Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Something heartwarming happened the other day that I wanted to record and share so that I did not forget, but also because I think there is something wonderful in this event, though I am not quite sure how to describe it. I will try to explain it without cheapening anything.

We had a small birthday party for my son Elijah who just turned two. It was intended that we were not to make a huge deal about his birthday because he was only turning two, and although made aware that it was his birthday, he himself would have been just as excited had we told him it was anyone else’s birthday. So Brandi invited “only family” to the party in order to keep it small, but she is from a Portuguese family and inevitably if you are throwing a party, and provide good food, there will be nearly 50 people there even with some absent. So we had a small party for my son, who turned two.

I wish to explain also that I love birthdays, especially my own, but other’s as well. I love them because they are at their core a celebration of life. Whenever I pray at a birthday party now, I always thank God for the person whose birthday it is, and for all of us. It is a wonderful opportunity to praise him for the miracle of birth. This day was for Eli, but it was not him alone who I was thankful for that day.

Elijah was busy as we set up for the party as most two-year-olds are. He was excited to be at his Grandma’s house because she has a lot of dogs, a lot of things to play with, and children simply enjoy a change of scenery. A few people arrived on time, and among them was Brandi’s father who brought with him his wife and also Brandi’s grandparents.

My children are blessed enough to have seven of eight great-grandparents still alive, and three of them were at his party. Now grandpa and grandma Tavares are now in their eighties and as people at that age often are, they are a bit slower than they used to be, in fact recently Grandpa has begun to sit in a wheel chair as walking has become too strenuous. So once they arrived, Grandpa was pushed up to the end of one of the tables.

Immediately some people waited on him as some chips with dip were brought out and some lemonade as well. Now up to this point, Elijah had been acting a bit shy. Whenever there are a lot of people coming around, children get a bit shy, but my son overcame his initial reclusivness as soon as food arrived. He sat himself next to Grandpa Tavares and began to snack on chips with him.

I was seated at a table parallel to their’s and sensed that I ought to pay attention to the pair for no other reason than to observe. Both Grandpa and Eli were given a plate with chips and a cup of lemonade. The bowl with dip was moved to their end of the table and they were pleasantly munching away on the salty snack. After making sure that neither needed anything, everyone else went into the house leaving Grandpa and his great-grandson to snack together.

I cannot say that the pair was even aware of me though I made to effort to hide, only to not disturb the scene. It was simple but made me smile to watch the patriarch of the family dine with one of his many children. They both ate some chips with Grandpa coaching Elijah when he got too much dip or some dripped on the table. I smiled as I observed an example of the natural progression of raising a family before me.

Then Elijah, thirsty from the chips, drank all of his lemonade. When he finished he checked his cup to ensure that he had in fact finished, and upon confirming that there was indeed no more drink in his cup he held it up to Grandpa and asked him for more. I nearly stood up worried that because Grandpa was confined to the chair that I would have to get my son some more, but Grandpa proved generous and resourceful. He took Eli’s cup from him and preceded to gingerly poor some from his own cup into the young boy’s. When satisfied that Elijah had enough he gently placed the cup back on the table, Elijah thanked him in the sweet and pure way that children do, and sipped his cup once more.

It was a subtle and perhaps unimportant exchange to most people, but to me it was beautiful. I watched as a man in his eighties, having done so much throughout his life, enjoy a personal moment with his great-grandson. In that instant my mind flashed to Abraham and I was reminded of what is important in life.

When I am old and nearing the return to my father, I do not pray for fame or fortune, but family. That is all I want. Family. It is so much more important than the rest. Fame fades, fortunes are spent, but family grows. Grandpa and Grandma have six children (one has preceded them home), fifteen or so grandchildren, and another seventeen odd great-grandchildren. That is priceless. No one can take away the legacy that they have left because it is not something that can be forgotten or lost; it is living and breathing in the people who look to them as father and mother. That is my ultimate goal. To be Grandpa, sitting at the table and pouring lemonade for my children. Nothing else seems superior in comparison.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Black smoke rises up from a burning fire in the middle of the dense dark forest.
Red flames dance in the night like fierce warriors after a victorious battle.
Green trees tower high into the sky, forever reaching for the heavens.
Yellow leaves fall from branches retiring to the soil after a long years work.
Blue, cold, rushing water runs past nearby in a hurry to get wherever it is going.
Grey clouds float lazily through the air saving their strength for a later engagement.
White snow caps the tall majestic mountains like a hat on the head of a boy.
Our pink lips, embraced now and forever, unaffected.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


It has been moderately spread around at school that I have a book published. I have been getting used to the varied responses from people. Some people say something like, “that is awesome, wow, amazing,” and others are like, “how many have you sold?” It is frustrating, but I have been making a bit of a game of it. I now like to answer any response with a question. If I get a “oh that is wonderful!” I like to respond, “really? Is it?” It is a bit rude, but helps me to sense whether or not the person is sincere in their enthusiasm. It turns out that most people who are enthusiastic have no intention of ever reading the book. When I get the “how many have you sold?” I now like to answer, “how many do you think?” If they say something really high like “one million,” I point out that I am teaching full time and most understand that had I sold a million copies that I would not be teaching. Mostly people are impressed with a couple hundred which is good because that is how many I have sold.

So something interesting happened recently which stung a little bit. I was in the “lunch room” and some teachers were chatting over a collection of old and bazaar books that someone received from their uncle or something. Many of them were poorly written and or silly. One of the teachers present is an English teacher. She is also a writer and working to publish a book. Though I do not know the details of her efforts to publish and have not read two words of anything she wrote I understand that it has been difficult based on comments from other people. So someone asked why if so many crappy books were published why can’t she get published. A very astute question because a lot of crappy books are published and I suspect that there are a lot of worthwhile authors that cannot get published. Then to my shegrin another teacher reminded everyone that I am published to which she shot back, “well, if you are willing to pay for it, of course you can get published.” OUCH!!! That hurt. Though there was nothing said that is not the truth. In fact I have resigned myself to trying to land a “real” publisher, though I believe that Tate is a “real” publisher that requires “co-investment.” I understand that a small publisher has difficulty competing in a very competitive market while trying to publish all new books from all new authors. No doubt that is very challenging. Still I have been less than pleased with Tate and hope to find another publisher. Keep your fingers crossed and I am glad that said teacher chose to point that fact out to me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kids Just Don't Understand

As I believe I explained earlier I reread The Red Badge of Courage in order to teach it to a group of students who are the “Academic Decathlon” team at our High School. I love the book because it is so deep and psychological and because of the amazing description of the battle. The students I taught it to hated it. I could not understand. They said things like, “it is boring,” “nothing happened” “it was confusing.” I told them that it was supposed to be confusing because war is confusing and the main character was confused. That was the whole point, but they missed it. They were complaining about Henry changing his mind all the time, but they did not get that war was confusing thus the main character was confused. It makes perfect sense but not to them. Then I told them about my book and they said that they would like it. I have no doubt that they would. My book is a result of pressures to entertain. It is exciting and fast paced. They would like it.

Therein lies my revelation. Many books are entertaining. That is what sells. Many books that are considered “masterpieces” are not as entertaining. Students and adults alike find them boring. I myself have never understood the likes of Falkner, and Knowls, yet they are considered masters. So here is the issue. Do I want to be popular or good? It seems that one cannot be both. Perhaps there are some who manage it, but I cannot name any. I personally feel that Twain, and Orwell among others manage it, but others would even find them boring. I do not know how to reconcile this, but it disturbs me. I suppose I will have to first go for popular and then hope for masterpiece. Both are probably years off, but I have to start somewhere, and The Sureshot was the start.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Writer Anxiety

I have been dying to write more, but continue to be derailed by teaching and coaching among other things. Still I have been learning some things about writing, and have been able to reflect more on my book and revise the second one. I am still on track to finish editing before the New Year and to begin working on getting it published. I am excited about it, but wish that could do it full time. I imagine being able to make my own “writing” room and write as I feel like it. Of course becoming the “full time” writer means dealing with deadlines and pressure to keep writing. I even worry about what happens if I run out of things to write about. What happens when I write something excellent and then cannot match it again? What happens if my writing becomes stale and predictable? What will I do if I cannot sell any books after years of writing full time?

Oh well. I suppose I don’t have to worry about those things yet since I have not even reached the point where I can write full time, and may not, thus relieving me of my need to answer these questions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Book Review: The Red Badge of Courage

This book changed me as a reader and a writer when I was in high school. I know it sounds strange but as I was reading this book in 10th grade and we were going over it together in class I knew that it was a great book and some how it made sense to me. It was a break through to actually see the things that the teacher was talking about. It sucks to sit in class and have the teacher explain why Faulkner is such an amazing author, but hate reading his books. That was not the case with this one. I loved it from the first time I read it. I loved the naturalistic writing style that Crane used and the psychological battle that the main character goes through. This book is so much more enjoyable than simply reading about the Civil War. The writing style is amazing, the scenes are vivid and the emotions extreme. The action is different than what some readers are no doubt used to because Crane has a tendency to describe emotions and feelings rather than actual action, but I love that too. It is short enough to read through in an afternoon if you were focused enough and I recommend it. I loved it even more the second time.

