The Student Surpasses the Teacher

Master Phnog: You were an excellent student. Too bad I was a lousy teacher! 

Futurama, "Raging Bender" (2/27/00)

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So a little over a year ago, a friend of mine decided that she wanted to start a blog. She'd been following mine for awhile, so she asked me for a little advice. We chatted about a number of items such as the focus of the blog, what sort of "atmosphere" it should have, hosting, and a few other things. With some of them she took my advice, other things she ignored. I have no problem with this either way; everyone has their own way of doing things. 

Having said that, I do get to take credit for the blog's title: Boyfriend, Please!  She wanted to write about the trials and tribulations of being a single mom on the Baltimore dating scene, and I figured that it worked in two ways: Either she's asking for a boyfriend, or she's taking a boyfriend to task, depending on how you stress the syllables. (Beats the hell out of "Baltimore Diary," doesn't it.) I also get credit for at least one of the aliases she gives to the guys she's dated. 

So she did her thing, and she's got her following, and at this point our hit counts are similar without too much viewer overlap, and that's all groovy. 

A few weeks ago she told me that, as a result of her blog's subject matter, she's being interviewed by a local magazine for an article on the whole single-parent lifestyle. She has no idea how much of her interview will be used, but the word is that her blog will get a mention by name in the magazine, which should do some very nice things to her hit count. And, with any luck, it will also have a positive effect on the blogs in her list of links, which includes mine. 

I guess this means that I should start to get into the habit of writing a little more often than  two or three times per week. I may also have to work on improving my overall writing quality, but after five years there's pretty much nowhere to go but up. 

I can only hope that she remembers the little people who helped her on her way to Internet Stardom. You know how fame changes people and all that. 

Techno Boy to the Rescue

Haley Graham: Elite gymnastics is like, the navy seals, only harder. There are like 2000 navy seals, there are only like, 200 elite gymnasts. Guess that’s because there’s kids who’s rather have a life than spend 6 hours a day training tricks that could kill you. Don’t be fooled by the leotards people, the things gymnasts do make navy seals look like wusses. And we do them without a gun.

Stick It (2006)

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Wee One chose not to do her Extended Cheer season at the local recreation council; instead she’s participating on a team called Charm City All-Stars. It’s a more rigorous program than the rec program, which is good for her cheerleading skills. On the Parkville Rec team, she wound up teamed up with some very inexperienced girls, which wound up making it tougher on the coaches and the more experienced girls, who wanted to move on to some of the new moves and instead wound up rehashing some of the old ones. This isn’t a complaint specifically; it’s just the way it goes sometimes when you have an inclusive program and only so many participants. You could have two very small teams or one decently-sized one, assuming you have enough coaches. It’s a problem either way and I don’t envy the people in charge of making the decisions. Anyway, Wee One is at Charm City All Stars this winter.

Charm City does its training at a place called Ultimate Gymnastics, which is a pretty gung-ho name for anything. If you’re going to Ultimate Gymnastics already, you don’t have a lot to reach for. I’m just saying. They have two sessions a week of cheer practice, which is where they do the choreography and such for the cheer routines. On Friday night she participates in a tumbling class, where she learns some of the basic stunts and skills.

Believe you me, Wife and I are much happier that she’s learning in this environment. When she first got into cheerleading, she was out front for hours every day teaching herself how to cartwheel. The grass is only just so soft, so we’re just waiting for the moment when she comes in with a broken limb; said limb not being from the tree in the yard.

tumbletrack All of which leads to the fact that I’m sitting now in the waiting area at Ultimate Gymnastics while Wee One is in the gym proper, doing her tumbling stuff and such. They have this extended trampoline thing that she’s on right now, and she’s using it to do roundoffs (kind of like a cartwheel, but your feet stop together and at the same time), and who knows what else. I know her big goal is to do a back handspring independently but I don’t see her working on that specifically just now. I don’t watch her too closely when she’s in there, because she gets a little bit of a “lookatmelookatmelookatme” thing going on, and then she’s not paying attention to what she’s doing.

Windows Live Writer So here I am, banging away on my laptop. Unfortunately, I don’t have the internet access in this place, but I do have Windows Live Writer, which works pretty well until I can get jacked back into the Metaverse. This is my usual gig when I bring Wee One to cheer/tumbling practice: sit and write, and listen to iTunes (got Beethoven’s Sixth going on just now). This has given me a bit of a reputation, I think. Not the reputation for being aloof and unsociable (not that I really care), but rather for being the sort of guy who crunches bytes for a living.

A few minutes ago, another dad (the only other adult, it turns out, in the waiting area this week) walked up to me and asked me to help me with his Blackberry. Now, this guy and I have a “hi, howya doin’” relationship, but not much else. He had no idea whether or not I’d ever seen a Blackberry before in my life, but he was pretty sure I could solve his problem for him.

