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Thursday, February 28, 2008


Every Thursday night we have bell choir practice. We enjoy it. It's musical, challenging, and puts us in contact with a group of people in the church that we wouldn't otherwise know. And usually after practice we go out to eat. It's become our once-a-week restaurant meal. It's too early for us to eat before practice (and get there on time), but by the time we finish it's tough to get home and get a meal ready without Maxine getting cranky. (Doesn't help that Horyon and I get a bit cranky, too.)

Tonight after bell choir, we went to a Japanese restaurant downtown called "Wa". Turns out the chefs and owner are Korean. The food was very good, and very similar to Japanese food we ate in Korea. Horyon stuffed herself, and I had enough. We had some raw fish, u-don (a thick noodle) soup, and some California rolls that had raw fish, avocado, and some other stuff that I couldn't identify but surely enjoyed eating. The raw fish was good--we haven't had any since moving here from Korea. But we were reminded of one disadvantage that Kansas has: the fish was frozen, not fresh. As Horyon pointed out, you wouldn't want to eat fish in Kansas that hadn't been frozen, as it is too far from any ocean to manage safely. For the same amount of money back in Korea, we would have had a fish pulled right out of a tank where it had been swimming obliviously, then cut into bite-size chunks and served at a temperature not much above the water it had been swimming in.

You can tell the difference, because fresh fish is very firm, and the flavor is still intact. Not that it has a very strong flavor; don't get caught thinking about the smell of a fishing boat. No connection there. It's a very subtle flavor. I like it dipped in soy sauce mixed with wasabi (a sort of green Japanese horseradish sauce). Koreans prefer it dipped in red chili pepper paste mixed with sesame oil and chopped green onions. People who aren't used to eating raw fish have trouble with the texture, too. I think this is mostly mental, based on preconceptions of what raw fish "should" feel like. But when it's fresh, raw fish has a unique feel to it, unlike anything else. A tiny bit chewy, less so than cooked chicken thigh.

It was an expensive meal ($70 including tip, no drinks), but Horyon's parents had sent us about $100 to celebrate our 7th anniversary, which was two Sundays ago. We decided to wait until we were a bit healthier before going out. Even though I'm not up to 100% yet, we figured a bell choir night was a good time to go. My folks are coming next week to take care of Maxine, but we figured that without Maxine we can eat just about anywhere and enjoy it. Something about being able to have a conversation without being interrupted, or having to do damage control, or making sure someone at the table has enough food that she will eat.

Well, I've got a job for tomorrow at Southwest Jr. High. I'd better get to bed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Sorry for not posting. I've been sick for the last week and a half. It feels like I'm getting over it, but it's still got it's gooey tendrils wrapped around my brain.

I've subbed once since getting this way, and once right before. Enough to pay for some Nite-time (the generic equivalent of Nyquil). The biggest problem is that it dries my throat out so bad that I wake up uncomfortable. For a few nights I would wake up, drink water, go to the bathroom, and repeat the whole thing an hour later. No fun.

When Horyon saw me getting sick, she beat back the end of her cold, so she's in pretty good health. It makes her disgustingly cheerful sometimes, but most of that gets poured into her work, which has picked up a lot in the last month.

And thankfully, Maxine has not been sick at all. At least not that we could see. She has had more energy than Horyon and I put together, and is the bright spot in my days. The days when I can't see her because our schedules don't overlap are long and a bit dreary for me.

I'm going to bed now.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Maxine Concert

I hope you enjoy this little bit of Maxine live in concert.

She already has the stylin' moves and swingin' repertoire, all she needs now is a larger venue than her bedroom.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Classes Canceled

Classes at KU were canceled today because of snow. I spent more than an hour shoveling while Maxine and Horyon went to a friend's house to play in the snow.

I'm worried that I'm getting sick. I slept nine hours or so last night, which should have been enough. But I was tired all morning, and took a two hour nap while they were gone. And I'm tired now, even though it's only a quarter till nine.

