Saturday, December 26, 2009

Moving the Casket

or maybe just buying a new suit of internet clothes.  Time will tell.

I've decided to move from good 'ol (and sometimes less than good) Blogger over to Wordpress.  I've never been much of a Net Design Maven (NDM), but I finally got fed up with Blogger over the "jump break" feature that it took years to get...then turns out to not work very well. 

Besides, nobody (including me) understood or liked the whole "frannyzoo" thing.

So one thing is sure...Burque Babble is now here at

And another thing is looking pretty sure as well.  I'm probably not done blogging, and I'd like some help this time.  Lots of it.  Send me an email if you have questions or answers along these lines.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have a Very Dada Christmas and Other Confusions

Virtually killing yourself isn't as easy as one might think.

Despite my last post, some six weeks ago, knelling the blogging death bell (is "knelling" a word?), the link to "Burque Babble" has yet to have been removed by every single New Mexico website which links to every other NM website. I know because I am such a loser that I have actually looked around and noticed this.

This is hard to believe.

Most unbelievably, it might mean that the folks linking to Burque Babble never actually read this silly blog. Impossible, of course. Obviously the people running these other sites have simply been too overcome with grief at my passing to get around to removing the link. The link could also be a memento of sorts, a reminder of a better world, a happier in which Burque Babble vibrantly thrived. At least as much as an inorganic blogging entity can be said to "vibrantly thrive".

Regardless of the true reason, the fact remains that this pitiful molecule on the flea butt on the mangy dog on the shag carpet of the Internet universe still exists. And like nature (and mangy dogs), I abhor both vacuum cleaners and a vacuum.

So instead of vacuuming and other household chores this sunny but cold windy day, I'm addressing you, the obsessive person who obsessively clicks on NM website blog roll entries.

And while I have you, obsessive clicking person, let me first say: Hello!

Hello obsessive person! Hold on! Before you move on to another obsessive click to another site on the NM blogroll ask yourself this question:

Does Albuquerque and New Mexico need another source for K-12 education news?

What's that you We don't? Oh, I kinda expected you to answer yes to that one. Hmmm... I thought you'd feel we need good sources for education news, especially as NM is particularly craptastic in this area. Well, how about this one?

Does Albuquerque need an Ethiopian restaurant?

Okay, I admit it..that was fish in a barrel. But I needed an easy "yes" question in order to get you ready for the next one:

Could Albuquerque and New Mexico use an online humor "magazine"?

Dear Obsessively Clicking Person (DOCP): Do you feel there are hundreds, if not millions, of Manny Aragon and Robert Vigil jokes that went publicly untold because there is no real venue for venomous, but somewhat articulate, lampooning of local authorities?

Perhaps, instead of a simple answer "yes", these questions lead to some of your own, dear DOCP, including "Why is Scot asking these questions, and why would he bother posting such blather when he could be vacuuming his dog hair-infested house? Not to mention that his blog is 'dead' and like the dead he is largely talking to himself here?"

And to anticipate your follow-up question: No, drinking is not involved here, nor psychotropic drugs nor sheer vacuum cleaner avoidance.

What is involved here, I just don't rightly know...other than some thoughts on death, blogging death, life after death, both blogging and know, the same Holiday Season thought pattern almost all of us have, especially those in the K-12 teaching profession.

There's more, but I think I've confused everybody enough, especially me, for now. And maybe that's the best way to leave things permanently here, with everyone perfectly confused in some Dadaesque reverie.

But I don't know. We might not be done. There's still one or two Manny Aragon jokes that desperately need to be told. Not to mention the Richard Berry, Darren White, et. al. opportunities.

Why do I feel like Walter Huston in the flophouse talking to Fred C. Dobbs about gold in "the Treasure of the Sierra Madre"? Or more specifically like Walter Huston talking to himself?

I know what blogging does to men's souls.

Have a Merry Break, everyone...Dada as you wanna be.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Gone Writin'

Well, I've thought and pondered, considered and reflected, assessed and reassessed. I've posited, asserted and gone back to positing. I've covered a few mental chalkboards with arrows, Greek letters and those big three dot triangles meaning...probably meaning not much of anything.

Okay, this is overstating the case. To be honest, I've been busy and haven't had time to do more than twirl an idea around for a minute or two in the last few days. I also had some good counsel both here and in my "real" life on the subject. Thanks for that.

Meanwhile, my twirling has led, as twirling will do, back to my original thought.

I think it's time to go on hiatus here and do something else for a while. And yes, that something else might be a book. Or something. Else. But probably a book, using State-of-the-15th Century-Art technology for a while.

Which means little or no blogging here, as I want to spend the same "free" time on this other thing.

