Sidereal ramblings

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Endorsed by...

I had a new and interesting experience today. You know how political candidates are "endorsed by" certain organizations? I never really thought about how that happened. But this morning, I got to be part of a committee for our teachers' union (Education Minnesota) as we screened candidates for the state legislature from our area. There were eight of us in the group, and we interviewed one Republican incumbent and two DFL challengers for House and Senate seats in the area. The questions were provided to us, but we were able to add follow-up questions and veer into different areas as well. As someone who is something of a political junkie, moreso during election times, I found the entire process really intriguing. When first asked to participate, and even while going through the introductory stuff this morning, I didn't think it was going to be all that interesting, but as we got going, I really found I enjoyed the process.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I had the opportunity on Sunday to see the new movie, An Inconvenient Truth. If you are unfamiliar with the title, this is the new documentary about the problem of global warming featuring Al Gore. It has been described as two hours of film of Al Gore giving a slideshow, but to be fair, it's a bit more than that. There really wasn't much in the film I didn't already know, but some of the statistics, presented in visual terms, are overwhelming. And there is some very clear visual evidence of the problem. I would encourage anyone and everyone to see this movie if you have the chance, especially those who still don't believe in the truth of global warming. The evidence is undeniable. One thing I did come away with having seen the movie is that there is still time to solve and reverse this trend. Not a lot of time, granted, and we need to start soon, but it's not yet too late.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Not That Old

On my way home from the Twin Cities today, I stopped at the Dairy Queen in St. Peter and bought a blizzard. When the teenage girl running the register rang up the sale, it was less than what it was listed on the menu. I thought, "cool, it must be on sale." (It was advertised with posters and stuff -- a new flavor, apparently: Monster Cookie Blizzard.) While she was making my blizzard, however, I noticed on the receipt that she had rung up a ten per cent "senior discount." She did this without asking, of course.

I'm thinking that maybe it was just a sale price, but that was the only way they had of ringing that into the cash register. Yeah, I'm going with that.

Day of the Dad

I'd just like to take a moment to wish every father a Happy Father's Day, including my own father, who won't see this. I don't think Dad has ever used a computer. And if he hasn't yet, he never will. (Not to worry, I talked to him on the phone earlier this evening.)

I, personally, am not a father. Leastways, as far as I know.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Dueling Media

I've never seen the movie Deliverance. Being the movie buff I am, and among certain of my friends, this would seem fairly unbelievable. It is nevertheless true. I know the basic idea of the story, but I've never seen the film. However, last night (or very early this morning), I finished reading the novel Deliverance by James Dickey, on which the movie is based. I didn't know there was a novel until just recently. It's probably a rare experience for someone who hasn't seen the movie to read the book these days, and I treasure that feeling. I liked the book quite a lot. As I said, I knew the basic storyline, but not many of the details. As I was reading, I thought it would be very easy, and somewhat entertaining, to take the plot of this book and make it into a movie. However, I can't imagine making a movie that captures the tone of the novel. It's a very introspective piece of fiction. I have a certain impression of the movie, and I would think that statement might surprise fans of the movie who haven't read the novel. However, I haven't seen the movie, so I really do not know. I intend to watch the movie one of these days now that I've finished reading the novel.

Accident Prone?

Two summers ago, I hurt my back pretty severely. My biggest physical activity is riding my bike, and that injury put me off my bike for a month or more. Last summer, I took a spill off that selfsame bike and broke my right arm. It was in a sling for a few months and didn't fully heal -- that is, get back to normal -- until about nine months later.

