2011

Good riddance.

The year could have gone better.

My shot at being the district’s Teacher of the Year ended when some district folks scheduled a classroom observation during district-mandated testing time.

The Bears blew not one, but two chances to end the Packers’ season in January.

DFJ3’s dad and my friend Allison died on the same day, both far too young.

I played my last soccer game for some time, until the injury heals.

I sold my iPhone only to realize a few weeks later that I hated my new phone.

A coworker resigned on the day of her AP exam and another coworker-slash-long-time-mentor retired.

Someone from long ago found my blog posts about her. I’ve hidden in undisclosed, rotating locations ever since.

Woodchuck changed the color of their Amber bottles from green to brown.

The US men’s team choked in the Gold Cup final against Mexico, and the US women’s team choked in the World Cup final against Japan.

We had to raise a lot of money to make the JV soccer season happen.

I watched a former coworker and friend, Lego, go insane and turn vicious and malicious as he did so.

I had a less-than-pleasant visit to the dentist to get some fillings– the novocaine didn’t work, and the dentist decided to keep going.

My mom’s dog died, and my dad’s dog died.

The Bears’ season collapsed after Cutler broke his thumb.

They gave the next Bond movie a stupid name.

I kept only a handful of my resolutions.

And worst of all, I broke two molars, and have to pay for a bone graft and implant, and worstest of all, the dentist specifically said the Tooth Fairy doesn’t pay for adult teeth.

Good riddance to this horrible, horrible year.

I’m looking forward to 2012. Poland and the Ukraine will jointly host the European championship in June. A new-albeit-poorly-named Bond movie and a new Batman movie are on the way. There’ll be a big primary battle in the spring, fledgling and floundering third-party campaigns in the summer, and a general election campaign in the fall. We’ll get to mock the morons who think the world will end in December. There’ll be new resolutions to keep and new adventures on which to sally forth.

Questionnaire 8.

I can’t sleep, so I write. Here’s another questionnaire.

This one comes from some French guy named Éric Poindron. Here’s what I think is his original post on the questionnaire, and here’s the post by Edward Gauvin that pointed me towards Poindron.

1. WRITE THE FIRST SENTENCE OF A NOVEL, SHORT STORY, OR BOOK OF THE WEIRD YET TO BE WRITTEN. “The real me probably died decades ago back on Earth.”

2. WITHOUT LOOKING AT YOUR WATCH: WHAT TIME IS IT? 12:45 AM.

3. LOOK AT YOUR WATCH. WHAT TIME IS IT? 12:26 AM.

4. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS– OR THESE– DISCREPANCY(IES) IN TIME? I guessed wrong.

5. DO YOU BELIEVE IN METEOROLOGICAL PREDICTIONS? I believe that the predictions exist. I suppose that they’re generally somewhat kind of accurate.

6. DO YOU BELIEVE IN ASTROLOGICAL PREDICITIONS? Again, I believe that they exist. I’m a Sagittarius. Here’s mine for Thursday, December 22nd, according to horoscope.com:

There’s aggressiveness to your emotions today. This feeling will command your attention and demand that you be stable and reasonable regarding all tasks you undertake. Be honest and understanding. No one will understand obscure metaphors unless they have some practical use. Water your plants and clean up your yard. The closer you can be to the earth today, the better.

Total hogwash. I don’t own any plants.

7. DO YOU GAZE AT THE SKY AND STARS BY NIGHT? That I do.

8. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE SKY AND STARS BY NIGHT? I think I’d like to conquervisit them one day. The first time I went camping, around my 10th birthday, we were so far from the city and the night was so clear that the sky was almost white with stars. I remember that night more vividly than the night I saw Halley’s Comet, which was earlier that year.

9. WHAT WERE YOU LOOKING AT BEFORE STARTING THIS QUESTIONNAIRE? An old episode of Spaced. It was the one with the mock gunfights.

10. WHAT DO CATHEDRALS, CHURCHES, MOSQUES, SHRINES, SYNAGOGUES, AND OTHER RELIGIOUS MONUMENTS INSPIRE IN YOU? First, frankly, boredom and sleepyheadedness. Second, if the building in question is really ornate, then I think that though we do want to revere the divine, we might better do so by spending our time, money, and effort on helping God’s children.

11. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE “SEEN” HAD YOU BEEN BLIND? Not sure how to answer this question… here goes: Let’s pretend that I was blinded shortly after my earliest visual memory, which would make that the only thing I’d seen. Oddly enough, it was getting poked in the eye by my big sister.

12. WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO SEE IF YOU WERE BLIND? Aside from people’s faces, I think I’d want to see the Sun and the Moon.

13. ARE YOU AFRAID? On occasion.

14. WHAT OF? Losing a child.

15. WHAT IS THE LAST WEIRD FILM YOU’VE SEEN? Inland Empire. I like Lynch’s movies, but one gets the impression he just decided to film two or three hours of goofing off and slap some title cards on it.

16. WHOM ARE YOU AFRAID OF? No one.

17. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN LOST? Yes. A poor sense of direction combined with a faulty GPS on a cloudy day will do that.

