Thursday, August 28, 2008

fauxtography? oops!

yesterday, whilst i was trying to get my room situated and squared away, i was wasting time on the class computers, trying to differentiate them for the kids. what should i use for computer wallpaper? why, my photos, of course!

rather than have the URL in the address bar for them to see whenever they use the computer, i googled "fauxtography" to see if it would appear. (if you've been hiding under a rock lately, check out my pictures. the link is at right, "my foray into photography".) first result that came back was a definition from the urban slang dictionary. being inquisitive by nature, i checked it out to see what they had to say.

first definition of fauxtography:
Fraudulent photography. News images that have been faked by various means, generally to promote an ideological agenda or to manipulate the emotions of the viewer...The word was first used to describe the doctoring of photographs by Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj during the Lebanon War of 2006, and has since been generalized to mean any dishonest or faked news photo.

Methods for creating “fauxtographs” include: using Photoshop (or similar software) to digitally alter the photo; photographing staged scenes or simulated news events and presenting them as real; interfering with or manipulating photo subjects to creat a “more effective” picture; adding inaccurate and/or misleading captions.

well, that certainly doesn't apply to mine, though the etymology is certainly where i came up with the idea, albeit two years after the word was coined. my photos are all natural, no doctoring necessary. the second definition was more concise, but pretty much the same idea of propaganda. let's see that final one:
the crappy pictures of the sky or dead plants that scene kids take with their digital cameras and call it a hobby. They say photography is their passion, but we all know it's really fauxtography.

ah, we're getting closer to the point. one, i'm not a scene kid, so that doesn't work. two, no pictures of the sky or dead plants. three, i know that my crappy digital camera doesn't produce amazing art. does being self aware of this make this definition fit more or less? too late to change the name of the phlog now. oh well. time to go find some dead plants or rainy skies or crying puppies or something else emo...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

school daze

oddly, i'm not too tired this week from getting up early. my overly bright bedroom helped me keep close to my school sleep schedule all summer. however, my energy level to actually work in my classroom this year is low low low. i'm struggling to get it all together, as usual, but this year seems slower than most. moving classrooms and begging borrowing stealing materials since i changed grade level is eating up a lot of time. then, of course, my attention level is decreasing my focus. a summer spent being lazy for the morning, checking email, watching the daily show, resulted in a lack of industriousness. no matter how many times i felt motivated to do a lot in a day this summer, i never managed to finish a manageable task list on any of them.

this does not bode well for the intensity that i've gotten myself into. i'm simultaneously excited and terrified at feeling like this is my first year teaching all over again...

Friday, August 22, 2008

why michelle rhee is ill-suited for the job

this isn't the first time i've heard of something like this, but it's certainly one of the most misguided and broadly applied to raise attendance and test scores. what am i talking about? paying kids to do well in school. no, not by their parents, as it were. by a school district. first off, a little background. michelle rhee is the oft-maligned school chancellor for d.c. public schools. since taking office, she's closed schools, fired teachers, reassigned many more. she's a reformer, and the press seems to have a love-hate relationship with her policies and ideas.

so, i see this on the news last night.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced plans yesterday to boost dismal achievement at half the city's middle schools by offering students an unusual incentive: cash...Now they are introducing a program that will pay students up to $100 per month for displaying good behavior

the biggest problem i see with this is that it switches motivation to do well from intrinsic to extrinsic. intrinsically, we do things we enjoy without obvious external influences. the best students are intrinsically motivated and actually enjoy learning. granted, the targeted kids don't have much of either, but is giving them an extrinsic reason to learn in their formative years really the best solution?

she reasoned in her press conference that this will prepare them for the work force because school is their job. this is where the parents come in, not the government. school is school, not a job. it prepares you for society and (hopefully) a job later in life. parents are the ones that are supposed to instill the value of education in their kids. sure, i knew kids who got money for good grades in middle school and high school. they did what they had to do to get good grades. did they retain much of what the learned? i doubt it. my parents never even considered such measures, nor did many of my friends'. those friends and i are the ones who still read books for pleasure in adulthood, can carry on intelligent conversations, and take pleasure in being well-informed. i'd venture to guess that many of the intelligent young professionals that populate this great city fit the same mold.

i had a student in florida several years ago that was wholly unmotivated to work hard or participate in school. he bounced between the homes of his oft-jailed father and his never-quite-sober mother and his grandmother. my year with him, he was mostly with his mother, and it was all he could do to make it to school on time with a good night's rest and something to eat for breakfast. he had repeated first grade and was still far below grade level in most subjects. during career month, the students all had to learn about what they wanted to be when they grew up. his lack of motivation in school showed, "why should i pick a job? i'm just going to go to the mailbox once a month just like grandma."