Steinbeck my insperation

Back at the end of September my wife and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary by getting away from our kids for a few days. We went to the coast (Monterey, CA) and had a great time. Because we are not especially exciting now that we have kids we went to the Steinbeck museum in Salinas. It was totally fun! We got to see a film about him and look at all the cool exhibits they made from his books. It was pretty cool. Excerpts from his work was all over the walls and there was even audio and video from them as well. It was awesome to see the collection of work from such a talented man. I have enjoyed all of the books that I have read from him including: Of Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat. I want to read others and my wife recently read East of Eden, and said it was fabulous. I look forward to reading it as well. It can be intimidating to read something that is a masterpiece, but it reminds me how far I need to go before I will “arrive” and perhaps I never will. It also encourages me that until writing Tortilla Flat in his thirties, Steinbeck was relatively unsuccessful as a writer. There is hope. Anyways I have always been inspired by Steinbeck since reading Tortilla Flat in high school and I recommend his work to anyone.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Still busy with no better excuse

I know I have been bad about blogging again, but I simply cannot help it. I am not only teaching now, serving on the deacon’s board, trying to be a loving husband and father, but now I have also added coaching soccer to the list of things that I have to do. It is a blast but it leaves me really busy. I have not had a lot of time to work on my book, but I did manage to finish reading it myself and I was pleased with the way in which the book ended. It needs plenty of spit and polish, but it is going to be good. I have also promised myself that I would rewrite the beginning by the end of November. I hopefully will have time during Thanksgiving break to do a little writing, and I plan on finishing all of the editing before the end of the year so that I can send it out after the new-year. That is my plan anyways. We’ll see how it goes. Besides that enjoy some of the things that I will post over the next couple of days as I try to not look like a completely lame blogger. I also would like to write a couple short stories and have been working on the outline for them so look out for those over the next couple months. Thanks, love you all. Ok well not you, but everyone else.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Book Review: The Saga of the Volsungs

Alright I know I have been bad about getting to my book reviews, but here is one anyways. I read a few of these already months ago but that is the way it is and there is nothing I can do about it now. One of the books was a short albeit interesting book called The Saga of the Volsungs. It is a very old German epic about similar heroes that you might find in Homer’s tales or some other cultures folk lore. It was fun to read. First of all it is very fantastic, dragons and dwarves and such. I wonder if the Romans were dwarves to the Norse? Anyways, it was strange but good, and at one point I thought that I detected a sent of Arthur in the tale. I recommend it if you are into Homer and the like, otherwise stay clear.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hills and Holes

When I was a child,
I ran about,
Playing in the thick mud,
Reading books every night,
Sleeping so softly,
On clouds so high,
With not a care in mind.

I fell in a deep hole,
Dark and damp,
The monster of puberty,
Dragged me down into its’ depths,
I slaved with my pen and paper,
And wrote unintelligible things,
My head was heavy with thought.

Alas, I climbed out,
And rose high atop a hill,
Now I shout what I might,
Smiling in the warm sun light,
Playing under the bright sky,
I nap ever so happily,
And I capture the words of the heart,
With a mind as clear as life.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Too Much

You say “I love you” still mist I request,
If yours is truly love substantially laid.
Methinks your love so shallow you have made,
If I had dove into your love at last,
My skull would I have cracked in half; so see,
To me is love a special thing, untouched.
I once had loved and found what love could be.
I long to love, have love returned as such.
And I would die to have such love from thee,
So stop, a little more could be, too much.

Bad Blogger

I am sorry I have turned into a bad blogger. I have not been very punctual or consistent blogging lately, but have no real reason why except the one everyone uses, "I am busy." I get tired of saying that however and so I won't anymore. I have not really written anything lately or read anything lately and it is really bothering me. I think that I will read tonight before I go to bed, and set a goal to write something this week. I have about one hundred ideas, but I can't find the time. It is funny that no matter who we are that none of us can ever buy more time. It is the scarcest resource around. Anyways, I watched 300 the movie this weekend, and it was good, very violent, but not as historical as I would have liked, or more importantly, as I suspected it would be, so I was disappointed. My students did not like my critique of the movie they feel is the best of the year, but what do they know? Anyways, I will leave you with a poem that I wrote a long time ago because I have nothing else. Sorry.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Unusual suspects

I have been insanely busy lately, in fact too busy to finish editing my second book. However, I have a fan reading the manuscript and I am interested to see what he thinks. I really want to rewrite the first chapter and send it off to publishers to see what they think, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Otherwise I am pleased to say that the Sureshot continues to get reviewed well by people I talk to. If nothing else, it has been awesome to see some of my students read it. I have lent a couple of copies to students who were interested in reading it and the result has been amazing. Every day I see them now they tell me about the parts they read since last I saw them. They are excited about reading! These two young men are not the type to read either. They both admitted that they do not normally like to read, but that they are reading my book at a fast pace. One young man wanted to be allowed to ignore my economics lesson so that he could read in a corner instead. I really wished I could have let him, but it would not have been the responsible teacher thing to do, so I made him put it down and do work with the rest of class. Still I am thrilled that my students are enjoying it. If they love it, perhaps with a little marketing, other kids will love it too. If only I was a good salesman.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Treading Water

I have been teaching now for three weeks and let me tell you that it is not easy. I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off most of the time. I have two different subjects to teach (world history and economics), and 6 classes of about 40 kids each. It has been tough. I have not drowned yet however, nor have I had a nervous breakdown. I have gotten irritated regularly, but I started drinking to compensate. (Just kidding). Still it has been fun. I have joked around a bit when I get tired, and that helps. The frustration comes from not being totally prepared. I want to have dynamic lessons and to have kids excited about the subject, but to be honest it has not always worked. Sometimes the lessons are boring and kids could not care less about say the Enlightenment. Can I blame them? A bunch of dead frogs and brits who had a bunch of ideas, albeit good ones. Kids like blood and guts, (and poop but I have not found a way to incorporate that one yet). So it has been boring this week. Oh well. Next week I look forward to hitting them with everything I have and I hope that they will respond.

On another note, I keep reading a little of the Sureshot 2 here and there, and I am looking forward to getting to my test readers. I will let you know how that goes.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

First Week

I finished my first week of teaching. It was really fun. Of course we didn't have to do much but get to know each other and go over some rules which they are already testing, but it was fun nonetheless. When we start doing work next week no doubt their opinions will change, but for now they love me. I have experienced the same thing that I have run into since writing the Sureshot, and that is that everyone is very impressed that I wrote a book, and no one wants to buy it. Oh well, I guess that is how it goes. I am looking forward to the day when my own family does not even read my books. I am sure it will happen. Sometimes I think that they are just appeasing me anyways by reading the first one. I had one student ask me, "did you sell like a million copies on the first day?" I promptly responded with a little logic, "had I sold a million copies in one day, would I be teaching?" I couldn't help myself. The truth is that I may very well teach if I enjoy it as much as I do now, but the day I sell a million copies is probably far off and so I will just keep teaching for now. I set a goal to write full time (and pay the bills) ten years after completing my first book. That was one year ago, and so I have nine to go. Anyways I will keep everyone updated on how the school year is progressing and when there is news about my writing.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I Actually Like It!!!

I have read more than half of my book and I actually like it. I mean, I knew I was going to like it, but I really like it. I am surprised by how good it is, for a first draft anyways. It starts slow, and I need to rewrite the beginning, but I knew that. I also need to add some detail, but other than that, and some other things, but it is good. Ok it is not good yet, but I can see the potential and I am excited about it. I am dismayed, but beginning to except how much work there still is to do once I finish a draft. It is not ready for acquisition staff to read yet, but it will be. Once I and my wife have read over it, I am going to have three people, who have read the first book read this one and give me advice. There are a few things that I find are difficult for me to see in my own book.

The first thing that is difficult is describing scenes that I can see clearly in my mind. I forget sometimes that I have an image of what things look like and do not always explain a scene effectively. My wife is good at pointing out what these scenes are. She marks what it is she wants to know more about and I gladly elaborate because I already know, I just didn't write it.

The second thing that I have difficulty noticing when I write is when I do not give enough detail about the characters. I know in my mind what they are thinking, feeling, etc. but do not always make that clear to the reader, and since the reader is the most important person, it is good to have someone read it over and tell me where they thought it was lacking.

But overall I think that this will be a good book. The people who enjoyed the first will most likely enjoy the second and that is good enough for me. I will continue writing, and have many, many, many projects to work on. I only hope that I find time to do it before next summer. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 06, 2007


I finally finished The Sureshot 2 (I am still not saying what I call it). It was tough. Friday I was furiously punching away on my computer as my children ran around fighting with each other, the phone kept ringing and... ok I can't think of another distraction, but I was distracted. Well I got diner ready and then sat down to write the last paragraph. It feels great. This one is longer and I think better. Besides that I have now written two books. Maybe I can be a writer. I must admit that there was doubt. On some days writing seemed so tedious that I wanted to delete the whole thing and give up. I was worried that I wouldn't finish before school started when finishing was going to be even more difficult, but I did. Ah, I feel good. Anyways, I still have a lot of work to do revising it and editing it, but the worst is over. I can't wait to see it in print.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Performance Enhancing Drugs

I have been smoking lately. Not cigarettes, I mean that I have been writing a lot in the last couple of days. I have to admit however that it is not all me. I have been aided by performance enhancing drugs. Coffee and Pepsi. I did not want to do it you see, but there was so much pressure to perform that it felt like I had to in order to live up to expectations. It is sad really and I am ashamed of myself, but it is true, I have been doping.

