Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Well What'dya Know...

During this festive Holiday season, we celebrate a host of miracles: zombie Jesus came back from the dead, a Jewish candle burned for 8 days (maybe it was one of those thick Costco ones?), and a long time ago people gave presents in boxes to slaves (see Boxing Day).

But much more important than all of those things is the fact that the Blazers are 3-1 over the past week.

After Greg Oden split his patella like so much kindling, I was preparing myself to write a post on the death knell of the 09-10 NBA season. We were headed for the draft lottery and we'll try again next year. The Blazers were lunch meat and nothing good would ever happen for this franchise again.

Then a funny thing happened.

The Blazers had so much talent yet they got blown out each night.
Even Aldridge and Roy couldn't keep this sorry team right.
And Coach Mac, with his coach-feet ice cold in the snow stood puzzling and puzzling, until his puzzler was sore.

Then he thought of something Kevin Prichard hadn't before!

He realized that maybe winning came without our 7 foot low post threat.
It came without expectations, or trips to the finals.
It came without rivaling the Lakers, or even matching the Nuggets just yet.
There were still games to fight for, still teams to embarrass.
This team had heart and gosh darnit don't forget Bayless.
Maybe winning doesn't come from potential,
Maybe only putting the ball in a bucket was quite so essential.

Maybe winning, just maybe, only took a little bit more.

And what happened then?

Well in Oregon they say,
the Blazers heart grew three sizes that day.
And the minute that their heart didn't feel quite so tight,
They flew down the court, and hustled each night.

And they brought back the defense
And the offense even if in a bit of a streak
And he...Roy himself...
Almost won player of the week.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice!

It's Monday. Robyn has finished all of her finals, and I had my last day before the break on Friday. Tonight, we're taking the train up to Chicago, then flying to Boston tomorrow afternoon. We'll be in New Hampshire with Robyn's family for Christmas, then taking either a train or a bus down to New York for a couple of days over New Year's. If you'll be around, let us know.

It being the Holidays and all, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share a few articles from Religion Dispatches with you. Robyn has been following this website for a while and has gotten me into it, and I think that it's a great way to waste time on the internet while also actually maybe possibly reading something thoughtful and intelligent.

The first article that you should read is: Tebow's Tears: Is God Really a Gator Fan? It's about Tim Tebow and how he wears his religion not only on his sleeve but also on his face, writing the chapter and verse of a Bible selection beneath his eyes for each game. The author says:

I have struggled in the past several weeks to come to terms with my own apparent prejudices. Something about these painted Bible verses offends me, and I have not yet been able to articulate a way for that reaction to be consistent. To be sure, as a scholar of religion, I am frustrated, when I am not dumbfounded, by the happy-go-lucky and freewheeling scriptural exegeses that Tebow’s weekly verse selection now prompts on national televison.

But that hardly seems fair. Tim Tebow is an evangelical Christian of impeccable pedigree, and he has used his raw athletic talent to get me, and tens of thousands like me each week, to pick up the Bible and read it. That is no mean accomplishment.

More substantively perhaps, this kind of bumper-sticker spirituality—quote a Bible verse, just one or two, and completely out of context—makes me very nervous. It invites the false assumption that one can cherry-pick from the Bible, finding the verse one needs for any occasion. If you are at a sporting match, then look for someplace where Mark describes a contest, Paul invokes athletics or a great cloud of witnesses, or some other evangelist invokes victory. There does seem to be something down-dumbing in such a biblical practice.

Religion Dispatches generally has scholars and philosophers write their article, as well as interesting peoples of different faiths, plus a few random journalists, bloggers, etc. A fun philosophical piece that you could read is Lying About Santa: The Irrelevance of Proof to the Holiday Spirit, which is in turn a response to "Beyond Belief: A Philosophical Proof of Santa Claus." You see now why I like this website.

Of course, if you're a total Grinch and would rather spend your Holidays worrying about the poor and needy in the world, well, Religion Dispatches has stuff about that, too. In today's article Changing the Jewish State and the State of Jews: J Street and the Future of Israel, author Mark LeVine writes,

The Israeli ambassador to the US recently joined the American right charging that pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian J Street put the very “survival of the Jewish state” into question. Indeed, recognizing the full humanity of Palestinians would require a radical transformation of Israeli, Zionist, and even Jewish-American identity.
Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays...


Voice Off-Camera: Hey, Kiefer. You're a pirate, man.

Kiefer: That would explain everything. [jumps into Christmas tree]

Monday, December 14, 2009

This Is Why I Always Played As Orcs

Yesterday, Robyn and I stayed in all day, eating tomato soup, drinking tea, and doing Christmas shopping online in order to avoid putting on pants.* We also watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring for the millionth time. While we were watching, I found this article, "6 Lord of the Rings Characters Who Totally Dropped the Ball," on Cracked.com. This article also contains the following YouTube video, which has forever changed how I view The Lord of the Rings:

Also, I can no longer watch the following scene without saying the line, "Look at me! I'm Blanche DuBois!"

*She has an excuse; she's sick. I'm just lazy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Too Early For Thinking

From the desk of: Joel

Maybe Greg Oden keeps getting hurt because the Norse god Odin is angry that they share the same last name. Maybe Greg Oden should change his name to Greg Smith. Or Greg Poseidon.

Robyn took me to see the Nutcracker at the Krannert Center on Sunday. It was lots of fun - I had never seen the entire ballet before - but I think that my entire experience was tainted by being raised on Fantasia. During the Chinese dance, all I could see were those cute little mushrooms running around in circles. It was hilarious.

If I were Boise St. and TCU, I would take three knees and then punt on each of my first possessions as a form of protest against the BCS for being stuck in the Fiesta Bowl playing against each other.

Robyn found this interview of Bard professor Roger Berkowitz in Harper's Magazine. Berkowitz is discussing the writings and philosophy Hannah Arendt, who is buried at Bard and is pretty much our alma mater's philosophy bff. (With the possible exception of maybe Kant.) You should read it if you have time. Some highlights:

The political lies Arendt worries about are not mere falsehoods. They are political acts in which facts are denied and alternative realities are created. In denying facts, the political liar acts to change the world, to make reality anew so that it conforms to our needs and desires. In this way, lying is at the essence of political action....

Arendt’s letter to Ellison has been seized upon as evidence that she recanted her opposition to forced integration. This overstates the case. Ellison rejects Arendt’s claim that black parents exploited their children by sending them into such an explosive situation. Arendt’s admission that she did not understand the black experience of sacrifice does not suggest that she altered her view that forced desegregation was a fundamental violation of the rights of all parents to educate their children as they wished....

After the war, she stood with Judah Magnes as a critic of the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. Instead, she advocated for a binational state that encompassed Jews and Arabs as equal citizens. Whether such a state was ever possible, many have credited Arendt with prescience in her prediction that a Jewish state would necessarily be chauvinist, that Palestinians—as second class citizens—would emerge as refugees presenting an insolvable problem, and that Israel would become a militarized state....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

5 Thoughts On A Thursday

1) Oh, man, I am totally ready for the Civil War game tonight! I have been Oregon-geeked out all day today; I've got my Ducks sweatshirt, my Dead Guy Ale*, my copy of Sometimes A Great Notion. I am psyched!! Go Ducks!

