Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Rockstar Elimination

Here's me, on August 15: She's certainly earned enough goodwill from me that I would vote for her just on the strength of her prior performances.

Here's Gilby, on August 30: You've built up so much credit with us . . . (or words to that effect). Thanks for stopping by to read, Gilby.

Actually, at that point, I was talking about Storm, and her credit with me is so bad that she needs to declare bankruptcy. This was an awful show. You know how sometimes on the elimination show, they'll say stuff about how the three people on the block made it a very difficult decision? Usually, that's supposed to be a compliment, meaning they all did so well. Tonight, it would have been an insult, meaning they all sucked so bad, it was hard to tell who was worst.

Ryan - Baba O'Reilly: Look, I am a big fan of the Who. I'm a pretty big fan of this song. Ryan was up against a lot by choosing this song to sing. Where do I start? He botched it right at the beginning, when he couldn't open the champagne in time and came in late on a lyric. He seemed to be stuck screaming on a single note the whole song. His mike twirling was atrocious. He couldn't take his jacket off. He wanted to act all dangerous jumping off the speakers, but he looked like a nervous, ninety year old man during the six or seven years it took him to climb up there. That look on Gilby's face said it all. I knew it was over for Ryan right then. Then he had some more bad mike twirling. If Daltrey was dead, he'd be spinning in his grave. In fact, someone ought to check in with him, just to see if he did, in fact, wherever he was on planet Earth, start spinning madly at about 7:22pm. Fortunately, by being voted off, Ryan can devote himself to his true calling and begin his career as a butcher. Good riddance.

Storm - Helter Skelter: Ok, I'm not a musician, but was this song any good even when he Beatles did it? All this time, Storm keeps complaining about the songs she has to sing. You know what? Maybe it's a good thing they pick the songs for the contestants to choose from. Here I was, waiting for her to rock out on some song, to finally get away from the ballads, or the disco songs, or whatever else the excuse of the week is for her, and this is the best she can do? When you're up for elimination, it's like they give you home field advantage. You're picking the song you want, the arrangement you want, everything you can do to show off the best that you can give. If this is the best Storm can do when everything is in her favor, oh man. She should have been gone long ago. The reason I'd keep her? I hated Ryuan more. The reason the guys kept her? They hated Ryan more, plus she did her Slutty McHumperdick dance on Tommy's lap this time. And thanks Philip for the pointer on her nickname. Oh, and she thinks it's the first punk rock song? Who gives a dry hump what you think, Slutty McHumperdick. And by the way, Miss Tori pointed out the microphone sticking out of your pants at the end there. When I asked her if it was really your penis sticking out, I was only half-kidding. What did you think you were doing at the end, carrying Dilana off into the sunset? What, are you every male lead in any western made between 1952 and 1957? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Dilana - Psycho Killer: First, I was surprised that she was in the bottom three. I thought she set herself back on track last night. Second, I like the Talking Heads and this song. Third, the only thing I liked about Dilana tonight is that she didn't destroy some Stones song like Midnight Rambler and make tonight's show a trifecta of British Invasion mangling. Sounded to me like she missed some lyrics. Rather than hooting and hollering in a rock way, her hoots sounded like a Woodsy the Owl impersonator performing at the second annual Podunk Falls Folk Music Festival of 1974. If she had done this song last night, she would have deserved to be in the bottom three, but as Gilby said, she had enough credit with the guys that they were able to overlook even this terrible performance.

Toby kicked ass once again on the encore. I liked his outfit, and Miss Tori wondered if I have a little bit of a man-crush on him. I like ties, ok? It looked good. I'm not gay for Toby! Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Might as well go ahead and rank the final five:

1. Toby - he's been coming on strong, good performances, not feeling stale, bored, or repetitive with him.
2. Magni - health concerns aside, he's solid.
3. Dilana - I was so disappointed, she drops two slots.
4. Lukas - what choice do I have, with Storm at the bottom?
5. Slutty McHumperdick - now that Ryan is gone, all of my hatred will focus on her.

Alan's elimination recap is here.
Check back with Philip to look for his here.
Bill has his recap here, and he is good enough to include a YouTube of David Byrne performing Psycho Killer to save you from the unholiness that was unleashed by Dilana. Bless you, sir.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Rockstar Once Again

I should say that I enjoy hearing "new" songs, not just the same songs over and over, so I wasn't expecting much with a bunch of rerun songs. I ended up enjoying this episode a little more than I thought I would. Quick reactions this time because I'm borrowing Miss Tori's computer; mine's all German again. From the top:

Lukas - "Lithium": The Supernova guys seem to love to lick his butt. I always like the songs he is doing better than I like him doing them. The material is lessened by being associated with him.

Magni - "I Alone": Very skilled and competent, but not necessarily a star. I enjoyed his putdowns og the other guys more than his song. Maybe he could be a standup comic. Oh yeah, also, thank goodness that flying piece of glass didn't hit that throbbing vein, or he would have bled out right there poolside.

And since we're in the vicinity of the whole Dilana thing from last week, what was up with Ryan being all self-righteous about how he goes to bed every night telling himself not to talk bad about people, and there he is talking about how some people just can't handle stardom and attention. Hello? Isn't that talking bad about someone? And behind her back, no less. Dilana at least said her stuff to reporters, and knew the others would hear it. For all Ryan knew, his little putdown of her might never have made it on air, and she never would have known what a two-faced hypocrite he is. Screw you Ryan.

Ryan - "Clocks": My first thought was, since Tommy said he wished Magni had run to the back of the crowd, would Ryan run to the back of the crowd? Sounded ok I guess. A pox on whoever said he looked like David Blaine, cause now I can't get that out of my head. It's like that lit professor who said that every Emily poem can be read to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas. Oh, and screw you Ryan, still.

