher, I would enjoy connecting with the donor to help the children understand the importance of giving. Maybe send the donor a photo of the items(s) being used and a link to my classroom website where they can keep in touch if they like.

A Poem By a Second Grader

My second grade daughter brought home a poem that she wrote in school. Last month they were studying the Native Americans which concluded with a powwow. I was amazed at the writing ability of my 7-year-old and just had to share. Makes a writer and Dad proud.


Untitled

Walk, Walk
Walk with the Indians
Walk through the grass with yellow daisies.
Waling in the light brown dirt
Walking with the big, strong chief
Walking past colorful butterflies
Walking past a blue lake
Walking by a bush of berries
Walking fast, walking slow
Walking by trees
Walk, Walk
Walk with the Indians

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Governor’s Inclusion Awards: Educator of the Year

Kathy Staeger-Wilson, Director of Disability Services at Missouri State University (MSU), was named Educator of the Year by the Governor’s Council on Disability. I just so happen to know this fine lady and she is a dandy.

From the Press Release:
“Her efforts for inclusion have extended beyond the University by expanding her reach into the community. Ms. Staeger-Wilson advocates for principles like full inclusion and Universal Design on campus and locally. Together with MSU student with disabilities, she worked on making Universal Design a top priority for MSU’s new recreation center. She started a poster campaign titled “Chaning How We Perceive Disability”, pertaining to disability pride and invisible disabilities. She initiated the first Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society at MSU for students with disabilities and recruited volunteers to work with the Southwest Center for Independent Living’s youth transition program to act as members. Ms. Staeger-Wilson sees youth with disabilities the future for creating a more inclusive world.”

Good job, Kathy. We are proud of you. I’m sure your students are very happy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Beer & Beef Veggie Soup

Just in time for the great snow storm that is supposed to rock our world, I just made the best pot of vegetable beef soup I’ve ever made. Man sakes alive it was tasty stuff, so I thought I would share the recipe with you. The secret is the beer and the honey.

3-4 pound beef roast
1 box (2 packets) Lipton onion soup mix
1 onion chopped
1 cup of chopped celery
2 potatoes
1 cup of beef broth or so (in a box)
1 bottle beer
1 package frozen veggies
1 can (46 ounces) of V-8
¼ cup or so of honey

Trim excess fat off beef roast and place in a large crock pot. Add the onion, celery, 2 packages of onion soup mix, 1 cup or so of beef broth and 1 bottle of beer. Cook for 6 hours on low or until the roast is done.

Take the roast out and let it rest. Shred the beef with a fork and put back in crock pot. Combine all remaining ingredients in crock pot and set on high until bubbly and veggies are cooked to your satisfaction. I like my carrots to be a bit firm so I do not cook it that long. Serve with wheat crackers and grilled cheese sandwich. I have a big honking crock pot, but this makes more than it the old crock pot can handle. So after I cook the roast, I put some of the excess soup in a pot on the stove. After we eat dinner, there is usually enough gone that I can combine the soup in both containers.

Media Says Principal Asks Teachers to Dumb Down. The Media is Wrong.

Principal Bennett Lieberman, Central Park East High School in Harlem, wrote a memo to his teachers and this little tidbit has knotted all kinds of panties in the city as reported by WCBStv.com. The big whop-tee-do? His memo stated, among other things:

“If you are not passing more than 65 percent of your students in class, then you are not designing your expectations to meet their abilities, and you are setting your students up for failure, which, in turn, limits your success as a professional.” (emphasis mine)

Folks have taken that statement to mean that teachers should lower their expectations of students and pass them along. That’s a fine sack of apples, isn’t it? I’ll let all this sink in for a second.

[pause]

I don’t think that is what the principal said at all. This is a case of teachers getting mad at being asked to do their jobs and the media jumping on without asking questions. The good principal goes on to say something else, which is what makes me wonder if his statement above is simply crafted poorly and misrepresenting his views.

“Most of our students come from the lowest third percentile in academic achievement, have difficult home lives, and struggle with life in general. They DO NOT (emphasis theirs) have a similar upbringing or a similar school experience to our experiences growing up.” (emphasis mine)

I do not think Lieberman is telling his teachers to just dumb things down and pass uneducated students along. He is telling his teachers that their classroom culture is based on white, middle class culture, which is alien to Black and Hispanic students of low socio-economic status. He is telling his teachers to rethink their approach to teaching and do something else to connect with students.

It all comes down to a definition of terms. In this case the problem comes down to the word “expectation”. What does the principal mean by “expectations”? Does he mean being able to add 2+2 or does he mean making inner city Black youth conform to a white, female, middle class, culture? Those are two different things. I seriously doubt this principal wants teachers to just dumb things down. I suspect he wants teachers to change the way they teach in order to connect with students. [gasp]. How dare he ask teachers to change how they teach to meet the needs of their students! The classroom is there for students, not for teachers.

Much has been said about students who are of color – of minority status – and how culture affects academics. We have talked about this issue in my educational philosophy class this semester. In short, the criticism comes from the fact that the bulk of teachers are white, middle class females, thus the “school experience” is based on white, middle class, female standards. In turn, the argument is that school is not designed for people of other races and cultures therefore it feels less relevant to them.

If you are a Black or Hispanic boy living in poverty in Harlem and your only exposure to academics and school culture happens to be mostly white, middle class females, then you may have a hard time connecting with school and seeing the purpose of it all. To succeed is to become white, middle class and possible female, metaphorically. It is to embrace the white experience.

The issue is much larger than that. My presentation is very simplistic, but that is the idea and I think people have missed Lieberman’s point. Every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks he knows how to teach, and new techniques are always coming around, many of which are actually just old techniques with new names. So teachers get tired of always changing. The revolving philosophical door is problematic and I can understand why teachers buck. Just because something is new does not make it better. But … we need to re-examine how we approach students.

Simply lowering standards because students are persons of lower economic status is not the answer (and I do not think anyone is suggesting we should despite the news article’s slant), but if our classroom culture, our teaching methodology, is not somehow constructed with the students’ home culture in mind, then we are failing to adequately reach and educate them.

The idea here should be to bring education to the children, not to force children to education. So many teachers, poor teachers, believe teaching is about opening up a student’s head and dumping in information. So many think they are to stand in front of the class and lecture. It is up to the students to get what they get. That is an old approach that is not relevant or successful in today’s classroom.

So what do we do? We do not grade easier, or simply pass kids along. We may, however, have to [gasp] change the way we teach in order to help students get the education they need to be successful. That requires work on the part of the teacher and some do not want to do it. So they just make class easier, lower expectations and pass the kids along.

Good teachers teach. If kids do not get it with one approach, then you change approaches and see if they get it this way. The one-size-fits-all approach to teaching is a failure and I suspect that is what this principal is actually talking about. If I am right, then his first paragraph was poorly crafted. If I am not, then he needs to be fired.

We need more male teachers, Black teachers, Hispanic and Asian teachers in the classroom, especially on an elementary level. One of my professors said that males make up about 10 percent of pre-service elementary teachers on our campus. Children need to have role models on which to base their worldviews. Check this. According to the article “Why Kids Hate School What Kids Say” by Emmett Sawyer and Judith Gregg, they interview many inner city students and discovered “in some instances, students perceived it was not a black cultural thing to do to complete high school.” Like it or not, culture plays a huge role in how students perceive education. They need to see more men and minorities teaching school.

