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Archive for December, 2007

It is 1am and I am sitting in the Denver Airport watching huge vacuum cleaners pass back and forth across the floor. Although I am enjoying some free wi-fi which is pretty glorious, because every other airport charges something like $4.95 an hour for the service. Ridiculous.

If you think that airports are exciting during the day, which they are not, you can only imagine how much that excitement climbs when it reaches the depths of the morning. The only people awake that are doing anything are young 20-30 year olds who are very involved with their technology at the moment. There is an occasional reader, but my all time favorite is the couple that is reverse spooning on the carpet without pillows or blankets or anything.

By reverse spooning I mean that they are both in the curled spoon position, but they are facing each other so their knees are probably awkwardly banging together. Not only awkward for them but also awkward for everyone at the gate and anyone who walks across the terminal as the huge vacuum is forced to veer off of its path to avoid them.

As I mentioned last entry I have been reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. I am only half way through it so far, the airport layovers are slowly chipping away at that, but he is making the argument that we are now living in a world that is rapidly undergoing globalization and we either need to evolve and work our asses off or we are going to get dominated by China and India. One of the things that comes up that he talks about is how after hours air ports are taken over by the Fed Ex airplanes as they do all of their flying when it is low peak hours for airlines.

I was kind of thinking about that and wondering why someone hasn’t developed an airline company that only runs between the hours of 10pm and 8am. It would be kind of sweet you come to the airport after work and then do your travel instead of wasting a day of work. They could have smaller plans with larger seats and perhaps strap in beds. Wouldn’t that be kind of sweet, and for us young folk that would probably be the preferred way to fly being that we are already night owls and we could stay up for part of the trip.

Who’s with me and wants to create an airline company? We only need like, I don’t know, a couple million dollars, a couple planes, pilots, stewardesses and other stuff and we can rock out. I suppose we could do some market research before we jump into the whole endeavor, but I think it would be far more fun and much more exciting if we just dove in head first. You only live once right?

Signing out.

D.

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Tenakee…aka Rural Alaska

My mom and step-dad have a cabin out in a little place called Tenakee. There are no cars. Except for the fire truck which I’m pretty sure has never left the firehouse. It is a small dirt road with enough space for 4-wheelers to pass each other on the trail. It is probably about a community of 50 full time residents and 50 more like my mom and step-dad who come out for weekends and holidays.

There are 5 students in the school K-12. The general store just recently closed. Other than that there is a boat harbor, small restaurant/bakery that was not open my entire visit, and a church with no nun or priest. There is also a community hot springs. It serves as the place of bathing for a lot of people in the town. It is kind of like the roman baths, but far less romantic. Bathing is done completely nude. So there are separate hours for males and females. There is no mosaic lining the walls, just a concrete sitting area and enough room for maybe 6 people to get into the hot springs at once. It’s a little awkward the first time you get into the bath and there is a 90 year old dude with a beard down to his waist, but that oddness quickly leaves. Although the hot water and natural minerals is quite relaxing.

I hope you can see how quirky the place is, but the real question is what do you do?

1. Read Books…this break was rather sub-par for me as I only finished four: The Amber Spyglass (Book III of Golden Compass…I think there were a lot of religious references that I didn’t pick up on, it was good but it will definitely require another read through) Into the Wild (not as good as the movie, but still good), A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson is hilarious, read it) and The World is Flat (WOW! My world view is slowly but surely being changed, run over and destroyed…in a good way. If you haven’t read this you should, although be weary as it will push you to be more efficient…more in a separate entry).

2. Watch movies…very successful trip: High Fidelity (staple…always good, especially considering recent events), Constantine (a little weird, didn’t get most of the references, a little too long. It was alright though) , Baseketball (Matt Stone and Trey Parker are wonderful. Watch it), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (When are 6 and 7 coming out so I can have a marathon viewing), Snatch (Brad Pitt, per usual, is a badass and he has a ridiculous accent), started North Fork (awful…literally turned it off 30 minutes in) and numerous episodes of SCRUBS (my brother really likes them, I’m kind of warming up to the idea)

3. Food: This activity can take several forms. Snacking on various meats and cheeses. Consuming the normal daily meals. Or going out and hunting/catching our own food to eat. This trip we went deer hunting. Which really wasn’t deer hunting as much an extended hike where my step-dad took a hunting rifle. We didn’t see any deer, but lots of sign (tracks, urine, etc.) As for catching food we were a lot more successful. We set a dungeness crab pot (http://www.geocities.com/oscmarinetech/images/crab.JPG) and kept about 5 for lunch. We also filled nearly two 5-gallon buckets with spot shrimp (http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/projects/msap/PS/masterlist/imageAFSC/Akinvert/spotshrimp.gif) as well. When you go crabbing/shrimping the method is pretty similar. You take crab/shrimp pots fill them with rancid fish, we generally use salmon heads or old herring. You put it inside the pot and then the animals crawl into the pot to get the bait but can’t get back out again. You just leave the pots overnight and check them the next day, pretty simple. With the crab it was a little easier as they can be found in 30 ft deep water, the shrimp we had to go out to about 300 ft deep water. Luckily we had a wench to pull up the pots or it would have been a long laborous haul.

