Sunday, October 30, 2005

If teaching doesn't pan out . . .

I can now claim that I have experience operating a skid loader. Yesterday and today I moved dirt from a pile and spread it in the yard--my first attempt at landscaping. Running this machine was FUN!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Massachusetts: Land of Antiquities

Today I learned from a student's essay that Boston is an ancient and historical city.

I wonder why we haven't found any of the ruins?

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Our pilgrimage for barbecue has been called off because Husband has to go to work. They wouldn't let him have two Saturdays off in a row. What really bugs me is that they won't tell him until Friday afternoon, and then I don't get to find out until Friday night.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mouth Waterin'

Saturday Husband and I will be in hog heaven--well, I'll be in cow and chicken heaven since I don't eat anything piggy. We're going down to Lynchburg for the Jack Daniels Barbeque Championship, and I'm hoping to find some great brisket. I've been hearing about this contest for years, but this is the first time we'll go. I'm sure that I'll satisfy my taste for barbeque and that I'll be miserable by the time we leave.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tennessee Lampoon's Hillbilly Vacation

Husband and I spent this past weekend in Gatlinburg. It was our first vacation in quite a while, and we had a nice time despite the fact that we had to attend a timeshare presentation in exchange for our free motel room. We had no trouble standing up to the psychological sales tactics that the people used against us because we presented a united front against their wiles. I had been tipped off that if you say you can’t afford it, they’ll keep bringing the price down until you finally give in because the price is so ridiculously low, so we told them that we never take vacations and that their product would be useless to us. And that’s no lie.

The guy who did most of the talking told us (he had a whole group of us captive in a room together, each couple with their own personal salesman) that we deserve to take nice vacations after all the hard work we do and that we owe it to our children to make sure that they have good memories of great vacations. Pu-leeze! The sales people also said to just think how we would feel if something happened to our spouse. We'd feel so bad that we didn't spend more time together. Just how much time do we think we have left, they asked us. Will that time be spent creating great memories? How morbid! I'll tell you what would really make me feel bad--if something happened to my husband after we bought a timeshare and then I'd be stuck with all those monthly payments.

The guy kept suggesting that unless we have a certain vacation lifestyle, we aren’t really enjoying ourselves. He said that the average family spends $3000 per year on vacations. Wow! Husband and I haven’t spent $3000 in ten years for vacations. The guy said that most people spend their vacations in little motel rooms, and once they have spent that money, there’s nothing to show for it. The pitch was that we should take the money that we would spend in ten years on vacations (he approximated $20,000--coincidentally, just about the price of their most popular package) and use it to buy into their timeshare plan. Then we would “own” our vacations. We would be able to vacation in all the best locations, all the while staying in fabulous accommodations. I have to admit that the accommodations were very nice. They looked like homes you’d see in a magazine. But really, even if you “own” your vacation, what more do you have to show for it than someone who doesn’t? Does the family that stays in the luxury resort come home with better memories than the family that stays in the Motel 6? (Don’t even talk about the people who like to camp out in the woods—they are just plain weird!)

I guess because Husband and I stayed in a motel, we won’t have any good memories of our first trip to Gatlinburg together. We won’t remember riding on the chair lift for the first time to get up the mountain to ride back down on the alpine slide for the first time. We won’t remember looking down from the chair lift and seeing a groundhog pop out from his hole at the edge of the slide track and then pop back in when the next rider came down. We won’t remember the scrumptious chocolate brownie dessert and great steak we had at that gorgeous restaurant we ate at on Sunday night. We won’t remember laughing at the inordinate number of pancake restaurants in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Neither will we remember shaking our heads at all the places called Hillbilly Golf, Hillbilly Souvenirs, Hillbilly Landscaping Company, and Hillbilly Laundromat. Nope, all we’ll remember is that cramped little room.

No, not the motel room. The room with all the other desperate looking people wishing that the guy would shut up.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Opinions are like. . .

