Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad Teachers, Part 6 of ∞ : Block Scheduling

For weeks now my school has been in the throes of a schedule change panic dictated by the fact a huge percentage of our students can't read, write or do 'rithmetic. To be honest the complexity of the possible changes, the interplay between those changes and No Child Left Behind, the uncertainty of NCLB given the election outcome, etc. has left me unwilling to "blog" about the situation, much less share the long, long scheduling Excel spreadsheet I uselessly tinker with in my spare time. That spreadsheet is about as close to an electronic sleeping pill as you can get.

But now I see the Journal has addressed the issue and the APS teeth-gnashing over what to do, at least at the high school level. And like one of those court cases where a witness unwittingly brings something up that then allows the opposing counsel the chance to dredge up all sorts of crap, I now feel somehow justified in boring the complete utter Hell out of you, dear reader, with terms like:
  • A/B Schedule
  • 8 Period Day
  • Alternate Day "Queen" Block Schedule
  • "Lang-Lit Blocks"
  • Rotating Science Labs
  • 4x4 Schedules
  • Copernican Plan and Modified Blocks
I know, it sounds like a combination of chess strategies and ordering Chinese food. And like Chinese food, dinking around with school scheduling can be addictive. Or maybe I just have some sort of geek addiction gene.

And I know many folks out there have an aversion to this sort of math-meets-politics (and that's exactly what it is), because I see first-hand a great number of teachers at my school avoiding involvement in the "school scheduling committee" like it was some new form of bubonic plague. Instead, many/most of my colleagues prefer to say "well, they seem to want us to have schedule X", and "they are going to make us lose our electives teachers".

Much more comfortable to simply bitch and moan from the barricaded comfort of their own classroom than engage in something so mathematically complicated and politically messy. Advocate for their own teaching subject? Oh, that is simply not done! Argue for dramatic changes that will address shortcomings outside of one's own subject? Absolutely not!

The upshot of this dynamic is that I've noticed the following perfectly executed "Sicilian Defense" in place when it comes to bringing up scheduling changes at my school:
  • School scheduling is complicated, and the counselors do the scheduling;
  • Math is hard, and I don't teach Math, and scheduling involves Math, and it makes my head hurt;
  • School scheduling impacts teachers, class sizes, etc., and I don't want to be involved in any decisions that will lead to losing teachers or making teachers do anything different, and, besides, that's the Administration's job;
  • We don't know what the District wants, and let's just wait until they tell us because of the points above;
  • George W. Bush is leaving, thankfully, and No Child Left Behind might be dead, and Winston Brooks is pretty old and looks to be about a year or two from retiring;
  • Ergo, Therefore, Hence, And because of all this.....let's not do anything.
And it's this brilliantly executed "Sicilian Defense of Inertia" that I bring up as an example of "bad teaching". For a billion different reasons, the psyche of your typical APS teacher has been pummeled to the point to which one ignores the many positive things that changes could bring, and instead mentally bunkers down into a mediocrity that both feels comfortable and allows for incessant bitching and moaning about all the things that "The District" and "The Administration" should be doing, but isn't.

In fact, it's exactly that bitching and moaning which provides the professional comfort. If we as teacher actually wielded any power/decision-making then we could be blamed for any problems created. Much better to do nothing and snipe about the horrible injustices around us.


And here I find myself doing something along the same lines. I have been hesitant to bring this crap up via the blog, and curb my tongue at school because of the paradigmatic perception that teachers who want to talk schedule "have an agenda" and are selfish. Am I not becoming, or already am, exactly like one of them?

Well, I do have this excruciatingly boring Excel spreadsheet with a 8-period day on it, along with example schedules for both teachers and students. It includes rotating Science labs, an outline for a 81 student cap for Math & Language Arts/Literature teachers, and "double-prep" Fridays for teachers. It's full of little arrows running toward "black boxes" with titles like "funding" and "FTEs" on them.

Still, I think I better hide this spreadsheet. Much better to wait for the "authorities" to come up with a plan. Better to hide here in my bunker and hope the whole Winston Brooks thing blows over. Better that than go crazy, hop out of the bunker and face the inevitable stream of philosophical bullets that will rip me to metaphorical shreds once I climb over. Boy it's muddy in this bunker. Cold and muddy. Damn that "District". Damn it to Hell.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eclipse Aviation: The Drinking Game

"I'm cautiously optimistic," said Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez, who stressed the purpose of the bankruptcy is to keep the company operating. As long as the company continues, he said, "They're so heavily invested here, they can't leave. (blogger emphasis) Those employees will keep earning their paychecks." --from "Jet Maker Files For Chapter 11 In Hope of Staying Alive", Richard Metcalf, Albuquerque Journal 11.26.08
No, Mayor, you're so heavily invested politically in Eclipse you can't see straight. Meanwhile, we're so heavily invested as taxpayers that you're hoping we keep drinking the BS Kool-Aid you're serving.

Yummy, yummy. I think the floating turd makes it taste even better, don't you?

