Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Goggle's New Privacy Settings

It seems that we've been hearing about Google's new settings for quite a long time now, and tomorrow they are set to take effect.

What am I, a lonely sole blogger, to make of all of it?

For starters they sound complicated. To simplify and dilute around 60 privacy settings into a single setting is quite risky and frightening when one considers the possible consequences and unknowns regarding privacy, social interaction, and search key remembrance. I am, however, reading a lot about the lack of change most users will see and feel when they use and reuse Google and it's subsidiaries and products.

And on the positive side, I know many YouTubers would actually be happy if their videos and posts were linked to more videos and were aggregate at an optimal level.

Let's hope it doesn't turn out to be a failure or a dime-a-dozen disappointment like so many other short-lived Internet companies or their poor decisions--like Yahoo's loss of ground to Google over user interfacing and ease of navigation, Groupon and Pandora's quick fade from glory, or Google's Google+ "failure."

The point of my post rests on this thesis: if we, the users, don't like Google's decisions, all we can do is beg and complain for them to revert back because there is no alternative. Think about it: Google has us by a chokehold. We can't defect to a different host, can't abandon Google (after all, Google has moved into our daily lexicon as a synonymous verb for "to search"), and can't change their minds since they have obviously switched to a more streamlined system for multiple reasons, none of which rely upon our immediate satisfaction with their changes.

To Google is to search, but it is also to stare wide-eyed into the Internet, wondering (if there is a problem or a disappointment after their change) if the experience will ever be the same again.

First REAL Snowfall of Winter

Today marks the first "real" snowfall of the year, and accompanying are the ubiquitous "Warzecha, are we gonna have school tomorrow?" Followed by my sincere and certain, "yes, no, maybe, I don't know."

First, I write "real" since our only true storm of this year took place last year, in October, before winter began, and even before the regular temperatures dipped below 60 degrees during the day. Discrediting that storm for its fortuitousness, this winter has been extremely quiet. Too quiet, even eerie. Perhaps even foreboding, which is why this storm doesn't even feel like the whopper that were awaiting.

If we don't have school tomorrow, I can led some credibility to this storm but if, as the forecast predicts, the storm turns into rain and then only a tiny bit more snow tomorrow morning and it only brings with it a delay or nothing at all, then I can't say this winter was even a "winter."

Remember waking up as a child to scan the television for the list of closures, praying you'd see your school? Well, there are times in which teachers do the same thing; we hope for the reprieve from a day of whining and resentful students who only hours before had awoken with the greatest of hopes for a snow day. These days are often the worst since I will most likely find my attendance sheet dwindled, and will be met with pent-up frustration and teenage angst.

And all the while in the back of my mind is the constant thought: is this it?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dunce Helmet

I'm pretty sure this just needs to be classified under ____________ because that's exactly how many good reasons there are to do this...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fairy Tales Are Too Real

That's essentially what parents across the country are beginning to say when it comes to bedtime stories. A new study shows many parents across the country are foregoing the traditional bedtime stories because they believe they are "too real" and therefore "too scary."

The partial list of egregious tales includes Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Disney classics including Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty.

I'm sorry, but when have children become these tiny creatures who should never be exposed to anything remotely out of the comfort zones of the most conservative of parents? Remember your own childhood? The stories, television shows and movies we watched when growing up are nothing in comparison to the types of shows, movies and especially video games out there right now. Is there really any way to justify that Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario Brothers are scarier than Call of Duty or Resident Evil? Can a case really be made that Sleeping Beauty is scarier than Twilight? Sure, it's a love story...but it's a love story with a vampire. A vampire. One is a fantastical murderer who destroys lives, families and dreams...the other sleeps for an extended period of time.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Reason To Stay In School

Employment figures out today show that 1.8 million college graduates have found employment within the past 26 months (net), while 128,000 jobs for those who have dropped out of high school have been lost (net) in the past 26 months. Bottom line: Graduate high school and attend college if you want to remain employed in the "new" economy.

