Friday, March 28, 2008

without a trace

Yesterday, I weighed in with another installment of "students say the darndest things." When I casually asked my wife if she read it, she informed me that she thinks the "students say the darndest things" entries are--and I'm quoting--"snoozers." Feelings were definitely hurt. Anyway, she requested that I make it up to her by writing about The Celebrity Apprentice, so I feel that I owe it to her.

As I've mentioned before, I watched the first season of The Apprentice religously. I didn't really pay much attention again until this season, but when Gene Simmons, Stephen Baldwin, and Nadia Comaneci are going to be in the same boardroom, you watch. And before long, it became appointment television. My early pick for the winner was ex-supermodel Carol Alt, but before long, the Baker family became serious fans of Mr. Trace Adkins. This has been pretty standard with me and reality television. I like the normal ones--Rebecca from The Real World: Seattle, Tamyra Gray from the first season of American Idol, etc. And Trace, in the context of The Celebrity Apprentice, was the normal one. But last night, Donal Trump fired him, thereby putting the exclamation point on reality television's worst week ever. (See yesterday's entry for more on that.)

Here's the thing: For the last week, NBC had been promoting the showdown between Trace and Piers Morgan (who, along with Tiffany Fallon, was one of the only two "celebrities" I'd never heard of before the show began) as the battle of "Good v. Evil." Trace is the laid-back cowboy who did everything with dignity; Piers is the sneaky, underhanded British guy. Now, they didn't need to do it that way. Those shows are obviously mostly about editing, so they could have edited it in a way that didn't make everyone pro-Trace. But once they made that decision, I think it was Donald Trump's responsibility to make Trace the celebrity apprentice. Why would you pit good versus evil and give the job to evil?! And I'm not the only one that thinks so--on the NBC web site, the web poll question is "Did the Donald make the right decision?" and 65% of America said no. Infuriating.

So here's what came of my experience with The Celebrity Apprentice: 1) I have a new-found respect for Trace Adkins; 2) I have a new level of loathing for all things British; 3) I've realized that Ivanka Trump is actually fairly normal--much more than any other Trumps; 4) I do not like Marilu Henner; 5) I don't understand how someone as blah as Lennox Lewis wins a heavyweight title; and 6) there is nothing funnier than watching Trace Adkins deal with the Backstreet Boys. Plus, this mildly angry blog entry. Damn Brits.

Later gators.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

students say the darndest things (part 3)

First of all, I'm seething right now. My guy, Chikezie, got the boot on American Idol last night. Absolutely ludicrous. Here is a list of people who are actually better than the C-Man: Brooke White, Carly Smithson, David Cook, and Michael Johns. If those were the only people still on the show and Chikezie-E got voted off, I would have no problems with that. But to pull a Bernie Mac here for a minute, Come on, America! Kristy Lee Cook? Jason Castro? Ramiele Malubay, for crying out loud! I know there's no way to find this out, but I would wager my first-born son on the fact that Chikezie would sell more tickets and albums that Ramiele. And it wouldn't be close. So thank you, voters, for making the rest of my AI-watching experience slightly less enjoyable. Hope you're happy. At least it looks like next week's The Moment of Truth is going to be truly horrifying, so I've got that to look forward to.

Since I'm too upset to come up with a new idea, I'm weighing in with another installment of "student say the darndest things." I've decided that this is a truly inspired idea for a regular feature because I might someday run out of ideas for Top 10's, and I can only do mailbags if people are commenting, but kids will always say stupid things in their papers. It's a bottomless well of material. So let's get started. As always, the names have been changed, but these are all direct quotations.

STEPHANIE CARLSON (analysis of "War is Kind"): "In ‘War is Kind,’ Stephen Crane says, ‘Point for them the virtue of slaughter.’ He is saying that the men at war get points for killing people."
How many statements like this do I have to put up before you start wondering if it's really just my crazy kids or if I'm truly an incompetent teacher? Maybe we're already there...

JENNIFER HART (analysis of a David Eggers short short story): “Children enjoy being naked. They also like to hide their diapers from you, but that isn’t the point of this paper.”
Unfortunately--but maybe predictably--it never became clear what the point of the paper actually was.

ANDY O'BRIEN (analysis of a David Eggers short short story): “Some symbolism that I believe is in there is the Enron coffee cup symbolizes Roderick, the grapefruit juice symbolizes his wife’s complaining, and the cantaloupe symbolizes his plan to solve his wife’s issue with sleep eventually in possible murder.”
1) I love how he says the symbolism is "in there." It's like he's cleaning out a gutter. 2) I thought the last part of this sentence was crazy, but I just checked in my symbolism book, and it says, "CANTALOUPE: freshness, morning, plans to solve spouse's sleep issues with murder." So it turns out Andy was on to something.

ALICIA CONNOR (analysis of a D.E. short short story): “The passage ‘and when she thinks of what she will say to him and how loudly she will say it, she feels a strange kind of pleasure’ is like a slap in the face. This is a surprise to the reader, who now find out that the mother is unexpectedly a sado-masochist.”
It certainly came as a surprise to this reader.

ERIN NABORS (analysis of "Incident," by Countee Cullen): “Have you ever seen someone that was being racial towards another person?”
"Racial," Erin? Really?

DEVON MAISE (analysis of "The Red Wheelbarrow," by William Carlos Williams): “Another thing that was interesting about the structure was the first line has three words and the second line has one. Why he did this I am not sure, but it’s interesting to think about.”
This is really all I ask from my students. I don't need you to understand what's going on in the poem. Just give me something interesting to think about. Well done.