4. Exercise: This took the form of runs or long walks. Since it was winter there is a very small window of daylight that you can take part in such activities. Usually about 8am to 3pm. Luckily it was winter so we didn’t have to worry about bears as they were all hibernating. The summer is…more exciting…but you have to be more careful as you could run into a griz at any time of day just hanging out on the path.

5. Play games: We played much while I was in Tenakee. Cribbage. Scrabble. Chess. Gin/Rummy.

Other than that you just enjoy yourself. I kind of rotate between all of those activites. I’ll eat for a bit, read for a bit, catch food for a bit, exercise for a bit and then watch a movie. It’s pretty relaxing. We have huge windows on the front of the cabin and we are literally on the ocean. During a high tide I could jump off the deck into freezing cold water and then swim back to shore and walk into the house. We can look outside and see huge tree/snow covered mountains across the inlet and observe as seals swim by the house, Bald Eagles fight over food and whales swim further away. It’s pretty incredible.

D.

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Rural Alaskan Adventure

I’m in Alaska visiting my mom and step-dad. This morning we are heading out to Tenakee which is about as rural as you can get. It’s a 6 hour ferry ride from Juneau or a 1 hour float plane trip.

Needless to say really, I’ll be without internet for the next 5 days. I will not be posting until I get back, but expect stories of wildness and adventure…

D.

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Dvorak

To help pass the time I have decided to learn how to type on a different kind of keyboard. We learned on what is known as the QWERTY keyboard, so named for the top six letters on the upper left part of the keyboard. I don’t know exactly how the DVORAK keyboard got it’s name…but it looks like this.

http://homepage.mac.com/chinesemac/LatinExtended/graphics/Dvorak.jpg

The idea is to put all of the most commonly used letters on home row. On your left hand you have all of your vowels and on your right, you have your commonly used consonants. It’s kind of crazy and exciting at the same time. Apparently when you get good at it you can type twice as fast with a higher percentage of accuracy.

This is all terribly exciting I’m sure. But if you are interested there is a website that shows you how to change the settings on your keyboard, just tape on the different letters and practice away.

http://www.powertyping.com/dvorak/typing.html

It’s also somewhat enlightening, because doing something with which I have no knowledge or previous experience is incredibly frustrating. It’s probably equivalent to a lot of the things that I am trying to teach my students.

D.

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Civilization

We had a half-day in-service on Wednesday 800am to 1200am. More appropriately I should call it in-circus. There was no agenda, no plan, no idea for what we were supposed to do for the day. It made me wonder why we even came in the first place, why plan this time to do work when there is nothing really to do.

To be fair, we did have one thing to do. The only thing that we had to work on was our notebooks for our school improvement plan. Our school has failed to meet No Child Left Behind’s standards for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the last several years. In turn we have to undergo a school audit and come up with a school improvement plan on ways that we can become more successful at educating the students at our school.

To start this process we have 9 notebooks that cover nearly every area of school success. Curriculum. Culture. Professional Development. Leadership are just a few of these notebooks. Normally this is something that the administration would put together. Not at my school! Instead it was divided among the professional staff to create. Out of our 6 teachers at the school 3 are 1st year teachers and our counselor is in her first year as well. In other words 4/9 or nearly 50% of our notebooks on school improvement were filled by people that have little more than 3 full months of experience at the school.

I was assigned the curriculum notebook. My school is K-8. I am supposed to create a comprehensive set of documents, data and copies that encompasses the curriculum that is taught at our school. Really?! It’s crazy.

Well we got it done. At least, I did the best that I could. For now I have returned to civilization by coming down to Denver to visit my aunt for a couple of days before flying out to Alaska to visit my Mom.

Civilization is pretty overwhelming, the amount of cars, the number of people. Reid, Teresa and myself drove down to Denver. We stopped to have dinner with Reid’s best high school friend once we got to the city. It was hilarious, because we were all overwhelmed by the menu. The concept of appetizers had been forgotten. The idea of multiple types of burgers, or even varieties of cuisine was ridiculous. It took us awhile to overcome such things and order, but we finally got it done. So here’s to reading some books, watching some movies and enjoying appetizers for a couple of weeks.

D.

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Game Fuel

If you haven’t yet seen it Mountain Dew has come out with a ‘Limited Edition’ Halo 3 promotional soda called Game Fuel. ‘DEW WITH AN INVIGORATING BLAST OF CITRUS CHERRY FLAVOR…with other natural flavors.’

Wow. Not only does it taste good, but it is also incredibly ridiculous. It’s crazy when we are making soda’s not just for regular consumption but so that we can stay up to play video games. Although I can’t really say that I am above such things. I am realizing that I have no control or regulation on my ability to sleep.

I go to bed early nowadays, because I have to teach in the morning. On days that I don’t have school the night before I can never fall asleep. There just seems no point to. Why go to bed early? Of course this is just devastating, because it makes me more tired for the future and doesn’t let my body catch up from the deprivation of sleep that I am experiencing. Game Fuel isn’t helping either. Dammit.

