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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in jamey1138's LiveJournal:

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Friday, April 5th, 2013
6:30 am
And now, I am forty
That is all (for now, at least-- I might write some thoughts and reactions to that stunning truth, later.)
Thursday, May 10th, 2012
8:59 pm
I think I've got it
I've just sent to my advisor what I hope will be something around the penultimate draft of my Master's thesis.

I think it's pretty good, and I'm rather proud of both the work that went into it, and the product that came out of it.
Sunday, December 4th, 2011
9:26 pm
In fairness
Last week, I bought a refurbished Velocity Cruz T301 mini-tablet (7"), running Android 2.2, basically because it was on sale for very little money ($75 shipped). It's basically crap, in that everything on it (including, for example, the Kindle app) runs quite slowly-- even the core OS, which often pauses 3-4 seconds between receiving input (like, "go to the home screen") and responding to it. I had to download the actual Android app store, because it comes with the Cruz app store, which contains something like 8 apps, total; having done so, there's about 2000 apps available to me, none of which is a graphing calculator (that's right, I cannot find any sort of graphing calculator app, at any price, for this Android device).

In fairness, I don't think that this is particularly Android's fault. I think it's just a cheap piece of crap of a tablet. I'll probably just use it as a slightly larger screen for reading Kindle books (though the app runs so slow on this beast that it's actually kind of hard to deal with).

Suffice it to say, though, this has done nothing to convince me to leave The Ecosystem.
Monday, September 5th, 2011
9:59 pm
Define "lucky"
This morning, my wife and I set out for a breakfast picnic at the Morton Arboretum, which is a thing we do about once a month. Sarah describes it as her "reset button", a calming way to de-stress.

This morning, instead, we were rear-ended at high speed. The car's almost certainly totaled (they removed my door to get me out), and we're both being kept overnight at the hospital for observation, based solely on "the mechanism", which is apparently trauma-doc speak for "what caused your injury". In other words, the description of the accident given by the first responders was sufficiently dire, that the hospital decided early on that we'd be staying for observation, even if the tests all came out well. The thing that the EMT said to me, while in the back of the ambulance, was that when he saw the car, he assumed that they'd be pulling out bodies.

So, that's left everyone we've met saying that we were really lucky, and I agree: an exceptionally violent accident (our car was spun a bit more than halfway around on it's own-- I had steering, and was able to bring it to the curb, and it was lucky that we weren't hit by a third car through that bit), and there's a very good chance that we're both essentially uninjured: I'm waiting for a neurosurgical referral, based on a bulging disc between my cervical vertebrae (which the attending orthopedic surgeon thinks was probably pre-existing: bulging discs are pretty common), and Sarah's about to get what should be her final evaluation before being cleared for unrestricted movement.

Still, I can't help but think, I would rather we'd been about 8 feet luckier. Guess I shouldn't complain, in all, but it's been a bit of a day.

I'll definitely be missing my first day of school tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be in on Wednesday.
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
6:16 am
The Rules
I've been thinking a bit about the value of "Following the Rules." From the perspective of a liberatory educator, I may have just decided that I generally approve of Following the Rules, but only if the rules have got it right, because I do think that students will have a better life if they learn to advocate for themselves and to negotiation with people for what they want and need, instead of Learning to Follow the Rules.
Sunday, November 7th, 2010
12:36 pm
Being handy is fun!
So, our gas dryer stopped heating, a few days ago. That sucks.

Fortunately, I am a pretty handy guy... I've done a bit of research, and I'm quite happy to see that contrary to my expectations, our dryer does not use a piezoelectric igniter, but instead has a pair of what the manufacturer describes as "house fuses" and appliance repair people refer to as "dryer coils", which serve to ignite the gas.

After lunch, I'm going to pop out to Home Depot, and see if I can't find a pair... That'd be rather more convenient than the alternatives (hiring a man to come and fix it, and then waiting for him to arrive; buying a new dryer; continuing to take 4-6 hours per load to dry clothes...)
Thursday, October 14th, 2010
5:50 pm
Turns out, I was wrong.
I've decided that I was wrong to leave the classroom last year. And so, just about 9.5 months after starting this job, I'm actively and eagerly looking for my next teaching position. There's two decent opportunities recently posted on the CPS job board (both at the same school, one math and one science, at my kind of difficult-but-hope-filled school), and I'm also going to circulate my resume at a couple of other places (especially the schools near my home-- I've come round to liking the idea of working in my own community).

