Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Disappointments of Life

There are certain things in life that always disappoint despite any of their individual characteristics. The best example I can think of is when you open a box of doughnuts. You choose the rectangular bar that is covered in chocolate. You will be disappointed no matter how good the chocolate bar may be. Why? Because deep down in your heart, you were hoping for an eclair. You sink your teeth into the chocolate bar and... nothing. What a disappointment.

Ice cream, on the other hand, is never disappointing. Berry Patch Sherbet especially is not disappointing. Fight disappointment by supporting ice cream in your area. If we all do our part and work together, we can make a real difference. Thank you.

Or we could just label which is the eclair and which is the chocolate bar...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teething Update

You read that right, and we don't yet have children. To top off this exciting day, my final wisdom tooth is coming in.

Teething explains the crankiness and the compulsive biting. Also, it is a little known fact that I can fit my fist in my mouth.

I'm sure you wanted to see and read those things. It looks more like a snake's mouth to me. Ah well, to Slytherin I go.

Two Links and a Book

Andy Borowitz has yet another "it's funny because it's true" fake news report. I think his funniest article that I've read was this one ("Hillary Accuses Obama of Bed-Wetting"). It came out when Hillary was attacking Obama on a paper that he wrote in kindergarten.

While we're at it, this is one of my favorite newspaper articles of all time. An economist takes a complex idea and breaks it down into a very simple allegory. "If You're Paying, I'll Have Top Sirloin" appeared more than a decade ago in the Wall Street Journal, but the subtleties of the argument are still compelling today.

I finished Archer's Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less over the weekend. It was fantastic. Archer uses a surprising amount of Shakespearean comedy devices. He includes all of the following: a person disguising himself as an outrageous character, a big reveal, a marriage at the end, a hilarious hook, and outlandish coincidences. I liked it. It wouldn't take much to turn the book into a stage play comedy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Can't Believe This Is My Job

I've just spent the last five minutes listening to kids in my class describe "Robo Tripping," which is chugging an entire bottle of Robitussin.

"Ooooh!" said one. "What if you added some Sprite and a coupla Jolly Ranchers? That'd be gooooood."

Put cough syrup on the list of things I won't have in my house when we have kids, I guess.

UPDATE: I spent the next period listening to students tell each other what to do if a cop comes to their house and asks who was shooting. They also discussed how many times brothers or boyfriends had been in jail. It's been an eventful day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First Time This Year

Well, it's finally happened. I wrote my first referral for the year. For those of you unfamiliar with edu-speak, that means that I did the equivalent of sending someone to the principal's office. I'm not normally one to do this, but this kid really got on my nerves.

At the beginning of every class I sub for, I remind students to put away iPods and cell phones. I also tell them that if I see them using the devices, I will take them for the duration of the period. I won't mess with the phones, and I will give them back at the end of the class, but I don't want them being used. It seems pretty fair, right?

I made the same announcement Tuesday in one of the classes. A few minutes later a student (not even trying to hide it) was texting. I walked over to him as he started to put it away and told him to give me the phone. He refused. I tried again. He refused. I said, "OK, I'll just write you up." Usually that is enough to get students to give me the phone. This was not the case with this student.

He said, "Fine! Write me up. I don't care."

So I did. I also told him the next time I saw his phone out, I would call Safety to have him escorted from class.

"Fine!" he said. "I don't care. It doesn't mean anything anyway. What'll they do? Lecture me. I can deal with that."

See? This is the problem. The kid doesn't care about failing the class (which, based on my experience with him in other classes tells me he probably is), and he doesn't care about authority. There is no punishment for this child who is clearly breaking rules. I don't mean to be a jerk or a tyrant, but it's a matter of priorities in the classroom. Texting takes a backseat to classwork.

I'm reminded of the last time I wrote a referral. I was teaching in Utah last year, and I had a problem child I'll call "Kevin." He'd been giving me grief all year long and was the cause of much frustration and discussion with my more experienced co-workers. The students in this class thought it was funny to throw things, especially when I couldn't tell who had done it. I told all the students to stop throwing paper at each other. About 10 seconds later I watched Kevin throw another wad at a girl across the room.

I got mad. "What did I just say?!" I said in exasperation.

"What?" he said. "I didn't throw anything."

That was it. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's for someone to lie to my face. I lost it.

"DON'T PEE ON MY SHOES AND TELL ME IT'S RAINING!!! Get out of my classroom NOW!"

