Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Everybody Forcibly Kung Fu Fighting II: A Fistful of Loathing

In the aftermath of my little post about the filming of a Jackie Chan movie at my school, I've had the chance to do some thinking about careers, jobs and my views on various occupations. No, I've no plans to run away from K-12 teaching like my professional hair is on fire. Really, I haven't. It's just that the Hollywood movie-making "experience" (which really hasn't even happened yet as "shooting" is supposed to start tomorrow), has evoked in me certain feelings, feelings I knew I had, but not in the copious, dense amounts o' feeling I seem to possess.

As I put it in a comment late yesterday: I love film. I hate the film industry.

Okay, let's not use the word "hate". "Hate" is overused, and should be reserved for Nazis, neo-Nazis and Diane Anderson's haircut. Let's say "despise" or "loath" instead. I loath and loathe the film industry. Now I could go into all the reasons I hate loathe the film industry, but I've noticed that when it comes to ranting about the film industry people who don't loathe the film industry just stare blankly at me, the ranting person. They don't get why I loathe the film industry. They don't get why anybody would loathe the film industry.

I mean this is Jackie Chan we're talking about here.

Which frankly, is one of the reasons I loathe the film industry, because it's exactly that sort of irrational fandom which drives me crazy. A fandom that allows the film industry to treat potential "extras" as little more than cattle, disrupts daily life with the ersatz allure of "Hollywood Magic", and can make people do the stupidest things all on the pretense that they may one day appear doing that stupid thing on a movie screen.

But again, I'm not going to bother ranting about the film industry. Doing so would waste both your and my time. Especially if you have the blank stare of "Hollywood Magic" on your face.

Instead, I'd like to present a sort of chart. I got to thinking while bike riding home yesterday about my personal answer to a question. How would I rank various professions/industries? To be specific, how would I rank these professions in terms of whether I would want a representative from said industry to appear in my classroom, telling my kids about their profession, what they do in it, etc.

My bikedreaming led me to think that I should rank these professions from top to bottom, but put spaces in the listing to show distance between quality of profession/industry. For example, instead of ranking baseball players like this:

Babe Ruth
Scot at Burque Babble

It would be...

Babe Ruth

Scot at Burque Babble

You get the idea. Also, I figured this way I could have the single longest Burque Babble entry (by inches) in history.

Here we go (a very, very limited list):

Peace Corps Volunteer
Homeless/Domestic Violence Shelter Director

Medical Researcher

Mortician (always wanted to have one of those talk to class)


Commodities Broker

Insurance Salesman

World Series of Poker Champion

Real Estate Agent

ROTC Commander (at least they're honest about it...sorta)

*Discount Stock Brokerage Schlub

Film Industry Person

TV News Anchorperson


Robo Call Center Manager
Robo Call Scriptwriter
Political Advisor Responsible for Robo Calls

Those bored at work today, feel free to add occupations in the appropriate blanks, or rewrite the list entirely. I plan to do the same while bikedreaming my way up the river bike path this morning.

*I have been one of these. God, what an awful job.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Everybody Was Forcibly Kung Fu Fighting: A 99.9% Barack Obama-Free Post

I know the election is eight days away. That somewhere around 47 bazillion people saw Barack Obama in Albuquerque last Saturday. That somewhere between 8 and 23 people saw John McCain in Albuquerque Saturday. That the stock & commodities markets are collapsing, gyrating at hyper-speed. That the U.S. is evidently invading Syria, Pakistan, and Canada (okay, I made that last one up, I think).

It's a crazy, action-packed time for our city, state, nation, world. And I should probably waste some of your time writing about one or more of these action-packed subjects. In fact, it would be a colossal misuse of the internet airwaves to ignore these fascinating subjects. Only an idiot would avoid touching on these myriad hot button issues this fine morning.

So let's talk Jackie Chan movie.

This week my little school will be the shooting location for the upcoming Jackie Chan movie. As near as I can tell, this Thursday & Friday (and yeah, Halloween is Friday) the halls will be filled with lights, cameras and poorly scripted, kung fu action. Students are being inveigled into becoming "extras" through some hazy selection process involving birth certificates, GPA scores and genetics. Students are supposedly being paid to be "extras". My little school is supposedly going to get a nice, fat check for its inconvenience. My little school is also, supposedly, going to have its school marquee and other distinguishing features appear in the final cut of the film.

Many at the school, particularly my principal and every single student, are thrilled by these developments.

A few of us, horrible curmudgeons incapable of laughter, fun or even a wry smile, are pissed off. Of course we are teachers, and hence quite familiar with being horrible curmudgeons. Still, the gap between the wanton glee of our principal/student-body, and a few of our most curmudgeonly teachers is vast. A not-so-grand canyon, one might say.

I stand at the North Rim of that canyon. The far less-populated, wintry rim. I see the Jackie Chan movie as an example of a school prostituting itself. I see a school throwing its lot, and students, in with morally bankrupt Hollywood. And no, I don't mean "morally bankrupt" in the sense of making dirty movies with unmarried pregnant women. I mean "morally bankrupt" as in Hollywood: makers of vapid, crappy movies that value film quality last and box office first and only.

I am the school's "film teacher". As such, I get the impression I am supposed to embrace the Jackie Chan movie. As if I am to somehow integrate it into my curriculum, revel in this "brush with filmic greatness", tell my students "if you work really hard, maybe you can make a Jackie Chan movie someday".

Pesonally, I would rather my film students smash their DV cameras on the ground, and vow to become anything but Hollywood movie schlubs. I would rather they get careers as politicians or commodity traders over working in a Hollywood film crew, perhaps making claymation movies on the side designed for nothing more than obscure YouTube viewing and maybe, just maybe a one-time-only showing at the Guild during a "stopmotion festival".

But I'm, as I mentioned above, a curmudgeon. I'm the outlier. I'm the "get off my lawn" old guy screaming at a sea of gleeful, Hollywood-laced zombies. I'm an old stick-in-the-mud. I'm the crazed shirtless guy with the "The End is Near" sign standing at Harvard and Central, while passersby try to determine whether to throw pennies at me or not.

