Friday, September 29, 2006


I'm headed to Jacksonville, Florida tomorrow morning to visit my best friend and to celebrate our 31st birthdays. The fact that A) I'm getting on a plane and that B) my flight leaves at 6:55 on a Saturday morning should indicate just how much I love her.

Nisha and I have been friends since the 8th grade, when we each suddenly found ourselves mysteriously befriended by the same band of cheerleader types and shortly thereafter (in the grand scheme of things) decided that wasn't our scene.

When you've been friends with the same chick since you were 13, it's hard to sit around drinking very expensive gin out of even more expensive glasses while holding her children in your lap and not experience just a teensy bit of cognitive dissonance. In my mind we're still 19, sitting around a bonfire drinking Boone's Farm out of paper cups and talking about boys.

There's really nothing quite like a friend who's known you and loved you since your big hair days, a friend who sometimes knows you better than you know yourself, a friend who simply pours you a glass of wine and curls up next to you on the couch when you show up on her doorstep unannounced in tears carrying a bag large enough to suggest you might be staying for a while, a friend who will ditch her husband and kids to pick you up from the airport at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, a friend who reminds you every damn year that you are three days older than she is.

And so, in honor of our birthday celebration, I offer a photographic history of our friendship. Fortunately, I have no record of the early years (1988-1989), although I bet Nisha does. Additionally, we had a bit of a falling out in 1994 -- I don't remember why, I think maybe she hated my boyfriend -- so I don't have a picture from that year. Lastly, for some reason, I couldn't find a photo from 1996. Other than that, here you go.

Happy Birthday to us.

Oh! I forgot to mention that there are exactly zero good pictures of us in existence. We don't know why.

Olly Olly Oxen Free

Phil tagged me. . .

1) Would you bungee jump? Fuck no! I don't even like rollercoasters.

2) If you could do anything in the world for a living what would it be? Sit on the beach and read. I'm aware that this profession currently does not pay very well, but I'm interpreting "anything" to mean literally anything.

3) Your favorite fictional animal? Is a mermaid an animal? 'Cause that's one of my favorite anythings.

4) One person who never fails to make you laugh? I don't know that there's one person who consistently makes me laugh. It is, however, impossible for me to spend any amount of time with my family and not end up laughing hysterically.

5) When you were 12 years old what did you want to be when you grew up? At 12 I believe I was in my marine biologist phase.

6) What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Oddly enough, I put my hair up. If it's a weekday morning I do this while simultaneously saying something to the effect of, "MotherFUCKER!" I am not a morning person.

7) Have you ever gone to therapy? Have you ever left someone at the altar? Alrighty then.

8) If you could have one super power what would it be? I'd like to be able to put the world on pause while I go about my business. That way I might have a fighting chance of actually being on time for shit.

9) Your favorite cartoon character? I haven't thought about cartoon characters in a while, but I used to have quite a thing for Daffy Duck.

10) Do you go to church? Depends on what you mean by church. I go to the beach a lot, which is pretty much the same thing.

11) What is your best childhood memory? I don't have any fond memories specific enough to describe, but every last one of my fond childhood memories involves being outside. How 'bout that?

12) Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual? Absolutely not. I actually believe that bit about marriage being a sacred bond between two people who love each other.

13) Do you own a gun? HELLS no!

14) Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex? I'd be surprised to learn I'd even hit someone of the same sex. By which we, of course, mean gender.

15) Have you ever sung in front of a large number of people? Well, not like as a performance. But I know the words to pretty much every Irish drinking song imaginable and you cannot shut me up at an Irish pub.

16) What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Honestly, I think the first thing I notice is their overall degree of unkempt-ness (unkemptitude?). My friends tease me about my "tucks" scale, which takes into consideration not just shirt-tucking (which is bad bad bad), but amount of facial hair, the presence of logos -- particularly Polo (which is also bad bad bad), length of hair, tattoos, piercings, and the like.

17) What is your biggest mistake? Like ever? Jesus. Here's one I'll tell the internets about: running up credit card debt in college. Also, taking up smoking at the age of 15 ranks high on the list of stupidest things I've ever done.

18) Say something totally random about yourself... I own exactly one shirt with a collar, and I only wear that one for irony's sake. Also two guys are currently peeing in the alley between my building and the next one. I can hear them below my window.

19) Has anyone ever said that you looked like a celebrity? People tell me I look like just about any female celebrity with dark curly hair. Not that I can think of any at the moment. When that Pepsi commercial with the little girl with the mafia voice was popular, my students asked me to do a spoof of that for some project or something they were doing.

20) What is the most romantic thing someone of the opposite sex has done for you? Shit. I typically do not date the most romantic of men. Made me a mix tape?

21) Do you actually read these when other people fill them out? Not for complete strangers, but otherwise yes. I actually kinda like these things.

I'm supposed to tag someone now. I'll go with Lulu, since she tagged me with the book thing a while ago. . .

Do You MySpace?

My students are always trying to convince me to get a MySpace. “Why?” I ask. “So you can be COOL!” they explain. I keep telling them I don’t understand MySpace and I’m already plenty cool, but they just won’t give up. They are also apparently concerned about the fact that I live (or “stay,” in their parlance) with a cat and not a man.