CRAIG GOLDBERG (analysis of "Incident"): “Having been denied work just for being labeled as an idiot I can relate to how these insults feels.”
This might be my all-time favorite. Just let it soak in for a while.

JORDAN CARTER (timed write): “Example: Boyfriend Mark decides to lie to girlfriend Anna. ‘Mark, we should go see a movie tonight. I think it would be a lot of fun since we don’t get to be with each other that often.’ Mark replies, ‘No, no. I feel a little sick. I’ve had a headache all day. Maybe we could save it until tomorrow?’ Is he telling her the truth? Nope. In reality, he is going out with her best friend Meg.”
Based on the tone of this essay, I think that "Mark" is an actual person, and he'd better watch out. The actual Jordan seems kind of like a crazy person.

Now, I'm going to introduce these final excerpts, all from the same paper, by saying that the core thesis of this essay is basically this: School is not as competitive as Alexandra Robbins claims it is in the book The Overachievers. Most people are content to just get by. At least Greg is.

GREG HARRIS: “[I read] the non-fiction novel The Overachievers”; “I am a senior in high school and all of my friends are starting to pick out collages”; “I have [a lot of friends] whose lives are already set for them. By that I mean they already have a full-time job and are out as an adult in the work force, [which] makes it a little less competitive for people like me to get into collage.”
1) What is a non-fiction novel? For those of you who have not read it, The Overachievers is not one. 2) He spelled "colleges" this way every single time. 3) Well, I'm glad that the fact that intelligent people are getting jobs is making it easier for you to get into collage. Just don't tell them that I had anything to do with it.

Later gators.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I have a funny story to tell, I want to address Joe's 2 Truths and a Lie, and I have a web site to recommend, so today we have a real teacher man smorgasbord. (New Year's Resolution '09: Use the word "smorgasbord" more often.)

I stopped by the post office yesterday to send out a couple of things, and I heard the following conversation, word for word, between 2 middle school kids. (It is typically my policy to avoid salty language on teacher man whenever possible, but sometimes it's not possible. Be prepared.)

MIDDLE SCHOOLER #1: Okay, explain this to me.
MS 1: 3 is 3 times as much as 1, right?
MS 2: Right.
MS 1: Then how come $3.99 is only twice as much as $1.99?
MS 2 (literally stopping in mid-stride, with his jaw nearly on the sidewalk, and in his most amazed voice): Holy shit.
MS 1: I know!

That made my Tuesday.

Okay, I'm going to take a stab at Joe's 2 Truth and a Lie. If you didn't see his comment to yesterday's post, check it out.

1) I'm saying it's #3. I think Rod Stewart told you that you smelled good. (Again, if you didn't read his comment, you need to check it out because it just occurred to me that that sounds like a crazy sentence if you don't know what we're talking about.)

2) I don't remember you playing the evil doctor, but I do remember the other 2, so I'm saying #3. (Your performance in Hair, by the way, is the reason that every time Stacy mentions her place of employment, I sing, "Manchester, England, England!" in my head.)

3) #3. I don't think you flew home this year. I know that #1 is true because that's a classic mom move--the old Vaseline/coffee ground beard. And #2 sounds like something you'd do.

4) I'm saying #3 again. Too tall for American Idol? I don't think that sounds right. I think you're just too weird.

5) Tricky. I think they're all true. I guess maybe you saw a Broadway show that I'm not aware of. I'll say #2.

6) #3. You're not allergic. You used to think you didn't like them, but once you tried one, you realized that you love them. I listen to you.

7) #1. You did not walk with Stacy. Andy walked with Stacy--you walked with Aletha.

8) For you, #3 is the lie. But it wouldn't be for all of us.

9) I'm going to say #1, even though it seems just weird enough for Joe Baker to do it.

10) #3 is a bold-faced lie. Anyone who knows anything about Charlie and anything about you knows that you are identical. If you don't believe me, ask Joe to count to 10 and wait for him to say, "1, 2, 3, 4, 6, w, x, y, z!"

Stumbled upon this web site the other day, and it made me laugh. It's called "Stuff White People Like," and it's got short essays on stuff like multilingual children, bottles of water, Oscar parties, Mos Def, knowing what's best for poor people, Juno, sushi, Netflix, marathons, having black friends, and tea. You'll love it.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm stuffed.

Later gators.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2 truths and a lie (part 2)

Is this self-indulgent? Maybe. Anyway, without further ado, the lies...

If you look closely, you can see me in the background during the tour bus scene of the Vince Vaughn-Jennifer Aniston movie The Break-Up, which was shot in Chicago.
Nope. You can't. I think I did see the movie being filmed one day while we were in Chicago, but I'm pretty sure I'm not in it. I did talk to Rick Reilly on the phone, and I did see Kenny C. in a Nashville Subway--check out top 10 celebrity encounters for more details.

I was an all-conference football player in high school.
If you know anything about my high school football experience, this one made you laugh. In 2 years of JV and 3 years of varsity (I played both as a sophomore), we won a grand total of 3 games. We were routinely on the losing end of games that ended with scores like 54-6 and 63-0. If Mike Hinske would have nominated me for all-conference, he would have been laughed out of the meeting.

I spent my 21st birthday alone in my dorm room studying for an Environmental Studies exam.
I actually spent my 21st birthday singing in Carrie Volp's wedding. I might have had a beer from a plastic cup at the reception. Not exactly a crazy story, but better than this fabrication.

