A few thoughts about Katrina,W, and gasoline, for what it’s worth

  • Yes, New Orleans is built in a pretty hurricane-prone region of the world, but Andre, c’mon, dude! Most of the people stuck in NOLA couldn’t get out: the homeless or the close to it, the sick/old/infirmed/imprisoned, people without cars or family or place to go to, etc. See this post on boing-boing to see what I mean. And I don’t know where you’re going with that WTC stuff. That’s the talk that got Ward Churchill in the trouble he got into.
  • Shit happens and shit can happen in small, large, or super-jumbo-sized portions. So least anyone reading this say to themselves or others “those dumb people in New Orleans deserved it,” just remember that NOLA has endured all kinds of crazy disasters for over 200 years, and every region in this country has its potential for crazy disaster. Out west, they get forest fires; California has earthquakes; we get floods, tornadoes, hail storms, ice storms, blizzards.

    So contrary to Andre, one of the things that’s kinda scary to me is that this is the sort of thing that could happen just about anywhere, at least in one form or another. Sure, we’re not going to get a hurricane in Detroit, but I have lived through plenty of “mini-disasters” in recent years. A few years ago, we had a bad enough ice storm around here to have trees come down in our backyard, taking out electricity, cable, and phone. We had to go live in a hotel for a few days. No fun. We had a hailstorm here about five years ago that was so bad that most of the roofs in our neighborhood (including ours), and dealing with the insurance company and the contractor was a six or so month ordeal. When we lived in Ashland, OR, there was a flood that took out the water system. We had to buy these five gallon jugs for holding water and had to go to these water trucks supplied by the National Guard for a week or so. That was probably the worse.

  • Where’s W during all this? Why, he’s promoting his war and doing a fly-by on his way home after a month-long vacation. And apparently worried about his dog. Obviously W can’t prevent a natural disaster, but you’d think he’d at least land the plane somewhere around there and get out and talk to some people or something. But our government has its priorities, too. After all, even though this disaster is going to cost more than $25 billion when all is said and done, we’ve already spent close to eight times that much money on this folly in Iraq, and all we’ve gotten for our money there is more disaster. How are we paying for that mess, you ask? Well, among other things, the Bush administration apparently cut funds to NOLA to prevent hurricanes. Oops.

    I’m not trying to say that somehow cutting the budget to deal with real protection of the homeland is directly related to our bloated expenses in Iraq, I’m not saying that spending the money on the flood walls would have prevented the disaster, etc. Believe me, I know hindsight is 20/20. But it sure as hell don’t look good.

  • I’m getting a little steamed about all this Katrina stuff and the price of gasoline. (Oh, BTW, isn’t it a bit strange that one of the first things that W et al did is release the federal petroleum reserves?) I realize that there is a significant amount of refining capacity and such along the gulf coast, but come on! I filled up the car this morning about 10 am and it cost me $2.99 a gallon. I went by this same gas station at about 4:30 pm and it was $3.17. $3.17! And there’s talk of it hitting $4.00 by this time next week! I mean, Jesus H. Christ! When there’s a hard freeze in Florida that kills all the oranges on the trees, the price of orange juice on the shelves in the grocery store that day!

    Well, at least I was able to buy gasoline today, and thank God I have a fuel-efficient car and I don’t drive much anyway.

  • Slight addition
  • I meant to mention this when I was posting this last night: Annette and I took a whirlwind trip to New Orleans a couple of years ago and had a great time. We were only there for about two days and three nights (maybe even less– I can’t quite remember) right after Christmas. Officially, we were there as part of a convention for work, but we really spent our time wondering around the French Quarter (which was really the only part of of NOLA we saw, too). As far as I can tell, there is no other place like it in this country: great food, great drinks, a constant party, beautiful old buildings, nice people, etc. It’s a great place– well, was a great place….

