Code Toad

Hey! Did you know that if you give me a number between 1-26, I can instantaneously tell you what letter of the alphabet it corresponds with? I can do it the other way, too: give me a letter, and I'll tell you it's matching number.

G? 7!
14? N!
W? 23!

You'll have to trust the fact that I was able to spit these answers out quickly and without any assistance. After all, the only thing more dorky than bragging about having this nearly pointless talent would be if I were to be secretly consulting a chart and only pretending to possess this ability.

The reason I have acquired this skill is because in my younger years I loved codes. Since one of the most common codes involves a simple number to letter conversion, I had to have that down cold so that I could hastily move on to whatever came next in my spy activities.

Sometimes, this ability worked against me, however. For weeks, I was excited about the premiere of Ghostwriter, a television show about a group of racially diverse teens solving mysteries through their superb literacy abilities. During the first episode, a code was flashed on the screen, which I quickly copied down. Since I knew basic codes, I was able to decipher the secret message immediately, and had solved the mystery before the first episode was even halfway complete. Unfortunately, it took five more weeks before the Ghostwriter gang figured it out. Though I came to love those kids, they really tested my patience by putting off solving the code for so long. It would seem to me, if you have a code that could pinpoint the perpetrators of the big petty theft ring, your top priority would be to sit down and hammer out some code possibilities.

In third grade, I was so obsessed with codes, while simultaneously being so frustrated that there were no secret codes appearing in my life that required my spy skills, that I decided to force the issue. Rather than waiting for someone to slip me a code, I made some up and delivered them to Brian, Robbie, and myself. Because I didn't have the means to slip the code in each of their lockers, desks, or something equally sensical, I instead handed the sheets to them, explaining that I had been informed by the "Code Toad" to give these to them. Obviously, my excuse wasn't too solid, thus earning accusations of being the "Code Toad" all along. "But I got one, too!" I showed. Being a sloppy answer, that didn't hold for long either. An older student on the bus wanted me to prove that it wasn't me by comparing handwriting. Since the notes were, in fact, written by my hand, I wanted to avoid this, but the mob had spoken. I went about demonstrating how I wrote my letters, all of which I penned in lowercase, so as not to match the "Code Toad"'s all-uppercase letters. Fortunately, this devious plan worked - the letters did not match, and I was cleared of suspicion. With quick thinking like that, I convinced myself I would make an awesome spy. Alas, my fear of eventually being exposed so worried me that the Code Toad went into early retirement. Somedays while teaching, though, I find myself daydreaming more than my students, imagining working elsewhere and solving codes.


It's "Me"

While browsing a music blog, I came across an indy band called Baby Calendar. While I can't tell you what the band sounds like, I can tell you what they look like:

I looked at the rocker in the right corner and honestly wondered if somehow that was me. Do you recognize that fashion sense?

It's like I'm famous, or, well, it's like I'm in an unknown band. Either way, one thing is for sure: I dress trendily.



Happy Thanksgiving blah-blah-blah.

Sometimes, I wish I was a kindergarten teacher, because then I could do cool activities on the day before Thanksgiving break like make hand turkeys with my students. Alas, I teach high school; there's no way to justify doing hand turkeys with teenagers. Still, my greatest joy in teaching (well, second to actual educating, I suppose) is getting away with the most ridiculous things in my classroom. There's something sadistically fun about occasionally assigning my students absurd, fairly meaningless tasks and watch them go at it. So, I figure to hell with their ages, let's bring on the hand turkeys!

I decide to give the assignment to my honors students, because if you're going to do something for the simple minded, it's all the more fun to have the smart kids do it and watch them make it far more complicated than necessary.

Also, because I need to disguise the assignment in some sort of academic context, I decide to have it correspond with our unit on the Odyssey. Though we haven't actually started reading it yet, we did frontload (that's teacher talk for providing preview information so that students can better succeed later on) mythical characters. With this in mind, I decided that instead of hand turkeys, we'd make Hand Beasts: mythical creatures that correspond to the shape of traced hands.

The assignment was to color a Hand Beast, name it, then write a story in epic poetry style wherein the Hand Beast has an encounter with a "real" mythical character. Most importantly, I insisted that they do all drawing and coloring with their non-dominant hand in order to better achieve a kindergarten aesthetic. Naturally, I didn't explain that I was intentionally trying to make them look bad each time the students groaned, "Why?" Instead, I insisted we were doing it because "the Pilgrims suffered, too."

The results were largely amazing. Many of them took it so seriously, that I repeatedly caught them sketching with their dominant hands (cheating!) because they wanted to do well. About half of them were turkey-themed Hand Beasts, which is fine by me, considering that was my initial objective anyway. Below are some samples:

This one is called Wierdo (sic) Turkey Mouth.