So the doctor is "out", the sign on the shingle has been taken down, the front door sign has been reversed from "open" to "closed".

No real advice as I leave for a while, other than be nice when you can, feisty when you have to be, and smart enough to know which of the two options best suits a particular moment. Hmm...maybe that's some advice better suited to myself, than to the prudent, thoughtful folks who have constituted my readership here.

Goodbye for now, prudent, thoughtful folks.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Return of the Book Dragon

So you're writing this blog read by seven or eight people on a good day, and you've been doing it for months, or even years, and everything has been fine and dandy in that unobtrusive and meaningless way that you prefer, when out of the blue it all turns to Hell one afternoon because the thought crosses your mind...

"I should write a book."

And one thought leads to another, and another and another and another, and pretty soon you're staring out the window saying things out loud like "You've wasted all this time and energy on this stupid blog and why haven't you already written a book, and what should the book be about and should it be fiction or non-fiction and how long should the book be and asdgaqbeopng bqnoboinqoiernboin qboin oianeroin blkan nionqareoin bsnl..."

And your brain spins these questions, doubts, and self-criticisms faster and faster until they achieve a high megahertz whine inside the brain (literally) that requires, absolutely requires, the drinking of a very strong beverage, preferably with an outrageous hops to malt ratio.

Thankfully, 99% of the time the beer, serotonin, or whatever kicks in well enough and the hi-speed whine goes away along with the insane drive to write the goddamn book.

And then there's the other 1% of the time. Folks, I think I might be stuck inside that one percent right now.

I've tried everything: reading really good books that should prove beyond any doubt that: 1. No one should bother writing another book because it's already been perfected, and 2. I sure as Hell shouldn't bother; listening to Velvet Underground "Live 1969" at remarkably high volumes as I am doing right this second; going through Amazon to see the veritable mountain of books that have been slaved over by obsessed folks for thousands and thousands of hours only to see the book achieve Amazon sales ranks of #2,458,935, and reviews from pissant Amazon reviewers saying things like "this book sucks because there's a typo on page 47, and the author is obviously an idiot".

And I will continue to pursue these remedies this evening in an attempt to get this whine out of my head and move back to the placid, blogging meaninglessness you (all six or seven of you) and I have come to expect here at Burque Babble.

It's always eventually passed before. But these 1% situations can be intense. I might be away for a few days fighting this book dragon. Or I might be posting again like a madman within hours, a sign that the dragon has, once again, been slain or at least firmly stuffed into the semi-locked recesses of the mental closet.

"I'm beginning to see the light...I'm beginning to see the light. Some people work very hard, but still they never get it right...I'm beginning to see the we go again, playing the fool again..."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Disaster Ranking Scale For Public School Teachers

Tornadoes have the Fujita Scale. Earthquakes the Richter. Hurricanes the Saffir-Simpson. I guess we still have that Homeland Security color-coded thing, although I think we've all pretty much stopped paying attention to it. But what about Teachers? What scale for ranking educational disasters exists?

Obviously, this is a shortcoming that must be rectified, and Burque Babble is just the entity to do it. But as "Burque Babble Scale" doesn't sound nearly as cool as "Fujita" or "Richter", we need a super-sexy name...hmmm...let's see. How about "Allison Scale" as in ex-APS Superintendent Brad Allison, who was basically a walking, talking, emailing, vodka and sleeping pills mixing disaster?

Sounds good.

Below is the official Allison Scale for disasters within the teaching day. Educators should post the information below in their rooms, preferably next to that "Fire Exit" poster that nobody has looked at in years and years (and perhaps actually fell down back in 2003 and you just haven't noticed).


Allison 1: Trying to listen to cringe-worthy 6th Grade student candidate speeches for Student Council over the intercom, while keeping a straight face before your classroom of 7th Graders.

Allison 2: Any lockdown drill, especially one that involves discussion of how students might go to the bathroom during a real lockdown (and includes the teacher sheepishly pointing to a trash can).

Allison 2.5:
"Award Assemblies" in which a long list of "Honor Roll" students are, incomprehensibly, read while non-"Honor Roll" students disrupt things and act like bad Jerry Lewis impersonators. Having 341 bad Jerry Lewis impersonators sitting on those bouncy gym bleachers is like watching "The Nutty Professor" on 341 different screens simultaneously with all the screens showing different parts of the movie.

Allison 3:
Having a Fire Drill during a test perfectly calculated to be completed within one class period.

Allison 3.5: Teaching next to the Nurse's Office when a particularly virulent strain of gastro-intestinal distress has hit campus. The smell of projectile vomit and teaching doesn't go together very well, I've learned.

