Friday, July 27, 2007

Some Dangerous Reading

Reading is such a great thing for the mind and yet so many people, kids and adults, find it such a bewildering hobby. Just ask Thinking Things. Boys are especially disinterested in reading, it seems.

I have my own undertakings to help bring books and readings to children and teens. Beyond comics and graphic novels there are so many other pieces of literature out there. I found two traditional pieces of literature recently, one for younger boys and the other for teens and adults. I just had to share.

By Conn and Hal Iqqulden
ISBN-10: 0061243582
ISBN-13: 978-0061243585
288 pages

I haven’t read The Dangerous Book for Boys but I suspect it would be a major player in the elementary and middle school libraries. I think I will buy a copy for inclusion in my personal classroom library. From paper airplanes and tying knots to famous battles, this book tries to recapture the active days before technology took such a hold on our youngsters. It is meant for boys and their fathers to bond and engage in something other than the everyday happenings. Be sure and check out the YouTube video about this book. What a great way to promote a book.

By J.R.R. Tolkien
Edited by Christopher Tolkien
Illustrations by Alan Lee
ISBN-10: 0618894640
ISBN-13: 978-0618894642

Tolkien fans will be pleased to have another book from Middle Earth to read. The characters will be familiar to those who have read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales but only in unfinished forms. This time the stories are complete. By the sounds of it, these children are in for some tragic times.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It has been a powerful two-and-a-half days. In between nursemaiding a wife with pneumonia, cleaning house and entertaining a 7-year-old on summer break, I have been consuming the seventh book of the mythic Harry Potter series. I got the book on Saturday afternoon and stopped reading it while the sun came up on Monday morning. The majority of my reading came in this one overnight sitting while I was free to fight alongside Harry and the others in the DA and the Order of the Phoenix undisturbed.

I was late to the Harry Potter game. I was busy with life and had little time to read when the Sorcerer’s Stone came out. I jumped aboard with the Goblet of Fire. I decided to give this series a read and bought the first one at the used book store. I read it in a day, then I scowered the city’s used books stores for the remaining three. I spent the next few weeks reading like a starved child at a buffet. I started purchasing the books new starting with Order of the Phoenix (my personal favorite).

Now that it is over, I am not sure what to feel and I cannot think out loud here as it may lead to plot spoilers and I would not wish that on anyone. So I will remain silent until I can find someone to talk with who has finished the series.

I toyed around with trying to review the book here. I am not prepared to do so. I am still absorbing the information and experience. I found a review from the New York Times, which is absent any spoilers, if you care to read.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

5:50 am

It is finished. I'm going back to bed.

The Many Secrets of Albus Dumbledor

4:22 am
Chapter 33

I couldn't sleep. The book is to exciting. I tossed and turned until 3 am until finally I gave in and picked up the book. I have about 100 pages left, so I might as well keep going.

My original prediction about the great death question was wrong. It is obvious now.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dumbledore's Army

Sunday Night
11:11 pm
Chapter 31

The teenage rebel rousers known as Dumbledore's Army kick ass. It's past my bedtime and this book is really starting to kick it in. I don't want to quit. I have less than 200 pages left, but they will have to remain until tomorrow. The next chapter: The Battle of Hogwarts. That has to be a great chapter.

A Suspicion Arises

I have my first real suspicion, based on the text, of who may be the one to die in the last installment of Harry Potter. Nothing concrete mind you, but a hunch. I got the idea at the end of chapter 15.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Special Delivery

Attention muggles and magical folks alike! Don’t be bothering me. I’m busy reading the last installment of the Harry Pottery series. It was delivered by broom today straight from and I am sitting myself down in my chair and devouring it as soon as this post is done. Food? Who needs food? Okay, JACK has to eat but other than that, the hope is to read, read, read.

