Friday, December 31, 2010

Goals for 2011

Date a Korean
Study Korean and travel to South Korea this summer
Learn some basic Italian
Buy a pet fish
Stop biting my nails (for realz)
Move into an awesome new apartment
Finish my first year teaching happy and satisfied with my choice

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adieu 2010

Another year down, but I have to say that 2010 was probably one of the better years I've had and was a perfect end to the decade. A lot of big changes occurred this year, but also a lot of fun times and experiences.

Began the year ringing in 2010 with some of my great friends I had stayed in China with. We watched the ball drop at some bar in Brooklyn and the following day I traveled up to Toronto and stayed with my friend for a week.

Spring was full of my last semester as an undergrad at UMass and was a dizzying blur of great memories, fun times with friends, and finishing up all my ties in Amherst. Had amazing memories with Christine and Shiri, road tripped to Baltimore, took some great classes, spring break trip to Disneyland in Florida, enjoyed my last semester in Phi Sigma Pi, and enjoyed all the time I spent with the first graders at Marks Meadow, where I volunteered as a teacher's helper three days a week. I really miss those kids!

Summer came in full force and began with a road trip with Cade and Courtney to Cedar Point in Ohio. I still have some queasy feelings in my stomach when I think back to some of the roller coasters I went on. Enjoyed my half summer in Boston before I headed down for Teach for America training in Philadelphia.

Training was probably the worst month of my life: hot, humid, boring, lots of work, and a lot of stress. At the time I was rather fine with it, but looking back I really want to block out that whole month. Post-training I came back to Boston for a week before the big move down to Philly.

Philadelphia brought some big changes: my first actual apartment, my first full-time job, and a lot of work and responsibility. At first I didn't think I would like the city, but I quickly became excited about work and got on board. Overall I do enjoy living in Philly and I've gotten used to the city. While I find teaching to be more work than enjoyment (which in my personal beliefs it should not be - or at least an equal mix), I do enjoy what I do.

A lot of 2010 is still swirling in my head and needs to settle before I can properly reflect back on it, and with the new year about to begin, hopes and goals for 2011 are coming to the surface as well. Once I sift through all of this I will post a little blurb about what I hope for the new year and what I want to get out of it, and possible some resolutions that I will never follow.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Madness

The storm came and left, and it didn't seem as bad as the media predicted. Actually, I became pretty annoyed by the media and meteorologists the other day. All of Saturday the news was hyping up this storm, getting everyone all worked up and nervous for the snow. Of course, it did snow a lot and there was a lot of bad coastal flooding, but the roads were not as bad thanks to advanced plowing and salting. The snowfall was high but it wasn't anything that I haven't seen nearly every year of my life living in New England...

But I digress, the purpose of this post is actually two-fold: to introduce a hilarious blog I stumbled upon, and to share another China news story that shows how fragile and insane the Chinese are.

First, the blog: Black Out Korea - a blog that posts images of passed out Koreans. I forget how I found it, but I can't stop laughing at some of the pictures. I mean, some of these people are passed out in the most ridiculous places, and in some hilarious poses. I highly suggest a browse if you are in need of a good laugh.

And on to the news: China Cracks Down on the Use of English - apparently the Chinese government is trying to stop the amounts of English used in everyday Chinese language, including acronyms. The government was quoted as saying “such abuse of language … destroys the harmonious and healthy cultural environment and causes an unhealthy social impact.” This is where I wish my Chinese were better, because I always find the language used in Chinese government responses to be flowery and in a sense, ridiculous, and I'm always curious if it comes off the same when read in Chinese.

The most interesting aspects of the article I find come from the response this decree has had on Chinese:
Another said: “Dear Administration, can you tell me how to say ‘iPad,’ ‘iPhone’ in Chinese?”

Some commentators seemed to take the issue a bit more seriously: “Tell me, in modern science, which word comes from Chinese? They are nice enough to let you use their words, and now you want to protect your ‘language purity’?”


Authorities’ obsession with power is at the root of the decision to ban English, one commentator says.


To me, it all just seems completely ridiculous to me. If anything, I find words mixing between languages to create a more cultured society. If you think about it, there are plenty of words in English that come from German, French, and other European languages.


...wait the news just said Natalie Portman is engaged and pregnant!?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

China News Drone

I was reading this article on BBC News this morning about further traffic problems and regulations in China. Seems as though the government in Beijing is going to start capping the number of new cars registered each year, trying to slow down the number of new cars on the road. To me it seems like another last-ditch effort to fix a problem way after the fact.

In China, where the middle class is growing rapidly, a new car (or two) is more than just a utility - it's also a symbol of wealth and status (not-so much status anymore, but the brand can symbolize status). I always found it so interesting to see people biking to work/shops alongside the highway while these luxury cars whizzed by them.

I'm also skeptical because I'm sure this will increase corruption on some level. For example, I forsee those working in the registration department hoarding or sneaking registry numbers for their family or friends, etc. It obviously will not run smoothly.

What stuck out to me from the article was this quote:
"Everything in China now happens so quickly, and the government always fails to anticipate what's coming, and as a result normally policies are only introduced when things are already out of control."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Dog Days Are Over

Teaching through Teach for America or at my school in general brings about a bunch of people observing my classes. Sometimes, they sit in on one of my better classes, where the lesson is pretty decent, the kids are behaving, and I have things under control. But (more times than not) they observe me during a class that is a bit out of control. I mean, kids are not arguing, fighting, or going crazy, but they are slouching, talking when I am at points, disengaged, and calling out. When this happens, and I see someone in the back of my classroom watching everything unfold, things actually become worse and I shut down as a teacher. It's pretty difficult...

But then I have to reflect, and realize that I am in my first month of teaching. I have no teaching background and very limited teaching experience (that ESL bit in China), and I am (for the most part) holding my own. Sure, my lines in the hallways aren't the best, and my students are not always 100% engaged, and my lessons are not always planned and executed successfully, but I try my best and I think I owe it to myself to at least feel some pride in that. 

I think what intimidates me is that I am surrounded by excellence. My school does not settle for anything less than, and then here I come, with no experience, and procedures that are not tight. The school and admin expect from me what the school expects from all teachers. It's just that, how can I measure up to these metrics of 100% of students being on task, lessons that are aligned, and a sound management system when I just don't have that kind of experience that can bring these things to life. Sure, I try and achieve these metrics, but no matter how hard I try or how much time and effort I put into my teaching, I don't think I can get there with only four months under my belt. 

I feel as though I'm in this "disconnect" phase of work. I don't dread going to school each day, but I think I lost some of the excitement I had in the early fall. I think I can revive that after the holiday break when I can reflect on some things and try to incorporate new systems into my class (they say it's best to make chances after the break and bring a fresh start for the new year). So, there is a new hope after all!

Robotism

I felt sadness twice this year. I guess that means I'm human after all...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Clean Up on Aisle 21

My life is one giant glob of mess right now.

I feel like I spend so much time planning lessons that can be interesting and fun, and either they don't turn out that way to the students, or I can't stop the little nit-picky behaviors of kids to allow the lesson to run smoothly. Everyday it's the same few kids chatting in each class. Either that or I have to constantly tell students to stop leaning on their arms, or to put their feet flat on the floor, or to take their arms out of their sleeves (the heat in my room is very sporadic this month). But then in the back of my head I wonder, how reasonable is it for third graders to sit flat in their seats for the whole day? Even at twenty three I still always put my leg on the chair and sit over it. The punishments don't seem to phase them and most call homes bring about no answer, because no one seems to answer because of my unknown Boston area code.

Not only is work not going as smoothly as I think it should go, I'm also sick on top of it. My voice keeps going in and out, partly from having a cold and partly from talking loudly all day to students.

I have a giant suitcase of laundry I have to do and no desire.

I have to run out and buy a boatload of secret Santa gifts when I have no ideas on what to get anyone. On top of that, I never have cash for the stupid subway, making me immobile...

I have to take the god-awful bus back to Boston on Thursday afternoon and it's probably going to be stuck in traffic the whole way. I'll be lucky if I get back by midnight I bet...

