Jan 31, 2006

new digs for the righteous ones

Mere Orthodoxy moved. Did you update your links? Did you compliment them on the tasteful redecoration? Did you drop by and scuff your shoes on the new carpet?

Tim Eyman is anti-gay

Not exactly.

You see, Tim Eyman isn't anti-anything. He's pro-money. And his life philosophy helps pay the bills.

What, you ask, is that weltanschauung? Simple: let the voters decide! Car tabs for hundreds, or car tabs for $35? Let the voters decide! A magical monorail or boring old buses? Let the voters decide! Snow or rain? Evolution or intelligent design? Carmel macchiato or peppermint mocha? Regular or diet? Organic or steroid-fueled? Free will or determinism? GEICO or State Farm? Spielberg or Lucas? Po-tay-to or po-taw-to? Paper or plastic? Let the voters decide!

Except for when it comes to the voters deciding that their elected representatives ought to, you know, represent them.

[fifty-third in a series]

Jan 30, 2006

Mr. Plebiscite at it again

A post ago I doubted that Tim Eyman, he of the ubiquitous initiatives, had made a public statement about gay rights.

No more doubts.
Tim Eyman says he will file an initiative today to repeal the gay-rights bill narrowly adopted Friday by the state Senate.

The longtime initiative promoter said in an e-mail to supporters and the media late Sunday, “Politicians aren’t thinking about what the voters want. Let the voters decide.”

“Politicians are deciding based on special interest group pressure and their own re-election calculations,” Eyman added. “The voters have watched this disgusting display of arrogance and selfishness for weeks. The issue has become hopelessly politicized.”
You gotta hand it to a guy who can say with equanimity that politicians simultaneously ignore the will of the people and vote based on their re-election chances.

Jan 26, 2006

equal rights within reach reached

Don't uncork the champagne until the pen swoops over paper, but you might want to put a bottle on ice. Only one question, though: if the landmark gay rights bill passes the Senate and is signed, as promised, by Governor Gregoire, what are the chances its opposition will resort to challenging the statute in court?

Update: While I was judging round after round of Lincoln-Douglas debate at PLU's TOH Karl tournament, it passed, and will go on for Chris Gregoire's signature. Eli Sanders has more questions:
If the supreme court rules in favor of same-sex unions, and lawmakers in Olympia are asked by the court to create a legal framework for state recognition of gay relationships, will the same legislators who took so long to green-light the civil rights bill be able to quickly say yes to civil marriage for gays and lesbians? Will Republicans flog the gay rights issue in the lead-up to November, when the entire house and much of the senate will stand for reelection? Will Governor Christine Gregoire, who backed the civil rights bill and says she is eager to sign it into law on Tuesday, be similarly eager to back gay marriage? And will Tim Eyman succeed in his "Let the Voters Decide" effort to repeal the new gay civil rights law via a statewide vote?
As Sanders points out, the last option isn't likely (I don't think Eyman has ever made a public statement on the issue), since 60% of Washington voters back gay rights--a complete turnaround since 1997, back when Initiative 677 failed.

I think back to early 1997, when I was a college freshman writing a Comp 101 paper on why "gay Christian" was an absolute contradiction, homosexuality being unique among sins at tarnishing a soul beyond God's recognition. Yet nine years and many life experiences later, and largely due to time spent and meals shared with an openly lesbian mentor teacher, every trace of anti-gay bigotry has been cleansed from my system. For many Washingtonians, I'd suspect the transformation worked the same way. It's easy to be prejudiced against an unknown Other. But when you know someone gay... it no longer makes sense.

This victory belongs to all those brave men and women who came out of the closet, enduring their family's ostracism, their friends' awkward silences, their coworkers' teasing. To those who worked tirelessly in the legislature to build friendships and erode the distrust built up by ignorance. To Cal Anderson, who never saw the fruits of his labors, and to Ed Murray, who did.

Jan 24, 2006

what the 12 disciples' names mean

Jesus gave each of the disciples a name that represents a deep spiritual truth. They're explained in turn below.

From the Greek "Petra," meaning "long haired rocker." Flowing locks are a sign of spiritual strength (remember Samson?).

Aramaic for "Hops." Benjamin Franklin said that "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

James and John Zebedee
The name "Zebedee" means "Son of Thunder," related to the twins' struggles with Irritable Bowel. As Paul counsels us, suffering leads to patience, patience to character, and character to hope.

Latin for "Git-er-done." As the Good Book says, "The prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Arabic. "Tessellation." Spiritual meaning unknown.

Greek, "Entomologist." From Proverbs, "Consider the ant, ye sluggard!"

James Alphaeus
"Alphaeus" is Latin for "First in God's eyes." We are all first in God's eyes.

Origin and meaning unknown. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Simon the Cananean
Greek, "Quick to Criticize." Again, from Proverbs, "As iron sharpeneth iron, so one man sharpeneth another."