One of my favorites is definitely Ignacio the Talking Utter. According to lore, Odysseus went to milk a cow, only to encounter Ignacio the Talking Utter, who impolitely told Odysseus not to milk him, suggesting instead that he "go to the darn grocery store." Consequently, the pair got in a slapping fight. As was frequently the case in BC times, Odysseus's stomach was covered in super glue, so that when Ignacio popped him in the gut, he became stuck. In an awkward predicament, the pair called a truce. Soon, Odysseus became the primary source of milk in his village.

Corinnuh looks wise and haggard.

This student couldn't trace eir own hand for eir life! I came and asked whether eir fingers were that fat... let me tell you, if looks could kill! This five-headed Hand Beast received no name, but is responsible for the changes in season.

Another favorite is Enrique. Enrique was thrown a great surprise birthday party, which, incidentally, is the real reason Thanksgiving was invented. "After the party, Enrique was furious because the [party] was over and he wasn't done dancing. He went on a rampage around the world and killed trillions of people. It was the worst attack of any kind in the history of the world. Then Zeus informed his best friend that there would be another party next week for someone else. They looked around and noticed all the dead bodies and everything was destroyed. They shared a good laugh and lived happily ever after."

Ice$ Man$ has an afro! He was the "freshest" of the mythical creatures and was known to have been "droped out of a monney cloud." Furthermore, "his mouth is always lookin like a disco ball."

Meet Hand Beast Karflogazar. One of the best parts about this activity is that I kept repeating the phrase "Hand Beast" as if it were an actual thing. By the end of the period, students were not asking to see each others' drawings, but, "Can I see your Hand Beast?" With straight faces, even! I love passing off nonsense phrases like legitimate vocabulary!

"Turkon is a regular turkey that fell in a toxic waste pit and he transformed into a turkey-dragon thing. Hence the name Turkon!" He destroyed Zeus with his toxic farts.

Volcalem is the pleasant result of two hands being traced.

Immediately, I knew there was something simple and special about Bostwick, but I didn't realize how accurate those two words would be. He is Odysseus's "special little brother." (When I asked what exactly that meant, I was told he was "born differently.") Bostwick died at the age of two, then Circes brought him back to life. Afterwards, Bostwick forms an army of dead sailors, with which he took over the universe by the age of two-and-a-half. "Then he travels into the future and conquers that too, then he went to the past and conquered all of the past. By age 3 1/2, Bostwick was ruler of all space, time, and reality."

Originally named KeVeEzY, he soon became fOb KeVeEzY, a turkey immigrant from South Korea and best friend to Apollo.

Finally, the best named creature has to be Goblrarr. Go ahead, try to pronounce it, it's fun. Not only is Goblrarr fun to say, but it has the awesome five-year-old's art quality I hoped for. Also, according to the story, Goblrarr "is the rarest type of mythical creature ever." Now that's cute!

Most of the students wanted more time to work on them, but hell if I was letting them walk out with these. I wanted them for my fridge. At the end of the period, one student asked whether "myths really happened?" which indicates to me that I better do some legitimate educating soon as well.


Identity Crisis

As a teacher, I am constantly the wet blanket of the classroom party. "Laughter? We're reading a tragedy! RARRRR! (I'm a monster.)" Hearing cheerful noises, I scurry over to a collection of students laughing at a picture in a magazine. "Put that away," I instruct. "But Mr. [Kevin]," one says. "Doesn't this look like Yoshi*?" Yoshi is a loud, short, and stout child who gives me a good idea of what it would be like to teach elementary school. Yoshi is extremely proud of being Asian and makes references to it in nearly everything he says. In spite of his contrary statements, Yoshi behaves no differently than many of his peers, embodying the American teenage mentality to the extreme.

At any rate, when I see the picture, I cannot contain my smile, doing all I can to keep myself from bursting into laughter. Indeed, the photo of a chubby Asian looks very much like Yoshi, but it would not be appropriate to make a big deal about it. In the photo, the Yoshi look-alike sits with his arm around a blonde girl. The photo is captioned "Should Their Love Be Legal?" and suddenly, at the same time as my students, I discover that "Yoshi" is not a he, but a butch lesbian. Again, I shouldn't be laughing, but now it's painful to stifle it while my students openly cackle. All this time, the real Yoshi is oblivious to the photograph, probably off scribbling on the walls or something. Someone shouts out Yoshi's name and shows him the image; he admits that it looks like him. Though I need to resurrect order in the classroom, this photo is something everyone in the class needs to see, so I only occasionally mutter "stop" under my breath as the magazine is passed around, pretending I don't delight in seeing the similar delight on the students' faces. Finally, someone attaches the picture to the board with a magnet and again I turn a blind eye. Only then does Yoshi take a close enough look to notice that he is a lesbian, at which point he crumples it up and tosses it in the trash. Immediately, someone fishes it out and starts defacing it, adding facial hair and piercings, as well as offensive attempts at Japanese writing on "Yoshi's" forehead. After that starts circulating, I jump in. They took a perfectly funny replica and turn it into something that no longer looks like Yoshi. Do they not get the joke?