Notice, will you, that the story mentions that the teachers could get bonuses of $3,000 if improvement is made. How is that improvement measured? Who decides if improvement was made? Should be base teacher pay on student achievement? Oh there is so much in this entire news article, beyond the typical media response. So very much, indeed. This issue of teacher bonuses for student achievement is a whole other discussion.

Cookies and milk to Chatterman for posting the WCBStv.com article on his blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Lesson in Economics and Caring

We have to do a good job of teaching economics to children our lives are full of folks who live a life of unmanageable credit card debit, rent-to-own businesses and payday loan places. We have become a nation of people who do not understand economics and the impact of financial decisions. Economics lessons start in elementary schools, although because Social Studies is not a part of high stakes standardized tests, the subject goes untouched in many schools.

My wife has come up with a great idea on how to teach about the basics of the marketplace, economics, and the hard work involved in being an entrepreneur. The hope, of course, is to help instill an interest in business in children so they can grow up to be self-sufficient members of the community. She’s a smarty, my wife.

Kiva.com is a website that helps Johnny Beercan donate some of his money to struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries. Beercan lends $400 to some family in Cambodia. The family uses the money to start a business or expand a business. The family then takes the next six to 12 months to repay the loan. Once the loan is repaid, then Beercan can pull out his money or lend to someone else. Throughout the process, Beercan will receive email updates about the progress and how his money is being used.

How cool would it be for a fifth grade class to raise money and lend it to some family overseas. Then the kids could monitor how the money is used, see the process of entrepreneurship change someone’s life. They could correspond with the recipient and use real life to learn about … real life! Once the money is repaid, then that money could be used for next year’s class of fifth graders. If that group of kids also raised money, then maybe more than one family could be helped.

We adults lecture kids all the time about the importance of a good education and how it can help them succeed in life. I’m reminded of an English teacher in college. Mr. Turner was strict about us fiction writers “showing and not telling”. Seems the same principle can be used in teaching as well. And we show our kids how to care about someone else besides themselves in the process.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Days of Self-Doubt

Even those of us who are high on philosophy and are rip-roaring ready to teach youth have our days of uncertainty and “what the heck have I done” moments. I’ve been having mine lately, wondering if I can do it – teach, that is – and if I have chosen careers wisely. A monkey can run a classroom, but he cannot do it well. Only the best of us can really teach, in the sense that I think of teaching. Yelling, snapping, controlling, bossing, and harping are not proven methodologies. It ain’t teaching, folks. Babysitting, maybe. Teaching? No.

Sometimes I think I am doing myself a disservice by being a substitute teacher. A school counselor once told me that subbing is not about teaching; it is about survival. Props to him for passing that along as I really needed that bit of information this week.

I find that I have lags in my time between lessons. Lag time is death to the classroom and I am working on fixing that before I student-teach. It is hard to actually teach kids when you do not have a relationship with them. It is hard to teach when you are handed a textbook and told to teach a lesson in five minutes. Some days it works alright, but usually the days are full of worksheets and lag time. Kids test your limits, push, and that is okay because it is what kids do. Pushing is how they make sense of their world. Like it or not, kids do thrive in consistency. When their consistency is broken, then they act out.

Not that I have had any “bad” classes lately. I really hate that term. As a substitute teacher, it is impossible to implement my own philosophical beliefs into a class, yet that causes me distress. I find that sometimes my philosophical beliefs are trumped by the practicality of the real world. Damn that ivory tower! Teachers are not the only ones who struggle with this. Despite the fact that this conundrum is common in many fields, I still feel alone. I want to be better. I want to be one of those teachers who finds the way through the muck and is able to institute those philosophical beliefs into practice. I know it can be done. I just know it, but I am scared that I will revert back to “teaching how I was taught” mentality when I get my own class. It makes me crazy to think of that possibility.

The fact that the stats for teacher retention are worse than the divorce rate leaves me shaking in my shoes. I keep telling myself that subbing is not teaching, that these are not my classes, that I can and will do this. I have to. Otherwise I will be no better than my own fifth grade “teacher”, and I do not want that. I teach for the kids not for me. The classroom is for the students and not for me.

This is what I tell myself. The good thing is that I am good at building relationships with kids. The key to the good classroom teacher is his or her ability to connect with kids first and teach them second. I hope that connecting with them will help me create a wonderful classroom of energetic learners.

TeacherTube: Technology in the Classroom

It was only a matter of time until educators took hold of the YouTube phenomenon and made it work for them. Born: TeacherTube – an Internet site where teachers post their lessons and ideas for other teachers. Blogging, podcasting, newspaper writing, and any other curriculum topic you can image are on TeacherTube. Educators take notice. If you want to learn about something particular or you wish to bring technology into the classroom, then TeacherTube may be very useful for you. It doesn’t look like you can post a video to a blog yet, but I’m sure that feature is on the way.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Stealing from the Poor

The Salvation Army has seen a rash of thefts lately. Stupid people, who mean well, just drive by any old time and dump off their belongings. People have figured it out and they come by in the SUV’s and Pick Ups and steal the donations before The Salvation Army ever sees it!

I knew KY3 was doing a story on it. They did their own version of “To Catch A Predator”. They caught folks on camera stealing. I never saw it run here, but I caught the story on CNN’s Headline News today.

The thing is, these folks appeared – appeared – to do well enough on their own, considering their modes of transportation. Who knows, but to steal from agency that helps the poor? Think of the Karma? These folks better hope that God’s grading curve is lenient.

Changing Traditions

My family has a big Christmas party in early December – a day-long event with tons and tons of food. Think fishes and loaves to feed the masses kind of party. It is a lot of fun and we enjoy going to this event, but it is not good for me. At least not right now.

In my feeble attempt to make lifestyle changes, we decided to forego the event this year and stay home. Rather than eat, we hauled our rear ends to the streets of Springfield to watch the annual Christmas parade. Interestingly enough, they handed out candy by the gobs [laugh]. I did not realize it, but my daughter had never been to a parade before. Shame on us. She loved it and we had a good time not stuffing the faces with food.

I did really miss all the family though. It’s not the same, but it was good in its own right. It’s not like I won’t see the exact same family members – all of them – on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and a few days before and after. So it’s not that big of a deal.

A Christmas parade in the heart of Springfield is a nice piece of nostalgia. It really makes life feel like Christmas. It was good parade too. The floats were pretty poor, as compared to the floats when I was a kid. We saw the Central High School Kilties and that makes a parade, I tell you what. Those girls rock.

Batten Down the Hatches!

Groceries? Check.
Flashlights working? Check.
Candles? Check
Fireplace cleaned? Double freaking check! (Thanks to Aunt Bessie)
New waterproof insulated gloves? Check.

The ice storm of the year will probably pass us by, but better safe than cold, wet and sorry. I made Hungarian goulash and chili last night, just in case we need to eat. Not that I want to eat cold goulash or chili, but its better than starving. Hopefully all the limbs that could fall did fall last year. Doesn’t seem like there’s many limbs left anyway.