Judas Iscariot
Iscariot means "traitorous weasel" in Aramaic. As theologian Frosty Troy once put it, "Even Jesus didn't pick twelve winners."

[fifty-second in a series]

Jan 23, 2006

Koufax Awards

Thanks to a nomination by Bora Zivkovic, yours truly is on the list of (300-odd) blogs "Deserving of Wider Recognition." Thanks to Bora and anyone who's visiting as a result.

When I overcome this pummeling by Bird Flu (Washington's first case!) I'll blog in top form again, promise. Until then, muck about in the archives. That's where the good stuff is.


You might have seen this hackneyed sermon illustration while browsing through Kirk Cameron's website. It takes various forms--sometimes paragraphs are cut out, sometimes words are changed--but the basic story goes like this: An African pastor is martyred for his faith in Christ. After his death, these inspirational lines are found:
“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed, the die has been cast, I have stepped over the line, the decision has been made- I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed vision, worldly talking, cheap giving & dwarfed goals.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I won’t give up, shut up, let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ.

I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till everyone knows, work till He stops me & when He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me because my banner will have been clear.”
There's disagreement as to which African nation is the source of the message. Some say Rwanda. Others say Zimbabwe or South Africa.

A pastor named David Jin claims that he found it "posted on the door of an African pastor." Or maybe it was tacked to a wall, or left on a desk or on a cot or in a Bible. Or it was a confession written in prison.

The story has been broadcast as a form of inspiration through shaming. You're not willing to die for your beliefs, are you? Would that you had such commitment! And such mastery of rhetoric!

from the mind of Mike Seaver

You haven't visited Kirk Cameron's website in a while? Ah, what you've been missing. Crawfish on a conveyor belt: a metaphor for the human condition.
The ones that reached the end of the belt dropped helplessly into a pot of boiling water, to be cooked and eaten by large, ravenous creatures (my lunch mates) waiting to crack open their bodies and eat their flesh. My only consolation was to know that death would come quickly to these little creatures and end their unimaginable pain. I couldn't help but feel sick. I wanted to run into the kitchen, break open the bags of imprisoned shellfish and yell, "Run! Run for your lives!"
But Kirk's sympathies extend only so far:
Three months later, the chickens are now full-grown and not so cute. They make more messes than my six kids combined and they still don't lay eggs. I regularly make chicken soup for dinner in hopes that the steaming aroma will drift across the chicken coop in the backyard, reminding those freeloading feathered friends to lay some eggs soon . . . or else.

the credulous spouting the dubious

First it was Scott Adams glibly and stupidly misrepresenting the debate over evolution and intelligent design.

Now it's Kurt Vonnegut claiming that a tribe of scientists "pretend" to know that evolution is a fact.

Who's next?

Celebrities everywhere, listen up: don't boldly go plunging into controversies you don't understand. That's what bloggers are for.

Jan 22, 2006

we won!

Doubters, silence. The Seahawks crushed the Panthers in grand fashion, dominating on both sides of the ball en route to a 34-14 victory and their first-ever trip to the Super Bowl. Matt Hasselbeck couldn't miss. Shaun Alexander scored two TDs. And the defense--the defense!--picked off Delhomme three times and made Steve Smith pout like a chump.

After thirty years, the dream is reality. Believe in these guys.

the sum of all fears

I woke up fifty times last night, drenched in sweat, teeth chattering. At first I blamed the fever, but when I browsed the Seattle Times this morning, I figured out why I had tossed and turned:

Republicans want to create national standards for educational rigor.

Do you understand what this means? They want our system to be more like the system in France.


Jan 21, 2006

underwhelming Underworld: Evolution

The sequel nobody wanted carries a pox-like 19% rating on RottenTomatoes. TheTachyix tells us why.

twenty-two agonizing seconds

Gonzaga Bulldogs, down 61-63 to San Diego, with the ball, 22 seconds remaining.

Gonzaga Full Timeout. 61-63
0:17 Derek Raivio missed Three Point Jumper. 61-63
0:17 Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes Offensive Rebou. 61-63
0:13 Erroll Knight made Three Point Jumper. 64-63

0:12 64-63 Brandon Johnson missed Two Point Layup.
0:12 64-63 Nick Lewis Offensive Rebound.
0:12 64-63 Nick Lewis missed Two Point Jumper.
0:12 Gonzaga Defensive Rebound. 64-63

Upset avoided. Upset stomach, inevitable.

stolen memories

Have you ever remembered something, only to find out it was someone else's memory? I have. At least, I think I have--because I can't remember exactly how or when. Which may mean I have a stolen memory of a stolen memory...

drive hammered, get nailed

It's a paradigm case of government ineptitude. Someone comes up with a slogan. It's reviewed by a couple of middle-aged dorks with no social life, good taste, or musical sense. Then it's shipped off to a fifth-rate rock'n'roll "artist" to be recorded as a Public Service Announcement. The result: "Drive Hammered, Get Nailed," the dumbest song in Washington state history.

