Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas is Over


Well, Christmas is over. The wrapping paper flying, and the kid's adrenaline, is over. My kids are acting a little different this year. My son had the flu on Christmas day. He threw up all day! How terrible is that? 9 years old and you have the flu on your favorite day of the year. He didn't get to play with any of his new stuff yesterday. He is busy today trying to make up for lost time. My daughter, on the other hand, didn't quite know what to do with herself yesterday. She didn't have to defend her toys from her brother or aggravate him when he was playing with his. She did play with her new stuff all day yesterday but didn't stay occupied with one thing for too long. As far as Christmas dinner, we didn't have it. My wife didn't feel 100%, and as I said, my son was "sickly".

Christmas Eve was a pretty good time. We were in Iowa to celebrate Christmas with my wife's family. Her uncle always has a Christmas Eve party and pretty much everyone made it back this year. It is always nice to see everyone and revisit the last year. We played Euchre and enjoyed some good conversation. We got back home around midnight and put the kids to bed so Santa could make the stop at our house.

We get to celebrate Christmas with my parents and brother this coming weekend. It should be fun, if everyone is healthy. I hope everyone had a good Christmas. Enjoy the new year and stay safe and healthy!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Friend Revisited

I returned home yesterday from a visitation and funeral. I left Thursday after school and returned Friday after the funeral. It is nice to be back home but seeing my close friend was truly special. I have not seen him in a long while. We spent almost the entire time at the visitation, and at his uncle's house afterward, reminiscing about all of our adventures as teenagers. I feel that me being their really lifted his spirits, and mine, and took us both back to a time when we had no worries. The thing that was amazing to me is that we shared these memories and each of us seemed to have the exact same warm feeling about these specific times. I know that sounds weird but after so many years of just keeping memories to yourself you begin to wonder if you embellish on them in your mind to make them more desirable. In a way, it was validation, in our minds, that we have lived full and happy lives up until this point. We both spent a lot of time laughing. We even took the time to talk about some of the important things in our lives going on currently. You know, bragging about our kids and wives, how our jobs were going, etc. We talked about points such as "What are the advantages and disadvantages of private school?", "Large schools and small schools?", "Should kids be playing sports year round?", "How much of what we learned have we put to use in our lives?". Deep conversation, right? Somehow it didn't feel that way. It was amazing how we talked. I mean, we haven't seen each other in around fifteen years and we started talking like we hadn't been apart a day.

Friends are truly special! I know that all of us are guilty of this, taking friends for granted, but I think we should all step back and take a look at how lucky we are to have close friends and people that love us. Who knows, we could be the next person to be celebrated at a funeral. Wouldn't it be nice to know that we all took the time to talk and stay in touch with our true friends, and family? As we both said several times, it would have been nice to get together under different circumstances, but at least we got together.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reminiscing


An email from by best fried from high school started it all. I haven't seen him in probably fifteen years or so. Anyway, I got an email from him last night. The email was not a good one. His sister, who raised him, died yesterday morning from cancer. She was a good woman, obviously. My friend, who we will call "John", is one of the most inspirational stories I know of. He did not have a good home life until he moved in with his sister and her husband. John was always well behaved and at the top of his class. John was a hard worker and loved sports, especially baseball. He was in my class from the early years. John worked hard so he could attend college, which he did, and became a nuclear engineer. He has a wonderful family and enjoys coaching his kids in baseball. I have always respected and admired John and I am deeply sorry for his loss.

As I am thinking back I remember a lot of good times with John. He caught in baseball and I pitched and played shortstop. He was a heck of a good catcher! He was skinny for a catcher but he was tough as nails. We won our conference all four years in high school and our senior year we had five MVP's for our team. We were two of them. I remember going out to his house (his sister's) and watching movies, hanging out, and eating pizza after his sister got home from grocery shopping. One time, when we were playing tackle football down at the school, John got drilled and broke his collarbone. I drove him to my house and I remember him saying when it happened that "It doesn't really hurt". As we rounded the last curve to get to my house he said "Ok, now it does!". We posed for choir pictures in high school and we weren't even in choir! How did we get away with that? The picture made the yearbook! We spent a lot of time chasing girls in different towns. We had girlfriends in Manito at the same time and girlfriends in Delavan at the same time (the one in Delavan later became his wife). He had a purple Gran Torino in high school. What a beast! I remember getting in trouble one time because I missed my curfew because the "beast" wouldn't start. I, with a couple of friends including John, also remember going home between final exams in high school and getting to watch the Cub's 21 inning game. We had many good times and it's amazing that some of these things that occured so long ago can still bring a big smile to my face. So this is to my best friend from high school, although we have times in our lives that are not joyous, don't forget all the good times that have made all the bad times worth it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holidays



I love holidays...most of the time. At Christmas I love the excitement in my kids, and myself. I love the food, the conversations, and the time to get reacquainted with family and friends. I enjoy having the time to do things with my kids, like see a movie, go to the mall, have a snowball fight, go sledding, etc. I have always loved Christmas but I guess I am growing up because the same things that excited me even ten years ago don't even get a second thought from me now. Instead of me worrying about how much fun I am going to have over Christmas break I find myself worrying about how much the rest of my family is going to enjoy the holidays. I guess that is part of being a dad.

Of course with the good comes the bad. I find myself a little more stressed around the holidays. The house has to be clean for company. We have to move people around to get the proper sleeping arrangements. We have to attend all the Christmas programs and festivities. We have to feed family, usually with some extravagant meal, and disrupt our daily routines so that we can get together with our extended family and make sure they are taken care of. Sometimes we have to travel long distances to family's homes with large amounts of Christmas gifts and extra luggage. Loading and unloading...that's fun! I guess what I am saying is that I am getting old and set in my ways. My wife and I love to be home and spend time with our kids, living our own routine. I still love holiday time but have realized that there is a lot of work to enjoying the holidays. I guess in the end all the work is worth it, although sometimes we seem to be so busy that we don't have time stop and enjoy what the holidays are about.

Sincerely,
Ebeneezer Scrooge... :)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bookmarks Everywhere!