Missouri State is watching the storm closely, according to the email from our president. Next week is finals week. Imagine the school having to close during finals.I hear tell that if they have to close, then they put off finals until we get back from winter break. Talk about ruining the holidays. The only final exam I have was a take-home exam, which was really like a research paper with high expectations, so I am okay. The rest of my classes had projects and papers and things of that nature. But for the rest of them, what a sucky thing to have to go through.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

‘Let It All Bleed Out’

Cousin Austin with Sheri Moon Zombie


Zombie is on tour with Ozzy and he took a break to do an independent show in Springburg last night with the hardcore band “In The Moment”.

We are fans of Rob Zombie, but not so much so of the other band. The teenage cousin got us into him a few years back and since then, we have been to two Zombie concerts. Great concerts both, but last night’s shin dig was a real party. The Shrine Mosque played home to the concert and there was little security. I have never seen such poor security at a concert and people got hurt because of it.

This crowd pushed – hard – and it was hard to stand at times. We were very close to the stage in the middle of the floor and folks were fighting over places to stand. At one point we were between two different mosh pits, both of which were rough. People were crowd surfing, sitting on shoulders, girls showing off their goodies. The place, as you can image, was a cloud of cigs and reefer.

Picture this. There were at least two times when the crowd got upset and tried to get the attention of the Springfield PD to take some drunk poobah out because he was picking fights. Metal fans do not typically care for the fuzz much. The PD did nothing both times. I do not even know why they were there. The security did finally drag one guy out of the crowd. No wonder the floor has smatterings of blood all over it at the end. It was the roughest concert I’ve ever been to. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, just rough.

It was a special concert because it was the cousin’s 17th birthday. He and the niece are both Pearl Harbor babies. (Happy birthday to you both.) When he found out Zombie was coming to town on his b-day he went nuts. His dad took the night off and came too: A real boys night out. Get this. The cousin also won a Total Skull contest and he got to go backstage to meet Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob’s wife.

While he was backstage, his dad and I sat and talked. It is cool to see a teenage boy have so much fun. That dad was amazed how excited his boy got at these concerts. The boy is usually pretty somber, but he cuts loose at these venues. That is why I spend the money on tickets when I do not have it. He means a lot to me and it means a lot to him to go. I love seeing him so happy. Now I need to find something like that to take his preteen brother to. I wish my nieces and nephews lived closer so I could do things like that with them. I’m hoping that when I am a teacher and have summers off, I can have the nieces and nephews come and stay a week with me. That would be so much fun.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Snapping Mad: Beating the Education Out of Students Part 2!

I was volunteering at a local agency that provides services to children and teens, many of whom are labeled at-risk, live in poverty (or close to it), and are in foster care. I was hanging with my kids, in the dinnertime chow line, and I hear her say quite snappingly, “I read your blog.”

Oh goody, a Fat Jack fan! But how did she know who I was? It just so happens that one of the ladies divvying out the food is none other than the student teacher that I blogged about recently. Do you remember? She’s the one who spent the day snapping her fingers at the kids. That’s right. I’m standing in line and at first I do not remember her, but she remembers me and apparently read my blog about her poor teaching techniques. Did she use that as an opportunity to reflect on her shortcomings and make changes for the better? Not a chance. Much like President Bush, this Evangel student dug in her heels and proclaimed: “That was just your opinion.”

I think to myself: “Holy crap! I cannot believe that I just ran into her.” I wrote that piece as a response to what I saw. I never intended or imagined that she would ever read my post. I asked her how she found out about it and she said that a friend read it and sent it to her. Bare in mind that I never once mentioned her name or the school in which this happened. Never. So a friend of hers reads my blog and knows it is her? Yikes. That does not bode well for this pre-service teacher.

I will not lie. I was shocked into a near loss for words. What do I say? We are in the middle of dinner and I am volunteering for these children and she just … snaps at me. I keep my head and do not want to escalate her. It’s obvious by her tone and look on her face that she trying hard to hide her emotions. I’m sure, had she been able to, she would have reached across the sneeze guard and given me a firm snap in the face, much like she did to her third graders.

“I hope it didn’t hurt your feelings,” I say as I pick up my tray and walk away. She announces that she has thick skin. Not thick enough, apparently, or she would have been professional enough to keep her personal problems out of her volunteer opportunities.

I cannot blame her. Who would not have been hurt to have a peer be critical of your performance? She is only human. The thing is, she could have, and should have, used that experience to reflect on her teaching and make corrections. I do it all the time. I do not think for one second that I am a master teacher. I am a pre-service teacher who will make plenty of mistakes during my first few years and throughout my career. Snapping at your students is disrespectful. Using that as your major mode of behavior modification is a serious problem. To not recognize that and make corrections is a sad commentary on the state of teaching. Schools of education are supposed to create teachers who are reflective and life-long learners.

I was in a class the other day. I recognized the students were restless because of me. I was not engaging them and I was not keeping their attention. It had nothing to do with them or a diagnosis of ADHD or any other external factor. I was the problem. I was relying on old school, direct instruction and I was failing. Why did I do that? I know better. I did not need someone in my classroom for me to recognize that I have more work to do. Had the principal noticed I would have had no choice but to agree, lest I lie.

It’s really no big deal. I am a pre-service teacher and I am supposed to be learning from my mistakes not pretending they were a figment of someone’s opinion. The same goes for this Evangel student. Any attempt to justify or deny her behavior is simply a fabrication based on ego. Now lets see. How many teachers have I had throughout my life that were egotistic and, in their own inflated opinion, never wrong? I have encountered plenty on the university level. The funny thing is that many of them are education teachers. Of all people, educators should know better. We sure can be a egotistical bunch.

I write this post knowing full well that this student may read it. Fine and dandy. I know it will upset her, but I think it is something that deserves to be considered, pondered, questioned, critiqued, studied and ultimately correctly. By engaging and distracting me while I am volunteering with children tells me that she needs to talk about it to. That is a step in the right direction, assuming she can do so in a professional manner, checking the ego at the door.

If you want to have a real discussion about this incident, without snappy comments and without children around, then you are welcome to leave appropriate flame-free comments. Please do not identify yourself. There is absolutely no need. This is about more than me or you. It is about teaching and doing right by our children. We both have things to learn and I suspect we can learn from one another.

Sen. Obama Lays Out Agenda for Persons with Disabilities

The title says it all. On Dec. 3, Sen. Obama released a statement, which you can read here, where he promises to try to break down barriers excluding Americans with disabilities by next week. He says he will accept nothing less.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Muslims Seek Reconciliation, Peace with Christians

One hundred and thirty eight Muslim scholars and clerics recently released an open letter to Christians looking for common ground and peace between the two religions. This comes at an interesting time as President Bush is meeting with leaders in the Middle East to also find peace. He joins the ranks of several presidents who have tried.

The letter titled, "A Common Word Between Us and You” look to the similarities between Christianity and Islam in order to reconcile, heal and find a path together. An abridged version is available here. Here is an excerpt:

“Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.

“The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”

The letter goes on to quote both the Qur’an and the Bible. Despite what some Americans see as a religion of hate, these Muslims feel that the Qur’an demands they find peace.

“Thus in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love.”

This is just what the Christian world needs right now. It is important that Americans see moderate Muslims speaking out against hatred and seeking ways to live together in harmony. I am thankful that this message is being presented. I hope that members of the mainstream media will pick up on this positive piece of news and help alleviate the misconception that all Muslims hate Americans.

