Friday, March 31, 2006

The Deserted Island List - Movie Edition

Again, this list changes frequently but this is my current (as of today) list of movies I would have to have on a deserted island...of course DVD system and power source are included.

1.) Raiders of the Lost Ark
2.) Star Wars (A New Hope)
3.) Casablanca
4.) Still Breathing
5.) Goldfinger
6.) Waking Life
7.) The Constant Gardener

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Protesting for Protest's Sake

I live and teach in Texas. A sizable minority of my students are Hispanic. I believe in the right for people to protest. But the student walk-outs by Latino students in Dallas and around the nation are hurting the Hispanic cause. The vast majority of students interviewed had no idea what they were protesting. They were completely ignorant about the proposals on immigration reform currently floating around Washington. They were just looking for an excuse to get out of school.

Many of the people who needed the instruction time the most were the ones protesting. They completely disrupted the educational process for the thousands of students who stayed in school. This type of protest will not win them sympathy and ultimately will undermine their cause. I believe that immigrants who fill out the paperwork, follow visa guidelines, pay taxes, and follow the law should be given a chance to become an American citizen. After all, this nation is a nation of immigrants.

But to carry Mexican flags and shout "viva Mexico" only serves to alienate those who could be a potential source of support. Immigrants who wish to win support should demonstrate their willingness to work within the system. They would be better off carrying American flags (as a few did) and at least trying to learn English. They also would show their true committment to the cause by researching the issue and showing up to this weekend's well-organized and legally planned demonstration in Dallas. I'm not saying they should give up their cultural heritage...but if they want legal recognition in this nation...they need to show they are committed to following the legal processes of the United States of America.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bill Murray

Okay, I've always dug Bill Murray movies. But recently I think he's jumped into my list of favorite actors. He's not only that maniac from SNL...he's now a respected actor. The evidence: The Life Aquatic and Lost in Translation. Two excellent movies that required highly nuanced performances. Murray can be the crazy wildman or the master of subtlety...a difficult spectrum to master. He made the Charlie Angel's movie. I still have yet to watch Rushmore, Broken Flowers or some of his other highly acclaimed work. But the guy has become a master.

My favorite Bill Murray movies...

1.) Ghostbusters
2.) Lost in Translation
3.) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou
4.) Groundhog Day
5.) What About Bob?
6.) Stripes
7.) Caddyshack
8.) Scrooged
9.) Quick Change (a lesser known movie where he plays a bank robber who robs banks disguised as a circus clown.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Relax Playlist

In response to a few's what's on my Relax playlist...the music I listen to on my iPod to escape after a stressful day (which never happens in teaching).

Stir It Up - Bob Marley
Waiting For My Lucky Day - Chris Isaak
Caldo de Cana - Brazzaville
Sleepwalk - Brian Setzer
Murmullo - Buena Vista Social Club
Ain't Misbehavin' - Louis Armstrong
South of the Border - Chris Isaak
Clair de lune -Debussy
Moonlight in Vermont - Willie Nelson
One Step Away - The Mavericks
Dream a Little Dream of Me - Ella Fitgerald and Louis Armstrong
Light & Day - The Polyphonic Spree
Pretty Girls Don't Cry - Chris Isaak
Subterranean Homesick Alien - Radiohead
What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
Queenie - Brazzaville
Falling - Roy Orbison
I Wonder - Chris Isaak
Change Partners - Frank Sinatra
So Long I'll See Ya - Tom Waits
Blue Spanish Sky - Chris Isaak
Jack-a@* - Beck

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Restaurant Rule

Last night I ate at Bennigans and I violated one of my restaurant rules. I ordered a steak. You should never order steak at a chain restaurant unless that is it's speciality (i.e. Texas Roadhouse). As a result my steak was horrible. Dry, chewy, and leathery.

Actually the whole Bennigans experience was lousy. Kimberly's Monte Cristo came out with only half a portion. When they brought out the other half Kim discovered it wasn't fully cooked. The manager didn't even offer to comp her meal. So Bennigans is now placed on the Restaurant black list along with TGIF Friday's. Won't go there again.