It all started when I was trying to write this book you see. Writing is difficult. It takes a lot of time, concentration, creativity, and patience. I used to be able to do it easier when I was young, but I am getting older and my body does not bounce back as easily as it once did. Besides that I have two young children now and they distract me from my writing. I did not know what to do. There were a lot of people expecting me to finish this book before summer was over and with the deadline closing in; I chose to take coffee and Pepsi.

I know it is wrong, and I know that it is bad for my body, but I decided that the benefits outweighed the risks. What is worse is that I am high right now. I have had three cups of coffee this morning. It is an amazing drug. I have written 5,000 words in only an hour or so. I have blocked out all the whining and fighting of my children in order to do this, and this is all after getting little sleep last night. I could not have done this without the aid of coffee, so I have to say that I have no regrets.

I did what I did because I want to perform for my fans. I want to do whatever I can for them, and if sacrificing my body will accomplish that, then so be it. As I down the last bit of my coffee I ask that you do not judge me, but instead that you understand how hard it is to be me, and understand that what I did, I did for you. Not me or my ego or for fame and fortune, but for my fans. That's right; I am not a selfish self-centered egotistical superstar, but rather a humble servant, slave to pleasing those who love me.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Words Words Words

I have been moving well on the second installment of the Sureshot lately and hope I can keep it up because I would very much like to have the draft completed by the end of next week (cross your fingers). I have been totally obsessed with how many words it is going to be and have my computer count them nearly every five minutes. I wish I could have a running counter, but instead I have to click my word counter when I want an update. This is nothing new. When I wrote the Sureshot I was even more obsessed with how many words it was because I had no sense of how long my book was going to be. As it was it ended up being a bit shorter than I would have liked. It was just over 70,000 words and was published at 214 pages. This one will end up being a bit longer and is already over 72,000 words (72,681 to be exact), and I still have quite a few more pages to write, let alone all of the words I will add once I revise. I am hoping that this book ends up being around 100,000 words, but that may be pushing it, and I do not know how good that will be considering the length of the first book. See, I told you I was obsessed with word count.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Battle of Oneself

The roads stretch on and on all around,
Dry and hot for miles not a single sound.
Thoughts bounce in the skull with much speed,
Contemplating the most current and basic need.

Don’t halt the inevitable journey for long,
Soon tired ears will fill with lovely song.
Keep treading and the body will always reach,
A place some imagine is as sweet as a peach.

It can be reached when the will is great.
Iron builds strong tall bounding gates.
Open to small paths leading to the beating.
It will beat loud and clear forever needing.

Enter the fortress if you posses the courage.
Only in mastery of fear will you receive suffrage,
From the dark prison, built around us all.
Breath easy, your safe, so stand tall.


I have not posted in several days, but that is a good sign for anyone hoping to read the second installment of the Sureshot within the next decade. I keep saying it, but I really am nearly finished. I have been working, some times tediously, but inching my way through the end of the book. It needs a bit of revision, but I believe that it will be better than the first. I am going to explore some publishing options if my publisher balks at putting it out, and I am excited about that. Other wise I have been doing the usual busy father/husband things. Taking kids to places, picking up toys, and looking for a new house. All of these things have slowed my progress, but I still believe I will have a draft completed within the next two weeks. I will then begin reading it to find out what the heck I actually wrote, and then probably changing a significant amount. I am also interested in having a few people who read the first book read this one to get their opinions before sending it to any publishers. Since I have small, ok very small, but loyal group of fans, I thought it might be very helpful for them to read it, just to get another point of view. Anyways, I am going to try to finish the chapter I am on so I need to get to it. It sounds like both kids are awake now, so I am not sure how that will work, but I got a new CD to listen to so I hope that will help me focus on my task. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Writing is hard

I was doing so well. Really I was. I wrote about 20,000 words in a couple of weeks and I thought that I was going to be finished with Sureshot 2 by the end of July. While there is still an outside chance of that happening, it is not looking good. I lost my steam. I do not know where it went, but I think that the vacation on the coast did not help. I was in the "zone" before we went for the weekend, and when I returned the zone had faded. I am having trouble finding it again, and writing has been grueling. I wish it came easy all the time, but right now I seem to find anything else to do but write. For instance, I should be writing instead of blogging (which is writing of course, but not the same). Tonight I vow to get unstuck. I think I know how to do it. All I do is write no matter how painful until I get in the flow again. It is a bit like running, if you will entertain an analogy for a moment. You never want to start, and when you do it seems painful at first, but then your muscles loosen up and your blood starts to flow and you begin to enjoy yourself. Ok, maybe not everyone feels the same about running, but you get the point. I am going to sit here and type until the words start to flow again. No doubt I will have to rewrite the pages I produce while I am dreading it, but that is part of the process. Ok no more delays. I am off....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Book Review: Pig Island

Before writing my review, I would like to point out that I do not read thriller novels even though they are so popular currently. This is not for any real reason except that I have not found the time really. So I had few expectations when I read this book.

It begins very well. The author, Mo Hayder, draws readers in right away with action and mystery. The premise was exciting: there is a mysterious cult on an island and a journalist is going out to interview them. He has a history with their leader, and wants to find him. However,I was very interested from the beginning. I was immediately disappointed with the lack of character development, especially with the main character, Joe. Descriptions and details were good as was the dialogue, but there was something missing. I wanted to know more about Joe, but I was left wanting.

In the first part of the book all of the cult members are killed and Joe “saves” the daughter of the man responsible who has a deformity, a tail. This is what most of the controversy surrounded. Some people thought that she was a demon or something that Malachi, the groups founder had summoned. The author even uses the term biform, and has some of the people calling Malachi’s creature Pan or Satan, but does not go into this idea at all. It is sort of added to give the illusion of religious significance, but she does not support the use of the words and terms with any information. She also uses Bible versus but they seem to be out of place. At one point she used the story of Jesus healing a man named Legion because of all the demons in him. It seemed to fit given that they were on pig island, but the author decided to have Malachi stick the heads of the pigs on sticks, but never said why and skirted the issue by adding “I’m not sure even he (Malachi) knew.” I was not excited about that omission. It seemed she used it just because it would be exciting and scary, but it came off as lazy.

There was an attempt to develop an interesting character in Joe’s wife Lex. She came with him to Scotland, and their marriage is not going well, and she is seemingly in love with a doctor that she previously worked for. This is great. I thought that the author had solved the problem of having weak characters by creating Lex, but then…she killed Lex. I was mad at this point. The only interesting character and she was dead. Hayder had a girl with a tail, and tried to build some sort of interesting character out of that (which is already pretty interesting) but the tail girl turns out to be a tart, and totally loses her appeal to me.

The book started off well, and lost its momentum early and in my mind never regained it. The last 300 plus pages of the book were mostly the suspense of “where is Malachi? He is haunting me! I am scared of him!” It was not enough to carry the book. And then in the last fifty pages the book twists, turns and then ends. I was disappointed. Especially since I saw it coming. It was all too obvious. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but you will see it coming too I suspect. If not then maybe you will love it, but to me I had to wait through a lot of pages that were suddenly talking about bestiality and strange sexual perversions just to get to the twist. Anticlimactic if you ask me.

Anyways, I would not recommend this book. I repeat that I have not read much in the genre, but I suspect that there are better writers with better characters, and more consistent writing from beginning to the end.

Vacation Reflection

Ok, so I learned a few things after the few days at the beach. One is that it is really hard to get work done. I did not write a single word on anything, let alone work on my manuscript. I knew this already as I elaborated in my previous post, but it was reinforced this weekend. It turns out that even as we left on Saturday, I was sick. I spent all of Saturday, Sunday, and most of Monday near a toilette, and finally I recovered enough to enjoy myself a bit by Monday night.

The second this is that there is not much to do at the beach. Pretty much the beach is it. Since I do not like the beach all that much (it's the sand) I have little to do there. My children are also a bit young to spend much time on the beach all at once so we went down in the morning and then in the afternoon. It is nice, but I am not much of a beach fan. I prefer mountains and hiking and such.

Thirdly, I want to retract my previous statement about people reading on vacation. I picked up a book while I was there (one that people leave for others to enjoy) and read through it in a couple of days. It was very relaxing. I suspect that people read while they are on vacation because we often do not get a lot of time during their busy lives to just sit and read all day. It was great. I read a 500 page book in two days! How often does that happen? Not very. So I now advocate for reading while on vacation because it is very relaxing, and I might add, a bit more stimulating than watching cable.