I am NOT even CLOSE to ready

Because I’ve been awfully busy with “life in general” and my textbook project in particular this summer, and also because I’m doing quite a number of new things in my teaching this fall, I am unusually ill-prepared for the upcoming term.

How ill-prepared, you ask? Here’s an embarassaing example:

I emailed my classes just the other day to tell them that while I didn’t have a syllabus and class schedule ready and available online, I could tell them what books they needed to order. Increasingly, I find that my students are doing what I consider to be the smart thing and buying their books online instead of dealing with the local textbook stores, which (IMO) are inefficient and over-priced.

I’m teaching two sections of a class I teach all the time here at EMU, “Writing, Style, and Technology:” one that is online (and that has represented its own preparation “challenges”) and one that I thought was on Tuesday nights. In fact, I was so certain I was teaching on Tuesday nights that I made all my plans around Tuesdays, I had told everyone I was teaching on Tuesdays, and, as I said in my email to my students in this section, “I’ll see you on Tuesday night in a couple weeks.” This wasn’t even a question in my mind.

One of my near-future students emailed me back and said something along the lines of “gee, I have this class down for Thursday nights; did they change the day of the class?” At first, I was going to email this student right back to correct this student. But I decided to double-check the class schedule online and what-do-ya-know, I was wrong. And had this student not emailed me, I wouldn’t have showed up to class for the first meeting and I would have arrived on Tuesday and said “gosh, where is everyone?”

Jeesh. Quite the bumpy start here….

A novel approach to podcasting

Now that we are more or less done with the significant unofficial project of the weekend, it’s back to work around the official blog and it’s time to wrap up some lingering textbook work and to get ready for the quickly approaching school year. My son starts third grade tomorrow; my wife starts various new faculty orientations on Wednesday; I have a department “retreat” on Thursday; I’m sure there are various meetings I haven’t remembered that I should attend next week; and classes beging at EMU on September 7.

One of the things on my mind this morning is (once again) podcasting since I’m planning on using at least a version of it for my online class this term. When I brought this up with a few of my English professor colleagues at a party earlier this summer, there was some confusion about my desire to podcast. “Can’t students just read what you write?” these colleagues asked.

Well, I think that this article, “A Novel Approach to Podcasting” in The Book Standard web site, kind of answers that question. To quote from the opening paragraph:

Scott Sigler first published his science-fiction novel EarthCore in 2001 with iPublish, an AOL/Time Warner imprint. When a promotional ebook version came out first, it hit No. 1 on Barnes & Noble’s website, and as plans to release the print version were going full steam ahead, Time Warner decided to scrap the whole imprint. After making sure he held the rights to the book, Sigler started looking for another way to get it an audience. In March, the author began podcasting a serialized version of his novel, which has now been downloaded more than 10,000 times. “When podcasting rolled around, I thought it would be a great way to release a novel,� he says. “I did a lot of research on it. There are 23 million Americans with an MP3 player, and the most popular form of radio is talk radio. So I thought, ‘This is just going to be huge.’ �

In other words: Duh! Books on tape!

This article also mentions a site called Podiobooks, which is aiming to hosts podcasts for books. There’s not much there yet– according to the Book Standard article, they have five titles: four science fiction and one business writing– but you can imagine the potential.

The end of our flooring weekend

The short version of things is we finished up our flooring weekend in more or less one piece. Actually, with the furniture and new large area rug in here, it looks pretty good.

My “personal triumph” (so to speak) was putting in the thresholds between the living room flooring and the entryway, the kitchen, and the bathroom. I actually took some pictures of my handiwork, but I thought that putting pictures up on a blog of doorways was a little much for even me.

Anyway, a couple of pictures of the finished product:

Floor with new carpet
This picture features our new large area rug. Nice, huh?

Redone floor #2
Nothing too exciting, though it shows some of the moulding and threshold work. It’s amazing what a little caulk will do.

