Princess Muse

Monday, September 26, 2011

Musings on The Maryland Renaissance Festival

And so the Wheel of Time has slowly moved forward, with Summer sliding into Fall.

Baseball is giving way to Football (and Hockey and Basketball).  School has started in earnest, and the days are getting shorter and cooler.  The Hummingbirds have left me (gotta remember to take down the feeder!) for their Winter Home in Mexico or Panama (maybe I should practice my Spanish on them, huh?)

The best thing about Fall is the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

I've been coming to the RenFest since 1988 (more or less).  At least once a year, and more recently, at least twice a year.  I've been going in costume for the last 5 or 6 years.  I'm the tavern wench in the dark blue outfit.  It also doubles as my Halloween costume (the under blouse goes down to there for the RenFest, but up to here for Halloween--gotta keep it G-rated around the kiddies, ya know!)

The RenFest has been happening since 1977 and now has a permanent site in Crownsville, Md (just up the road from Annapolis, off of I-97).  It cycles through the 6 wives of Henry VIII, with each wife getting a year.  It keeps it different and a little fresh for everyone.  You can follow the Royal Court around and watch the story unfold, or you can catch one of the many great shows.  There are musical guests (the Pirates Royale are pretty good) as well as stage shows (like "O" A Fool or Shakespeare's Skum).  In the past, the Rogues (one of my favorites) have played (alas, not this year.  *sigh*) and Hack and Slash (swashbuckling heroes) have performed at the Festival.

I go with my usual (or maybe that should be unusual) crowd:  Kim, Charlie, Emma, Stephanie, Matt, Zach, and Ken.  My Wild Boys are not into the RenFest (I have no idea how that could happen), so they stay at home with my in-laws.  Lately, though, it's been hard getting us all together, and this year  Cait's away, but she'll be coming down for a visit and wants to go.
The Unusual Suspects

Lately, I've been taking a lot of pictures at the RenFest, mostly of the little details that are easy to overlook. Sometimes, it's a little garden that's been planted near one of the shops, other times it's something... different.. on top of one of the buildings.  Someday, if I get myself organized enough, I think it'd be fun to do a kinda scavenger hunt, where you have to find where the pictures come from.

Do you know where this garden is?

Or this face?

King Henry VIII and Katherine Parr

If you're in the neighborhood, you should drop by.  You don't have to wear a costume (Charlie and Ken never do) to have a Good Time and aMuse yourself.  The Maryland Renaissance Festival runs through October 23, 2011.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Musings on The Hunger Games

My friend Kris just finished reading The Hunger Games  trilogy by Suzanne Collins and asked me what I thought about it.

I've read all three books about three times each.  It was another of those Lay's Potato Chips things.  Once I read the first book, I had to read the next two... and then I had to go back and re-read them.

For those of you who haven't read the books, it's set in a near future, post-apocaplytic US.  What disaster befell the US is never explained (Collapse of Wall Street?  Class Warfare?  Lack of Clean Laundry?), but the country has been divided into 13 Districts and the Capitol Territory, which seems to be centered in Colorado.  The country is renamed "Panem" (because we are No Longer United States).  The division of the Districts isn't really made clear, but District 12 seems to be one dirt poor mining town in the Appalachians.  The rest of the Districts are kept poorer than the Capitol, but depending on what is produced in the District, some seem to be relatively well off.