While in the reality-based world aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia is quoted as saying:
"It beats Chapter 7 (liquidation bankruptcy) and it buys them a little time to find more people who enjoy throwing their money away."
and then there's this:
As for New Mexico's $19 million investment in the jetmaker, State Investment Council spokesman Charles Wollmann said $5.6 million is secured debt and thus expected to be repaid. The rest probably will disappear.
Better throw some vodka into that Kool-Aid to "liven" it up, Mayor. It, like Eclipse, is tasting kinda dead to me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Researching the Cure: Classroom Claustrophobia

You might have noticed a sizable drop in the number of posts, recently. Where have I been, you might ask? Well, like many/most/almost all public school teachers heading into the latter parts of a November my mental energies have been centered on everything but public school teaching.

Looking back at my Orbitz activity over the last few years, there is a significant spike in "My Trips" planning right around this time. Every year. Forget Winter Break, forget Spring Break....these professional duty avoidance daydreams are all about the next Summer.

The research reverie this deep Fall is of a Summer '09 cycling through France. This is the perfect type of trip for a November daydream research-a-thon, as it involves lots of detail, rampant choices to make (fly to Lyon?, or to Toulouse?, how do you pronounce "Toulouse"?, etc.) and the review of similar trips done by similar-minded geeky types who are all too happy to recount their own trips.

My two hour or so a day habit is now centered at Crazy Guy on a Bike, with copious side-journeys to see if British Airways has dropped the price of travel yet (they haven't). Plug in twenty minutes or so of French instruction at the BBC, and you've wasted an evening that would otherwise go to watching "Law & Order", blogging...or solving the world's economic dilemmas.

Or grading papers. Yeah, there is that. As a "writing" teacher there is always that. Hmmm...maybe I could check out the reviews of the airports near Lyon instead of grading....let's check Skytrax for Geneva or Basel....

P.S.: Now that you asked (okay, you didn't ask but you were just about to think about me), I'm trying to go with British Airways to France instead of Air France or such because BA told me they wouldn't charge extra to haul my bike to Europe. My former favorite Euro carrier Lufthansa told me it was to cost $200 for such a service. Damn cost-efficient Germans. It strikes me now that I haven't even researched Air France for such info, assuming they would charge as well. Better go waste some time investigate that now.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time-Wasting Journeys In Music

In one of those circuitous weekend Internet rambles, I have finally stumbled across what every self-respecting "Deadhead" found long ago, the Internet Archive treasure trove of Dead shows. As I am neither a "Deadhead" or self-respecting, this is not surprising, but XM Radio merged with Sirius.

Okay that doesn't probably make sense. You see, XM merged with Sirius and Sirius has a Grateful Dead 24/7 channel that is now also on XM. Earlier this weekend I was listening to "State College 5/6/80" (and, naturally, you have to say things like "State College 5/6/80" when writing/talking about these things) while throwing the massive number of glass receptacles I've engendered over the teaching semester into the recycling bins at the nearby Walmart.

Despite never really getting "into" the Dead, per se, the concert sounded pretty good. I started hunting around the 'Net upon my return, and came across the Internet Archive site. With the help of my former "Deadhead" wife (who talks in some sort of East Coast "Deadhead" code, using terms like "SPAC"), I started downloading a few concerts and am now well over a Gig o' stuff.

I can't say "Fire on the Mountain" is going to replace Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations or Miles leading the 65-68 quintet in my personal pantheon of music, but these old Dead shows are fun in a noodling-around sort of way, even without the requisite mind-altering chemicals. It's also a kick to hear the crowd during the show, especially as one remembers the folks screaming "Right on!" and "Scarlet!" are now in their 40s-50s and beyond.

And because the Dead is all about sharing the music (or was until there was a nasty battle over the aforementioned Internet Archive site, as I also discovered), and because I've wanted to play with some music embeds for a while, here's "Fire On The Mountain" played at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium on December 12, 1978.

And for those with even more time to waste, here's an August 8, 1971 version of "Mountain Dew" played at the Hollywood Palladium...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Governor Creates New Mexico UnRebate Program

Fresh on the heels of a Rebate Program to address skyrocketing gasoline prices, certainly-soon-to-be-outgoing New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson today announced creation of a new "UnRebate" program designed to address plummeting gasoline prices and the general fact that the State is quickly going into the financial toilet.

"By latest estimate, the State is five hundred million in the hole," the Governor began a press conference dedicated to the measure. "Oil is fifty five bucks a barrel, and we're only getting about four and a quarter for natural gas. What we need, right away, is a government economic stimulus package to prevent the "Land of Enchantment" from becoming the "Land of..." at this point the Governor, admittedly distracted in recent days by all the possible positions he might fill in the Obama Administration, stopped the press conference to ask spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos for help.

"Gilbert...hey, what's a good line to use here? Land of what?"

"Land of Utter and Complete Governmental Implosion," Gallegos replied.

"Nah, too long. Forget fancy titles. We're talking 'Land of No Enchantment' here, 'Unenchanted Land", 'La Tierra sin Encantado' or some such."

The Governor continued with a four point "UnRebate Plan" to revitalize the State.

"First, we're putting an immediate stop payment on all the checks we just sent out for the earlier Rebate Program. Boy was that a stupid idea. And don't go trying to cash those things after hearing this announcement. We already talked to all the banks, so if you waited until now, tough. Haven't you poor bastards learned not to stall when you're handed some free money from the Government?

