Health class ends

Today was Halloween, but I didn’t care – tonight I had class (Yeah! No trick-or-treaters at my door!).  Since I had completed all my homework for both classes, I turned my attention to filling out the Milpitas District paperwork so I could sub.  It took longer than I thought it would.  After lunch, I played Minecraft until it was time to go to class.

Class was very short tonight, and was followed by pizza and beer (sort of funny, since this is a Health class).  One sad note: My teacher told us tonight that the reason she was not here the first week was because her husband had been put into hospice care.  She started teaching half way through week number two of this six week class.  What she didn’t tell us was that her husband died two weeks later over the weekend.  She had been secretly mourning the loss of her husband the last two weeks of class.  We all gave her a big hug.  She said that this class helped her greatly in dealing with her loss – it gave her something useful to do.  Starting this week, she also returned to her daytime kindergarten class.  They were less helpful in helping her with her stress.  She said that she would miss this particular class especially.  I believe her.

When I got home, the trick-or-treaters were still out.  One group recognized Courtney from school and started shouting for “Mrs. Knitter.”  My wife was not happy that several 8th graders now knew where she lived.  I guess this is one of the downsides of living right by where you work if you are a teacher.

Slow start on that final

For some reason, I woke up this morning convinced that I had to put bricks in the oven for my Minecraft cathedral.  Once I finished my morning routine, I put the cobblestones in seven ovens to turn them into stone bricks… and then I thought, well, I’ll just clear out a few more rows of the crypt, and maybe fill it with dirt.  Towards the end of this short diversion before doing my take home final, I started to get hungry and shaky.  Hmm, must be time to eat a snack.  Nope, it was one o’clock.  I stopped Minecraft, ate lunch, and wrote out my final in about three hours.

During lunch, I watched the devastation of “Super Storm Sandy” on the news while talking to my mom (Sandy) who lives in New York.  She was telling me some of the stuff that was happening locally; I was telling her about what I was seeing nationally.  This morning, I had heard from my sister who lives in West Virginia.  The winds were fierce there, yet her neighbor was using a leaf blower to try and gather leaves (really?).  While watching the national news and talking to my mom, I saw a news reporter standing knee deep in water warning cars not to go down a particular street in New Jersey because of downed power lines.  It was the street she was standing in.  This was not a bright move on her part, and she could easily have become a Darwin award winner.  Fortunately, the police came along, told her that she was an idiot and that she should get out of the road.

Tonight was my last presentation in my Inclusion class.  This was a group presentation.  Each of us had agreed on 2 minutes of talking each, followed by a 2 minute video for a total of 10 minutes.  We talked for 23 minutes.  All of us went just a little long.  The thing is, our classmates seemed to like the presentation, and they asked many questions afterwards – about 10 minutes worth.  We, and one other person (half an hour on her “10 minute” presentation!), talked so long that one of the presentations had to be moved to Thursday.

A great weekend

The weekend was fun.  I actually started my Saturday by working on one of my finals assignments: creating a health binder.  I had assumed that all I would be doing is filling a binder with all the stuff we received throughout the class module.  I was wrong.  The binder is like some sort of scholastic scavenger hunt.  Some of the pieces need to come from the district/county offices; some need to come from health places like Kaiser.  A lot of the stuff in the binder needs to be pulled off the web, formatted and printed.  Alas, I discovered this morning that my printer is no longer dispensing blue.  Despite several cleanings and even a cartridge replacement, it looks like the printer is broken.  Well… that slowed me down by about an hour.  I’ll have a lot to do on Monday.

Just before noon, Barb and I took the Porsche out to a teacher event down in Gilroy: a wine tour.  Fifteen teachers and their spouses toured Gilroy’s wine trail (gee, up until today, I didn’t even know Gilroy had wines).  Many of the wines were spectacular, as were their prices.  Now, none of the wineries have the look of say Napa or Sonoma, but I guess they were at least functional.  Mostly, they were of the mom & pop variety.  I finally bought some bottles from the last winery of the day, from the last glass of the day – a dessert wine that tasted like chocolate, coffee and orange.  When we got to the vice principal’s house to watch the Giant’s game, we popped open a bottle of this stuff and had it with brownies and ice cream.  Delicious!

Sunday after church, we cleared the sanctuary, putting all the band equipment in the back closet.  All this week, we’re having the carpets replaced.  On Friday, Bery and I will have to put everything back.  It usually takes three hours or so.  When we got home from church, rather than watch football, or the final game of the World Series (Giants Win!), the kids and I played Minecraft until bedtime.  At one point, Courtney had adopted some dogs.  Jeffrey came along and set them on fire.  It was hilarious to watch these dogs running around on fire with Courtney absolutely horrified.  It brought me back to my childhood where I used to hang and decapitate my sister’s dolls.  I thought it was funny, but my sisters were scarred for life.

Monday was all homework, all the time.