Did you ever wish you had your bookmarks (favorites) on every computer you sat down at? If you have then you need to use delicious. It is easy to use and makes your bookmarks accessible from any computer that can get to the web! Check it out!

Keeping Up With Technology


I am feeling a little "technoed-out". What I mean by that is that whenever I learn how to use some new technology then it seems like ten more new technologies pop up! I blog, audio podcast, read my Google reader, use Google docs, and try to implement this technology into my classes in a timely manner. As I read about other educators, and what they are doing with technology, I feel as if I am in the dark ages. I love technology and feel very strongly about how it has to be implemented into education so that our kids are ready for the world that will exist when they start, and continue, their occupation. I will continue to try to blaze a trail at our school, as far as technology goes, but I sure feel like a speck right at this moment.

I use Will Richardson, David Warlick, Karl Fisch, Vicki A. Davis, and TechLEARNING.com as resources currently. Does anyone have another site, or blog, that is really good at keeping educators up to date?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Slacker.com


The name says it all. If you have a fairly fast connection to the Internet and you like to listen to music then I suggest you try out slacker.com. It is basically a Internet-radio. It has every imaginable type of music and is really easy to use. You don't have to sign up and using it is pretty self explanatory. Try it out!

Second Semester

I thought I would update my students on my very optimistic goals for the second semester in Payson Seymour Junior High Science classes. Goal number one is to get all the students in my classes a Google account so we can all keep up on our interests and learn about an excellent research tool, Google Reader. Goal number two is to introduce all of my science classes to writing blogs for personal, and class project use. Goal three is to get all of my science classes involved in at least one project involving them doing an audio podcast. Goal four...teach myself and students how to do a video podcast. I know, sounds like a lot of work. It probably will be but I think the excitement and interest of the students should make it all worth while. If any fellow teachers have done any of these things in your classes please share any "dos" or "do nots" and any hints you may have to make all of this run smoother.

Quincy Is Known For Something!


It seems that lattice fries were invented in Quincy! I don't want to steal a fellow bloggers story so I will direct you to his blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Steroids in Baseball


A list of professional baseball players that are suspected of using steroids is to be released today at 1 p.m. central. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are expected to be named. Of course, names like McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Giambi, and Segui are all mentioned in the article. Whose names will come out? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Snow (Ice) Days



The first "snow-days" of the season fell upon us this week. The "snow-days" allowed us to have, at least, a four day weekend. My kids enjoyed yesterday but fell into the "boredums" today. I kept telling myself to get writing on my blog but blogging has recently taken a back seat to my podcasting. I think my students enjoy the podcasts more and I also think they have more personality to them.

Anyway, what did I do with the two days off? On Monday I went for a walk with the kids in the mall, went and did some grocery shopping, cleaned the house, and made my "famous" chili. I was busy most of the day. I felt very accomplished and got a lot done. Today (Tuesday) I didn't do much until around 3. I mean, I did the normal things to keep the house running with two kids in it. I cooked lunch for them and picked up the house. I got to spend quite a bit of time on the computer. I took the kids to see "Enchanted", which by the way, was a very good movie, at 4:00 and then I dropped them off at home. I then went to the mall to do my walk. I really needed the walk. It was nice to get out of the house for awhile and just "chill". School is still up in the air for tomorrow but I really need to get back in a routine. You students know how I am!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Snow in Quincy


The first measurable snow fell in Quincy, Il yesterday. It wasn't much but it was enough to cause some problems on the roadways, get the kids excited, and get me into the Christmas spirit. We received around 2 inches of snow in Quincy. It sounds like we are in for an interesting weekend, as far as weather, also. Freezing rain is in the forecast again. My kids were so excited about the snow yesterday! They couldn't wait to get out in it. My son did just that but my daughter was angry because she had dance and didn't get the chance to get out in it. I think Christmas tree shopping is on the agenda this weekend. Hopefully we can get that done before the weather hits. Enjoy the snow and be careful on the ice!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fitday.com



Do you want a really good web site for keeping track of your diet and exercise habits? My wife found this site, fitday.com, and I am impressed with all the features that it has. I started using it yesterday and it is very user friendly! You can keep track of exactly what you eat and the amount of exercise you do in a day. You can also set goals for yourself. Check it out if you are health conscious or if you just want to get an idea of where you are at.

Omaha Shooting



Once again it has been proven that it can happen anywhere. A shooting occurred in a mall in Omaha, Nebraska. The gunman was a 19-year-old named Robert Hawkins. It seems that the shooter fired down from a balcony. Eight people were killed and the gunman took his own life. Robert was described as a depressed individual and he did leave a suicide note.

In another article the shooter was described as "gentle" but depressed. He had recently broke up with his girlfriend and lost his job at a fast-food restaurant. He was said to have a drinking problem and occasionally smoked marijuana.

Every time I see, or hear, about something like this I just cringe. I just don't understand it! Why would you bring other people into your problematic life and create such sorrow? Maybe I don't understand depression and what it can do to people. Maybe there was something else going on with this individual. Whatever the case may be, let's keep all the families involved in our thoughts.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Parkour and Free Running


"Parkour is the art of moving through one's environment in the fastest, most efficient way possible." A person that practices Parkour is called a traceur. Free running involves more tricks than just Parkour.

I have seen these guys on TV and they are pretty impressive. I would venture to say that YouTube or Myspace would have quite a few videos on this "art-form". This "sport" originated in France. If you happened to see Live Free or Die Hard you have seen this sport in action. One of the "bad guys" used Parkour to become a deadly weapon. In the article it is said to be like a combination of martial arts skateboarding without the board, and gymnastics.