2) By the way, does anybody else think it's a bit odd that it's the Oregon-Oregon State game that has become the Civil War game? I mean, doesn't every University of X play X State at some point during the season? And it seems to me that, of all the 50 states, Oregon may have the least to do with the actual Civil War? (On second thought, that's probably exactly the reason why. There's probably be a lot more violence if they started calling Illinois vs Illinois State or Georgia vs Georgia Tech the "Civil War" game. Who gets to be the Blues? Who's the Greys?)

3) I actually did end up answering that student who asked me, "What is philosophy?" I fumbled about a bit, and then told him that it was kinda like psychology - because he knew what psychology is - in that it's a way to learn about people and find out why they do the things that they do, except that philosophy is also interested in trying to find out what are the right and wrong things for people to do, and to find out why those things are right or wrong. This seemed to satisfy him, and I was able to breath easy knowing I wouldn't have to get into the whole Meaning of Being issue.

4) I'm sorry about the big vacancy at the end of November there. Robyn and I were in Ohio for Thanksgiving, visiting her grandparents and other relatives. As you might have guessed, the grandparents don't have WiFi; we were able to get a weak signal from one of the neighbors if we stood in the corner of the guest bedroom at just the right time of day and held the laptop over our heads while spinning in a counter-clockwise direction. Having said that, we had a great time in Ohio, and got to eat lots of good food, drink lots of good wine, and play a lot of Bridge with Robyn's grandparents.


The Oregon bears, Jonas Stamper found, were all well fed on clams and berries, and fat and lazy as old house cats. The Indians, nourished on the same two limitless sources of food, were even fatter and a damn sight lazier than the bears. Yes. They were peaceful enough. So were the bears. In fact the whole country was more peaceful than he had expected. But there was this odd... volatile feeling about the new country that struck him the very day he arrived, struck him and stuck, and never left him all the three years he lived in Oregon.

*Only because Deschutes Brewery doesn't have a distributor east of the Mississippi. Does anyone else want to start a petition to change this sad fact?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Portland - still funny

Brought to you by Married to the Sea :

click to embiggen

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How About You Tell Me What Philosophy Is, And I'll Tell You If You're Right

A question of identity:

Can the Muppets become an internet meme, even if (a) They existed before the internet, (b) They are far cooler than the internet or anything that has ever been produced by the internet, and (c) Their popularity is in no way contingent upon the internet or internet users?

The evidence:

Wordlustitude: fan-muppet-tastic

adj. A kid-friendly version of fan-fucking-tastic.

Real citation: "@Messshy I've been chatting to Sharon Corr about it and RTed on youtube...*name drop* It's fan-muppet-tastic!!! Can't stop watching it! x"
(Nov. 27, 2009,
Andalucian Kitty, Twitter, http://twitter.com/AndalucianKitty/statuses/6125134250)

Made-up citation: "Kids today think Elmo is fan-muppet-tastic... But they don't know what I know. In the seventies, Elmo lived on coke and Satanism--and that was on a good day."

Brian Lynch: 30 ROCK is a rip-off of THE MUPPET SHOW!

Tina Fey's 30 ROCK is currently the most acclaimed comedy series on television. It's won numerous Emmys and Golden Globes and I think Pulitzers. Critics and audiences alike love the show and its lovable zany characters, and consider it one of the most original comedies in years.

And I guess it is original...if you've never seen THE MUPPET SHOW. Because, my "friends" (in quotes because I don't know or trust you, please don't be offended), Tina Fey's 30 ROCK is quite obviously ripping off Jim Henson's beloved TV show.

"You're crazy", you say? "Wow, now with the insults. This is why I don't trust you", I respond. And the I hit you up with so many facts you HAVE to concede I'm absolutely right.

November 30, 1969! This is like that time in high school when your friend "discovered" this band called Led Zeppelin and would talk about nothing else for the entire semester! The verdict: The internet has no authority over anything ever having to do with the Muppets or their popularity or their inherent cool-ness. It may only reproduce and distribute Muppet YouTube videos and make comments on LOLcats.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend Update

It's a cold and clear Saturday morning here in Urbana. I'm watching giant, cornfed midwesterners bash into each other in the Minnesota vs. Iowa game, while the radio is playing "Commodity Saturday," the all important weekly corn and soy crop report. It all feels very American. Fortunately Robyn is making some eggs benedict. Delicious, treacherous eggs benedict.

Remember what I was saying about how awesome Pac-10 football? Well, Sports Illustrated agrees with me. So there.

The senate is supposed to finally vote on the health bill today. But, wait - what do you mean that the effects of the Health-Reform Bill won't take effect until after 2013? That is, not until after 2012, when Obama has already either been re-elected or not, and after I get the chance to either show my approval or disapproval of the Healthcare in the 2012 election, and, most importantly, the bill won't take effect until the apocalyptic cataclysms of 2012? That sucks.

Yesterday was Library Friday in for our 8th grade reading and writing class, which the students really like and is a nice, relaxing way to end the work week. I have been spending most of this time reading The Diary of Anne Frank with one of our students. Yesterday, while we were reading, he suddenly turned to me and asked, "What did you major in in college?" "Philosophy." I said. "Oh." he said, and turned for a minute back to his book. After a pause, he looked at me again and asked: "What's philosophy?"


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For OR The Blazers Are Rolling

You know you spend too much time on the internet when your life revolves around how long you should wait before posting your first guest post on someone else's blog.

Conventionally, when one convinces a female to give you her number (usually through a case of mistaken identity) you wait three days before calling said girl back. Does that same rule apply to internet diaries? If you get invited to guest post, are you supposed to wait three days? Is it more appropriate to wait longer because you're terrified of causing the whole thing to jump the shark? At what point do your friends who own said blog think you've fallen off the face of the earth, or worse, mistakenly think you aren't interested in blogging?

What if the only personal reflection writing you've ever done was about which of the terrible bands you listened to in middle school had the most meaningful lyrics?

After sweating profusely for about 2 weeks, I've finally decided to make my maiden post on our friend Joel's blog. I hemmed and hawwed for a while about what this post should be about but in order to explain that I need to backtrack. Despite my enjoyment of stories about the haughtiness of cats or Manifest Destiny, my favorite Logios posts are sports related. Joel's ability to divine the BCS system is mind boggling; apparently NASA has a whole team devoted to it and they still don't understand why Oregon is ranked below USC.

So since probably last spring or fall, I have been bothering Joel to do a Blazers post. "Com'on man, they're really good." That was kind of the extent of my argument- I suppose can now see why it wasn't very persuasive. I can only guess that he got fed up with my nagging because now my boss (Joel) has demanded I put out good copy on the Blazers ASAP. So here goes:

I like the Portland Trail Blazers and they are good this year. My role here will be the occasional update on the team's progress, good games, bad games, and jokes about how old Greg Oden is. Possibly some economics too though given my bosses' (Robyn and Joel) advanced degrees, I don't plan on straying into policy or academics with any frequency. I also listen to a lot of really bad music (still) and so will probably write about that sometimes.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yes, I Do Love Pac-10 Football

While Robyn and I were eating delicious pulled pork sandwiches on Saturday at the Black Dog in Urbana, and most of the raucous crowd was hooting and hollering at the Iowa-Ohio State game, I was keeping my eye on the sports ticker that showed the following: Stanford 35, USC 21, 4th quarter. I couldn't believe what I was reading. A week after beating my beloved Ducks, the Cardinal was crushing 'SC in the Coliseum!!! This is one of the many reasons why I love the Pac-10: Anything can, and will, happen. Later that night, I watched 'Bama beat Mississippi State 31-3 in the most boring football game ever in grand preparation for their showdown next week with Chattanooga. And, with Ohio State winning the Big Ten, the Pac-10 remains the only major conference left with any drama concerning who their champ will be. The Ducks are on top for now, and it's probable that the champion of the Pac-10 will be the winner of the Toilet Bowl Civil War Game. But by my calculations, six of the ten Pac-10 teams still have a mathematical possibility of reaching the Rose Bowl:

1) Oregon (8-2, 6-1): Win at Arizona, Win vs. Oregon St.

