Tuesday, December 30, 2008

teachers' pay

i got this email years ago. i used to think that it was hilarious and sad and pointedly cynical. now, it probably needs adjustment.
Teachers are paid too much!
I'm fed up with teachers and their hefty salaries for only 9 months work! What we need here is a little perspective. If I had my way, I'd pay teachers babysitting wages. In the end, that's all they really are - glorified babysitters. Obviously, kids aren't learning anything from them.

That's right. Instead of paying such outrageous taxes to keep teachers living in style, I'd give them $3.00 an hour. And, I'm only going to pay them for 5 hours, not for all that luxury "planning time." So, that would equate to $15.00 a day. Each parent should pay $15.00 a day for these teachers to babysit their children. Even if you have more than one child, it's still cheaper than private daycare.

Now, how many children do they teach a day - maybe 20? So that's $15.00 x 20 kids = $300.00 a day. But remember, they only work 180 days a year! I'm not about to pay them for all that vacation time! So that's $300 a day x 180 days = $54,000.

To be fair, there are some good teachers out there who have lots of experience, a solid record and a maybe a master's degree. Maybe we could agree to pay them minimum wage. We can round that off to about $6.00 an hour x 5 hours x 20 children. So that's $6.00 x 5 x 20, which comes to $600 a day. $600 x 180 days.

Wait a minute! That's $108,000 -- there's something wrong here!

so, now, let's adjust it to the new minimum wage rates. $6.55/hour x 5 hours = $32.75 per day, per kid. 20 kids is a generously low estimate; in today's classroom and economy, that's likely to go up by 3 kids next year. that's $753.25 per day, per teacher. yearly salary, $135,585. when the minimum wage adjusts in july, the uptick will be a shade north of $150K.

sounds good to me!

Monday, December 29, 2008

get it right!

man, i can't keep flight info straight! first, i thought i had a direct flight. wrong. then, i thought i was supposed to leave today. wrong. finally, i thought my flight left at 7:30 tomorrow. wrong.

flight takes off at 6:00. looks like i'd better get to bed and get some sleep. after packing. and calling three people i said i'd call tonight. and making sure that i have someone to pick me up from the metro station. and taking a shower.

it's gonna be a long day tomorrow...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

the last two

the last two nights have been really interesting. i'll start with recent, and work my way back. last night, i met up with two friends from high school. ok, that's not entirely accurate. i was friends with them in high school. mike and mark were in scouts with me. mark's my age; mike's a few years older. mark and i lost touch shortly after high school; mike wound up dragging me kicking and screaming into greek like. we've kept in touch pretty well over the years; i even got to stand for him when he married his wife. suffice it to say that it's hard maintaining a conversation when you can't all three really participate, more than listening to the stories. that's one of the funny things about meeting up with old friends over the holidays. you always find yourself in a situation where someone is the odd one out. someone is enjoying himself, but simultaneously feeling left out of the "old times" stories when they start talking about people you don't know or don't remember real well.

case in point, the night before we had a mini high school reunion of sorts. yeah, our reunion passed already. a year and a half ago, but that's beside the point. some of the people at the get together had stayed in touch far better than others. for example, living together and going to the same college. that helps. the stories are still funny, you still feel welcome, but left out just the same. it's weird. i guess that's one of the things about not being in a small town for one, but still trying to keep up as if that's the case. were it not for the interwebs connecting and reconnecting people we've lost touch with, i don't know if i'd ever run into any of these people again. is that a good thing, or a bad thing? i'm not sure. what say you?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

all my exes live in texas

[disclaimer: this stream of thoughts was not brought on by any of my exes. i swear.]

a few weeks ago, i got a text from a friend. "[insert ex's names] just proposed to [ex's new squeeze]. why do i care?" i tried to make her feel better, but i'm not so sure if i did. the short conversation came back to life in my brain when i happened to run into [ex's new squeeze] at christmas mass. she's someone that i went to middle school, high school, and college with, but it's been more than a few years since we'd spoken.

so the rambling in my brain began anew. why do we care so much about our exes' love lives? is it that sense of lost hope, even though the feelings for that person have long since faded? i went through my brain last night as i struggled to fall asleep.

i was talking to my favorite brunette about this last night, relaying the story of [friend with the ex]. we came up with a few theories. first and foremost, we are genuinely happy that they've found love anew, albeit with a twinge of regret because of our extinguished hope for it to be us. however, our happiness for that ex isn't free. it comes with conditions. that regret grows into other emotions when we know the new flame, either because it's someone he/she knew while dating us or a mutual friend of ours. another condition is when it's the next one. becoming the last one sometimes hurts, but it balances out when we stop looking into the past.

