About Me

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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Real Mowing with a Reel Mower

Talking about geting back to grassroots, this Saturday, I decided to get out the nand powered reel mower we bought a couple of years ago and try it out. Cat and I were pretty satisfied with the results.

You might be able to tell that a hand mower won't produce the "putting green" lawn many Americans seem to want, but it does make the lawn look presentable.

If I can keep the lawn mowed and trimmed regularly, I should be able to continue using the reel mower. I even use a scissor style hand trimmer and a hand edger. I don't have a very big lawn, about 250 square feet in the front and 300 or so in the back, so this is doable for someone like me if I keep it up.
Me and My Reel Mowever

I can feel very self-righteous about this on several levels. Not only am I reducing my "carbon footprint" (in this case), but my mower is American made!!! (Note also that Cat uses a clothesline to let the Oklahoma sun and wind do our drying!)

Grassroots Rally

Oklahoma Democratic Party "Grassroots Rally"
Oklahoma County Democratic Party Secretary James Baggett gets into the spirit of things.
Part of the crowd at the "Grassroots Rally"

John McCain was in Oklahoma City Friday just long enough to collect campaign donations and run, about an hour in all. Contributors paid $2300 for the priviledge of shaking his hand and $1000 to get their picture taken with him.

Oklahoma Democrats met at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall for a Frank n' Beans "Grassroots Rally" for which we paid $2.30. For an extra dollar we could get our picture taken with Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama (represented by life size cut outs.)

Frosty Troy did his usual great job of rallying the troops. He pointed out that McCain, owner of at least 8 houses, said that the solution to the current mortgage crisis was for the homeowners who faced foreclosure to "get a second job."

Friday, April 25, 2008

African Trade Unions Stop ‘Shipment of Death’

Arms boat headed back to China.
Solidarity among African trade unions and human rights and faith groups blocked a Chinese ship packed with rocket grenades, mortar rounds and 3 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition from delivering its cargo destined for strife-torn Zimbabwe. After dockers and truckers from the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) refused to move the cargo in Durban, the ship moved on. But with worker and human rights groups mobilized, the ship could not find another port. The weapons were likely to be used against those demanding democracy in Zimbabwe.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Welcome Seattlelites

Post Card from the Seattle World's Fair of 1962. Key Arena is in the foreground to the right.

I wrote about my blog on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer forum on the Sonics, and some from the Emerald City have been visiting.

When I was in the 4th grade and living in Kansas City, Missouri, Seattle hosted the World's Fair which gave the city the Space Needle. It was very exciting for all of us.

We had a family reunion in Seattle and had a meal together in the Space Needle restaraunt. The meal was a bit average and way over priced, but the view was magnificent.

Key Arena was also a result of the World's Fair. Now it's a part of the fight between Seattle and Oklahoma City over the relocation of the Sonics basketball team. What not many know, excepting those in Seattle, is that the reason the team name, "Super Sonics," was chosen because Boeing had been awarded a contract to built the SST, or Super Sonic Transport aircraft which was to be America's answer to the Anglo-French Concord.

The contract was later cancelled. So this town too has had its (pun alert!) ups and downs. We will see how this latest sports opera plays out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Question about E-Mails

I have a question about subpeonaed e-mails. Can deleted e-mails be recovered?

When I delete e-mails from my in-box, I usually go to the deleted e-mail files and delete them again just to get them out of my e-mail system altogether.

Now, Howard Shultz' suit against the PBC to get the Sonics back seems to rest on some discovered e-mails they got from Clay Bennett and others. So did Bennett just not delete the e-mails? Could he have? Should he have?

Someone who knows how this stuff work please enlighten me on this.

OKC V. Seattle

Oklahoma City V.

The way our city and the city of Seattle look at the Sonic situation interests me. The latest twist in this "Sports Opera" is that Howard Shultz, the former owner of the Sonics and founder of Starbuck Coffee (sic), has followed through on his promised lawsuit to void the sale of the team to the Professional Basketball Corporation headed by Clay Bennett. The headline in The Oklahoman, the newspaper in OKC, reads "Ex-Sonics owners follow through on lawsuit threat".

In The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the headline is "Bennett knew he could "flip" team. The story discusses how e-mails discovered through Shultz lawsuit allegedly indicate that Bennett was not interested in owning a team in Seattle, and that had the move to OKC not worked out, his group would have sold the team to another group of owners and used the proceeds to buy a team he could have moved.

Both articles carry the same facts, but from the outset, our paper emphasizes the "ex-owner" who is making a threat while the Seattle paper focus on Bennett personally and his motives for owning the Sonics.