My fridge is so empty I might as well unplug it and save on electricity.

And I made big, sudden movements and ruined a good thing!

I'm trying to just take each day at a time until I get home Thursdays. So, three more days of work. Three more days of no food. Three more days to do laundry. Three more days to fix everything. Three more days for another chance. And most importantly for the moment: two more classes this afternoon until I am home free.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Earl Grey

I really miss New England, especially in the winter :/

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Things Bothering Me...

My life has been on the fast track for the past four months and it just seems that my mind races all day, every day with things to do, random thoughts, and speculations about life. In terms of what is bothering me at the moment, I decided to make a quick list:

1. How to get over the speed bump between being a teacher and being a good teacher with engaging lessons that get students to learn because they want to, not because they have to. My next big move in improving my teaching...

2. How the holiday season never excites me anymore.

3. Wanting to be with someone and initiate a relationship but not wanting to take that first step because you're not certain that the feelings are mutual.

4. An apartment that never fully becomes warm.

5. Lugging a giant suitcase of dirty laundry back to Boston with me this weekend.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ring in the New Year

New tradition for the start of the work week: Giant Glass of Wine Monday!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Deep End

Went to a karaoke dive bar last night in South Philly for a friend's birthday and had a blast. Being the always punctual one, I arrived to the bar (which was a small hole in the wall) about forty minutes early and took upon the role of being the quiet, mysterious guy sitting at the bar surrounded by chatty regulars. By the time my friends got there I had a buzz going - mostly because it was all that was keeping me from running off. The only thing that irked me, and I still don't think it's allowed in Philadelphia, is that everyone was smoking in the bar. I think that's partly the reason why my head is spinning a bit today, that I was inhaling so much second-hand smoke! And I hate when you wake up in the morning and your body and clothing just reeks of smoke.

Aside from me starting to drift off into sleep a few times, it was an awesome night. Belted out some 'Love Shack' and Destiny's Child, sang along with some really good karaoke renditions, and became bitter at those who chose to sing songs that no one knew. It was a great mix of Teach for America and co-workers from school. At one point, and I'm still not sure how this happened, I had someone else's blood on my fingers? Seeing as my hand has no wounds on it right now, I can only guess as to where it came from...

Afterwards we went next door to Geno's Cheese Steaks and I wolfed down a cheese steak at 2am. Apparently Geno's is one of the best places to get a cheese steak in the city and it's supposedly very famous and well-known, but at 2am I'll be honest that I wouldn't have been able to tell a Geno's cheese steak from a cheese steak that came from a local sub shop. But it was delicious!

So yes, the purpose of this post was just for me to admit (mostly to myself) that I am enjoying my time here in Philly and that I am grateful for all of the friends and amazing co-workers I have. Now, I'm off to a friend's for a pancake breakfast :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Worst Mistake

Mark it down, ladies and gentlemen: the worst night of my life is now over - the night I buzz-cut my own hair. Two hours. Two buzz sets. Two mirrors. A lot of frustration.

Typical

Another typical Thursday adventure at school:

8-8:50: co-taught an impromptu Spanish class with a fellow third grade teacher while awaiting the late arrival of our Spanish teacher
8:50-12:10: taught four blocks of social studies (the last of which contained the live coaching, which was just plain strange)
1:30: watched the vice principal of instruction teach one of my classes with an amazing lesson format which gave me a ton of planning ideas
2:20-3:10: finished up strong with my third grade homeroom

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lee Canter

Tomorrow an expert teacher from Teach for America is going to come into one of my fifth grade classes and real-time coach me in classroom management and behavior tackling. Basically, she will sit in the back of my classroom with a walkie-talkie so that she can tell me how to manage my kids while I'm wearing an ear piece as I'm teaching. She'll tell me when to give a consequence to a student, when to really praise one, and when I should speak with a more commanding/clear/loud voice.

I am almost certain that this is going to bring about a good result, but I'm really nervous about it. For one thing, it starts with me basically giving this little speech to my students how I've let their bad behaviors go on for too long, and that in essence it's my fault - which I can agree to. But I'm also nervous that I will look strange with something in my ear, and not only that, it's proving to my students that I have weak areas and have brought in outside help to make it better. But on the flip side, it shows that I'm dedicated to helping them learn and improve the culture of my classroom.

It should be quite an experience.

Today I went to school in a more commanding way, and changed the tone of language I use in my classroom when students are doing things that show they are not on task. I saw amazing results from 3/6 of my classes, where students were all on task, silently working, and paying such close attention to the lesson. But then I think I started to teeter out and the repetition started to get to me, and I wasn't as strong in my last three classes, although they all went fairly well (except for one).

And with all the teacher time we had yesterday, I reorganized my classroom and it looks so much better. I brought in a new cabinet to keep me organized, hung up posters, put this huge US map in the front of the room, and stream-lined some of my weaker spots. Pictures may be coming soon :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Struggle Sessions

Hello. My name is Vincent Capone and I've been deemed a "struggling teacher."
Nice to meet you!

Report Period #3 is beginning tomorrow, which means that the school year is 1/3 over. My grades have been submitted and I'm going into the new term with my head held high, and a new view towards classroom management. I'm sure something will blow up in my face...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hardwood

New and old relationships are coming out of the woodwork this week!

Optimism

This weekend for me has been a teaching revival of sorts. On Saturday, Teach for America had us go to this lecture about how to create a positive classroom environment centered around "no opting out" for students and how to ensure that all kids are on task and learning. And then with today's Mastery professional development I took away a ton of skills and ideas to work on classroom culture, management, and positivity for myself and my students. I hope this brings about a change for the kids who pass through room 307. As I see it, I'm failing in 3/6 of my classes by not having a classroom centered around positivity and achievement.

Teach for America is coming in on Thursday to do this "intense" classroom management coaching for my toughest class. I'm a bit nervous as to how it will play out, but I am optimistic that it will bring about some changes and new ideas and techniques for me to use.

Off topic from work, I am halfway through Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. The whole storyline is just insane and I am absolutely loving this series. But I hate when a series/book comes to an end, so I'm trying to drag reading it for as long as I can. Not to mention that my apartment is so chilly that reading for long periods of time acting causes my hands to freeze. This is going to be a long winter...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Debt Monster

I'm a bit happy with myself, because in the past two months, I've cut my credit card debt in half by making payments. And to top it off, I didn't have to take any of the money out of my savings to do so. In fact, I haven't touched my savings account since September, something that used to be near-impossible for me to do.

Am I finally becoming an economically-minded adult?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brief Updates

Coming back from an amazing Thanksgiving break in Boston and hitting the ground running did not put me in the best of moods. This week has been nothing but insane and it's only at the halfway point right now. Between work, children, and various papers due for my Penn classes this weekend, I've been overworking myself and multi-tasking like nobody's business.

But I do have time to take a mini-break right now and report on some news:

1. I am feeling a bit nervous about the climate in the Koreas. I'm not fully kept aware of the situation over there, but after the recent military activity, and the increased presence of US troops in that region to "aid" the South, things don't seem to be moving in terms of peace, and BBC news reports of "imminent attacks" from the North. I'm not sure that I believe a full-scale problem will follow, but it just makes me nervous to think of a military conflict in that area, especially with the US and China on opposing sides. I just can't imagine how that could shape the future of relations if a large-scale problem arose. And it boggles my mind to even think of China as having much in terms of military support - I mean, I know their strength is ample, but when I think of "military might" China doesn't seem to come to mind.

2. This WikiLeaks situation seems to be getting out of hand. Again, I'm not following this aside from the nmerous headlines that continue to pop up each day, but it just seems ridiculous and troubling for international relations. What I don't understand is a) where is all of this information coming from? and b) why is no one taking any course of action to shut this down?

3. Last, I just read an interesting article on BBC about China's dependence on coal and what it means for the future of their nation, people, and the environment. I can't imagine how dangerous it must be to be a coal miner, especially in a country such as China, but I think this article helped to put that into a better perspective for me.