Search Xin Sarith Wuku on YouTube. He hosts one of the most popular parkour videos on YouTube. It has had more than 18 million views!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Positive Thinking Put To The Test



In the past two weeks my positive thinking has been put to the test. I am going to give you a brief description of the recent things that have made me realize how important positive thinking is. I recently changed nephrologists (kidney doctors). After the transition and the initial consultation, tests were done and I went back to the doctor to find out the results. Most of my results were decent but there was one result I was not prepared for. During an ultrasound of my kidneys they found, what appeared to be, a mass. I was told that I would probably have to have a CTscan or a contrast MRI (where they shoot dye into you so they can see what is going on). I was referred to a urologist and met with him. He decided to try a MRI without the contrast. Contrast MRIs are dangerous for people with kidney disease, like me. I did the MRI, without the contrast, the same week and it turns out that the mass seems to be just my misshapen kidney. What a relief! It was a pretty stressful time but I have to say that my wife, my friends, and I, all had very positive thoughts going into this. I definitely believe it helped. The good results were shared with me on Tuesday (11/27).

On Thursday (11/29) I get a call from my wife at about 12:30 saying that her father is being sent, airlifted, to Davenport, Iowa to have bypass surgery. I immediately get permission to leave from the principal and high tail it home. On my way home I decide to call my mom to see if she could possibly watch the kids if we both decide to go. She says "no problem" and we are set. I get home, we pack, and are off to Davenport (about a 4 hour drive with a pit stop at her parent's house). By the way, one other problem, we have my 40th birthday party planned for Friday (11/30). We have about 40 people showing up and we have to cancel on the way to Davenport. My wife got all of that taken care of with the help of some good friends. We get 5 miles, or so, from Davenport and they say they aren't going to do the surgery! Can you believe that? My wife's sister was on the way from around Springfield, MO. We still go to see him, and Sue's mom, and stay the night. When we wake up the next morning and call the hospital to see how he is doing, we are then told that they will do the surgery Friday morning...make up your mind! Well, the surgery went great and Sue's dad is doing great! Once again, a lot of positive thoughts! We are rescheduling my birthday celebration.

To my students and friends at school: Thanks for all your patience, and thoughts, during the last couple of weeks and hopefully we can all get back in the groove of things before Christmas break is upon us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Podcast Away!


As most of you students know, I went to a podcast workshop yesterday. In some ways it was very interesting and exciting but in others it was rather disappointing. It was more of a push to buy Apple products than it was to enhance our knowledge about podcasts. The gentleman that presented at this workshop was very knowledgeable but I feel at times he talked over some of our heads. We were provided minimal time to work with podcasts on a Mac book. That would of been fine if all of us were familiar with how to use a Mac. I don't think anyone in the room, besides the the two men that came to present at the conference, were familiar enough with macs to get down to business concerning podcasts. Podcasts as a learning tool are, and will continue to be, a wonderful technological advance. I will find out how to do podcasts with Windows. I think I can be successful. All that being said, I was impressed with the Mac book. Once I got familiar with the small differences in how to use it, it was pretty easy to use and I was impressed with how everything seemed to flow together.

PODCASTS ARE DEFINITELY MY NEXT CHALLENGE IN TECH-TEACHING!

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Green" Christmas Trees


It seems that Christmas trees are not even safe from getting a "green" label. In Portland, Oregon they are labeling trees that meet coalition standards. More than 200,000 trees will be tagged this year as "green". It states in the article that "consumers want to do the right thing". I guess in this case they mean buying "green". To pass the standards a tree farm must be inspected to make sure that standards are being met for managing wetlands, nutrients and pests. This is very interesting! The article also states that 29 million households bought fresh Christmas trees in 2006.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In Between Holidays


Thanksgiving is over and I am glad to be back writing. I had a good Thanksgiving over at my parents house and I didn't over eat...amazing! My wife and I braved "Black Friday" and I have to say that it was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Of course, we did not do the the whole 5 a.m. psycho shopping, but we still went. We went to Walmart in Pekin, IL and Best Buy and a mall in Peoria, IL. We got most of our Christmas shopping done! We were at my parents Thursday, Friday, and part of Saturday. It was nice to get home on Saturday. Today was a lazy Sunday and I didn't get much accomplished, but isn't that what Sunday's are for? Good news and bad news from the sports front: The Packers won-BAD, The Chiefs lost- WORSE, LSU was upset-GREAT GAME!, Missouri crushed Kansas-BAD, my Fightin' Irish football season is over- GOOD, my Dukies are 6-0-GREAT!

Christmas is now in the air and I am getting primed for the Christmas season. Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year and enjoy pretty much everything about it. Seeing the kid's eyes light up on Christmas morning is just too exciting to explain. I hope it snows on Christmas, or around Christmas. It seems to make the season a little more magical. My belief in snowfall is that it can snow as much as it wants up until Christmas and then I don't want it to snow anymore after that. It doesn't happen that way but that is the way I would like it.

Due to some health issues I will be missing some time at school. I will also be attending a workshop on Tuesday. It is on podcast training. It should be a great tool to teach with. I just wanted to let you know in case I don't stay up to date on my blog. I will try though!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Break


At 2:00 p.m. today Thanksgiving Break starts! It has not felt like Thanksgiving with the weather that we have been having here in the Midwest. Things will be changing, weather-wise, soon. The change in weather should make it feel more like Thanksgiving. Turkey, football, and shopping will make up most of my Thanksgiving vacation. I am sure that video games are going to be a big part of my weekend also. My mom has a Wii and my brother is bringing his PS3. My wife is not too excited about the video game part but my son is ecstatic! Anyway, another chance to work with my new GPS and a chance to "sell" the GPS concept to my parents, whom I feel need one desperately. They do a lot of traveling and, of course, my dad sometimes has the "cro-magnon" mentality when it comes to asking for directions.

The specifics of Thanksgiving with the Carey's consist of this. It will start with a large, and I mean large, meal prepared by my mom. This year she bought a 20 pound turkey! There are only going to be 7 of us there! She is an excellent cook and we all always eat too much. The "chow-down" will be followed with mass quantities of football, along with my dad pretending to watch football, but snoring us out of the room. The kids will be wrestling around with their uncle or playing video games in the other room. When, and if, we all begin to get hungry again, my mom will start heating up leftovers (turkey sandwiches, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.). Friday usually consists of a lot of the same but this year my wife has had a mental lapse! She wants to go shopping on "Black Friday". Insane!!!!!!! I will go, but I still think it is insane.

