Friday, September 30, 2016

The Water Bottle Toss

The first time I saw this (or, perhaps the first time I was aware of it) was during summer school. Apparently, it's the big new thing. It was ridiculously easy for me to find videos of this on YouTube.

Of course, all the videos I found were of successful attempts. Unfortunately, that's not what I've been seeing.

If you didn't watch the video, allow me to explain. They take a partially filled water bottle. (Usually of the half liter size.) Holding it at the top, they toss it so that it flips end over end once. The goal is to get it to land upright.

But, the students who do this in class end up failing more than succeeding.

There's nothing wrong with this, per se. No one gets hurt. It is sort of a skill. And there are much worse things that they could be doing.

However, it gets on my last nerve. When they fail, it makes a kind of loud wet splat. And they do this over, and over, and over again. (They do this when they're finished with their work. Yes, I check.)

Deep sigh.

Is it unreasonable for me to ban this from the classes I cover? I just hope it's a passing fad. Of course, the next passing fad could be so much worse.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


11th grade U.S. history. The teacher had found several video clips on YouTube that showed what life was like at the turn of the Twentieth Century. She left shortcuts on the main screen of her laptop, and everything was plugged in and ready to go.

In preparation, I opened each video in a new tab. And then... I shut the laptop...

...thus engaging the automatic lock.

Did I mention that the computer was logged in under the teacher's name? With a password I did not have.


I realized the stupidity of closing the laptop the instant after I did it.


(Why did I close the laptop? I'm not sure. I think I was trying to engage the blank screen. But who knows? I think I'll blame it on the cold I was coming down with.)

At least I had the brains to do this right before the prep period the period before I needed the videos. So, I had time to piece something together.

Some days I have it all together. And then other days I'm the stupid sub who screws it all up.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


"I'm Hannah."

"I'm Kyle."

"I'm Andrew. What's your name?"

It was passing period. As the students trickled in to their math class in the fourth week of school, my attention was caught by this exchange. When the kiddos noticed my interest, they explained.

"There's this kid who doesn't know anyone's name, so he just uses any name," via "Hannah".

And, apparently, they've adapted themselves to this.

"Kyle" did kind of look like a Kyle. (If this post was about him, that'd be a possible pseudonym for him, since I always change student names.) "Hannah", however, did not. When pressed, I couldn't tell her what name she did look like, only that it wasn't a Hannah.

Meanwhile, I'm so careful to use their correct names...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Magical Child

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 had the care of a young child (age 7 or under) with magical powers? How would you handle saying no to them, considering that they might be able to overrule you using their powers?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Do Over

A little over a week ago I got a special request. Could I make my phone cozy... a larger phone? (I designed that cozy for my iPhone 4s, before there was a plus size.)

Sure, I said.

The depth part was easy. I just needed to knit more rows. But the width... Well, if I added a couple stitches...

No. Just no. I can't put my brand on that. That looks terrible.

The customer requested one done in cobalt blue. My go to yarn for this project had several blues, but none a brilliant shade near cobalt. A similar yarn that I had never worked with before had a royal blue. Close enough.

Since I had never worked with that yarn before, there were bound to be some differences.

So, the first go around was kind of like making a test swatch. I figured out that I needed to use a smaller sized needle. And to make the thing wide enough, I added a cable along both sides. Those changes made a world of difference...

A side by side comparison...

I can put my name on that. (The second one. Not the first.)

(And now I need to make one for my bigger iPhone. In orange.)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Heard it Before

"It's the pipes. They need to fix the plumbing."

I had no idea what the boy was talking about. I was busy getting class started. They had a warm up. I was taking roll. Then I was going over what we were going to be doing for the period. Pipes? I hadn't heard anything.

Then I heard it. And I immediately knew what it was...

Really? This old chestnut? And I'm supposed to not know what that sound is? I know exactly what that sound is. 

I can't tell you how often some kid tries this. 

I wish I could tell you I had some great line to shut this down. I don't. I looked at the kid who gave me the excuse and told him to stop it. 

"It isn't me." 

Sure it's not. I hadn't even heard the ringing until he brought it up. 

He protested his innocence, even showing me that his fingers were dry. 

But funnily enough, that was the last I heard the tell-tale ringing. 

This is the point where I'd shake my head and say something about immature freshmen. Except these were sophomores. In name only, I suspect.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

False Alarm

It was Monday morning. I had gotten this particular assignment more than a week ago. She's a teacher I've subbed for many, many times, so I wasn't anticipating too much when I walked into the office.

I got the usual question. When I said I was in for Ms. M, I got perplexed looks. "But the field trip is Thursday."

It used to be a regular occurrence. I'd show up to a school only to be told that the teacher wasn't out. Or worse, I'd go to the classroom and the teacher would be there, no absence planned. But that hasn't happened for a while now. It hasn't happened in a good, long while. (We're talking a few years.)

They checked the teacher's mailbox. Sure enough, she had left lesson plans.

