How the North Sider Stole Christmas ….

December 28, 2011

Christmas can be an emotionally delicate time (try convincing my mother of this … I am not sure she believes it).

Here is a child who was mortified … MORTIFIED that some trusted adult would sink so low .. to vile depths of depravity to have fun with them when in such an emotionally vulnerable state.

I would have reacted the same way.  Tears of happiness my hair covered buttocks!!  Shame on these adults for torturing kids like this!!

(Note:  I understand this has gone “viral”, which means “everyone except me has seen it” … but in case you are part of the 1% of the world who has not seen it …. here it is)


Crossing the line

December 25, 2011

My family has had two absolute rules when it comes to gifts to kids in the family:

1.  No fingerpaints until age 8 (one of my aunts gave me finger paints when I was like 5, and they were conveniently lost for many, many years.

2.  No drums.  Ever.


My sister decided that my 2.25 year old nephew needed a drum set.  My brother loves it.  The rest of the family is deciding on the appropriate punishment for my sister.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year …

December 24, 2011

First off, Merry Christmas to everyone … I have been busier than ever the last several weeks heading in to Winter Break, which by the way, today being Christmas Eve is only day two of Winter Break.  Thursday was our last day of school.  Over the last several weeks I have been averaging about 5.5 hours of sleep a night, and that includes the roughly 9-10 I get on Saturday night, which is the inly day of the week I can get to bed early and sleep in late.  I have been very tired, and just had one of those realizations that I had been neglecting things …. not like “updating this blog”, but “checking e-mail”.  I don’t think I have ever gone more than 2 days without at least checking it, and realized that while I was checking my school account daily, I had completely forgotten about my private account.  So, if you e-mailed in the last 2-3 weeks, I will be getting back to you right after Christmas.

Needless to say, it was wonderful going to bed around midnight on Thursday night, and then sleeping in until 10 am Friday.  I was in bed by 11 last night, and woke up at 8 refreshed.


So, I’ll do my year in review.  Ill try to stick to positive things.


1.  It looks to be a red letter year in science.  The LHC at CERN is turning out new discoveries and data like Wonka’s Chocolate factory:  each more strange and wonderful as the next.  The whole “faster than light” thing is still on hold awaiting independent confirmation (which looks like it may be coming from Fermilab!!).  However they just found a new particle to close out the year, and it seems that the Higgs Boson is coming tantalizing close … which means that 2012 could turn out to be another great year in particle physics.

2.  Barely two years in to its mission, and the Kepler Observatory looks like it hit the jackpot!  For the first time ever, we have the discovery of planets with Earth-like conditions (though the planet is a little bigger than we had hoped), and planets the same size as Earth (just a little hotter than we had hoped).  I think this tends to confirm that Star Trek was completely wrong in the idea that there were Earth-like planets around every corner, but I think it finally is putting to rest any belief that anyone was holding on to about the uniqueness of Earth.  Again, it sets up 2012 as maybe the year we will find a long lost cousin out there.


3.  It was not a great year for baseball … but I can say that I was very happy to see  Bert Blyleven inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Statistically, there is no reason he should have had to wait, and he always gave me the impression he was a good guy.  Though his induction will come this summer, we can also note that Ron Santo finally got what was coming to him, albeit they had to wait until he was dead a year to do waht was obvious to so many people.  Cubs nation will undoubtedly be out in force for the ceremony this summer in Cooperstown.  Also o the plus side, my collection of baseball memorabilia has increased quite a bit.  I will be slowing down a bit this up and coming year, but my basement (recently re-painted so I had to take everything down and move it) is looking much nicer!

4.  My students have been off to a fairly good start, though they were all tripping up as December rolled in … I was spending more time than usual working to put out fires that were starting up with kids.  I am glad that my administration is doing their best to try and keep the stupidity that is NCLB as far away from the teachers and students as possible, but even that may not be enough in the long run.  With negotiations starting next month, and new laws that are going to severely hamper what we can do with kids going into effect, 2011 may go down as nt so much a great year, but the last year that didn’t totally see the government interfering in my classroom to a huge extent.  Scraping the bottom of the barrel, I suppose I can still chalk up my nomination for a Presidential Award.  It’s a thing.

5.  My work in quizbowl has seen its peaks and valleys …. far too few peaks, and more and more valley though.  I don’t write much on this subject, but it has been an overall good year for quizbowl, even if it wasn’t so awesome for me.  Some new rules were passed in 2011 that brings Illinois high schools more in line with the national standard for competition.  This is very good, even if our state has a ways to still go.  My officiating continues, though I have noticed how it has gotten more and more difficult for me to maintain a standard of excellence that I have set for myself.  I have seen far too many over the hill long past retirement officials that are doing what they do for reasons unknown … they sap the fun out of the game for the kids, and I swore that when I started doing that, I would hang it up.  I have tried talking to other officials and coaches, and they keep saying I am fine …. but I have my doubts that it is kindness for the sake of kindness.  I am having a much more difficult time hearing players answer, and I have caught myself making a few more mistakes than I usually make.  On the plus side, one of my former players has returned home to work in the Chicago area, and has taken up the mantle of officiating, and is getting pretty rave reviews …  I wont claim that I taught him much of anything, but it is one of those great things to see someone who you remember as a younger player start taking the steps into a more adult role and succeeding at it.