Employers will be looking for skilled graduates who have shown an aptitude to succeed in different environments, including graduating from high school, which many have said are "prerequisites" for any potential job prospect. While these sentiments certainly don't reflect the rhetoric and marketability of 40 years ago, it does echo the writing on the wall. Furthermore, the article warns, those already stuck in this position (between 25 and 55) without a high school diploma, GED, or, in many cases, a college degree, will continue to face bleak prospects for years to come. The market for a particular skill without a broad educational foundation, career training, etc. will make many candidates discouraged and force many into unnecessary worry or hardships.

The article does, however, say those who have pursued a GED and have either gone back to school years later for a degree, or have gone to a specialized school (truck driving, mechanic, trade school, etc.) will fare nearly as well as those with a diploma and degree. In some cases, employers are looking for those who later on in life went back to school because it shows they have managed to juggle career, personal life, personal goals and school.

Huffington Post version of the article below:

A Long...February

With the promise of spring only a few weeks away, and with February being the shortest month of the year (despite this year being the dreaded leap year), one would theoretically assume that February would fly by or would offer the kind of respite needed from the arduous months of December and January. But, here I sit in February, shivering, as the cold month ticks slowly by.

In years past hasn't January's ugly step-brother gone by much quicker? I seem to remember it doing so; barely remembering the month had begun by the time my father's birthday rolled around at the end of the month. Maybe it's because I have so many plans for this spring, or because I refuse to spend a fortune on heating oil this year, or more likely, it's because we've had fewer than 9" of snow here since the pre-Halloween storm. For whatever reason, it's becoming quite annoying. I'd even trade this February break from school if we could have returned to school for the beginning of March today instead of the 21st of February.

Anyone else agree?

And more...

And some Black Keys... "Lonely Boy"

Some More New Blues

Gary Clark, Jr. "Bright Lights"

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why I Will Never Be As Great At Guitar As I Want To Be


A guy quits his job and tours the world for nearly an entire year, all the while taking time lapse photos that he compiled into this breathtaking video which begs the question, if you were able to do the same thing, where would you go?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Steve Carrell and the End of the World

Looking for a great movie to boost your spirits before the end of the world? Thank God it's not Bruce Almighty 2.

Like the pun there?

You're welcome.

I thought I was smart until I read this...

From The Wall Street Journal...

A researcher, John Sloboda, more than 20 years ago figured out how the specific arrangements of notes in a song, paired with vocal melodies and harmonies between vocal and musical layers, actually creates a physical emotional reaction in a listener. Translation: You can literally play specific notes in a specific order in order to make someone cry. These notes, or their order, are called appoggiatura.

A note that augments a pleasing sound creates enough dissonant sounds (think anything but a perfect 4th or 5th--yes! Music Theory geek!) that it causes a small, subconscious level of distress in a listener. Rescue them with a pleasing crescendo or chorus, reiterate it, and then layer it with staggered timings (basically the same structure of any pop song), and you have successfully played an order of notes that can physically cause tears.


This guy can chop.

So, maybe I am a sucker for historical fiction because this looks awesome...

Now THIS Looks Like Fun

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

To Perform or Not To Perform

As the drama club director at my high school, I'm in charge of not only coordinating rehearsals and showtimes but I am charged with trying to fit two or three performances into the busy schedules of 30+ high schoolers of varying ages and abilities, some of whom are involved in more extracurricular activities than I can even count.

The most difficult part of this process is choosing the final dates of the show. Though it seems counter-intuitive, a lot of thought goes into the choosing of these dates, beginning with the length of time that it will take to rehearse the show before it will be ready to be performed. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so fast.

It's always different for each show, and it's always different when you have a larger number of actors and actresses and when you have a lot of newer performers who haven't been on the stage before. There's a steep learning curve for some that includes not only stage presence but stage voicing (think about teaching introverted high schoolers how to project from their diaphragm and appear to be 8 weeks).