2) Arizona (6-3, 4-2): Win vs. Oregon, Win at Arizona St., Win at USC.

3) Oregon State (7-3, 5-2): Win at Wash. St., Win at Oregon. Have Arizona lose once.

4) Stanford (7-3, 6-2): Win vs. Cal. Have Oregon lose once, Arizona lose once, and Oregon State lose once.

5) USC (7-3, 4-3): Win vs. UCLA, Win vs. Arizona. Have Oregon lose to Arizona and Oregon State. Have Arizona beat Arizona State. Have Oregon State lose to Washington State. Have Cal beat Stanford and Washington, thereby creating a six team tie for first place. The first tie-breaker would be those six team's records against one another, which would be: USC: 3-2, Arizona: 3-2, Oregon State: 3-2, Stanford: 2-3, Cal: 2-3, Oregon: 2-3. Oregon, Stanford, and Cal would all be dropped, leaving only Arizona, Oregon State, and USC, and since USC beat both Oregon St. and Arizona, they would win the final tie breaker.

6) California (7-3, 4-3): Win at Stanford, Win at Washington. Have Oregon lose to Arizona and Oregon State. Have Arizona lose to Arizona State and USC. Have Oregon State lose to Washington State. Have USC lose to UCLA. This would create a four-way tie for first between Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, and Stanford. Their head-to-head records would be: Oregon: 1-2, Stanford: 1-2, Cal: 1-2, Oregon State: 3-0..... Damn. Maybe there are only five teams that can still go to the Rose Bowl. Let me get back to you on this one.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"It takes a lot of time and a lot of welding"

From: Robyn

Scene: Joel's rereading Catch-22, watching The Simpsons, and bothering the cat with an odd, jiggling stuffed Christmas thing leftover from our Halloween party.

I'm doing homework (slightly) and reading a wedding blog (ouch).

R: "Look, these people in Portland had a Neo-Victorian Haunted Museum Wedding"

(Yes, that's a thing)

J: "Since when did Portland become the Steampunk capital of the world? Get it together Portland. Go slaughter some cows or build railroads, or something!"

R: "Their chief export is whimsy! And it's misty in Portland, helps to tarnish their brass."

J: "I don't care, they need to do something real..."

Where In The World Is Joel? Not San Diego!

One of the things that I am liking the best about living in Champaign-Urbana is feeling, once again, like a member of an actual community. For example, on Saturday, Robyn and I were strolling through downtown Champaign when we ran into our friend John, who was sipping coffee and surfing the web at a cafe. (It was really nice outside at that moment.) He asked us if we wanted to hang out, and, kind of on the spur of the moment, we said sure.

"Have you guys been to Allerton Park?" he asked us.

"What?" we said in unison.

"Oh, man! You guys have got to see Allerton Park! It is awesome!"

So we did, because it was a lovely Saturday afternoon and we happened to run into our friend John - who called his girlfriend Jean who drove us to Allerton Park - and because we didn't really have anything better to do.

It turns out that Allerton Park is awesome, and it is also absolutely insane. The park is 1,500 acres of woods and marshes that surround the Allerton mansion and estate. The estate was built as a home by Samuel Allerton - Chicago businessman, politico, and slaughterhouse tycoon - for his gay, art-collecting, philanthropist son, Robert. On the Allerton Park website, it says, "Allerton believed that art surrounded and embraced every human being through nature. His belief in the artistic power of nature led to a life-long commitment to stewardship of the land and its natural elements." I can just imagine the conversation the 20-year old Robert had with Samuel while his dad was running for Mayor of Chicago in 1893. "But Dad, I don't want to go and work in the stockyards! I believe that art surrounds and embraces every human being through nature!"

But it sounds like Robert was rather happy in his estate out in the woods, where he collected art and was a patron to both the University of Illinois and the Art Institute of Chicago. He lived there until 1946, where he and his partner, John Gregg, moved to Kauai and donated the entire estate to the University of Illinois. In 1960, Allerton officially adopted Gregg and declared him legal heir, thereby allowing Gregg to continue Allerton's legacies of philanthropy and art patronage.*

Today, the estate is a state park, one of the "Seven Wonders of Illinois," and the main building serves as a conference center. And the place is crazy-cool. Allerton and Gregg had traveled the world collecting art pieces, and Allerton Park has a mosaic of aesthetic themes coming from China, the South Pacific, Egypt, Greece, Versailles, and Duchess County, New York. (Where Samuel Allerton was born. Robert went to prep school in Massachusetts and dropped out of Harvard.)

Here are some pictures Robyn and I took on our camera phones:

The path leading up to the mansion.

A Scary Face On The Wall

Naked Lady Sphinx


And at the end of the hedgerows... "The Birth of Man." Looking good, Adam. No Eve necessary.

This is the path going out into the woods on the other side of the mansion. Only one of two things live at the end of that path: The Headless Horseman or the Erlkonig.

Or John.

This path actually goes for a ways around the estate, and there were lots of signs telling us to look out for bow hunters. We saw lots of pileated woodpeckers, and even heard an owl of some sort.

More woods. Check out that vine twisting around and choking that tree to death.

Actually, the path leads to the Fu Dog Garden. Inside that gazebo are two statues of Buddha and one of an Egyptian pharaoh, all being guarded by 22 Chinese Fu Dogs. (This was my favorite part.)

The Fu Dogs are made out of blue ceramic, and became popular during the Han Dynasty. (200 BC - 220 AD) I don't know how old these ones are.

Fu Dog!

I call the big one Bitey.

Black Fu Dog!

Anyways, that's about it. We followed a whim and ended up on an adventure to see an awesome place that I had no idea existed. I love it when things like that happen. It makes me want to go and seek out the other six Wonders of Illinois.**

*An interesting way to cope with the discriminations and legal obstacles presented to gay men and lesbians who cannot marry. Gregg was 26 years younger than Robert, but was also 61 when he was adopted.

**Fu Dog!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

As I should have said:

What frustrates me about writing is that as soon as I've committed something to print, someone else does a better job of it. Particularly Katha Pollitt's piece in the Nation on the Stupak amendment and Melissa McEwan of Shakesville on Obama refusing to stand up for women.


"You know what I don't want to hear right now about the Stupak-Pitts amendment banning abortion coverage from federally subsidized health insurance policies? That it's the price of reform, and prochoice women should shut up and take one for the team. "If you want to rebuild the American welfare state," Peter Beinart writes in the Daily Beast, "there is no alternative" than for Democrats to abandon "cultural" issues like gender and racial equality. Hey, Peter, Representative Stupak and your sixty-four Democratic supporters, Jim Wallis and other antichoice "progressive" Christians, men: why don't you take one for the team for a change and see how you like it?

