Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Shit 4 Grains Vegan Cafe...

is the name of the business I would start if I were vegan or in the food industry.

The D&D

I forget who, but someone pointed me to, which is a cool place for finding groups of people in the city to, uh, meetup with and do stuff. So today I met up with some peeps doing a demo of the new D&D 4E rules.

The meetup was held at this cool store in Brooklyn called King Games. The place runs on a clever business plan: provide a huge space full of tables for D&D and MtG and other nerd table-top hobbies; provide huge TVs and video game consoles; and provide a bunch of PCs for networked gaming and net surfing; let people use it all for no to low cost; then sell shit loads of junk food to all the hungry nerds who come in.

Today, while we were doing the D&D, King Games was hosting a MtG tournament. Probably close to a hundred people showed up to compete. (I think 4 winners were splitting a $!000 prize!) The garbage cans were overflowing with soda bottles, empty bags of chips, and ice cream wrappers (including pints of Haagen Daas [which I'm not going to look up to bother to spell correctly]). Based on the setting and the food selection, you can imagine what the crowd looked like. It was weird for me to be among so many people and find that I'm in the top tiers of fitness, personal hygiene, and social skills.

Anyway, the 4E demo was lots of fun. The combat felt really streamlined, the classes more useful, flexible, and customizable, and the game overall had a more cinematic feel. Some players were concerned that the changes to skills and whatnot will weaken the roleplaying aspect of the game, but I don't see that happening. (The demo was designed to showcase the new combat rules, so there wasn't much actual "role" playing involved.)

Everyone at the meetup was friendly and inviting, and it was well worth the long trip to get there. But I still miss the old D&D Krew. I'm trying to find some local Queens people to get together a group with, but somehow it just won't be the same.

Monday, June 09, 2008

If I were an art teacher...

I'd use these two sites in a lesson: (1) Classics in LEGO ; (2) Far Side made real.

Since I'm not an art teacher, I can't offer a sound pedagogical justification for why I'd use those in a lesson except to say that I think "imitation by variation" is a great way to start learning stuff. I guess you can think of it as the equivalent of an English lesson where students rip off Holden Caulfield's voice while writing their own stories. Also, I just think those sites are pretty cool.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Badass at the Bar: The Rules (and Suggestions)

Arrive alone. Do not make eye contact with anyone except the bartender. If the bartender is female, smile at her, but never smile at anybody else.

Order whiskey. But do not order "whiskey" -- order by name. For example, say to the bartender, "Maker's Mark." Order it neat. No water on the side. No soda within five feet of you.

Do not answer your cell phone. The ringer should be off. Do not check your PDA. Do not send text messages. Do not have a fake tan. Do not wear big ass gold rings or other jewelry. All of these things will make you look like a douche bag.

Do not talk to anybody but the bartender. You drink alone, with nobody else. And when you drink alone, you prefer to be by yourself. Also: George Thorogood is your idol, but he is your silent idol, living only in the back of your head, and you never quote him, sing him, or, worse, play him on the jukebox.

Of particular importance is to not talk to girls who are ten or more years younger than you. If such a girl initiates a conversation with you, you must finish your whiskey ("Maker's Mark") immediately, gently but firmly place the glass on the bar, slide (using the pinky and ring finger of your right hand) money in the direction of the bartender, stand up and leave.

However, if you see some jackhole flirting with girls ten or more years younger than him -- if, for example, you see him passing her his business card for her to write her number on it and then pass it BACK to him so he can be some creepy old fuck calling her the next night -- you are honor bound to cock-block him. Say, "You look like the kind of guy who likes piƱa coladas." Then buy around for him and his friends and the girl(s) he/they are hitting on. When the umbrella drinks show up, toast to "Makin' love at midnight," finish your whiskey ("Maker's Mark"), then get up and leave.

If the cock-blocked jackhole gets in your face, unzip your fly and show him your junk. Because no one is more badass at the bar than you.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lazy Sunday

What to do with my lazy day? I have not showered and I have not been out of the apartment yet today. I'm also low on food, so at least one of those two things is likely to change before long.

School Report:

Last week was my first week at the Middle School. My cooperating teacher has only 7th graders. They're awesome. They don't hate everything yet, and they still do goofy shit (like sneaking around the classroom pretending they're secret agents). I haven't officially started teaching them yet -- I've just been the "classroom helper" while establishing my relationship with them -- but I'm trying to keep hope that I'll still like them once I have to get them to start working for me. One thing I find interesting is that the worst 7th graders behave about the same as the average 9th graders at the last school. I'd love to know if this is a result of their age or of their environment. One thing that I'm sure helps is that there's about 10 fewer students per class here. Everyone gets a lot more attention, and nobody feels like they can just hide in the crowd.

Book Report:

Finished Tarzan and Beyond Discipline. 30-ish pages to go in the Choice Theory book. I can only partially recommend the Choice Theory book. It makes a lot of the same points as other books about what motivates students, and it offers some cool cooperative learning ideas, but it rationalizes all of this with a bunch of psychology talk that is counterintuitive and, as far as I can tell, completely unresearched and unsupported.

