Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Connection Issues

I got a new laptop for Christmas. I'd been wanting one for years now. Primarily it's for the novels that I work on all the time (but don't really talk about all that much), but with technology the way it is, I wanted the laptop to be able to do other things.

Okay, so the new laptop should connect to the Internet, right?

I went out and bought a router. My brother was kind enough to try to hook up the router. Notice I said "try". Turns out the modem would not connect to said router.

Right, so I tried just connecting the laptop directly to the modem. No dice.

Well, I needed a new modem, so why not get a modem/router? I didn't know such a thing existed, but then again, the term "router" was new to me too. The place I bought the router was very nice about doing the exchange (I learned from my days in retail--always save receipts), and so I brought my new device home and tried to get it to work.

The problem with technology today is that many times they expect us to know more than we do. There was barely any paperwork/instructions in the box, so I was basically flying blind. I easily hooked the modem/router up, and my desktop connected to the Internet lickety-split. But connecting the laptop?

After trying everything I could think of, I frantically called my kind brother who told me what I had forgotten to do (set up the wireless connection). I got that up and running, but while the laptop could see my wireless connection and while it was actually connected to the network (or so the computer said) I could not get anything to come up in my browser. This is where I lost my mind.

After running everything I could think of (the "help" went through to diagnose the problem, told me that the problem was fixed, and then said that it would send something or other to somewhere or other when I was "connected to the Internet"...hmmm...I thought that's what the stupid thing was trying to fix!), I finally gave up and had dinner. I turned everything off.

Now, understand one thing. I did restart my systems over and over again. Really. That's the one trick I know--restart the system and magically bugs get worked out.

So, after advice from kind brother (to make sure that the computer could actually connect to the Internet), I plugged the modem directly into the computer. Voila! Internet.

Then, feeling adventurous, I unplugged the modem, and tried the Internet again. And it was still on! And it's still working now (I'm actually typing this on my new computer). Success?

Well, I'll keep my fingers crossed. Hopefully whatever glitch I hit has been cleared up.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Let the Child Win

I've had a few busy days. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Yesterday the family came over to belatedly celebrate my nephew's 3rd birthday. It was his nap time, so he was conked out on the couch, but my niece was bored. She's seven, and staying quiet is hard at seven.

I decided that it was high time to teach her how to play Pente. It was probably not the best idea. It was probably a bit old for her. But she was willing, so we tried it.

The first game was all about the rules. I'd place my stone and then explain where her best moves were. At some point she got annoyed at my advice and wanted to play on her own. That happened by the second game. I kept quiet a lot, but I'd point out when she made a move that was not in her best interest. By the third game I knew I was losing her.

It was time to let her win.

It wasn't that I was gunning for her. I wasn't playing my hardest. But I've been at the game a whole lot longer, so I know a few tricks. In the second game I won by accident. Really. The winning move appeared, and I couldn't not take it.

The best way to get good at a game is to play someone who is a whole lot better at it than you are. That's the way I learn. The more I play, the more I learn, and the better player I become. But that's only when a player is ready to dig in and learn. A beginner needs a win or two under her belt before she's confident enough to lose.

So, I wasn't playing my best. And I kept winning. But I was able to convince the niece to play one more game, and I was bound and determined to lose.

She kept racking up the twos. It was all I could do not to capture one or two of them. And while I was actually playing, I let a couple opportunities pass me by. Then I saw it. She had her winning move. She placed her stone...and she didn't realize that she had won. I had to point it out to her.

Yeah, I think I ruined Pente for her. Maybe she'll try again in a couple years.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Just Venting a Little

I spent all of today making this. Not for me. It's a Christmas present, obviously. But it took way too long to get done.

Every year I swear I'm going to start my Christmas knitting earlier, and every year I don't get around to starting anything until September. (The sweater I started in August won't be finished in time for Christmas. How's that for terrible planning?) So, instead of knitting everyone (who wants to be knitted for) something, I had to resort to buying presents for some on my list.

So, again I'm frantically working on a gift that should have been done weeks ago. And I've got to go out and get wrapping paper. Plus I was told that I am required to bake cookies. It's just too much. Something's not going to get done.

What am I doing here, writing? I should be prepping for Christmas. Bad me. I'd best get back to it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trapped in an Elevator

I went to see The Nutcracker today. We parked and headed for the elevator. A crowd got into the elevator; there was no room for another person. But none of us knew exactly where we were going.

We were on level A. I did not see the controls, but I heard that there were only buttons for levels A, B, and C. There was no marking as to where we needed to go to get to the theater. As we were debating, the elevator doors opened. Level B. There was a crowd outside waiting to get on the elevator. We had no room for any of them.

