Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Today a student got up from her desk which is situated by the trash can near my desk in the back of the classroom, went around the back of the room, went up towards the front of the room, turned left and went across the front of the room, then traveled back to her desk by the other side.

After she sat down, I went over to her and said, "Angie, why did you just go all the way around the room?"

Looking up at me she said, "Huh? What?"

"You just traveled all the way around the room. You did a doughnut. You circumnavigated the room for no reason."

"Oh yeah. I went to throw something in the trash can."

"Why did you use the one in the front of the room when you could use this one right here."

"I don't like that one."

humph. She won't get away with that again. At least not when I'm watching.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


My wife and I traveled to Taos, New Mexico for the Thanksgiving weekend all set to eat at Downtown Bistro, The Trading Post, Bent Street Deli, Graham's Grille, Five Star Burgers, and shiver over the greatest ice cream in the world, Taos Cow.

Our agenda? To leisurely saunter through the Christmas Crafts Fair at Civic Plaza and be captivated by the Christmas Tree Auction at El Monte Sagrado. Maybe we'd shop for Christmas gifts at the Nambe store and all the best of the shops in Taos Plaza. Maybe even go into the antiquities shop.

Then, if we were fortunate enough to have the strength, energy and inclination, we would travel into the mountains to watch the skiers at Red River and Taos Ski Valley and sip flavored coffees by the lodge fireplace. Then, maybe, if we got out of bed in time for housekeeping to change the linens and sheets, we would drive to Eagle Nest Lake to gaze at ice fisherman beneath magnificent Wheeler Peak, maybe visit the Vietnam Memorial near Angel Fire (surely one of the most beautiful valleys in the entire country), and maybe stop at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a definitely awesome sight.

Instead, I came down with accession of adipose tissue, and we returned home after only one day.

It is Thanksgiving, and I am thankful to have survived. It's great to be alive and to have another day to plan our return to Taos.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


For those of you who are young or who are not baseball fans, there was a Hall of Fame major league baseball pitcher named Dizzy Dean who in his later years announced for his old team, the St. Louis Cardinals, and is famous for his malapropisms and abuse of the English language.

Baseball is an anerobic sport that requires an ability to spend a lot of time relaxed and then explode adrenaline into the system. I would feel this as a young man in the outfield, and the rush was quite exciting. Then it would be over, and sometimes you'd stay "high" as you stood out there in the outfield as the game resumed its relaxed nature again. Dizzy Dean's most famous malapropisms would come popping out of his mouth whenever there were those leisurely moments that baseball fans treasure as a contrast to the explosion.

During one of those on-air radio moments, Dizzy noted that two young people were smooching and kissing and not paying much attention to the game, and he then added, "It looks like he kisses her on the strikes, and she kisses him on the balls."

My dear wife Peggy matched Ol' Diz this morning. We were both by the computer and I showed Peggy a way to copy and paste that would save her a lot of typing time.

"That's a good idea," said Peggy, "although I took typing lessons and am a fast typer."

"I'm pretty good too, for someone who hasn't had typing lessons."

"Yeah, I've seen you type, and you're pretty good for a hunt and pecker."

Monday, November 22, 2010


As a freshman in high school in 1962, I was told that one of the students in the school had a bottle of scotch and a machine gun in his locker. I was born yesterday, but not last night, so I didn't believe it.

I transferred into a sophomore World History class, and it was there I met Fred. Fred was a tall, lanky boy of a man who looked like he might have lost a lot of weight earlier in his teens. He had long, thin, straight hair and an attitude in the classroom that was shocking.

Gordon was a geek and a nerd, and he talked and looked like one. His parents had a lot of money, lived in a mansion, and he was friends with Fred because he was friends with anyone who accepted him. I liked Gordon, and we became huge Barry Goldwater advocates and worked for his failed campaign in 1964. Gordon was a highly intelligent, full-fledged, wonderful wackdoodle, and one evening on the way to a football game he drove the entire way across Houston, Texas stopping at every green light and running every red. I know this to be a fact; I was riding shotgun.