18. DO YOU BELIEVE IN GHOSTS? No.

19. WHAT IS A GHOST? A dead person’s spirit that has somehow become apparent to the living, usually by wearing a white sheet and moaning.

20. AT THIS VERY MOMENT, WHAT SOUND(S) CAN YOU HEAR, APART FROM THE COMPUTER? The air conditioner. The blades of the fan. Some old 80s music.

21. WHAT IS THE MOST TERRIFYING SOUND YOU’VE EVER EHARD– FOR EXAMPLE, “THE NIGHT WAS LIKE THE CRY OF A WOLF”? Genuine hysterical panic in someone’s voice. I don’t want to describe it.

22. HAVE YOU DONE SOMETHING WEIRD TODAY OR IN THE LAST FEW DAYS? Yes.

23. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO CONFESSION? No.

24. YOU’RE AT CONFESSION, SO CONFESS THE UNSPEAKABLE. I was Kim Jong Il’s puppet-master.

25. WITHOUT CHEATING: WHAT IS A “CABINET OF CURIOSITIES”? I assume it is something analogous to a “junk drawer.”

26. DO YOU BELIEVE IN REDEMPTION? Yes. People do redeem themselves.

27. HAVE YOU DREAMED TONIGHT? Not yet, I haven’t gone to sleep. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes, though.

28. DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR DREAMS? More often than most people do.

29. WHAT WAS YOUR LAST DREAM? Unprintable in this august journal.

30. WHAT DOES FOG MAKE YOU THINK OF? London Fog jackets, The Mist, the Fog Bowl, playing in thick fog, lakes on cool nights.

31. DO YOU BELIEVE IN ANIMALS THAT DON’T EXIST? If I stipulate that they don’t exist, how can I believe in them?

32. WHAT DO YOU SEE ON THE WALLS OF THE ROOM WHERE YOU ARE? A framed Sandburg poem about Chicago that I gave to my grandmother and then inherited. A ceramic sculpture that my little sister made. A framed wooden nativity scene from my other grandmother. A small painting of a nature scene. Shadows from the ceiling fan blades amid arc-like patterns from the ceiling lights. Maybe I do need more on these walls.

33. IF YOU BECAME A MAGICIAN, WHAT WOULD BE THE FIRST THING YOU’D DO? People seem to like card tricks, so… card tricks.

34. WHAT IS A MADMAN? Here’s my imprecise definition: a madman is one who either can’t tell right from wrong, or who can but elects not to.

35. ARE YOU MAD? No.

36. DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF SECRET SOCIETIES? Yes. Any of consequence? No.

37. WHAT WAS THE LAST WEIRD BOOK YOU READ? We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Early dystopian fiction. Imagine the latest common ancestor of Brave New World, Anthem, 1984, THX-1138, and the Jetsons.

38. WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN A CASTLE? I probably wouldn’t enjoy living in a castle. There’d be too much unused space.

39. HAVE YOU SEEN SOMETHING WEIRD TODAY? The bone graft in my jaw.

40. WHAT IS THE WEIRDEST FILM YOU’VE EVER SEEN? Primer was pretty weird because of the timelines, but I’m gonna go with Inland Empire again. I like weird movies, but this was so weird that I was incapable of enjoying it. Or maybe it was incapable of being enjoyed.

41. WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN AN ABANDONED TRAIN STATION? No.

42. CAN YOU SEE THE FUTURE? Let’s just say that I guess right a lot.

43. HAVE YOU CONSIDERED LIVING ABROAD? Yes.

44. WHERE? Italy, Mexico, Russia, Turkey.

45. WHY? Italy: to keep an eye on my brother and rip him off if he ever became a rich calciatore. Mexico/Russia/Turkey: there was a girl who loved all three places, and a boy who loved her. A very foolish boy.

46. WHAT IS THE WEIRDEST FILM YOU’VE EVER OWNED? Probably Fire Walk With Me.

47. WOULD YOU LIKED TO HAVE LIVED IN A VICARAGE? Dunno. I don’t want a big, fancy house just for its own sake. Would I have had a big enough family or enough stuff to warrant having such a home?

48. WHAT IS THE WEIRDEST BOOK YOU’VE EVER READ? Tough call. I might go with Blood Meridian.

49. WHICH DO YOU LIKE BETTER, GLOBES OR HOURGLASSES? That’s not a very subtle question.

50. WHICH DO YOU LIKE BETTER, ANTIQUE MAGNIFYING GLASSES OR BLADED WEAPONS? Bladed weapons.

51. WHAT, IN ALL LIKELIHOOD, LIES IN THE DEPTHS OF LOCH NESS? Nothing. Nessie’s an honest girl.

52. DO YOU LIKE TAXIDERMIED ANIMALS? I’ve never given it much thought. I’ll have to buy one and try it out for a while.

53. DO YOU LIKE WALKING IN THE RAIN? Generally, no. But sometimes the mood and the moment match, and it’s calming and almost empowering to walk through the rain while others are carrying umbrellas, or waiting under canopies, or running in awkward, hunched-over gaits.