The radio spot: a screechy rock tune full of distorted guitars, fake drums and stupid lyrics. "Drive hammered, get nailed. / I said drive hammered, you're gonna get nailed." The screecher's voice swoops and dives like a kamikaze pilot. "Drive hammmerrrred? You're gonna git naiiiiled."

Despite a thousand dollar government study that proves the song is disdained by anyone under the age of 35, you can still hear it on "hip" stations like 107.7 The End.

Word to Washington state: if you ever need to know if an ad campaign is going to suck, save your money and hire this blogger. I'll give you a true, unadorned opinion for $500, satisfaction guaranteed. "Drive drunk, get laid" was never a winner. Ever.

activist ruffians or freedom-loving heroes?

Perhaps it's the pseudoephedrine coursing through my system, but for some reason I find this story oddly compelling. Quixotic as their quest may be, the activists seeking to evict David Souter (one of several justices voting "yea" in Kelo) from his home to replace it with a tax-generating hotel have set upon a most concrete way to demonstrate to cloistered, robe-decked intellectuals that abstract decisions have real-world consequences, and that even they are not immune from a bad ruling. Make it "close to home," literally.

But you shouldn't do that! is the natural response. It's unfair to target a justice simply because he ruled a certain way. Yep--which is why a completely unrelated celebrity would have been a better choice. Going after, say, Mel Gibson's mansion in Malibu to bulldoze it and build a convention center... that'd get people's attention. After all, everyone knows who Mel Gibson is.

Jan 20, 2006

feliz cumpleaños, Matt

If you see my brother today, wish him a happy birthday and heckle him about his recent lack of blogging. When's the new site gonna be finished, bro?


Am I ever glad ESPN wasn't broadcasting the National Spelling Bee when I was a contestant.

straight from the lip

Available now: a computer algorithm to spot spindoctors in action.
He and his team analysed the usage patterns of 88 deception-linked words within the text of recent campaign speeches from the political leaders. They then determined the frequency of these patterns in each speech, and averaged that number over all of that candidate’s speeches. [Canadian Liberal Paul] Martin received a ranking of 124, while [Conservative Stephen] Harper and [New Democrat Jack] Layton scored 73 and 88, respectively.
American pundit Bill O'Reilly topped out at 147; Karl Rove got nothing but "out of memory" errors.

My blog scored 23. Just sayin'.

Jan 19, 2006

I'm going pro

As a teacher in Washington state, I'm obligated to attain a professional certificate, to take extra courses to prove I'm Genuine 100% Teacherly Goodness. I've decided to attempt National Board Certification. Here are four reasons why.

1. Professional Growth
Quite frankly, I'm not yet a good teacher, not nearly as good as I want to be, not nearly as good as my students deserve. I have several good teacherly qualities--passion, intellect, self-criticism, open-mindedness, personality--but I haven't yet perfected my instruction, assessment, and curricular design. (I have perfected the art of the tacky tie, however.)

2. Economics
Washington still provides a $3500 annual stipend for nationally certified teachers, and scholarships to help defray the $2500 program fee. Since national certification supersedes state requirements, and I have to earn a ProCert anyway, the choice is simple.

3. Time
I've taught for four years, one more than the program requires. Next year is that magical fifth year when all goes well. Chances are, I'll have good classes again, in subjects I've already taught. That sailing's too smooth for this ship. I could stand 200-400 hours of extra writing, videotaping, and agonizing to maintain the chaos of my perilous voyage over the wine-dark sea.

4. Prestige
Step one: national certification. Step two: teacher of the year. Step three: bestselling author status for my memoir, Lord of the Ties. Step five: Oprah confessional. Step six: public scorn upon the revelation that the memoir is only 43% true. Step seven: movie deal.


So you bought five-dollar merlot and six-dollar pinot grigio for your wine-and-cheese party, you cheap, elitist, very clever bastard. Cheese makes cheap wines taste the same. (I'd wager there's a similar effect with chocolate and coffee.)

So you doped up on haloperidol to keep your mousy, schizophrenic self from hanging out in wood chips laced with feline urine. Toxoplasma infects 1 in 2 Brits. Never would have guessed.

So you get a special thrill when watching cheaters get their comeuppance. Even better if the comeuppance is an electric shock, and you're male. Is it hard-wired or learned? Who cares? It's sweet revenge!

high sssssspeed chasssse

"A boa constrictor wrapped around someone's neck in a stolen car at 4:45 a.m., it adds a little more tension to a tense situation."
Read all about it here.

Jan 18, 2006

correlation, causation, whatever

You've heard of those statistics that prove that removing prayer in schools set in motion the rapid descent of American morality, not to mention educational performance, right? That Engel v. Vitale smashed our moral compass and sent us spiraling into a whirlpool of corruption, decadence, and salty snacks?

(I'm sure you aren't surprised to know that David Barton is behind those numbers.)

