irritations

America’s Failed Spelling Test

Misspelled

America, you have some work to do in the spelling department. Some of you, more so than others!

Wisconsin…I don’t think there is a single excuse for you…too much cheese maybe?

Most of these words are middle school level and should have been learned a long time ago, while others are at worst twelfth grade level.

If you know these words without looking them up in Google, A+ for you!

 

Missing the Good Stuff Sucks

Missing the good stuff in life isn’t something I relish, especially when it involves my kids. I want to be there for the things they do, whether it be sports or drama or choir or a community function or major things like graduation and moving up ceremonies. Those things are important and the support of knowing your parents are there to support you is one of the best things to help your kids feel safe and secure in this world. I know I really appreciated that my parents made it to as many things as possible when I was a kid. I didn’t always express my appreciation like I should have, but it did mean a lot.

Today is tough for me because I am missing something I feel I should be at. Instead, because of my job, I am missing it. So, instead of doing what I should be doing I am taking a moment to vent my frustration. I doubt it will help me feel better, but I just can’t help it. What’s worse about this whole thing is that it is because of my job that I am missing it and it is my profession that makes it more difficult on people, specifically parents.

You see, today my son is “graduating” from the 8th grade. It is really just a moving up ceremony and in the grand scheme of educational things it isn’t that important. BUT, it is important to him! Unfortunately, I am missing it. Missing the good stuff sucks.

Why am I missing it? Well, I am a teacher and work for a completely different school district than both of my school aged children. What that means is that I end up missing many of their school related activities. Parent/teacher conferences, concerts or performances that take place during the school day, celebrations at school, graduations/moving-up ceremonies…you name it, I probably have missed it because I was fulfilling my teacher duties somewhere else. I am not sure why school districts schedule things during the work day. It doesn’t make sense to me and I am sure there are reasons I don’t know of, but either way it is frustrating. I am sure there are many parents who are missing the ceremony today because they have work obligations, that is the unfortunate thing schools do.

Anyway, all that to say I am proud of you, son. You have grown up so much over the last few years and this transition will be a big one for you. You worked hard this year, made some mistakes and grew from them. You worked hard this year, learned some new things about yourself and the subjects you were studying. You worked hard this year and experienced some great successes as well. You have tried new things, some you liked and some you didn’t. You are moving up in this world and I can’t wait to see where life continues to take you.

Congratulations, and I love you.

Earth Day? Pshhh!

I celebrated Earth Day today…NOT!

Instead, I used extra water to shave this morning.

I flushed the toilet two extra times.

I let the water in the shower run a minute longer than necessary.

I left a light on in a room I didn’t occupy.

I let the furnace in the house run when it didn’t need to.

Then I left the door open to heat the outside too.

I commuted a long distance with only myself in the car.

I made 10 extra copies just because.

I had tuna for lunch.

I am going to burn wood in a camp fire and then not make s’mores.

I am going to sit and let my car idle for an extra three minutes while I check my Instragram feed on my phone.

I am going to stand outside my fridge with the door open and stare at the contents trying to figure out what I want.

I am going to only drink half a glass of water and toss the rest.

I am going to fill up my garbage with recyclable materials and put garbage in my recyclables.

I didn’t remove the cap from a bottle I threw in the garbage.

I might even burn some plastic.

Tomorrow, I’ll go back to doing what I normally do. I’ll be conscientious, maybe.

The Debate: What is “Life”?

This is, apparently, life.

This is, apparently, life.

This, apparently, is not life.

This, apparently, is not life.

Science is an interesting thing. Much like math, you can pick and choose how to use it or interpret what it means.

It always amazes me that scientists can define “life” as a microscopic microbe (literally had to use an electron-microscope to see it because it is so tiny) and yet fail to see a fetus in a womb as “life”. The definition of “life” on biology-online.org seems pretty clear to me.

This article, “Critters found in Antarctic ice show how tenacious life is,” has me in a feisty mood today. “Life” as they claim can apparently exist in the most inhospitable environments (including space, maybe) but “life” can’t exist in the most protective and nurturing of places, like a woman’s womb. At least, that is if you are someone that supports abortion.

