Sunday, October 28, 2012

Arguing a Position Rubric

We're using the Norton Field Guide to Writing in College Composition I this year, and we just finished the unit on Arguing a Position.  I'm kind of proud of this rubric, so I'll go ahead and share it.  It's based off of some of what the unit says a good argumentative paper should be.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Akron Marathon 2012

Akron Marathon leg 4.8 miles.  Time: about 48:00 minutes.  Nearly perfect 10 minute miles.  Considering where I was three months ago, I'll take it.  Went for a run today at Silver Creek in Norton.  3.1 miles.  Time: 28:30.  I'll take it.  Looking towards the Jack O Lantern Jog this weekend in Akron.  If I don't do it, maybe I'll register Carrie.  Shhh.  Don't tell.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Part-Time Indian Photostory

Here is a "photo story" from the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. As a way of making predictions about the book, show this image and have students put the pictures in order of events.  Encourage them to tell a story.  Almost all of them put the blonde with the biker.  It blows their mind that the blonde ends up with the kid that's getting picked on in the book.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Astrological Comparison

A Google discussion board posting designed to get students used to examining a text through an outside lens.  

This should be a fun activity.  I want you to choose a character from either The Catcher in the Rye, or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian and infer their astrological sign based upon what you know about their personality from the events of your book.  Be sure to back up your claim with specific evidence from the book.  

Here's a quick guide to the signs:

ARIES - Assertive, aggressive, act quickly, needs adventure 
TAURUS - Stubborn, build slowly, expensive tastes, needs security 
GEMINI - Flexible, social, needs information & options 
CANCER - Indirect, emotional, needs a family 
LEO - Flamboyant, creative, egotistical, needs appreciation & self-expression 
VIRGO - Picky, careful, critical, needs things to make sense 
LIBRA - Social, wishy-washy, needs a relationship 
SCORPIO - Jealous, fight to the death, needs control 
SAGITTARIUS - Restless, philosophical, needs new horizons 
CAPRICORN - Executive, leader, needs to be boss 
AQUARIUS - Innovative, exciting, unconventional, needs to be independent 
PISCES - Sensitive, retreating, needs peace & quiet 

Friday, September 14, 2012

all right, all right... I give...

I'm alive and running!  Finished the Warrior Dash in under 40 minutes, and what a tough run that was.  I haven't stopped.  Four miles every other day.  I'm training for a leg in the Akron marathon, and my running life is alive and well.  I gotta give love to the trails at Silver Creek metro park in Norton, Ohio, and my brother in law, Brad.  You've both helped me define my life lately and, wow, what a lot of fun it is.  LOVE TO ALL!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Good News!

Hey sports fans, this runner is starting to make some progress!  I know most of my posts regarding my running have been kind of meh, but I've pushed through the injuries and self-doubt and feel pretty good about my chances of survival on August 25.  I feel so good apparently, that I've agreed to run a leg of the Akron marathon for my brother-in-law come late September (Yikes!).  I've been running on the road, on treadmills, on trails, and I'm up to 2-3 miles.  Albeit they are only 9-10 minute miles, but, I'm pretty proud of the fact that I didn't give up back when I was barely running half a mile, and my body was falling apart.  

I've had fun rediscovering some old running music.  Some of the stuff I was listening to, I've found, doesn't set a very good pace.  Some songs that work with my pace are: The Presidents of the United States of America "Lump" & "Peaches" and Nirvanna "Molly's Lips" & "Son of a Gun".  What are some other upbeat songs for a child of the 90s with a runner's time signature?    

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Farm Town

So I strained both of my calf muscles. It was one of those blistering hot days we had around here nearly two (now four) weeks ago. I decided to wait until the heat was at its peak for the day, around 3 pm. I won't drag the story out. I'm envisioning a Charoits of Fire style narrative retelling, but I don't want to relive the moment any more than is necessary. I pulled the left one first, tried to walk it off and then pulled the right. I have since healed the calf muscles, and now I did something to my right knee.  This running thing has really done a number on me.  I'm fairly used to picking up sports etc. with ease, but this has me feeling OLD.

I've resolved to keep at it, no matter how hopeless it seems.  I rode my bike today pulling Jonas in a double baby trailer.  We did about three miles around noon.  I've tried some exercises in the pool.  I've tried lifting weights with my legs.  A little voice enters my head and says, "Do everything BUT running." and it briefly reminds me of my writing life lately (talking, blogging, teaching, but not actually DOING).