I played the minor role of Pentheus, the King of Thebes, in a college production of The Bakkhai.
Did I fool some of you? I was indeed in The Bakkhai. However, I played the smallest part in the play: Guard. Pentheus was a big part and they wouldn't have let me touch it with a 10-foot scepter.

I have never seen a full episode of Seinfeld.
Of course I have, you nitwits. You mostly know about the Jersey Girl incident, but I bet you were hoping that I wasn't a Mad About You fan. Well, sorry to disppoint. I think I watched that show about 4 times a day when I was in high school. High school! (I do feel less bad about this after reading that MENSA chose MAY as one of the 10 smartest shows of all-time. Seriously.)

I spilled ravioli on my white shirt during my first date with my wife.
Wrong. I wore a red shirt, and I ate shrimp alfredo. She wore a red and white checkered shirt and ate Caesar salad. We ate at the Goose Blind. I got her daisies. We watched Murder in the First. Impressive, eh?

JUNE 21, 2003
I didn't eat anything on the day of our wedding.
Very close to being true, but not quite. I didn't anything prior to the wedding, which is why I spent the wedding reception feeling like I was going to pass out or die. However, I had a handful of popcorn and a bite of a cookie on the way from the church to the hotel. And about 8 bottles of Dasani during the reception. I just made it.

I graduated suma cum laude from Ripon College.
I graduated magna cum laude. And I'm bitter to this day because I didn't get into Phi Beta Kappa. It's a stupid society full of a bunch of snotty, pretentious, self-important losers. (Sorry, dear.)

I lost $250 on a gambling web site after betting on the Chicago Bears to cover the spread in last year's Super Bowl.
Anyone who thought this was true has no idea how terrified I am of my wife.

My son can consistently count from 1 to 10.
First, to clear up the other 2: One day Charlie fell down or something, and he came over to me to get a hug. So I said, "Oh no! Is Charlie sad?" And I tickled him or something, and he thought it was funny, so he kept saying, "Charlie sad!" so I would keep doing it. Later, we were watching basketball--as I've told you before, the only things my son will watch are Sesame Street, VeggieTales, and college basketball--and I said, "Look, it's Chris Paul." So he said, "Chris Paul sad!" And I thought that was pretty funny. So he did it again with Lebron James, then Michael Redd, then Tyler Hansborough. And now he does it with all of the basketball players he knows. Also, his friend Tiffany's mother--Wendy--is from China, and when they were there last, they got him the vest. He wore it on Sunday, and he looked awesome. However, he usually counts like this: "1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10." And sometimes he gets real excited and it's more like this: "1, 2, 4, 7, w, x, y, z!" But he's 2, so give him a break, for crying out loud.

Later gators.

Monday, March 24, 2008

2 truths and a lie

You know what I hate? Ice-breakers. But whenever you go to a conference/workshop/etc., you're forced to engage in these ridiculous games and activities with total strangers where everything is backward because the most normal, well-adjusted people feel totally uncomfortable and the most insane, irritating individuals are as happy as a bunch of attention-starved clams. Anyway, the only one that I can kind of tolerate is 2 Truths and a Lie. If you haven't played the game before, the title pretty much says it all: You make three statements about yourself, two of which are true and one of which is a lie, then everyone else has to guess which is false. So we're going to play a little game of 2 Truths and a Lie starring yours truly. (If you're an avid reader, you'll notice that some of the answers have already been revealed in previous blog entries.)

1) I once spoke on the telephone with 8-time National Sportswriter of the Year Rick Reilly.
2) If you look closely, you can see me in the background during the tour bus scene of the Vince Vaughn-Jennifer Aniston movie The Break-Up, which was shot in Chicago.
3) I once saw Kenny Chesney at a Subway in Nashville.

1) I was an all-conference football player in high school.
2) I was an all-conference basketball player in high school.
3) I was an all-conference baseball player in high school.

1) I dressed as Doogie Howser for one Halloween when I was in middle school.
2) I crashed my wife's car on the morning of our first Valentine's Day together.
3) I spent my 21st birthday alone in my dorm room studying for an Environmental Studies exam.

1) I played the minor role of Pentheus, the King of Thebes, in a college production of The Bakkhai.
2) I was once called up to sing with the gospel choir at the Chicago House of Blues Gospel Brunch.
3) I sang "Mr. Blue," by Garth Brooks, in Walworth Grade School's Pops Concert when I was in 8th grade.

1) I cried when Jennifer Lopez's character died during the movie Jersey Girl.
2) I own the first season of Mad About You on DVD.
3) I have never seen a full episode of Seinfeld.

1) I once ate an entire lemon wedge--including the peel--on a dare.
2) I have never had a cup of coffee.
3) I spilled ravioli on my white shirt during my first date with my wife.

JUNE 21, 2003
1) The bridesmaids at our wedding wore green dresses.
2) I didn't eat anything on the day of our wedding.
3) Our wedding party was introduced to the song "Copacabana," by Barry Manilow.

1) I graduated suma cum laude from Ripon College.
2) I served as student council president my senior year of high school.
3) I began my 2nd-grade year taking two classes at the 3rd-grade level: math and handwriting.

1) There were 90 students in my high school graduating class.
2) I lost $250 on a gambling web site after betting on the Chicago Bears to cover the spread in last year's Super Bowl.
3) Not including flip-flops, I own 5 pairs of shoes, none of which were purchased within the last calendar year.

