19th January 2014
Tim Keown wrote this article about Bud Selig’s legacy with regard to drug use in Major League Baseball. I don’t know why I ended up writing such a lengthy letter about it, but here it is:
Dear Mr. Keown,
You said in your article about Bud Selig that, “There is, however, no debating one point: Baseball has the toughest doping penalties of any sport.” My understanding of baseball’s doping penalties are that there are lesser penalties for “failure to comply”, and then they go to a 50 game ban for the first positive test and 100 games for a second offense.
Do you know about the doping penalties for other sports or are you just guessing that baseball has the toughest? Are you judging based on the number of games missed or the percentage of the season missed? Or by money missed out on by players who serve penalties? Or did you mean baseball has the toughest penalties of the big four North American sports leagues?
Athletes in Olympic sports are governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency - any idea what the penalty is for a first time offense? It was two years, but starting this year it’s four years for a first violation, so athletes who test positive will be kept out of competition for at least one Olympic cycle (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/more/news/20131115/wada-doping-penalty-doubled-four-years-olympics.ap/).
Track and Field (and road racing), Cycling, and Tennis also follow the WADA Code. UEFA and FIFA are also working together with WADA. You don’t think it would be a big deal for Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Messi to miss 2-4 years? And a four year ban could essentially ruin an little-known Olympic athlete in a less popular sport like Nordic (XC) skiing. A four year doping penalty would mean loss of sponsors and income from prize money or appearances - for an athlete that likely wouldn’t be able to afford a team of ace lawyers to work through the appeals process (as A-Rod easily could).
Under WADA rules, those athletes have to make themselves available for testing every single day, all year around, in some cases for an unlimited number of blood and urine samples. We’ve seen that individuals have been able to beat testing in the past (Lance Armstrong and his posse), but with the use of biological passports, and WADA rules that allow samples to be stored 10 years for retroactive testing, I believe that these sports really are making progress in their fight to change the win-at-all-costs mentality. I believe there will still be individuals that will try to cheat, but I’m optimistic things will get better. Maybe I’m being naive, but I’d rather be naive than cynical and jaded.
Teacher, John Muir Charter School
Long Beach, CA
6th September 2013
teaching twelve year olds
to use an image each line
and count syllables
5th July 2013
29th June 2013
Here are links to the Quizlet flashcards for English 2A and 2B.
So Much Unfairness of Things http://quizlet.com/24466311/cyberhigh-english-2b-unit-6-so-much-unfairness-of-things-flash-cards/
22nd June 2013
“There isn’t any night club in the world you can sit in for a long time unless you can at least buy some liquor and get drunk. Or unless you’re with some girl that really knocks you out.”
-from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
True wisdom from a classic book I’m currently rereading. I forgot how much this book kills me.
19th June 2013
My friend Matthew got married over the weekend to a wonderful woman named Bridget. They both teach at the same middle school in Colorado Springs, and they seem to like each other well enough, so it was time to get married.
I’ve known Matthew since we were 9th graders, maybe even a little before, and we’ve spent a great amount of time together. We discovered then that if we hung out together we wouldn’t be quite as much of outcast nerds as we were on our own. We ran track and cross country together, were in the worst class ever together, and we were even roommates for one semester at Calvin College. We took our prom dates in the sketchiest limo ever (my mom’s van with the seats removed and mattresses/pillows installed, gave up washing our hair for Lent at the same time, and have shared both good and bad times with one another.
We got nicknames from a 1930s picture at Pingree Park one summer that are still occasionally used by friends: Chilipicker (me) and Junk (Matthew).
We had too many inside jokes, and many of them I would think twice about posting on this blog.
At the rehearsal dinner I was one of several who offered stories and toasts. After threatening but then declining to tell inappropriate stories from Matthew’s life, and after asking everyone present to observe a moment of awkward silence, I thought of something from Matthew’s life that I thought was appropriate that I also would like to share with you:
When we were roommates at Calvin, Matthew brought along his NES, the original Nintendo system. He played a lot of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, tried to set personal records beating Mario, and we occasionally played Tecmo Bowl together. But there was one game he had lost that he really wanted to play again.
