Friday, November 30, 2007


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:

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

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

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

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

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.