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Friday, December 31, 2010

Learn Me Good made a top list!

My explicit thanks to Dawn Judd of Breakout Books Review. She posted a Top 5 list of the best books that she reviewed in 2010, and Learn Me Good made the cut!

Please check out her list, as well as the rest of her site, and be safe tonight!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review

Hey everyone,

As the final days of 2010 are upon us, I am upholding my tradition of electronically sending out my review of the year we've just had. As always, I hope that all of you are safe and sound and have had a great year.


January

Tamara and I rang in the new year with my family at the church’s New Year’s Eve bash. Thankfully, we all had each other to commiserate with at just how terrible the DJ was. Maybe it’s just me, but when the guy pleads for 5 minutes with the crowd to take the dance floor before he’ll start playing any music, and when he finally DOES start the music, it’s the Macarena… I tend to lose faith in the guy. The party ended with a homemade quote montage that put us 2 minutes past midnight before he started the 10 second countdown. Thanks, dude, you already ruined 2010.


The next week, though, 2010 was un-ruined when I received an email from a Mrs. Mellissa Lewis, who told me that she was dying of cancer and wished to will me $14,258,000 American dollars, if I would only contact her lawyer. I declined the money but did write back to correct her spelling and grammar, figuring she was entitled to that before she kicked the bucket.


Later that month, a marathon WII session proved, without a doubt, that I truly am THE Guitar Hero. Next goal: to prove that I am also THE Accordion Hero.


February

The tough decision was made to sell my house. It was an awesome house, but it was just too far away from Tamara’s work. And since teleporters have yet to be invented (COME ON!!), we knew Mesquite could not be our permanent living place. So the long, arduous process of painting began, and that started a serious love-hate relationship with Home Depot latex-based paint.


Midway through the month, a couple of amazing things happened. Number 1, the Dallas area received over a foot of snow in one day. Number 2, DISD actually declared a day off because of the snow. Mind you, these two things did not actually happen on the same day. School was fully in session on the day that all the snowing occurred. My school lost power for about an hour and a half that morning, and the principal wouldn’t let anybody go outside to play in the snow. School was officially cancelled the NEXT day. That’s my DISD.


On February 28th, I sadly had to say goodbye to my loyal helper monkey, Meego. He had been by my side for an incredible 10 years, but his language and actions had grown increasingly erratic and inappropriate. Even by monkey standards. Rather than having him put to sleep, I just gave him to my 3-year old nephew. Now there can be TWO poo-flingers in that household.


March

Seeing the success of other independent authors on Facebook, I decided to start my own fan page for Learn Me Good. Many of my friends immediately “liked” it, and others added on later. It is currently up to just over 400 fans. Only 2,435,201 more to go to catch up to the stupid cat playing the piano!


Tamara and I got some culture by going to see The Phantom of the Opera early in March. I thought that their “progressive” approach was a bit odd, as everyone had on clown makeup, and the Phantom was wearing a T-shirt that said, “I’m with stupid.”


Bored one day, I tried my hand at culinary invention and came up with a snack food that is combination potato chip, ice cream, peanut butter, and calamari. I am considering marketing it under the brand name “I-squips” in medium, large, and ginourmous.


April

Duke wins the title again!! In a thrilling Monday night final, Duke squeaked past the Butler Bulldogs, who were basically playing a home game in Indianapolis. I watched the game with a friend at a local bar where I was the only one in the building rooting for the Blue Devils. The crowd of bandwagon Butler fans kept trying to taunt/impress me with their clever bon mots such as, “FU%# Duke!!” and “Yeah! FU%# Duke!!”


Having completed the painting and repairs on my house, I put it on the market a day after Easter. That very day, someone came to look at it, and the next day, they made an offer. I’ve never had 3 magic beans before, so I quickly accepted their offer.


Towards the end of the month, I had a minor career crisis when I saw a headline on Yahoo that said Male Nurses were earning $77,000 per year. I figured, I already had the “Male” part under my belt, so to speak, and I’ve been taking care of kids’ crap for years. But then I thought I’d have to legally change my name to John Pearson: Male Nurse, and that’s just not worth it.