By the time we were juniors, Gordon and I had gotten mixed up with Fred, and one night Fred was in his red Jeep, and it wasn't one of the new-fangled models. This was a bright red '65 Willys Jeep, and Fred had it roofless. It was open, and it was a cold, fall evening. We were cruising around town with seemingly no place to go, Gordon trying to talk Fred into running red lights and stopping on green and Fred taking hits off a whiskey bottle.....Jim Beam as I recall. Fred was dressed up in brown clothes and was wearing a swastika on his left sleeve. Suddenly we wound up in a older area of Houston, and Fred starting talking about scaring some "queers."

I wasn't homophobic, although lots of the guys were back then. I never had any question of my sexuality, and there was never a shadow of a doubt that I preferred girls, and it wasn't by a margin of any sort. Suddenly we pulled up next to the curb in front of a building at the intersection of two major streets in Houston. Fred reached under the front seat of his Jeep and pulled out a gun, and I recognized it right away as a machine gun. I have no ability beyond that to identify the weapon, nor did I have time to say or do anything. All I know is that Fred left the engine running, jumped out of the driver's seat, ran quickly into the bar, started yelling something, and then Gordon and I heard machine gun fire. Fred came running out, hopped into his Jeep, and took off on a getaway course with the Jeep on two wheels going around the corners.

Quickly we were on the other side of town and riding around in Gordon's Ford Fairlane. Somehow we dropped Fred off and Gordon drove me home, but not before Fred told Gordon and I the story of what happened over and over again. He threw the doors opened, yelled obscenities at the homosexuals, and then started firing his machine gun that was, fortunately for the patrons of the bar, loaded with blanks. One of the details Fred kept repeating was that the men in the bar were all ducking into the booths and jumping over the bar to hide behind it. I was impressed that Fred had loaded all the ammunition himself. Gordon told me he had seen his "munition factory," the basement in his home.

The next day the talk at the school was that someone had gone into a gay bar yelling obscenities and had opened fire with a machine gun. It was true. The machine gun was true. The bottle of whiskey was true. It was all true.

The incident made the papers, and my parents never mentioned it. However, two months later, there was a story in the newspaper that two men were caught by police after driving down Bellaire Blvd. in a Jeep while shooting beer cans off the fence posts. My parents made some comments about gangsters and criminals and how men like that should be locked up. I kept my mouth shut. It was a strange feeling being the one who knew that they weren't men. They were a high school junior and a senior, and I had ridden with them and knew them well.

I asked Gordon about the incident at school on Monday, and he said that he and Fred had spent quite a while setting up the bottles and cans on the barbed wire posts along Bellaire Blvd., way beyond where there were houses. He sat in the back while Fred drove with his left hand and fired the machine gun one-handed with his right. No blanks this time. Their getaway didn't work that time, and I was relieved I wasn't with them. My parents would have made my life more miserable than they had already managed.

The "two men" were caught, hauled to the downtown police station, parents were contacted, and the boys returned home with their parents. They were both in school the next Monday.

Robert Mitchum had a great line in a movie that went something like this: "Sowing wild oats is fun, but they aren't very nutritious."

Gordon went to the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, majored in political science, and graduated cum laude.

Fred was treated very differently than we treat teenagers today. He was nurtured and rehabilitated rather than imprisoned, and with the guidance of his teachers, counselors, and members of the Houston Police Department, he became successful as an expert in special weapons, and his company supplied them to S.W.A.T. teams all over the country.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Respect is the esteem and honor granted to one person by another. It implies a discrimination or partiality when considering the qualities of that person. Respect is something that I don't receive from a few of my students. They do not hold me in high regard. They have no esteem for me, and they never show me or my position as their teacher any honor.

Obedience is taking someone's authority, position, experience, or knowledge into consideration, listening to their advice or commands, and doing what they have suggested or commanded. I have many students who do not obey my demands, either for homework completion or classwork turned in, or follow my suggestions for improved behavior and work habits.