6.  On the plus side, I got to see almost all of my friends this last year.  I didn’t get to see Al (sorry, man), but was thrilled to see the Nugents if even for one day.  One of the problems with teaching is that at the start of every school year, the students all basically look the same … it is not a good way to tell time.  However, when I see my friends’ kids, I get those moments of shock when I realize that time has been passing outside of the bubble I live in … the kid I got to hold in a blanket a few weeks after birth is now running around or curled up in a chair reading a book of their own.  I have seen this to some extent with my goddaughter and nephew.  I never get to see them as much as I would like, but when I do, I get that sense that time has passed since I last saw them, while I don’t get the impression of time passing when I don’t see them.  I’ve wondered if this is part of the reason I don’t see myself as having matured as quickly as a lot of my friends …. they constantly confront the passage of time.  For me, it can go weeks or months before I realize that its been weeks or months.  I have actually woken up on my birthday to not even know about it until someone brings it up.  I’m not sure if that is a sign of being eccentric, brain damaged, ADHD, or immature.  I’m really hoping for eccentric.

7.  The family has started the process of moving on.  I know mom has her bad days.  I had meant to call her on December 13, and I forgot being bogged down with work.  She called.  I think she was upset that I hadn’t called.  I haven’t been the best son I could be, and being a little further away doesn’t help that.  However, I think she has started the process of coming to terms with her new life … and while there are tremendous downsides, I think she can also recognize some good things … she doesn’t have to worry about getting phone calls from the police that dad was arrested for DUI or that he had killed someone in an accident …. she doesn’t have to clean up after him and there are no more pointless fights.  She visits the cemetery every so often, but not on a weekly or even monthly basis.

Back to School!

December 8, 2011

Tonight I attended my orientation for my Type 75 program.  This January I will start an 18 month set of courses that will allow me to test for my administrative certificate.

The question is:  why?

There are three answers:

1.  Last year, I got nominated for a really highly prestigious honor that most teachers (like me) totally do not apply for.  I asked a friend if this was crazy (I am not into teaching awards), but one thing very much stuck with me:  you never know what the future will hold … an award like this might be important in saving your job one day (or words to this rough effect, I’m sure if I have taken them out of context, he will correct me).  That still wasn’t a good enough reason to apply for the award, but it go me thinking.

2.  (warning: naughty language ahead)  Two years ago, another friend lost their job because an administrator pulled what I have seen to be a clearly (quoting another, but I agree with the sentiment) douchebag move.  With the overall trend toward teachers having less and less job security, not to mention a number of trends looking forward that really doesn’t look good for the profession as a whole, I decided that I wanted to keep a few options open.  I am being careful to not sound to doom and gloom, but I am starting to see a lot of my younger colleagues starting to make plans that don’t involve retiring from teaching.

3.  In my entire district, I am one of the lowest paid teachers based on my years of experience, because I have been busy doing other things instead of taking as many courses as I could to move across the salary scale.  Unlike some teachers who will take any class remotely linked to their jobs, I have been more selective.  This has left me behind, and I began to realize that I wanted to start moving up the salary schedule a bit.  A Type 75 certificate program seemed to be one of the faster ways to do this.  I have also decided in talking to colleagues that this might have some potentially interesting things to learn.


I will take 8 courses, each lasting 8 weeks over the spring semester this year, the first part of the summer, and then both semesters next year.  In addition, I have to serve a 240 hour internship at my school next year serving as an apprentice to an administrator, and actually coming up with a plan of some kind to do something, and actually implementing said plan at the school.  I also need to serve a mini-internship at a middle or elementary school over the course of a week or so.

I have no intention to ever use this.  I know that while I possess certain leadership skills, I would not in any way have the skills to lead a school or a department.  I have seen enough poor leadership to know that there are some obviously bad decisions I would avoid, and some bad ones I would likely walk right into.

Farewell, Mark Buehrle!

December 7, 2011

Today, Mark Buehrle made it official, and signed a four year contract with the Florida Miami Marlins.  Thus ends a great and glorious career with the White Sox … by far the best pitcher the team has had since the time of Wilbur Wood, and likely even further back than that to maybe Ted Lyons and Billy Pierce.