Click here for more information.

The CNN YouTube Republican Debate

I have not seen all of the debate, but I have seen most of it once and some of it twice. I thought that was an interesting debate. My wife and I are somewhere along the liberal continuum, but we watched what we could. You never know. Here are some passing thoughts for anyone who gives a crap:

On John McCain
I have always liked and respected Sen. John McCain, until he partnered with President Bush and sold his soul to the devil. My respect of Sen. McCain went right down the toilet. Then I saw the debate and I saw the old Sen. McCain. He was bright, witty and stood for what he thought regardless of everyone else. While our politics are vastly different on most subjects, I enjoyed seeing the old McCain back and full of fire. He flat out nailed Gov. Romney to the wall on torture. Romney made a huge mistake by not taking a side on the torture issues. Pansy!

Democratic Operatives Asking Questions
This is nothing more than a distraction from the issue. You know what? It does not matter who asks a question at any debate, so long as the question is fair. Asking any presidential candidate where he or she stands on allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military is a fair question. How exactly does the political leanings of the questioner affect the validity of the question? Now the good general prattled on a bit, but it was still a fair question. If Sean Hannity went to a Democratic debate and asked all the candidates where they stand on homosexual marriage or abortion, that would be a fair question. So what if Sean Hannity was the one asking? They need to get over themselves. I mean really. What kind of debate only allows questions from their base? You do not get hard and fair questions doing that. By the way, the Dems would have cried too, had a Repug asked a question during their debate. Boo hoo, says I. It matters not.

Fear Gov. Mike Huckabee
The good Governor from Arkansas is gaining speed. I must say that he did a great job at the debate. It scared me. As a Christian, I would like to support a candidate with my same religious beliefs, but I am wary of those who proclaim their Christianity too much. I do not know about Huckabee.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I just got back from New Images, which is St. John’s weight loss program. I gained 6 pounds over the Thanksgiving holiday. The meal plan they put me on was not workable for me. So together, my dietician and I, reworked my program into something that I think will work for me. I am excited about it and fearful. If I do not lose enough weight in six months, then my insurance will not cover the expense of the weight loss program. Honestly, I do not know if I can lose 40 pounds in the next three months. That’s hard core. I am trying, but it is hard. The fear of not losing enough weight in their time table scares me. If I do not make it, then I am on my own and it is obvious that approach has not worked for me.

It makes me mad. Seems the insurance company would want me to lose weight and would support me in doing so, so long as I am committed and trying. I am trying, although I did gain a bit of weight over the holiday. Interestingly, I did not gain any body fat.

Here is the new meal plan, if you are interested:

BREAKFAST
1 low fat breakfast sandwich
1 packet of weight control oatmeal
1 light yogurt
1 fruit

LUNCH
1 meat and cheese sandwich
1 yogurt OR fat free pudding cup
Veggies (baby carrots, celery, broccoli, salad, etc)
1 fruit

SNACK
1 package, 100-calorie snack pack OR 1 granola bar OR 1 peanut butter (no J) sammy
1-2 slices of cheese OR 1 yogurt
1 fruit

DINNER
5 ounces of meat (we do Meal Makers)
Salad or steamed veggies
1 slice break OR 1 cup pasta-rice-potato

EVENING SNACK
1 mini bag popcorn
1 cup of fat free hot chocolate

The exercise has been changed to 5-10 minutes, seven days per week. It should be more. We know that. The idea here is that I establish a pattern first, one which includes daily exercise. Then we increase it until I am doing 30 minutes per day every day. It is all about baby steps. The old plan was overwhelming, which increased my stress and in turn that increased my hunger pangs. I also have an appointment with a weight loss psychologist to help me understand and deal with the reasons behind my eating. I do not mind telling you that it is a scary proposition, but it was my idea. I asked to meet with her and they agreed. I really want this to be successful.

I am still considering the bariatric surgery, but I have to go through a year of the New Images in order to do so, and if I do not lose enough weight in the first six months, then insurance won’t pay for New Images and then I am disqualified from the lap band surgery. I feel like I’m chasing my tail.

(WARNING: Conspiracy theory about to begin)

I cannot help but wonder if this is a well designed ploy by the insurance company to ensure that clients are ineligible for the bariatric surgery. I guess medications are cheaper than a proven surgery? Not that I want surgery. I just want to be able to lose weight and keep it off. The lap band is supposed to work because it tricks your mind into thinking you are full. If you do not feel hungry, then you do not eat.

I’m not giving up. I’m just going to keep trying and so the best I can and see if I can hit that goal of 40 pounds of weight loss in the next three to four months. No easy feat considering Christmas is upon us.

I have a lot of support. My family and friends have been great. Christmas in my family comes tied with food. Same for lots of people. My parents have changed two things. We no longer have the hog trough Christmas feed. We have a healthy brunch and afterwards the food is put away and we do other things. This started last year and it was a great. It was my mom’s idea and I am so happy with it.

This year my parents made another change. My mom called Aunt Bessie and told her that the Christmas Eve buffet is gone. No longer will we travel on Christmas Eve and graze all day at the buffet. Now the family is staying in Branson, where my mother can help control the amount and type of food available for consumption. Healthy food is the goal now. That’s a big deal folks and Aunt Bessie is pissed. I understand. We have had that tradition since before I was born. What Aunt Bessie does not understand is that the Food-is-Love mentality does not work today. That is depression era thinking that is killing me. The change is hard for her and I sympathize, but I have to tell you that I am so excited at the prospect of being in an environment that is not centered around food.

FAT JACK is looking forward to a healthy Christmas. I do not have to stress about food anymore. It is a big sacrifice that my family is making and they are doing it for me. I want to live up to my side by trying to make good choices every day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quiet Riot Brings Back Memories

Apparently the game of points is dead so I didn’t bother sending this RIP notice to the not-so-Chattery-Lately Guy. I got my info from Strannix anyway who would really deserve the point.

Lets get to it already. The front man for Quiet Riot passed into the great blue beyond. Kevin Dubrow was 52. “Metal Health”was the first rock album I ever owned. I bought their album in sixth grade, on cassette tape, and I was so proud. This began my movement from pop toward metal. Rock and Roll. I’m sure it would have made Dubrow proud.

The music affected me. It really did. There is a rock love ballad on the B-side of the tape that reminded me think of a girl that I was so completely in love with. Sherry Potter could have cared less for me, but I thought she walked on water. That is, until I heard that Davy Hauck made out with her and put his hands down her pants. I was a bit innocent in those days and I did not like her so much after that. I hadn’t even kissed a girl before let alone touched a hoochie coo before. I was a good boy. A geek, to be sure, but a good church-going boy who still harbored the fear that a girl’s v-jayjay had sharp teeth.

Oh Quiet Riot. You bring back such good memories. I’m sorry for the passing of Dubrow, especially at such a young age. Rock and roll will do that to you. I bought “Metal Health” on CD a few years back. Saw it on sale and couldn’t pass it up. It’s loaded on the iPod.