That's okay though. I'm a teacher. I'm used to it.

Have a good work week everybody. Jackie Chan included.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tonight's Obama Shindig Isn't Just About Lousy Parking

  • Obama in Albuquerque: Gates open at 7 p.m. for Barack Obama's rally at the University of New Mexico's Johnson Field. Tickets are not required, but an online RSVP at is "strongly encouraged" by the campaign. Comedian George Lopez and Gov. Bill Richardson will start things off.
  • Parking for the Obama rally tonight might be difficult, in part because of a symphony concert at nearby Popejoy Hall. UNM is urging Obama rally attendees to park in its T, M and Q lots or at University Stadium — though it is not offering shuttle service. The Obama campaign urged rally-goers to carpool or use public transportation.
    -from "McCain, Obama Focus on N.M.", Jeff Jones, Albuquerque Journal, 10/25/08
  • This certainly may be a case of faulty objectivity on my part, but given the wildly huge numbers forecasted for tonight's Obama shindig at UNM, don't you think the Journal is slightly underplaying this event? Outside of the above, and another brief mention of how much parking is going to suck for the blue hairs going to the Popejoy show tonight, that's it.
    • We're talking thousands and thousands of people, folks.
    • We're talking most probably at least two typical Lobo football crowds of folks engulfing the SE corner of the UNM campus.
    • We're talking George Lopez.
    • We're talking sizable numbers of folks milling up Central throughout Nob Hill.
    • We're talking about the outdoor seating at Kelly's being assimilated into the huge circle emanating from Johnson Field.
    • We're talking folks trying to decide whether to park at Marquette and Carlisle, or Silver and University.
    • We're talking about UNM parking lot Q, R and Z, and we have no idea what the Hell "parking lot Q" means.
    • We're talking Bill Richardson, even though nobody really cares about Bill Richardson at this point.
    • We're talking Saturday night at the cultural epicenter of our little town as the site of a combined Mardi Gras, Halloween carving party, political rally and mega-State Fair gone ballistic, people watching freak show.
    • And we're talking Obama, Barack Obama, who not only looks like the next President of the United States, but better bring his Franklin Delano Roosevelt A-Game from Day One starting January 20th or we're gonna be in even worse shape that the crazy bad condition our current condition is in.
    We're talking about the Albuquerque version of a frickin' coronation here, and the above is all the Journal has to say about it?

    Objectivity or no, tonight's show has to be about more than crappy parking.

    P.S.: Hope to see some of you there (even me, anti-social dude, has about 457 different friends/acquaintances I'm scheduled to run into). Let's treat it as the first in a series of ecstatically happy Bush Administration, New Orleans Jazz Funeral shindigs. I'll bring the big bass drum, you bring an umbrella.

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    Parent/Teacher Conference Day and Some Way Too Early In the Morning Professional Daydreaming

    After 6.5 hours of continuous parent/teacher conferences yesterday, I get the feeling I know what it must be like to run for public office. For 6.5 hours at least. How those people can do it 24/7, day after day, for months....I can't even begin to tell you. I don't know whether that says more about me, or about the folks running for public office.

    Some teachers really don't like parent/teacher conferences, and not because they're angry burn-outs who despise parents. Only a few are like that. Others don't like them because it's such a different vibe from the typical school day. It's like trading in the kids to become a car salesman, or someone working Aisle 7 at the electronic superstore.

    As for me, I rather enjoy it as a chance to tell parents (usually) that their kid is quite wonderful. I realize teaching "Gifted" students might have a slighter higher incidence of the "quite wonderful" speech. It's also cool because it's the only day we get to go into work at 11 A.M. and work until 6. I literally drool with the thought of doing that everyday, and after 15 years of teaching, the once-a-year 11 A.M. start is like professional Christmas or something.

    And now professional Christmas is over, and it's 6:15 A.M., and I'm shoveling coffee into the bloodstream as quickly as my esophagus will allow. At 7:45 there's an IEP meeting, a day full of ranting email teacher reaction to all the "Tier II Intervention" BS noted in my last post, a ton of student research paper presentations, a 30 minute duty-free lunch spent trying to get ready for a Election Debate Seminar next week, etc. etc. etc.

    No complaints, but going through the list above kinda makes me misty-eyed about the 6.5 hours of parent/teacher conferences yesterday. Maybe I should run for some public office where the entire campaign lasts 6.5 hours. Maybe I should get one of those red shirts and work Aisle 7 at Circuit City, especially if I can get the 11-6 shift.

    No, I think I'll stay where I'm at, but with the same caveat currently in use by each and every public school teacher imprisoned in NCLB-Land '08: If the testing, the "interventions", the "Baldrige Continuous Improvement" and other teaching-devoid, consultancy contract-rich bullshit goes on much longer (say two more years), I am out of here. Eleven A.M. starting time or not. Quite wonderful kid speeches or not.

    Hey...School Board. Hmmm....any chance we could get that position paid from here on out.? Say something in the $60-$70K range? Those school board meetings never start before, like, 5 in the afternoon, right? And all I have to do is talk about the same number of folks that I saw yesterday in parent/teacher conferences to vote for me, right? Hmmm...sitting next to Robert Lucero and Mary Lee Martin....there are pros and cons here. But get that $60-$70K thing worked out by 2011 and get back to me.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    We Have Met The Enemy And the Borg Is Us: APS, the Testing Low-Down, and My Little School

    For starters, yesterday I misspelled the name of Ruby Ethridge, APS Associate Superintendent for Middle Schools. I'm sorry, and, of course, blame someone else for this mistake. Namely, I blame the still-awful disaster known as the APS website. Clearly, blaming and attacking the APS website is like Tom Udall slamming Steve Pearce for being bald. Too easy and unnecessary. Still, didn't Winston Brooks say he was going to bring this website into the 2000s, if not at least 1998?