This is the final thing I learned: there is nothing worthwhile on TV. We do not have cable at home, because it is costly, and we are not TV advocates, but in the house we were staying in there was cable. So like a couple of starved castaways, we ate it up the moment we got there. The kids watched cartoons, my wife watched the home and garden channel, and I watched ESPN. It was great. For a couple of days. Then it was boring. And it was so hard to find something interesting to watch. I think that there are so many channels now that they cannot possibly all have something interesting on, so they have their one or two shows that are good to get people watching and the rest of the time they hope that what they have on will be interesting enough to get people who do not want to do anything but sit on the couch something to stare at while they waste their time. I was not impressed, and will not be getting cable any time soon. With that I will say that if nothing else the trip was restful even though I was sick for most of it, and I am glad to be back in Fresno where it is hot and miserable, yet still home.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Weekend Retreat

We are going away for the weekend and I am going to take my computer and writing notes with me in case I am motivated to write while I am there. I know that there are a lot of writers who like to go somewhere else to write, but I have not yet understood that. Maybe I will this weekend. Whenever I go somewhere interesting or beautiful I want to enjoy it, not write. I write best when I have nothing else to do, or when there is something I am supposed to do that I don't want to do. It is complicated, I know. I never understood why people go all the way to Hawaii just to sit around and read. Speaking of reading I saw something interesting Wednesday night. I went to the movies with my dad and a friend of mine late to watch Pirates 3. I had already seen it and since it is so long I got up to go to the bathroom. While I was returning I noticed a couple sitting on a bench in the theater lobby. They were both reading. I asked the man if they were waiting for their kids or something and he told me that they were. Their kids were in the movies while the parents sat outside and read. I thought it was really funny. Anyways, I have a lot more things to talk about because I just finished my yard work (that is when I get a lot of ideas) but it will have to wait until next week.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Somehow Surviving

Water runs swiftly through a deep forest,
Like hot blood through my veins.
Grass soft and green tickles my skin,
Easing my nagging pains.
Falling without hope of regaining control,
Only with an outstretched hand have I a chance.
Colorful fragments of consciousness stream,
Before my eyes as a majestic dance.
Dreams engulf my mind drowning,
What little sanity remained.
Crying softly in the deep night,
Longing for a stability to be maintained.
Loving the state of companionship,
I strive for every day.
Hating the mess it leaves me in,
And the price I must pay.
Living regardless of obstruction,
Surviving the game of predator and prey.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Change of Clothes

A woman of stature enters
Tall and elegant she glides
What is it though, at the center?
Her beautiful, sparkling dress hides
The black ugliness is on the inside.

No one can see through her style
She is a glimmering example of perfection
An illness has infected her for awhile
Still her clothes make her look like a confection
I appall her brilliant deception.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Update on the Sureshot

A few things have happened with the Sureshot lately. The first and most important is that I contacted my publisher Tate and once again raised the issue of there being errors in the book. I had already gone through and noted all of them so that they could be fixed, but I continued to get copies with errors. They are all very nice at Tate however, and appeared to have addressed the issue once and for all. The second thing is that it continues to get reviewed well by people who read it. I think that I have finally accepted that it is fairly well written, and if not that, at least it is entertaining. There is one issue that has come up with a couple of readers, and that is the issue of names. Some people were a bit overwhelmed by some of the names that I made up for the book. Some asked me to tone the names down for the second. I considered it, and reviewed some of the more common fantasy books, and found that in all of them there are difficult names. It seems that names come with the territory. And why not? After all, I have made up a whole world, with different languages and cultures. Why then would there not be foreign sounding names? I think that it is more authentic. In fact I have gone to great pains in name creating in order to make it authentic, and I am not going to abandon that for a more reader friendly naming system. Is everyone supposed to have an American name? That would be silly. No, they will have names based on what I developed to be individual cultures and language types. Sorry, I won't budge on this one. In other areas I am interested in advice, but for now I have made a decision on names.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I have started writing consistently again. If fact I have been writing since last week, I just have been so busy doing it that I did not get around to blogging about it. I was quite relieved actually because I really looked forward to finishing the Sureshot 2, and wanted to do so before I began teaching in August, but the first week of vacation did not go so well. I almost ruined any chance I had of writing by buying a couple of video games for my Playstation, but it seems that my video game addiction was broken by months of intense studying without the joy of Playstation. I played for a couple of days, but went right back to writing, and have written nearly every day for the past week. I am almost finished with the first draft, which is the most challenging part for me. Reviewing and rewriting is not as difficult for me once I get the story from beginning to end. The end is great by the way. I nearly wrote it out as I was outlining. I know writers and actors always say that the sequel is better than the first (which is usually a lie), but this one really is going to be better. I can't wait to finish it, and I hope others can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Writer's Block

Ok so I was really excited about writing again, so I sat down at my computer the other day to get started and I didn't know what to write. It seems that after so many months of a story sitting on the shelf that I forgot what I was going to write. I have an idea, but I don't know for sure. So I decided to go back and read what I wrote already. This has helped, but I am still not sure. I didn't write any notes on it the last time I wrote, but I have note for what to write afterwards. Maybe I should just skip over the chapter I am on and write the ones after it. I don't know. I hope I figure it out soon. Besides that I am very happy that it is summer. I really felt like it was vacation yesterday because I finished writing my final assignment. I have an exit interview on Friday, but I am not worried about that. Wait, I think I just figured out what to write...gotta go.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Educational Philosophy

As part of a class I had to write my educational philosophy. This is one of the last things that I had to write for a class. I am still not done, but I am anxious to be so that I can finish the Sureshot 2. I am on chapter 13, and cannot wait any longer to finish it. Anyways this is part of the essay that I wrote about my educational philosophy.

Learning is a very human activity, as is teaching. Parker Palmer wrote that we “teach who we are.” One could say that we also learn in a way that reflects who we are. This makes developing a standard methodology or philosophy to cover all teachers and all students challenging. Many people now deride the standard lecture model of instruction, yet at some level it can be effective for both teacher and learner. Project methods of instruction are effective for many students, but perhaps not all of them. For every student who excels under one school of thought, there is probably another who could do better if instructed in another fashion. In light of this my own educational philosophy is exactly that; my own. I cannot claim that the things I value in education are any better than what someone else might value, I can only say that they reflect me. I suspect that this is the just thing to do. As Socrates learned and Shakespeare echoed, the most important thing in life is “to thine own self be true.” With that in mind, I believe that learning is social, individual, and continuous.

Learning is social
Learning is, in my observation, best when done socially. I do not mean to say that people cannot learn alone, but rather that it can be enhanced through social contact. I am reminded of how many of the most astounding scientific discoveries were accomplished not by a single man working alone, but by a group of people working together to solve problems. One example that stands out is the Manhattan project. While Einstein may have provided the spark that led to nuclear capabilities, it was a whole team of physicists, engineers and others all working together to develop the atomic bomb. Often times writers will collaborate with other authors, and have editors to read and make suggestions before a book is published. I envision Socrates sitting around in Athens and the cohort that followed him around always challenging each other. Proverbs says “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I embrace that teaching with both arms. I know in my own life that I have always found learning most efficient and meaningful when there are other people to assist you.

I expect that learning is social because everyone brings with them individual experiences and perspectives. This allows a person to see something from a point of view that is different than their own. Most things look different depending on the angle you view them. For instance a house looks different from one side or another, or from above. We can only see one angle most of the time, so it is better to confer with people who have seen things from different angles. This is the advantage of social learning, and why I believe that learning is best when done socially.

Leaning is individual
Another important aspect of learning in my mind is that it is individual. I do not mean that it is done alone, thereby contradicting my previous statement, but rather that it reflects a persons previous experiences and learning. This is because, as I asserted in the previous argument, that everyone brings with them different experiences and perspectives into the classroom. This breaks down into a few different characteristics.

First of all we all, as I stated before, bring different experiences to the classroom. These differences are developed through race, religion, culture, environment, family, and a number of other factors that shape who we are. We cannot put these things aside easily, but instead carry them with us wherever we go. Even within the same country, state, and even city, there is a variety of experiences that cause people to assimilate information differently. Secondly, everyone learns at different rates and in different manners. One person may learn very well by simply reading something and discussing it for further understanding, while another person may need to hear something explained, while a third may need to experience it in a more hands on way. These differences are often referred to as learning modalities, and while most people can learn through all of them, there is normally one or two that are stronger in us.

Individualized learning in the classroom looks like this: the teacher gives a reading assignment to the class. They are supposed to read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. They read a few chapters at a time and discuss them in class while sometimes doing something hands on with relation to what they read. All of the students read the text and interact with it in an individual way. One student may relate to the suffering of the Joad family, while another may relate to the young woman Roseofsharon because she is young and pregnant. Still another may favor the social injustice of the Great Depression. All of these students react differently to the same text. I submit that there is no right way to respond to the text as long as students understand the plot and can sense the point that Steinbeck is making.