But you're probably unaware of a statistic so unbelievable, so shocking that it had to be kept in the unread middle section of Newsweek on a page no one would ever read due to the overwhelming photograph of a balding, mustachioed, bespectacled man with excessive arm hair.

And I quote.

"In 1890 only about 34 percent of Americans were members of a formal church. By 1989 the share of those who belonged was 60 percent."

Well, David? Care to explain why organized religion is ruining our great nation?

where the rubber crap meets the road

Two thousand pounds of crap, approximately, southbound on I-5 north of Seattle, and headed for--where else?--Tenino.

Jan 17, 2006

el milésimo

In its 999 previous entries, this blog has saved six lives, converted eighty-three people to Zoroastrianism, undergone plastic surgery eleven and a half times, used 23,894 indefinite articles, sailed through fifteen global crises, ignored hundreds of pertinent questions, sold zero advertisements, offered seventeen compelling reasons to take up smoking, and tested thirty-five toys for child safety, none passing.

More impressive, though, is the list of items this blog hasn't accomplished. It has consistently failed to ignite WTO protests, spark KFC boycotts, predict NFL champions, preview ABC miniseries, out CIA spies, escape FBI wiretaps, relax EPA restrictions, understand DEA priorities, delouse GOP leadership, appreciate CBS sitcoms, or violate NBA dress codes.

And that's just the three-letter initialisms.

For the next thousand, I offer you a plethora of promises, a bold outlook for the future. Inspiration. Hope.

Wherever stuff happens, and I think of somethin' witty to say about it, I'll be there. Wherever a politician barfs into the lap of a Japanese dignitary, I'll be there. I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look. Wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build--I'll be there, too.

I make this Whitmanesque oath because I am Walt Whitman.

I lean and loaf and scratch where it itches. I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world, in the culverts where children pluck legs off insects, in the subways where a million strangers ignore a million more, in the lunch lines where vegetables recline stupidly, in smoke-filled alleys and back rooms, in the cables and wires that shuttle thoughts from Massachusetts to Texas, Thoreau be damned.

I am over, under, within, without, together, apart. I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself, Mr. Logic Man. I am large. I contain multitudes.

I am an army of one.

Join me.

select company

Got several gift cards to Barnes and Noble this Christmas, including one from my brother and sister-in-law, promptly spent on Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, which everyone ought to read at least once annually. (Thank you, Matt and Charity!)

But they're not all gone, which brings me to my conundrum. When it comes to books, I'm even stingier than usual--the library is free, after all--so I buy only books that are really, really worthwhile.

Recommend a book I'll enjoy for a lifetime, and if I purchase that book, you'll receive lifetime membership in an exclusive group: People I Admire Almost as Much as Richard Feynman.

so long, Mervyns

In 2007, all Washington and Oregon locations of Mervyns are slated to close.

I blame myself. In the good old days, I never shopped at K-Mart or Walmart or even JC Penney. I was a Mervyns man. Mervyns had an outstanding clearance section--up to eighty percent off shirts, slacks, sweaters. Glorious, never paying full price for anything. Glorious for me, but not for profit-starved Mervyns.

But it got worse. In recent years, I discovered Ross and Marshalls, entire stores full of clearance racks, making a trip to Mervyns entirely unnecessary.

I'm sorry, Mervyns, that I couldn't remain loyal. But you can be sure I'll be there for the last orgy of discounts, digging through marked down socks and dress shirts, clambering over piles of sheet sets and comforters, stumbling dazed through aisles of pots and pans, weeping all the while.

justice Tuesday

The Supreme Court has upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law. You can decry judicial activism all you want (and I'll wager that at least three conservative organizations will blame it in this case), but the law passed by majority vote and has withstood all constitutional challenges.

And for those scoring at home, a 6-3 decision means that a hypothetical Alito vote wouldn't have changed the outcome.

Jan 16, 2006

science fiction fact

How cool is this? We've recovered dust from a fricking comet.

You know you're living in the future when you read a line like this: "On Sunday, at about 0600 GMT, the sample pod was released from the mothership."

Jan 15, 2006

the demise of speech

a rant in b-flat minor

When giving an impromptu speech, don't do the word. It's a trap. You'll get slurped up by extruded intestine-beasties (the ones who stole the show in King Kong), and your only way out its through the Swamp of Banality. Have a point, too, maybe even two or three. Four is too many. And please, please, please don't define words we already know. "An idea is what you think about before you do something." No it isn't. Don't say "this is horrible" when you're speaking, even if it's true, and when you sit down, don't say "I want to shoot myself," which isn't true. Suicide is for depressed judges.

An oratory is a speech about something that matters. You know what I call your assemblage of perfectly mimed gestures, plastered facial expressions, choreographed steps from point to point, Peppy the Robot vocal inflections? "Performatory." If I want to see that, I'll watch television on a Sunday morning.