Here is another one of those weird (not really, but we’ll call it that) things that seems hard to justify. If you are a criminal and happen to kill a woman who was pregnant, you can be charged with murder of the fetus in 38 states in the United States. However, if you are an abortion doctor, you apparently exempt from these laws? What gives?

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox, for now. Anyone else not understand these obvious inconsistencies?

Wanna join me on the box? Add your two cents below.

Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Bad Parking Job

The height of Congressional dysfunction at work…they can’t even park their own cars.

Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Bad Parking Job.

And we wonder why Congress has a bad reputation? No, I am sure we don’t but this is a pretty good example of why we have little to no faith in them.

Redbox Chat – Customer Service Lost in Translation

 KathyaE: Hi my name is KathyaE, please give me one moment while I review your question.

 Ryan G: ok

 KathyaE: Thank you for waiting, Ryan. Sorry to hear that you were unable to use your credit. I will be glad to look into this for you.

It started out great, but went downhill rather quickly.

Background

A few weeks back I rented a movie at Redbox. I was looking forward to it because it had been on my “Watch List” for a little while and I am a history guy so I enjoy historical movies. I was looking forward to getting the “Monuments Men” Blu-ray home and devouring copious amounts of popcorn. When I got home and put the disc into the DVD player, things seemed fine. The commercials on the disc played normally, but for some reason the previews for upcoming movies were not playing correctly. Only the background tracks (music and sounds) for the previews were playing and not the voice track. Weird, I thought to myself. But then another commercial and all seemed well. However, when the actual movie began playing the sound did the exact same thing as the previews. No voices, just muffled noise, somewhere the equivalent of the Charlie Brown parents in the cartoons. I was disappointed. But, I knew that there would be a fix for it. I would rent another one, but I didn’t exactly want to pay for it again. So, I logged into my Redbox account on my computer and reported the issue with the disc. I, relatively promptly, got a response that I would have a credit issued to my account for my next rental. Great! I thought to myself again. I was just gonna have to wait till I had time to rent it again. I returned my defective DVD the next day.

The Rental

Two weeks after the original rental of “Monuments Men” I found myself outside the store in front of the Redbox again. I had time to look and I knew there was a credit waiting for me. So, I browsed and discovered there was a copy of the video I wanted available so I chose it. I got the “check out” screen and pushed the “credits” button. At this point, I assumed it was looking up my account and for the credit I had available to me. No such luck. It came back with a message saying something to the effect of “No available credits found.” Hmmmm….was my thought. That is odd. I haven’t used it yet, and I am pretty sure my wife hasn’t used it. So, I put in my billing zip and swiped my card, expecting to see along the way a message that said, “You have a credit available. Would you like to use it? Yes or no?” No where along the way did I see that. Only a message that said my receipt will be sent to my email address. Oh, maybe they just don’t bill me and credit me on the transaction. I’ll just check my email when I get home. When I go home I opened the computer and checked my email. I had been charged for my Blu-ray DVD rental. This was a little unexpected. However, I was anxious to watch the movie so I decided to deal with the following day. The movie is good, by the way. However, it is a tad slow so you have to really enjoy the subject of WWII and know the timeline to enjoy the movie.

The Chat

As you saw above, it started out well. At least normal, what you would expect, a friendly greeting and all.

 Ryan G: Thanks. I was at the kiosk and pushed the credit button but it said there were none available. I can home and looked because I knew it hadn’t been used yet. So, I got charged again.

 KathyaE: I have located a transaction for a rental made at the box for Monuments Men with the card ending in XXXX.

 Ryan G: Yes, just tonight.

 KathyaE: I show that that card is not saved to an online account, there for if credits were available they would not be accessible.

 Ryan G: So, in order to use a credit there has to be a credit card on file?

 KathyaE: That is correct.

 Ryan G: That seems a bit odd since all you have to do is pay at the kiosk. There would be no reason to have a card on file.

 KathyaE: Credits are added to your account, if there is no card on file there is no way to add credits to your account.

