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Done and Dusted

November 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

Well, that was a month of posts. Every day a new entry, for thirty-one days straight. I’m surprised I made it, actually, but I’m glad I did. Even though sitting down every night to write these meant I was putting off time to just “relax”, I found the daily habit to be relaxing in itself. And now I have a nice document of a typical month in my life. As you can see it mostly involves teaching and being sick.

Way back on October 3rd I wrote about being sick all the time and here it is a month later and I’m as sick as I was then. I’m on a second antibiotic after a second doctor’s visit and today my cough was absolutely terrible, that full-body one that comes from deep down the throat. I’ve been up since 4:00 in the morning, and I seem to do that a lot lately. Out of the past 31 days, I probably had five or six days of “real” sleep. I’m a mess.

Photo on 11-1-13 at 8.24 PM

I’m going to halt the daily writing on this site now, but I hope to keep it up on a more consistent basis, maybe two-three times a week if I have anything interesting to say. Overall I had good readership on here, although all the commenting takes place over on Facebook. But it was nice to have people reading and enjoying them. (Something strange is happening with Facebook’s publishing format, though, and I can’t tell if people are noticing that I’m writing these as much. Oh well. Never watch your stats counter, they say.)

Anyway. There it is. Tales of students old and new, and Halloween costumes old and new. With a minimal amount of grumbling.

I’ll be back in a day or so with a reflective piece about My Favorite Night in Dublin from last year. Yes, still thinking back on the times spent Over There. Can’t help it.

Thanks again for those that have been reading. It means a great deal when I see that old “Like” indicator next to a post I just wrote. Nice to know you’re out there, as this can be a lonely job.

Now onto my own version of NaNoWriMo, where I attempt to get some serious work done on a play or two. And I’m more than ready for Daylight Saving’s Time to end, just so I can get an extra hour of sleep on Sunday. Plus, I’d like my morning commute to work to not look like this: 

See you soon, everyone…

Monday Miscellany

October 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

I had an Amazon gift card donated by a parent in my class that HAD to be spent, so I got some new books for the class. Since we’re close to my annual Viking Day event, I thought I would get a couple of books to help with the actual content we’ll be learning. I picked up some other books that they asked for, and of course I had to get a Neil Gaiman book, although this one’s a bit silly for fifth grade. Still, there’s nothing like having a stack of new books to read, and (most) everyone was fighting over who got to read what.

It’s my mom’s birthday today, so Happy Birthday to my dear Mother. I attribute most of my good qualities to her, whatever they are. Although I wish I had her positivity. She would probably claim to be much more pessimistic, but very rarely do I ever hear her complain or fret and speak ill of others. She’s good people, that lady. Everyone in Dublin was so excited about having her come visit over the Christmas holiday, but then I went and spoiled it all by heading home early. Maybe another time.


I don’t have very many recent pictures of Mom and I, but here’s one from last Christmas. I brought back a few oddments of European Christmas traditions, so we’re drinking German gluehwein and wearing a paper hat from an English Christmas cracker.

For the past two days I’ve had a sore throat (again), and I’ve been getting headaches for at least three or four days straight. So it’s back to the doctor for me tomorrow afternoon. I’m pretty wiped out, so I’ll keep this entry short. Missed a family gathering this evening due to being sick, but I figured I didn’t need to be around people if I’ve got something nasty.

Time and Temp

October 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

It’s Day 22 out of 31 for this Write-A-Post-Every-Day Challenge I set myself. Nine more to go, then I’ll take a short break, but I’m hoping to continue writing on a more regular basis. The purpose of this was to develop the habit and discipline of writing every day. November is NaNoWriMo, and while I’m not going to try and write an entire novel in a month, I do want to get back to some theatre pieces I was working on last year, which were set aside once I stopped the wandering. So for fun I thought I would devote November to some serious work on whatever I’m calling the new thing I’ve still got rolling around in my head.

I’ve had people mention here and there how much they’re enjoying these posts, and while they certainly aren’t grand prose or earth-shattering observations, they’ve been fun to write, so thanks to everyone who stops by here every now and then. I always felt that blogging, and even Facebook and Twitter, can and should be the great chronicle of the everyday folk, a vast and intricate story of Us. But so few post stories these days, and even the other sites are increasingly just a succession of “Hey, here’s a link to a website I sort-of read.”

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The weather turned very cold last night, and it was supposed to get down below freezing for the first time since last spring. (It was May 13th, actually, according to this site.) I finally broke down and turned on the heat, but it didn’t run much. I live in a townhouse, with homes on either side of me, and it seems like a pretty well-insulated place. (For those just joining the story, I moved into this place back in early July, while I’m currently renting out a different townhouse that I own to someone else.)