Naturally, I could.

Shut up.

Atonement

Alvy Singer: [addressing the camera] There's an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.

-Annie Hall (1977)

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Housekeeping Note: this is another post I started several days ago and didn't finish until just now, so I'm clearing out some mental cobwebs getting it out there. 

WKRP-Tukery-Away_l  One of the things I've noticed about having a blog, and later on a Facebook account, is that you never know what's going to spawn a response and what isn't. Usually when I do a FB post that's related to The West Wing, I'll get a couple of "likes" and maybe a comment or two. This year I got nothing. On the other hand, an offhand reference to an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati launched all kinds of conversations. Likewise, another comment I made about watching TV on Thanksgiving Day launched a similar number of responses. 

A short while back I did a post about the high school friends I have nowadays, and the relative lack of overlap that the modern-day group has with the friends I had then. It's not a big deal, just something I noticed. And while the post itself has no comments attached to it (at present), it has engendered several responses. Most of them have been about what a funny/witty guy I am, and how they never suspected that in high school. (My stock response is that I was funny but not especially witty, which I think is more or less true.) But there was one brief conversation I had with someone that actually touched me, a little. Much of what you'll see here is heavily paraphrased. My memory isn't that great. 

A few days ago someone took the time to send me an Instant Message on Facebook. She opened with "I owe you an apology." This actually confused me, since I didn't recall her saying anything odd, or mean, or unusual, in the recent past or ever, really. 

She went on to say that she'd read my post, and it had gotten her to thinking back to high school. And the bottom line was that, if she'd said anything rude to me, or purposely ignored me, or done anything mean in my general direction back then, then she genuinely apologized for it. 

What do you do with something like that? 

In my case, I thanked her and told her (truthfully) that I hold no ill will toward anybody from school. She noted that there were some people from those days who seem not to have changed at all, and others who surprised her by going a long way in life. (Apparently I was in the second batch.) We chatted a little bit about some of the people–not by name–who pretty much peaked in high school and how you never really know. At that point I had to sign off so I thanked her again and bade her good-bye. 

You know what? That was a pretty brave action on her part, and you don't get a lot of opportunities to do something like that in life. I tried once a couple of years ago: I wanted to re-connect with someone from my past so I wrote a letter and sent it out. I never got a reply. But at least I took that opportunity. 

So thanks to you, RFP: you didn't do anything to make my life more miserable back in the past (that I know of, anyway), but you did brighten my week a little bit in the present. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Regina "Reggie" Kostas: [after typical argument with Becker, and he leaves] What I wouldn't give to hear a screech and a thump right now!
[screech, but no thump]
Dr. John Becker:  You missed me, ya bastard!

Becker, "Physician, Heal Thyself" (1/11/99)

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I know…of all the days to not write something, I missed my Blogoversary yesterday. Five years of Baltimore Diary! 

Give me a little while, I do have a story to tell. It'll be up in a couple of hours, tops. 

Unfriended.

Alfred Hitchcock: Now, if you'll excuse me, I must hurry off to a little social affair. A dear friend is guest of honor. It's a stoning. I wouldn't miss it for the world. Good night.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Mr. Blanchard's Secret" (12/23/56)

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The act of "unfriending" someone in Facebook is an interesting one. It gives off a lot of messages that you may not necessarily be sending. Or perhaps you are, who am I to say. 

For lack of a better word, it's often a stealthy maneuver. Unless you take the time to tell someone that you're unfriending them, they don't know that it's happening unless they try to take a gander at your profile and suddenly realize that they're locked out. Or, perhaps they notice that their friend count is inexplicably down by one. 

In the real world, people do drift apart: they call each other less frequently, find different circles of socializing, and sooner or later they delete your phone number altogether. There's no discussion; there's no "Hey! That person isn't my friend anymore!" It's not a big deal; it just happens. On the Internet, however, it appears to be a sudden decision. And perhaps it is, but it can't help but have a little bit of a malicious feel when a person drops off your list. You become all, "What the hell did I do?" 

Unfriending in Facebook, in my experience, is often a reaction to action. Back in March, I wrote a post about how my ex-wife and I were starting to accumulate friends in common. As it turned out, it didn't really create any hassles, until I got married again in July. That was the point where all of the "common" FB friends who attended the wedding suddenly found themselves unfriended by my ex. Common friends who didn't attend, got to remain friends. This, as it happens, includes the daughter of someone who was unfriended who couldn't attend the wedding. It generated a little bit of buzz for a day or two, with the general attitude running somewhere in the realm of "amused". The one person we thought would be terribly upset by the move, wasn't. Really? OK. 

For what it's worth, perhaps they wouldn't have been so amused if she hadn't taken a few oddball pot shots before making the disconnect. 

