Daybook for Feb. 24

For today…

Outside my window… a damp, chilly evening.
I am thinking… maybe I should go ask the barista for a plastic bag so I can take my leftover chips home for the chooks.
From the classroom… a lot of pride. My kids are doing a great job with their activism unit in English II. They are wrapping up their first writing assignment for that project — a fact sheet designed to convince people to take their side of an issue — and they’ve really come up with some good stuff. I’m ridiculously proud of them, and I’m having a lot of fun helping them organize their notes and sift through information to find the bits that are most likely to sway others’ opinions. It’s fun to watch kids catch on to subtleties.
I am thankful for… good decaf cappuccino and a quiet place to drink it.
From the kitchen… noodles with a simple sauce of finely diced tomatoes, sauteed red onions, fresh herbs, and a little sour cream. I like it when I can throw together a good dinner out of whatever happens to be handy.
I am wearing… Webster sweatpants and my most comfortable Drillers shirt.
I am reading… The Physics of Baseball.
I am hoping… my new minimal-homework strategy works for my algebra kids.
I am creating… a pocket schedule for our baseball team.
I am praying… to express more humility. I let an irritating but probably well-meaning individual goad me into playing a stupid political game this week, and while I won quite handily, it was a hollow victory. The Father does not hand us gifts so we can use them to destroy other people in the name of feeding our own egos — even if the people in question seem to deserve it. To borrow a gamer term: There is no glory in gratuitous pwnage.
Around the house… a hyperactive cat. Which is part of the reason I spent most of the evening at a coffeehouse, grading papers without feline assistance.
One of my favorite things… my windowsill herb garden.
A few plans for the rest of the week… dinner at Yokozuna, a little lesson planning, and some desperately needed housecleaning.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…

These tumbleweeds were caught in a fence somewhere in the Texas Panhandle. I’m dreaming about tumbleweeds and Texas and all my favorite haunts from here to Tucumcari. I haven’t been out that direction since September, and I can feel it. I need to recharge my batteries. I need to spend a few days alone in the Dreamcar with my thoughts, my camera, and maybe my sketchbook. I need to curl up in a motel room in New Mexico with a copy of Science and Health and read until four o’clock in the morning. I need to stand on a lonely stretch of forgotten highway in the middle of nowhere and listen to the silent sound of Bob Waldmire’s laughter mingling with the songs of coyotes on the high desert wind. I need coconut cream pie and old friends and new adventures and miles and miles and miles of nothing but sky and mesa and aimless tumbleweeds.

I need a road trip.


The best-laid plans

Here is a thing I know about teaching: If I am having fun, odds are 99 to 1 the kids are going to learn something.

Here is another thing I know about teaching: You are never too old to have fun playing with toys.

The more I teach, the more I prove these truths to myself and my students. Some of my most successful English lessons have stemmed from the fact that I was in the mood to relive some favorite childhood memory or other.

Pronoun Twister, for instance, was a thinly veiled excuse to watch my kids laugh themselves silly while keeping track of which pronouns are singular and which ones are plural.

A hilarious, hands-on lesson in literary conflicts (man vs. man, man vs. society, etc.) sprang from the moment when a can of Play-Doh caught my eye as I was walking through the toy aisle at Target. I’ve gotta think up an excuse to play with Play-Doh in class, I thought, throwing several multi-packs of the stuff into my cart.

Math, I’ve found, lends itself even better to childlike diversions. There’s a colossal amount of algebra on the back of a baseball card. We’ve also used tiny colored blocks to learn cubes, squares, and roots; set up ratios involving Starburst candy; practiced set notation with a bucket of Legos; and worked equations with the help of magnetic letters and numbers like the ones my mom used to keep on the refrigerator when I was little.

Next week, we’ll be starting linear equations for the first time this semester. I’ve enlisted some special helpers for this lesson:

Monkeys will represent variables. Plastic counting blocks will represent constants. We’ll set up problems by playing the Barrel of Monkeys game to determine the value of the variable (2m, 5m, whatever) and then rolling a set of dice to determine the constants, which we’ll represent with colored blocks.

Five bucks says this will be the best lesson I’ve ever taught … because, really, how can you go wrong with a Barrel of Monkeys?

who finds her tendency to behave like an overgrown 5-year-old oddly useful in a classroom full of jaded teenagers

A weekend well-spent

We spent Saturday morning and part of the afternoon helping the Fins of the Blue Whale clear branches, vines, tree saplings, and enormous canes away from the fairy ring of giant concrete-and-fiberglass mushrooms that surround a small pond behind the old ARK building.

I came home tired, sunburned, and covered in dirt and scratches — prima facie evidence of a weekend well-spent.

It’s good to have time to get involved with historic preservation projects again. I’ve really missed that the past couple of years. It’s awesome to get to do something to benefit the Blue Whale, too, because it’s always been one of my favorite places on Route 66 — right up there with the Blue Swallow Motel and the Rock Cafe.