If you are a fan and want to chime in on this book, then leave your comments. Under no circumstances are you to release who dies.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Remodeling Project Update

We’ve hired a contractor and picked out our cabinets. Now it is a waiting game – waiting for the cabinets to come in which only takes 4-6 weeks. Remodeling a kitchen is like trying to eat a whole cow in one bite. There are so many decisions to be made right away and it can be overwhelming. Of all the possible remodels, the kitchen is the most important. It’s one of the only places you can pour money and get it back when you sell the house. Building on a budget is hard my friends and I must confess that we have already passed our budget. We didn’t realize how much cabinets would cost. The amount we initially guessed it might cost was very low. Such is life. We have started to get things out of the kitchen/living room and packing things away. We will post pictures when the whole deal is done.

Little Sturgis Cancelled Due to Pneumonia

My first trip for the summer has been cancelled, at least for me. My Dad and I were heading to Sturgis, KY for the annual Little Sturgis biker rally. It is a very feral time. This rally is made up mostly of hard core 5-percenters (as the real biker guys are known) and a few RUBs (rich urban bikers) such as myself.

The wife got herself a bit of summer time pneumonia. Bless her heart, she is being a real trooper. Normally, my spouse is not very good patient. This time around she is really sick and she is trying her best to make the best of it. Despite the fact that my mother would come and nursemaid her while I am gone, I just can’t leave her. I’m in dutch with the wife for not going, but I’ll live with it.

Probably a good decision in the long run. Neither my daughter nor I feel very good today. Nothing in our chests yet, but it could turn South easy enough. Just what I need to do: ride a motorcycle back from Kentucky with a fever and pneumonia.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Raining Cocks and Dogs

Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Ear-chomping. Steroids. Gambling. They have all taken down some of society’s most worshiped. We are so lucky to be able to add another vice to that list: dog fighting. Of all the things to have as an illegal hobby, Whats-his-nuts chose dog fighting. I don’t get it.

In the days of yore, JACK lived closed to Arkansas and had seen his share of little white houses spattered all of over the yards of some nefarious hillbilly characters. I have never seen a cock fight in all my days, but I have witnessed their little homes and I know the “sport” exists. I like boxing, and really enjoy mixed martial arts full contact fights. The difference between boxing and dog fighting is that grown-ups can make the decision to beat themselves stupid for my pleasure. There is no choice for cocks and dogs. (I wonder how many times I can work the word “cock” into a story?)

According to reports, Michael Vick was not just gambling, but he was a big part of running the show. I sense anger and fear in him. Could be that dog fighting was the only thing that fulfilled his blood lust. Fortunately for us he hadn’t made it up to chomping off the ear of an opponent or killing his wife to pieces. I sure hope that if the cops found blood-soaked leather gloves that they will not let Vick try them on in the trial.

I wonder what he says is the reasoning behind all of this senseless carnage?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Special Schools for Special People

Did you notice the announcement in Sunday’s paper? Springfield shall be the home of yet another private Christian school. Christian Education Cooperative (CEC) will cater to African American boys and offer classes from Kindergarten to fourth grade. Founder Barbara Smith stated that while the school is for black males, boys of other ethnic backgrounds “won’t be turned away.”

This brings up a whole host of questions, my friends, I am not sure that we will like the truth.

  1. Are African American children getting something less than a quality education in the same school as their white counterparts?
  2. Are boys somehow being discriminated against while n the same schools as their female counterparts?
  3. Are special schools, any specialized schools regardless of type, better equipped to provide a higher education than more inclusive schools? For that matter, does the type of segregated school (gifted, special ed, all-boy, all-girl, homosexual, religious) setting have an impact?

These are not easy questions to answer. All across America we are experimenting with different types of specialized schools for all types of specialized communities. We have special schools for gifted students and those with disabilities (although the latter are becoming less common). We even have special schools for gay, lesbian and transgendered teens.

The simple existence of these schools begs the question: How much of an impact does the school setting and atmosphere have on a child’s educational abilities? I am sure there are studies on the subject, but I have not yet investigated the research. I would like to know if student achievement can be appropriately measured (apples to apples) and shown to increase as a result of the school setting alone. Simple anecdotal evidence – stories of my friend’s cousin’s aunt’s son who was doing terrible in school until he went to the All-Boys, Latino School for Disabled Scientologists – does little to actually demonstrate that specialized schools are indeed more successful at helping children reach their potential.