At some point, the Districts rose up against the Capitol in rebellion, but were defeated by the Capitol.   As a punishment,  each District must put up two "Tributes" (one boy and one girl) to participate in the Hunger Games--think Survivor meets The Lord of the Flies.  These Tributes are chosen by lottery, from the available children ages 12 - 18.  The older you are, the more times your name is entered into the lottery.  Additionally, you can put your name in more times in order to get a larger tesserae (an allotment of cooking oil and grain).  Call it High Risk Welfare.   Only 24 tributes are selected because District 13 was bombed and no one lives there any more... but among the oppressed is the rumor that a rebellion is forming in District 13, which might not have been as devastated as previously reported.  The chosen Tributes are then whisked away to the Capitol, and get about a week's worth of training.  The Tributes are Mentored by their Districts previous winners.  For District 12, this is a drunk named Haymitch.  Then the Tributes are taken before a panel of Gamemakers (more or less the Producers of the televised event) to demonstrate their "talent"--camouflage, traps, shooting a bow, throwing knives, etc.  The Gamemakers then put up the odds on each Tribute's chances of "winning" the Hunger Games by ranking them between 1 and 12.  The night before the Hunger Games begin, there's an "Up Close and Personal" show with each of the Tributes together on stage.  The next morning, the televised Hunger Games are broadcast.  There can only be One Winner.

The Trilogy follows the Tributes from District 12, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, and, to a lesser extent, their Mentor, Haymitch, and their assigned teams of Stylists.

And that's as much synopsis as I'm going to give--in the words of one of my favorite Dr. Who characters, "Spoilers, darling!"

But, could the World of The Hunger Games happen?  In my most optimistic times, I think that there's no way Society could devolve into such savagery.  But then, I hear that at political debates people cheer about the number of Death Row Inmates candidates have allowed to be killed, and that other people say that those without health care should be allowed to die if they have a disease like cancer and can't afford treatments.  I see the number of violent video games that are produced.  I remember movies like Death Race 2000 ("Twenty points if you hit the pedestrian!")  The number of competition shows on tv are growing (most of them are benign, but what happens when the Producers need to add controversy to their show to increase the ratings?  Sure, this year it's Chaz Bono, but....) and I have to wonder.

So, if it's this grim, why do I love these books?  For one, I enjoy post-apocaplyptic stories.  Alas, Babylon read it about 14 times until my mother made me stop (I kept wanting to dig a bomb shelter in the backyard.),  The Stand-- the only Stephen King novel that doesn't cause me to have nightmares.  Maybe it's the Army Brat in me, I dunno.  The other reason why I love these books is because they are, at heart, Books of Rebellion.  One Girl Against the Evil Empire (even though she does it most unwittingly).  It's Star Wars (IV-VI).  It's Firefly.  It's the American Revolution.  It's the feeling that One Person Can Make a Difference.

But read the books.  They're pretty well written and you get caught up in the Drama of It All.  And there is well as tragedy.  Plus, they're making a movie of it.  We'll meet later and discuss Why The Book Was Better (because the book almost always is....)

Almost time to aMuse myself with more College Football....Go 'Noles!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Musings on Domesticity....

As most of my friends can attest, I am not very domesticated.

My mom tried.  Really.  She initiated  me in the Rites of the Washer and Dryer (and told me to take things out promptly so I wouldn't have to iron my clothes), she showed me the Secrets of the Stove and the Oven.  We explored the Mysteries of the Vacuum and the Duster.    The Fine Art of Dishwasher Loading was covered.  All to no avail.  My house will never be on the cover of House Beautiful.  Alas, Martha Stewart will never come to call and invite me on her show to demonstrate my ways of Artful Napkin Folding.  My friends joke that I'm more likely to be invited on Hoarders than Sensible Chic.....

It's true.  I'd rather read a book than clean the house.  Lately though, I'm beginning to feel like my house is too small.  It's not a large house, but it's no smaller than most of the quarters I grew up in.  I think the big difference is that I'm not moving every year.  When you move frequently, it forces you to go through your things and get rid of the things that you've outgrown (physically and emotionally).

So, Operation:  De-Clutter is underway.  The first step is to go through all the boys' clothes and get rid of the things that are too small.  To this end, I have already done 6 loads of laundry.  Current clothes have been sorted, folded and put away.  I have a small mountain of clothes that are too small in a laundry basket.  They will be sorted through and some of the clothes will be donated to our school nurse (for when the littles have an accident) and some will be donated to whichever of the 5 or 6 charities that regularly call us calls first.

