Archive for April 2009

I Am Officially Old

April 30, 2009

“Wheeler, you’re just realizing that? You’re married, have two kids, a career, a mortgage and a car note. Not to mention more than a few gray hairs and your bedtime being 9:45.”

Yes, yes, but I’ve been in denial. Recently when one of my students asked how old I was I convinced her I was 28. Even when I admitted that I was “old” one of the guys said: “You can’t be that old, you still ride a bike.”

I do still ride a bike. Tomorrow, though, I will have reached the point in life that I care enough about my lawn to spend time and money spreading weed and feed. In my mind, that makes me old.

Not really old. I’ve yet to reach the point where I’m sitting on the porch with a shotgun guarding my grass from local kids and lazy dog-walkers. I am a bit jealous of the nicer yards in the ‘hood, though. Of course, I’m doing it not just for looks but also because I think fewer weeds will make it nicer for my kids to play on. So it will still be a functional lawn.

The difference, though is that until this point in life, grass was nothing but something to be walked upon. Does it look bad with weeds? Sure. Enough to spend resources eliminating the weeds? Used to be the answer was “what are you kidding me? I’ve got beer to drink.” As of tomorrow, my goal will be to enjoy the beer as I admire my green grass.


S’port Says No To Red Light Cameras

April 29, 2009

Even if the state legislature decides to allow them, we won’t have them here. I like the reasoning:

Before the vote, [City council chairmen Ron] Webb read from a prepared statement in which he compared the placement of the cameras to an Orwellian “slippery slope.””What keeps government from upgrading them (cameras) to read our lips,” he said. “This is a Pandora’s Box, and we should open it least we lose the freedoms we still have.”

Hear, hear! The cameras don’t make roads safer; they increase accidents by causing people to slam on their brakes at the first sight of a yellow light. And the income they generate is a huge incentive for the companies who run them and the cities who have them to do even  more dangerous things like shorten yellow light times. At bottom, though, Webb’s concerns are my biggest objection.

Not surprisingly – given his belief that the City can regulate how people wear their pants – Calvin Lester was unbothered by the overreaching and supported the cameras. Maybe he mistakenly thought the income could help him pay the $47,000.00 a court just decided he owes for trying to destroy a local business.

It Wasn’t Boiled Mule, But Still

April 28, 2009

In class we spent the last day or so discussing the daily lives of Civil War soldiers. That includes the sort of foods they ate, which, as the War went on, included things like horse meat, worm infested hardtack, and boiled mule. After all the “ewws” and “grosses” and assorted expressions of disgust, I make the same lame joke to all the classes about the soldiers at least having better food than the slop the school cafeteria serves.

Then tonight we had gumbo. Good stuff, too; shrimp, sausage, crab, chicken, veggies and lots of spice. Only it was leftovers. From January 2008. Not the most recent January. The one twelve months prior.

Of course I could only compare this to Civil War food as a joke. Obviously I had it much better than the guys eating shoe leather. The gumbo had been in the freezer and – apart from the now chewy shrimp – tasted great. Still, I’m fairly positive that fifteen month old leftovers is a record for me. I feel like this ought to mean something, and it’s probably related to kids and jobs and bills, but I don’t know what.

Lester Owes 47K

April 28, 2009

A court already found Calvin Lester – the Shreveport city councilman responsible for the ban on saggy pants – liable for dumping thousands of ton of dirt on the property of a business in his district. Now the damages are set, too: $47,000.00.

If I was the plaintiff, I’d settle for him agreeing to step down from the council. That would be worth way more than forty seven grand.

Louisiana To Ban Red Light Cameras?

April 27, 2009

Maybe so. There’s one bill that would ban them, and another that would require municipalities with cameras to send almost half the revenue to Baton Rouge for state wide highway safety projects. I’m guessing the latter would decrease camera revenues enough that it would kill them, too.