For example, budget hawks in Congress say they'll vote against the bill because it's too expensive. Maybe you could win them over if you volunteered to cut out funding for male-exclusive stuff, like prostate cancer, Viagra, male infertility, vasectomies, growth-hormone shots for short little boys, long-term care for macho guys who won't wear motorcycle helmets and, I dunno, psychotherapy for pedophile priests. Men could always pay in advance for an insurance policy rider, as women are blithely told they can do if Stupak becomes part of the final bill.

President Obama, too, worries about the deficit. Maybe you could help him out by sacrificing your denomination's tax exemption. The Catholic Church would be a good place to start, and it wouldn't even be unfair, since the blatant politicking of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on abortion violates the spirit of the ban on electoral meddling by tax-exempt religious institutions. Why should antichoicers be the only people who get to refuse to let their taxes support something they dislike? You don't want your tax dollars to pay, even in the most notional way, for women's abortion care, a legal medical procedure that one in three American women will have in her lifetime? I don't want to pay for your misogynist fairy tales and sour-old-man hierarchies."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

There Oughtta Be A Law

My general support for the BCS has been rather well documented; most of you are already familiar with my love of having a system of human voters and computer programs determining which two teams get to compete for the national championship. It's just so much more aesthetic than what I see as a brute, cold, and essentially nihilistic standard playoff bracket format. It all comes down to a question of taste. But even I, on occasion, am taken aback by the audacity of some of the voters.

Honestly, I wasn't too upset about the Ducks losing to Stanford last weekend. I kind of saw it coming: Oregon was coming off of a big win and was due for a let down, Stanford had an extra week to prepare, plus the Cardinal is much better than a lot of people assumed. Also, I kind of like Stanford - they're the nerds of the Pac-10. Richard Rorty taught there. I can't wait for them to play Notre Dame in an epic clash of two powerhouse philosophy programs. But what irks me is this:

Oregon is 14th in the AP poll. USC is 11th.

According to Pollspeak.com, out of the 60 voters in the AP poll, 23 now have USC ranked higher than Oregon.

Even in the BCS, USC is 9th and Oregon is 13th.

Both teams are 7-2. Both teams have a victory over a top 20 non-conference opponent (#10 Ohio State and #16 Utah.) Both teams have lost to a Pac-10 underdog (Washington and #25 Stanford.) And, what else? Oh yes, Oregon beat USC 47-20 less than two weeks ago.

This injustice will not stand.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I'm looking at a chart that displays the subject terms assigned to a library collection as circles of varying sizes, depending on the number of items in a particular subject. The circles are placed near or far from each other depending on the strength of the connection between subject terms.

Guess which subject is the absolute farthest from "Academia"?


Sunday, November 8, 2009

And where are the french fries I did not ask for? You need to anticipate me!

Greetings, Gentle Readers

I'm delighted to have Joel capitalize on the fact that I'm too lazy to maintain a blog of my own. This will be far more efficient than yelling suggestions from across the room. First things first, I think we need some titles. For example, I am nominating myself the official Information (Mad)Scientist as well as the Czar of Lady Business.

On that note, here's some News that Makes me Angry:
Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the Stupak amendment to the health care reform bill by 290-194. This included 64 yay votes from Democrats (scumbags).

This amendment prohibits covering abortions for anyone on the prospective government health insurance plan. According to the Associated Press, "The amendment also prevents private insurers from covering abortions for anyone getting federal subsidies to help pay their premiums." Yet another instance of the Dems throwing women's health under the bus to placate a pack of obstructionist loons. Like their capitulation over a decent public option, I don't see the point of even passing a health care bill if it's stripped the elements that could make it effective.

And I'm counting down to when the Obama administration repeats their tune of "We all need to work together to find common ground over the abortion issue". This isn't an argument with two reasonable sides coming to an agreement, it's about whether we'll allow women and their health providers the freedom to control their own medical decisions.

What I can't get over is that the Republicans and the credulous are having conniptions over 'government mandating' of health care, or anything that interferes with the work of the Free Markettm in public services. Yet they see no conflict in turning around and effectively banning a procedure that could affect half the U.S. population.1

And I'd just love to know what personal medical decisions men are prohibited from making under this plan."The Democrats' original bill would have allowed people getting federal subsidies to pay for abortion coverage with their own money." Isn't this the heart of American conservatism? 'People do what they want with their money, bureaucrats be damned!' (Oh, that assumes they think women are people, doesn't it?)

You can find out how your Representative voted here: http://clerk.house.gov I'm pleased to see that Hodes and Shea Porter from NH voted no, and unsurprised to see that IL-15th's unmitigated ass Tim Johnson supports this.

There's the possibility that this could be taken out of the Senate version of the bill, so I'll be sending letters to Congress.

And to combat my woe, here's a picture of Robert Pattinson pretending to be a lobster man:
What disdain, quel ennui ! That's no way to enjoy corn, you sparkly putz...

1. By which I mean the poor part of half the U.S. population. Wealthy women will of course still be able to go to Canada or get ahold of RU-486. Don't have the funds for that? There's always back-alleys and coat hangers.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Meet Your New Bosses Friends

So as some of you may have noticed, there's at least one new name there listed under "contributors" on the right hand side bar. You see, about a month ago, R.A. and I took a trip to Oregon to announce our engagement to our folks, and while we were there we had a nice, drunken conversation with our good friend Kirby. We decided that night that Logios Dolios Eriounios - or L.E.D. - could use a little bit of an update. I haven't been doing a very good job of keeping my promise of blogging at least twice a week on a regular basis, and both Kirby and R.A. - although I'm not sure that they realized it - volunteered to join the team and add their own special insights to the blog.

R.A., as many of you know, is living with me here in Urbana while she works towards her Master's degree in Library Science. She is rapidly becoming an expert in very technical sounding areas like "information technology" and "data curation." She has also sworn to "use my library powers only for good," after having read that Swanson was using tw0-node searching to "identify a number of novel candidate viruses that were particularly amenable for future bioterror development". So maybe, if we're lucky, she will tell us more about that.

Our other new contributor, Kirby, has told me that he is already percolating some great ideas for blog posts, mostly about the Portland Trail Blazers. Kirby presently lives in Denver, CO, and studied economics in college. Once, he blew my mind when he told me that being a Marxist economist is a little like being a Christian atheist. Hopefully he'll talk more about that, but I'm also counting on him to discuss with us lacrosse, grilling, Steve McQueen, and Horatio Hornblower.

So there you have it. Kirby and R.A. can tell you more about themselves later, but now they are officially on the gun and under the ball as bloggers. I'm sure that everyone will thoroughly enjoy their wit and whimsy, or, at the very least, getting to read about something other than Wittgenstein and the White Sox for a change.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Damn Yankees!