54. WHAT DOES ON IN TUNNELS? Driving with no radio reception.

55. WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT WHEN YOU LOOK AWAY FROM THIS QUESTIONNAIRE? An empty rocking chair.

56. WHAT DOES THIS FAMOUS LINE INSPIRE IN YOU: “AND WHEN HE HAD CROSSED THE BRIDGE, THE PHANTOMS CAME TO MEET HIM.”? It makes me think the ghosts/phantoms are on his side, at his beck and call.

57. WITHOUT CHEATING: WHERE IS THAT FAMOUS LINE FROM? I’m going to guess Lord of the Rings. Let me check….

Nope.

58. DO YOU LIKE WALKING IN GRAVEYARDS OR THE WOODS BY NIGHT? No. It’s dark, and I don’t like bumping into stuff. I actually used to live next to a graveyard, and walked through it at night a few times while on the way to work or to a buddy’s apartment. No big deal.

58. WRITE THE LAST LINE OF A NOVEL, SHORT STORY, OR BOOK OF THE WEIRD YET TO BE WRITTEN. “I’m glad I got to see what became of mes.”

By the way, why are there two Question 58s?

59. WITHOUT LOOKING AT YOUR WARCH: WHAT TIME IS IT? 1:30 AM.

60. LOOK AT YOUR WATCH. WHAT TIME IS IT? 1:36 AM.

A way with people, part three.

The following gem was born of great frustration with some of my AP Government seniors who, as usual, weren’t doing homework, taking notes, reading the book, or paying attention during the lecture:

***BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

VDV: You know what really bothers me about this? It isn’t the fact that you’re going to be working at McDonald’s or Wendy’s in five years.

STUDENT: Then what is it?

VDV: It’s that you’re not going to be any good at it. You’re going to screw up my order. You’ll forget to take off the tomato, or you’ll give me diet instead of regular.

***END TRANSCRIPT

They are nice kids, but good Lord, they are lazy and they are bombing a relatively easy AP class.

Yesterday, one of my juniors said something like, “Come on, Mr. V., You know you’ve never had a student like me.”

I said, “Yes I have. No offense, but none of you are unique. One way or another, I’ve had all of you in class before.”

I hoped it was tongue-in-cheek enough that nobody took it too seriously– after all, everyone is exactly alike and completely different. Nonetheless, it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to say out loud to kids who actually do take notes. At least I didn’t say it until after they gave me Christmas and Hanukkah candy.

Anyhow, a kid in the back of the room piped in: “What about me?”

“What about you, what?”

“Who have you had like me?”

It was a student whose identical twin was in my first period class, and whose big brother took my class three years ago. Suddenly I regretted nothing.

It occurs to me I’ve probably been using the word “redux” incorrectly. I may have to revisit some old post titles.

How to Make Everything Perfect Forever, Part Five.

Many moons ago, I was assigned to read Steven Landsburg’s The Armchair Economist, in which he makes some “modest proposals” about law and government. One such proposal (which he credited to Alan Stockman) was that politicians be allowed to make legally binding promises. For instance, if you’d care to re-create Papa Bush’s “Read My Lips” pledge, you’d have the opportunity to make it legally enforceable. If you do, then the public has something to hold over your head. If you don’t, then you’re all talk and the public will take that into consideration when voting.

I love this ideer. We’d have to iron out the details of how to make these promises legally binding. Maybe we could develop a type of contract under federal law such that violation would constitute a “high crime and misdemeanor” and would therefore be impeachable. States could develop laws that would keep those who break these promises off all future ballots. A political party could make its nominees and officeholders sign contracts such that violation would mean no support from the party in the upcoming election. The point is that we’d have one more way to hold politicians responsible for broken promises, incorrect predictions, and falsehoods instead of having to wait for the next election to make them suffer.

Landsburg’s proposal came to mind because of the $10,000 bet that Mitt Romney offered Rick Perry in yesterday’s debate. Maybe the bet was a rhetorical flourish, as the Romney camp is claiming today. Maybe it shows that Romney’s out of touch with average Iowans, as the Perry camp is claiming today. Maybe they’re both idiots, as the Democrats are claiming today. These very real possibilities are entirely beside the point.

Why not let these guys make this sort of bet? Why not encourage them to make this sort of bet? Wouldn’t it be one more way to keep them honest? Wouldn’t it put pressure on them to be more precise and accurate with their statements? I think that at the very least, they’d become less grandiose and more realistic in their pronouncements, and they’d be more careful about sliming their opponents.

Besides, wouldn’t the gambling angle draw more attention to debates, campaigns, lawmaking, etc.? Pundits, professors, and politicians often chastise Americans for not paying enough attention to matters of state– well, I assure you that moving the debates to casinos and allowing bookies in the hallowed chambers of Congress will fix that. Heck, we can even find a way to incorporate these bets into state and regional lotteries. That‘ll get folks paying attention to the campaigns, and holding politicians’ feet to the fire.

The Bears did not get Tebowed today. They got Barbered. They got Barbered badly enough that I was reminded of Felipe Melo’s meltdown against Holland last summer.

That’s two out of the last three games where the Backup Bears hurt the team with clock management issues. Stupid coaching or stupid players?