Sunday, January 30, 2011

UMass Bucket List

Found this UMass Bucket List at Magen's Blog of 25 things you should have done before you graduated from UMass. Since it's all said and done, I thought I'd reflect on if my college years lived up to any of these achievements:

[check] 1. Take a joke class.
I think my first semester "Insects and Human Society" course covers this genre.

2. Take a Five College course.
I always sort of wanted to (you can take a course at any of the Five Colleges in the Amherst area) but the commute (10 mins tops) always seemed to hectic built into an already busy schedule.

[check] 3. Eat at the diner between the hours of 2 a.m. And 6 a.m.
The Route 9 Diner was a typical hangout for my friends and I.

[check] 4. Eat every variety of Wing.
I usually stuck with honey barbecue, but after smelling Courtney's breath after the night she had the garlic flavor, I can say I got a taste of each variety...

[check] 5. Eat at that place you’d always meant to go to.
One of the last weeks of senior year I FINALLY ate at the small hole in the wall Korean restaurant I had always wanted to go to on Route 9.

6. Drink with a professor.
I don't think I'd have wanted to...

[check] 7. Go abroad.
I went abroad between sophomore and junior year (I took a year off) but not thought a program at UMass. But I think that's technically the same.

8. Be the upperclassman with the good alcohol.
Does $3 bottles of wine count? Or $10 handles of Rubinoff? Negative.

[check] 9. Use UMass paraphernalia for drinking.
I know I took some shots from various UMass glasses.

[check] 10. Utilize the library.
I worked there for two years at the tutoring center, although I rarely studied there.

[check] 11. Watch each residential area live up to its reputation.
Well I did have an Asian roommate that one year I lived in Northeast. Check.

[check] 12. Tailgate.

13. Collect 10 free t-shirts
I was never early enough to the sporting events for one...

[check] 14. Write something for The Collegian.
I wrote a handful of news articles as a reporter junior/senior year. And who can forget my scathing editorial about people who bashed the Beijing Olympics!

[check] 15. Party in each residential area.

16. Do something funny with a Halloween lobster.
I always just ate mine... (they always served lobster at the Dining Halls on Halloween night)

17. Ride the Zamboni.
...did anyone?

[check] 18. Sing the Fuck ‘em up, Fuck ‘em up, go UMass song.

[check] 19. Get an on-campus job that pays you to do your homework.
That is all I did because no one came in for history tutoring!

[check] 20. Don’t do the readings, but still crush a class.
I'd say I only read for about 10% of my classes and still got A's in the rest.

[check] 21. Sled down Orchard Hill.
Never forget Snow Day '05

[check] 22. Sneak tomorrow’s dinner out of the Dining Commons.
I sneaked out bowls, silverware, trays, food, you name it!

23. Bake a funfetti cake for no reason.

[check] 24. Roadtrip.
Sophomore year spring break roadtrip to Montreal!

[check] 25. Watch the Walk of Shame and contemplate your place in the world.
I'm checking this off since I myself never did it, but I've sent a few people on a morning walk of shame.

Hmm...I've completed 17/25 of these things. I'm satisfied with my college years :)

Apples to Apples

Well I went and got a cat. I searched on Craigslist for cats looking for adoption, found one, e-mailed the woman, and she brought him over for a trial weekend with me. I still have until tonight to decide to keep him or not, but I think I want to. His name is Seamus (which I will change if I decide to keep him) and he's an orange tabby cat. He's very affectionate and hasn't destroyed anything of mine, but I wonder if I really want this type of commitment; I am always so fickle with decisions.

The only cons I can think of keeping him is that he has kept me up the past two nights (but then again this should end once we get on the same schedule), he keeps making a mess with his litterbox (but this could end when I get one with a cover), and he follows me all over the apartment (hopefully this would end again once he gets use to being here).

