I got nothin’…and maybe that’s somethin’.

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Well, I ain’t got nothin’. I got nothin’ to say this week because I haven’t really had my focus on blogging. Maybe it’s because I am having a hard time motivating myself to write. Maybe its because I have been focused on other things. Maybe its because I haven’t had the time I would like to write. Probably, it is all of those.

The last week, well maybe two, I have been working on getting the new Facebook account for @Stupidboard set up and running. I have placed my first “ads” out there and have been getting some interest, so that is exciting and I will continue to play around with that. I don’t know, its exciting but it has been taking time to feel my way around it.

I have also added two new links to the menu, up at the top of the blog. One is for the website I created for my classroom many years ago, Grenz History. It is the place my students would go to get their assignments, download handout outs, and generally just be my place to to centralize things – especially for students who were absent. It made things easier to keep track of and the students all knew that is where they needed to go. I am having a hard time letting go of it. I don’t have a classroom any longer, but I spend hundreds of hours putting it together and I think I could probably make it useful at some point again, but for now it just sits there. Take a look if you like.

The other new link at the top of the page, in the menu, is for my Teachers Pay Teachers store – Learn ’em Fast History. I no longer have a classroom, but after 15 years of teaching I have a lot of lessons and units and handouts and stuff I think could be useful to others. Now that I am not using it and have a little time, I am adding more and more things to the store. I started the store about four years ago, but there were only a few things out there and so there wasn’t a lot in the way of sales. Over the last year and a half, I have added more and more of my content (and will continue to add more) and sales have started to pick up. This month has been the best month in my store’s history, so that is kind of exciting too! If you are inclined to check it out, or recommend it to a teacher friend, I would be grateful.

So, there you have it! I an’t got nothin’. Or maybe I do…

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Stunning and astounding doubt

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The above comment was left on my blog a couple of weeks ago and I have been struggling on what to do with it. I have my blog set so I can approve the comments and I marked this one as spam, not because I didn’t want a negative comment on my blog but because I didn’t want to give someone who is a Holocaust denier a voice.

The last part of that previous sentence resounds in my head – “…didn’t want to give someone who is a Holocaust denier a voice.” Why does it echo so loudly? Well, because I value the 1st Amendment and the right to free speech. Therein lies the struggle. Do I give this person a voice and try to convince them that they are wrong, or do I just pretend it didn’t happen and move on? My initial reaction was to just pretend it didn’t happen, but it has been nagging at me for the last two weeks for two reasons: 1) it is completely off base and should be countered; 2) by ignoring it and not giving the person a voice, I am going against what I believe is an important part of our society, regardless of whether it is offensive or completely wrong. People should be able to voice what they believe.

So, with it nagging me in the back of my head, I have sat on it and debated with myself about it. I posted it on my Instagram account and asked what they thought I should do. One very succinct response was that it was easy to counter because the claim is so far off base. The best part of the response was “If [he] died tomorrow, there would be less evidence that [he] ever existed than there is to prove the Holocaust was a historical fact. Yet, I doubt he would deny his own existence.”

That leaves me to pose two questions to my readers and fellow bloggers:

  1. What do you do with negative comments to your blog? Do you allow them AND ignore them by not responding OR do you allow them and respond?
  2. What do you think is the right approach for dealing with this particular comment? How would you respond?

I would appreciate your advice. What would you do?

Accountability of Weight: Update #2

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This is the second update for the year-long project of returning my physical self to much lighter, and healthier, version of the past.

I’ll try to keep it short so as to not bore you with lots of details and try to just cover some of the lowlights and highlights, cutting to the chase at the end.

Lowlights:

This loosing weight stuff is hard!

This month has not been filled with much success, if any. I have continued to watch and track what I eat, but this month has been filled with birthday parties, and parties at work, and my wife trying to cook new foods…all that to say that keeping my calories down under the projected daily goal has been difficult at best and impossible at worst. Each day was near or over the goal, not under like it should be. So, progress isn’t a word I would use to describe the last month.

Physical activity hasn’t ramped up over the last month either…which I am, each day, keenly aware. A change is coming in that arena.

Highlights:

I guess to be honest there isn’t much to highlight. With little success or progress, it is hard to highlight what is going on in this journey.

However, one good thing that came out of the last month is we took some of the tax return to an outdoor retailer and purchased hiking books for the kids and my wife. We also visited a store that sells lightweight waterproof rain shells (we live in the Pacific Northwest, it never stops raining here) and bought all three of them some new jackets as well. Why not me? Well, I used to do a bit of hiking and backpacking in my “pre-married with kids” days. So, we will be venturing into the hills more now that we are properly equipped. My wife is excited, the kids not so much (they are teens).