no, it's not easy to motivate kids these days, even with good parenting. that's the point, there's no easy solution to making kids want to learn. great teachers, role models, and parents all fit into the equation. school chancellors that make it rain so the kids behave? not likely.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


since high school, i've been rootless. the longest span i've stayed anywhere since then was two years each in room 27, the laurels, and 3913 with lee. moving is apparently in my character. mind wandering today, bored in class, i realized a few things.

i wish i weren't so rootless. growing up in south florida, my classmates uprooted and moved quite a bit. not often somewhere to a new school, just bigger and "better" houses trending westward and northward towards parkland. i'm thankful that my roots stayed put for ten and a half years, then about eight more until college. my new friends around here are locals. by locals i mean that they returned to their hometowns, more or less, following college. i'd venture to guess that aside from it being expected of them, most of their friends did the same. it sure makes it easier to go home (or near there) if your good friends do the same. while my roots have become more like spanish moss, theirs are like oak trees. it's hard settling roots in rich soil when you're used to the silty sand down south. tropical trees grow slowly in mid-atlantic winters.

i miss roots. i do miss the familiarity of home, though in my case, it seems the old adage is true, "you can never go home again." not because i got kicked out or my folks wouldn't love to have me, but it's never the same. the nostalgia of what it was overshadows what it's become.

Friday, August 15, 2008

my first car

what should be elation over driving something a little sportier, a little roomier, a little newer quickly turned to sadness last night, thanks to a chevy silverado commercial. you know the type. "i've had this truck since i was 16, and i'm 120 now. it has 2,000,000 miles on it, and it still starts right away." the thing that hit me hardest were the guys that had less than 180,000 miles on their trucks. less than my danger ranger. i remember going home for the chili cookoff, her first tailgate, nights spent asleep in the cab or in the bed, hauling ridiculous construction or landscaping materials, getting stuck in mud or sand, going coast to coast. now she's gone. abandoned to a new home. rolled off into the sunset with someone else behind the wheel and a fistful of c-notes in my pocket.

there's an alan jackson song about his first car called "first love." it tells about how excited he was to get her at 15 years old. he sold her to a pilot in north carolina and was a wreck. many years later, he still holds a special place in his heart for that old car. his wife and daughter find it many years later for a christmas gift. i used to think it was ridiculous. now, not so much.

comment me a story about your beloved (or not so beloved) first car and when you had to let go. small comfort maybe, but it might make me feel better...

Thursday, August 14, 2008


"you haven't gone more than a week this summer without a new injury," she quips. i took it as the joke it was intended, but then i realized, there's a good bit of truth to it.

for the better part of the summer, i've been going to physical therapy for a snowboarding injury reaggravated by running when i was home for mom's birthday. the toll: four weeks of physical therapy, two times a week. the benefit, a stronger lower back and the beginnings of a six-pack.

as that injury abated, i did something to the middle of my back. not sure what, but the vertebrae between my shoulder blades somehow torqued itself out of place. amateur home chiropractics did not help the situation. two weeks later, i woke up magically feeling better.

my subconscious compensation for the initial back injury apparently wore out my left leg. no sooner did my back feel better than my joints all screamed, "hey, my turn!" last night at the gym, my first real climbing injury in quite a while.

quirky V5, confounding us all. big, tensiony first move. bump left hand up to bad sidepull, adjust feet, go big left. ceiling right heel hook, suck in the core, and reach for a bad sloping edge. left foot out of sight, turn that drop knee and POP! i crumple to the ground, motionless on my face, holding my left knee in agony.

so here i sit today. just iced it, some vitamin I, wrapped up tight, gingerly moving. man, it's hell getting old!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

random movie quotes IV

it's been a while. there's been a lot of movies added to my brain in the past few weeks. i upped the netflix account to two-at-a-time, went to four out of five screen on the greens this summer, and managed to hit a few new movies in the theater. oh, and then there's 80s movie night madness. the top 5 list. i'll make them short.

1) "Bastian made many other wishes, and had many other amazing adventures - before he finally returned to the ordinary world. But that's... another story."

2) " know a lot more about planes than guns. That's a Smith and Wesson 45, and if you fire at me at this close range, the bullet will pass through me and the fuselage like a blowtorch through butter. The cabin will depressurize, and we'll both be sucked into outer space together. If that's how you want to enter the United States, you're welcome. As for me, I prefer the easy way."

3) "Now look. The Post: "It Flies." The News: "Look, Ma, No Wires." The Times: "Blue Bomb Buzzes Metropolis." The Planet. We're sitting on top of the story of the century here! I want the name of this flying whatchamacallit to go with the Daily Planet like bacon and eggs, franks and beans, death and taxes, politics and corruption."