by staying in our present and looking towards the future, our past can no longer haunt us inexplicably. being happy with ourselves makes hearing about exes' love successes heavy on the good, light on the bad. that wave of romantic nostalgia is fleeting. there's a reason it didn't work out, and besides, you've gotta love the one you're with. if you're any good at this dating game, you get closer and closer to your target with each missed shot. consider each new flame as an upgrade of the snuffed ones.

as leda puts it, "your ex already had a shot. it didn't work out. no sense in worrying about it."

a tale of two flights

i'm not nearly as disgruntled as i was last night. however, if northwest were to ever crawl to washington for bailout money, i'd meet them on capitol hill with jeff gillooly and tonya harding them. "no delays" quickly turned into an epic fail on all fronts. i'll take the cramped legroom on frontier or spirit over the lackadaisical ground portion of those two connecting flights to get me down south.

first flight, d.c. to memphis tennessee. flight was supposed to leave reagan on time. took them 25-30 minutes of sitting in the gate with the doors buttoned up to fix a light on one of the wings. no big deal, just going to shorten my layover in memphis. i didn't want any memphis bbq anyhow. i'll just eat my clif bar on the plane. well, we land at 7:30 with few minutes to spare for many on the plane to catch their connection elsewhere. the poor girl across the aisle from me had 10 minutes to switch planes. that turned to five as we sat 10 feet from the jetway with no one on the ground crew to guide us in. as i looked around the cabin, i realized that nearly everyone was really anxious about getting to the gate on time. everyone that had to catch another flight had a small window to begin with, but this seemed unusual on a full flight. i thought i had a short turnaround with my flight leaving at 7:50 theoretically, but mine was actually the most leisurely stroll. turns out, i didn't have to change planes. just flight numbers.

second flight, buttoned up in the cabin, sat on the runway for close to an hour. why, i'm not sure. sat next to a 17 year-old kid from small town wisconsin. talked to him for most of the flight. man, i was tired, but conversation on a plane was better than passing out uncomfortably or trying to read or watch a sopranos episode on my laptop, not knowing if i was going to see lots of blood or boobs. flight landed around midnight, i did fall asleep for the last half hour or so i guess. quick pick of the baggage and in the back of the vw on the way to 8207.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

and we're taking flight....

tom cruise famously raced jets in top gun on his rice rocket bike. cary grant ran from a biplane shooting at him in north by northwest. mike myers and dana carvey argued at the end of a runway in wayne's world. myself, i have a spot to go nearby that i can watch the planes take off and land with impunity. seems to me that it's awfully hard to get near a runway these days, and gravelly point at reagan national airport is a ready made park at the north end of the runway.

i've been there several times. first trip, cold weather, curled up on my crash pad in the bed of the danger ranger sharing a sleeping bag with her when we first started dating. we talked for what seemed like hours, alternately between serious and silly topics alike. before we knew it, the park was closed at 10, and i had to trek her back to vienna. or maybe just her car. we've been there since. on a nice long fall bike ride during the daytime. families picnicking. kids running around. flag footballers tossing the pigskin over the roar of DC-10s and 727s.

so for the first time in my revamped life in d.c., i found myself wondering as my flight took off, "what memories are being made below me right now? a new couple like we were getting to know one another? a couple of old, married folks? or just some teenagers looking for somewhere to ride their bikes or wreak havoc or be stupid without being hassled?"

Monday, December 22, 2008

matching bruises

against my better judgment, i went down the blue run to warm up. i had second thoughts, but she said i could do it. turns out, that run was pretty much ice. my heel side turns had become nonexistent in the off season. toe side, i picked back up pretty quickly, but finding that soft(er) patch of ice to make the turn proved more difficult than expected.

as i've been told repeatedly, when the conditions are good on skis, they're great on a snowboard. conversely, when they're bad on skis, they're horrible on a board. proven right yet again.

i smartly made the best of it by working on linking my turns on the bunny slopes before attacking anything more challenging again. i think i got my turns back to where they were at the end of last season. i attacked a long, narrow green repeatedly by the end of the day. it was different every time. i used the terrain to my advantage to make those heel turns, but i'll need to get them solid before i get comfortable with any speed. i'm more or less plowing the whole way down any semblance of a steep grade.

all things told, i kept it together pretty well for the amount of falls i took. she was awesomely patient and ditched me for a while to ride two runs to my one. she always met me at the bottom and told me funny stories about gumbys hitting on her on the lifts. at the end of the day, my final fall to my knees left me with a sore neck...and a hankering to get back out there for some more.