    Okay, enough buck passing. I messed up. I avoided going to the APS website and misspelled the woman's name. Sorry.

    Speaking of messed up, here's a short report of the meeting Ms. Ethridge held with my staff at a hastily-convened "mandatory" meeting yesterday. Despite having personal doubts about Superintendent Brooks creating a new position of "Associate Superintendent for Middle Schools", I have come away with both a positive impression of both Ms. Ethridge herself, and the need for the newly created position.

    Now the bad news. A couple of big reasons for this positive impression are:
    1. The new Superintendent and "District" intend to make sweeping changes to raise test scores;
    2. These sweeping changes are intended for quick, beneficial implementation and APS has historically really, really, really sucked at combining the qualities of "quick" with "beneficial".
    Add to this the fact that not only is the NM State Public Education Department involved, but the "PED" is in the midst of changing high-level personnel (with names you would never recognize in a billion years).

    So yes, dear reader, that means we are tyying to do something really fast, utilizing three dense layers of bureaucracy (State, District, individual schools) and rapidly changing players. And that's leaving out the whole Feds, Election '08, No Child Left Behind revision angle.

    Odds of quick, beneficial implementation: Far higher than those lucky folks who last March bet on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (and yes, they are still the "Devil Rays", I don't care what anybody says) to win the World Series at 200-1. More like 100,000 to 1. And that's with Ruby Ethridge. Without an "Associate Superintendent of Middle Schools" were talking 1,000,000 to 1.

    I won't bore readers with the more arcane elements (those hard-core teacher types can email me and I'll pass on what I learned), but basically we have to:
    • Take a test result from Spring 2008;
    • Find out all the kids who didn't score 60%* or better on the test in Math;
    • Take the rest of this year trying to figure out how to help these under 60% kids without blowing up our entire schedule and having a block schedule for Math;
    • Find out who's still under 60% after trying this stuff for the rest of this school year;
    • Blow up our entire schedule next year (Fall 2009) and include a double period for Math.
    So the bottom line is that we have to go to around 90 minutes a day for Math starting Fall 2009, at least for those kids who aren't up to 60%. For those not "hip" to what this means we're going to double the amount of Math students get.

    And yes, this means some non-Math classes are gonna get left out, at least for some of our students. Last February I wrote a little piece about the issue of lost electives for high school students in the same situation. In that I brought up the unfairness of a school schedule in which some students were deprived electives, and that lawsuits were soon to follow.

    Well, yesterday I was told there haven't been any lawsuits. And my question is....why haven't there been any lawsuits? Are parents of these electives-deprived kids so cowered by today's standardized testing mantra that they aren't fighting this? In a political climate in which even John McCain wants to tinker with No Child Left Behind, and large segments of the population wants to absolutely annihilate it, why are we putting up with this?

    Like most such meetings, I came away with more questions than answers. Still, my school might have learned enough yesterday to do the most important thing. We need to work together to create a schedule that fulfills all the little "mandates" of Feds, State, & District, while preserving what we know is really important for our kids at our school. Failing to do this will result in some dictated "standardized middle school schedule" that will kill electives, create some teaching-to-the-test zombie land, and leave our powerfully unique institution blandly indistinguishable from a glorified Sylvan Learning Center.

    And we better act fast, because "Associate Superintendent for Middle Schools" or no, I'm still betting heavily against the Feds/State/District doing anything that is both "quick" and "beneficial". Anybody want to lay a little money on the bureaucracies doing the right thing (you pick the criteria)? Anybody?

    *P.S.: Evidence of the "quick" nature of these changes, it is still unclear as to whether the cut-off figure is 60% or 70% for Math. Aw, what's a few percentage points of test results here or there? Let's get out some darts and just pick a "really large number".

    P.P.S.: I realize some might get the impression from the above that I am treating all the entities outside my school as the "enemy". I'm not. Instead, I just want the decision-making flow to go from our school up, instead of seeping or flooding downward from above. The reasons for this are not based as much on my disregard for bureaucracies (which is admittedly sizable), but the knowledge that my school is quite different than any other in the District for reasons that would probably bore the Hell out of the casual reader. Hardcores can email me for follow-up on this point. Or maybe I'll decide to bore the Hell out of everyone and get to this minutiae in a future post.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Bureaucratic Sister Ruby Etheridge Explains It All For Us

    After school today we're having a hastily convened "mandatory" staff meeting to hear District hoo-haw Ruby Etheridge answer a bunch of our simmering questions. I guess I'm a bit on pins and needles about the shindig because:

    1. it was kinda my idea to have this "Gunfight at the SBA Corral" de-brief;
    2. teachers, especially those at the end of a day (and nine-weeks) are notoriously lousy "students", in that we don't listen, talk while the "teacher" is talking and seethe with defiance from the get-go
    3. without proper prison guards facilitation, these meetings always turn into melodramatic bitch sessions, featuring those faux martyr types who just cannot avoid complaining about Johnny in their sixth period class, the toilet paper in the teacher's lounge, and these hastily called "mandatory" meetings.
    So why have a meeting, especially a "mandatory" one? Well, as directly and indirectly mentioned previously, my little school is, uh, what's the word? Hmm...imploding still seems like the most appropriate choice here. You certainly wouldn't know it from driving past the place, and, to be honest, my tiny corner of things is going swimmingly. But the internal mechanics of the place are simply drowning.

