Sunday, April 30, 2006

I am a big dork. I just learned how to stream old TV shows on the computer. I ran a cord from the audio out jack on the laptop into the VCR and thus through the stereo so I can surround sound myself with bad, outdated science fiction. On demand idiocy, boy am I in trouble.

For those of you following Gourami death match 2006, the Chocolate Plecostimus expired this afternoon bringing the total death count from my fish gone mad to nine. That’s right, the Golden Gourami has taken out nine fish: two Cherry Barbs, six Long Fin Tetras, and the Pleco, all killed over four days in April by one insane fish. I have moved the killer Gourami into another tank with an equally lethal Opal Gourami to let them fight it out blue on gold, ra ra sis boom bah.

I was tempted to feed Mr. Golden Death to the Cichlids out of spite, but wiser heads prevailed. He at least has a fighting chance in this tank, but the Opal has himself killed several Red Eye Tetras, a Red Dwarf Gourami and a Paradise Gourami, so we shall see which Thai fish emerges from this thriller in Manila. Do I really occasionally let my fish fight to the death? Yes I do. It’s something I learned growing up next to Marlin Perkins from Mutual of Omaha (he and his wife lived two doors down from me). I let Steve tag the beasts while I enjoy a cup of freshly brewed Folgers coffee.

I think you can look forward to a summer of weird posts now that I am back in the blogging groove.


It’s a hair of the dog morning here at The Fortress. Our list of accomplishments is long and so my breakfast of champions – gin and grapefruit juice – is warranted. We had a party for Beth’s birthday last night with a more extensive menu then we usually have at our BBQs. I made salmon and asparagus with this Argentinean Chimichurri dried red pepper sauce that I got out of the May issue of Gourmet Magazine (pg. 84). I suppose that giving the details would be a copy write infringement. We also had grilled spinach pesto chicken, acorn squash, goat cheese pizza, a nice Camembert, corn bread, macaroni & cheese, and stuffed peppers. All in all it was a good birthday feast with cupcakes for desert and Harry Potter napkins, hats, and plates from Vanessa for a theme.

Vanessa also took lots of pictures so I’ll have some of those up at some point. I was surprised at how little was drank and how early the night ended. We are all rounding some kind of corner such that while we once got ready to go out at ten-thirty we are now getting ready for bed at eleven. Everyone’s exit line had something to do with food coma. Maybe our evenings will continue to get earlier until they end before they start.

Jes, her mother, and I all went up to Bevo Mill early this morning for a tour and breakfast. I am so sold on this Kitsch location for our reception. Our waiter was a guy named Brad S. that I went to undergrad with at TSU. St. Louis continues to be a small town. Anyway, at Bevo there are gnomes and antlers everywhere. There are hideous tile murals that are on a par with my velvet ram wall hangings; one is covered in turkeys and such and it is just foul (he he). Think the Harry Potter Hogwarts’ dinning hall and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the interior of the reception space looks like. The exterior is a Flemish windmill so our wedding will be rife with the quixotic. Ah well Sancho, the wheel of time defeats us all.

So, we are now locked on the twenty third of September for the wedding at Trinity and reception at Bevo Mill. Mary should be excited about that, if for no other reason than that she can walk home from the party. I think we are going to borrow from Dan and Yumi and stay at the Cheshire since we will no longer be living in St. Louis when this all goes down. Yup, it’s time to start looking for houses in H.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

This is my last 5:45 wake up for a bit. Teaching is great becase you get to start over again and again and teaching is hard because you have to start over again and again. Today is the endings side of the coin and it's going to make me more than a little sad to leave my kids.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It’s now the day after my portfolio review. I was in meetings all day yesterday and gave a presentation on the material in my portfolio. I’m all revved up into a mental gear that I don’t normally hit. It’s akin to the day after one’s thesis defense, with the exception that I won’t know if I passed until tomorrow. The portfolio is in an online format, so I have already been able to access my instructor’s feedback comments and they are all positive, so it’s looking like I have indeed passed. However, I won’t get the official nod until tomorrow afternoon.

My internship/student teaching whatever will also end tomorrow. I’m ready to sleep, but not ready to say goodbye to my students. I keep coming back to the word crucible, as I feel like I have run an intense gauntlet. I’ve started to have phone conversations with my new principal about curriculum and am already shifting gears in that direction.


