Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In It For the Money?

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

I recently saw some of a documentary called Smoke and Mirrors. It's a fascinating history of the tobacco industry. They knew that smoking was deadly by the 1950s, yet still they promoted it, focusing on their bottom line rather than... oh, I don't know... phasing out something that KILLS PEOPLE.

This is the sort of thing teeming with what if possibilities...

What if you (or your main character) suddenly learned your livelihood was based on a lie? Would you give up your stability to do the right thing?

I have no idea if the link to the movie will work or not. Or if it's permitted to post. If there are any issues, let me know and I'll take it down. I was looking for a different link, but all I could find was the tape on eBay (for something like $100).

Monday, September 29, 2014

It's Just a Restroom Pass List

"Can I use the restroom?"

Me: "Sure. What's your name?"

"You're writing down my name? I'm in trouble?"

Me: "No. I keep a list of students who use the restroom."

I keep a list of students who leave class for any reason. Restroom passes are by far the most frequent request.

"But... but... what if Ms. S. gets mad?"

Me: "Does she let you use the restroom?"


Me: "Then you have nothing to worry about."

"But she hates me. If my name is on a list, she's going to be mad."

Me: "I do this in every class I cover..."

I don't recall my exact explanation, nor did I give the student the entire rationale. Some teachers have restroom policies that include hall pass tickets, time owed after class, and/or a specific number of out-of-class times per semester. And not every teacher remembers to put this detail in their lesson plan. So, some students try to take advantage of the loophole. With my list, teachers have the option of maintaining their policy if they choose to do so. And those that don't care ignore the list.

Me (con't): "...It's clearly marked as a 'used the restroom' list."

He moaned for a minute or two more before deciding that he needed to go more than he needed to not be on a list. (Although, the list did keep at least three students from going that day.)

7th graders! Every little thing... 

Thursday, September 25, 2014


For #ThrowbackThursday, I decided to find something from this time of year. This post is originally from September 18, 2009.

They were supposed to be watching the movie Anne Frank. Instead, they were talking, so I was walking around the room. I caught a boy with his cell phone out on his desk.

"Put it away," I said. (I was being nice. I could have just confiscated the thing.)

He mumbled some excuse and put it in his pocket. He attempted to pull it out again when he thought I wasn't looking. I informed him that if I saw it again, I was going to confiscate it.

"You can't do that!" he informed me. "You're just a sub. You can't take my cell phone."

I can't, can I? I don't have the authority? The office won't accept confiscated cell phones from a lowly sub? Silly boy. I have done this before, and the office is more than happy to take the devices off my hands. And you will give it to me, or I will get security, the principal, or both involved, and then it will get really ugly.

I said none of this. I just thought it. I thought it as I looked at the boy. I must have had a "he didn't just say that, did he?" look on my face, for the boy quickly recanted.

"I was just kidding. You won't see it again. Could I just reply to this text first?"

I didn't see that cell phone again. (I told him to reply to the text after class.)

The school has since changed their cell phone policy. Now instead of confiscating cell phones, we are to send the students to the office to have the office staff and/or principal confiscate the phone. Apparently, the whole issue has gotten ugly of late, so they've found it works better to have the argument happen in the office rather than having it take up class time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lost Ability

It's Tuesday, so it's time for my weekly random question...

I wish I had a better explanation for this one than I-was-reading-something-that-only-nominally-touched-on-this-and-the-idea-sprang-fully-formed-into-my-brain. But that's kind of what happened. Sorry.

What if humans were once all telepathic, but at some point in our history, that ability was blocked?

Friday, September 19, 2014


It was a two day assignment in the English class at the continuation high school. Thursday they were so good. On task. Making progress.

On Friday...not so much.

They were supposed to be on the computers working on their essays. Some were typing. Others (those behind) were still doing some research. But when I saw the map of California pop up...

The boy was looking for Yosemite. Why? I have no idea. He found it, and he wondered how long it would take to get there.

Well, there's an easy way to figure it out. I prompted him to open Google Maps and ask for directions from our city to Yosemite. Because that always gives an estimated time of travel. (I know I should probably just tell him to get back on task, but I like to teach them other things sometimes, too.)

Question answered, the boy did actually get back to his essay. At least, it appeared like he did.

The girl sitting next to him, however, was now on Google Maps. Looking up past places where she lived.

I had encountered Susan in class before. The other teacher explained that Susan could be easily distracted, so he made sure to isolate her a bit from the rest of the class. Then she'd be on task.