Tonight, I cut my face during play rehearsal. My character, a burglar, has to make an entrance by punching a plane of glass out of a doorway, so as to reach through and unlock the door. Breaking and entering, you see. We're using plexiglass instead of real glass, of course. I had to do this about six times during the course of rehearsal tonight. About the second or third time, the plexiglass sheet decided to rotate somewhat. The lower part went forward, and the upper portion came back and sliced about an inch-and-a-half (maybe a bit less) gash in my right cheek. I didn't think it was that bad. I kept putting my fingers to my cheek and coming away with little drops of blood, and it stung like crazy, but we went on with rehearsals. My fellow actors all had a look at it and were duly amazed. I didn't get to see it until we took a break. The cut was a lot longer than I would have thought. It's not deep and doesn't really hurt, but it looks kind of wicked.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Radio...on the Big Screen

I had the chance to catch the new movie, A Prairie Home Companion, yesterday. Anyone who's a fan of the show will enjoy it. I had a smile on my face from the opening credits throughout most of the rest of the film. I don't want to give away too much of the plot (what there is of one -- director Robert Altman has said "stories don't interest me so much"), but I will say there was a lot more music and performance in the movie than I was expecting. A lot of the show's regulars appear "as themselves." There isn't any of the political humor that PHC has developed, nor are there any religious (i.e., Lutheran/Catholic) jokes that I can recall. In fact, there's a lot less "storytelling" on the radio portion of the movie, and a lot more music. I'm not sure how well it will play outside of the Midwest or among the show's devoted following (since I'm part of both, I suppose), but the "all-star" cast should help open it up to a wider audience. I'd be interested to hear the reaction of someone who's seen the film unaware of the radio show. In any event, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Wedding Stinger

Saturday night I attended a wedding dance. The happy couple were a pair of former students of mine. I'm usually fairly uncomfortable in social situations like this, as I'm not the most social of people. I live alone, and tend to spend a fair amount of my "free time" alone. I like it that way. I can do what I want, no one bothers me. Generally, being in a large gathering of people, I'm not at my best. Ocassions such as this tend to remind me in uncomfortable ways of my status as a "loner." There were lots of families there, lots of couples there, lots of friends there...and me. Not to say that I didn't have a good time; actually, I did. I'm very happy for the newlyweds, cute kids who I've never known not to be a couple. I saw probably a dozen to twenty former students, most of whom I had a chance to talk with briefly. I had a really good long talk with a student who just graduated last year; I went over just to say hi to her before I was going to leave and ended up talking with her for fifteen minutes or so. All in all, I had a good night. (I was there for about two hours.) It's just that situations like that tend to make me uncomfortable going in. Plus, of course, I don't dance. Last night, I had a good excuse, as I hurt my back the night before, which made quick movements somewhat painful. Although one of my former students did drag me out onto the dance floor for about the last half or last third of one song.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A story a day

I'm not sure it's keeping the doctor (or anything else, except maybe boredom) away. BUT... a couple of years ago, I came up with a plan for doing some summertime reading, since I was teaching and not working during the summer months. I've got a few anthologies of short stories that I really like, but was finding it hard to find time to wade through them. I decided that for the summer months -- June 1st through August 31st -- I would read at least one short story every day. I figured that given I'd probably do a few extra here and there, I would probably read about 100 stories during the summer. I've done it most summers (though, sadly, not last summer) since then. I decided I'd try and get back to it this summer, though I really didn't get started until about the 5th. (School didn't finish until the 2nd, and the 3rd and 4th were mainly taken up with graduation parties.) Tonight -- or last night, since it's after midnight now -- I finally caught up.

There are rules to this. If I miss a day, it needs to be made up by reading two stories the next day. (Or three the day after, depending on what I've missed.) However, I can't "read ahead." That is, if I read an extra story someday, I don't count that toward the next day's.

I really like the stuff I've been reading so far the last few days, stories from last year's (the most recent) collection of THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR. If I come across a particular story that really stands out, I'll no doubt make mention of it here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ten miles

As I mentioned a week or so ago, I've been out biking again this summer. I've been going pretty consistently, almost every day for the past couple of weeks. I've been riding about eight miles a day. Today I added a little extension to my usual route, so went about ten miles. It felt good and I didn't really tire. It was hot -- nearly 90 degrees -- when I went out, but there was almost no wind, which is a definite plus.