Storm - "Bring Me to Life": Just when I was wondering if I might be liking her again, she had to do her little squat/dry-hump the stage maneuver. Again. We get it. You're a slut. You may have fooled me with the arty nudes at the beginning, but really, now. In poker they talk about "tells," little tics or giveaways that you often aren't even aware of, that give away something you don't really want to say or have other people know. I'm starting to think that the hump maneuver is Storm's tell. She's a slutty humper, Slutty McHumperdink, and try as she might, she just can't hide it. I'm definitely off her slutty, slutty bandwagon.

Toby - "Rebel Yell": Black nail polish is weak. Aside from that, Toby is slowly winning me over. For me, he's making an upward push while some of the others are standing still or even going down. Like that slutty, slutty Storm. She's going down like crazy. And she's not doing very good on the show either! Toby's got the groupies, he's got the hot chicks up on stage, he blasted that megaphone siren on "Burning Down The House," I'm practically sold. But then you have . . .

Dilana - "Mother, Mother": She's back. She reminded me why I like her so much. Miss Tori said "Even on a song I hate she was so good!" Need I say more?

Bottom three: Storm, Ryan, Lukas. I would definitely be happy with that bottom three tomorrow night. My top three would be Dilana, Toby gaining ground and improving, Magni third but steady and dependable. I just hope he can say the same about that vein. I mean, seriously. Has he seen a doctor? Is it even safe for him to keep singing like that? Howie Mandel did give up the whole pull a latex glove down over his head and blow it up with his nose schtick. Take Howie's word for it, it's not worth risking your health, Magni.

Check out these cool people for other, better, and in some cases, actually professional recaps:

Alan at What's Alan Watching
Bill at So Quoted has a preview because he chacks out the web content. Keeping checking back for his recap.
Philip at Life in Memphis has a spoiler preview and a recap.

What the? I'm last? How weak am I? Dang!

Sunday, August 27, 2006


In Search Of Congressman Pombo, Part Three

You may recall that in part one, on July 30, I noted how I had written on July 15 to Richard Pombo, my local congressman, about border security. I received a form letter reponse almost instantly, and was advised that I would recieve a response related to my concerns soon. I was stirred up on July 30th by something I read at Club for Growth by Andrew Roth. It was a list of 19 amendments requiring up or down, public votes on specific pieces of pork spending, not just a single vote on some big bill that has any number of pork projects hidden away inside it. Pombo voted against every single one of these. I decided that since I hadn't heard from him, I might go ahead and write to him about each of these nineteen amendments, one at a time, and see if the response improved.

In part two, On August 11, I noted how I still hadn't heard from his office in regards to the July 15 issue, and I picked the first of the item's on Andrew's list to write about to Pombo.

Imagine my shock when I saw a letter from Pombo in my email, "Subject: RE: Your message to Congressman Pombo." Not exactly a next day response, but still, I wrote it on a Friday, you toss in the weekend and he might not have seen it til Monday, and here's an answer on Thursday. You're probably guessing by now that this was actually his response to the July 15 email about securing the borders. Here's a bit of what I wrote to him:
I was glad to see you have an "On the Issues" section on your re-election website. Unfortunately, when I went to it, the information there was pretty generic.

I'm no politician, but even I can say "clean energy is good" or "borders are important." Can't you give some specifics? I'm sure your Democratic opponent in the fall will say "clean energy is good" too.
So aside from "borders are good," what exactly do you propose or support? A border wall? National Guard troops? How many troops? Where will you put them. Is there a bill you are supporting right now? What is it's number so that we can look it up. If there is no such bill, when do you plan on introducing one? When are votes scheduled?

That's not too unreasonable, is it? Platitudes are nice, but how about some specifics? Well, he made an effort.

He replies:

Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns with immigration. It is important that I hear from you on this issue.

Our immigration system and borders are broken and must be fixed. We must take strong action to ensure our borders are effective in preventing illegal immigration. Since September 11, 2001 we face new threats like we have never seen before. An inadequate and dysfunctional immigration system leaves our Country vulnerable to terrorist attacks. [All platitude-LF]

Amnesty is not an option when fixing the current immigration system. I believe it is important to remember that while America is a nation of immigrants, we have a vested interest in an immigration system that is legal and fair. Amnesty rewards those who have broken these laws, and is simply not an option. I do NOT support amnesty. [Pretty platitudinal, but the last sentence is a nailed down position, provided we don't get into a discussion about what amnesty "is" later on-LF]

On December 16, 2005, The House of Representatives took a strong first step in addressing the immigration problem by passing The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, H.R. 4437. I voted for this legislation. [Date, title of the bill, bill number, the vote he cast; exactly the sort of thing I was looking for: cold, hard, specific details-LF]

The Border Protection Act will strengthen our immigration laws by significantly increasing security at the borders. It is a crucial first step in the right direction. Congress has a sovereign duty to protect America’s borders and this legislation does just that. [Back to platitude land. Nothing specific about how border security will be "significantly" increased, with a bonus bit of doing our duty lingo thrown in-LF]

Additionally, The Border Protection Act puts forth the tools needed by the border patrol to deal with illegal immigration. These tools also help local police who keep our communities safe. Security at our nation's borders is paramount in our post 9/11 world. Our border security must meet the challenges of the 21st century by improving the ways we identify, track, and prevent terrorists from entering the U.S. [All non-specific platitudes again-LF] This legislation bolsters our immigration policy in key areas:

* Combats the hiring of illegal workers [How?-LF]
* Increases the penalties for alien smuggling [How?-LF]
* Cracks down on alien gang members [How?-LF]
* Bars terrorist aliens from naturalization [How?-LF]
* Eliminates the “Catch and Release” practice [How?-LF]
The Border Protection Act is a crucial step toward keeping our country safe. This legislation addresses the shortfalls of our current immigration policies while adhering to the philosophy of maintaining a free nation of laws that remains open to legal immigration. [Can I get a detail, a number, anything at all specific?-LF]

The Senate has finished debate and voted on its own version of immigration legislation, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, S.2611. During Senate debate, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) proposed an amendment that would have required the Department of Homeland Security to certify that U.S. borders were secure and new detention facilities were fully operational before a guest worker program could take effect. The amendment failed by a vote of 40 to 55. I support the principle behind this amendment. Securing our borders is the first and most important priority. [Title and bill number of the corresponding Senate legislation, including Senator Isakson's failed amendment is a nice touch, even if it feels a bit "they're even worse than us so go pick on them"-ish to me. And supporting the principle behind something just sounds weak-LF]

Subsequently, the House and Senate must reconcile their differences and come to an agreement between S.2611 and H.R. 4437. A final bill will then be sent to the President for his signature. [A little civics lesson thrown in for good measure-LF]

Again, thank you for contacting me. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Well. I am not sure what to think. I had my hopes up for a moment, but aside from specifically identifying some bills, he had almost nothing specific to say about content or what he would do. Perhaps, as a first effort, we should grade lightly. If this was a doctor's visit, he would have told us nothing but the name of the disease, then given us a medical textbook on our way out the door so we could look up the details and treatment ourselves. At least he gave us the textbook. I'll give it a "D". It's the sort of report I would have written back in school, for a friend, for a class I wasn't in, based solely on the writing prompt and whatever BS I could throw together.

Well dang! After all that, I don't feel like getting into the second amendment on Andrew's list: Hydroponic tomato production in Ohio ($180,000). Maybe next time

Saturday, August 26, 2006


First Week: Adequate

It has not gone nearly as bad as could have been justifiably imagined based on past performance. Don't worry though, we still have thirty-five more weeks to blow the whole thing.

Most annoying problem this week: the principal coming on with a ten minute announcement, during class, in front of students (obviously), that includes a reminder/chastisement to the teachers that everyone should be on-task, every minute, of every period, of every day.

Really. Does it not seem unprofessional to criticize your employees in front of your customers? We have a major problem with discipline and respect among our students; how does belittling the teachers in front of the students support them as authority figures in the eyes of the students?

How are the students supposed to believe in the idea of being "on-task every minute, of every period, of every day," when it is so blatantly advertised by the principal himself that the lessons and activities planned by the teacher are fairly worthless and may be interrupted at any time for even the most inane bits of trivia. Little Billy shouting out to the class that he had spaghetti for dinner last night was about as relevant as the announcement from the big boss.

Runner up in a close second place for most annoying: Announcing that as a part of stricter security measures, all students are required to wear their student ID's on their lanyards so that they may be seen at all times. Teacher reasonably asks, "So what do we do if a kid doesn't have his ID on his lanyard?" Administration, clearly having no plan for what to do in this eventuality, weakly replies, "Well, try to encourage them. Maybe you could offer them points or something if they have it."

Excuse me? "Try" and "maybe" are not words I want to hear about something that is required at all times. Did I mention that teachers are also required to wear their ID's on their lanyards at all times?

I'm sure I have mentioned that teachers are:
- believed (taken at our word) to a lesser extent than students
- belittled to a greater degree than students
- condescended to, to a greater degree than students
- insulted to a greater degree than our students

I would not be surprised that of teachers and students, the least dangerous of the two populations, the teachers, will have the ID policy most harshly enforced. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Rockstar! Zombies! Bird Attacks! And Ryan Wins The Week.

Rockstar went fairly well tonight. None of the performances were disasters, but not all of them were great either.

Let's start with the original songs by Patrice and Ryan. Patrice sang "Beautiful Thing" and Ryan sang "Back of Your Car." I liked both songs, but especially Ryan's song. For Patrice, this was the first time I enjoyed her on this show. I don't think she's right for this band, but singing songs she's written for herself and her style and comfort level, maybe she could make a go of it. Nice job Patrice.

Ryan's song I liked a lot. This was my favorite performance by him. Maybe these two are just evidence that you can't help but have more passion and energy in a performance when it's your song. No matter how much you like someone else's song, you may always do better with one of your own. I definitely want Ryan to stay.

Magni sang that "Teen Spirit" song. Hmmm. My problem is that I like the song, but I'm almost sick of hearing it by now. Magni's performance was great, as usual. The problem is that it was "as usual." Last time, I said a good singer has to be able to overcome a bad song. Maybe you have to be able to overcome a good song, too.

I was waiting for Storm to make me comfortable again with liking her. She did the Aerosmith song "Crying." It didn't work. I like the song. Her performance was ok, but she's almost getting to the point of having what I call "The Lukas Problem." Sure, I liked the nekkid pics, and linked to them, but she's going to the well a little too often with the sexual come-ons in the performances. It's like porn. A little once in a while can be fun, but if you watch it every night, it gets old fast. If I never see her squat to dry-hump the stage again, it'll be too soon. She's like a dancer at a small time strip club who only knows one or two moves and does them over and over. The other problem was pointed out to me by Miss Tori: Storm's makeup and jerky movements make her look like a zombie half the time. A zombie stripper. Yeeesh! One of the guys said she was 1000% better than last week. She should have gone for 2000%. I was not surprised to see her in the bottom three in the quick vote tally at the end.