Friday, December 19, 2008

the brotherhood of justice

'80s movie rewind time. this week, what started as no one responding, regrets or otherwise, turned into four lovelies showing up simultaneously and robert joining us shortly. netflix had already delivered, so i was watching it regardless. i was glad to have company because man, this movie was worse than i thought!

if you've not been blessed to have seen this movie, let me give you the brief synopsis. rich boy keanu reeves leads a band of vigilante other rich kids in their school's quest to get rid of vandals and potheads...presumably because marijuana is the worst drug every cultivated, and it actually causes insanity. kind of like a g-rated version of lean on me, without the bad ass principal with a baseball bat. predictably, they get out of hand, his girlfriend catches wind of it, half the school cheers them, half the school fears them, and there's a gut check.

first off, don't expect an oscar-caliber performance. this is keanu "whoa, my name means rainbow" reeves. his girlfriend is played by lori "i made out with uncle jesse on full house, who also said whoa" loughlin. finally, kiefer "my dad smoked pot in a movie once before i became jack bauer and rid the world of all drugs and terrorism, picking up a nasty heroin habit along the way" sutherland makes a stellar appearance as the dude trying to squirrel in on keanu's girl. it's predictable, '80s after school special in every sense of the genre. the lighting is worse than in most home movies, and the acting is only slightly better.

oh, so at the end of the movie, there was a "based on true events" tagline. oh, really? yup. even made time magazine!
June 10, 1985: Fort Worth, Texas
Several prominent senior-class members were excluded from graduation ceremonies at Paschal High in Fort Worth last week. Earlier that day, seven seniors and one junior from Paschal were indicted on a total of 33 felony and misdemeanor charges in a bizarre vigilante scheme that involved arson, bombings and threatening another student with a gun.

The indicted teenagers, among them honor students, athletes and a cheerleader, belonged to the Legion of Doom, a society supposedly dedicated to purifying the campus of drug users and petty thieves. The Legion may have grown out of the school's efforts to improve discipline. At least four members also belonged to a Paschal organization called the Ambassadors, a now disbanded group of 29 top seniors assigned to patrolling the campus and encouraging others to attend classes. Legion members, mostly wealthy youngsters from prominent families, prowled less well-to-do neighborhoods at night, firing shots at one student's home, exploding a pipe bomb on another's car. A fire bomb tossed at a black student's house failed to hurt anyone only because it fell short and ignited in the front yard. Said a classmate: "These pillars of our community (were) doing worse things than we will ever do in our lives."

invite some friends over, pop some beers, and drink every time someone makes a bill & ted or speed joke as it relates to the movie. if their comment is misplaced, they drink. great fun will be had by all!

c'mon, pump!

when i got my truck way back in the day, gas was about $0.91 a gallon. that made a fill up a shade less than fifteen bones. pretty cheap by today's standards...

until today! as i was filling up today, i found myself cheering the pump on, "c'mon; stop, stop! ok, now....stop!"

and when it did, my wallet danced a jig in my pocket. $19.99! first time i could pay for a tank of gas with andrew jackson for years. six years actually. i looked it up, and did a little math.

on another i'm-trying-to-reduce-my-carbon-footprint note, my monthly gas bill is about a third of what it was in february. this whole carpooling thing is working out well!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

asdf jkl;

sometimes i wish they'd just leave us to teach. no interference about content or mandates or testing. tell us how well they need to read by the end of the year and (gasp!) let us use that so-called expertise they require of us but rarely let us use.

i'm not sure where that came from. my fingers just rolled with it. i guess i've got some pent up angst over not being allowed to teach something fun this time of year. the kids are mentally checked out, and we've got four full school days until winter break. i'm barely here myself, though i will admit getting out of bed in the morning is far easier this year than it was last year. that brings my career batting average to .500 i guess.

i suppose we'll have to see how the rest of the year pans out, what with testing and all. i really should get out of here while the last rays of sunlight are still on the horizon. doesn't look like we'll be seeing much of mr. sun this winter. at least the weekend forecast calls for a few rays...

Monday, December 15, 2008

who throws a shoe? honestly...

so, in case you missed it yesterday, an iraqi journalist threw his shoes at dubya yesterday when he made a surprise visit to baghdad.

bush brushed it off, "i don't know what his beef is." this appalling lack of knoweledge of arab culture astounds me. now, i didn't know that it was such an insult until baghdad fell in 2003. i remember videos of iraqis smacking statues and posters of hussein with their shoes and learning about the insult.

i was going to get into it more, but the BBC beat me to the punch. read it here.

the discussion below the article on al-jazeera is a little bit more telling about how insulated he is from the realities of his international disrepute.