The Chase:

210 = official starting weight 2/15/18

  4 = pounds lost as of the morning of 3/16

206 = current weight

Thanks for you thoughts and encouragement as the journey continues! Though I have gained a small amount back from last month (1.2 lbs), I have found that getting into the habit of tracking my intake is getting easier.

But, let’s hope the next month is better than the last.

Do.Not.Forget.

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#weremember

Unfortunately, there are a large number of Americans who don’t remember or they have apparently forgotten what they learned in school. What’s worse is some may have never been taught about the subject.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and we must never forget. So, in an effort to remind people of the sobering events of the Holocaust, I will share with you a video I used in my classroom when teaching about the Holocaust. Nothing speaks louder to the horror than primary source footage. Nothing will help remind you like primary source footage. Do. Not. Forget.

https://player.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365463766/

The link above is to the PBS Frontline presentation of “Memory of the Camps.” A powerful, primary source documented immediately after the end of the war and liberation of concentration camps.

#walkout vs. #walkup (Part 2)

This is a continuation of #walkout vs. #walkup (Part 1). Please start there and read both posts before leaving a comment at the bottom.

#walkout vs. #walkup

As a history and government teacher (former, but it is still in me), I always encouraged my students to know and exercise their rights. I taught them so that they would be aware of current events and to actively advocate for themselves via their vote, and other means too. That was my job as a teacher. That is my job as a father. And, quite frankly, I wanted my students to be productive and active citizens of their country. That is really important when it comes to the survival of our country.

However, one thing we always talked about and discussed in class was that it was important to be informed before taking action. Allowing emotion and knee-jerk reactions to events could end up causing more confusion (or harm) and being active for the right reason is important. Therein lies the conflict between the two movements that we have seen come out of the most recent school shooting tragedy.

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#walkout – or March for Our Lives – is lending itself to the hysteria, and because it makes for “good” media it got all kinds of coverage. As such, the students who are most vocal are being used to perpetuate a narrative that is misleading and inaccurate. And, unfortunately, the students who are active in the movement are protesting the wrong thing or aren’t being active for the right reasons. As my daughter put it, after I asked her why she participated at her school, “Dad, we’re getting killed out here.” To her credit, she does go to a school in a district that experienced it’s own school shooting tragedy, so the community is a little raw when it comes to these things. But, as we have seen in the statistics (previous post), the data doesn’t support her statement. Her generalization was, at the very least, typical teen drama and over-exaggeration. I didn’t run her down or take her to task for participating though. She is one of the few teens I know who actually pays attention to the news and the world around her, even when she isn’t given a school assignment to do so. She does it on her own, and that is important. Instead, we had a discussion about what the root of school shootings really is, why it is important to be informed, and to keep being involved.

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#walkup – Students are, typically, quick to jump into action but often they ignore the root problem and go after the symptom. It is easy to blame others or point the finger at someone else rather than to deal with the problem you (or your friends) have created themselves. Having been in the classroom as a teacher for 15 years (let alone my own experiences as being a high school student), I can tell you that school shootings stem, in most cases, from students treating their fellow students poorly. When I say “fellow” students, I don’t just mean the students who are the same age. I mean all students who go to a school.

School shootings DON’T take place every day, let alone on a regular basis. What DOES take place every day, without fail, it that students are treating other students in ways they wouldn’t want to be treated themselves. That is a fact and it is at epidemic levels. Whether it gets reported or not – at school, outside of school, online, in social media – it happens. I saw it or heard it every day, to one degree or another. Teasing, laughing, joking, harassing, whispering about, pointing at, turning their backs, ignoring, physically bullying, etc., etc., etc. You name it; it has probably happened. I am sure you all can look back and remember a time when it happened, where it happened, and whether it was done to you or someone else. It doesn’t take much effort to look back in your own life and remember it.

School shootings DO happen because of this. The only people who can really stop it are the students themselves. As adults we can do everything we can and talk about it and discourage it and punish it, but the fact is that it won’t stop until there is a culture change and the students themselves have to make that happen. Look, one student or even a small group of students likely can’t (or more precisely won’t) do it. It puts a target on their backs and we all know students are vulnerable to the opinions of their peers, whether they like to admit it or not. And, not all students are the problem but may passively “support” the behavior because they don’t want to become a target themselves. There are lots of good kids out there, but those good kids tend to ignore the fact that it is taking place in their presence and most often do nothing to stop it.