A more positive spin …

… on yesterday’s rant:

To counter the constant negativity from the hipper-than-thou crowd, I decided to start using my Twitter account again. At least once a day, I am posting a reason to love Tulsa. Any time I mention something good about Tulsa — either a reason to love it, or something I’m enjoying at the moment — I’m using the hashtag #tulsarocks. ‘Twould be excellent if I could get a little meme going with that, non?

What are your favorite things about Tulsa?


Pet peeve

I’ve been hearing a lot of discussions lately about what could be done to make Tulsa a better city.

As this is more or less a local-interest blog, I’d like to put one of my ideas out there and see where it goes.

I think we could make Tulsa a better city if we rounded up all of the insufferable, whiny, self-indulgent hipsters who make a habit out of running down the community where they live and shipped them to New York or L.A. or somewhere else that’s likely to be more patient with their nonsense. (Better yet, ship ’em to Chicago. I’d love to see what would happen if they started slagging that city to one of its residents.)

Seriously: I am sick to death of this ludicrous notion that Tulsa would suddenly become the Magic Kingdom, with a soaring economy, a zero-percent unemployment rate, and choirs of angels floating above its gold-paved streets, if only we could provide more entertainment for unmarried twentysomethings.

Let me get this straight: The solution to all of Tulsa’s problems lies in attracting people who are either too lazy to bookmark Tasha Does Tulsa, too illiterate to glance at Urban Tulsa Weekly’s calendar of events, or too socially inept to strike up a conversation with a stranger without the assistance of several overpriced cocktails?

Forgive my skepticism.

There’s no question that Tulsa benefits when bright, creative, energetic young professionals move into town. What community doesn’t? But in a vibrant city full of restaurants, nightclubs, museums, coffeehouses, live music venues, professional sports teams, festivals, conventions, parks, college campuses, special-interest clubs, and dazzling Art Deco architecture, a bright, creative, energetic individual ought to be able to find something to do.

Those who can’t probably won’t be missed much.



Dashboard decor

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few photos of my ever-expanding collection of dashboard tchotchkes:

A chimaera now guards the roadrunner, who is hanging out with a phoenix, while Poseidon menaces a Care Bear and a stuffed gecko …

… and a sea serpent hitches a ride next to the steering wheel.

A minotaur and a unicorn join the usual suspects for sushi, ignoring the disapproval of a nearby mermaid.

Meanwhile, glow-in-the-dark lizards adorn everything from the armrests …

… to the panels above the seatbelts …

… cling to the ceiling …

… watch over the speedometer …

… and hang out with mythical beings such as this gryphon …

… and Adonis a certain Hall of Fame second baseman. And just in case I need to keep track of something …

… I’ve installed a convenient bulletin board, complete with peace-symbol thumbtacks, next to the steering wheel.

Loctite gel is my friend.


Paradise by the dashboard lights

<Don LaFontaine voice>

“In a world populated by glow-in-the-dark lizards, sushi-eating rattlesnakes and robots, and chopstick-wielding aliens, the gods have gone mad. Poseidon menaces a Care Bear with his trident, Crete’s mythical Minotaur threatens to steal sake from a drunken flamingo, and a fearsome chimaera fixes its frightening gaze on all who dare to look upon it. Only one man has the range, the batting average, and the speed on the basepaths to restore order to this debauched land of plasticine mayhem….”

</Don LaFontaine voice>

<Harry Caray voice>

“It might be … it could be … IT IS!

Holy cow! Ryne Sandberg has come to the Friendly Confines of the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar!”

</Harry Caray voice>

Or will as soon as this sucktacular weather gets above freezing long enough for the superglue to work, anyway.

For those of you who are interested in such things: This is a 1989 Starting Lineup action figure. I got it in its original packaging, but the blister pack was partially crushed, and the accompanying baseball card was poorly printed and appeared to have sustained some sun damage, destroying its value as a collectible. As dashboard garnish, however, it’s worth the whole penny I paid for it.

Yeah, you read that right. I got a 22-year-old action figure, still in its original (albeit severely damaged) packaging, for a penny. A Ryne Sandberg figure would have set me back somewhere between $5 and $40, + Ivan DeJesus … but thanks to the magic of functionally illiterate eBay sellers, his little-known identical twin “Ryan” was going for a mere penny.

My dashboard is about to get a little bit hotter….


Snowy Saturday

Here is how Song and Riggy spent part of their day:

Songdog turns into a giant puppy when it snows.

I think he’s wishing for more snow to play in. We obviously don’t have quite enough out there….

An invitation to play….

… initially met with a “Dude, WTF?” response from Riggy …

… but eventually accepted …

… albeit grudgingly. It’s hard to enjoy deep snow when you’re just a little guy.

“Mom, can we please go inside now? Song keeps bugging me, and I hate this snow.”

Hope you enjoyed your Saturday, wherever you are.