To paraphrase Mitch Hedberg It's like I spent my whole life trying to be a really good stand up comic, and they're like, can you write?  It's stuff that is related to stand up comedy, but it isn't stand up comedy. It's like if I spent my whole life becoming a great chef, and someone says, Mitch you're a great chef... can you farm?  

I feel like a farmer lately.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The View From Marshallville, Ohio

What perks are there in living in a village?  Chances are, don't ask a teenager.  They are likely to slump their shoulders and say "there's nothing to do..." It means existential defeat to someone in their twenties.  If you want the real scoop, ask a thirty-something who loves wide open spaces and mistrusts any place populated enough to need more than a blinking orange light in the most congested crossroads... and is training for a 5k.

I started running last week in preparation for the Warrior Dash, August 25.  Let me give you a snapshot of my life as a runner over the past fifteen years.  1997 - senior in high school.  Made it to State in track (albeit as an alternate) on the Northwest High School 4 X 400 team.  Middle distance was my forte but I could run five miles easily if pressed upon.  A mile run was our team warm up back then.  I ran around our allotment listening to a Sony Walkman pumping meticulously chosen tape recorded classics such as: Led Zeppelin's "The Immigrant Song," Nirvana's "In Bloom," and Stone Temple Pilots "Unglued," and Pantera's "Slaughtered."   These runs were often angst-filled episodes with pockets of runner's euphoria.  Once I was almost hit by a car.  I mean, it was like really close.

Flash forward fifteen years to 2012.  There has been no running in these past fifteen years.  None.  Zero.  So, imagine my surprise when I attempted it this week.  I set out to do 1.2 miles.  My rationale was that I had done a mile back in the day entirely up on my toes, breathing easy and joking with my friends.  Yeah, a lot was different.  I no longer have a cool flowing, Hugh Grant haircut and mutton chop sideburns.  I no longer have those buddies that made running such a breeze.  I no longer have any muscle tone in my legs.  So, I hit the wall.  Hard.  To put it in terms of my high school track days, the monkey had come out of his hiding place and was kicking the $%*# out of me.  I ended up running for .5 miles.  The rest I had to walk.
The next day I couldn't get up and down steps very easily and everything was super tight.

I no longer had my sweet Sony Walkman, but I did have my iPod.  So, I queued up some songs to aid me and set out again two days later.  Think Corb Lund, "Horse Doctor, Come Quick," Black Eyed Peas "Imma Be," and Gwar's "Immortal Corruptor."  I didn't stretch this time either.

I tried a mile again.  My legs felt like rubber bands that had been stretched to their limit and were in danger of snapping.  The pain the next day was epic.  By the third outing I spent a full fifteen minutes stretching and walked a half mile before I decided to run.  The results were better.  I was able to run a full .5 mile.  Last night I ran nearly the whole mile.  Today, aided by the bouncing, bald head of my childhood friend Robert, and my own jealousy of his ease with the whole ordeal (he never stopped running after high school), managed to run .5, walk .5 and run .5.        

I 'm still out of shape, but getting better.  I'm into week two of my training and I feel pretty optimistic about my chances come August 25.

As long as I continue to stretch, that is.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Warrior Dash 2012

I've signed up to run a 5k on August 25, 2012 called Warrior Dash.   Apparently it is 3.1 miles of obstacle course involving barbed wire, open flame, mud and various other obstacles intended to ruin your day.  While I admit this will be physically daunting, it also looks like a lot of fun if you watch the linked video.  I mean who doesn't enjoy following up potentially fatal (no, really, I had to sign a waiver in case I die) physical exertion with red meat and beer?

My new-found enthusiasm for physical rigor results from a lifestyle change I made around December.  The changes involve diet and an exercise plan.  Since I've made the changes I feel a lot better, mentally and physically.  I ran today (albeit it was only across my front lawn), and I actually felt strong, like my body wanted to keep going.  Usually I feel like either a) my knees or ankles are ready to give out at any moment, or b) my heart (pancreas, liver, gall bladder, etc.) is going to explode.  Lately I just feel a lot better.