    Drowning in a sea of misinformation, "mandates" and actual/perceived machinations that go far beyond "taking the fun" out of teaching. It's difficult to sum this up in a sentence, at least it is for me, but I'll take a swing at it (via my friend, the "bullet"):

    • No Child Left Behind has a infamous "mandate" demanding that by 2014, quite literally, no child will be "left behind" (i.e.: every single child will be proficient in Math/Reading by that date);
    • Head cheerleader for No Child Left Behind, the Bush Administration, has crumbled to the point of becoming unrecognizable. I don't want to become distracted, again, by politics, but the degree to which George W. Bush has become irrelevant is truly astonishing. For example, I believe the McCain Campaign has gotten a court somewhere to institute a 1,500 mile restraining order for "W", ordering immediate arrest if President Bush is at any time within one time zone of Sen. McCain;
    • Despite this irrelevance, the inexorably churning wheels of Bush "doctrines", especially No Child Left Behind, keep clunking along;
    • Our new Superintendent, Winston Brooks, has publicly stated that the whole 2014 100% proficient mandate is unrealistic and will never happen;
    • Mr. Brooks also has some far more achievable numbers for improvement (3% per year sticks in my head) and keeps talking about those figures;
    • Well, stuck awkwardly between the rusting cogs of the Bush Administration and the unclear promise of the Brooks Administration, lies the twisted body of my school and its teachers.
    Okay that was pathetically longer than a sentence. But the image of a group of school staff caught between the moving and un-moving gears of a large machine seems to fit. And that's where Ruby Etheridge, APS Assistant Superintendent for Middle Schools (or something like that), who I don't know from Eve or Linda Sink or anybody, comes in.

    The idea is that she will extricate us from these massive gears somehow, make clear the unfathomable depths of where we go from here, and give us enough direction and leadership to have us safely and confidently move, on our own, into a post-Bush standardized testing environment.

    Now that's a tall order to fill. Good luck, Sister Etheridge. Speaking of being on pins and needles, I think we'd have an easier time answering the question of how many angels can fit on a pin. Still, as a friend of mine always says....onward.

    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann Clears It All Up For Us

    The phrase "last refuge of a scoundrel" is pretty well-known. Less well-known is that the first (I guess) person to use it, Samuel Johnson, was referring to patriotism. As in "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel". From its coining, the whole "refuge/scoundrel" spiel has been used to define pretty much everything from political correctness to laundry detergent.

    Which is a pity, because while I'm no fanboy for Samuel Johnson in general, the original phrase is pretty damn good.

    And that gets me to Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. You've probably seen the "Hardball" interview, so I won't even embed it here. While 99.9% of the claptrap spouted by politicians in your typical mid-October of an election year is meaningless, I'd like to commend Congresswoman Bachmann for crystallizing exactly what is wrong with "patriotism". I won't even try to rephrase how she said it. Go to the videotape.

    Okay, maybe I will try to sum up what she says, especially for those (like me) who generally avoid going to the Internet videotape. Basically: If you criticize this country you are anti-American.

    Let me repeat that a few times:

    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.
    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.
    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.
    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.
    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.

    A few more hundred times and I'll have the Republican mantra from this point forward until November 4th, 2008 wired.

    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.
    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.
    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.
    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.
    If you criticize this country you are anti-American.

    Anyone who thinks "America" has done anything wrong....say in terms of financial policy, or the invasion of other countries, or mistreatment of "colored people", or the Three/Fifths Compromise is not only "liberal" but anti-American. Not that there's really a difference between the words "liberal" and "anti-American".

    Anyone who doesn't think "America" is the greatest country on Earth, ever, is anti-American. Anyone who doesn't think the Constitution is somehow divinely inspired and infallible in the same way that gravity is infallible guessed it, anti-American.

    Anti-Americans like Barack Obama are trying to take over the government, so that they can destroy it and replace it with something other than the good old America that real Americans all slavishly love because the good 'ol America is perfect, divine and beyond criticism. And anyone who disagrees should just move to another, inferior, country and leave us patriotic scoundrels alone with our delusional, dysfunctional view of the world, history and what it means to be patriotic.

    Got it?

    Thanks Congresswoman Bachmann. I got it. I really get it now.

    P.S.: Meanwhile, those faithful few Burque Babble readers might have noticed that in recent days the emphasis has been on politics & satire rather than teaching and my school year. Well, one might say political satire is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Especially one trying to avoid writing about what has all the signs of an educational implosion around my school and District. I'll get back to that subject when I can deal with it through a means other than non-verbal screams and unproseworthy obscenities. Ranting about the relatively dispassionate world of scumbag politicians is so much easier than the true soul-baring involved in frankly assessing a job/profession I love.

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Manny Aragon Sings and a Bereft City Weeps

    While Aragon and his legal team had little to say after the hearing, attorney Ray Twohig told Parker in court that he believed the agreement was in his client's best interest. He cited, among other things, the strength of the government's case.
    --from "Devastating End" by Scott Sandlin and Mike Gallagher, Albuquerque Journal, 10/16/08

    Manny, say it isn't so!

    In these wintry economic times, and with an overly long election nearing an end, we 'Burqueans will be in desperate need of a new cynically comic diversion from our empty 401Ks, lost jobs and realization that Barack Obama will not simply wave a magic wand solving all our problems instantaneously. And Manny, your trial was going to be that diversion...and now....nothing.

    And all just because of some frivolous facts like you were quite obviously guilty as Hell, and just about every other defendant had flipped to testify against you. So what? Like some great new Broadway show canceled at the last minute because the play sucked, we the clamoring public are left empty, catharsis-less, deprived of schadenfreude.

    We wail as if characters in a Wagnerian opera. We bemoan like Brunnhilde in Gotterdammerung (and yes, I'm too lazy to find umlauts this morning).

    In fact, this sad denial of the new reality show "Manny Being Manny in Handcuffs Being Frogmarched to the Pen" leaves me bitter. Bitter, now that I think about it, in the same way the citizens of Evita Peron's Argentina were, according to famed historian Andrew Lloyd Webber, bitter that Evita was leaving her small-town roots behind to become an international political sensation.

    And yes, I can now imagine Manny on that balcony in Buenos Aires, with his best girl by his side...and he sings, sings, sings (no, not that "Lumberjack" song, this song):

    Don't Cry For Me Albuquerque
    It's not like you knew I wasn't guilty
    All through my wild days
    Ruining South Valley
    I was your bagman
    And kept your money.

    (and then some completely unmemorable lyrics that we just put up with until the rousing final chorus)

    Don't Cry For Me Albuquerque
    The truth is I'll never leave you
    There'll be this courthouse
    At 4th and Lomas
    That you can spit on
    And curse my name for.

