Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 15,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Books, books and more books

Both Mrs. Poolman and I do a lot of reading for pleasure. In the past, a book or a bookstore gift certificate was considered a pretty good birthday or Christmas present around our house. Lately, however, that has changed, or at least it feels like it has changed. The problem? Between downloading e-books on her Nook and the availability of getting new releases from the Village Library, a present of a new book doesn’t seem any more special than picking up a gallon of milk at the grocery store.

The library in question is a small community library that serves the community near my workplace. It is chock-full of popular writers. It generally has a good collection of new releases, which they rent for 30 cents per day. Considering that Mrs. P goes through two to three books a week, that is a bargain compared to a $25 new-purchase price new.

Mrs. P typically gives me a list of books and authors she wants to read. I stop by the library a few times a week and check to see what they have. It’s a good system that usually keeps Mrs. P in fresh reading material, but it takes the shine off of giving her a book or gift card as a present. All the same, I still gave her a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas.

Speaking of books, I read two interesting ones recently.

The Panther“The Panther” is one of a continuing series of thrillers by Nelson DeMille that feature one of his main protagonists, sarcastic, wise-cracking John Corey (The Lion, The Lion’s Game, Night Fall, Plum Island, Wildfire). In this book, Corey is still a member of the Anti-Terrorism Task Force. He and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, are sent to Yemen to track down the latest Islamic terrorist, nicknamed “the Panther.” Actually, Corey and Mayfield are selected because the higher-ups believe they will serve as bait to draw the terrorist out of hiding. DeMille teams Corey up with another of his previous protagonists, Paul Brenner (The General’s Daughter, Up Country). On top of being served up as bait for the Panther, Corey suspects that some members of the American team would not be unhappy if he and Kate were to return to the US in body bags.

You can pretty much figure the story from there. While the destination is predictable, the ride is a good one.

I do have just one criticism. Much of the book is narrated in the first person by Corey. While the wise-cracking is an integral part of his character, the sarcastic comments come about every other line. It gets a little old after awhile. It was just over-the-top. DeMille could tone that down just a little in his next gook and the book would be a little more readable.

Paris in love“Paris in Love” by Eloisa James is an entirely different sort of read. College professor and romance writer James moved to Paris to live for a year with her husband and two children. I am still fascinated with anything to do with Paris. Her book is a memoir of sorts or their year there. James is a clever writer. The book is interesting, especially to someone who just visited Paris a couple of months ago. There is no plot or theme to speak of. The book is broken up into a long series of short anecdotes and thoughts – snapshots of her experiences. It feels like a year-long series of Facebook posts. I enjoyed sharing James’ enjoyment of her year in Paris. The stories about her children will give you a grin. I’m not sure her precocious 11-year old daughter is really that precocious, but James’ stories about her are worth a chuckle. “Paris in Love” is a light and short read, and one worth the effort.

 

Keep on writing

A friend of mine posted this poster card on Facebook. As much as I hate to admit it, that’s a pretty good fit for me.Grammer poster

I spent most of my adult career in TV news, where writing was important, but traditional grammar rules were loosely observed. Punctuation was never a consideration. Ellipses were frequently used by many writers…

Then I went to work in higher-education public relations, and the AP Stylebook became my Bible. That’s not to say that I adhere to it perfectly. All you have to do is read this blog to know that I stumble frequently. (One major fault is I have a very difficult time editing anything I wrote. I just see what I meant to say, not what was actually written.)

I must confess to another serious geek-trait. I took two years of Latin in high school. I didn’t like it. Actually, I hated it. I still can’t explain an “ablative absolute. However, those two years of declining verbs and learning to use five cases of nouns helped me write English better than any English class I ever took.

So for 2013, perhaps this card will be my resolution – to remind me to pay closer attention to how I write. I’d hate to be on the wrong end of my own judgmental nature.

Merry Christmas!

It’s been a nice, but somewhat busy few days here around Casa Poolman.

Most of Mrs. Poolman’s family came up from Jacksonville to visit over the weekend. This included both sisters, a brother-in-law, a niece a great-niece and a large boxer. Only two nephews and a girlfriend were otherwise occupied. We ate a lot, drank a lot and talked a lot. We had not all gotten together since sometime last summer, so it was a nice visit. Niece Ansley was down in the dumps because her husband is in the middle of a nine-month deployment on board a guided missile destroyer in the Persian Gulf. She was able to have a video conversation with him via her new smart phone. Not too shabby.

The gang headed home on Monday. Mrs. P and I went to Christmas Eve Mass at 6 pm. Some of my CCD children were the narrators for the Christmas Pageant which was part of the Mass. They did a great job. I’m proud of them.