There’s a nice summary of one of the many problems with the cameras:

Baton Rouge, New Orleans and other local governments have the traffic cameras designed to take photos of motorists as they run red lights. City officials have argued the machines improve safety — their presence makes motorists wary and so reduces the number of running-through-red-light violations. The cameras also raise millions of dollars for city governments, and for parishes such as Jefferson, which received $11 million on nearly 144,000 tickets, as of late 2008.

These two incentives are in direct conflict. There’s been more than one study showing the cameras increase accidents. Cities also have decreased yellow light times, even though it increases accidents, because doing so dramatically increases revenue. Here’s a recent article about both these problems.

Given the choice between the well being of residents and increased revenue, we all know what local politicians will choose. So here’s hoping the state legislature takes this weapon away from the locals.

I Hope I Don’t Get Arrested For This Post

April 23, 2009


The American Civil Liberties Union has alleged that Mamou authorities illegally arrested a local man last year after he contacted the Ville Platte newspaper about the Mamou police chief.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court, Bobby Felix Simmons said he e-mailed the Ville Platte Gazette in May after learning that Mamou Police Chief Greg Dupuis had allegedly received a DWI and abused his authority. The e-mail included those allegations, as well as questions about why the paper had not written a story about the matter.Later that month, Simmons said he was arrested at his home in Franklin. Officers said he was being arrested for “criminal defamation” and that they were acting on a warrant from the Mamou Police Department. Once in the Franklin jail, Simmons alleges that he was not able to bond out because it was against Dupuis’ wishes.

Here’s the best part:

Following Simmons’ arrest, Dupuis was quoted in the Gazette as offering a $500 reward for anyone found to be “spreading rumors” about him, according to the suit.

Nice. Complain to the newspaper about the police abusing their authority and get arrested for criticising the police.

The news story doesn’t mention it, but the guy who was arrested was also a cop. So I doubt this is a case of a professional complainer; his allegations to the paper probably had some basis in fact. Especially – given the results of his complaint about it – the one concerning the chief’s prior abuse of authority. But even if this guy was just a nut case, if these facts are true, this is an outrageous first amendment violation. Mr. Dupuis ought to be fired, post haste.

Gay Marriage In La?

April 22, 2009

I guess it can’t hurt to try:

A gay couple in New Orleans is suing over being denied a marriage license in Louisiana, claiming their rights are being violated by a state constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.

Kristoffer Bonilla, 33, and John Thomas Wray, 18, are asking a federal judge to strike down the constitutional amendment, which lawmakers and voters overwhelmingly approved in 2004.

A few thoughts . . .

First, these two sure don’t look like very sympathetic plaintiffs. Thirty three and eighteen? Gay or straight, that’s prima facia wrong, even if legal. It’s also ammunition for opponents of equality: “See, give the gays the right to marry and the next step will be legalized child abuse!” Maybe things are o.k., but I wish these two had considered this and let some other couple file the suit.

Second, the argument is interesting:

The men filed the lawsuit against several state and local officials on April 2, the same day they said they were denied a marriage license. It claims the state’s marriage amendment violates the First Amendment “by curtailing the right to marry based upon a religious interpretation of the nature and purpose of marriage itself.”

“By failing to articulate a legitimate, compelling and secular interest for the restriction on marriage, the state has necessarily established a wholly religious civil institution,” it says.

There is no valid secular reason to oppose gay marriage. There’s plenty of smokescreens, for instance the argument that we can’t let gays marry because the only reason for marriage is children. But no one really believes that, otherwise we would not let post-menopausal women or infertile men marry. That argument is simply a pretext for “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

Still, even if the plaintiffs manage to prove the negative – there is no secular reason for banning gay marriage – they still have to show that this violates the establishment clause. In other words, the amendment didn’t create a state church or benefit any particular religious group. All it did was change a civil law, but do so for a religious reason. While basing civil laws on religious doctrine is bad policy, I’m not sure it would violate the Constitution.