Kids: You need to get a MySpace!

Me: Why?

Kids: So you can be cool!

Kid 1: And you can meet tons of guys!

Me: I don’t wanna meet tons of guys on the internet.

Kid 2: You just wanna be stayin’ with them cats all your life?

Me: What?!

Kid 2: How many cats you got right now?

Me: Uh, one.

Kid 3: Well, 40 more years and you got a bunch more cats.

Me: Hey!


Me: Why do I need a MySpace anyway?

Kids: So we can send you messages and talk to you and stuff.

Me: I have a discussion board on my school webpage. Why don’t you (pronounced “wantchu”) hit me up there, yo?


Kids: It’s not the same!

Kid 3: We wanna be sendin’ you messages. Like, “Yo, what’re you doin’ on Saturday?”

Kid 2: And you be, “feedin’ my kittens.”
That reminds me. . .I need to pick up some cat food on my way home.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My New Boyfriend

I totally have a crush on Barton Myers.

So what if he's 71? So what if my neighborhood civic league thinks he's the spawn of Satan? So what if having a crush on an elderly modern architect is not nearly as cool as having a crush on, say, Brad Pitt?

I don't think I'd ever heard of Barton Myers until last weekend when our local paper ran a long-ass story (which I'm making my students read tomorrow) about the controversy surrounding his proposed addition to a church in my neighborhood. According to the article, "Myers is a glass-and-metal modernist adding onto a Gothic Revival stone structure completed in 1910. Not everyone has embraced that idea."

Really? It would make more sense in 2006 to build an addition in a century-old style that was itself a throwback to the 14th century? Admittedly, Gothic architecture is not my thing, but come on! NOW we're gonna start getting fussy about architecture? 'Cause we have a 7-11 and a Walgreens, neither of which seem to be winning any awards for architectural brilliance. Oh, and the Hardee's and the Pizza Hut? Are they in keeping with the historic character of our neighborhood? And what about all these new condos? You know, the ones with the stupid fake columns that aren't actually holding anything up. Those cheesy McThings are somehow better than a structure that actually has some architectural integrity, even if that structure IS made of (sharp intake of breath) glass and metal?

"Great cities, and the things we love most, evolve over time," said Barton Myers. "And where old and new coexist, they're much richer, because they are a living testament to what happened."

See? How can you not love this guy?

I'm taking my kids on a field trip to the church next week. And I'm gonna ask Barton Myers to come speak to my classes. If he says yes -- which I know he probably won't, but it's worth a shot, right? -- but if he says yes, that may be it for me. I may move beyond the crush phase into the full-on stalking phase.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You Call This A Senate Race?

Hey, remember yesterday when I said I was gonna dial down the crazy? Yeah, that's working out well. At least I MADE the dinner I'm eating while I blog.


Just twelve days after we learned that in the 70s, Senate hopeful Jim "Born Fighting" Webb
didn't think women were fit for combat, we're faced with the startling revelation that Senate has-been George "Macaca" Allen may or may not have made frequent use of the n-word during. . .guess when. . .the 70s.

For the record, it's never occurred to me that Allen might be the kind of guy who DOESN'T use the n-word, and Webb's 1979 position on women in the military is
a clinically proven fact. But you know what? I don't CARE what either of these fucksticks was up to 30 years ago. Hell, a mere 15 years ago I was reading a bunch of Ayn Rand books and bitching about how poor people should get a job. But I think my behavior since then demonstrates that I've had a serious change of heart.

Allen? Not so much. He's simply traded in the n-word for the m-word in public discourse.

Webb has emphatically stated that he's completely comfortable with the role women currently play in the military. But even if he isn't, even if he still thinks women can't fight, who fucking cares? Does he think we can have access to contraception? Does he think we can elect to terminate a pregnancy?

Because this election isn't about women in the military. And unfortunately, like most elections these days, it isn't about voting for the candidate you believe in. It's about voting for the candidate who sucks less.

I used to ABHOR this approach to politics. I used to respond to those who chastised me for throwing my vote away with sanctimonious lectures about how the only way to throw your vote away is to vote for a candidate you don't believe in.

So when Steve told me yesterday that a colleague of ours plans to vote for the Green Party candidate instead of Webb (because the colleague's wife had to leave the Naval Academy as a result of Webb's "Women Can't Fight" article), I was somewhat suprised to hear myself saying, "What?! Shit is way too polarized and way too fucked up to be voting for the fucking Greens right now! You vote for Allen or you vote for Webb. Those are your choices."

I certainly don't like that our choices in most modern elections boil down to a contest between the lesser of two evils. I think it's deplorable, actually. I've even been known to deliver a sanctimonious lecture or two on this very topic, especially if I'm drunk. But in 2000 I wrote in a candidate I believed in and spent the next four years watching George W. Bush systematically attempt to destroy almost everything I love about my country. Then, like Twisted Sister, I decided I wasn't gonna take it anymore and in 2004 I did something I'd never done before: I voted for a major party candidate.