To add to these difficulties, there must also be a play chosen. Giving the students options for the play they want to perform is always a safe route to go in, but the dangers with this lie in the rushing to figure out several things once they choose a play. The length of time to rehearse is suddenly scrutinized not only for its end date, but for its beginning date. More than 50% of the students who participate in drama club also participate in at least one fall sport. The amount of time that would be "wasted" with rehearsals with too few students or none at all for scenes would exhaust many students, and of course, the director.

The next step in the arduous process is to coordinate with their schedules. Asking for a copy of everyone's prior commitments at the beginning of the first day of rehearsals is a good start, but things always come up, and there are always a dozen or so who will forget really important dates at the beginning, which is what happened to me this year. To add to this, previously scheduled events (some from the previous year and some perennial) and changed event dates plague my would-be calendar nearly every year, but this year they have nearly eradicated it.

After a week or two of hysteria, in which I lost more than a hundred extra hairs, I've arrived at three remaining sets of dates (one of which I believe has just been crossed off by some drama students outside my room who have dance competitions and a sporting event) on which to hold our performances.

While this post does have a negative slant to it, I don't want it to be misconstrued as complaining or searching for commiseration. I'm proud of my students for being involved in so many activities and for having such busy schedules that they barely have time for this portion of their lives. Despite the fact that it's causing me undue stress and craziness, I feel some kind of promise for the future generation knowing that so many are so interested in doing more than sitting at home with a video game controller glued to their palms, and that not all of them will be satiated by a few lazy performances and a couple of sporadic performances. They might not all have the same quixotic hopes that I do for the production and the same optimism that any date I choose will work for everyone, but their dogged involvement in myriad sports and activities is the best worst thing I could hope for in this situation.

When Writing Gets Personal

Nearly every local newspaper in California has created a "Hot for Teacher" headline about a 56-year-old married man who has been ousted from Oakland University after writing a creative essay with sexual undertones, which may or may not be directed at his professor. While he had written essays of the like before, the professor felt that he content was too explicit and was directed at her. Different articles give different ages for the professor, but most agree that she is younger than he is, which provides extra credibility to her case that he "intimidated" her with his writing and that she no longer felt safe having him in her class.

Joe Corlett contends that he has never, nor will ever, have fantasies regarding the professor, though he admits she is an attractive woman. He was simply writing furiously and "fearless"ly, as his wife calls it, and had received good feedback on his previous essays which he says also contained questionable material.

I agree with the teacher in this case. The student-teacher relationship is one that has to have set boundaries, and though at times it can become blurred when extraneous elements come into play (a lot of teachers are also sometimes thrust into the role of counselor and sounding board when familial and friend problems arise), the idea that an essay of questionable nature and intent is written directly to a teacher is disconcerting, especially if it's a male writing to a female.

I am also happy, as many bloggers and commentators have also stated, that this story hasn't been spun somehow, insinuating that the teacher gave an inappropriate prompt, requested the type of writing that was produced, or had led Mr. Corlett on. One commentator in particular had the following to say, which, as clever as it is, rings pretty true, "Finally, a good teacher in a bad situation isn't vilified."

Full local article here:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

So...A Guy Walks Into A Bar...

And is holding a gun...

And everyone ignores him.

Then chase him down.

And chat afterward that they were disappointed they had their night interrupted by chasing down the gunslinger.



Go ahead and attempt an Ace Ventura impression...


Imagine Grandma Doing This....

And you thought you knew what awesome was...

Not until you've seen professional biker Mikael Dupont attempt (and mostly succeed) in performing some BMX-style tricks using a circa 1940s women's bike.

Added bonus: He welds a support bar onto the frame to keep the bike from bending in half...a second time.

Yo, Dat's Cra-Z, broski.

In what comes as no surprise to any of us educators, a school in England has banned its students from using any slang whatsoever while on school grounds, including on all assignments; their reasoning being that students in the mostly working class town will be better equipped and prepared for employment if they distance themselves from the type of language that is often associated with a lack of education and lackadaisical attitudes. So far, they aren't sure what the backlash and reception will be like, but I know if it were to occur in this area it would be met with high expectations but with little tangible result or change.