Yoshi crumples it up and puts it back in the trash. This time, I fish it out. "You just want to take it home to show your friends!" a student accuses me. "No," I retort. "I know that if I leave it in there, someone will take it out again." And that's a risk I don't want to take because of course I want to take it home and show my friends! And so I do, and we laugh a lot. Oh, Yoshi!


Appeasing Alec

Alec has threatened to stop reading this blog if I don't mention him more frequently. A year ago, I suggested that I might start saying shit about friends to increase my readership, and it seems he wants me to follow through on this plan. Alec is so desperate to see his name in print that he okayed me inventing stories about him if need be, even those that would involve dirty sanchezes (Those of you who are unfamiliar with the term might want to think twice about educating yourself on this matter.)

Of course, there's no need to fabricate stories about Alec, when there are already plenty of good stories that exist. For example, I found this awesome article about Alec (accidental alliteration <- which bitchingly includes "accidental alliteration"):

Former boxing champion Alec is to become a male escort after agreeing to work at legendary Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss' new legalized brothel for women. Fleiss bought 60 acres of land in Nevada, and his work is scheduled to begin on Heidi's Stud Farm.
She has high hopes for Alec, once heavyweight champion of the world - despite the fact he is a convicted rapist.
She says, "I told him, 'You're going to be my big stallion.' It's every man's fear that their girlfriend will go for Alec."
Alec, 40, adds, "I don't care what any man says, it's every man's dream to please every woman - and get paid for it."

Don't forget to ask for a dirty sanchez.


Happy Birthday to Whomever

Tonight gave birth to another great Margarita Monday. We were displaced from our usual tables because someone had a large birthday party. Fortunately, they abandoned their post fairly early, leaving behind a lot of cake. Call us ants, but we pillaged those left overs, bringing them back to our table and devouring it. It was the best cake I have eaten in a long time. Though I try not to use the phrase, it had "old school" frosting, the kind that used to make cake worth eating before this unfortunate trend of using whipped buttery substances as the icing of choice. 'tever!

Also left behind were some unfinished drinks and - I won't mention names (this time anyway) - but they were proudly consumed as well. Among these drinks was a half full pitcher with a neon green liquid, which we all assumed was margarita. Upon closer inspection, however, it was discovered that this pitcher smelled a bit too much like cleaning fluid to sip. Although as the night progressed, several of us kept looking over at it, deciding it might at least be worth a try. We decided if desperate enough, we'd turn to what I coined the "relief pitcher," which, at the time, I resolved was the funniest thing I've said in my entire life - at least since originating a Mexican booster seat last week.

No need to call poison control: thankfully, the relief pitcher sat on the bench all night. Nevertheless, we decided that we were so happy with the abandoned party favors that we wouldn't mind having the person come celebrate eir birthday at the restaurant every week, only to quickly realize that that's not exactly how birthdays work. At that point, Jenna groaned, "I haven't had a birthday in almost a year!" You don't say!



Wouldn't you know it? Just two days after getting a new little puppy, we've inherited that hungry snake that went missing. When Shea and Amber were asked whether they wanted to adopt Darby, one of the reasons the answer was initially "no" was because there might be a snake in her our house. After the snake disappeared, however, they decided to bless our house with Darby's presence.

Apparently, the crazed father of the student who bought the snake finally found the damn thing lounging on the bathroom floor on Friday night. He called Jessica and told her to either pick it up immediately or that he would shoot it. Yes, he has a gun. Yes, Jessica drove into the ghetto after dark to retrieve a sizable snake in a shoe box from an armed man. She had to inconspicuously transport it home on a train, too, meaning just one thing: Snakes on a Train!

So now we have a snake in the house indefinitely, too. Hello, Noah's Ark! As I suspected, you cannot love a snake. It sucks. It's not friendly, it's not cuddly, and it stares at me evilly. At first I thought I was paranoid and kept this thought to myself, but then Jessica, who has been working hard to convince me that the snake's all right, asked if I noticed how the snake just stares at me intently. Yeah, I had. Yeah, I hate it.

