Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the tag “school”

End of the Junior High Era

Today was Youngest Son’s last day in junior high.  Next year he’ll be a freshman.  Lord help us all.

I’m incredibly proud of him and am very, very happy that he’s had some great experiences and made new friends since we moved to this town three years ago.  He’s been in three school theatre productions; he’s participated in All-District Honors Band (was first-chair trumpet, too); attended the State Band Contest; has made the honor roll; and has a gang of friends that he really enjoys hanging-out with and who enjoy having him with them.  As a kid who moved from school-to-school, I know it can be hard to fit-in when you’re the new kid on the block.  Youngest Son learned a lot more at a faster pace when he was homeschooled, but I agree with him that his past three years in public school have helped him grow in many different ways.

I’m especially proud of him as he has received the President’s Education Awards Program Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence.  To qualify for it, he had to have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or more over his junior high career and test above the average and rank in the top of the State’s Assessment Program that’s given every year.  He received a very nice certificate and a lapel pin that he can put on his jacket when he goes to high school.  He pointed out the “autograph” of President Obama on the certificate and I told him that an auto-pen did that.  He said he was surprised they just didn’t Xerox it and is not impressed by it.  He was actually disappointed because he didn’t receive a plaque for best brass student in band and was awarded for his academics.  I reminded him that it will be his academics that helps him get into the college he wants and will follow him through life.  A plaque won by your “nemesis” whose parents can afford for him to take private lessons in order to be better than Youngest Son will only someday be an unwieldy paperweight that your children won’t even be able to get rid of in a yard sale.

I think he feels a lot better now.  And he enjoyed his last day there.  No, he didn’t participate with one group that wore the colorful Morph Suits that everyone was buying around Halloween and at least he wasn’t dared like one of his other friends to come dressed like a princess today.  He made sure he had phone/text numbers for his friends so they can get together over the summer before high school band camp starts in July.

Eldest Son texted me today that he’s learned how to weld in his sculpture class in college.  I told him I was proud and that the welding experience can also be used in other jobs as well.  He hopes to finish his classes soon so that he can graduate in the next semester or two.

One going into high school and one leaving college soon….where does the time go?


A little fall of rain

Today’s post is going to be short because it’s finally raining here and I’m taking some time to enjoy watching the birds looking for something to eat in the freshly mown grass.  They were doing that after it was mowed yesterday, but the rain has brought up a lot of treats for them.  And I also just got back from my therapist’s office and still feel in a funk about everything that’s going on at the moment.

She suggested that I go back to school.  “And do what?” I asked her.  I have a bachelor’s degree and most of a master’s, but I can’t afford any more student loans.  There aren’t many grants/scholarships for second bachelor’s (which I’d need to really do what I wanted).  Plus, if I had the money to go back to school I’d have the money to open my own business and that sort of makes the whole conversation moot.

So for now I’m going to sit and watch the birds outside.  It’s quiet and the rain isn’t falling hard, so it makes it cooler outside but not so unpleasant that you’re terrified of going out in it.  Well, I’m not terrified of going out in it but you’d think the dogs — who will romp and roll in anything — believe it’s poisonous.  They keep looking at me when I open the door for them to go “walkies” as if I’ve completely lost my mind.

They may be right.  But they still have to do their business out there.

Discovery’s Mythbusters: Duct Tape Island and Unchained Reaction episode 2

Yeah, I know.  I should have posted my reviews last night but I was really busy and the whole fence thing had me miffed.  Today it wasn’t any better as I found my decorative fencing around my precious morel mushrooms moved (looks like it was kicked), but I digress.

Last night was Discovery Channel’s night for the new season of Mythbusters and for the second episode of Unchained Reaction.  One was slightly impressive while the other was educational but way too hokey to believe.

I’ll start with Mythbusters: Duct Tape Island — a one-hour episode featuring only Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman as they attempt to survive on a desert island with only duct tape available to them.  I had a feeling the show was going to be silly because the announcer said they had “an endless supply” of it.  So, if you thought that the small pallet of duct tape that “washed-up” on the beach was all they had, think again.  And we all knew that they wouldn’t actually be in danger of starving or dehydrating because they had a camera crew with them.  It’s not like we’re watching Survivorman, y’all.