I would love to enforce this rule in my own school; I can definitely see the benefits to it, and I'm already seeing a lot of it manifest in negative ways in my students' papers. There's a serious problem when critiques of "ppl" instead of "people" and "wat" instead of "what" are met with a lot of resistance because it seems "just fine" and "you knew what I meant."

Read the full story here:

Ripped from the Daily What:

Whitney Houston

Yesterday, on his audioblog, Charles, a local DJ on 94.1 WHJY, expressed concern over the mass hysteria surrounding the death of Whitney Houston. While I at first vehemently disagreed with his statements and his opinions, during the course of his argument he became extremely convincing.

His thesis: People never cared about Whitney Houston until she died.

Seems harsh, right? Well, his reasoning is somewhat sound. Whitney Houston was one of the golden divas of the late 1980s and early 1990s; people bought her records en masse and celebrated her amazing performances and strong resonant voice, insinuating she would rise to the acclaim of all the great divas before her--Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin--and would achieve long-lived fandom when most others fizzled out rather quickly. Her career seemed pristine and enviable, until her life began spiraling out of control because of her marriage to Bobby Brown and the controversy that surrounded the two of them and their cavalier drug use and abuse. Then came the realizations that there was physical abuse in their relationship; there were questions as to whether their daughter would be taken away, and whether her career could be resurrected.

She was vilified in the media, pilloried for scorn and negative example.

She then seemed to fade away into static and oblivion.

Then came a reality show which she begrudgingly agreed to be on, which was followed by even more scrutiny and negativity. Her life spiraled further into tabloid fodder, her marriage fell apart and her appearances on television or other programming were heralded with anything but positivity.

Insert a few years of obscurity and mediocrity and you arrive at the present, wherein she is being celebrated as one of the greatest voices of her generation, as a true diva, and as the definition of beauty, talent and role model.

As Charles pointed out, something doesn't add up here; people are more concerned about her postmortem than they were even 10 years ago. Her divorce wouldn't have made front page news, a comeback tour would have been shuddered quickly, and anything other than the aforementioned would have been ignored almost entirely.

Are we, as a culture, so quick to grasp onto only the good in a person, or are we too quick to judge and condemn someone for even the smallest of failings. Are we too critical, analytical and quick to judge? Or are we genuinely concerned and saddened by her passing.

As Charles put it, "I can't be saddened by the death of someone I never met and know little about." While I agree, I don't entirely. I do feel some empathy, especially for her family and friends, and perhaps for the music community, knowing they lost someone so impacting.

I think the true test will lie in whether she is as greatly remembered in two months or even a year from now as she is today.

Time Travel, Kind of...

As if I hadn't published enough oddities lately, here's another piece of history to tickle your "no way" nerves:

Highlight: The fact that a 81-year-old civil war veteran married a 21-year-old girl right before his death.

Check This Out

The link below is to 11 daredevil accomplishments that seem improbable or even impossible. Some of these were even new to me...

A timelapse video of the Milky Way Galaxy, as seen from central South Dakota

It's Snowing Like...


What the hell?!

Last winter the northeast saw the 9th largest snowfall amount on record; it seemed every day we were shovelin' (insert repetitive syncopated pop beat here). This year we're in a snow drought. At my home, we've shoveled twice and I pulled out the snowblower once, just to say I used it this year, though a paltry 4" of fluffy snow is hardly what I would consider the backbreaking labor of bygone winters. AND it was 50 degrees the next two days following the snowfall. Talk about anticlimactic.

Is this a byproduct of global warming, or of some cyclical trend in nature that we naive humans have yet to understand? Does that mean this summer is going to be a scorcher? Or that it will be even milder? Maybe we'll get deluged with a straight week or rain...

I'm not praying for anything one way or another, I just miss the seasons when one knew what to expect: hot, dry summer days, winters full of snow and cold, an autumn and a spring in which temperatures were actually around 55 degrees every day (and not either 38 or 75).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hacksaw Jim Duggan and my wrestling debut

You can call me The War-lord.

