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November 06, 2010

The Long, Hard Climb

After a challenging 09-10 school year, I'm only now regaining my energy and motivation. I was assigned high-level, AP courses that I simply didn't want to teach last school year by my department head, and frankly they sucked the life out of me. AP classes, if taught correctly, require high motivation and dedication, but with two youngsters at home, I simply can't devote the time and energy needed, and my mental and physical health, as well as the patience of my wife, took a beating. But you can't just quit teaching, so I survived day-by-day until the glorious end, when I could sleep and find my happy place again.

I gave the kids the best education I could, but I'll never do it again. Too much campus politics, too much youthful arrogance, and too many essays to grade. Regular classes, please?

Posted by tat at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2009

Teacher of the Year

I didn't want to go to some dang awards ceremony after school on a Monday, but Denise said she was getting "something" and didn't want to go alone. So I, dutiful husband that I am, agreed, complaining the whole way.

With several hundred family and students in attendance, the announcer leads off with the male Teacher of the Year for Lufkin High School: "He attended Stephen F. Austin, completing a Bachelor's in Science with a second major in English. He currently teaches English, and has taught AP classes for several years in Lufkin and Arlington ISD..." My heart jumps in my throat. OMG, that's me.

"Denise has pulled a fast one on me," I think as I walk toward the stage to accept my plaque and--the kicker--$1,000 check. Zing! Instant happiness. All is right with the world. Damn, this is a great job!

I canceled my "mental health" day, an elective day off I had scheduled earlier that day for the next day, as soon as I got home. It's bad form for the TOtY to play hooky the next day. :)

Posted by tat at 04:40 PM | Comments (5)

April 25, 2009

Bike Restoration

As a kid, I subscribed to Hot Rod magazine and dreamed of building street rods. Alas, on a teacher's salary, that ain't a gonna happen.

So I decided recently to restore bikes. It's cheaper but still satisfying as I turn wrenches and get my hands dirty. Plus, it's fun to find machines that were the cat's meow in their day, bikes that have a soul, and get 'em on the road again. There's a beauty to mechanical things like rods and bikes, something about the poetry in the way the simplest of machines--levers, wheels, and pulleys--transcends the metal and rubber and begets a '57 Chevy, or, well, an '85 Raleigh Team USA.

Before on the left, after on the right:

The top bike is a 1977 Puch Pathfinder with Suntour and Dia-Compe components. I stripped and repainted it and now use it on commute and weekend rides.

The red, white, and blue bike on the bottom is a 1985 Raleigh Team USA, a tribute to the 1984 Olympic cycling team. A brochure from back in the day features it prominently. A nice bike.

Posted by tat at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2009

Alternative TV

I'm on a mission, a mission to end my support for cable or satellite TV providers. Those guys take a big chunk of money from me every month for basically 3-4 channels I watch irregularly. I'm looking for an alternative.

Enter Boxee, a free, internet-based media appliance. It's in super-geek, alpha stage right now, running on only Mac and Linux, but man, is it cool. I'm able to access, with an old 1.3 GHz PC running Ubuntu Linux and GeForce 5200 video card hooked up to my HDTV, a lot of mainstream content, like MTV, PBS, and Netflix (only with Boxee on a Mac right now, sigh), but also very interesting content from places like Make Magazine TVand Boing Boing TV using RSS feeds, all while using a remote (a Wiimote, no less!) In addition, Boxee will display pictures, play music (both online and local), and share viewing recommendations among friends. Very, very cool. I'm getting an AppleTV with some of my summer school money to get a quiet, dedicated computer to run, in addition to AppleTV content, Boxee with Netflix! TV providers, Goodbye!

For a much less geeky approach, in addition to AppleTV, you may also be interested in a little box called Roku. It'll stream Netflix and YouTube to your TV. It's cheap and tempting, but I'm gonna work with Boxee for right now. Ciao.

Posted by tat at 06:20 PM | Comments (2)

April 14, 2009

Red Light Cameras

Lufkin, where I live, installed red light cameras a year or so ago, and I have to drive through one--on a major highway no less--every day. At first, I was just personally peeved to run the risk of getting a guaranteed ticket for doing something we all do: occasionally make a bad judgment while driving. It's practically inevitable that I'll get a ticket given the number of times I'll drive through this particular light.

But something else bugs me about this new form of "law enforcement": it's a revenue stream. Some company installs and maintains the cameras for a 52% cut of the fines. Whereas before, law enforcement was a tax expenditure, it's now an income source. Before, a community would look at how to stop the law from being broken, like lengthening the caution lights, and therefore cut police expenses, but now it, along with a private business, has a vested interest in making sure traffic violations continue to be committed.

As a matter of fact, several cities have been caught shortening the length of the yellow light in order to increase revenue, including Dallas, Texas. Bastards. Risking our lives, literally, to fatten their wallets.

Same thing with private prisons. Prison guard associations and no doubt prison "companies" will oppose anything to stop the "war on drugs" since it is their bread and butter. More prisoners=mo' money, mo' money, mo' money. It's no accident our prison population is astonishingly out of proportion with the world.

Posted by tat at 06:36 PM | Comments (1)

November 01, 2008

Citizen to Soldier

A good friend of mine has been activated by the Army to deploy as an officer to Afghanistan. He's been out of the Army for several years, and was surprised to get notification that his inactive status had been changed. He's a thoughtful kinda guy, and you may enjoy reading the blog of his 400-day mission here.

Posted by tat at 09:57 PM | Comments (1)

October 16, 2008

The Bailout

The Dr. Housing Bubble Blog came recommended from trusted sources, and it does a great job of explaining, in terms my economically-challenged brain can understand, what's going on with the bailout and the economy. Non-partisan to boot. A recommended read.

Money quotes:

"You can create an entirely new industry with $1 trillion." (Read: world leader in alternative energy. Overnight.)

"But I donít agree like some blowhard radio personalities that this bubble was caused by poor people in sub-prime loans. Please. Yes, let us once again blame the poorest in society for swindling Wall Street out of trillions."

P.S.: Another cogent article explaining it all.

Posted by tat at 06:02 PM | Comments (1)