It's a well known ploy in politics that if you can make your opponent the issue, you have gained a major upper hand in your fight. Looks as though both papers are doing their part in the battle.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tomorrow is Earth Day

I am going to ride my bike to school which is rather easy for me right now because it is only about 6 blocks away.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chess Links

Ben Frnaklin's Chess Set

I've added some links to a couple of sites where one can play chess on-line either by way of a "real time" game or a correspondence game where one has time to think about the next move.

Let me know if you want to play, and we'll arrange a game.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Sonics (or whatever they will be named) Are Coming to OKC

Matter of When?
I feel very ambigous about this. I have family who live in Seattle. I think that Seattle is the most beautiful city in the USA. I really wish the team we are getting was from some place like Los Angeles. At least that way we would be paying back the Californians for the way they treated Oklahomans during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl migration.

On the other hand, this is a step forward for the city where I have spent all but 9 years of the 56 God has granted me. We will have our own major league franchise.
Oklahoman article "The NBA says yes to OKC

In this Zero Sum Game, however, we must remember that our joy comes at someone else's pain. Here is a video put up by a Sonics fan. You Tube: Save Our Sonics

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our Chess Club is a part of the OSCO

The Oklahoma Centennial Bison Chess Club is now officially a part of the Oklahoma Scholastic Chess Organization. You can see our listing here: List of Member Clubs. I don't want to make a bigger deal of this than it is, but this represents a small step for our student chess players. Thanks OSCO!

Lincoln Updated

by Gene Mora

You can see Gene Mora's comic along with several others at Comics.Com

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Testing Begins Today

Today is the first day my students take their mandated state tests or End of Instruction tests (EOI). Today, my juniors take their English writing tests. Wish them good luck.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My Principal Supports Our Chess Club

Me and a Bison Chess Club Member

Today, my principal, Carol Thompson, presented our school chess club with 5 tournament quality chess sets. It is so good to work for someone who really supports me when I try to do something a little bit off the beaten path.

Thank you Principal Thompson!

Principal Carol Thompson at her school birthday party

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Highlights from Rev. Meyers' Sermon April 13, 2008

Mayflower Congregational UCC Church
Sermon Date: April 13, 2008, 4th Sunday of Easter

Sermon Title: Christianity and the Common Good

Sermon Text: Acts 2:42-47

Relevant Passage: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." Acts 2:44 (NIV)

Sermon Highlights:

Normally, when people think of Acts 2, they think of "Pentecost", not communism.

The early church seems to be following the teachings of Karl Marx, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

The vast majority of the early converts to the church probably came from the ranks of the poor. (Some scholars believe that 90% of the people in Palestine at the time of the story were poor, many abjectly poor.)

The bread they ate when they fellowshipped might very well have been the only mean they would have had that day.

When we pray what we call "The Lord's Prayer", the requests that are made include food and debt relief, something that has resonance in our world today.

We are headed towards an internation food crisis. There are already food riots taking place in India and other developing nations.

We are spending $5000 a second fighting the war in Iraq.

Currently, we only provide Food Stamps in America to last 3 weeks in a month. We could provide the 4th week's food for far less than we spend fighting in Iraq.

Our tax dollars should go to feel and heal rather than to kill.

Today, the largest churches in our community are those farthest away from the poor.

The early church believed in something we once held to be a part of our national committment: a concern for the Common Good.

The Common Good means that we are responsibile for each other because we share a common humanity.

The members of our church who feed the homeless in OKC known as the "363 Group" spend about $20,000 annually out of their own pockets to help with the program.

This last Saturday, several members of the church participated in a program known to us as "Christmas in April". This program helps to repair homes for those too poor to do so on their own. (One teen in the program called it the "Mayflower version of Extreme Makeover.") The members spent thousands out of their own pockets to provide furnishing for the target family they helped.

We must rediscover the community. No gift or virtue can develop in isolation from the community. The idea of that there is no salvation outside of the church is not a statement of arrogance. It is a statement of reality. All love, grace, and hope must be realized within our community of faith.

(Rev. Robin Meyers' Sermons can be heard every Sunday in Oklahoma City on KOKC (AM 1520 at 9:30 am.)

Mayflower Web Site

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dusty Day in OKC

On Thursday, we had a major dust storm in the city on Thursday. The wind was blowing around 30 mph with higher gusts. Not as bad as the Dust Bowl days but certainly a reminder that those days can return if we are not very careful. What the sky looked like. The reason for the dust. The sun in the afternoon. Here is the kind of dust storm my father knew as a child growing up in western Oklahoma during the 1930's. Dust Storm 1930's


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Met with Congregational Based Organizing Group

From the IAF Web Site
Last night I and a group of about 20 others met at Mayflower Congregational Church with Kris Ausdenmoore of the Industrial Areas Foundation, a Congregational Based Community Organizing group. The IAF brings together churches with a social justice concern for the purpose of community action. Much of what she said sounded very much like something we should be doing in OKC.