So, the elevator next opened on level C. It looked like parking, so no one got off. We kind of debated, but by the time a decision was made, the doors had closed again.

We went back down to level A. A couple more people squeezed on. Then at level B we had to admit that we were all idiots to the same crowd that was still waiting to get on the elevator. Once again at level C we decided that we'd best get off the contraption. We turned a corner and found the theater. I heard several complaints of how there should be signs and the elevator buttons should be labeled better.

Usually there's one person who knows where they're going in situations like that. They must have missed the elevator.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Scenes from Shopping

Unfortunately, I went out shopping today. Things weren't as crazy as expected, but I was expecting things to be pretty bad, so it wasn't a fun day hitting the stores. Well, it was. It was all how I looked at it.

The mall parking was as bad as expected. But unexpectedly we had some help finding a parking spot. This couple that had parked right in front of us walked back our direction to point to a parking spot soon to be vacated. At the same time, the fire department was blocking off the entrance to the aisle, so we had no competition for the spot. Just goes to show that there are some kind people out there, even in the Christmas shopping mess.

There was this huge line in a department store. I ended up waiting behind a nun. I don't often see nuns out and about, so this was noteworthy.

And of course, there were some major sales.

I usually try to get my shopping done online (or I make stuff). I prefer to avoid the crowds.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Bad News

I am tired. I just did three days of 8th grade science, and I'm ready to collapse. Then this morning I found out that the teacher will be out the first week back from break, so I was asked to cover it.

On the one hand it's a very good thing. The first week back in January is traditionally light. There are some years when I don't work during that week at all. And 8th grade science is physical science. Take another look at the title of my blog. Notice anything? Yeah, I have a bit of an affinity for the physical sciences. I looked ahead in their book. The next chapter is on atoms. Score!

But now I feel like I have this thing hanging over my head, and not in a good way. I have to go back to those classes. Yikes! I may have mentioned my antipathy for 8th graders once or twice or thrice.

Although, it shouldn't be too bad. The other 8th grade science teacher is there to help with lesson plans (stuff I can actually teach as this is my field). And I only had issues with 4th period. Well, I had issues with 6th period, but they took their punishment on Thursday like good little kids, and today they were much better. Every teacher has one bad period, right?

I'm going to attempt to forget that I have an assignment to go back to after the break. I'm on vacation. I can worry about the 8th graders next year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


It's been a bad day. A really bad day. I can't quite talk about it yet. (That seems to happen a lot at this time of year.) But I had to check in.

Did you check out the test from a couple days ago? I'm still plugging away at it. I got two more today. So now I've only got nine more to go. At some point I'm going to cut this off, but not quite yet. I'm sure I can figure out a couple more.

Two more days until winter break. Here's hoping I make it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Heat Today

I'm not sure what annoys me more: that students assume I'm an idiot because I'm a sub, or that I'm bothered by this. I mean, it can be a good thing when students underestimate you. But sometimes the annoyances are more trouble than the benefits are useful.

It was rainy today. And cold. (Cold by Southern California standards, which, I admit, may not seem very cold to the rest of the country. I'd be surprised if we got out of the fifties today.) This, of course, created havoc at school.

It was a day for the heater.

I know how to work the thermostat controls. It's pretty simple. There are two switches on the bottom of the unit. Switch one to "heat". Switch the other to "auto" (if I just turned it "on", the unit would switch to vent--very cold--air when it wasn't blowing heat, and that would be counterproductive). There are two controls at the top of the unit. Switch the "cool" one to something over eighty degrees (so it doesn't accidentally cycle on). Switch the "heat" one to a reasonable temperature--something around seventy degrees. And then turn the timer dial (the unit automatically turns off after six hours).

So, I did all this, and I got nothing. Everyone assumed that I had no idea what I was doing. They all whined: "Turn on the heat. We're cold." When I explained that the thing wasn't working, everyone then attempted to "fix" it.

They spent time playing with the thing. Only then did they realize that I was right--it was broken.

It would be so much easier if they would just believe that I do, in fact, know what I'm doing. But I guess they have to prove it to themselves before they're satisfied that I was right in the first place.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

13 More to Go

Yesterday I came across the teacher's emergency lesson plans. Every teacher at this school is required to have these by about the second week of school. These are the in-case-the-teacher-has-to-call-out-at-the-last-minute plans so that the sub isn't left scrambling for something to do.

After I got home I searched for this thing on the Internet--and I found it. And that's the point of tonight's blog. This thing has been messing with my brain since yesterday.

First, take a look, but before you do, promise me you won't look at the answers on page 2. Do I have your word? Better yet, just print the thing, but only print page 1. The answers will still be there later. Okay? Fine, now go look.