So as far as I can tell, the world didn't come to an end today.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Really Real Last Day of School

As mentioned in my post last Friday, that day was supposed to be the last day of school. But I spent most of my time that morning working on grades that should've been done before that, and didn't get time to clean up. I went into work today to do that. I spent about an hour and a half there today, boxing up stuff (my books I've taken in over the course of the year, DVDs and CDs, the 5.1 speaker system that I run off my DVD player in my room) to bring home for the summer. I also needed to print a couple of items and file away the last few papers that were still on my desk. Lastly, I had ten "cubes" in my room that I wanted to take out. Those in theatre know what I'm talking about -- they're just 16-inch wooden cubes that are used for a variety of purposes on stage. We've never really had any to use at MCW, so I asked the shop teacher to make some for me this spring. The second-to-last week of school, I had some of my drama girls paint them black one night after school. The boxes have been sitting in my room since then (we still need to paint the insides; never quite got around to that), and I needed to move them into storage for the summer. Once I did that, I was done. Tomorrow, summer vacation should begin in earnest.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Pomp and Circumstance

Today was our high school graduation. This is always a bittersweet time for me. I'm proud of the kids (well, most of 'em), and happy to see them go off to another stage in their lives, while at the same time being a bit sad that they're going. Every year, I think things are never going to be the same, and while they're not, a new batch of kids comes along every year and (so far, at least) re-energizes me.

I spent most of the weekend attending various graduation parties. I'm not sure how things go elsewhere, but the standard here is graduation party-hopping. Stopping at different kids' parties for a few minutes, talking with the graduate, parents, other siblings and friends there I may know or remember, and then it's off to the next party. I went to two Friday night, nine yesterday, and six today. (That number is actually lower than previous years.) We have a very rural district, encompassing a number of small towns and lots of farmland in between, so it's not a matter of going from block to block. It can be a challenge to plan out a route based on times and locations of parties. Since yesterday morning, I put 208 miles on my car.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The First of Ninety

A friend of mine has described summer vacation (for those of us in the education field) as "ninety Saturdays in a row." I like the purity and essence of that statement. Saturday has long been my favorite day of the week. I checked my calendar, and to be accurate, it's more like 87 Saturdays in a row, but why quibble. For those of you who must continue with your day-to-day jobs over the summer months, my condolences.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Real Last Day of School

Students were done yesterday, but teachers had to report today. The morning started with a district-sponsered breakfast honoring our one retiring teacher. I then spent the next three hours (give or take a couple minutes) finishing my grades. I still had a few papers to read and then had to finalize everything, make copies for my own records, and send everything through the computer system to the office. This last bit took the longest, as the first four times I tried it, I encountered some type of glitch in the system wherein the office didn't receive my complete grades. This was frustrating, and added to my already lessening time to do anything else. I left school a bit before noon with a lot of cleaning up of my room, packing stuff up and bringing it home left to do. I'll be going in sometime next week to finish all that up. Spent most of the afternoon at a retirement party for the above-mentioned colleague, then stopped briefly by two graduation parties for a couple of "my" senior kids, and then our three-hour play rehearsal here in Fairmont. All this on well under six hours of sleep, and I'm up late again tonight. When, oh when, will I ever learn?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Cue Alice Cooper

Today was the last day for students at my high school, or as we call it, the last day with kids. Tomorrow we have a half-day workshop -- although I can't envision getting done what I need to do in only four hours -- and then summer begins in earnest. Today was a pretty chaotic, crazy day, as the last day of school usually is. I can't believe the number of kids I had turning in overdue assignments today. I think I made a strategic error in not making a day last week the final day for turning in late assignments -- something to think about for the future. Three kids in my first hour speech class came up to me at the end of class today, asking when they could make up various speeches they weren't prepared for when they were supposed to have given them, weeks or months ago. It's a little late to be thinking of that, kids. I spent most of my day correcting last assignments and trying to update grades into my computer. As a result, I only made it about halfway through the papers that one of my Lit. courses turned in today -- the day it was due (kind of a final paper for the class). First thing tomorrow, I'll be finishing those up and then cleaning and packing up my room. And I'm up way too late tonight.