OK, so the damn Yankees finally one, I mean, won, a World Series. A-Rod gets his ring, Jeter gets his fifth ring, the new Yankee stadium gets inaugurated with a championship, blah, blah, blah. All pomp and circumstance as far as I'm concerned. And don't get me wrong, I always root against the Evil Empire, but tonight I realized something:

The last time that the Yankees won a World Series was October of 2000. That was right before the infamous Presidential Election of 2000, and the last Fall Classic before George W. Bush became president. Now, nine years later, the Yankees finally win another Series - in the first November after Bush has left office. So, if the moral of the story that one must sometimes choose between the lesser of two evils, and if my two evils are the Yankees winning the World Series or George Bush being president, then by God I would want the damn Yankees to win it every single year.

Still, you've got to sing:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Kids Say The Darnedest Things, Day 78

Today, in the 7th/8th grade writing class, we were writing paragraphs on what the students were learning in their Social Studies classes. J- has been learning about American history, and he wanted to write about the Yankees teams of the 1930's and 40's, and about how important they were as public heroes to the American people. An excellent topic, I thought, but J- needed a little help first.

"What was the name of that guy who played for the Yankees?" he asked.

I turned to look at him.

"What?" I said.

"What was the name of that guy who played for the Yankees?" J- repeated, obviously becoming irritated with my inability to know the name of that guy.

"Babe Ruth." Sure, I thought. Why not.

"Nooo, Mr. W!" exclaimed J-. "The other guy who played for the Yankees!"

I paused, intending to make it a pause pregnant with meaning, hoping that J- would pick up on it. But just in case he didn't:

"Lou Gehrig."

"NO!" I was getting worried that J- was about to spring up out of his seat, and possibly take off his shirt, he was so upset. "His name was, like, Najeeo, or something."

"You mean Joe DiMaggio?"

"Yeah! That's it!"

Pleased with myself, and with the fact that my answer got J- writing again, I turned to help the next student.

"Mr. W?" I heard from behind my back. "Can you write that on the board?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Yes, But Can Tim Tebow Complete a Syllogism?

I just wanted to let everyone know that, needing a way to pass the time between Saturday college football games, I have officially begun the 2009-2010 season of the Ultimate Philosopher Championship. Highlights of the year thus far have included Karl Marx upsetting Arthur Schopenhauer, Aristotle defeating Plato in their annual Largest Outdoor Symposium, and Simone de Beauvoir defeating Emmanuel Levinas to take over 1st place in the wild and crazy French Division.

I am sure that you will all be glued to your computer screens this winter to find out who wins the coveted Socrates Cup. I will be sure to keep you all updated.

My inspiration:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

5 Thoughts on a Thursday

1) Our roommate, B-, and his girlfriend will be hosting a Halloween Party this Saturday. It is one of three parties that R.A. - whose social card is quite suddenly filled up these days - has us attending this weekend. One of the other two is a get together of her fellow Library students, while the other is a party hosted by a group of graduate students that I met for the first time at a screening of the latest Micheal Moore movie; that's right - they're all filthy, filthy Socialists. In fact, it's going to be a Socialist Party! (Get it?)

Actually, I am incredibly fond of R.A.'s Red friends, even if I do give her guff about it. Their political views certainly seem to be much more sound and sensible given the events of the past 18 months or so. But what I am really interested in is whether the Socialists or the Librarians will be wearing better Halloween costumes. Because they're going to have a tough time topping my costume....

2) A Duck-Rabbit.

You can also buy Duck-Rabbit beer from North Carolina. Seriously. If the guy had been smart at all, he would have copyrighted this shit.

And speaking of Ducks...

3) ESPN360.com changed my entire perspective on things last weekend. Apparently, we get a subscription to this website now because we use Comcast as our internet provider, and so last Saturday I got to watch, on my 14-inch laptop screen, Illinois vs. Purdue, Florida vs. Mississippi St. Oregon vs. Washington, and USC vs. Oregon St. It was awesome. At one point, I was actually jumping up and down in the living room, swearing at my computer, with no one else in the house except for me and the cats. This weekend, I'm going to try to fanagle my way into watching the USC-Oregon game during the various holiday festivities. I don't think that R.A. approves, but at least then, if I were sneaking away from the party every five minutes to go and stare at my computer in our bedroom or office, my costume would make some lick of sense.

And speaking of, um, Oregon sports...

4) Go Blazers! Not that I have given up on football, or even baseball even, (Go Phils), but, man, am I excited about basketball. The Blazers are going to be good. Heck, they might even win a playoff series this year! But maybe I am the most excited about having something new to talk to some of my students about that they're actually interested in. This week, for Trivia Tuesday, I wrote up some trivia questions about Kobe and LeBron, and, man, did those little eyes light up. Much more interesting than questions about Washington Irving.

Now if only I could convince them that Kobe sucks, and that Brandon Roy is much better when you consider the team as a whole.

5) And finally, sadly, I want to say that one of the kindest, funniest, and smartest people that I ever had the pleasure to know, Abe Jellinek, died last weekend in New York. It is one of the saddest events I could have ever imagined. Here is a link to the Boston Globe obituary and guest book. Here is a link to one of Abe's notes, that, I think exemplifies his brilliance and his talent. The world is a darker place without him.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mr. Joel Explains It All

Fall has Fell here in central Illinois, and the leaves cover the sidewalk, making everything rather yellow and orange and pretty, but also getting stuck to the bottom of my shoes at 6:24 am when I am sprinting in the dark trying to catch my bus.

There have been a few queries from our readers as to what the actual nature of my job is, i.e., what is it that I actually freakin' do??!! (A uniquely American concern, as Henry James has taught us.)

Well, as a teacher's aide, it's my job to, um, aid the teacher. This entails, everything from making copies of handouts and running down to the attendance office for band-aids and hand sanitizer to grading papers and leading the class when she is busy. Most of my time, however, is spent patrolling the aisles of the classroom while Mrs. R teaches, helping the students with spelling questions, catching the kids who have fallen behind up, and saying over and over and over again, "Sit down please. Please sit down. Eyes on Mrs R, now, please sit down. Please be quiet. Put that away, it's time to read. Be quiet now. It's time to sit down. Sit down please. Please sit down." There's a lot of repetition.

Most of my day - actually, exactly 75% of my day - is spent in what is called "pull" classes, which are reading and math classes designed specifically for students identified as either learning disabled or cognitively impaired. These are generally smaller classes, with students who I know well and am learning how to assist on an individual level. However, these are also the classes that require the most time on social and disciplinary issues. These are the classes that I spend the most time in, and, therefore, I have the greatest amount of my sorgen invested in them. I get to be an active member of these classes, and I like being able to get into the "groove" that is provided by the repetition, that is, by knowing what we're doing each and every day and being able to work with the kids on such a regular basis that I can clearly observe the changes that are happening within them.

The rest of my day is spent following some of the students from these "pull" classes as they go to their science and social studies classes. These other classes are "standard", which means that they have at least 30 kids each and of varying skill levels. I am less involved with the execution of these classes, but rather spend most of my time helping the students from the "pull" classes stay abreast of their assignments and, basically, get everything done on time so they can pass. These periods are nice because I get exposure to students who are working at different levels and I get to learn cool things about ecosystems and Ancient Egypt.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Three Criteria of Knowledge: A Play in Two Acts

ACT I: Discount DVD rack at the Schnucks supermarket in Urbana. R.A. and Joel have stopped to peruse the selection.