Dilana sings well and her performance this time was OH NO! Dilana LOOK OUT! A bird is flying right at your face! Ouch that had to hurt! It smashed your face and the wings detached from its body and stuck to your eyelids! You didn't even have time to pluck them off before going on national TV. Too bad. I still like her. I don't care so much for the song. This was the first week that I felt like she was maybe a little predictable. I hope it was just the eyelashes that are subconsciously influencing me against her. Maybe it was not liking the song. I just didn't have that same good feeling I normally have after seeing her perform.

Toby + Layla = Unabomber. People with hoods, please hear me. If it's not snowing or raining, you look retarded. Like the song. Toby was ok. I won't miss him.

Lukas did that Killers song. You know, the one that's not "Mr. Brightside." I said before that when Lukas did "Creep," he turned me around. I didn't like him before, and then I did like him. Miss Tori asks how people can hate him so much. Then she asks me if I still like him. I had to tell her I'm back to hating him again. And it's not just that I don't care for the song. She asked me why I don't like him anymore. All I could tell her is that sometimes it's possible not to like a person, and at the same time be unable to articulate even a single reason why. Is it the sunglasses? Is it the eyebrows? Is it the facial hair? Is it the hair on top of his head? Is it the singing? I have no idea! I just don't like him. No offense, Lukas.

I am satisfied with the early voting bottom three of Patrice, Storm, and Toby. If Lukas drops to the bottom three tomorrow, it wouldn't kill me. Dilana, Magni, and especially Ryan I want to stay.

Read good coverage by people who know what they're talking about from
Bill at So Quoted
Alan at What's Alan Watching
Philip at Life in Memphis
You may have to check back over the next day or two for their reviews, but Alan's is up right now, and Bill and Philip have plenty of other good stuff to keep you occupied.

Oh, and is anyone else dreading the fan's choice show? I don't necessarily want to hear any of the songs performed again, especially if they're performed by the same person who sang it before. At the very least, if you vote on that, please vote for the wildcard songs so we can hear a song that's at least new to that singer.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


How To Build Morale And Inspire Greatness

"In Hollywood you just fail upwards" - Kevin Smith

I'm sure you can imagine that in high school, there are classes you'd like to teach, and classes you'd rather not teach. Most of you would be likely to further stipulate that teaching older kids like juniors and seniors is generally better than teaching annoying freshmen.

Classes like American Lit, English Lit, and World Lit are considered premium classes. A schedule with all sorts of these classes, and no annoying freshman classes, would be a pretty sweet deal. How, oh how, does one obtain such a schedule? Apparently, you fail upwards.

We're at an underperforming school. We are at a point in our underperformance at which the district is taking a very strong interest in how we do things, and how our kids perform. They are especially be going to focus on freshman classes and exit exam classes.

You've heard of that thing in California, that wacky experiment known as the Exit Exam? That thing that tests whether or not you have seventh and eighth grade math and language arts skills, passes you if you get a 55 or some such low score, and affirms to the world that you deserve to get a diploma? Yeah, well Exit Exam pass rates plays a big part in how the overall underperformance of a school is calculated, at least in our district. Apparently the district figures they'll come by and do visits and otherwise keep a close eye on these Exit Exam classes.

Perhaps I've babbled enough. Let's get back to how one gets assigned a premium schedule. In a conversation with Miss Chipper and Miss Glum, I learned she was teaching several periods of ESL, in this case, teaching English to children who have just arrived in this country and know few, if any, words in English. Normally, Miss Glum would be teaching a class like that, but not this year. Like several other English teachers, this year Miss Glum's schedule was adjusted so that she could teach one section of Exit Exam. These were classes taught by Miss Birdie last year. They are not considered premium classes.

Remember that the district has a special interest in these Exit Exam classes? Well here's the fail upwards part: Miss Birdie was absent 48 times last year. Miss Birdie did not have surgery. She did not have mono, nor did it turn out that she was really bored. She did not have chicken pox, or any other such illness that results in long-term absence. She just missed a day here, a day there, and by June, it had added up to 48 days of absence. I'm sure you can imagine how 48 absences, a little more than 25% of the year, would affect the performance of a class. Especially a class of the types of kids who need to take the Exit Exam class.

Here's what I imagine. With the district coming around, our administrators decided that they could not afford to keep her teaching those Exit Exam classes. They decided to put her where she could do the least damage. They decided that juniors are a little more self sufficient. And they decided to pack her schedule with American Lit. Ta-da! A premium schedule. She does have one Exit Exam class, but it's 6th period, and everyone knows 6th period is frequently a loser period anyway.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Schedule, Schedule, Who's Got The Schedule

School is still starting on the 21st.

My department chair tells me that the schedule has been finalized.

Neither the principal, nor the AP in charge of schedules, has given notifications of schedule changes to those concerned. Hey, why break a streak?

Rumor has it that the schedule might be put in the mail today. Might get it on Wednesday. So at least a teacher would have four days to prepare for a new mystery class or two.

Aside from having a waffle-stomper year, my other goal is to document the retardness that is our inner city school.

Oh. And not kill myself too.

Friday, August 11, 2006


In Search Of Congressman Pombo, Part Two

In part one, I was inspired to take up my on again, off again communication with Richard Pombo, my local Congressman. Since he hasn't been very responsive to my previous emails, aside from a form email thanking me for writing and telling me I can expect to hear a detailed response from the congressman shortly, I thought I would take the longer, slower approach. The short version: he voted against nineteen amendments that identified and required specific up or down votes on nineteen individual pieces of pork spending. The experiment: if I write one email at a time, about one vote at a time, by email seventeen or so, will I actually get more than a form letter response and a promise of a more detailed response later? Of course, I decided to undertake this bold mission the day before going on vacation for a week. Now that I'm back, and the election is getting closer, it's time to get started.