May

I rented a storage unit and put nearly all of my earthly possessions into it so that I could move into Tamara’s tiny condo. Some people said we were living in sin, but we were actually still living in Dallas.


We also started registering for wedding gifts. Tamara was content to take care of things online, but I was happiest when we went to a store and used the Magic Price Gun. I may have been a bit trigger happy, though, as we got all 147 Chia Pets that we apparently registered for.


This was also the month that DISD asked me and 41 others at my school to pay back bonus monies that they had been depositing in our accounts over the prior 9 months. Bonus money that DISD had previously insisted belonged to us and that we should “spend in good health.” Fortunately, my paranoid streak kept telling me that they would come asking for it back, so it was a mild inconvenience for me, but for others, who HAD spent it, it was a major nightmare. That’s my DISD.


June

As always, one of the most joyous events of the year – the last day of school – came and went, and there was much rejoicing. I had to get rather creative in the end-of-year awards ceremony, giving one kid an award for “Most consistent conversion of oxygen to carbon dioxide.”


Later in the month, Tamara and I cemented our commitment to each other by joining a “Family Phone Plan” and trading in our old phones for iphones! I was immediately addicted to something called Angry Birds, while Tamara still hasn’t shaken her Words with Friends habit.


It was also the end of an era, as I decided to look snazzy for the wedding with a nice new analog watch. The digital calculator watch (with Wavecepter for atomic clock precision) was permanently put out to pasture. It had served its purpose, after all, netting me a wife, and I figured I shouldn’t take the risk of continuing to attract hot babes with my wrist wear.


July

On the 2nd day of the month, I tied the knot! Then, after having my knotted necktie securely in place, I got married! It was a beautiful ceremony that included no line dancing or country music whatsoever. My suggestion of reciting my vows in “Whataburger Guy” voice was promptly shot down.


Our official honeymoon was in Turks and Caicos, at a lovely resort where my new wife and I enjoyed some alone time, some incredible scenery, and more rum than a pirates convention. After we got back to the states, the unofficial honeymoon began, as the family took a 2-week long trip to Disney World, the happiest place on Earth. Our matrimony was put to the test, as Minnie threw herself at me, and Goofy tried to muscle in on Tamara, but a singing Candelabra got us all back on track.


While we were in Orlando, the news broke internationally that Sumo wrestling matches in Japan were being rigged. Disillusioned, I immediately called my bookie and put a hold on all bets. I also sold all my stock in giant adult diapers.


August

Finally, after 2 years in limbo, Whatta Ya Think, the game show that I was a contestant on was finally aired on Veria TV. As a result, I was able to obtain a DVD copy of my episode. Apparently, the camera really DOES add 10 pounds; I looked like Chris Farley sitting behind my podium. My life-long dream to be on Jeopardy remains intact.


Before the summer ended, I tried my hand as a modern-day Stan Lee, inventing and drawing my own superhero. My creation: Carrotman, who can see really well in the dark. He wages a never-ending battle against his arch-enemy, Admiral Asparagus, whose pee smells foul. I am still waiting to hear back from Marvel, DC, AND Dark Horse Comics…


Towards the end of the month, the new school year began, and I got to meet my newest batch of moldable minds. On my annual teacher self-assessment, I wrote that I am tired of the old standards of progress. Forget Academically Acceptable, Recognized, and Exemplary. This year, I am shooting for Effing Outrageous!


September

This year, I set a new personal record by making it 5 full weeks into the school year before getting sick. This beat last year by 4 weeks and 2 days. I hit every Walgreens in the DFW area up for a dose of Armadillo-Flu vaccine, but nobody was amused. They also didn’t like the trail of slime I left behind.


Mid-month, Tamara and I met up with my brother and sister-in-law for our newest annual tradition, the Grapevine Grapefest, where we each sampled about 100 different kinds of wine. It’s a thankless job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Lesson learned this year: the vendors do NOT get flattered when you ask them to just give you the whole bottle.


