Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Five: 10/24

This is last week's Friday Five, because today's is pretty dumb.

1. If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?

I've always thought I'd like to be a fish. Sure, they're dumb, but they get to swim around all day. Maybe a dolphin would be better-- they're smart, and they're always having fun.

2. If you could mate two animals together, which would you pick?

I presume that if they mated, they would produce offspring that would be a cross between the two. That's the point, right? Not the actual mating part? ;) I'm going to steal my idea from South Park and say an elephant and a potbelly pig.

3. What would you call the offspring from #2?

Ummmmmm... a bellyphant. It would be small, of course, so as to make a good pet.

4. If you could change an animal's colors, which would you pick and which colors would you use?

I wouldn't mind seeing my family's yellow lab, Lucy, as a bright pink. I think that would fit her personality.

5. If you could make one animal extinct, which would you pick?

Rabbits--the wild kind that eat everyone's gardens. I don't think they'd be missed. Also, Canadian geese. At least let people shoot them! They're such a poopy nuisance.

Too Funny

Sarah Palin and the Pope

So, Sarah Palin's advisers decide that it is time for her to meet a bunch of serious world leaders. They head to Europe, where, first up, she has an appointment with the Pope. The Pope and some of his Cardinals invite her for a boat ride on the Tiber. As they are sitting in the gondola talking, a wind starts up and blows the Pope's hat into the water. Palin looks around and realizes that no one is going to do anything about it, so she calmly rises, takes off her her high heels, and steps off the side of the boat. Instead of diving into the water, however, she walks across it to the hat, picks it up and walks back across the water to the boat. She climbs in, hands the Pope his hat and continues discussing whatever it was they had been talking about. The Cardinals are open-mouthed in astonishment at what they have just seen. The news media, in nearby boats are busy discussing among themselves how to report it. Headlines the next day at the New York Times, The Washington Post and the networks all blare: "New Revelation: Sarah Palin Can't Swim."

From The Corner.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Teaching the Needy

Last school year, I was the teacher and director of the seventh- and eighth-grade choir at our church's school. From this experience, I finally solidified my conviction that I'm not cut out to be a classroom teacher. I love directing choirs, but I can't stand doing annoying classroom-management things, dealing with parents, and worst of all, grades. I felt a big connection to the students because I went to the same school as them for eleven years. I had some of the same teachers they still have. But is it just me, or have schools changed since I was in eighth grade?

The reason I ask is because of an experience I had a few weeks ago. I no longer teach the aforementioned class because the junior high music program has been revamped a little and is team-taught by the Cantor and the band director. Cantor was on vacation for a few weeks, so I was called in to sub. Cantor asked me to teach them about flat keys and assign homework on that topic and then work on some sight-singing and harmony things. Piece of cake, or so I hoped.

So we went over flat keys, they seemed to be getting it, so I passed out the homework packet and made sure they could follow directions and complete the assignment. That's when the flood of questions came. They needed to know everything, up to and kind of including the actual answers. Some questions were asked many, many times because they weren't listening to my answers or they weren't worded in the exact perfect way to make them understand. About a third of the students, who obviously knew music better than the others, rolled their eyes as we spent a good 15 minutes making sure that everyone else was going to know how to do the homework.

I had experiences similar to this last year. About three or four times throughout the year I assigned homework or a quiz, and I came to realize that if anyone got anything less than an A, they thought they failed and I could reasonably expect an email from the parents asking why they did so poorly. And no, they DIDN'T want to hear that their precious child was goofing off in class and not paying attention and that's why he or she did not get a top grade.

I'm all for making sure every child does well, but some are just more capable than others. Some of them had the advantage of being in band or piano lessons and so they knew more about music. Others were just more intelligent and could simply retain the information I taught them better. How was I to reward their superiority if "excellent" becomes merely "average"? There was no way. An A is an A. In elevating the weaker students, the stronger ones' accomplishments are diminished.