HAVE A GREAT THANKSGIVING AND BE CAREFUL IF YOU TRAVEL!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kids Vaccinated Or Go To Jail



In Maryland a judge ordered that either the parents, of school age children, provide proof that their kids have been vaccinated, or have the kids vaccinated on the spot. If either of these two items were not done the the parents would be subjected to ten days in jail. Two months into school and there were 2000 kids in this particular county that did not have immunizations! The school system consists of 132,000 students. Some of the parents said the their children were already immunized but said that the school had lost their records. Another reason why some of these students might not have had immunizations is that some people think that they raise the chances of autism and other medical problems.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

St. Louis Trip

I just got back from my trip to St. Louis. I have to say that whoever invented the GPS better not live too close to me or they are going to get a big fat hug! It is one of those devices that makes you wonder how you got along without it. We started out by going to World Market. I love that place. If you haven't been, they have all kinds of food from around the world and many different types of decor items. It was time for lunch then so we went and ate a Joe's Crabshack...wonderful! After filling up on seafood we decided to hit the Chesterfield Mall. We spent a few hours there browsing and getting a couple of items for the kids. I think the walking really wiped out my little one. She was complaining about her legs being tired. I think our favorite place in the mall was the Lindt Chocolate store. It was amazing. After the mall we trekked it over to a Toys R Us and let the kids do some "Christmas Scouting". They, of course, loved it. Again, we were hungry so we found a Chevy's (Tex-Mex) and went an ate supper. I think my son could have eaten 5 tacos! He was starving. The only bad part of the trip was my kids "working out their differences" in the back of the van. My kids are not mild, quiet children and sometimes can act like caged animals if they are not entertained. Overall, I would give the day an 8 out of 10. Pretty good!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sports Burn-out


Let me start off by saying that I played sports all through school and I coached for many years. When I was growing up we played the sport for school only during that season. What I mean by that is that there were no team camps and no summer workouts. We had time to be "kids". We started playing for our school districts when we were in 5th grade. When we had free time, from the time we could walk, we did not play video games (probably mainly because they were extremely cheesy and most parents despised them) but instead we played ball. We played baseball, basketball, and football. My school didn't even have football. I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I spent down at the local basketball court! Do we have to start kids so early in sports because they spend less time playing the sport on their own? Do they have too many things going on in their lives to get the needed experience on the playground? Or do coaches and parents seem to think that starting them this early actually gives the players that much of an advantage? My personal opinion is that starting kids this early could allow the kids to develop bad habits. An example would be shooting a basketball. If a kid in second grade is trying to shoot a basketball, even a women's size and at a shorter hoop, he/she will probably develop poor shooting skills because he/she has to heave the ball to get the ball up to the basket. I also believe if parents push a kid to be a star that this sometimes burns the kid out. I mean, if a kid in seventh grade goes to every summer camp with his team, maybe goes to an individual camp, and goes to all the off season workouts, wouldn't all the joy of playing the sport be eliminated? Maybe they wouldn't be burnt out at that instance but I think that somewhere, in season, it will show that instead of having fun and playing the game, it is a job. I think many parents and coaches forget what sports is about. Sports were developed as an extracurricular activity, something to do in your free time and have fun doing. They were also developed to promote teamwork. I have seen my son, and many of his friends, struggle with grasping a sports concept and being able to "instruction" into action on the court or field. I just don't think kids are ready for competition at some of the young ages they are started at. I think it is perfectly fine to send them to a small "learning" camp that keeps it fun and "wanting to play" alive. If the child stays interested in the sport he/she will have plenty of time to master that particular sport.

All that being said, I think as parents and coaches we are in a catch 22. If you don't push the kids and go to everything that is offered then you will always wonder if that is why the child was not successful. This is a bad situation and I am not sure if I have a solution. We have put ourselves in this quandary.

Cyclone Hits Bangladesh



First of all, how many of you know the definition of what a cyclone is? I remember studying it in my earlier years but didn't remember what it was exactly. Here is the definition: a storm or system of winds that rotates about a center of low atmospheric pressure, advances at a speed of 20 to 30 miles (about 30 to 50 kilometers) an hour, and often brings heavy rain. That being said, I can't ever remember hearing about a cyclone being in the news. This particular cyclone hit Bangladesh and had 140 mph winds. It killed at least 425 people. High waves were also a problem. It said that this particular area is prone to cyclones. I guess this was just an extremely powerful one. Can you imagine being there when this hit?

St. Louis and a GPS


I am going to St. Louis tomorrow. I am going to test out my new Garmin Nuvi 200 GPS. So far I have just used it around Quincy. GPS units are amazing! This particular unit has many easy to use features. If you have the means I would highly recommend purchasing one especially if you travel a lot. The only complaint that I have about this unit, and it is a small one, is that it takes it a while to sync into the satellites when you first turn it on. Other than that it is easy to use and easy to read. My kids think it is amazing (along with all the adults I have shown it to!). You can use it in the car, on a bike, or even when you are walking somewhere. I will give you an update on how it works in a city atmosphere.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Twitter


What is Twitter? Well, I just got signed on and it seems pretty cool. It is an application that can be used like a mini blog and/or a conversation station. Check it out! I think you guys will like this one.

Sign up and search mrcarey.

Colds and Flu


I have noticed at school that quite a few students have been absent due to illness. Here are some pointers that might help in limiting the days you miss:

1. Wash your hands frequently.

2. Keep your hands away from your eyes and nose.

3. Get plenty of sleep.

4. Get a flu shot if possible.

5. Eat healthy food.

6. Work out.

7. Stay away from people that are sick.

8. Keep sanitizer nearby.

Visit this link for more details.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ricky Williams



Ricky Williams has been reinstated by the NFL after an 18-month suspension. The Dolphins get him back. Is it a good or bad thing that the Dolphins are getting him back? I don't think it can hurt the Dolphins, as far as having man-power, they are O-fer! On the other hand, would you want somebody back on your team that has violated the drug policy four times? The first time he could play a game would be November 26th, against Pittsburgh. I am all for giving a guy a chance, but four violations, and the coach is supposed to depend on this kind of individual? Why would you want this guy back. He's a running back, 30 years old (on the down hill slide of his career), a drug violation problem, has played 12 games since the 2004 season, and he will most likely affect the locker room in some way.