Maybe the song list will bring it all back for you:

  1. Metal Health
  2. Cum on Feel the Noize
  3. Don’t Wanna Let You Go
  4. Slick Black Cadillac
  5. Love’s a Bitch
  6. Breathless
  7. Run for Cover
  8. Battle Axe
  9. Let’s Get Crazy
  10. Thunderbird (Be still my heart, Sherry Potter)

Friday, November 23, 2007

They Sang Her Praises, She Chucked Her Cookies


The wonderful wife just got an award and I had to share with you. She was honored by the Southwest Center for Independent Living for her hard work at the University on universal design. This is an approach that benefits all students in a classroom environment, including those with disabilities. Check out those shinny plaques. She has done a lot of work to help make the university on the cutting edge of the disability movement.

Two days before the big ceremony I got sick. The day of the event our kiddo got the gunk and started hurling. We had family come and sit while we went to the ceremony. She got her awards, made her speech and then we left soon thereafter. We no more got home than her dinner came up. What a time!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fuzzy Mathbooks

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting article the other day about the incredible mathematical errors in the new, upcoming math books: 109, 263 math mistakes to be exact. The proposed textbooks were tentatively approved by the Texas State Board of Education.

A problem to be sure, but it begs the question: How often do teachers rely solely on the textbook for the answers to begin with? High quality, effective, teachers – you know the ones who made a significant difference in your life as a kid; the ones you remember – do not simply stand in front of the class every day regurgitating what is in the textbook. Those wonderful and engaging teachers work hard to develop interesting ways to help students learn math besides cranking out worksheet after worksheet.

You can read all about it here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Best Steak in Town, Hands Down

You might think the best steak in town would be from Steak and Ale. You would be wrong. A friend took us out to dinner tonight. I had the best steak I have ever had and I had it from Springfield’s oldest Italian restaurant: J. Parrino’s Italian CafĂ©.

If I had my camera with me at the time I would have taken a picture for you. I had the Steak de Mare: two, four-ounce filets, grilled medium rare, topped with shrimp and scallops in a light seafood sauce. It came with choice of soup or salad and either pasta in red sauce or asparagus. I choose the asparagus and it was outstanding.

They were the most tender and flavorful steaks I have ever had and there was just enough sauce for flavor without drowning the steak. It was incredible. Who would have thunk it: great steak from an Italian restaurant? The service was second to none. If it is a Friday or Saturday night, be sure and ask for Paul.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just an Elementary Teacher?

I was in class today and a future elementary teacher made a comment about our ability to influence children. She made some comment that elementary children do not really have their own opinions.

The guy sitting next to me laughed because he had just finished teasing me about us future elementary teachers not being real teachers. He got a real kick out of this young ladies’ comment. I laughingly acknowledged his point. The teacher caught this and jumped right on it.

He pleaded me to make my case. I refused. I did not want to get into a discussion that involved a classmate. Nothing would do my instructor but that I should talk about it. It is a Socratic-styled classroom and that is what we are supposed to do.

So I told her that I found the comment offensive. She retorted that she didn’t mean anything by it and that she just meant: “I am only an elementary teacher. That’s all.” The teacher jumped in and I did not get to really make my case. That’s fine. I didn’t want to drag it out anyway.

I assure you, dear readers, that elementary children do have their own ideas and opinions. Without a doubt, many of those thoughts are highly influenced by their caregivers’ opinions and values. If you have children, or have been around a diverse group of children, you will find that young ones can have conflicting views with adults.

I have been around all kinds of children in many different capacities. I also surround myself with adults who are involved with children.

1. A Social Worker once told me a story about a young boy he worked with: The boy went so far as to insert a roll-on style deodorant bottle in his own rectum due to his previous sexual abuse and his now obsessive desire to sexual contact.
2. I was with a group of volunteers that worked in a mental health recovery school. One of the volunteers was told not to hold the hand of a 5-yar-old boy. He would take that as a sign and would grab her behind and breasts. We were shocked. His previous sexual abuse had created fuzzy boundaries for him.
3. A Social Worker I know once worked with a child who had tried to cut off his own penis with a power saw. The elementary-aged boy was a victim-turned-predator and had then raped a very young elementary child. He attempted to cut off that which plagued him.
4. I had a foster child (through a church program and not FSD) in my home once. He was upset that his father had abandoned he and his siblings (all of whom lived with me). His opinion about his father at 10-years-old translated to a college student who has nothing to do with his father.
5. I had a friend in school who watched his mother get bashed routinely by her boyfriend.
6. I had another school chum who started head banging in elementary school and carved symbols into his skin in middle and high school.


All of these people formed opinions in their elementary years. The reason this girl, and many others I suspect, think that elementary children do not have their own opinions is because kids keep their mouths shut. They have a hard time processing pain, but that does not mean that the pain does not form the basis of their worldview later on. Oh not. It comes out in their teens or perhaps adulthood.

Not only did my fellow student’s comment show her lack of experience, but it is a condition of people who choose elementary school because they children are “cute” or possibly because they do not know what else to do and they get to play house. Young people have opinions and ideas. They can think for themselves, especially when given the opportunity to do so without retribution.

I can tell you that my fifth grade experience was a powerful one that influenced me for the rest of my life. I hated school so much that year that it has affected my outlook on learning and my study habits. I have had to work hard to shake those poor habits. Eventually it was experience and maturity that lead me to value education in a profound way.

The majority of teachers – the state is usually 60-70 percent – quit teaching within five years. I would suspect that my schoolmate may be one of those if her perspective does not change. Teachers are the foundation of society. For one to make a statement that her students do not have their own opinions saddens me. For her to say that she is JUST an elementary teacher enrages me. It is another way to say that we are glorified baby sitters. Had my teacher given me the opportunity, I would have said as much. Then again, it is probably good he did not. It would probably only serve to hurt my classmate’s feelings and teacher her little. As it is, she did not learn anything anyway.

Then again, I understand where they misconception comes from. I was a substitute in a school yesterday. The boys bathroom was sponge painted in mint pastel and had a pink, blue and green border featuring some girly, god-awful flowers or some nonsense. It is no wonder this future teacher does not take herself seriously. Elementary teachers bring on this misconception themselves what with all their cutsie handcrafted holiday vests and baby decorations.

Mr. Fat Jack takes his job seriously. I am going into elementary education because that is the place where we set the foundation for life-long learning. Young children need strong male role models from which to form their worldview. I am teaching elementary because I know that I can do more than baby sit cute little kids and get summers off. I can do many other jobs, and have the education to do so, but I choose elementary education. I wonder how many teachers can really say the same? I wonder if my classmate can really say the same? I sure as heck am not decorating my room in cutsie colors and fluffy cartoons.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Supreme Court May Take Gun Control Issue

The Associated Press published a story yesterday about the likelihood that the US Supreme Court will take up the issue of gun ownership rights. From Yahoo news:

The justices are facing a decision about whether to hear an appeal from city officials in Washington, D.C., wanting to keep the capital's 31-year ban on handguns. A lower court struck down the ban as a violation of the Second Amendment rights of gun ownership.

This is dangerous ground folks. No doubt about it, we have a very violent culture. Consider this dentist who got out of his car, in front of TV cameras, and assaulted a man and his sister, pushing her to the ground. He was arrested. When I lived in Marshfield, MO, I was driving down Interstate 44 when a man in a red pickup truck, ran a car off the road and into the median. We called it in, but he managed to evade police. Violence is not about guns anymore than rape is about sex. It is about power and control and we Americans have a serious problem.