I have been told that if I interact with these students differently, suggesting that if I "handle" them in some way that is "better" or "more effective," I will then receive their respect, or perhaps more simply put, I will then "earn" their respect. I have treated them the same way as I have treated others, yet it is suggested that I am accountable for the respect I fail to receive.

Accountability is dying a slow death. Accountability heaves and groans from the maladies of guilt and litigation; its symptoms are an inability to be burdened by blame; its remedy is to have someone else cured other than the patient; its survivors yearn for a person taking responsibility for their actions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


A long time ago, in the long distant past, I worked for a state's highway department, a state that shall remain anonymous. What some would consider a long-time, permanent position with benefits and great retirement, I found to be a bureaucratic nightmare of a job. We weren't designing highways; we were killing time on the taxpayer's paycheck. Several interesting things happened during that time, however. Here is one of those stories.

There was a fellow who had worked there for some time, and he was a likable enough sort, except he had one peculiar habit that drove everyone nuts. Well, maybe it wasn't everybody. Maybe it was only a few people. Well, actually, maybe it was only me. His walking drove me crazy. This guy would strut around the office high-stepping like a Nazi storm trooper. He wore huge cowboy boots, and those huge, heavy clunkers would crash to the floor and distract, worry and stress me. His legs would be stiff, just like a Nazi struttin' through France.

I allow some unusual peculiarities from people, especially with some of my odd quirks, but this was over the top, and I asked him if he knew he walked like that. He definitely knew it, and I asked him why he did, and he couldn't tell me, so I told him my theory: He was in deep need of attention, appreciation and love, and not receiving any, he turned to an attention-getting, over-the-top, make-believe-manly, boot stompin' strut. He thought about it for a little while, and then told me that I was wrong. He just liked to walk like that. I told some people I was going to get him to stop, and everyone told me that it was impossible. I wasn't going to be able to make him stop.

There is something about me you need to know. I can get things done. Goals reached. Needs met. However, none of the goals or needs are ever of any importance, such as accomplishing something of significance or reaching unattainable, earth-shattering achievements that bring wealth or fame. No, I'm the sort who can accomplish little, worthless goals like stopping someone from walking like a Nazi around the office. Some time went by, and I bided my time.

One day this fellow came to work and informed everyone that he had a friend who was in need of some drastic surgery that required an inordinate amount of blood. Our boss agreed to let the entire office travel to the hospital during work hours in order to donate blood. It was a fine gesture, and all who were willing piled into cars and headed to the hospital. This was before my blood soured. The medical profession no longer wants my blood or any of my organs, decrepit and diseased as they are, but this was before that time, so I went with everyone down to the hospital.

I was lying on a gurney, or whatever they are, and next to me was the Nazi Walker. The nurses started pulling my blood and I got cold all of a sudden, or maybe I got warm. I think it was cold. It was a weird sensation, and I thought, "This is not your average work day."

It was at that moment that I heard a little mousy voice say, "Walter. Walter. Help me."

I looked over at the fellow and said, "Are you OK?"

"No. Somethin's wrong. I don't feel well."

"That's just the change in your blood pressure. You'll be OK."

"No I'm not OK. Oh my God. Help me, Walter. "

"There's nothin' I can do. I'm strapped to a needle and they're drainin' my blood."

"This is it. I'm scared."

"You're not gonna die, you know."

"Tell my wife I love her. Oh God."

"I think you're exaggerating. I'm not gonna tell her anything. You tell her when you wake up."

"Oh noooo00. Ohhh. uhhh walter help me........"

When he awoke, the nurse told him his blood pressure had dropped, and that he merely fainted. So that's the end of that.

Not quite. This fellow came to me later that day, leaned over my desk, and whispered, "Walter, I don't want anyone to know what happened at the hospital. I want you to keep it a secret."

"Oh, you mean about you fainti-"

"Shhh! I don't want anyone to know. Do you promise not to tell?"

"What should it matter to anybody?"

"It matters to me. I don't want anyone to think I'm a big baby."

"They won't think that." It was then I realized that some of the men in the office wouldn't think that, but they'd tease him. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot.