Saturday during graduate class, Jessica and I sat at separate tables, but an arm's length away. We learned cooperative learning strategies, one of which is called Rally Robin, which involves partners taking turns writing down ideas in a given category. Slipping a note to her, I headed the note with "Rally Robin: Fun Things to Do with a Snake." For a couple of hours, we passed it back and forth. Here's what we came up with:

Fun Things to Do with a Snake
*Dress it in a suit and top hat
*Wear it as a belt
*Kill it
*Sick it on your dog!
*Teach it to line dance
*Pierce its ears
*Go to "third base" with it
*Celebrate its quincenera
*Give it a wedgie
*Take it to the gyno
*Mini golf!
*Long slithers on the beach
*Girl talk
*Hypnotize it and make it think it's James Madison
*Take it on a date with me and Blair!
*Recite MLK Jr's "I Have a Dream Speech" in a round!
*Breast feed it! Yay!
*Keep it real
*Take it to a Britney Spears concert and unite it with its sisters + brothers
*Crocodile Hunter -- the game
*Write a fictional account of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson entitled If I Did It, Here's How
*Enlist it in the army
*Practice table manners
*Play "Adam and Eve"
*Vote absentee for Green Party
*Tutor and early acquisition language learner and someone with a lisp. sssssssssss
*Compose the song parody "My Fart Will Go On"
*Put together Ikea furniture
*Form a prison literacy program
*Start a pop group with the facade that "we all grew up together" -- but we actually met after the audition
*Pairs figure skating
*Play Duckhunt - you use a gun, the snake uses... well...
*Anti-smoking campaign ads
*Sponge bathe comatose patients
*Russian roulette
*Rubix cube

After class, I was pretty optimistic that having a snake might be better than I gave it credit for. But I assure you - it could do none of these things - and we tried. I've had it with these motherfucking snakes in my motherfucking house.


Meet Darby

As promised, I have some photos of the new puppy, Darby.

Darby is super soft, thus amazing to pet. Ey's pretty independent, which I respect, and comes in handy when you're just a little too busy to devote full attention to your cute puppy -- which isn't too often!

Darby loves to lick and doesn't know when to stop. Most dogs I know give you a quick licking, then move on, while Darby just likes to lick, lick, lick, lick, lick, lick my face for five minutes at a time. If I try to pull away, ey whines. Often, I'll walk away from a Darby love-fest with a saliva-enduced cowlick.

Like me, Darby likes to put all sorts of things in eir mouth. Above is when I caught em take my sock and run outdoors. Afterwards, jealous older sibling Bosco wanted a piece of my sock, too:

It's funny to remember that about a year ago, I realized my need for a dog; now, I'm living with two of them.

The tone of this post is sincere, yet disturbing. I never thought I'd be one of "those" people, like a crazy cat woman. I fear that my blog will slowly evolve to that of Jean Teasdale.


No Can for a Bed

On the bottom of my trash can, I locate a sticker that informs me the product was "Made in Israel." I wasn't aware that Israel manufactured anything aside from religious intolerance. Also, Jesus Christ.


A New Pet

You can all sleep soundly: our house is not getting a snake.

Before the snake could reach our friendly abode, it went on quite a few adventures. First, it bit the student in the face. After all this talk about how snakes are not really as scary as they're made out to be, it bit her in the face. What an asp-hole. Next, the snake crawled down the kitchen sink. Unable to rescue the snake, the family had to call a plumber, who had to break and reconstruct the pipes in order to retrieve it. Finally, after racking up hundreds of dollars in plumbing bills, the snake got loose once again and has disappeared within the walls of the house. So now these poor parents who were too terrified to keep the snake in their house but agreed to take it for two days until our house would accept the responsibility have a snake hiding permanently somewhere nearby. Unsurprisingly, the parents are now having trouble sleeping knowing the snake is somewhere.

If it weren't for the fact that this snake is terrorizing some unfortunate family, it would be funny almost. Heck, I'm laughing all the same.

Though we are not getting a snake, we are getting a new pet. As of two hours ago, Amber and Shea have officially adopted a cairn terrior (the same type of dog as Toto) from someone who can no longer care for it. I have to say, I'm way more excited for a cute puppy than a snake. I will post pictures shortly after it arrives!


Margarita Monday

Margarita Mondays are my favorite. For $2, you're served the stiffest margarita known to humankind! Granted, that's hyperbole, but they're amazing. I always have a good time, but tonight is especially wonderful. Jenna, freshly arrived from Japan, tells me about hilarious Engrish things she's seen like a crunchy crunky candy bar. Our waiter, who has a week-old baby (that makes me think of a weak, old baby, the latter adjective not making sense) keeps joking that she's beautiful and clearly not his kid. Alas, he muses that it's already in his home, so he's keeping it. Awesomely, I think he wants to be the legitimate father of Kat's child, considering he brings her three free drinks. While she intends to leave after one to work on her thesis, her plans are obviously changed. That's some sweet karma for the individual who came over and got me drunk on Friday while I stayed up all night typing a draft of a chapter of my thesis. According to my professor, much to my surprise, it turned out great. The only other time I've written something academic while drinking was the Flava Flav section of my undergraduate thesis, which didn't impress Kline at any rate.

But I digress too much from Magarita Monday. I leave Nikki's sister two inappropriate voicemails after learning that she is now "terrified" of me yet still "oddly compelled." That sounds about right. I let her know that I understand she has a wedding to attend, but asked what she's going to be doing five minutes after the ceremony. I'll let you all know if I hear back. The biggest mistake I make on the phone, however, is when someone is on speaker phone with an autistic relative. I whisper into Wes's ear that said relative is "acoustic." Then, realizing my mistake, I laugh and scream "autistic!" loud enough so said relative can hear. I'm telling you, the margaritas do not aid in discretion.