Kris has spoken to several faith groups: Catholic, Jewish, Congregational, Methodist, and Unitarian among others. We have a woman in our church, Karen Spradlin who was recently commission as the "Justice and Witness Organizer" for the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference of the United Church of Christ. Karen is a top rate personal with a passion for justice and faith. So if she is for this, then this is something we probably ought to be doing.Industrial Areas Foundation web page

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Detailed Analysis Shows Why Obama Lost Texas and Ohio

Sent to me by Darwin Waterman from another Blog
Okay, Okay, I know that Obama technically won the delegate count in Texas, but still this is pretty humorous.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I Thought They Would Throw Flowers In Our Path


To Hell with War
To Hell with Those Who Crave It
When Masters Rule the World No More
We'll Need No War to Save It!

--Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Will Our Planning Time Be Cut in Half?

A Teacher's Responsibilities

On Monday a group of Regional Education Directors will present to the Oklahoma City School board a plan to lower high school credits from 28 to 26. This is being done in order to implement a 7 period day as opposed to the 4 period a day “block scheduling.” The Regional Education Directors, REDs for short, are "super principals" who oversee the high schools and their "feeder patterns," the schools that send their graduates onto the high schools.

Presently, high schools use block schedules where classes meet every other day for around 80-85 minutes. The new schedule would call for 5 instruction periods, one planning period, and one "collaborative" period. It's the last part of this proposal that has me fuming, but first, I need to address the move away from block scheduling to a daily schedule, which I favor.

I've never thought that block scheduling is good for high school students. In the modern, "over-stimulated" world of adolescents, I find it difficult for them to remember concepts we have covered during a class period much less those covered the day before yesterday. It is also difficult to schedule tests to see how much the students have learned in a unit since invariably some students miss a class and complain that they did not get a chance to cover the material being tested. Also when they miss a period, they have missed at least a day and a half of instruction.

Meeting students daily is more difficult and stressful for teachers, but far better for students. We get to review daily. Scheduling homework and tests can be a matter of routine. You can tell your students to expect homework during the first part of the week and a test during the latter part (or even vice versa), and the students will know what to expect. Since one has less class time, students can be focused on one or two concepts to be taught and reinforced on a daily basis. I applaud the idea of going to daily classroom instruction.

I oppose having half my planning time being taken away from me without so much as a "by your leave." When I first taught in the district, we were on a 6 period day with one period being my planning time when I had no classes. Planning time is needed to grade papers, contact parents, set up instruction, catch a breather, and, oh yes, plan lessons. Going to block scheduling increased my planning time and decreased my daily instruction load by two classes. Good for teachers, bad for students, in my opinion.

However, with the 7 period schedule, the REDs want us to teach 5 classes in 45 minute periods (a bit short in my opinion), have one planning time, and one hour for "collaborative" work. Usually, this would mean a period for department meetings, committee and team meetings, and professional development. However, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Principals could use this period in any way they feel they can use it such as for doing hall duty, detention duty, or covering and teaching classes. More teachers may be needed to implement this schedule change, and in light of state budget problems, we may face greatly increased class sizes come fall.

Some principals have said that they would not abuse the collaborative period in their buildings, but they may not have a choice given the fact that they may not be given the staff to handle their school's increased responsibilities. And that is hardly the point. The point is that the REDs (one person who works at the Admin building told me the REDs are "running amok" in the absence of a real superintendent) want to cut teacher's planning time in half and increase our load and stress.

I would be more than willing to have 2 of the 5 collaborative periods be used for meetings and professional development opportunities. However, using all 5 would be tantamount to adding an extra period of instruction and/or responsibilities to our day. Classroom teachers are under increasing stress due a host of state and federal mandates, most of them woefully unfunded. The district should not "collaborate" to heap more stress on our workload.

The school board needs to look closely at the details before they unloose this devil on the classroom teachers in this district.

Friday, April 04, 2008

News from the Chess Front

I have not blogged in a while, so I thought I would report of the developments with our high school chess club. First, I went to my first ever chess club which meets at one of our Barnes & Noble coffee shops on Wednesdays. Roger and Steve who are two of the mainstays of the club welcomed me and then proceeded to "school me" on chess. I mean that in the literal and slang since. They talk me some of the finer points of the game while they proceeded to wipe me off the board!

I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I don't have much invested personally in the game other than I want to learn how to play better so that I can teach better. So I will take my lumps for a while and try to be the sort of pulpil I ask my students to be. Teachers can make horrible students, but I am going to try to take some of my own medicine for a while.

We had our first after school chess club meeting on Thursday. We had one student so up. I had several say they wanted to come, but they did not follow through. I have a feeling that this will be a long term process for which we will have to make many adjustments. But we have started, and this is good.