It didn't quite work out the way I'd hoped, but I'm gonna keep trying. Because at this point not taking it anymore probably means not voting for people who stand absolutely no chance of getting elected.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I Need Some Space

This blogging thing is getting a little out of control. It's not you, it's me. See, I have a tendency to be just a teensy bit obsessive-compulsive. Okay, fine, I'm a lot obsessive-compulsive. I am a creature of routine and ritual, and I can easily get carried away with either. Which brings me to the whole blogging thing.

Over the summer, when my routine involved waking up whenever I damn well pleased and then sitting on the beach for the remainder of the day, I fell into the habit of posting daily, which was cool. I had lots of time to think about all manner of things and get worked up about what other people wrote to the newspaper. But now my routine consists of waking up at 5 o' fucking clock in the morning, spending ten to twelve hours at school, stopping somewhere for take-out on my way home, and blogging while eating my one meal of the day. Oh, and I try to read the editorial page of the newspaper just in case someone's written a letter I can bitch about on my blog.

I'm afraid this is not a very healthy approach to blogging.

And you know what's totally missing from my life? Sleep. Check it out: in the three weeks since school started, I've posted as late as 11:58! And honestly, I changed the time on that one because it was after midnight when I finished it and I wanted it to appear on the previous day.

See, I'm fucking crazy.

On Friday I came home after happy hour, decided to take a nap, and woke up 15 hours later. That's how sleep-deprived I've been.

So. . .I hereby declare a return to sporadic blogging on my part. I'm aware that the world does not give a rat's ass whether I post every day or every week or every month or even at all, but the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Boy, that felt good.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some doorknobs to disinfect.

Department Meeting Stats

meeting duration: 15 minutes

13 occurrences of "test"

6 occurrences of "data"

1 occurrence of "mumbo-jumbo"

0 occurrences of "teaching"

0 occurrences of "learning"

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Note To Self

The next time your friends call you and insist you come over and drink on the porch with them, don't just grab any old bottle of wine on your way out the door. Remember that most of your friends teach high school too, and that years of choosing your words carefully in the classroom to avoid unintended sexual innuendo has permanently affected everyone's sense of humor. Make sure there's nothing about your wine contribution that could conceivably be construed as material. For god's sake, don't grab a bottle of

Otherwise, conversation for the rest of the night will center around jokes about 47-pound synonyms for "rooster." And you will likely be the butt of such jokes for months to come.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Cat Ate My Birth Control

My kitty likes to hang out in the sink. Apparently this is not uncommon, and ordinarily it's not a problem. Well, aside from it being all kinds of unsanitary. But ordinarily, if I need to, say, brush my teeth, I nudge her ten or twelve times and she glares at me and hops down.

But just now as I was getting ready for bed while Luna (my kitty) happily slurped water from the faucet, I accidentally dropped my birth control pill in the sink and she gobbled it right up.

Should I be worried? I mean, neither one of us is gettin' any, but who KNOWS what happens to cats on estrogen. Maybe it's like the new club drug for kitties.

I Got Your Data Right Here

My school district has gone absolutely fucking out of its mind with data collection and analysis. The administrative big-wigs use the term "data" the same way our current president uses "freedom" and "terrorists": to trick you into thinking there's something substantive going on.

I'm really sick of data. In fact, somebody from downtown might want to collect some fucking data on how many teachers are thinking about quitting because of this ridiculous obsession with data. Count me in.

In the meantime, I'm collecting data on data. For example, today I attended a five hour workshop at which the term "data" was used 39 fucking times. And eight of those were during lunch.

At future meetings, I plan to collect even MORE data. That way I can compare the amount of time we spend talking about data to the amount of time we spend talking about trivial little things like teaching and learning. If I'm feeling really ambitious I might even graph my data.

Because nothing says "I care about kids" like a fucking line graph.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Food Of The Gods

Lulu and Coaster Punchman frequently post about their love of bacon, and I agree that bacon is crazy delicious, but you know what food is totally underappreciated?


Rhubarb is fucking awesome. Seriously, nothing makes a better pie than rhubarb. Not even (gasp) apples and bourbon.

Also, when I was about four or five, my sister and I got in BIG trouble for building a fort in our neighbor's rhubarb patch. The creation of the fort, as you might imagine, required quite a bit of digging and chopping and was a fairly big undertaking for two little girls. It was such a lot of work that we were unable to finish the fort in one day and thus left our tools (buckets and shovels, as I recall) in the rhubarb patch overnight. BIG mistake. Because when the neighbor lady came knocking on our door to yell at my mom and my mom tried to pull the old "how do you know it was MY kids?" defense, the neighbor lady had hard evidence. All my mom could say was, "Oh yeah, I guess those ARE their shovels. Do you want to beat them or should I?"

But anyway, rhubarb. It's really yummy. Just don't try to build a fort out of it. Use Lincoln Logs or something.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In Response To A Letter To The Editor, Vol. VI

From The Virginian Pilot, 09.16.06

To the Editor:

I don't think Sen. Allen should have apologized to blacks for displaying the Confederate flag. It is a part of history. The Civil War was not over slavery. It was over states' rights . Approximately 5 percent of the South, the plantation owners, had slaves. They were in the states where cotton grew. Why would the rest of the South fight a war when they owned no slaves?

