Nap Days

The “cold” from two weeks ago didn’t go away. I spent one sleepless night propped up on the sofa because reclining brought on rib-wracking coughs. My doctor gave antibiotics for an infection.

I took naps. Lots of naps.

I don’t know about you, but in my culture, naps are for babies. And octogenarians, because they earned it. No self-respecting adult naps, except The Old Man aka my father. Ironically, it’s because he’s an insomniac. After he checking on us sleepers, he’d go across the road to the garage and work until the rest of the household woke up.

So I’ve been feeling like a loser for napping.

Now my sleep habits are in ruins. I was typing up away at two in the morning. (3,484 words so far this week!) Then I would sleep past brunch. Or take a two-hour nap before dinner.

I have been trying my best to get back into the groove. The weather has not cooperated. Yesterday, for instance, a series of thunderstorms dropped twilight over the world for three hours straight. Today, humidity made all activity cease except for sitting in shade and partaking in a series of cool drinks (seltzer water with blueberries is the clear winner, although raspberries blended with mint tea is a close runner).

I will try again tonight to catch Mister Sandman on his usual rounds!

Year-end Review

Academic year, that is. Last week was final exams. Then came the end of masking in my region, which means that Covid-19’s Reign of Error is finally over.

Here are some closing thoughts:

  • The Middle School Mafia arrived below grade-level and – thanks to the Department of Education’s denial of a state-requested waiver – spent precious class days taking standardized tests to determine they were below grade-level.
  • Schoolteachers who disliked returning to in-person classes should change professions.
  • Our students got a detailed lesson in hypocrisy when journalists exposed how the Michigan governor and members of her staff found her restrictions too onerous to follow. (The “test” part of the lesson will occur at the next gubernatorial election, when many of them will be eligible to vote!)
  • It’s terrible when parents expect public employees to parent their children.
  • It’s tragic when students feel safer at school than at home.
  • The best part of teaching is interaction; the worst is typing information into various electronic databases and forms.

Back to The Factory… again.

Reader B4thugthagod asked if working from home wasn’t easier than being at The Young Human Factory. The truth is, I never stopped going to work. Because it was a “pause” and not a state-mandated shutdown, my colleagues and I were required to work regular hours.

And because it was a shutdown, I worked 9-12 hour days, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. Recording instructional videos, converting in-class work to Google-friendly documents, and answering dozens of questions (mostly by cutting-and-pasting the directions the students didn’t read) took extra hours.

Last week I stopped offering a daily 8-12:30 Google Meet-ups because of proctoring tests. The only students who used the virtual meetings were done with their work and lonely. (One student showed me his entire rock collection and motherboard repairs for over an hour.)

There have been recurring problems; e.g. the students mark work as “done” so their parents are happy, but they submitted nothing – or nonsense. For example, a student wrote ” “I like cheese” instead of an introductory paragraph. I tried to nip this behavior in the bud by contacting all parents of “missing work” students the first week. I printed off each nonsensical document, scanned it, and emailed it to the child’s parents.

Some – not all – students corrected that document, which I re-ran and graded. But most played the same trick later. After I entered zeroes in the gradebook, the parents cracked the whip. Last week, my inbox was flooded with hundreds of notifications about work submitted 15 to 20 days late!

There’s a misconception that The Factory is a utility company. When the electricity is shut off, students finally pay the bill and the power comes back. In truth, students are like jobbers who shirk work and then, on payday, are outraged that their neighbors are flush with cash.

It’s Sunday afternoon. I’m writing this while waiting for lunch to finish cooking, after which I must go to The Factory to finalize the Marking Period. (After which, everyone will decide to Pay the Utility Bill.) Then I’ll set up the weekly lessons (and a test over a novel!)

Things are going to be ugly for a while longer.

I fell in with a good crowd…

My parents tried their best to keep me and my siblings from the Bad Crowd, but no one warned me about the good crowd. I am now three weeks into a class on Minimalism, signed up for a 5K in April, and sorta-kinda tagging along with my Year of No Spending (YNS) buddies.

While the Bad Crowd keeps terrible hours and spends their waking moments drunkenly stealing from their lovers, the Good Crowd goes to bed promptly because Tomorrow is a Big Day.

The latter is also sore and every morning uses an insufferably minty toothpaste because YNS has a use-it-up policy. According to my peers, eventually I will see the fruits of these difficult days. I will be healthier, happier, and have gleaming floors.

The Bad Crowd hopes I like prison.

Caterpillar of the Apocalypse!

Woolly Bear Caterpillar with fallen cedar bits as a comparison. The little guy doesn’t look impressive in the photo (and its russet middle doesn’t show well). That’s a ruse….

Must be dead, I thought when I found it on the driveway. Even at noon, the 21F/-6C temperature was much too cold for caterpillars.

After lunch, I prepared to go back to work. The woolly-bully was closer to the car. If I squinted, its tiny feet seemed to be moving! Slllooowwwwly, though. It’s also curling a little in on itself, as woolly bears do when threatened.