In the infamous Homework Assignment debacle, the students asked questions and I answered them. (And these questions weren't strictly about the subject matter, mind you. They were about what the instructions meant and what the answers should look like, even though the worksheets included examples.) So they asked more questions, and in the interest of fairness, I continued to answer them. Everyone in the room seemed to wordlessly agree that if anyone failed this homework assignment, it would be my fault for not explaining it properly--for not doing everything for them but actually writing in the answers. Because I was only a sub, I didn't care very much to correct this assumption. But it is indeed, or should be regarded as, an incorrect assumption.

The A grade should be reserved for the students who truly deserve it. They are more intelligent and attentive. Those students who do adequate work should get a B or C. And those who don't pay attention to receive instructions or don't understand the content should be allowed to fail. They should be given opportunities to improve their grades, but they should be evaluated fairly on the basis of the quality of their work because that is what they will truly learn from.

Because I established myself as the person who was going to all but do their homework assignment, they came to expect that service of me. Therefore, it would be next to impossible for me to suddenly say, "No more questions! This is the homework; do your best to figure it out on your own!" because that would be unfair. The better students who didn't need me are either frustrated because they can receive no recognition for being superior, or they simply settle into the comfort of knowing there's no way they can fail. And the weaker students diligently fight for more and more help, confident that if they still can't scrape a B, their angry parents will make sure their grades are raised.

The word "fair" is being redefined. According the dictionary, it means "marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism" and "consonant with merit or importance." Now it seems to mean, to students and to left-leaning government leaders, "as close to exactly the same as possible." The poverty line continues to rise as the "rich" line lowers, and this trend will continue until the wealth is evenly distributed. And what happens when enough people realize this is a bad idea? Nothing, because no one's going to take away tax credits and government programs for the poor. That would be unfair.

Of course, everyone wants to help the poor. But tax credits and programs need to be funded, often from the "rich" or businesses, which comprise PEOPLE. I say, let the excellent excel and don't simply tax them more. And let others learn from them and be employed by them. THAT is fair.

Monday, October 20, 2008


There are several reasons that I am voting for John McCain over Barack Obama. One of the most prominent reasons is on the issue of abortion.

I have always known that abortion was ending a human life, but I had been led to believe that this was due to my religious leanings. Since there's a separation of church and state, I was not allowed to think that abortion should be banned since not everyone believes it's murder.

Now that I'm an adult, I see the complexities of the issue, and it has only solidified my stance against abortion. There is indisputable evidence that an unborn child has unique DNA from the moment of conception. The child needs its mother during gestation to survive, but it is undeniably human. Thus, the question becomes not one of religion but of human rights. The government absolutely must be involved in the protection of human rights.

John McCain says that a baby gets human rights at the moment of conception. I agree with this statement. Barack Obama says that answering this question is "above his pay grade." I realize he was acknowledging the complexity of the situation, but it troubles me that he refuses to say when human rights should be granted. What he won't admit is the liberal agenda founded on the idea that a baby gets human rights when the mother chooses it. Life is only valuable and worth protecting if key people are happy about it.

Do you see where this is going? This isn't just about unborn babies. If other people, namely the government, are allowed to decide whose life is valuable and whose isn't, there will no longer be an age limit. And nationalized health care, as Obama prescribes, will exacerbate the problem. In Oregon, state medicaid won't pay for cancer treatments for terminal patients, but they will fund doctor-assisted suicide. The mayor of New Orleans offered a $1000 tax credit for poor women to be sterilized as well as tax incentives for more wealthy people to have children. Eugenics, anyone?

Abortion is not just about empowering women and giving them "choice." Abortion hurts women. The feminist movement would have us all believe that a young, perhaps poor woman should be able to do away with an unwanted pregnancy with ease and a clear conscience. What happens to that woman who goes through with the abortion and later regrets it? She later realizes the weight of the life she ended, the future she destroyed and must suffer in silence, for she was made to believe she was merely exercising her right to "choose."

