Sidereal ramblings

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rocky Raccoon

On my way home tonight, I hit and killed a raccoon with my car. For many, probably most, people this wouldn't be a big deal. And I guess it's not a "big deal" for me, either, but I feel kinda bad. [For some of the kids in our high school, raccoon hunting is a sport. Not with guns, either. They go out into the woods with baseball bats and club them. I kid you not.] This isn't the first time I've caused the death of an animal (other than insects or birds, mind you) with my vehicle. I nailed a deer just outside Winona one time. And once before I got a raccoon, just south of Lake City while driving back up to the U with my friend Jill when we were in college. I felt pretty bad about that one, too, but she felt worse, I think. She made me pull over to the side of the road right afterwards. I'm not sure if she got physically sick, or just thought she was going to, but she was pretty affected. I felt bad (though not that bad) when I hit the one tonight, but I think I'll get over it.


We (my musical director and I) held our second night of auditions this evening for our school's fall musical show. There are a lot of very talented kids who've tried out. Now it's a matter of casting, fitting the right actor with the right part. It's been said that if you do a good job of casting your show, it's 75% done, and I kind of believe that. One of the problems with this particular show is that not everyone who tried out will be able to get a part. With most musicals, everyone can at least be in the chorus if they don't get a speaking part or larger role. In this show, there's no chorus. I feel really bad when kids try out and I'm unable to cast everyone, but that's life in the theatre, I guess.

My arm's still broken

So I went to the doctor this morning, and was told that five weeks out, my arm is healing very nicely. I believe I'm doing better than average, or perhaps better than expected. I don't go back for another month now, when they'll want to x-ray it again. In the meantime, he basically said, wear the sling, don't wear the sling, whatever you want. The advantages of wearing the sling are, of course, that it keeps the arm from being bumped or wrenched, and prevents me from accidentally using it in ways I shouldn't. I'm still being told not to lift, carry, push, or hit with it. I was specifically instructed today that if someone asks me to help them move a piano, I should decline.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Water water

We got inundated with heavy thunderstorms last night, and lots of rain. There's some water in various places on the floor of my basement, not unusual when we get heavy rains. Last night around 12:30, I went downstairs to find a puddle of water on my kitchen floor. Water was seeping through somewhere in the roof, and then making its way to the celing of the kitchen, where it then proceeding to drip, drip, drip from a crossbeam to the floor. In fact, on the crossbeam itself, there was a disturbingly large pocket of water accumulating underneath a skin of paint. I mopped up the floor, put down a towel, and a bucket. In the morning, I had maybe an inch and a half of brownish water in the bucket. After the rains finally let up, the water stopped dripping. Now, I'm a bit perturbed by this. It's happened before in a slightly different area when there was an excess of snow on the roof and one of those lovely ice jams was preventing it from running off. But while I felt annoyed and disturbed by the whole event, I couldn't help but think of the people in New Orleans and other areas of the south, and what it must be like to have your home under several feet of water and to lose everything.

Friday, September 23, 2005


Wow, I put in a pretty long day today, although three of my classes were devoted primarily to reading today, so it was (relatively) quiet and I was able to get some work done, correcting tests and papers. I tend to collect a lot of assignments in my English 12 classes, and I've gotten a bit behind on grading them. I stayed until 5:00 p.m. tonight, an hour and fifty minutes after I could have gone home, doing more of that. I like to stay on Fridays sometimes, because most people (students and staff) vacate the building pretty quickly so it's quiet and I'm able to work mostly undisturbed, although a few students were hanging around tonight and came in to visit for a bit. I brought a bunch more papers/tests home that I want to get graded before Monday, but I'm looking forward to taking a day off tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I've been experiencing some headaches lately. I'd say about half of the days since school started, I've come home with a really bad headache, which has kind of wiped me out for the evening and made it impossible to get anything done (I often have some kind of schoolwork or planning that I do in the evening, or just stuff of my own that I'd like to do at home). I have long had a tendency to get sinus headaches, especially in the fall and spring, though I really haven't been bothered much by them for a couple years. Lately, they seem to have returned. Tonight, for example, I started to get one around 3:30 or 4:00 after school had ended, but just before I left for home. By the time I was home and had watched Jeopardy, my head was really pounding, so I took about a 30-45-minute nap on the couch. It wasn't a whole lot better when I got up, but now -- about two hours later -- it has pretty much gone away. It's just distressing 'cause I feel like I'm spending a lot of time not being able to get anything done.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Overheard at the mall

