Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Fastest Three Months of the Year

That was the fastest three months I've ever seen.  It flew by.

I am referring, of course, to the Centenary Gents baseball season which began February 8 and ended this past weekend.  Oh, there are a couple of playoff games left -- it's not completely over, but those games are in Texas.  The 2014 season at Shehee stadium is finished.

And I'm sad.  I miss them already.

There is nothing like baseball to herald in spring.  After the long, cold winter (and we had a few cold days down here in Shreveport!), and the endless dull gray skies, it is pure joy to walk into the baseball complex to bright green grass and the players warming up on the field.

Overzealous, perhaps, Steve and I showed up at a couple of those February games a little unprepared for the cold wind that left me frozen by the end of the ninth.  By the April 22 game the girls were all in shorts, tanks, and sandals soaking up the sun while others took shelter from the blazing sun under umbrellas.

The April 12 game against Austin College was blessed with perfect weather.  We had a mild 75 degrees and a mellow breeze that whistled gently as it blew through the protective netting above us. That was the first game where you could discern the scent of sunscreen in the air from the fans in the bleachers. Centenary won both games that day.

Steve and I started following the team last year after talking about it for ages.  We finally got around to going and have been hooked ever since.  For years I would sit on my deck or in my swing under the magnolia tree in the front yard and listen to the ping of bats as the team practiced.  Sometimes I could hear the music from the PA system as they practiced.  The stadium is within easy walking distance from my house, and we have indeed walked to a couple of games (not the cold ones).

Centenary was in a sort of growing year this year; they lost some good seniors last year and so there were several new players this year.  In fact, there were only three seniors on the roster this year.  They're three pretty good ones though:  first baseman Mark Martinez plays with all of his heart.  At 6'1" and 220 lbs., he's not the fastest runner on the team but when he connects with his bat, that ball just soars.  He's a dynamite first baseman and it will be odd seeing someone else at that position next year.  One of the highlights for me this year was when Mark hit a triple against Austin College; like I said, he's not the fastest runner on the team, and I think everyone in the stands was cheering for him as he breathlessly arrived safely at third.

Another senior saying goodbye this year is outfielder and sometime pitcher Nic Parrott.  We saw Nic sail a couple of beautiful homers this year.  Also leaving this year is pitcher Jake McFarland.  I hope they're all on to bright futures and take good memories of their time at Centenary with them.

Next season looks pretty good as Centenary retains many players from the current roster.  Assuming they all come back, and there are a few new recruits to replace the departing seniors, it should be an awesome team.  There was some great hitting this year and the pitchers have been fun to watch.  Very promising is sophomore pitcher Holden Novak:  he's a tall, lean, 6'4" and he prowls all over that mound as he prepares to take charge with his arsenal of pitches.  He's got a mean fast ball, and a great curve ball.  He's exciting to watch.

I'm also looking forward to watching Christian Sebastien (C-Bass) for one more year before he moves on.  He's a very powerful and athletic player who has no problem with his bats.  Outfielder Chris Jones is faster than lightening and he makes plays happen.  As a freshman, he plays with a great deal of confidence and he will steal a base if you don't watch him!

We've had a grand time watching "our boys" this year.  The fans are great and we've met some really nice people, most of whom seem surprised, and pleased, that we are just neighborhood riff-raff showing up to watch baseball.  "Who's your son?" we get asked all the time.  They're all our boys now.  (My daughter graduated from there, if that counts.)

And the dogs.  Oh my, the dogs.  There's the lady with the yellow retriever and the brindle boxer - beautiful dogs!  And Izzy!  (Izzie?), the wonder dog!  She's just precious.  There are dogs of all sizes that come out
with their owners to watch the game.  Most of them just go to sleep, some watch the other dogs, and some beg to retrieve the balls that sail overhead toward the snack bar or the drainage ditch.  Every time a ball fouls out of bounds by the batting cages you can hear a thunder of sneakered feet as little boys run with their gloves to get it first.

The students that come out to watch their friends play are first class.  A highlight of the season for me, and I still laugh about it, was the basketball team who comes out to support the baseball team.  The baseball team does the same for them, and there's a tradition of heckling the other team that goes on.  Sometimes, I guess, people get a little sensitive about their kids out there on the field, and on one occasion (team shall remain nameless!), some mamas got mad at the heckling.  I have to admit, it might have been a little far when our basketball players were ribbing one of the guys on the opposing team about being, well, vertically challenged.  "Hey!  You need some phone books to stand on while you bat?"  "Hey ump!  How can you call a strike - he's so short the strike zone is too small!"  "Do you need a Fisher Price bat?"  Yeah, it was pretty intense and there was some mama drama, but when the basketball team showed up the next day for Game 2 with a dry erase board depicting a ruler and a sign that said, "You must be this tall to bat," well, you had to be there.  But it was pretty funny.