My first thought, my initial reaction, is rooted in the home environment. Children whose parents are interested and involved in their young lives will, as a whole, do better in school. Home-schooled students make my point. You can take any child who is struggling and having behavior issues and bus that student from school to school. That will fix nothing. However, if that student finds the right teacher, the mentor who takes an interest in the youngling, a pseudo-parent if you will, then that is what makes a difference in the child’s life.

A child who is discriminated against because of his gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual preferences (or who perceives to be discriminated against because of these issues) may very well be more likely to succeed in an environment where he is welcomed. In that case, it goes back to someone who takes an interest in the child.

From my own perspective, I suspect that our culture has changed so drastically that boys are now the ones being discriminated against while in the classroom. Especially on an elementary level, I think that many lesson plans and behavior management procedures are designed for a more female-oriented population. I think that some classrooms are designed for females and that boys are punished for their interests.

Do boys require their own school? I am not prepared to scientifically defend that boys are discriminated against, let alone that they need their own school. It is something that needs more research and investigation.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Give Comics Not Candy for Halloween

I know it is early to talk about Halloween. Too early really, but comics must be ordered ahead of time, so I am giving you ample warning to head to your comic book shop and order this year’s hot Halloween treat.

If you love comics and want to promote literacy, then Diamond Comic Distributors has a deal for you. In conjunction with Archie Comics, Gemstone Publishing, and Marvel, Diamond is putting together a Halloween comic deal. Click here for the press release.

Rather than Butterfingers, Tootsie Rolls, and popcorn balls you can give the gift of literacy in the form of mini-comics. That’s right. You can be the coolest house on the block, and the healthiest for that matter, by giving out comics on Halloween night rather than the traditional sugary fare. These will be smaller comics designed to fit in most trick-or-treat buckets and bags and each will be 16 pages.

There will be three different comics, one from each of the three publishers. They will be available in packs of 25 and are supposed to ship on September 27. No word yet on how much the bundles will cost and if the bundles will include all three titles or just one title per bundle.

Uncle Scrooge: The Hound of the Whiskervilles
From Gemstone Publishing
By Carl Barks

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man
From Marvel Comics
(cover not yet available)
B Fred Van Lente and Michael Golden

Little Archie Halloween
From Archie Comics
(cover not yet available)
By Dexter Taylor and Bob Bolling

Thursday, July 12, 2007

POO Cheerleader

When my daughter gets older, she is going to kill me for telling these kinds of stories on my blog. Simple pleasures in the life of a blog parent. My tiny tot sometimes has problems with her tummy hurting. It’s been an ongoing thing and is really pretty normal. Kids hate to go number two.

After making sure that the problem was not something more serious, we have elected to push the fluids, the Metamucil– 7 going on 70 – and of course the encouragement. I am a poop cheerleader. That’s right a cheerleader for the bathroom duties. The youngling hated it at first, but she’s getting used to it and usually finds it funny. I go through the whole bit: clapping, raising my hands, and even giving the occasional kick. It’s great fun. I even wrote my very own Poo cheer:

P Double-O
P Double-O
P Double-O
Push out the poop.

P Double-O
P Double-O
P Double-O
Push out the poop.

This can be repeated, shouted, as many times as is needed to push that little devil right on out. Whatever it takes to encourage the kiddo. It’s never a dull moment in the HOUSE OF JACK.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Rest of the Summer

Now that I’m out of school I have plans, most of which include my daughter. First of all, my wife and I have decided to use get a loan and remodel our kitchen. It is in sorry shape, I tell you what. The scratch-n-dent cabinets are original to the house built in 1964 and there was not much consideration toward space efficiency back then. That shall be remedied soon. We are installing new cabinets. The carpet – oh the carpet – is on its way out. We have hardwood floors in the three bedrooms, hallway and living room. For some strange reason the rest of the house (dining room, kitchen, utility and half-bath are all linoleum or carpet.