1) My son thinks it's funny to pretend that certain professional basketball players--Michael Redd, Lebron James, Chris Paul--are sad.
2) My son wore an authentic Chinese vest to our Sunday morning Easter service.
3) My son can consistently count from 1 to 10.

Tune in tomorrow for the big reveal. Hope you'll still be able to sleep tonight.

Later gators.

Friday, March 21, 2008

gambling for the sake of gambling

Do you watch The Office? (NOTE: This entry is not going to be about The Office. I promise. But if you don't, you really, really should.) Anyway, there's one episode where March Madness has just ended, and everyone around the office is still so psyched to gamble that they start betting on random stuff like how many jelly beans are in the dish on Pam's desk and how long it will take Kelly to explain Netflix to Ryan. Well, we are smack dab in the middle of the greatest 48 hours of my year--the first two days of the NCAA men's basketball tournament--and I feel like a gambling addict. I need to bet on stuff. So I remembered an earlier blog ("the endorsement: the endorsement") in which I mentioned It's a betting web site. And while I usually check out stuff like lines on football games and odds on which team is most likely to win the NCAA tourney, they do have pages with things like "Celebrity Betting" and "Television & Film Betting." And I'm guessing that that would appeal to my audience a little more. Here's the web site. And here are some of the most interesting lines (my picks are in bold):

Who will Britney Spears' character mention as part of a joke during her cameo appearance on CBS sitcom 'How I Met Your Mother'?
Kevin Federline, Justin Timberlake, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, The Paparazzi
(I think the HIMYM writers are too clever to do something obvious like KF or PH. Unfortunately, saying herself only pays out 1/2, which means that if I bet $100, I only get $150 back. Evidently, the smart money is on Britney. And that's something you don't hear every day.)

Who will be the winner of American Idol 7?
(I'm not going to list everyone because if you watch the show, you know them, and if you don't, you're not interested. Anyway, I was all ready to say Chikeze because he's my guy, but the odds are 40/1--as opposed to 4/1 for Carly Smithson and David Cook or 14/1 for Michael Johns. I totally thought Chikeze was a front-runner. That guy's awesome. Lest you doubt me, check out his performance of "She's A Woman.")

Who will be the winner of Dancing With The Stars 6?
(To paraphrase Michael Scott, I live by one rule: Don't watch Dancing With The Stars. No way. Very stupid show. But I live by another rule: When you have the chance to bet on Steve Guttenberg, you do it.)

What country will Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's next adopted child be from?
(Again, there are a lot of options, but the shocker: the United States is going off at 8/1. That makes it the 2nd-most likely option. Doesn't it seem unlikely that they would have all these kids from Cambodia and the like, then adopt some kid from Phoenix? I'm going with Afghanistan. Incidentally, Africa is the 7/1 favorite. However, Bodog people, it's not a country.)

What will Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt name their next biological child together?
(The favorite? Marcheline. The long-shot? Jon. That's how mixed up the world is right now. Anyway, I like the 12/1 odds on Bertrand.)

Will iTunes surpass Wal-Mart to become the No. 1 U.S. music retailer in 2008?
(Based on the number of little punks that I have to yell at for listening to their iPods while I'm explaining restrictive and non-restrictive clauses, I'm going to say Yes.)

Who will be named as the Democratic candidate for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election?
(I'm betting on and voting for Barack Obama, of course, but here's something interesting: the Obaminator is going off at 3/10, and Hillary is the 12/5 underdog, but you can still take the "Field" at 100/1. Are people putting money down in the hopes that Dennis Kucinich makes a last-second leap?)

Who will be the next President of the United States?
(Most of you will be glad to know that B.O. is the favorite, but John McCain is thisclose. Hillary is not.)

Who will win the next UK general election?
(I'm picking the Liberal Democrats in a last-second upset. I'm telling you, they're the Villanova of the UK general elections!)

Okay, I have to run. There's basketball on in 4 hours.

Later gators.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"no bed!"

Wondering where the title of this entry comes from? Well, walk into my house tonight around midnight, and I'm willing to bet that you're going to hear those words. And they'll be loud. (Don't actually walk into my house around midnight tonight. That would freak me out.) Anyway, Charlie has decided that he doesn't like sleeping. In this way, he's very, very different from his parents. So for the last week, I've been spending anywhere from 1-4 hours awake with my son every night. And I don't think my body liked that, so I got sick and missed a day and a half of school this week. Incidentally, it's the first week of baseball practice and our River of Praise band is preparing for Easter Sunday.

So what's the point? Well, this is my first blog entry of the week, and it's not going to be an especially good one, and I wanted people to understand why. I'll do my best to come up with something tomorrow.

There is one thing that I wanted to include here just so I can clean up my email inbox (I hate having a cluttered inbox). A while back, I came up with a playlist for a hypoethetical CD that I might make for someone, and one of the songs on it was "Nothing Fancy," by Dave Barnes. Well, apparently there's a guy at Razor and Tie, Inc.--these people represent DB--who scans the Internet trying to find people who are writing about DB on their blogs. And he found mine, so he sent me a bunch of stuff--a Dave Barnes poster, Dave Barnes stickers, and, most interestingly, a Dave Barnes promotional CD. What a great idea. I'm sending these people one of Sam's CD's.

Anyway, the only thing he asked in return was that I post some links on my blog. Evidently they have a promotion going for Dave's new album that you can buy CD's/DVD's/t-shirts/etc. on special. So here are the links:

2 CD's & 1 DVD:

2 CD's, 1 DVD, & 1 t-shirt:

I'm a big Dave Barnes fan, so I recommend that you check this out. And if you want a sticker, I'm your man.