Saturday noon I was at the River Hills mall in Mankato, eating a little lunch, when I overheard one of the custodial workers say to another one, "Working hard or hardly at all?" I chuckled. Apparently, the clever wordplay of the "working hard or hardly working" dichotomy was lost on this individual.

CTAM conference

I spent all day Friday and Saturday morning at a conference in Mankato. CTAM stands for Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota, or something like that. It's an organization of and for speech and theatre teachers and coaches, and I qualify under all of those permutations. Normally, I'm not big on the whole "conference" scene but this was really good. It was informative, entertaining, and I came away with good ideas for things to do in classes, and helpful hints for coaching as well. It will also enable me, once I take a short open-book test on the rules, to become a registered judge for speech and one-act play events, something that I've wanted to do for some time now. All in all, I'd have to say it was money and time well spent.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Initial reactions

I watched President Bush's remarks from New Orleans tonight. It didn't take him long to bring up terrorism, 9-11, and WMDs. Actually I'm surprised he can even bring himself to mention that last one. Or I would be if he wasn't the smuggest human being on the planet. My contempt for the man knows little bounds. Although since he actually took responsibility for the inept response to Hurricane Katrina, I may have to change one opinion I've held: that he has never said or done anything since becoming President that I've agreed with.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Neglected Child

Right now my teaching schedule includes 3 sections of English 12 (seniors) in the morning. I was talking to a colleague the other day about how I didn't really like teaching the same thing in a row three times, and don't think I could handle a job where I only taught one class five times a day (some people like that, but I'm sure I wouldn't). When I first started teaching at Wabasha-Kellogg, I had five preps for six classes. (What that means, for the non-teachers, is that I taught five different classes in six periods, with one repeat.) I did that for two years. At MCW I teach five classes a day, and usually have three preps, sometimes four, and rarely only two. One of my afternoon classes is called "Mass Media" and I struggle with it. The concept behind the class is studying different types of media (newspapers, radio, TV) and the goal is to have the students become "better consumers" of media. I've taught the class a couple of times before, and tried to spice it up as best as I could. (I use a lot of the stuff that one of the other English teachers -- the one who usually teaches this course -- used, and frankly, a lot of isn't what I would do, so I have had difficulty adjusting to it, and tried to come up with more of my own material.) Right now we're two weeks into our five-week newspaper unit. Every kid in class gets a copy of the Star Tribune every day and I try to figure out ways to get them to delve deeper into it, but beyond the sports page and/or the comics, most of them are completely uninterested. I think a huge part of the problem this time around is that 14 or 15 of the 17 students I have in that class come from the bottom end of the academic scale; to them, it's an English credit and they don't want to do any more reading or writing than the bare minimum to get past. (Two of the other students are on the very high end of that scale; one will be the salutatorian this year.) Any suggestions or ideas that anyone has would be greatly appreciated. I don't want to dread getting to this class at the end of my day every day for the next four months.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Another trip to the orthopedist

Three weeks out, I had yet another doctor's visit today. He said that my arm looks pretty good for three weeks -- I can bend it pretty well, and nearly straighten it out. We talked about physical therapy last time, but today he said it didn't look like there was any need for it -- yet, anyway. I've got a couple more weeks of the sling, though he said I might try it without at home. I haven't worn it at all tonight and it feels fine, well, the same as it has anyway. I'll wear it more at school, to prevent my arm from being bumped, wrenched, or pulled (you know how those high school kids are). So it was a good visit to the doc; plus, I got out of school at noon, so went to the local chinese buffet restaurant for lunch, which sure beats school cafeteria food.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Happy Anniversary

For me, 9-11, even prior to 2001, has had a slightly different meaning. I was married on 9-11 back in '82. Divorced a little under five years later. So 9-11 was always kind of a day of infamy for me.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Bad sci-fi?

