I swear there are monkeys involved in this roofing project. You’d think that propping a ladder up against a house required a degree in astrophysics for the noise and nonsense going on outside my window. Hell, I looked out the window. They saw me, of course; but the bigger issue is that they dropped the ladder. How the hell do guys who do this for a living drop a ladder when they try to prop it up against a house? Now I could certainly drop a ladder, because I don’t know what I’m doing; but this is a roofing company with their name on a sign out in my front yard…

While the roofing today was clearly, um, a different event, the strangest event of the day may have been the prom and bridesmaid dresses strewn all over the office. Several folks, including Lisa, are going to do 80s prom for the Halloween Party Friday. I’ve never seen so many crinolines, and there was puffy fabric everywhere. There’s still fabric everywhere. It looks like everyone was playing dress up, which, let’s face it, they were.

I’m bah humbug and not participating. Where would we find a formal gown to fit me? Especially a formal gown from the 80s. I never went to any dance, so I don’t have these dresses in the back of my closet. Everyone seems to assume that everyone else goes to the prom and has ugly bridesmaid’s dresses around. That has never been my life. The only dances I ever went to, I went alone. I think I remember 2. Once in junior high, when I really had no idea what I was supposed to be there for. Once in high school, when I collected money and tickets at the door and did various set-up things as a student government member, because I was one of the losers who wasn’t already occupied with a real life. I have such a stupid life when you really look at the details.

The number one link in last week’s Inbox was English “Must Reflect Technology”—an article that I found in the BBC and passed along to the newsletter’s News section editors. I forgot to mention it here though. Silly me.

The article examines a research report by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which argues that “English in schools must adapt to reflect the use of text messaging and communication via new technologies.” I’d say American schools might want to pay attention too.


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I know that a school can place limits on what students can write. I have personally asked that students avoid some topics at various points in my career (e.g., please don’t write about abortion). I learned eventually that there were better, and easier, ways to avoid those sorts of papers, of course.

That kind of limiting seems completely different from the new censorship move at Pope John XIII Regional High School. As “Principal curbs kids’ Internet activity” from Asbury Park Press Online explains, students are being forbidden to blog in school OR AT HOME:

Effective immediately, and over student complaints, the teens were told to dismantle their Myspace.com accounts or similar sites with personal profiles and blogs. Defy the order and face suspension, students were told.

That’s right. Students’ independent, out-of-school activity is being limited by the school they attend. My hope? My making the act of writing illegal the school will turn them all into prolific bloggers. Viva la résistance!

Roofing people are crawling all over. There is a lot of heavy dropping of things up on the roof. The whole house rumbles. My own mini-earthquake. I’m expecting the windows to all be broken by the end of the day. I think this is all just the truck that’s putting all the shingles up there, but I have this fear of people falling through my roof. I’d call it an irrational fear, but well, they’ve already dropped things through the ceiling.

The Ideas section for this week’s Inbox focuses on Spooky Resources for Halloween and Dias de los Muertos. The piece includes several lesson plans and two journal articles.


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Today, blissfully unaware that my ceiling was falling in, I caught a wooly worm and brought him in the building. I was thinking of catching them when I was little. Probably 6 or 7.

Whenever I see wooly worms, I smile. When I came back with my exciting Chicken BLT Salad from Wendys, there by the building was this wooly worm. So on a whim, I picked him up and carried him inside. I figured I’d share him with Lisa, and then put him back outside.

But instead, Mr. Wooly Worm of Urbana got to take a trip to Philo to visit Lisa’s girls. The oldest is studying insects in school, so this wooly worm turned out to be a major prize. Of course, I now must worry that I have tainted the Philo Wooly Worm gene pool with the Urbana Wooly Worm strain. I do hope the resulting moths will not be overly mutated.

Of course, now I have my ceiling to worry about. The mutant Wooly Worm is nothing to freezing in my house because there’s a hole up to the attic. Not even a Wooly Worm can make it right.

When I left this morning, the roofing folks were up on the roof removing the shingles. They couldn’t start till today because of rain last week.

When I came home this evening, there was a hole in my ceiling.

Apparently they were working with the various vents, and one had an odd
elbow. They did whatever they did to remove shingles and lay new paper. In the process a huge pipe, bigger than my wrist, apparently dropped to the ceiling and broke through. It bounced. Didn’t actually come through and hit the floor. The pipe seems to be original, 1937.

Luckily I keep the back bedroom door closed and have a blanket shoved under it so that I don’t have to heat/cool it. That means that most of the plaster hit the blanket and not the hardwood floor. Unfortunately, now that I have a hole up to the attic, I’ve turned the heat completely off. It’s all going to escape up that hole anyway. Logic doesn’t keep me from freezing however, and I’m cold.

So now on top of the new roof and gutters, a plumber and a plaster guy have to be involved :( How I’m supposed to afford all this is beyond me. I’m feeling a mix of panicked anxiety, despair, and melancholia.

From ASCD’s SmartBrief:

Parents curb children’s online time

Many concerned parents are setting limits to ensure their children don’t go overboard in using cell phones, instant messaging and other digital media. A study this summer found that although teenagers’ computer time has soared over the past five years, more adolescents still prefer to socialize with each other in person than in cyberspace. The New York Times (free registration) (10/23)

What always ticks me off about these articles is the unchallenged assertion that the only social relationship that matters is a face-to-face relationship. When we look back at research on letter writing in the curriculum, no one suggests that pen pals are antisocial. GRRRR.

Recovered some old notes from a year ago that were originally intended for a TechNote. I never finished it, but thought that the ideas might still be useful to someone.

JFK Reloaded Game Causes Controversy” by Jason Tuohey (PCWorld)
Games that teach” by Betty Reid (Arizona Republic)
Computer games help children learn, says study” by Polly Curtis (Guardian)
Computer games ‘can help children learn’” by Lucy Ward (Guardian)

Gamers Make Serious Work of Computer Games” by Renée Montagne (NPR)

Problem-solving games on the rise” by Jose Antonio Vargas (Seattle Times/Washington Post)
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/artsentertainment/2002070534_seriousgames25.html

A number of pieces this week [ a year ago :) ] focus on the positive effects of video games on children. The pieces are full of places begging for discussion. Whether you accept the claims of the articles or not, these questions can lead to great classroom conversation:

  • Ward’s article explains that video games can “help children learn concepts such as critical appreciation of narrative structure or character development which they might otherwise study in a novel.” Choose a video game you’re familiar with and sketch out the narrative structure and the ways that the characters develop over the course of the game. Based on your experience with novels, how do the literary elements in the video game compare?