Later gators.

Friday, March 14, 2008

teacher man mailbag

A while back, I decided that if a day came when I just couldn't come up with anything interesting for a blog, I would let you do the work. The day has come. That said, prepare for the first-ever teacher man mailbag with my responses to comments you've left along the way. Enjoy.

"I'm a simple girl, but I'll be supportive of your guac burger thing. But I really think you've got an entire state out here that would be receptive to your guac movement. You're not alone, Baker." (Claire, "guac, stock, and barrel")
So I went to Fuddruckers the other night with Nicole, and when I went up to order my burger, I said, "Do you guys have guacamole?" And the girl said, "Yeah. We can put it on your burger if you want." I was stunned. Is there a groundswell as a result of teacher man? Am I convincing the masses? "I do," I said. "Do people ask you to do that a lot?" "No." I see.

"I can't believe how much time you have to waste at school. I'm horribly jealous. But, clearly I'm not doing work right now either, so maybe I should just be quiet." (Stacy, "top 10 snl sketches")
Here's the thing: I don't have time to waste at school. I'm extraordinarily busy. And in that way, this blog is sort of like Netflix. Netflix makes me so nervous you wouldn't believe. Every time that we have a movie for more than a few days, I feel like I'm wasting hard-earned money. And sometimes I'll have a bunch of papers to grade and copies to make, but I'll sit down and type one frantic blog entry just to get it up. I think I'm getting a blog-induced ulcer. (Incidentally, wouldn't Blog-Induced Ulcer be a great name for a band?)

"i laughed out loud so much while reading this that my boss had to come ask me if i was 'okay' --aka, 'start working.'" (Joe, "the faculty meeting")
While I appreciate that you enjoyed the entry, your boss having to come calm you down reminds me of my degenerate students. They'll be goofing around, so I'll walk over and say something like, "How are we doing, fellas?" And they'll say fine and get back to work, then I go to another group and the first group gets rowdy again until we repeat the procedure. Eventually, I just say, "Guys, I'm getting bored of walking over and trying to give you subtle hints to get back to work. Knock it off." (In case you missed it, Joe, you were the degenerate student in this analogy.)

"sorry about that 'gross' comment, mr. baker. i thought i was being funny, didnt mean to offend. and steve carrell always makes a mean bratwurst." (Joe, "joe on rollerblades")
First, I don't think there's anywhere else on the Internet wherer you'll find the statemtent, "steve carrell always makes a mean bratwurst." Second, this is a perfect example of why people use adverbs even though they're the tools of the devil. According to Stephen King, people use adverbs because they're afraid that otherwise, people won't understand what they mean. When the public outcry against my "nba predictions 07-08" blog was so intense that I joked that people should "feel free not to read" this page, I was (I thought) obviously joking. But I don't think that was clear. And that made Joe think that the tone of his comment--a cogent "gross"--wasn't clear either (although it was). There were a lot of late-night phone calls and crying involved. Anyway, my apologies to anyone who thought I was really offended by his or her snarkiness. I am a fan of snarkiness. (Incidentally, wouldn't Snarkiness be a great name for a band?)

"I just saw The Big Lebowski because everyone thinks it's awesome...and I didn't really like it. I'm not sure why. I do like White Russians, though." (Stacy, "top 50 movies (50-41)")
1) You're crazy for not liking The Big Lebowski. 2) Did anyone that took the Booze Test yesterday think it was funny that the first clue for White Russian was a picture of Jeff Bridges in this movie?

"and i flippin' love tony kornheiser." (Joe, "why sam is awesome")
What?! Is this really true? I was just scanning through old comments and I don't think I caught this the first time through. I feel like you're being sarcastic. Are you?

"Ahoy. This is Jessi (August)...I think I have an answer to something you were debating earlier. Your '3rd Thing' that you're good at is grammar. How do I know this? You corrected Elisa Gately's entry in my yearbook with red pen." (Jessi, "happy holidays")
1) I no longer feel guilty (or stupid) about calling you Jessi August in "googling you" since that's the way you re-introduced yourself here. 2) I don't remember this incident with Elisa Gately's yearbook. Can this possibly be true? It seems like something I'd do now, but I guess I'd been fooling myself into thinking that I was less uncool back then. That's depressing.

We're going to stop at the end of 2007 because I've got actual work to be doing. We'll have another installment some other time when I'm uninspired. Enjoy your weekend.

Later gators.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

why i don't teach kindergarten

I think I have a new favorite web site. For today, at least. It's And it is exactly what its web address suggests that it would be. You answer a series of questions, and it determines how many five year olds you could take in a fight. Also, the site links to a variety of additional quizzes/games/etc. Great time-waster. Today, I learned:

...that on an enclosed basketball court, with a protective cup but no weapons or foreign objects, I could knock out no fewer than 17 five year olds.

...I can name 50 countries in five minutes. That might seem impressive until you realize that there are 270 countries in the world. I did get the United Arab Emirates. I did not get Italy.

...I can name 41 colors in five minutes. This one is bullcrap. According to whom? I mean, "brick red" is a color. Ask Crayola. Anyway, I still feel like 41 is pretty good.

...that if I were stranded on the moon, I would die almost immediately. I earned a 34% on the Moon Survival Challenge. On this grading scale, that is an F.

...that 139,012 people died on the day I was born (10/6/1980). Among them were British comedienne Hattie Jacques and French cyclist Jean Robic. On my various birthdays, the following people have died: Anwar Sadat (in '81), Bette Davis ('89), Johnny Vander Meer ('97), and Buck O'Neill ('07).