On another front, my computer is quickly heading out the window. It has no memory or space on it, programs constantly won't work because of lack of memory, and it's nearly four years old. I want to get a new one, but as I type this I am using my work computer and thinking I should just hold off and keep using this one (although I can't install anything on it). Mainly, my iTunes stopped working on the old one and I tried to reinstall it and there was not enough memory to do so - so now I'm angry that I can't listen to all my playlists.

Because of this, I'm contemplating getting a Mac. I've always been a PC person, but it just seems that Macs are more exciting and stress free. I think my only worry is that I typically hate how spaced out Mac keyboards are, and the one-button mice bother me as well. Eh, who knows...

Thursday, January 27, 2011


So I was just sitting in the living room, watching the Golden Girls and obsessing over the snow day tomorrow and the 6-8 inches that are falling right now, when I look over in the corner of my eye. From the corner of the kitchen I see a little mouse face peering over at me. I didn't move or make a sound but he scampered back into the kitchen and out of sight. I will admit, he was pretty cute, but I'm not sharing this apartment with him.

Therefore, my plan this weekend is to get a cat. Finally.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Address

Go America!
Eight worldwide trending topics.

Best quote so far: "In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect." - thank you President Obama!

Civ IV: Dutch Empire Strikes Back

So I've been playing this game on Civilization IV that is going really well, but I am being too timid to win the game through conquest. I have a huge empire compared to my rivals, but I am moving towards a cultural victory over a military conquest. I am certainly stronger than Isabella or Elizabeth, but I don't want to waste the resources to defeat them. As you can see, my Dutch Empire (orange) is quite big:

As is my capital city Amsterdam.

You can see Queen Elizabeth's English empire on the left and Isabella's Spanish in the south. I think after I finish this game I'm going to retry it with a smaller map. I think having military campaigns on the bigger maps is more difficult. 

Re-discovering this game is not boding well for school nights.

Color by Numbers

Today was the data day before the start of Report Period 4 at school. I'm impressed because it's the official halfway mark of the year. Data day is a day off for students while teachers come to school to plan for the next report period, finalize grades, and look over the data from the math and reading benchmark exams from last week.

Typically, I enjoy these days of work. However, I do not enjoy the big staff meeting at the end of the day to look over the results of the exams and how we are ranking in terms of the two other Mastery elementary schools. Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing that our students made progress and that we are holding our own with the other schools. That is all great - I'm a team player and I want our kids to shine and rock their exams as they move up to being on grade level.

What puts me off is that when we see growth in math and reading, shout outs always go to the reading and math teachers. As another teacher put it, it's almost like everyone else who doesn't teach these two core subjects are expendable. I know that we're not, but one can't help feeling that way.

On the same hand, reading growth amongst our students instantaneously brings shout outs to the reading and literature teachers, but what about the other teachers? In social studies, I can attest that all of my students who are on task are producing writing samples every lesson. My fifth graders are actively reading in groups, following along as I read, or reading independently nearly every day in class. And I can attest that nearly two thirds of my students are comprehending the material, which is certainly more dense than some passages read in other classes. I've taught my fifth graders main idea and details, sequencing, comparing and contrasting through writing, vocabulary, and other literary skills while using the social studies content as a background. Every lesson has a Do Now that requires students to write at least five sentences.

I guess all I am trying to say (not trying to rant here) is that it is certainly a team effort. And while I know that everyone at my school is one team and realizes this, it's not always evident when it comes to exam results.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Highs and Lows

In terms of actual "lows" in weather, of course this week the temperature is down to near-negative numbers. I woke up and it said it was 9 degrees Fahrenheit outside. And guess what? The heat in my apartment is on the fritz again! The building manager just put in a new digital thermostat last week which rocks because I can see what the temperature is, and whenever I set it the heating machine would instantly boom to life.

...until today. I went to bed with the thing set to 67 and woke up to a lovely 55. I can hear the machine working, but it's as if the pilot light is out because it never springs to life. I'm getting really annoyed because this is the third time this has happened, and I hate to be that pesky tenant.