Here’s a sample of what’s been going on on my freshman class discussion board. I posted the first message in this series to give them something to talk about, and they took it from there. These comments are straight from the students, grammar mistakes and all. (I have deleted names to retain anonymity.)

Message no. 109

Sunday, October 9, 2005 11:54am

Subject: Worldwide disasters

I hate to leave such a gloomy message today, but this is what I've been

thinking about. This weekend there was an earthquake in Asia, killing

thousands of people. In Guatemala, people have lost homes and lives

because of mudslides. The bird flu is spreading from the Far East and

into eastern Europe, and officials fear the virus will mutate and cause

a worldwide flu pandemic. Here in the U.S. we have suffered through

several hurricanes and now flooding rains in the Northeast. A magma dome

is building under the Two Sisters in Oregon, and Mt. St. Helens in

Washington is still threatening to blow. Other hurricanes and typhoons

have hit countries in the Pacific Ocean region.

Lots of stuff has been happening over the last couple of months. Have

you been concerned about these events?

Here’s a response from a female student:

Message no. 111[Branch from no. 109]

on Sunday, October 9, 2005 5:43pm

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

The part that concerns me the most is that all this stuff is happening around the world

and the US is so quick to send help and send money and send aid but yet when it

happens in our own backyard, it takes us so long to get organized and get what is

needed for the people in Lousiana and Mississippi.

A response from another female student:

Message no. 115[Branch from no. 109]

Monday, October 10, 2005 11:03am

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

Being concerned about these events is probably on everyone's mind. I am a firm

believer that everything happens for a reason. In this world there are certain things

that "MAN" just can't control. They will never be able stop the volcanoes from errupting

or hurricanes from forming. That's something that most people just don't understand. If

these disaterous events happen who is to blame? Everyone wants to blame the

president who has no control over anything in the atomosphere. All he can do if aid

those in need. No one knows the amount of stress he goes through everyday. I get so

mad when the people of this country diss their own leader. If you don't want to follow

him and his authority to rule then leave the country and try to tell somebody else what

you like and don't like. Those people who don't like the president are literally idots in my


At this point, I thought I should interject a comment to remind students that the readership of this list is diverse in its political opinions (and, I admit, to express my own consternation at the “idot” comment), so here’s what I said:

Message no. 117[Branch from no. 115]

Monday, October 10, 2005 12:34pm

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

Call me an idiot then.

This response is from the same student that wrote message #111:

Message no. 121[Branch from no. 115]

Monday, October 10, 2005 6:08pm

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

alright i guess i'm an idiot then. but i have reasons to back up my opinion, its not just

because i liked kerry and i dont like bush. i would say this about any president that was

in office. they make the concious decision to send millions of dollars of aid to forgein

countries but when it comes to helping his own people, the same people that put him in

office, he can't do it, he drags his feet. look how long it took him to go tour Lousiana and

Mississippi, look how long it took him to listen to the people, to see the disaster with his

own eyes. just like in the countries that we're rushing to help now, the people that

couldn't leave the south are the ones that need the most help. the ones on welfare, the

ones without the means to leave, no cars, no money to put gas in their cars. you can't

help a person by giving them food stamps and giving them homes but then when their is

a disaster, we expect them to help themselves. it's not going to happen that way.

Another female response:

Message no. 131[Branch from no. 115]

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 11:42pm

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

Apparently, there are many of us IDIOTS....i would be careful as to what i say to whom on these message boards. im an "idiot" as well, am proud of it, but i dont take lightly to being called as such. but, everyone has their opinion. just so its known though, many people DO NOT share that opinion. i would never vote for Bush. it's not that i dont like him, its that i dont like the way things have been handles, and think they could have been handled better if another person was in office. there, i said it.

And finally a guy jumps in:

Message no. 132[Branch from no. 115]

Thursday, October 13, 2005 1:13am

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

Add me to the idiot list while your at it.

This next message is from the same student as above. Notice that this comment was posted thirty minutes after the previous one. Apparently he stewed about it for a few minutes.