...that my body is 71% effective as a human shield.

...that my dead body is worth $4,140. I don't have any point of reference here, but I feel like that number should be higher.

...that I have only a 34% chance of survival in the event of a zombie attack. (Didn't I tell you this was a great site? Where else could you find out that the odds of you surviving a zombie attack are precisely the same as the odds of you surviving a crash landing on the moon?)

...that I am 30% geek. I think this comes as a shock to just about everyone.

...that I am 39% likely to eat my buddies in a blizzard.

...that there is a 50% chance that my brain contains grade-A synethesia. (It has something to do with creativity. I can't explain it any better than that.)

...that I am defined as a "lush," scoring an 80% on the Booze Test.

...that I know Disney slightly better than I know alcohol, as I scored an 81% on the Disney Test.

...that I am a great speller--100% on the Blogger Spelling Test. Was there every any doubt?

So there you go. I hope you didn't have anything planned for the next hour. Meanwhile, my English 11 Lit. kids are pissed because I haven't graded their essays. If they only knew...

Later gators.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

minor editorial notes and an interesting story

Okay, so here's why I need to quit teaching and make teacher man my full-time job (although, would I then need to change the name?): I could spend much more time editing to make sure that I don't make silly errors. Yesterday's entry was a perfect example.

1) My long-lost friend Claire and the Jason and Amy Erickson family are among my most dedicated readers, yet I somehow overlooked them in my Google searches. Had I been more vigilant, I would have learned that a) Claire joins Becky as one of my two most important friends because the first link that pops up for her is also actually about her--the Goodreads page of someone named Emily Ann, and b) Jason Erickson has brain cancer and needs our help; Amy Erickson is a professor in the geography department at Cambridge; Mike Erickson is running for Congress; and Sam Erickson directs videos for country superstars Brooks and Dunn. So there you go.

2) Also, Kelly Smith is a friend with whom Sara went to grad school. At the time, her name was Kelly Sanders. That hasn't been the case for some time, but I'm evidently still living in 2002. This slip-up actually isn't surprising--this week I emailed my dad to see if I could borrow the truck this weekend to move some of our stuff into a storage unit, which would be a perfectly reasonable question if it weren't for the fact that they traded that truck in months ago. I'm nothing if not underinformed. Anyway, my apologies Mrs. Smith. Your entry should have identified you as a blogger who describes herself as a "web slave since 1994."

Now, our friend Kelly's doppelganger raises an interesting question. Has she really been a web slave since 1994? How could that be? Who was that devoted to the Internet in 1994? I didn't even know how to email when I went to college in the fall of 1998. In fact, I distinctly recall the first time I was introduced to the Internet. Here's the story:

During my freshman year of high school, I took biology with Dennis Esch. We had three essay tests that were insanely difficult. (Incidentally, the two lowest grades I've ever earned were in geometry with Michael Manghera and this biology course.) One asked us to explain cellular respiration, one asked us to explain photosynthesis, and I don't remember what the other one was about. Anyway, I didn't understand any of these processes, so I asked the librarian--Mr. Waters--if there were any books that I could use to study. He took me over to his computer and logged on to something called the "web." Half an hour later, I was looking at a 2-page explanation of cellular respiration. It was perfect. So he printed it off for me and I took it home. Now, the purpose of these tests was probably to understand something like cellular respiration well enough to be able to explain it back to him, but I didn't think that seemed like something I was capable of, so I memorized the 2 pages that Mr. Waters had printed for me, word for word. It took me like 2 hours, but I had it down. It was pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.

So I went into class the next day, I regurgitated all of the stuff I'd memorized onto a couple pages of notebook paper, and 2 days later Mr. Esch returned the paper with a 96 on the top. Outstanding. Immediately below the 96, it said, "See me after class." So I did--with some apprehension--and he just said, "This was pretty impressive. There's stuff in there that we didn't even talk about. I was just wondering where you got all that information." So I told him about this amazing "program" on Mr. Waters's computer, and he said, "That's great. Nice job." I walked out of the room feeling good.

Flash forward 7 years. I'm sitting in an education class at Ripon College, and some kid asks Professor Williams, "What if we think a kid cheated but we can't prove it?" Her answer: "I'd just write something like, 'See me after class,' on his paper, then tell him something like, 'This is really good, and I was just wondering where you got your information.'" Wait one damn minute. Seven years later, I realized that Mr. Esch thought I cheated, which I absolutely, positively did not. So if you're reading this, Mr. Esch, I earned that 96. And I also probably earned the CD you gave me for the term. Now, as for the geometry grade, Mike...

Later gators.

Monday, March 10, 2008

googling you

So I did a post a while back in which I claimed that it was impossible for a person not to do an Internet search for himself or herself. It's just too tempting. (My wife claims that she's never done it, but then I Googled her name and found it on a web page called I learned that there are people with my name in the business world, the art world, and Hollywood. Also, our appreciation for Tom and Diane, who DJ'd our wedding, is still there for all to see on the Night Dancin' web site.

So it occurred to me that it might be interesting to see what pops up when I Google some of my readers and other close friends. In every case, I used the Google search engine and entered your name in quotation marks. (Sorry if I missed anybody.) Here's what I learned:

"sara baker." Does my wife lead a secret double-life in which she spends her nights as a wife and mother to me and Charlie but spends her days collaborating with Oren Helbok to create "unique animated handmade furniture inspired by patterns of nature"? Probably not, but if I find out that she does, you can expect a lenghty blog entry about it in the near future.