When I left for work this morning I decided to do a little test, and set the thermostat for 62 degrees, just a few degrees lower than it currently was in the house. I wanted to see if it would get down that far during the cold, wet day that we had. I figured I’d come home and it would maybe be at 63, tops. This place holds its temperature pretty well.

I stayed late at work grading journals and answering emails until around 6 or so, then drove home in the last light of the day. Walked into the house and immediately checked the thermostat.

70 degrees. But I still had it set for 62 degrees.

So…I’m guessing this place is really well-insulated.

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Here’s something fun to close out the day. This is my nephew at Phillip’s Park in 2007, when he was around two years old.


Here he is back at the same park, staring out of the same playground apparatus, six years later, aged (almost) eight.




October 15, 2013 — 1 Comment

Today I did something I hardly ever get to do anymore: I went to a store and bought physical music. Not at an actual record store, because I don’t think those really exist. But I wanted to do something enjoyable and real, and so I wanted to buy a couple of CDs and take them home and unwrap them and look at the liner notes and place the CD into the tray and then hit play and turn the music up loud.

I made it about halfway through Paul McCartney’s new album before I fell asleep. That’s not a knock on the new songs; it’s pretty good, actually. No, I was just exhausted. All I did last night was violently toss and turn in my bed, and only had a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, if that. So I had a short nap after work, if you can even call it that. I still remember listening to the whole album, and even noted when a new song came on, but all I did was sleepily wonder, “Is that the nostalgic song he wrote about being a kid in Liverpool?”

(I love Paul, but you can’t swing a dead cat around one of his albums without coming across a song describing his early days, more often than not “with John,” because he seems to feel people will turn on him if he doesn’t constantly look back and make semi-fond recollections about life with John. But hardly ever George, which is a darn shame. George was the best.)

But now here I go waxing nostalgic about buying physical music and about how it’s all changing and nothing’s the same. Well, yes and no. I probably buy most of my music off iTunes now (legally, I might add, to any students out there who think it’s okay to just steal it off the Internet.) Due to budget reasons, I’ve spent most of the past year listening to music on Spotify. I at least pay for the premium service, but I know barely any money goes to the artists. Maybe Sir Paul doesn’t have to worry about new money coming in, but other, smaller bands do, if they want to survive. So listen up, members of The Head and the Heart: I bought your CD too.

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I felt like honoring ritual today, knowing that I won’t have much time left to enjoy it. We’ve gotta be in the final years of buying physical CDs, right? Or will they (and vinyl, and cassettes, even) trudge along, available for those who want them? The days of browsing record stores are long dead, and even places like Best Buy are down to barely anything decent. And it’s the same with bookstores, and I know I’m not saying anything original or revelatory. They’re just rituals that I enjoyed, and it’s something enjoyable from my younger days. Back when a drive from Peoria to Madison, Wisconsin, just to look for Pogues or Smiths imports was a day of fun. Now it’s all on the internet, everything you could ever want to listen to, and none of it has the meaning like something sought for long and hard, and then found. No. It’s just not the same.

*   *   *

I’m tired, folks. I’m tired of having this cough for the fourth week now, tired of being unable to sleep like a real person. Tired of only wanting to stay home and surround myself with those hunted-down books and movies because I’m too worn-out and broke to do anything else. Tired of not feeling like I’m alive. Which is an awful thing to say, as too many people I know are in real fights for their lives. Too, too many people.

*   *   *

The new album by The Head and the Heart is great, though.

Time to grade a Math test.

UPDATED: I’ve listened to this whole album now, and I’m a bit underwhelmed. Maybe I just need to give it a few more listens…

ANOTHER UPDATE: My copy, courtesy of Target, had three extra songs on it that Target didn’t, for only a dollar more than iTunes. Physical media!

Sunday Baseball

October 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

I had to ask myself just now, “Did the Bears play today?” And then I remembered, no, they played the Giants on Thursday. Not that I would have watched the game. I try, I really do, but I just can’t get into football, and I know that makes me quite possibly an awful America-hating liberal elitist wimpy book-reading snob who hates America and who probably caused the government shutdown just because he hates America so much.

No, I don’t hate America, and I don’t hate football, but I just can’t get into it. I grew up during the heyday of Da Bears and Da Coach in the 1980s, and that was fun, but that was almost 30 years ago. I turn on the TV and it’s all bombast and commercials and all of these loud brash things that I don’t really like.

Then we had Jordan and the Bulls, and I watched a lot of those games, and for a while I could tell you the starting five players for the Fighting Illini. But that was a while ago. Derrick Rose is “healthy” and the Bull should be a real contender, so maybe I’ll give them a shot this year.