I'll end on a positive note: the only positive thing in my life right now is that I brought back a nice heating blanket from my grandmother that I am going crazy over. I love slipping into bed at night when the sheets are all toasty and warm!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bad Romance

You're not the one that I want, or the one that I need.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Midnight Bus to Boston

The midnight bus was...an experience to say the least. I arrived in Boston at 5:30am and now find myself sitting on the couch in the living room unable to fall asleep and with nothing to do but eat and stare at Fluffy.

I got on the bus and made the poor choice to sit behind a table of four girls with nothing going on for them. These depressing beings chose to watch a communal movie for half the drive, which wasn't too disruptive, but the fact that they had chose to watch Spanglish really made my skin crawl. Then across the aisle to my right was this Asian kid who was juggling a laptop, iPad, phone, and a Harry Potter book. There was enough light emitting from his seat that I would have thought it were midday. And of course, the wondrous girl who chose to sat next to me was juggling her laptop and a giant binder to take notes from a powerpoint lecture, and then proceeded to fall asleep and took up half my own seat.

Sleep did not come very well for me - every so often I would wake up and my arm or hand would have fallen asleep and my legs were super cramped and I never could find a comfortable position. Somewhere around 4:00am I woke up and began hallucinating from sleep depravity.

When I got to Boston I hopped on the subway to get home and OF COURSE, welcome to Boston, the blue line was "experiencing delays due to a disabled train" - the mantra of the MBTA.

But I'm putting all the gross-ness of that trip behind me and going to jump into my five-day Thanksgiving weekend with an excitement and a smile that will crush any who try to bring me down!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanks to the Giving

I've never been so happy to be going home, even if for only five days. I can't wait to see my friends and family and spend five days not thinking about work or children. If only I didn't have to come back to Philadelphia...

Midnight bus to Boston in two hours :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Capitol Time


Had a great time exploring the nation's capital with Kami this weekend! I got to see all the national monuments, ate some delicious food, and saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. And, the weather was great. All-in-all, a perfect weekend!


Did I mention that I love freedom? (and the Washington Monument)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nuclear Family

I don't understand how countries such as America and the European Union can decree which countries can build uranium facilities or nuclear weaponry. First of all, who are we to place restrictions on other countries, such as North Korea? Of course, North Korea right now is completely unstable and ruled by a power-hungry ruler, but who is to say which governments are right and wrong? Who's to say that the US "democratic model" is the correct one?

I just fail to see where America comes off being able to tell others what they can and cannot build. America has enough nuclear warheads to ruin life on this planet ten times over, and yet we will not allow Iran to build a nuclear reactor? I understand the fear that Iran could possibly abuse the power, but the same could be said about the United States.

America is a nuclear bully!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Plaster of Paris

What is the world coming to when you have your 19-year old sister writing on your Facebook about how much she's looking forward to seeing you plastered on Christmas Eve? Nice to see you too?

Monday, November 15, 2010

That Boy is a Monster

Gloomy Monday. It wasn't a great day, but it wasn't a bad day either. It was just that - a day. A day unlike any other. My only excitement was that I rearranged the desks in my classroom into a giant "U" shape which allows me to walk around more. Pretty sad, huh?

Not to mention I didn't get much sleep last night - I stayed up until midnight reading articles online about the lost city of Atlantis. And printed out 155 pages of Plato's "Timaeus and Critias" - one of the few historical accounts of Atlantis. Not sure when I'll get around to actually reading through it, but the geek in me won't lie about how excited I am.

On a side note, I'm becoming concerned about my wisdom teeth. It's becoming more evident that they have to be taken out soon, but I'm really nervous to get them done in Philadelphia. My main concern is that I don't want to get them taken out alone. It sounds sad, but I'd rather have one of my parents with me. I've never been put under before and because of my tooth phobia even a small dental cleaning freaks me out. But I don't think I'd ever have time to get it done in Boston, especially seeing as holidays/weekends are the only times I am able to get home. I'm such a baby!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Have It Your Way

Last night I went out for a "couple" of drinks with a couple friends, only to end up quickly finishing more than a "few" drinks. The result: I power-walked home eight blocks clutching a bag containing a Big Mac. I got home, apparently watched an episode of 30 Rock on my computer that I don't recall seeing, and then went to bed with the music turned on loudly. And I managed to clean up all my McDonald's mess!

But I do remember this: I saw a silverfish on the floor scampering near my foot, and I quietly crept into the living room closet, pulled out the vacuum, and sucked it up before it could hamper away. Seems like my two legs are faster than your eighty-million, silverfish!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Are You Ill?

I've been battling a virus on my computer all day. The whole process has proven to me that it may be time to blow some of my savings and buy a new computer (after Christmas, perhaps, if this one makes it that long). It just bothers me that people make viruses to begin with, and then spread them to others, as innocent as me! And it also bothers me how little things like a virus or a sluggish computer can affect my life; that my life is so tied to this machine that I have to blow large amounts of money to replace it when it starts to crap out like now.

New Outlook

Tomorrow I am going to go back to school with a new state of mind. I'm going to exude calmness and love towards all my students (easier said than done for the fifth grade though) and just set out at the task at hand: which is teaching the students the daily lesson. I will not raise my voice, I will not stop smiling, and I will calmly deal with students who wish to speak while I am teaching.

It's funny, but the biggest thing that trips me up while teaching the third graders are the stupid pencils! Our grade team thought it would be a good idea to take them from all students and just provide pencils in our classroom. However, I teach third and fifth so I have to always be passing out/recollecting pencils from students. And they are always breaking...and my fingers have bruises from sharpening hoards of pencils every morning.

I just wolfed down a bag of gummy bears - so this post could possibly have been induced from the high sugar intake and lack of breakfast.

Telecommunicated

Can I just say, that I would love to personally knock out the person who thought that automated computerized phone services would be a good idea. Because my friend, it's not.

Where has our society traveled to when we think that using computers to help us with concerns is easier than hiring more people to walk us through something. First of all, it may cost more money to hire the associates, however it would make people who call in a lot more happy and patient. Most of the time, my problems cannot even be answered by the computerized system, or I have to go through so many loops and jumps and mis-understandings with the computer that I can't find the answer through it.

For example, I just had to call Bank of America to reset my online banking code (because I couldn't answer my log-in question which was 'what was the first concert you've ever been to' - really?) and I was literally swearing at the computer. The stupid computer voice could not recognize my bank card's account number, even after I spoke it aloud three times. Then I found all of the menu options to be unrelated to my query, so I had to go through all of them until I found what I was looking for. All the while, my patience was dropping and my anger level rising. Had I just been put on hold and then connected to a representative, I could have quickly and efficiently had my concern answered.

Even though the stupid computer gets me all riled up, if I were to be connected to a live person after dealing with the machine, I would not take out my frustration with them - because I always feel bad and assume that many people (many busy people who would, for example, try to call while driving, to multi-task) blow up at them on a daily basis.

But it just annoys me to no end that I have to go through so much just to speak to a live person when I have a concern. And just my luck, with the holiday there were "no representatives on stand-by today" so I had to deal solely with the machine, and while I was fighting with the computer, I actually figured it out myself online.

Good morning to me!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Life is Seinfeld

ELAINE: (into phone) Yuh, I'd like an order of supreme flounder, number forty-seven. Yeah, apartment one-Q.
JERRY: One-Q? Whose apartment is that?
ELAINE: That's the janitor closet, across the street.
JERRY: You're pretending to live in a janitor's closet, just to get this flounder?
ELAINE: It's better than eating it alone in the restaurant, like some loser.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crop Rot

It's been a full year since Farmville decided to take moments of my senior year of college away from me. I remember Courtney visiting UMass a few times last fall, and all of us getting ready to go out in the apartment, while she or I were in my bedroom on the computer harvesting our crops. Or those endless days where I would actually plan out the time I would plant my grapes or pumpkins so that I could harvest them for cash by the time I got back from class. Ah the good 'ol days!

Now I find myself again drawn into a Facebook game: this time it's the mini-city-building game City of Wonder. It brings back memories of a similar game I used to play way back in the early days of high school - an Ancient Greek city-building game. This one is not as extensive, but it still has some high points.