Earlier in the evening, Michael Michael received his insurance package in the mail. "Now we can go out drunk driving!" he cheered. No one laughed. "Sounds like you need some humor insurance!" I tried, which after a delayed reaction, got big chuckles from Amber. But let's be honest: a joke like that just goes to show that I need similar coverage. Still, I'm not as bad as MM (Michael Michael) because at MM (Margarita Mondays), I discover that he will laugh at my joke if I say it a fourth time. In this tipsy state, I can't recall what I'm saying exactly, but after three times met by mild amusement, Michael Michael roars at the fourth attempt. On Saturday night, I muttered to myself the line from Arrested Development, "Meet my new boyfriend - the homeless guy" three times. It didn't go over well, then, but I want to test my four-and-floor (repeat a joke four times, and Michael Michael will collapse in laughter) hypothesis. "Meet my new boyfriend - the homeless guy," I say, and indeed, on this fourth occasion, Michael Michael doubles over.

At some point, someone (and for once it's not me) brought up dendrophilia, which is a sexual attraction to trees. I want to make it clear that while I do enjoy a go with a tree from time to time, being a dendrophiliac does not mean I will do it with just any tree. In fact, I find that most trees tend to just lie there.

After paying the bill, Christine realizes she's been sitting on a menu the whole time. I decide that that's what we call a Mexican booster seat.

Upon arriving home, our housemates are giddy. Six people and one cute dog dance party it up. Listening to Avril Lavigne, a lot of Polyphonic Spree, Ray Charles, and the Real McCoy, we run in circles like crazy people, jumping and thrusting for a full hour. I have not had this good of a time in ages.

Now we've sat down to watch the series finale of Six Feet Under. When I first watched it a couple of months ago, I sobbed uncontrollably, so I'm just waiting for the waterworks to start with my housemates. I'm still drunk and am ready to pass out, but this has been the best night ever. I'm not sure this is the best post ever, as I've just been happily rambling, but this is live blogging for you.


Reinventing Hangman

While we were out to hear some live music on a Friday night, the paper table cloth bred several games of hangman. As usual, inevitably the guesser accuses the hanger of spelling a word wrong off a bad assumption that the incorrectly-assumed word must be what the hanger meant to put. I'm an English teacher, folks: I no how too spel.

Then, in an insight that could only be discovered at a bar, I questioned the very institution of hangman. Sure, it's a time-tested game, but does it really make sense?

For instance, as soon as you guess one letter incorrectly, you have this:

A disembodied head hanging from a rope. Who considers decapitation a victory?

One more letter:

Gets you this. This quadrepalegic was probably suffering already. Hanging him only adds insult to injury. It's gross and this is not what I consider winning. In fact, it seems like you get closer to failing, the better it gets for the poor guy. Once you lose, you finally have a complete man. Tell me that's not succeeding. From now on, I'm guessing all Q's and Z's until that man is whole.

I suggest an alternate way of playing hangman. Let's reinvent the wheel. Start with a man... a whole man even!

One incorrect letter builds a platform...

While each incomplete letter...

Brings the man...


To death.

And finally the noose that does him in. Now you really lose!

You can also generously add an optional seventh round where he's not dead until his eyes turn to cartoonish X's.

There. I bet you'll never play hangman the same way again.


Bishop Allen

Earlier this week, I went to a Bishop Allen concert with Lacey. I first became familiar with Bishop Allen when they played a show with We Are Scientists on campus a couple of years ago. While I liked We Are Scientists for its infectious pop/rock fun, I immediately loved Bishop Allen for succeeding at it even better, rushing home to download their music.

The winners that we are, we showed up for the show early so that we could be sure to buy tickets, and ended up being the first ones in line. Once inside, we sat at the bar and listened to fellow patrons have the world's most intelligent conversations, primarily about how bitchin' cartoons are.

By the time the opening act began, I was looking forward for a reprieve from the bad social atmosphere. Unfortunately, the artist was downright awful. He sang like Johnny Cash, but with no pretense of doing it for the Lord. The songs, juvenile and cliched, are like the dirty ditties I thought I was clever for composing in fourth grade. He had a song about a threesome and another called "Placenta Stew." Just when I was thoroughly embarrassed as the singer wailed about his "morning wood," one bartender came rushing to the other to share his uncontrollable laughter. "Do you realize what he's singing about? He just said..." Then he trailed off after spotting Lacey and me. "I have to whisper it given the youngness here." Oh, please. He serves me a drink then thinks I'm too young to hear him giggle about morning wood? Too mature, perhaps.