"Second, we're instituting a new program in which everyone who filed a 2007 state income tax return must start writing us checks, deadline December Fifteenth of this year. Just as with that Rebate Program idea, we're tying the amount immediately owed to a person's income and number of dependents. Those making under thirty thousand will only owe us a hundred bucks. Between thirty and one-hundred thousand you owe two-fifty and if there is anyone left out there making over one-hundred you're basically gonna need to shell out a grand at least. We're in trouble here. On the dependent kid front, I decided to change things up a bit there, and we're just gonna charge a flat $100 per kid 'crappy fuel price surcharge'. That makes the math easier, and besides it's all these kids causing us to spend so much money on public education anyway.

"Third, just as with the old Rebate Program, we've designated a Special Day to mark "New Mexico Tax UnRebate Day". That day is the aforementioned December Fifteenth. To be honest, the whole Special Day thing never took off with the Rebate Program. Do any of you reporters even remember what day it was supposed to be? I'll buy anybody here a margarita if they can guess the date, seriously. Nobody? Nobody? October Eighth, it was October Eighth. Man, was that whole program a cluster.....anyway, and I don't want anybody to start calling this Plan a 'tax'. It's not a tax. It's an 'UnRebate', and I think patriotic and forward-thinking New Mexicans will understand that and eagerly participate in the program.

"Oh, and lastly part four of my plan, and this is the best part I think. I want every New Mexican to start writing letters, emails, text messages and whatever Hell else communication methods you kids are using today to President Elect Obama and convince him to hire me as Secretary of State instead of Hillary or John Kerry or whoever the Hell else he and his team are thinking of. See New Mexico, if you help me become Secretary of State I will promise to talk to everybody in Washington. I'll talk to all those Treasury types throwing around billions for bailout this and rescue that. I'll talk to everybody in Congress, including those on the committees trying to oversee the bailout. And I'll most certainly talk to our President-Elect and Joe Biden and anybody else who'll listen that New Mexico needs help.

"Just as importantly, I'll also talk to leaders of other countries around the world. In fact that will be my job. And in those talks I'll paint these foreign dignitaries the prettiest picture of New Mexico that ever been verbally painted. I'll be a freakin' Vermeer meets Renoir of picture painting, and I'll just bet that once these foreign leaders hear my story they'll be falling over themselves to help revitalize New Mexico's economy through the purchase and takeover of the many dirt-cheap and bankrupt firms that have sprung up while I've been your Governor. Worried about Eclipse Aviation or Advent Solar? Well make me Secretary of State and you won't need to be. I'll have some Canadians or North Koreans bailing those firms out pronto. And that's a promise."

The Governor then quickly left the podium as he was called by Mr. Gallegos and other staffers. Mention was overheard by several press members present that President Elect Obama "or someone who was close, or fairly close, or at least in zip code proximity to Obama" was on the line wishing to speak to Richardson.

Gallegos came to the podium, reminded reporters gathered that "December Fifteenth is New Mexico Tax UnRebate Day" and began to recite a short list of special ceremonies taking place on the newly created "Day".

In Which Robert Lucero Gets "Slapped in the Face" and Seems to Like It

Any bettor will tell you there's no such thing as a "lock". Nothing is certain. But there is one thing darn stinkin' close to it: if one sees APS School Board member Robert Lucero talking on the evening news, the viewer stands an almost certain chance of hearing something stupid being said.

Last night Mr. Lucero, that Lone Ranger (for now) of the Westside, was spouting off to the cameras that his supposedly maltreated part of town was getting a "slap in the face" just because the School Board didn't immediately sign off on increasing the APS board to nine members, give the Westside the addition two members and provide the petulant Mr. Lucero an impromptu party with cake, pointy hats, confetti and little slide whistles.

This is of course all the result of that bizarrely worded Constitutional amendment ballot issue that eeked by in the election earlier this month. More mature members of the School Board, such as Marty Esquivel, pointed out, at least indirectly, that this was the most poorly worded Constitutional amendment ballot issue in the history of New Mexico, and that nobody knew what the Hell to do with it.

Or maybe that's actually just my interpretation of what Mr. Esquivel said.

Perhaps you recall this ballot was the one that said something like:
The proposed amendment would increase the size of certain school boards to nine members and conduct the election by mail-in ballot or as otherwise provided by law.
You don't have to be any sort of constitutional law scholar to notice that this is one poorly worded amendment.

I did some checking and found that Westside legislator Bernadette Sanchez was chief-sponsor of this amendment proposal back in the 2007 Legislative session. Interestingly enough, if you go through the history of the amendment proposal you don't find the red herring second part of the amendment (the "mail-in" part) until the final version. Who put that second part in...the part that many of us voted for ("hey, mail-in ballots sound like a good idea...what the Hell is the is 'certain districts get increased board members crap?'")?

Meanwhile, back on the evening news, Lucero is pouting as he loudly disclaims that he's gonna get his Westside legislators to "break up the District". And presumably mysteriously tack something like re-legalizing drive-through liquor stores into the bill somehow.

But I noticed something in that Lucero pout last evening. If you look closely enough, and no that's not something I would normally recommend, you couldn't help but notice a wide-eyed grin just behind the pout. When he says "split up the District" that goofy grin gets a little too close to the surface to remain invisible.

Methinks not only that Robert Lucero protesteth too much, but that he enjoys both the cameras and the "slap in the face" a bit muchly as well. There something very Shakespearean about all of this, right down to the mysterious person who inserted the "mail-in" ballot provision. Mystery, pathos, mistaken identities, farcically contrived situations...all very Shakespeare and very APS School Board.