The first one I figured out was #9. It just seemed obvious. #11 followed soon after. About an hour ago #18 popped into my head. But #14 is giving me fits (I have no idea what it is...yet). I could easily find it out now since I know where the answer key is, but I'm not ready to put it down yet. I'll give it another day or two.

So, if you don't hear from me for a couple days you know where I'll be. I'll be working on that "test" or I'll be frantically trying to finish my Christmas knitting. Both are probably fool's errands.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The AP Difference

AP class. Cake, right?

AP stands for advanced placement, and these are fast-paced college-level courses. At the end of the year the students can take the AP test, and if they pass it they get college credit (if you've never heard of this, see here). So, the students in these classes are a fairly bright, motivated bunch. That should make my job easier, right?

The thing about AP classes is that they can get just as crazy as any other class if they have too little to do. And the "I'll do it for homework" excuse is not an excuse--they really will finish the work for homework. Luckily, today they had a quiz.

Fourth period. They came in rather loud. They were roaming around the room. They were talking to their friends. The bell rang, and they basically ignored it. But then the AP difference kicked in--when I called for their attention, I got it.

I passed out the quizzes. The students continued to talk. Did I mention that they were loud? But once the quizzes were out, I reminded them that they were taking a quiz, and in less than ten seconds the class was silent. (This is unusual. It usually takes a good two minutes to get a class that was that loud to settle.)

The quiz didn't take the entire period. They had a different assignment for after the quiz. And then the noise level... Well, let me just say that they could compete in a loudness competition with the tenth grade class where I almost had a fight a couple years back. That class was so loud that the teacher next door called for backup as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day Two

As sometimes happens, as I was leaving yesterday the secretary told me that they were "retaining" me. The teacher called. She was going to be out another day. Which gave me day two in that self-contained class. Oh goody.

I didn't have new lesson plans, but I had enough to work with, so I cobbled something together. Yesterday hadn't been too bad. Today? Today they went crazy.

They started the day with an essay. Yesterday? No problem. Today? They were having none of it. I had to threaten to take away their movie (they get to watch a movie to end the day) before I could get half the class to do their morning work.

And still it was a trial to get them to do anything. I had two girls who refused to not write on the board. One boy got called up to the office, so he had to kick the door open (he was not in trouble; he was going home early) and make a big commotion as he exited. Then two other boys mock attacked a third boy in the class. A couple times.

It was like being in a special ed classroom, except that when they would do work, they had no trouble with it. They just spent so much energy avoiding the classwork. But when I would explain the assignment to someone, the student would catch on right away and do the work correctly.

I understand why the teacher needed two days off. I don't know how she deals with these people every day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I was back at the continuation high school today. As I walked in the door Princess greeted me with, "Oh no, you can't sub here today." Apparently my reference to her in that note got back to her, and it offended her. Oh well.

Luckily, I didn't have Princess in class today. I had a self-contained class (the "bad" kids). The day went better than I thought it would (not ideal, but we got something done). The best part of the assignment--the teacher got done two hours early. Nice!

The teacher's prep periods were 6th and 7th. She normally uses those periods for preparation. But I'm a sub--I don't need to prepare. So, I get to go home early.

I headed up to the office to check out, and the secretary had gone to lunch. 10 minutes prior. And my time sheet wasn't done.

We have to carry our time sheets with us (this district might do this differently from others). Each day we give our time sheets to the site secretary, and during the day she inputs the day's hours on the sheet. At the end of the pay period we turn this into the district. No time sheet, no paycheck. So, it's vital to get the thing back at the end of the day.

Well, there was nothing to do; I had to wait. I checked my email. I ate my lunch. And I called the sub caller (good news: she found someone else to do an assignment that I just knew was going to turn into a long-term thing, and I did not want to get stuck with it). About an hour later, the secretary got back. And I was free to go.

I really shouldn't complain. I still got to leave an hour before the end of the school day. That's something.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ninja, You Trippin'

There were a lot of new faces at the continuation high school today. I heard the office staff talking about how they had booted a bunch of the "super seniors" (5th year seniors) in the past couple days, so that's probably why. Now I have new names to learn.

A knot of students were having the usual sort of conversations that they tend to have when I'm there. Unfortunately, most of the time their sentences are laced with profanity. I try to curb it as much as I can, so when they started using that racial epitaph that starts with "N", I made my displeasure known.

The boys had known me for some time, so they complied with my request. They used "ninja" instead.

So, the first boy then explains to another student: "It's like saying 'close the front door'."

Well, the phrase he was looking for was "shut the front door". They say that instead of shut the f*** up. The other students knew this and called the boy on his mistake. But he denied using "close" instead of "shut". I was waiting for the conversation to get heated, but it didn't. They quickly moved on to other topics.

Ninja? Well, at least it's a step in the right direction.

