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written Tuesday, 3/25/2008

Impeccably drawn, her proportions are golden
Hair wafts in the breeze while her earring hoops dangle
My heart skips a beat as I pledge to embolden
Desires to woo that sweet sexy rectangle

Our children is learning

A half-dozen students hang out in my classroom before school. I never asked them to come. They just started showing up one day. Like pigeons nesting under the eaves of a house. I used to shoo them away with a broom, but they just kept coming back, leaving birdseed and droppings as traces of their presence. They’re just normal kids who work on school assignments while chatting and waiting for the school day to begin. Typical kid stuff. They’re nice enough, I suppose, albeit presumptuously intrusive into their teachers’ personal affairs (hint, hint). Nothing out of the ordinary. Then one day I heard them conversing about “sextangles.”

I’ve learned that sometimes a teacher needs to just pretend not to hear certain things in the classroom. Part of me doesn’t want to know what kinds of deviant behaviors kids engage in outside of school. However, after several days of “sextangles” dropped amongst gossip and giggles, I had to ask.

“Okay guys, what exactly is a sextangle?”

Well, I suppose it could have been worse. Apparently this term evolved from something that was said within the confines of my own classroom. Something, in fact, that was uttered from my own mouth. A month or two earlier in Algebra 2 we had studied how to derive and solve the quadratic equation whose positive solution is the ratio of the famous “golden rectangle.” One may be forgiven for not remembering anything about quadratics or golden rectangles from schooldays long ago. Most of my students don’t even remember what we did the previous day. How proud I am to know, though, that they did take away this precious little something from my lesson. During that lecture I had drawn a golden rectangle on the board and explained that ancient Greeks deemed this the most beautifully-proportioned rectangle in existence. With sides in ratio of approximately 1.618:1, its shape is found in many aspects of nature. Throughout history the golden rectangle has been used in art and architecture. I stood back to admire the gorgeous shape on the board. “Look at that,” I insisted to the class. “Now isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that a sexy rectangle?”
Portrait of a sextangle?

Yes indeed ladies and gentlemen, in the words of a great modern scholar, “Our children is learning.” And this is my enduring contribution to their education. I bet that not a single one of my students recalls how to compute the famous golden ratio, yet the “sexy rectangle” comment stuck with them and somehow evolved into the contracted form “sextangle.” The morning crew explained to me that they had posted comments on each other’s MySpace pages about sextangles. They even proceeded to draw a picture of what a ghetto-fabulous sextangle might look like on the whiteboard. Holy crap, these kids are as goofy as I am. Did they come like this, or must I take some blame for molding them this way? I suppose that’s why I get paid the big bucks to be their teacher.

My question wasn’t completely answered. I still don’t think a consensus has been reached as to what exactly constitutes a sextangle. I imagine it’s one of those words whose definition will gradually be determined by the context in which it’s used. Stay attuned to conversations near you…

Media bias

Everyone knows the news media is biased.

A recent study showed that 99.9314159% of the characters printed in the average newspapers are letters, in stark contrast to the underrepresented minority of numbers and symbols. (In protest, my next web journal entry will be comprised of no less than 99% numerical characters.) The language arts elitists keep advancing their pro-English agenda and spewing their anti-math venom while we sit back and wistfully wish for an enlightened society.

Lusher’s school newspaper is no different. The literary intelligentsia is a clever sect though. The latest edition features profiles of seven teachers, including myself. One other math teacher and a couple science teachers were amongst those profiled. The young journalists took great care to subtly mask their seething hatred for all things number-related. In fact I must admit that the girl who interviewed me wrote quite a fair and balanced article and probably got rebuked for doing so. However, like all spiteful oppressors, someone on the journalism staff just couldn’t resist a cheap stomp to head of the abused minority.

Photos taken specifically for the articles accompanied five of the teacher profiles. The two other photos were taken at a volleyball game in which faculty members competed against the girls’ varsity team. I admit that Creative Writing teacher Mr. Flynt played quite well, and the action shot next to his profile shows him valiantly poised in the middle of a serve. Naturally I was killin’ at that game. Aces, blocked shots, and spikes… I ruled the v-ball court. I kinda felt bad that I was leading the faculty team to such a dominating victory, but not bad enough to keep me from mocking the girls’ team when they started to whine with allegations of cheating. Perhaps it’s true that I was not allowing the ball to pass completely over to my side of the net before reaching over and pounding it onto the opposition’s side, but someone needed to teach the girls about the harsh inequities of life in the real world. To the complaining girls I say: “You’re welcome for the lesson.”