Next up, will be the toys.  I haven't really gotten rid of most of the boys' old toys.  I still have toys from when they were babies.  I think it's time to get rid of those now.  The odds of me willingly agreeing to having another child are slim to none.

Then the books.  Yes, I love books, but I have more books than I have shelves for.  It's time to get rid of a few.  Either there will be a book sale at my house, or I'll find a charity for all my discards (or maybe a combo).  Heck, I could probably start my own used book store with the books I currently own.

It won't be easy.  It certainly won't be pretty.  But it will be worth it if I can steam-vac the carpet again.

Besides, Book Club is supposed to meet at my house in December.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Musings on Short Story Collections

Funny how a novel will keep me up all night, eager to get  to the end, but I can linger over a collection of short stories for a week....

I'm reading Naked City, edited by Ellen Datlow right now.  20 urban fantasy stories by some really terrific writers that I really like to read, like Jim Butcher (though I've only read his short stories, oddly enough), Patricia Briggs (who was not writing about werewolves) and Peter S. Beagle, as well as some I haven't read at all (or very little).  The first half of novelists are definitely fantasy stories, with either fantastical creatures (trolls, pookas, the fae, even the Green Man) but the last ones are a lot darker, edging more into horror than fantasy (although there are fantastical elements).

I like short story collections.  There's something nice about reading a story and being able to put the "book" down and doing something else and then coming back to it.  With a novel, I feel such a compulsion to finish the story that I view the rest of my life as a bothersome interruption until I can get back to the book.  (Even Florida State Football cannot distract me from finishing a novel-well, unless it's the Gator Game, or the Miami Game.  I'll have the game on, but most of my attention is on the book.)  I think it's because I get that sense of "done," that, even if it's bedtime and I've just started the collection, I can put it aside and read the next story tomorrow....even if the next story is by one of my favorite authors.

I have all sorts of short story anthologies.  I have different Bedford Readers, anthologies from Southern Writers, Stories of the South, Mystery anthologies, Fairy Tales anthologies (I love collecting fairy tales from different countries), the Year's Best ______ Stories (usually SF or Fantasy), Star Trek anthologies (you have to admire a fan base that keeps putting out stories about characters that haven't been portrayed in almost 20-40 years--and they're good stories).  Oddly, I haven't really seen any Star Wars short story collections--either the epic-ness of the movies and subsequent novels make it too hard to visualize a story in anything shorter than 200 pages, or Lucas hasn't authorized any short stories (and I know that they're being written) or I haven't been in the bookstores the month they came out.

Short stories can be tricky.  By definition, the reader has to make assumptions in the story--the author can't take too long to establish setting, or characters.  Sometimes, the short story feels more like "Chapter 1" of a longer story, which leaves me vaguely dissatisfied.  Yes, the story has an ending, but not a real resolution.  Then you have to decide if you liked the characters and setting enough to see if maybe it really was a proto-chapter to a book.  Sometimes you get lucky and you get a proto-chapter as a short story, but the story is complete enough that it doesn't matter if a book was written or not. Then you get to read more.  Now that's magic.

One of my favorite short story collections are by George Alec Effinger.  He wrote a series of stories about Maureen "Muffy" Birnbaum that started out as a parody of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars stories.  Sadly, the collection Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordperson is out of print, and isn't even an ebook (but if you go to Barnes and Nobles' website, and I'm sure, you can click to let the publisher know that you want to read this), so you'll have to hopefully stumble upon it in a used book store.

Another one I really like is Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors.  Neil Gaiman is a phenomenal writer and his stories always blow me away.  I bought this collection because he wrote a version of "Snow White" called "Snow, Glass, Apples."