Another low is that my computer is so low on memory that whenever I try to play my CivIV game, it crashes abruptly. Which is strange because I just spent all day yesterday playing it with no problems... Just another sign that someone up there is hating on me today.

But a high is that today I found out that I am having my fifth grade classes handed over to my new social studies co-teacher! His content area is social studies so they want to put him back into it, and we spoke today and he's going to lead teach the fifth grade while I work with small groups of kids who need more guidance in the back. And he's going to do the same for my third graders. I'm pretty pumped about it, although I always get so nervous when someone is in the classroom and I'm teaching.

All I want right now is Jersey Shore, working heat, and a cup of hot chocolate. Is that too much to ask for?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Manifest Destiny

China is in the news a lot recently for a myriad of reasons. Topping the reasons is President Hu Jintao's visit to America taking place right now. His visit is being marked as a historical event where topics ranging from human rights, the economy, and military dominance are being discussed. I almost wish I were in the Teach for America DC corps could I could be a bit closer to all the action.

The BBC had another interesting article that I just had to comment on about US anxiety over China's growing power on the world stage. The article questioned five Duke students about the growing role of China and the role of the US in the world. Three of the five students were Chinese-born, another American, and one was Indian. I pulled out some comments from their interviews that I found most eye-opening or controversial:

Romeen Sheth lives in Atlanta but his family is from that other emerging economic powerhouse, India. He takes a provocative stance on the future of the US, contrasting China and India's annual economic growth of 8-10% a year with the American economy "flat-lining" at about 1.5% to 2% a year.
"If we continue on the trajectory we're at right now I think America could soon find itself in a position of global insignificance."

I found his comment to be very jarring, but when I really thought about it, I then found it a bit misguided. For one thing, a nation's economic might alone does not make it a powerful or "insignificant" nation. While I do feel that in terms of education, health care, and some areas of the economy, America is failing, it is far from being in the position that he predicts.

The same guy later on said:
"So what we're doing is giving US-acquired information and we're sending it back to India and China. So America is the first empire that is giving away its strategic weapons almost. In an information-age society knowledge is a strategic weapon."

I do agree with him on this notion. I have always felt that America is putting itself at a risk by keeping it's doors wide open, especially in the academic work. Universities in America place such high emphasis on parading how many nations their student body hails from, but no one stops to think of the threat of a brain drain that this could put our nation at. While many high school students fail to get into US colleges, international admissions are always steady and their allocations typically grow rather than shrink. I also fear that this knowledge (from studies) and even knowledge from mundane day-to-day activities and observations attributes to international change, as he mentioned.

Jack Zhang argues that these values are what make America great. Yet democracy - particularly one as divided and dysfunctional as America's today - can be a handicap when it comes to global competition.
"I don't think it's so much America has become complacent in its power or prosperity, it's just their political institutions cause difficulties. China has an authoritarian, one-party state, so can afford to pursue economic policies that might not make everyone happy."

I have always been a firm believer in this. It's just like Star Wars (silly, nerd reference) - that democracies, while great for the rights of the people, are slow, ineffective at times, and more often than not fail the people. I think China is a great example of a government that makes quick policy changes, however these changes often hurt the people, are not well thought out, and sometimes fail (such as Beijing's ridiculous driving policies). But at least in China there is little red tape that all decisions and laws have to go through. At least there is no bi-party system that argues for years on issues that the people want and sometimes demand. It's a tough choice to make for which one is more beneficial.

Lastly I would like to leave with a video that was linked to in the article. This advert was apparently created during recent election campaigns by the Citizens Against Government Waste. When I first watched this, I found it both creepy, and frightening. However, I don't find it very realistic because China still has a long way to go to create a sound society for it's people.