But back to my rule. I once ordered ribs at Chili's. The ribs were bland and uninspiring. I like Chili's...but I had violated my rule. Don't order ribs at a chain restaurant. Some additional corrallaries...

1.) Don't order chicken at a hamburger place. (in fact, I only order chicken at Chick-fil-a, Boston Market, Wendy's, or KFC)
2.) Don't order a hamburger at a chicken place.
3.) Don't order land food at a sea food restaurant.
4.) Don't order American at a Mexican place.

And I've tried to stop ordering a coke at places like Ruby Tuesday's and the like because it's a ripoff...$1.99 for a coke?

Friday, March 24, 2006

If you want to ski...

My students are all talking about their Spring Break ski trips. Which really has me hankering for the slopes. But we only take one trip a year. Skiing is one of the funnest things in the world. People always ask, "why would you want to risk your neck by careening into a tree in sub-zero temperatures?" The are a multitude of reasons of course...but here are the two main reasons...

1.) The setting. Being up in the mountains makes the real world wash away. The whole deal, from the condo to the slopes, puts you in a whole new world of experience. Escapism at its best.
2.) The exhiliration. There's nothing like gliding down a mountain on skis. It feels like you're floating. Conquering fears and raising (then meeting) your expecations is a rush.

My advice to anyone thinking about skiing for the first time is...

1.) Wear the right gear. I borrowed a lot of gear on my first trip just in case I wouldn't like skiing. Every year I've added another component whether its gloves, bibs, jacket, etc.. The right gear will keep you warm. In fact, I'm rarely cold on the slopes...even if it's below zero. Wear the right stuff. And get a hydration pack...water makes a huge difference.

2.) Take Lessons. This is a must if you want to avoid the Texas Downhill (going straight down outta control with no turns). Don't listen to your "expert" friend. Take at least a half-day lesson from a pro at the resort. It's money well spent. They will show you all these little tricks and techniques that makes things enormously easier. Things that might take you years to figure out on your how to get on and off a lift without crashing. Your trip will me so much more enjoyable if you take lessons and learn to do it right.

3.) Go at your own pace. When learning...take things at a pace you're comfortable with. Don't let peer pressure force you to go on that mogul run when you're not ready for it. The first day after a lesson you may want to ski by yourself.

4.) Set goals. Set concrete goals so you can keep raising your game. For instance, make a goal to actually ski over that one hill you see over and over again instead of going around it. Make a goal to move from the wedge to parallel in a certain amount of time. Set goals and meet them.

5.) Get in the right mindset. Skiing is 90% mental. Embrace the fear. Don't be afraid to fall. Bode Miller falls more often than not. Laugh when you do pull a yard sale with your gear all strewn about. Take a deep breath on that big rise overlooking a gnarly run and say "This mountain is mine!"

6.) Get in shape. Coming down a bowl in Durango on my first adult ski trip I almost died because my thighs felt like they were on fire. The next year I worked out by riding a stationary bike every day. The difference was huge. I could ski longer and I had a lot more fun.

Skiing has made me more goal oriented and has helped me get back in shape. It's been great mentally and physically for me. I feel I take on anything. Get out there!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spring Break, Part One

We had a great Spring Break (March 13-17). We drove up to visit Kimbery's grandparents in Indiana. On the way we spent a night in Memphis. On the way back we stopped at the Bill Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can see some of our photos on our photo page. We'll be adding more photos soon.

At first glance Memphis didn't seem like the most glamourous vacation spot. I had been there fifteen years ago and wasn't too impressed. Since then downtown Memphis has been revitalized. The whole downtown area is now bustling with energy.

We usually come very close to Memphis on our trips to Indiana. This year we decided to actually stop and spend a night there. Memphis was a happening place while we were there. The Conference USA Basketball Tournament was in full swing (which the Memphis Tigers would actually win) and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference was holding their convention. Memphis was definately the place to be. We saw the Peabody Ducks, went to B.B. King's Blues Club on Beale Street and to Graceland the next day. I'll write about each in later posts.