Abortion does not affect only the impoverished. Abortion also befalls the inconvenient third and fourth child in a family that was only planning on two, for example. I absolutely can consider myself a survivor of the abortion movement. I know that my parents set out to have only two children. Luckily, they knew that life doesn't always go according to plan, and they accepted God's blessings. But their third and fourth children, me and my brother, would not be here today if they had simply decided they couldn't afford more children. My husband would have only one brother instead of three if the abortion movement had its way with his parents. Barack Obama himself might well have been aborted! I'm glad I'm here. I love my brother and brothers-in-law. And though I'm not a fan of Barack Obama, he definitely has the right to live.

We must promote a culture of life. Judges must not legislate from the bench. Their purpose is to interpret the Constitution, in keeping with the system of checks and balances. Roe v. Wade must be overturned. Every human life has value. John McCain, despite his shortcomings, understands that basic fact and Barack Obama does not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Homecoming 2008

For the first time in three years, Erich and I returned to Valparaiso University for the occasion of Homecoming Weekend. A lot has changed in three years.

In 2005, I had just graduated and therefore still had a lot of friends still at school. I had brought Erich, who I thought was my boyfriend, along for the weekend and as a bonus I got to stay at his grandparents' house for free! Turns out, on our way back to Naperville on that Sunday, we officially decided that we were boyfriend and girlfriend. Glad we got that cleared up.

Now it's 2008. The campus is a lot different with a new student union and parking structure, and what was once a road through campus is now a grassy field with a curb(?). And obviously, Erich and I aren't just "special friends" but husband and wife. Also, I don't know any current students.

We had a great weekend! Do you want to hear all about it? Sure you do!

We got there Friday night, visited with the grandparents then headed to bed. We're old now--no more of this going out at 10pm, going to bed at 2am or later. No, sir.

Saturday morning, I walked over to campus to attend the Sigma Alpha Iota women's music fraternity Alumnae Breakfast. I got to visit with my great-grandlittle, which was nice. She's the only current student that I kind of know since she attended our wedding as my grandlittle's guest. It was nice to get to know some of the other active sisters. There were a few alumnae there, but no one from my class.

One good result of the Alumnae Breakfast was that I heard the buzz that there was an Alumni Choir rehearsal at 11 in the chapel to sing the next morning in church. I decided to wander over and got sucked in.

It was great to sing in the chapel again! When I stopped to think about it, I realized that I hadn't sung in the chapel with a choir since the Baccalaureate service in May, 2005. It felt so natural. Back when I was in the Kantorei and the Chorale (who both sang with the "Alumni Choir" which wasn't very many people), singing for Homecoming was an annoying obligation, but now I know what a treat it is for the alumni.

Erich was headed to the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia (men's music fraternity) house to rehearse the National Anthem to sing at the football game, so I walked over there to meet him. Our friends Matt and Christina were there--Christina and I got to be the groupie fraternity wives. That was fun. When they were ready, we walked to the football game and waited for the frat boys to sing. Once they were finally done, we got out of there. I've never attended a Valpo football game, and this day was no exception.

We headed to lunch at Passtimes with friends Matt, Christina, Ryan, and others. Passtimes was our absolute favorite bar during college. Disappointingly, it has changed a lot. It's trying to be something like a cross between RockBottom and Buffalo Wild Wings. Does not work at ALL.

Then the five of us didn't know what to do next. We ultimately decided to head to the movie theater (another new addition to the Valpo community) and see what was playing. When we got there, we settled on Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist beginning an hour and a half later. To kill the time, we went to Chili's for margaritas and chips and salsa.

The movie...SUCKED. It really wasn't good. I do not recommend. But by this point, I was starting to feel like our day was like "Susan and Erich's Infinite Playlist." Then Erich said it shall be called "Susan and Erich's Infinite Platelets." No, that doesn't make sense. But the beer and margarita made it hilarious. My husband cracks me up.