I take a pretty strong, conservative stance on gun control and the rights of the people to own arms. I see no viable reason why we need conceal-and-carry laws, but I do see valid reasons why persons should be allowed to keep arms.

Amendment 2 of the Bill of Rights reads as follows: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The issue comes down to the interpretation of the law and if it applies to individuals or not. I really think an interpretation that limits an individual’s rights to own a firearm is revisionist history, but this is still a contested issue.

I do not pretend to have the answer to our violent ways. Sure, there are historical implications. we tend to act like cowboys, do we not? Most human cultures have had their share of violence and war and whatnot. We Americans are special in our anger. I think banning guns and scrubbing our children's literature is not the answer. In fact, I have a hypothesis that some of our attempts to curb our violence in children are actually fueling the fire. That's vague I know. I haven't thought it through yet so I do not want to publish more on those thoughts yet.

Opposing gun control is a strange stance for a typically left-leaner, I know. But as I have always maintained: I am a Demublican.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

No Surprise that OTC Bond Issue Failed

I would have been surprised to see the OTC bond issue pass. In the minds of many, taxes are just too high. Considering my family is one job down, I cannot help but think of my own property taxes coming in December. Really, the OTC issue is not about more taxes. It is about OTC itself and the institution’s use of money and expansion of programming that may, or may not, be necessary.

In the past, when an OTC issue has been voted down, the institution has found ways to build and expand anyway. This very thing happened in the mid 1990’s. Voters remember those things. If OTC can get it done without our taxes, then why vote to increase taxes? This philosophy may not be applicable with this particular vote, but the idea is there.

There is more. A lot of people feel that OTC has expanded, and continues to expand, beyond its intended purpose. Still others are opposed because of the idea of tax-supported higher education. Remember, OTC is not a public school. It is higher education and for some, using property taxes to give some a free (or reduced) college degree is wrong.

Whatever your particular opinion, and I am not giving mine, OTC has a problem in the community as indicated by the overwhelming negative vote yesterday.

Jason, and Sniderman have both had interesting discussions on the OTC issue on their blogs. Give them a click.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

'Old Guard' Gets New Rocker

Left is Dad wearing the rocker from his uniform from 1966.
Right is a member of the Drill Team showing off his rocker.


The Seaman pulled Dad aside and asked for his pocket knife. Dad obliged, opening his blade and handing it to the sailor. The soldier pulled off the top of his uniform and delicately cut the threads holding the “Ceremonial Guard” patch, known as a “rocker”, from the right shoulder. He handed it to Dad.


Cutting the rocker off his uniform to give to Dad.


I’ve been to many a Veteran’s Day celebration and I have never seen a soldier take a patch from his uniform and give it to a veteran. It’s just not done. Current soldiers meet old vets all the time. This was different. Membership into the US Navy Ceremonial Guard is elite. There are few members. They said as much, stating that they rarely meet an “Old Guard” as they called him. “It’s an honor for us,” said one seaman.

They took notice of Dad, immediately. He was wearing his black leather Navy jacket. To it, he has sewn many of the patches from his old Navy uniform. They noticed his rocker right off and wanted to talk with him. One solider asked Dad if he would sign his white glove. “I’ll hang it above my bed, right next to my picture of the President,” he exclaimed loudly.

I think it was a bigger deal for them to meet him than it was for him to meet them. The Commander lamented that he did not know that Dad would be there ahead of time. He would have liked for Dad to sit and talk with the sailors and tell them tales of days gone by.

The team was incredibly precise. It is, after all, their job to be and they did their job well. To see them in person is, well, indescribable. To have them in such awe over meeting one of their own is simply breathtaking. When it came time for groups photos, they insisted he join them.


The US Navy Ceremonial Guard Drill Team.


I am glad that I was there to share in the moment. If you’d like to see all the photos, you can check them out here. The photos in this post are low res. Go to my photo site to download photos suitable for printing.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

All Hallows Eve 2007


Forget the fact that I picked up a stomach flu late on Halloween night and spent the night with the porcelain god: This Halloween was the greatest I’ve had in years. I tend to lean to the side of the dramatic at times. Halloween really brings it out. After I got home from school, I dug through the garage and found my bloody screw. Rock on!

By 6 p.m. I had a screw tightly in place and blood dripping from my skull. Off to church I went with Morticia Addams and a beautiful serving wench in tow. Come dusk we left the hallowed halls and made our way for the in-laws’ home. The old Mom had the brilliant idea of detouring through the cemetery. The kiddo was a bit nervous but she was game.

We did our thing. Passed our candy and comics at the in-law’s home. I had a whole group of what appeared to be third grade boys pretty nervous, but in the end they wanted the comics more than they were scared of me.

On our way home we saw a home at Grand and Weller that was really decorated. We stopped and could hardly find a place to park. The block was full of costumed kids. We spent the next hour trick-or-treating in that neighborhood. I walked, all zombie-like, moaning and groaning and dragging my foot behind me (all the while carrying our little dog). Kids scattered, people stared and some talked. They loved it and I did too. The wife tried to take pictures, but they didn’t really come out. It was dark. Haunting those streets was the most fun I’ve had in years. The kids really got a kick out of it. Just enough blood and horror to make it fun, but not enough to really scare the kids. I never approached or even looked at the little ones.

Click here to see all the Halloween Pics.


Friday, November 02, 2007

My Dad Did This Back in the Day

My Dad was in the US Navy during the Vietnam era. Before he was stationed on the USS Sylvania, he was a member of the elite US Navy Drill Team, an honor bestowed to a few lucky men. Well back then it consisted only of men, but since then it has opened up to women. It is a source of pride for him, as well it should be, as it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be selected then make it through the training. Trainees report that they receive only 1-2 hours of sleep per day during training.

I’ve seen pictures and video of the US Navy Drill Team (seen above), but I have never seen them live. We Ozarkians are lucky that the US Navy Drill Team is coming to Branson on Tuesday to help celebrate Veteran’s Day. Incidentally, that is the day after Veteran’s Day. My little family is heading to Branson High School on Tuesday night, 7 p.m. so I can finally have the chance to see what my father so proudly did during his service to the United States.

It is a good chance that there aren’t any other members of the US Navy Drill team within 50 or 100 miles of Branson as those selected are few are far between.

Dad’s drill team was the one who serviced Robert Kennedy’s funeral. The family chose to have family and friends carry Bobby’s casket, so Dad’s team didn’t fold the flag for him, but they were there and ready.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween Ya Freaks!

This is my Halloween outfit for school.
I love Halloween.


I thought about dressing up for classes today, but choose instead to just wear my Rob Zombie skull cover, skull earrings and skull shoes. Is that one bad boy of a bandana or what? I have some latex appliances somewhere, but I must have moved them to the attic. Too bad. I have a bloody screw that I usually put in my head. You know. Then I can go as a typical American who is getting screwed by the Bush administration. Oh, come on. That’s funny.

I suppose many would consider us liberal Christians as we are attending our church's Halloween party. It is really nothing more than a dress up party for kids and adults alike. I think it's great, harmless fun, but you are free to disagree (and post as much) if you like. The House of Jack chooses to just have fun with it all.

After church we are headed to the in-laws’ home to doll out candy and comics to the younglings. I’ll let you know how the comics go over. I hear tell that the in-laws have all kinds of yard stuff, including a fog machine or dry ice or some kind smoke making device.