(Okay, now it's 11:09. I got sidetracked by homework, reading a couple of bedtime stories, and a little snack.)

But I thought I'd let you know how classes are going before I go to bed.

I am taking two classes, with the same professor, and you have to enroll in one if you enroll in the other, so it's effectively one class. Math 409 is "Geometry for Teachers" and Math 410 is "The History of Math."

The geometry class is sort of a rehash of 8th grade math. Or maybe it was 7th grade? Anyway, it was in the neighborhood of 25 years ago, and I found that was enough time for certain gears in my head to get a bit rusty. On the first homework I got a three out of five, which isn't as bad as it sounds, especially considering that I cut and pasted the wrong example diagram to one problem. (I received a "5" on the second homework, so I'm thinking the gears are cranking again.)

She uses a sort of gestalt system of grading. She checks the entire homework, then assigns a grade from one to five, based not on counting mistakes or correct procedures, but just a general feeling of how "right" it was. A "5" is basically 100%, "4" is 90%, "3" is 80%, and so on. She told us that research shows that this style of grading is more consistent across different teachers grading the same assignment than counting mistakes. That may be so, but it takes a huge amount of confidence to grade this way. In Korea, my test grading was as objective as I could make it. So much so that my assistants could actually do some of the marking. One reason I could do it that was was that I taught English in a very structured manner, giving students patterns that they could use to build unique sentences.

It seems a bit ironic to move from an objective style of grading conversation to a more subjective style of grading math, when I consider conversation to be an extremely subjective thing. How do you define a "great" conversation? You can list things that make it so, but they all break down to "I really liked it." Whereas math is pretty much the opposite: statements are either correct or incorrect. There is some murkiness involved in "skipping steps", but for the most part it's really subjective.

And so her grading style is giving me as much to think about as the course content itself. Fun.

It helps that these classes are actually intended for teachers, unlike the other two math classes I've taken recently. Those classes were intended for suckers students who will use the math for other stuff.

So far, it seems that the main intent of geometry is to reinforce the idea that math is a system of ideas that builds on itself, with one step always following logically from another. Steps we covered yesterday can be abbreviated today, but the rationale must be there.

So in class we do a few things:

We follow the prof. doing proofs.
We work in groups to do proofs and constructions.
We... I guess that's pretty much it.

In the Math History class she talks more about the background, and how the ancients did what they did with such limited resources. It's not just that they didn't have calculators or computers, Pythagoras didn't even have algebra! He figured out his right triangle theorem, the one with a squared plus b squared equals c squared, without being able to use "a", "b" and "c"! I think the word "genius" is not too extreme for this guy.

We are also talking about math in different parts of the world. Our "textbook" is a CDrom with a ton of articles, showing parallels between different countries as they developed similar concepts and procedures.

And of course, she does proofs.

Enough. It's almost midnight, and I need my sleep, otherwise I may not be able to survive class tomorrow.

Oh, I almost forgot one bit of trivia: This professor is the same professor I had for a math class back when I was a student at KU the first time! I'm not sure which class, but I do remember one thing she told me, regarding getting my work done. She said, "You know what to do, and how to do it. You just need to actually do it!" A lesson with which I still wrestle today.



Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Subbing 15

Today when the phone rang at 6:15 in the morning after staying up past one working on homework, I was just not too thrilled to hear it. And when I had put in my I.D. number and PIN, the job it offered me was teaching kindergarten all day long. I groaned. Pictured Arnold Schwarteneger getting his butt kicked by a bunch of them, giggled, tried to imagine myself doing any better, stopped giggling, continued thinking for maybe another six and half seconds, then hit the button for turning down the job being offered. I just didn't have the energy to face a room full of energy like that.

I got out of bed and went over to the computer to see if there were any other offers on the website. Before I could get logged on, the phone rang again. High School! English! Jackpot! Because even if the teacher leaves substandard plans, I can always give them a writing assignment to keep them quiet! Yahoo!

