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Let Me Get This Straight....

Donald Trump says it's okay to bring back waterboarding in certain instances, and that's bad?
Yet John Kasich says "it will be over when they're all beheaded" and that's okay?
Uhmmm.....

Dearth of Imagery

There has been a significant fall-off in the appearance of my free-to-use Creative Commons licensed Flickr photos in various online publications over the past year or so.

Have online publications quit using Flickr as a source of free photos? I don't know.

Are Flickr stats no longer effectively reporting off-site links? Who knows; Flickr is constantly messing with things under the hood and out of sight.

Are there fewer online publications? Possibly; I've noticed that small-scale blogs, which often used my images, seem to be falling dormant or ceasing publication altogether.

A more likely explanation, however, is that I have been posting fewer images to Flickr this past year or two, the images I post are low-grade snapshots and not very interesting, and I moved many of my most popular images (Thailand and Spain travel photos, in particular) to iPernity. And nobody looks at iPernity!

I'm going to try to post more and better photos in 2016, and see if that makes a difference. I might even resurrect a "365" project or two!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Just read a bunch of reviews and spoiler sites about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sounds to me like effin' lazy film-making of the lowest, most degenerate kind.

(Warning: moderately edited spoiler RANT follows!)

Character X allows and even encourages Character Son of X to kill him, because "he has to do it" and somehow that will start Son of X down some kind of path of redemption? Okay, sorry for being so, y'know, hyper-conservative and all, but killing your parents is just messed up. It's not "entertainment." It's not even good storytelling. It's effin' Kip Kinkel (high school shooter in my hometown who killed his parents and then shot up a school) crap.

We have a world full of psycho kids and "young adults" out there, raised on video games, who can barely differentiate between reality and fantasy anymore: the Columbine shooters, that Colorado theater shooter, the Sandy Hook freak, those two 12 year old girls who stabbed their friend nineteen times and left her to die in the woods "for Slenderman." Now we have what is possibly the most influential film franchise of all time hinting -- no, not hinting, but blatantly stating -- that killing your father is the path to understanding yourself? And your dad, as he dies an agonizing death right before your eyes, will forgive you for it?

That. Is. Messed. The. Eff. Up.

Oh, and don't forget: it's a Disney movie!

Second-run, DVD, Netflix, whatever or wherever... I'll be skipping The Force Awakens.

I Didn't Know

I didn’t know. I truly had no idea.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 was my last day as a teacher at XXX Elementary School. I had no idea how difficult, how exceptionally sad, it would be to leave a job I thought I was totally burned out on.

But more significantly, more difficult, and even more surprising: I had no idea what my presence meant to the school. I truly had no inkling of the regard and affection my coworkers had for me.

I am overwhelmed and astonished.

And now I’m wondering if leaving, leaving the school and leaving Hawaii, will be one of the greatest mistakes of my life.

I’ve always considered myself to be at best a mediocre teacher. Sure, I can relate well to particular students, but overall I never thought I was anything special. On the contrary, I’ve always felt inferior, unprofessional, and ineffective compared to most of my colleagues. I just did my little SPED thing and tried, with mixed success, not to be an inconvenience.

I figured my leaving would be little more than a blip on the radar. I’ve seen a few teachers leave over the years: teachers with more seniority, teachers with better credentials, teachers with more professional accomplishments, and teachers who are a lot more “teacher-ly.” Some have retired, some have transferred to other schools, some took admin positions, some moved out of state. There was usually a brief acknowledgement of their service, a card for anyone who was interested to sign, and a cursory lei presentation.

I was hoping to avoid that and simply slip away unnoticed. I expected, at most, if anyone happened to notice, a “we should probably give him a lei or a card or something” polite-but-whatevahs effort from a few people.

That’s not what happened.

What happened went against everything I have ever thought and believed about myself for my entire life, in anything that I have attempted.

Everyone noticed. Everyone. And to all appearances, they all genuinely cared.