Blacks perceiving the flag as offensive is wrong. Why shouldn't there be a Confederate History Month in Virginia? Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were two of the best generals the country ever produced. Lincoln offered Lee the position of commander-in-chief of the Union forces.

Blacks have Black History Month and nobody complains.

--Charlene, Norfolk

To Charlene:

Bless your lil' heart, you are so misguided!

Honey, if you're gonna capitalize "Confederate" and "South" you have to capitalize "Blacks" too. Otherwise it looks like you might be (whispered) a racist.

More importantly, Senator Allen has a lot to apologize for regarding race issues alone. Recognizing that symbols mean different things to different people and expressing regret for flying the Confederate flag is a good start. More meaningful, of course, would be an apology for decorating his law office with a noose slung casually over the branch of a tree.

The Confederate flag is certainly, as you said, a part of our country's history and is therefore worth studying. However, there is a vast difference between studying the flag as a symbol of past injustices to be avoided, and in glorifying -- as Allen does -- the history of racism and oppression that flag represents.

I can appreciate your assertion that the Civil War was fought over states' rights and not over slavery. Having been schooled in the cradle of the Confederacy, I once worshipped at that same altar myself. However, even an amateur student of History can tell you that the right the Confederate states were fighting for was the right to own slaves.

Slavery was why the Northern and Southern states struck compromise after compromise throughout the early 1800s (Missouri Compromise, Compromise of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska Act, etc.) to maintain a balance of slave and free states in Congress, and slavery was the primary reason the Confederate states seceded from the Union upon Lincoln's election in 1860. Despite his repeated assurances to the contrary and his well-publicized position that Blacks were inferior to Whites, Southerners feared that Lincoln intended to abolish slavery and that he therefore posed a threat to the Southern way of life.

As to the percentage of Southerners who owned slaves, historian Kenneth M. Stampp -- an expert on the institution of slavery -- tells us that roughly 25% -- not 5% -- of the Southern population owned slaves:

Not only was the "typical" slaveholder not a planter, but the "typical" planter worked only a moderate-sized gang of from twenty to fifty slaves. . . .The extremely wealthy families who owned more than a hundred slaves numbered less than three thousand, a tiny fraction of the southern population.
Like maybe 5%?

And I'll let Stampp answer your question, "Why would the rest of the South fight when they owned no slaves?" since he goes on to explain that even non-slaveowners had a stake in preserving what he calls "the peculiar institution."
If the direct ownership of slave property had been the only way in which Southerners had become personally involved in the slave system, relatively few of them would have had an interest in preserving it. . . .For the nearly three-fourths of the southern whites who owned no slaves it provided less tangible things: a means of controlling the social and economic competition of Negroes, concrete evidence of membership in a superior caste, a chance perhaps to rise into the planter class. Whatever the reason, most of the nonslaveholders seemed to feel that their interest required them to defend their peculiar institution.
Not to mention the fact that wealthy plantation owners drafted into the Confederate army could pay others to fight in their stead.

There shouldn't be a Confederate History Month in Virginia for the same reason there shouldn't be a Nazi History Month in Germany or a Taliban History Month in Afghanistan. Because while setting aside months to recognize and learn from past atrocities is valuable, glorifying those atrocites in the name of heritage and pretending they're not atrocious is shameful.

--Megan, Norfolk

Oh, and PS: Stonewall Jackson, despite being shot by his own men and thereby displaying a certain amount of ineptitude, is hot. That beard. . .those eyes. . .so dreamy.

I'm sorry. Really. I went on and on about how bad the actual Confederacy is, but you just can't cure me of my love for certain Confederate generals. Namely Lee and Jackson. And Longstreet. Poor poor Longstreet.

You know who sucks though? JEB Stuart. Absolutely fucking sucks.

Monday, September 18, 2006

From The Mouths Of Babes

Today was Constitution Day. Since I was legally required to teach a lesson on the Constitution and since my class has pretty much nothing to do with the US Constitution, I had my kids compare our constitution to others from around the world, including Iraq's. One of my students expressed some confusion about that constitution's emphasis on combating terrorism.

Student: It says all this stuff about how they're against terrorism but don't they HAVE a lot of terrorism?

Me: You have to remember this is the government's position on terrorism. It doesn't necessarily mean the state will be free from terrorism. Just like the US government says it's opposed to terrorism but we've still experienced terrorist acts. Iraq is being terrorized, but not by its government.

Student: Oh. So what would the Taliban be? Cause it was the government but it was also kind of a terrorist organization.

Me: Well, the Taliban was in Afghanistan first of all, but --

Student: Wait. So why'd we invade Iraq then?

And I just let the crickets take it from there.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Beginning Of The End

I’ve always been a bit of a hypochondriac, so it should come as no surprise that I’m totally freaking out about this little red dot on my eyeball.

I discovered the little red dot yesterday after I got out of the shower. “What’s this on my eye?!” I asked my mom frantically. “Looks like a red dot,” she answered after a quick glance. “I KNOW it’s a red dot,” I said, “what’s it doing on my EYE?!” “It’s probably nothing,” she said. “Yeah, have a beer. You’ll feel better,” suggested my dad.

So I did. And then I had a few more beers and I pretty much forgot about the little red eyeball dot.