Monday, April 24, 2006

A recipe for Jason:

I came home sick from school today. My fever is back. I slept and sweated all afternoon and then I got up and cooked. Cooking is always a benchmark for my mental health, it both gives me peace of mind and is a marker that I’m doing ok.

I had gone shopping last night to buy one thing, some kind of new spray that’s supposed to make it easier to vacuum up dog hair. The spray somehow pulls the hair up out of the weave of the carpet so that your vacuum cleaner can actually lift it away. The last time I cleaned the front room carpeting I actually did the whole thing with a lint roller and I’d like to avoid that manifestation of cleaning insanity again if I can help it.

So of course they didn’t have this mythical spray, which my friend Kim had recently told me about with excited gesticulations about the ease of it all, but frankly she may have dreamed this modern convenience early like Little Bigman’s grandfather having ecstatic visions of sink spigots. Anyway, they did have a hundred dollars in groceries that we can’t really afford, but you’ve got to eat and spinach was on sale for a dollar off.

This brings me to my recipe: spinach and walnut pesto with broiled turkey sausage. For my money it is both cheaper and better than traditional pesto. I came up with this one day back in the ville when I had a hankering for pesto, but only these substitute ingredients on hand. If you already know how to make pesto then simply swap the spinach for the basil and the walnuts for the pine nuts. Read no further. Go ye into your kitchen and blend.

The turkey sausage is a nod to Jes’ eating habits. Her no mammal rule runs us afoul of much foul. I like to throw the turkey brats into a broiler for about twenty five minutes, turning them every ten minutes to make sure they crisp all around. Cajun is better than not.

I’m not one for measuring, so to make this you’ll have to know a bit about what pesto is supposed to look like. I start by filling the Cuisinart with as much spinach as it will loosely hold. I cover this with a healthy swirl of olive oil and then blend on low. I do this three times until I’ve used about three quarters of a large bag of spinach. Ok, I just checked and I used eight ounces from a twelve oz bag of baby spinach. Write it down if you think it’ll help.

You’ll want to keep adding little amounts of olive oil so that you get a smooth consistency, but not so much that you’re drowning in oil. Next you cover the surface of your green paste with walnuts and you cover the walnuts with fresh grated parmesan. Parmesan is really one of those things that you can’t scrimp on. Please don’t buy that big Kraft jug of granulated cardboard pretending to be cheese. Buy the good cheese, buy the grater, grate the cheese; you’ll feel like a cook.

Add three little buttons of fresh garlic to this mix and blend again, adding sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. You might want to try two garlic buttons before you add the third, as I tend to like things with more garlic in them than you do. You can smell the garlic in my beat root humus before you turn off the ignition of your car. You can smell it in your dreams before I make it, like Little Bighorn’s grandfather having ecstatic visions of … crap, I used that already didn’t I.

Separately you’ll want to boil a few quarts of water with sea salt stirred in. The salt will actually help the water boil faster and flavors your pasta. When you have a rolling boil you can add your pasta, I like to use linguini for the recipe, but suit yourself. I like to use a timer with linguini and I like fourteen minutes. Some people prefer eleven. I really wouldn’t go past fifteen. Make sure you stir the pasta frequently or it will clump. You can also dump a tray of ice cubes in the pasta after you strain it. Stir the melting ice around in the pasta and it will prevent clumping.

Drain your pasta, return the pasta to the now empty boiling pan and mix in your pesto. Serve with a little additional fresh grated parmesan on each serving. You can slice the turkey sausage and serve in on a bed of the pasta, or serve it on the side. Then you can write a blog about it, walk your dog, grade papers and go to bed, just like me.


It’s early Monday morning and I am something that I haven’t been in months: rested. This is my last week of student teaching and my portfolio was handed in Friday night, so I am very close to done. To be clear, what I am done with is my certification. The M.Ed. is still a separate goal. However, they are supposedly announcing a new degree program on Tuesday whereby I might be able to turn all this coursework into a degree more rapidly. I’ll keep you posted.

We went to Karen and John’s on Saturday night for a “blender” party and drank smoothies with Uzis until late in the night. It was nice to see Bridget from way back and Allen from the gym. I learned to play Botchy (sp?) ball. I think my parents would love it.

I’m up early in order to grade a few papers before heading in to work so I best not blow my time advantage on blogging. I’ll be done with my academics soon and will most likely be writing more as I’ll be writing less for school. I feel like my three-day fever last week really cooked a lot of crap out of my system. I didn’t eat much over those three days either, and so have lost a little weight.

