A week of technology, VBS and no mail

I have spent the larger part of this week playing with new technology for the classroom. I’d like to say that it was a huge success, but due to various limitations (wireless, my ancient computer, me), I did not accomplish the real-world task I had set out to do. Hey, at least it wasn’t a real goal with a real deadline and I learned a lot about the features and limitations of three different programs. I now hope to find a single solution that can do everything I would like to do – it must be out there somewhere.

I’ve also been doing a lot of “Footsteps of Paul” tour correspondence, since we announced this week that the application and initial deposit for this trip would be two weeks from now. We’re doing this so we can see how many people are actually going. I suspect we’ll have around 12. We need 32 minimum for this trip, so I will need to cast a much wider net.

What I have not done this week is study any of the 20 or so history books on the desk behind me. Those books are for the long-term sub job that I may now not be teaching. As I had hoped, I got a call yesterday from personnel; I will interview for the Social Studies position Tuesday morning. I was even the first one they called! Based on the three available half-an-hour slots, I assume that I’m one of only three candidates. I had been told last week that personnel were only going to interview on Tuesday AM, so no lengthy process for them. This all bodes well for me, but it only takes one better candidate to bump me from the position and my assumption is that the other two are pretty qualified. My advantage is that I’m a known entity, and I’m well-liked at the school.

Now, I got the call while setting up for VBS at our church. Like most years, this is a pretty big production. And for the third year in a row, we’re putting the “sky” up in the sanctuary which requires a lift. I gathered a crew to assemble the lift and then get the lift into position – no easy task since the lift is two tons and we had to go up some stairs. We used wood planks and levers to slowly ease this beast up the steps. The “sky,” by the way is a 25’ tall cloudy bed sheet/curtain. Well, I guess we were a little aggressive in taking the curtain down last year because when I got up to the rafters, 25’ in the air, I discovered that we were missing several hooks with which to attach the curtain. We had to send folks out to get more hooks, duct tape and drill bits to re-drill holes. This slowed production down a bit (since we have to set up the curtain before anyone else can set up the stage), and it wound up taking us 2.5 hours, much longer than our usual one hour. While we had the lift out, we also replaced all the dead bulbs in the church and in the big gym (the reason our church owns a lift in the first place).


Finally, the other thing that happened this week was mail-related. Our mail man gave us a note on Tuesday stating that we had to move our house numbers, since they could no longer be seen because of some bush overgrowth. I saw this as reasonable, so I moved the numbers. The note also said that if we failed to do this in two weeks, our mail would no longer be delivered. This was also reasonable. The thing is, we didn’t get any mail from Wednesday on, and so today, I will go to the post office to see what’s up. I had paid money for some expedited deliveries and nothing showed up. This is not right!

Hitting the ground running

It’s been a few days and a weekend since we have returned from vacation. I’m still waking up at 4:40 in the morning every morning, but I finally stayed up past 11PM last night and stayed in bed past 6AM this morning. I’m getting back to normal.

My wife and I sure hit the ground running upon our return. I made a list of everything I needed to do now that I was back and it was over 20 line items. For Barbara, it was about the same. I think I knocked out 10 items on the first day and I’m now down to four items. It feels good to get stuff done.

Both of us were wondering what our weight might be like after a month of eating well, but also walking long distances most day. Barbara gained three pounds. I didn’t gain or lose a thing! I was hoping for five pounds at least.

One of the big recent things that has happened is that our pastor and family are now, suddenly, going to Kyrgyzstan on a mission trip. This means, as trainer and travel arranger, that I have to get a lot of things done in a hurry – they’re leaving in six weeks. I’d sure like to go with them, but with a job (suddenly), it would take a miracle for me to go. Our first training meeting is this Wednesday.

Speaking of “job,” since I have been back, I have met the new principal (very nice person!) and she paired me up with the teacher who succeeded me last year on my long-term assignment. Things were looking up, and then I talked to the other teacher this morning: he said that things were about to change and that we should talk after I had talked to the principal, who would be calling me sometime today. I thought that this might be a good thing, but then I saw an open position appear on the teacher job site. This could still be good. I applied just to get my name in the hat. My wife then reminded me that there is still another person in the district who is looking for a social studies position at the high school. If the person who I am replacing long-term, due to maternity, decides not to come back, the district person could get my job and I’d be out. This made me, temporarily, depressed because I thought that the odds of this happening were pretty high. Well, I was wrong. At 5PM, the principal called to tell me that another social studies teacher had resigned and so a new spot had opened up. She wanted me to apply so I could be in the interview mix next week. She was pleased to hear that I had already applied. Hopefully, I’ll get that job next week so I can get real wages. But even if I don’t get the full-time job, I still have this long-term assignment as a backup and it too could become a permanent assignment. God is good.

Flight Home to CA

There were high winds and some rain last night. We had had a power outage. The news this morning stated that five people had died from trees falling on them.