Let’s not let the generalization get too far away from us. There are good kids. Lots of them! But we need those good kids to stop being bystanders (we talked a lot about this in my history classes in direct relationship to the Holocaust, but it applies in lots of places) and #walkup to step in when they see or hear it happening around them. Then we will see change. Students need to be the change and it can only really come from them. BUT, it has to be done in the right places and at the right times. #walkout or March for Our Lives isn’t the right thing to be protesting when the students themselves are the root of the problem, and the solution to the problem. They need to stop blaming the symptom on others and step up to own the cause.

Victim blaming?

I saw it going around social media. A counter argument to the #walkup movement. Apparently some believe that by asking the students to prevent school shootings by stopping or standing up to the behavior of their classmates is victim blaming. This counter argument is completely off base. First, let’s be sure we understand where the term comes from.

Victim blaming has most often been used to describe what happens to a victim as a result of rape or racism (there are other crimes too, but these are the main ones). There are those with the belief that the victim must have done something to deserve the outcome. The victim was the cause and therefore the crime was appropriate for that cause. Obviously, this is not a way to understand or treat victims. No one deserves to be the victim of a crime. So that is precisely where accusing those who participated in the #walkup movement of victim blaming goes off base. No one actually believes that students deserve to be the victims of school shootings or other crimes.

So, am I victim blaming? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. Students are and will be the victims of crime in school. They certainly don’t deserve to be the victims of crime. Unfortunately, in a world that is self-focused and has a lack of empathy, our students aren’t immune to the cause nor the crime. I believe that many of the students/victims of school shootings are likely not even participants in the poor treatment of fellow students. They truly are victims in every sense of the word because the become a convenient target for someone bent on destruction.

The Final Word

Students, if you want to stop school shootings, cure the cause. Befriend the friendless. #walkup instead of standing by. Have empathy for your fellow students and and treat them as though you would want to be treated. Listen to each other. Value each other. Protect each other. Put down the phone (or mirror) and take a look around you. You are not that important to be so self-absorbed. You can make a difference, for yourself and for others. But, you have to choose to do so.

I firmly believe, and in my experience I have seen it, that if students do those things they will lessen the number crimes in their school, they will lessen the number of bullies in their school, and most likely also lessen the number of school shootings dramatically. It won’t stop it completely (because there are people who do bad things), but it would go a long way to making it happen.

#walkout vs. #walkup (Part 1)

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March 14, 2018, will stand out as one of the more memorable student movements in recent history, though I think it will likely be remembered for the wrong reasons. I say wrong because the movement is a bit short sighted in that it is trying to deal with a symptom and not the problem.

When I taught American Government to my seniors (and my juniors, for that matter), I always made great effort to encourage them to be involved –  in their communities, in their state, in politics, in leisure, in things they cared about, and in things that were important to all Americans. So, by discussing this issue I am not discouraging the active participation we saw from our students. We WANT them to be involved and paying attention to what is going on around them. HOWEVER, we also want them to pay attention to the motivations and be good “consumers” of information so they can see through the rhetoric and knee-jerk reactions political parties and the media want them to have. Be informed. Think critically. Make wise choices.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that is happening with the recent protest – the student National Walkout Day and the “March for Our Lives”. This movement, though claimed to be “student led” isn’t. It is hysteria driven. There are may reasons behind the hysteria, but I think it best to say that it essentially stems from a political party bent on limiting the select Constitutional rights of individuals and by a sensationalist, chaos fueled media.

Epidemic vs. tragedy

Some have said that school shootings are at an “epidemic” level, but Merriam-Webster  would disagree, even by a really liberal reading. One source that got almost no play or attention from the national media outlets after the shooting and before the protests, because it goes against the desired narrative, is from an expert on the subject of school shootings. James Alan Fox, a distinguished Biohazardprofessor from Northeastern University, has studied school shootings for decades and he says there are not more shootings, and schools are actually safer than they used to be (watch and read). The national media, celebrities, and those opposed to guns (the 2nd Amendment; in general; or specifically) don’t want to listen to reason or the facts. Instead, we are told that there are more school shootings and favorable statistics used by special interest groups are highlighted to blow the issue out of proportion for a very specific and targeted purpose.