    And the curtain would fall, and the roses would hit the stage/balcony/squad car taking Manny away, and we would hum the rousing final number as we opened our worthless 401K quarterly statements and headed to the Unemployment Office.


    P.S.: No, I know, not nearly cathartic enough. The bastard even deprives us this satisfaction. Hasta, Generalissimo Pequeño Aragon. Ciao, little general.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    A Formal Request For Emergency Funds From the Bank of Burque Babble

    The Bank of Burque Babble (BBB) formally announces that it is foundering, and in need of significant government assistance. We're not proud of it, but BBB has made a series of imprudent financial decisions in recent years that have left it in a precarious position. We are, of course, referring to our sizable investments in the purchase of foreign and U.S. microbrewery beer, not to mention our Netflix, XM Radio and Broadband cable entertainment holdings.

    These exposures combined with the rising costs of health care and little doo-dads to put on our commuter bicycle have left us at risk of becoming insolvent. We acknowledge that even the merest of regulatory safeguards could have helped prevent this crisis, and that we should have started using Quicken years ago.

    Still, BBB is not alone. This morning the U.S. Government is announcing a plan to pump $250 billion into the nation's banks to help prevent their demise. BBB simply asks for its share in this bailout, which by our calculations would be something in the order of $2250 (dividing total U.S. households banks by $250 billion). This immediate infusion of government-backed cash will insure solvency for BBB through the critical next few months of this credit crisis and reduce the number of credit card phone calls bothering the wife of certain BBB banking officials.

    On the off chance other households banks do not request funds, BBB is prepared to really solidify its place in a post-crisis banking environment and ask for a billion or two. Just a billion will be enough really. You can't imagine how a billion dollars right now would change the financial complexion of BBB. For one thing, it would allow BBB to get that really nice bike light, the rechargeable one with the constant 5,000 candlepower of directed light. Hell, with a billion dollars we could get 8 million of these Cateye HL-EL610RC lights (and the bank would even agree to pay the $4.99 flat shipping out of our own pocket).

    But we're not greedy. We'll just take the one really nice bike light, a new set of panniers...and that Thule rack we've never been able to afford. Basic necessities to merely remain solvent in today's wintry economic climate.

    Thank you for quickly considering this request, especially if we can receive the bailout funds before our Netflix bill comes due. We don't want to be forced to drop to the two-at-a-time plan...that would just about kill us.

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Required NCLB Reading and Other Communist Manifestos

    Just in case you aren't an elitist, pro-intellectual, left-wing commie, and don't go to the New York Times first thing every morning, the Old Gray Lady's story today on the vagaries and variations of standardized testing in various states is absolute required reading.

    And, just in case you aren't a card-carrying communist, pinko, intellectual, elitist, and don't already know it, the NYT site is also "RR", registration required. Probably so elitist, neo-Maoists can report your personal data to Echelon or Leon Trotsky or somebody just like him.

    And as further proof of its elitist, Communist International flag-waving, un-American status, the NYT's Paul Krugman just won the Nobel Prize in Economics, an award that used to be won by Milton Friedman free market uber-alles capitalist types, but those days appear to be long past.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced late last Friday afternoon that the U.S. was beginning to take equity ownership of many U.S. banks. Despite sounding exactly like Socialism (taking over the "means of production" and all that), please do not construe U.S. Government ownership of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, IndyMac Bank, etc., etc., etc., as anything other than laissez-faire capitalism at work. I mean, this is the Bush Administration we're talking about, not the Lenin Administration.

    P.S.: I quite obviously digress for cheap economic humor effect. I apologize. And isn't the phrase "cheap economic humor effect" chock full of oxymorons? Anyway, the coffee and brain cells responsible for this digression have been sacked. Forget all about the "Socialism", and just read the New York Times article. It's really good.

    P.P.S.: I got an Albuquerque Federation of Teachers Ellen Bernstein robo-call this past weekend announcing (I think, I wasn't really listening that well) some sort of meeting with various slam-dunk winning Democratic candidates (i.e., Tom Udall) on the subject of how to get rid of No Child Left Behind. I went to the AFT website for more info. That website is, uh, not very good. I'd love to hear more about it, if anyone was listening to the robo-call any better than I was.

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    A Bit of Unadorned Education v. Bailout Funding Context

    Offered without comment, but with the very large public school education number first.
    *Note: The education figure includes all expenditures by federal and state governments, as well as funds disbursed by school districts around the country. Most of that figure comes from non-federal entities. The annual U.S. Department of Education budget is around $56 billion.

    Have a nice Monday everyone, whether you get the day off for "Hush, hush" Columbus Day "shhh....." or not. I'll be spending the black market holiday counting backwards from 5 trillion while teaching 1984, The Outsiders and any other subversive texts I can thrust before the eyes of my students.

    P.S.: And speaking of financial markets and black market holidays, I discovered tonight that the Tokyo Stock Exchange was closed today (Monday) due to Japan's "Health and Sports Day". I know, we get Columbus, they get fitness. (Insert profound insight into comparative cultural systems or a simple joke here)

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    A Nation's Note To Self Regarding George W. Bush, 10/10/08

    Maybe electing evangelical, born-again Presidents who truly believe in things like "Apocalypse" and "Rapture", and see horrible events as wondrous signs of a beautiful "End Times to come" isn't such a good idea.

    Let's try to remember that next time. And the next time. And the next time after that. If there is a next time, given all the active attempts to hasten various forms of happy, happy Armageddon.

    Thursday, October 09, 2008

    A "Lights and Sirens" Report From Your Grammar Police

    "Athletic programs will not be effected."
    --"Teachers Get Creative Under Budget Cuts",, October 8, 2008
    I'm slightly sorry to get all Literature teacher on KOB's grammatical posterior, but the quoted sentence above seems to capture so much of today's educational environment in so few words. It's like haiku or something. If only I could do so much with six little words. Basho has nothing on these KOB folks.