When I came home at sunset, it was motionless as I took the photo. I had no doubt it was still alive. I didn’t want to accidentally squish it under the tires or scrape it up with a shovel of snow, so I tried to flip it onto an oak leaf. It “stuck” because its amazing grippy feet were clinging to the tiny grooves in the cement. Gently, I rolled it onto a leaf and put it in the flowerbed.  

Today it was gone.

A charming custom in Eastern and Midwestern USA is to look for woolly bears (“woolly-bullies” where I grew up) in the autumn. The length of its black bands was said to predict the length and severity of winter. If that were the case, what apocalypse is foretold by it hightailing in the dead of winter?!?

Panic in Detroit, or Every Breath You Take

I have always read the biggest newspapers in the area: The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. The following is a screenshot of today’s opinion.

The headline certainly reflects the piece.

At first glance, it seemed the headline writer had gone full sensationalist. Reading further – because how can one not? – I saw the headline matched the tone. I want to tell Mr. Stern, “Take a moment, relax, and just breathe.”

But that would be advocating homicide.

Seriously, the entire thing reads like poor satire. The columnist worries “because the person in front of me in the grocery line is wearing a mask below his nose — expelling a cloud of radioactive COVID dust that I cannot escape, short of dropping $50 on the conveyor belt and trying to outrun the security guard.”

I think my elderly parents have a much better attitude about Covid-19. They socially distance, limit interactions, wear a mask, wash their hands thoroughly, and pay attention to health habits: regular sleep, regular exercise, and vitamin supplements. If they avoid people with bad hygiene – including mask-wearing etiquette.

They want to live, yet they don’t succumb to feelings of despair and… well, whatever sentiment pervades that column!

‘Tis the Season

I finished shopping more than a week ago and the last gift arrived by mail. (Hooray for used book stores!)

My youngest sibling, our parents, and I exchange gifts. They’re usually practical or, as my mother says, “Consumable.” They give us the pleasure of taking turns opening wrapped packages in the company of the giver.

Baby Bro and I got in the habit of buying each other a childlike gift in addition to a regular one. Tree ornaments have been my go-to choice; e.g. Curious George ornaments in memory of his beloved childhood pal. He buys me the oddest things, from a frosted souvenir glass of the sort that were popular when we were tots to a children’s book of verse containing “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

It occurred to me many years ago – even before I settled into La Casa de Tontería that I really didn’t want anything for my birthday or Christmas. I mostly want people to be with me or, if that’s imposdible, to think of me.

The Covid-19 pandemic – which closed my school yet again – has intensified that sentiment. Presents aren’t as important as people.

Imagine my confusion when I received an unordered package. In it were two funnels and a silicone mold. Then my friend M’e the Fashionista texted “Happy Marmalade Day!” That fictitious holiday is her excuse to spontaneously buy something and send it to a friend. What she sent was an icecube tray that makes huge diamond-shaped iceballs. It’s ridiculous and unpractical, but it’s in the freezer now.

Thanksgiving

I’m thankful for truck drivers who drive at a steady pace on the interstate highways, so strings of cars can follow in their tracks through the sloppy snow. I am also thankful for road-graders. But most of all, I am thankful that I survived a white-knuckled drive through a snowstorm and arrived safely at my destination.

Morning in my childhood home.

The whitish area at the top of the shot is ice forming. The darker area is slush. You can see trails through the slush where ducks meandered eastward.

Hold the Congratulations

This is about politics, so feel free to skip.

Shortly after the election, friends from other countries began congratulating me on my new president. I had to explain that no, the media declaration doesn’t count. It’s official in December, after each state’s governor signs and sends its Certificate of Ascertainment to the US Archivist and the Electoral College electors meet.

December 14. That’s when.

Then some asked (scoffed, frankly), “You don’t feel there were problems with the election, do you?”

Of course, I don’t feel that. I live in Michigan. I know that.

In 2016, Green Party nominee Jill Stein demanded a recount in the Michigan. Ultimately, a court order halted the expensive recount, but not before turning up massive irregularities in Wayne County. Specifically, Detroit precincts tabulated more ballots than the number of actual voters. Why? Human error.

Human error was also responsible for Biden being reported as the winner in Antrim County in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. (Fun facts: It’s home of beautiful Torch Lake and Hayo-Went-Ha, the oldest American summer camp that sits on its original site.)

Then, of course, there’s the completely sloppy way the voter registration is handled, not to mention groups actively opposing any sort of voter identification at the polls. My Mexican relatives were stunned that their system is more fraud-proof than ours. I told them about receiving an unsolicited form for an absentee ballot during the initial Covid-19 shutdown. The Secretary of State’s office sent to the last known address of each registered voter. As someone who moved four times in three years and currently maintains two mailing addresses, I’d rather restrict absentee ballots to direct requests.

To anyone who has read this far and is curious about how our system differs from your own, here is a good overview: Who formally declares the winner of the US presidential election?