With Lucero as either Falstaff or Puck. I can't decide which. I am more certain that all the world is but a stage, a fact that makes Robert Lucero very, very happy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fantasy Energy Team Update: $55 and Hurting

Less than four months ago I wrote a post entitled "My Fantasy Energy Team is Hitting Over $140". I wrote, as plenty of analysts did, about $200 a barrel oil coming any day now.

I see at Bloomberg this morning that oil is $55 a barrel. $85 dollars down from $140, carry the one....that's...a 61% decrease in about 135 days or so. Besides proving, once again, that I'd make a lousy commodities trader (and that most commodities trading analysts would make lousy commodities traders), what does it all mean?

I haven't a clue, but doing a bit of bikeriding yesterday around the kitsch that is Mesa del Sol I saw big, shiny manufacturing centers looking pretty empty amid even emptier sunny Mesa. In particular, I came across this optimistic sign at the Advent Solar plant that read "Parking for Advent Solar Customers Only". Sure it was Sunday, and almost everything in the whole planned development was empty, but given what my bikeriding friends told me about Advent, those parking space might not be filled for quite a while at $55 a barrel. European frenzy for solar energy or not.

And there's a construction site here, and a half-finished airport terminal-looking building there. With the wind flapping the surveying flags, largely untouched concrete slabs, and periodic happy-happy signage "Green Means Mesa del Sol", the overall effect for me was that of some forlorn real estate boondoggle far, far from town.

But then again, I'm the one who was hoping for oil to get to $200 a barrel four months ago. What do I know about economic development? Maybe fairly rich people will start buying airplanes. Maybe even richer people will start going into space instead of going to Vail for the weekend. And maybe the planned development that is Mesa del Sol will one day be more than a set of scattered monoliths amid a sea of sand.

Probably because I know nothing about economic development and am a bit more knowledgable about classic cinema, the only thing going through my mind while tramping around the place yesterday was that old joke Charles Foster Kane uses an an answer to a young reporter's question after Kane's trip to Europe in the early 1930s:

Reporter (Bones): How did you find the business conditions in Europe?
Kane: Uh, how did I find the business conditions in Europe, Mr. Bones? With great difficulty.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Love In a Time of Educational Cholera

It's been a week since the last posting here. A blogging vacation, at least for me, comes without warning and without all that messy planning and vacation daydreaming. I just woke up with an election hangover, putzed around the mental house for a day or so, and decided to crawl back under the prosaic covers.

It also didn't help that I felt like I was getting a cold for a day or so back there, my morning time has been taken up biking into work and a bunch of other banal yadda-yadda that would constitute Too Much Information in a lousy journal, much less your #1 blogging source for incredibly important information about your world and possible other worlds.

But I'm tanned, rested and ready now. It also helps that I got a nasty flat going down the Boulevard of broken glass that is the Isleta Blvd. bike lane yesterday, and have to drive to work today.

Meanwhile, you might be saying "who cares?", and perhaps you're following that bored question up with "meanwhile, how is the world of K-12 public education going?"

And my response to the latter question's hard to tell.

I could go into a thousand different directions of murky light here.

I could write a little something about the Educational Assistant sick-out yesterday (RR), but, to tell the truth, I don't know much about that situation other than these people are paid at a level of pathetic usually reserved for people bussing tables at restaurants. I will also say that I have a great deal of respect for the folks who decide to stick with being an Educational Assistant, but wouldn't do that job in a million, billion, planets light years away, lifetimes. Pay is one of the reasons, but I also don't care for the way many Educational Assistants are treated by the teaching staff at many schools. It's complicated, but there is a definite professional class system in place. Educational Assistants are victims of that class system. I'll just leave at it.

I could also go into a long harangue about public school teacher licensure, and how No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has endangered my ability to teach this little film class I have. Problem is, relating the story would be both incredibly boring and would take 5,000,000 words to properly explain. Let me put it into a short series of simple math equations and leave it be:

"Regular Education" teacher + Gifted Endorsement = Eligible Gifted Teacher
"Special Education" teacher + Gifted Endorsement = Eligible Gifted Teacher
"Special Education" teacher + Gifted Endorsement Not Equal Eligible "Regular Education" Teacher
Radio/TV/Film Minor in College Not Equal Anything Useful in K-12 Public Education Whatsoever

Lastly, I could go on and on and on about what has really taken up quite a bit of time the last week or so, the impending switch to a "block schedule" at my school. Again, I realize the term "block schedule" equates to "narcolepsy" for many fine readers out there, but I feel the need to mention that my school is roiling (in part because I just like the word "roiling") at the prospect of schedule changes made necessary by being in NCLB "corrective action" Hell. There have been two basic responses to these impending changes:

  1. A large group of smarter teachers has determined that forestalling a move to block schedules for as long as professional possible is the way to go, hoping that the ever-fickle District and other political entities will move on to something other shiny object of educational reform before we have to do anything.
  2. A much smaller group (pretty much limited to your humble blogger) wants to use this as an opportunity to create a schedule that works for our unique (and yeah, I hate that word too) school before the District and other political entities dictate a cookie-cutter block schedule that ruins what's makes my school "unique" in the first place.
I know, I know...not only am I tilting at windmills in full Don Quixote regalia, but being naive to the point of incredulity. Truth is, your cynical, sarcastic, negative humble blogger is at heart a naive idealist who stupidly refuses to knuckle under to a bureaucratic culture.