I have I ever mentioned how much I despise the vile crap trap that is known as carpet? Young families with children just cannot keep carpet up. It’s too hard. We are ripping it up and putting down hardwood floor – solid bamboo actually. We are especially excited about the bamboo because we got a great deal on it. It is a green product and it is also a very hard wood.

You cannot beat a good deal with a stick. So when we found solid bamboo at a great price, then we jumped on it even though the builder will not be ready for another three weeks. Bamboo only takes about seven years until it is ready to be harvested for flooring. So it is considered to be a renewable resource. If we can go green, and afford it, then that’s what we want to do. Besides, everyone I’ve talked to says that bamboo is a very hard floor and should stand up to the wear and tear of a FAT JACK family.

Later this month my Dad and I are going to Sturgis, KY for the annual Little Sturgis Biker Rally. This rally is what the real Sturgis (in South Dakota) was 25 years ago. It’s a lot of fun in the hot sun, but we like it.

In August, my wife, daughter and I are heading to Chicago for the annual Wizard World Chicago comic book convention. This will be fun, make no mistake about it, but it is also directly related to my master’s thesis. The cool aspect is that we are taking the Amtrak out of St. Louis. That should be an adventure.

In between those major events, my kiddo and I are going to White Water, Silver Dollar City, Celebration City and to visit family. Life is good, my friends. Life is good.

Pictures of the remodel, the biker rally, and the comic book convention will trickle in as they occur.

Another Semester Down

I’ve put another semester behind me. This one was quick but intense as I had 16 weeks of graduate classes compressed into 4 weeks. The upside is that I have the rest of the summer off. I am pulling my daughter out of summer camp and we are going to have fun doing all kinds of things. Some work, some play, but all good stuff.

It feels great. I can’t wait to hang out with her.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Blog Roll Update

Haven't update my blog role lately. I just haven't messed with it for some reason. Finally got around to it and added WELCOME TO THE REVOLUTION and CORNER OF THE SKY. If I have neglected to add you to my blog roll (and you wish to reciprocate) then email me.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Good Thing I'm Still in School

School is all about learning, and as mature and thoughtful as I might consider myself to be, I can still go to school and feel the fool. I had my own d’oh moment today while in my Economics for the Elementary Teacher class.

The assignment was to choose an economics-based field trip for your students. With comics on the brain I thought it would be fun to go to the local comic book store and examine what it takes to run a small business. There are tons of economic concepts to apply: unlimited wants, opportunity cost, goods and services, and resources (human, natural and capital) and I thought it would be fun.

Toward the end of my 10-minute presentation I saw the looks of my peers and I knew something was wrong. Ever so delicately, my instructor mentioned that he clued into some possible red flags. Two other students, who are currently teaching, agreed.

The issues were simple enough, but they managed to escape me during the planning process. Comic books shops sell role-playing games (dungeons and dragons) and kids card games (Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon.) Because adult men are also a target audience for these games, this was deemed as unacceptable.

The rationale here – and remember this has come from seasoned teachers and a very well seasoned male professor who taught elementary for many years – was that many parents object to things of this nature. Some of the comments based on previous knowledge:

One teacher mentioned that she read a piece of children’s literature once that had some mention of magic in it. Parents complained.

The professor stated the he had a teacher friend who got in trouble for having the students use a pair of dice in a game. The parents complained, and the teacher was reprimanded, because dice are kin to gambling. Even though the game itself was not gambling there were dice and that was a problem.

It was agreed that the trip to the comic shop would more than likely raise the ire of several parents and it would be advisable for me to reconsider this as a field trip choice. Thankfully, I was not asked to redo the assignment. I was just warned about the potential dangers.

I certainly do not think that mention of magical powers in a book is any kind of problem; however, I respect the fact that other people feel that way. I happen to think it is an abomination to pitch such a fit over the Harry Potter books, but parents do and I respect their right to have an opinion. My goal is not to create problems with myself or to try to change the opinions of the parents. Rather I am there to help my students become discerning citizens who can and will think. If that means that I need to find an alternate field trip then I can easily think of a substitute.