In the interim, I found a postcard advertising a new movie called Mutual Appreciation, which I was excited to see, considering that it starred the lead singer of Bishop Allen, Justin Rice. Then, however, I noticed that the film was written and directed by the same person who created Funny Haha, AKA the most painfully awkward movie ever, AKA the film that almost cost me several friendships. To this day, the mere mention of the title makes me cringe. But now it all makes sense. I seem to recall a Bishop Allen song that plays in Funny Haha. Obviously, there is some kind of weird social web that includes good independent musicians and screwy film makers. When I brought the postcard home to show Jessica for a laugh, she told me she'd rather kill herself than see the film. Trust me, it was an appropriate response.

Despite the weird build up, Bishop Allen put on one of the greatest shows I've seen in a long time. The band has certainly matured from simply fun pop/rock to creating a versatile collection of musical masterpieces. At the risk of turning into You Ain't No Picasso, I cannot in good conscience not provide everyone with a way to download Bishop Allen's music. Plenty of free tracks are available at the band's website itself. For the first song I fell for, look for "Things Are What You Make of Them." Lately, I've been playing "Butterfly Net" on repeat as a beautiful, simplistic lullaby. And the uncharacteristically melodramatic "Flight 180" has become a recent favorite of mine. Granted, it's no "Placenta Stew," but not all songs can lack any sense of standards.


Freak Swap

My coworker's child recently became friends with a kid who other parents warned eir about. It's not so much the kid who concerns the adults, but the kid's mother. The mother is alternative to the extreme, with copious face piercings and tattoos. My coworker, however, being the accepting person that ey is, decided to look past the exterior. After talking to the mother on the phone a couple of times, ey determined that she sounded like a perfectly responsible, competent parent, complete with a saccharine voice to counter her image. Consequently, ey has allowed eir kid to play with "freaky" mother's kid on a couple of occasions now.

Shortly before Halloween, my coworker's kid asked for permission to trick-or-treat with said friend. Doing the responsible thing, my coworker called the mother to hash out the details. Upon calling the mother, however, my coworker found herself speaking to an unfamiliar voice. As it turned out, the person on the other end of the phone was the kid's "new mom," the result of a trade on the reality show Wife Swap. After those details were hastily explained, the new mother gave a dramatic rant about how good Christians shouldn't celebrate the devil's holiday and how she has no intention of letting her "kids" participate. Wanting nothing to do with the scenario, my coworker ended the conversation as soon as it was possible to get a word in edgewise.

Apparently, the friend's plan was to get some other kid's parent to allow em to trick or treat instead. Not wanting to become a subplot on an inane reality show, my coworker forbid any interaction with this other family. Ey is neither willing to subject eir child to the cameras nor do anything to antagonize the religious right.

"I can't believe that kid's mom would participate in that show!" my coworker said. "She really is a freak."


Engaged in Family Drama

This past weekend, Nikki and Barbara hosted an early Thanksgiving dinner, a rip-roaring potluck. I had intended to spend the afternoon leading up to the meal peeling potatoes* and preparing the best homemade mashed potatoes you've ever tasted, but then time got away from me. (I spent the better portion of the day watching old Match Game clips on YouTube, which apparently has become my favorite past time as of late.) Instead, I high-tailed it to the 99 Cent store and bought a box of instant mashed potatoes. After bringing it home, in about ten minutes time, I had a heaping pan of creamy potatoes ready to go.

From the get-go, Nikki and I planned to make it a real family dinner by engaging in some sort of inappropriate family fight. Unfortunately, our politic ideologies match up too well to let that be the topic of discussion. I had a back up plan, though: Nikki's sister was visiting for the weekend. Though she's only nineteen, she's already engaged to be married after just a few months of dating someone. Primed to rip into her, Nikki was afraid this would cause too much legitimate family drama, so I held off.

Shortly after arriving at the feast, Nikki's sister spilled a drink on me. I was very good about it, even acting gracious for her having done so. Plus, I didn't bring up the engagement. Way to go, Kevin, I thought.

When it came time to leave, the night having been called earlier than most parties due to exhaustion after excessive tryptophan and alcohol, Nikki's sister said goodbye and apologized again for spilling the drink, saying, "I can't believe I spilled a drink on you after knowing you for just ten minutes!" "Ten minutes?" I retort. "I'm surprised we weren't engaged after that amount of time!"

And then there's awkwardness. Oops. How did I let that one just slip out? I was doing so well, and now she's clearly irritated. "Pretend I didn't say that," I try. Pause. "Oh whatever. I'm not going to remember this tomorrow," she responds, laughing it off.

Here I thought I wanted family drama, but when I got that close, I was aborting faster than a coat hanger.