Sex report:

I'm saving myself until marriage.

Dating report:

I'm also not dating anymore until I get married.

Phone report:

Thanks to my mom, I'm the first person in the world to have a hand-me-down iPhone. Her complaints about it were, to me, silly. But whatever. It's a sweet little gadget and I didn't have to pay for it. It's also much better than my Motorola POS. And I no longer have to carry around a separate iPod, which is great for when I'm jogging.

It's too bad I'm refusing to take calls anymore until I'm married.

Marriage report:

When has a running gag gone too far?

The 11-year-ex got engaged in February. This is completely surreal to me. I can't believe she's marrying a LARPer -- a druid, no less. And I mean not only is he a druid when he LARPs, but his real-world religious affiliation is to Wicca and Druidism and other weird pagan-ness. It's all terrifyingly nerdy. Like the worst of social awkwardness. But the 11-year-ex finally seems genuinely happy, so I am happy for her and will go to the wedding. In 2010. Which is a long-ass engagement, but whatever.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Long long long long long long overdue update

Five minutes ago I finished commenting on the last of the papers for my half-semester of student teaching at a high school. Ninth graders. What a fucking nightmare. I now know what it's like to teach in a school where the teachers and administrators have no idea how to handle the students. No rules are enforced and there are no consequences for anything. Everything is punishment oriented, and the teachers grade more out of spite than intellectual accomplishment (or lack their of), but none of the punishments or harsh grading have any impact on student motivation. Which is not surprising since, if you ask the students themselves (which I did), they will tell you that punishments just make them spiteful and so the behave even worse. The solution would seem to be, then, to try to forge a different sort of relationship with the students and their parents.

In any case, I digress. The moral of my story is that my experience was bad. A lot of it was my own doing. I wildly overestimated my ability to influence an entrenched and fucked up school culture, and this immediately got me off on the wrong foot with a bunch of the students, and then I never fully recovered. At the same time, my cooperating teacher has basically no classroom management skills of her own, nor does she seem to do anything to make sure she's actually teaching anything worth knowing. So I wasn't receiving any support in regard to making effective lessons or in getting the class involved in their own learning.

Right now, I consider my student teaching experience to be a failure. I didn't get to put together a work sample that I feel good about, and mostly experienced what not to do, without getting much of a taste of things that work, which has basically left me feeling helpless and ineffective as a teacher.

The upside is that on Monday I start at a new school (this time a middle school) with a new cooperating teacher and a new batch of kids. I'm praying for a better experience. Not that I'm ready to quit on the teaching thing -- not by a long shot. It just might turn me into an asshole.

In other news:

Books I've read since January:

Fast Food Nation
World War Z
From the Earth to the Moon

And I will shortly be finished reading:

Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community
Choice Theory in the Classroom

And I started but don't feel like finishing:

Great Expectations

And now the dating update:

I have been on a few dates. Mostly ones that don't go anywhere except for Mexican food. There is a girl from the past who is back on the scene, and I've decided I never should have broken up with her, but I'm confident she is not interested in restarting the old relationship. Live and learn, that's my motto!

Meanwhile, my Little Brother (of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island variety), has recently started talking to me about HIS girl troubles. This is both fantastic and hilarious. I won't get into detail because I can barely understand what he's talking about when he gets into it, but it's some seriously emo deep stuff that, in mid conversation will suddenly swing into a discussion of video games or Alien vs. Predator and then back to how this girl won't sit next to him on the bus or something. It's awesome.

Speaking of awesome: You should come see my awesome leather couch. It's so sexy. It's the sex couch. It's impossible to be within five feet of it and not take your clothes off.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Moves & Debt

I am planning to do my student teaching in the city. The paperwork is filled out, I've been accepted to the SUNY Urban Teacher Education Center (SUTEC) program, and all I have left to do is find an apartment. It's the apartment that's killing me. Because I don't live in the city, and because I have shit to do and can't travel into the city every day, I can't successfully do the Craig's List thing and get myself a cheap-ish apartment. Basically, all the CL apartment's are gone before I even make the trip in. So now I'm going through a broker, which means I'm seeing places between $1000-$1200, which means, after fees, security, etc. my school debt is going to go up by at least $7000, moving my total debt into the $80,000 range.

Is this worth it?

If money were not a factor, I would absolutely want to teach in the city. The middle school that I'm likely to do the first half of my student teaching in is one of the best in NYC, and the teaching style there was described to me as "a mix of progressive and traditional methods" that I think will suit me well. So, should I let money get in the way of what I think will be a positive experience? And the other part of the money equation that I have to consider is that, should I stay teaching in NYC, I'll be earning a lower salary than if I'd stayed on Long Island, and I'll have equal or greater living expenses.

Where does the greater happiness come from? The more enjoyable work environment, or the lower-cost/higher-pay living environment?