Anyway, we had a good time. Kim's grandparent's were doing better than I expected. And now we're back in school counting down 'till summer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Deserted Island List - Music Edition

Ah, the infamous deserted island lists. Seven indispensible items that you would take to the proverbial deserted island. Of course the deserted island must have a power outlet of some source...or batteries. My lists change all the time. Here is my current CD list if I were to be marooned on a deserted no particular order...

1.) Somnambulista - Brazzaville
2.) Symphony No. 9 - Ludwig van Beethoven
3.) Weezer (the blue album) - Weezer
4.) Blue Train - John Coltrane
5.) Baja Sessions - Chris Isaak
6.) Someday My Prince Will Come - Miles Davis
7.) Teatro - Willie Nelson

Monday, March 20, 2006

How to Fix Baseball

My humble suggestions on how to fix America's pastime.

1.) Implement an NFL style revenue sharing platform. Small market baseball is the heart and soul of baseball. When they have no chance against NY, Boston, and LA...then no one cares and the game dies. Good management and baseball strategy should be rewarded...not just deep pockets.

2.) Give a ban on performance enhancers real teeth. I'm encouraged by the early steps taken recently. Make the consequences for doping harsh enough to be a true deterrant and to show fans MLB means business.

3.) Get rid of the wild card. The regular season means nothing now. The Red Sox would not have broken the curse without the help of the wild card. Second place should not be given a chance to compete for the trophy with many flags.

4.) Go back to the American League and National League being in seperate offices with seperate buildings. Baseball has more character and is much more interesting when both leagues retain some of their unique quirks and distinct characteristics. I like the fact that one league has DH and the other doesn't. I used to like the fact that one league featured junkballers and small stadiums with grass while the other featured fastballers with turf and speed demons on the basepaths. Different is good!

5.) Scrap interleague play. For all the reasons listed in #4. Keep the leagues distinct.

6.) Go back to two divisions for each league. Baseball used to have the purist playoff system in professional sports...two teams playing for the league pennant. Then that winner playing the winner of the other league. Clean, simple, and elegant.

7.) No more expansion! Expansion is seriously diluting the talent and making the game sloppy. Quality control people!

8.) Get a real commissioner with real autonomy. Get a guy who can be neutral and not just a puppet for one side or the other.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

CD Pick of the Week - Slow Train Coming

In 1978 Bob Dylan shocked the world by converting to Christianity. The music industry shunned and ridiculed him. Many in the "Christian" world refused to accept him. And although we are all ultimately responsible for our own choices this hostile reaction from all sides helped encourage Dylan to eventually move back to secular Judaism.

During this time Dylan released a couple of albums that displayed his Christian testimony in musical and poetical terms. At the time, the secular music world for the most part ignored these masterpieces. But in recent years music publications such as Spin and Rolling Stone have finally recognized their artistic merit.

Slow Train Coming, released in 1979, should be placed among his greatest works. For a Christian the music is especially poignant. Even though Dylan eventually moved away from Christianity, the testimonies on this album are still moving and I recommend it highly.

Here is the track list...

Gotta Serve Somebody
Precious Angel
I Believe in You
Slow Train
Gonna Change My Way of Thinking
Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)
When You Gonna Wake Up
Man Gave Names To All The Animals
When He Returns

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Why Modern Science needed Christianity

I was reading the book 'He is There and He is not Silent' by the late Christian philosopher Dr. Francis Schaeffer last week when something he wrote stopped me in my mental tracks. Schaeffer argued that it is a great irony that modern science would not exist in the west had it not been for the influence of the Christian world view.

The vast majority of modern scientists believe in an impersonal beginning in a closed system. Christian scientists believe in a personal beginning in an open other words, the universe was created by a rational God who still intercedes in the world today.

