Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Well, yeah... it's about 20 degrees out, tops... and, yeah, there's icy snow out there... but after last week's sub-zero temperatures, I'm thinking we're enjoying a little Indian summer. Yesterday, for example, we hit a high of 32 degrees. Break out the t-shirts and fire up the grill for some kielbasa, fellow Pittsbughers! I boldly went sans hat while leaving work yesterday! And my ears were NOT frozen right off of my head. Good thing, eh?

Coming home today would have been nerve-wracking, to be honest, had we been in the car. Luckily, we bus. Feeling a bus skid, even a few short feet, is not a pleasant sensation -- mainly because I have one single thought: "if this huge thing skids, what will my Saturn do?" Luck was on our side, though, because we made it to the park-n-ride and home before the sleet/ice/snow really kicked in.

I think that pretty much every kid and teacher in the affected areas are praying for a snow. I know I am. Truth be told, I'm torn! If I go in, assuming school is open, it will be a ghost town. Translation: no classes due to a lack of students! (I have the "one-student rule," which means that I do not teach when there is only one other body in the classroom. There has to be two for me to do anything. It used to be the "50% rule," but that was too often to be feasible. Too many of my adult students have outside issues that keep them from attending regularly; e.g., kids, court, difficult bosses, court dates, or even incarceration.)

If we have school but lack students, I can spend my hours getting paperwork caught up, writing my Saturday lecture (three hours of lecture and a killer PPT presentation, I rock thank you very much!), kibbitzing with coworkers, and probably ordering a pizza around noon.

Then again, if I stay home, I can play in the snow with Gavie. That doesn't even need an explanation as to why that would be attractive! With a hill in the backyard, a sled, and six or more inches of snow....

My fingers are crossed.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Um... a title? Got me.

Sometimes one can be too awake.

Today's class was too short. We're covering the Middle Ages -- the Dark Ages, if you will. The era of Charlemagne, of the Treaty of Verdun, and of the Vikings. We're talking about the rise of an empire and of its fall. We're looking at the way in which weak kings and strong aristocrats manipulated a system and how traditional inheritance systems can destroy a whole kingdom. We looked at original documents, discussed the universitae of the day, and laughed heartily at a bit of artwork left over from the day -- the stone relief of a medieval classroom you see at your left. Even back then, students pondered the deepest question of life: is class over yet?

But my brain, I fear, was racing. Fascinated by the thought of the invention of the horseshoe and a different style of horse collar. Add the twin ideas windmills and watermills, and you have yourself an agricultural evolution that freed the serfs and eventually made need for castles a thing of the past and you have the makings of a lecture that I was chomping at the bit (pardon the pun) to get to today.

Imagine! Being able to grow more food then you need! We can sell it! Eureka! The men can go back to school! Learning can be renewed, trades can be pursued, and specializations can begin. Again! (Maslow would be proud! We're once-again on our way to self-actualization! It's pretty hard to self-actualize when you're busy carrying that pocketful of posies to ward off the plague.)

Then again, with the return of the luxury of thoughts beyond survival, people went back to the Roman insanity of seeking happiness while on earth. Which, of course, brought up a whole host of problems as people tried to be happy AND obey the church's edicts. That one about sex only for procreation was a tricky one, I understand. Did you know that s-e-x was just plain b-a-d in the early church's eyes? Marriage wasn't that great either. But, if you had to -- you know -- do it, it was best done within the confines of marriage. Divorce was illegal, of course. No matter how ugly, quarrelsome, or barren the woman may be. The church was a bit different back then. For example, St. Thomas of Aquinas remarked that women were only good for procreation. Meanwhile, the Germanic influence on the church itself resulted in the idea of religious freedom -- provided that your were Christian. Otherwise, well, you found yourself on the wrong side of the sword.

Kinda ironic given that just a bit earlier the Christians were the ones lighting Nero's garden parties. Literally.

Ah well. No one ever said we learned from history. Besides, it's all about pots and pans now. That's literally, too. Captain Chaos is jumping on my couch to the song Pots and Pans, which comes to us from the latest Kohl's for Kids book, Dog Train by Sandra Boynton.

Perhaps I sound like the biggest nerd out there -- one with attention issues, today. Perhaps I am! But even you can probably appreciate this line from the text: "One Germanic professor was finally dismissed from his position after stabbing one too many of his colleagues at faculty meetings."

One too many?

Fellow teachers, can you imagine? Think about all of those lovely meetings we've been to... the ones where people talk and talk and talk and talk and yet say nothing. Think about the ones where the powers-that-are bring in "authorities" on topics such as classroom safety and engaging the learners. Remember all those helpful chats? My favorite was the one where I was told that simply invading a disruptive student's space will cause him or her to immediately quiet down and behave.

That's about the time I get told to "f**k off" by the kid.

That same speaker played The Rose for us and told us that we, the teachers, could inspire a student to be anything. Hell, half the time I'm just hoping to inspire them to stay conscious.

So anyway, back to faculty meeting homicides and my favorite question: can you imagine?

Well, such fantasies aside...! Oh, yeah, he's still jumping. Got the song on "repeat." I think this is the fifteenth playing. (In case you're wondering, I gave Chaos permission to jump. I also give him permission to get really, really muddy in the summer and we had a blast leaping into freshly raked leaves this past fall. It was worth the blisters.)

Sometimes one can be too awake. That's where I came in. Feudalism, universities, and serfs. Economic emancipation. All thanks to being able to shoe a horse and harness the wind! Remember the poem For the Want of a Nail? Economic emancipation thanks to a nail! Does this mean I might someday emancipate myself thanks to a pencil? Dunno. Anyone want a copywriter who specializes in educational and business-related topics? On-line and PowerPoint lectures my speciality.

Now what do I say? Hmmm.... being that this blog is proof of what I'm claiming, perhaps the best thing to say - for now at least! -- is:

Blender solo!