Allison 4: Experiencing a thirty-minute lock down while police pursue "suspects in the area".

Allison 4.5: Any classtime that develops because an end-of-semester band concert has ended too early. You're in the gym, sitting through "O Tannenbaum" played on squeaky violins at the metronomic pace of "meandering", when suddenly the tune ends and the principal comes on and tells students to "go back to your 7th Period class" fifteen minutes before the final bell. That is one long, long walk back to the classroom. Teachers should definitely be provided lion taming chairs and whips for situations like this.

Allison 5: Trying to have middle school in-class debates on the day before Halloween while a Jackie Chan movie is being made so close to your classroom door that everyone, debaters wearing "pirate" costumes included, can hear the director saying "Action!". Not that I would know anything about this.

Allison 5.5: Professional Development Day. Nothing makes a teacher value kids and the classroom like a "PD Day". The weirdest part of it is that you have these former classroom teachers who evidently have gone through some Manchurian Candidate program that washes all their memories of the classroom away and replaces it with Maoist pedagogic malarkey. Okay, it's not Maoist. But you get the idea. You want to hold your hand up to these "facilitators" faces and wave it briskly up and down before their eyes. What do these PD automatons "see"? Are they still human?

Allison 6: Staff "training" sessions that involve the use of the same "teaching" techniques we are told to NEVER use in the classroom. This means ALL staff "training" sessions, as they ALL consist of lectures, bad PowerPoints being read slide after slide in toto by "trainers" and excruciatingly bad videos featuring Public Access-level production values and cheesy music usually reserved for elevators and those late night movies on Cinemax.

Allison 7: Experiencing a lockdown during after-school activities (and/or just as you're headed out the door to go home), like the one at Carlos Rey Elementary yesterday. I can just imagine the teachers spinning car keys in their hands as they impatiently wait for the "all clear". This may seem high on the scale, what with no students in most of the rooms, but just roll that scenario around in your teacher noggin a while.

Allison 8: ANY discussion during ANY staff meeting. Staff meetings are like Thanksgiving dinner for dysfunctional families, but with 100 people. "Dinner conversation" is a short-fuse time bomb, and usually by the third or fourth comment even the best-facilitated discussion has devolved into, "I can't do this anymore, and nobody will help me!" with the same flailing of arms and other melodramatic histrionics associated with bad community theater productions of Eugene O'Neill plays. One only wonders what level of verbal dysfunction could be reached if staff meetings included alcoholic beverages. It would surely make "Long Day's Journey Into Night" look like "Home Alone 4".

Allison 9: Any trip to APS Central Office (aka, the "Twin Towers"). I don't personally believe in spirits and such, but the vibe at that place makes Jonestown seem like Cliff's Amusement Park. It's REALLY creepy. To make extra money in these tough budgetary times, The District should turn Central Office into one of those Halloween Haunted Houses every year. The great thing is they wouldn't have to put up decorations, black lights or's just fine for scaring the crap out of folks exactly as it already is.

Allison 10: Experiencing a three-hour lockdown at Rio Grande HS that runs well into the late afternoon. Widespread destruction. Homes swept off their foundations. In a sick, rubbernecking the car crash way, I kinda wish there was video of this recent event. From a teacher perspective this must have been quite, quite awful.

Problems in Education: Inadequately Informed Drug Dealers

I could go in a bunch of education "news" directions this morning. Middle school teacher having sex with student. NM School districts given"flexibility" with class sizes in the Special Session. ABQ charter school has been involved in 43 police calls since October 2008.

Enough right there for a teacher to give up reading the newspaper forever.

But my favorite: Drug dealer caught near elementary school gets lighter sentence, because dealer didn't know about the nearby school.

Which brings up an important job of our principals and other school employees, properly informing drug dealers about the location of our schools. While we do a pretty good job of informing parents and students about school events through newsletters and almost daily notes/letters to be sent home, we do a lousy job of making sure drug dealers are kept informed.

There can be no denying that better outreach to our drug dealing community is needed. Perhaps newsletters could be distributed by school personnel on street corners knows for drug activity. Maybe school principals could rent cars with loudspeakers and drive around announcing the presence of schools in high-drug areas.

Better yet, school business cards could be distributed to drug dealers and users, including maps outlining the 1,000 foot "drug-free" area surrounding the school. Suggestions could be included on the cards and other outreach documents recommending nearby good drug-selling locations that are NOT within the 1,000 foot zone.

It's pretty damn clear APS and its employees are, once again, creating another public relations disaster. Without better communication and outreach with our drug dealing/buying population, we're simply exacerbating an already-present information gap, one that mirrors a long-term problem here.