I don't like Arty short stories.  I never feel like I know what's really going on, and I suspect that either: a) the author doesn't really know what's going on or b) the author secretly despises readers and doesn't want them to know what's really going on.  Too much like real life, if you ask me.

Well, I have one last story to aMuse me before I have to find another story to read.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Musings on Being a Substitute Teacher

I love my job.  Really, I do.

Oh, yeah, sometimes I complain about it, but name me one person who always is perfectly happy about their job and loves everyone they work with, and I'll name one person who's living a delusional life.

But, being a substitute teacher is great.   Especially an Elementary School Substitute Teacher.  My days are varied.  One day, I'm teaching 4th grade.  The next, it's 1st grade.  The next, 3rd grade.  Sometimes, I'm the Technology Teacher.  Or the PE Teacher.  Everyday, it's a new adventure.

Yes, sometimes the kids will act up and try to see where your limits are.  The key is to set the rules and follow through on the consequences...just like being a parent.  Try to make the punishment realistic, and something you don't mind following through with.  Don't tell the kids they'll have to eat lunch with you if you really don't want to have lunch with them.  (And some kids don't see that as a punishment at all!)

The nice thing about being a sub, at least to me, is that I sub in a school where I'm appreciated.  The teachers treat me as a colleague, not as a warm body.  They know that I'm willing to sub any grade, any subject.  I don't mind getting the last minute jobs (like I was really going to tidy up the house anyway?).  I appreciate advanced notice, but sometimes they (or their kids) get sick--it's not like you can schedule these things.

And I think the teachers know that I'm going to do the best job that I can.  I'm going to bring a positive attitude to their students.  I don't always need the detailed lesson plan (although, again, it's appreciated--less thinking on my part), as long as I know when I need to move to the next part of the lesson, or when the kids need to go to their "Special"... and when to pick them up.  I have enough life experience that I can stretch a lesson out if I need to, or I can have the class talk about something related to the lesson.

Don't think that being a sub is an easy job anymore.  Rarely do I show movies to the kids all day long.  No, I teach math, reading, science, social studies--everything their teacher would normally do.  With all the Standardized Testing done in our schools anymore, teachers rarely have the luxury of having a sub show filmstrips and videos all day long.  Sometimes, I have to--the teacher needs to see how the students handle the next lesson, or they're going to start a new unit, but those days are rare.  And, unlike a teacher, I have about 5 minutes to look at the lesson and figure out how to present it to the class.  Makes for some interesting lessons, sometimes!

Even though the pay is a lot less than what I could make as a full time teacher, there are some sweet benefits for being a substitute teacher.  I don't have to prepare the lesson plan, I don't have to grade the papers (although, sometimes I will mark right and wrong answers--but I won't put a grade on the paper, especially on a spelling test.  Things I would count wrong, a teacher might give the student at least partial credit for.), I don't have to get grades in at the end of the quarter, and I don't have to go to faculty meetings.  (Although certain teachers think that I'm at the school often enough that I ought to go to the faculty meetings!)

But the best part of being a substitute teacher is getting to know the kids and to know that they see me as a friendly adult and that I'm there to help them.  There's nothing better than having the students say, "Hi, Mrs. Katano!" or give me a hug as they walk down the hall.  Or if I see them outside of school and they get so excited to see me. (And then the next day, they come up and tell me, "I saw you yesterday at such-and-such place!")

One year, I subbed in the kindergarten so much, that every time I walked into the cafeteria at their lunch time, I'd be mobbed like a rock star.  Now, that's a great feeling.

Not as great as having your kids tell you how much they love you, but almost.

The kids sure do keep me aMused....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Musings on Nature's Fury

Okay, just to recap, since August 23rd, 2011, we've had in the Baltimore area:
        1 Earthquake
        1 Hurricane (Irene)
        3 days of heavy rain (thank you, Tropical Storm Lee), which lead to lots of flooding and sump pumps failing everywhere.