Over a long weekend, I made some modifications to the washing machine in our condo. Now it does half the work in twice the time. I am hanging up my toolbelt for a while.


October

At the beginning of the month, we bought a new house! I would finally be able to stop living out of ¼ of a closet! Even though we weren’t fully mode in yet, we decided to be there on Halloween night to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters. Tamara and I dressed up as Penny and Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. I tried to get my brother and sister-in-law in on the act, but they had other plans. A shame, because my brother is the spitting image of Raj.


Midway through the month, I did an overhaul on the cover of Learn Me Good, replacing the old amateurish graphic with a much more professional looking cover. I was hoping to use a photo of myself bashing my head against the wall to set the tone of the novel, but instead wound up using an arm that looks very much like my own, writing funny things on a chalk board. Sales immediately skyrocketed, from 20 to 22.


Always looking to further my personal knowledge, I made a move to learn Klingon. As with all languages, you learn the curse words first. Boy, were my neighbors shocked to hear me pepper them with chants of , “hab sosli’ Quch!” and, “DenIb Qatlh!”


November

We finally had the big move from the condo to the new house and officially moved in. My possessions were rescued from storage and restored to full time usage status. On our first night there, we had the pleasure of hearing one of our neighbors screaming obscenities at her boyfriend on the phone at 1in the morning.


On Thanksgiving day, Tamara and I ran in the inaugural Arlington Turkey Tro 5K. And by “ran,” I mean, “strolled at a near-geriatric pace.” I am fairly confident that I finished first in my age group. My VERY specific, to the half-second, age group.


A few days after Thanksgiving, high on tryptophan, I wrote out the script to Spinal Tap in Binary Code. My favorite line – “This one goes to 1101.”


December

With some time off from school, and a condo in need of selling, I buckled down and started to prep it for sale. Behr Ultra Premium Cotton Whisper latex-based paint, my old nemesis, we meet again. This time, I’m pretty sure I got more paint on the walls than on myself.


A few days before Christmas, there was a big hubbub about a lunar eclipse. Realizing that nobody in our neighborhood had any interest in staying up until 3 in the morning to witness it, I quickly improvised. Standing behind the living room window, I turned around and dropped trou, while Tamara slowly obscured my moon with a table cloth. I think the neighbors were appreciative. The arresting officers certainly found it hilarious.


For our first Christmas together as a married couple, Tamara and I split Christmas with our families. We did the annual movie marathon and Christmas Eve with my family in Arlington and then drove down to Blanco to have Christmas dinner with Tamara’s folks. We spent a few days in Blanco, and the highlight was meeting Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder Suresh) from Heroes in San Antonio. I briefly considered asking him to give me Hayden Panettiere’s number, but I decided against. I DID want to make it through the first year of marriage, after all.



And that was 2010! Here's hoping everyone has a very happy New Year, and we all have a very exciting 2011! You can't touch ME, Mayans!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tip o' the Hat Tuesday

My buddy Ed U Cater posted this link about replacing the entire student body on Facebook the other day, and it was fantastic! I had to give it a shout out here today. Plus, the author's name, "Mr. Teachbad," makes me feel like I have an evil twin out there...

Also, a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight! (If you're flying somewhere. Otherwise, drive safe.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not very likely!

Today we started talking about probability. I asked the kids what this word sort of sounded like, and instead of "probably" -- the springboard I was hoping for -- they all said "problem." Yep, this is a problem.

Our exploration today did go pretty well though, once we gave up on certainty. The concept of something that is ALWAYS true or ALWAYS happens eluded them a bit. To them, going to bed at 9 o'clock is certain, and me being a teacher is certain. I asked them, "What if I decided tomorrow that I wanted to be a famous actor?" and one little girl immediately shot back, "You're not a famous actor!"

Certainly rude!