Andrew Roth at the Club For Growth made all this possible. He rounded up the nineteen amendments, and the votes of each member of the House on each one. In addition, he has invited interested bloggers to contact their representatives and ask why they support pork, or thank them for being against pork, depending on how they voted. Take part. Then tell Andrew what you're doing, because he has a big list of representatives, and his goal is to get at least one local blogger writing about each one. Andrew's contact info and details on the project are at the link above.

Whoever your representative is, man, woman, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Socialist, whatever, I encourage you to be involved. As a member of this society, you have an obligation to be an informed and involved citizen. At the very least, you should be voting, so if you haven't registered yet, get it done before the next election. At the very least, you should live Cameron's comment to Ferris and Sloane:
I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I'm going to take a stand. I'm going to defend it. Right or wrong, I'm going to defend it.

Enough of that; on to Pombo. Depending on my mood, I may or may not make an effort to individualize these emails to him. Can I really complain about the form letters he sends me when I'm pretty much sending him a form letter of my own? Then again, at this point, there is no guarantee than any human has read any of the individual emails I've sent him in the past. Whatever. Here's this week's letter. Feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions. Hopefully it's not too snotty:
Congressman Pombo,

One of the important issues Republicans stand for is responsible spending. In the last year or so, there has been a lot of discussion about "pork" spending. These are questionable spending projects that, while they may make the local representative look good, are not really necessary, are not necessarily good ideas, are not areas in which the government should be involved, and usually are tucked into larger bills to avoid scrutiny. The general feeling about pork is that it is an underhanded process that is not conducted with the transparency that everyone has a right to expect from their representatives.

I was hoping you could explain your vote on House Vote 190 - Dairy education in Iowa. When we have a deficit of any size, even as little as one dollar, is it really responsible for the national, United States Government to be spending money on something like this? I'll give you some free dairy education if you want to pass it on to Iowa: dairy products come from cows, and include milk, cheese, and butter. I suspect that that dairy education money is just going to enrich a local print shop that will make up a bunch of brochures with pretty cow pictures. Can you defend this vote, and the money it wastes? Help me understand the political process a bit here. Thank you for your time.

I guess the experiment requires that I let you know about the responses. Trust me; they'll start feeling really repetitive fairly quickly.

Actual Update: That didn't take long, did it:
Thank you for contacting me. This is an auto response confirming that I have received your e-mail. I appreciate the time you have taken to contact me.

Please be advised if you sent an e-mail with an attachment or forward from another source, due to security reasons, I am unable to open them. Please cut and paste and re-send the e-mail. If you would like to receive a reply to your letter via U.S. postal mail, please make sure you have included your CA 11th District address. Letters received by e-mail will be responded to the same way. You will receive a response pertaining to your comments and concerns shortly.

If you reside outside of California's 11th District, I urge you to contact your Representative. You can find contact information for your Representative at

For more information on legislation and links to other government
information, please visit

Of course, on July 30th, they told me I would "receive a response pertaining to your comments and concerns shortly" also. I never did. Since the replies to me so far are strictly automated, is it even worth it to include in my emails to Pombo a running total of emails to which I have been promised, but have not received, a "response pertaining to your comments and concerns?" Is it a Pombo strategy that emails are for losers and if a person is concerned enough, he'll step away from the keyboard and make a phone call? What is the heirarchy among emails, snail mail, phone calls, and in-person visits?

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Speaking Of Schedules . . .

Last time, we talked about how the time before last, I had been notified a week earlier about getting my schedule changed. I wondered both times how long exactly it would take one of the two responsible parties, the AP in charge of schedules or the Principal himself, to notify me of the change.

This is a problem because the longer they wait, the less time I have to prepare for new classes. School starts on the 21st. I was not notified by either of the responsible parties today either. This post is to let you know that my schedule has been changed yet again. So much for the couple of thousand pages worth of summer reading I had to do for the new course, and all the prep that goes with it. According to my new, new schedule, I won't be teaching that class after all.

Why do I get the feeling I'll be starting this year bitter from day one?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I Call Shenanigans On Big Brother, And Almost Shenanigans, But More Likely Just BS, on Rockstar

Miss Tori and I will be going out to dinner in a few minutes. I'll put up as much as I can, I just wanted to get the claim out there.

Big Brother first. Two people get nominated each week for voting off the show. There is a competition for a veto, which you can win and use to take yourself off the chopping block, or take someone else off the chopping block. The veto challenges come in various forms. Some are physical challenges, like the mini-golf game. Some are mental challenges, like remembering details about the house, the game so far, or your fellow contestants. Then there are the will challenges. We'll get back to them in a sec.

I can understand that, given the occasional exception of someone who has completely broken down over missing his family and wants to go home, most people on the chopping block who are concerned about their position and want to stay in the house and keep playing the game want it with a generally equal intensity or passion. I don't think you can really say that one contestant "wanted it more" than the other person facing eviction. When they're on the block, I mean.

During a challenge, I suppose it's possible to argue that one or the other person did want it more, and that's why he won the mini-golf, and the other guy lost. I don't buy that argument. A guy who plays crap golf might lose to a guy who, knowing he won't get voted out no matter what, doesn't give a rat's ass, but can putt like Tiger Woods (remind me to tell you an Olympics story on this subject later if you're interested). So I think it's clear that it's possible to lose a physical challenge no matter how badly you want it. I hope you'll also accept that this holds true for the mental challenges as well.