If I were a superstitious person, I'd say Someone was trying to tell me Something.  Luckily, I'm not superstitious, so I can just ignore the Signs of the Impending Apocalypse.

Back to School Nights are not cancelled due to heavy rains.  Attendance was down, but if I had to deal with a flooding basement, I'd have stayed home, too.  In a way, though, it was nice going when there weren't as many parents there.  I felt like I got to see the teacher, although there still wasn't enough time to personally chat with any of them.  (Remember, the first rule of Back to School Night:  It's about hearing about the curriculum and class procedures, not about connecting with the teacher.  Email is your best friend.  Really.)  Because of the Back to School Nights, my sleep habits were messed with and I got maybe 8 hours of sleep in a 48 hour period.  Cranky and exhausted described my mood by Friday evening.  Thank God for the weekend.

We had anywhere from 5 to 14 inches of rain in the Baltimore/DC area, according to meteorologist Doug Hill (WTOP radio).  I read somewhere that if it had been snow instead of rain, it would've been something insane like 70" of snow.  I can handle rain much better than snow.  Main Street, in Old Ellicott City (just down the road from me--about 3 miles) had some bad street flooding when Tiber river overflowed it's banks.  Here are a couple of videos I found (I was teaching 2nd grade on this day.  Somehow, we didn't close schools--maybe the Powers That Be thought we were safer in school.  I think we were.)

This video was taken just over the Patapsco River bridge in Old Ellicott City (OEC).  Most of the river you'll be seeing is actually the Tiber, not the Patapsco.

And from further up the road, by the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company restaurant:

I have a couple of pictures of the Patapsco River the day after the flooding:

Patapsco River at the Baltimore/Howard County line

Patapsco River at the Bridge (going towards OEC)

And a few of the Patapsco from further down (Washington Blvd) by the Avalon area of the State Park (which was closed...)

Patapsco River at Rt 1 (I-895 off ramp in background)

Detritus collected by pylons
Patapsco River at Rt 1

But, the sun is shining.  My older son (with supervision from his grandfather), has mowed the lawn.  There's still a chance of rain in the forecast for the next few days, but nothing like what we've had.  (Honestly, we had thunder and lightning that made me think of when I was in Taxco, Mexico.  Loud and rolling on forever.....)

Oh, and as if there isn't enough to worry about, my friend Liz says her old sump pump caught fire during all this rain, so I guess we'll have to add "sump pump inspections" to our List of Things to Do before the next weather event.....(everything is fine at her house...her husband got it mostly under control, but the Fire Department came and made sure it was all safe.  Yay for the Firemen!)

Dry out and stay aMused....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Musings on Back to School Nights

Yay me!  I get to go to not one, but two back to school nights!

We got a robo-call from the principal of the elementary school that my younger son attends reminding us about Back to School night.  My husband asked me, as this is our seventh Back to School night at the elementary school, if we really needed to go.  Oh, I was tempted to say "No," but really, we do need to go.

Here's the thing about Back to School Nights:  it's a chance to hear about the curriculum your teacher will teach your child this year.  It's also a chance for you to show your child's teacher that you plan on being an involved partner in your child's education.

Now, let's define what I mean by being involved.  To be involved means to make sure that homework is done.  Ask your child how they did the homework.  Ask questions about what they are learning.  Find out what books are being read in their reading class.  If you're familiar with the book, talk about it.  Discuss concepts learned in science.  Have your child teach you how to do math (the ways math is taught does change.  How my sons have learned math is different from how I learned--yeah, way back in the Dark Ages).  My best semester in college was the semester I hung out with people in my classes.  I didn't study any harder, but I had a better grasp on the concepts taught--why?  Because I discussed them with my peers.  Plus, your child will get a kick out of "teaching" you, and you'll be able to strengthen bonds with your child.