    Okay, I'm not that sorry.

    P.S.: Research continues on "America's Choice". I didn't intend it, but I can already tell that implementation of "America's Choice" has everything to do with keeping bad teachers and getting rid of good ones. Everything.

    More news as it becomes available. We now return you to your regularly scheduled, grammatically sketchy, unaffected football game/"reality" show already in progress.

    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    America's Do We Really Have A Choice™? A Non-Math Teacher's Uninformed Non-Report

    This blogpost should really be written on a napkin, coffee-stain circles surrounding illegible scribbling and little arrows going in all directions. In several places the napkin has ripped up from the sharpness of the pen. To say "work in progress" is giving it too much credit.

    I'm not a Math teacher. I'm one of those teachers who thinks interdisciplinary learning is essential (there should even be a law), but when it comes down to it I have accepted the shackles of "Humanities" versus the mid/high school shackles labeled "Science", "Math", "Music", etc. So in researching "America's Choice" I not-so-proudly claim almost zero skills of critical analysis. I do not know whether "America's Choice Navigator® is "good" or not, and in my research I'm leaving that to the Math folks.

    Moreover, as I start doing a little research I realize how fluid a situation we're in here. A commenter to yesterday's post, Abuelita2, asks whether my school has "accepted" America's Choice Navigator™. Great question, but from talking to my Math folks it's not apparent that "acceptance" is an option. The only word we're hearing is "mandated". At the same time, it's not clear (in fact, it's a word meaning the complete, utter opposite of "clear", beyond "unclear" to some new word we "Humanities" folks can invent...let's call it "mudunclear") just how my school is supposed to implement America's Choice Navigator™ (btw, I made a mistake yesterday and we're not "mandated" to use Ramp-Up, but instead are being vaguely "mandated" to use Navigator™).

    Confused yet? Well get in a line longer than at your typical Great Depression soup kitchen because everybody I've talked to so far mentions just how mudunclear this is right now (or would if they knew about this newly invented "mudunclear" word we Humanities teachers have invented).

    And all I got on top of that so far is a link or two:

    Some guy named Bill Quirk has a critique of NCEE (the non-profit organization that spun off a for-profit arm to sell America's Choice products) that looks to be worth reading, especially by Math teacher types.

    Prince George County Schools in Virginia is a district of about equal size to APS. They evidently received a full-blown dog & pony show from NCEE presenting a plan to fully implement America's Choice throughout the district. Here's the .pdf of that dog & pony show. Costs of implementation included. No idea on whether they bought the dog, the pony or both.

    That's all I got at this point. Clear as mud. More mud to follow...more clarity requested from you guys out there.

    P.S.: about you write a "guest" post on the subject? I'd love to read it, and you know far, far more about the subject that I ever will. Which, I admit, ain't saying much.

    Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    Welcoming Our New Educational Insect Overlords

    In between the 9.4 million things I have to edit/grade these days, I'm trying to do a little research on "America's Choice" the highly trademarked, ultra-glossy curriculum that is evidently being mandated to my school's Math Department. I say "evidently" because I like the word too much, but also because the way news & information works in a public school isn't a smooth system of teacher newsletters, staff meetings and emails.

    No, information is passed via a haphazard set of teachers bumping into each other in the halls, secret conversations held in closed classroom after school, and acrimonious department meetings where Math teachers rant and rave while passing out slick, ultra-glossy packets from highly trademarked curriculum "providers".

    So all I know is that "they" (and "they" can be everyone from George W. Bush, to the District, to some obscure bureaucrat in the APS "twin towers", to the janitor) have decided Math must use this "America's Choice" curriculum, in particular the "Ramp-Up Mathematics" (trademark, copyright, sanitized for your protection) program designed for students 2+ years behind in the subject.

    On top of that, some obscure "they" dictates are being gossiped about involving a required 30 minutes a day of computer-based, continuous-loop math testing, a move to block schedules for Math (90 minutes) and Language Arts/Literature. The genesis for these changes is believe to be either from: 1. the fact my school is now on Restructuring Double Secret Probation IV, Part II, Subsection B; 2. Winston Brooks is a sinister Dick Cheney type who goes around obsequiously demanding things like "central control" and "highly marketed solutions to long-standing problems"; 3. the janitor likes the "America's Choice" logo.

    I dunno.

    All I've found so far is the "America's Choice" website, a 2003 New York Times article doing the old "on the one hand, on the other hand" thing about the program being implemented in NYC schools, and something from "Literacy Matters" (whatever that is) that includes costs of the "Ramp-Up Literacy" as copy/pasted below:
    The set-up cost is $90K for up to 30 teachers. The cost of curriculum materials for the individual classrooms is $2,000-4,000. In order for the school to be accepted in the larger school reform program, 80 percent of the faculty must accept it. America’s Choice has partnered with over 650 schools, including charter schools, in 16 states.
    If anyone from a school that has already been on Restructuring Double Secret Probation for a while has more information, I'd be keen to hear about it. You can either comment here, or bump into me in the halls at my school between class periods, while we both eat lunch standing up, and talk with our mouths full in hushed whispers.

    Sunday, October 05, 2008

    Somehow Reading the OED Online For Free

    After hearing an interview with Ammon Shea, author of Reading the OED, on the Bob Edwards Show a few days ago (and still thinking somewhat obsessively of the life/death of OED-obsessed David Foster Wallace), I went to the Oxford English Dictionary website this cloudy afternoon.

    Expecting to find out how much it costs to subscribe online (and seeing that the OED is going for a special low, low 80th Anniversary price of $895), I plugged in a word (I think it was "thyroid") and was given a definition. For free. I plugged in another, got another luxuriously long, captivatingly cost-free definition, and noticed at the bottom a note that read "Subscriber: College of Santa Fe".

    My IP address via Comcast is obviously being confused for one used by The College of Santa Fe. I plan on never shutting my computer down again. I also think this explains why the College of Santa Fe is just about bankrupt.

    I'd be interested for others to try out the OED site as well. Any fabulously free definitions?