Each the morning the students gather in the courtyard for the flag pledge before being released to class. Shortly before the usual flag pledge time I was summoned by intercom to report to the courtyard. When I arrived the principal was there. She called me out to the center of the outdoor stage, and announced to the entire school that I was leaving. She briefly reviewed some of my accomplishments — NASA Explorer School activities, LEGO League coach, etcetera. She talked about how sad she was to see me leave. And then she called for a representative from each grade level to come forward, and one at a time a student or a group of students from grades 1 through 6 came forward and presented me with a lei and a card from the grade level. Then a number of students from various grades came up and presented me with more cards and leis. A group of my students from last year came up, and one of my girls read a speech she had written thanking me for helping her and all the other students. It was far more than I would have expected.

And then I was deluged with a wave of hugs from students — SPED, general ed, all grade levels, kids I know, kids I don’t know. A few younger students were crying because they were expecting to be in my class next year and were already looking forward to it.

Finally the students were released to class, and I figured that was it. And that would have been enough. It would have been far more than I expected.

But it was only the beginning.

One of my fellow SPED teachers rolled a “meal on wheels” into the classroom, a breakfast-brunch she prepared herself, and set up a SPED spread in the classroom for the SPED staff.

Throughout the day, several parents of students I’ve worked with in the past dropped by my room, crying. Genuinely crying. Even though their children were no longer in my class, they were deeply saddened to learn that I was leaving the school. They brought me cards and presents. One parent even brought me lunch.

A group of a dozen grade 6 students — the grade that’s too cool to care — dropped by to hang out in the classroom “talking story” during recess.

Wednesday afternoons are reserved for the weekly faculty meeting. The faculty meeting started out normal enough — boring blah-de-blah stuff. Apparently that first ten minutes was simply filling time until everybody could be there; and so everybody had time to fill their plates. There was an immense buffet spread, both healthy food and cakes and cookies and chips and snacks, the biggest I’ve seen at a faculty meeting, even bigger than during the holiday season. Unexpectedly, after the first ten minutes or so the principal interrupted the standards-based practices lecture to announce that “we’ll return to this later; first, we have a special presentation.” She proceeded to announce, yet again, my departure, and then she narrated a humorous — yes, my principal was cracking jokes — video presentation about things I could possibly do because I am moving to a place where nobody knows me.

Then they played the video which I narrated and helped write and edit from the 2009 NASA Explorer Schools trip to Yellowstone National Park. (Via his cameo appearance in the Yellowstone video, our plastic lizard pal Trippy managed to make an appearance at my departure party.) This was followed by a slideshow of various school activities in which I’d participated during my eight years at the school: NASA events, field trips, camping trips, presentations, and classroom activities.

And then the individual and grade-level presentations began. Every grade level. Office staff. Educational assistants. Custodians. Admin. They made… not bought, made cards and leis. Their students made cards and drawings. They said things I would never have expected, talking about the things they would miss about me, talking about what they felt I had brought to the school and to the students and to them personally, talking about the fun and energy and enthusiasm I had brought to the school. Several were so choked up and emotional they could barely speak. The librarian, tech coordinator, and curriculum coordinator all began crying during their presentation — a presentation that included presenting to me a special LEGO-themed banner they had created that every employee of the school — not just the teachers, but the support staff, the custodians, every employee — had signed.

The curriculum coordinator got her son on the telephone. It was his 20th birthday. He’s away at college now. But he was one of the students in the sixth grade class where I completed my student teaching. He still remembers me. I remember him, too. He was one of those students… well, one of those students they assign the student teachers to work one-on-one with, let’s just say. They put the call on speaker phone. He said a number of students from that class remember me, and still talk about those days from time to time.

Some of the presentations were funny. Some were serious. Some were short. Some were long. All seemed genuine.

And it was all unexpected. It was all overwhelming.

