Sunday, June 27, 2010

Captain's Log

Brain Pop

I taste blood.

Have you ever been sitting next to a complete stranger, attempting to keep up with conversation, while simultaneously attempting to separate a sub-zero temperature popsicle from your face?
Well I have, and it was no small feat.
Apparently I was in the right place at the right time for snack distribution, and among various treats, including candy bars and cupcakes, they were also giving out strawberry popsicles as a pick up for the waiting guests.

I was thrilled when I started seeing the familiar wrappings of one of my favorite frozen treats, and waisted no time in acquiring one of my own.

Little did I know, that in order to keep these concoctions in their frozen state, that the powers that be had put them into some cryogenic chamber complete with what I can only guess must have been dry ice.

Soon after attempting to take the first frosty bite, I was instantly informed that I had made a terrible mistake and had cemented the treat to my face.

This was not however, apparent to the person I was previously talking to, who went on to ask me questions about my line of work and the tasks I was in charge of.

I made every attempt possible not to give away my embarrassing predicament, and in between drooling profusely, while trying to plan out an exit strategy, I did fairly well in responding nonchalantly.

Finally, after giving up on all attempts at avoiding injury, I gave in and just focused on freeing myself from the frozen demon. After all that I was in instant pain and immediately looked up to see that everyone who had made the same unfortunate mistake as me was in a similar situation.

The room filled with people glaring at their chosen treats and digging for pocket mirrors to help assess the damages.

I was lucky, I only lost a little skin and the better part of my taste buds, leaving me with the unsatisfying taste of blood and nothing to show for it.

I finally solved the puzzle by stealing a water cup and dunking the arctic treat into water before making any other ill planned attempts at consuming the thing.

The popsicle came in handy, soothing my latest injuries.

You learn something new every day, and I will be wiser if ever the situation presents itself again in the future.

On other notes, I had a nice time at the day's activities and made my way to the convention center with plenty of time to spare.

I did find that after a long day of meeting new people and mulling about that the tiny laptop I had brought soon hung like lead from my shoulder, causing continuous pain and dragging me down, leaving me to find any excuse to put it down like the nagging child it had become.

I am hesitant to bring it with me, and am even considering reviving the long dead art form of note taking with a pen and paper to help cover all the new information and contacts, though I know that would not be the best for helping me to remember all the fantastic tools I will be introduced to in the coming week.

The last event of the day was a keynote presentation by the leader of our convention, and a special guest who was formerly the head of the World Bank.

The arena filled to the brim with excited new faces all waiting to hear from our leaders. After the introductions had been made and the awards for various accomplishments relating to the technology field had been doled out, oru key speaker took the stage.

I was curious as to how his background would relate to the integration of technology and the different strands we were trying to help be incorporated into teaching, but I was excited to find out.

After the show began, I became increasingly confused as to how the topics under discussion were going to relate back to the topics at hand and as the performance went on, I finally realized that there wasn't going to be any.

The presentation was on a series of important topics relating to global issues that need to be addressed in the near future, and our need for a unifying team that will take on the task of enforcing our goals across the globe. The issues that were covered ranged from the depletion of forests and over fishing, to emission levels and our dependency on other consumable resources, such as oil, water, and food.

I admit that with such a large group of people in attendance, it was nice to know that the message was being heard loud and clear from participants around the country, but I wish the connection between helping students to become involved and concerned about the choices being made would have been stronger.

Knowing about the issues is one thing, but helping students to get involved is another, and I would have liked to have heard more about the different steps and programs that were being implemented with that goal in mind and the kinds of projects students were creating.

There will be an exhibition of student work that we will be able to see throughout the conference, and hopefully that will fill in the rest of the gaps for me.

So the lesson of the day kids is... don't eat a popsicle strait out of the cart without a glass of warm water and a pair of tongs.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Road To...


Oh My Goodness, did I have the day from hell…
After getting all my ducks in a row and making my way to the airport, getting through the open threats on the number of bags you can carry, and listening to the crazy woman complain about her lost toiletries, I finally made it through all the thunder storms, the insanely large airport, to the bench under the budget sign. After watching numerous shuttles pass by every minute from the competitors, I finally made it to the rental agency, to be greeted by an hour long line and a bag of chili Fretos, which would be my only meal for the day.

After making it through the gauntlet of people waiting for the four assistants behind the desk I encountered some new issues and events.

To make my trip more valuable and not to miss out on the major events that were to take place on Sunday, we amended my reservation to include Saturday. We just added an extra day to the bill and I was told that since it was reserved through Expedia, that I would need to put the small fee on my own card and be reimbursed when I return home. Sounds simple enough… Not if you are talking to the guy I got.