Stupid naive, cynical, romantic, sarcastic blogger person.

Not to mention the fact that windmill tilting is a time-consuming activity, what with all the trips to the store to buy new lances, as they constantly get snapped off by the bureaucratic windmills. Sometimes one wonders if the Dulcinea of Education (whatever that is) is really worth it.

Frankly, Cervantes or Gabriel Garcia Marquez would be much better at telling any of the stories above. Not that I need to tell you that.

Have a good weekend everybody. I'm going to Knight Errant Castle Depot for another set of lances.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Oh Yeah....Well, Your Mama Is A Conservative

“Conservatives tend to be happier than liberals in general,” said Dr. Martin, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. “A conservative outlook rationalizes social inequality, accepting the world as it is, and making it less of a threat to one’s well-being, whereas a liberal outlook leads to dissatisfaction with the world as it is, and a sense that things need to change before one can be really happy.”
--from "Obama and McCain Walk Into a Bar...", John Tierney, New York Times 11/09/08

A student and I were having a conversation on almost this very topic Friday. Actually, now that I think about it, I was having a conversation with myself about it, while the student looked alternatively perplexed and smirk-laden. I believe the student also used the term "you're strange" at certain points as a form or rebuttal.

More to the point of our/my discussion...does "rationalizes social inequality" equate to optimism or pessimism? And what is meant by "really happy"?

Obviously more French Roast and a very large government grant will be needed to further examine this question. Meanwhile, how can I get this "Dr. Martin" gig at the University of Western Ontario?

P.S.: Maybe it's because I consider myself something of a "liberal", but I don't find the NYT article "joke" below funny.

"If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong, though. It’s Hambone."

Perhaps I need to do a better job of "rationalizing social inequality".

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Twenty Degree Barrier

I'm trying to stick to a 20 degree barrier this school year for riding the bike to work. Wunderground's "Alameda and the River" location says 28.5 degrees right now at 6:26 in the A.M., so I better hit the showers for a pointless body cleaning before getting simultaneously sweaty and icy along the river bike path.

Happy commuting, all. I'll be listening for the cranes/geese hanging out in the now-dormant chile field between 2nd and the bike path while I ride. Wearing that thick balaclava makes it hard to hear much, though.'s all about the layering...have a good weekend, everybody.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Great Moments in Politics and Consumer Electronic Branding

"However, (Michael) Goldfarb did concede that (Randy) Scheunemann's campaign e-mail was cut off, and his blackberry (my emphasis) was taken away late Friday. Goldfarb admits that senior McCain aides were mad at Scheunemann, and wanted to fire him, but he insists they stopped short of that, and instead simply turned off his campaign communication."
--from "McCain adviser disputes campaign sources, denies firing", Dana Bash,, 11/6/08

That is just so funny on so many levels. Picturing the visual of the solemnly relinquished Blackberry makes me think "The West Wing" needs to come back, pronto. Cut away to the IT person deleting "" off the mail server, fade to black, go to commercial.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Those Darn Kids!

According to

Vote by Age, 18-29:

Obama 66%, McCain 32%, Other 2%

This demographic accounted for 18% of the vote.

In 2004, this bunch o' youngins accounted for 17% of the vote and broke 54%/45% for Kerry.

Thanks young people. Some of us oldsters knew you could do it.

P.S.:  Glad to be wrong in many instances, particularly in the Teague/Tinsley race down south.  Congrats to a D-only New Mexico Congressional delegation!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election 2008: Psychotic Guesses and Prognostication Dung

Have you had trouble sleeping the last few nights? Caught yourself tip-toeing out of bed to check the 'Net at 1:30 a.m. to see if some sort of "October Surprise" has snuck up on us in the middle of the night? Have blogpostings with titles like "New Mexico Possible Democratic Sweep" made you alternatively giddy and fearful, causing you to firmly place your hands on your workdesk like your trying to keep the dishes from falling off the table during an earthquake? Do you find yourself muttering "don't breathe, because this wonderful situation certainly can't last"? in a mantra-like manner?

Moreover, are you supposed to be grading tons of papers this morning, and find that you can't because you instead want to check Google Maps to see where Dixville Notch, New Hampshire is exactly, how far it is from a "Red State" and are seriously considering if the 23 voters of Dixville Notch might have a coattail effect on Harry Teague's race in NM-2 over 2,300 miles away?

If your answer to any of the above questions is "yes", I hardly need to tell you that you have a problem handling good news. You are a distrustful person. You, quite obviously, have experienced life as a "liberal" in the early years of the 21 Century.

If you answered yes to all of the above, try to get at least one glance at the beautiful New Mexico Fall morning between the 3.73 million refreshes, pageviews and political disaster scenarios you will inevitably perform over the next 14 hours or so. And help me grade some of these papers while I hammer out some utterly unscientific guesses as to who will win what 'round these parts.

  • Nationally, Obama 329 EV to McCain's 209. Being from the South, I have no faith in Georgia going Blue, and Florida is a liberal's "Chinatown". As in "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."
  • Same with Missouri. I'd love to see it, but even my Mom's Obama vote doesn't make it happen.
  • As for the nationwide popular vote, who gives a rat's ass about that? Obviously the Supreme Court doesn't, so why should I?