When the students discuss they can share their myriad of opinions about the book. This discussion will help those students who learn better through audio input. When they do assignments or projects related to the book they will all have individualized products, and this portion of the learning process will help the students who learn better through physical activity. All of the students learn something from the book, and may all learn similar things, but the book will not affect them all in the same way. Also, the students cement their understanding through different experiences whether they are physical, audio, or visual. As a final point I would like to underline that this individualized learning is taking place in a social setting, which was my first point. It is through sharing our learning and understanding that we truly can maximize our learning.

Learning is continuous
A final principle of learning is that it is continuous. We are learning all of the time, and always find new things to learn about. While it may sound very abstract, I believe that knowledge is infinite. No one person can know everything there is to know in the world. We may know a lot, and sometimes people like to suggest that we know more now than ever before, but even that is not necessarily true. Sure we know how to send emails, and drive a car, and microwave popcorn which are things people 500 years ago did not know, but then I don’t know how to churn butter, bake bread, clean a fish, or build a house. I suspect there are people who do, just not me. The point is that there is a lot of information that we do not know.

One of my goals as a teacher is to create students who will be lifelong learners. We all learn things passively, like who the Oakland Raiders drafted, or who is running for president in 08, but I want to create active learners, who will pursue things they are curious about. I want my students to go out and study something until they understand it. To ask questions until they get answers, and to seek knowledge until the find it. If we stop learning actively we will have no more to share with other people than we have right now. We will have no more understanding of the world around us than we have today. While for a few people who understand a great deal this might be acceptable, for the majority of us, there is still quite a few things that would do us well to understand. For that matter then, we need to continue learning for our entire lives, and not simply passive learning, but actively acquiring knowledge and understanding.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


This is an interesting poem because I wrote it as a high school student ten years ago. It is strange to read my poems from then. They are not masterful by any stretch of the imagination, but there is an interesting theme in them. I don't know why I had contempt for senators then, but it came through in this poem.

A child so beautiful and young,
Her life long journey had just begun.
A man with debts he cannot pay,
No longer can he keep the jealous rage at bay.
The lamb, sacrificed at his bloody hands.

Knocked down over and over by the world,
Brain fried like eggs and blood curdled.
Strolled into a low cost burger grill,
As if he did it every day, no hesitation to kill.
Laying down people like a stack of split logs.

A failed marriage and a terrible father,
Spending money, like a horse eating fodder.
Caught in a sticky web of deceit and lies,
He turns to the influential help of his ties.
Your only lying to your pathetic self.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Clouds cover the sun so bright
Shutting out the rays of its might
Bringing rain for the world below
When the time is right it might even snow
And below turmoil reigns supreme
Battling the evils of the storm so mean
Too little avail people continue in struggle
No ground does not carry a puddle
In this time so hopeless and dreary
Tomorrow the sun will wake up and shine.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Falling Stars

I gaze longingly above,
Towards the vast stars; I love,
To hold, the hand of such is bliss;
In losing that feeling, I would miss
My soul, falls lifelessly,
As driftwood, floating aimlessly.

Just once would I like,
For a star to take flight,
And fall from the majestic sky,
And behold it to mine eye.
Fall to my world bright star,
I can see you, not so far.

Writing Again

Finally the school year is almost over and today is the day that I begin writing what I want to write for once. I have a lot of blogging to catch up on too. I must have read another dozen books or so this spring so I will try to get around to reviewing them on this site. I also have written a few things that I will try to blog. Besides that I am interested in any advice for the Sureshot 2. I have a title for it already but for now I am calling it Sureshot 2. Anyways, I hope you all enjoy what I have to offer. Here is another poem for you all until I get something more substantial going.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Position Paper Rebuttle (read the previous post first)

After writing the paper, and indeed before I finished, I had convinced myself that in fact what I was writing was false. I did not belive what Joel Spring was arguing was fair and accurate. Instead I believed that there was good reason why so many groups take an interest in education. So I wrote a response to my own essay. It is not nearly as formal or even well edited. I wrote it in frustration and even a bit of anger. I hope you like it...I call it, "Breaking the Mold."

I find the statement by Neil Postman to be frivolous and near-sighted, despite having just written a paper to support it, I now decided that I am against it. He makes the claim that somehow there are too many people interested in the school and therefore too many people affecting education. I want to first submit that it is natural for many people to be interested in education since we rely on it to educate entire generations of students and have so since very early in our nations history. In fact, without public education there would likely not be much of a nation, or it would be much more factional than it is now. Secondly there is nothing wrong with equality of opportunity in this nation, at least that the problem does not lie in some institution or community, but rather in the nature of people in general. I contend that there is no chance of creating a perfect educational system from imperfect people. Lastly I did not appreciate the narrow statistics that Joel Spring uses to attack education and American society in general.
Firstly it is important to accept that education is in fact influenced by politics and rightly so. After all, it is the politicians who have ordered money to be collected from income earning people to then pay for education of this nation’s youth. This is regardless of whether a wage earner has children in the school system or not. The educational system is founded and supported by the government. What then should the government do? Leave it to its own devices? Politics birthed education, it must continue to raise it and support it. To do otherwise would be foolish. Furthermore there was complaint about patriotism and teaching citizenship in public schools. It is the American system and government offering free public education, therefore it is fair to expect a little love in return. A little patriotism never hurt anybody, and trying to make students better citizens won’t either. After all, what should we teach them? To be subversive government hating terrorists who desire to bomb government offices and kill people who support the evil system? Educators in other nations are already doing a good job of that, we need not assist them.

Who then will monitor and steer the freight train that is public education if not government? There must be an engineer or the train will derail, but whom? Should there be a committee of educators selected then set free to make decisions with no oversight? Or perhaps Spring should stage an educational coup and seize control of public education in the name of what is good and fair and right like some communist revolutionary. The point is that there is no way to separate public education from politics, they go hand in hand.

Secondly there is the issue over society influencing public education. This too seems like a ludicrous issue to discuss. Public education is meant to serve society, therefore social groups take an interest in it. It is not unnatural or wrong. Spring complains about the attempts to teach morals in a school setting. Should they do otherwise? He complains that it is difficult to find a common moral agenda to follow given the diversity of our cultural landscape. I agree with him on this point, that is why it is important to allow all school districts to develop what they feel is good and just on their own. Community schools train community children in the agreed upon standards of the community. Are there likely to be some people who descent? Of course, but in democracy the majority often prevails and in this case they should. Why should the social groups be left out of the discussion when they are the people who the schools are designed to serve? What is the alternative? Teachers who teach against what the parents of students sitting in their classrooms teach? That is more unjust than the current situation. That is minority rule, and it is undemocratic. For a few people who think they know-it-all, ala Joel Spring, to make all the decisions is not good practice. There is nothing wrong with the social structures’ involvement in education, in fact it is a facet of democratic life.

After attacking both politics and society, Spring went for the trifecta by blaming educational shortcomings on business. While this is a very Marxist thing to do, I will not go as far as to call him a pinko-commie. Instead I would like to continue my observation that his blame is misplaced. American companies rely on American students to continue to make American products and to provide American services to Americans (if you are counting I squeezed in the word American five times, oops now it is six). They should then be concerned with the public education of Americans from the top (universities) down (primary schools). After all their success depends on quality employees. Now this may seem like a selfish thing, and indeed it may be, but it is also beneficial for all Americans that American companies do well because the American economy counts on it. If public education were to only produce students who knew how to paint abstractly and write haikus then business leaders would be forced to find suitable employees elsewhere which would raise the unemployment rate, especially among the abstract painters and haiku writers now that there is a surplus of them. Business pays a lot of money in taxes every year, much of which goes to education (half of taxes in many states), so I see nothing wrong in them wanting to know how their money is being spent, and how well their future employees are being trained. It is only natural.

Finally there is the issue of inequality in education. There is a “Savage Inequality” they say and it affects everyone except the white male. Indeed this is a tremendous problem and Spring unleashes a swarm of statistics to prove his point. However, I believe in what Mark Twain when he said “there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” These numbers while no doubt they are accurate, are used to prove inequality in education and do not factor in other issues. Firstly I would like to state that I do not believe that absolute equality is possible in a fallen world such as ours. I have seen no evidence of it anywhere in history nor anywhere on the planet currently on any large scale.

But back to more scientific arguments. Spring uses statistics that show that women who have the same degrees men do receive less pay. I do not doubt that this is true, but it is only the surface. If we were to go deeper I believe that we would find that there is a difference in the types of degrees and therefore the types of jobs that men and women favor. For instance, women are by far the majority in education, yet degrees in education do not net one very significant pay. Even masters and doctorates in education do not significantly increase the level of income. Meanwhile men are the majority in fields like law enforcement, criminal justice, and engineering. All of which pay better than educational jobs. Can we say then that there is a “savage inequality” because a woman with a bachelors of arts degree in liberal arts who teaches third grade does not receive the same pay as a man with a bachelors or science degree in engineering who works developing jet planes? Or perhaps Spring would like to see everyone with the same level of education receiving the same pay. Oh wait that would make him a pinko-commie, of which he clearly is not, so no doubt he would find that suggestion silly. I make more money that my wife’s stepsister who has a masters degree. I am a teacher with a mere bachelors degree. Is there an inequality? Spring would say yes. I studied history to become a history teacher. But it turns out that in my wife’s stepsister’s (Corina) infinite wisdom, she studied Chicano women’s studies to become a blockbuster video clerk. Her degree has no market, mine does. The point is that there are more factors than are being presented.
But wait! What about race? Surely there is a “savage inequality” when it comes to race and social class. The poor just keep getting poorer and the rich keep getting richer. Everyone knows this. In fact Spring again used a barrage of statistics to prove this fact (personal thoughts about statistics were already stated). But what these statistics fail to show is that perhaps it is not because of education that people are poor. Of course minorities are the ones found at the bottom, but why? Why is it that a dirt farmer from the hills of Guatemala can’t come to an advanced post-industrial society and succeed? It must be racism and a biased education system. Or maybe it is because the dirt farmer has no education. His children have no education. He does not value education, and therefore his children are not likely to become physicians. Or perhaps I am being racist and Euro-centric right now.