Ultimately I said a few words. I don’t even remember what I said (altho’ I think the entire thing was recorded; maybe I’ll get a copy one day), but one of the Educational Assistants with whom I’ve worked since the beginning assured me that I did not ramble on too long and that I said exactly the right thing. “They liked it that you lost your composure and had such a hard time saying anything,” she said.

Afterward, the EAs, some of whom have been at the school for twenty or more years, said they have never seen the entire school come together for a send-off like this, not for anyone, ever.

Then it was back to… the food, and talking, and more tears and hugs, and… and then I went back to my classroom and finished up some grade reports, and signed a final document with the office secretary (who had tears in her eyes when she brought the final forms to me to me), and then the EAs and I loaded all the leis and cards and leftover snacks and gifts into my car and I locked “my” classroom door for the final time… and I drove home with tears streaming down my face.

Honestly and truly, I had no idea. No idea that so many students would care whether or not I was there tomorrow or next week or next year. Even less idea that it would make any difference one way or another to so many of my colleagues — to nearly all of my colleagues.

And it is very, very difficult for me to accept that I was doing something right. That I have been making a positive impact for the past eight years. That I could possibly be so universally respected and appreciated and liked.

I have spent my life believing myself to be a failure at everything; or at best, to be barely adequate once in a while. Yet now I find out that, apparently, I’ve been doing something right.

But I find out when it’s too late. I’ve sold my house. I’ve submitted my resignation. I’ve packed up my belongings, a moving truck will be showing up in a few days, and I have a house and a car waiting for me in another state thousands of miles away where I don’t know anybody and where I have no job waiting for me.

I was beginning to feel like I was coming to hate working as a teacher. Blindly, I was oblivious to the extent, and I do not think the word is too strong to use, to which I had become loved as a teacher. Me, haole guy from da mainland, loved here in Hawaii.

Would it have made a difference had I known? The unpleasant aspects of the job would have remained - the one out of a hundred parents who are never happy, the incompetent bureaucracy of the department and the district and the complex, the pressure of employee evaluations and school rankings, the unrealistic expectations for student achievement on the latest version of the standardized test, and the sad reality that relative to the cost of living, the teacher salary trend continues to be inversely proportional.

I feel like this should, or could, be, at this comparatively late stage in my life, a great moment of awakening. A difficult to deny, observable, convincing proof to myself that I am not incompetent or mediocre at everything I attempt. “Social proof” that I am not a failure.

Yet… that was yesterday. When I was still a teacher.

Today I’m a former teacher. Because I quit. I walked away. I was actually doing something right, I was doing something well, I was doing something that other people liked and appreciated and respected, and I gave it up.

I didn’t see it. I was too dim-witted to notice. I was too overwhelmed by the petty challenges to see the bigger picture. The brighter picture. The better picture.

I didn’t see the value until I threw it all away.

I didn’t know.
Wife is cranky and resentful about the move. I wouldn't have made the offer on the Utah house so quickly, but she was all for it while we were there. I was ready to cancel the sale several times when the buyers kept asking for extensions, but she wanted to keep going.

But now wife tells me "it's because you hate your job so much." She's also annoyed that I haven't found a better paying job, or made any effort in that regard. And it's because I'm the one who "can't sleep all winter because you're so worried about the erosion."

Now she's snapping at me because I'm going in to work during my last week rather than using sick leave.

Yeah, well, {blank} me all to {blanking blank} for believing that a good employee and a conscientious teacher shows up for work. {Blank} me all to {blanking blank} for having earned two commendation awards while working at the post office, and a certificate from the {blanking blank-blanked} GOVERNOR for being a conscientious employee of the school. Just {blank} me all to {blanking blank} for being so {blanking} stupid.

So {blanking} hot and humid here. Never been like this, either this intense or for this long, since we've lived here. Co-worker tells me she doesn't remember it ever being like this in the 40+ years she's lived here.