In the intro to the “story,” they show the outline of an island.  Anyone with basic U.S. geography skills would have immediately recognized the shape as the silhouette of Oahu, one of the Hawaiian Islands.  If you need more information, it’s the island where Honolulu and Pearl Harbor are located.  Oahu is definitely not deserted, but they were able to find a beach resort where they could film their show.

Oh, did I say “resort?”  Why, yes I did — and that’s an important thing to remember while reading the rest of this review (remember “Turtle Bay” and Lost).

So, the guys are “stranded” and have to figure out how to signal for help, find water, find food, make clothing, make a shelter, stay focused, and escape from the island.  Signaling for help was easy.  They created a huge “SOS” sign out of duct tape and rocks on the beach.  The down side to their attempt is that duct tape is gray and doesn’t reflect well when covered with sand, making it harder for someone overhead to see.

When they attempted to find water, they did stage a good explanation of how you can’t drink just any water you find lying around.  Jamie (the brains) and Adam (Captain ADD-man) were each given different tasks to find water.  Jamie used the shrink-wrap that covered the pallet of duct tape to make a solar still in order to collect water.  While it’s a good and scientific idea, a solar still would not make enough water for two people in a reasonable amount of time.  Evaporation and condensation takes a while and it wasn’t a plausible idea for them.  Adam, however, did find running fresh water and made a water-bag out of duct tape so he could return with potable water for them to enjoy.

Both of the guys created unique shoes using duct tape which made walking on the hot sand, grasses, and rocks more bearable.  Adam even made himself a hat since he is very susceptible to the rays of the sun on his fair skin, and so that people who are used to him wearing his Stetson while Jamie has his iconic beret (which was present) could tell them apart.

As for finding food, Jamie was rather ingenious and successful in spear fishing.  He used bamboo and wood shards to create a multi-pronged spear and even added a small duct tape retrieval string and marked the center of balance to make it easier for him to throw.  Once he got off the shore and into the water, he actually speared a small fish.  True, he’d need a lot more than that to feed both of them, but it was successful and fun to watch.  Adam, however, was running around in the jungle after feral chickens.  Realizing that he could not catch one on foot, he first tried a simple snare trap with duct tape “wire” (which didn’t work) and then made a net out of the duct tape with which to catch a passing chicken.  The first chicken “caught” escaped through a hole in the side but the second was successfully captured.  Then, Adam made the announcement that the chicken they would be seen eating in a later scene was store-bought and not the chicken he had just caught.  The part he didn’t explain is that feral chickens are protected as wildlife in Hawaii and cannot be captured without special permits/licenses.  And Jamie didn’t eat the fish he caught either.  Both sat on the beach with their duct tape bag of fried chicken and duct tape platter of raw tuna and discussed how proud they were of their hunting abilities.

Adam created a “permanent camp” out of duct tape with hammocks and even a small table and stools with a duct tape chess set (to help them stay focused).  It seemed odd that they’d try to make a “permanent camp” if they were trying to escape from the island, but it’s television and if you try to reason it out too much you’ll just give yourself a headache.  Jamie made himself a surfboard out of duct tape and took it for a quick float in the ocean (he wasn’t able to stand up on it).  Finally, the guys made an outrigger canoe that surprisingly weighed just over 100 pounds from bamboo and duct tape that carried them and their “6-week supply of rations” out into the ocean.  I was impressed that they were able to make it over the breaker waves without the boat twisting or sinking.  Jamie even noted that the only water he was having to bail was what Adam was sloshing into the boat with his poor rowing skills.  Finally, they “found land” and disembarked their canoe, only to find they were back on the same beach as before (cue comedic sound effects and rimshot).

And why wouldn’t they return to the same beach?  They never left it.  Well, except to sleep and eat and get refreshed before continuing the shooting for each of the seven days they were out there.  They did not sleep on their duct tape pads nor in their duct tape hammocks.  They stayed at the Turtle Bay Resort with the rest of the crew and used locations that were utilized in the filming of the show Lost.  That way, they knew where everything was and how easily to get their inventions built and useable.  In one of the outtakes Adam makes a comment that there are too many footprints in the sand for it to be a deserted island.  While it was fun to watch, it was quite disappointing to know that they weren’t really trying to survive at any point.  Sure, they showed how duct tape can work in many ways, but it still took all of the fun out of it.  I’m sure they did it that way because the insurance companies wouldn’t want Discovery losing two of their biggest stars.