My friend Anne once taught me that, before you decide that it's over, you tell yourself, "I'll just stay, until..." A month ago-- a week ago-- I was telling myself, "I'll just stay in this job until next August, the beginning of next school year." Now, I'm done. I want out, and I'm going to move as quickly as I can to get back into teaching.

Acknowledging that I made a mistake was hard. (See http://uselessmath.blogspot.com/ for more on acknowledging why I came to this job-- that was hard, too). Of course, the fact that I'm really, really not getting along with my co-worker is making it easier to acknowledge that I'm in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons, and that I'm not happy with the work I'm doing, not excited about going to work and not feeling like I'm growing in this work.

All of which says, it's time to go. And, for that, I have to thank my co-worker, for being enough of a jerk to shake me up!
Monday, July 5th, 2010
9:48 pm
Damned fine weekend
Went up to Madison, WI on Friday (my wife and I do this at least once a year, to eat at our favorite restaurant in the US, L'etoile, and to shop at the Madison farmer's market; this year's trip included visits to the National Mustard Museum-- a perennial favorite of ours-- and Little Norway). Excellent trip.

Saturday afternoon/evening included some significant local shopping for me, picking up lots of bits and pieces for various projects... which saw me through Sunday:

My first all-grain beer (a sort-of IPA-ish thing, which is fermenting now. Or possibly stuck-fermented now. The next couple of days will tell the tale, there).

The bits for the cold smoker (I recently bought a cut-down wine-aging keg, which will be the smoking chamber; I built out the cart it will live on, and bought the cheapo-grill to be the combustion chamber, and a bit of ducting to cool the smoke down as it moves into the smoking chamber). I just set the last of the glued-together lid-pieces (a bunch of 1x4, glued together, which I'll cut into a rough circle on Wednesday).

A conduit bender and exterior-grade switch for the backyard electricals.
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
9:31 pm
LFR vs. Story
I've been playing for about 2 years in a D&D 4th Edition "Living Forgotten Realms" (LFR) group, because LFR is a nice little MMTTRPG-- you show up for a game/instance, and play through. There's not "party", it doesn't matter who else showed up (so long as you have 4-6 players and a DM/"judge"), and so it's easy for busy people to get some game on.

Today, I played my first "grinder". Just as 4th Ed. D&D borrows a lot from MMOPRGs, and LRF especially so, our local group has taken to borrowing the idea of "grinding through the lower levels": All of us have one character who we've focused on, who is our "main", and other who we've just sort of tinkered with (various "alts"). The Grinder game is all about leveling up the alts, by playing LFR games that everyone's been through already (as a player), so that we can crank through the RP and get to the fights... We did a game tonight (rated for 4 hours, the first time I played it it was more like 5.5 hours) in 2.5 hours. It was glorious.

And, it got me thinking more globally about the LFR concept broadly: the stories aren't very good (they seldom suck, but they're seldom something worth telling to my non-gamer but hyper-literate wife, either). But smashing monsters (and winning skill challenges) is fun. So, the 2.5 hour, abbreviated, tactical-tabletop-with-RP-elements game was actually great fun (even though I knew what we were about to face in every encounter).

Maybe, then, the goal should be to ALWAYS rock through LFR-- don't try to play up the RP-elements, but just let it be a series of tactical scenarios, loosely connected by a vague plotline that will, by and large, not connect to any other plotlines that any one of us will ever play.

If you want to play a story-driven game, find a good story-teller, and build a party. If you want to play a series of episodic one-offs, do LFR.

Just sayin.
Sunday, June 6th, 2010
6:10 pm
Better late than never
Yesterday, I finished my final paper for the DePaul academic quarter (and year), where I'm about half-way through an MA program. That gave me time today, at long last, to finish putting up the gardening!

Actually, I'm not totally finished: there's still three small mint plants to pot, but I ran out of soil. So, that'll be a half hour job some time this week. What I did get done today is hanging all the remaining eight wall-boxes (these are, basically, window boxes that I built, six last year and six new this year, which hang on the wooden fence around the backyard)-- this including building the last one, and putting in the hooks and eyes for the new six. I also cleared the old soil out of the window box on the shed (10' long), potted a couple of plants (the aromatic geraniums), and weeded pretty much everything (the front strawberry batch, which is looking good and is probably about a week away from giving us a couple pints of very nice berries, the cold frames, which get birdseed in them from the upstairs bird feeder, and the back bulb garden, which included digging out three baby cherry trees, which I think actually turn out to be root-risers, not seedlings). My wife then seeded the newest wall box and the long window box.