He talked about it like it was the most amazing game ever. I thought it was nostalgia that made him think this, but then, after seeing the ending of the game, I changed my mind (Matthew had not actually seen the ending before that spring, I believe). I don’t remember if he ordered it, or if his dad sent it as a present, or something else, but he got it in the mail, and he knew then that he had a mission.
Matthew played that game everyday, maybe for half of the spring semester. He was determined to beat it. When he finally did, we both watched as these words scrolled down the screen:
THIS IS NOT A TRUE ENDING!
TRY AGAIN WITH YOUR FRIEND.”
You could not truly win Bubble Bobble on your own - and Matthew had been playing on his own. The only way to get the happy ending was to finish the game in two player mode with both players still alive at the end.
Up until last weekend, Matthew - and Bridget - had been playing in one player mode, and he couldn’t get to the true ending, he couldn’t truly win. But now, together, they enter two player mode. A place where richer possibilities for adventure and happiness exist. Together they can now experience the true ending.
Below are the happy endings for Bubble Bobble. I think the one on the bottom is the best. What video game has a moral at the end telling the players that the most important magic is love and friendship?! Awesome.
BOBBY, AND BABBY.
YOU SAVED YOUR LOVERS,
BETTY AND PATTY AT LAST!
BUT YOUR ADVENTURE
IS NOT OVER YET…”
NOW, YOU FOUND
THE MOST IMPORTANT MAGIC
IN THE WORLD.
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP!”
17th June 2013
Note: I started this post June 5 - a little over a week ago - and then did not complete and post until now. Since writing this post, I finished the school year at Burton Tech and then drove back up to Stockton, taught a week at Linden High with the Migrant Ed program, and then flew to Denver for a my friend Matthew’s wedding. I’m now at the airport about to fly back to Sacramento.
I could probably have a new post from this trip entitled “Helping a drunk girl at Phoenix Sky Harbor find her gate only to realize 1) she’s only 19; 2) she’s supposed to be going to a rehab facility in Salt Lake City; 3) she missed her flight because she was drinking at the airport for 7 hours; 4) her mother had been calling airport security to find her; and 5) airport security is now going to take custody of her.”
I could also probably have a new post praising the Trinity Brewery in Colorado Springs. The night before the wedding, after the rehearsal dinner, the boys went out to sample the ale, and Trinity has beers that are references to the movie “Office Space” - a cult classic of sorts. So we drank “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gansta” followed by “The O Face” and “TPS Report”. I had never experienced true sour beers (not bitter and not hoppy like a Pale Ale), but apparently they’re some of Matthew’s favorites. Though they were all positive gustatory experiences, I enjoyed the darkness of the first libation the most.
I might actually create a new post this week as a tribute to my friend Matthew and his wife, but I must truly finish and post this moment in time first.
And now, without further ado, “A Perfect Moment”:
The last day of school at Burton Tech isn’t until this Friday, but on Sunday I drove five and a half hours north to Stockton so I could start my summer job Monday morning. I’m working with the Migrant Education program at Linden High School for the second summer, supervising high school students who are making up credits or trying to raise a grade. On Monday we had a preparatory day getting our classrooms set up and meeting the summer staff. Tuesday morning the students arrived on their buses, coming down long straight country roads lined with cherry trees. I was welcomed by several students who were in my group last summer; they were both excited and surprised that I would return from Los Angeles for another summer in the Valley. Tuesday afternoon I drove the five and a half hours back to LA so I could finish the three remaining days of the school year at Burton Tech (where Wednesday morning some of my students excitedly welcomed me back from my short absence).
On Monday afternoon, my only real chance to find housing for my 5 and a half weeks stay in Stockton/ Linden, I headed from Linden High to the Stockton Public Library to use the internet and see if I could wrangle up some place to stay that wouldn’t be expensive and also wouldn’t make me pay a deposit or care that I would only be there for 5 weeks. I looked at Craigslist postings and called or visited hotels, and I also posted Craigslist my situation: High School teacher working summer school in the area for only 5 weeks. I put a picture of myself, including my chair, and also noted that people shouldn’t be scared off by my chair, that I could handle a few steps here or there, but would prefer not to be going up and down multiple flights of stairs.