36 days until this cyst is out of office...

Friday, December 12, 2008

cookie monster!

cookie swap time is coming up this weekend. as such, i've been a baking machine. what's that you say, mr. j? you're baking now, too?

relax. even i can't screw these cookies up. i'll leave the cupcakes and more complicated things to my better half. for now, i've got these cookies dialed. hell, i even memorized the recipe. if you don't have an electric mixer, stop reading. seriously, you won't be able to make these cookies without one, unless you can make a meringue without one. in which case, kudos to you!

2 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2/3 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 C. chocolate chips

preheat the oven to 350. line cookie sheets with parchment paper. set aside.

separate the egg white from the yolk carefully. save the yolk for a sick baby chicken, make some creme brulee, your choice. me, i just tossed them at the squirrels. (no, not really.) begin beating the egg whites in a metal mixing bowl until they get some air in them, kinda foamy. add the cream of tartar. begin adding the sugar slowly, a few tablespoons or so at a time. when you've added half the sugar, add the vanilla extract. finish adding the rest of the sugar. by now the mixture should be white. keep mixing (on a pretty high speed) until the meringue is smooth, tight, and shiny. it should form small peaks and hold its shape pretty well. fold the chocolate chips into the meringue.

dole out the cookies-to-be with a teaspoon onto the parchment paper about an inch apart. these cookies will not spread out a whole lot. i was able to fit about 2 dozen on a sheet. put them into the oven and turn the oven off.

yes, i said turn the oven off. do not open the oven, don't peek, don't poke or prod. leave the cookies alone overnight (actually, it's only a few hours, but you can't overcook them.) when you wake up in the morning, the meringue will have dried out, and you'll be left with a crispy, delicious, cotton-candy-melt-in-your-mouth delicious treat.

snow day tales

i realized that i hadn't gotten a good story out of my budding writers in quite a while. i gave them a prompt today along these lines, "The weather forecast for today called for seven inches of snow. Boy, were they wrong! What would you have done if today was a snow day?" so while their little pencils are scratching out fun kid stories, i told them i'd pound out a big kid story too. here goes:

I woke up this morning and looked out my bedroom window. Snow was everywhere! I hurried out of bed to turn on the television to see if we had school. After a few minutes, I got my answer. SNOW DAY!

First, I called my friend Jedd. He's a teacher, too, and he wants to go play in the snow. I think I woke him up, but he said he would be ready when I got to his house. Next, I got all my snowboarding gear ready. New pants, warm hat, dry jacket. Oh yeah, and my snowboard too! I picked him up, and we began to drive to White Tail. Just like last year, the park was empty when we got there. There's nothing like not waiting in line and getting to ride everything I want. One time, I fell and did a cartwheel with my snowboard on my feet. That hurt! Finally, at the end of the day, Jedd and I got some chicken fingers and tomato soup at the restaurant. When we finished eating, we loaded up the car and drove back. We had so much fun; I can't wait to miss school again!

so, this little work of fiction, i'll share it with them. what would you do if you had a snow day? oh, you live in florida? too bad! move where the snow is, and take a snow day...

Thursday, December 11, 2008


access to climbing being what it is, here i get my thursday session email from urban climber magazine and this video is linked in it. if you're not a climber, this'd be a good view into the psyche of the rare breed we are. if you are one, well, i think it's just a pretty damn good video. warning. it is a long one without a whole lot of climbing in it. this is the video they showed at LRC this weekend.

Heart of Stone - HD from Andrew Kornylak on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

glorious weather!

by show of hands, how many of you sat around the house like lazy bums when you finished your homework in elementary school? middle school? high school?

that's what i thought. exactly zero.

it struck me, yet again, yesterday that kids of this young generation at my school aren't overweight and lazy because they overeat. they're overweight and lazy because they don't play outside. i know kids live in this neighborhood. you'd be hard pressed to find one playing outside at their house. i'm sure in this day and age of parents' paranoia over anonymous bogeymen doing God-knows-what to their progeny that they're a little less likely to let their kids play in the front yard. with that logic, you'd think that you'd hear a little more noise and such coming from backyards. nope. yesterday afternoon, it was like this neighborhood was empty, with nary a kid behind any of the doors. i know that's not the case. parents are too stressed and overworked to leave work at a reasonable hour for their kids to get out to play. no wonder this generation's favorite answer for, "what's your favorite thing to do?" revolves around games made by nintendo, sony, and microsoft, not spalding, russell, or wilson.

