Friday, May 29, 2015


Friday at the continuation high school. English class.

On Fridays they don't usually have much to do. This class was to make up various assignments that they had not completed during the week. So, I passed those out. Then, I managed to browbeat the three talkers into silence. And finally I sat back and monitored the class.

No one was doing any work.

They were seated. They were silent. And every head was turned towards the window.

There was a P.E. class outside. Playing dodgeball. Picture: big guys (they're juniors and seniors, and many were around six foot tall) using half-size multi-colored balls, and throwing them at each other.

Yeah, that's way more interesting than character analyses from To Kill a Mockingbird. At least they were silent...

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Monitor

The Learning Center is a room where RSP students can drop by to get extra help with their assignments. (RSP is a special ed. classification. If you were to rank the different special ed. classifications, RSP is at the top. Many of them take regular classes, and generally they just need a little extra help with things.)

The Learning Center is manned by one special ed. teacher each period, and on this day I was covering 4th and 5th periods.

Tito came in about half way through 4th period. He had a test. He returned 5th period because he hadn't finished that test. But he was doing an awful lot of talking...

He had been in the Learning Center for more than 20 minutes. He had done 3 problems of his business math test. Immediately I saw the problem. His cell phone.

"But I don't understand #4."

As it was a test, I couldn't do too much, but I could read through the problem with him. Basically, someone had a bunch of bowling balls. They sold some. They got some more shipped in. How many bowling balls did they end up with?

Um... Considering he's in 11th grade, this problem shouldn't have been an issue. So, I decided to remove the distraction.

Oh, he howled, but he did give me his cell phone. I put it near me and let him get to work.

20 minutes later I returned to check on his progress. He still hadn't done #4.

So, I stood over him and tried to guilt him into doing something. But he couldn't be guilted. He noticed me standing there.

"Did I get a text?"

Because, obviously, I was watching his cell phone and would immediately let him know?

Apparently, removing the cell phone wasn't enough to remove it as a distraction. Sigh.

(The others who work the Learning Center tell me this is his usual M.O., so I didn't feel too bad about getting no work out of him.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Personality Upgrade

Briane Pagel's newest book, Codes, is out, and he's stopped by to do my work for me offer you this week's "what if?"

Liz has been kind enough to lend me her blog for a day so I can try to drum up publicity for my newest book, Codes, which has been published by Golden Fleece Press.

Codes tells the story of a guy named Robbie, who is the subject of a lot of interest from both a corporation and a disgruntled group of ex-corporate employees.  The corporation has figured out how to clone humans, and download their personalities into computers – and then tweak those personalities to create the perfect employee, or wife, or really anything. The group of ex-employees includes the creator of this technology, who doesn’t want to see it used to benefit a few elite people at the expense of the rest of humanity.  And they’re all trying to find Robbie, without anyone (including Robbie) knowing why he’s so important.

I know Liz has covered human cloning and similar topics in her prior What If? days, but my question is a bit different.  When I was sending Codes around to publishers, I wrote a short story that was sort of a take-off on Blade Runner, (called The Thinking Man’s Blade Runner, which was an inside joke as that was how I’d originally thought of marketing Codes).  In that short story, a man gets a ‘code’ girlfriend, a clone with a computer-programmed personality, and she discovers him one day contacting the company that made her.  She naturally accuses him of wanting to trade her in for a new girlfriend, but that’s not what’s going on at all.

(The entire story is on my website, Thinking The Lions,, today.)

So here’s my question, related to that story and the idea of Codes in general:

What if you could have your personality modified the same way someone modifies a computer program: what would you change about yourself, given the chance?

Remember, it can be anything: you can erase memories, or add them, make yourself more artistically talented, better at math – or kinder, or tougher, or anything-er.

For me, it’s a hard question.  (Probably for everyone it’s a hard question.) The first things I figured I'd take away – insecurities and worries – are part of what make me myself, and I'm not sure who I'd be without them. But if I had to have it done, I think I'd get rid of the part that cares about what other people think – good or bad.  It’s nice to get compliments, of course, but if I could go through life truly not worrying what people thought about what I did or what I said, I think I'd be better off.  Or would I? No more white lies (because I wouldn't care if I hurt your feelings), no more polite excuses, no more pride when someone says good job? On second thought, maybe I'd just be better off fixing that part of me that can't stop thinking about the leftover slice of pizza in the ‘fridge.


Follow me on Twitter:

My blog: Thinking The Lions:

Buy Codes on 

Golden Fleece Press’ site:


Barnes & Noble:

Friday, May 22, 2015

It Rained

The rain started just after lunch on Thursday. The kiddos got into class, and the period went normally. Then the bell rang signaling the end of the period.

