This is the interesting part of all the photo work I’m doing on the site…

2 minute read

September 5, 2011, 1:28 AM

I made quite the interesting find while digging around for a few images. Take a look:

The locations of all the fire alarm notification appliances in Potomac Hall

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With all of this exercise effort lately…

7 minute read

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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Nice weather, fire drills, FIOS, and stupid Comcast…

< 1 minute read

February 16, 2011, 8:22 PM

So I did a Video Journal tonight. And here it is:

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

2 minute read

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.”

8 minute read

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…

7 minute read

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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A fun time was had by all…

9 minute read

April 7, 2010, 9:06 PM

So I got back from Stuarts Draft last night, and all in all, it was a pretty good trip. First of all, on the way down, I visited my friend Bergit, who I first met at the National Equality March back in October. We had a good time, chatting it up, and visiting a few stores in Charlottesville’s Corner district. Perhaps the most amusing part of the whole trip was the discovery that UVA sold a Snuggie with their logo on it, which Bergit modeled for the camera:

Bergit models the UVA Snuggie

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I realize it’s been ten years, but I still think about it…

5 minute read

September 30, 2009, 10:59 PM

One AwayOne of the more memorable things I did in high school was The East Coast Price is Right. We followed the rules as they existed in Season 27 (the current season at the time), and I had that set that emulated the classic green, purple, red, and orange colors on the turntable. It’s now been a decade since I did that show, but it’s still something I think about.

Right before I left for Philadelphia, I did a bunch of ironing. Usually, when I iron, I turn on the television and pop a tape of something in, in order to spice up an otherwise boring task. This time, I popped in a tape of old episodes of The Price is Right, from Season 27. That’s when I start thinking about my own version of the game that I did a decade ago. In the intervening ten years, I’ve thought about the games I did, and what I might have played if I could do it all over again. Recall that for that game, I did (in this order) It’s in the Bag, Dice Game, Push Over, Grand Game, Switch?, and One Away.

I think if I were to do it all over today, I would have swapped out two games. I think I did too many cash games, playing both “It’s in the Bag” and “Grand Game”. Additionally, as I messed up “Dice Game” a little bit, I would have done a different car game for the first half of the show. For that, I’ve often thought that Lucky Seven would have been a game that would have fit my production better. All you do for that is have them guess numbers, reveal the correct number, and then take the amount of dollars that comprises the difference (e.g. if they guessed a seven as the second digit and the correct number was five, the host takes two bucks back). Then they just need one dollar to buy the car. That’s the game that stands out most in the would-have-done category. Now as far as the cash games went, I basically had to do “It’s in the Bag” first, because setting it up on stage with the audience in place would have revealed the prices. That game was set up before the show started. But “Grand Game” was too similar to “It’s in the Bag”, and so I probably should have dropped that one, and considering how close I cut it on time, a quickie game like Danger Price or Most Expensive would have fit the bill quite well.

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Today marks ten years since I graduated high school…

4 minute read

June 4, 2009, 8:54 PM

I can’t believe that today marks ten years since I graduated high school. June 4, 1999, at Expoland in Fishersville, I received my high school diploma, officially ending my days as a student at Stuarts Draft High School. That was an interesting day. Rather than go to school, the seniors traveled to Expoland for graduation rehearsal, where we walked through the whole procedure. We lined up. We sat down. We had to sit through every single bloody name getting called. And then I think we were done by noon.

Then that evening, we went through the ceremony for real, with all of our friends/family/etc. watching. And we got our diplomas. And each student got their photo taken as they received their diploma, in the cover that we were required to buy (I did not appreciate that). And then after that, we were done! No more Stuarts Draft High School for me. No more block scheduling. No more AP classes. No more nonsense from Mr. Schindler (principal), whom I didn’t really get along with all that well.