I love when someone brings up the quintiles. They compare bottom 20% compared to the top 20% and we are all supposed to go out and demand radical wealth redistribution I suppose. No wait that would make us pinko-commies. The truth is that over ten year periods only 20% of the people in the bottom 20% are still there. The other 80% moved up (because that was the only way they could go). These quintiles represent ever changing groups of people and are not static at all. I have always been in the bottom quintile, but hope to move out next year once I finally make some money. Perhaps the problem of poverty in this country has more to do with immigration from poverty stricken countries than any failure by America. No that is crazy talk. We are better off to blame the “system” because the “system” can’t defend itself, because no one knows how to contact it.

Anyways, that is my response to my response. I almost turned myself into Sen. McCarthy just then, but came to my senses. Seriously though, I think that instead of simply blaming everyone else, we should focus on our students and instruct them in the best manner using the best methods. I call it “one student at a time.” Cliché I know, but until I come up with something better that is what I am going to call it. Wheh! I feel much better. I suspect that now I can go back into my class and continue to complain about the “savage inequalities” that our evil country has created.

Position Paper

I had to write a paper using the textbook that we have by Joel Spring to defend or challenge the following quote:

"A school has a multifaceted agenda and many constituents to serve...each makes its demands and exacts its price. The classroom is not a place of simple teacher-student interaction--not even when the teacher closes the door. It is a place in which the claims of various interests are negotiated. The classroom is both a symbol and a product of deadly serious cultural bargaining."
...Neil Postman

This is the essay I wrote to defend this statement. I call it "Playing along."

Education today is the knot in the center of the tug-o-war rope with many groups of people pulling it in the direction they want. All are vying to control or at least influence it to fit their vision of what is important and good. Among these influences are politics, economics, and society, but the madness does not end there. Also affecting education are race matters, and immigrant issues. All of these factors together create an environment in which many people are watching and commenting on school districts, school sites, classrooms and individual teachers. Many people have ideas about what education should look like, but few can agree. This leaves the classroom teacher to sort it all out as she arrives for class in the morning and her students file in to fill their seats. What is important? What do I want the students to learn? Do they need to be prepared for the work place? The political arena? Should I teach them morals and values? Which ones? Who’s? Should I teach them to conform to the social structure or rebel? Should I support their roots or convince them to embrace the common culture of this country? There are no easy answers to these questions, but teachers face them every day.

George Orwell wrote, “In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” If this is true it means that teachers cannot avoid the oversight and second guessing of politics, and also that any influence from politicians is likely to be close to useless. While it would be nice if education was free from the binds of politics, it cannot since its funding is derived from taxes collected by the very same political machine that seeks to manage the education of children.
One of the first purposes of education was to provide the country with “qualified leadership for a republican government,” (12). This goal, which was championed by the founding father Thomas Jefferson, would in essence create a meritocracy which is “an educational system that gives an equal chance to all to develop their abilities and to advance in the social hierarchy,” (13). Theoretically this would allow any student regardless of gender, race or religion to become the next leader of the United States. While there are obvious problems with this system that could be outlined, I believe all we need do is to look to the results of such a system. After 42 presidents (President Bush is the 43rd but Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th) there has never been a woman, a non-white, and only one non-protestant. The only figure that might be disputed is that of social and financial class, being that several presidents grew up poor, and only through education and hard work became the leader of the nation. This does not add much confidence to the meritocracy.

Other political goals of education include: educating students to be good citizens, teaching the common goals of Republican government, to instill patriotism, and to promote community service. With regard to citizenship it was believed that education would promote cohesion amongst the populace and “curtail political violence and revolution, and maintain political order,” according to Horace Mann, (14). While this seems like a noble goal it is not without its cost. The government, interested in its own survival, is likely to focus on its positive attributes and underplay or ignore its stains. Mann knew this and even “argued against teaching politically controversial topics because of their potential for destroying the public school,” (15). The problem with this method is that students are likely to encounter controversy every where they go. Few topics in today’s political world are not controversial. Immigration, health care, war, marriage, religion, and poverty are just some of the topics that consistently arise in political dialogue; all are controversial.

When it comes to patriotism and community service there is yet again more questions than answers. While nationalism (patriotism’s father) is often a good thing if a nation is to be united, it can also lead to problems such as wars, civil chaos, hate crimes or even genocide. The issue with patriotism in the United States is that, “teaching patriotism creates problems for a society with a variety of religious, ethnic, and political groups,” (17). How does one convince such a diverse people that there is one common culture among the people of this nation? How does one find common ground amongst such a diverse group? This was a similar issue when requiring students to conduct community service. Students have a variety of values and morals, therefore finding community service for them to do is a challenge because conflicts are likely to arise. With all of this diversity and conflict, how can there be consensus on what political goals should be met in the classroom?

Besides politics there are other contributors to the educational tug-o-war. Among them is economics. It is a well accepted adage that money makes the world go round. Conversely the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “money is the root of all kinds of evil.” What then is the influence of business on education. Just like politics, business is self motivated. It is interested primarily in improving its profits and competing in an ever growing world economy. Will American students be capable of competing against those of Japan, South Korea, China, or Singapore? The corporate community wishes to ensure that they will. Therefore, business leaders push the human capital theory which “contends that investment in education will improve the quality of workers and, consequently, increase the wealth of the community,” (24). This seems like a good goal except that it is not likely to benefit the entire community. Maybe by “community,” they really mean the business community.

This model calls for a system of sorting students into groups in which they are likely to succeed and contribute to the greater “good” of the nation through work. It is intended to close any gap between education and labor. A school would become the testing ground for student occupation, and the training center for a business owner’s newest employees. I wonder then what a curriculum based on this model would look like; or perhaps I have already seen it. Such a model would demand literacy and math skills especially along with any other courses that would further assist a student into a given field. For most students then, there is no need for arts or even history for that matter. What difference would it make after all if an employee was familiar with the Spanish American War, Women’s Suffrage movements, Emancipation of slaves, or the Declaration of Independence for that matter. It wouldn’t. No, only useful things should be taught. Things that will help students to be better employees, which should in turn make workers “happy because of the close tie between the schools and the labor market,” (25). While the motives of business may seem honest in their rhetoric, it would be catastrophic to ignore the fact that business is all about making money and increasing profits. There are several ways to increase profits, and not all of them include employee welfare. In fact business may increase profits by creating a labor surplus which would allow an employer to lower wages and replace workers more easily. It turns out that “the ideal situation for hiring is a large pool of applicants that will allow business to pay the lowest wages and select the best workers,” (29). With this in mind, we should not trust the interests of business with regard to the education of our youths.
Along with politics and economy, society also seeks to influence the schools. Just as politics seeks to further its cause, and businesses their causes, society seeks to train students to conform. One of the most interesting and difficult aim of education is the instruction of morals and values through the classroom. Few people would suggest that students should not have morals and values, but the questions that must first be settled are: is the school the place to learn such values, and what values should be learned? These are not easy questions to settle. Horace Mann decided that it would be best to “teach moral values common to most Protestant denominations,” (19). While it would be difficult even for Protestant denominations to agree on a set of principles, it is even more difficult to convince non-protestants that this is the best solution. There is a plethora of religious groups in this nation today that may take exception to the agreed values, not to mention the growing number of people who claim no religious affiliation or belief.

One of the issues that is currently one that schools are looked to for solutions is sexual activity among youth. Figures suggest that high percentages of teens are engaging in sexual behavior and the schools are seen as the place to solve this issue. With AIDS slowly becoming more common in our nation, the pressure is on for schools to do something about it through education. But what? Teaching abstinence is one solution through education but “those who believe in the right of free sexual activity between consenting adults,” disagree with this approach, (23). Instead they advocate for “educational programs that teach safe sexual procedures and advocate the dispensing of condoms in public schools,” (23). Who is right?

Even though “historical record indicates that moral instruction has not reduced crime, controlled teenage sexuality, or ended substance abuse, society still turns to public schools as the cure for many social problems,” (23). It is certainly important that children has a sense of right and wrong, or a moral compass, but is the school the place to learn such things? If not in school where? More than a hundred years ago sociologist Edward Ross declared “the family and church were being replaced by the school as the most important institution for instilling internal values,” (20). Can the school house fill a void vacated by family and church? Should it? It is a bad idea to attempt to instruct morality through public schools, and as evidence shows so far, it is not effective anyways.