Well, Susan wasn't pleased that I was questioning her. I wasn't talking to the boy. (Because at this point he was on task and she had been off for more than ten minutes.) Why was I picking on her?

Because that's what I do. I pick on Susan. It's my reason for being.

Ah well. Perhaps Susan and I will get along the next time I see her. (Things were fine between us the last three times I saw her.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Social Media is Bad

While on jury duty, I got a call to work the next day. (Actually, I got a call to work on the day I had to report as well. Sigh.) Once we were dismissed, I made sure to accept the gig.

English class. They were working on essays on social media. They were to argue a position. They were assigned "good" or "bad".

Funnily enough, those that were assigned "good" were not happy. They said "bad" was the easier argument. Considering how much time these kids spend on their phones, I would think they would want to argue that social media is good.

Most worked diligently on their essays. (It helped that it was a buyout day. I needed to see essays before I would sign.) I had a chance to read a couple. (I offer to proofread.) They were pretty well done.

Some days are really kind of easy. Even at the continuation high school.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Juror No. 8

In the midst of the crazy that went along with moving, I got a jury duty summons. Naturally.

I had to report last week.

Since the last time I had to do this, they built a new courthouse. The place is stunning with all sorts of nice amenities. I'm talking about plentiful outlets for devices, available wifi, flat screen TVs, and laptop stations.

But it's still jury duty. And eventually we got called to go to a courtroom.

First, they called 18 of us (of the 50 or so sent down) to start out "in the box". I was selected as lucky juror number eight.

My brain wandered as the charges were read. Too many codes. Most had to do with gun charges. Apparently, the two defendants were alleged to have been involved in some sort of gang violence.

The news got even "better" from there. The trial was projected to take ten business days.

10 DAYS!!!

The judge started with the usual questions--occupation and jury duty experience. Before we got too far into it, noon hit and it was time to break for lunch. We were to be back at 2 o'clock.

It was not a peaceful lunch for me.

We were all outside the courtroom on time. We waited. And waited. People came in and out of the courtroom, but no one to bring us back inside (we had been told to wait in the hall when we returned from lunch). Finally, a clerk came out to inform us that it would be five more minutes. I wasn't looking at my phone, but it felt like longer before the clerk came back out.

The clerk said the "alternates" could go back to the jury room. They were dismissed.


When someone asked about those of us already in the box, she informed us that we were all dismissed. With a "thank you for your service..." goodbye.

Whew. That was way too close.

At this time I'd like to thank juror number five. I'm convinced that her discussion with the judge (about how she wasn't sure how she'd feel about defendants who didn't testify) convinced someone to settle the case. Because they must have settled. Right?

A little over an hour after that we were dismissed. And I now have 12 wonderful months free from any sort of jury duty summons.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Silent Witness

It's Tuesday, so it's time for my weekly random question...

I just finished watching this week's Doctor Who episode in which the Doctor posited his own what if...

Don't worry if you haven't seen the episode. It's not really a spoiler as the Doctor said this early on. 

What if we all have a silent companion with us our whole lives? A companion who we never see, but is with us all the time?

Okay, so it wasn't quite phrased like that (I probably should have stopped the DVR and wrote it down as he said it), but it's kind of the gist. It's an interesting thing to ponder. It's also interesting to take the question away from the show and see where you can go with it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fake Amanda

It's 9/11 and #ThrowbackThursday. No, I'm not going to do a 9/11 tribute. There are others (many others, I suspect) who will do this, and they will do this much better than me. Today I'm offering something silly that was originally posted on February 22, 2008.

Today I covered a 7th grade world history class.

I needed a silent room. I was not getting it. So, I warned them: "I will take down the names of those who continue to talk." This only works when I cover some teachers. Ms. T is one of them.

They fought me on it for a moment. I stared down the few whose names were going to be on my list. Then one of the girls (the talkers were all girls in this group) told me to write down her name. "I'm Amanda," she said.

She offered up her name way too easily. I was suspicious. I checked the seating chart. Sure enough, Amanda sat in that seat. But she did not look like an Amanda. She did not feel like an Amanda. I was sure I was being lied to.

Twenty minutes later (I had gotten my silence, so I didn't need to make my list) two other students were exchanging words. "Amanda, I have it here." The first student was talking to a different girl, not the one who claimed to be Amanda. I knew it!

After a quick perusal of the seating chart, I figured out who the fake Amanda was. Joanna. I was pretty sure. The two girls had probably switched seats.

Then someone called to the fake Amanda, calling her Joanna. I was right.