Of course, I’m assuming anyone will actually read the arguments. In this part of the country, even in federal court, that’s a HUGE assumption. What’s more likely to happen is that the judges will spend the entire procedure looking for the most convenient way to dismiss the suit. The merits won’t even occur to them. That’s a shame, because these are interesting arguments.

Third observation, and a civics lesson, too. This amendment was challenged in state court just after it was passed. The state supremes upheld it. Now the opponents of the new case are already trying to use the old one to muddy the waters:

Alliance Defense Fund attorney Mike Johnson, who argued for the [state constitution anti-marriage] amendment when the [state] Supreme Court heard the case, called the new lawsuit frivolous.

“Our marriage amendment is comprehensive in its scope and definitive in its meaning, and there’s no question that our state Supreme Court has upheld it,” he said.

All true, and all completely irrelevant to the current case. It does not matter how clearly our state constitution expresses our state’s bigotry and ignorance. If our state constitution conflicts with the federal constitution, that part of our state constitution goes buh-bye.

Mike Johnson is an attorney, he knows that. He’s intentionally misleading people. But I guess dishonesty for Jesus is o.k. Anyway, I doubt it will happen in this case, but here’s hoping Louisiana will soon be rid of not only the anti-marriage amendment, but Mike Johnson, the ADF and similar buttholes as well.

The Internets Are Evil

April 21, 2009

I swear, whatever non-teaching educational professionals say about the importance of technology, that is their true belief. As evidence of web-o-phobia, consider some of the sites blocked by my district’s internet filter.

But first, I wonder why we need a filter in the first place. At least at my school, the students never have unsupervised access to the internet. Why not just trust the judgment of the teachers to decide in each individual case what sites are proper or not? Sure, some sites would never be appropriate. There’d never be a legitimate educational purpose for sites with nekkid women, obviously. But filters often eliminate the good with the bad.

For instance, in my speech and debate class, the students are currently preparing descriptive speeches. I let them pick their own topics, hoping that would make the whole process more interesting for them. A few of the guys in the class – who usually make little or no effort at any kind of learning – were excited about doing speeches about their favorite sports teams. After securing through begging and bartering a coveted spot in the school’s one computer lab, we headed over there to do some research. Sadly, the sports fans’ excitement soon turned to disappointment and frustration because they discovered that nearly every sports related site – the ones with the information they needed for their speeches – was blocked by the filter. In other words, some off site office dwelling egg head decided ex ante that there could never be any legitimate educational use for a sports web site. That prejudice cost my class excited students and good speeches.

I had a similar incident with the school social studies fair. A few thugs in training wanted to do their papers about “drugs.” I helped them fine tune their idea to a paper on the legalization of marijuana. I thought this made everyone a winner. They had a topic they found interesting and I had an opportunity to help normally reluctant students learn to think critically. Alas, the filter prevented all that. While it’s fine for law enforcement officers to come to the school to tell impressionable young minds that all drugs are bad all the time, when those same minds want to think for themselves they are barred by the filter from turning to the internet and seeking a different opinion from law enforcement. LEAP wasn’t the only site banned. Enough were that they could not do the project at school. And for these kids, that meant they could not do it at all.

There’s other ridiculous stories. YouTube has no value. At one time even the school website was blocked. A petition by the AFA to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage is blocked as “hate speech.”

I know, I know, this is all someone else’s fault and there’s nothing we can do and if you just fill out the proper request form in triplicate and submit it a week before you need the site it might be allowed and one computer might have access to it for ten minutes on the the second Tuesday of the month. And we have to save the children. I just really wish the bureaucrats would trust teachers to be teachers. I don’t need a an absentee busy body big brother to make decisions for me about how to best educate my students. I’m supposed to be a professional. Let me be one.

Less Than A Month To Go

April 20, 2009

That’ll be my mantra today, the first day back from spring break. I know I certainly don’t want to go to school today. We had a good break, with family in town. I finished several projects around the house. Rode my bike seven days in a row. Slept until 7:30 every day. The week off really put me in summer mode.