And Discovery has used two of their biggest stars to hawk their new show Unchained Reaction.  I’m not sure how much of it really is/isn’t Adam and Jamie’s idea, but having them introduce the theme, pretending to watch the building of the chain-reaction gags, and then coming out to “judge” and announce the winner doesn’t really sell me that it’s their idea.  I wasn’t impressed with the premiere episode, but I thought I’d give the second one a chance.

In the “Fire and Ice” episode, a team of aerospace engineers went up against a team of special effects specialists.  They had to use fire and ice in their contraptions and had to have a minimum of five gags that would continuously set off the next as well as be innovative and entertaining.  Halfway through the build, Adam and Jamie “gave” each team a compact car that they had to incorporate into the middle of their machine and it all had to be completed within five days.

The aerospace engineers did some really neat things with the fire and ice and showing fire making steam and melted ice (water) conducting electricity after salt was added when it was tripped into a tank.  They even got the closest to a Rube Goldberg Machine concept because they stated that they wanted their machine to raise a flag at the end in a miniature moonscape diorama.  Sadly, the beginning of their machine didn’t work as planned but they did get the flag raised in the end, after nearly hitting Adam and Jamie and special guest judge Adam Sadowsky, president of Syyn Labs and creator of the Rube Goldberg machine for the OK Go video, with a rocket that flew across the room into a refrigerator to trigger the flag.

The special effects team didn’t get as technical but were a lot flashier with their contraption.  They used fire and ice in their gags as well as melting a huge block of ice in a cauldron of fire to turn a waterwheel underneath it to trigger another gag.  They had explosive results and it was a lot of fun to watch.  They won the contest because their machine worked and had no issues.

I think what I became the most tired of hearing throughout the show was how they were trying to impress Adam and Jamie.  It was always “Adam and Jamie would want” this and “Adam and Jamie think like” that but Adam and Jamie aren’t really in the show.  I’ll probably watch the next episode to see if the third time’s the charm on getting me to like it.  But at the moment, they could take Adam and Jamie out of it, make it about creating actual Rube Goldberg Machines (that have to complete a specific task) and it would be a lot more fun to watch.

Youngest Son having a busy day?

I don’t remember having to be so busy when I was 13 years old!  Oh, I’m sure back then I thought I was the busiest and most important person on earth, but looking back I certainly don’t remember it that way.  Many people will say that our kids today are busier because there’s so much more technology and that they’re having more and more to do because of school, sports, and civic groups.

If technology was really the reason our kids are busier, then we should have been completely overwhelmed way-back-when!  We had to actually write our term papers out by longhand.  There were no computer programs to put together nice slide shows or do the graphics for us.  If you were artistically challenged, you dreaded any project that required poster board and magic markers.

Most days when Youngest Son comes home from school he doesn’t have any homework.  I remember walking home from school with a full backpack and my arms full of books so I could complete an evening’s assignments.  He brings home his trumpet and maybe a worksheet that he’s completed that day in class.  I’d be really concerned but his grades are high and he’s on the “A” Honor Roll each quarter.

Today, however, he was busy after school because it’s time for the Spring Theatre Auditions at school.  They did the musical “Aladdin Jr.” back in November and Youngest Son portrayed The Sultan.  He did a really good job.  Today he auditioned for a part in “The Borrowers.”  The director is not pleased that the latest Disney film happens to be based on “The Borrowers” and that the kids will try to imitate it instead of actually working on their roles.  Youngest Son paired-up with one of the girls that he’s friends with for their read-throughs.  Both of them auditioned for lead roles and I wish them the best of luck.  I think he only got the nerve to ask her to audition with him because her ex-boyfriend (who’s a good friend of his, too) is out-of-town and had already auditioned.

Tomorrow he’s got band rehearsals after school.  He’s been selected to go to the State Band Conference as a soloist and as part of a sextet.  He practices at home for an hour each day and is really nervous that the rest of his sextet hasn’t been practicing.  I told him that when he’s there tomorrow to play his best and if the other five aren’t as ready as he is, then to keep playing the best he can and show them that they need to step-up and get ready ’cause the contest is in April.