Having to walk the dog twice per day is helping there as well, though I am beginning to think Bastian needs to be on some doggy Glucosamine. Our landlady’s garden has exploded with spring and we are walking the dog to keep him from digging up her flowers. He wouldn’t really dig them up, but he would kill them with gallons of acidic pee. On that urinary note, it’s off to work for me.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I’m sick and I have an F’d up sleep schedule. I slept all day, so now I get to be up all night. I’ve managed to get the fever down from Tuesday’s 102 to a respectable 99.8. I feel better, but not much. At least I don’t have the chills and the sweats anymore. I still have a portfolio to do and now two days left to do it in. That’s fine. No sweat. It’s due by midnight on Friday, so I have plenty o’ time.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Yeah, not good, I’ve been feeling worse all day. I feel like I ran a marathon. I am all aches and pains; walking around the house like a ninety year old man. Jes is bringing me bananas and Alka-Seltzer Plus. The theory is that the potassium and the fast acting pain killers will set me right. My main goal is just to get a good night’s sleep so that I don’t feel like this tomorrow and I can knock out my portfolio. Wish me health.


I had an odd night last night. I had an allergic reaction to one of those sooth your muscles creams and had the shivers all night long. I was up and down every hour. It sucked. I don’t know if this is plausible, but it may have caused an “unsafe drop in blood pressure”. It may also have contained some of the chemicals found in shrimp, which I am deathly allergic to. It wasn’t so bad that I thought I might need a hospital, but I still feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck. I am going to go to school anyway, because I need to. I have tomorrow off, so I’ll rest tonight and tomorrow. Actually, I won’t rest. I’ll be working on my portfolio. It’s due Friday night. Hope you are doing well.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Beth keeps this quote on her blog. It reminds me what our country should be and saddens me in the implicit critique of who has been elected and how they govern - for the few rather than for the many.

"If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief—I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper—that makes this country work."

--Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) at the 2004 Democratic National Convention


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Liz was in town last weekend to celebrate her thirty-third and we spent some time together on Saturday. We went up the street to The Royal for grilled tuna, sandwiches, and drinks. I thought it was good, but a little overpriced. I’m in a phase of life where it’s tough justifying a night out. I could have made a better meal for the three of us for the money I spent on my meal alone. The place is cute though and the menus all are made from old kids books, hence the amazing otters that we are imitating.
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Friday, April 14, 2006

As I sit here and ponder the great mysteries I am forced to conclude that The Wizard of OZ retains its popularity because it is the most central American myth that there is. I wish I could talk about it with Joseph Campbell. Ask yourself right now if you are Toto, Dorothy, or the great and powerful. Check the triptych in the mirror and call your analyst: you’re an American.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

I got out of school early today so I came home and watched Sesame Street. Many of the voices have changed, but the letter of the day was K so I felt a little better, and Louise is still on, so that’s tight. Vodka has a K in it.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I seem to be trying to work two days into every single day. I come home from school and nap, only to get back up and go back to work. I’ve been grading for a few hours now and I know that the key to a good life is balance, too much of anything at any one time can sour the pleasure of everything. I don’t mind grading. I just need to do it in more manageable chunks. I’m setting rules for myself where I grade ten papers first thing in the morning. I generally am at my most mentally clear at that time of day and can get through assignments much faster. It’s hard to believe that I only have a few weeks of this pace left.

I am taking myself out of the social loop until after my portfolio is done. I’ve really let myself fall behind there and need to make the push to get caught up. It’s great that I scored well on the Praxis, but that is just one piece in the puzzle for certification. I still need to nail my portfolio and complete this semester’s course work. Then I need to decide how far I am going to try and get this summer towards the completion of the M.A. and how exactly I am going to pay for it. With a salary looming the prospect of taking out more loans seems like a less than ideal choice.

I wish I could regale you with odd tales of my life, but the energy is elsewhere as so too must I be.


Monday, April 10, 2006

I got a perfect score on my Praxis test (200 out of a possible 200). Yeah, maybe I should have waited to sign that contract...


I’m sitting in the living room and watching the sunrise… my supervisor called in sick and also called me to offer me the day off. I am already awake and would ordinarily just go in, but I really could use an extra day to work on certification paperwork. So, that’s my day, some relaxing while doing much organizing. I want to clear out a backlog of grading as well.