Here is a screen-cap from my capital, Fluffington:


Funny how I had a math paper due this weekend that I only half finished and yet I found time to get back into this game? And what of my math paper? Eh, I'll finish it tomorrow :)

Impulsive Purchase

After dinner last night I stumbled into Urban Outfitters in University City and stumbled upon this little nostalgic piece of my childhood:


It took me a whole one minute before I had my mind set on purchasing this exciting book. And it even came with a Waldo and Woof cut-out! They are both now displayed on my desk :) I plan to hang a few of these up in the living room and around the house; perhaps even getting a cheap frame for some of them. And it includes my favorite poster: the one with all the Draculas and monsters!

On a side note, my internet went from a fast-paced 5 bars to a sluggish 2 bars this weekend. It better improve or my landlord's going to get a very nasty note with my next rent check...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Best Halloween Costume

Canadian officials see through 'unbelievable' disguise

Everybody has to check out this news article - unbelievable! Basically some young Chinese guy trying to flee from Hong Kong had this mask that made him appear to be this shriveled-up eighty year-old man. The thing that gave him away was his "young-looking hands!"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Politicked

Is becoming more conservative a rite of passage for growing older? Do we start out our lives as liberal, free-willed individuals, only to become older, more observant and knowledgeable of the world around us - which shapes us into taking a more conservative stance?

I recall my days of old (i.e. high school) when I was a pre-voting age liberal follower. During the 2004 Bush/Kerry election I was a fierce John Kerry supporter and even gave hours of my time volunteering for the Democratic Party. I spent a day with Adrienne volunteering during the Democratic National Convention of 2004 in Boston. I worked with Barbara one evening phone banking on behalf of John Kerry. I held Kerry signs on the bridge into Winthrop, and even flyer-ed to get people out to vote. Yet I myself was half a year short of being of voting age.

Perhaps I just followed the liberal cause because of my complete disdain for the politics and personality of George W. Bush. And with the coming of Barrack Obama, I found myself moving a bit more in the conservative direction.

During the 2008 elections, when I was in China I was strongly in favor of Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic Party's bid. When she lost it I didn't lose faith in the Democrats, but I have never been fond of the "cult personality" that seems to follow Obama, especially on college campuses and with college-aged students. I didn't buy into that "change" that seemed to be going around - regardless of who is president, our nation's government is too slow and argumentative to enact any "change" in a four-year period. Granted, I do think that the Obama administration has brought some great changes to some of our national policies. And giving Condalisa Rice the boot is enough change for me.

(http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com/)

But recently I seem to be pulled more in towards the policies of the conservatives, and in some cases, the Republican Party. While I am not a big fan of "two party America" in any sense (I think two parties that bicker and get nothing done is no way for our nation to work), I find myself more in that grey area in the middle. I support policies of both parties, but my views themselves align more with those held by the conservatives.

Politics is such an icky subject. I do enjoy discussing politics and national issues, but I just find it makes more of a mess than it solves.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Recommended

I just spent this weekend flying through the rest of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I began reading this almost a month and a half ago, and while it was good, work tended to slow down the amounts of reading time I was able to put into it. However, I picked it back up again last week and got to the really good parts in the book, and finished it this evening. I highly recommend it. The Hunger Games is the first of a trilogy set, although I don't have copies of the second or third, so I'm on hold.

Keeping within the same theme though, I think I'm going to start re-reading Battle Royale this week. The last time I read that was in high school and I'm sure there was plenty I missed back then.

I'm also a little sad that Project Runway just ended. It was by far one of the best seasons of the show in a long time - quite possibly the best period. I feel a little detached now that it's over :(

Fright Night

Next year I promise to make the most of my Halloween and get way more into it than I did this year (which was non-existent). My favorite holiday, wasted due to exhaustion, laziness, and lack of a social life. Sadface.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Most Expensive Mistake

I officially changed my status at Penn from Master's student to certification, which in essence will save me almost $25,000. Although, sadly I'm kicking myself (hard) because it was too late to change for this term and so I wasted $10,000 this term being a "Master's student" even though Master's and cert students attend the same classes and must perform the same assignments. I hate the education system in this country.

A lot of choices went into my decision though. For one thing, I was attending these classes and writing papers on educational philosophy, theories, and developmental psychology that meant nothing to me. I don't find these topics or classes interesting in the least. I though, if I were to obtain a higher degree, I would spend the outrageous amount of money to do it for something that interested me, such as history. And even if I were to continue on with teaching, I would want to move into secondary history or teaching at the collegiate level, in which it would make more sense to have a specialized degree with research completed.

Also, I'm nervous I may not last the two years in Teach for America, therefore I don't want to waste thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it. So this just seems like the safest bet. I'm just kicking myself that I didn't think this through all the way sooner, and that in a way I was blinded by the thought of getting a Master's through an Ivy League school. And now, I've wasted about $10,000 for nothing. Mega sadface.

In similar news, I have a math methods paper that is due tonight at midnight that I didn't even start yet, and don't even plan to start until the morning. A late submission means the highest I can get on it then is a C+ but I don't even care. Funny how all through high school and college I never turned in any work late, and here I am in the Penn program and I'm turning things in late left and right. Just thinking about the program makes me frustrated!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Beary Good

CVS gummy bears - the bane of my existence.


There is a CVS two blocks from my house which I use for all my household staples, drinks, and snacks. Well, every single time I frequent the place I insist on purchasing myself a $.99 bag of gummy bears. And then I snack on them all night. Sometimes I buy two, or even three packs.

I'm a gummy bear junkie.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Je Ne Sais Pas

My one love: French bread. How is it that I managed to live here three months without going to check out that farmer's market at Clark Park? To think of all the delicious French bread I could have been eating... The bread/bakery stand makes the most amazing French bread! I bought two giant loaves today for only $6 - and I already devoured half of one since then.


All signs point to a trip to Washington DC this weekend to visit Kami :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Good Eats II

I went to CVS a half hour ago to buy some candy for my little kiddies. While I was roaming inside the store searching for the cheapest candy to buy, a guy walked past me with a brown bag in his hands that had a wrapped up sub sticking out. Instantly my mouth began to water and I had this strong craving for an Italian sub. I wasn't even hungry - I had eaten three pieces of pizza at work a few hours prior. But my urge was telling me I had to go buy a sub.

So I walked out of CVS after making my purchase and went to the small deli across the street. I had seen this deli many times and I've been meaning to give it a taste. This place has loads of good reviews and recommendations.

I walked inside and ordered an Italian sub. Actually, I think this was the first sub I've ever had from a Jewish deli - most of the places around Boston are Italian-owned. Anyways, I was waiting for my sub, watching the guy put it together. I noticed the slicer he was using and all the leftover meats and veggies smushed to the bottom of it, which normally would gross me out but tonight it made the sandwich that much more special.

Got home, ate half, and fell in love.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Click

"There is a time of year in New York when, even before the first leaf falls, you can feel the seasons click. The air is crisp, the summer is gone. And for the first night in a long time, you need a blanket on your bed. It brings up other needs as well..."
Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City, 4.18)

Good Eats

This journal is slowly manifesting itself into a food journal...not sure if that's good or bad? Anyway, there is this Japanese/Korean fusion restaurant that opened up a block from my house that I've been dying to check out for a while now. After pondering over the menu for days without making any decisions, tonight I finally gave in an placed an order: a bibimbap rice bowl and some kimchi. And boy was it good!

Looked kinda like this:

Definitely adding this place to my hot spots in the neighborhood, especially seeing as I've only lived here for three months and the girl working at Colonial Pizza began to know me by name after two weeks!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stuff It

I had another (positive) adventure in cooking this evening. I took the red pepper I bought from the Farmer's Market yesterday and successfully sauteed (is this even the right word?) it using some oil. I know exactly what you're thinking - "oh wow, Vinny, no need to be impressed with yourself because that is probably the most basic you can get with cooking!" And I agree. But again, I'm a basic type of guy in the kitchen.