Joel: Oooh! We could get Ghostbusters 2 for $5.99!
R.A.: meh....
Joel: "Pirates of Treasure Island"? Starring Johnny Mepp?
R.A.: It can't be nearly as good as Transmorphers.
Joel: Good call.
R.A.: Here we are. Heathers. We should get this, because Ted Hughes is dead.
Joel: Don't you mean John Hughes?
R.A.: Oh, yeah, John Hughes. Who's Ted Hughes?
Joel: I don't know. Maybe he's dead, too.

ACT II: 15 minutes later. R.A. and Joel are walking with their groceries and new copy of Heathers towards the bus stop.

R.A.: Ted Hughes is dead!
Joel: What?
R.A.: Ted Hughes. He was married to Sylvia Plath. And he is dead.
Joel: Oh. (pause) So you were right when you said "Ted Hughes is dead."
R.A.: Right.
Joel: And you believed it when you said it.
R.A.: Right.
Joel: But you still didn't know it when you said it!
R.A.: Exactly.
Joel: Oh, snap!


*Saturday was a weird day for R.A. and names. She also managed to mention the great novelists "David Pynchon" and "George Hemingway" that day. Something about manly dude writers. How odd.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Theater Cricket: Richard III

About a year ago, R.A. and I were hanging out around Bryn Mawr on the North Side when we saw a flyer advertising a local production of Marlowe's The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus. It was playing just around the corner, in about an hour.

"Do you want to go?" she asked me. "But that's one of your favorite plays."

"No," I said. I was hungry and cranky and kind of just wanted to go home, but I had another reason for not going, too: "They'll just do it wrong, anyways."

Dr. Faustus is one of those pieces that I like so much that I'm really an ass about anyone else's interpretation of it. Mephisto is always played either too coy or not enough. Faustus is always either too much the sadist or way too much the martyr. I like to think that lots of people feel this way about certain plays or books or movies; one has such a relationship with the text that you become almost jealous when someone else dares to claim it as their own.

And so another play that I'm going to have to add to this list besides Dr. Faustus is Shakespeare's Richard III. I attended Barbara Gaines' production of this play last week at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, and I couldn't stop thinking during the entire performance, "You're doing it wrong!" And, although my opinion of the play may be colored by my otherwise unreasonable biases, the CST's unfortunate performance has inspired me to compile a brief list of dos and don'ts for would-be productions of Richard III:

1) DON'T try to make Richard III into Macbeth. It's not. Last winter, I saw Macbeth at the CST, and thought that they did a great job of it. However, all of the tricks that made their Macbeth exciting - a stage shrouded in darkness, strobe lights representing flashes of lightning, a loud and intimidating soundtrack, long and elaborate battle scenes - proved only to be distractions in Richard III. Richard is not a tragedy - it's a history. And while it shares many of the same themes as Macbeth, themes of power, greed, and madness, these are not the driving forces behind the play. Richard III is about politics, and how even kings and queens can be swayed by gossip, by insinuations, by appeals to their vanity. In short, if Macbeth's weltanschauung is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," Richard III's is that it is "subtle, false, and treacherous," and that it "hath a thousand several tongues, and every tongue brings in a several tale..." Gaines' production sought to gloss over this important element of subtle falsehoods and treacheries by filling her Richard with sound and fury and, therefore, meaninglessness.

2) DON'T try to make Richard come off as mad or weak. He's not. For the most part, I really liked the casting in Richard III, and thought that most of the actors did an excellent job. Two of my favorites were Phillip James Brannon as Richard's brother, Clarence, and John Lister as Richard's court rival Lord Hastings. Brannon was Malcolm in CST's Macbeth, and here he has another good performance in giving "simple, plain" Clarence an edge of quiet patience and resolve. Likewise, Lister's Hastings is a good but flawed man who deeply cares about the future of England and yet also loves his wine, women, and song. Hastings is a worthy foe for Richard, and the scene in which he is finally caught by Richard's trap is one of the most rewarding in the entire play.

Which brings us to the star himself. The part of Richard is played by Wallace Acton, and almost every line he delivered made me cringe. Acton plays Richard somewhere between a schizophrenic and an ugly caricature of a gay man. He always seemed to be pawing at the other characters on stage, often literally, and with a limp wrist, coming up into their space from below, like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein. The most horrendous examples of Acton's overacting is in one of Richard's final and most powerful soliloquies, when, on the eve of his final defeat, he says, in what could be a moment of sobering Realpolitik: "I shall despair. There is no creature loves me; and if I die no soul shall pity me: nay, wherefore should they, - since that I myself find in myself no pity to myself?" Rather than playing this scene as a kind of dark revelation, Acton delivers his lines almost exactly like Andy Serkis' Gollum from The Two Towers, all hissing and animal panic. Finally, Acton, like Feldman's Igor, is constantly glancing over his hunched shoulder at us, rolling his eyes and smirking, trying to get us "in on the joke." Which brings us to the last edict:

3) DON'T play Richard III as if it were a comedy. It's not. While there is a lot of humor in Richard III - especially in Richard's wit and in the absolute gall with which he goes through his schemes and manipulations - Baines' production often overplays its hand in showing this kind of perverse humor. The result is that I kept getting the impression that I was watching a political satire rather than a drama. And the secondary result is that the characters therefore come off as buffoons, as mere caricatures of people and not as the actual people themselves. This kind of lampooning of the political would be appropriate for something more modern or Brechtian - I did think of Jean Genet's Le Balcon more than once during the performance - but it then loses a certain sense of power that I think the play ought to convey. It is important for the audience to remember that Richard's foes and rivals - Lord Hastings, Elizabeth Woodville, Rivers and Grey - are very powerful and competent people. They are not mere dupes, and humiliating them as such, or letting the audience share in Richard's smugness at their being manipulated, cheapens Richard's ability to triumph over them. And this, in turn, further alienates us from the character of Richard, and makes us unable to appreciate how he rises to the power and why, once he is on the throne, he is unable to retain that position.

The CST's performance of Richard III seemed to not understand that the play works because it is about ordinary humans placed in extraordinary situations. Instead, Baines sought to substitute spectacle and symbolism for subtlety and realism. Richard III is a great play that signifies a great many different things. It symbolizes nothing.

Richard III
by William Shakespeare
directed by Barbara Gaines
September 23 - November 22, 2009
Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Acton as Richard. Wendy Robie as Elizabeth. Demetrios Troy as Rivers, Juan Gabriel Ruiz as Grey, and John Reeger as Stanley.

The Chicago Tribune was equally unimpressed.

The Sun-Times seemed to like everything about the play that I disliked.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Oregon vs. Oklahoma: An Analysis





3,790,060 (27th)

3,642,361 (28th)


98,466 sq. mi. (9th)

68,898 sq. mi. (20th)


Round square. Also known as an “or-agon.”

Pan. Possibly a cast iron skillet.

Electoral Votes



Last Voted for a...

Republican in 1984 (Reagan)

Democrat in 1964 (Johnson)

Infamous serial killer

Ted Bundy

Timothy McVeigh

Eccentric indie rock band

The Decemberists

The Flaming Lips

Act of Native American Genocide

Rogue River Indian Wars

The Trail of Tears

Great Blue-Collar Novel later adapted into a film starring Henry Fonda

Sometimes A Great Notion

The Grapes of Wrath

Iconic commodity expressing the principle of Manifest Destiny

The Oregon Trail



Warning: What Proceeds Is A Long and Rambling Rant Concerning College Football. Proceed With Caution.