    P.S.: I now know that "faamafu" is a Samoan home-brewed liquor, and "facinorous" means: "Extremely wicked, grossly criminal, atrocious, infamous, vile. Said both of persons and their actions. Very common in 17th c." As in "my facinorous purloinment of OED definitions sans proper remuneration reeks of outre outrageousty." Cue word-lusting drool sequence now....

    Saturday, October 04, 2008

    Ten Reasons I Hate the Balloon Fiesta: 2008 Edition

    The past few years I've celebrated the onset of Balloon Fiesta with a little ditty reciting the "10 Reasons I Hate the Balloon Fiesta". I was going to pass on such a post this year, but the cancellation of a bike ride this morning (my bike just doesn't have the proper flotation devices needed for a ride through all the standing water down here in the South Valley) has left me sleeping in, watching the morning clouds and sprinkles, and drinking far too much coffee. Hence a nice relaxing rant is in order.

    How dogs, horses, all other animals
    and your humble blogster see the Balloon Fiesta

    10 Reasons I Hate The Balloon Fiesta, 2008 Edition:

    10. Local TV interviews with old people in green lawn chairs talking about how much gasoline costs in front of their aircraft-carrier sized RVs.

    9. Local TV "breaking news" reports about the cancellation of "tonight's special shapes glodeo", with added comments that "there will still be activities going on at the Park tonight" as if the reporter is some carnival barker shill for the Balloon Fiesta and the City of Albuquerque.

    8. Local TV coverage of the balloon fiesta, period. It's good to see, I guess, that local media is capable of covering more than just murders, traffic accidents and animal abusing scum who should be murdered by standing in the middle of an orchestrated traffic accident as thousands watch, but the Chamber of Commerce prostitution coverage added to the quite obvious desire by certain TV reporters to finally get the *&%$ out of Albuquerque by being seen by some out of town visitor looking to recruit TV talent in Minneapolis or Portland is disgusting. It's more than disgusting. It's even more disgusting than your typical day's local TV news. And that's saying something.

    7. Out-of-towners. Sucking up to out-of-towners. Putting up with their aircraft-carrier sized RVs, green lawn chairs and inability to have a entertained retirement involving less than 5,000 gallons of gasoline and the disruption of a Southwestern city.

    6. Some balloonist landing his (and yes it's always a guy) "craft" out in the alfalfa field behind our suburban ranchette, walking up to the locked ditch gate and then trying to find us to unlock it so he can get his off-course stupid balloon out of the alfalfa fields. It's hard to ignore knocks on your door with three dogs, but we can manage. Also irritating is the "I should be treated like a movie star" swagger of these incompetent balloonists. It's almost like they expect you to not only hand them the keys to the ditch gate, but ask for an autograph. You crash-landed a balloon far from where you were supposed to, dude...what's the "movie star value" in that?

    5. As mentioned in previous years, the effect balloons flying low/landing have on all animals, particularly horses. I've often wondered if horses believe in some religion in which the "end times" feature aliens in large poly-colored objects landing around them while the sound of propane gas whooshes devilishly. Hmmm...sounds about as realistic as any other religion, now that I think about it.

    4. The decision to hold this event during a well-documented transitional meteorological period for Albuquerque, one that leads to "breaking news" TV reports of cancelled "glodeos" with a level of seriousness and disappointment usually reserved for failed space missions and Category 5 hurricanes. Why is this event held in early October? Is it a twisted attempt to celebrate Columbus Day by giving us APS types a day off called "Fall Break"? Are we having "Fall Break" on Friday the 10th instead of Monday the 13th because to take the actual Columbus Day off is politically untenable? And given that we APS types have a lousy, stinking one day "Break" this year, shouldn't we all suddenly convert to Judaism, take off Yom Kippur this Thursday the 9th and just take a four-day weekend? And how about we just add Columbus Day, and make it a five-dayer? A five-day weekend might actually allow those who like the Fiesta to see a show or two without it being cancelled due to the bad weather naturally caused when scheduling an event during a well-documented meteorological transition.

    3. Duke City Fix during Balloon Fiesta. This event is just perfect for a site largely designed to convince everybody that they live in a town worth living in. I can usually put up with the Fix's "social network" of civically insecure folks trying to rah-rah their way to some sort of communal positivism, but when the Fiesta comes around it gets way, way out of hand. This is most probably attributable to the fact that "out of towners" might be reading the postings, and we wouldn't want to disappoint them, now would we? Golly no, that wouldn't help our real estate values, now would it?

    2. Stories like this one reporting on how the Fiesta represses election campaigning. You see, the Balloon Fiesta is supposed to exist in some sort of "Pleasantville" where there is no dissent, no free expression, just worshipful praying to the fact that a little heat and a little engineering can get some folks in a basket off the ground. Besides, this country isn't about elections, government or free expression! It's about marketing, tourism and having the God-given right to buy an aircraft-carrier sized RV, go through 5,000 gallons of gas driving it from Montevideo, Minnesota to Albuquerque and sit in green lawn chairs talking to local TV "reporters"!

    1. My wife has just informed me that this year's list of "10 Reasons" looks even more cynical than in previous years. As my wife is not only an excellent writer/editor, but also a good critic, I think I will dispense with a #1 Reason why I hate the Fiesta, and instead focus on a small list of what I really, honestly like about Albuquerque:

    Ten Reasons I Like Albuquerque, Really:

    A. The 50 weeks of the year in which the Balloon Fiesta is not held.
    B. The River Bike Path
    C. The weather during the two-weeks of the Balloon Fiesta, especially the rare cloudy, rainy Sunday morning.
    D. That newish bike path along I-40 going from the Big-I area uphill. It's fantastic.
    E. The Chama River Taproom on 2nd between Central and Gold.
    F. That a bus driver let me carry my bike into the bus recently when the bus-front rack was full.
    G. The Sandias.
    H. The fact that very few people hike in the Sandias, especially given how close they are to a rather sizable urban area.
    I. My life down here in the South Valley, even when the wife and I are hiding out in our home to avoid opening the door to balloonist guy who is stuck in the alfalfa field behind our house.
    J. The Phở at Cafe Trang, followed by a grocery visit to Talin Market.