In 12 seasons, Buehrle won 161 games for the Sox … just two behind Wilbur Wood in the team’s history (Lyons, Red Faber, Big Ed Walsh, and Pierce are the only Sox pitchers with more wins).  Only Lyons, Faber, and Pierce started more games on the South Side.  His 2.48 strikeout/walk ratio is second only to Walsh in team history.  His 1396 strikeouts ranks him fourth all-time in Chicago White Sox history.  Since 1959, only Wilbur Wood and Bobby Thigpen have pitched in more games for the team.  Four times, he was named to the All-Star team.

Looking at this stat line, the 2005 postseason, which was epic for the White Sox, was not so epic for Buehrle.  People forget though that the team would never have gotten there if not for his dominance on the mound.  In June, 2005, Buehrle had a 0.96 ERA!  He was one of the four Sox pitchers who pitched the four complete game victories in the ALCS in 2005, an accomplishment that hadn’t been accomplished in the regular season in about 30 years, and in the post season in close to 50.  Nine seasons opened with Mark Buehrle as the opening day starter for the White Sox … an all-time team record.

Fans loved … absolutely loved to see this man pitch!  Very few pitchers in the game today wasted as little time as Buehrle.  When he took the mound, you could be assured of a fast exit from the park.  Then there were those moments of dominance, where he appeared to be in a world of his own … like a 1 hitter against Tampa Bay in 2001 … his first full year as a starter.  On April 18, 2007, he no-hit the Rangers (a fairly potent offense) … then on July 23, 2009, he pitched a perfect game against the hard hitting Tampa Bay Rays;  only the sixth pitcher with at least two no-hitters, one of which was perfect.  It was without question the highlight of the post World Series years for the Sox!  And then, how does he follow up a career defining performance … he retires the first 17 consecutive batters in the next game to establish a new all-time Major League record for consecutive batters retired.

On defense, he is a master … he has just won his third Gold Glove at the position, and in 2010, his opening day between the legs flip to Paul Konerko held up to be voted the “Play of the Year” in Major League Baseball.

In short, Mark Buehrle, thank you for sharing your talents on the foresaken side of the city … thank you for giving us great thrills.  If the Marlins should come through U.S. Cellular Field, and you should start an interleague game, the fans, no doubt, will give you the warm welcome you deserve … that is, until we realize that your 23-6 record in interleague play is the the current Major League record, and that those talents won’t be helping us any more.  Hopefully, one sunny day years from now, you will return for a nice ceremony and the unveiling of #56 on the outfield wall … a fitting end for one of our guys!

As a final tribute:

a link to the final inning of Buehrle’s >>epic<< perfect game, including DeWayne Wise’s surreal acrobatic catch to save the game, and Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone calling the inning capped by his tension bursting repeated “YES!!!!”.

On the Hall of Fame and an old Cub

December 6, 2011

I’m a White Sox fan.  I don’t like seeing more Cubs inducted into the Hall of Fame.

That said, the bittersweet election today of Ron Santo, is the final jewel in his storied career as player and broadcaster, as well as an indictment on the process of electing players to the Hall of Fame.

Rest assured, I am a member of the vast majority that is happy that Ron Santo is finally getting in to the Hall.  I can say that as a baseball fan.

It is criminal (figuratively) that it took until almost the anniversary of his death for 15 members of the Veterans Committee to do what the Baseball Writers Association of America should have done years ago.  It is almost a taunt to him beyond the grave to elect this inoffensive man who was one of the games great players and even greater ambassadors.

So the time has come to reform the election process.


1.  The BBWAA can still vote, but their vote is now only one-third of the total.

2.  The veterans committee should be a permanent committee, expanded out to 24 living enshrinees who cast ballots making up one-third of the players total vote.

3.  The Hall should appoint a similar committee of baseball historians … people well versed in modern and past statistics and the impact of players, umpires, and executives on the game.  These people must demonstrate their scholarship based on past writings and research that they have clear cut knowledge of the game and its various measures of excellence.  Their ballot should carry one-third of the weight.

I think spreading the weighting of votes among three different groups of people increases the likelihood of deserving players, umpires, and executives getting in, by diluting the affect that anyone or a few individuals might have.  There clearly aren’t too many undeserving players getting in these days … the problem seems to be the opposite.  It is time for someone to take the reigns and steer this situation towards doing what is right instead of becoming a place where writers with limited knowledge of certain players or agendas get total control of this great honor.

Maybe we can get Jim Kaat and Minnie Miñoso in next time!

For those not familiar with the very passionate announcer that he became, a couple of links:

(Santo is on the background screaming)

That’s it man, game over!

December 5, 2011

On an ice rink, no one can hear you scream?

This may be a sign that society is not wholly doomed … or that it is … I’m not sure.

In any event, I wholly endorse this as a thing.