The girly is going as Morticia Addams and the wife will be some serving wench from medieval times. Sounds like fun to me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Church of Christ is Not A Protestant Church

I don’t remember how we got on it, but my Aunt Bessie, who is a staunch member of the Church of Christ congregation, asked me if I supported the Catholic Church. I really expected her to call it a cult, but she did not. I got the chance to push a button and could not resist.

“Well, yeah. Why not?” said I.

Then she started in. Next thing I knew she was telling me how the Church of Christ is the oldest church, much older than the Catholicism. [Brakes being applied]. Whoa, Nellie. What the hell is that all about? My knowledge of history may be rusty, but I could have sworn that Christianity started with the Catholic church and that Protestantism was born thereafter. Martin Luther comes to mind.

I was wrong, apparently. You see, she has been in church and studied up on the matter. An evangalist even showed her a chart once showing how the Church of Christ is a direction line to Christ. All other churches come from Catholicism.

“We aren’t Protestant,” she stated emphatically. I was then told to read up on it. Where would one go to find proof of such nonsensical rhetoric? She further informed me that her church is not a denomination of Christianity. It is Christianity as Christ meant it to be.

You cannot argue with someone like this. No such thing as debate or dialogue. She has made up her mind that Christ himself set up her church (her words) and that they practice the way Christ and the Bible demands.

Just goes to show you that just because someone is educated does not mean that they cannot be blinded by religious lies. Folks, there are plenty of those religious lies out there and even the very smart can be duped.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Beowulf' as a Graphic Novel

Beowulf is one of the most influential and oldest pieces of English literature. The author and date are unknown but manuscript is usually dated somewhere in the time of 1000 AD. It is written in Old English and is 3183 lines long. It is an epic poem, in case you were wondering and it has greatly influenced the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien. Some might surmise that Tolkien flat out ripped big chunks, but that is neither here nor there.

No doubt you have heard that the movie is on the way. I really want to see it, but I don’t think my graduate school status will allow for the frivolous expenditure of money. Fine, I’ll rent it. I am cautious though, as it is a cgi project and you never know how that will turn out. Click here for the official movie site.

What you might be interested in (and what certainly interests me more) is that a graphic novel adaptation is also now available. It is written by Stefan Petrucha and illustrated by Kody Chamberlain. Others have created comic adaptations. Click here to see some.

If you’ve ever wanted to read Beowulf but could not interpret Old English, then you can go here and read this online translation. You can click here to read more about Beowulf from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

For Whom Shall I Vote?

Oh I haven’t really made up my mind yet, but I reserve the right to change my mind multiple times, right up until I walk into the booth. Just for fun, I like to think about the candidates and all of that.

I used to like hero John McCain many a day ago, until he sold out. The old McCain seems to be back, but for my part it is too little too late. Not that I would have ever voted for him as I am not sure that our politics really lines up all that well, but I respected him for being a Lone Ranger (at least I did).

I tend to have a more liberal leaning on more issues (except abortion and gun control) and so I have been watching the Demos hash it out. Let me say up front that I like Sen. Hillary Rodham-Clinton. As a side note, I find it bothersome that the pundits on Fox Sunday morning keep calling her Hillary or Mrs. instead of Sen. Clinton. Even Tim Russert and Juan Williams make the mistake. At least those two immediately correct themselves. You will find this double standard true on the university level too. It’s not just a “Hillary” thing. Many a male professor is called Dr. So-and-So while female doctorates are referred to by their first name.

Anywho, I like Sen. Clinton fine. I find most of the things said about her are nothing more than urban legends (see two previous posts) but I am not going to vote for her. It has more to do with President George W than it does her. Sort of. I think that divisive leaders, seriously hated Presidents, do more damage to our country than we can handle. We’ve seen it with our current President. If you think President Bush has haters, just wait until Sen. Clinton becomes President. Yikes.

She is hated like no other person on the planet right now. I think many conservatives hate her more than Iran’s President or Saddam or anyone else. That really cannot be good for us. Personally, I think Sen. Clinton is the top pick for Republicans because they know so many will vote against her, which is why they keep framing the issues around her rather than dealing with the issues outright.

As far as candidates go, I have eliminated her from the list. While I think she could and would do so many good things for us, I think her mere presence would be problematic and do more harm. It has to be someone else for me, I’m just not sure who. I really like John Edwards during the previous campaign. I voted for him during the last primary election and saw him twice at Missouri State University.

There’s something about Barack that I like too. He’s a good speaker. It’s yet to be seen if he has what it takes. He did have the foresight not to invade Iraq in the first place. He gets big points for that one.

Who do you like and more importantly why?

Let's Think For Ourselves, Shall We?

I think blogger Larry might be on to more than just a simple passing thought on his post about civility. It hit home this week when an old acquaintance sent me an erroneous email about Hillary and then when the email was proven to be false, the person still refused to acknowledge or correct the wrong. See previous post for more.

Hatred of our politicians is doing us some harm. I am no fan of President Bush, but I do not hate him. I do not push lies about him and if I am mistaken in my thoughts about him, I am willing to admit it. That does not mean that I will like President Bush or his policies just because a preconceived notion of him is found to be false. It would be silly of anyone to assume that. He’s a terrible, war-hungry leader, in my opinion.

Because of his policies and refusal to admit his own wrong doings, many have labeled him King George, which is a fantastic funny. I’ve used it many times and laughed. King George gets that the crux of my criticism of the president and so it seems prudent. Unfortunately, I think this is just what has lead us to the place where our political dogma blinds our own judgment. Thus we have crazies like the subject of the post below.

So I’m going to quit using the term King George, at least in my public blog. Mostly, I do not want to get to the point where I stop thinking for myself and drink some political party’s Kool-Aid as my old acquaintance has obviously done. I’m a fan of critical thinking. Silly me.

Just Admit You Are Wrong Already!

So an acquaintance of mine from a long ago job in another town emailed me the other day. He is a conservative; that is to say that he is one of “those” conservatives-do-no-wrong types. It gets old, very old.

The pack of lies he was sending round the Internet was one about guess who … Sen. Hillary Rodham-Clinton. Imagine. Now I get it. He does not like her. That’s not correct. He hates her. He believes her to be guilty of “murder, conspiracy, treason, embezzlement, etc. etc. etc.” Fine, fine. I can live with the fact that he hates her; he is not alone.

The thing is, his forwarded email was complete rubbish. My mistake for thinking he would correct his error once I showed him that his forwarded email was a lie according to snopes.com, the urban legend website.

His response was one of the good old I-reject-your-reality-and-substitute-my-own ilk. After all, being caught in a lie is by no means a reason to admit wrong doing. Said he: “If I had perpetuated lies, I would apologize for them. As far as I know, Snopes is not an acronym for God, so what they say is NOT the gospel… .”

And this is what is fundamentally wrong with our culture. The wingnuts of politics are so entrenched in their perverse need to be win, that they refuse to stop and ponder if their own actions are as seedy as their extreme opponents. We do not need the Ann Coulters, Al Sharptons, Rush Limbaughs and Michael Moores of the world to become the mainstream, or for the mainstream to move ever closer to the extremes.