I know what you're thinking. "Man, it has been a long time since Joel has blogged about sports. I really wish that he would have a nice, long sports blog for me to read. Those are always my favorites!" Well, not to worry. Jake Peavy won his first start for the White Sox last night, and the latest AP football rankings were just released, so I have lots I want to tell you about.

I must admit, first, that things have been looking pretty grim for me and my sports teams lately. The Sox completely fell apart in August, going 2-8 on a crucial road trip to New York, Boston, and Minnesota, basically killing any chances that they had of making the playoffs. But they did win their make-up game at Wrigley, thereby winning the season series against the Cubs, and, in the end, that's all that really matters, right?

Besides, I thought, the White Sox falling apart will just let me dedicate my full attention to College Football, right? And then the Oregon Ducks go out on their season opener and embarrass themselves on and off the field against Boise State. So please pardon me for just not feeling like talking about sports for a while.

But then yesterday comes around, and I get to watch most of the Oregon-Utah game from an Applebee's off of I-57 in Champagne, and the Ducks beat - albeit sloppily - a top 20 team that hadn't lost in 2 years and had won last year's Sugar Bowl. Huzzah! And then, to top it off, when I get back home I discover that the Washington Huskies beat USC! Oh, twist!

So I finally had a reason to go to bed happy last night. But I was lying, waiting for sweet slumber to overtake me, I couldn't help but wonder: How will the AP vote tomorrow? They have to punish USC, but the Trojans still need to be ranked above Ohio State. Brigham Young got routed by Florida State at home, but does that mean that they're now going to be below an Oklahoma team that they beat just two weeks ago? My head was spinning.

I woke up this morning, put on my Spider-Man pajama pants, made some coffee, and then settled down to discover - to my horror though not my surprise - that the AP voters had placed Oklahoma at 10th, USC at 12th, FSU at 18th, and BYU at 19th. This is why I have so much sympathy for the mid-majors. Brigham Young has the same record as Oklahoma and beat them in Oklahoma, and yet the voters say that Oklahoma is nine spots better than BYU in the rankings. Furthermore, the voters are saying that it's better to lose at home by one point with your quarterback playing half the game than it is to lose by three points on the road without your quarterback for the entire game. Thhhhppbttt!!

Of course, I have my own ulterior motives for my discontent. All the clouds that lour over my house have been put there by the Oklahoma Sooners. You see, what a lot of people here in the midwest don't realize is that, even though Oregon may be rivals with teams like Oregon State, USC, or Boise State, their nemesis is the University of Oklahoma. The animosity between these two teams is not very old, but it is quite deep and bitter; #2 Oklahoma whooping unranked Oregon 31-7 on national TV in 2004, #23 Oklahoma upsetting #5 Oregon in the 2005 Holiday Bowl, then having their win stricken from the records by an alumni job scandal, then having it restored a year later, and of course#18 Oregon beating #11 Oklahoma in September 2006 on a last minute onside kickoff that, under replay, maybe probably should have been given to Oklahoma.

This is why I want to make this Oregon-Oklahoma rivalry real. And we don't have to just be rivals at football. No, we can be rivals at everything. Seriously, just look at the facts for a minute or two and you'll see how Oregon and Oklahoma are near-perfect Others of one another, or, more accurately, how Oklahoma is like some kind of Bizarro Oregon...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

LOLCat Wars!

In our new house in Urbana, there are three cats. There's our cat, Coraline, and the two cats of our new roommate/ landlord, B: Tun and Virgil. Tun and Virgil are French, as is B, so their names should be pronounced as such, like "Toon" and "Vergeel." Coraline is still working on finding her place in the cat hierarchy of the household, and the intermittent cat geopolitics have been endlessly entertaining.

Tun is the matriarch of the house, as she is the oldest and grouchiest. She spends most of her time atop the kitty condo in the living room, looking down on the rest of us peons. She's not the biggest or the fastest or the most spry of cats, but she is definitely the boss. She can also growl like a dog. It's crazy. Virgil, on the other hand, is a big softy. He likes to spend most of his time outside, where there are mice and shrews to eat and he can be left alone by the cats, who are always mean to him. Virgil is much more fond of R.A. and me than Tun, and he has even gotten into the habit of presenting R.A. with mice that he killed just for her and now she can eat them or play with them or just leave them the carpet to give it that nice dead rodent smell. (R.A.: "When I do none of these things, he cries.") Virgil is also a really big guy; once he came up behind me to snuggle me with his head and pretty much knocked me over. But Tun still bosses him around, because she's the boss.

So Coraline has to find a place somewhere in between these two. She's getting the hang of the bossing around Virgil part; he'll come around our bedroom door, mewing and asking to be let outside, and Coraline will waste no time in running out and thumping him right on the melon. Tun, however, is a different story. Coraline is smaller and younger, and has been an indoor cat for most of her life*, but she's also from the big city, and she survived Kitty Concentration Camp. I'm serious. She's like the Elie Wiesel of cats, except that she hasn't been duped by a massive Ponzi scheme. (That I'm aware of. But who knows what she does with her finances.) The point is that, though she be wee, she is also fierce. And she and Tun have come to blows more than once, as they both believe that they ought to be in charge.

Probably my favorite part of this situation is watching how Tun and Coraline tactically advance and withdraw as they both try to claim as much territory as possible. It's like a game of Risk. Coraline pretty much controls the area around our bedroom and office, while Tun's territory is outside of B's bedroom and the den that leads to the back porch. The kitchen seems to be No Man's Land, and they each control parts of the living room. In this analogy, the laundry room is Alaska and B's office space is Kamchatka. Got to control Kamchatka. They go back and forth throughout the day, making incursions into eachother's territory, setting up outposts, and then retreating back to their bases. At first, there was much hollering and flashing of knife-mittens, but now we've reached a state of civility where they pretty much just sit at opposite ends of a room and stare at each other.

Until Virgil wanders into the room to ask someone to please let him outside.

P.S. - Go Ducks. Go Beavers. Go...sigh...Twins.

*She has been outside in the backyard once or twice. Boy, the world is big!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Threats to Public Health

Blerg. Today's Friday, and I have opted to stay home from school. I'm stuffed up, have a headache, am fatigued, and have a low-grade fever. At my past jobs, I probably would have gone into work regardless. However, working at a public middle school is a little bit different. All over the building, there are friendly "reminders" about the importance of personal hygiene, and how, if you (the students) feel even a little bit sick, it's best not to risk starting a pandemic and to stay home. On top of that, there have been additional take-home "reminders" distributed to the student body regarding Swine Flu. Again, this being a public middle school, the administration has been flooded with calls and notes and open house visits from concerned parents about the chances that their kids could - thanks to the brilliance of public education - become infected with the next incarnation of the Black Death. And what can the school do other than repeat ad nauseum* that they're doing everything they can to maintain a safe and healthy environment, that the flu isn't actually that dangerous, that if you feel sick don't come to school, and that, even though they're not really necessary in most cases, flu vaccinations are available here, here, and here.

So I figured that, given these circumstances, it'd probable be best for me not to go to work today.

*That would've been an awesome pun, except that I don't actually feel nauseous. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

One Week Later

Whew! Thanks everyone for your great ideas regarding reading programs for my students in the middle school. Please keep them coming as you get them, as I am sure that I will be in need of lots of creative strategies this year in the classroom.