While at the library, there was a group of teenagers sitting at a table - two young men, two young women - who I assumed were supposed to be studying for finals, but were mostly talking and laughing and occasionally looking over at me. The way they interacted with each other was really something to observe - a little teasing, but mostly support and genuine love. After a while they got up to leave and one of the girls said to me on the way out, “Hey man, you’re awesome.”
I smiled and thanked her, a little embarrassed.
I continued working. The library was hot, and I was sweating a little bit. I checked my email, facebook, and craigslist. Then I checked again. Apparently most people don’t really want renters who don’t want to pay very much, don’t want to stay very long, and aren’t willing to pay a deposit. As I was checking my email, looking up friends in the area on facebook, and perusing the ads on craigslist, I noticed out the window that the group of teenagers from the library had moved out to the park across the street. They were sitting on the grass in the shade under a bunch of trees.
I cycled through my online sources a few more times, adding in padmapper, couchsurfing.com, and looking to see if there were any hostels in the area, still finding nothing, and getting no promising replies to my craigslist ad. The library was still quite hot, I was a bit hungry, and I was on the verge of getting a little cranky. It still wasn’t too late, but I needed to find a place to stay for the night, and I was realizing that would probably be a hotel. There was a hotel that advertised long term rates that I wanted to check out, so it was time to leave the library.
My car was parked across from the library and right by the park where the kids had gone out to sit. The girl yelled at me across the park, “You’re awesome!” And I yelled back, “How do you know?”
I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I ended up going over to their circle to talk for a minute. I asked them if they were studying for finals.
“No,” said the girl, “we’re writing poetry!”
“Spoken word - we’re getting ready for a poetry slam competition,” added a young man with blonde dreadlocked hair sticking back from his head.
This surprised me and I wanted to know more:
“So who’s going to read for me?” I asked
They looked around trying to get out of it.
The other guy interjected, “I don’t do poetry, I just hang out with these guys.”
The girls encouraged the other guy to go for it.
“Ok. Ok. I’ll do my Stockton piece.”
And the kid was good.
Then each of the two girls “spit” their recent work (that’s what they called it, spitting), and a mocha skinned man with a gray and white ponytail showed up, coaching them in ways they could deliver their pieces more effectively. Turned out he was a leader from a non-profit and he had been mentoring them in spoken work, helping them get ready for a national competition.
The kids in turn talked with him about what they had been working on, and I talked with each of them about school and poetry and music. There was a nice breeze and in the shade it was cooler than it was in the library. Light was creeping in between leaves and the leaves were blowing in the wind. I talked with the younger girl of the two for a few minutes, and she told me how it didn’t matter what other problems might be happening in the neighborhood (Stockton has the 2nd highest crime rate in California) or in your personal life. What mattered was that we were having a perfect moment: perfect lighting, the breeze and the shade were regulating the temperature, and some good people were spending a little creative time in the park. A perfect moment.
The young man who had first “spit” his poem had a guitar with him and it was now leaning against a tree. I picked it up and asked if I could take a look.
“Then why haven’t you been playing?!”
“I was listening to you all! And besides, it’s not my guitar…”
“Well play something now!”
I strummed a few chords and settled into a laid back progression that felt right for our beautiful outdoor moment - something by Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz. I sang a little bit and the youths were impressed.
“Wow, do you write your own music?!”
“Weeellllll… I used to play in a band so I’ve played for awhile and yes, I’ve written some music.”
“Play something you wrote!”
I paused and thought: “Happy or sad?”
I heard votes for both options and decided to play “The Ghosts of Julesberg” - a song from Sauni’s Open Road EP. Though it was less happy than the other music I had been playing, it felt right for the moment. As I played and sang, the crew quieted down and surrounded me. I finished the song and the first girl from earlier exclaimed, “Wow you really are awesome!” I smiled.