Until I woke up this morning and noticed that the little red dot was not quite as little as it had been yesterday. “I think this dot is getting bigger,” I announced with concern over coffee. “Yep. It is,” confirmed my mom without even the slightest hint of concern. “What do you think is wrong with me?” I asked. “Probably nothing,” my parents answered. “Do you think I should see a doctor?” I worried. “A psychiatrist maybe,” muttered my mom (who, for the record, combs -- with an actual comb -- the fringe on her oriental rugs and yells at you if you step on them). “Mom, seriously, I think there’s something wrong with my eye,” I insisted. “Megan, you probably POKED yourself in the eye or something the other night when you were drinking yourself silly,” said my exasperated mother. “Well, I think I would REMEMBER poking myself in the eye, don’t you?” I huffed.

My mom just raised an eyebrow.

So I have a little red dot on my eyeball, which I guess we’re chalking up to what my family calls an alcohol-related incident (or ARI for short). Either that or I’m going blind.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I’m Actually Somewhat Articulate When Sober

I’m at my parents’ beach house this weekend for what was supposed to be a family reunion. Many family members backed out at the last minute, including my sister. I, however, am not the backing-out type (unless we’re taking about weddings) so I was doing some serious drinking with my cousin Kate last night. I was also, judging by the message I left my sister, waxing philosophical about skinny dipping in the community pool, a practice we and our girlfriends have been engaging in since we were teenagers.

Hey. I was just tryin’ to explain, like, the beauty of the community pool and it. . .it wasn’t really goin’ over well and then I realized, you know, how much I missed you and how, like, you know. . . community pool, no community pool. . .there’s somethin' to be said for like, oh and by the way I’m drunk, but there’s somethin' to be said for like the whole you and me thing and the whole like, you know (unintelligible whispering) um, so, oh and Kate says we’re gonna keep callin’ you back until you answer but don’t worry it’s like two o'clock in the mornin' so we’re not gonna do that ‘cause I'munna [I am going to] go to sleep.

But so like you know, the POOL and, like, the whole takin’ your clothes off and jumpin’ in the pool when you don’t have the “appropriate permission” to do so. . . like, there’s somethin’ to be said for the FUN of that that’s kinda lost on, like, people who are all about doin’ the right thing or whatever. ‘Cause I am actually all about doin’ the right thing but I’m not all about payin’ my money to jump in the community pool.

So anyway, uh, yeah, I’m drunk. Okay bye. I love you. Bye.

(several seconds of silence)

And you didn’t answer for the record no bye.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"Books Are The Carriers Of Civilization" --Thoreau

This book meme (dude, I never wanted to be this "up" on computer lingo) has been circulating around the internets for a while now. Lulu tagged me about a week ago and I realized if I didn't do it tonight it wouldn't get done, as I'm busy with drinking for the rest of the week -- tomorrow I'm doing some recon to find an appropriate location for our soon-to-be-held Drinking Liberally meetings, Thursday is Cogan's Thursday, and Friday I'm headed down to the Outer Banks for a family reunion of sorts.

Anyway, books. I absolutely adore books. I don't just love reading them, I also like having them. And alphabetizing them. And organizing them. And admiring how nicely I've alphabetized and organized them. But mostly I love books for the ideas we find inside them and the beauty with which those ideas are so often expressed.

I am a book evangelist (I stole this metaphor from
WonderTurtle). Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am constantly recommending books -- and not just any old books I like, but books that fit the person. I think that's why this topic has had such staying power. The book-loving crowd holds that you can tell a lot about a person from the books that person likes. Plus we really really really like talking about books.

You'll see.

A Book That Has Changed Your Life: Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham

I doubt my parents meant to turn me into a hippie by reading me this book, but the fact that I requested it every damn night should have clued them in to the idea that something was going terribly terribly wrong.

In Be Nice to Spiders, Billy decides to leave his pet spider Helen at the zoo because his new apartment does not allow pets. Helen moves happily from cage to cage, spinning webs and catching the flies that bother the animals and just generally making life better for everyone. UNTIL the stupid zookeeper decides to clean the zoo in preparation for the Mayor's visit and orders all the spiderwebs knocked down. Then the flies return, the animals are pissed, and all hell breaks loose. It doesn't take long for the zookeeper to realize that he's fucked up the natural order of things (the whole zoo thing aside) and to allow Helen to resume her web-spinning and fly-catching.

I couldn't have articulated it at the time, but I think this was the first it really occurred to me that even our smallest actions could have far-reaching consequences and that our lives were somehow connected to the lives of so many other beings. And to this day, I'm unable to kill a spider or destroy a spiderweb.

Additionally, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which I read in college, had a profound influence on the way I think about and teach history.

A Book That You Have Read More Than Once: The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway

I''ve read a lot of books more than once. I've even read a lot of Hemingway's books more than once. But I don't think I've read any book as many times as I've read The Nick Adams stories.

I fucking love Hemingway, which I guess is weird because, well, for starters I'm a girl. And Hemingway's got issues with women. Plus, he writes primarily about war and fishing. Not only have I never been to war, I don't even believe in it. And while I enjoy fishing, it's not really something I do. So what gives with me and Papa Hemingway?