More K-12 teaching jobs in the future? I wouldn't bet on it…

I haven’t been posting this week (and I won’t post much now) because I’ve been pretty busy with life things lately. But I have been meaning to post at least something about this article that was linked to the NCTE Inbox service, “40% of teachers plan to quit by 2010,” which was in the Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s a quote:

Forty percent of public school teachers plan to leave the profession within five years, the highest rate since at least 1990, according to a study being released Thursday.

The rate is expected to be even greater among high school teachers, half of whom plan to be out of teaching by 2010, according to the National Center for Education Information.

Retirement is the dominant factor, as the public teaching corps is aging fast, say surveys of teachers in kindergarten through grade 12.

Two quick thoughts:

  • I know this isn’t really the job of this article, but I have to assume that these retirement rates vary from region to region, and they might vary quite a bit. In Michigan right now, getting a job teaching English at the secondary level is kind of tricky, and I always tell prospective secondary school teachers that they might need to move to get a job.
  • You know, this is kind of what they used to say about teaching at the college-level, too. When I was in college in the mid-80’s, I was told by a number of college professors that there would certainly be jobs teaching in universities soon because all of these folks who were getting ready to retire. Well, guess what? A lot of these folks (at least in fields like English) either didn’t retire or they weren’t replaced with full-time professors. I don’t know if the powers that be could get away with that for K-12 schooling, but it is something to keep in mind: don’t count your retiring teachers until they actually hatch– er, I mean retire.

Look, ma– hardwood floors!

Ever since we bought our house (about six and a half years ago now), we’ve talked about tearing up the carpet in the living room. For one thing, it’s white shag, and for another, it’s pretty beat up. The result has been that it has always been hard to keep clean, and with family dog Sophie (who likes to shed black hair everywhere and to drag her dogfood out to the living room), it has only gotten worse. BTW, note to self– never buy white carpeting on purpose.

Anyway, because of all kinds of circumstances not worth discussing here, Annette and I decided to start tearing up the carpet and we decided to start doing it last night. I don’t have any “before” pictures, but I do have a couple “during” pictures this morning:

Former carpeting
Here’s the pile o’ carpeting and pad on the curb. We tore it out before we went to bed and I am pretty certain that this will be the easiest step in the process. I don’t know what our chances are of this being hauled away with the trash….

floor #1

floor #2
And here’s what we found underneath. I don’t know how well you can see it in these photos, but the bad news (which we expected, of course) is that we will have to spend a fair amount of time prying out of the floor the nails and staples and those strips that held the carpeting down. And then we need to deal with the baseboards, too. The good news is that the floors are in good shape. Actually, great shape. Right now, I don’t see any reason why we would need to refinish the floors in here because they are pretty much as good (maybe even a bit better) as the hardwood floors in the bedrooms downstairs. Pretty cool.

I better stop blogging and start dealing with the floors. More later.

Update #1
Well, we managed to get up all of the nails, staples, and tack strips today. So far, so good. We are in kind of an interesting space about what to do next though. On the one hand, we could pay a professional to come in and refinish the floor properly (and for me, that is most definitely not a “do it yourself” kind of job). But besides costing around $1500 or more, it would take a couple days and we’d have to move all of the furniture in our house someplace else, which itself would be quite a trick. On the other hand, we could buy some nice area rugs (the kind of thing we could take with us when we move, which we’ll probably do in about 2 years) and just live with it. I think we’ll take the “other” hand.

Today we’re going to put in the shoe molding around the edges; we’ll see how that goes.

Update #2
Well, the shoe moulding is down (as of Saturday at about 10:30 pm). Just a few thoughts on the whole process right now:

  • It looks pretty good, but that’s mostly because paint and caulking will do good things. No one will ever hire me or confuse me with an expert at carpentry.
  • Cutting the pieces wasn’t that bad, thanks in large part to friend Dennis’ miter saw. The hardest part for me was actually nailing the pieces into place. I think I was using nails that were too big, but I had problems finding a hunk of baseboard to nail into in the first place, at least a half-dozen pieces cracked while I was putting them in place, and we’ve had to putty/caulk over a number bent nails.
  • I did figure out that the solution to most of these nailing problems was to drill pilot holes first. Of course, idiot that I am, I figured this out on the last piece I put in. Sigh….