"OK. I agree. I won't tell anyone. But I want you to do me a favor."

"Sure, man, sure. Anything. What is it?"

"I want you to quit walkin' around the office like a Nazi parading in front of der Fuhrer."

"Is that all?"

"Yeah. That's it." I was astonished that he accepted so readily. I look back and wonder how much cash I could've gotten thrown into the bargain.

"OK. We'll both keep our end of the bargain. It's our little secret, right?" and he looked at me with unsuppressed joy at realizing that if I kept my end of the deal, no one would know what happened.

"I won't say a word to anyone," I replied.

He kept his end of the bargain. I did too, until now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


On Friday another teacher sent students into the hallway to work in a "cooperative group" and they parked their noisy selves right outside my classroom, so I closed the door to prevent their "work" noise from disrupting my classroom.

About twenty minutes later I heard the loudest, filthiest, angriest cussing I have heard since Johnny, a forklift operator at a plastic processing plant I worked at in 1967 ran over his own foot. Johnny could cuss and yell. He wasn't hurt, but his foot was thinner, and he let that forklift know that it was lucky to be made out of steel. He couldn't blame the forklift operator because he WAS the operator.
Johnny: 7 out of 10

He couldn't outcuss the fellow whose life he saved, though. That fellow hated African-Americans, and the forklift operator was African-American. That fellow was an extruder operator and a bigoted, foul-mouthed segregationist, and he let everyone know it, too. He could use the n-word in fifty different formats imbued with variations of cuss words which I always referred to as "hybrids."

One day this fellow was on top of the electrical box that fed the extruder, and he touched the wrong wires feeding electricity into the extrusion machine. The extruder was a beautiful piece of ugly equipment. It was like a steaming, stinking, cast-iron rocket laying on its side spewing plastic out the nose cone. It could melt tons of plastic and ooze it out the other end, and it used a lot of electrical juice. This guy touched the wrong wires, and everybody heard a bang and then a thud. That fellow was blown off the electrical box and landed on the concrete and just lay there not breathing, until Johnny came up and gave him CPR. Now that was in the days when you pinched the unconscious person's nose shut, breathed into their mouth and did that over and over again.

When that fellow woke up in the hospital and heard that Johnny had saved him, he said, "I ain't never gonna say nothin' bad about n1&&38$ again." And he didn't. But his cursing was cut by at least 90%. Lots of men noticed it. We figured that before Johnny wrenched him from the clutches of wherever he was headed, he must've seen something that changed his mind, not only about African-Americans, but about swearing, too.
The extruder operator: 8 out of 10 before electricity
The extruder operator: 2 out of 10 after electricity

African-American comics can cuss pretty good. You have to wait until the last thirty mintes of their show because they cuss so much the average audience would blush, so they warm the audience up real slow like. They throw in a few cuss words, then let a sentence rip out, then maybe a little break with just clean language, and then more cussing, and then, right when the audience starts to loosen up and the late crowd is the only one in attendance, they start cussing full blast.
Stand-up comics: 6 out of 10

Everyone is so shocked at those stand-upcomics you have to laugh, kind of like little second graders when you say the word "underwear." Second graders laugh like maniacs when they hear that word, like you're the funniest man in the world. If the world was run by kids, I'd become a stand-up comic. I'd stand there, wait a few seconds, look at the audience and say, "Underwear!" Kids laugh at that word when spoken out of context, like anywhere except their bedroom. I'd be famous. When the fun of that wore off, I could start a new routine. "Butt!" The kids would roar. Then a few months later another routine, "Panties!"