I think the Dolphins need to rethink this situation!

Fred Claus


It's been awhile! Our system was down at work so I was having a hard time keeping up on my writing. We're back so my first topic is "Fred Claus". My son and I went to see "Fred Claus" last night and we thought it was wonderful. It was funny, as expected, but also had a wonderful story to it. I see that the overall ratings of this movie were put at 3 stars out of 5 but I would disagree. I would give it a 4 or 4 1/2. I read one review that said that the movie makes it seem that Christmas is all about presents. Obviously this person was not paying attention to the movie in relation to what the situations in the movie did to the family. It had little to do with the actual presents that were delivered. I would recommend this movie to anyone! This is an excellent Holiday story and really gets you in the mood for Christmas.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Video Games Do Matter!


Guitar Hero III has skyrocketed album sales of artists that are signed with Roadrunner Records. It seems that Dragonforce is the big winner in this situation. Their single "Through the Fire and Flames" saw a 183% increase over the prior weeks sales!

If you think video games don't matter then maybe you would like to see Dragonforce's bank account. I think they would disagree with you. I wonder how many bands are going to battling to get onto the next installment of Guitar Hero?

Veteran's Day


I am going to turn 40 this month which means I have not been directly involved in any war or conflict. I am grateful for that and look upon our servicemen with the highest regard. I am of the opinion that many people, especially young people, have no idea what Veteran's Day is designed for. I would even go as far as to say that many young people don't care. I do think that there are more that care presently than say 10-15 years ago when we, the United States, were not involved in a large conflict or war. I hope I am wrong, but I do not see the kind of respect during the Pledge of Allegiance that would indicate a deep caring for servicemen involved in a life or death conflict. To me, the Pledge is a daily reminder of all our ancestors that have stood up, fought, died, and killed for this country.

Would everyone please do me a favor this year and remember all the veterans that have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country? Go see a veteran you know (grandpa, father, uncle, brothers, cousins, etc.) and say "Thank you!".

Friday, November 9, 2007

Occupations

"What do you want to do with your life?" Even though this is a cheesy quote from a Twisted Sister video, it is a question that you will have to eventually answer. What kind of profession do you want to have when you finish with you school career? There are many questions you need to ask yourself. Are you concerned with making a lot of money? Are you worried about liking you job? Do you want good benefits? How much school do you want to, or are willing to, go through? Do you want "just a job" or a profession?

I was lucky enough to know exactly what I wanted to do by the time I was in seventh grade! I don't know too many kids that know what they want to do that early in life. I was able to focus on my goal because I knew what my goal was. I consider myself lucky to be doing what I love. The money could be better but I enjoy my job and making a difference in kid's lives. In my opinion, the sooner you know what you want to do the better. Again, this worked for me but is not everybody's cup of tea. My brother didn't know what he wanted to do until he was around 28, and I think it has worked out well for him.

I think that too many people place how much money they make too high on the priority list. I know of people that make a lot of money but hate their job. To me that is ridiculous. YOU HAVE TO LOVE WHAT YOU DO! That is the one piece of advice I will give you. If you don't like what you do then what is the point of doing it? The people I know of that make a good amount of money usually are working such long, or odd, hours they don't get a chance to enjoy the money they make anyway.

Remember, pick a job that you are going to like (or think you are going to like) and keep your eyes on the prize! If you end up not liking your job, get out of it and find one that you do like.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Horror Fest


I am a big horror film fan. I like the suspense type of horror films but also the good old blood-and -guts films also. They is nothing like getting that adrenaline flowing to let you know you are alive! I would love to go to horror fest this year but due to location I don't think it will be possible. This is 8 horror films shown between November 9th-18th. These are all new, groundbreaking films. You can see all the films, or just one. St. Louis and Peoria are the two places that are having it the closest to us.

If you purchased all-access passes they were priced at $75 (had to be done before October 31st). Pretty expensive, but not bad when you realize you are getting to see 8 films on the big screen plus a Goodie Bag from After Dark Films. The 8 films are: The Deaths of Ian Stone, Nightmare Man, Crazy Eights, Unearthed, Borderland, Mulberry Street, Tooth and Nail, and Lake Dead.

If you are lucky enough to even see one of these films please let me know what you think. Maybe next year I will plan a "Horror-vacation" to one of these cities!

The Upcoming Presidential Election


If there is one thing that truly does not interest me it is politics. I have never been interested in it and probably never will. I have taken some mild abuse for not voting in the past from fellow teachers and my father but my response is that it is a free country and if I choose not to vote then that is my right. I know, some of you are saying that so many places on Earth don't even have the right to vote, why would you not vote if you could. Again, it is my choice. I feel that I can choose not to vote because I do not complain about political issues. If I would complain about political issues then I think I would be compelled to vote. I have voted, but I do not always vote. I have always felt that elections are nothing more than which candidate can "brown-nose" the public more. Just because a candidate says he or she is going to do something does not mean they will! This is why I don't have much faith in electing the best individual for the job. So much of the election process is based on saying what the public wants to hear.

This will probably be the only post I have on politics, so take advantage of commenting!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Been Awhile

It has been awhile since I posted last and many things have changed in the five days since. My computer is fixed! The time has changed. Cool weather is upon us and the leaves are pretty much at their maximum in color. Parent/Teacher conferences have came and went. I have taken down the Halloween decorations at my house.

I sure missed my computer and being able to post on my blog. It was amazing to find out how much I use my computer. I didn't realize how much until I couldn't go to it and do the things I do. I get on it to check my email, Myspace, weather, Google reader, and CNN. It is in a very convenient place in our house and my wife and I use it continuously. I'm glad my "baby" is home!

I can't believe it is getting dark at around 5:30 now! I know, it shouldn't surprise me, I have seen roughly 39 time changes. It just always cuts down on the amount of time spent outside when it gets dark so early, along with the cool weather. I didn't think we were going to get any color in the leaves this year. The last two weeks or so has proven me wrong. There are some very beautiful trees this year.