Anyway, a bit of clean-up, some work getting the thresholds into place, and then we’re going to shop for some area rugs.

Will’s Birthday Trip to Cedar Point

Will and Gage at Cedar Point

Will turns 8 on September 1, and both Annette and I (okay, mostly me) completely endorse the idea of at least a of week or two on either side of the actual birthday date as the “birthday month.” As part of that celebration, we took Will and a friend of his to the Cedar Point theme park (instead of a birthday party, and now instead of next week, because school starts for him.)

I am not much of a fan of such places for a variety of different reasons, not the least of which is that this particular theme park is known for its many roller coasters. Everywhere at the park, I was constantly reminded that Cedar Point is known as “The roller coast,” because it’s right there on Lake Erie. Get it? And it’s a pretty accurate slogan. For example, they have one called “drag racer” something. It hits a 120 MPH in about 100 yards, goes straight up about 20 stories high, and then comes straight down again. They have about about a half-dozen or more coasters that go close to that fast and/or that require you to stand up and/or that twist and turn and turn you over a half-dozen times. And then they also have a fair number of rides which just drop you from some bizarre height. Ick.

I have never enjoyed such rides. For years, people have tried to convince me that I should enjoy such things, but I never have. To me, riding a roller coaster at a theme park is like compressing and magnifying all the worst things about flying, and then, just to add to the insult, you have to pay a lot of money and wait in line a long time. “How do you know you wouldn’t like it if you don’t try?” people used to ask me. So I tried riding roller coasters and it turns out I was right. Then I would go to other theme parks with other roller coasters and people would try to talk me into riding again. “Oh, ride this roller coaster,” people would say, “this one is different.” I tried it, and it was not. So now I simply refuse. I think you reach a certain age– I’ve decided that that age for me was 35– at which point you no longer have to try things if you don’t want to. Therefore, no more roller coasters– or at least big ones– for me.

Fortunately, Will and his friend are both too young to go on the crazy coasters and Will, taking after his father I suppose, was paricularly keen on not going on anything too scary. This made for some tensions with his slightly more adventurous friend, but all was well because we convinced Will to take at least a chance on a few of the less than baby rides.

Highlights for me? Well, I liked the bumper cars and the ferris wheel okay, but most of my fun was watching Will and his friend. Will and friend rode just about everything in their age group at the place: kiddie bumper cars, those cars you drive around yourself on a track, various swing things that go around, etc. I rode with Will and his friend on the “Gemini Junior,” which is a kiddie roller coaster about my speed.

We all went on a log flume ride that was pretty fun, but then I decided to “opt out” of the “Thunder Canyon” water rapids ride. This is one of those things where you sit in a boat that goes through a “rapids” that is pretty tame but that tends to get you kind of wet. At Cedar Point, their version gets you REALLY wet, which we figured out as we saw patrons exiting the ride looking like they had taken a shower fully dressed. I decided I didn’t want to be soaking wet, so I took the bags and headed toward the observation area. I managed to get this picture:

Water Ride #1
You’ll notice that Annette doesn’t really see what’s coming, but Will and friend do. Right after this, the boats pass under waterfalls that soak riders to the bone. So, at the end of the ride, I was able to get this picture:

Water Ride #2
I’m not sure you can tell with this shot, but they were all dang wet, and all of them pretty much stayed wet until we got home and they got changed about 5 hours later. I have never been happier to miss out on an experience.

Anyway, a good time for one and all, and probably easier and more fun than having an actual birthday party. If you want to see all of the decent digital pictures from the day, check out my Cedar Point set on Flickr.