He takes my credit card and lisence and looks at the screen. He informs me that since the two reservations are being paid separately, I will need to return the next day to re-check out my car. I explained that we had arranged the purchase ahead of time and had been told I would be signing two separate rental agreements at the same time and that I would just return the car on Wednesday on my way out of town.

A simple arrangement turned into a straight out screaming match, with me trying to keep my cool at each turn in the conversation. After giving in to the ridiculous terms of having the car for a matter of hours and needing to return again, only to stand in line just to get the same keys handed back to me, the evil man inquired if I would like to get the additional insurance. I asked if the additional insurance had been purchased for the other dates that had been arranged and he said that they had not, so I said I didn't want it.

From there he went on and on, insisting that I needed the insurance. I explained that I was perfectly covered by my school's insurance from being on a business trip and my own. He insisted again… So basically I said "no" quite clearly around 5 times, and each time he shook his head and said that I really needed it.

Finally I gave up and asked how much it was… In an inaudible tone he mumbled a number that could have been anything, so I asked again… He printed out my bill and I looked at the charges, and said, oh sixteen dollars, that isn't too bad. He immediately corrected me, fifty three dollars…
So I finally made it out accomplishing nothing and in a complete haze as to my whereabouts in this state that I have never seen before.
I watched as the helpful woman at the next kiosk cheerfully handed her patrons maps and helped them with their journeys. I asked my guy for a map and he wandered around as if the request was out of the ordinary and through off his concentration.

I know the line is long and that people are waiting, but it doesn't do me any good to be in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere with no clue where the freeway is.

So I head out to the car and give the latest report to Mandi, the one who made the reservations… She calms me down and explains that I need to call the 1-800 number and get the ball rolling, lucky for them it was past their usual hours of operation and there was no one to hear my story.

So I head back in and Bullwinkle seems surprised to see me back in line. Mandi told me that there should be two forms and that it was all set up so I made my way, since I had nothing better to do.
As I reached the front of the line I hoped that I wouldn't be paired with Grumpy Bear a second time.
Thankfully I was matched up with the smiling map girl from earlier. I mentioned my problem and she said that it would be no problem to fix. Of course she was a trainee and needed to ask for help in setting the final changes… That is when Grumpy Bear came back on the scene, yelling at me and telling me that I needed to come back and that there was no way around it. I explained again that I was going to be at the convention center all day and that there was not a convenient time to drive an hour out of my way after a long day of classes and networking…
From there I saw Grumpy storm off to his manager and yell quite clearly (for the first time in our dealings, as all other attempts at speech had resulted in garbled consonants that couldn't even clarify billing questions) that he didn't know of any conferences that went past nine o'clock at night…
I was really upset after that one, implying that day or night I should find the time to drive back to the boondocks to put an X on a line and drive away again.
And for the record, though he may find it unfathomable that a conference will go late into the evening, I do not and have even gone as far as to sign up for classes that go till that time. While there I made a complaint that the man had also badgered me into the insurance that costs double what the car rental was for and brought my bill into the triple digits on a school trip. I asked for the guy's name and the frightened trainee did her best to recall, but you could tell that she wasn't about to ask him.

Good plan, offer the insurance, and then get the driver so upset that they storm off to the parking lot and out into the darkness, not even knowing where the lights are.

I had a thrilling time with it all…
Thankfully after barely making it the 45 minutes on the freeway to my hotel, the wonderful woman behind the counter explained that there is actually a light rail train outside my door that goes straight to the conference center, avoiding the freeway, (which she mentioned she wouldn't go onto if her life depended on it) and avoiding the issue of parking fees. She even said that there is a shuttle from here that goes straight to the airport for a whopping six dollars as well…
So now my final mission is going to be getting to the rental agency, getting rid of the car, finding a bus, and making my way back to the hotel. I am guessing that the switch may be a lot of work for me, but perhaps the best plan.


Off to ISTE

The forecast for the area of Denver Colorado is a gloomy, overcast scenario with a major probability of thunder and lightning.

I am excited for my arrival in this new state, and am continually impressed by my own lack of general knowledge relating to the country I live in. I have been flying over sandy desert and snow covered mountains, each one looking more mysterious than the last, leaving me to wonder where I may be and finally leading to the conclusion that I haven't a clue what the names of any of the states are or where they might be in geographical relation to one another.

Getting out of the airport was the usual endeavor. I had the rare opportunity to leave out of Eugene and avoid an extra two hour drive on top of what is already going to be a long and tiresome day. When I arrived, I was surprised to find how small the entire operation was and was very impressed with the local artwork that is incorporated into the whole area.

I was not, however, impressed by the local options for food, where I was presented with an $8 dollar burger and a $16 dollar bill. That was just a funny oversight, but I thought it was a little entertaining.