However, being involved does not mean second guessing your child's teacher.  If you do have questions about how something is being taught (or why or anything else), ask nicely for an appointment.  Do not tell a teacher that you will see them tomorrow at 10 am.  It may not be their planning time.  Your child's teacher has a 50 minute planning time.  In that time they may need to meet with other teachers about activities happening in the school, grade papers and get set up for the rest of the day.  They have an half-hour for lunch, and then they have to supervise recess.  The rest of the time, they are involved in teaching your child.  Even if there is seat work being done, your child's teacher is probably helping students with questions.  They are not sitting around reading romance novels and eating bonbons.

As your child gets older, it's still important to go to Back to School Nights.  You will have less time to interact with the teachers (and really, Back to School Night is not the best time to have "face time" with teachers.  Sadly, you are 1 in 150.  Teachers are allotted about 10 minutes to do a presentation before you have to go to the next "class"), but by being there and listening (and not talking to the parent next to you), you are sending out the message that education is important.  More importantly, you are sending this message to your child:  What you do is important to me.  I want to make sure that you are getting the best education that we can get.

Besides, the teachers have to be there.  You don't.  Your showing up tells the teacher that you appreciate them doing their best job with your child.

Besides, there could be something aMusing at the PTA meeting.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Musings on Playing Bridge

I will never be a Grand Master.  Or a Life Master.  Heck, I'll never earn even 1 point towards any of that.

The ACBL (The American Contract Bridge League) hates my style of play.  'Cause, baby, we roll casual.  We trash talk.  We sing songs.  Last night, we even rolled gangsta-style.  (Okay, white-bread suburbia sanitized  gansta, with no bling, but still....leave me to my fantasies.)  Yeah, this ain't my momma's Bridge Club.  Taunting (good natured, but still taunting) is encouraged.

Spades are the Boss suit.  Queens are Strumpets.  Jacks are Gigolos.  If the contract is for 3 No Trump, a portion of the "My Three Sons" theme must be hummed.  If the contract ends up being in Diamonds, "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," is sung.  If the opposing partnership ends up taking enough tricks for a slam, but slam wasn't bid, your partnership must high-five and say "Slam Defense!"-- especially if your partnership entered the bidding, no matter how briefly.

We discuss a lot of bidding--while we're bidding.  I have a tendency to get lost in the details and Bridge is a lot of details and conventions.  If you're really good, the game is all but won in the bidding.  With the conventions, you describe your hand to the table, but that's okay, because everybody else is describing their hand to everyone as well.

I am not very good.  I'm not even sure I describe my hand very well.  Luckily, my friends, Kim and Charlie, and my husband have played with me long enough that they understand what I'm saying, even if I don't say it very well.  If Charlie is my partner, I tend to bid a little more recklessly.  Luckily, Charlie's a good enough player that he manages to make the game.  I'm a good enough player that I can make it 85% of the time.  And they know that if I keep bidding a suit, even in the face of daunting opposition (like my partner all but shouting, "Stop bidding that suit.  I have no support for it.  I don't care that you have honors!"),  that I have honors (at least 4 of the 5 top cards in a suit) and I want the points, dammit.  We might go down, but I'm getting my points for honors.  If Kim is my partner, I try to focus on what's going on--and if Ken's my partner, well, all bets are off.

Every now and then, at least 3 brain cells rub together and then the magic happens.  I am One with the Bridge Universe and there is no stopping me.  It usually happens when I partner with Kim--probably because I'm actually trying to play Serious Bridge.  I tend to get hands that are heavy on points and good suits.  A few times it all backfires, but unless you know you lost because of dumb playing, hands are dissected and discussed.

But I play Bridge the way I like it.  For fun.  No pressure.  Trash talking encouraged.

