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They couldn’t even get mad…

August 12, 2019, 10:17 AM

After the Journal entry where I spoke about my seventh grade year, which generated a lot of great discussion, mostly on Facebook, I thought I’d share an amusing moment from eighth grade.

Eighth grade was one of my best years in school.  I had a great group of teachers, and I had a much easier time with the kids.  Sure, some kids were still terrible, but not like seventh grade.  I didn’t get in trouble at all in eighth grade, except for one time in the middle of the second semester, when I got written up for something relatively minor, but which was entirely my fault.

To give some background, my mother has always enjoyed sharing information that she learns with me.  In the era of the Internet, I typically use it as a starting point to do my own research to turn up more information about it, but back then, with much more limited resources, I typically took it at face value, and was still happy to have learned something new, even if I couldn’t necessarily dive into it more deeply.  In this particular instance, what Mom shared was that men who wore boxer shorts had higher sperm counts than men who wore briefs.  Okay.  So 13-year-old me just learned an interesting new factoid, though I didn’t really understand the whole mechanism behind it (if you want to know, go look it up for yourself).  But in any case, I was a tad more knowledgeable than I was five minutes earlier, and that was awesome.

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In hindsight, sometimes I wonder if I might have had an easier time…

July 14, 2019, 12:20 PM

Sometimes I wonder if, in hindsight, I might have had an easier time in school if I had just beaten the crap out of a few kids.  Seriously.  I got picked on quite a bit, particularly in middle school. I got made fun of for my weight, I got made fun of for the way I walked (which I found out much later was due to overly tight calf muscles, which is remedied through stretching), and I got made fun of for my mannerisms.

I admit that I was a bit of an easy mark in middle school.  I wouldn’t fight back, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I was in a martial arts class at the time that emphasized never starting a fight.  Additionally, and more importantly, when students get into a fight in school, fault was typically assigned equally regardless of what happened, and so both students got suspended.  Thus even if you were not the one who initiated the fight and you were trying to get the other kid off of you, you were still getting suspended.  Since my parents had decided before I was born that I was going to college, getting suspended was viewed as the worst thing ever.  Recall the “you might as well wish you were dead” remark from when I got suspended in fourth grade.  We later found out after we moved to Virginia that the elementary school suspension wasn’t in my records.  Whether that was sloppy work on Mrs. Carmical’s part or what have you, I don’t know, but officially, it never happened.  However, getting suspended going forward was a no-go, because of the assumption that it would affect my ability to get into college.  As it turns out, that assumption was mistaken, because no college cares about what you did in middle school.  But for that mistaken assumption, I had a rough time.

In reading various discussions online, one thing that I saw over and over was that when the victims of bullying retaliated against their attackers, it generally put an end to it.  One story from online that stuck with me was where a girl who was being bullied walked by and jabbed a pair of scissors into her attacker’s back.  She got in some trouble, but the end result was that her bully now feared her.  Seemed like a good result.  She ended it.  And in a fight, if everyone is getting suspended, it really changes the dynamic of things.  With nothing to lose, why not inflict maximum damage?  Give the kid something to remember you by.  Bet that they won’t mess with you again after that.

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Fun with music…

December 20, 2015, 12:41 PM

This past Thursday, among other places, Elyse and I checked out a store called Bill’s Music in Catonsville.  What a wonderful place this was, with professional-grade equipment for sale at professional-grade prices (but you’re paying for quality).  The store has every single piece of musical equipment that you could imagine, including some stuff I hadn’t seen in years, like real xylophones and such.  Elyse actually knows a thing or two about music, unlike me.

The first thing that we discovered was a metallic xylophone (metallophone?).  I hadn’t played one of these since sixth grade music class, a six-week “exploratory” course at Stuarts Draft Middle School.  It was pretty awesome, working not so much with singing, but mostly with musical instruments – primarily xylophones.  We learned some very basic songs on them, and apparently I still remember a couple of them:

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Sometimes you have those weekends where you just have to get out of the house…

June 11, 2014, 6:06 PM

Ever get that feeling of “I just have to get out of the house”?  I recently had that feeling, where I just needed a change of scenery for a little bit, and so I planned a weekend trip down to Stuarts Draft to visit the parents, going down Friday, and coming back Sunday.  They were, as always, delighted to see me, and on the whole, we had a good time.  I also made some extra space in my house, as, on Mom’s request, I brought my sister’s old bicycle back to my parents’ house.  Gave me some practice in “beheading” a bicycle by removing the front wheel, and then reattaching it at my destination.  But it travels much more easily without the front wheel:

The bicycle has been beheaded!
The freshly-liberated front wheel.