Now let's get back to the will challenge. A will challenge is one that if you want it bad enough, you can win. Remember when Chicken George was up on the block? During the veto challenge, he faced down Kayser all the way to the end.Shave your head? All you have to do is say yes, and George did. Nothing physical or mental there. The final test was how many days you would be willing to eat slop. I seem to recall that there were sixty days left at that point. You could bet one day, all the way up to sixty days, hoping that you picked a number higher than the other guy. George won by not taking any chances at trying to outguess Kayser. George bet all sixty days. He wanted it bad enough, and he got it.

So what? Well, we have seen over time that Chicken George, and I love you George so try not to be too offended, cannot win any physical or mental challenge, unless someone throws the competition. So what? Well, let me just say that some houseguests are more popular than others. Some are more well liked. George has a lot of fans. He was on the block, and it was a foregone conclusion that he would be voted out. Everyone knew it. The only way he would not be voted out was if he won the veto and took himself off the block. It was early in the season. Lots of viewers like Chicken George. Some of them might not keep watching once he was voted off. Can you see where I'm going?

Oops, dinner time. We'll continue this later. Ok back again.

Where I'm going is here: Big Brother did not outright keep George on the show, but they did set up a veto will challenge that Chicken George could certainly win if he wanted it bad enough, as opposed to a physical or mental challenge that he would certainly lose. In other words, they didn't exactly fudge things to certainly keep him on the show longer, but they did fudge things so that he would not certainly be voted off. It's pretty clever actually. Of course the show would lose credibility if they just dumped someone else instead of Chicken George. They have to make it look like it's a real contest, and not a staged one. I think they went halfway, turning an impossible situation for George into a possible one. Is it really just a coincidence that a will challenge comes up the one time when a popular houseguest is on the block who will lose any physical or mental challenge? Maybe.

But then, when Janelle is on the block this week, guess what happens? Give yourself a gold star if you said another will challenge. Janelle is hugely popular. You either love her and pray that she destroys everyone else in the house, or you hate her guts, and pray that someone, anyone, will destroy her. She is a polarizing figure. Polarizing figures are good for ratings.

Let me set the stage. On the block we have James and Janelle. At this point, like when Chicken George is on the block against Will, we know based on what is going on in the house that James will not be voted off, no matter what, and that Janelle will be voted off. Like Chicken George, Janelle must win the veto or she will leave the house.

I will grant you that Janelle is smart and physical (mmmmmmm, physical), and that she is a threat in mental and physical challenges. However, her victory is by no means certain. Danielle spends all the time leading up to the challenge calling James the "Veto King." Unlike George, Janelle does not face a certain loss if the challenge is mental or physical. However, like George, she ended up with a veto will challenge that she could certainly win, if she wanted to badly enough.

In this veto will challenge each participant had forty points. There were ten "prizes" the participants could take. Good prizes, like $5000 or a plasma TV, can be taken at the cost of some points from your forty point beginning total. Bad prizes, like making yourself ineligible for next week's veto challenge or making the houseguests sleep on army cots and take cold showers for a week, add points to your total. The person with the most points, wins the veto. During the contest, you cannot see what the other participants are doing. You claim a "prize" by clicking on your Jeopardy-style clicker before anyone else when each "prize" is announced. Unfortunately, with all the need for Big Brother drama, the editing and quick cuts among the players and even into the confessional rooms, there's really no way for us to know who is clicking first, and who Big Brother tells us clicked first. And the participants who are right there can't see what the others are doing, so they can't tell if Janelle really did click first on this or that punishment to get more points for herself.

Now, because these bad choices that give you points either punish you or punish the other people in the house, there is a strong disincentive to taking them. "Ha, ha, ha! I made you eat slop for the week and I got the veto so neener neener" is not one of the ways you make friends and influence people. No, the only person likely to win is the one who wants it the most. I think we've shown that the one who wants it the most in this situation is the one who knows she will certainly go home if she doesn't win it. That's Janelle. We've also shown that in will challenges, the person who wants it the most actually does win, and always will. Actually, maybe we haven't exactly shown all that, but the case has been made and I'm willing to go out on a limb with it. I am asserting that two popular houseguests, at great risk of going home, conveniently found themselves in challenges in which they could certainly win if they wanted to. I am asserting that we don't know, and can't know, if the buzzers were manipulated in any way that helped Janelle click in first. I guess all we really know for sure is that an extremely popular woman that fans of the show love to watch is safe from elimination this week. Big Brother, I call shenanigans on you.

Rockstar is another story. On Survivor, let's say you start off with sixteen players. You eliminate one per week. Your three hour finale involves the last four survivors. My simple math tells me that I will have twelve regular episodes, plus a three-hour finale. And my advertising guys go out and sell the hell out of these shows, making all kinds of crazy money for my network. They sell twelve regular episodes, plus a three-hour finale. My show is in production, and some weeks or months later, it actually goes on the air.

Now, I saw Late Shift. I know that networks don't like having to give back money on ads they've already sold. Tommy can make all the history he wants by dumping two people on one episode, but are we really supposed to believe that this is some surprise that the network didn't know about? I mean, per my Survivor example, it seems reasonable that even before this season bagan airing, all the ads for all the episodes were already sold. If you get rid of two people in one week, my simple math tells me that that means one less episode will now be airing. Sure, they could fill it with a best of show, but if you've got enough material for a best of show, wouldn't you like to keep the original number of episodes, and add a bonus episode to make even more ad money? You're going to tell me that Tommy can just cancel an episode of Rockstar and force the network to refund all those ads (and Lord knows, the show has plenty of ads)?