Waiting for effect with dramatic pause (read: line break). Nothing? Bueller?

Oh well.

This past Friday I got the opportunity to participate in a live action wrestling event when Big Time Wrestling came to my high school. As part of their stage show, their performers tried to hype our smallish audience with the type of banter that incites frustration from the younger kids who still want the "good guys" to win, and palpitations and mini-strokes from the faculty who must deal with the fallout from the curses and racial epithets blurted out by the cavalier superstars. The company ransacked their repertoire in search of the most creative matches they could muster for the tiny town of Northbridge. We received two tag team matches and a dog collar match. :/

I, however, was undeterred by the lack of creativity as it pertained to the matches, but was engrossed with Hacksaw Jim Duggan, a superstar from my childhood who stood larger than life in the ring, inciting cheers and the kind of mild hysteria you can only get from a wrestler 20 years past their prime.

I also got to participate in one of the matches: the dog collar match. The heel, Mister TA, and his manager, John Cena, Sr., came down to the ring and began to unfairly attack and gain advantage over The Hillbilly, Cousin Larry. At this point, becoming clearly frustrated, Larry declares he needed assistance from the likes of Jeff, a local "hero" whom he had met earlier that day at the local restaurant, Brian's.

While I wait for my royalties from Brian's for the free advertising I'll relay the remainder of the story.

I came down to the ring, pretended to become involved as much as possible, and ended up orchestrated (ahead of time of course) a win for the Hillbilly and clear vindication for the crowd who had just moments earlier seemed so upset about his impending loss.

Truth be told, the audience was actually more excited to see me by the stage than to see the match, and although I didn't do anything particularly special or warranting of applause, instill receive requests for autographs from several children. Ok, I said to them, I'll sign this for you, but I'd you stay in school you can have plenty of autographs from me all over your papers.

It was an awesome experience, and somewhat of a dream come true, although muted and on a much smaller scale obviously. I would do it again in a heartbeat, though, and it was great to meet one of my childhood heroes. The classes made a lot of money and overall I think everyone had a great time, even if some of them were upset by the fact that there weren't more big names in attendance.

As for my stardom, I think I'll stick to teaching and writing; I don't know d the world is ready for the War-Lors just yet.

But you never know.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Best Cities in the World to Live?

CNBC put up another round of their "Best Places to Live" in the world, with a little help from several consulting firms and other magazines.

A link to the article is above. And what's not surprising about it? Not a single city from the United States made it to the list, while Canada came in with three cities and Europe (despite being vilified in the news) had almost all the remaining cities. They were awarded such prestige because they actually, in every category, rated higher than any American city in terms of pay, ease, employment, happiness, etc.

Maybe we SHOULD be trying to be a bit more like Europe. What do you think?

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Long Hiatus

After graduating with my MFA (woo!), I've decided it's time to begin getting serious about, what else, writing!

With that being said, I think this blog will become the most sporadic and most personal and reflective of a collection of blogs-to-come. So I suppose the whole four month lull may become a norm.

One of the treats of graduation weekend is that a distinguished panel of writers, editors and publishers moseys onto campus to answer our pressing questions regarding post-MFA opportunities and, inevitably, what can we do to make money since we're so far into debt now?

The answer was resoundingly: blogging. (With some online copy, social media commentary, etc. mixed in) The stipulation, however, was that only 1% of the people in the room (meaning 1.21 people) would be able to successfully manufacture a living solely off of blogging, while an equally small percentage would find it possible to supplement their incomes with blogging and the infrequent freelance job. The bottom line: be excellent or find a real job.

I've decided to do both, not because of my head-to-the-wind blind stupidity but because of the open challenge of the idea. Blogging is free, essentially. It only "costs" time, of which I now have a "copious" (if it ever can be) amount of every evening sans my hours of Master's work and my streamlining of previous lessons and foresight into future lessons. So I've decided to break up into at least three separate blogs all of which I hope to monetize in the future and at least link to a growing writing portfolio.

Look for updates.