APS has historically done a lousy job of communicating with local businesses. The drug business is no exception. Every APS employee from Superintendent Brooks on down should be embarrassed by our failure to better inform the drug dealing community. Embarrassed.

But perhaps not quite as embarrassed as by the "middle school teacher fired for having sex with student" story. That one has me groaning and shaking my head quite a bit this morning.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Better Educational Living Through Judicial Chemistry (Alchemy)

A long-deliberated case on whether No Child Left Behind is an "unfunded mandate" ends, for now:
"In a rare 8-8 tie, the 6th Circuit upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit questioning whether state school officials must comply with the portions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act for which Congress refuses to pay."
--Courthouse News Service. 10.21.09
A teacher licensing test in Massachusetts is upheld despite wildly disparate score results based on race and language...
"A federal court judge dismissed a lawsuit yesterday that challenged the state’s controversial licensing test for teachers, sidestepping concerns that the test discriminates against members of minority groups and instead spelling out what he called minimal standards for teachers, namely 'the clear and accurate use of language.’'"
--Boston Globe. 10.13.09
And a bunch of fired principals in Washington D.C. are still suing D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee for firing them...
"District teachers are not the only ex-school employees turning to the courts for redress. Last week a group of principals and assistant principals dismissed by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee in 2008 refiled an $84 million lawsuit alleging, among other things, age and race discrimination, defamation and civil conspiracy."
--Washington Post. 10.27.09
(Note apropos of nothing: I like the term "civil conspiracy" very much)

It's great to see education providing such an explosive amount of job creation around the country. The number of lawyers kept employed by these suits must be sizable. It's also wonderful to consider all the education money being redistributed into the legal community via these various cases. It's a sort of "stimulus" plan for "shovel ready" litigation. How might our education dollars help you, firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe?

Reviewing APS Middle School Websites: Epilogue

I would like to report that my scathing exposé on the dark, uninformative underbelly (i.e., websites) slithering beneath the hulking lizard (i.e., APS middle schools) has resulted in massive changes to both the underbelly and the entire lizard.

Such, I must report in a cold-blooded manner, has not been the case.

The websites still generally suck.

Cleveland's home page was last updated in October, 2008. Grant has a staff page featuring links to "online classes" that don't exist. The scourge that is "Professional Innovations" still shrouds Eisenhower and other "Heights" school sites that can afford to do much better. And yes, Harrison's page is still a blank, white screen of nothing, perhaps echoing the existential views of Sartre, or indicating the influence of Soto Zen thinking on being and nothingness. One can only hope.

And speaking of hope, there isn't much resulting from my quickie revisit to these websites.

They are not painful to revisit. Not really. It more like when you're from North Central Texas and you go back to North Central Texas after many, many years of avoiding the place, and you get there, and you go to some restaurant or bar or some such social gathering spot, and you hear the locals talk in that loud, Texas accent about this and that, and you immediately say to yourself, "Yup these are the same racist losers I remember being here 20 years ago". And you leave, and try to get back on I-20 West to get the Hell out of there as soon as humanly possible.

Revisiting these websites was kinda like that. Just a confirmation of what I'd remembered.

But there are lights at the end of the North Central Texas, lizard (armadillo if you're in Texas), APS website tunnel. Not every individual APS webpage is awful. There are pages like this, and this, and I'm sure there are many others that I'm simply not willing to drudge through internet muck to find.

And, in a shameless plug, there's also little online school newspapers that seem to be taking off a bit. We're not "winning teh Interwebs" or anything, but getting about 100 hits a day and putting out a steady diet of student written/edited stuff, and getting quite a few comments (darn nice ones without the usual "you suck, no you suck, Hitler" progression found in most internet comment threads.

It really can be done. It's really quite easy. Students want to do it. Their faces kinda light up when we "publish" something they wrote, even if we can't use their full names (privacy issues or something). Plus, it don't cost nothing.

Yeah, it really can be done. It just isn't. Scathing exposé or no scathing exposé.

Best evidence of this nothingness: the APS website itself. Still right up there with the ABQ Journal in the running for Worst Website Ever. Some time back APS posted new jobs for web developers to come in and move into the 21st Century, but nothing's happened yet. Why? How long can it possibly take to come out with a website better than Sixty seconds? Thirty?

I guess a "glass half-full" person might say that it's good to know you can depend on some things in life. Racist Texans for one. Really bad APS websites for another. Strangely, I'm not seeing the glass half-full on either of those points. I must be one of those "glass half-empty" people.

P.S.: No, I am not equating having a bad website with being a racist. People/schools with bad websites are not inherently bad or evil. They are not equal to racists. Or even Texans. I'm just saying the feeling of revisiting had overtones of similarity.