In my experience, and I think I am a fairly typical American, I would have to say that schools shootings (whether there are people injured or killed) are a rather uncommon occurrence and not the experience of a vast majority of Americans. Let me explain.

I grew up in a fairly typical American community and spent my days getting a fairly typical American education. That means I have been in the American education system from kindergarten (pre-school really, but I won’t count that) through the 12th grade. I spent five years in college (that may be unlike most Americans) as I pursued a history degree and a teaching certificate. Finally, unlike most Americans, I also spent 15 years in an American classroom. So, in all how many days have I spent in a classroom? Well, 13×180=2340 days + 5×180=900 days + 15×180=2700 days, for a grand total of 5940 (+/-) days in an American classroom. I do believe that most American’s can’t claim to have that many days in a classroom, except for those teachers or professors who have taught longer than me.

The point of all that math (remember, history teacher, not math – I hate math) is to establish that I am not talking out of my ass here when I say that in my 33 years of being in an American classroom, I never once saw or heard of a gun in the school. Not once. I would venture a guess that most, like 99.9%, can say the same of their educational experience. Did I ever feel unsafe? Sure, but not because of a gun. Did I ever get threatened by a student? Yes, but not with a gun. So, are we really at epidemic proportions when it comes to guns at school, or even gun violence at school? Not even close. Again, if you look at the math – the number of students in the US and the number of schools in the US versus the number of people in the US, it is a rather small percentage of people who have experienced such a threat or event.

What it is, really, is a tragedy. Merriam-Webster, again, serves us well here. I am not trying to minimize the suffering of those wounded or killed in the events and I am not trying to lessen the impact the families of those students have felt either. Nor am I trying to say that students aren’t the victims of crime. But, what I am trying to do is put the matter into perspective. Hysteria tends to drive a tragedy into a rallying point for further hysteria, which ultimately leads to someone’s rights getting trampled or others becoming unintended victims. We aren’t at epidemic levels for school shootings and we shouldn’t let the hysteria of tragedy turn this into a rallying cry for something that really is only a symptom of the problem, not the catalyst.

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 This post continues with #walkout vs. #walkup (Part 2). If you would like to comment, please continue to the next post, read ALL of it, then leave a comment.

“Like” – Its a Milestone

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Just had to put this out there…even though it isn’t on my regular schedule for publishing (“rules” are meant to be broken, right?). It might not mean much to some of you, but it is something to me!

500 TOTAL likes for the site. It feels like it has taken way too long to get to this milestone, yet at the same time if I consider the number of followers I have then I guess not. Perhaps the next 500 won’t take so long.

Anyway, thanks to everyone that has followed so far and for those who have pressed LIKE. Knowing someone is actually reading (well, maybe not but it feels that way) what I wrote makes me feel good – as I am sure it does you too.

As always, if you see something here on the site that you like – please press LIKE. If you see something you really like, I would appreciate it if you would SHARE or REBLOG it.

Thanks to all.

California, you have gone too far!

Well, California, you have gone and done it this time. Only this time, you have gone too far and taken on a whole world that loves coffee.

If you have not seen it or heard it yet, read the article at the bottom about a judge in California and the ridiculousness that is California law (or you can read here).

So, I think it is high time someone actually declares the truth about California and put it on every sign as you enter the state…

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The reality is, California will kill you.

Sometimes it will be quick. Sometimes it will be slow. But for all intents and purposes, California is proven to cause cancer, either directly or indirectly. Either way, California will be the death of you.

Shall we name the ways it can cause cancer? Well there are just too many to name, so I will give you an abbreviated list:

  1. Smog – there is plenty of it.
  2. Sun – seems it is everywhere.
  3. Water – let’s just assume there will be transference from everything in this list and more.
  4. Air – actually, this may be a limited source since it has mostly been replaced with smog.
  5. Wine – it causes cancer, then it doesn’t, then it does, then it doesn’t…where will the wheel of fortune stop for you?
  6. Disneyland – because anything that is fun must cause cancer, and California has a need to kill all fun.
  7. Every product the state produces or consumes…

So, from now until eternity, the state should sell all sunglasses with a non-removable warning label on the lens reminding all wearers that everything they see in California will kill them. It seems only fair to warn people.

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A Los Angeles judge has determined that coffee companies must carry an ominous cancer warning label because of a chemical produced in the roasting process.

Source: Coffee companies must carry cancer warning label, California judge rules


Fair Warning:

There are actually things in California that will kill you! But, before you physically visit the state (hopefully you don’t live there already), you likely will get brain cancer trying to figure out what the hell California is doing to ruin everything, and how they come up with this moronic stuff.