Since we were leaving for home today, we got all our possessions in the van, cleaned up Kevin’s house a bit and took off.

It was fortunate for us that Kevin will be returning from Germany in four days, allowing us to take his van to Dulles today. He’ll pick up his van and drive it home from the airport. It’s a win for both of us.

We parked the van and took pictures of where it was so Kevin could find it later. I released my New York wine collection (well-packed in a box) to the fine folks at the Virgin America ticket counter, after a lengthy wait in line, and then we proceeded to wait in a very, very long line at security. We got to our gate with maybe 10 minutes until boarding. I had not counted on an hour of lines. Fortunately (?) our flight was delayed 50 minutes due to fog at SFO. That 50 minute wait became a two hour wait before we eventually took off. Once in the air, the flight was fine. Time passed quickly. When we got to SFO, I got my wine box. It had been inspected by TSA as part of a random search. It was now much more loosely packed, but everything was still there and unbroken. Kristi picked us up almost immediately upon exiting baggage claim, and then we headed home. Everything was so brown around here – I’m going to miss all the green of the East Coast. I always do. My mom says that we should move to the East Coast. I just might someday.

I fell asleep around 9PM, completely exhausted. Tomorrow, I hope to hit the ground running, but at the same time, I could also use a few days of rest. My muscles and bones are weary after several days of walking long distances in the sun.

Capitol Hill day in DC

Day two of our scheduled tours. I was not too thrilled about the Congress tour: I had been on it twice already. We got there early so we could see some things before going on the tour, but we didn’t get there early enough. It was exceedingly hot today. Our plan was to drop off our stuff at the Botanical Gardens near Capitol Hill, and then take the tour, since Capitol Hill does not allow food or drink in the place and offers no place to store it. Alas, the Botanical Gardens did not have lockers, so we moved on. The other thing I didn’t know about was that the Congress tour place had moved from the last two times I had been here. We made the march to where it used to be and signs pointed us towards the center of the front of the building. At the front of the building, the guards told us that the tour was on the far side of the other side of the building. There were fences all over the place from where we had just come, so no easy way to get around that way, so we went around the other way, and wound up almost entirely circling the building. When we got to the far side, we were further directed to stairs by the street some distance away. It turned out that Congress now had a beautiful underground entrance to the tour, but virtually no signage to get you there. We had now walked more than a mile in direct sunlight, and the first thing we had to do was throw away our water bottles. We really should have just gone to our congressman’s office and walked underground, like we had done last time. The tour sucked – it was a total waste of time. After that, we were back in the harsh sunlight. I did a little filming for class and then we went to a diner that had some good recommendations. The place was awful. Our next stop was about a mile away, so we trudged along in the sun. The halfway point to the US Department of Education was the Botanical Gardens. We decided to stop there briefly, but spent a lot of time there. It was a very interesting place, and turned out to be the most enjoyable part of our day! When we finally did get to the US Department of Education, it did not allow guests, even teachers. We could have gone to any of the museums on this side of the Mall after that, but we were too hot and tired. We had also seen all of them the last time we were here. We went home.

Drive day in DC

Today was the first of our formal tour appointments that were made by the office of our congressman (Mike Honda). The Metro system wouldn’t work out well for today, so we drove. Driving in DC is always an experience, but once we got passed Georgetown University, things calmed down. We actually found a decent parking spot in the shade near the National Cathedral, which saved us a $16 charge in their parking lot.

We got there early, so we had time to tour the grounds. The Bishop’s garden was lovely. The tour itself was not well-done, but it did get us in the place before the general population. After the tour, we continued to tour the place because there was so much to see. It really is a spectacular cathedral.

We opted to see (more of the) zoo rather than Georgetown University after that. It was hot and mostly uphill, but most of the things we had missed last time we were here were indoors, so it wasn’t too bad. For lunch, we ate sushi in a place that I’m sure few people would find, but google maps did, and it was excellent! We were too hot and tired to go see Georgetown after that, but we did do some shopping and had ice cream near the sushi place before heading home.

Third time’s the charm

We started fresh, and we started earlier, figuring that the tourists wouldn’t arrive until around noon. This turned out to be a good thing. Our first stop was the Ford Theater, and for the first time in three trips, I actually got in! We were a part of the first group of the day to tour the place. It was well worth the stop. Next up was the Museum of Natural History that we had also missed yesterday. Again, it was not crowded like yesterday (though it got so towards the end), so again, we had a great time. We had lunch at that pub we couldn’t get into yesterday and had a nice meal. I also had another flight of local beers. It was getting really hot by the time we started walking to the White House. I did a little filming at the White House for my history class and then we went to two small, local museums mostly off the tourist path… and both were closed for major renovation. Gee, I’m sensing a theme on this trip. Rather than taking the Metro (as we probably should have), we decided to walk to DuPont Circle so we could see a church on the way. The walk was a mile long, uphill, and in full sun. The church offered some relief from the sun, but I didn’t think it was worth the trip. We walked a little more to the Phillips Museum of Art. This little place was a gem! Most of the paintings were new to us, and mostly modern, but it was laid-out well. With that, we ended a pretty good day of touring.