As the students filed out, various screams erupted around the middle school.

Student: "What is this, elementary school? It's just a little rain. You've seen it before. It's not like you're going to melt."

She pretty much nailed it. Saved me the trouble of saying it.

(Contrary to popular legend, it does occasionally rain in southern California. While it's been a while--undoubtedly you've heard about our drought--it hasn't been so long that middle schoolers would have not experienced it. And not even that long ago.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

King Charles

Charles' seat was at the back of the room. He had no neighbors to either side. In front of him was an aisle.

I call is the iso-seat. The kid that sits in the iso-seat is the kid that's been isolated from the rest of the group. Generally with very good reason.

Charles could not sit still. On the one hand, I feel sorry for him. He probably has issues. But on the other... The boy was breaking out dance moves--in his seat--for no reason whatsoever. And he wasn't doing the assignment. At all.

(I was in this 8th grade U.S. history class all week. They had an 11 page packet to complete. Charles wasn't making much headway.)

He whined about doing the work. He got out of his seat for the most spurious of reasons. And when I'd go to stand next to him, he got really uncomfortable. (This worked well for me. I could leverage him into writing something on his paper by promising him I'd leave as soon as he did.)

Then on Thursday a miracle occurred. I didn't notice right away. Sometime in the passing period, I noticed Charles. Or rather, I noticed the absence of Charles. I held my breath...

The bell rang.

Charles was absent! Hooray!

According to the online attendance, he had an "illness". Not that I wished him sick, but it was amazing to not have to chase after him for a day.

Unfortunately, he returned Friday. Sigh.

As for the title of this post, it comes from Charles' backpack. He had King Charles written on it. Um, okay...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pocket Universe

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 ;)

What if you could create your own little world--a pocket universe that only you could enter and exit? What would you put in it? How much time would you spend there?

Monday, May 18, 2015


8th grade U.S. history. For a week. The teacher was chaperoning the annual Washington, D.C. trip.

His lesson plans were genius. For half the period, they had a packet on the chapter about the Civil War to work on. For the other half, we were to watch a movie on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

It was perfect. They weren't stuck doing anything for too long. Just about the time they'd had enough of the bookwork, it was time for the movie. And we never watched the movie for so long that it would tax their attention spans.

It would have been a perfect week. If not for the ubiquitous technical difficulties.

I thought I was prepared. I knew the sound trick. I got the projector working. I got the movie started. And everything was going swimmingly on Monday. Until we got 3 minutes 41 seconds in. That's when the movie froze.

I managed to get it going again. Then the same thing happened 2nd period.

Long story short: the DVD was scratched, and at that particular point the movie was broken. If I fast forwarded past the point, I was okay, but if I didn't get past that point before it stuck, I was stuck. As I learned the hard way.

There's nothing worse than having a group of 8th graders waiting for you to try to fix a movie. For 20 minutes. In the end, I had to restart the computer...

So, 4th period I was prepared. I stood over the computer before that point... And missed it by thatmuch. Seriously. I was going for the fast forward just as it hit 3:41. I'd get it right 5th period, you say. Not so much. In fact, I barely missed getting it right 6th period as well.

Sigh. Well, at least nothing froze after that point. Problem solved. Sort of.

Yeah, I had other issues. Sound issues. Starting the movie but it not starting issues. The whole week the DVD was glitchy. It wasn't playing well with the computer. But somehow, we got through the whole thing.

I kind of miss the days of insert tape, push play.

(Not really. Those days we had issues with rewinding to the right point, and the TV was small and sometimes hard to hear, so I'm not that nostalgic.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Room 401

It was one of those crazy Fridays. A couple teachers weren't covered, so I walked into this 4th period 7th grade math class cold. And the lesson plans were a little sparse.

The kiddos finished the worksheet in 15 minutes.

Well, I do have a math game...

It's a pretty simple time killer. I put them into teams (in the past I've let the teams pick their own names), and then each team gets a chance to guess the number I've thought of. It's a three-digit number with no repeating digits (a number such as 982, 670, 251, etc). I let them know if they got any correct digits as well as if any are in the correct spot in the number.

Once they get the idea, they really get into it.

So, I had to come up with a number. And since I had just arrived to the classroom, the classroom number was on my mind. But they'd figure that out in a heartbeat, right?

Um, no.

It took them more than a dozen guesses. They got close a couple times. One team guessed 409. When I gave them that 2 of the digits were correct and those 2 digits were in the correct spots, I was sure someone would get it. But first they guessed 405 (they were sure 5 was in the number), 406, and 402. And in the midst of this, one team gave me 509. (They wouldn't let go of that 5.)