Seeing Game Fuel also reminded me of a story I heard about this summer where a ‘gamer’ who was playing Starcraft for 52 straight hours died of exhaustion. Is it really good that the Pepsi corporation is not only endorsing but supporting this type of activity?

I’m all for freedom and letting people have the autonomy to decide what they want to do with their time and bodies, but I guess my problem comes in when they don’t know any better, or when the short term indulgences out play the long term losses. This is exactly what political philosophy talks about, especially St. Augustine in Confessions. We would rather live out our minute to minute passions then do something that may provide long term gratification. I have realized this more and more as a teacher. My students will come into class after going to bed at 4am. They have done nothing but watch TV and play video games all night.

What am I supposed to do with that? I realize that it is fun, because I have been there and played Diablo for hours upon hours upon hours. But it didn’t pay off. It’s not worth it. I had to stop playing and I can’t allow myself to buy or even play such games, because I know that I don’t want to lose my life…nay my soul to a computer avatar that I try and live out all my hopes and dreams through. Look at WoW…or World of Warcraft. It just eats people. Literally, mind, body and soul.

They lose all lack of understanding of the real world as they become unable to interact with people face to face, and their only knowledge is compiled in which sword or mace or axe is best for which class. Or which spell is necessary to move on to the next level. Body-wise. Need I go into it. Game Fuel may be conducive to staying awake, but it certainly isn’t conducive to having a healthy functioning body. Not to say that the occasional dabble in the cola arts isn’t enjoyable but all day every day is a little intense.

I suppose the question I’m asking is how do we convince people to stop living out their short-term desires and focus instead on long-term satisfaction. All of the cards are in the hands of indulgence and immediate pleasure. Especially with the onset of the internet. If one does not receive instant gratification with a movie, a song or anything. That’s fine. Just click on the X, open a new box and find something that is immediately enjoyable. How do you teach to that? How do you teach to a world that is based and supported by immediate pleasure?

D.

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7 Summits

For our holiday break I am heading up to visit my Mom in Alaska. To do so I am stopping in Denver to hang out with my Aunt for a couple of days before heading out. While I was emailing her letting know when I would be coming down she told me that my cousin Andy is actually down in South America climbing Aconcagua. This will be the 3rd of the 7 summits that he has to complete to literally and figuratively top the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Summits

The 7 summits are the 7 highest points on each continent. They are as follows.

Kiliminjaro – Africa

Vinson Massif -Antarctica

Everest – Asia

Elbrus – Europe

McKinley (Denali) – North America

Aconcagua – South America

*Kosciuszko – Australia [Tallest point in Australia]

*Carstensz – Oceania [Tallest point in Oceania]

*There is some dispute over whether to include Kosciuszko or Carstensz, because Carstensz is about twice is high but it isn’t physically on the continent of Australia.

Either way, it is kind of that intense sense of conquering the world. I remember when I got the idea in high school after reading Into Thin Air. Yeah, I know. It’s a book about death on the summit of Everest. After reading it I can’t help but want to summit Everest and do so after conquering the other 6 summits. I think that people are drawn to ridiculous things. It creates good stories, and I think that people like to have ridiculous lives. It is kind of a way of defining yourself.

I’ve been trying to figure this out. But I’m still not sure how to put it. I suppose what I can see is that people like doing intense things, because it makes other people ooh and aww and naturally people are drawn to such attention so they in turn do intense and absurd things in hopes of drawing more notice and acclaim. It’s not only done over good things it is also done over bad things as well.

I remember it being the middle/high school type of mentality where people compete to have the worst life. It is enhanced by the media, they always talk about comparative gains. The whole ‘Homeless to Harvard’ idea. It’s impressive, inspiring and intense. Going to hard is cool. But going to Harvard after having a hard life is that much cooler. I’m beginning to wonder why. Who cares?

If you take the Rawlsian approach you can say that all differences are a matter of chance and luck. We shouldn’t be supporting decisions that decide the outcome of a persons life based on whether or not they were lucky when they were born. I suppose I am coming at it from a different way. People are people are people. Who cares who had a harder life or who had an easier life? When we argue about that stuff we are lead down the path of endless bickering. There is never an end to that conflict, because one person will always be given a privilege or advantage that another is not afforded. We have to just get over it. Stop competing about what we are given at birth and start acting with what we have now.

In a weird way I’m trying to say hiking the 7 Summits is not about leading a ridiculous life. It is about doing so, because you would have a good time. There is something to be at the top of the hill in your area. You feel alive. The wind the view, it’s surreal. Of course I only speak from my view at the top of a 20 foot hill in Mission South Dakota where I could overlook a river and some bushes. But knowing that experience, I can only imagine being on top of an entire continent.

This also connects back to my plans for break. I’m meeting up with Ricka Park (Ryan), Scuba (Steve) and Deasers (Matt). I would venture to say that we are pretty ridiculous. We do intense things, but the thing that is wonderful is the fact that we don’t do it for attention or to get notice. We just do it to rock out and have a wonderful time. That’s all that I want out of life. To have a wonderful time. To have good memories, to have good friends and to regret little.

D.

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