I think the network had to have known about this ahead of time. I think they at least approved it, or maybe even came to the guys asking them to cut one episode because the network had a special of some sort that they wanted to run at some point in the future. The cut-two-people-at-once then leads to the notion that the show already knows who is cut ahead of time, and the "redemption" songs to stay on the show are just a way to fill time. Whoever's going home, is going home. They try to make it all drama and big surprises. "The person who is in the bottom three . . . will be revealed after the break." "And now for the bottom three, Johnny . . . you . . . are . . . in . . . the . . . bottom . . . three . . . maybesomeotherweekbutthisweekyoucantakeaseatyou'resafe." I suppose there's some network playbook that says this sort of stuff equals drama, but for me, it equals the sort of thing that makes me want to not watch the show, no matter how much I like the music. Please give it a rest. Just play it straight for us.

I understand they want to create drama. I can understand, and even forgive, the notion that they know who they will cut even before the redemption songs. We get more performances of great songs. Just don't tell me that cutting two people at once was some big out of nowhere surprise. I think only the contestants have the standing to call shenanigans in this instance; therefore, Rockstar, I call BS on you.

If I Was On Rockstar, I'd Be Like Ashlee Simpson

Seriously, how retarded am I? In addition to Philip, you can catch another perspective on Rockstar each week from Bill over at So Quoted.

You can also check out Adam at Throwing Things, and Alan Sepinwall, over at What's Alan Watching, who has all kinds of great TV coverage, but when he links to his newspaper column, they want me to register. Registration annoys me, and I don't live anywhere near New Jersey, so that paper can do me no favors in any way shape or form. It's kind of an anal, Virgo peevishness that I have. But definitely read his blog.

Thanks again Bill for pointing me in the right direction.

Wictory Wednesday

This week Wictory Wednesday presents Steve Laffey for the US Senate for Rhode Island. Steve is running against well-known *insert appropriate adjective here* Republican incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee. The reasons to vote against Chafee are many, but as a rule, we should cast votes for something.

A vote cast for Laffey is a vote cast for fiscal restraint. Laffey understands that the federal government spends other people's money and that pork projects are an egregarious example of government waste and corruption. He also is against raiding the Social Security Trust fund (yeah, I know, it's a joke) and corporate welfare. It is a national disgrace that our tax system cannot be understood by even the enforcers of that system, the IRS, and that such a system is an oppression and shackle against the American family. He supports simplifying the system so that the average person doesn't need to hire a team of professionals to figure out what their "fair share" of taxes is.

Laffey is a strong economic growth candidate supporting policies that will keep the economy moving forward. He supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent and will work to introduce additional tax cuts. He understands that tax cuts also need to come with spending cuts. Laffey is an experienced politician who, as mayor, led his town from having a near junk-bond rating to financial solvency and has overseen some of the greatest economic renewal Cranston has seen in decades. The Club for Growth has endorsed his campaign recognizing that he will move the nation forward and avoid the recession-prone policies of the Democrats.

Please consider contributing or volunteering for Steve Laffey's campaign for the Senate.

This has been a production of the Wictory Wednesday blogburst. If you would like to join Wictory Wednesday, please see this post or contact John Bambenek at jcb (dot) blog [at] gmail {dot} com. The following sites are members of the Wictory Wednesday team:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Woohoo! Storm Large And The Rest Of The Rockstar Kids!

I had to miss it last week, so I'm extra excited about this week. I can't wait to see Storm and all the rest cause some of them kick butt.

And make sure you check out Philip's recap.

Actual Update: Once again, I really enjoyed the show. Storm and Dilana (sp?) were my two favorites over the last few shows, and one of the ones I didn't really care for was skunk boy Lukas. However, I must admit that for me he was the best in show tonight. I still don't know all their names, and I don't keep a scorecard, so make sure you see Philip for a detailed rundown.

Having said all that, let me add a general note about Rockstar. First, I did not watch it last season with INXS, so this observation may not hold up. For me, Rockstar is way better than American Idol. Even some of the worst Rockstar performances are better for me than some of the best American Idol performances. The reason is that I like pretty much every single song on Rockstar better than almost every single song on American Idol. I watch American Idol for Randy, Paula, and Simon. I watch Rockstar for the music.

I don't know how songs are chosen on American Idol. Sure, on the Barry Manilow show, they all had to pick one of his songs, or they had to pick songs from the 1960's, or whatever. On Rockstar, if there are ten performers, they are given ten songs, and they each have to pick one from the list. Sometimes, arguments ensue. Still, someone is choosing those ten songs. Is it the Supernova guys? I don't know. What I do know is that they choose generally great songs. I must also say I was really surprised that they were able to get a Lennon song. Did they even have Lennon or the Beatles on AI? Did AI have the Stones or the Who? Rockstar has the better music, hands down.

Do the Rockstar people go on a tour, like the American Idol finalists? While I would never go to the AI tour, I would definitely try to see a Rockstar tour. Have each person do his "good" songs. For some of them, that might be four or five or eight songs, and for others, it might be just one or two songs. Have the Supernova guys put together a setlist based on the songs they enjoyed the most. Heck, five of them doing five songs each would probably be a 90 minute concert right there; get all of the contestants out there with their "good" songs, and you might have a 3+ hour show. That would totally kick ass! Shoot, you could have them open for Supernova when they go out on tour.

And if they do that, I want a finder's fee or something.

Monday, August 07, 2006


A President For The 21st Century, Or For Century 21?

There was a little tidbit on AOL news, or whatever they call it, about average new home sizes, and how those numbers have changed over the years. They looked at every third year between 1973 and 2005. So what? It's just a bunch of numbers.