When I turned on the Weather Channel this morning, I was greeted with pictures of the coast of eastern Florida being worn away by the latest tropical storm. There was video of a beach literally being broken down into the sea. It wasn't the picture of a calm stretch of sand fading into the surf, it was land, earth, several feet high breaking away and falling into a roiling sea. I was struck suddenly with the thought of reading a science fiction novel back in the '70s, of an environmental disaster in the near future, thinking of the scene in New Orleans and surrounding areas, coupled with the breakdown of "civilization" into lawlessness, looting, and people shooting guns, and martial law. It's like we're seeing live something that might have been extremist fiction 30 years ago. I had a similar reaction four years ago when we saw endless repeats of the video of the planes smashing into the World Trade Center -- that image seemed (to me) like it had lifted out of an X-Men comic book, not real life.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Too hot

The temperature hit close to 90 today; it may have even got there, I don't know. And the dewpoint was in the 70s. It's supposed to be just as warm or warmer tomorrow and again on Sunday. Enough already. This is September, it's supposed to be cooler. Just the other day, I either read or heard (don't recall which) a weatherman say that it almost never gets to be 90 in September in Minnesota.

There was a big project at our school this summer to install air conditioning (and heating ducts) throughout the school, uniformly. As I mentioned earlier, this isn't yet complete. Today I heard that we might have air conditioning by sometime next week. I'm sure it'll come right after it finally cools down.

I wore a light Hawaiian shirt to school today, even though it wasn't bad in the morning, I knew how hot it would be this afternoon (my room was like a sauna). The shirt was a big hit with the kids and some of the staff members as well.

The right answers

As a teacher, I find it important to have the right answers. When kids in the hallway say to me, "Hey, Mr. Lanz, what's up?" my stock answer is "My blood pressure." Another teacher in our building, as a traditional greeting, will often say, "What do you know?" My answer for that is, "Pretty much everything."

Monday, September 05, 2005

State Fair

I spent all day on Saturday at the Minnesota state fair. As a kid, I used to go to the fair every year with my family. I don't remember everything we used to do, but I remember having a lot of fun running around the fairgrounds by myself, seeing the different exhibits and such. When I was a bit older, around the college years, I went to the fair frequently with friends, and having a very enjoyable time as well, though things were on a different level. (My senior year of college, my roommate Peter and I lived about two blocks south of the fairgrounds, and so we walked over and went to the fair several times during that week.) I remember going through the haunted house, just once, with a girl I was semi-dating at the time. (Going to the haunted house alone is just not something to do.) There have been a lot of years lately that I no longer go to the fair. Last year I went and met up with my friend Bill and his family. That was a fun day -- experiencing the fair with young children was something I hadn't been able to do before.

This year I went up to the fair with my friend Erin and her husband Ryan. We got up to the fairgrounds around 10:30, and after half an hour or so, we split up. I spent about seven hours at the fair, wandering around, looking at stuff, and trying to avoid the periodic downfalls of rain -- which I was able to do pretty well. At the first hint of rain, I'd duck into a nearby building and wait it out. Because of this, I spent about 30 minutes watching a cattle show in the Colisseum -- not something I'd normally do. Actually, I just wanted to spend the time sitting down. Other than that brief moment, I spent most of the seven hours walking around. I'm used to being on my feet most of the day, but there are always moments when I can sit down and take a load off, if you will. By 5:00 p.m., I was tired out and ready to go home. I couldn't, though, as Erin and I had volunteered to work at the Education Minnesota (our statewide teachers' union) booth that evening from 6-9. It was a very enjoyable experience, and I had a good time talking with all the people who came through (except for one rather scary guy). We were helping create calendars that EM was giving out. We'd take pictures with a digital camera that we then sent directly to a printer which printed them atop a sheet calendar of the school year with our logo on it. It makes for a pretty nice keepsake from the fair and created lots of goodwill with our "clientele." It was a nice end to the day, which otherwise found me getting pretty frustrated with the general idiocy of the public, in that I was able to talk briefly with people as they were waiting for their calendars to print, and, as I said, most everyone was very friendly and pleasant. Kind of restored my faith in people a bit, I guess. But it was a long, tiring day overall, and I'm glad I've had two days to just sit around home and rest up before going back to work tomorrow.