So anyway, of all the great action shots that the newspaper photographer took that day, which one did they choose to print of me?

A crushing spike? No.

A monster block? Nope.

A Neanderthal-like pose from when I was ridiculing helpless little girls? Indeed.

Have you ever paused a VCR or DVR in the midst of someone talking, only to catch a silly facial expression? Or had someone capture your image in the middle of a blink? Or had someone snap a picture of you while innocently lowering your machine gun, and then publish the image making it appear that you’re pointing it at the Chief of Police? No? Well, at least our poor embattled Mayor Nagin can sympathize with what I’m going through.

At least the Times-Picayune immediately apologized for printing their misleading photo. I’m still waiting for my apology. I’ve never claimed to be a supermodel, but dang, that photograph of me is f*#$@% horrendous. Those newspaper numbskulls may as well have Photoshopped my knuckles to drag on the floor with a steady stream of slobber pouring from my mouth. For shame, you journalism jokers. With no accountability for their abominable tactics, the partisan anti-math news media hacks venture forth undeterred to spin their vicious sextangles of lies and deceit.

C. Ray, I feel your pain.

The goofy photo in all its splendor The next day I showed my classes the redefined evolutionary chart Teacher profiles and photos. Estelle knows what to do on newspapers. The full edition of the Lusher newspaper
(PDF, 3.1 Mb)

Junk food peddlers

“Training today’s girls to be future hustlers.”

If the Girl Scouts are seeking to update their motto, there’s my suggestion.

According to their own website this nefarious cult has currently sucked in 3.7 million girls nationwide. Every year just before spring they disperse from the murky shadows to invade our workplaces, supermarkets, and schools with colorful boxes of dangerously addictive dessert wafers.

“Enabling your chronic obesity through guilt-inducing sales tactics by scheming wide-eyed girls everywhere.”
Have your ever read the ingredients in Girl Scout cookies?

This is what should be printed on the side of the box.

How did an organization that claims to foster “leadership, strong values, social conscience, and conviction about [girls’] own potential and self-worth” become synonymous with sugar- and fat-laden junk food?

Unfortunately a few or our own students have fallen in with this crooked crowd. Every day for several weeks, one girl in particular spent the better part of each afternoon slowly wheeling a cart of cookies up and down the hallways, dealing out her stuff to weak-willed kids feenin’ for their next sugar fix. As if their work ethic and focus wasn’t already crippled enough, kids would just sit slack-jawed through their classes with telltale smears of chocolate on their lips. Even some of my fellow teachers on the frontlines of this battle yielded and purchased her sinful goods.

“Promoting confidence and leadership through shameless marketing of grossly unhealthful food products.”

I’m so ashamed. For two weeks I fought the good fight and spoke out against this tragic social and nutritional crisis. Local authorities did nothing to stem the epidemic. In the final days of the campaign, my wayward student shuffled up to me with her cookie cart. I fought back tears as I looked at her hopeful eyes and earnest smile. Overcome with memories of the wholesome young math student that she used to be, I succumbed and bought a few boxes of Thin Mints and Samoas. She’s just a good kid who’s made some misguided choices. Next year I pledge to fight harder in resistance to the Girl Scouts’ heinous, detestable, sextangular cookie campaign.

Open letter to the cheesy state

Not too long ago I hung out with some colleagues on a Thursday, and then again on a Friday evening. Two of them grew up in Wisconsin, independent of each other. On Saturday I visited my local “family,” Nat & Joan. Joan is from Wisconsin. On Sunday I ran into old TGNO friend Allison at the gym. She’s from Wisconsin. A couple days ago I found out that the student who wrote my profile in the Lusher news rag is from Wisconsin.

Hey Wisconsin, what the hell? I’ve never set foot on you, but ever since moving to New Orleans I’ve encountered more out-of-staters from your rooty-poot lands than any of the legitimate states (except neighboring behemoth Texas, of course). I don’t get out much, yet the number of your offspring who I’ve personally met is well into the double digits by now. I’ve seen numerous more wearing shirts with your name emblazoned across the chest. Furthermore, every Wisconsinite I’ve encountered down here is female!