To the few (if any) people reading this, what are your thoughts on all of this?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Meow Mix-Up

Supposedly a cat was summoned for jury duty at a court house in Boston. The article says that even after the owner proved it was a cat and of course could not understand English, a jury commissioner said that the cat must attend the jury summons in March. What's funny is that it happened at the same court house that I was called for jury duty at a few years back. That trial was the most exciting (and cold) week of my life. Only in Boston...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ready, Set, Serve

Today I volunteered with a group to represent Teach for America Philadelphia at an Americorps service site at a middle school in South Philly. Americorps was hosting numerous service sites across the city at public schools. At our site some of us helped paint murals in the hallways, and some others helped paint classrooms. This is the mural I helped paint in one of the hallways:

(I painted the little boy in the middle)

It was a pretty fun experience even taking in the fact that I didn't really know or socialize with people in the group I went with. I find it awesome to think that our mural (while we didn't design it) will remain there for years, in this building I will most likely never set foot into again, seen by thousands of students. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Society's Shackles

I hate people. No, I hate the society we've created. I feel like life consists of going around and selling yourself to others. Whether it be for romantic purposes or just meeting new people at a bar or party, everybody puts their lives on the table so quickly and more often than not, it's to make themselves appear either intelligent, cultured, or some amalgamation of both.

Take this online dating website I joined. I hate it, but at the same time I keep going back to it. On the website it enables you to create a profile to explain your interests, what you're doing with your life, and then write a "self summary." I didn't know what to write in mine, and I went around looking at other user's profiles. Looking around I feel like it's just this big market. You can tell that everyone strategically puts up photos that show them in a good light, and the language they use to write their "summaries" sounds like a product advertisement. And if your profile doesn't have a flashy photos, or elegantly written prose describing your activities and hobbies, then you probably won't get a lot of visitors to your page. And, surprise surprise, most of the best profiles I've seen that fit this mold are from guys living in New York City. Aside from what users are "creating," there are also those people that send you messages who you can tell do not take the time to even glance at what you've written. Instead they head straight for the photos, like what they see, and shoot you an impersonal message. No thanks.

And then there is selling yourself to "potential" friends. I was at a party last night talking to some girl, and our conversation wasn't going very deep, and I wasn't even hammering her with a lot of questions, but in a short span of time I learned all about her elite-school studies, her cultured travel abroad experiences, and her opinions on global policies. Okay, maybe not the last one, but I felt like she was throwing down all she had to offer onto the table, and at the same time, I can't even remember her name right now. I just hate meeting new people and throwing out my school/work/travel experiences at the start of the conversation. There needs to be more interesting conversation starters than your credentials.

Perhaps I'll start carrying around a copy of my resume in my wallet and when I meet someone new, I can just take it out and have them read it. It would certainly save me a lot of repetitive speaking.

In other, more mundane words, I walked all the way home from the party in South Philly last night. It was quite the trek spanning about forty blocks. Above is the "route" home, although I actually walked further than that because I walked north all the way to Walnut and crossed the Walnut Street Bridge instead, so I could walk down Walnut to get McDonald's. Sad.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

You Wanna Sleep on Me, Overnight?

I had a taxing series of dreams last night. I thought we fall asleep with hopes of getting a good rest and waking up ready to begin the next day? Instead I had dreams filled with stress, longing, and exhaustion! I can't recall where one dream ended and the other began, so perhaps it was one long dream broken into segments. In the first dream, I was moving into a small apartment with a close friend and we were sharing a room. But the dream didn't consist of the fun of living together, it involved us planning out our living situation, setting up utilities and rent plans, and cleaning the apartment. Even my dream self is boring!

The next dream involved me being with my mother and family for the holidays again, but this time I had gotten a lot of Christmas gifts and bought myself a lot of nice things...only to find out I couldn't take them back to Philly (or wherever the above apartment was) because I only had one tiny bag. And that dream also consisted of family woes, stress, and high-strung mothers and sisters. At least I got a dose of being home without actually being home!

The last dream had me exploring a city with a group of friends/random people. But there were two people I was with who are not physically in my life right now, which upsets me. I really despise dreams that bring people out of the woodwork and then you wake up saddened over the fact that you're not with them. All I recall from this dream was one "scene" where I was with a friend and a student of mine and they were hunting for a public bathroom, and when they found it they threw eight bags at me to sit and watch. Even dream Vinny is a pushover. And there was one "scene" where we were all in a lobby of a skyscraper performing some sort of written vote. Not sure what for, but I can remember that at least.