    There, that should even up the cynical negativity/positivism quotient...well, at least a little. Enjoy the Fiesta Period everyone as best you can. It will be over soon.

    Friday, October 03, 2008

    Bad Teachers, Part 5 of ∞ : Ask Not For Whom The Scripted Teaching Bell Tolls...

    I have almost no details, just that I ran across two of our best math teachers late yesterday frantically waving a slick folder from some outfit called "American Schools" (or something...all I know is the logo was quite American, quite Red, White & Blue, and quite corporate), and saying something about district mandated scripted math instruction.

    I didn't learn much detail in the ten seconds I heard the two teachers wailing about this development, but I'm pretty sure I did learn this: good teaching is being killed because of bad teaching.

    Just as No Child Left Behind has disregarded high-achieving students in order to focus all energy and funding on the academically weak, scripted teaching is all about discouraging the creative work of good teachers while trying to crudely prop up the bad. It is like performing brain surgery with a rusty shovel. It is exactly like death.

    There are a ton of scary phrases and acronyms in public school education, but I can think of none that compare with the death knell finality of "scripted teaching". You might as well just drop a one-page memo in every teacher's mailbox that reads in 92 pt. Comic Sans:


    Done the "American Schools" way, of course, scripted teaching also means the privatization of K-12 public schools by Blackwater-type firms whose sole purpose is to maximize profits while meeting meaningless academic criteria developed by their lobbyist and paid-off legislators. It means vouchers without the vouchers, cookie-cutter intellectual banality and a firm kick in the butt out the door to any student/parent who values accelerated learning.

    Put more simply, it's an intellectual death sentence. I was in the hall outside my classroom late yesterday hearing that something had died. That something almost already dead had finally been killed.

    As I learn more about the cause of death and the results of the autopsy, I'll pass them on. Meanwhile, Happy Friday everyone!

    P.S.: I realize (and have heard from several folks) that this "year in the life of a teacher" theme has become quite morose over the last few weeks. Well, maybe I'm a depressive personality, but honestly I think we've caught my school, school district, profession, country, world in a particularly downer period here. Maybe things will pick up, but for now it's nothing but solid bleak stretching out well past the horizon. Sorry.

    Thursday, October 02, 2008

    Palin v. Cubs (with Biden & Dodgers only present due to necessity)

    There hasn't been this much hype about a new TV comedy since "All in the Family".

    There haven't been sports fans this whiny since....well, there's never been sports fans this whiny.

    Sarah Palin.

    The Chicago Cubs.


    Feel feel to print out the linescore below and fill in as needed:

    Inning: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R* H* E* W*

    *R: For the Cubs this is "Runs Scored"; For Sarah Palin this is "Riffs including the phrase 'Hockey Mom'"
    *H: For the Cubs this is "Hits"; For Sarah Palin this is "Howlingly funny Admiral Stockdale moments that are really not funny, but you can't stop laughing at"
    *E: For the Cubs this is "Errors", as in "it is a big error to have fans throw home run balls AT opposing players"; For Sarah Palin this is "Easily answerable questions that all Palin-haters will despise and be pissed off at the ease in which she easily handles them"
    W* For the Cubs this is "Whiny moments captured in the stands filled with drunken Cub fans who seem to feel a World Series is owed them just because 'they' haven't won one since they were minus-78 years old"; For Sarah Palin this number represents "number of glasses of wine needed to endure Palin/Biden debate"

    Happy scoring, everyone!

    P.S.: I'm setting the line as follows (and I'm serious):

    Biden/Palin: Palin wins easily, because a tie is a massive, earth-shifting victory. Heck even anything close to a tie is a win.
    Dodgers/Cubs: Billingsley v. Zambrano. Hard not to give this one to the Cubs, but if Sabathia can biff so can "big Z". The look on a down 0-2 Cubs crowd after nine innings and fifteen beers would be just as priceless as the for-certain look on all the Palin-Haters when she pulls out tonight's massively unexpected tie. I'll take the Cubs and have to imagine that down 0-2 look.

    Wednesday, October 01, 2008

    Senators: Remember Promo Code BAILOUT And Act By Midnight Tonight!

    Senators!!!! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Step right up and bail out the banks! Uh, I mean "Rescue" Main Street! By acting now you save America from itself! But, more importantly, if you pass legislation by midnight tonight and use the Promo Code BAILOUT, you'll also be receiving the following fabulous items:

    It's the only fake Japanese word you'll ever need "Ginsu"! The amazing Ginsu Knife! Place your order today and also receive the versatile six-in-one kitchen tool, not to mention the free "spiral slicer"! Slice up mortgage debt like a martial artist smashing a tomato with this amazing tool!

    Popeil's Pocket Fisherman! It's compact enough to fit inside a glove compartment, and will help catch those scurrying banking CEOs as they flee for prosecutorial protection! Remember, it's all "catch and release" with "Rescue"!

    The Ronco Glass Froster! It's "great for parties", like the ones sure to be thrown by Citigroup and JPMorgan when they come out of this "rescue" as the only two banks left in the Western World! It'll be free, frosty brewskis for Senators FOREVER!

    But that's not all! For only $700 billion you'll also receive free with every order...

    Mister Microphone so that you can more easily be heard saying things like "Without this 'rescue' plan, America as we know it will cease to exist", and "Hey good looking, we'll be back to pick you up later!"

    Remember that Promo Code: BAILOUT! Senators, this is your chance, maybe your final chance, to undo years of irresponsible financial speculation while also receiving fabulous gifts for you, your family, friends and financial industry lobbyists! It's a deal you can't pass up, and you get it all for only $699,999,999,999.95! Remember, the deal is guaranteed in writing for up to....well, until we do this all again in a few years.

    Operators are standing by! Here's how to order...