Don't shake my hand when you're simpering along with the rest and saying "Thank you for judging." I don't want your germs. My hands are preternaturally cold thanks to Raynaud's, so you'll get the impression that your speech has turned me into a lifeless zombie. You're right.

Don't ask for my paradigm. I don't carry a paradigm like a pocketwatch. Ask me what I like to see in a round, sure, or what my judging philosophy is. I'll gladly tell you, since it's simple: no weasely tricks, no biting, no hair pulling.

You're in the Open Division and should already know this? What?

Jan 13, 2006

Federal Way beckons

Student Congress, Lincoln-Douglas debate, and the spectrum of individual events are waiting for me at the home of the Eagles. Light blogging, if any, until Sunday. Go about your business.

Jan 12, 2006

gimme a shove and I'm good to go

I want to write a novel. Something commercially successful, so I can retire early and spend the rest of my days ranching emus and shooting at visiting cultists. Or something profound and literary that would make Dostoevsky weep with admiration, if he weren't a decomposing skeleton.

I have the time, the talent, the motivation. But two massive obstacles stand in the way of success.

First, a plot. Tough to get off the ground without one. (Henry James thought differently, but I can't stand anything by Henry James.) My latest brilliant idea is a virus that destroys all of humanity except for the monster children kept locked in closets. Their post-apocalyptic future is decidedly antisocial. The only problem: how they escape.

Second, a pseudonym. "Jim Anderson" is dull as tapwater and common as appendicitis.

Any help?

Robertson Offers Pre-Apologies

NEW YORK -- At a hastily arranged press conference, a contrite Pat Robertson, famed televangelist and notorious big-mouth, offered apologies to anyone he has not yet offended.

"I'm sorry, George W. Bush," said Robertson. "In the coming months I will refer to you as 'the devil in a ten-gallon hat' and 'Satan's handmaiden.' I'm not sure why, exactly. But I feel the Spirit moving."

Robertson also offered conciliatory gestures to Sir Alex Ferguson, highly successful manager of Manchester United, a British football team that Robertson claimed would "somehow, in some way desecrate our Savior and draw forth the righteous vengeance of the Lord."

When asked if any world leaders should expect amends, given past retractions of God's wrath upon Hugo Chavez and Ariel Sharon, Robertson had a ready answer. "Pope Benedict--you are a great man. When I will refer to you as the Whore of Babylon, please note that God, not I, is the final judge from whom you will beg forgiveness as you are cast into the fiery pit of hell."

"I'm sorry. I did say I'm sorry," Robertson added. "Really and truly sorry. Face it--I'm going to the crow buffet at least once a week."

Robertson also pre-apologized to the City of Santa Fe, Shania Twain, The New York Yankees, Steve Jobs, and his masseuse.

a new school funding initiative for Washington State

Update: Welcome, Sound Politics readers. As a teacher and WEA member, I appreciate your comments and criticism.

The initiative, yet to be numbered, may turn out to be wildly popular, simply because it's simple. Schools will be obligated to spend sixty-five percent of their income on classroom instruction.
Classroom instructional spending is defined in the proposal as including teacher and aide pay, textbooks, distance learning expenses, field trips and supplies. The initiative excludes construction costs, principal salaries and interest payments on debt.
Sixty-five percent seems eminently reasonable. Sixty-five. The bulk. Almost two thirds. That's where the money ought to go, right?

I'm not quite sure.

A few observations.

First, can we forever banish 50-state ranking statistics, throw them in the burn barrel where they belong? Someone has to be ranked fiftieth, unless all states spend the same amount, dollar-for-dollar, which will never happen. Imagine if every state spent upwards of $15,000 per student per year. Would the citizens of Mississippi really care if they ranked last at that point? Furthermore, rankings that don't factor in cost-of-living adjustments are worse than useless. Let's talk about benchmarks, baselines. Relative assessments are essentially meaningless.

Second, why sixty-five percent? The reasoning behind the initiative: the top four states all spend at least 65% of their funds "in the classroom." But when we look at what "in the classroom" means, we find some interesting descriptions.
Classroom Teachers, Personnel
General Instruction Supplies
Instructional Aides
Activities -- Field Trips, Athletics, Music, Arts
Tuition Paid to Out-of State Districts & Private Institutions for Special Needs Students
The "activities" portion is a trifle disingenuous. While activities undoubtedly boost academic performance--you'd better pass if you want to head the lacrosse squad--they're hardly in any normal definition of a "classroom" expenditure. Note, importantly, that the KOMO article doesn't specifically mention sports as an in-class "activity."

Lastly, I won't complain if the initiative passes and leads to real changes in the standard delivery model. But I'd imagine that creative accounting practices would be the first resort of districts hard-pressed by debt or otherwise pressed for cash.

Jan 11, 2006


Brian Baird, who was slated to speak to our sophomore class about the WASL (and other pithy subjects, I'm sure), canceled his afternoon appearance, leaving several teachers--myself included--scrambling to concoct a back-up lesson plan. Students were bummed.