Parent/Teacher conferences went smoothly and I got quite a bit of work done while they were going on. I also got a chance to talk to some of the teachers on a personal level and it was nice to get to know a little more about them.

My son is sick today so I am home with him instead of at school. I got a lot of cleaning done and I also got the Halloween decorations taken down. I also got the chance to make a good fall meal, roast with vegetables.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Computers


I love computers, most of the time. In the last couple of days my faith in technology has been tested. I have been having problems with a graphic driver at home, and to make a long story short, I am taking my personal computer in to have it worked on today. At school I am in the process of getting Power points moved onto laptops for parent/teacher conferences. It is taking me a considerable amount of time due to the fact that some of the laptops have not been used for awhile and when I shutdown they need to install updates. On one of them it needed to install 27 updates and on another one it needed to install 85! I guess you have to input to get output! Anyway, it could be worse. If I get behind on posts, you know why.

Computer technology is still on the top of my list for useful technology.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Listening Skills


One of the most amazing skills to observe is listening. I would consider it a true art form. I see wide ranges of listening skills in the kids that I teach. Some kids can listen to my notes and not write a single thing down and that is all they need. These kids usually do fairly well on the tests. I would say that this type of listener only happens maybe once every two years in the school setting. These type of people make me extremely jealous! I have never been able to do this and never will. I am the type of person that has to write something down if I am going to remember it. I do write it down though. Some kids, the majority, take notes daily and follow directions to the T. Then we have the kids (people) that look right at you and look as if they are not missing a word and then they ask you a question two minutes from then about what you just talked about! These type of people usually don't write anything down and expect you to repeat the instructions as many times as they need. I do not have much tolerance for this. If you are a poor listener then learn to write down anything of importance (and keep track of it)! Like I said, as a teacher I see all kinds of listening skills and try to improve every kid's listening skills. This is sometimes a daunting job!...SO LISTEN UP!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween Party


My family and I hosted a Halloween party yesterday. It was a lot of work but it was well worth it. I think there were, at last count, 19 kids at the party. The majority were between 1 and 6 years old. They had some great costumes and were all very excited. We had grilled hot dogs, chips, and tons of kid's snacks. We had pink lemonade, cold apple cider, and hot apple cider to drink. We played the "mummy" wrap game (wrapping a person up in toilet paper) and bobbing for apples. It was some great cheap entertainment watching the young ones bob for apples for the first time! It was rather chilly so we did the bobbing in the garage. Believe it or not, most of the kids were successful in getting an apple. We had two fires going in the backyard and plenty of good conversation going among the adults. In between eating and the games, the kids played tag and hide-n-seek. The full moon added to the ambiance of the night. Those kind of nights are what memories, and being kids, are all about!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bo-Sox



A couple of weeks ago the news was that Manny Ramirez didn't thinking losing in the playoffs was that big of a deal and the Bo-Sox were one game away from elimination. Now they are two games up in the World Series! If anybody wants to see what leadership and "cool and collected" look like they need look no further than this years Red Sox. When Manny steps up to bat he looks like he is playing in a high school summer league game...intense, but having lots of fun, and fully relaxed. He is what "clutch" is defined as. The Red Sox held a team meeting when they were one game from elimination and decided to take one pitch at a time, one out at a time, one inning at a time, and one game at a time. So far this is working. I am not saying that Boston is going to win the series but so far it looks that way.

I am a White Sox fan but I am thoroughly impressed with the Red Sox and their durability.

12-year-old Driver?

In Tennessee this week a 12-year-old was taken into custody for taking his mother's car while she was at work and speeding through the suburbs at 70 mph. He was doing this at a time when kids were being let off the bus from school. The boy's six-year-old brother was in the passenger's seat. The boys had been driving around all week. The boy was charged with driving without a license, reckless endangerment, and not wearing a seat belt. He is facing felony charges. Video

Not cool, and very dangerous! I bet he will think twice before he does something like that again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Parent-Teacher Conferences



Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up quickly! For our students at Payson Seymour they are on Thursday and Friday of next week. I really enjoy having parent-teacher conferences. It gives me a chance to meet, and get to know, my student's parents. As a teacher I get the privilege of spending roughly five hours with your kids, per week. Obviously for grade school teachers they spend even more time with their kids. I enjoy teaching and love being able to share with parents what the students have done.

It just so happens that parent-teacher conferences for my kids is also next week. I feel more uncomfortable during those conferences than I ever have for my conferences in Payson. I really fight, sometimes, being the parent instead of the teacher. I know I am tougher on my kids than most parents due to the fact that I am a teacher. I feel I am also tougher on myself, for how my kids behave during school, because I am a teacher. It is a tough situation sometimes.

Payson parents: Please come and be a part of you child's education. Support your child by attending our parent-teacher conferences.

Monday, October 22, 2007

GPS Opportunities


My high school class and I just got done marking the trees and fire hydrants that are located on the school property. I think the kids were kind of surprised on how easy GPS (Global Positioning System) units are to use. It took us roughly six days to mark around 100 trees and five fire hydrants. We are hoping the the school district can use this information to see where more trees may be planted and where current trees exist. To answer the question that everyone is asking, yes they could just walk around the school's property and see, but I think seeing this information on a map makes it much easier to see as a whole. The fire hydrants, I think, are very important as far as location, especially with the new addition at the grade school. We only marked the ones on the school property (5) but there were some that were directly across the street from the school's property (4-5). We now have the school's property boundaries, the exterior of the buildings, trees, and fire hydrants all marked. The property and exterior of the buildings was done in 2006 by my class that included freshman through seniors. We already have the boundaries and the exterior of the buildings mapped, using GIS (Geographical Informational Systems-Arcview in this case). We will be adding the trees and fire hydrants to the map soon. The kids this year (9th grade) enjoyed this project. They learned something, got some exercise, inhaled some fresh air, and hopefully, benefited the school district.

We, the technology coordinator and myself, hope to get some monies through grant opportunities to purchase more GPS units so that larger classes can benefit from this wonderful learning experience! I think we are ready to step it up a notch and venture out into the community.