And to show you how basic I am, I used those fried red peppers and just tossed them atop some white rice with soy sauce. Basic to the max, but surprisingly yummy!

And last night I made my father's Italian gravy for my pasta and it came out pretty spot on. Things seem to be looking up on Pine Street...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pump Up the Jam

Waiting to go out and pumping myself up with some music as I get ready. But as I listen, I'm realizing just how random my taste in music is, and how diverse my iTunes has become over the years in terms of artists and genres. As a result I have this strange obsession with my iTunes play count - I'm eerily proud of the songs that make it to my Top 25 List and yet at the same time, I laugh when I see the list:


I mean, come on! Super Junior takes the top three spots followed by FOUR Lady Gaga tracks. So either I'm a Lady Gaga freak or a teenage Korean girl. Pat Benatar? Pussycat Dolls? BANANARAMA!? 

Old MacDonald

Farmer's Market at Clark Park was a success! Went there after class (which I was steadily falling asleep in), dropped $20, walked away satisfied and happy with my fresh goods:


I anticipate eating that baguette tonight...out of the bag...with nothing on it...all of it. Did I mention I love French bread? And I am imagining heating up that apple cider and sipping it while watching a movie on the couch I don't have - what a lovely idea! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Toasted

I'm feeling a bit burnt out lately. I think I just need something to spice up my life a little. I feel the way I did right before I left China - that I'm just exhausted with teaching. I love my students, but I just feel drained after going through a whole day of teaching lessons over and over again. Perhaps I just have to sit down, reflect, and try out some new things in the classroom...

Tomorrow after class I am FINALLY going to check out the farmer's market down at Clark Park (about three blocks from my apartment). I've been meaning to go since I moved in this summer and now with only a few weeks left of it running I'm finally going to go. Maybe that will lift my spirits: actually having some fresh produce in the house. I mean, ten minutes ago I ate some tuna fish out of the can, so things can only go up from there.

I'm counting down the days until Thanksgiving break (34) when I can return to Boston for a full five days! I wonder if I can go without doing laundry until then...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cooking? Cooking!

"Mis-Adventures in the Kitchen with Vinny."
That's what my cooking show would be called if I had one. Or "What NOT to Do in the Kitchen...with Vinny."

So I get home from work and think, "hmm I'll make some pasta!" and get right into the kitchen ready to start cooking. I grab some ingredients for the gravy, and start it out like (I thought) my father had shown me. I put some oil into the pan, began to heat it up, and was going to add some garlic powder before I added my tomato sauce.

Little did I know (well I knew it but didn't think about it at the time) that heating oil in a pan is a terrible idea. It began to spurt and pop and I realized "hot damn, this isn't safe" and so as the intelligent person I am I take the pan off the stove to move it into the sink to dump it out. Mid-lift the oil POPS in the pan and sprays everywhere. I literally shrieked at the top of my lungs, thinking it was going to burn my flesh off. It did hit me in the face, but it was only a few specks and they weren't hot enough yet to do any (real) damage.

After that debacle I nixed the pasta and proceeded to make a super depressing bowl of rice with five frozen dumplings I've had in my freezer for over a month now. Not satisfying, or delicious.

Sadface.

And let's hark back to two weeks ago when I was looking in a cook book at this delicious-looking melted cheese sandwich with bacon and scallions that I tried to emulate. Instead, all I had was a globby cheese sandwich with some half-cooked bacon on it.

And I hate American cheese. It's still sitting in my fridge, where it will most likely remain until it turns green. Sitting beside my can of Four Loco strawberry. And a half-empty bag of bread. And that's it.

Depressing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Skatin'

Field trip today to the roller rink in New Jersey was a blast - by far one of the best times I've had at this school. It was great to see students in a more natural element and being able to joke around with them. Plowed through a few kids on the rink though, and had third graders skating circles around me...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Smashing Pumpkins

I just found out that Eastern State Penitentiary holds Halloween haunted house tours at night all month. I think I might be going with some people from work this weekend, and I am so so so so excited! I've been there in the daytime and I was eerily frightened, and to go there at night while it's "haunted house style" will be totally kick-ass. Halloweenie!

I also just stumbled upon this ESL group that meets up in Center City every Monday night. It's basically a place for English Language Learners to hang out and talk to native speakers. I figure it should be a cool way to meet some people (older people, I bet - sigh) and also have some good conversations - sort of like free therapy? Plus I have an interest in English as a second language and some background in teaching it, so that helps too. Anything to get me out of the house and away from lesson planning every night!

Monday, October 18, 2010

People I Hate #2: Meteorologists

A group of people I especially hate are meteorologists.

For one thing, they are always so perky and pepped up about nice weather. "Oh it's going to be a scorcher out there today folks! Better get on your jets-ski and ride around!" But what really peeves me off is that who are they to decide that warm, sunny weather is "nice" weather!? I for one appreciate the overcast, cloudy days mixed with rain - that's my favorite type of weather. But to meteorologists, those days are sub-par.

"Yikes, looks like this weekend's going to be a wash-out. Sorry folks!"

Furthermore, meteorologists are hardly accurate. I can recall that day last winter when they predicted this huge snow storm to hit Massachusetts and the New England states, and because of their forecast schools closed early, people left work early, and everyone sheltered themselves indoors for the day. And what happened? A little dusting (if that). Not even close, weatherman!

And while we're on the topic of weather, probably one of the natural events that I hate the most in the world is when there is a large rain storm and then afterwards, the sun comes out! I can't stand that! If you're going to be a gloomy, cheerful, rainy day, then stay that way - don't ruin it by having the sun peek out and dry everything up!

While I loathe the meteorologist profession, I do enjoy this guy:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

People I Hate #1: Bill O'Reilly

I'm going to start a new series on this blog titled "People I Hate" because there just seem to be so many of them in the public sphere these days. It will not be a personal series where I talk about people in my own life, because I love everyone around me (cough) - it will just be used for public figures and celeb-trash.

The first on the list, and probably the one that I hate the most, is Bill O'Reilly. I cannot stand this man in the least. His views are so warped and twisted, and the ways that he uses the media to propagate his own opinions and views while quickly talking over anyone who disagrees with him is outrageous. He is the reason that I abhor Fox News, because they allow him to get away with all this nonsense. His opinions are so right-winged and out there that I listen to him and actually see him causing more harm than anything for our nation. And he's not even intelligent; he simply overpowers the voices of those brought onto his show and uses his twisted logic to say what he determines is best for our country.

But what makes it even sadder is that I know that there are thousands (if not more) Americans who listen to his words and watch his news show and believe every word he is saying. And I would bet everything that they are all living below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Recently O'Reilly was on the View speaking about the mosque debacle near the former World Trade Center area in New York City. He began making obscene blanket comments about the Muslim faith which prompted Joy and Whoppi to actually walk off stage in frustration. I admire their restraint in not knocking him flat on his ass.



What...an asshole.

Lush-ious

I always know a night is going to take a turn for the drunk when I order this one particular drink. It's clearly my drink of choice and whenever I order it it's basically signaling that my night is going to be amped up a notch. What drink, you may ask? A Long Beach iced tea - it's basically a Long Island but instead of coke you add cranberry juice, making it sweeter and less tart. Not only is it ridiculously strong, it's also a hangover waiting to happen.

I was thinking back on my memories at UMass today (because this weekend was just Alumni Weekend) and I was thinking back on all of our drinks of choice and how they've rotated within the semesters:

Fall 2008 in Thatcher Adrienne and I were obsessed with red wine, particularly the brand Fish Eye because it has a twist cap (real classy). We would each drink a whole bottle before heading out and stumbling around town. I'll never forget the night we both spent in the boy's room on the fourth floor puking our brains out together. Or sitting in the hallway sipping on wine when that's clearly not allowed in the dorms. Or getting written up for caring around a bottle of opened wine.

Flash forward to Fall 2009 and Adrienne and I moved on to white wine (still Fish Eye). We had some pretty insane nights off this crap. We began the semester with two black out nights: the first I drank a whole bottle, went to the bars in town, and then walked all the way back to my dorm alone through the woods with no recollection, only to get back and take a shower fully clothed. Or the night Adrienne drank a whole bottle and then passed out on the lawn outside the bank ten minutes after we arrived at the bar.