What has all of this outside interest in education achieved? Has it achieved an equal school system in which merit is the measure of a student as Thomas Jefferson and others hoped? Hardly. Instead women, minorities and poor continue to lag behind the dominant white, male and protestant majority. This bias can be noted in that “at almost every level of educational attainment, “white, non-Hispanic” had higher estimated work-life earnings,” (44). This means that white people will earn more money no matter the educational level of minorities. Is this fair? Hardly. This problem is circular. Poor children go to schools in poor neighborhoods. Schools in poor neighborhoods have a “lack of a regular teaching force,” which causes there to be a lower quality of education, which means the students there will be less likely to go to college and finally earn less income (51). Because of all of that they are likely to stay in that neighborhood and have children there to repeat the process.

Besides that there is the issue of immigrant children. Is the US educational system fair to the immigrant children who speak another language? Education in the United States is Eurocentric, which means that it is comfortable for the children descended from European parents alone. For everyone else it is something different. Some people suggest that we widen the ethnocentricity of schools to include other ethnicities. This will help students from the dominant culture to accept children from other cultures, and also help students from a non-European background to feel comfortable in school because their culture will matter. Meanwhile NCLB legislation essentially proved to everyone that the US is Euro-centric in that all of the students must pass a test in English. This means that their home language is not viewed as important to the rest of society. Is that fair?

These issues is what the political, social and economic influence has achieved. Instead of equality and fairness, we have division and inequality. Every new legislation, every new program and every new lobby takes more away from the classroom by adding to the burden that students and teachers must endure. All of the tugging and pulling causes education to remain where it is; hovering over the mud hole. There will be little progress as long as outside influences continue to meddle in schools. I say let the legislators legislate, let the business leaders conduct business, let social leaders socialize, but let teachers teach, and most important, let learners learn.

Sorry I have been MIA

I have been very busy lately trying to get a job and teaching and going to classes at night, that I have not posted in two weeks now. It is far too long, but I have been writing (even if it is for a class). I did find a job and I am excited to start in August. I am half way through my summer courses already, but I have a lot of work still to do. Also I have been teaching my students philosophy. It has been really rewarding actually and most of the students have gotten into it. I have had them start to develop their own philosophy which I plan to put together as a class collection before school ends. We have already studied Ecclesiastes, Plato, Confucius, Chuang Tzu, Hon Fei Tzu and Buddha. Next week we are getting into Marx and Engles, as well as Locke. It has been very fun for me as well as the students. Anyways, I have some things to share with you and I am just going to post all of them because I cannot always remember to post them later.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Magical Kigndom

I have not posted for a while, but have been very busy. I wrote a 23 page report which was required for my credential. I read three books, which I will blog about when I get the chance, and I went to Disneyland with my family. It was fun. Really. I had not been in a few years, and everything is pretty much the same, but the real fun was that my daughter got to meet the princesses. That is Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Snow White, and Jasmine. There was some discussion about whether all of these qualified and then if there should be others, but these are the official princesses. I personally thought that princess Fiona should be included, if for no other reason, but simply because she is fat and ugly and therefore little girls who are not skinny and beautiful could have a princess to relate to. This is the genius behind Fiona and Shrek in the first place, and I advocate for her to be included in the princess line.

Anyways the real thing that I thought was interesting was that I went to "California Adventure" for the first time. It had been there the last time I went to Disneyland but I did not go in it for lack of good reviews. The reviews have not improved much, but because our tickets automatically got us into the park Brandi and I went. Apparently it is supposed to reflect some sort of California theme, but to be honest I thought that it was pretty weak. The main connection is that they built a mini golden gate bridge, named a rapids ride grizzly canyon, built a boardwalk, and made a Hollywood section. I feel that this is all pretty weak and could have been done much better. I have come up with my own list of "California adventures" which I will be sharing when I get the chance. These will be really Californian and really adventurous. I plan to market them to Disney in the hopes of making a few bucks from my brilliant ideas. I am going to use my knowledge of history and creative engineering to build some attractions that will be entirely unique. Wait and see. You are going to like these.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I have grown tired of the political parties in this country. I would gladly remain Republican because I believe in the tenants of Conservatism, but lately I wonder about the GOP. I worry about both the party’s commitment to conservatism, and also the moral character of the people who represent us. I have even criticized the president for the former, but not the latter. I believe that he is a moral man of strong character, and not a deceiver as some would like to believe he is. Others in the party have not impressed me with their moral character. I do not expect people to be perfect, in fact I fully embrace that we are fallen people in a fallen world, but when politicians do not repent, ask for forgiveness, and try to make amends, I have a problem. It was pointed out that the three popular Republican candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Gingrich) have six divorces among them, and have all committed adultery.

In addition to this, as a conservative I worry over the spending of our federal government. Again not were most would worry, but in other areas. I for instance do not worry about the military spending. I believe that all of that spending is why there are only (and I mean only) 3,000 + deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. In comparison with other conflicts, and considering the number of troops deployed, this is truly a low number. I believe that it is the technology found in American military equipment, and medical treatment that has kept this number low. I have problems with the amount of money spent on other things. Welfare, social security, pork barrel projects, New Orleans, and other money pits cause me to cringe. I have become irritated enough that I would consider voting for a candidate from another party (although not likely the Democrat Party), even if it means “throwing away” my vote. Or maybe I should start my own party. Hmmm….. that’s a good idea. More on that later.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Job Fair

I have been catching my breath today after participating in my university's job fair yesterday. It was a job fair for teachers only and last Friday I found out that I was the only high school teacher in my program who had not found a job yet. This is largely due to the subject I teach (history). I began calling it a curse. Some people suggested that I teach English or math, but I responded that I really love history and would not be happy teaching math. However, as I have been joking, if I did teach math I could probably find a job before I finish this post. Alas I do not, so I will have to wait.

This went well though, and I suspect that I will be offered a job at least by the end of this summer, if not sooner. I really cannot wait to teach full time. I love student teaching, but I long to have my own classroom, and my own students.

As I near the end of my schooling to become a teacher there are a number of things that I must complete, and they seem cumbersome occasionally. Some one was complaining about all of the "hoops" that we must jump through to become teachers, and compared it to lawyers, and doctors. Honestly I think that the lawyer argument is week, but the doctor comparison is valid. I believe that it is important to make new teachers prove that they are capable of teaching before more than a hundred students depend on them to teach. Furthermore I believe that some older, I mean veteran, teachers do the same. I have seen some fairly irresponsible teaching methods in some of the high schools that I have been in. Watching movies every week is not an effective teaching strategy. Reading from the textbook is not an effective teaching strategy. There is much more to it than that.

Well pray for me as I wait by the phone for high schools to call me and ask me to come teach at their school. I am anxious about it, but confident that I will get a job. I only hope that it is one that I will love.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Words I dislike

Here is a list of words that I hate. It is a short list because I don’t want to take the time to remember all of the words that I don’t like. Some of them are because of someone who used them too much, others are because of what they mean, and still others are simply because they are French. Enjoy.

Kudos: I hate this word because when I was working in San Antonio an officer said it once and then suddenly everyone was using it. It was always, “hey I heard you got promoted, kudos,” or “be sure to give Sgt. Brunnengraeber kudos for the good work he did.” It drove me crazy, I hated hearing it, and it became the phrase of the millennium.

Global warming: To begin with I don’t think that there is such a thing as global warming. If there is a warm day in January suddenly every one thinks that it is global warming. What do the people in Cleveland think about it I wonder since they have been having severely cold weather this week? So bad in fact that they had to cancel all of the games in the Indians’ home opener series. How’s that for global warming? But besides that it is such a stupid phrase. Global warming. It sounds great to me, and yet it is supposedly a fact that is going to kill us all.

Metro-sexual: As if there wasn’t enough options to choose from when deciding one’s own sexuality (and I do think it is a choice), we had to add another. I don’t even understand where this phrase came from. Apparently if a man dresses well he is no longer simply heterosexual, but instead metro-sexual. I wonder what the opposite of metrosexual is? Rural-sexual? Scary. I vote to eliminate such terms from the English language on punishment of a nasty flogging.

Sashay: To me this word is useless and should be eliminated. It is entirely too French and connotes something girly or metro-sexual. Oops, I used that word, I mean transgender, or bisexual or bi curious. I don’t know. I just don’t like it.

Collage: I hate them. I never liked doing them in school, I will never assign one. I think they are stupid and should be banned from the classroom, or any other room for that matter. After they are banned, there will be no need for the word to continue being used, so it too should be removed from the dictionary and sent away with its cousin sashay.

Well those are just a few of the words that I take issue with. There are more to be sure, but for now these are the ones that are especially bothersome to me. I am interested in what other people think of these words, and words that they don’t fancy as well. Let me know.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Note to the Reader: I wrote this short story from my actual experience in basic training. It was an assignment in the only english class I had in college. Enjoy.