Here is things went sideways. I understood what she was saying and I really don’t fault her for the policies she has no control over. That being said, my account on Redbox clearly showed that there was a credit waiting in my account and I DIDN’T have a credit card saved to my account. When I logged into my account I was immediately shown that I had a credit waiting for me (see upper right hand corner of the picture below – a red circle with a white one in it – there is a red arrow pointing to it) and also on the account page it showed that I had credit available to me (see bottom left hand corner – there is a red arrow pointing to that).

Notice two red arrows pointing to areas that show my account has credit.

Notice two red arrows pointing to areas that show my account has credit.

So, the website shows that I have a credit and the kiosk clearly knows who I am once I have entered my billing zip and swiped my card because it always brings up, for my approval, the correct email address associated with my account to which the receipt will be emailed.

 KathyaE: If you had a card on file and credits were added and you still have credits available on your card I would recommend saving your card to your account so you can then use them. As you have already checkout out there is no way to apply any discount to your transaction, I do apologize. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

She must not be really looking at my account or she would be able to see that there is a credit already there, I have no card on file, and what really needs to be done is for an option to be added so that customers who have credits get the option to use it before being billed. Instead, she gives me an answer that doesn’t match the situation and then tries to hurry me along and end the chat. I try to explain why there is no card on file and why I don’t think it is necessary to enter one since they can already identify which account is being accessed at the kiosk.

 Ryan G: Nope. Perhaps there is a better way to add credits then. If you know who I am by putting in my billing zip code and then swiping my card, how does having a card on file help? There are security issues with having it on file.

 Ryan G: I also have a user name and log in to use this online account, so you must know who I am without having to put in a card number.

 Ryan G: I don’t reserve them online.

Then I get the standard “We’ll pass it along to the appropriate department” answer.

 KathyaE: Your thoughts will be passed along to the appropriate team here at Redbox but as of now it goes as I have previously mentioned. Have I answered all of your questions today?

 Ryan G: Yep

AND the “We’re done talking now” response with a quick disconnection.

 KathyaE: Thank you for chatting with us at Redbox. Have a great day!

 KathyaE has disconnected.

The part that really bothers me here is that I wasn’t asking for more credit. I wasn’t being unreasonable about how their website/kiosk worked, just pointing out that what she told me and what was shown didn’t jive. I wasn’t demanding to take command of the mothership. I wasn’t even rude. However, I feel as though I was treated this way because she thought I was doing all of the above mentioned things…

The Conclusion

Admittedly, I didn’t expect to get much help from Redbox chat. I didn’t expect to be listened to. I don’t expect that my suggestions will be passed along to the appropriate department (‘cuz they won’t be), but what I do expect is that I am treated with respect as the customer and that was something that wasn’t given. Instead, I was brushed off like dirty knees after kneeling at the beach. Next time I need to talk to a Redbox, I’ll talk to the brick wall next to it because it ought to be just as helpful.

Also, this experience hasn’t kept me from renting more movies from the Redbox. In fact, we have rented quite a few. However, we don’t usually rent that many there. We generally wait for the codes they send out via text or email  for a free one or an occasional rent one/get one offer. And, yes, I did put information for my card onto the website long enough to use my free credit, but then I took my card information right back out again.

Tell me about some of your customer service related encounters/problems in the comments section so we can commiserate together. Some day, maybe some day, customer serve will be king again. Until then, good luck and keep your head down!

Don’t Be So Bossy!

This isn’t just a woman problem, so why make it that?

What? Don’t be so bossy! Once again, our Hollywood “elite” have a message for the American public that is both ridiculous and pompous. If you haven’t seen an article on this yet, you can check one out below.

Jennifer Garner, Beyoncé, Jane Lynch, and More Urge Ban on ‘Bossy’ | Yahoo Celebrity – Yahoo Celebrity.

The whole premise of this movement just stinks of false feminism. I say false feminism because it is being painted as a “female” issue. That the word, when used towards women, is being sexist. What an utter obfuscation of reality!