Friday, December 5, 2008


My two day assignment turned into three. The teacher I covered on Wednesday and Thursday was out again today.

Yesterday during sixth period, one of the boys told the class a story. It was about how he was dating two different girls at the same time. The girls both knew each other. They lived close to one another. They had two classes together. But somehow he was able to keep it from each that he was also dating the other.

Today in fifth period he spent the entire period chatting up a girl. (I'm not sure if it was one of the girls from the story or not.) I know that that's what they were doing, for every time I walked by, their papers were still blank.

Oh how I wish I could have said something to the girl in fifth period. Warn her away. But I can't do that. Can I?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Familiar Faces

Today was day two of a two-day assignment. Oddly, fourth period was much better, but third period was much worse. Oh well.

This teacher had the best of all fringe benefits--6th period prep. Yesterday I got to go home early. Today I was asked to cover a math class 6th period. Ah, nuts!

The class was just steps away from the previous class, and I recognized several faces as they stood outside waiting. I recognized outfits, too. Every student save one had been in one of my classes earlier in the day.

Once class started, I introduced myself to the one student who had not met me today, and then they got to work.

It is not unusual to encounter a couple students from previous periods when I cover another teacher's class on the prep period. But the whole class? That was new. Of course, these were both special ed classes, so the chances were greater.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Playboy Bond

A boy in fourth period came up with that today. One boy introduced himself as, "Bond, James Bond". Another boy asked to pass by me by saying, "Please let the playboy pass". Then the "playboy" combined both. I would have said something about that being a good porno name, but that would have been way too friendly to a class that was behaving not at all how they should have behaved.

Today I covered a special ed class with a teacher who is the polar opposite of a leslacker (his lesson plans were so detailed, they were a thing of beauty). The day had gone pretty well. But fourth period would not work. I asked them to work. I told them to get to work. Four of them were working on a quiz. Only one (the one who had been absent yesterday) made any progress on it.

Then the boy who was seated at the back of the room ("James Bond") came up front to rifle through the teacher's overhead marker collection. I got him to put the markers back, but shortly thereafter I noticed that my pen was missing.

It's a cheap pen. I've learned not to use fancy pens at school. But it's a point of honor with me--I never lose pens. And this one is just about out of ink. I kind of want to get to the end of the ink with this thing. But it was gone.

I looked about for it. Many times it'll fall to the ground. But I knew that "James Bond" had swiped it when he was rifling through things earlier. I couldn't accuse him, though. Then I never would have gotten it back.

To the class I said that my pen had gone "missing" and I hoped that someone would "find" it. As usually happens, it found its way to the floor. An innocent student found it. She, of course, was then accused of the crime, but I knew that she couldn't have possibly done it even if she would have been so inclined. So, I got my pen back, and the students spent the rest of the period accusing everybody of swiping it.

If only they would put that kind of effort into their work.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Texting in Rehearsal

When I checked in at school today, the principal asked if I could cover an extra period...of middle school band. (Insert scream here.)

Now, the principal doesn't usually check in subs. That's a secretary's job. But she was on the phone when I arrived, and the principal was in her office talking to her about something, so since he was there... He's also been known to check in subs when the secretary is out sick, but I digress.

I have horror stories about the middle school band (I've blogged about it here and here). I even dreaded covering one period. But I was not about to refuse an extra period's pay (not that I would ever say no in this situation anyway), so I went in expecting the worst.

It turns out that the middle school band director has an assistant this semester. Which meant that the little darlings could rehearse, and I didn't have to fight with them all period to keep them from tearing the room apart. Score!

So, I found a seat and watched the rehearsal. The trumpet players could not sit still, and many times were not ready when the band started playing. One percussionist couldn't keep a beat. And one french horn player kept texting on her cell phone.

We did not have cell phones when I was in band. Well, they existed, but they were so prohibitively expensive that a normal teenager wouldn't have one. And as I watched the girl text between playing, I wondered how that would have gone over if any of us had tried such a thing way back when. Not good, I'm sure. I had one band director who got upset if anyone yawned.

Technology. If teens weren't fidgety enough before...

Monday, December 1, 2008

On Call

I called my sub caller today to get some assignments for the upcoming month. She gave me some bad news. There were none. I have to wait for early morning wake up calls (and you know how good I am at those).

Apparently last year at this time she had a lot of sick cough, cough teacher-needing-a-day-off-to-finish-Christmas-shopping cough, cough calls, and she didn't have the sub manpower to cover them all. So, this year she has disallowed all school business for the month of December. I can understand her reasoning. It just makes it difficult for me.

So, for the month of December I am on call. Well, I'm on call all the time, but usually the "on call" means I call ahead so that I know where I'm going and what I'm doing. But where's the fun in that, right?