St Jude's sponsors the event.  In case you didn't know, St. Jude's is the patron saint of desperate cases, as well as a children's hospital.  My wife's cousin, Katherine McVey was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in December of 2005.  She passed away on March 18, 2007.  Katherine was an extraordinary young person, and St Jude's offered care, support and hope for Katherine and her family during the ordeal.  I made a pledge to raise $250 by August 25, 2012.  If you can help by donating I would appreciate it.  Just click the St. Jude's link to pledge in my name.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

There's an article in the opinion section of the New York Times about today.  If you're unfamiliar with the site, it's worth a few moments just to see what it does.  Here's a link to a few of the issues I have supported.  It's an easy way to take some sort of action to support issues you happen to agree with.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lonely Island in the Classroom

So I showed the video for Lonely Island's song "Threw It On The Ground" in class on Friday.  A friend and colleague suggested the song would be an interesting way to introduce Transcendentalism to teenagers.  Some of the song's more memorable refrains came back to me: "You can't trust the system" & "I'm not a part of this system."  My love for the Transcendentalists is tempered with an awareness that at their worst, they remind me of petulant, pretentious hipsters.  After watching the video I asked my students to get out a piece of paper and make two columns: "label one column 'Stuff I Throw on the Ground' and the second column 'Stuff I Don't Throw.'"  I hoped to get them to think about Thoreau's message to "Simplify, Simplify, Simplify," and didn't want to come across as either preachy or pretentious, so we started with the objects mentioned in the video.

1) The Energy Drink.  I made sure that they understood I was not an energy drink prude: I had tried Red Bull and Full Throttle, and  Monster.  The former two made me feel like a shooting star (and not in a good way), while I've always appreciated the crushed Smarties taste of the lattermost (in small doses).  I related a tale of driving back late from Columbus and picking up a 16oz. Monster.  After choking it down, the oncoming headlights of approaching cars were drawn into startling focus, and I could see my heart beat.  We finally decided that Energy Drinks represent Trends.  Do we need trends?  Most felt they made life more interesting but decided they weren't necessary for survival.  One brave soul may have suggested that trends encourage Groupthink.  Most chose to list Energy Drinks in the Stuff I Throw on the Ground column.  Catchphrase: "Pump that garbage in another man's veins."

2) The Hot Dog.  We decided the hotdog could represent processed foods.  I asked them whether or not it would be possible to live without canned and processed food.  The Rural Kids immediately shook their head yes, and didn't blink when the group suggested getting a few goats, chickens and a rototiller.  The Urban Kids pointed out that people in the city don't have the space for goats and chickens, etc.  Someone pointed out how raising your own food isn't going to simplify your life, just your diet.  We all agreed it's easier to walk into a Circle K and grab a hot dog and a Polar Pop than it is to milk goats. Ultimately it's easy to agree that hot dogs are high in fat and salt and have the preservative sodium nitrate, believed to cause cancer.  Most chose to list Hot Dogs in the Stuff I Throw on the Ground column.  Catchphrase: "You can't buy me hot dog man."

3) The Cell Phone.  It was interesting how attached to their cell phones teenagers proved to be.  All four of my American Literature classes (Juniors between the ages of 16 & 17) decided the cell phone goes in the column Stuff I Don't Throw.  They were not willing to debate much.  Even when I challenged them with living in Thoreau like austerity, they opted to keep the cell phones.  I have a cell phone myself.  It is not a smart phone, and it does not have a keyboard, so maybe I'm not the most apt referee for this conversation, but I have overheard some of my students admit their cell phone bill is over a hundred dollars a month.  Is it wrong that I kind of want to throw it on the ground for them?  Who knows, maybe we'll all have the Internet in our brains sooner than I thought.  Catchphrase: "My dad's not a phone.  Duh!"

4) Birthday Cake.  We decided the birthday cake represents tradition.  When posed with the question "If you were going out to live in the woods for two years two months, would you need to celebrate birthdays?"  garnered a few responses involving Jehovah Witnesses.  As far as tradition in general, it was decided that most traditions are not necessary for survival, but make life bearable.   Most classes elected not to throw birthday cake on the ground.  Catchphrase: "Welcome to the real world, jackass."

5) Hollywood Phonies.  Every class elected to throw Hollywood on the ground.  Some boys wanted to keep Megan Fox, but throw everyone else and then the conversation became centered around whether or not Megan Fox was hot or not.   Uh, duh!  Catchphrase: "Nobody wants your autograph.  Phonies!"

The conversation went from there to some big topics like School, Law, Family, Religion and Tasering  buttholes.  Every class elected not to throw these big ones on the ground, although my 8th period was very, very close to a majority on throwing School on the ground.

We ended the exercise talking about the idea that though the majority vote ended up on the Smartboard, each individual's list was just a little different, and I challenged them to add some more personal items to their own lists.

Verdict: I would use this video again to instigate what became a meaningful conversation about what we cannot live without.  It was topical, not too serious, and fun.