Speaking of, I'm curious to see if we'll get any of the cherries on those trees... this is the first year that they've seriously produced...

In short, though, a good afternoon's gardening (and especially nice that it came after an absolutely incredibly wonderful morning, with a breakfast picnic and long walk through the Morton Arboretum!)
Tuesday, April 13th, 2010
8:06 pm
Whoa.
Yesterday, I bought the übervacuum: a Dyson DC25 Animal.

It is, in a word, amazing. Also, expensive. But, as I was waiting to ring it out, I thought "Okay, this costs as much as an iPad, so I guess I'd better use it at least as often as I might have used an iPad."

My prior intentions of sweeping every day, to deal with the utterly absurd and obnoxious amount of dog hair that an Australian Cattle Dog/Blue Heeler mix generates (with Special Guest: Calico!), has already turned into daily vacuuming instead. Very slightly longer to do, and actually a lot of fun.

I'm sure, in time, the novelty of this awesome feat of engineering will wear thin, but for now... It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
Tuesday, March 16th, 2010
10:51 pm
Well, that was frickin' foolish
Just uploaded my final paper of the quarter.

In the past 10 weeks, I've taken 3 classes, while working full time (45-ish hours per week) in a brand-new job. Zoikes, that's a lot to handle all at once.

On the upside, between this quarter and my transfer credits, once grades come through, I'll be about 1/2 way through this MA degree. Depending, of course, on the actual thesis (but I have an idea, including thoughts about who should be on my committee-- just have to go actually talk to those people... Considering that my original idea for my thesis was based on me having my old job, and not my new one, I'm pretty pleased with my ability to reboot, and come up with a good, viable plan for research, which I could absolutely finish in 12-15 months, even while also finishing 5-6 more classes).

So, something like this time next year, I should be sorted, and ready to look in earnest at the Ph.D.


Which is nice.
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
7:54 pm
Writer's Block: A political affair
I'm going to blow your curve, because I'm an anti-privacy advocate: I don't think that ANY of us have a right to keep our bullshit to ourselves, and I don't believe that there are many politicians out there who'd do anything at all (let alone vote on the public record!) to protect our sense of privacy (which is, already, pretty flawed-- we're not nearly as protected as we think we are...)

That said, I'll trade all of my secrets (and all of yours, too) if it means we both get to see all of Dick Cheney's secrets!
Saturday, January 2nd, 2010
5:34 pm
Jiggity jog jog
We've just got back from Iowa, about 3 hours ago. The cat is moaning and mooping up a storm. The dog is using me as a bone-stop, as he nomms his way through a new beef knucklebone.

All's well.
Sunday, December 13th, 2009
9:50 pm
An end to orcs in sight
My warhammer collection includes some orc and goblin models that I've owned for over 15 years. Those are, now, all painted, and almost all of them are based.

I'm down, now, to the last 100 or so orc and goblin models. Woot!
Saturday, December 5th, 2009
7:27 pm
The big picture
Okay, so last week, a few hours before Thanksgiving, I was offered a job in Chicago Public Schools' Office of Teacher Excellence (which is a newly-formed department which will, inevitably, be a *little* bit euphemistic: the name of the department is sort of obviously a *goal*). And, after some deliberation, I've accepted.

Starting January 4, 2010, I'll be co-managing the OTE's top-level group: the National Board Certification. Tactically, this job will mean a lot of working with GOOD teachers, and helping them to become EXCELLENT teachers-- including managing the support program for current candidates, recruiting new candidates, and handling budgets for both mentors and incentives. Strategically, this job will mean working with the rest of the OTE to develop a pathway that systematically connects the development of entry-level teachers, through mid-career and on to exceptional achievement (which is where my tactical level occurs). It'll also involve some strategic planning for how to maximize the impact of the small fraction (currently about 5-6%, goal of 10% in two years, maybe some day as much as 15-20%?) of [recognized] exceptional teachers.

Taking this position means that, as of Jan 4, I'll no longer be in the classroom. That was a VERY hard decision to make, and I want to thank everyone who helped me to make that decision.

I'm almost certainly not done with direct, classroom teaching. Partly, this is likely to follow the money: right now, I'm taking a small (about 2%) raise with this job. My guess is that, once I've finished my master's, it'll shift back, in a big way, so that teaching will be about a 5% raise over this job, and that may be just enough to tip the scales between two things I think I'll love doing equally...

At the moment, though, this is a really unique opportunity, a chance to (as I described previously) significantly shift the environment in which thousands of students learn in my city. The timing isn't what I would have chosen, but that's often the nature of timing, isn't it...