After the movie and a brief stop at the grandparents' for warmer clothes, we trekked to the outskirts of Valparaiso to visit the BRAND new (as in just done enough to be lived in) house of our friends Dan and Tammy. They built their own house! We are extremely impressed. They have a wooded lot that backs up to a lake. Being out there really made me and especially Erich want to live further out in the open than our current suburban digs. They had a bonfire in their backyard with a few of their Valpo friends and their adorable 10-week-old yellow lab puppy! We had a nice visit and left by 11pm. See? We are so old now. I was so glad we were home by 11:30. :)

Sunday morning: I walked to chapel to sing while Erich went to church with the g-parents. We got back around the same time and decided to get packed up and changed. Then it was lunch at another Valpo favorite, El Salto, with friends Sarah and Chris, Krystal and Amanda. By the time lunch was over, I was t.i.r.e.d. It felt good to walk so much all weekend, but I was not used to it. We relaxed and watch the Bears game before going to the Chorale concert. Not much to say about that other than that it was awesome!

From the concert, we went to Erich's aunt and uncle's house, where they were having dinner to celebrate his uncle's 50th birthday. It was very nice to visit with them and to enjoy a very delicious lamb dinner before we had to leave. Aunt Suzanne cooks a mean lamb!

Back to Naperville in time to have dessert with my family to celebrate my baby brother's 23rd birthday. (Old! Old! We're all old!) And at last, our long, crazy, awesome weekend came to an end.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Moments in Spain: Gelato

During our picture perfect day in San Sebastian, Erich and I decided to treat ourselves to some gelato.

Nearby, we heard some accordion music.

They were playing "La Cumparsita!" Which is, of course, the tango we danced to at our wedding.

It seemed as though all the inhabitants of San Sebastian and many and various day trippers were all in the thoroughfare, enjoying the perfect day with us. We watched them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Five: 10/10

For the second week in a row, the Friday Five questions are really stupid, so I decided to dig through the archives for a better set. Here we go...

1. Do you ever wonder if the way you see things visually aren't how other people see them?

I used to wonder that when I was about 13. Like, what if my yellow was someone else's green? If I borrowed someone else's eyes, would colors be flip flopped? Dark would be light, etc.? I don't wonder that any more. I think everything is what it is. However, I do have a red/green deficiency, so when some people see a dark hunter green, I often see brownish greyish blackish color. It's not really a big deal.

2. What kind of sounds are the most annoying?

The ones that no one else can hear, but I can because my ears are so sensitive. The other day I was at Kohl's and some lady was pushing around a cart, that SQUEAKED... CONSTANTLY. And she seemed to be following me around the store. I was with my mom, who could hear it when it was close, but not when it was farther away. I heard it everywhere. That is very annoying.

3. When walking through a store, do you shop with your hands by touching/feeling the texture of things?

Yes, I must admit I do, especially with clothes. I try to touch only if it's something I think I might try on. If it's too scratchy or thin or just the wrong texture, I won't bother.

4. If you could only smell three scents for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Erich in the morning after a shave, outside air in the autumn with freshly fallen leaves, and roast beef in the oven.

5. What sorts of things do you savor when eating them?

Generally food items. You know, if I find myself munching on chalk or something, I usually don't savor that. (j/k--no, I do not suffer from Pica.) I am most likely to slowly chew and let soak into my tongue a gourmet meal, something that either cost a lot of money or was obviously something very well prepared and deserves to be savored. I'm trying to work on savoring all my food and not eat mindlessly.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Logic is our friend

But I'd have to give up my iPhone and expensive clothes? OH NOES!


Wow, I've been too busy to blog lately! More on that later.

In the meantime, I've been cooking up a good political post in my head, but I'm just not ready to blog at length about that yet. I often find my thoughts turning into rants, and I'm loath to struggle to remain coherent on things that are important to me.

So for now, I'm just going to share this video, with a sprightly gentlemen who can express some of my ideas in a far more articulate and entertaining fashion than I could do. AND IT'S NOT JUST BECAUSE I THINK HE'S BLACK. :D

YouTube link. H/T The Corner.