"charlie baker." Charlie's got a blog! This one, however, is about health care. And it's got nothing to do with my son. It's the brainchild of Charlie Baker, President and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim. I don't know what Harvard Pilgrim is, but here's a picture of the "other" Charlie Baker.

"stacy erickson." In addition to her groundbreaking work on publishing in Elizabethan England (or something like that), my sister-in-law is evidently a prominent photographer in the Tuscon area. This is her poorly-designed MySpace page. It needs work, Stace.

NOTE: I just spent three minutes trying to figure out how to spell Stace/Stac. Did I make the right call? You tell me.

"joe baker." Joe actually does paint--you can ask Charlie (our son, not the Harvard Pilgrim guy), who comes into our bed every morning and says, "Joe picture," while pointing at the painting that hangs on the wall of our room. So it's interesting that this Joe Baker is also a painter. This one is weirder, as evidenced by the creepy monkey pointing the cane at the guy in the top hat. Seriously.

"sam baker." So close. This is a musician, but it's a guy from Texas with some kind of skull in the middle of his homepage. The Sam that we all know and love is much, much better.

"dick baker." This is probably the worst-looking page on the Internet. Remember in Shattered Glass when Stephen Glass put together the Jukt Micronics web page in like five minutes to try to convince the media that the corporation existed? That's what this looks like. Also, he sites "Dick Two Ton Baker" as a "personal interest." I hope this isn't Dad.

"roxanne baker." No way! It's an IMDB page for a make-up artist named Roxanne "Roxie" Baker, who has evidently worked on not only Saved By The Bell: The College Years, but also How I Met Your Mother. Nice, Mom.

"kelly sanders." " offers all the latest Kelly Sanders news as well as exclusive Kelly Sanders photos." Wow. I wonder where people would go if they wanted all the latest Alex Baker news? Probably here.

"jessica august." Oh my. This is a very racy page. It's not even about someone named Jessica August. It's about someone named Jessica who was the covergirl for the month of August. I'm not even going to link to it. You can check it out yourself if you're that kind of person. I'm moving on.

"grace ribbe." This Grace is the great-granddaughter of a woman named Jean Lindgren, and I'm looking at her obituary. I don't think this is our Grace, but her father's name is Rob. Angie, is your name really Jacquelyn? If not, is it possible that Rob is a polygamist and fathering girls named Grace Ribbe all over the Midwest (this one is from DePere)? Just something to think about.

"katelyn thompson." Stud volleyball player in Arizona. Made the 2006 All-Southern Arizona Team. Honorable mention, but still.

"nicole beckford." A graduate of the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she's now the Director of Human Resources at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Yonkers, New York. If that's what you actually did, I bet you'd make more money than you do teaching high school English.

"becky provencher." So you are clearly my most important friend since yours is the only name that takes me to a web page that is actually about you. I couldn't be more impressed. And your work on behalf of the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education has been outstanding. Bang up job, Beck.

So there you have it. Becky, you're remarkable. The rest of you, you share names with remarkable people. I think you should all be quite proud.

Later gators.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

why i suck at fantasy baseball

My fantasy baseball draft is coming up this weekend, but I won't be there. I won't be there because I will be at Carter Beckford's second birthday party. And that's okay. I mean, I think I'm going to go see all my buddies tomorrow night, so I won't miss out on that part of the weekend. And the actual draft is fun, but my team won't be any better if I'm there. After all, I suck at fantasy baseball. And since I'll probably be mentioning my team along the way, I thought I'd post an article I wrote for our fantasy baseball web site at the end of last year. At that point, I was in dead last, immediately behind Chuck Saponara's girlfriend. Here's my explanation:

It’s a crisp evening in the fall of 2001, and I’m standing in my shower--drunk--considering the possibility that I suck at baseball.

Roughly two hours ago, Noah Wishau, a Shrek-like freshman about whom I remember almost nothing except that he had massive fingers, was doing his best Sandy Koufax impression when I told him that I was going to pitch the last inning of our intrasquad scrimmage. Wishau had held our opposition to a single run in the fourth game of our Fall Ball World Series, but my senior year was going to be the year that I emerged as our closer, and as we were nursing a 2-1 lead, this was my opportunity to prove it. Moments later, after putting two runners on base, I served up a splitter to Luke Hagel that he hit 900 feet into leftfield. I left the field, stopped at Piggly Wiggly to pick up a 6-pack of Leinenkugel’s, then locked myself in my apartment and guzzled down the Leinie’s. The bottom line, I decided as I took a sip from my beer and felt the steam rise up around me, was that I was a bad, bad baseball player.

Six years later, I retroactively forgive myself for serving up the gopherball to Luke because I have come to the conclusion that no matter how bad a real baseball player I was, I am twice as bad at fantasy baseball.

So I got myself a 6-pack of Leinie’s, climbed in the shower, and tried to figure out why I suck at fantasy baseball. There are 3 reasons:

1. I don’t work during the summer. I am currently in 1st place in one of my fantasy football leagues and 2nd place in the other. And this is largely because the first thing I do when I get to work every day is spend half an hour doing research. Because I have nothing better to do. But from June until August, I have better things to do (i.e. lying on the couch, eating pizza for breakfast, etc.). If you do a little checking, you’ll find that I was in the top 4 teams in the league for the first 2 months of this season, but as soon as I stopped spending my day in front of a computer, the bottom fell out.