I got to school about ten minutes before the first class started. The lesson plans were simple and clear. When I told them the assignment, they didn't complain or anything, they just got busy. The second and third classes were in the computer lab. They wanted to chat with each other, but not much. I squelched it anyway, made 'em slave away. It was awesome. Fourth period was her planning period, so no students. And it is the lunch hour, so I had an hour and a half for lunch! I drove home and ate a turkey leg! It was mucho deliciouso, thanks for asking!

The afternoon was even more relaxing: newspaper for one class, yearbook for the other. In both, a student took over, guiding the class or individuals through the day's work. There was some casual conversation, but mostly they worked. I think that Lawrence High School has a good journalism teacher, because those kids were excited about what they were doing.

I spent most of the day reading a book or working on my own homework. I finished up what I had started the night before, and now I only need to get it typed up and looking neater. My lesson for the day is this: make kids work hard all the time, and they will just do it.

No, that's not the lesson. The lesson is: Working two jobs kinda sucks.

No no, that's not it either. Maybe it really was the first one. I seriously had absolutely no problems today. One very important lesson may be this: GET A JOB IN A HIGH SCHOOL, ROB!!!!!!! And only spend time with kindergarteners when it's not your job to make them do school work.

After school I went to El Mezcal, a local Mexican food restaurant, to top off the tank before heading to Wal-Mart for a five hour shift. Good food. Happy Rob.

So yeah, I was out all day making money. It's just after midnight, making it early Tuesday morning, and I haven't really seen Maxine since Sunday night after work. If I had to do this every day, I'm not sure how long I could maintain my sanity, but this is really only typical of my Mondays and Fridays, and only until summer vacation starts. Which, judging by the weather forecast, is a long way off.

Believe it or not, there are things on my mind other than subbing. Wal-Mart generates lots of interesting ideas, many of which I am reluctant to post on the Roblog. At least, not until I'm ready to quit. Maxine is continuously doing new stuff, picking up new behaviors, causing new problems, bringing a serious amount of joy into our lives. Horyon's seamstress work is developing nicely, if a little slowly during the past month. Our Christmas tree is still set up, and Horyon has suggested leaving it up until next Christmas. Yikes. All of these things are banging at the doors of my mind to be let out in detail, but the landlord of my head keeps pulling down my eyelids and telling those noisy ideas to go stir up their ruckus in front of someone else's brain.

And so, Goodnight.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Wal-Mart Complaint

If you are reading this on Roblog, then I have probably quite my job at Wal-Mart. If not, then I will probably be fired from Wal-Mart if management finds it!

Today was the Saturday before the Super Bowl, and less than two weeks before Valentine's Day. It was not a pleasant day to be working at Wal-Mart. At one point I found myself making this observation to my coworker, Sara: "You know, I don't even like cleaning up after myself," (She interrupted to point out that this is only natural, since I am a male.) "...much less our lazy, illiterate, inconsiderate customers who pick things up then put them back in completely different places." It was just one of those days. Hopefully tomorrow will make up for it. Don't worry, I'm not convinced that the majority of our customers are illiterate. But a sizable percentage are definitely lazy and inconsiderate. It's amazing to me that while the major motivation for shopping at Wal-Mart is low prices, people still expect V.I.P. treatment. It's one of those imponderables that Solomon should have included in his list along with not understanding the way love works between a woman and a man.

[Don't know why I didn't publish this one back when I wrote it in 2008, but here it is now.]

Friday, February 01, 2008

Subbing 13 and 14

Okay. Here's the deal:

I subbed last Friday. I'm sure of it. But I'm sitting here a week later, and have absolutely no idea of what grade, what school, or anything else about it.

So for those of you keeping score at home, 13 is the number of times it takes for me to sub before it all starts to run together.