Schaeffer holds that since the early scientists of the Scientific Revolution (i.e. Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton) were Christians they believed that the universe was created by a rational God and therefore could be understood by man in rational terms. These are the men who created the scientific method and processes which created modern science.

Only the monotheistic cultures of Christianity and Islam created a philosophical framework for scientfic study. The pluralistic cultures of India and East Asia never created such a framework.

If the early western scientists had begun with the pre-supposition of creation's irrationality and impersonality that modern science holds today...then modern science would not have developed to the extent it has today. This is a supreme irony. Christianity is the mother that gave birth to modern science.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Colin Powell for Baseball Commissioner!

I am fed up with Major League Baseball. It used to be my favorite sport. I played it (little league), watched it, and memorized meaningless stats like OBP facing left handers on artificial surfaces played on odd numbered days of the week. I still have all seven games of the 1985 World Series on VHS tape. The Royals winning the Series is still one of the most memorable events in my life. One of my most valued possessions is a 1985 World Series ball signed by George Brett.

Baseball has gone down hill ever since. The first blow was the 1994 strike. The Royals were in first place at the time with 1994 Cy Young Winner David Cone leading the way. Then the season was over. I still remember being in Bracken Dorm Room 201 watching the news with my roomate Bill Kinnamon when they announced that the World Series had been cancelled. We were stunned.

I still rooted for the Big Blue but soon it became apparent that the rules of the game had changed. Economic disparity gave very little opportunity for the small markets to compete. Then came a series of changes that destroyed baseball in my opinion. Bart Giamatti died, Fay Vincent is forced out and the owners elect a stooge as commissioner of baseball. I wouldn't elect Bud Selig as city trash collector.

My interest was slightly re-kindled during the great 1998 home-run chase. But even then my Dad was telling me that it was obvious McGwire was using steroids and the records were meaningless. He has since been proven right. Now we have Barry Bonds about to break Ruth's record. I always tried to like Bonds. But he has shown himself to be an arrogant, self-centered cheater.

They say baseball is more popular than ever. That assessment seems suspect to me. Television ratings are at an all-time low. Some of the biggest stars made fools of themselves in front of Congress. No one buys anything they're saying. Ratings will continue to tank as the integrity of the game is flushed down the toilet. Where is Kennesaw Mountain Landis when you need him?

In an upcoming post I will give my humble opinion of how to get at least one formerly passionate fan back in the stadium seats.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

How to Tick Everyone Off

Here is a link to an excellent speech given by actor Tim Robbins to the National Press Club in Washington D.C.. Although Tim Robbins is one of my favorite actors I don't always agree with his political stances. However he was spot on in this speech regarding his assessment of President Bush's foreign and domestic policies after September 11th. You would expect the left to be critical of George W. Bush. Ironically, now the right is beginning to stir against him (i.e. prominent conservative Bruce Bartlett's recent scathing review of the White House economic policy). Even worse for the President is the fact that even centrist members of his own party are now breaking ranks more often (i.e. voting almost unanimously voting against the Dubai ports deal). It's a pretty impressive achievement to tick off the left, right and center all at the same time.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Cats Don't Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers

A few days ago I was awakened at 5:30 in the morning by an idiot neighbor blasting the Red Hot Chili Peppers from the car stereo of their beat up 1997 Trans-Am. Noise like this never happens in our quiet little neighborhood. I'm sure the octogenerians were apoplectic. No, on second thought they probably were already up getting ready to mow their lawns for the third time in a week.

Anyway, I was too tired to see what was up and the noise didn't last long. But I did learn something. Simba doesn't like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He growled like a dog toward the direction of the music when Kimberly let him out of his room. Then he hopped up on the bed where I was still trying to sleep, gave me a kneading neck massage and laid on my back until I got up at 6:00 am.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

TV Viewing

Okay, last week I promised to admit if I watched more than my goal of watching only 3 hours of television. Yes, I made it...I watched only 3 hours of t.v.. I watched the two-hour premiere of The Amazing Race and one hour of 'Lost' on ABC. I didn't catch Survivor.