Of course, for me, this graduation was simply a formality, because for all intents and purposes, I had already accomplished what I came to accomplish. I got accepted at James Madison University for the fall 1999 semester, and so from the beginning of April onwards, I basically enjoyed myself. Or at least tried to. Less than two weeks after I got my college acceptance, I fell at home and dislocated my right shoulder, which caused me to miss my first day of school since fifth grade, and put me in a sling for a month while it healed. Then Columbine happened a week and some change after my injury, which put everyone a little bit on edge. And I managed to get myself suspended for two days for making some remark about it (yes, I got suspended – get over it). I don’t even remember what the remark was, but obviously, Schindler thought it was important enough to warrant kicking me out for two days. Not like I particularly cared, though. I had already sent in the deposit for JMU. And I enjoyed my two days off. My mother was not so laid back about it, though, as she came into school and handed Bill Schindler his behind on a platter for the whole incident. Let’s just say that my mother is awesome for that.

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Categories: High school

So I find out that Augusta County is planning on killing an elementary school…

3 minute read

January 1, 2009, 4:28 PM

While my father and I were out today, he told me that he had heard that Augusta County might be closing Ladd Elementary, which is in Waynesboro.

First of all, before I even researched it, I said it was probably a good idea to abandon the site. First of all, the facility is indeed an Augusta County school, but it’s located within the independent city of Waynesboro. That happened because the area that the school is in was annexed by the city of Waynesboro in the 1980s or so. So it’s an anomaly for being a county school that’s no longer in the county. But it’s also now in the middle of a large shopping district, with Wal-Mart directly across the street, and Home Depot, Martin’s, Target, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, and a plethora of other smaller retailers within a short distance from the school. Traffic is hideous outside the school, with signs for tractor-trailers telling them that the school is not a turn-around. Plus I’m sure some other retailer would snap up the school site in a heartbeat to peddle more crap to people.

Then I found an article in The News Virginian about the plan. How interesting. They want to close and sell the Ladd location in Waynesboro, close Beverley Manor Elementary School near Staunton, and expand Wilson, Cassell, and Riverheads elementary schools to accommodate more students. They say no teachers will lose their jobs, since it’s more of a consolidation than a closing. And the idea of moving the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School into the old Beverley Manor building was tossed around as well. Currently, that facility shares a building with Valley Vocational Technical Center.

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School days and the oddball things that teachers would mandate for their classes…

4 minute read

September 3, 2008, 7:43 PM

I was talking to a friend of mine over IM who’s presently a senior in high school, and he’s told me about the joys of what teachers mandate for their classes. According to my friend, one of his teachers mandated use of the Cornell note-taking system for taking class notes. The Cornell note-taking system seems to be good enough, but seems right offhand to be a bit more of a use of paper than I would like. Use half the page for non-note activity? You’re looking at someone who, in college, as a cost-saving measure, would find the narrowest-ruled paper possible in order to squeeze a few more lines onto a page and therefore save a few sheets of paper. I’m sure that over an entire college career, I probably saved maybe two sheets total (and even that’s probably a bit optimistic), but at least I felt thrifty.

But that’s really not the point of this entry. It just reminds me of the wacko things that teachers used to mandate when I was in school. I remember that so many teachers thought that they knew best, and thus used that rationale to force various methods of organization on their students. Now my method of organization was always chronological. Everything was in the order that it was done, in a big binder, usually 1½” wide. Then as now, I’m big on dates and time order, since I am really good with knowing that A came before B, which came after C, and that A, B, and C were on or around such and such a date. Thus if I’m looking for something, I would go back to that point in time. Pow. All by date, and I could find my way around. And everything went in that notebook. Yes, I was one of those people who owned a small notebook-size three-hole punch to tote around. And yes, I also had a big three-hole punch at home. In fact, I still have that big hole punch.

So that’s why it frustrated me then and amuses me now when teachers would mandate to students how they were to arrange their notebooks. After all, by high school, one would hope that one has a system that works. I know I did. These kinds of things always frustrated me. I remember some teachers would require notebooks that were so anal-retentive in their organization, requiring separate labeled sections for notes, classwork, homework, quizzes, tests, vocabulary, etc. etc. etc. And half of those sections never got used, and were a waste of space.