once in a blue moon, i'll see kids out playing in the leaves, but never out riding their bikes. maybe the streets are rougher in suburbia these days than they were back when i was a kid, but i doubt it. my best friend alex lived around the block from me. we'd hop through neighbor's yards to get to one another's houses. our parents weren't petrified of us getting bitten by the neighbors' dogs or getting sued for trespassing because we knew each other. i took those same dogs for walks after school each day...er, they took me for walks each day. i remember us falling off our bikes, falling off trampolines, getting into scrapes with other kids in the neighborhood. this kid matt that lived on my street got hit by a car at least five times to my memory. on his bike, off his bike, skateboards. come to think of it, maybe his mom should've been more concerned...

Monday, December 8, 2008

rock tour

whisperings and rumors finally came to fruition yesterday. there are boulders in them thar hills. i got to climb on them. hooray!

no names. local crag. access related issues, high traffic would be detrimental to climbers' access. like kids looking like we were doing something wrong, we disappeared into the woods on the social trails near the river. i'd been tramping around in these woods a time or two on my own, but not with the guru of the crag.

some of the boulders we walked past, i'd never considered climbing. it was like a new roll of bright pink tape had been laid all over the rock and bright blue matting beneath it. now i know that established climbs exist. i don't have the first ascensionist's vision. maybe next summer with a back of my brain idea to go climbing in rocklands, but not yet.

i climbed well. i shivered. i got to know some locals that climb outdoors. it was the luck of the draw pretty much and paying attention to the message board. talking to this cragger yesterday, i discovered that the open invite was unintentionally directed at me. i'm glad i received the message. a few projects now ready to go down next time i get a free, dry weekend day. who's with me next time?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

remember a story about a bridge?

it was nine football games ago. the gators lost to ole miss. it was an ugly day here too. torrential downpours and community service. anyhow, i helped build a bridge. it's 12 feet, and it's still there. the national parks service added the handrail, but otherwise it looks pretty much the same as when we built it for adopt-a-crag in september. i got to pull out my whole bag of carpenter tricks. 'twas fun.

Friday, December 5, 2008


flashback to my first year teaching. we're reading a story called the emperor's egg. it was about penguins. think march of the penguins without morgan freeman narrating. this is pre-penguin documentary. i'm trying to explain how the male penguins transport and protect the eggs. i have an egg between my ankles, demonstrating how they slide down hills. on their bellies. laying on top of desks, tyler walks in from his reading group, does a double take, and says, "i'll wait outside."

marvelass. that's how i tend to teach, jumping on desks and such. can't do that this year. or last. one little guy that can't handle that sort of excitement.

today, that changed. i challenged my math class to get all their work right. boring work, but it got them motivated. the prize? push-ups by the teacher. long story short, i owed them 25 push-ups at the end of class. you'd think that i played tag on the playground or raced them to the fence and back or shaved my head for charity.

nah, i'd never do anything like that...

Monday, December 1, 2008


on a day when i was worn out from a weekend of running around and cooking and cleaning nonstop, mother nature fittingly gave me a day to relax. what would i have done had the weather been glorious as the three prior? drove three hours one way to west virginia to climb rocks, no doubt.

voicemails at 11:30 on a school day are rarely good news. "mr. j, your glockenspiel is broken in your transaxle filter. there's also a unicorn jumping around in your muffler that has punched several holes in your catalytic converter. this fix will cost you your left arm and your firstborn daughter." imagine my surprise when it turned out to be my parents on an earlier flight. e.t.a. 2:30, four and a half hours of cleaning time ahead of schedule. oh, well. guess ma will just have to see my apartment at its finest!

weekend couldn't have been better. i tried too hard to get them out of the house and doing stuff around this bewitching beltway town. we traipsed around woodley park, walking to the national cathedral. we visited with family in rockville. we watched college gameday and took in a few exhibits at the american art museum/portrait gallery. there were a few wicked cool new exhibits, and i got to feel like an art expert walking around one i'd already seen. "the juxtaposition of this adams photograph plays quite nicely off o'keefe's muted colors and use of the same subject in middle-of-nowhere, new mexico, don't you agree?" [insert haughty brahmin laugh]

best of all was that little holiday they came up here for. the meal was better than last year, even if my stuffing didn't all make it into the oven. it was about family and gratefulness for another great year gone by. things to be thankful for in the upcoming year; i just can't wait to see how they pile up.