Should be a hell of a ride, anyway.
Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
7:16 pm
Funny!
So, we've just set up the new TV computer (my 4-year-old Macbook, with the broken screen and the messed up logic board that randomly crashes when on battery power, which should be perfect for driving and recording Digital TV, with Elegato's USB TV tuner), and to test it out, we're watching Obama address the nation, at West Point. With the sound off. So, Sarah glances at the screen, and says, "I think it's frozen". I turn on the sound, and hear the dulcet tones of the great orator of our time. "Nah, they're just from West Point."

Turns out, she was actually right (I noticed out that one soldier, caught frozen in mid-blink, had had her eyes closed for a long time; Sarah noticed that the guy next to her had held a frozen grimace for over 60 seconds-- to which I again said, "West Point!")


I still think it's funnier my way...
Sunday, November 29th, 2009
4:54 pm
Guess I'll be finding out
Recently, I referred to Patri's comments about global versus local good, and the emotional payoffs of each.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to accept a job that, if I do it well, will involve helping a lot of good teachers (on the order of 1000/year) to become really, really good teachers. I won't have a lot of direct experience with students in this new job. So, in terms of my own ability to make a difference in the lives of young people, I'll be a LOT less direct, and a LOT more indirect: instead of being in position to be the compassionate and caring adult in the life of a kid, I'll be working to create an environment within which there are more people who are ready to do that work.

This has been an incredibly hard decision to make. It's also one that I think I was going to have to make, inevitably-- which is to say, at some point, I think, my long-term goals probably inevitably lead away from direct classroom work with students, and into training of teachers. It's come a hell of a lot sooner than I expected, but this was a pretty unique opportunity, and I'm pretty seriously honored to have been chosen for it.

More specifics about the new job, after I've actually accepted it...
Sunday, November 15th, 2009
6:35 pm
Flechyr's post reminds me...
... I've been brewing!

Currently on tap at my house:
1. the last of the Dark Ale from tailgate season (I'm saving some of this, for the last tailgate next week, when it'll finally be well-aged)
2. a *very* nice, malty, dark lager-- kind of a Marzen, I suppose
3. some completely delicious medium-sweet cider; like all my ciders, it's naturally fermented (no added yeast), but it had been frozen when I bought it (from Weston's farm, in New Berlin, WI), so I think that some of the more alcohol-tolerant yeast died

Currently brewing:
5+ gallons of munitions-grade stout, for the last tailgate; it's done fermenting, really, but I haven't kegged it yet-- tomorrow, after I buy the keg!
10 gallons of mead (my usual stuff, from wild yeast originally cultivated from cider)

Currently aging:
lots of fiddly little bottles of sour hopless beer (some replacing hops with arugula, some with coffee). We'll see how these work out.
something like 16 liters of bottled mead (the usual)
two 5-gallon kegs of mead (each more like 4-4.5 gallons full)
one 5-gallon keg of apple wine from Michigan apples (apple wine being very dry, very hard cider), some of which will probably get frozen.
one gallon of very nice apple wine, from Wisconsin apples, which will not get frozen after all (given the above)

Upcoming plans:
Possibly a batch of munitions-grade lager, because it's there, though I might just let the can sit around until next year
One batch of dark ale from a Brewer's Best kit that was just TOO on sale to pass up
6 gallons of cider from my favorite farm in Michigan!


With all that, I MIGHT just have enough cider to last me until next apple season (what with the freezing and all...
Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
9:17 pm
How to save a life
It's a matter of being in the right place, at the right time. It's equally a matter of being ready.

It's easy to assume that the former is a matter of pure luck, but that's not quite true: there are certain places, and certain times, that are more densely populated with need than others. EMTs save more lives, for example, than most other professionals (and, counter-intuitively, are worse paid than most other professionals).


All of this is a long way of saying, there's a significant chance that I may have saved a kid's life today. Or, more accurately, that I may have started the long process of saving a kid's life. I don't think it's particularly appropriate to get into details, at the moment-- for my own recollective purpose, I'll reference in vague terms the addict-father, the drinking and smoking as coping mechanisms at age 11-- maybe a few years from now, when we have a clearer resolution, I'll tell more of the story, or ask her to do so. For now, suffice to say that I have tremendous hope for this one.


Patrissimo once said that helping people at the direct, individual level *feels* really good, and he's right. He also said that it makes less of a global difference, and he might be right about that, too. For today, I'm happy to feel good.
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