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Categories: School

JMU class reunions in September 2008: Cancelled due to lack of interest.

3 minute read

August 6, 2008, 8:00 AM

JMU does so many things that make me laugh, and not in the hee-hee-that’s-funny kind of way, either. Unfortunately, it’s usually in a far more mean-spirited kind of way, as I laugh at some of the DUMB things that they do. I still remember back in 2003 when JMU announced that they were fighting spam, while at the same time constantly spamming the student body after they set a far-too-flexible process for campus organizations to promote their junk.

Of course, once you graduate JMU, you lose the abovementioned spam, and start hearing from the alumni people. JMU recently sent me mail about the reunions for the classes of 2008, 2003 (me), 1998, 1993, and 1988. That’s five graduating classes right there. I know – I’m exhausted just reading all those different years. And JMU had a whole slate of events for people to do, and an overblown fee for the package (read: “Good lord, that’s expensive!”). My exact reaction was, oh, hell no, as I’ve been through the procedure with JMU’s cheesy event scheduling before, and it’s not that much different than going to Sea World, going from one show to the next to the next all day.

So I was quite amused to get this in my Email yesterday:

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Categories: JMU

What a fun weekend!

5 minute read

November 25, 2007, 8:38 AM

All in all, I had a fun Thanksgiving weekend in Stuarts Draft, but I’m still very glad to be home again.

Thanksgiving itself involved the usual – turkey, and all the various fixings to go with it, and then falling asleep afterwards.

Then I spent Friday with Katie. We had a blast, as we did anything but shop. We went on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while, then rode back around to Charlottesville, where we went to the Mellow Mushroom, where we had a vegetarian pizza with a pesto base. Twas awesome.

However, before Katie and I started out, we got a movie of Katie’s cat Peabo chasing a laser pointer around…

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Once a slimeball, always a slimeball, I suppose…

2 minute read

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

Sable is packed to the gills…

2 minute read

May 11, 2007, 9:53 PM

I don’t think I’ve filled a car so full since I left Potomac Hall at JMU for the last time back in 2003. Back then, I had the Previa stuffed to the gills with my junk from the dorm. Now, I have the Sable filled to the brim with my stuff, headed for Silver Spring. That car is literally packed full. The back seats are folded down, and I’ve put stuff in every possible spot. There’s even stuff sitting in the passenger seat. I just hope the car doesn’t think it’s a passenger and sound the seat belt alarm when I get going. That would look odd to have the seat belt buckled over there, to keep the alarm quiet.

It reminds me of a rhyme by Muffy from Today’s Special:

There was an old woman who lived in a hat,
With fourteen kids and one smelly cat.
The hat was bulging, filled right to the brim,
And inside, things were looking mighty grim.
And then when the woman came back with one more kid,
The hat shouted, “Fifteen!” and blew its lid!

That was then followed by the top flying off a nearby top hat. But yeah, I think if I put anything else in there, the car will shout, “Fifteen!” and blow its lid, too.

One thing that I will really appreciate with this run for stuff is the lamps. Those four torchiere lamps that I have are coming, and will be placed in strategic locations in the apartment. It’s helpful because there are few light fixtures in the apartment, and lots of switches attached to electrical outlets. Thus since I brought no lamps on the first run, I had to kind of find my way around in the dark upon leaving the apartment, feeling for walls and furniture, to avoid running into them, and the subsequent cursing. And I don’t particularly like to swear, though I’ve been known to let them fly fairly easily.

Speaking of swearing, I remember something I did for a professor at JMU that both the professor and I found amusing. He said that we could write whatever on the tests themselves, “Just don’t write any swear words.” So I decided to be a bit of a wiseguy. I wrote “SWEAR WORDS” in all caps near the top of the test paper. Not actual dirty words – literally the phrase “swear words”.

All in all, I’m excited about living in the DC area…