Dreams always make me intrigued. Some people tell me they rarely dream, but every single time I fall asleep, whether for a small nap, the full night, etc., I dream rather vividly. And most of my dreams are rather mundane and uneventful (such as the ones above). And I almost never have nightmares either, which I guess is a good thing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brave New Worlds

I'm reading this really awesome book that I thought I would share. It's called Brave New Worlds, not to be confused with Huxley's Brave New World which is equally as good. Brave New Worlds is an anthology of short fiction that revolves around the theme of dystopian societies. Perhaps un-surprisingly dystopian-themed books seems to be one of my favorite genres: V for Vendetta, Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, etc. are just a few of my favorite works in this genre.

I've only read a few of the stories in the book so far, but one of them I found the premise to be really interesting. The story titled "Red Card" was about a town which gave out a few red cards and a revolver anonymously to citizens. These red cards entitled the holder to shoot anyone, for any reason, and face no consequence. You can hold onto the cards for as long as you like, and you can use it whenever you felt as well. However, you're not supposed to tell if you hold one of these red cards, and when you use it, you must turn it over to be re-issued. 

After reading the story I was thinking about who I would use a red card on. A pretentious classmate in college? A horrible professor? A bad driver or waiter? Eh, who knows. I bet if I held a red card I would just sit on it for years and never use it because I'd be too nervous that I would later regret using it on the person I had chosen. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On My Knees...

I'm begging any god out there who will listen to please give the little kiddies and teachers of the School District of Philadelphia a snow day tomorrow! Six and a half inches is not enough, so if you want to throw some more snow down on us, that's all right too! :)

Woo snow day!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Transit Robbery

It's like highway robbery, only more sneaky and unsuspecting! So this afternoon I was getting ready to get onto the subway in Center City. Now, SEPTA is so ancient they still use tokens for their transit services, and they have machines that you insert bills into in exchange for these tokens, but you cannot use cards. Or you can choose to pay the attendant at the booth, but they are almost always rude, and you can only pay with exact change ($2).

Anyway, I went to put some money into the machine and realized they do not give back the correct amount of change! I put a $10 bill into the machine and received five tokens (amounting to $7.75) and then $.45 in change. I may not be good at math but that does not add up to $10. I read the fine print and found out the machines give you the "closest" amount of change available. What the hell does that even mean? And the funny thing is, this has happened to me at least twice before but I just thought I was reading the fare prices wrong. Or maybe they raised the fare but didn't update the signs on the machines? Ugh, Philadelphia's subway system is so terrible, I wouldn't put that past them!

It's the little things in this city and in life that seem to drive me crazy. Pens exploding because of my students, subway systems that unfairly rob me of my change, smelly people on the trolley ride home, a broken dryer in the basement, snow that makes my feet a little wet, an upstairs neighbor who puts their TV on way too loud...

Aside from that mess, I had a lovely day in town doing some errands on this snowy day! I bought some veggies in Chinatown, a graphic novel at Borders, and a much needed external hard drive for my ailing computer that probably won't make it to the spring time.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Day two of the pen cup, and there was another debacle!

A student (I think maliciously) caused a pen to blow up, and then put it back into the pen cup, causing ink to smear all over every other pen. Therefore, my whole cup was ruined! It happened in the same last period class, after five other classes where there were no pen incidents. I just sat there, while they were taking a quiz, silently cleaning the ink off of all the other usable pens. The kids could tell I was upset and now they must think I have some weird obsession over my pens.