Then we moved on to the probability demonstration. I gave each group of partners a paper sack with 6 red cubes, 3 blue cubes, and 1 green cube in it. The kids took turns pulling a cube out without looking, and then making a mark on the tally chart. Each group did this 20 times. At the end, most of the groups had a higher amount of tallies in the red column, as would be expected.

When we did it a second time, though, the cheerleading came out. I heard someone say, "This time, I'm going for green!" and whenever a green came out, there was cheering. Or if I walked by, someone would tell me, Red and Blue are tied!!

It always starts to turn into a contest, with the kids rooting for one color to "win." Poor orange. He didn't have any supporters today.

Tomorrow we do spinners. When I told the kids that, they got excited, thinking I meant the stupid little paper contraband things they make and pass in class. When I brought them back down to earth by telling them I meant the circle with the arrow that you flick, they seemed disappointed.

Maybe we'll have to play Twister.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I want my 2 dollars!

Well, I'm sorry to say that my district (or possibly my principal) has screwed up and once again, there are issues with my paycheck. Not just me, but many of the teachers at my school as well.

Back in April, teachers at my school were asked to return bonus money that had been deposited into our accounts -- even though the district payroll office had told us to "spend it in good health."

Now, we're finding that stipends and pay-for-performance bonuses, which were supposed to be included on this month's paycheck, are not on there.

So I have a few ideas for how the district can earn some money in order to pay us what they've promised us.

1) Charge bag fees.
I heard this morning that the airlines mad 2.5 billion dollars this year on bag fees alone. Just think, if every kid with a backpack is charged a quarter, every day -- we'll be rich by summer!

2) Mandatory nap time across the district: 1-2.
If all the lights are off for this one hour every day, the potential energy savings could be tremendous!

3) Selling Hot Cheetos
I don't pretend to understand it, but Hot Cheetos to my kids are equivalent to Crack Cocaine to Lindsey Lohan. We could buy bags of Hot Cheetos for 50 cents each and sell them at the apartments for $3 each. Heck, we could probably sell them for $10 each.


Whatever happens, I just hope the district gets it together and gives us the money they've promised us. I'm reminded of the final scene of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, where Clark W Griswold berates his boss with the line, "If you don't want to give out bonuses, fine! But when some of us are counting on them to make ends meet..." and the cop says, "That's pretty low, mister. If I had a rubber hose, I would beat you..."

Monday, December 13, 2010

A little Christmas plug!

Just for anyone looking for some last-minute Christmas gift ideas, here are a couple involving your friends at Learn Me Good...

1) the paperback version of Learn Me Good is available for only $9.99 from Amazon.com!

2) The Kindle version of Learn Me Good is on sale for only 99 cents through January 1, 2011! And now you can give a Kindle ebook to ANYONE, as long as they have an email address! They don't have to have a Kindle! Check out this page for more details.

3) T-shirts, T-shirts, and MORE T-shirts (plus some sweats, mugs, and mousepads!) are available either at my Cafepress store OR my Spreadshirt store!

Merry Christmas shopping!

Partying with the kids

I tend to be stubborn, so I'm just going to keep on plugging away with Interactive Monday, even though the "Interactive" aspect of it has been somewhat lacking...

My question today is, "What kind of Christmas (or Holiday) party (if any?) do you have with the kids?"

My partner and I are planning a little party for Friday afternoon. We will buy pizza, but we've sent a note home with the kids asking the parents to supply things like juice boxes, fruit, and chips. Cupcakes and cookies were expressly forbidden this year. Rum-heavy eggnog was not EXPRESSLY forbidden, but I think it is understood.

For most of the day, we will be doing things like writing winter-themed word problems, drawing winter-themed shape patterns, adding winter-themed numbers. I also have great aspirations for Christmas-themed stories that we started brainstorming for today. Mine will apparently include a scary robot named Chippy McFlatfoot. I am very interested to see what the kids come up with. They were scribbling furiously during our brainstorming time today. Hopefully, a lot of the kids will share their stories during the party on Friday.