You see, they laugh because they are embarrassed. That's why people laugh so much at stand-up comics who cuss so much. Everyone is really embarrassed. They just don't want to admit it. Some would argue that stand-up comics are so good at cussing they are funny when they cuss. Maybe so. Maybe cussing can be funny. It's like a fourth grader who hears the word "brassiere."
Second graders: 1 out of 10

I heard some great cussing when some hippies called some Vietnam Vets "crazed killers" at a Peace Rally at the University of Houston in 1966. That was also an awesome display of foul and depraved language by large crowds and not just a couple of individuals. It was like the public, which meant everybody, was cussing at each other and using filthy language. By the way, without a doubt, the hippies were no match for the Vietnam soldiers and vets. I am glad those veterans didn't hurt those hippies.
Protesting hippies: 3.5 out of 10
Vietnam soldiers: 5 out of 10
Vietnam Veterans: 7 out of 10

The whole cussing match was topped by a student who hosed everyone down from the Engineering Building with a fire hose pulled out of the wall, and he made the local TV news reports. I mention this incident because the hippie with the fire hose wasn't protesting $h1+. That hippie and I went to high school together, and his name was Carl. Carl was always playing with the fire extinguishers in the school auditorium during Drama Club rehearsals. His favorite one was the CO2 extinguisher that shot a cold blast of white CO2 fog at you. Sometimes he'd sneak up behind you and blast it through your crotch area, as if you had finally exploded under the stress of being a virgin. Well, the local newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, had a photo of Carl protesting, and they wrote that this hippie had really become upset about the Vietnam War. Some investigative journalism that was! Carl was still playing with fire extinguishers!

Longshoremen standing outside their Union Hall on Harrisburg Boulevard in Houston, Texas not far from the turning basin were pretty good cussers. Danny and I went down there to get some real good paying jobs. Danny wound up in the Merchant Marines and told me cool stories about the entire crew suffering from sea sickness, which he described as not merely nausea but much worse. He said it was a horrible, living nightmare, and the part of his story I remember the most was the vomit sloshing back and forth in the hallways as the ship tossed and rocked. He also told me about Equator Crossing Parties. Lots o' cussing, you can be sure. Danny didn't pick up the cussing, though. Apparently they can cuss up a Perfect Storm, but their cussing wasn't contagious enough to work on Danny.
Merchant Marines: no score (unobserved)

Longshoremen don't toss a few cuss words into their conversations. They just cuss. For example, if they were to ask you to borrow some money for their wife's wedding anniversary gift, and you were to inform them that in no way were you going to loan them any money because they would spend it on booze and women, they'd reply, "You don't know j79^$h1+ you little (&640faced %&30&*wad. I got money for booze and women" As you can see, after listening to that for a week, and it's the same old words over and over again, it starts to lose it's power from overusage. The Teamsters I worked with for about five years, they were the same way. Their language was slightly cleaner than the longshoremen, but still without the variety. I like variety. It has to flow and have variety. The delivery is also important.
Longshoremen: 7.5 out of 10
Teamsters: 7 out of 10

The thirteen year old eighth grade girl in our hallway used cuss words that were vile, filthy, loud, angry, varied, prolific, and practiced. There was a vehemence that was startling and you sensed she was really out of control. That intensity helped raise her score. Her cuss words were a little too monotonous for my tastes, spewing out of her mouth like a relentless barrage of machine gun bullets. I prefer little bursts. I've heard that the bursts keep the machine gun from jamming, and I think that the same applies to cussing. You have to ease up for a moment or two, even if for a second or two, then hit another burst, then another.
Eighth grade girl: 8.9 out of 10

It all boiled down to the fact that the members of the "cooperative group" had a misunderstanding. Maybe they were discussing the merits of military intervention in Southeast Asia. Or not.

Saturday, November 06, 2010


I would have thought that the fashion statement of "pants on the ground" would have died out by now. I have watched boys waddle around Albuquerque for fifteen years with the tops of their underwear on public display, and I've been amused by it. I just never pictured it as a fashion statement that would survive so long.

Pants that hang way down are called "saggies" and are against the dress code rules at our school, but preventing boys from wearing "saggies" is not an easily enforceable rule, and due to lawyers and "freedom of expression" our principal chooses different battles.

In second period math class I called on Roger to go to the whiteboard and explain how the answer could be obtained, to show us the calculation. As Roger waddled to the front of the room I realized he was wearing "saggies." Aww it was awwful. The crotch of his pants were hanging down to his mid-calf region.