Finally, at about guess 16, one team gave me the number.

And I pointed out that the number was the room number.

Of course, most of the time the kiddos have no idea what room number they're in. Seriously.

(A student asks for a pass to go back to a previous class to retrieve something they've forgotten. I ask what room. They hem and haw. I ask which teacher. That they usually know. And I'll write the teacher's name on the pass. Or I'll know the room number from the teacher's name. This happens so frequently that it's barely worth remarking about.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015


No, this is not his real name. I never use real names. They are minors...

I've known Cesar for a couple years now. He's... distinctive. He stands about 6' 2" and he wears his hair in a huge Afro which adds at least another 2 inches to his height. He's not African-American, though. He's probably Latino, although I can't be sure.

It was the computer class at the continuation high school. I approached because Cesar was not on task. He had other things on his mind. He asked me if I was familiar with a local comedy club. Familiar might be overstating, but I was aware the place existed.

Cesar had gone to see a show. He thought it was hilarious that the comedian had gone after him for probably being high. He said it was ironic as he had been high.

I tried to explain this was not irony. Irony is when something is the opposite of what's expected.

I could see how the comedian had chosen Cesar to go after. He was ripe for mocking.

"What did he say about your collar?"

Cesar wears a dog collar. I once asked him why. He said he liked it. His uncle bought him a dog license for it, and so now his dog collar has a dog license on it.

Cesar: "I had my head down. He didn't see the collar."

Too bad. Perhaps if the comedian had looked a little closer, he would have also noticed Cesar's hands. All of the fingernails on one hand are filed to points, kind of like claws.

Yet, with all this, he's a very easy going guy. I don't generally have issues with him in class. He never talks back. He's never rude or disrespectful. Getting his work done, however...

Ah well. (I've wanted to write about him for a while, but he's never given me a good reason to. Finally, I have a reason to mention him.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Immediate Consequences

12th grade English at the continuation high school. They had a movie. (They had just finished reading Night, and this was a companion movie for them to compare and contrast in an essay that was upcoming.)

No technical difficulties. No major issues at all. Although, a couple students would not stop talking during the movie.

Fine, I can write down names...

The next day, I'm at the same school but a different class. One student storms in. He's really mad at me.

"You said I was talking during the movie."

Me: "You were."

"Ms. M wouldn't sign my buyout..."

Yeah, well, I told them they were to watch the movie. He wouldn't have been talking if Ms. M had been there, I'm sure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Minor Lie

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 ;)

There's a new show on TV Land called Younger that I've started watching. I'll just give you the blurb from their website:
"Younger" follows 40-year-old Liza (Foster), a suddenly single mother who tries to get back into the working world, only to find out it's nearly impossible to start at the bottom at her age. When a chance encounter with a 20-something guy at a bar convinces her she looks younger than she is, Liza tries to pass herself off as 26 -- with the help of a makeover, courtesy of her best friend Maggie (Mazar). Armed with new confidence, she lands a job as an assistant to the temperamental Diana (Shor) and teams up with her new co-worker and fellow 20-something Kelsey (Duff) to make it in the career of her dreams.
It's light and fun. But since the central conceit is a lie, it makes me think...

What if you were telling a minor (in the grand scheme of things) lie to someone who was becoming a new best friend (like your age or ethnic background)? How long would you keep up the lie? If someone was telling you that lie, would it make you angry to find out about it later?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Feigning Innocence

Monday morning. 7th grade math. From the lesson plan, I could tell that the teacher had been out the previous Friday. How? Because for 5th period I was to send two students out with standards for not listening to the sub.

Easy enough.

5th period arrived. I got the class started, took roll, and then I went to find the delinquents. They were easy enough to find. They sat next to each other.

I explained that they had standards to write and I told them which room they were to go to. (The teacher had been specific.) One put up a brief argument, but readily accepted his fate. The other protested his innocence.

Could he have been innocent? It's possible. The seating chart wasn't accurate, and students do lie about their names. (They're not really good at it, though.) But that wasn't my concern. He was going out whether he liked it or not.

The first boy was sent to Ms. T. They're all afraid of Ms. T. She's tough. But after his initial protest, he left and I did not see him again.

The second boy... He returned to class three times. The first time was the are-you-serious? return. Sometimes if they beg hard enough, a sub will relent and let them stay. (Not me, but I learned this lesson the hard way.) The second time... I'm not sure why he came back the second time. The third time he returned was because he couldn't find the room I was sending him to. (I had to explain how to get there. I'd subbed in the room so I knew where it was.)

But the third time was the charm. He did not return again.