Other than the pens, I had a really good week. I finally (and it's December, right?) made some great headway with my most difficult class and we had two amazingly quiet and smooth classes today and yesterday.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Witch Hunt

This morning I obtained two boxes of fresh, new pens from the school supplies room. Happily, I put a piece of blue tape around each one to mark each as Mr. Capone's pens. I took a solo cup and taped paper around it labeled "PENS" and placed it on my front desk for students to use if they don't bring one to class. All day the borrowing went well, student names who borrowed went onto the front board, and at the end of each period, the original twelve pens returned home. That is, until last period... home room class! The period started out with a severe broken pencil problem, forcing me to pass out my entire cup of pens to students in a hurry, and causing me to fore-go putting borrower names onto the board. "These are my guys," I naively thought. "They would never try to nab a pen from me."

When class ended, I had someone collect the pencils and another student collect the pens from me. When he passed me back the pen cup, I was shocked to find ten pens sitting there. I confronted everyone to re-check their pockets for my two missing pens. Nothing.

I was saddened. Not about the pens; but that two students would take them from me in such a quick time. What is it with kids and pencils/pens? They're like bars of gold! I said that I wouldn't send anyone into the coat room to get ready to dismiss until I had them returned. That's when the name calling and pointing fingers began, and it turned into a witch hunt for my pens. I would have made them stay all night, but rules require us to be out by 3:10, and one little girl began to tear up when I (half-jokingly) announced we would stay all night if we had to.

In the end, I dismissed with my cup remaining two pens shy.

In other news, it's supposed to snow two inches tonight, and while this is not a lot, from what I've seen so far Philadelphia can NOT handle even the tiniest bit of snow. Therefore, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a snow delay!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Wait Game

Why are humans incapable of discussing emotion?

...Or perhaps it's just me? Either way, the story goes around and around like a circle and now I'm back to the beginning. Tao has removed himself on a month-long vacation to China to see his friends and family, and even with him on the other side of the planet, he still finds a way to get in contact with me. Here I was, sitting at my computer working on a lesson for tomorrow and my phone rings. This insanely long number shows up on the caller ID and my first thought was "...China..." and him. The purpose of the call? There wasn't any. Instead there was awkward chit chat for a minute followed by a IM from him on MSN. What might it have said? He's hounding me to work out again. He pulled this crap last spring because he doesn't like how I'm so thin. What I don't understand is if he doesn't like it, why does he continue to want to see me? There are two things wrong with this plea: a) I will not change myself or do something I do not want to for another person, and b) I absolutely abhor working out. I take no pleasure from it and I reap no satisfaction either.

All I know is the fire is being stirred up again and I'm not sure how I feel.

Then there was last night, where I went over UPenn Guy's apartment late at night to watch some TV because we were both "bored." There seemed to be an underlying pretense for me going over, but nothing materialized, until we both fell asleep watching some mindless late night TV show. I guess that's what happens when his couch is his bed, but then again I'm not sure what it was that allowed myself to stay over so late when I knew I had to wake up early for work. I ended up staying over and left when my alarm went off at 6AM. The worst part wasn't even the "walk of shame" back to my apartment (four blocks) but the questioning feeling of what it was? Of course there was no talk about it by either of us today, and while I know nothing will probably come of it, I can't help but glance at my phone every so often. I hate how humans are seemingly incapable of putting something out there; although I am as guilty of this as anyone...

Am I twenty-five yet?

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I just read this news article from BBC about a foreign study abroad program that is getting underway between some western nations and North Korea. After reading this, I was left with two thoughts:

1. I'm jealous and want to get in on this action.

2. How was this 23-year old able to go about starting this liaison between his "grass-roots organization" and the North Korean government? I'm 23 and I haven't got anything of the sort under my belt...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bienvenidos 2011

Rang in the New Year at a bar in Alston last night. It was...quite a scandelous night that was overall bizarre. If this was a small taste of what 2011 will be like, I'm not sure what to think! Highlights included me getting seperated from my friends due to a dead phone and having to wait for them at a train station for a half hour, Courtney and I cursing out this kid on the Green Line, bruising my nose on Katie's head, and missing out on late night McDonald's. Woke up in the morning to realize my phone had reset itself and all of my applications, presets, and contacts were gone. Thank you, Sprint!