Took the new iPad in to the Verizon mobile phone store to get a Verizon SIM chip. That way I will have internet access for email and stuff after we move. Forty bucks a month for 4gb data plan. Not happy about paying forty bucks a month, but it's a month-to-month plan, so I can cancel, or rather, not renew at any time. It'll do until we get real internet at the new place.

What Were They Thinking?

Today, along with several other staff members from the elementary school at which I work, I received a Certificate of Commendation from David Ige, Governor of the State of Hawaii:

Camera and Lens Comparison

Yesterday I briefly tried out the new Fujifilm Finepix S1 I recently acquired as a potential substitute for lugging around and fussing with changing heavy, expensive DSLR lenses.

Here's a quick camera comparison of "macro" subjects, similar photos snapped at the same time with four different cameras:



CANON EOS 7D DSLR with CANON 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens
(Lens is opened up to f/1.2 to maximize the "soft background" effect)



FUJIFILM FINEPIX S1 (Compact "bridge" camera with 50x telephoto range)


PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-TS5 (Weather-resistant Point-n-Shoot)


CANON POWERSHOT D20 (Weather-resistant Point-n-Shoot)


I took a number of different shots of various subjects at various distances, primarily comparing the Canon EOS 7D with the new arrival, the FujiFilm FinePix S1. After looking at the results, as well as evaluating the "usability" of each camera, I decided to try to sell the DSLR lenses (50mm f/1.2 and 135mm f/2.0) via eBay. I will keep the DSLR camera and the wide-angle 10-22mm Canon lens. The wide angle lens is what I keep on the camera most of the time as my "general purpose" lens. I find it useful for interiors and for expansive landscape panoramas. The zoom lens on the FujiFilm S1 is amazing. Yes, I'm sure the absolute image quality is not quite as high as that of the DSLR with the high-end lenses, but I rarely shoot at extreme telephoto anyway. The high-end telephoto lenses for a Canon DSLR cost thousands of dollars.

Here's what the FujiFilm FinePix S1 can do; this navigation buoy is a mile offshore! It's barely visible from the beach to the unaided eye:



I'll feel a little bit sad selling my "good glass." Realistically, though, I'll almost never use it again. And for those times I want to achieve the "dreamy soft focus" effect... I'm keeping my original version Lensbaby cheap plastic lens for the Canon!

Thanks for the Offer, but...

Thank you for the offer, but sadly, I live on the opposite side of the planet, so the suggested rendezvous is logistically unfeasible.

Salut my p̏ussy punis̓hٟer
i l͡uv bein͢g f͚#cked bu͙t my BF neve֫r g̪ives it to me 9ٞ-) are u do̴w֝n for a qͭuickie? ..
My s͌cree͌nnam֥e is Bethina1984 8-)
My pagٌe i֔s hٖere: http://Bethinahmc.onlinesexdating.ru
Welcͨome!

Tags:

Even though my email address is supposedly hidden and not available, each time I post to LiveJournal I receive an influx of email messages like this one:

He֚j my p٘ussy f#c͗ker ...
i'm wi̟l̾d i̯n the bedٞroٚom and want to show u my skillz.ָ. r u look֮ing for a friend with benefits?.
My ni̗ckname is Joyan͜n ..
Mֻy a̤ccounֲt iͭs ḧere: http://Joyannhmc.GirlsForFree.ru
TA֫LK S0͗0N!


This was never the case before SixApart sold LJ to the Russian conglomerate.

In Response

My response to DB's comment exceeded LJ's 4300 character limit for responses, so I'll post it here:

I realize the "guilt by association" thing is a slippery slope. After all, am I not helping to publicize both Twitter and the terrorists, and the news media who make hay from both of them, by ranting about it?

Really, though, I don't understand it: how can the "terrorists" freely post videos to YouTube and comments to Twitter and get away with it? At the school where I work, the incompetent Department of Education is able to track exactly which laptop is looking at a specific web site. I find it difficult to believe that the "authorities" cannot determine precisely where the Tweets are coming from – and then strategically DROP A BOMB ON THEM! Cut off their communications, cut off their promotions and propaganda, cut off their broadcasting capabilities, and you might stop them from cutting off more heads.