Although I like to aMuse myself with the fantasy of leaving some plush salon in Monte Carlo wearing a faux fur floor length coat with my 4 inch stilettos, with the red dress slit-not-all-the-way-to-there.  I take back the leash of my sleek designer dog (Afghan, or maybe a Borzoi or a Wolfhound of some sort) from the bouncer in a tux.  Omar Sharif is slumped at the table, pale and trembling, and says to someone, "Damn, that girl got some serious game."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Musings on Florida State Football and the Marching Chiefs

It's no secret that I adore the Florida State Seminoles.  It's my mother's fault I'm such an FSU football fan.  Although I went to FSU because my dad had gone there, it was my mom who took me down to Freshman Orientation and bought me student tickets to the games because she "wanted to make sure I got out of the dorms one night a week."

My freshman year, I was not impressed with football.  Didn't get it in high school, didn't get it my freshman year.  Yeah, I was the band geek who brought a book to read while the game was going on and yelled at people during half-time so I could watch the half-time show... and when your band is the Marching Chiefs, the half-time show is worth watching!

I wish TV would show the half-time shows again....

My sophomore year, I was rooming with Kim and Carol and a football fan was born.  Oh, I still yelled at people to sit down during the half-time show, but I learned to appreciate the game, and to be a good fan.  It's okay to want your team to win, and to believe that no matter what they are the morally superior team, but there is no reason to be mean and use foul language about the opposing team.  (Nope, you won't even hear me be mean about the Gators.)

I actually met Coach Bowden twice.  I used to belong to the Seminole Club of Washington, DC, and the club used to be part of the Bobby Bowden Golf Tour (I don't know what it was really called, but Coach Bowden would go around to some of the various Alumni Clubs and play golf with members in the off-season.)  One year, I was able to take the day off and help out.  At the dinner reception, the club had me stay with Coach Bowden and make sure he had pens for autographs.  He was always very nice and gracious to everyone.  The next year, I wasn't able to take the day off, but I made it down to the reception.  I stood in line to get my autograph (really, it was for my grandmother.  She just loved Coach Bowden) and Coach Bowden looked up at me and said, "Hey, you were the Pen Girl last year, weren't you?"  Either I'm that hard to forget, or Coach Bowden is that good.  I'll let you decide.

I didn't like how Coach Bowden was pushed aside.  I'm not saying that Coach Fisher hasn't been great (hey, 10-3 is a really great first season as a Head Coach), but I think that Coach Bowden earned the right to retire when he wanted.  Also, the meanness that was coming out was unnecessary.  I was at FSU at the beginning of the Dynasty Years (seven years after Coach Bowden became Head Coach), and I remember  how thrilling it was when FSU started to be ranked in the National Polls.  I was in Raleigh when FSU joined the ACC.  A lot of the guys in my office had gone to NC State and just looked at me when I told them I'd gone to FSU.  The Friday before the FSU-NCSU game, one of the guys plastered my cubicle with headlines about how NC State had a chance of beating FSU.  I just smiled, took the headlines down, and waited for the game to be played.  That Monday, I got to work a little early and took my revenge.  I'm nice, but I'm not above a little revenge.

Yeah, I'm watching the game against University of La-Monroe on ESPNU.  I wish the score was a little higher, but UL-M is expected to do well in their conference, so they're not the total cupcake team you might think they are.

And just because this commercial aMuses me:  

Go Seminoles!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Musings on Education in the Future.....

There's a lot of new ways for students and teachers to interact with each other using technology that go beyond just having a computer and a program in the classroom.  It makes me excited for the future.

Now, I think that we will always have younger students coming to a building, if for no other reason that you can't leave young children at home alone and even if a parent is tele-commuting, they won't be able to supervise their child while working.  It's possible that high school and college students will be able to "attend" class while at home, but for now, at least, we'll need school buildings for education.

