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."