I find it disgusting, as this person was once a public school teacher. Teachers, of all people, should have ethics. Teachers should encourage healthy dialogue. Teachers should be able to take in new information and incorporate it into their scheme (which is educational goobledy-gook for the assimilation of new truth in the face of previously but erroneously held truths). Teachers, above all, should be able to admit when they are wrong and then right the wrong, putting the truth (or what is known as truth at the time) out there.

I’ve debated hot issues with bloggers before. Larry Litle and I have gone round and round before, but never once has either of us been proven to be wrong and then refused to acknowledge our erroneous thoughts. It is easy enough to do, if a person is not so egotistical and narcissistic as to believe that they are never wrong. That explains why I respect Larry and not this other person (who, to my knowledge, is not a blogger).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

South Avenue Pizza Closing?

I've heard a nasty rumor that South Avenue Pizza, located downtown, has closed it's doors for good! Anyone else heard the news and be able to confirm? If it is true, then it is a sad day for Springfield. South Avenue had some of the best pizza.

'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'

Comment away friends, because I know you will be excited to hear the news. The date and title for the Wolverine spin-off of the X-Men trilogy has been set. Thanks to AICN for the announcement, 20th Century Fox will release the movie on the official first weekend of summer, May 1, 2009. Industry people are speculating that Gambit may show up, as the crew is shooting in New Orleans.

[tipping a glass]. Here's to hoping that this script will be better than the flaccid ridiculousness known as X3.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sometimes School Beats the Education Out of Students

I was a substitute teacher in a third grade class earlier this week and it became clear to me just how powerful and potentially damaging teachers can be. We hold a great power and as we learned from Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately some teachers wield power that is detrimental to children.

The class was already in session when I entered the classroom. A sub didn’t show up, so I was called in late to substitute for a substitute. The student-teacher was conducting class and she let me know that she preferred to be the lead teacher for the day. That makes sense as she is more likely to follow the typical routine.

What proceeded was not only scary but seriously lacking in professionalism. This young lady from Evangel, handed out warnings like a parade float volunteer throwing candy to the crowd. It was amazing. Her behavior management of choice was snapping her fingers, either in the students’ general direction or in their face. By that I mean 3-6 inches from their nose. No hyperbole, my friends. I kid you not.

She snapped at the children all day long, which was very inconsistent with her language. She constantly praised them for being good, yet dolled out verbal reprimands and finger snaps. She was also fond of whole-class punishments. When children spoke out of turn, she would generally choose to take away recess time for the entire classroom, rather than the offenders. The well-trained pre-service teacher has already gone through classes on classroom management and should have a much stronger arsenal of activities and approaches to deal with children. Personally, I find finger snapping a very degrading and disrespectful way to communicate with anyone, especially a child.

When it came time for science, she instructed the students to sit on the carpet at the front of the room. That is a good technique, by the way. Then she read to them a book about the parts of a plant. Again, very cool. Here’s the thing. The kids were interested. Very interested. They were engaged and trying to communicate their interest in flowers to her. They were saying things about the lesson and about the flowers. They asked questions and listened, for the most part. Every single time she quashed their questions and interest by telling them not to talk. Not talking was this pre-service teacher’s mantra throughout the day.

I remember a little boy getting up and asking her if he was doing a good job with his project. She dismissed him outright, refusing to look at his picture and sent him back to his desk telling him it was not time to get up or talk. It was never time for the students to talk.

When it came to reading time, several of the students were disengaged and not following directions. So I came up to their table and asked them to tell me about their book so far. I met some resistance at first, but then they opened up and got excited telling me about different animals, specifically penguins. We ended reading time, had another activity, then came back to reading. This time the pre-service teacher took control saying: I know Mr. Fat Jack is interested in your books, but this is not sharing time. You will read your books quietly to yourself. I took that as a personal rebuff to keep my mouth shut and to stay seated. Again, this pre-service teacher was more concerned with the quiet classroom rather than an interested and engaged student body.

I cannot speak for the pre-service teacher program at Evangel and I am not judging the program based on one student. However, I am curious if this teacher’s philosophy and teaching methods are a product of her own experience as a child, or if it is a part of a broader philosophy of education at Evangel University. Is this part of a teaching philosophy rooted in a biblical “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality? It could be that it is a combination of a need for control over something (in this case children) or possibly a frustration on her part to be able to teach properly. It is also possible that her supervising teacher is expecting and modeling such behavior. I also cannot help but wonder if her white, private school culture is in conflict with this north-side school.

Regardless of the reasons behind her approach, I find her methods deplorable. Snapping fingers and an obsession with the quiet classroom are the methods of antiquated teachers. She should know better, in my opinion. There was no sense of justice, fairness, equality, creativity, independence, or critical thinking skills. No wonder kids hate school. Sometimes my friends, school is the worst thing for children and we contribute when we allow poor teachers to teach.

Oh, Oh, Oh, O'Rgasm!

The student Psychology Club at MSU hosted a lecture on sexuality recently, but got more than they bargained for when O’Reilly Auto Parts threatened legal action because of the club’s fliers. No kidding.

The student organization, in what was a typical college flier, used the O’Reilly Auto Parts logo as a basis for their flier logo. O’Rgasm. It’s funny. It’s college students. Why would O’Reilly work themselves up in a lather over a college club and threaten legal action?

People get their panties in a bind for the dumbest things.

Read the article printed in the student paper, The Standard here.
Download the pdf of the letters and logos here.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Boobs

Snuggling in the chair.

This is the first time that the Boobs have slept together. They are getting along so well. We were worried how the cat would react to the new puppy. Buddy the cat has enjoyed having a playmate most of the time.

(By the way, the green, is the blanket covering my leather recliner. The daughter has been sick and we always put a blanket in my chair just in case she upchucks. I don't really want that on the leather. Normally, the blanket wouldn't be there.)

Catching Some Rays

Barkley Sunbathing

The dog found a nice play to take a nap. He loves going outside, but I am cautious as he is only 2.5 pounds and the street is right there. He and the cat were both sitting at the door earlier watching the yard, but I didn't get a pic fast enough. I barely got this one.

Dizzy, Headache, Vomiting!

It hit her hard on Thursday afternoon. I got the call on the cell phone and thank the maker I was out of school. My 7-year-old was on a field trip at Wickman Gardens when she got a pounding headache, enough she was crying in the corner. A friend told the teacher and an volunteer took her outside for some fresh air and a good hurl.

Not a stomach flu, but a dizzying little virus. I remember my days of the brown bottle flu, which led to the bed spins and eventually the porcelain god. [shudder] My daughter had the same thing sans the alcohol, but hers has lasted until Sunday afternoon.

Today she is better. Her fever is down from what was 102.1 to a cool 98 degrees today. She is up and playing with her toys finally. We usually go out and eat with the grandmother on Sunday’s but we parental units nixed the idea, opting for rest at home. Now she’s up and at em. Can’t win for losing. Still, I think it’s best just in case she has a down turn.

I hear it has been going around, so if you get it, don’t freak. We ended up going to the Urgent Care, after the regular doc on Friday forgot to work us in (even though we called twice). They took blood and did a strep test. All negative. She had a virus my friends that caused a fever, headache, dizziness and some upchucking. Nothing to do but hydrate and wait it out.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kitchen Remodel: Complete


The kitchen remodel is finished. I just realized that I did not post the conclusion to that story. You can see the many photos of the entire project here.