It's the nature, stupid. Behold:

"This is the way forests were in the olden days. This is about the last good country there is left. Nobody gets in here ever."

"I love the olden days. But I wouldn't want it all this solemn."

"It wasn't all solemn. But the hemlock forests were."

"It''s wonderful walking. I thought behind our house was wonderful. But this is better. Nickie, do you believe in God? You don't have to answer if you don't want to."

"I don't know."

"All right. You don't have to say it. But you don't mind if I say my prayers at night?"

"No. I'll remind you if you forget."

(okay, now here comes the really good part)

"Thank you. Because this kind of woods makes me feel awfully religious."

"That's why they build cathedrals to be like this."

Need I say more?

A Book That Makes You Laugh: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

I love love LOVE Lamb. I mean, obviously this book is fucking funny. And I'm talking laugh out loud funny, not just a chuckle here and there.

"I could kick that punk's ass," the angel said, jumping on the bed, shaking a fist at the television screen.

"Raziel," I said, "you are an angel of the Lord, he is a professional wrestler, I think it's understood that you could kick his punk ass."

Oh, and when it's not hilarious, this book is actually pretty spiritual and deep. But
I've covered this before.

A Book That Makes You Cry: The Brothers K by David James Duncan

My love of David James Duncan is well documented, but I read this book for the first time this summer. And it made me weep. In fact, I just opened it to pull out a passage and I had to close it before I started crying.

It's a book about the Chance family, whose paterfamilias is a struggling professional baseball player and whose materfamilias is a bitchy Christian fundamentalist. This is primarily a book about a family that manages to love one another despite serious philosophical differences and the lengths to which we'll go for those we love. It's also a book about the beauty of baseball and the power of spirituality. It made me cry not because it was particularly sad, but because it is just so goddamn moving.

A Book You Wish You Had Written: The Jefferson Bible by Thomas Jefferson

Only Jefferson could get away with editing the Bible down to just the parts he likes. In: the life and teachings of Jesus. Out: all that stupid shit about miracles like the immaculate conception and the resurrection. Which leaves us with what we all like about Jesus: love, kindness, and compassion.

A Book You Wish Had Never Been Written: I got nothin'.

Honestly, I thought and thought about this one. There are a lot of books I think are complete crap that I wish people wouldn't read, but far be it for me to limit the free expression of ideas. I can't think of a single book that's so bad it should never have been written, or that's so damaging its message can't be counteracted by another book.

A Book You Are Currently Reading:

Teachers Have It Easy by Moulthrop, Calegari, & Eggers

Teaching as a Subversive Activity by Postman& Weingartner

What Learning Leaves (Poems) by Taylor Mali

River Teeth by David James Duncan

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (although I've pretty much given up on this one)

A Book You Have Been Meaning To Read:

The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

Field of Schemes by Joanna Cagan & Neil deMause

The 9/11 Commission Report

Now I'm supposed to tag five people, only I don't think I know five people who blog and haven't done this yet. There's Uncle J Bird, who teaches English and would probably enjoy this, and my brother Brian, who doesn't usually talk about books but might enjoy mixing it up.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Platitude-Free Zone

Coolest thing a kid said in my class today: "The absence of the towers doesn't just represent the lives that were lost that day. It also represents our loss of trust in our government."

Lamest thing a kid said in my class today: "Freedom isn't free."

Does anyone know what the fuck that even MEANS?

Because I'm pretty sure, judging by the politics of the simpletons who say it, that it doesn't mean what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lesson Planning

In case you haven't heard, tomorrow is the five year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Social Studies teachers in my school district are required to highlight this anniversary in our Monday classes, which we were told on Thursday. A reasonable expectation, but one that turns out to be not nearly as easy as it sounds (and one of which we would have appreciated a bit more advance notice).

Like most people, I find it difficult to think or talk about 9/11 without thinking and talking about all the shit that's come after 9/11 -- specifically the way BushCo has used 9/11 to its own political ends, doggedly promoting the damaging mentality that "either you are with us or you are with the terrorists," dismantling our constitutional rights, and leading us into a quaqmire of a war that has absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and that is certainly not making us safer from terrorism.

I've spent lots of classroom time over the last five years addressing issues related to 9/11. It's never easy -- and always controversial -- to discuss 9/11 with high school students whose opinions often mirror those of their parents and who tend to think that asking them examine their existing beliefs (whatever they may be) is an attempt to impose your beliefs on them. Despite this difficulty, I think I have a pretty good handle on how to deal with 9/11 in the classroom.

That being said, I'm at a complete loss as to how to deal with 9/11 in the classroom ON 9/11. In the first few years after the attacks, I used to have a class discussion about heroes, which worked well. But we're way too far gone for that innocent discussion and our collective perception of 9/11 is far too clouded by BushCo's successful attempt to neatly divide us into freedom-lovers and terrorist-lovers.

My initial plan for this year had been to show clips from a PBS documentary called The Road to 9/11, which traces the roots of terrorism and religious fanaticism in the Middle East. And I definitely WILL do that at some point during the year (like maybe during my unit on religious fundamentalism, wherein I also discuss Pat Robertson and Warren Jeffs), but not tomorrow. Because I'm not sure that exploring the mentalities of those who murdered 3000 people five years ago is a particulary good way of honoring the memories of those 3000 people.