The fact is that the word “bossy” can, and is, used in context to both men and women is some how lost here. Yes, there is a negative connotation to the word, but the connotation isn’t just solely reserved for women. As I see it, if the word is being used in context and appropriately, there is no problem. When people get power (or in this case celebrity) they feel abused when their demands aren’t met or their expectations are too high. Then, when someone points out that they are being unreasonable and “bossy,” well then we have just violated their sense of entitlement and their sense of dignity (apparently). Indignation then follows as the “elite” are called on the carpet for their misbehavior and the only way for them to justify their indignation is to make an issue of a non-issue and paint it as something it is not – a sexiest word.

We all have been there and done that. We make issues of non-issues in our daily lives. So I am not going to make that an issue.

What burns me red here is that we all have had the opportunity for power in leadership roles. We then become “bossy” and demand more or expect more than we should. Power goes to our heads and we get bossy. It is in our human (sinful, if you must) nature to take more than we deserve or need. So, when I or you become bossy and begin to wield power over people that is unjustified we need to realize that we are going to be called bossy. Is that a negative thing? YES! Should we be offended by it? Maybe, but likely no. If someone calls us bossy, it should cause us to pause and reflect,”Why am I being called bossy? Could they be right?” Ultimately, being called bossy should cause us to change because there IS a reason (in most cases) it was warranted.

This isn’t about empowering women. To some degree, I think this new initiative degrades them by making it about a word. Most people are better than that and I don’t think banning a word is going to make the difference. Next they may try to ban the word “woman” because it makes them feel inferior because it delineates them as a sex…where will the insanity of the word Nazis end?

The fact that female celebrities are leading this push gives it even less credence since I am sure that at one time or another they were bossy, let alone another word that starts with a “B” and rhymes with itchy. All have likely demanded things that made them come across as bossy. Rich people get that way because they feel entitled.

Rather than spending money on a campaign that has, really, very little relevance, how about contribute that money to ACTUAL needs?

Ladies, your social activism in trying to ban “bossy” comes across as just that – bossy.

Valentine’s Day W(h)ine

Valentine’s day is the SECOND WORST day of the year to have a birthday, especially if you are male. The first worst day is, for obvious reasons, Christmas. But let’s focus on the day at hand…

Today is my birthday. It sucks. It sucks, not because I am getting older but because the “holiday” overshadows it. Am I being petty? Am I being childish? Maybe. Should I just suck it up? Maybe. However, I am going to whine just a little today.

“You are the best Valentine I ever received.”

OK, mom, thanks. I appreciate you telling me this every year. It makes me feel better, a little. So many years ago my mom was in a hospital in a little town in eastern Washington trying to push me out. I arrived on this day and have for evermore been called a “Valentine’s baby.” My mom says that my dad bought a little can of Almond Rocha candy and told her that she couldn’t have it till I was born. I am not so sure how long it took for my arrival after that, but at least she had a goal (the candy or me?). TA-DA! There I was.

Growing up with a Valentine birthday was a little strange. I would go to school and while all my friends were running around putting little paper Valentines with those candy hearts in them I was just wishing someone would say, “Happy Birthday!” As I got a little older, some of my friends actually realized that the day was also my birthday and they somehow managed to find Valentines that were BOTH a Valentine and a birthday greeting. They were my heroes for the day, for sure.

As I got older, middle school and high school, I realized that this was going to be a “no win” kind of day for me. Girlfriends were the winners and I was going to be the loser. The expectation around this day is that someone (usually the male) is required to do something nice for a significant other (usually the female). This usually involved a flower or two and some little stuffed animal with a cutesy heart on it. Closer to the end of this stage, it may have even involved reservations to some place, but I lived in smallish town so the fancy places were out of the question and I had a limited budget. Usually, just “going out” was enough but not always.

I don’t think I had too many girlfriends around the time of Valentine’s Day in college, so I don’t really remember too many from that period. However, I watched a lot of my friends go through the trials of navigating the day. Reservations to places that were “special” and hard to get into suddenly became like a bloodsport competition. Flowers that were normally $12.99 a bouquet most of the year suddenly became $54.99, and that was three weeks in advance (if you could remember to order them). Don’t even think about buying them on the day! Of course, the bigger the bouquet the better. Heart thingy boxes filled with candy and cutesy stuffed animals filled store shelves while Hallmark stores made money hand over foot for brightly colored paper with a sappy words and sentiment inside. As a result, friends who were poor college students before the day just ended up being poorer college students.