A subreason here is that I’m lazy. Obviously, I have computer access at home. I just don’t usually feel like checking my team. At one point this summer, Hagel posted something about how he had searched to try to find a computer but ultimately been unable to make a change to his line-up one Saturday morning and therefore lost points because a positional player on his bench had had a good day. (The details of that story may be fuzzy, but that’s the gist.) I thought, Wow. It would never occur to me in a million years to put that much effort into a line-up change. Anyway, I think that guys with regular jobs have a huge fantasy baseball advantage.

2. In fantasy baseball, it’s really hard to dig yourself out of a hole. I read an article this summer about how 6 weeks into the season, it’s almost impossible to make up more than a point or 2 difference in any particular category. I had suspected as much because no matter what I did to my team--and I did legitimately try for a while there--I would end the week in roughly the same place where I began the week. If you were going to make a jump, you would really need to know what you were doing. And the subreason here is that I don’t actually know what I’m doing.

3. Barry Bonds used steroids. Seriously, I couldn't care less about professional baseball. It's just not possible. Now, I played and I currently coach baseball, so I care about the sport. I just don’t care about it at the professional level. It’s possible that it’s because I don’t really enjoy watching it when I don’t have a personal stake in it, but I have an alternative theory, and it has to do with Prison Break. The Fox show Prison Break began in the fall of 2005, and I loved it. Watched every episode, and spent the whole week waiting for the next one. I hadn’t been this excited about a television show since Dawson’s Creek. But then, the American Idol season began, which meant that there was a 3-month gap between the beginning and the end of Prison Break. And when it started again, I was busy with baseball, so I missed a couple episodes. And everyone knows that when you miss a couple episodes in the middle, you sort of lose interest. So now I don’t watch Prison Break anymore.

I think that everything that’s happened in baseball between 1985 and now has had one irreversible negative impact on the sport. It has screwed up the two things that are most important to professional baseball: history and numbers. I used to like baseball because it was the only sport where you could reasonably compare players across generations. (This obviously isn’t the only reason I liked it, but it was a part of it.) And now that’s not true because I don’t know what’s real and what’s not. I’ve heard people say that Bonds would have hit 750+ bombs if he hadn’t touched steroids because he was awesome before that and steroids don’t help you hit a baseball. And I think they’re right. But I’ve also heard people say that he wouldn’t have even broken 600 because his body would have broken down five years ago, and I think they’re right too. The bottom line is that I don’t know. So I kind of have to ignore the last 20 years. It’s like I missed a couple of Prison Break episodes, and even if things get cleaned up (which they might), I’m not going to be able to get back into it. And as long as I'm not into it, I will fail as a fantasy baseball owner.

And if you think that that last paragraph was just an effort to justify the fact that I’m lazy and uninformed and that that’s really why I suck at fantasy baseball, well, you're probably right.

Later gators.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

the bucket list

Did everyone else know what this movie was about when they heard the title? I did not, but Monday night I was out to dinner with Nicole and Brian, and Brian claimed that he knew right away. Whether or not he's lying is immaterial. Evidently, the Morgan Freeman-Jack Nicholson vehicle is based on the premise that most people have certain things that they want to accomplish before they die. At first, I didn't think this was the case--at least not for me. I'd like to be able to take more naps, but that's not really bucket list material. I mean, I'm mostly happy with things the way they are. But then I started thinking about it, and I guess there are some things I would like to do before I "kick the bucket." Here they are:

1. Cross over a railroad track a split second before the train passes while the cops are chasing me so they're stuck on the other side while I run to safety.

2. Soak a gunshot wound in tequila before ripping the bullet out with my teeth.

3. Jump into a cab and yell, "Follow that car!"

4. Dejectedly order a whiskey and tell the bartender to "leave the bottle."

5. Cut the green wire just as the timer hits 00:01.

6. Shoot a bad guy in the back just as he's about to kill my partner so that the bad guy falls to reveal me standing there, gun in hand.

7. Run into an area marked "Restricted Access" in pursuit of a criminal as the security guard wheels around and yells, "Hey, you can't..."

8. Prop a chair up beneath the doorknob of the room I'm in to prevent my pursuer from entering.

9. Wipe my prints off a gun and plant it in a dead guy's hand.

10. Lean out the door of a helicopter as it flies away and wave arrogantly at my pursuer.

11. Pull a fake mustache off a guy at a dinner party.

12. Tell someone that "the jig is up."

13. Get thrown out of a casino.

14. Swerve through traffic while firing a pistol at the car behind me.

15. Fall on a grenade to protect the young cadet with the pregnant wife at home.

16. Climb a rope ladder while holding my knife in my teeth.

17. Use a credit card to unlock a room that I'm not supposed to be in.

18. Open a briefcase to reveal rubberbanded stacks of $100's.

19. Have someone call me a "maverick," a "rogue," or a "cowboy." (And possibly add that I'm "going to get someone killed.")

20. Plot to take down the evil, scheming warden at the maximum-security prison where I am being wrongfully held.

21. Threaten a guy in a gym who's on the benchpress by forcing the bar down into his windpipe and telling him that he's "messing with the wrong guy."

22. Shuffle my chair back to the gas stovetop in order to burn through the ropes that are keeping my hands behind my back.

23. Listen to a vague answering machine message from a loved one that's in trouble, then say "Oh my God!" and run out the door with no explanation.

24. Put a cigarette out on my archenemy's chest.

25. Use my dying breath to tell a friend the name of my murderer.

I hope I'm not copying the movie. Did they use a lot of those? I didn't see it.

Later gators.