My head hurts…I think I have a tumor…

Building an empire is tough

Building a social media empire is tough. Really tough.

One thing I am discovering since I have begun to post more frequently, as in “on regular basis,” is that drawing in an audience is tough. Some days are good days and others not so much. Not everyone is going to pay attention to what I am doing, I know that. Nor is everyone going to like, or dislike, what I have to say. However, I guess I haven’t really hit the nerve that will get people talking or get them to really stick around. So, I am going to have to keep working on that.

Another thing that I am discovering is that I need to post more often, in all the places I am trying to grow. There in lies the rub…how do you keep up a constant presence while still being able to maintain a job and family life? There is a balance, I am sure, but what is it?

Empire 1

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There has definitely been some improvement and growth here at the blog Understanding, Optional. Since I have kept a regular posting schedule of once a week – every Tuesday morning – I have seen some more followers and there have even been more “likes” and comments. I feel like that is a great start! But, I want more!!  (Maybe I am a little greedy?) So, I’ll keep working at it and I’ll keep finding things that interest me, and hopefully interests you at the same time.

If I could ask one thing, could you pass me around? OK, well, not me specifically but if you find something of interest and worth sharing, please do!

Empire 2

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If you haven’t already stopped by the link at the top of the page, Stupid Board: Classroom Quotes, you should. There is an explanation as to what exactly I am doing in that other empire.

Over my years of teaching, I was going to write a book but decided to try a social media route instead. The Instagram account has been growing, but it too has been slow. I am sure that if I posted more often than once a week that it would grow faster.

I would also like to start including content from other teachers. We all, including myself, have been on the stupid board, so I am looking for others that are willing to contribute and be featured too. If you want to follow and spread the word, I would appreciate that too. In the meantime, enjoy a little humor!

Thanks for stopping in and taking a look around again. If you have any suggestions on what can keep this empire growing and thriving, I would be grateful.

 

Marketing Fail: Worthless Savings

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When you get an email from a business you just finished patronizing and the subject line of the email reads like the one above, you are going to open it and see what savings you are receiving because you know you probably will go back again.

Savings Inside

This little tag, phrase, sentence, whatever you want to call it, has become rather popular these days. You see it in your emails. You see it when you are shopping online but haven’t signed into the website yet. You see it in texts from stores you’ve agreed to receive marketing texts from. You’ll even see it on the outside of junk mail (of the “snail mail” variety) envelopes trying to entice you to open it in the hopes the contents will actually help you in some way.

I’ll admit, I am a sucker for a good deal and have a hard time passing it up when it is an actual, bona-fide, good deal. I like saving money, who doesn’t? I mean, if I had money to burn, who cares what the price is – money is no object at that point! But, like most of you, I find myself pinching pennies at the end of the month and getting creative with the budget. So, “Savings Inside” is enticing and it could be the next great deal.

The problem is that in many cases the good deal is anything but a good deal. Most companies just hope you haven’t done any shopping around or offer so little actual value that in the long run you probably would have just been better to not have purchased it in the first place. Some examples you may have seen:

  1. The exceptions/exclusions area of coupons – some of these areas have so many exclusions that you literally can only buy like four items in the entire store. (see a Best Buy birthday reward coupon)
  2. Bed, Bath, and Beyond – they like to run the exact same coupon every week (in email or mailer) of 20% off your purchase. Every week! They might as well just lower all their prices by 20%…makes me feel sorry for the people who shop there without a coupon.
  3.  Any store that offers 10% off of something – the saving is so low, you barely save the cost of the sales tax.

Anyway, back to the latest fail at marketing. This one is by the local Toyota dealership and it came about three days after visiting for oil changes on my cars. I just spent well over a $100 there, so I was looking forward to some savings for the next visit. Take a look at the “savings” in the “coupons” below.

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Did you read them carefully? See any savings? Yeah, me neither. Apparently the only savings here is “free information.”

The head scratcher here is that they bothered to put an expiration date on their “free information” and “coupon codes”, which of course are good for nothing.

I wish I could say this was a one-off, or a glitch, but I get these “offers” from the dealership fairly often. My guess is they don’t have anyone really paying attention to their marketing, even though they say they “are here for me.”

So, we are left to click and hope (or if you are into the snail mail thing, rip and hope) that there really is savings “in the mail.” In the meantime, make sure you read the fine print!

Do you have any worthless savings stories or examples? Share below.