The class laughed nervously, as if I might turn into Mr Hyde. After some protestation, Kevin left and class resumed. The other kids were pretty good for the rest of the day. :)

And shortly afterward, Kevin was suspended for several weeks because of drugs. My room was much more manageable.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On the Passing Scene

This is my quick note on the passing scene:

Dave Tufte wrote a great post today that summarizes very well the frustrations of macroeconomists with government stimulus plans (they never get out the door soon enough and they are used to camouflage other agendas). My favorite part was a quote from yesterday's New York Times:

"Nearly three months after President Obama approved a $787 billion economic stimulus package, intended to create or save jobs, the federal government has paid out less than 6 percent of the money, largely in the form of social service payments to states."

"Now, a federal government that has often been caricatured as profligate has begun trying to spend money as quickly as possible and has become fixated, to use the new Washington catch phrase, with “getting money out the door.”"

Almost all of the macroeconomic leading indicators are up. I think a "stimulus" bill would get more support from macroeconomists (at least a lot more of the independents) if it stated, "All funding will be withdrawn immediately the day after the report of a quarter with GDP growth." Many forecasters are putting third quarter as positive (albeit slightly), and we'll still have over $500 billion (at least) to go to the "stimulus" that is shovelling money out the door for (fill in blank). Remember the days when $500 billion was a lot of money? Wait, maybe it still is. That's over 41 billion boxes of ninja turtle ice cream bars. That's six boxes (72 bars!) for every man, woman, and child on Earth (or 120 boxes for every American!).

Remember opportunity costs:

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Short List

Things I Will Miss About Chicago Winters:
  1. Putting my towel on the radiator so it's warm when I get out of the shower.
  2. ... ... ...

Yep, that's about it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Comedy and Venn Diagrams? is an entertaining little site (the older posts are the funniest). I first saw it a year or two ago on the Freakonomics blog and I remembered this diagram during class today. I had a free moment so I wanted to share with you. Have a great day!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mindless Entertainment

Something to keep you entertained that I picked up from Gio:

Here is another clever spoof by one of our favorite video games (it's a fun one to play with any group of friends).

Monday, May 4, 2009


Freakonomics author Steven Levitt makes a great blunder forecasting the winner of the Kentucky Derby, or in this case non-winner, in typical economist fashion:

"If I had to pick a last-place finisher (a bet they would never actually offer at the track because people involved with horse racing understand better than most that people respond to incentives), it would be Mine That Bird."

And the result??

No Excuses

That's the new motto I have for myself when it comes to exercise, especially now that I found a really good 15 minute cardio workout. I've felt so much better since I started exercising again. I'm even getting my waist back! I'll often do this workout when the weather is crappy and I can't go for a run or when I just don't have oodles of time.

  • March in place and move arms around (2 min.)
  • Lift your knees, alternating legs (1 min.)
  • March in place and reach hands out and in (2 min.)
  • Kick, alternating legs and swinging arms (1 min.)
  • Jog in place (1 min.)
  • Jumping jacks (1 min.)
  • Jog in place (1 min.)
  • Jumping jacks (1 min.)
  • March in place and reach hands up and down (2 min.)
  • Jog in place (1 min.)
  • March in place to cool down (2 min.)
I find I can even work my abs a little if I give the kicks and leg lifts a little more twist. Today I followed up with some arm exercises with my 3 lb. weights and bicycle crunches.

I have found that having the right music does wonders for this process. Jet's CD Get Born is excellent for this type of workout because all off the fast songs are about the same tempo. To get you through the first marching section, here is my favorite version of a Jet song.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Every weekend the Wall Street Journal does a biography piece. This weekend's article is absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend it. It is about how the CEO of U.S. Silica and his battle against tort lawyers. *Warning* You will like lawyers less after reading this. ... (I'm deciding if that's a joke or not.)

This was my favorite quote:

"There were losses, some of which made Mr. Ulizio despair. "The first time we ever lost a case in trial, it was 2001. We tried it in Beaumont, Texas, and lost $7.5 million. . . . The judge sat there through the trial reading a newspaper. At one point an objection was made, the bailiff taps him on the shoulder and says 'judge, objection is being made.' He looks at our lawyer and says 'overruled.' The plaintiffs' lawyer raises his hand and says 'no, judge, it was me.' He says 'sustained' and goes back to reading the paper.""