Labor Day

Happy Labor Day to everyone! (Unless, of course, you're anti-union...)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Top 100 Albums

Last spring sometime, I created a list of my top 100 favorite albums. While this was fun to do, I imagine that list would change slightly every day if I were to redo it. This summer, I've been listening to my top 100, from 100 down to number 1, in countdown fashion. While I definitely see some changes possible in positioning, I'm fairly certain that this list represents my favorite albums of all time. At the moment I'm writing this, I'm one song away from the end of my #1 album, and I'm quite content with its placement at the top of this list: Bruce Cockburn's Nothing But a Burning Light.


So gas prices have gone up, as you all know. Where I live gas is right around the $3 mark. The last sign I saw had it at $2.99.9. I get kind of a perverse kick out of hearing all the moaning over high gas prices. We, as Americans, have had really cheap gas for years. Most European countries have seen gas prices around $5 (with exchange rates) for a long time. Gas, in and of itself, isn't necessarily more expensive there, its just that most of those countries tack on very high taxes and fees to cover expenses. My hope is that the rise in gas prices will get many people to rethink the "need" for a huge gas-guzzling SUV, or a pick-up, or some other vehicle that they could really do without. Maybe car manufacturers will seriously look into producing more fuel-efficient vehicles -- we know the technology is there, it's just that the desire hasn't been. I know I've been thinking, long before gas prices started to go up, that my next car might be a hybrid.

I heard President Bush today exhorting consumers not to buy gas "if they don't need it." Great advice, W. 'Cause you just know people are out there spending $3 or more a gallon on gas that they just don't need. Sheesh.

Back to school

School's been back in session for two days now, which hopefully explains why I haven't blogged in a couple days, as well. Usually I'm quite excited for school to start up again in the fall, and see the kids, new and returning, once again. I've got a couple of really good English 12 classes this year (and one that's so-so). I get to teach all the seniors every year and I quite enjoy the task. They are right on the verge, if not surpassing it, of being adults, both legally and, in many cases, emotionally/mentally. Of the four years I taught at the school I'm now at, there has been only one year that I didn't care a great deal for the senior class. Not that I didn't like them, but usually I do care, literally, a great deal for those kids; I really like them, and by the end of the year, I'm sad to see them go. This year looks like it might shape up to be the second year like that. There are quite a number of kids that I genuinely like (and I've known most of these kids for four years now), but there's another substantial percentage that I won't be missing a great deal once they depart. In the meantime, we've got a lot of classtime before the end of the school year, and I may well grow attached to more of them as time goes on.

My other two classes couldn't be more different. I've got 30 fun, energetic kids in my Theatre class -- we played a theatre game today and every one of them was really having fun with it. I don't always see that. My last class is Mass Media. This is a course I have taught before, but don't always teach. I don't really care for a whole lot of it; I find the material kind of dull, so I'm sure my class does as well. I've only got 15 students in this class (I had 18 on my original class list, but 3 have dropped it), and normally a small class is good, but this group is lethargic and dull. I couldn't get much out of them today while trying to discuss something.

I'm sure my opinions will change as time goes on, but after two days, I'm just kind of having an "okay" time teaching right now, and usually I'm much more up than that. However, I think I can blame part of that, at least, on my broken arm, which makes things difficult in the classroom.