Jen made a comment on yesterday’s blog about regretting my need to make an early commitment. It’s true that I do have some regret about that, but moving will be an adventure and I don’t have enough adventure in my life. We’ve found a lake house that is very cool, so we just might pull a Lloyd and go live with the loons (not that we have any this far south). One of my ville friends, Lloyd, lives on a lake outside the ville and it’s definitely got some up sides. I actually have a fifteen-foot, aluminum-hull bass boat in storage at my parent’s house.

There is a reality to the work we have chosen for ourselves: to be teachers at a certain level is to be migratory. We do our potential a disservice when we don’t seek out the best in instruction. Jes needs her MFA and I need my Ph.D. As an academic pair we are going to limit our choices to places that serve both our needs, which is a tricky thing to do. We are probably going to have to move several times over the next few years. I have to admit that moving is hard for me.

We moved a great deal when I was a child and it was hard on me, losing friends and having to reinvent my life every three years or so. That’s part of why I stayed in the ville so long, when it was finally up to me I dug in my heels. The thing is, in a place like the ville everyone else leaves so you end up reinventing your life anyway. I had at least three lives there: my undergraduate, my time as a hotel and bar manager (Beth and I met
when we were both managers at the Days Inn), and my graduate student & fellowship teaching years.

I just don’t know about horses. Kelly, Jes and I have been talking about getting a place that might allow us to keep one or more of your horses. The problem is, we don’t know how long we’ll be staying there. Getting Jes her advanced degree will be our next move/priority and it’s sounding like that could be in Ohio.

Does your stuff own you or do you own your stuff? We took a huge load of clothing and kitchen stuff to goodwill last weekend. Another move so soon on the heels of the last one really might encourage a useful shedding of stuff. Jes and I are both pack rats of a sort, and like any forest we made need these occasional fire sales to keep us healthy. All the PBS pledge drive pseudo-science gurus are in agreement, the path to wisdom and bliss starts with simplification. “It’s so bizarre,” said my sister V, “that you could have so much clothing and yet always look the same.” It’s true. I own a lot of brown and black pants. I’m heavy into earth tones.

That reminds me, our wedding colors are red and taupe. The wedding bird will be the New Guinean bird of paradise and the wedding fish will be a koi. The wedding invertebrate will be the slug and the wedding WWII bomber will be the B-29. I feel like an existential Noah picking pairs of cultural markers to safely shelter during the coming wedding flood. Ok, best get to work. Have a good day and thanks for checking in.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

A few weeks ago I took a test called The Praxis II which is designed to measure content knowledge across the English curriculum – essentially every book you’ve ever read and all the literary critical terms that scholars use to talk about them. Think of it like the LSAT or MCAT for English teachers. They haven’t sent me my scores yet, but I got a certificate of excellence in the mail yesterday congratulating me for scoring in the top 15% of all test takers since 1998. I guess this means I passed.

That’s an odd sort of a designation, since 1998, isn’t it? I suppose the designation will mean more as we get further from the inception of the test. At some point a wine maker starts saying “in business since 1998” and around twenty sixty people start to be impressed by that.

It’s not really a fair test given the amount of possible knowledge they could test over. I got lucky and simply happened to have read all the books and poetry represented on my test. It’s my understanding that there are at least three tests, so I am lucky to have lined up with the right one for my knowledge base on my first try. These scores might make me more attractive to the more lucrative teaching posts (contradiction in terms noted), but I’ve already accepted a position, so that avenue will have to wait until next year or later to by fully explored.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Where do I belong? I have crested a kind of experiential barrier by teaching in my “hood” school for these past few months. I am forced to admit that I love my school. I will be very sad to leave it. My kids are upset that I am going, they want me to stay. Put that in your heartstrings and smoke it. I have confidentiality issues with blogging about what I’ve been through with these kids – I’m close to students who have had siblings shot and killed in shootouts with police, unstable home environments to the point that we allow them to do their laundry at school in the industrial washers, and one hundred other stories that would probably shock you in their mundane wrestling with personal toe holds on the climb to stable integrity. I teach sophomores and I have more than six in their second trimester of pregnancy. I feel so needed and so valuable, perhaps more than I have ever felt in my life. I’ve taken another job, but I am beginning to think that I am already where I belong… that’s not the way it works though. Maybe the year after next I’ll be back.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Sorry, I really am just too busy to blog. I'll be back after April. I'm done on the 27th. -k-