I’ve never watched a Blackhawk game in my life. Never liked hockey as a kid, ain’t gonna jump on that bandwagon now.

The sport I’ve been the most loyal to would be baseball. I played a bit of it as a kid, although I wasn’t any good. But I grew up a Cubs fan, and if you gave me a minute I could probably tell you most of the players on the ’84, ’89, and ’03 teams. That old blog I started ten years ago has as its first entries a few mentions of the infamous 2003 playoffs, when we were five outs away from the World Series, until You Know What happened. I had been flirting with becoming a fan of the Red Sox for a few years at that point, and it was around then that I more or less gave up on the Cubs. The next year the Red Sox won the World Series, and that was fun, although I can’t say I stayed a consistent fan. I’ve got the Red Sox-Tigers game on right now, but as I look up I notice that Detroit scored and I don’t even remember that happening.

Still, being a Cubs fan is part of who I am, even though I don’t really watch the games any more. Even though it marked me immediately as a Yanqui devil, I wore my Cubs hat proudly while in Dublin. Needed a bit of home while I was away. But now they’re owned by the Ricketts family, which makes me…conflicted with some of their beliefs. But being a Cubs fan fits my overall personality, if you know what I mean. That Bill Murray-esque weary-with-the-world thing, hoping that something great happens, but enough of a realist to know that it probably won’t.

So, in the end, I’m just not a sports guy, and that can make you a very lonely person in a sports-obsessed culture like ours. I can fake it for about 10 seconds, but that’s about it.


Leaving Connolly Station, 2012.


Now, if anyone wants to talk about European rail travel, or the plays of Brian Friel, or thin crust vs. deep dish pizza, or how awesome The Head and the Heart is, then I’m your man.

A Saturday Evening Breeze

October 12, 2013 — 1 Comment

It rained off and on today, so I spent most of the day sleeping in, drinking coffee, and reading Holes, a novel for kids I should have probably read a long time ago, but never got around to it. The setting and premise were interesting, but I thought the ending had way too much of the ole “Everyone Gets Everything They Ever Wanted.” Maybe that’s part and parcel with kid lit, but I don’t know if I really get why it’s such a well-loved book. Maybe I just can’t read books for younger readers anymore.

The weather cleared up and so I ran out to get a few things for the house. Still rebuilding and restocking the new place, even after living here for three months. I may not have any dressers, but as of today I am the owner of a Crock-Pot. Ran into a few people I know, which happens more often now that I’m living in Oswego again.

The windows are open and there’s a nice breeze moving through the house. It’s Saturday night and the sun’s going down. Leaves are already falling off the trees, but we haven’t hit peak color here yet. Weather’s finally starting to cool off, hopefully for good. I’m just not made for the hot weather, and the fact that it’s mid-October and I was still running my air conditioner as of yesterday just makes me shake my head. Quite the toasty world we’ve got these days.

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The Pogues in 2007 in Chicago. Phil’s on the far left.

Sometimes people talk about that Blowin’ Your Mind moment. Brian Wilson hears “Be My Baby” and he’s so overwhelmed he has to pull his car over to the side of the road. It happens a lot with music. People hear someone like Dylan or Springsteen or Joni Mitchell and they’re just floored. Never heard anything like it, life’ll never be the same again.

I suppose that happened with me and The Pogues.

I’ve written about them before, on the old site, but I won’t bother linking or rehashing that. This is more of a family-friendly site, and some students may be reading it, so we’ll just stay focused on the new entries. But to sum it up, they’re my favorite band of all time. (When it’s not The Beatles, or Wilco, or Belle and Sebastian. Depends on what day you catch me.)

A buddy of mine in high school had their 1989 album Peace and Love, and he just couldn’t get into it. I listened to it in his room and just instantly fell in love, and he gave it to me. Sometime around then I saw them perform on Saturday Night Live, and I just kept thinking, what is this stuff? It’s loud and weird and kind of punk but also sounds kind of like those bluegrass records my mom and grandpa liked. The lead singer looks like a wreck, but he’s singing the most amazing songs.

They were London-Irish, mostly, and mixed traditional Irish tunes with a modern, early-80s punk vibe. They were never wildly popular, at least in my circles, but man did I love them. If anyone ever asks me what started my whole obsession with Irish culture, I always say it started with The Pogues.

So anyway, I bring them up today not to once again prattle on about My Time In Dublin, but to note that Philip Chevron passed away today after a long battle with cancer. He was the guitarist for the band, and the one that kept the flames going in the band, organizing tours, remastering the catalogue, and interacting with fans on their official message board. A gentleman, a lover of the theatre, and a great songwriter in his own right. “Thousands are Sailing” now becomes even more of a misty-eyed song than ever before.