Spring 2010 was mainly given up to cheap forties because of my dwindling bank account, but it was no less messy. One forty alone is enough for me, but most nights consisted of consuming two. Or the night Courtney, Cade, and I had two forties each then got a beer tower (which consists of 120 ounces or something) and finished that as well. And the night of Edward Forty Hands with Christine and Shiri in which pants came off, shirts came off, and mayhem ensued. Let's not forget the night of the PSP Senior Bar Crawl in which I tried to steal a traffic cone and got pulled over by the cops (walking).

I really miss college.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

SEPTA Blues

SEPTA, I am utterly annoyed by your backwardness. I don't understand how in this day and age, you can run a major public transportation system in one of the largest cities in the United States and NOT have machines in each station to break large bills OR use a credit card. Furthermore, who uses tokens anymore!? Boston upgraded to a card tapping system years ago.

I am sick and tired of having a $5 or $10 bill in my wallet and walking into a station without a coin machine (because let's face it, only about one of out every three stations actually has one). And god forbid you allow the people working in the booth to break bills. I don't understand their job - they sit there all day and take your money, but only if you have the $2 exact change. They can't give you change, they can't break the bill, and they don't have a credit card machine.


I guess it's my fault in a sense - I should come prepared on my trips with small bills for my return trip, and that would stop me from having to frantically search for a CVS or corner store to break a $5 or $10 while I miss about a dozen trains. But really, SEPTA, when are you going to join the modern age and upgrade your system?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Juices Flowing

Sometimes I get creative when I watch Titanic:

‎"I saw my whole life as if I had already lived it. An endless parade of lesson planning and parent nights, grading papers and monitoring lunches. Always the same rowdy children, the same mindless chatter. I felt like I was standing at a great precipice, with no one to pull me back, no one who cared... or even noticed."

I don't actually feel this way, but I thought it was funny nonetheless. Actually, I'm really enjoying work. Sure it's difficult and my life is non-stop, but I think deep down I like it that way. Idle time always makes me feel like I should be doing something. Although I could do without all the grey hairs I've been finding! But I wish I were just a third grade teacher - the fifth graders are not as fun as the third graders and they seem to be more of a thorn in my side.

On the bright side, I can't even believe I've gotten down all the names of my students in only than three weeks. All 150 of 'em.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Disarray

I was a little stunned the other day when I opened the BBC News webpage on my computer and saw this news story headlined on their home page. When the page loaded, this is exactly what I saw:


It just shocked me to see this "one in seven living in poverty in the US" headline, especially with the choice of images they choose to stick with it. I guess what I was feeling was a mix of uncertainty, sadness, and in a way, fright? Maybe. It just seemed strange to see such deplorable statistics splashed on the web by the media for one of the "strongest" and most influential countries in the world.

It saddens me to see that there are so many living in this country that are below the poverty line, and struggling day to day with their living standards. We are a country that is so wealthy and butting their nose all over the globe, yet we fail to look to our neighbors to help those who are struggling. Our priorities don't seem to be in line.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jeepers Creepers

Thanks Oprah for both the recognition, and for the cash for our schools! 

Funny that when I was in third grade, my favorite book series was the Baily School Kids, and my favorite of their books was the first one, Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots. Little did I ever know that I would later become the main character, Ms. Jeepers, the students' teacher and vampire.


It all happened last week. To start this off, I bring a water bottle filled with red Kool-Aid to class every day because for one thing, I need to drink a lot or else I start to get a sore throat from all the "shushing" all day. Second, I need to sugar to keep up with some of these kids. The students often see me take sips from my bottle as I keep it with me near the front of the classroom. 

Well, at the end of class one day a student came up to me and asked me if I'm a vampire because I always drink red juice and she said my two incisor teeth are very sharp and pointy. All I could think to say after being so surprised by this (and holding back a laugh) was "you better watch out then" and she quickly got into line. 

I only wish I were as enigmatic and mysterious as my fictional role-model Ms. Jeepers. 

"Everybody Gets...$1 Million?"

Oprah grants Mastery Charter Schools $1 million from her Angel Network.
Thanks Oprah :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Falling For You

Today was the first day that felt like fall: the weather was cool, the air was crisp, and all of my day's activities reminded me of the fall. All of them except for the fact that I'm not returning to UMass this fall to begin the semester. Instead, I'm in the real world. Working. Being an adult. Regardless, I had a great day in Winthrop and this four day vacation from Philly is really bringing my energy back, and I was so glad to see all of my amazing friends this evening :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Routine

Making a bajillion photocopies.
Orientation lessons.
Handing out demerits to 5C.
Proctoring diagnostic assessments.
Grade level team meetings.
Riding the bus home with students.
Decorating my classroom.

I'm loving my job, but I am so excited for this four-day weekend and my Boston visit - although I'm a bit skeptical to take the midnight to 5am Megabus tomorrow night. And I'll need it to prepare myself for the coming week:
Monday is the beginning of REAL instruction - history style!
Tuesday is my first UPenn grad course...

Oh, did I mention my sister is having her baby tonight, right as I am typing this actually? I'm going to wake up in the morning as Uncle Vinny :S

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mass Appeal

Oh Boston Globe, how you disappoint me lately. In the past two days there have been two Boston.com front page stories bashing UMass Amherst, our state's flagship state university. One of the posts was legitimate, published in the Sunday Globe, while the other was a sad excuse for a "news blog" or something ridiculous of that nature.

As a graduate of this school, I am proud to have attended UMass. I feel I got a solid education there while not having to pay out of the nose like others I know. Furthermore, I collaborated with some amazing faculty members, met amazing people, and I loved the Amherst area. Compared to a lot of other state schools across the country, UMass doesn't lack that much.

In the first article, it seems like that "platinum blonde" bimbo solely wanted to go to a bigger party school than UMass. First of all, it's not hard at all to get a 4.0 GPA in high school, so to call her the state's "best and brightest" is a long shot. My favorite section:
“I wanted to go to a school with the best name, the best national recognition to get the best job,’’ said Davis, who is considering majoring in international business or communications at Michigan, which will cost her parents $45,200 a year for tuition, room, and board, compared with $20,500 they would pay at UMass. “People work really hard in high school, and they just want something to show for it.’’
Okay missy, first of all, enjoy coming out of college with an assload of debt. She's going to school set to major in international business/communications, but doesn't she know she'll most likely fall into the high majority of students who end up changing majors? And undergrad is what you make of it! You can go to Bunker Hill and if you work hard enough, get enough experience, and put yourself out there, you could go on to go to Harvard or elsewhere. UMass prepared me: I got accepted to Teach for America, and I'm getting a Master's from an Ivy League school, all with under $20,000 in undergrad loans, which is less than one year for this blonde tween.

But why blame UMass when the state's funding is failing our schools?

The second "sushi" article is even more ridiculous. The "writer" turns some event UMass Dining just hosted (making the longest sushi roll or something of the sorts) into a plea attempt to get students interested in the school. No, woman, those two don't go together, even if you were trying to be witty. Get a real job.

(eh, I was bored...and a little annoyed)

What I don't understand is how can these "writers" continually bash the school? First of all, if you keep giving the school bad publicity, then how can it ever improve in the eyes of incoming students? Keep posting "negative" things about it and soon no one will want to attend.

Mega Busted

I've been hearing from various sources that Megabus is cheap, but I didn't know how cheap until I just booked a round-trip bus ride to Boston from this weekend and the total cost was only $15.50. Not to mention it is an estimated six hours each way, same as Amtrak, and yet at a tiny fraction of the cost. And with the times I'm taking it (midnight on Wednesday and early morning on Sunday) I don't foresee too much traffic in either direction.