If I feel that way, I know my students will even more so. Especially because we finished the BIG TESTS two days prior to the break. The most popular question/complaint today will be some variation of “why do we still have school after the tests?” In my class, the answer is because we haven’t finished the story yet. Don’t you want to know who wins the Civil War and how the country is put together again? Of course they don’t. Or they would never admit it if they did. So the other answer is because the stuff they learn between now and the end of the year will be on next year’s BIG TEST.

Like my students, I still have plenty of stuff to do. Not just teach, it’s never just teach. I still have a few hoops through which I need to jump so I can be certified next year. As with all that kind of crap, none of it will be difficult, but it will be time consuming and a pain in the butt. I also need to find a new job. All of this will keep me busy until the end, so I can’t put it on cruise. Even so, I’ve already said to myself “I only have to hear that alarm clock 22 more times this year.”

Glad to be a mom

April 11, 2009

Yesterday was a perfectly unordinary Friday – perhaps a little dull considering our “date” was a trip to the grocery store instead of out to see a play as was originally planned. Regardless, it was a wonderful day simply because of the ordinariness and serenity that I recognized as my life. And, it didn’t hurt matters that my two-year-old twins behaved absolutely perfectly almost all day.

The babies and I started the day with a bike ride to our friend’s house for our regular weekly playdate where we had an Easter egg hunt planned. All the kids played well together and enjoyed their time hunting eggs. It was a beautiful, sunny day to be outside. Here Mac and Omi are headed out of our driveway. (As you see, it’s always safety first with them – their “people” are securely strapped in.)


Here are all the kiddos from the playdate after a very successful hunt:


After the playdate and lunch, the babies settled down for their nap, which was blessedly uneventful since Mac has started napping in the “big bed” in the guest room. This eliminates the opportunity for jumping wars between the two of them as they try to crash each of their “people” into the other one’s head. So they both went straight to sleep, which meant I could immediately get comfortable in my recliner and read my book for almost 2 hours of peace and quiet.

Once Wheeler and I realized that we wouldn’t be going to see the play we had planned to attend (It was cancelled because the big storms the night before had knocked out power to the perferming arts center.), we had to decide if we wanted to keep our sitter as planned and go out to eat, or cancel the sitter and eat at home. Since eating at home meant that we would have to go to the grocery store, and that I would have to cook and clean the kitchen, I voted for eating out. However, I was overrulled and we decided to make a family trip to the grocery store. These are usually fun because when we separate the babies into different buggies, you can usually hear the one calling for the other throughout the whole store. Last night was no different, except Omi added a very loud, stirring rendition of the “ABC song” into the mix. What was remarkable about this trip was that there was no whining, no begging for smoothies or cheese sticks, and no fighting. That amazing positive behavior continued for the rest of the night.The entire time I unloaded groceries and cooked dinner, Mac and Omi sat at their little table and happily colored and played togehter. Usually, this is the time when I plant them in front of the TV for Clifford or SuperWhy so I can cook without running over one of them, but last night, they were so content that the TV was never even mentioned. I had to stop several times and just watch them because I couldn’t believe how well they were getting along. If you’ve ever spent any time with either of my two children, you know that they’ve both inherited their mother and father’s strong will. And that strong will typically pulls them in opposite directions and causes a fight at least once every 10-15 minutes. So it was no small feat that they played so well together for such a long period of time.

Not only did they play well together, you could tell they were enjoying each other. I even videoed them sitting at the table, coloring together and holding hands.

Their contentment and happiness continued through a dinner of mac and cheese and hot dogs and even after dinner, when they usually get cranky and start fighting. They were so happy that Wheeler nor I were in any hurry to put them to bed. We simply watched them and marveled at our children. At 8:30, when everyone had long finished dinner and we were still sitting at our kitchen table watching our two babies running around playing with each other, I realized that this is a pretty good life.