U.S. Senate:
  • I spent the mid-80s stalling my adulthood and professional life by getting a Master's Degree in Political Science, and taking all these classes in things like "Comparative Voting and Party Politics". We students quickly learned that sprinking the word "coattails" liberally through our essays was key to making the grade with our profs. It helped me get the coveted (and eventually useless) degree, but it also left me with an intellectual limp. Combined with the Reagan Presidency, my "coattails" indoctrination makes me obsess about them in all elections.
  • Hence, my interpretation of New Mexico races suffer from a mad this-is-like-Reagan-1980 delusion, with coattails not only dragging the ground but plowing Republicans like sandy loam. We'll see.
  • Udall 59% Pearce 41%
U.S. House:
  • Given the Obamamania, for most of us the only thing that could dent our happiness would be a Darren White win amid the Blue Wave. Heinrich gets maximum coattail effect, especially in reduced numbers of R's going to the polls.
  • Heinrich 53%, White 47%
  • The Teague/Tinsley race is the real nail-biter here. Tinsley certainly comes across in his commercials as one scary MoFo, reminding me so much of Texas that I can taste the grit and weak-ass jalapenos in my chimichanga.
  • Tinsley 51%, Teague 49% Yes I'm being pessimistic here, but living 25 years in Texas will do that to you.
  • In other scores: Lujan 61%, people not named Lujan 39%
State Races:
  • Call me lazy, but the only State gig that interest me much is the Snyder/Eichenberg battle up in the NE Heights. Maybe that's because I've been doing a bit of bikeriding through those neighborhoods and the sight of all those Eichenberg signs has me thinking the "Frights" isn't as bad as I remember it when I lived at the Corner of Wyoming/Comanche fifteen years ago.
  • Still the Frights is bad: Snyder 52%, Eichenberg 48%
  • Please (insert Deity here) tell me why we still elect Judges in this State! Is the whole enterprise just some sort of subtle voter intimidation, attempting (successfully) to make voters feel like idiots when going to the polls in the belief that if we feel like idiots we'll stop showing up to vote altogether?
AMAFCA (Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo and Flood Control Authority):
  • See "Judges" above
  • By the way, I want it on the record that I am against flooding. And that I want flooding controlled. I'm not much on the whole "authority" thing, but I guess it's nice to have someone in "authority" regarding the control of flooding.
  • Moreover, Jacksonian Democracy is stupid.
Bernalillo County Commission #2:
  • Art de la Cruz 104%, Cecilla M. C. De Baca -4%
  • Ms. De Baca, or Ms. C. De Baca, or perhaps simply MC De Baca (noted triphop DJ) not only wasn't in the "Voter's Guide" as running for this office, I have no record that such a person even exists. I saw no yard signs, no nothing. Of course, now that I think about it, I've only seen one Art de la Cruz sign since the Democratic Primary.
  • But de la Cruz is the Democrat so he wins in the South Valley with over 100% of the vote. The party machine down here is trying to refine the process, and avoid the embarrassment of having its candidates get more than 100% of the vote, but there are still some machination details to tweak.
Constitutional Amendments:
  • It's common for folks to think that the "modern" day is refined and smart, and that only in the past were people and their constitutional amendment ballot measures stupid. Well, I'm here to tell you the stupid lives on when it comes to New Mexico constitutional amendment proposals.
  • Whose idea was it to have two separate school board election amendments, one stupid one allowing for mail-in ballots and the other smart one allowing for these elections to take place at the same time as partisan elections? And what's with this "allow APS to have nine board members thing, but let's not call it APS and have some silly population requirement doo-dad instead" tacked on to the stupid mail-in ballot proposal?
  • One almost gets the impression the whole thing is some sly ruse to get us to drag down the smart proposal with the stupid one.
  • Hmmm..maybe somebody's not being so stupid after all...
  • Meanwhile, I have no idea on whether these will pass, but I'll flip a coin and say the smart one passes and the stupid one fails, in part because non-ABQ citizens can certainly figure out the silly population requirement is code for "Albuquerque" and we all know what folks in Jal and Lordsburg think of "Albuquerque".
  • In other words: Dumb Constitutional Amendment #1 Does Not Pass; Smart Constitutional Amendment #4: Passes.
Bond Questions/Issues:
  • To close this far-too-long post, I think I'll indulge in a little fantasy. Being the boring person I am, this fantasy will involve the 2008 Election Bond Issues. I see, in my mind's eye, a populace tired of driving, tired of wildly fluctuating gasoline prices, bad drivers and people not using their turn signals. I see low mpg vehicles being "retired", and pickup trucks stuck like old farm implements into front yards, their beds used as large gladiola planters. I see Isleta Boulevard as the first of what becomes a city-wide network of vehicle roads converted to bike/pedestrian paths, the former rock/glass/automotive parts "bike path" now paved with the smoothest blacktop this side of Talladega. I see cars forced off the major roads into unmaintained, segregated "automotive areas" that resemble the smoking area glass cages at U.S. airports.
  • In other words, I see all the Bond issues passing, and Senior Citizens, Parks, Libraries and Schools all getting their money...while the Roads Question goes down to defeat 93% to 7%.
A guy, even a slightly pessimistic one on what looks to be a gloriously liberal day, can dream can't he? Happy voting day, everybody.