In other news, I blew through my first paycheck like it was nothing. I can't believe how much money I've spent the past three days - damn! I don't even have enough to pay my cable bill now :S

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pobrecita

I get it Philadelphia, you have a lot of poor, homeless people getting all nice and comfortable on your streets. I'm down with that. But do they have to come up to me asking me for money EVERY time I head into Center City? Do they have to talk about how cracked out they are when I am trying to mind my own business on the trolley? Do they have to recommend to me their favorite beer when I'm trying to buy a six pack at the local corner store? I've done my share of good deeds this past month for some of your brethren but enough is enough!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fresh Start

It all comes down to tomorrow...the kids will be there bright and early and so begins the first year of Mastery Charter School - Mann Elementary! We'll begin with the first day of orientation tomorrow which consists of building culture, teaching procedures, and some group ice breakers. Here goes nothing...

Paint Party

Saturday morning my school has a paint party to paint the bottom portion of our building blue, to match the Mastery color scheme. I thought it came out well! Plus, it was a great bonding opportunity and a chance to meet some students and parents as well. It really proved that our school is trying to make a difference in the community, starting with changing the old and bringing in the new. The blue really stands out and brings some new life into this school circa 1923:



Then that night Tao and I made some hot pot at home which was delicious! We spent the afternoon roaming around Chinatown and bought a lot of fresh produce and some seafood and then came home and made the hot pot (after a long nap actually because we're both so lazy).



We worked really hard on it and it came out pretty good. We made it a different way from normal hot pot - it involved putting the food on skewers instead of just dropping them into the pot and scooping them out when ready. I'm so excited to utilize this hot pot maker more in the future (as well as shop in Chinatown for food now that I've gotten a home base on places that are good).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Come Together Now

Slowly but surely my classroom is coming together. I don't have many supplies to decorate the classroom with, but I do have plenty of poster ideas that I'm going to work on this weekend. I'm not upset, as students complete work and projects I can use those as decorations.

The front end of the classroom.


The back end of the classroom.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Numbers Game

"Two posts in one day?" - Yes.

Well I have been scouring the news websites today because I've been pretty bored, and I found two stories which both contain ridiculous amounts of time that really piqued my interest.

The first article that I read was outlandish. It's about a traffic jam north of Beijing, China which has lasted for over nine days, and spans over 62 miles. Imagine waiting in that! Most of the drivers are migrant workers and supply trucks heading into the city from outlying areas, but still. It says how the drivers are especially angry because local people are supplying them food and water at outrageously high prices. It just seems so ridiculous, but at the same time, it's so China.

The second article, I'm sure most people have heard about, discusses the trapped Chilean miners and how they've been told they won't be able to be rescued for about FOUR MONTHS! Four months!? That is crazy. If I were trapped that far underground, in dark and cramped spaces, I would probably lose my sanity. The article mentions how they are being told to entertain themselves, make sure they walk around the caves, and that they must do daily exercises, so that when the lever system is set up, they will be able to get out. Imagine waiting all that time and then not being strong or able enough to get out in the end?

The trapped miners story reminds me of The Descent and that freaks me out. Perhaps they will find some sub-human underground creatures like the pack of girls in that horror movie. That terrifies me, but then again I am highly claustrophobic, yet at the same time terrified of heights.

Please Don't Stop the Music

I just got through reading this article on Boston.com about a Boston University student who is appealing a $67,500 verdict that he pay for getting caught for downloading music. The lawsuit comes from the ever-glorious RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). My two cents is that the US judicial system is lagging behind technology, especially on the music front. The amounts that people (mostly college students) get sued for for downloading music is outlandish, and furthermore, in many of the cases it's unclear as to whether or not the music was simply downloaded, or if it was downloaded and then shared to other people.

Two of my close friends were targeted for downloading music while at UMass a few years ago, and after they settled, each had to pay $3,000. And these two were not heavy downloaders and rarely downloaded anything - yet had to pay this very large amount (for college students with a limited income).

Where do these exuberant prices come from? I can see a high punishment being put out there to get others to stop sharing music illegally, but this is absurd. In the BU case the man was originally being held accountable for over $600,000. The punishment just doesn't seem (to me at least) to fit the crime. For one thing, the action is not a threat and causes very minor harm to recording artists (although done on a large scale they can be out thousands/millions of dollars). And recording artists are already rolling in the dough due to their outrageously priced concerts and merchandise that having to pay $600,000, most of which probably doesn't even go to them, is ridiculous.

And if the United States wants to crack down on copyright violations, why don't we look abroad!? When I was living in China you could find any US/Hollywood movie and TV series either copied or bootlegged over there. DVD stores were all over Beijing that sold copied discs of Hollywood films. Not to mention there are Chinese versions of YouTube which post full-length Hollywood movies with Chinese subtitles. Furthermore, there are actually Chinese computer programs that will search and retrieve any TV series or movie you want and load it up streaming to your computer. I'm not sure how it works, but I've both seen and used all of these resources. And from all of these outlets to watch Hollywood movies, not a cent is going towards America or the acting studios

And the same can be said about US music being sold and downloaded in China (and hundreds of other countries I'm sure). Again, my mindset remains: why do we punish our own people so severely when this behavior is rampant all over? Let's increase our international copyright laws and claims and hold others responsible as well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mr. Capone's Day Off

We've been working at my school site now for almost two weeks and I've gotten a lot of planning done. The building has undergone over $500,000 worth of renovations, and so it's no surprise that even though school begins in two weeks, we haven't been able to get into our classrooms to set up and start decorating yet (as if that will help me seeing I have next to no supplies or materials). But today we got to look at the building map and find out what classrooms everyone is located in. Of course mine turned out to be on the top (third) floor - a hefty hike up the stairs but the view is nice, and the classroom itself is one of the bigger ones.

This is the back of the classroom.

This is the front of the classroom.

The view from the classroom.

I have a lot of ideas I want to bring about in my classroom. Here is a list of some of the ideas I came up with, and hopefully in the future when I get the materials and bring about these things I will post pictures of them. But for now, here are some descriptions:

- a current events wall
- a history-spanning timeline with photos and little descriptions
- a college corner with lots of information/posters/mementos from UMass - we're supposed to really stress the path to college success for our students and by doing so deck out a portion of our rooms to our undergrad schools
- a "historical figure" of the week poster that will highlight a historical person each week, but I want to set it up like a Facebook page, listing their name, years of birth/death, interests they would have had, and a bio written as if by the person
- an artifacts tables where kids can go during free time to explore some cultural mementos I have from my travels, as well as play cultural games that I hope to buy and work on some map skills

Instruction doesn't actually begin until Monday, September 13th, but the kids come to school starting the first of September. They have a four day orientation to familiarize them with the systems, culture, and rules of the school. It seems very intense but I'm sure it will really get them energized and excited to be there, and it will also set high expectations and our team culture from the start.

Something else I'm so happy about: lesson planning is nowhere NEAR as detailed and scripted as Teach for America asked of it at Institute this summer. At the time I voiced my opinions often, saying that scripting out EVERYTHING you would do and say was too formulated and ridiculous for teachers. And even though Mastery has such high expectations, they are all set allowing teachers to outline their plans and not go through and script out every word you will say - which I think is the better way to do it. With Teach for America I felt tied to my lesson plan and it made me feel more nervous and confused. And with EVERY word scripted out, I felt that the real content and expectations of my lesson were muddled and hidden under all the text, and so when I was actually giving my lessons, I never looked at my lesson plans, because they were too convoluted to use when you were up in front of a class. Thanks TFA, but no thanks!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Not Gonna Reach My Telephone

Sadly realizing just now that I will miss out on Lady Gaga's infamous Monster Ball Tour for a second time this year. The first time I was supposed to go was way back in January. My friends and I had tickets to one of her shows in Connecticut but this was about the time right when she collapsed on stage from exhaustion and being overworked, so she canceled some of her shows that week, one of which just happened to be ours.


Because of this cancellation though, we had priority to get tickets to her show this September when she comes back to the area. But I'm just realizing that the show is on a Thursday night in early September, and with my new teaching job, I don't foresee myself being able to miss a day of school for this concert. Damn, why did it have to be on a Thursday night!?