So what’s the deal Wisconsin – do you even have any men? If so, what in the world are they doing to your women to cause this mass estrogen exodus? And why are so many coming to New Orleans? My preliminary statistical analysis suggests that there must be upwards of 810,000 Wisconsinites in New Orleans at present time. With that many here, I can hardly imagine how many have escaped to settle down in actual civilized cities.

Wisconsin, while growing up your existence never really crossed my mind aside from a few obligatory mentions in US Geography class. Raised in the cultural and meteorological mecca of the Golden State, I often forget that you and your neighboring benchwarmers are even part of our nation. According to Wikipedia, you’re ranked 23rd in the States in area, 20th in population, 24th in population density, and you were the 30th state admitted to the Union. Located squarely in the Central time zone, you’re indistinctly middle-of the-road average in every way. Nonetheless, now I confess I’m curious. I’ve asked your expatriate women why they’ve felt the need to run from you. They all remain tight-lipped, concealing your dirty secrets behind gazes of repressed terror. Tell me, what appalling horrors lie within your borders? What unspeakable sins have been committed by that gloved hand, more scandalous than O.J.’s? (Wisconsin is the mitten-shaped state, right? Whatever.)

I’m curious. And intrigued. If I ever get desperate for a wife, perhaps I’ll even head north with a giant butterfly net and try to snag one of the fair maidens fleeing en masse across the borders of your horrid state. Ahh, what a chauvinistic sextangle that would be.

The Long Wind Down

We just started the fourth quarter at school. In some ways it already feels like the school year is winding down. From the perspective of a teacher who expects his students to keep learning until late May, the long list of holidays and other distractions makes the job difficult. The second half of the year barely got underway before Mardi Gras festivities occurred in January and February. Saint McSexO’Tangle Day and Easter in March then led up to this week’s Spring Break. Various end-of-the-year school activities and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (a.k.a. Jazzfest) will keep students’ minds off their schoolwork in April and early May. Then the real home stretch will begin.

I have to take care to stay focused as well. Amongst various other preoccupations, my impatience for graduate coursework only increases as I see light at the end of the tunnel. Or do I? UNO still hasn’t officially notified me of acceptance into the Curriculum and Instruction master’s program or even confirmed what the program’s coursework requirements are. I just keep marching forward and trusting that this stinkin’ slog will end before too long.

This morning I finally took the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). It’s just a formality to be completed before the end of the M.Ed. program. Out of protest or arrogance, I refused to spend any time studying. I’m clearly too good for this silly thing.

Oddly, the only hint of nervousness I felt occurred during the math sections. I have no reputation to uphold for the readin’ and writin’ sections. However, some 18 years ago I missed a single question on the math section of the SAT. I’ve never forgotten that. I’m still pissed. I want my perfect score. Getting a 200 out of 200 on the secondary math Praxis II Exam upon entering teaching was some consolation, but not enough to settle the score. A new opportunity for redemption had finally arrived.

Would I avenge the earlier travesty, or suffer another superficial setback that would surely torment my psyche well into senior citizenship? The exam was administered by computer and most of the results were provided immediately upon finishing:

Math (a.k.a. Quantitative Reasonin’): Out of 800 points possible, the prime factorization of my score consists of two fives and five twos. Cool, eh? Let the fact that I find that interesting serve as affirmation of my math nerdiness and perfect vindication of my early nineties SAT humiliation. Kick@$$!

Readin’ (a.k.a. Verbal Reasonin’): Indubitably my splendnificent verbosity is paramount in juxtaposition to that of the paradigmatic plebian, as evidenced by my supergrandawesomlary score of 660 (out of 800 possible).

Analytical Writin’: Computers haven’t yet advanced to the degree of being able to score this section, but I’m sure my score will be excepteloustastic.

At one point in the exam, I admittedly found myself struggling with some of the verbal questions. But then I believe God presented me with an omen of good fortunes to come in the form of related word pair question #16:



(A) polygon : orgyometry

(B) ellipse : parabolapdance

(C) triangle : freakylateral

(D) collinear : virilellogram

(E) rectangle : sextangle

Yeah, at that point I knew I was totally killin’ that exam.