I can't believe the season is done.  I have to wait until next year for my peanuts and diet Coke, kicked back in my seat behind home plate (did I mention it's absolutely free to get in?), listening to horrible country music during warm-ups and between innings.  Really, I can live the rest of my life without Joe Diffey's John Deere Greene, but then again, it now has a sort of soft spot in my heart.  You can occasionally hear a fan or two holler at the box when they play the same old songs.  Last week during an especially tense game against Trinity, the person doing music played Jason Aldean's See You When I See You and a girl turned around and yelled "Quit playing the depressing music!  We're trying to win a game here!"  It was pretty funny.  All in good fun.

Yes, the sights and sounds of Centenary Gents baseball is over for now.  It's been a wonderful season, and we'll be back next February.  With blankets.  And until then, I'll always think of you, Centenary, when I hear this one:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Follow the Money

My weekly post at DaTechGuy's blog is up and concerns the nonsense that is Common Core and Lexile levels.

Check it out.

The New Republic had a great article on Lexile levels back in October and I have been wrestling with the issue personally since they ripped To Kill a Mockingbird from my cold, hard fingers.  It's now been relegated to ninth grade.

Of course the whole issue with me centers not so much around Mockingbird (although I'm very bitter about losing it), but about the stripping of the decision making process from the individual teacher, the department head, the principal, the district supervisor, the local superintendent, and the state.  Of course we've always had designated reading lists from which to choose our novels that we teach, but we always had more input into what was on that list and more flexibility.  We've always known To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, was read in lower levels, but in upper levels we have been able to explore deeper themes and symbolism and to bring in related texts to support more rigor with the book.

Common Core strips that away.

Julius Caesar, for example, is gone; Macbeth is the new tenth grade Shakespeare play and it's non-negotiable.

It's the same old drum; I've beat this one before but I am a bitter-clinger and refuse to let it go.

Why doesn't it bother more people that the education system is now driven by the Gates Foundation and other big money trails?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Still Like Marco

Funny, we were talking about this at dinner the other night:  who looks good in 2016 for the GOP?  My first response was "No More Bushes."  And now, Byron York:

The Tea Party surely has had its bad moments (the shutdown is one of them), but it has also developed a sizable group that works and plays well with others, and it is to these that the party should look. They are young, and make Hillary Clinton look tired. 
They come from humble sometimes immigrant, backgrounds, and make her look overly rich and entitled. Their diversity makes her look whiter than ever. None has a relative who has ever been president, but one has a mentor who is the son and the brother of presidents, and a Cuban last name: Marco Rubio. 
Rubio looks like a Bush, likes the Bush issues, has an eloquence equaled by none in his party, and has been called both a Tea Party and an Establishment figure, sometimes on the same day. 
The last three Democrats to be president won as outsiders, running against older, long-time insiders, who themselves came from rich and establishment families. Jeb Bush should call it a day, and become the godfather of the first Hispanic president, who, with Kelly Ayotte on his ticket, will fight Hillary to a race/gender draw.

I'm good with Marco Rubio.  He's made some missteps, but I'm just fine with him.  I've been in his camp since 2009.

Maybe if Marco runs we'll even rev up Not One Red Cent again!

And if you've forgotten how eloquent Marco can be, watch this one more time:

Honestly, I think it's too early for Ted Cruz, Romney says no more, Jeb Bush loves Common Core so he's not for me (though I'm really not a single issue kind of girl), Rick Perry has shot his wad, and as much as I'd love someone like Allen West, I don't think, at this point, he would garner the votes, although I'd love to see him in a primary.  Rand Paul?  Primary.  Get a good strong primary crew and duke it out.

But I like Marco.

On the record.

April 17, 2014.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The State of American Education

Did you catch my post this weekend at DaTechGuy's blog?  A snip:

With regard to burnout and frustration, consider that one of the requirements of Common Core is that states must also implement a rigorous teacher evaluation system.  Professional evaluation is important and I don’t know of a single profession that doesn’t have an evaluation system, but common sense must prevail.  Some of these evaluation tools are profoundly subjective and unfair.  When a teacher is marked off on an evaluation because a student put a dab of lotion on her knees during the observation, which obviously means classroom expectations haven’t been taught and the teacher has poor classroom management, frustration will result. 
When those observations and evaluations are tied to teacher pay and that annual incentive check comes out, the teacher that has Honors and AP kids will get the big incentive check while the teacher with the low-performing, struggling kids who have not been taught social skills at home gets the very small check.  Frustration results. 
In reality, teachers aren’t frustrated with their work or with their job.  They are frustrated with the system that prevents them from doing their job and that persecutes them for things beyond their control.  I don’t know one single teacher who went into the profession to get rich.  Every teacher I know does it because of a love for kids and for the opportunity to make a difference in just one kid’s life.  When that passion is squelched by a system that ties their hands, strips their decision making, persecutes them, and makes them feel like failures, then there is something wrong with the system, not the teachers.

Click on over to read the whole thing.  Let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blog Surfing

Rainy Sunday morning here in Shreveport.