Last week, I mentioned one of my students whose mother is somewhat frustrating. The problem is that she never can seem to get her son where he is supposed to be and when he is supposed to be there. This child desperately wanted to be a part of the pageant, but “Mom” couldn’t seem get him to any of the rehearsals, even those that were held during our regular class sessions. Unfortunately, the child is dependent on the Mom to get him where he needs to go. We can’t get too angry at the child, but the mother is another issue. He did show up for the first of our two programs during the regular CCD time slot last Wednesday and we allowed him to read. “Mom” promised me she would have him there for the Christmas Eve Mass. All the other kids were there by 5:30 as directed.  Jack was a no-show. My co-teacher, Sherry, and I were steaming, but we had a Plan B for the rest of the team. Then, at 5:55 pm, just as we were ready to walk the kids from the school to the church for Mass, young Jack came running up. Sherry and I shared some not-very-Christmas-like thoughts about “Mom.”

Christmas Day was fairly low key. Our children and their “sig-others” spent the first part of the day with the other sides of their families. They came over here around five o’clock for a Christmas dinner and opening presents.

Mrs. P is working today and tomorrow. I was pretty-much a slug today. Leftovers for dinner. Not to bad.

 

Here’s a rational thought

I don’t want to keep harping on gun control, but I had to laugh when I heard about this proposal coming from a politician, Phillip Lowe, in South Carolina. Ever since they started the Civil War, you can always count on the good folks north or the Savannah River to promote nutty political ideas.

The new supply closet?

The new supply closet?

In response to the Newtown, Connecticut shooting last week, one senator has a solution to school shootings – arm all the teachers, janitors and cafeteria workers. There seem to be two polar opposites about what to do about rampant gun violence. One side wants to eliminate (oops, I mean “restrict”) all firearms. The other side wants to just give everyone a gun. I guess the thought is that if someone came into a school and started shooting, all those kindergarten teachers and librarians would pull out their Glocks and blow him away.

I have two thoughts on that. The first is that the idea of a bunch of arming a bunch of amateurs with deadly weapons and encouraging them to use them in a building full of children, is a real scary thought. It’s not as easy as it looks on television or in a video game. Supposedly trained professionals mess it up all the time. Just last August, a handful of NYPD cops took on a bad guy and they got their man. But they also managed to wound nine innocent bystanders in the process. And these guys were supposed to know what they were doing. Imagine if they were school nurses!

The second, and equally scary thought is this; if you let and encourage guns in schools, how are you going to ensure those weapons away from the children? What happens when some junior psychopath-wannabe knows that Mrs. English Teacher keeps her gun in her desk drawer. After a playground encounter with the bully d’ jour, he decides to show his classmates how crazy he really is. Never happen? And who would have thought a 20-year-old son of a kindergarten teacher would take an AR-15, break into a school, and shoot up a class of six year-olds?  Hmmm.

Hello parents! Anyone listening?

This fall I’ve learned a big lesson – don’t try to communicate with adults through their ten-year old children. It doesn’t work. The group in question, of course, is my 5th grade CCD class. (This is religious education for the kids in our parish who do not go to Catholic schools. Protestants call it “Sunday school” except ours is on Wednesday evenings.) This is my eighth year teaching 5th grade, and for some reason, we have had more of a need to get announcements to the parents than in past years. One big issue has been our Christmas pageant. Our class was asked to provide readers/narrators. However, this involved only half the class, which created the opportunity for confusion over schedules, etc.

Unfortunately, announcements made in class go through the filters of 10 or 11 year-olds, who may or may not remember to pass it on to their parents (and may or may not get the information correct.) Even written hand-outs don’t always make it to their intended destination. Of course an in-class announcement or handout is useless for a student who isn’t there that evening.

Then you have the students who deliver the message properly and accurately, but their parents don’t believe them.

Mother of troublesome child: “Yes, she told me that you told her she shouldn’t come to class tonight unless she was in the pageant, but I told her she must have been mistaken.”

Me: “No, she got it right. (And thank you for bringing her. It was a real pleasure to have her here with nothing to do except annoy the other children who are involved in the program.”

I maintain a second blog to update parents on what we are teaching and talking about on a weekly basis. However, judging from the number of “hits” it gets each week, I can see that most of our parents are not taking advantage of this resource to stay informed.

The inability to communicate with parents presents real problems when trying to schedule things like the pageant. One program will be during a regular CCD class time slot. That isn’t much of a problem; the kids should be there anyway. However, a second presentation will be at 6 pm Mass on Christmas Eve. The children have no control over their schedule. They can say they want to read at Christmas Eve Mass, but if their parents have another idea for the family, the little darlings have no say in the matter.

We have one boy who really wants to participate. He stopped my co-teacher in his school parking lot last week and told her how excited he was to be involved. The problem is — he was there for the first introductory run-though of the program but hasn’t been seen since. He missed the next two practices during the regular class time-slots as well as our special Saturday morning rehearsal. So do we penalize the kid because Mom can’t get remember when the rehearsals are and get him there? (FYI – If he shows up, we’ll let him read.)