On a slightly different tack: anyone who knows me, whether online or in real life, knows that I'm a bit of a wiseass. And by "a bit", I mean "consummate". But I get as well as I give, and most people are able to have fun with it. 

Most people. 

About a month ago, someone I've known for a long time didn't take well to it and basically called me out on her page. She told me to stop harassing her. Harassing her! That's a pretty serious charge, especially considering that I nearly got Dooced this summer for my Internet activities. So with that fresh on my mind, I replied to her that it wouldn't happen again, and unfriended her. While that may sound rather extreme to some people, I figured that I'd better take it seriously and therefore take steps to ensure that I don't find myself in that position again. Don't have to hit me over the head twice, except when it comes to getting married. 

As it happens, she just made the discovery and sent me a note, asking why I'd made the move, while at the same time acknowledging that it probably happened awhile ago and she's just getting around to noticing. (Good call, that.) I figured that at this point my explanation would sound petulant to her, so I ignored it. A couple of days later, Daughter emailed me, asking essentially the same question: "XX wants to know why you unfriended her…" I gave her the bumper sticker version: "She said I was harassing her and that's something I have to take very seriously." End of explanation. So we'll see where that goes.

I had another incident this weekend where someone with whom I'm NOT friends encouraged a friend of mine to unfriend me because I'd written something that she considered to be in poor taste. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I'm pretty sure that I'd never take it upon myself to insist that one person unfriend another. Live and let live, and all that. 

News From The Other Side of the World

Mandy Hampton: I was thinking that it would be a good idea, as a symbol to signal how serious we are about our relationship with China, if we asked them for another bear.

Toby Ziegler: I think it would be a good idea as a symbol to signal that China is serious about their relationship with us if they stop running over their citizens with tanks.

The West Wing, "Six Meetings Before Lunch" (4/5/00)
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Simone Icon So my neighbor Simone, whom I usually refer to as "S", is going to China in a couple of weeks to attend law school over there and find out what they know about it. She's been planning this trip since around the time we moved in next to her (as soon as she saw us get out of the moving van, she called her travel agent, I think), and the day of departure is imminent, now. 

She'll do a few weeks of prep work, solidifying her Chinese skills, I guess to get ahold of the local dialect. Then she'll be attending law classes at Shangdong University. 

But the cool part of all this is that Simone has decided to chronicle her year abroad in a blog. So take a minute to bookmark this site: Adventures Abroad and then go over there and wish her godspeed. We hear that her going-away party will be an entire day of bacchanalia, so try to get invited. 

This Just In

Stephen Colbert: The cereal once known as "Sugar Pops" then as "Corn Pops" has changed its name once again to "Pops". They already took out the sugar. Now they've taken out the corn. What the hell is left? Now I've always been suspicious of this particular cereal. It comes in that foil bag as if we needed extra shielding from some sort of radio active output. Plus it has no mascot. I just don't trust a kids cereal that can't even get a cartoon animal to endorse it.

The Colbert Report, "Dan Senor" (3/22/06)

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According to this report, the world's oldest blogger has died:

Maria Amelia Lopez MADRID – A Spanish great-grandmother who described herself as the world's oldest blogger — and became a Web sensation as she mused on events current and past — has died at the age of 97.

Maria Amelia Lopez died May 20 in her hometown of Muxia in Spain's northwest Galicia region, according to her blog amis95.blogspot.com.

I bet the prime suspect is the second-oldest blogger in the world.

Thank you, I'll be here all week.

In Which I Get Dooced Before I’m Even Hired

Bill Maher: New Rule: Bluetooth headset users have to do something that lets me know you're just on the phone and not a dangerous schizophrenic. Right? We don't know if you're talking to your secretary or the evil leprechaun who lives in your head. You're not the chief communications officer of the Starship Enterprise. You're a shoe salesman asking your mom if you can bring over your laundry. If I wanted to overhear every tedious scrap of brain static rattling around in your head, I'd read your blog.

Real Time With Bill Maher (3/17/06)

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Inside ed logo A few days ago I posted a story about my visit to the City Schools' job fair, which gathered a ton of hits (almost 500 over two days, largely thanks to Sara Neufeld's linking to it from the Baltimore Sun's Inside Ed blog) and even generated a few comments, which are kind of rare in these parts. If you haven't read that post, go ahead. I'll wait here for you.

Ready? OK. You'll recall that I spoke with the representatives from a school who were recruiting to replace a friend of mine. As it happened, I lost my cell phone the day after the fair, because I'm pretty good at that sort of thing. So they finally got through to me on the Tuesday following the fair. They were impressed by our chat and wanted to meet with me. I made arrangements for the following Tuesday, yesterday, in the afternoon.

I wound up having to call the school to push the meeting back a little bit because of an emergency meeting for a student and they were OK with that. After the meeting, I drove down to the school and checked in with the secretary. She led me to a room, where they asked me to sit in the lobby for a minute while they finished whatever they were working on.