So I open the floor to you -- yes YOU! What do YOU do with the kids?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Blame the dog

I have a story to tell, and it is not for the faint of heart. It involves an old man, bodily functions, and the defiling of an evil leprachaun. Well, change the old man to me and get rid of the leprachaun.

Let me start out by putting this oh so delicately. I was feeling a bit gassy today. Uncontrollably gassy, apparently. At one point, as I was walking around the classroom, I pulled a one cheek sneak. I broke wind. Audibly. Not Wrath of God audibly, but balloon-popping audibly.

When it happened, I glanced at the little girl who was sitting closest, who had a look of shock on her face. Before I could say anything, she exclaimed, "It wasn't me!"

I got away with it! If other kids had noticed, I totally could have blamed that little girl! After all, the universal rule is: she who smelt it, dealt it.

It reminds me of one of my favorite jokes of all time. (Keep in mind that I think "potty humor" is hilarious.)

A young man has been invited to have dinner with his girlfriend's parents for the first time. He is understandably nervous, and his nervousness has made him a bit gassy. About half an hour into dinner, the man is squirming uncomfortably, and a tiny audible fart escapes him. He stares in horror, but the girlfriend's mother, sitting across the table, looks at the family dog who is sitting behind the young man and says, "Spot!"

The young man can't believe his good luck. She blamed the dog! Ten minutes later, when he can't stand the pressure in his abdomen anymore, he's feeling a bit more daring. He lets out a longer and louder fart. Once again, the girlfriend's mother looks at the dog and shouts, "Spot!"

By this time, the young man feels he can do no wrong. The mother will blame the dog, so why not get rid of all his gas? He leans over and lets one rip, long and hard.

The mother looks at the dog one last time with horrified eyes and exclaims, "Spot! Get over here, before he s#!+s on you!!!"


You're welcome, and I apologize.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The proverbial holiday party

Our Interactive Monday posting is going out late today, but I'm hoping to get a lot of responses to it, as it's a pretty juicy topic.

I couldn't think of just one way to pose the question, so I will present you with a flurry of them, all around a central topic, the office holiday party. Do you have them? Have you gone? Has anything wild ever happened? Have you ever done anything truly embarrassing that you probably shouldn't share with random people on a blog, but you're going to anyway because you're that starved for love and attention?

The topic comes up because my school's Christmas, excuse me, HOLIDAY party is being held this Wednesday. Last year's party wasn't too bad, but nobody did anything any more embarrassing than some ill-advised karaoke. It was a far cry from the office parties of lore, where everyone gets smashed, co-workers hook up, and lowly peons have to sneak into their boss' office late at night to delete an incriminating email.

Even back when I worked for "Heat Pumps Unlimited," (with my vaunted Mechanical Engineering Degree), our parties were relatively tame. I DID see a few more people drink a bit more than they should have back then, but still nothing wild.

So I'm sure somebody reading this has a great story to share. Just don't make it about someone hanging Mistletoe from their belt buckle.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Mirror images

This past week, we studied congruency and symmetry. Congruency tends to be relatively simple for the kids. Same size, same shape. That's pretty easy to remember. What often throws them is when the shapes are rotated. Especially when the shapes are triangles.

But symmetry really throws them for a loop. When I would draw a shape and ask how many lines of symmetry it had, several of them would just count the sides and give me that answer. Several would always say 2 (vertical and horizontal). And several would find lines that weren't symmetrical at all.

Diagonal lines are especially hard for the kids to judge. Though I've emphasized to them that they can and should TURN their paper, to make the line look vertical, they usually don't. Also, they confuse it with congruency, so if the two sides of the line are the same size and same shape, they go with symmetry. Even if the two sides aren't mirror images. For instance, the diagonal line of a rectangle DOES split the rectangle into two congruent triangles. However, this line is not a line of symmetry, because folding the shape on the line would not yield a perfect matchup.

Friday's test results weren't too bad, but there is clearly still a lot of work to be done, especially in some dire cases. (Where kids still don't even know their basic shapes.)

At least I haven't had anyone yet this year call it a "line of cemetery."

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