Aren’t I entitled to have one day a year about me?

In general, I don’t really like to make things all about me. Yes, I have those days where I might whine and be a tad selfish. But can’t I at least have my birthday?? Can’t I feel more special than normal on one day of the year?

So, that brings me to my current life. I am fortunate to have a wife that understands me and my need to feel special on my birthday, which of course means that she has to sacrifice feeling special on Valentine’s Day. She tries to do the little things for me (coffee, a special lunch or dinner, offering to rub/scratch my back, etc), though I must admit that I only allow it begrudgingly. I know that she loves me though and that is all that really counts. I love that she understands that I would really like to have a day that isn’t overshadowed by everyone else’s expectations for what the day should be. She is OK with having a Valentine’s Day “something” later in the month, and I try to make an effort to show that I love her then (maybe not in the usual ways I show or tell her).

My family has been pretty indulgent as well. They make sure that they try not to include “Happy Valentine’s Day” in my birthday greetings, so that makes me feel special too. I get texts from my siblings, my kids, and from friends. I am glad they are thinking of me whilst planning something special for those they love too. I guess I can share a little.

I guess what I am trying to say is that while it sucks to have a birthday on a day like today, it isn’t the end of the world either. It is nice that so many people want to show their love to others in their lives. I am just not sure why it has to be a special day…can’t we just show that we love people every day of the year?

So tonight, after my special birthday dinner, I’ll whine a little about getting older. I’ll whine a little more about this stupid “holiday.” Then I’ll sit on the couch, watch a movie or TV program with my family, and have a little wine with the woman I love. That will be grand.

Happy birthday to all those other Valentine babies that might be out there!

PS. I am not a complete idiot…I do get my wife a little something anyway.  😉

 

I Told You So! Another Shining Example of Constitutional Trampling

Here is yet another instance of a celebrity getting in trouble for something he says and believes. The thought and religion police are at it again. This infringes upon both his right to free speech AND the free exercise of his religion. I blogged about this not that long ago, “A Liberal Double Standard.” The First Amendment is taking a beating these days. Sadly, we let bullies who disagree with someone’s opinion crucify First Amendment all the time. He expressed what he believes and thinks. There is no crime in that.

Some relevant articles to peruse as you contemplate where you stand on free speech and religion:

Sarah Palin, Louisiana Governor Weigh In On ‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Controversy

‘Duck Dynasty’: Can show be saved after Phil Robertson controversy?
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-duck-dynasty-phil-robertson-20131218,0,7653498.story#ixzz2nwiHi9ZX

Finally, check out what this blogger has to say. I think he says it quite well in his defense of the First Amendment.

When will Americans say they have had enough of the PC crew? When will YOU say you have had enough?

 

A Case for Better Education – Insider Observations

Parents, this is your fault. YOU have failed your children and as a result, they will fail you when you need them most. There, I said it. I wish others would say it too. But we live in a society where the norm is to blame others instead of where it really lies, in ourselves.

You’ve done it again…

The news media is, again, pushing the idea that our schools are the problem. This time they are using the PISA scores ranking U.S. 15 year-olds at 26th in math, 21st in science, and 17th in reading. While not being #1 for U.S. citizens is troubling (mostly because we like to think we should be the best at everything), it isn’t the end of the world and shows the decades of educational reform up to this point isn’t working. Sadly, even now with the Common Core standards, it will continue to fail, though there may be some improvement in scores. However, how we test isn’t what really needs to be fixed.

The parenting grade.