In January, I’ll assemble an email list and see if that works any better.

Bottom line – I love the kids. The parents are a little exasperating.

A lovely day in the hands of the US Postal Service

I couldn’t figure out why my thighs were sore today, then I remembered. I spent most of yesterday afternoon on my knees on the loading dock of the downtown post office, reshuffling and repacking 737 bulk mail envelopes containing our biennial report. Oy!

What I thought would be a 10-15 minute chore turned into a more than three hour ordeal. I discovered, the world of bulk mail is no place for amateurs like me. I guess if you know what you’re are doing and understand your way around the labyrinth of arcane procedures, regulations and terminology, it might not be that difficult. However, for someone like myself, who handles this kind of job about once every two to three years, it was painful. The thing is, I went down to the post office several months ago and explained that I was not an expert and needed help getting it together. At that time, they were extremely helpful and gave me a set of instructions. When I actually showed up yesterday, with 737 envelopes, all neatly sorted by zip code,  there were a whole bunch of additional regulations and  procedures they had not shared with me. Our verbal exchanges included these:

“Well, your first problem is that you have used the wrong trays. Those are flats, not letters, so you need flat trays.”

Me: “Aren’t those flat trays? They are pretty flat.”

“No, these taller boxes are the flat trays. You’ll have to change everything to these other trays.”

“You know, you need to have all these wrapped in rubber bands in bundles of ten.” (It would have been nice to tell me that when I came down here the first time.)

“Did I tell you bundles of ten? No, ten is just the minimum. You can have as many as you can hold in one hand.”

“Where are your little colored labels?”

“Didn’t you hear me when I told you those needed to be placed in sacks?”

“Where is your PAPERWORK?”

“You don’t have enough money in your account.”

Me: “I have a check here in my pocket.”

“Oh no. You need to have already paid up front before we ever started this. I should have never even let you unload. Your (already sorted, wrapped, bagged, weighed, etc.) shipment shouldn’t even be out there. Oh my!”

By the end of the agony, I was beginning to understand the concept of “going postal.”

Nuts and gun control

All three of “my teams” that played this weekend lost games they should have won. However, in light of Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, that shrinks to insignificance.

Before the sirens stopped wailing, gun control advocates were already hot on their keyboards. Huffington Post must have had four columns posted by mid-afternoon on Friday. You have a big problem and a big solution, but the two don’t match. Actually, I favor some stricter gun controls. It’s probably a good idea for society in general. However, I don’t believe stricter gun control will do anything to help prevent school shootings and other mass shootings. Unless you outlawed guns entirely, which is totally unfeasible, some crazy guy will be able to get his hands on a handgun, a rifle or a shotgun. Instead, we need “crazy people” control. When someone figures that out, we’ll have the answer.

The debate over gun control may be counter productive. While national attention will be focused on controlling the tools used to commit violence like this, little attention will be paid to controlling and preventing the behavior itself.  Society needs to find ways to identify and treat the kinds of people who are likely to do something like this before they break. I don’t know the answer, but I suspect just making it more difficult to obtain a gun is probably not it.

One mother, Liza Long, wrote an excellent essay on what it is like to be the mother of a mentally ill son. It’s worth reading.

A couple of chuckles

I’ll get around to a regular post shortly, but I the meantime, here are a couple of things that made me laugh.

Frosty snow cone

Amish christmas lights

We have squirrels! Well, we hope so anyway.

It may just be time to declare war on squirrels around the Poolman house. As cute as the little demons are, they are starting to get under our skin.

Earlier this year, I had a leak in my car’s windshield washer system. Everytime I refilled the reservoir, the fluid would just come pouring out. I thought maybe I had a broken tube or lose connection. No, said the mechanic. I had squirrels. The suckers had chewed through the plastic tubing.

Did someone say "party?"

Did someone say “party?”

This past Saturday, Mrs. Poolman and I went up to the attic to bring down the Christmas decorations. She noticed right away that there was ample evidence of rodents having partied there. (I don’t need to discuss the evidence. It was not pleasant.) Mrs. Poolman immediately began having visions or giant wharf rats taking over her house and sneaking up on her in her sleep to gnaw off her toes. I suggested our problem was probably not rats, but one of their smaller cousins. I have never seen a field mouse, let alone a wharf rat around our hour house or yard. On the other hand, our and the surrounding yards are a paradise for squirrels. There are millions of them out there. I strongly suspect our B&E culprits go by the nickname “Rocky.”

Sid

Sid

Penny

Penny

Mrs. Poolman began to make disparaging comments about our “lazy cats” not earning their keep, and threatening to take them up to the attic and leave them there. Sid and Penny were not impressed, and went back to sleep. In defense of our cats, they don’t have access to the attic where the squirrels are.  Our daughter, Writer Princes, works for an exterminating company. She will send someone out this week to take care of the unauthorized entry point and whatever party animals have been left behind.