Strangely, though, Baird was still able to make it to an evening Town Hall Meeting.

My question: Why are you so afraid of our sophomores, Mr. Baird?

I won't rest until the truth is known. Or until I get really, really tired.

John A. Davison runs for office

A play in one act.

[The year is 2006. On stage: two lecterns facing the audience, at an oblique angle to each other, spaced ten feet apart, microphones if the theater is large. The lectern at left should be gaudily decorated with tricolored bunting, backed by signs reading "DAVISON FOR GOVERNOR, 2000" and "Desperate Times Require Desperate Measures." Seated atop the right lectern is a fresh turnip, medium size, cheerful disposition. The turnip is mute, as it ought to be. At appropriate times a prompter should hold aloft a poster that reads "APPLAUSE." The audience will ignore the instruction; after all, there is no audience.]

[Davison enters from the left, stands behind the lectern, smiling and waving, pumping his fist in a victory salute.]

Davison: Greetings, friends and foes. I am here today to debate my esteemed opponent in the upcoming, and to show the great state of Vermont my plan for action, for success, for greatness in the coming centuries. I promise I will humbly shepherd you through the storm, attend to your every need, right every wrong, promote truth and justice and liberty at every turn.


[The turnip sits quietly, meditatively. Ponders.]

Davison: Let us begin the debate. What do you say to my proposal to replace all teachers with robo-drones, at considerable savings?


[Peace. Detachment. Very zen.]

Davison: I do not regard myself as a hand-waving tree hugger and am sorry you have to resort to that sort of tactic. What do you expect that to accomplish?


[Turnip remains silent, a gesture of what? Insolence? Dignity? Leadership?]

Davison: Well I see you have resurfaced with your usual lack of tact, your hallmark. As a matter of fact your knee jerk responses are the best evidence imaginable that even you are a victim, as we all are. You are one hostile cat.


[Such calm, such repose! We should all admire this turnip, this laconic vegetable. Ah--if only it would speak!]

Davison: [his voice rising slowly in pitch and volume, eventually reaching a squeaky soprano] Your bluster and innuendo do not impress me. You bore me. Got that? Write that down. You are proof positive, a self demonstrated liar. Slink back to the fort and send out another of your cowardly cronies to spew his venom here for all to see.


Davison: You are such a masochist and far too stupid to realize it!... [He pauses, uncertain] I declare victory by virtue of the default of my adversaries.... [Again, a pause] I'll have a banana-filled cucumber now....

[Davison slices open the cucumber and eviscerates the banana. He bites into it without peeling, savoring its delicious sweetness.]


[The turnip is nonplussed.]

Davison: [Davison turns and faces the audience, which isn't there, and looks toward the cameras, which aren't there either. Clutching his banana, he smiles, and squeaks.] I'm having the time of my life!


Update: Read the prequel.

another winning title

"Big brains are not crucial to teaching."


Ed Brayton has a new home. Adjust your links accordingly.

Update: PZ Myers moved, too.

Jan 10, 2006

the shortest staff meeting ever

Could the digital revolution herald the demise of the endless staff meeting?

This afternoon we sat for fifteen minutes listening to five or six brief speeches about the potential change to semesters (we're wacky on trimesters, and hopefully for keeps), and that was it. We were dismissed early.

How? How could it be possible?


For the past week teachers had ranted and raved back and forth over the school e-mail server, pounding out passionate missives about the various benefits and deficits of the semester switch.

When we got to the "live" meeting, we'd already said--and digested--all the arguments. We sat, waited, checked watches, surreptititiously picked at hangnails, coughed, shifted in our seats. When the awkward silence lasted beyond an agonizing minute, our principal dismissed us. We'll vote when ballots arrive in our mailboxes.

Fifteen minutes in a staff meeting. ¡Viva la Revolucion!

cautious optimism

Bill Finkbeiner now says he will vote in favor of gay-rights legislation that has failed by one vote year after year.

Watch the sky for falling objects, including chunks of sky.

talk, talk, talk

Today: a mandatory staff meeting to discuss the potential shift to semesters. How long will we remain one of six or seven high schools in the state with a trimester schedule? Not long, I surmise.

Tomorrow: Congressman Brian Baird comes to Capital to discuss the WASL with nervous sophomores.

I'll blog about both if I get the time.

Jan 8, 2006

Barbies with stinky breath

Today's Barbie dolls develop halitosis for several reasons.

Smoking. Teen Angst Barbie reeks of stale cigarettes. Even though she tries to hide her habit from her mom, the smell of ash permeates her clothing, her hair, her breath. Teen Angst Barbie hangs out with Goth Barbie and Emo Barbie, but is never seen with Anorexic Cheerleader Barbie. All of them secretly smoke.