From the Election 2008 Gallery and General Store

"Three Moods: Presidential Election 2008"
--A triptych. Burque Babble guy. Zeroes & ones, electrons. 2008

"Cautiously Optimistic"

"Blue Tidewater Option"

"Giddy That My Very Own Church of Christer Mom in Missouri is Voting Obama"

P.S.: Less "art" and more "science" (i.e. coin-flips and wishful thinking) to come shortly in a post combining my geekiness and high coffee intake this fine, fine, superfine Election Day morning.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Burque Babble's Rockin' Election Eve 2008: A Look Back at 2006 Looking Back at 2004

I wrote the following in early November 2006. I reprise it now as both a cautionary tale of taking things for granted, and a bitter memory of that early November night four years ago. Remember that night, the eve before our one-term buffoon "W" was most certain to be dethroned? The evening before the evening that kicked our stomach so hard the scars have yet to really heal? Hearken back to that day seemingly so long ago...yet....

November 6, 2006:

About two years ago tonight I was plopped down before C-SPAN watching John and Teresa Heinz-Kerry introduce Bruce Springsteen at a huge election-eve rally in Cleveland. The Boss praised the Kerry's for a bit, then sang "Thunder Road" in the chilly wind of an early November in northern Ohio. Even in the single-camera world of C-SPAN it was clear that the audience was ebullient and confident. Only a few hours remained until the Democrats would take back Ohio, the Electoral College and the country.

I sat there watching and it was hard not to get choked up.

For the roughly half of us who saw the George W. Bush years 2001-2004 as one continuous collective surreal nightmare, Election Eve '04 was like a combination of Christmas Eve and the night before the Prom rolled up together. We knew the next day was gonna be great, just knew it, but a frail, small voice within us wondered "what if it's not as great as we think it will be?"

Then The Boss sang about "Mary" and her dancing "across the porch as the radio plays" and that inner voice was easily subdued. Even for some of us more cynical types.

After months and months and months and years of waiting, maybe Kerry really could win. Okay, we weren't that excited about Kerry...he seemed about as much like us as the cartoon aliens on "The Simpsons", he was richer than most South American countries, his sense of humor was somewhere between Margaret Dumont and Anderson Cooper. But he wasn't Bush, and he was what we had, and Bruce was singing to him and his wife and 100,000 or so chilly people in a state we had to win. Just had to.

Many of us woke up not only happy because of a day off, but because we had somehow become convinced it was gonna be the first glorious day of the rest of our soon-to-be-George W. Bush-less life. It was especially great to be in New Mexico, because we happened to be living in a state where votes mattered. It was gonna be close, but we were gonna prevail. A bit of work, a dash of worry, and then a loud, and somewhat boozy chorus of "Born in the U.S.A." when it was clear we had taken the country back. It was gonna be great, small voice be damned.

It was gonna be great, and then it wasn't.

Which brings us to Burque Babble's Rockin' Election Eve: 2006. LIke any good soap opera, the plot really hasn't moved that much forward in the last two years. We're here again, the night before something potentially fantastic, almost probably so, really. At least one house of Congress should go to the Democrats, and while that's not the same as giving W the personal boot, it's as close as we're gonna get until that happy day in late January 2009 when he slithers out of D.C. for good. We've got a shot not only to smash the congressional rubber stamp, but to make a electorally verified statement to the world that we aren't quite as crazy as we appeared back in '04.

But we're also two years older, and just two years removed from the stomach punch that was '04. So we are filled to overflowing with worry. We obsess on the magic of Karl Rove, the dark mysteries of Republican GOTV, the villainous shenanigans of "Robocalls" and electronic voting. We also think way back, to 2000 and the mother of all villainous shenanigans, where the Republican GOTV for nine robed justices far surpassed the Democrats.

For a few months after Election Eve '04 I avoided anything having to do with politics. Like many others, I investigating relocating to other parts of the world, read with amusement web sites created to provide U.S. citizens with photographic proof to the rest of the world that not every American was crazy, and rehabilitated my perforated stomach through a steady diet of politics-free news.

I don't remember exactly what drug me back into caring, what combination of event and personal healing brought me back to following things political again. But here I am tonight, stomach scarred and acidic, trying to stay brave and face another Election Eve of hope and apprehension.

A few things are different. First, I'm avoiding C-SPAN like a karaoke bar. Not risking that again. Second, I'm trying real hard to avoid any contact with any blog this evening, regardless of how politiporn sexy the many "Robocall" voter suppression blogthreads are. Just a quiet night here with the least that's the idea.

Third, and most obvious/important: we won't get fooled again. Or should I say, I won't. Like the guy who's prom night date leads only to a soul crushing break-up, I'm not emotionally investing myself in the Madrid/Wilson race. I'm not gonna go into a multi-month fugue state if the Democrats don't take a house of Congress. I'm gonna just keep remembering those really corny lines from really corny songs like, "The Sun will come out tomorrow" from "Annie" and "There's got to be a morning after" from the original "Poseidon Adventure".

Yes, I realize that humming these horrible songs to one's self is probably worse than just about any possible pain caused by a election defeat, but you didn't see the condition of my punched stomach on Election Night '04. Even songs from "Annie" don't compare with the ugliness that night produced.

So, Happy Rockin' Election Eve: 2006 everybody! May we all enjoy tomorrow as the great expression of democracy it so certainly is, and have a blast following all the wacky results about 24 hours from now. Regardless. Really.