Tears in Space

October 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

Antibiotics don’t seem to be doing a lot, as the cough is still ever-present. Doc recommended I get some Mucinex-D, but that stuff’s expensive, and I’ve got more important things to spend my spare cash on, like movies and pizza.

I’ve been doing nothing but sit around the house the past two days, and so I decided to get out of the house and go see Gravity, a film I’ve been dying to see for quite a while now. I’ve refused to watch any trailers or read any reviews or articles about the film. I just wanted to go in blind and enjoy the latest from Alfonso Cuaron. He directed both Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both of which I’ve probably watched 5-6 times each. He’s one of the most talented filmmakers I’ve seen in the past twenty years, and I only wish he didn’t take so long in-between projects.


But boy is his stuff worth the wait. Gravity is, simply, astonishing. I’m not even going to go into any details, but if you’re reading this, I highly, highly recommend you pony up the cash to see it in 3-D and in IMAX. Now, I tend to avoid both formats whenever possible, as I find 3-D mostly annoying, unless the filmmaker is really doing something interesting with it, like Henry Selick and Coraline and Martin Scorcese’s Hugo. IMAX is also a distraction for me mostly for aspect ratio tastes. It tends to be a little overwhelming when you’re presented with an image so enveloping.

But with Gravity, all of this works in the film’s favor, creating an unsettling sense of immediacy and disorientation. To put it simply, you are right there with Bullock and Clooney. It’s like they took them up in a rocket and shot the film in space. It’s that real.

Swung by work where I found two other fifth grade teachers prepping for tomorrow. Got caught up with planning for Monday, had plans to make some chicken tacos, but I’m feeling too blah to actually put any effort into cooking tonight. Thankfully, Gario’s delivers…

Just a quick entry today…finally went to the doctor and got an antibiotic. He didn’t think it was too serious. Might even be allergy-related, which means the antibiotic will be irrelevant.

Thanks to the Dead Homer Society for linking to my post about Mike and Liz from the other day. Featuring them on a Simpsons site is just about the best gift you could give those two.

Here’s something I found on the wall of a school I was teaching in last year. I’m pretty sure that’s He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named on the left, but I’m not positive who he’s giving the ole Avada Kedavra to, nor why they have a little person in their hand. Perhaps those more learned than me can solve this mystery.




Leavings and Partings

December 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

There was a passport in his bag, money in his pocket.

For the past few years Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book has been my favorite read-aloud in my classroom. Loosely based on The Jungle Book, it’s a bout a live boy named Bod who’s raised by a family of ghosts in a graveyard. It’s spooky and funny and incredibly touching all at the same time, and the kids usually vote it their favorite as well.

But that last chapter just kills me every time I read it. I won’t spoil any of the plot, but basically it’s about goodbyes, and the main character’s realization that he’s grown up, and that it’s time to leave the graveyard and face the unknown. Perhaps that sounds a bit basic, but it’s written very, very well, and the final moments are well-earned. (You can watch/listen to Gaiman read the entire book for free right here.) The farewell from Silas, and the moment he sees his mother standing at the gate of the graveyard…man…it gets me every time without fail.

I grew up in a small town called Sandwich. Mostly. For a while I thought it was the only town I ever wanted to live in. Eventually I moved away, but it was really just down the road. But ever since I sat and impatiently waited for a shuttle bus that would never come, in London, eleven years ago, I knew that one day I would have to leave my own graveyard.

Bod said, “If I change my mind, can I come back here?” And then he answered his own question. “If I come back, it will be a place, but it won’t be home any longer.”

I head home tomorrow. For the past couple of days I’ve said my farewells to my very, very good friends from Dublin, although tomorrow morning’s will easily be the worst. But my mother will be waiting for me on the other side, and for the first time in my life, I am coming home for Christmas. Those are good things.

It shall remain to be seen whether or not I’ve “gotten it out of my system,” as both Donal and my grandmother have called my desire to leave everything and go live overseas for a while. Sure it was going to be a year instead of six months, but would that have been enough? Or too much? I like to think that my time here was my time here. It was what I got, and that should be enough.

And will I be able to pick up the pieces of an old life? What will be home, and what will just be “a place” now? I think that remains to be seen, although I’m curious what my reaction will be now when I read the final chapter of The Graveyard Book aloud. That might be the true test of whether or not I’ve gotten this business out of my system.

But between now and then there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his eyes and his heart wide open.

This is the 39th post of the 4-T Tales. There will be one more, the 40th, appropriately, and then this part of the story will come to an end. Stay tuned, dear readers…