Methamphetamine. Barefoot Barbie lost six teeth and all her dignity to speed when her trucker boyfriend introduced her to the awake-all-night wonder drug. Now odors of cat urine waft through her dilapidated bungalow as Barbie slaves away at a hot stove, cooking to the strains of a baby's muffled cries. On the oven: meth. In the oven: Trucker Junior.

Garlic. Distressed Damsel Barbie chews cloves non-stop, straight up, ever since a recent run-in with a vampire. It seems to ward off giant apes, too.

Coffee. Grad Student Barbie wasted the first nine weeks of the quarter watching reruns of Law and Order. Now her thesis, a Marxist critique of the California wine industry, buried in a pile of People magazines, sits at five pages. They're good pages, mind you, but it's going to be a long week. Now, where'd I put my note cards?

Limburger. Debate Camp Barbie fell asleep with her nose in On Liberty, sometime around three in the morning. At seven, she'll wake to a find her mouth full of the crudescent cheese. (She'll notice the permanent marker mustache when she tries to brush her teeth.)

Alcohol. Plush Lush Barbie hangs at Pietro's, downing glass after glass of Grey Goose vodka, trying to forget the millionaire assblanket who left her for an older woman. Irony loses its edge after five or six martinis.

Poor Dental Hygiene. You Barbie didn't floss yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. You Barbie brushes once a day on a good day. You Barbie hosts a rowdy bacterial ecosystem that parties all night on the tongue and sleeps off the party on the palate. You Barbie could light the fumes and breathe flame.

[fifty-first in a series]

Jan 6, 2006

an open letter to the chap who sent me the mail race letter

Dear Student,

Thank you for your kind interest in a random English class halfway across the country. I hope by now you've received a stack of letters from other students whose teachers haven't yet discovered the brave new world of electronic communication. (It's an allusion!)

Even so, I might at least consider your proposition if it weren't for your missive's angrifying features.

1. The "%" symbol certainly looks like c/o, but there's a subtle difference.

2. Your naked appeal to my generosity is the worst possible strategy. I have minimal desire for your class to win a pizza party, no matter how grandiose and opulent said party may be. There's no satisfaction in vicarious gustation. None.

3. Paragraphs were invented for a reason.

4. Typing your name in italics does not substitute for a signature. If you're going to beg for help, at least go to the trouble of finding a ball point, never mind a gel pen.

I'm probably extra peeved because my name is first in the English department, alphabetically, so I get all these damned letters and gleefully throw them out after only a cursory inspection. Sorry. Not really.



P.S. Asking "all the girls in the class to send their pictures back!" makes me happier to send your letter air mail to the trash can.

outta here

Off to UPS for the annual speech tournament there. When I'm back: mail race blogging! (English teachers know what I'm talkin' about.)

Jan 4, 2006

the 2006 in-box

I somehow missed or forgot about this story, the upcoming major issues facing various Olympia school districts in the new year. Some that directly affect me:

1. The WASL counts. My sophomores, all eighty-eight, are required to pass all sections of the test in order to graduate. This is causing no end of consternation for a good number of students who never took it seriously before, especially when they were seventh graders more interested in the daily pimple watch. Congressman Brian Baird is coming to Capital to address student concerns. If I can go, I'll blog about it.

2. The Olympia tech levy. I had to ask for a special grant to get an LCD projector in my room on a full-time basis--and for only one year at that. The Internet (in the form of blogging) forms an essential part of my English classes, and a projector is critical for my teaching purposes. It's tough to teach students a simple technique by running around a computer lab explaining to one student so they can teach their neighbor. Capital's fairly well off, too, since our computer labs usually function (knock on silicon).

3. Capital slides down to 3A. We can't play with the big kids anymore, thanks to the impending WIAA reclassification. It won't affect my speech and debate team's regular season, since we'll still compete against the same powerhouses like Gig Harbor and Federal Way, but at state we won't face them. I'm not sure I like it. Beating the best is far more satisfying.

4. The hush-hush story that isn't mentioned. It involves massively destructive acts of vandalism, Crimestoppers, construction, and administrative angst. Can't say anything about it until it appears in The Olympian, due to the ongoing investigation. Only thing I can say for sure: I didn't do it.

the sneak

Now he tells us. He who used to pseudonymously blog as Theomorph is now blogging under his real name--Peter Wall--at Res Ipsa Loquitur. Which will soon be added to the roll.

either way you look at it

"Big issues likely left for ’07 and beyond," says the Olympian. "Lawmakers Forecast Robust 2006 Session," says KOMO.

Jan 3, 2006

Sonics wave buh-bye to Bob Weiss

So reports Komo News. It was about time; the Sonics have been playing languidly as of late, with rare meteors of brilliance in a field of banality, and they might as well fire the guy with the mediocre lifetime record.

Best quote comes at the end of the article, from Ray Allen: "I think we all believe we're a good team." Now that's certainty.

giving up the fight

I had won. Quit cold turkey. Braved nausea and headaches. Endured the nights of cold sweat, the hunger pangs, the tremors and tics. Stopped thinking about it every moment, stopped imagining my fingers grasping the cylinder and bringing it to my mouth, forgot the clarity such a simple action could bring to my addled mind, banished it from my consciousness. Stopped dreaming about it. Stopped breathing it, smelling it, tasting it everywhere.