I yelled out, "Roger! Don't move!"

Roger, of course, turned around.

"Roger! Don't move! Look back at the board. Turn your back to us!"

Roger started to laugh, maybe out of confusion, and didn't turn around.

I yelled again, "Roger! Face the board and don't move!"

Roger figured it out, turned to face the board, and hiked his pants way, way up.

I yelled out, "Roger! Lift your pants higher!"

Roger lifted them higher.

"Higher!" I yelled. "I DO NOT want to see what is underneath the outer layer!"

Roger hiked his pants up to full fledged Nerd Position, and the two of us started to get laughs.

I yelled back, "Now keep it that way! I do NOT want to know what is underneath the outer layer."

It was at that moment that Roger let go of his pants, and they went down, down, and then down too low. I saw black underwear, and I screamed out, "Oh NO! Roger! You are wearing black underwear and it's disgusting, and I did NOT want to know that!"

The class was having a good time.

Roger attempted to inform me that it was not his underwear, that it was shorts and his underwear was underneath his shorts, but I could find no comfort in that fact, and I told him so.

The class was having a really good time, but I was "serious." When the laughing died down and Roger finished his calculations and returned to his desk, I went to the front of the room and informed them that my new class rule was that I am to NEVER know the color or appearance of any clothing that is underneath the outer wear. Kids started "informing" me that shorts and other clothes are worn under the outer clothing so that what you see "might not be underwear." I told them again that there was no encouragement or consolation in that fact. I told them that my new class rule is, and I quote:

"The color or appearance of any clothing that is under the outer wear should never be forced on anyone."

"For one thing," I told them, "saggies remind me of my cousin, David, who had a photo of himself taken when he was about one and half years old, and his diaper was sagging way down just like saggies do today, but David's diaper was sagging because of the weight of the urine and the dump he had taken, and the load was obvious in the photo. Saggies remind me of my cousin David's diaper dumpload."

"Also," I added, "Modest people have their rights too. I don't want to know the color of girls' bras and panties or the color of boys' underclothing. The inner clothing does not have to be the innermost clothing, and it does not have to be contacting the skin or private parts. All it has to be is beneath the outer clothing. How would you guys like to see all your teachers' under clothing?"

They all started making puke faces, gasping for air and fake wretching.

I said, "Fine. Now you know how I feel. No underneath clothing is allowed to be seen."

Ha! Fat chance of me winning that battle. I'm still working on getting that class to do 50% of its homework. Now that's a real battle I choose to fight. Not necessarily win, but at least pitifully swing at it every now and then.

As an aside, taken out of context I might be terminated for one or any of my comments above. (Choose one.)

Thursday, November 04, 2010


I am so frustrated right now I could shove my head through a steel plate and then rip my eyeballs out with my tongue. A student in my low performing math class is not passing pretty simple arithmetic, yet she plays with her hair constantly. I guess I would too if I had a head of hair like that, but not when the teacher said to quit. She had upped the ante from pulling on it in strings to using it to make mustaches. When I asked her a couple of questions that were pretty easy, such as pointing to a number on the whiteboard and asking, "What number is this?" she would not know the answer.

I finally asked her to please stop playing with her hair. This girl then proceeded to vehemently argue with me that she wasn't doing it. Another friend insisted that she only pulled on it once. Now I have an insurrection over nothing important. I thought I should back down, but I didn't. I told her to just agree with me, her teacher, and start paying attention. She didn't agree to that, and after further arguing over her hair as a distraction, I sent her to the principal's office for non-compliance and arguing with the teacher (over nothing of significance).

Overreacting on my part? As an isolated incident, perhaps, but in the context of a student not caring at all about math, she's lucky she got off with a "ticket."

I am so frustrated at kids who DGaS (Don't Give a $4!+) I could shoot blood out of the ends of my fingertips.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Our middle school encourages leadership by allowing students to do announcements over the PA system. This morning I was amazed to hear that ".....the cafeteria will be serving chicken nuggets with colored greens."

Wow! Red, blue, and orange greens. Cool!