I don't know why they do this. I don't know what they get out of it. Today? They get honorable mention in my note to their teacher.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hidden Controls

It's Tuesday, so it's time for my weekly random question...

This one has a kind of convoluted explanation. It all started when I uploaded a new uninstaller program (Revo Uninstaller).

Years ago, I installed a program that gave me access to stunning photographs that I could use as wallpaper for my computer, and the screensaver was a slideshow of a bunch of those pictures. It was great. I used it all the time.

But, the website went from being easy to use to needing a paid subscription to access that which I used to be able to access. It was no longer worth the trouble. I tried to uninstall the program...

...and broke my computer.

Well, not really. There were some things that kind of got left behind in the uninstall, and the only way to fix them was to reinstall the program. It made a couple things (like changing my wallpaper) difficult, but it was better than the issues that arose after the uninstall.

The new uninstaller program purported to find those left behind little tentacles and remove them. Once the troubling program was uninstalled (with no ill effects!), I went about uninstalling little things that I didn't realize were on my computer. Programs that I had no idea were there. And that's when I found it.

I have no idea when a Sims game got installed. I never play it. And that's what gave me the idea for today's what if.

(Don't ask how I got from the above to this question. My brain made a leap. That's all I can say.)

What if we are a projection from someplace else (perhaps controlled as in The Sims) and the thing that makes us possible is a device that is present in our world, but hidden? What if someone found that device and didn't know what it was (or did figure it out)?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Occupational Hazard

For this week's #ThrowbackThursday post, I'm revisiting the post I referenced yesterday. About having seen The Outsiders more times than I care to admit. It originally appeared on May 29, 2009, so I've experienced the first 50 minutes of this movie a few more times since then.

"I've seen this movie fifty times."

Yeah, but have you ever watched the first 55 minutes six times in a row? Then you have nothing to complain about.

I'm feeling a bit snarky as well as cranky. It's 5th period, and this is my fifth time through the first 50-odd minutes of The Outsiders. (Six periods in a row doing the same thing.) I'm slowly losing my mind.

This is by no means the first time I've experienced this. I know the drill. The first time through is when I'm interested. Period 2, I get to see things I missed the first time through, and I catch on to other nuances. By period 3 I'm a little bored. By period 5 I have to have something else to do.

To make this viewing more interesting, I have two girls who will not shut up. I've asked, shushed, cajoled, and threatened. Fine. If they won't listen to me, then perhaps they will listen to their teacher. I've listed their names (with *s next to them) in my note.

The period is nearly over. I know because I just looked up and the church was on fire. (No need to consult a clock anymore.) Finally.

I only have to watch this thing one more time. What am I going to do? I need something. I. Can't. Watch. This. Again.

And the worst part? First 55 minutes: 6 times. Last 35 minutes? Not at all.

The church on fire still is my cue to wake up (figuratively--I don't sleep in class!) and get ready to end the period. And nowadays I don't even need to watch that first period because I know this movie so well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wasted Effort

So, there's this one boy. Let's call him Noah. I've encountered him in class a few times now, and every single time he's tried to convince me that the lesson plan that the teacher meant to leave (but didn't leave) was a video.

I don't know why students do this. I have a piece of paper with the teacher's wishes on it. Teachers tend to be pretty clear in lesson plans. And no amount of begging or wheedling or complaint is going to change what that piece of paper says.

And in many cases, I have no access to videos anyway, so it's not like I can pull something out of thin air. Even if I wanted to. Which I don't.

This day, it was an English class. They were reading The Outsiders. And the lesson plan was to watch the beginning of the movie version.

Noah was in 3rd period. I introduced the class by saying something along the lines of "you've been reading The Outsiders..." Noah chimed in with, "But it's better to see the video first."


The TV was out. The board said "Movie: The Outsiders". I thought it was pretty clear that we were actually going to watch a video. Yet, Noah was winding up to try to "convince" me to show a video.

By 3rd period, I even had the technical difficulties sorted. (When I wheeled the TV from the corner to the middle of the room, something jiggled and the DVD player and TV lost power. And the kiddos in that class seemed to think that someone needed to come up and help me restore power. Even though I knew what I was doing, and managed to get things going in not much time at all.)

I guess it's a reflex on Noah's part at this time. But it was kind of funny to watch.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blank Slate

It's Tuesday, so it's time for my weekly random question...

Last week as part of the Liebster Award, I asked my nominees for a "what if" question. Romi C. from In the Way Everlasting came up with this one, and I'm shamelessly stealing it. (Please stop by Romi's blog to thank her for the wonderful question.)

What if you woke up one morning and you discovered you had become invisible?