Monday, December 31, 2007

Merry New Year

Compared to others, this has been a shitty year, the last six months in particular, but I know I still have a lot to be thankful for. My friends and family most of all. I wouldn't be anywhere without them. When it comes down to it, bad things are going to happen to all of us, some things worse than others, and it may feel like this really isn't your day... month... year... life or whatever. Things are going to go wrong, that's just the nature of the human condition. You have to keep in mind though, great and beautiful things happen every day. The only way you can miss out on these great things is if you let the bad things cripple you (like they crippled me a lot this year). You may lose a friend but gain another, a grandparent may pass away and someone close to you may have a child, you may lose your faith in God but gain faith in Humanity. Bad things are going to happen no matter what, even if you lock yourself in your room, but you can't experience the finer things in life if you don't come out and play.

I think part of what makes life beautiful (pardon my sappiness) is our ability to overcome the rough times that come our way. We'll be beaten down, but we keep on keepin' on, and we should be proud of ourselves for that and try to lend a hand to those that are struggling.

(Only one more paragraph of my cheesiness, I promise.)

Anyway, my new year's resolution is to be more positive about life and to tell those close to me how I feel about them. To live for the day and not as if I have another fifty years to go. I love you all, and I hope your 2008 is a successful year for you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Live from Riverton, it's Christmas Day!

Oy vey, it's been a... not very good Christmas. I don't want to say bad, because whenever you're around good food and family things aren't going poorly, but it's sure had it's shitty parts. Was on a plane from Raleigh to Minneapolis to Salt Lake all day yesterday. When we got to the SLC we found out half our luggage was missing, including my bag. The prospect of spending eight days without my happy pills or a change of clothes scared the hell out of me.

Anyway, after that we went to the car rental place to find out Advantage rent-a-car closes at midnight, and nobody else had anything bigger than a compact car, which wasn't going to fit everybody much less the ski's we were lugging around. So we scratched together $50 in cash to get a shuttle to drive us to Riverton. Got in about 3 a.m. (5 eastern) and collapsed.

Wow, I'm talking more about myself than I planned to already. Anyway, the short version of the rest: I got my bag back around 3 p.m. today, yay and all that.

Anyway, I watched Garden State on the airplane, one of my favorite movies of all time, so I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the movie (out of many) that kind of sums up my thoughts on life at the moment:

"You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some place where you can put your shit that idea of home is gone... you move out one day and it's just gone. And you can never get it back. It's like you get homesick for a place that doesn't exist. I mean it's like this rite of passage. You won't have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it's like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place."

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Two-Party System: American Politics

Last week somebody from the UK asked me how the American two-party political system works, and if they have any sort of permanent leaders. Here's my answer:

Each party has a national committee that determines the party platform. This platform that the parties stand on is actually very fluid, hardly a platform at all really. If you compared the party stance on issues from fifty, or even twenty years ago, and compared them with how they feel about things today, you would find huge discrepancies that would make it seem that the two parties don't really have any ties whatsoever to the parties of today, which would seem like a big deal seeing as how they love to channel Kennedy and Reagan, but that's really not a big deal because the only goal of the Party is to get their members elected and in power. So staying consistent isn't really a concern, in fact, staying consistent quite often leads to a loss of power over the course of a decade or two. We Americans are awful flighty when it comes to knowing what we want when it comes to politics.

Anyway, the party National Committee takes the platform that they think best endears them to the largest group of voters and dictates it to the regional party committees who filter that on down to the state party committees who pass it on to the county parties, municipalities, etc. Think of it as an enormous multi-tiered fountain, but as opposed to an awesome fountain of chocolate or cheese or even Sierra Mist this is a bullshit fountain, dispensing wave after wave of excrement to the huddled masses below. The lower rungs of the ladder tolerate this because along with the bullshit, the fountain also dispenses large sums of money. This leads me to the National Committees most important function: Fund raising, because you can't get elected unless you can buy thousands of dollars worth of advertising that promotes the tawdry details of your opponents sexual escapades (true or not). The party committee doles out the cash to the candidates with the understanding that they use it to build a bullshit cannon to fire like grapeshot at unsuspecting and otherwise ordinary Americans.

But I digress.

The Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee have chairmen, at the moment Howard Dean leads the Democrats and Mike Duncan for the GOP, but they are elected (or appointed? Don't know, don't care) and replaced so often that most Americans have no idea who these guys are, and those that do don't pay them much attention. The chairmen are most visible at the party National Conventions every four years when a Presidential Election comes around, only to retreat to their bullshit cave three days later never to be heard from again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Tip for Herding Cats...

Okay, so this isn't really about herding cats, but that's what substitute teaching feels like sometimes. Still, here's some advice for people that don't have a lot of experience with large groups of teenagers. If you do have experience with large groups of teenagers and/or substituting, hopefully you'll laugh because it's so true.

When you're a sub, the simplest way to know if a group of students are up to no good is if they're looking at you. It sounds ridiculous, but most middle and high schoolers will never make eye contact with you unless you're talking with them one-on-one. However, if they're breaking the rules they will look right at you to see if you're looking. I don't think they are aware that they do this, but it sticks out like a sore thumb when, out of a class of 28 students that are doing their own thing, a group of three suddenly stop talking and look up at you. It gives them away every time. Even if the culprit (and it's almost always a boy) is smart enough to look away, those around him aren't, and they always go silent which is conspicuous when they're the loudest group in the room. So the next time you see a group of students stop what they're doing and give you the 'deer in headlights' look, stay alert, something is going down.