And that's when one of the administrators joined the conversation. She had talked to the teacher on Friday, and this teacher's absence on Monday had come up.

So, I was in the right place. Whew.

Geez, guys! Don't scare me like that.

(The teacher was out on that field trip on Thursday, too. Which I also covered. And considering this is the most interesting thing I have to write about those two days tells you how much trouble I had with them.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

An Old Sci-Fi Standby

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 ;)

Through the ages, science fiction has shown some different types of family dynamics. One that's fairly common is the one where children are raised in a sort of factory system, not within a family unit. Many times, these children were not born to parents per se.

The thought that flitted through my brain, though, did not start with factory-born children. In this case, they were born the traditional way. And they weren't taken to some sort of institution, either. It was more sort of a wide-spread adoption requirement.

This is a long explanation for a very short question:

What if we didn't raise our own children? 

It's a weird thought. A weird question. But the underlying question is: why is our society structured the way it is?

Monday, September 19, 2016


I've got mermaid tails on the brain. I have no idea if I'll get around to knitting one, but I have a plan all mapped out. It involves the stitch pattern that's currently the background on the blog. I'll keep you updated...

The mask. It's almost done...

It needs to be blocked, starched, and the ribbons to keep it on need to be attached. Looking at the picture, I realize the eyes are too far apart. I could not tell this by trying it on. I can see just fine through it.

Ah well. My curiosity is sated. Although, I kind of want to make one in orange...

Friday, September 16, 2016


Health class. Sixth period. It was the beginning of the period, so I was explaining the assignment. As I was doing so, I looked over as one student folded a paper airplane. And threw it.



Somehow, I managed to let him know that wasn't appropriate. I finished my instructions and let them get to work.

The boy didn't do a whole heck of a lot. Neither did most of his table. This wasn't especially note-worthy as it would be easily apparent to the teacher that those boys turned little to nothing in. (The previous day they had blatantly disregarded the "answer in complete sentences" instruction. I have a feeling I was looking at the F-table.)

And besides, I was kind of busy with Asia.

At the end of class, I held him, Asia, and a couple other students back because they failed to comply with my "be seated" instruction. I gave them a stern 30-second talking to, and then I released them.

The boy hovered for a moment.

"Are you going to put my name in the note?"

Me: "Of course."

Thanks for reminding me, kid. (Since Asia sucked all the air from the room, I had forgotten all about it.)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Doing Battle

"I wish Mr. W was our sub..."

I don't think Asia got the reaction from me she expected. She meant to insult me. Impune my abilities as a sub. Let me know I wasn't liked.

But what I heard was a validation. Instead of letting her do whatever she liked, I was enforcing the rules. Sorry, Mr. W, but I don't think you were a very effective sub.

(This may or may not be true. In a moment of such blatant insult, that's what I need to believe.)

What I said was, "Since I'm angering you so, perhaps you'd rather work outside..."

Which she did. For a time.

The next day, Asia was incensed. I was giving her attitude. Rolling my eyes. Giving her looks. All because was upset with her.

(I kind of wanted to explain projection to her, but everything I said started another rant, and at that point I was trying to shut the whole thing down.)

What set all of this off? The assignment was for them to read a chapter silently. Now, to me, "silently" means absolutely no talking. And that's what I enforced.

To Asia, "silently" meant she could discuss things with her friend, make a pretense at doing the assignment, and my insisting she not talk was completely unreasonable.

Deep sigh. Freshmen. *shakes head*

(She informed me that she was going to report me. For being unreasonable, I guess. I'll let you know if I get in trouble.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


The class was Intro to Health Careers. I've covered it before. Although, not so early in the school year.

Normally, they'd be working on modules, but due to an unexpected and harsh cold (it laid her flat for a week plus), the teacher had not had a chance to get them started. So, the assignments were a bit different than what I'd expect.

This particular day (I covered the class for three days) they were posed two questions. How do vaccines work? Do vaccines cause autism? To find the answer, they were to search online. Then they were to write up their answers, with at least a paragraph of explanation per question.

Fifth period. While every other student jumped on Google, Samantha immediately opened a Word doc and started typing.

Eventually, she filled a page. Curious, I ambled over and asked the obvious question. "Already know the answer?"

"Yes," she said. "I got into a rant, though. I'm not sure if that's allowed."

So, I read what she wrote. To "check".

Her description was well written. She compared how vaccines work to athletic training or dance classes. It was clear she understood the underlying mechanisms. The rant was saved for question number two.

As far as rants go, hers was rather tame. She mentioned a Reddit post, ignorance, and previously rare diseases becoming more prevalent. I didn't think she'd gone too far, especially considering that the teacher had pretty much asked them to take sides in this.

It's heartening to see well-informed students. It isn't as rare as it may seem from this blog. (The well-behaved and intelligent students rarely make appearances here, mostly because the other students are funnier to write about.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Different Sort of Travel

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 were a time travel agent? What sort of advice would you give to your clients? When would you urge them to go? What do you suppose that job would be like? 