To job my memory, I just went to the district website to look at my previous assignments. Suddenly it all came back:

I subbed for a 6th grade teacher who was going to a funeral in Wichita (about a 2.5 hour drive from Lawrence). There were a few other teachers, as well as some of the office staff also going, as the funeral was for the father of a long-time teacher there at Woodlawn Elementary. The upside for me was that the teacher was there in the morning, putting together her lesson plans for me, and giving me a heads-up on what to expect.

She painted a very positive picture of the class, which held up fine until about the last hour of the day. You see, her picture didn't take into account a few things: #1 The kids had not been outside for recess all week due to meat-locker temperatures, and #2 It was Friday, and #3 a teacher who normally took more than half of the students out of the room for the last hour or so was also absent. And so I ended up with a bit of a circus on my hands.

Of course, part of the problem is that I didn't take the whole Friday thing into account. I've been working weekends for so long that I have kind of forgotten what that Friday-afternoon-anticipation-of-the-weekend feeling is like. I need to get over it, because the only days I can sub are Mondays and Fridays, so I'm going to have to deal with it again. And again. And again.

Eventually, with the help of the other 6th grade teacher from next door, managed to calm the class down, and got them doing "educational" activities. A few of them probably managed to do things that didn't really involve using their brains, but they didn't make noise, so I let it go.

There was another odd thing that came my way last Friday. One girl, Traylor [oh yeah, I definitely made up that name], had gotten in trouble the previous day for, get this, flirting too much with a boy. And last Friday she came into the classroom while the regular teacher was there and got in trouble again. This time for wearing perfume. The teacher made her go wash it off, and kept her in the other 6th grade teacher's room for most of the day. Maybe a good idea, maybe not. I'm not sure. When she did end up in my room, she had some serious attitude. I had to seat her apart from the other students to get any work out of her. She was one of those 12-going-on-21 girls. She had charm as well as attitude, but she is obviously considering some very self-destructive paths. She won't realize it until it's too late and she has joined the ranks of kids having kids.

I hope I'm wrong.

On to #14. I didn't sub this past Monday. Too much. I needed to get a full night's sleep and get some other stuff done, too. So today I just had to take the first call that came last night. Today I got to be the choir director at Kennedy Elementary.

It was fun. My biggest complaint was that they didn't do enough singing. Only one class practiced singing songs, and that was the most fun class. They did some songs from the old School House Rocks series, including "Interjections", "Preamble (to the Constitution)", "Interplanetary Janet" and "Three is a Magic Number". I just played the CD and they sang along. And they sounded pretty good, especially considering that their performance is not for another month or so. I had to send one kid to the office for not singing, not listening to my instructions, and not behaving. I kind of hate to do that, but it sure makes the rest of the class behave well.

The other classes watched videos. Bobby McFerrin's "Try This at Home" was for the 4th and 6th grade classes. They had trouble enjoying it. Too self-conscious, I think. But I loved it. Made me laugh out loud in places, and shiver in others. Bobby McFerrin (different link here) has The Voice. This video is a concert he gave in an intimate little hall. Couldn't have been more than 200 people. He wanders through the audience barefooted, talking and singing with the people, and striding up over the backs of the seats, to get to some of them. He gets people to sing. Even the camera men. And even though he seems to be making most of it up on the spot, it sounds excellent. Even after watching it twice. I may buy it for my parents or Maxine, because I wouldn't mind having it play on our t.v. over and over.

The other video, which I watched with the 5th graders, was Pulse: a Stomp Odyssey. Completely different from the McFerrin concert, but also one I wouldn't mind hearing a few times. If you're not familiar with Stomp (look out, this one wanted to open a pop-up on me), they are a group of percussionists. Don't worry, they're not the guys who played drums in your high school, they're a bunch of people who are fascinated with the sounds made when different objects are struck and the sounds people make with their mouths that aren't quite singing. This particular video captures sounds from around the world, from Native American dances and New York street performers to Africa, South America, and Asia. It is a high-energy, high-volume, get-up-and-dance kind of video. I'm putting it on my wish list. Once I get it, I will subject it to anyone who comes to our house.

That's it for now. Time for bed.

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.