Museum Day in DC

Today was museum day – all museums, all the time. Today was also the beginning of a warming trend and there was possible rain. It was not rainy when we got to our first stop, the Building Museum, but it sure was hot. The museum was a huge disappointment. I would not spend the money to go there again. The second museum was MUCH better though. I had never been to the National Portrait Gallery before because it had been closed for major renovation. It is now a favorite museum of mine and of my daughter’s. We were getting hungry when we got out of the place, so I found a top-rated pizza place nearby and man, was that a good choice! I also had an extremely pleasant flight of local beers. After lunch, we browsed the Spy Museum gift shop, but did not go in. We had been there before. We also didn’t go into the Crime and Punishment Museum because of the steep price of the tickets ($23). Our next stop was to be the Ford Theater, but it was now very hot and, being that this was a Saturday, was extremely crowded with a long line halfway around the block. Since we were in the area, we decided to walk a few blocks to the Museum of Natural History. It too had a line out the door – I had never seen such a thing before. Well, at least we could go to the Old Post Office, which now had a museum in addition to their food court. It was fenced off and under repair! We were now baking in the sun, and most of us had to go to the bathroom very badly, so we went in search of bathroom facilities. Across the street were a couple of restaurants. Once was closed and the other, a pub, was packed because of World Cup Soccer. We eventually found a CVS pharmacy not far from the White House. After that, we were so exhausted that we decided to call it a day and start fresh tomorrow.

4th at Mindy’s house

Yeah, 4th of July! Our original plan was to see the fireworks in DC tonight, but today also turned out to be the only day we could go to my sister Mindy’s house, so that’s what we did.

It was raining today. It was scheduled to rain all day, which is why DC decided to have a fireworks display last night, just in case it got rained-out today. Had we known this, we would have stayed in DC later yesterday. Anyway, we made it to Mindy’s house and I guess we were a little early because they were still busily cleaning. From what I understand, Mindy remembered that I had pet and dust allergies only this morning, so she had Mike and assorted kids clean the house while she cooked. I was not allowed into the house because there was pet dander and dust in the air as a result of the cleaning activity. Eventually, I snuck down into the basement where the pets weren’t allowed and I was just fine there. I watched world cup soccer and as soon as Mike was done upstairs, he spent some time with me. The dinner was great as always at Mindy’s house. The most memorable dish was the jalapeno poppers, but only because these jalapenos were so hot and I was the only one who could eat them. Everyone else had to be satisfied with juicy pork steaks, chicken wings and potato salad. For our evening entertainment, we watched “Pompeii.” It was fun but predictable. On our way home, it was cloudy and dark, but not raining. There were very few lights on the local roads so driving was pretty hazardous. By the time we got back to the DC area, the fireworks were in full-swing. We may not have been in the Capitol to see the fireworks, but we can say that we saw them… albeit from an extreme distance.

Back in DC

DC Day #1 (technically day #2, since we had been in the city three weeks ago). Because today was hot with the potential for thunderstorms, we decided that this should be museum day (mostly indoors). Our first stop was to the new Newseum, which was a six story museum dedicated to news. It was worth the rather steep admission. Once we found our lunch place, which wasn’t easy, we had our mediocre lunch and then went to the Smithsonian Modern Art Museum. It was under construction. We went to the National Gallery, also under construction, but less so. I really like this place, but it is sort of big. We were all tired after visiting it. The walks between buildings so far had been extremely hot. Because of time constraints, we opted not to see the Museum of Natural History, so we walked the very long, hot distance to the American Museum. Half of it was under construction and because a thunderstorm had suddenly hit, the place was packed. It was impossible to see anything! Still, we trudged through the museum, with tired feet, until five PM. The rain had abated a bit, so we walked to the Metro station and went home. When we got home, my mom texted me; because of a Hurricane due to hit DC tomorrow, they would do fireworks tonight instead. Had we known, we might have stayed. We were too tired now, so we just listened to them in the distance while watching “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Our day in Baltimore

Breakfast was wonderful at the Windham Hotel. Today we would see Baltimore. Again Barbara was driving and again there was construction. Our first stop of the day was Fort McHenry, the site of the Star Spangled Banner. The fort was rather small, but well-situated to defend Baltimore, which it had done. It was a very hot day again, so we were again melting whenever we had to walk between buildings. Stop two was to the USS Constellation, the last wooden war ship built by the US. It was a pretty cool ship to tour. Stop three was the Walter’s Museum, which Courtney said was her favorite so far. It was a pretty spectacular museum, and it was free! Our last stop was to Edgar Allen Poe’s grave and then to his house. The grave was cool, the house was right in the middle of what today are tenements. It was a pretty scary neighborhood. Most visiting the site wouldn’t even get out of their cars! After that, we drove to DC to my brother’s house.