(Apologies for this week's question. I read the words "time travel agent" in the description of a show, and I knew I had to use it. Somehow.)

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Second Attempt

I started a new project just about a week ago. As it was a kind of busy week, I didn't get a whole lot accomplished...

What is it? It's part of a mask. Ideally, when it's finished it'll look like the pattern. (Due to copyright concerns, I'm not going to copy and post her picture here. It's worth it to go take a look, though.)

I don't need a mask. But, Halloween is coming. And I think it's so cute. I just had to try it. Again.

I tried it once before. A few years ago. And it was a disaster. But I'm a better crocheter now. The pattern makes more sense to me. And I'm further along than I ever got the first time. So, I'm optimistic this time around.

Wish me luck.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nightmare Fodder

School has officially begun.

It was the second day of school. 7th grade math.

In this district, elementary school is kindergarten through grade six. Seventh grade is when middle school begins. So, every single student was new to the campus. And a bit lost. (Tardy sweep wasn't enforced.)

The bell was just about to ring to begin 4th period. A boy outside looked lost. He explained that he was looking for his 4th period and he wasn't sure which class it was. It might have been math.

I asked to see his schedule. He said he'd lost it.

Before I had a chance to suggest he go to the office to get a new printout, he said he was pretty sure he belonged in math. So, I let him in.

I had a few things to go over for my intro. Then I called roll. He wasn't on the list. Still, we pushed on. I went over the day's assignment and got things started.

We were a good ten to fifteen minutes into the period when the boy jerked up from the work. "Oh, I should be in art this period!"

Um, okay. Not wanting to compound his embarrassment, I quietly told him to go ahead and go. He fled the classroom, but not before every student in class was aware of what happened.

He returned 6th period. I noted it, noticed his name was on that roll sheet, and went about getting ready for class. I wasn't about to say anything and call attention to his earlier blunder. There was no reason that 6th period needed to know.

I needn't have worried. "I'm back," he announced loudly enough for the whole class to hear. "This is my math class. 4th period I had art."

Okay, then.

At least he wasn't embarrassed by the whole thing. I have a feeling this might be a story he tells for years to come.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Caught Red-Handed

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 ;)

The future is now. Apparently, there is now a possibility of catching a thief who attempts to steal your phone. Of course, this hasn't been implemented yet (and it may never be), but just the fact of it...

What if you had an artificial intelligence assisting you? Should it be programmed to obey every law? What if you were doing something a little shady with its assistance? Should it inform on you if you do something illegal?

Monday, September 5, 2016

For Pretty

Some things really have no good reason for existing. Like this...

It serves absolutely no purpose. But I decided I really, really wanted a lacy knitted thing to put over my water bottle, so I made it.

And I like it. So much so that I'm going to make another just for the other water bottle I have. Eventually.

How I came up with this thing is a long story. Luckily, most of the steps along the way have been documented on this blog.

It starts because I carry water with me to school daily. I carried water with me to my job before this as well (so, we're talking 20+ years). I like my water cold. So, I would freeze it the night before. And this worked, for a while...

But eventually, I discovered that the only way to make sure cracking water bottles weren't an issue was to not freeze water in water bottles. (The comment in that post came from my brother. I took his advice.)

But as one water bottle wasn't enough, I still had a bottle that would "sweat" during the day. And that's when I started putting something over the bottle.

I stopped using that bottle (for various reasons), but I liked having my little cozy on the water bottle that didn't need a cozy. Then I started thinking. Since it was just for decoration, I could go wild and make something just for show. But what did I want that to look like?

I've been pondering this for a year. Or two. I'm not sure. I can take a while to work on something when I'm thinking about it.

This July, I finally got around to designing it. After two or three false starts (read: ripping it out and starting over), I finally finished it just in time to start off a new school year. Hooray!

I bought the yarn for my second attempt. We'll see how long it takes me to get to it.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Color Perception Quiz

Color perception is interesting. It's a touch different for everybody. One of my favorite tank tops is a lovely bright shade of red. At least, it looks red to me. Others have called it orange.

Just the other day, my dad and I debated the color of a car in front of us. He called it green. I said it was teal. We agreed to disagree.

Which is why this quiz feels a bit timely to me.

What Does the Way You Perceive Color Reveal about You?

I took this one twice--once on my phone and once on my laptop. Both times I came up as an optimist. I guess there are worse things to be. 

Let me know. How did you do?

Thursday, September 1, 2016


The school year hadn't technically started. (By the time you read this, it will have. The continuation high school starts a month earlier than the other schools. But the other schools started up this week.) So, the district office was still in the process of getting stuff distributed.

Like our ID badges. I tried not to think too much about mine when I got this text from the sub caller...

New picture? I didn't know that was an option. If I had known that was an option, I would have replaced that picture ages ago.

Because the picture was bad. Really bad. Her telling me I looked like a felon was kind of a nice way to describe it.

The new picture? Not a whole lot better. Better, definitely, but not ideal. Ah well. It's not like ID pictures ever look that good.