Message no. 133[Branch from no. 115]

Thursday, October 13, 2005 1:46am

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

While I'm at it..what's with the whole "If you don't want to follow him and his authority to rule" thing about? The term "Ruler" is reserved for titles such as king or emperor and

such. The president is supposed to represent the people who put him in office, not rule

them. Bush is mainly worried about helping out his it's getting them

appointed to an office or lining their pockets any way he can. Take the example of Bush

hiring one of his buds to head the FEMA department. The guy had no idea what he was

doing after Katrina hit and had to resign. I was kinda glad to see his approval rating last

week fall to least that means some diehard Bush supporters are comming to

their senses. I can't see how anyone would stand up for him after the crazy decisions

he's pulled out of his butt. I've always heard that the more you stir shit the worse it

smells. I wish more than anything that Bush could learn how to quit stiring and admit he

was wrong about many descisions he's made while he's been in office.

This little conversation got my morning started with a good laugh.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hands Off!

OK, this is sorta gross, but I was in the restroom washing my hands (singing "Happy Birthday" twice during the process, just like you're supposed to), and I noticed at least three girls exit the stalls and not wash their hands before leaving the restroom. Didn't their mothers teach them that hand washing is essential?

This really bothers me, especially at this time of year when people are starting to get sick. I am leery of every doorknob, every handle. I feel the need to carry a bottle of alcohol to sterilize my hands after touching anything outside of my office. Am I paranoid?

I have noticed that some women in the restroom are much more cautious than I usually am. They will finish washing their hands and then not turn off the water until after drying their hands, turning off the faucet with a paper towel and then carrying the paper towel to the door, using it to touch the door handle as well. I used to think that this was a bit of overkill, but I find that I am now doing the same thing.

With all the talk of a possible flu epidemic, I would think that people would be more cautious. I know I certainly am more picky about what I touch and whose hand I shake.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Revenge is Sweet

Yesterday in my literature class, we discussed a story in which a father exacts revenge on the young man who murdered his son. Here are the particulars: The son, Frank, is dating the estranged wife of the killer, Richard. One day Richard beats Frank up, and sometime later Richard barges into his estranged wife's house (they are in the process of divorce) and shoots Frank in the face in front of the wife and their two young sons. Richard gets out on bail, and late one night Matt (Frank's father) and one of his friends kidnap Richard outside of the bar where he works, take him to a remote area, and kill him. This killing is very well planned, down to the last detail, so that they will not be caught. During the process, Matt seems to waver in whether he thinks he is capable of killing Richard, but in the end, when Richard tries to escape, Matt shoots him without hesitation and then shoots him again in the back of the head to finish the job. (The movie In the Bedroom is an adaptation of this story.)

My students were very sympathetic toward Matt. Many of them felt that if they were put into a situation in which someone murdered one of their loved ones, they wouldn't have any problem hunting down the killer and ridding the world of him. I asked them if they would have any problem being friends with Matt, and they said that no, Matt was a very good man (and the story does depict him as a very good husband, father, and friend), and they would like to have him as a friend, but they would not be friends with Richard.

My students also expressed a lack of confidence in the justice system. Many of them felt that convicted murderers have too many rights and too many appeals and that executions need to happen more swiftly. Others felt that capital punishment is too easy, that murderers need to live but suffer harshly for what they have done (the word "torture" was even mentioned). My students also have problems with murderers getting out of prison. A couple of them had actually lost loved ones to violent crime and said that whenever the killer comes up for release, the family has to relive the painful incident over again. Another interesting thing many of my students said was that they do not trust when criminals in prison claim to have "found God" or "gotten religion."

If any students in class felt less harshly toward murderers, they didn't speak up. The biblical concept of forgiveness was brought up, but it was generally acknowledged that extending forgiveness to a person who has committed a crime of that magnitude is extremely difficult if not impossible.

So what do you think? Do you agree with my students? Or are you "soft on crime"?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Do I Know This Person?

I wonder if this is one of my students.
(Image from PostSecret.)