Of course, it's the same with the "black market oil" that these groups are supposedly selling to fund their operations. I can't believe there aren't easily detectable "chemical signatures" in oil that identify exactly where it comes from. Check each barrel. Put the CEOs and Boards of Directors of any company that is caught with "black market" oil into GITMO with the rest of the "suspected terrorists." That'd stop it, quick!

And the weapons? Where do they come from? I can't go out and buy a grenade launcher, and I live in a developed country. Yet somehow these people with nothing living out in the periphery of nowhere manage to come up with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers and mortars and mines and more automatic rifles than, apparently, the armies of some nations. Where does all that stuff come from? Somebody buys it somewhere. Somebody manufactures it. That stuff is easily identifiable. Find out where it came from. Put the retailers in jail, put the CEOs of the manufacturing companies in jail for treason, if they're from our country, or impose 100% sanctions against the countries they're from.

It's a money and power thing, and I feel moneyless and powerless. I'm one of the nobodys whose head would get cut off, and world leaders would issue yet another "condemnation of this barbaric act."

"We strongly condemn this action." How many times have we seen this rhetoric in the news stories? Yet the "bad guys" keep getting stronger, keep killing more people, and keep taking over more territory.

Perhaps I'm simplistic in my thinking, but to me it seems like these groups could be extinguished in a matter of weeks if the supplies and money were cut off at the source and the communication and propaganda channels were blacked out.

To an extent I feel sorry for Twitter and YouTube. I'm sure when the companies were founded, they had no intention of providing a mouthpiece for terror. But now that the riff-raff are moving in, well, "there goes the neighborhood." How do you get 'em out, without limiting the "free speech" capabilities on which the services are built? But... is gloating about crimes a legitimate form of free speech? At the very least, Twitter should block those accounts.

My real issue isn't so much that the Bad Guys are using Twitter. My issue is that they're getting away with it. Track the tweets, find 'em, and take 'em out. Really, is it that hard?

"Well, they're using an innocent proxy server blah blah blah." Those proxies and intermediaries are part of the chain. Take 'em all out.

Of course, my fullest contempt is reserved for the news media, including, following the lead of their American counterparts, the BBC, who base many of their "news" stories on Twitter posts, and who quote liberally from Twitter posts in their news stories.

And there we go: by reading BBC news stories that liberally quote Twitter, I'm supporting the BBC, I'm supporting Twitter, and I'm supporting the terrorists. I could go bury my head in the sand instead, but then I'd be one of those who "looked the other way."

Of course, now I more fully understand those oft-derided citizens of
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<apply:>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

My response to DB's comment exceeded LJ's 4300 character limit for responses, so I'll post it here:

I realize the "guilt by association" thing is a slippery slope. After all, am I not helping to publicize both Twitter and the terrorists, and the news media who make hay from both of them, by ranting about it?

Really, though, I don't understand it: how can the "terrorists" freely post videos to YouTube and comments to Twitter and get away with it? At the school where I work, the incompetent Department of Education is able to track exactly which laptop is looking at a specific web site. I find it difficult to believe that the "authorities" cannot determine precisely where the Tweets are coming from – and then strategically <i>DROP A BOMB ON THEM!</i> Cut off their communications, cut off their promotions and propaganda, cut off their broadcasting capabilities, and you might stop them from cutting off more heads.

Of course, it's the same with the "black market oil" that these groups are supposedly selling to fund their operations. I can't believe there aren't easily detectable "chemical signatures" in oil that identify exactly where it comes from. Check each barrel. Put the CEOs and Boards of Directors of any company that is caught with "black market" oil into GITMO with the rest of the "suspected terrorists." That'd stop it, quick!