*that's my first blog post ever


Fighting Evil Grammar Errors

Unlike my students, Michael Michael enjoys discussing grammar, which makes me a happy camper. A couple of weeks ago, he wanted to know my opinion on the good/well debate. The truth is, I often mess it up myself, but I almost always catch it, and I think as long as you correct it shortly afterwards, you should still get intelligence credit. In fact, that should be the new five second rule - forget eating dirty food.

Specifically, Michael Michael wanted to complain about people replying to "How are you?" with "I'm good." Technically, "I'm good" is correct, because the word "am" (as contained in the contraction I'm) is a linking verb, so it should be followed by an adjective. After an action verb, however, one should utilize an adverb. We use the word "well," as an adverb, hence, "I'm doing well." That's the distinction. The debate lasted for a laughter-packed two hours and wasn't even settled until the topic was brought up again the next day. After many hours, I finally was able to simplify my argument to demonstrating that adjectives follow am, such as "I am tired" or "I am joyful," while adverbs follow action verbs like "I work tiredly" or "I sing joyfully." Suddenly, my point makes sense, it just took a full day for me to find a way to articulate it, which bodes really well for me as a teacher. Yeah, I stutter a lot on the job. I'm not good at it/I don't do well at it.

Evidently, Michael Michael is most concerned with the word "good" having too many meanings. If people are to say "I'm good," we can't be sure whether someone is feeling happy or actually doing good for human kind. For example, if you are trying to determine whether the individual before you is Superman or Bizarro Superman, and he said "I'm good," how would we know whether it is Bizarro Superman feeling gleeful for pulling off an impostor act or Superman insisting his righteousness. Indeed, this is a scenario I had not considered.

Fear not, however. We've hammered out a solution. From now on, in any conversation where someone informs you that ey are "good," you should always ask the follow up question, "Are you doing well or are you fighting evil?"

"How are you?"
"I'm good"
"Are you doing well or are you fighting evil?"

Answers may vary. In certain cases, someone might even say "both" if they are giddily combating zombies, for example. Don't get it twisted.


We're All Brown on the Inside

Last weekend, I went and partied at Pitzer for the first time since graduating. I'm glad I waited so long, it made the moment all the more special. During my senior year, I grew tired of the hippie dancing on the lawn, but with a fresh outlook and a new set of friends, it was pretty darn fun to shake it sillily like old times. Afterwards, I went to Alec's suite to celebrate Alex's birthday. I had a good time, but I'm not sure about Alex. He hit it off with someone, but she must have beat him silly, judging by the copious bruises on his neck.

I wound up back at Pitzer again Friday night for the Bob Marley Festival. Last year, I submitted a t-shirt design for the event featuring Bob Marley with breasts, captioned Boob Marley. Apparently, the entry wasn't taken seriously. 'tever. Anyway, I'm not into reggae (reggae is way gae), but I had fun downing crappy beer and, surprise, hippie dancing on the lawn. We sure know how to do it at Pitzer, y'all.

When boredom set in, a bunch of us made the trek to the All Brown Get Down party. This is an event I have avoided in the past, put off by the racial exclusivity. (This party specifically calling for what the Women's Center's White Party was incorrectly accused of.) I've reached a new insight that inspired me to go this year, however: We're all brown on the inside... of our butt holes. Unless you have some kind of funky diarrhea going on and it's green or something. At the party, there were just as many white folk as browns getting down, including the quite literal Kat and Heather, who took a tumble off a wall and into a bush.

I'm not as capable of a dancer as I once was. Since becoming a professional, I am just a bit too wary and weary. At one point, Andrew heckled me, "Come on! You're dancing like a high school teacher!" The simple explanation for that is that I am a high school teacher -- and hippie dancing at my old college haunts is something that'll have to be approached in moderation.


A Romantics Major with a Concentration in Writing

It is common practice for teachers to show off their students' most interesting pieces of writing. At a conference, a fellow teacher was grading eir students' historical narrative fiction pieces. The assignment required the students to research a time period and place, and demonstrate that knowledge in a fictional story. Unless you're a teacher, you wouldn't believe the ridiculous things that students will put to paper.

The best story was a romance set at a German concentration camp. A Nazi fell in love with his Jewish hostage and decided to escape with her. He dug them a hole, only to discover it wasn't long enough for them to reach freedom, so, inspired by her love, he dug an additional three miles in the span of forty five minutes. I suppose having to deal with all of those ashes left him handy with a shovel. The story inexplicably ends happily ever after, even though the WWII raged on, they were only four miles from where the concentration camp was located, and the young Jewish woman never expressed any kind of reciprocal feelings for her captor.

No matter how implausible the story became, it could not top what might be the best opening line in fiction since this one. The story began, "In Auschwitz, it was gory this time of year."


For Goodness Snakes

Our house might get a snake. On purpose, even. Most of us residing in the house have mixed feelings on the subject.