The guy handed me a Sharpie and asked me to sign his guitar. I gave a questioning look and he assured me he had many people write on it but there was a nice open spot just for me. I wrote:
Daryl Holmlund 6.3.13 A Perfect Moment
The girls had me sign their notebooks, which was weird, because I felt like I should have been getting their signatures. I did as they asked and then I had to go on my way to stay in an extremely sketchy hotel for the night. But as sketchy as the hotel was, I felt at peace through the evening after our perfect moment.
To attempt to recreate the ideal listening conditions for this song, picture yourself in an open field, with the wind blowing through the grass and trees. Sit down, slow your mind, and listen:
The Ghosts of Julesberg
is a long state
when you’re driving
on your own.
It’s not so bad
on the way out
as on the way
At Grand Island, I am feeling drowsy.
At Kearney, I start to drift away.
At North Platte, I stop to take a short nap…
Then carry on.
home of mountains,
and mountain men,
but the east half
is so damn flat
almost nothing out there
Drifting somewhere out there are some memories
of a cold November morning.
Memories, I cannot remember -
you cannot forget.
just for a minute
that things had
things had been different.
Instead of swerving left
you’d hit that deer
Drifting somewhere out there are some memories
of a cold November morning.
Memories, I cannot remember -
you cannot forget.
I did find housing. A woman offered me a room at a good deal, no deposit. Her house is all one level because her late husband often used a wheelchair, and it’s 20 minutes from where I work. She emailed me later that evening while I was in the sketchy hotel. Things worked out quite serendipitously that day.
6th June 2013
One students used the word “avenge” several times in place of “average”: The avenge rainy season in Los Angeles is about 17” per year.
That’s gotta be some intense rain.
“…natural places are being destroyed and turned into gold courses..”
Now if golf were played on a GOLD course, it might be worth watching.
31st May 2013
Apparently some of my students watched a fakeumentary last night on Discovery, and they - as well as many other members of the general public - were tricked into thinking it was a real documentary. The subject of the show was mermaids, and the show produced “evidence” for mermaids, including a skeleton that appeared to be half human, half fish.
Well, that show was not actually a documentary, but a work of fiction. According to Ed Stockly, LA Times editor:
“While this production won’t fool many skeptics (at least I hope not), I can only imagine that the same audiences that lap up shows about Bigfoot, ghosts, psychics, etc. will miss the disclaimers and buy into this one too. Mermaids could be the new Nessy.”
Yeah, my students definitely missed the disclaimers!
30th May 2013
From the New York Times:
“Math is very close-ended,” Mr. Peiser said. Reading difficulties, he said, tend to be more complicated to resolve.
“Is it a vocabulary issue? A background knowledge issue? A sentence length issue? How dense is the text?” Mr. Peiser said, rattling off a string of potential reading roadblocks. “It’s a three-dimensional problem that you have to attack. And it just takes time.”
Studies have repeatedly found that “teachers have bigger impacts on math test scores than on English test scores,” said Jonah Rockoff, an economist at Columbia Business School.
Teachers and administrators who work with children from low-income families say one reason teachers struggle to help these students improve reading comprehension is that deficits start at such a young age: in the 1980s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley found that by the time they are 4 years old, children from poor families have heard 32 million fewer words than children with professional parents.
By contrast, children learn math predominantly in school.
“Your mother or father doesn’t come up and tuck you in at night and read you equations,” said Geoffrey Borman, a professor at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin. “But parents do read kids bedtime stories, and kids do engage in discussions around literacy, and kids are exposed to literacy in all walks of life outside of school.”
So I’m not crazy when I sometimes think it would be easier to teach math than reading?…
The above mentioned issues are just part of the challenge of teaching reading to 9th graders who have been falling farther behind every year. Students aren’t used to reading, so they struggle with keeping attention while reading for more than a few minutes. Students might be unfamiliar with vocabulary or background knowledge necessary for comprehension. Students mistake not understanding a text for thinking the text is boring and so they give up easily when the text is difficult or low interest. Students who are struggling to read and/or get off task end up distracting students that are trying to read.
I’m not sure if I’m happy that this article validates some of my feelings about teaching reading being quite difficult, or if it makes me frustrated, wondering how to change the way things currently work. Either way, it’s nice to know I’m not crazy for thinking teaching a reading class is difficult.