This week...I'm only watching two hours. The Oscars don't count because I was sick and couldn't do anything else anyway.

I won't always be able to keep it down to 3 hours. When Alias, Everwood, Frontline: World, Austin City Limits and Globetrekker resume their normal schedules my time will go back up...but no more than by 5 hours for the week. I promise!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Oscars

I wasn't planning on watching the Oscars. But Sunday night I was suffering from severe nausea from something I ate earlier in the day at a church potluck. So I doubled over on the easy chair and watched the Academy Awards between swigs of Pepto Bismol. I like Jon Stewart so I thought it would be interesting to see him host.

I am relieved that people voted for what they thought was the best picture and not the movie with the most hype or trendiest message. I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain or Crash. But I'm sure there was a lot of peer pressure to go with the gay cowboys. I'm glad people voted authentically.

Anyway, one of my favorite movies, 'The Constant Gardner,' won some nice awards including best supporting actress for Rachel Weisz. I was disappointed to see that 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou' wasn't nominated for anything. Saw that this weekend. Supercool flick. And sure, 'Revenge of the Sith' wasn't a classic...but surely it deserved more than one nomination in the technical categories. It wasn't even nominated for special effects!

But the whole Oscar thing just seems like another opportunity for the popular and beautiful people to pat themselves on the back. Sometimes the doses of self-importance can be a bit much. After all...they're just movies. Right?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Overheard: In class

Overheard in my AP World History class at the beginning of the year...

We were discussing the brain sizes of hominids in relation to modern man. I demonstrated that you can see an approximation of your own brain size by holding your two fists together touching at the palms. We discussed that larger brains usually meant greater intelligence.

One of my AP students raised their hand and asked with all sincerity...

"What if you only have one arm?"

Photo Update

Check out some new photos on the flickr account.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

CD Pick of the Week - Somnambulista

In 2000 I saw a Ford Thunderbird commercial that featured this guy in a T-Bird coming up to a stop sign in the desert at the same time as a Porche. The yuppie metrosexual in the Porche obviously wants to race so he kicks his hot girlfriend out of the car to wave a hankerchief ala Natalie Wood in Rebel Without A Cause. She starts the race and in a cloud of dust the Porche takes off. When the dust clears she sees the Thunderbird hasn't moved. She gets in the new T-Bird with the guy and they drive off together toward the desert sunset. Now what caught my attention was the cool tropicalia music playing in the background. So I did some research and found out the group was called Brazzaville.

Brazzaville (named after the capital city of the Congo) was formed by their lead singer Dave Brown who is Beck's saxophone player. He has also toured with Tom Waits, Fiona Apple and Morphine. Brazzaville's second album Somnambulista immediately became one of my all time favorite records. The ethic behind Brazzaville is that these are wandering world travelers who sing about their world weary experiences in third world jungles and Cambodian airports. Brazzaville is now in self-imposed exile in Barcelona planning a world tour in a converted ocean freighter that will make stops in various ports-of-call. All four Brazzaville albums are amazing.

My favorite songs on Somnambulista are Casa Batillo (about that Gaudi house in Barcelona), Lazy, Flawed, and Hopeless (my wife's description of me), Jane (an otherworldly beach tune) and Old Man Dub (the reggae tune on the T-Bird commercial).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

My iPod

The greatest invention in the last few years has to be the iPod. I got mine over a year ago so it's already outdated. My Uncle Phil got me a heck of deal on a brand new 15 gig. It now has 3,523 songs loaded on it. I now have to select the specific songs from my iTunes that I want because I can't fit any more songs on the pod.

I only have five playlists. All Things Latin (feat. Los Lonely Boys, Santana, etc...). Ballads (Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, etc...). Kimwalk (for Kimberly when she's out walking), Last Day (i.e. as in the kind of music you play on the last day of school when the last bell has rung.). And finally Relax (Bob Marley, Brazzaville, Chris Isaak, etc...) when things get hectic and I need to find the eye of the hurricane.