PARENTS/PARENTING = F

  I would argue that scores would increase dramatically if all of us did one thing – pay closer attention to our kids and participate in their education more. Parents are the LARGEST part of the problem. Parents are simply not taking an active role in their children’s education and, because they aren’t paying attention, their children are suffering the consequences. Here is a prime example of what I am talking about that just happened during my recent high school conferences. I teach juniors and seniors. In fact, more than half of my students are seniors and are about to graduate (well, most of them anyway). You would think that now would be a perfect time for parents to check up on their kids and make sure they are on track. So, for conferences the school set aside 21 hours for parents to come talk to their kids’ teachers. I have 112 students that I see nearly every day and I sent out email reminders about conferences. I also tried to set up appointments for some that are struggling and could use a little push from home. During the time set aside for conferences by the school, I only saw the parents of 31 students (and only two of the nine appointments made in advance), or 28%. That is a failing percentage in my book. 

Parents are constantly showing their children (especially the older children) that education isn’t a priority, at least in action that is. Verbally they give it lip service but their actions speak louder than their words. “I have to work and can’t make the time.” LAME. You show it isn’t important by not making the time. If you show it is important, they will think it is important too. “Half day of school? Oh, well, why don’t you just stay home today. They won’t do anything important in class anyway.” LAME. That just shows you are lazy and allows your kids to be lazy. Effort makes it worth it. “We can get some extra days of vacation if we go during school conferences.” LAME. This really shows where your priority is. Sacrifice your child’s education for your leisure. “Poor, *insert name here*, the teacher must be picking on you” or “You must be failing because the teacher is being unfair.” Yep, that’s it. We teachers wake up each morning thinking about how to make our jobs more difficult and despise discipline. FAIL.FAIL.FAIL. These are just a few ways parents undermine the importance of education.

EDUCATIONAL FUNDING (or lack thereof) = F

It would be nice to get paid a wage equivalent to people with similar skills and experience, that isn’t really where the money needs to go (though bashing the profession and poor pay doesn’t help with retention or recruitment of great people). Similarly, more money doesn’t need to go into testing or comparing ourselves to others, we already have too much of that. No, what we really need are newer, tech friendly, and bigger buildings that incorporate more space for more teachers. More teachers would mean fewer students per classroom and many studies/reports (here, here, and here) show that class size does make a difference.  No student should have to sit in a room with more than 15-17 kids in it. Maybe even less would be better, but there doesn’t appear to be a magic number that would make it best. Smaller class sizes would do more for educational reform than any other solution. Small class sizes mean that the students get more attention and individualized instruction. It also can translate into more meaningful lessons, better participation, and greater “buy-in” from the students.

Much like parents, society as a whole has shown that they are only willing to pay lip service to education as well. Teachers are a favorite punching bag. Society says we need better education and instead of focusing on the real problems they blame the people doing the work in the classroom who are trying to make due with less and less resources every year. Education funds continue to get cut, across the board, which just puts us farther in the hole. Teachers do more with less all the time, something the government should maybe learn for itself. Instead of funding for education the government perpetuates HUGE waste, inefficiency, and bureaucracy. Instead of funding education, it gives out money to nations that don’t necessarily need it. The list goes on and I am sure you can name any one of the many places money doesn’t need to go. We, as parents, even complain about paying property taxes that go to the schools. I am lucky to work in a community that has almost never failed a school levy, yet in many places around the U.S. they get failed by voters all the time. How does that logic work out? I am going to vote to fail a levy (which is to make up for what the government isn’t covering in the first place), not pay for education, and cheat my kids out of their education all so that I can have a better retirement/more toys/bigger house/fancier car/etc. Clearly there is a disconnect here. In other words, FAIL, FAIL, FAIL.

Just 1.9%??

There you have it. I am a teacher and proud of it. Yes, there are teachers that shouldn’t be teaching, but it is a minor problem considering all the others. I see these things from the inside, a place many of those who talk about reform have never been since they were in high school themselves. They have no experience in what it takes to be an educator and the challenges that go along with that. Those who should be reforming the schools are the ones that are subject to public whimsy and fantastical schemes that produce results that are largely ineffective. If you want to reform schools, ask the teachers, ask the students, but keep the politicians out of it. This teacher says that from the inside, the two solutions above to very obvious problems will go a long way in making a difference.