Minecraft addiction

Today started with an interview at the district office for a substitute position.  The interview went great.  I thought I might be available to teach on Monday, but I have to get fingerprinted again, and I received a huge stack of paperwork to read and sign.  It looks like I won’t get this done until sometime late next week.  Since fingerprinting was done at the County Office of Education, and only by appointment, I opted to call them the moment I got out of the district office.  I got an 11AM appointment, so I went home, dropped off my stuff, and then went to the County office.  Fingerprinting took all of five minutes, but it took a while to get there.  On the way back, I got the propane for our gas grill.

It was now 12:30.  I guess I should start working on my finals, or that presentation that’s due next week.  I opted to play Minecraft instead.  I find that I don’t do well if I don’t get rolling in the morning.  I need momentum to get me through the afternoon.  No such luck today.  To keep my mind working, sometimes it’s good to do something different.  I am creating a Cathedral in Minecraft, a project that I estimate will take me 200 hours to complete.  So far, I only have the foundation laid, and the beginnings of the crypt.  We’ll see if I get a chance to progress things over the weekend.  At some point (probably Monday), I WILL need to complete my assignments.

To do list day

I didn’t have much in the way of homework today, so my wife made a list of activities for me to do (thanks!).  First stop was to put my son’s old cell phone back on our wireless plan because my daughter now has a need for a cell phone – two of her teachers are using cell phones in class.  When I got to the AT&T place, I was told that there would be a 45 minute wait.  This gave me time to look around.  In that 45 minutes, I learned more about the capabilities of the iPad, and more about my own iPhone.  It turns out, that I can use my iPhone as a presentation device with a $20 cord and a $10 application.  Sold!  I bought them on Amazon using my iPhone while waiting.  I also noticed that the “old” iPhone 4S was now half the price I had paid for mine.  For just $100, Courtney could get a modern and very useful iPhone, rather than use the three-year-old Samsung relic in my back pocket (which I then “unlocked” when I got home — I can use it as a “burner” phone for overseas travel).  I made a snap decision to spend the extra $100.  One of the main reasons for this is that Courtney already has an iTouch and is very familiar with how Apple products work.  She will also have the added benefit of keeping all her applications (and we as parents know how to operate her phone as well — we were never able to figure out Jeffrey’s!).  It just made sense.  Well, I purchased the phone and off I went.  It was lunchtime, so I went home to eat (bringing home a lunch from the nearby Happi House!).

After lunch, I played with my new “Keynote” application for presentation and learned about “Dropbox,” a nifty free tool that keeps your stuff accessible anywhere (and required for Keynote).  Shortly before the kids got home, I was to get groceries and propane for our gas grill.  The Shell station on the corner didn’t have propane, even though they have a large, white “propane-like” container on-site.  It is used for compressed air instead.  I would have to go to the Shell on the other side of town.  I got the groceries and as soon as I got home, I was to teach my son some bass parts before he headed off to a driving lesson and then to band practice.  Well, as soon as we sat down, Jeffrey’s driving instructor called.  The guy was 15 minutes early.  Jeffrey went off to his lesson, and I wrote-out the more difficult bass parts for him, since I would be gone before he got back.  I ate and left for school.

School was sort of loosely structured tonight; we didn’t get much accomplished.  Near the end of class, we were given a group activity called “bragging rights,” a piece where we were to brag about some accomplishment.  There was a list of about eight categories to choose from.  The first two tables did pretty well.  All were simple accomplishments, since these “kids” had very little life experience.  Then it was my turn.  I talked about my world travels and some of the gross foods I have eaten over the years.  No one in the next two tables wanted to talk after me (pointing to me saying “how can we top that?”).  I think maybe two others spoke after me, after much coercion from the teacher.  I effectively silenced the class.  This was not my intention, but I have lived a very rich life, so I had a lot to talk about!  The teacher filled in the rest of the time by telling us about her gambling addiction.

I tried to get propane on the way home, but they close the tank down at 8PM.  I guess I’ll have to come back tomorrow.

Stupid computer

I was going to “take the day off” from studying, but my desktop sort of blew-up.  I spent most of the day fixing it.  Hmmm.  Guess I’ll need to replace it soon; it is 10 years old and on its third hard drive.  Time to let it go; I think I’ll replace it with an iPad.

One final down

Today, since I had finished all my other homework over the weekend and on Monday, I decided to write-out my take-home final in my Inclusion class.  It took three hours, and when I was done, I couldn’t move my left arm at all!  My hand was cramping so much from three hours of writing, and my elbow was inflamed from tennis.  I took some Motrin to try to calm the swelling down.

In class this evening, the teacher noted that “someone” had already turned in their final and had set the bar very high – I got a perfect score, yeah, and some very kind comments like: “exceptional,” “profound,” and “inspirational.”  It’s hard to do much better than that!  When I get my take home final for Health on Thursday, I’ll finish it up quickly as well.  After that, it’s one group presentation on Tuesday and then I’m done!  I’ve turned in everything else already.

