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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.


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...

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...

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...

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.