4) "A UFO landed in my pool and they captured me but we made friends and I fed them Pop-Tarts and they're here now but Ted's coming home tonight so we've got to cut their hair."

5) "For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoon full of arsenic, then add half a teaspoon full of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide."

Monday, August 11, 2008

i woke up this morning...

and had a mission. a mission in the next 10 days to replace my aging ranger with something moderately more fuel efficient. i'd done a little research last night after getting back from the wedding. the mazda dealership, always with an interesting ride in the lot, had some cars in my price range. rice crispies, a glass of orange juice, and some olympics. wandered out of my apartment to temps in the high 60s. came home with a new(er) car.

wow, that was fast! now, anyone want to buy my truck? it'll be on craigslist by the end of tonight.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

every four years

"excuse me, gentlemen. are you watching this? i can change the channel," the hotel clerk asked.

i can understand her confusion. why would two men be watching with rapt attention women's volleyball? for one, it was a great match. the US and Japan had quite a battle. i was excited for our much taller team to finally pull out the victory.

for two, because it's the olympics! every four years, i renew my interest in sports that don't get airplay. i'm going to be worthless for the next 16 days. just warning you.

usa! usa! usa!

Friday, August 8, 2008


First, a Slate article about education and middle upper class snobbery. My response.

Exactly. Case by case. Case one in my class this year, November birthday. Academically ok, but could do better. Probably on the quieter end of the spectrum to begin with, but cried at the drop of a hat with any wrong answers. Irresponsible to a fault, she never remembered to turn in her homework or school communication with her mother.

Same class, a late August birthday. One of the most mature and responsible students in my class. I'd venture to guess that more than age had something to do with this disparity between these two second graders. Stark contrast in home lives for sure.

The big difference between some parents is not whether they send their kids to school early. It's how the parents view school. Fact is (sadly) some parents only view school as free babysitting and unwittingly convey that to their kids. The kids come to view school as unimportant and don't try as hard or do as well. A little fatalistic perhaps, but each teacher only has each child for one school year, six hours (or so) a day. It's the parents' responsibility to reinforce school's lessons and nurture a love of learning that will ensure their success.

tubing plus rapids equals awesome

ok, raise your hand if during your time at UF, you did not partake in tubing on the ichetucknee river or the santa fe river or go to the springs, be they blue, ginnie, poe, et al? not too many out of you gators, eh?

imagine your best day ever at ginnie springs. temps in the mid 80s. cloudless skies. not too many gilchrist county residents. nary a pair of cutoff jean shorts in sight. cold beverages. attractive co-floaters, whatever your persuasion. got the day in your head?

it can't even hold the proverbial candle to sunday when we went tubing for an early birthday trip. keep the weather, lack of jean shorts, beverages, and floaters. add rocks and rapids, and you have tubing on the potomac river in west virginia.

i realize that some of you may not know what tubing is. take an innertube, fill it with air, and float down a river. most often, the float is on calm, flat rivers. butts tubing thought to themselves, "butts old pal, let's see how many crazy city folk will go tubing down rapids in these $5 tubes and pay us $30 a piece for the privilege. we'll buy an old school bus or two, some trailers, get some slick suit to write up a waiver, and they'll come in droves."

and we did. on our bus to the river, which is in a national park, oddly enough, there were three groups. we were rolling ten deep; we were the smallest group! there were groups of seventeen and twelve, all of us rip roaring ready for a lazy day.

lazy it was for the first half hour or so. then the fun began. rapids added to the equation, especially with a cooler tethered to your tube, makes it a lot more fun. everyone in our crew lost something of value, we all got tipped, and we all had a blast. i smell a new summertime tradition!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

we're going to a show....

saturday night, i headed into the district to the black cat. black cat is to d.c. what common grounds is to gainesville. that is, the music club for music lovers, or the indie/scene kids that are too cool to act like they enjoy the band on stage. feet glued to the floor. arms crossed. eyes fixated on the band. ears searching for deep meaning in the emo lyrics scratching through the speakers. movement is not tolerated.

i digress. as is the case on weekend nights, i typically get a good laugh from interactions between the cast of characters that hitch a ride on the orange line. saturday was no exception. first actor was a frat boy. khaki shorts, polo shirt mocking the abercrombie moose, rainbow sandals, southern mop of hair, gelled of course. his supporting apologetic friend was clad in plaid and those bright, ugly nikes that indie kids like so much. the actresses were two friendly-looking twentysomethings headed out, coincidentally, to U street also. the scene was a pretty much empty car leaving l'enfant plaza. the two guys were standing, trying to silently gain the attention of the seated ladies. my fly-on-the-wall position was one row behind the ladies. what started out as a fairly innocent conversation turned into an appalling lack of class on frat boy's part pretty quickly, "you know what i'm thinking about? you two naked. good things!" she caught my eyes as we both tried to suppress laughter...hers out of shock, mine in amusement at his tactless (and claimingly sober) approach.