I had a pretty good week this last week, as the school year has gotten going and the students have settled into something resembling a schedule. There are still a lot of challenges, however - for example, explaining to one student I don't think that he'll be able to get his own security camera in his locker but that, yes, I will be sure to bring that up at our next super secret teachers' meeting - and I have yet to get used to the whole "working every day, all day" concept. It leaves so little time for all of the important things in my life, like blogging!

R.A.'s classes are going quite well, also, and they're even teaching her some practical and marketable skills like troubleshooting for PC's. But there's also a lot of critical theory* at work in the Library Sciences. In one of her classes, they're discussing what qualifies something as a "document," and about whether or not stuff like animals in zoos or patients in hospitals can be seen as "documents." This thought is related to the Institutional Theory of Art that's associated with the philosopher Arthur Danto, someone who was quite big at Bard and who R.A. in particular knows very well. So, in other words, I think that this program at UIllinois is going to be right up her alley.

And, as an added bonus, maybe if I butcher the theories of Danto enough here, it will make R.A. have to blog more, if just to correct me.

*Critical theory, of course, being the antonym for "practical and marketable skill."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two Weeks Later

So it's been two weeks in Urbana, and things have been moving at a fast pace. Like I said, I am working as a teacher's assistant at a local middle school. I'm helping out with the classes for the students with learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, and cognitive impairments. We're spending most of our time working on reading skills, as we are working primarily with 7th and 8th graders who have 2nd or 3rd grade reading levels. There are lots of challenges that spring up here, of course, but one that has surprised me the most is the issue of finding proper reading material for our students. In order to get them to be reading on their own, to themselves, on their own time - which is one of our biggest goals - they need to have texts that they can both comprehend and be interested in. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the literature that they can read doesn't interest them at all; you have no idea how many times last week that I heard someone tell me, "Man, I don't want to read that. That's kid's stuff."

And it's true; no 14-year old wants to read (or, even more so, be seen reading) anything about Amelia Badelia or My Teacher the Tyrannosaurus. Unfortunately, everything that I have found so far that might be interesting to them on a thematic level is above their reading comprehension skills.

So here's your homework - I know that a lot of you have some kind of experience in either early education or special education. So my question is: what resources exist for these students? There should be a program that publishes reading material that deals with issues appropriate for young adults that is on a young child's reading skill level. I have done some research into the area online, but, although I have found some interesting independently published journals aimed at middle school-aged students, I have yet to find anything that could possibly accommodate our students. So, please, if you have any leads on where to find literature designed for young adults with learning disabilities and remedial reading skills, or if you know of someone who might have some productive thoughts on this matter, please let me know.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

No Time To Blog! No Time To Blog! No Time To Blog!

We moved to Urbana! Mom and Dad came out to help us move out! It rained a lot! I'm working as a teacher's aide for Champaign Public Schools! R.A. starts classes next week, and will be working in the UIllinois library! 77% of Americans polled think that it is important to provide both a public health care plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance! My cat's breath smells like cat food!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Yet Another Weekend Update

Well, I haven't been doing a very good job of blogging on a regular basis. But, in my defense, quite alot has been going on recently. R.A. and I are moving to Champaign-Urbana in less than two weeks, and my parents are going to come out from Oregon to help us move. R.A. already has a part-time job lined up in addition to her classes that she will be taking, and my brain has been pretty much fraggled with all of the shuttling back and forth between Chicago and Champaign that I have been doing for job interviews. I have one or two prospects down there, so please keep good thoughts/ pray/ make animal sacrifices/ invoke the Law of Attraction on my behalf. I would appreciate it.

In the meantime, well, it has been pretty cold and rainy here in Chicago. I feel kinda bad when I read about the sweltering and oppressive heat that my friends and family have been enduring on the west coast. It's almost as if our summers this year have been switched this year, with Portland being hot and muggy and miserable and Chicago being cool and rainy and damp. (Seriously! I had to wear a friggin' sweatshirt today, and it's August!)

So, in short not too much interesting has been happening in my life. At least, not much blog-worthy. However, the USA Today did release its first college football poll of the season!
And do you know who USA Today's preseason top 5 are? Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, USC, and Alabama. Seriously, Orrin Hatch should be spending his time trying to ban these preseason polls if he really wants Utah in the championship. (They have Notre Dame at 23, for Touchdown Jesus' sake! Have these people even been watching college football for the past ten years?)

Here is a weird and rather disturbing gender-biased article from the Boston Globe about the color of Red Sox fans hats: "Why is the Pink Hat so Hated?" If it were up to me, I would ban those green Irish baseball caps. They have those for both the Cubs and the White Sox now, and even though Chicago does have a long tradition of Irish violence, I still feel like those hats do nothing but encourage general douchebaggery.

And, finally, speaking of violent douchebags, what is up with all of the disruptions of Democrats town hall meetings about universal health care about?

Seriously, what is with these people? Barging into other people's political rallies, shouting down speakers and elected officials, threatening violence and rioting. It's like we have our very own brand of the SA! Only these are all old people. But, you know, they're old people with Second Amendment rights.

Pledge to attend a health care meeting here.

On a slightly brighter note:

I'm thinking of changing John Bolton's Wikipedia page to just a link of the footage of Hillary Clinton laughing derisively.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Weekend Update

I haven't had much time to blog in the past week. R.A. and I visited her family in New Hampshire last weekend, and then we went down to Champaign on Tuesday for job interviews. We're moving in two weeks - it's coming up really soon! We keep telling the cat that we're going to put her in a box and drive her to a new home, but she doesn't listen.

In the meantime:

Why Your Stadium Sucks: U.S. Cellular Field

At the Cell our drunks aren't content to sit and look pretty while texting on their Blackberries and talking on the phone like the drunks at Wrigley. No, our fans rush out and beat the crap out of a Kansas City Royals first Linkbase coach. Our fans attack a first base umpire. At least once a month it seems like some asshat is delaying a game by running out on the field. If the Steve Bartman incident had happened at the Cell, he would have been torn to pieces and his head put on a pike over the front gate. In general, the fans are a reflection of Ozzie Guillen - foul mouthed, abrasive and a bit nasty at times but uniquely Chicago.
Iran Arrests 3 Americans Hiking in Kurdish Area

The three Americans hiked in an area along the Iranian border near the Kurdish villages of Biyara and Tawila, and they spent Thursday night camped out at the border, the Kurdish official said.

On Friday morning, the official said, they “trekked into Iranian territory, knowingly or unknowingly, and found themselves detained by the Iranians.”

Kurdish security forces found tents, blankets, food, notebooks and a bottle of whiskey among the belongings the group left behind at the campsite.

The porous and mountainous border area between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran, which is a popular resort and hiking area, is also used by smugglers and Iranian Kurdish guerrilla fighters opposed to Iran’s government.
Who does that? Who would possibly think that this was a good idea? Who would be all, "I know, instead of going to Cancun this year, let's vacation in the mountainous and lawless region between Iraq and Iran, used by smugglers and guerrilla fighters. Oh, and let's be sure to bring plenty of whiskey with us, too. That won't reflect poorly on Americans at all. Nor will it raise suspicions of American agents working to overthrow the government of Iran at all. Nope, not at all."