Of course, one of the problems with schools is that they are under-funded in many ways to take advantage of new technology--and technology changes so fast right now that by the time a school or school district buys a new technology, such as a Promethean Board (prices range from $709 - $6,000 per board/system),  or the ELMO (prices range from $500 -$1,500, roughly), something better might available. Even netbooks cost about $400. I am not knocking these technology solutions, just pointing out that using technology costs a lot of money, money that schools/school districts don't always have.  Heck, an overhead projector costs about $300, so no matter what, we're talking big bucks overall (just count how many teachers there are in your school.  Almost every single one of them use some sort of projector at least once a school year, and if they are a "regular" classroom teacher, they use them all the time.  When I taught Spanish, I used about 4 overhead transparencies per class every day).

Of course, if you buy into the technology, you need web resources for students to use, which can be a little tricky.  We want safe and secure places for our children to learn, both in the physical environment, and in the virtual environment.  Luckily, there are a lot of sites schools can use for education.  Promethean Planet has their own programs and websites for use with their Promethean Boards.  Teachers are using wikis (yep,  just like Wikipedia--but not necessarily Wikipedia) for students to virtually discuss topics.  There is also Edmodo, which looks similar to Facebook, for topic discussion.

To really take advantage of new technology, you need to have teachers who are excited by the new possibilities and direction in education.  Not that there isn't value in the "old" ways, but when I look at what is available, I get excited about teaching.

Florida State University (yeah, you knew I'd work them in here somehow, didn't ya?) has a new Certificate Program:  BOLT (Blended Online Learning and Teaching), that I hope to be able to earn.  (For more information, go to

My philosophy about teaching is that the most engaged learners are the most aMused learners.....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Musings on Schedule Changes and Sleepless Nights

So, the end of August has brought back the start of school, which means that my days of sleeping whenever and getting up whenever are over.   Caulfield, in the comic strip Frazz, sums up my feelings just about perfectly:  "I don't mind learning.  I mind structure."

I have to get up earlier this year than in previous years.  My Older Son is in 6th grade and riding the bus for the first time.  Trying to figure out what time he should be at the bus stop was frustrating.  Our county shows the start time for each bus run, but not what time to expect the bus at each stop.  Do I add 5 minutes for each previous stop?  Should he be at the stop when the run starts?  Consequently, he was at the stop almost 25 minutes early.  Not that I regret that too much....I'd rather be too early than too late.  But would it be too much for the County to put a note telling parents how much time to allow per stop?

Younger Son ended up at school almost 20 minutes early,  too.  Figuring out the timing of all these schedules is going to take a little while.  And then we get to re-adjust once I start subbing again.

With the earlier get-up times, you'd think I'd adjust to a slightly earlier bedtime.  I was tired last night.  Exhausted, in fact.  I wasn't home very much yesterday.  Between running errands and grabbing the things I'd forgotten, I didn't have a chance to sit at home and savor the quiet until almost 2:00.  Not much time to really relax because then I had to start thinking about pick-up time for Younger Son.  When it was finally bed time, did I collapse in a little heap and start dreaming the dreams of the just?  Oh no, I did not.  I did the one thing I knew I shouldn't do.

I started a new book.

I started a new book, even knowing that  I would have to read it until it was finished.  See, new books for me are like Lays Potato Chips:  I can't just read one chapter (Lays used to have an ad slogan of "Betcha can't eat just one."  And no, I can't.  Sometimes, Madison Avenue just adores me).  If the book is good enough, I'll start and I'll think to myself, "Oh, I'll just read a chapter or two, then I'll stop and save the rest for tomorrow."  Next thing I know, it's 2 am and I'm wondering why I started that book so late in the evening.  (For the record, the book in question was Christie Craig's Don't Mess with Texas.  Light romance  whodunit with comedic overtones.  I like her stuff.)

Which means that it's almost 2 pm and my head hurts from lack of sleep, but I can't take a nap now because I'll no sooner start to doze off when I'll have to go get Younger Son and then deal with homework.  Yay.  Oh, the joys of being the at-home parent.

All this is also kind of a roundabout way of saying that I may be an irregular blogger for the next little while.  Until I figure out what the schedule is going to be.

Keep a sense of humor and stay aMused.