And the weapons? Where do they come from? I can't go out and buy a grenade launcher, and I live in a developed country. Yet somehow these people with <i>nothing</i> living out in the periphery of nowhere manage to come up with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers and mortars and mines and more automatic rifles than, apparently, the armies of some nations. Where does all that stuff come from? Somebody buys it somewhere. Somebody manufactures it. That stuff is easily identifiable. Find out where it came from. Put the retailers in jail, put the CEOs of the manufacturing companies in jail for treason, if they're from our country, or impose 100% sanctions against the countries they're from.

It's a money and power thing, and I feel moneyless and powerless. I'm one of the nobodys whose head would get cut off, and world leaders would issue yet another "condemnation of this barbaric act."

"We strongly condemn this action." How many times have we seen this rhetoric in the news stories? Yet the "bad guys" keep getting stronger, keep killing more people, and keep taking over more territory.

Perhaps I'm simplistic in my thinking, but to me it seems like these groups could be extinguished in a matter of weeks if the supplies and money were cut off at the source and the communication and propaganda channels were blacked out.

To an extent I feel sorry for Twitter and YouTube. I'm sure when the companies were founded, they had no intention of providing a mouthpiece for terror. But now that the riff-raff are moving in, well, "there goes the neighborhood." How do you get 'em out, without limiting the "free speech" capabilities on which the services are built? But... is gloating about crimes a legitimate form of free speech? At the very least, Twitter should block those accounts.

My real issue isn't so much that the Bad Guys are <i>using</i> Twitter. My issue is that they're <i>getting away with it</i>. Track the tweets, find 'em, and take 'em out. Really, is it that hard?

"Well, they're using an innocent proxy server blah blah blah." Those proxies and intermediaries are part of the chain. Take 'em all out.

Of course, my fullest contempt is reserved for the news media, including, following the lead of their American counterparts, the BBC, who base many of their "news" stories on Twitter posts, and who quote liberally from Twitter posts in their news stories.

And there we go: by reading BBC news stories that liberally quote Twitter, I'm supporting the BBC, I'm supporting Twitter, and I'm supporting the terrorists. I could go bury my head in the sand instead, but then I'd be one of those who "looked the other way."

Of course, now I more fully understand those oft-derided citizens of <apply: godwins_law="Godwins_Law"> Germany who failed to protest when their "neighbors" were disappearing. It's a gradual process. It's insidious. And for all practical purposes, there's nothing that a single person can do to stop it.

And it doesn't matter. Twitter is already becoming less effective. Twitter is adjusting how they calculate and display user activity, <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/04/27/rip-twitters-timeline-views-what-metric-will-replace-it/" target="_blank">says this recent article</a>. I like the line, "Some Twitter insiders believe this doesn't take into account the non-users exposed to Twitter content elsewhere." Yeah, like in the major news media articles that quote tweets and insert screencaps of actual Twitter posts. I suspect the bottom line is that despite having more users, those users are less active. They're paying less attention. It's beginning to seem like the only people "using" Twitter are advertisers... and terrorists. The general public is starting to care less and less. Nobody talks about Twitter where I work anymore. They're all into instant-messaging their personal circle of friends. I don't know if this is a "local thing," or if the days of "public social networking" are in decline.

Oh, and, one more inflammatory knee-jerk comment before I go: cell phones. They have GPS. Somebody pays the bill. Who pays for the terrorists' phones? Find that person and blow them up. Triangulate and track down each terrorist cell phone and drop a bomb there. Oh, but what about the innocent people around them? If people realize they're likely to get blown up if they're friends with IS or Boko Haram militants, they might stop being friends with IS or Boko Haram militants. The extremists kill us for "associating" with the wrong culture/religion/country/people. Fair's fair -- target their cell phones with bombs, and take out the people paying for the phone service. Oh, and hold VISA and Mastercard responsible for terrorism-related charges on the cards they issue. Cut off their lines of credit.

Srsly, aren't these simple, practical steps?

Okay, I gotta go clear the Cyrillic spam out of my email inbox now.

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