Yeah, I got a call from the district today.  I have an interview on Friday for substitute teaching.  I consider this a very good thing, since this district is supposedly not hiring.  If I can get in, then I can gain some valuable teaching experience, and meet many of the teachers who I hope will become my peers.

Arm issues

Over the weekend, when I wasn’t doing homework, I was playing tennis or Minecraft.  Now my left arm hurts (elbow from tennis; wrist from Minecraft).  I feel like I’m falling apart!  I may have pulled something while playing tennis.  Jeffrey and I have taken to simply wailing on the (very dead) balls to see who can hit the fastest return.  It’s fun, but probably not beneficial for my arm!

The “girls” at my table were absolutely silly tonight, which made the class go fast.  They were truly enjoyable to be around.  At one point, I was an “honorary girl” during a skit on bullying.  It’s nice that they seem to accept me (as the lone boy at the table) despite the fact that I am old enough to be their father.

Everyone seemed to like my Lesson Plan on the Bataan Death March.  I will definitely use this in class – I like it too!

The weekend is here!

Friday – Yeah! No class!

Still, I wound up doing homework all day and knocked-out two of the three assignments that are due next week.  I don’t know how I’m going to get homework done once I start substituting or student teaching (I’ll probably have to do all my homework on Friday & Saturday).  Right now, I have 2 – 4 hours of homework a day, six days a week.  I guess that’s the downside of taking concentrated classes.

Our Filipino students mentioned that they have rarely ever had steak, since there are no cows in the Philippines.  We decided to take them out to Outback.  The meal was nice, and they liked their steak very much, though they did not thank us for taking them out to this moderately expensive place – actually, I don’t think they’ve thanked us for anything this whole week.  Maybe it’s a cultural thing.  We had to rush dinner a bit because we had to get everyone to church for the corn maze event tonight.  For the first time this week, it was cold out!  The kids got through the maze with no difficulties.  When we got home, the rest of the evening was spent packing – our kids leave for San Francisco at 7AM tomorrow morning.

Field Trip to the Tech

I was so tired when I woke up this morning; probably the after-effect of so much stress and study yesterday.  Still, I had to drag my butt out of bed because today was another field trip.  This time, I’d be taking foreign exchange students plus host families to the Tech Museum of San Jose.

As was the case on Tuesday, we took public transportation.  I felt like an old pro at this public transportation thing, which is funny because up until Tuesday, I hadn’t taken public transportation anywhere in California for 10 years (Though my heavy use of public transportation in Europe, NYC and DC helped considerably).  Because I was a sudden pro at all this, the Vice Principal who accompanied us (super nice gal!) asked me lead the group to and from the Tech Museum.  Maybe she shouldn’t have.  The two of us were having such a nice conversation on the Light-rail that I lost sight of where we were.  We were supposed to get off at “Convention Center,” I looked up at one point, saw the word “Center” on the sign, and we got off.  It turned out to be “Civic Center,” about two miles from our destination.  Fortunately, there was another tram only 10 minutes later and we still arrived at the museum precisely at 10AM when it opened.

To start things off, the Tech Museum had all the 10AM groups participate in the “world’s largest earthquake drill” (on 10/18 at 10:18AM).  All schools in California and many in the US, and some in the rest of the world participated at the same time.  The announcer said that 9.3 million people (students mostly) would be participating in California alone.  At precisely 10:18, we all huddled under tables, cheered, and then went to the museum.  To me, it seemed like a waste of 20 minutes (of our two hour stay), but it definitely was a unique experience, and it was sort of exciting to be a part of something so big.

My group of eight headed downstairs to the “Earthquake” exhibit so the kids could experience what an earthquake felt like.  For some reason, they weren’t impressed with the 45 second 8.7 magnitude Tokyo quake that we simulated.  I’ll tell you though, having been through the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 (6.9 for 15 seconds), they would have been really impressed (if not dead) had this “Tokyo” quake happened here… maybe at 10:18.

From that point on, we marched through all the exhibits for the next hour and a half.  I tried to show them my area of expertise, semiconductors, but the exhibit was more conceptual than visual, so they didn’t care.  Nor did they particularly care that we were in “Silicon Valley;” whatever was inside their technology was “magic” as far as they are concerned, and it didn’t concern them so long as their technology worked.

From what I understand, two students had made a special trip to see the Googleplex (and Stanford), but the other 20 foreign exchange students just wanted to hang out with each other, shop and eat.  This is so different from last year’s group, which was definitely college-focused and fairly aware of our Bay’s unique place in the world.

Lunch at Mezcal was amazing.  Most (including me) had two plates of food at the buffet they had set up just for us.  After that, we made it back to school, walked home, and then our two foreign exchange kids went back to school to see the carnival and hang out with their friends.  I went to my evening classes dragging a bit, hoping there would be coffee when I got there (there was… and cake!).