However, there is a four-day weekend coming up the first week of school due to Rosh Hashanah. Therefore, I will be gracing the Boston area with my presence from September 9-12th!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Skin Crawling

So, I was sitting here watching one of the last episodes of Skins when what do I see out of the corner of my eye? A little silverfish scurrying out of the bathroom and into the bedroom rug. My fight or flight instincts kicked right in and I was out of the bed in a second with a book flying at the little bugger. Well it missed and he ducked out for cover. I then proceeded to take EVERYTHING off the bed and floor to search for him, and spent a good five minutes slowly and nervously searching for him, all the while thinking he would jet at me and make my skin crawl. Then what do I see next to the book I initially threw? He's right next to it hanging out and watching me tear apart my room in search of him! Well, thankfully I had a smaller book in my hand and made quick work of him - and then I took his remains in a tissue (screaming aloud the whole time) and tossed him into the toilet.

In related news, I finished the last season of Skins. I feel I'm left with more questions and I really hate it when TV shows end without a resolution, or when they end with a scene that leaves the ending up to the viewer (which happened here). But I'm excited - because now I'm going to begin re-watching seasons one and two again!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Oh you know, just the President of the United States, Barack Obama talking about education reform and using my charter school as an example of one of the best in the nation. Mastery Charter Schools now have seven campuses, three of which are new elementary schools opening this fall, and have shown tremendous growth in reading and math and also a steep decrease in violence due to their strong school culture and strive for high expectations and excellence. I am excited and proud to be working at Mann Elementary this fall and welcoming in our first batch of kids!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Telephonic

I finished season 7 of Project Runway the other day and I have to say it was one of my favorite seasons. I was in love with Maya and Mila from the start, and I feel that this season had some of the best designers on it in the history of the show. And with this show over for me, I've begun to watch series 3 of Skins. I downloaded series 3 and 4 months ago but haven't had the drive to watch them, even though I absolutely loved and was obsessed with series 1 and 2. I just hate it when a TV show begins fresh with a new cast. I've watched four of the episodes so far and I must say that the new cast is alright and so far the storylines haven't been that bad. If you've never seen Skins, I highly HIGHLY recommend watching the first two series.


In real life news, today was the first day that we got to see our school for the fall - Mann Elementary. The building has been under renovation and considering all the painting and work that's been done, it looks great! The building is over 85 years old and is a mirror image of Emlen Elementary, the school I worked at last month. I never said that on this blog, but I hated that building - it was so old and stuffy, and the air was thick with nearly a century's worth of chalk dust. In good news, the new Mann Elementary building chucked the chalk boards for white boards! Thank god because chalk is the bane of my existence. The building itself isn't in bad shape, and is four stories tall, and shaped in a strange "u" shape. From one side of the building, you can  see the Philly skyline in the distance which looks amazing - I am pretty sure my classroom will be on the top floor and I hope I get a room with a view.

I can see lightning and hear thunder in the distance; a summer heat storm without the rain. I hope it breaks the humidity, but it is forecasted to be another 90 degree day tomorrow.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Accomplished

I just built an IKEA bureau this afternoon that took me three hours to put together, and I feel like it's one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. How sad is that?

There were times I thought I would never put the damn thing together properly, and I even snapped a piece of wood off because I nailed it into another piece in the wrong directions, but it was nothing a little super glue couldn't fix. All in all it came together and came out pretty well. It looks good in the bedroom and fit perfectly between the two closet doors. I put some little trinkets and my college degree frame on it and now my bedroom is starting to come together.

Now, all I need is a bed...

Brought Me Down

Again my worries come back to the state of the environment and the situations across the globe. Earlier we had BP spoil our environment by destroying the Gulf coast with their man-made disaster, flooding oil into our waters. Then there was the awful wild fires that raged throughout Russia, destroying arable land and shutting off exports of grain. And now there is the widespread damage throughout Asia from the heavy monsoon season. The devastation and loss of life in Pakistan is just unbelievable, and then there is the landslide damage in China.


I don't know about you, but it makes me worried for the state of the world. We have these powerful nations that rule our lives and actions, and yet they are utterly powerless when faced with the force of mother nature. And what is causing these abnormally strong storms around the globe? Is it global warming? Or is it something more? Could it be that our planet is so overpopulated that we're spreading out into areas of the world that were not meant to house people safely? Or perhaps the Earth has always been this active and we've just not noticed it so much because of the rapid growth of the world's population and the birth of media.

I don't believe in any of the 2012 nonsense or any judgement day looming in the near future, but I am curious as to what we've done to our planet to make it so volatile recently.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Broke into the Apartment

A week has passed since my last post which was, well, a little overly dramatic. Now that I'm back in Philly I feel that those emotions were driven because I had been in Boston and had had a whirlwind week of seeing lots of friends and having some great times with them. But now that I'm back, my head is cleared and I am ready to move forward with a new sense of possibility (to quote Teach for America).

The Apartment:
Last Sunday (less than a week ago, but it feel so much longer) I moved into my new apartment in Philadelphia. It's a little small but it's cozy and it is in a locked building which makes me feel safer, although at the same time, more concealed - I've barely seen or heard anyone else in the building. I'm living a bit west of UPenn and the neighborhood is pretty awesome: it's hip, has a lot of trees, and feels a LOT like Brookline, MA. There is a trolley two blocks away to take me downtown, and there are small markets, coffee shops, and restaurants in the vicinity. Plus, there are a hoard of other TFA corps members who live only a few blocks from me, a few of which are my friends who I should see pretty often.

Moving in was alright. The only downside is I am without much furniture. I don't even have a bed - I'm using an air mattress borrowed from my friend. The sad thing is I don't even have the money to go out and buy one anytime soon! This past week though I scoured Craigslist and found some really cheap shelves, TV stand, and microwave that I went and picked up from college students who were moving.

Decorating my apartment was also really fun. I hung up my wall scroll, some pictures, a few posters and pieces of art, and made it more homey. The only downside is that I need more shelves and furniture to truly make it feel more lived in and comfortable, and I don't foresee this being finished until mid-October when I have a few paychecks under my belt.



The cable man comes tomorrow morning so that should be good! I can finally start watching Bravo again, and that background noise will make the apartment feel more welcoming I think.

Mastery Charter Schools:
I began orientation at my actual school site this past week. Mastery Charter Schools are very good schools in this system and were recently honored by President Obama for their high turnaround rates. I met my fellow teachers and staff and I can't even wait to get started now! I am the only social studies teacher and I'm super pumped to get into my classroom next week. They are renovating the building so it's quite a mess I hear, but that doesn't bother me. The school's culture and systems are very similar to the beliefs of Teach for America, but I am getting really great vibes from Mastery, where at some points Teach for America rubbed me the wrong way.

UPenn:
This week I also began my enrollment and coursework for UPenn. I can't believe I'm an Ivy League grad student. I foresee this all being a lot of work for me, but it will be worth it - and terribly expensive. But it's still a great chance and I am excited to get underway with the classes in September. There are only about four class days a month, so it shouldn't be too time-consuming (aside from the papers and actual work).

Teach for America:
Since I'm at Mastery, and they run their own professional development and unit planning, I don't attend the Teach for America events this month, which is leaving me feeling a little disconnected from the program. And I'm sad that I am not part of the main group and I don't see my Teach for America friends often because of it. There are about twenty-five of us working for Mastery schools (they have seven now) but still the bulk of my friends are still attending the Teach for America sessions.

Project Runway:
Since I have mainly just had my computer to keep me busy in the apartment, I become re-obsessed with Project Runway this week. I just marathoned Season 7 the past three days, and I downloaded Season 6 to watch after that. Plus the new season is up to the third episode too! And then throw in Top Chef which is halfway through their DC season and I'm in heaven!

Aside from all of these main points in my life, I'm feeling alright. I do miss Boston and my friends still, but I'm getting along alright here. I'm by myself and in my apartment most of the time when I'm not attending work sessions, but it's mainly because I can't even afford to go out or into the city because my bank account is so low. I don't even know how I'm going to pay my September rent and utilities, so how can I go out and meet people when I have no cash? (not to mention HOW does one even "meet" people these days?)

And my fridge is miserably empty...