P.S.: Like all of us, especially those one-day unemployed teacher types who have "Election Day" off, I'm gonna throw some wild-ass "prognostications" out tomorrow morning about everything from Senator Obama to NM Constitutional Amendment #5. Meanwhile, I'm going to sleep tonight thinking better thoughts than I ever did in '06 or '04. Still, remember November 6, 2006? How can we not remember that?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Education Isn't All About the Negative. Really. Some Of It Is About the Affirmative.

In trying to offer up a blow-by-blow of a school year, Burque Babble has largely eschewed the political since August, instead electing (get it, "electing"?) to prattle on and on and on about the mundane, the bad and the ugly of working in the public schools, circa 2008.

Looking back there's been rants about bad teachers (many), Winston Brooks, standardized testing results, the Pledge of Allegiance, school counselors, school "Instructional Coaches" and school secretaries. There's also been running theme of "school-day wasting activities" from fundraising assemblies to Jackie Chan movies.

And no, I'm not writing anything else about the "Jackie Chan movie". I promise*.

Quite noticeable from a quick perusal of school-based posts since August is the high percentage of ranting negativity about public school, teaching in the public schools and, in general, K-12 education in the early years of the 21st Century.

Dear reader, I applaud your cast-iron stomach for ranting negativity, and offer up the following little anecdotal (as we teachers call them) as faint proof that your humble blogger is not ALWAYS negative about the K-12 teaching profession. In fact, he quite loves the job. Really, he does. And yes, he is talking about himself in the third person, which is irritating.

Also irritating is that the little positive anecdotal is about something going on in his own classroom, which not only stinks of braggadocio, but might give the impression that your humble blogger thinks that only his own classroom is doing things "right", and every other teacher is "bad". Nothing could be further from the truth. There are tons of fantastic teachers out there doing unbelievable things. In APS. And I see these teachers/students from afar all the time doing their wonderful things.

Your humble blogger has just made a mental note to start writing anecdotals about these other teachers in the very, very near future. This, however, is not going to be one of those times. Instead, it's about what we're doing in my class and throughout campus tomorrow. Your humble blogger also notes that the build up to this "anecdotal" has hyped it so much that when it finally arrives you, dear reader, will inevitably be letdown and wonder why the Hell your humble blogger has bothered writing about it in the first place.

Oh well. Here goes....

Over the past week the students in our (my co-teachers and I) little program have been frantically preparing speeches, etc. to get ready for a series of debates to be held in classrooms throughout campus tomorrow. Given that our little program has about 220 students, and that 20 debates will be held over the day, the total number of students impacted will be something like 600-650.

Moreover, in trying to keep these debates relevant to this year's Presidential Election, we chose four issues that are not only topical, but complex as Hell. Namely, there's Health Care, Immigration "Sanctuary Communities", Invading Pakistan and Abortion. Yes, you've got that right folks. We're debating abortion at my little middle school. I must say that I have been the "stick in the mud" when it comes to the whole Roe v. Wade thing, and that my co-teachers have been the positive catalysts. My principal has also been completely fantastic in supporting us in the endeavor (well, except for the whole Jackie Chan movie thing, which we're not talking about anymore).

Student response to tackling these terribly complex issues (resolutions, issue packets linked above) has been inspiring. Despite being given only a few days, these 11-12-13 year-olds have leapt to the challenge, already demonstrating astounding ability to both comprehend difficult issues and creating admirable arguments/rebuttals. I think anyone suffering from a negative outlook regarding today's public schools couldn't help but get at least a glimmer of hope watching the proceedings, even one who tends towards ranting negativity in his blogpostings.

Of course the actual in-class debates are tomorrow, and your humble blogger might be jinxing the whole enterprise. Still, I've already seen enough to be very, very proud of my students and their ability to work hard, work as a team, and not give up when faced with incredibly complex materials. It's been a sight to behold.

Especially thinking back to last Friday morning. Let me set the scene. It's Friday. It's Halloween. Jackie Chan and crew are filming scenes for a movie immediately outside the door to my room. You can't open the door to my room without hitting a production assistant or high-intensity light standard. In fact, we've been told to not let students go to the bathroom because Jackie Chan is cartwheeling down our hall, or something. We can literally hear the director yell "Action!" from inside my room.

And my 6th/7th/8th Graders don't miss a beat. Not only do we have "practice debates" but they are of a high quality. We are having meaningful feedback discussions about the best way for "Affirmative" to explain "sanctuary cities" to other middle schoolers, while a Jackie Chan movie is being filmed outside my room on a Halloween Friday.

Those unfamiliar with middle school and middle schoolers might not understand me when I say: wow.


So, dear reader, if you catch me in future months on my 42nd straight rant about how much public schools suck, and that American K-12 education is beyond collapse, and that No Child Left Behind blah, blah, blah, blah... stop me and remind your humble blogger about the time those kids were having a completely focused argument over whether drone aircraft alone can slow down al-Qaeda in Pakistan while a Jackie Chan movie was being filmed immediately outside the room on a Halloween Friday. That should shut me up for a bit.

Have a good Monday everybody. Mine is looking pretty good, I think. And so is Tuesday, now that you mention it, but more about the "Election" and all that noise tomorrow night.

*I admit it, I'm lousy when it comes to promises.