Still, I felt that little episode deserved a mention in the note.

I'm also over at Unicorn Bell this week. I'd love it if you stopped by and said, "Hi".

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Does This Text Make Me Look Fat?

I was in the same English class at the continuation high school for three days. Day one went pretty smoothly (for the continuation high school). Day 2 was a bit more difficult. It was a short day, their prom was that night, and they really weren't in the mood to work.

The assignment for the day was the reading an analysis of a poem called "To Christine". It was about girls and body image. And while the rest of the day getting anything out of them was like pulling teeth, one period we got a fascinating discussion going.

One boy told us he calls his girlfriend fat all the time.

One of the others at his table dug into that a little deeper, and I was able to discern that said girlfriend is pregnant. The boy claimed his girlfriend is not offended by his comments, and as I don't know the girl nor know how the comments are delivered, I can't be certain if he's truthful or lying to himself.

We said as much to him.

Suddenly, he started to wonder. Was his girlfriend upset and not telling him? He had to text her...

(Normally I'd be all about not texting in class, but under these circumstances...)

If you think about it, this is an awfully strange text to get out of the blue. According to the boy, she said she wasn't offended. Then he had to explain how this had all come up in class, in a class discussion.

I hope the two of them have a conversation about this later. I wonder at the girl. But then again, I wonder at people all the time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Texting Habits of Today's Teens

It's been a while since I was last at the continuation high school. But classes are classes...

The topic of the day was texting. They read an article called "Is Texting Killing the English Language?" And I was given several discussion questions to go over before they had written questions to do.

I got the chance to kind of play anthropologist. How do teens text today? Several claimed that they don't text all that much. They call. I don't know if I believe that. Perhaps the texters were the ones not participating in the discussion.

But there were a few things that I learned about their texting habits:

  • LOL is for girls. A couple guys claimed that they only use LMAO, and using LOL indicates a guy is not straight.
  • ;) means something different to teens. I had heard this before elsewhere, so I didn't need them to spell out what it meant. Although, their reaction was enough to tell me that what I had heard was correct.
  • Punctuation means they're upset. A period equals an exclamation point, basically.
One of the questions was "What abbreviations do you use?" I had hoped to get some new ones. Alas, the only one I was unfamiliar with was TFTI (thanks for the invite). (Oh, and SMO, for obvious reasons.) The others: SMH, GTFO, WTG, GTG. (A couple of these are NSFW.)

So, I make an awful anthropologist. Not a surprise, really.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Change of Character

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'm rewriting my novel. Again.

I've gotten some excellent feedback, so I'm making some needed changes. It's coming along nicely. But I just got hit with something that I don't like very much. And I realized that it makes an excellent what if...

What if you discovered that one of your "good guy" characters (a good friend of the main character) is actually working for the villain? (Yes, sometimes that's how you intend things, but imagine that you hadn't intended for this character to be bad at all.)

Monday, May 4, 2015

That A to Z Reflections Post

Whew. Now that's over...

April did fly, didn't it? But that's what happens when we do that A to Z Challenge. The month kind of speeds by.

For me, the challenge wasn't in posting everyday. In a normal month, I average 20 posts. Adding a few more is no big deal. (There's a reason my Saturday posts were just pictures.) The challenge for me is keeping up with all blogs I normally follow as well as visiting the requested five new blogs a day.

I couldn't do it without Feedly.

According to my groupings on Feedly, I'm following about 30 new blogs. In addition, I visited nearly 130 other blogs. And that's not counting the blogs I was following before the challenge, many of which were also participating. That's a lot.

By the end of the challenge, I was #159 on the list. I started with the blog under mine. I visited blogs until I had commented on 5 new blogs. By Z, I had gotten to #360.

(I say "commented on", because not every blog did I comment on. Some had dropped out. Some I could not leave comments on--Wordpress users, if you only allow Wordpress users to comment, I can't. And some... Well, I just had nothing to say. So I didn't.)

Many of those bloggers did not return the visit. I understand. My blog isn't for everybody.

But what was amazing was how many new visitors I did receive. I am humbled. Thank you for dropping by. I hope I see more of you in the months to come.

On G day, I started a giveaway. (I felt so clever, coming up with a giveaway for G day.) It ran through the challenge. Winners have been chosen. Congrats to...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners were drawn and contacted on Friday. If you have not heard from me, check your email. Then check your spam. If you didn't get the email, let me know and I'll resend.

And now I get back to my normal schedule.

Although, one last thing. I'm also a moderator at Unicorn Bell. May 11-15 is my next posting week. I do book tours and book promotions. If any of you have a book you'd like to promote, let me know. At the moment my week is completely open.