Halloween in Full Force


My family and I went to a Halloween party this weekend in rural Missouri. The temperature was great, especially with a roaring fire. The moon was bright, which added to the atmosphere. I bet there were 30 or so kids there and they were all cranked up on sugar and the party atmosphere. The food was excellent and included hot dogs (of course), made-rights, chips, cookies, pies, cakes, etc. This was the first time my kids got to experience a "country" Halloween party with all the trimmings. The hay-rack ride was the highlight of the night! They had a "not-scary" one for the little ones and a "scary" one for the older kids. My son would have ridden it over and over. I got a chance to talk to some "old-timers" and thoroughly enjoyed their conversation. To me, this is what holidays are all about...friends, good conversation, and the chance to see your kids enjoy themselves on a new level.

Have a great Halloween and be safe!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

ITBS testing


Today was the first day of ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) testing at school. It went well. It is taking me awhile to get used to a few things, this year, about the testing. The biggest change is that we are taking the tests in the fall. For the previous 13-14 years that I have been at Payson Seymour High School we have always taken them in the spring. I like the fall setup. When we took the tests in the spring there was only about a month between the ISAT and the ITBS. I don't think that makes for good test scores. That is too much testing in that small time period. I also like how none of the tests are more than 30 minutes long. I think this is a huge benefit to the kids and their test scores. It is also nice to have new test booklets. One thing I don't like about testing in the spring is that not much of what you, as their current teacher, teach will be covered because you only have them for about a quarter before you do the testing. I guess they are more concerned with what the kids are retaining over a longer period of time. Tomorrow we will be finishing up the ITBS testing for another year. I hope all the kids are taking the testing seriously and realize that their best effort is a necessity in this day and age (No Child Left Behind).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Staph Infections in Schools


A student in Bedford, Virgina died Monday due to an antibiotic-resistant staph infection. This has resulted in the closing of 21 schools for cleaning so the infection doesn't spread. The report states that staph infections have been spreading through schools nationwide in recent weeks. The report also states that these infections are being spread in gyms and locker rooms. Do you think all schools in the nation should do something to stop this sickness from getting out of control?

How bad are staph infections? Experts say that staph infection deaths may end up being higher than AIDS deaths. The overall incidence rate was about 32 invasive infections per 100,000 people. It is most common in hospitals but is spreading through poor neighborhoods, gyms and locker rooms, and prisons. The bacteria that cause staph infection do not respond to penicillin-related antibiotics. Are you worried about staph infection? Do you take any precautions against infection?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Busy Day


Boy, did today fly by! I was so busy trying to catch up on grading projects, running copies, getting makeup work in the grade book, and putting grades in STI, that the day disappeared without warning. This is always a busy time of year but especially when you have a sick child and the end of the quarter is coming up! I got to school today at 7 and did not take lunch today but pretty much got caught up on things. What a feeling of satisfaction! It is just kind of a messed up week. My son was sick yesterday, the kids had an assembly that lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, and ISAT testing is on Thursday and Friday morning. This is one of those weeks where your lesson plan book looks more like hieroglyphics than anything that resembles plans for teaching. I think we all need these type of weeks. These kind of weeks keep us on our toes and let us know that we are alive. It gets us out of the daily mud that so many of us drag through.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A "First Concert" Experience


My brother and I are taking my son to his first concert this weekend. He is really excited, even though I don't think he has any idea what to expect. We are going to Pop's in St. Louis for the concert. My brother and I have been there before and we both think it is a great place to see a band play. You are able to get pretty close to the band and it makes you feel more like you are part of the show. A lot of pretty good bands play at Pop's. I am a big metal fan, and always will be and my son seems to like the music and seems to have the "metal-mentality". We will be seeing Down. For those of you that are not familiar with Down, the band includes Philip Anselmo (lead singer of Pantera and, in my opinion, the best metal singer on the planet!), Rex (bass player for Pantera), and Pepper Keenan (member of Corrosion of Conformity). I have seen Phil play with a couple of other bands and he never disappoints!

Here is what I hope. I hope my son feels the energy of the concert experience and refers to this as one of his "best memories". I hope he gets totally engulfed in the pounding and screaming of the live show. I hope he learns to enjoy music (any, that he ends up liking) the same way I do. I would love it if he fell in love with metal the way I did when I was younger but I know that different music moves all of us in different ways. Here's to my young son "rocking out" at his first concert!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

My Top NBA Players (By Position)


Here's my list:

Guards: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Bob Cousy, Steve Nash, Dwayne Wade
Forwards: Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley
Centers: Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Shaquille O'Neal

Who are your top NBA players?

Tasmanian Devil Decline



Facial cancer is killing the Tasmanian Devil population. Why? Well it seems that there is a lack of genetic diversity in these creatures so the animal's immune system does not try to fight off the disease. In Tasmania 90% of the population has died of the disease. They think that the disease is spread by biting during fights for food or mates. Scientists are trying to save the animals by relocating breeding pairs to sanctuaries on islands.

Monday, October 8, 2007

2007 MLB Playoffs


Who is going to win the 2007 World Series? Will Cleveland, Boston, New York, Colorado, or Arizona take home the trophy? I think both Cleveland and Boston are playing some good ball. I also think, overall, that the American League is stronger than the National League.

What is your opinion on who is going to win the World Series?

Shooting in Crandon, Wisconsin



On Sunday, at about 2:45 a.m., an off-duty sheriff's deputy, Tyler Peterson, shot and killed six people and critically injured another in a small town in northern Wisconsin. Crandon has a population of about 2,000 people. The shooter was shot and killed on Sunday afternoon by a SWAT team. The victims were between 14 and 20 years old and either attended Crandon High School or had recently graduated. It was the high school's homecoming weekend. The shooter was described as "average" and "nice".