Should we really be doing anything tomorrow except remembering -- in some non-political way -- those who died in the 9/11 attacks? And why, after only five years, is it so hard for us (myself included) to put politics aside for one day and find a meaningful way of remembering?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tighten Up, Norfolk!

Port Folio, our alternative weekly, recently reported that Norfolk ranked 26th on the Forbes list of America's 35 drunkest cities. 26 out of 35. That is a piss-poor showing, my fellow Norfolkians. I mean Providence friggin Rhode Island is ahead of us. Like WAY ahead.

Some of us are doing more than our fair share of drinking. We're certainly not complaining -- in fact, we rather like it -- but if the rest of you would get on board with this whole drunkenness thing maybe we could make it into the top 20 next year. Lord knows we have plenty of fine establishments in which to consume copious amounts of alcohol. For cheap, even!

I certainly haven't been to every bar in the city, but one could easily contribute to Norfolk's overall drunkenness just by frequenting my three favorite hangouts. Cogan's has an awesome weekday happy hour, with Abita Turbodog for $2.50 on Tuesdays and Purple Haze for $2.50 on Thursdays. Colley Cantina's happy hour includes $2 domestics and $2.50 imports all week long. And O'Sullivan's has $1 PBRs all day on Mondays and $1.50 Coronas on Thursdays.

Not to mention all those posh places downtown. I'm sure they have some sort of happy hour too, I just can't say for sure, what with that being totally not my scene.

But let's not lose focus here. The important thing, Norfolkians, is that you get out there and start drinking. And it's 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon. Let's roll!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Support Your Local Independent Everything

I really don't have that much against Starbucks. Well, okay, ordinarily I make a concerted effort to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks (since I'm often a pedestrian myself), but I refuse to stop for people waiting to cross the street to Starbucks, and my Starbucks-going friends wisely use the euphemism "coffee shop" around me when discussing experiences they've had at their friendly neighborhood Starbucks. Or their OTHER friendly neighborhood Starbucks. Or their OTHER friendly neigh -- okay, fine. I think we can all agree there are a lot of fucking Starbucks. Which is sort of my problem with them. Holy ubiquitous, batman.

I know it's really cool and hip and edgy to wear a lot of black eyeliner and hate things like Starbucks these days, but I'm not that kind of cool and I don't look good in eyeliner. So it's not that. You won't find me at the next IMF protest (because, you know, people throw stuff at those), but if there's a local option you definitely won't find me at a chain.

Never have I been more glad of this policy than I was this morning. There are two coffee shops within a block of my house. I can see Fair Grounds, my local indie, from my bedroom window, and Starbucks is across the street from that. I go to Fair Gounds. Obviously. But I usually don't go to work as early as I have been this week so I've never concerned myself with what time they open.

They open at 7:00, which I discovered at 6:45 this morning when I opened the door and found the coffee shop girl (I think her name is Kirsten) just a few steps ahead of me on the darkened stairs. "Uh, I guess you're not open yet," I said glancing across the street at the brightly-lit Starbucks and contemplating selling out. "We open around 7, but what can I get you?" Kirsten asked as she flipped on lights. "Well I wanted some coffee, but. . ." (PS, of COURSE I wanted some coffee, I was AT a fucking coffee shop, right? But that's the best I can function without caffeine.) "It'll take me three minutes to make coffee. Are you coming up?" Kirsten asked while I stood in the doorway wondering whether it would be worse to go to Starbucks or to go without coffee or to disturb Kirsten before she was even open. "Uhhhhh. . .are you sure that's okay?" I asked. "What size do you want, sweetie?" said Kirsten.

See, I bet they don't call you "sweetie" at Starbucks. And when I asked for a medium, Kirsten didn't make me repeat myself in some stupid elitist yuppie code. She just gave me a medium coffee. Kirsten ROCKS! I can tell you this: nobody's even allowed to talk to me for the first 20 minutes or so that I'm at work. I even have a sign on my classroom door indicating that I am not to be bothered until 7:15 at the earliest. And here's Kirsten happily brewing me coffee and calling me sweetie a mere three minutes after she's walked in the door, before she's even OPEN. You gotta love that girl.

And it's not just Kirsten and Fair Grounds. According to the Andersonville study, local businesses reinvest THREE TIMES as much money in their communities as corporate chains do. Why why WHY would anyone go to Starbucks when Fair Grounds is right across the street?! Is the carmel macchiato really that good? Is the fate of your soul really that trivial?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

First Day of School, By the Numbers

hours slept on back-to-school eve

hours spent at school today

students who hope to earn an A in my class

student hoping for a D or better

students who don't know what they want to learn in class this year

student who thinks I don't know is spelled iono

student who wants to learn stuff he copied word-for-word from my syllabus

minutes that elapsed between the time the dismissal bell rang and the time I changed back into my flip-flops and removed my bra (TMI?)

minutes spent IMing with Lulu after school when we should have been working

meals I ate before walking over to the No Frill for take-out after work

times I have resolved not to subsist on take-out this year

several dozen
schoolteachers whose take-out orders the bartender said he'd already filled

minutes before I'm going to bed

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back To School

Tomorrow is the first day of school.