I guess the issue has more to do with the fact that I did not consider such a trip to be a problem to begin with. Now that I have been alerted to the potential pitfalls, I can understand why such a trip could be controversial, especially for this area. Maybe we could go to Bass Pro Shops, which is headquartered here, unless all the dead animals would pose a problem for anyone.

It’s hard to think out of the box when you are confined to one.

Monday, July 02, 2007

8 Things You'll Regret Asking About

Mary Helen who keeps her own Corner of the Sky popped me for a meme. Dang. I never know what to say on these things. I’ll give it a go, with the same vigor I had as a former government employee.

ICHI: I teach Kenpo Karate to children ages 5-12. They crack my martial butt up. (Now you know why the numbers are all in Japanese (i.e. ichi, ni, san, etc.).

NI: I’m going back to school to get my master’s in elementary ed. Oh wait! Most of you already knew that. I tend to mention it as often as I can.

SAN: I blog in my underwear. If you come knocking on my door, you should expect that I will answer the door in my underoos. It’s how I roll. One unbearably hot summer when my wife and I were first married and didn’t have air conditioning in the rental house, we spent lots of time in our skivvies. We were church shopping that year and when we got home from one church wed took off our clothes. Two old ladies from the church showed up on our doorstep to thank us for coming to church. I unashamedly opened the door in my white boxer briefs. (I wear colors and patterns too.) They said their piece and headed for the hills. You know, no one from the church ever visited us again. I have no shame. You’ve been warned. (I think the Old Stone would have liked that story. He had a bizarre fantasy of me riding my bicycle naked.)

SHI: I’ve been to the Indy 500 race once. There’s a story there, but I’ll save that one.

GO: I love to write. I do it everyday. I’ve started more than one book and I’ve been approached by a well connected person to write her story.

ROKKU: I use a Mac because I care about quality. I’ve converted another PC user to the world of Mac. He agrees that it is faster and easier. He thought the Mac-is-better-than-PC stuff was all bunk until he got one himself. Now he sees the light. Good for him, says I.

SHICHI: My first car was a 1956 Chevrolet Tudor. Red and white and fast as Hell. I got chased in it once, when I was a kid. I out ran the sheriff. He was not too happy and he let me know it the next time he saw me in town.

HACHI: I jumped off the Highway 86 bridge over Tablerock Lake when I was in high school. It was midnight and it was really dumb. There’s more to that story too, but I shouldn’t tell here.

Now I have to choose some other poor chumps to do this. That's how it goes, right? I like this part because I get to annoy my friends: Larry, Bryan (who never posts anymore, so this should sufficiently annoy him), Ron (who is probably too busy) and the always funny, Desdinova.

Libby Scoots Past Prison

Scooter Libby is not going to jail because King George communted the top GOP operative's sentence. The old buddy system is hard at work. Libby will still have to pay his $250,000 fine and remain on probation for two years, but he will not be serving time.

Anyone who is shocked or surprised, please leave the room. You are too stupid to have an opinion. Notice that King George never said that Scooter was innocent. He just didn’t want him to go to jail. In the end, I doubt it will matter much. Seems like many Republicans wanted their boy saved by the administration in some kind of nose-thumb to former President Clinton for not being hung from the gallows. Why this has anything to do with Clinton is beyond me, but that’s politics. Doc417 has a hard-on for Simple Thoughts and the Repugs have a blue-vein boner for Clinton. Oh well. You can’t trust people anyway. Hell almighty, people celebrated when OJ got off. Let the Repugs have their Scooter pie. It won’t affect the elections.

The Dems? Well they will be pissed and carry on and then they will have to deal with the fact that they didn’t get their pound of flesh. Life goes on. Maybe Scoot can write a book later about how he would leak a CIA operative’s name … if he really wanted to, that is.

It must be good to be rich and well connected.