My iPod has the four control buttons and the touch wheel all of which look completely out of date next to my Uncle Phil's new video iPod and my cousin's nano. But my cousins Jeff and Greg have iPods with the original scroll wheel. Kickin' it old school. But I'm still down with my 4th Generation classic. FAQ: I wrap the headphone wires around three of my fingers and strap them up with a yellow velcro strap. For any other questions...check out and get iPoddin'.

Friday, March 03, 2006

No More Whining!

Recently I have developed a great admiration of the life of Joseph, one of the patriarchs of Israel, whose life is detailed in the book of Genesis. Actually my admiration is for the way Joseph handled life. As a teacher I deal with all kinds of whining and excuses on a daily basis. Some excuses may have a tinge of legitimacy. Others I have very little tolerance for.

Joseph had the extraordinary ability to adapt to any circumstance and not just survive...but to thrive. His focus on God was so singular that he did not allow unfair circumstances to phase him. He never wallowed in self-pity. This is a guy who was thrown into a cistern by his own brothers, sold into slavery, and transported hundreds of miles from his home against his will.

But he thrived. Upon arriving in Egypt he showed such trustworthiness and leadership he was made the head of the household of an important Egyptian government official. Everything seemed derailed when he was unjustly accused of rape by the official's wife. Thrown into a deep dank Egyptian dungeon he quickly gained the trust of the prison guards and became a foreman of sorts...once again by not allowing for any excuses or whining and remaining focused not on earthly things but on God...he rose to the top again.

By God's divine providence he was ushered to the throne of the most powerful leader in the world...the Pharoah of Egypt. Most Egyptians...much less despised foreigners...never enjoyed the privilege of an audience with the divine Pharoah. Joseph impressed the Pharoah and soon was made Grand Vizier of Egypt...second only to Pharoah himself. He was actually given responsibility over the day to day operations of the largest and most powerful civilization on earth at the time. His wise governance and policies saved Egypt from collapse during a famine that lasted seven years.

From what we can tell Joseph never pouted or dwelled on past injustices. In fact, Joseph forgave the brothers who had plotted his murder and who had ended up selling him into slavery. He forgave them with both words and actions. Life was not fair to Joseph at times. But by keeping his eyes on God...he prevailed over all obstacles and became one of the founding fathers of a great nation.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Photo Update

I've added some photos on to my Flickr account. Some are old, some are new. Take a browse if you get bored.

It was 92 degrees in Dallas yesterday. Beat the record set in 1899 by three degrees! It's only March for cryin' out loud! Can't wait to see what July will be like.

Great CNNSI article about media hypocracy and Bode Miller

Here's a great article by Sports Illustrated writer Mike McAllister discussing the media's hypocracy over Bode Miller.

A brief excerpt...

Are journalists really upset with his failure on the slopes of Sestriere, or are we upset that he wasn't as great as we said he would be? If it's the latter, is that a legitimate reason to criticize him?

The rest of the CNNSI article can be found here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Amazing Race

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the few shows I'm watching is The Amazing Race. People slam reality t.v. all the time...with just cause. The Amazing Race is an exception to the reality t.v. equals trash t.v. formula. The viewer gets to live vicariously through the contestants as they race to exotic sites around the world and do cool stuff like bungee jumping or feeding sharks. Many of the tasks are culturally related to the racer's location. The Amazing Race's website tracks the locations and provides a bit of history for each locale. Great stuff for geography students. Plus, it's one of the few shows on television that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Phil Keoghan, the host, usually stays out of the way and isn't the smarmy weasel seen on most reality shows. The drama doesn't seem forced or contrived. I'm sure they'll be replaying last night's premiere...if you have a chance, I would recommend it. Not all of us get a chance ride a zipline in Vietnam.

UPDATE: Watched the premiere last night. The race is off to a great start. As one racer put it, "have you ever done anything so James Bond in your life?" Usually they replay the premiere on Saturday check those local listings if you missed it and want to catch it.