On the topic of entertainment, I was fairly amused to find after arriving at my final terminal in waiting for my plain, that the rest of the passengers and I were joined by a very pushy woman with a knack for projection. This lady sat on a bench for over an hour, calling everyone she knew in turn and screaming across the terminal how she had been robbed of her most prized possessions and hated the airline industry on account of it.

After the first two calls I started collecting data on the frequency in which she repeated herself. I heard toothpaste about 11 times, mouthwash about 9 times, and hour mouse about 12, which was the most displeasing to her…
It was a fairly interesting spectacle, with the rest of the waiting passengers in complete silence and not wanting to disrupt this obviously disgruntled passenger. I knew that she would be joining us on our flight, but am hoping in the back of my mind that she is no one of consequence and will not turn out to be one of our keynote speakers and end up holding a grudge with me for mocking her pain and taking data on the subject.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Picnic Table

Bench Crime Scene

Long ago in a far away land, there was once a complex that was home to a picnic table.
It was a modest thing. It just served a purpose...
Many a day would be filled with the merriment of book clubs and old friends, gathering around in it's presence...
No one minded that the table had been well worn over the years and that the paint was chipping in certain spots.
The true joy came from the simple function that it served, it was a place to eat, chat, and hang out...

But soon the powers that be learned of the picnic table's power and they were jealous....
They took it away for "Maintenance"....
The seasons passed with few noticing it's absence, but for the rest of us, we waited patiently for the return of our long lost friend.

Finally, a year later, I see a little college kid, sanding away at the table, promising that it will be done any time now...

As the final touch they have covered it in caution tape and given up completely...

I want my table back, how hard can this be?
I mean really,
What is the hold up.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Over and Done

Today is the last day of the year and the first day without students.
We ended the year with our final field trips, having sent the graduating class off to Oaks Theme Park near Portland and Shipping the 6th and 7th graders off to a fun filled day at Skate World and Fall Creek.

I wasn't slated to join either of the ventures and was looking forward to a peaceful day sorting electronics in my room. At the last minute, I was discovered enjoying the calm silence in my room and immediately recruited.
I was put in charge of bus three, which boasted more than it's fair share of misfits.
Not looking forward to the 10 hour adventure, I drug myself out of bed and prepared myself for my post.

The morning was filled with popcorn and movies, starting the countdown till we headed out on the buses to take over a forgotten skate park that has frozen itself in time and ignored progress at all costs.

I recall visiting skate world as a child and was surprised to find that the rumors were true that they had not done a thing to update it in the last 20 years....
The very same retro carpets, stained with coke and iceys were right were I left them, and even the prices had gone unchanged.

The students really impressed me with their skills, flying around the rink and crashing into the walls.
I was very impressed to find that some of our teachers are also master skaters and make short work of showing up the kids every chance they could.
I opted to wear flip-flops and guard the munchkins instead of injuring myself in any attempt to pretend I could skate.

Finally towards the end, I noticed the air hockey table in the corner and wandered over to see what was going on...
From there I took on each of my students and dominated them in an undefeated streak ten kids long.
I had a great time destroying them on the table and taking on a few of my favorite students, especially the one who took the time to write, "I had a good time annoying you all year"in my yearbook.
I was finally taken down by one of the smallest students in the entire 6th grade, who took his rightful place as the air hockey master.
It was nice to actually be good at something for once, and I had a great time.
From there we headed out to Fall Creek Reservoir, where the students swarmed the cement lined pool of water that we call a lake.
Even though it was freezing out, the kids dove right in and had a blast.
It was nice to see all the students enjoying their last day with their friends and showing a new side.
We got back at around 6 in the evening, and I immediately went home and passed out from all the excitement.

I am happy to see the year has made it's way to a close and the rest of the summer is in sight.
Next up for me will be a dizzying schedule of activities and events that will lead right back up to the return of school in the fall.
This week is my only time to prepare for the events that will follow.
I have today and possibly a bit of the coming week to shut down the lab, get all the equipment in summer mode, take 350 batteries out of all the computers, deconstruct the lab and get ready to leave for Denver where I will be attending the ISTE conference for 4 days.
I will be on the outskirts of town and be traveling by car to reach the event each day. It is my hope that I will even be able to find the place, let alone find parking...
As soon as I get back to town, I will be right in the middle of teaching Super Summers, where I have 6 hour classes daily for three weeks straight...
After that I will be working in a lemonade stand until it is time to get out of town, on what will be my only break, traveling to Peru.
We have all the pieces together for the final excursion and as soon as I get back I will have about three days to design 12 classes for the fall and get back to work, imaging and resetting all the computers in the building and significantly increasing the stock of the company that makes our labeling tape.
Looking forward to making the lies come true and getting a minute to relax when it is all through.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010