when the train got to u street, we went in separate directions. i struck up a conversation with the ladies on our exit. they got a good laugh out of the encounter. one of them felt bad because it was her friend's first trip into the city, only to get hit on by a sketchball. i wished them a good evening and left wondering how often guys try too hard to connect with women on the metro. trying to be someone they're not. speaking differently. we've all got a lot more in common than it would appear on the surface...but i guess that's still how some frat boys see the world on the metro.

Monday, August 4, 2008

ve vill dahnce the tahngo

she's a dancer. quite a good one, in case you didn't know. ballet until college, even had a job lined up to dance and go to school part time, had she chosen to move to lexington, kentucky. watching football with her on saturdays might be a little more exciting in the fall, but i suspect she'd get tired of the florida owns kentucky jokes real quickly. 18 straight in football, and a pretty good streak in their more cherished sport.

i digress. the reason for the explanation is to illustrate how diametrically opposite she and i are when it comes to dancing. she's graceful and a quick study. i have two left feet and might have a learning disability when it comes to moving rhythmically. thursday night was attempt number two of "teach ben to dance". round one was swing at glen echo. it went better than expected, but i need more practice because i've clearly forgotten all eight steps.

the tango is difficult enough, but in the interest of meeting new people, we switched partners every minute or so. very social, but for a bumbling dancer like me, it made it all the more difficult to learn. one, step back right. two, step left. three, step diagonally forward right. four, step diagonally forward left. five, bring feet together. six, left foot forward. seven, right foot to the right. eight, feet back together. i can remember it now, but in practice, not so pretty. the basic argentine tango. ¡que difĂ­cil!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

good news, bad news, vol. 2

news from gainesville hits me today, thanks to jedd. ugly, old news rearing it's ugly old head. i sure hope it stays out of the national news. let the vilification of all things greek begin.

better story. less consumption. mainstream? bicycles? how so, washington post?

i love this city.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

the dirtbag

i finally managed to climb rocks yesterday. yes, yesterday was friday. i went climbing during the week around here. it only took me all summer to manage it. bouldering around here is marginal at best. lowball, contrived problems. the tops of the boulders often have too much vegetation on them, making topouts tricky. friction is also suspect in the summertime. too damn hot. not quite the season right now.

colorado got my mind running about climbing. wondering about how different my life would be right now had i started climbing in college or even earlier. i'd certainly be a better climber. would i have chosen teaching as my vocation? would i travel more? would i live somewhere else? would i be a dirtbag?

the ideal of the dirtbag climber. traversing the country, searching for the perfect season. the southeast in the fall. hueco at new year's. bishop in the spring. RMNP or yosemite in the summer. living off the grid, making only enough money to buy a 50 lb. bag of rice or a case of ramen noodles. "the life", as it were. i was inspired by several random people i met in colorado, who have all at one time or another, lived in their cars/vans/pickups and climbing as often as possible.

were the twists in my life slightly different, i doubt i'd be a dirtbag, but i'll still idealize it every summer.

Friday, August 1, 2008

the great gas experiment

"i can't remember the last time i rode in your truck," she says tonight. i've tried my damnedest to save gas this month. it's been much easier with the addition of a bike to my arsenal of driving avoidance tools. i can manage my barely a half-mile ride to visit my better half. i've been taking it with me on the metro on my ventures into the city. quite often, i've been riding my bike back from the city, but not into it. sure, it's probably because i have to make it to an appointment, but no need to make it back quickly. six miles and change back most days, including today's trek from the white house.

when i got back from florida, i put a half-tank of gas in my truck. since that fateful july 1st, i've driven 144.2 miles. had i not gone climbing in maryland or driven out to reston to move a tv and a grill to arlington, that number would be much lower. the curse of a pickup truck! let's see how long i can stretch it out. perhaps make this half-tank my last half fill-up before i get keys to a new ride?

yes, this was intentional. thirty bucks in gas is far less than what i seemingly must spend during the school year. sixty bucks in metro fares is far more than i spend in a month. i guess reducing my footprint is still pretty expensive. i haven't gotten to the point of walking to the grocery store yet, but if i ever buy one of those little carts, i might just do it. i just buy too many groceries to consider it. which reminds me, i'm still hungry.