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With all of this exercise effort lately…

April 28, 2011, 11:20 PM

With all of this exercise effort lately on my part, I went digging around on the Internet to find information on the old presidential fitness test that we used to do in Phys. Ed class in school.  Remember that one?  It’s that test you did where you had to do pull-ups, sit-ups, and a few other things.  And you know what?  I realized, some 14 years after the last time I did one (Virginia does not require Phys. Ed past the 10th grade), exactly how screwed up the implementation of this test was when I was in middle and high school.

First of all, elementary school is always a bit of an outlier for me when it comes to school experiences.  I went to elementary school in Arkansas, and then we moved to Virginia in 1992.  And considering that I have not been back since, August 31, 1992 (the day we arrived in Virginia) is a bit of a “wall” in my life’s timeline, in that every event either happened before then or after then.  Plus with no Email or Facebook back then, all my people communications with the Arkansas folks ended when we moved as well (though I now have contact with many of them on Facebook).  My move to the DC area in 2007 wasn’t like that, because Washington DC was part of my life before then, and Stuarts Draft has remained part of my life since.  So thus it’s harder to compare elementary school to the rest because it is behind that “wall”.

But in elementary school, when most of us first learned of the physical fitness test, I believe the implementation was done correctly, based on what I read on the site for “The President’s Challenge“, as it’s called.  Basically, you had two award levels: “National” and “Presidential”.  That was something to work towards, but if you missed those benchmarks, it was okay as long as you put your best effort into it.  If you didn’t even try, then you were in trouble, but as long as you made a good-faith effort and tried, then it was good.  I still remember doing a mile in 14 minutes and 15 seconds as a first grader (why I still remember that 14:15 mile over 20 years later is beyond me).  Looking at the published benchmarks, I was only about two minutes off from the time indicated for the “National” award for six-year-olds today.  The numbers may have been and likely were different back then, but for this discussion, I’m going to use the modern numbers because that’s what I have easy access to.  If you have historic numbers circa 1988 or so, send ’em on over.

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So why don’t you just tell us what you really think?

January 11, 2011, 10:02 PM

So I drove to work today, and then going home, I put the phone in my GPS mount and did a Video Journal entry from the driver’s seat. And here it is:

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“Oh, it’s terrible! The King has been transformed! Please find the Magic Wand so we can change him back.”

November 27, 2010, 4:31 PM

First of all, I admit – the title doesn’t mean much in relation to this entry, except that it perhaps reflects that I’ve been playing too much Super Mario Bros. 3 on my Super Nintendo lately. Regardless, this Journal entry has been a long time in coming, since this is about a trip I took to Stuarts Draft two weeks ago. All I have to say is, hey, I’ve been busy. But it’s also somewhat fitting that I post this entry this weekend, since this was “Thanksgiving” with the parents a couple of weeks ahead of the holiday. Traffic is a real pain, you see, and this obviates the need to mess with it. Have you ever driven US 29 in Virginia on Thanksgiving weekend? It’s no walk in the park.

On Friday the 12th, after driving perhaps a shade too fast the whole way down, I arrived at Stuarts Draft Middle School. After all, Mom was there, and I hadn’t seen her new classroom yet. Mom was recently switched from sixth to eighth grade, and so she moved rooms as a result, from Room 24 to Room 1. And here it is:

Mom's new classroom, Room 1

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So with school starting up again…

August 14, 2010, 9:18 PM

School in Augusta County starts up again this Tuesday, August 17. I think that’s a bit early, but there you go, I suppose. I thought it was neat when one year, they started on a Wednesday. That seems to make a quick first week that still has time to cover all the bases. Day one, you welcome everyone and visit all your classes to see what the teachers’ expectations will be and to get your textbooks. Then day two, you have the big assemblies so that the administrators can explain their own expectations. Then on day three, you have a fire drill (Virginia law mandates a fire drill once per week during the first month of school).

Meanwhile, I decided to take a look at a few school-related things just for the fun of it. One of the things I looked at was supply lists. I went to the Rogers Public Schools Web site, because I’ve always found some of their supply lists amusing. Specifically, I found the supply list for Grimes Elementary, which is where I went to school. And we find out that the tradition continues. For more than twenty years, Grimes has been emphatic: NO TRAPPER KEEPERS. Does anyone even use Trapper Keepers anymore? Now there’s another device that Grimes hates: wheeled backpacks. I would consider wheeled backpacks to be a good thing, as it brings heavy loads to the ground and on wheels, where they probably should be. Maybe Grimes has a deal with a local chiropractor, where they load the kids down with heavy stuff, make them carry them on their backs, and then get a kickback for every Grimes student’s back that the chiropractor cracks. Who knows.