But numbers can be fun. Have you ever looked at a movie and thought that it was really a product of its time? What about movies like Rambo or Red Dawn; can you picture them happening any time other than the Reagan years? Have you ever thought that a movie like Rocky was so well received because its themes and ideas were just what people were so desperately looking for in 1976?

Is it too much of a stretch to wonder if those housing numbers might be some reflection on the mood of the country? Probably not. The stretching part comes when you try to tie it in with the president at the time. Perhaps my limited skills can reproduce the chart for you:
Growing Gains
The average new home has grown - a lot.
Year Average new home (in square feet)

1973 - 1,660
1976 - 1,700
1979 - 1,760
1982 - 1,710
1985 - 1,785
1988 - 1,995
1991 - 2,075
1994 - 2,100
1997 - 2,150
2000 - 2,266
2003 - 2,330
2005 - 2,434

1973 starts us off with a baseline number. Going to '76, we see a growth of 40 square feet. That doesn't seem too impressive. People don't like Nixon and Ford? Gas lines? The beginning of the Carter years don't seem much better at a mere 60 sqft of growth.

Then the second half of Carter and all the inflation and high interest rates that came with it. Even two years wasn't enough for Reagan to prevent the average size from dropping by 50 sqft. But wow, take a look at 1985, up 75 sqft, the highest gain in 12 years! Probably a fluke, you might tell yourself, until you see that Reagan's final three years saw average new home size jump by another 210 sqft. Back it up to 1982 and he jumped house sizes by 285 sqft in six years.

Bush I couldn't even manage a third of that. Three years of his presidency only showed an 80 sqft gain. In his first two years in office, it looks like Clinton suffered from Bush I in the same way, but to a lesser extent, as Reagan suffered from Carter. The three year period from 1991-94 saw a weak growth of only 25 sqft.

However, the next three years saw a bump of 50 sqft by 1997. The dot com years at the end of Clinton's second term saw even more growth. By 2000, average size of new homes had increased by 116 sq ft, giving Clinton a total of 166 sqft over his last six years.

And that's everyone for whom we have a complete record. Bush II is nearing six years at this point, with two years to go. It probably wouldn't be fair to compare him to the rest, would it? The data only goes to 2005 anyway, so we only have five years to go on. Oh what the heck. First three years, up to 2003, the average size climbed by 64 sqft. Not so bad really, surpassed only by Reagan twice and Clinton once. Keep in mind that Bush II's first two years did beat Reagan's (-50), and Clinton's (+25). For the next period, Bush II only has two years to work with, 2004-05. In that time, home sizes jumped 104 sqft. If we average that out to 52 sqft/year, Bush II is on pace to beat every other period on this chart except Reagan's 1985-88 average of 70 sqft/year. If Bush II's averages hold, my math skills suggest to me he might reach 269 by the end of his term. Compared to the Gipper, that's not too shabby.

Of course, those numbers may have abolutely nothing to do with the presidents. That's why numbers are so fun. While correlation might have been shown, causation certainly has not.

At first I thought that if conservatives/Republicans are generally happier, perhaps an air of "extra-happiness" during Reagan and Bush II terms might explain things, but that Pew survey says they're happier whether or not Republicans are in power. Maybe the economy is like the climate, and it just goes in good and bad cycles? Then again, unlike the climate, we can actually control an economy in at least a limited way.

So you tell me. Why do house sizes grow in this particular pattern? Is it only coincidence?

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Britishisms? Why?

Dean has a little piece here about John and Mrs. Glenn getting in an accident. That's not why I'm writing this.

One of the things I like about Dean is that in some ways, I think he and I think alike. He'll take a story about an accident and hospitalization and come up with this:
By the way, have you ever noticed that some people say "at hospital" or "in hospital" instead of "at a hospital" or "in a hospital?"

Commenters note that it's a common British usage. Dean agrees, but notes that he hears it here, too.

So what is it with Britishisms? How can we possibly still have an inferiority complex with England after all this time? Speaking of Britishisms, does everyone who visits England really have to come back and say "wanker" and/or "bloody" every sixth word? We get it. You went to England.

Look, European snobbiness is half the reason all those people came to the new world in the first place. Now you want to come back from a seven day, six night guided tour of places like Boiled Beef Manor and Cabbage Castle and get all hoity-toity on us? If you want to visit someplace and come back using their language, at least visit someplace cool, or that has cool stuff we haven't already heard of a jillion times. Since nothing's cooler than America, why not visit someplace here? Then you can tell me about a cool place, like Waffle House, that I've never heard of here in California.

Or why not really contribute to the cultural exchange and on your next visit to the UK see if you can get them to start saying teabagging at their 4:00pm crumpet parties.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


And You Wonder Why Schools Fail?

Way back on July 12, I learned I would have a new schedule for this year, including one class I hadn't taught before. I griped about it here.

I noted that I had hear from neither of the two people who are obligated to give notification of schedule changes. That was on the 19th of July. I wondered how long it would take for them to make their notifications. I was especially curious since school starts on August 21. When I look at my calendar, I count up forty days between the day the decision was made, and the day school begins.

Of course, the week of July 12, a Wednesday, probably wasn't feasible for notification. I mean, by Wednesday, the week was half gone. Who could get anything done? The week after that? July 17-21? Well, things get busy. They were probably distracted by last minute things they had to get done before going on vacation for the week of July 24-28. Last week? July 31-August 4? Heck everyone knows that nowadays, you practically need a vacation to recover from your vacation.


My calendar tells me that twenty-five out of forty days on which they could have notified me have passed. My calendar tells me that there are fifteen possible days left for them to notify me. Every day that passes is another day I wouldn't have to prepare for a class I've never taught. This is the leadership of your average inner-city public school.

Now go back and read the title.

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