Found the strength to seek forgiveness--and to forgive myself.

Lived for months without the tiniest speck of desire. Clean. Pure. Myself again.

And then my wife and my mom bought me a sudoku calendar and two sudoku books for Christmas.

The addiction is back. There'll be no quitting now.

Jan 2, 2006

if you're going to make a prediction...

...predict something meaningless.

In this week's BCS action, the spirits have revealed that...

1. Notre Dame defeats Ohio State, 31-17
Buckeyes take it handily.

2. Georgia defeats West Virginia, 28-24
A classic comeback attempt foiled by WVU's gutsy fake punt!

3. Penn State defeats Florida State, 21-13 26-23.
Hey, I was right at least once.

4. USC defeats Texas, 41-21.
I nominate Vince Young for Jesus.

Jan 1, 2006

losing faith in The End

107.7 The End plays mainstream alternative music, mostly unobjectionable, sometimes suprisingly good. But the Top 107 songs of 2005: why in the (insert expletive) is Weezer's anemic, lyrically stultifying "Beverly Hills" in the top ten? And who chose Nine Inch Nails' cliché-ridden "The Hand That Feeds," a Sunday morning hash of the weekend's musical leftovers, Trent Reznor's worst song in a decade?

At least the people get it right, choosing their top five:
1. Death Cab For Cutie - Soul Meets Body
2. Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc
3. Matisyahu - King Without A Crown
4. The Killers - Mr. Brightside
5. Green Day - Holiday
Tough to argue with that lineup. "Soul Meets Body" was reason enough for my wife to purchase Plans. "Feel Good Inc." is danceable alterna-hop, infectious, ebulliently melancholic. "King Without a Crown": Orthodox reggae. Enough said. Killers, Green Day, you've already read all about them, I'm sure.

But nothing on the list carries half the gravitas and joy of last year's triumphant "Float On" or "Ocean Breathes Salty" by Modest Mouse, from the sterling album Good News For People Who Love Bad News. It was a mediocre year for alternative music.

How the Mighty Have Fallen: Bands Who Shouldn't Have Sucked in 2005, But Did
The Strokes
The White Stripes
Foo Fighters
Depeche Mode
Jimmy Eat World

Shaun Alexander for MVP

He's earned it. Not only in his individual statistics, but, more important, in the win column. The Hawks are the NFC's most fearsome offense because of his amazing legs. This is your year, Mr. Alexander. On to the Superbowl.

"I'd like it to be my idea."

If I have vomit forth one prediction for 2006, it's that the trend of increased media interactivity will continue. Consider our local paper, which knows that more and more users get their news in digital form, and consequently has made two changes to bring readers back.

The first is a bite-sized chunk of headlines in the classifieds called "News in 5." (Why the classifieds? Is that where "time-impoverished" readers head first? Not in my experience.)

The second involves the Web:
Also beginning today is Ask the Editors. This feature at www.theolympian.com gives you direct access to newsroom editors. If you have a question about articles, photographs or newsroom operations, follow the link and send us your question. A team of editors has been designated to find the answer for you and publish it at Ask the Editors.

Please go to www.theolympian.com/asktheeditors to check it out and let us know what you think. We’d also like to hear what you think about News in 5 and how we can make it more useful for you.
Notice what's also sitting at the top of the page: a "comments" button, where you, with your stinky armpit opinion, can join the conversation. How very... bloggish.

For the longest time newspapers have treated bloggers like the annoying little kid in Shane, latecomers who don't understand the old ways, even though the old ways are dead and gone. But now the bad guys are in ambush at the saloon, and the pestering tyke will be the one who saves Shane from death. It's a metaphor. Figure it out for yourself.

you're no help

NetZero offered "HiSpeed 3G" for the same price as regular dialup, and I decided, hey, may as well sign up, since it comes with free antivirus software and I don't mind a yearlong commitment. To my dismay, though, the service--which uses proxies and graphics compression to speed up dialup--doesn't work with Firefox.

Sent a little email question to (free!) tech support:
I switched to HiSpeed 3G not realizing it doesn't work with Firefox. Is compatibility ever going to be available?
... and this was the answer.
Thanks for taking the time to write to us inquiring about the browsers you can use with NetZero HiSpeed 3G.

We understand your concern. Please note NetZero HiSpeed 3G works with Internet Explorer 5.1 and higher. We do not support Firefox or other Web browsers at this time.

I hope you enjoy using NetZero HiSpeed 3G.

Thanks for using Netzero!
"I don't know" or even "Never, sorry" would have been nice. But I can't get angry at NetZero--I'm too happy with their service. That's right, dust off the straightjacket and mop the padded cell--I'm happy with dialup!