From the moment we arrived at Ft. Leonardwood for Basic Combat Training for the US Army we were treated well. Of course leaving our homes and families was difficult, and Missouri was very different from our home states, but on the whole we were adjusting well. We were a group of about 250 soon to be soldiers, who came from all over the country. Some of us were dark, some light, some short, some tall, some thin some thick, some male, and some female. We were a patchwork quilt unit. We all came to “Reception Battalion” where all soldiers begin. It was like kindergarten for soldiers because there were two Drill Sergeants who took care of us. They made sure we got all of our new uniforms, our shots, our haircuts, and our meals. They were pleasant enough, but we were bored after a week of daycare, and were ready to move on. Reception was boring and we wished we could start doing something interesting. We got our wish.

On one particularly hot day in July, we all lined up in formation on the asphalt, “black top”. It was so hot in fact, that the asphalt was melting away like our individuality. Our boots stuck to the steaming surface. We were all anticipating what was going to happen. The “baby-sitters” said that our unit was coming to pick us up. We were excited. Finally, something was going to happen. Several large trucks appeared on the horizon. The heat blurred their image. We heard them better than we could see them. They made a loud rumbling sound that could be heard from quite a distance.

“Here they come,” one of our baby-sitters said, “I hope ya’ll are ready.” The man chuckled when he spoke as if he knew something we didn’t. His laughter began to make us nervous. We all watched together as the trucks slowly approached. Many of us shifted our feet, and looked around at each other. The trucks were getting closer. We all stared silently at the trucks. Drops of sweat rolled off our faces. Finally the trucks reached us and parked in rows across from our formation. There were about six trucks in all. We still just stared. Then some Drill Sergeants appeared from behind us, though from where exactly was unclear. All of them were broad, filling their uniforms with thick muscles. Their faces were dark and cold. No smiles or grins could be detected, and they scowled at us. Their uniforms were perfectly pressed and their boots reflected the sun’s glare. The men had large wide brimmed brown leather hats; the women had green ones. They let us know exactly what to do.

“Get in the trucks!” They yelled, “Move it! Move it! Move it! Get your butts in the trucks!” A few yelling Drill Sergeants shattered our organized formation. Everyone was running towards a truck. It was total pandemonium. We were all pushing and shoving, trying to get in the trucks as fast as we could, as if we would be shot for moving too slowly. Of course it wasn’t fast enough for the Drill Sergeants.

“Get on the trucks! Yer’ moving like pond water! Hurry up!” they continued yelling. We all climbed on the trucks; each of us carried a large duffel bag and a smaller one that carried our personal belongings. Finally, after much yelling we were all on the trucks. The Drill Sergeants slammed the doors shut and disappeared. We were glad for that, and let out a collective sigh, as if none of us had breathed since the arrival of the Drill Sergeants. We were all crammed tightly together in the large trucks. Images of the Holocaust came to our minds. Many of us were shaking. All of us were in shock. This was only the beginning.

The truck drove on… and on… and on. Finally it stopped. By now we had no idea where we were. The door swung open, and there standing at the opening was a large, thick sweaty, ugly man with a perfectly kept uniform, very shiny boots, and a wide brimmed brown leather hat. His uniform had “LOPEZ” written on it, but he did not introduce himself.

“Get out!” he yelled with a deep scratchy voice. Frozen with fear, we didn’t respond immediately. “NOW! MOVE IT!” We began leaping from the trucks, pouring out much like cockroaches released from a box. We clutched our duffel bags tightly to our bodies and ran. We did not know where we were running to, we only knew that walking was not an option. Fortunately for us there was another group of Drill Sergeants to guide us. All of them looked tough. All of them looked mean. All of them were loud.

“Stop! Where are you going?” one yelled. We froze. Before we could figure out where we were supposed to go he told us. “Go over there!” He commanded and pointed to another large area. We all looked to where he was pointing, still stopped in our tracks. “Line up! Move it! Go! Hurry up! Fall in!” We were running again. We ran as fast as we could in an attempt to avoid the wrath of the Drill Sergeants, which didn’t work, but it was the only thing we could think of to do. They yelled at us no matter how fast we moved. It was never fast enough.

As quickly as we had been scattered we reformed. A hurried mob formed into an organized formation again, all the while the Drill Sergeants yelled at us. Then suddenly it was quiet. They stared at us as if examining us for weaknesses. We weren’t allowed to move. We tried to stand still. Someone made eye contact with a Drill Sergeant, an unfortunate mistake.

“Don’t look at me Private!” he shouted getting in the face of the unfortunate soldier who looked at him. The Drill Sergeant was as close to the soldier’s face as his wide hat would allow. “Don’t ever look at me! Do you want to fight me?” The soldier began shaking. “Well? Do you think you can take me?”

“No Drill Sergeant,” the soldier stammered.

“I didn’t think so! Is there anyone here that thinks they can take me?” He paused for an answer, but one did not come. “Answer me!”

“No Drill Sergeant,” we answered in a weak, scared voice. “Maybe he likes you,” another Drill Sergeant suggested. Now he was really upset. “Is that it Private? Do you like me? You think I’m cute?” He questioned. The soldier’s eyes were wide like a deer in headlights; he began shaking his head violently in an attempt to deny the latest accusations. “No Drill Sergeant!”

“No!” the Drill Sergeant responded. “You don’t like me?” He glared at the private.

“No Drill Sergeant.”

“Why the hell not? I’m a likable guy”. Another soldier began laughing. This too was a mistake. The Drill Sergeant pounced on him like a lion on a fawn. “Am I funny to you private!?! Do I make you laugh!?! What did I say that you thought was so funny that you could just laugh in formation?”

“Nothing Drill Sergeant.”

“So I’m not funny?”

“No, I mean yes, I mean, I don’t know Drill Sergeant.” The Drill Sergeant could smell fear and it excited him. “Well what is it private? Do you think I’m funny?”

“No Drill Sergeant.”

“Well why the hell not. I have a great sense of humor. I got a joke for you. DO SOME PUSH-UPS!!!” The soldier fell to the ground as if a bomb had just gone off. The rest of us still stood frozen, trying not to attract any unwanted attention from the Drill Sergeants. A huge black man got up on a small platform with a megaphone. The man was massive, built like a freight train. Most of us had only seen men this big on TV. We were sure that that man could kill anyone of us if he wished it. No doubt he knew how and had done so before. The Drill sergeants were still circling our formation, periodically attacking us when something was out of line. The man spoke in a loud voice made metallic by the megaphone.

“I am your 1st Sergeant. Welcome to Basic Training.” He spoke slowly and purposefully making sure we all heard what he was saying. “In the next three months my Drill Sergeants will turn you bunch of lazy, sloppy, ugly losers into soldiers. It will not be easy, but if you do what you are told when you are told to do it you will all get through this. Forget about your homes and families. This is your new home, and the people around you are your new family. You will succeed together or you will fail together, but whatever you do, you will do it together. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Remember that, and now I will turn you over to my Drill Sergeants for the rest of the day. They are your new parents.” With that he completed his speech.

Without hesitation the Drill Sergeants began their assault. Barking orders, making us do push-ups and other exercises, taunting us, and testing us. They ripped us apart. Any courage we brought with us had failed. Any pride we brought with us was gone. Any wit, any grace, any confidence we brought had failed. They broke us down. The only thoughts we had were thoughts of trying to avoid punishment. Like animals we could only think about survival. It was amazing. Thinking was not necessary. They would tell us what to do from then on. We all came there different. We were from different states, different families, and even different cultures. Now we were the same. When we came there we were white, black, brown, yellow or red. Now we were all army green. We had little in common when we arrived. Now we all had something in common, survival. It was us versus them. That was how they wanted it. Once individuals, we were now one body, one mind, one unit, a unit of combat soldiers.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Bad Luck Poem

Well as I mentioned earlier things have not been going great lately. Today I laughed when I read an e-mail from my friend Samantha who is going through similar trails. In response to her creative letter, I wrote a poem to express what I have been going through lately. It is a bit corny, but I like it anyways, and maybe you will too.

A few weeks ago
I woke up and got ready to go
I went to the kitchen when lo and behold
There was a puddle there and the fridge wasn't cold

I cleaned it up and off to work I went
Brandi called me up and told me it was spent
How could that be? We had it only six years?
No matter, we needed a new one from SEARS

$1700 for a new fridge they said
They brought it out but dropped it instead
Living out of a cooler for a week is no way to get fed
Finally we got one, but there were more things to dread

We had our health, but then started day care
Ever since then our kids learned to share
Toys and games but mostly viruses I fear
Added misery to our home where once there was cheer

Two ear infections and strep throat was the diagnosis
Over and over a trip to the pharmacist
When I finally thought I might develop a psychosis
Madelyn caught flu and threw up on my clothes

Hanging on, trying to make it through
My computer froze up and I don't know what to do
I have to take it in, for I don't want to buy one new
But no doubt that will cost me too

All and all I guess I can't complain
We're all still alive and all still sane
Still I wish that things would get better
If nothing else, at least it's nice weather

Wait…is that rain on the radar?