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Once a slimeball, always a slimeball, I suppose…

November 8, 2007, 7:38 PM

Some people never change, I suppose. When I was in seventh grade, my homeroom teacher and I did NOT get along. He was a bit of a jerk back then, and told little seventh graders to work interpersonal problems out themselves and not even so much as assist in the process. I am convinced that he did that because it was easier to let these little children who don’t know any better come to blows, because then, by letting an issue boil over rather than actually having to deal with the issue at hand, he could just pull both students apart and send them to the office, and not have to so much as get his hands dirty. And that would be that.

Now fast forward to 2007. As you know, my mother now teaches in the middle school that I once attended. My former seventh grade homeroom teacher is now an assistant principal at another middle school in the same county. And Mom was at that particular middle school for something, and ran into him. He mentioned to Mom that he’d seen me recently. Mom gave him this puzzled look, and asked where he’d seen me. He said, “Wal-Mart.” Busted. Mom enlightened him, as it’s now been seven months since I left Wal-Mart. She said, “Ben works in Washington now.”

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Categories: Middle school, Some people

Upgrading the fire alarm system at my old middle school brings back a lot of memories…

September 10, 2005, 9:02 PM

I found out on Friday that Stuarts Draft Middle School is getting a new fire alarm system, to replace the charming vintage-but-terribly-obsolete Edwards system installed when the building was constructed. As I’ve not been over there lately, I can’t tell you whether the update is in the process of completion or if it’s done, though my guess is that it’s done. I also don’t know who makes the new system or what model, nor do I know what kind of horns and pull-stations were used.

I found out when Mom brought a Food Lion bag home from school containing, to my surprise, two Edwards 270-SPO pull-stations (“Local Alarm”), two Cerberus Pyrotronics MS-151 pull-stations (from the 1993 addition), and an Edwards Edwards 881D horn. I believe that one of the Edwards pulls came from the gym next to the boys’ locker room, as it has a sticker with a zig-zag line under the “E” logo that I recalled on that spot. I don’t know where in the school the horn came from, or where the other pulls came from.

Altogether, before this alarm update, SDMS had 24 horns, of which 20 were the Edwards 881D (all were originally the Edwards 881D). Two horns were replaced before I started there with large square horns – one in the cafeteria and one outside Room 38 (a stone’s throw away from the other replaced horn). I won’t swear to it, but I think those horns said “Pyrotronics” on them in small white letters. Then two horns were replaced in 1993 with Wheelock 34T horns. One was outside Room 12, and the other was outside Room 22. I remember seeing workers replacing the horn outside Room 12 from a distance, and noticed the Wheelock 34T outside Room 22, which was near the sixth-grade lockers (which were later relocated), as being new when it was replaced during third or fourth period.

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“I told you I was on a budget!”

April 10, 2005, 1:41 AM

Kids say the darndest things sometimes. This was one of those cases. On Friday at Wal-Mart, a really young girl, probably around first grade or so, said to her mother, proudly, “I told you I was on a budget!” after buying a few things on her own ticket in my line.

Of course, the thing that amused me more than that was what she said while I was ringing up her mother’s stuff. This girl, on her budget, presumably being a real cheapskate with her own money, then turned to her mother, and asked her if she could buy her something. Now we know what “I’m on a budget” really means. We’re not spending much if we’re on our own budget, but on mother’s budget, on the other hand…

I was quite amused, to say the least.

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Photos of the Skyline Parkway Motel fire, and some other stuff

July 15, 2004, 1:56 PM

First of all, before I start showing you photos, guess who I saw on Tuesday afternoon at Wal-Mart. I saw Mrs. Kucs (pronounced “kooch”), my sixth grade math teacher at Stuarts Draft Middle School. That was a lot of fun. She’s retired now, so I don’t see her around SDMS when I go visit. Still, Mrs. Kucs was a great teacher. The one phrase that has stayed with me that I learned from Mrs. Kucs was “That will be fifty whacks with a wet noodle!” All in all, great math teacher, and it was great to see Mrs. Kucs again.

Anyway, after seeing Mrs. Kucs as I was leaving work, I headed out to Afton Mountain and then beyond. Going to Afton, I went by way of downtown Waynesboro, because I had a few other photo spots I wanted to hit on the way. For one, the “scar” on the mountain in Waynesboro:

The scar on the mountain in Waynesboro

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