Once again this should prove to every small town in America that this can happen anywhere, no matter how big or how small. It would be great to be confident that this type of thing could not happen in a small town, but the facts state otherwise. We all need to be aware of what can happen and not assume we are in a safe "shell" just because we live in a small town.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Culver Stockton Homecoming


It has been 17 years since I graduated from college. Geesh! Has it been that long ago? I attended Culver Stockton College from 1985 until 1990(Yes, I was on the 5 year plan!). Those days were some of the best days of my life. As a freshman I made many friends from all walks of life. I did not join a fraternity my freshman year. When I was a sophomore my best friend and I decided to give fraternity life a try. We became men of Sigma Phi Epsilon. In the next four years we had some of the best times and made some of the best friends a person could ever ask for.

This year I am going back for Homecoming. I won't make all of it and I don't even know if any of my fraternity brothers are going to be there. I have some "old" students of mine that are also alum and some friends that still live around here from other fraternities that will be attending some of the festivities. I just want to see some old faces that take me back to the days when we all had it made. My fraternity brothers and I did almost everything together. We went "out". We went to see movies. We participated in Greek Week. We loved intramurals and were all very competitive. We went back home with each other to experience another "home town" and had some great parties at "the old frat house". Yes, we didn't always get along but when you put 10-12 guys living together, in one house, there are bound to be some differences. We learned to live with them and in the process became close friends. To this day I know that any of these guys would do anything for me if I asked. It is a great feeling to have friends like that.

17 years! Where did they go? I sure hope that some of my students are lucky enough to have some of the experiences I have had and develop close friendships like my fraternity brothers and I have.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Vacations


I have been lucky in that I had parents that believed that travel was essential in learning what life, and people, were about. I have been all over the United States. While traveling as a kid I learned that whenever you think you know people, take a trip. Traveling to a different area, even in the same country, can verify, in fact, that you don't know people, their land, or their culture. Forget about TV. This was experiencing real America.

Several memories stand out concerning our family vacations. The first time I got to swim in the ocean, getting stung by fire ants in Florida, having a snowball fight on the fourth of July on a mountain in Colorado, my first taste of grits in Kentucky, are a few things I will never forget. I got to see fireworks on the fourth of July in Washington D.C. in 1976. They were amazing! On one particular vacation our family traveled to 24 states in three weeks, in a car. I didn't say all these memories were good ones! We camped in the Rocky Mountains one year. I mean, we CAMPED! We had to dig a hole for our toilet, get our water out of the stream, and chop our own firewood. During this camping trip we awoke to the sounds of moose. You wouldn't think that would be that big of a deal but these things were loud and the sound was something none of us had heard before. The wildlife would actually come to within feet of you. It was very common to see deer and ground squirrels within ten feet. On our first trip to Kentucky I will never forget hearing the "southern draw" as one of the locals talked to us. It was funny at the time, but as I got older I realized that this was part of their heritage. Traveling to New York City was a very exciting part of our 24 state jaunt. I grew up in a town of around 800 people, in central Illinois, so New York City was like a different planet. People with signs on the corners, kids asking you if you wanted your windshield washed, a hundred different cultures bustling about. It was almost too much for my senses to take in!

Traveling always made me want to travel more and find out as much as I could about other cultures. It also made me realize just how much of a small part of the world we, as individuals, are. I hope I can give to my family what my parents gave to me, a true education in the human interaction and differences. I also hope that I can advance this education to include other countries. I think traveling to different countries would be an extremely fun adventure!

If you get a chance to travel, anywhere, do it. It will only make you more educated about the world around you! Who knows, you may even make some new friends with a totally different background!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Banning Hugs



One of the big issues in schools recently is the issue of public affection, specifically hugging. Oregon schools have banned hugging and Oak Park schools in Oak Park, IL have also banned hugging in their school. Aren't there bigger fish to fry than the hugging issue?

In the case of Oak Park I can see where they are coming from as far as why hugs were banned. They were having "hug-lines" in between classes and it was jamming up the hallways and kids were getting to class late.

I personally see nothing wrong with a hug, if it is just a hug. I believe that many kids in today's society do not get this type of affection at home and I do believe they need it. There is nothing like a hug to show that you care about someone and/or their feelings. What will these schools do if there is a catastrophe involving their schools? If a student gives someone a hug will they be suspended? I do not agree with other signs of affection in school such as kissing or "making out".

What are your feelings on this issue?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Harvest Time


Well, it is harvest time again. Harvest time for me means being mom and dad for a couple of weeks (not really, just in a couple of ways). My wife works for ADM and usually has to work some over time during harvest. Don't get me wrong, it is not like she is working 24/7 but she usually is so tired when she does get home that she needs that time to recuperate.

During the non-harvest times of the year we share duties pretty equally. We both share the cleaning. I cook. She cleans up the meals. She pays the bills. We split putting the kids to bed, etc. During harvest is a special time for me because I get the chance to see all aspects of our kids lives and I also get a very quick lesson on how difficult it would be to be a single parent. I think all parents should get a chance to try to tackle a couple of weeks on their own. It sure lets you know how important your other half is!

My wife still does quite a bit during harvest but I guess it is just that we are out of our routine. So here we go...running my son to scouts and football, running my daughter to dance, keeping the notes from school straight, making sure the homework gets done, making sure the kids get their baths, and making sure my wife knows I appreciate all she does.

Bandana Wars


In a small city (Pekin, IL) about 20 minutes from my hometown (San Jose, IL) there is a battle brewing over something that most of you will find unbelievable. The school system has banned the wearing of bandanas due to being a symbol for gangs and gang activity. Twenty four kids have been disciplined for violating anti-gang policy. This policy has been in the school handbook since 1993. It was not challenged until this year. Kids are fighting the policy because "there are no gangs in Pekin". Is the right to wear a bandana worth fighting the school system over?

FOR THE BANDANA WEARERS: Now I know wearing bandanas is not a problem in west central Illinois (at least that I know of) but many kids want to change their appearance to be noticed or to start a trend. Don't all people have the right to be "individuals"? We could all probably come up with something that we have worn that might be against the rules, or at least on the border of inappropriate.

AGAINST THE BANDANA WEARERS: I am a pretty firm believer in "if it is a rule, then follow it". I think this has a lot to do with my coaching background. The bottom line is that the school district is doing what they think is in the best interest of the school district and the kids. Do any of my students (or other readers) disagree with the school district in question? Why do you agree or disagree?
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