Jessica's student bought a snake, but the child's parents refuse to keep it in their house. Because this student has been through a lot recently, the principal decided that the snake could become a class pet. Unfortunately, the permanent school site is not constructed yet, and the current location being leased won't permit keeping a snake on the premise. The principal's brilliant solution was to volunteer Jessica to keep the snake until next year -- without even asking her first.

Now Jessica's in a difficult position, (I'm pretty sure snake care is not in her contract), as are us housemates. Snakes are, well, creepy. I'm sure my mother would have a panic attack just knowing I was sharing living quarters with one. When I lived with Mike, he would occasionally pitch the idea of getting a snake, but I was afraid I couldn't sleep knowing it was in the same room with me.

Michael Michael is excited at the prospect of having a snake. Though he's scared of snakes, he's eager to face that challenge. I can relate: while I tremble at the mere thought of heights, I like to defy my fear by going on roller-coasters. That said, I also know I couldn't live on the edge of the cliff, because while sporadic testing of one's limits is beneficial, intentionally torturing oneself seems unnecessary.

All of us agree we'd be happy to have the snake for a week. Taking care of it for a while would be cool; more than that, however, moves it from a fun, somewhat frightening experience to a full-fledged responsibility. The bottom line is that you can't love a snake. I'm not just trying to be antagonistic, but I think it's actually impossible to love a snake. You can be fond of snakes, you can enjoy having a snake as a pet, but you can't actually love the snake. It's a snake. It's cold blooded. It cannot connect with you in the way a dog can.

On that note, there's also some concern that either the snake or Bosco could try to kill the other. I swear, if that damn snake were to lay a hand tail on that cute little puppy of ours...

It's that mental picture that causes me to freak out. I ask my housemates with legitimate concern, "If I kill it, will it die? I mean, it's not like a worm, right? You don't cut it in half and then get two scary snakes instead. I need to know that if it turns evil, it can die!" They find this amusing, but when they come home and find me chopping at a minced snake body, they need to know what's what.

Part of the reason we're inheriting a snake is because this particular student wasn't permitted to keep a baby when it magically appeared in her tummy, and the adults responsible in making this decision seem to feel guilty. I wish we could have kept the baby, instead. A house baby would be awesome. Plus, I promise I wouldn't kill it. Intentionally, anyway. All bets are off if that, too, turns evil.

Alas, the baby is no more. Still, I think I'd prefer a dead fetus to a snake. That's a house pet I can really get behind. There doesn't seem much responsibility attached to that. Maybe the occasional spritzing with water to keep it fresh, no more maintenance than a houseplant. Furthermore, and I'm sure most would agree, owning a dead fetus is far less creepy than keeping a snake.

If I should mysteriously stop blogging, it is because a snake has eaten me. Send for help.


My Halloween

How was my Halloween? Fine, thanks for asking.

I woke to find Jessica in the kitchen dressed as a gypsy. No wait, not a gypsy: a fortuneteller. As I learned a couple of years ago, gypsy is an offensive term used to refer to the Romas, an ethnic group. After reeducating Shea and I on why not to use this term, Jessica left to catch her train. Shortly thereafter, Amber emerged from her room wearing a similar get-up to Jessica. Referring to herself as a gypsy, Shea began to repeat the information Jessica had fed him moments earlier. Amber found this to be ridiculous, however. She justified her costume by explaining that being a gypsy is like a type of job, so dressing like one is no less acceptable than if she were to dress as a teacher. Not convinced, Shea asked, "What type of job do gypsies do?" Amber retorted, "Stealing money."

I wasn't in the classroom. I had an in-service day, so while my students tortured a substitute, I enjoyed a break. I wore my pumpkin hat for newborns for holiday spirit as I made sure everything was in order for the sub in the morning. Several of my students saw me and loved it. I had figured that the "no hats" dress policy was not applicable on Halloween, but apparently throughout the day, students had their costume hats confiscated, some of whom complained, "But Mr. [Kevin] is wearing a hat!" Knowing that I was scheduled to be out of the classroom, the assistant principal thought it would be funny to tell the students that I had been sent home for breaking the dress code. When the students realized I was really absent later on, the rumor became so widespread that a couple of the teachers asked me if it was true at the faculty meeting after school. That's a hoot.

By the time the trick-or-treaters rolled around, I was pretty worn out. My pumpkin, a gravedigger surrounded by hearts, my subtle ode to necrophilia, went largely unnoticed by the greedy kids. I thought I'd be eager to interact with the cute children, but I'm discovering that I'm pretty disillusioned by youth due to my current profession. Shea projected Fantasia on the garage; surprisingly, there's a lot of animated nudity for a Disney film. Instead of passing out candy, I assumed the role of censor, jumping in front of illustrated breasts and butts to protect the innocence of the begging children. Then again, when the nine-year-olds are dressed like whores, it's hard to call them innocent.

By nine o'clock, I was already in bed. What a Halloween!


Not So Heavenly

"I'd rather go to hell than heaven. Everyone I care about will be there." - Amber