I've spent the weekend pondering my annual back-to school resolutions (get to school on time, grade papers in a much more timely manner, make writing a more integral part of my course, attend at least one game per sport per season, not to mention the orchestra concerts and plays. . . do all of this while somehow still having a life). I've made all my necessary copies, although that will not prevent me from having dreams throughout tonight's fitful sleep that I've actually forgotten to do so. I've picked out my back to school outfit, which sadly involves neither flip-flops nor tank-tops nor skirts made out of t-shirts. I've completed the first powerpoint presentation of the year which contains a mere 19 slides, including one of this guy

as a segue into a required lesson about the school's rules, two of which are no hats and (duh) no weapons.

And despite the fact that a guy with a coyote on his head is FUNNY, I guaran-damn-tee you not one of those kids will laugh.

Which is why I hate the first day of school. My whole m.o. as a teacher is based on the relationship I've built with my students. On the first day of school -- for the first couple weeks, really -- you don't have that. What you have is a room full of kids who haven't quite figured out whether their teacher will punish them for laughing at her, whether it's cool to think their teacher is funny, or whether this will be the kind of classroom where the cool kids are allowed to make fun of the uncool kids. (For the record it's no, yes, and no.)

So while I'm not exactly looking forward to the first DAY of school, I am looking forward to a new school year and to building those relationships with a new group of students.

And since posting poems seems to be all the rage among the blogging teacher set, I give you this poem by the wonderful Taylor Mali as my back-to-school prayer (for lack of a better word).

Undivided Attention

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps - like classical music's
birthday gift to the insane -
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth-floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers' crane,
Chopin-shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging
like the second-to-last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over, and
I'm trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long-necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air, so almost-falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers' crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Things Are Getting Pretty Weird Around Here

Last night I returned home just after midnight to find my next-door neighbor's door wide open and her cats in the hall. I shooed the kitties inside and asked them where their mom was. That didn't get me very far, so I knocked on her open door repeatedly, then stuck my head into her apartment calling "Hello? Hello? Anybody home?" Then it occurred to me that I should probably call the police. In retrospect, everything I'd done up until calling the police was pretty stupid. "Hello? Any ax murderers in there? Could you maybe try not to let the kitties out?"

90 seconds after my call to the police, three officers arrived. That's a pretty speedy response. I live in a fairly safe, fairly white section of the city. I wonder how long it would have taken the police to arrive on the scene in the ghetto just a few blocks away. Anway, the police came and checked things out and I guess they didn't find any ax murderers or murderees because they simply left, shutting the door behind them. Case closed.

But THEN I stepped out of my apartment this morning to go to work and was greeted by the EXACT same situation: door wide open, kitties in the hall, and no neighbor. Since I was running late -- as usual -- I decided to deal with it once I got to school.

Only I couldn't get to school because Tropical Storm Ernesto is dumping 4.1 inches of rain an HOUR on Southeast Virginia and the streets are flooded out. Not flooded like there's a few larger-than-normal puddles, but flooded like there's two or three feet of water on the road. I got halfway to school (which, since I live five blocks away, is really not that far) and had to turn around. Then I called Steve's cell to see if he'd been able to get to school. His wife answered, which confused me.

"Uh, hey Jen. I thought I called Steve. Did I accidentally call you?"

"No, you called Steve, but he's sleeping."

"What? He's sleeping?"

"Oh. We probably should have called you. School's closed."

Note to self: perhaps owning a television might not be such a bad thing.

But see, it never occurred to me that school might be closed today since yesterday I sent an email to my principal saying I'd heard a rumor that school might be closed tomorrow (which is now today) and asking if there was any truth to it, and he sent me an email back that said, "RUMOR!!!!!!!!!!. . .see you tomorrow." You mean I could have stayed out later and had more to drink last night? I could have caught the ENTIRE Lovesick Cousin (or, as it appeared on the marquee last night: Love Sickcousin) show instead of just the first two sets? Bastard.

So anyway, I came back home, tried to reach my landlord about the neighbor situation, and then called the police again. This time it took them ten minutes to get here, which isn't bad considering the aforementioned flooding and the non-emergency nature of the call. They asked me a few questions and said they'd check it out.

It's kinda freaky to watch three big-ass cops enter the apartment next-door to you with guns drawn. I mean, nobody said anything like, "Cover me. I'm going in," but they were definitely prepared for some sketchy shit to go down, and it was still kind of a weird thing to see.

I absolutely hate guns. Just the thought of guns creeps me out a little, and seeing them in person literally makes me tremble (and not in a good way). The police officers' guns didn't do that to me though. I can't go so far as to say I was comforted by their guns -- they certainly didn't make me feel any safer. But I sort of felt glad for the officers that they had guns, like if they had to go in there and face the bad guys at least they had some leverage.

Which pretty much goes against everything I believe in and is going to take some getting used to.

It turns out there weren't any bad guys in my neighbor's apartment, and so far her door has remained closed. But there's definitely something weird about the whole situation, and I really don't like bothering the police every 12 hours or so. Even if some of those officers ARE pretty cute.