Let's do a quick blog surf; it's been a while:

Legal Insurrection has a great couple of photos that illustrate the mind set of so many liberals.

I enjoyed George Kelly's post at Da Tech Guy on What Makes America Great.

The Louisiana Educator has several good posts about what is happening in our current legislative session with regard to Common Core issues and all things education.

The Foundry explains how the environmentalists are killing jobs.

Via Pirate's Cove, Kansas passes a sweeping Second Amendment law.

Michelle Malkin is continuing the good fight against PARCC and Common Core.

PJ Tatler reports on a politically incorrect Easter Egg Hunt - with skepticism.

And speaking of Easter, since all I've had for breakfast is a box of Peeps, I better go find something else to eat.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Dog That Will Steal Your Heart

I almost started this post with "It's been a busy week...", then thought the better of it.  Who hasn't had a busy week?  Good grief.  I need to expand my cliche list.

To the point:  What's been on my mind a great deal this week is the story of Braveheart.  Almost everyone in the local community knows about Braveheart and the wonderful people that worked to save his life.  It's a miracle story of hope and love.  I did a post on his story back in October; go to A Voice for Braveheart on Facebook and read his whole story.

The final next court date for Braveheart's alleged abuser is April 8 and  A Voice for Braveheart has been retelling Brave's story over the past couple of weeks and posting pictures of his recovery just to remind people what has transpired since Brave was found abandoned and left to die in a storage locker last September.

This picture below still brings a tear to my eye - it was taken when Brave's foster, now forever, parents Bo and Ronda Spataro were reunited with him after the city seized him as "evidence" and put him in the animal shelter.  The look of love and relief on Ronda's face just kills me.

Whether you're "an animal person" or "a dog person" really doesn't matter in something like this.  To me, this all comes down to whether or not you're a person.  What kind of person are you?  What kind of person would do this to a dog?  What kind of person would fight so hard to save a dog?   It's the two polar opposites of human nature.

As the April 8 date approaches, and since April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month, I would ask you to go on over and meet Braveheart, or to reacquaint yourself with him.  Braveheart's supporters will be in the courtroom April 8 and anyone that would like to go support Braveheart is free to attend.  They only ask that you be respectful of the judicial process and that there are no outbursts during the
process.  If you can attend and help support Brave in numbers, please do.  If you can't attend, please hold a good thought for Braveheart that his abuser receives the maximum penalty under law for what he did to this beautiful, loving dog.

A while back someone asked Bo if it wouldn't be a powerful statement if he could take Braveheart into the courtroom and Bo had a wonderful answer that could not have been more perfect:  he said that he would not consider doing such a thing because he never wants Braveheart to have to look into the eyes of the person that abused him and left him to die ever again.  From now on he should know only love.

Amen to that.

(Photo Credit:  The top two photos are courtesy of A Voice For Braveheart.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Loose Thoughts

April Fool's!

Anyone trick you today?    I've spent the day with three classes of teenagers, so you know how my day went.

We had spring break last week and it was a much needed break.  I spent most of the break working on my new research project which included three trips to nearby Natchitoches.  There will be much more of that this summer.

We are back in the testing grind this week at school; this time of year is all about testing.  We've done the PLAN, EXPLORE and ACT tests.  ASVAB is tomorrow.  We have EOC in about four weeks and I just hated to even bring it up today when I was delivering a brief lesson introducing the kids to the test that is to come.  They are just tested to absolute death by this time of the year.  By the time they get to the EOC test, which is counts as part of the school performance score and in part measures my success as a teacher, they are worn out from testing.  I can't blame them.  Sometimes it seems like it's all about the test which takes the fun out of learning.  I hate that.

Anyway, I'm working my way through it.  I'm doing a whole lot of reading that is related to my research project so blogging here s light.  Remember that I have a regular Sunday gig at Da Tech Guy and I'd be tickled if you'd check that out.  Every Sunday at 5 p.m., CST, my post goes up.  Check it out.

The news cycle right now is boring me to death - I'm tired of talking about the missing airplane.  I think it's in Pakistan somewhere and that it's time for us to quit looking in the ocean for it. Start worrying about the home front.  I'm sick to death of the phony numbers of people now enrolled in Obamacare: the program is killing this country and it's ridiculous to try and tell me that seven million people have signed up and expect me to believe that is a success.  How many of them have paid?  How many are under 40?  How many were kicked off a plan that they liked in the first place?  How many are now paying a higher deductible?  How many are paying a much higher premium?  How many jobs were lost as businesses laid off people?  How many insurance companies folded?  Shall I go on?

No.  I think not.

Politics is pissing me off right now.  What else is new?

I'm off to find my happy place and I'll check back in with a happier inner spirit which I find it.  Summer is coming!  (You know, in Louisiana we pretty much skip right over spring.  Spring lasts about fifteen minutes then we are on to summer).  Summer.  I can see it from here.

How is your world?