A minute later, a man came out and, despite the fact that I'd met him at the fair, introduced himself. Well, what the heck. I shook my hand and introduced myself (again). He said to me "Yeah, we met at the fair." Yes, we did, I confirmed, and we walked back into the room.

There were three people in the room, two of whom I'd met at the fair, and a third man, who was introduced to me. Then one of them started telling me the story of the school, and the IEP Team Associate position in particular and how it fit into the broader story.

One of the things that struck me as odd was the fact that this guy was willing to discuss some of the specifics of my friend's situation, how her position was getting cut back and some of the discussion that had taken place. I always thought that personnel issues were confidential, but what do I know? I'm a teacher-level employee.

Swearing The other thing was that, as he told this whole story, he felt free to lace it with what some Star Trek fans might call "colorful metaphors". IEPs from thus-and-such school were "shitty"; this thing was "fucked up" and so on. I'm not a prude by any means, but I don't usually speak this way, and I'm sure you've noticed that I don't usually use such words in this blog. Swearing has a specific purpose for me and I would have to get caught off-guard to use it in a school setting, even if nearly all the students are out of the building for the day. It doesn't feel professional. But, to each his own. This was essentially a second chance for us each to make a good first impression and it wasn't going well, perhaps for both of us. 

Then he let the bomb drop, however subtly. He let it be known that he'd read the post and that he recognized himself in it. The conversation turned toward a defense of the school and how they represented themselves and like that, and how they're not liars. I'm not sure if he was expecting me to apologize or what, but finally I said simply that this was my impression of the day, this is what I saw, this is what happened, and who knew that this coincidental thing was going to happen. 

Then they asked if I had any questions, and I said not really; I'd learned a lot from the other day's conversation and that I liked the approach that they took toward the educational model. I also noted that there were times when I needed to break schools out of their special education models because they were so entrenched, so I was of a similar mindset to theirs in that respect. They asked about where I was currently working, and I noted that my current school (the one that isn't killing the position entirely) is increasing to a half-time ITA. "Is that going to be you?" they asked. "Yeah, if I want it," I replied. Then they asked what I'd like to do. I told them I'd prefer a full-time position but I recognize the realities of the job and would take two half-times without complaining too loudly. They nodded, shook my hand again and that was that. 

So at this point I'm not sure what really happened there. Did they have me come in anyway so that they could tell me that the jig was up? Did they expect an apology from me (in which case, they don't know me very well)? They didn't really offer me the job with them, so far as I could tell, but maybe I didn't read the cues carefully enough. At any rate, this one has taken a bit of a weird turn, so I think I'm going to have to pass. 

Back On Track

Ralph: There were plenty of girls crazy about me and you know it. Every time I went down to the beach, they used to crowd around me.
Alice: Sure. Sure, they crowded around you. That didn't mean they were crazy about you. They just wanted to sit in the shade!

The Honeymooners, "A Matter of Record" (1/7/56)

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This is about the third post I've started since the previous one, which was–what, last year?

It's fun to go to Florida, and it's fun to go with family, and it's fun to be around people and stuff, but the downside is that, in the end, there's too much family and too much togetherness and, for me, writing is a kind of "me time" activity. It doesn't have to be silent around me, but I definitely can't write when someone's passing by constantly and giving me the "what'cha doin'?" routine. Or worse, stopping entirely, staring over my shoulder at the screen and then asking. Because typing is easily confused with so many other activities. I usually just punted the post (still got a draft or two saved) and spent my online time cleaning out my email box and doing the occasional Facebook thing.

So I'll spend a couple of days offering up Florida in retrospect in addition to my usual whining. And hey, Happy New Year!

Holiday Tunes Over There

Woody Boyd: You know, Rudolph is my favorite guy in the Christmas song.
Sam Malone: Yeah.
Dr. Frasier Crane: Apparently then Woody, you're unaware that the story of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is one of the most unrealistic and therefore potentially damaging in all of children's music. It gives them a horribly distorted view of reality.
Woody Boyd: Yeah, but you got to admit, it's easy to whistle.
Dr. Frasier Crane: No, I'm serious. First the other reindeer tease and then ostracise him. And then when his abnormality proves of service, they use him.

Cheers, "Thanksgiving Orphans" (11/27/86)

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Holy Moley, campers! When you're into December, that means it's time for Courtney's Fourth Annual Christmas Music Countdown. This year she's pairing up with her friend MJ, and since their musical tastes don't always coincide, we may see a few jokers in this year's deck. Every day they'll bring you a new song related to this time of the year (that is, they're not all strictly Christmas tunes). Some of them will have some commentary attached, others will have a "just listen already" air about them. But you can't deny that it's a good list, and not many repeats from one year to the next. 

Come back later on to thank me.