But even with these events and others upcoming in the month (as well as working on the Community Theatre production so that he has some backstage experience), he still has plenty of time to play video games, read lots of books, and surf the Internet (with parental supervision, of course).  People say kids today are too busy.  I just don’t see it.  Then again, I’m glad that he’s got time to do things he likes as well as having time to rest properly.  The typical zombie teenager is not a pleasant sight in the morning — Eldest Son was a prime example of that and I’d like to not have to deal with it again.

Teen drama isn’t just for girls….

I have always been very happy that I have two sons.  Don’t get me wrong, if I’d had a daughter, I’d love her just as much as I do my boys.  But, having been raised basically as a boy (Biological Father always wanted a son and I’m the only child he’s ever had), I’m not sure I’d know what to do with a girl.  I’m not into Barbie and makeup and dresses.  I don’t watch fashion shows or keep up with the latest dreamboat boy bands.  I’m much more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt than I am a skirt or even capris or shorts.  The only dresses I own are my wedding dress (which no longer fits) and a costume I bought for Halloween one year that’s just too awesome to get rid of.

I remember in school that Valentine’s Day was always a big issue.  You either got a card or candy because everyone else did or you got a flower/balloon/etc. because your boyfriend/girlfriend/parents sent you something.  And the ones who usually got something from their parents were mortified for at least a week.  If you didn’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend, you got nothing and you went on about your day.  If you did get something, you loved hearing your name called over the intercom with the other “blessed” members of your school who would all be mobbed in the office by everyone else who wanted to see which person got the biggest gift.

Or, occasionally, you’d be told you had a gift waiting — perhaps a balloon or candy sold from one of the school’s clubs as a fundraiser — only to find that you did have something but it was “sent” from someone who actually didn’t send you anything.  And when you went to thank them for the nice gesture, they would laugh and make fun of the fact that you’d believe they’d actually take the time to send you something, much less pay for anything.  I fell victim to that a few times.  It didn’t help with Biological Father being my school’s principal from the time I was in 2nd grade until 8th grade.  Then he became an administrator and that was even worse.  I always felt bad when I saw it happen to others because I personally knew what they were going through and usually could figure out who’d been the person to pull the prank (especially since he/she usually couldn’t keep their mouth shut about it).

The same thing happened this year to Youngest Son.  He received a Valentine from one of the school clubs’ fundraisers signed with the name of a boy that he hangs-out with in a group before school.  Youngest Son told me that evening he thought it was creepy and even posted it on Facebook.  I lectured him on how rude that was, especially since the boy was a friend of his through Facebook as well and could read the post.  I told him that if someone had the time and thoughtfulness to remember him on Valentine’s Day that he should just be thankful.

I was so furious at how insensitive he was at having received a card with a Hershey’s Kiss from a male classmate that I went into maximum rant-drive.  I told him that perhaps the boy felt that Youngest Son was a good friend and wanted to show his appreciation.  I told him that maybe the boy had sent them to all of the guys that hang-out together as a friend.  I then explained that maybe he felt that Youngest Son was his only friend and that reading on Facebook that it was “creepy” would be so hurtful that perhaps the boy might become depressed.  I explained that maybe this boy had feelings for Youngest Son and the last thing he needed was to be made fun of by Youngest Son and his “friends” and asked how he would feel if the boy didn’t return to school the next day.  I also asked how he’d feel if the boy who might have been one that was picked-on by many others felt this was the last straw and never came back to school because he’d committed suicide.  I also told him that it could, possibly, just be a prank by someone with nothing better to do with their time to try to embarrass this boy and make Youngest Son the newest accomplice (having experienced that myself).

Youngest Son went online and deleted the post but I reminded him that anyone could have shared it and started spreading rumors.  Even one of his “friends” posted in the comments: “Gee, I didn’t think your door swung that way!”  Whether that “friend” was just trying to be funny (and failed) or really believes that Youngest Son feels that way is irrelevant.  It’s a small town with a lot of closed-minded people who don’t take kindly to people who think and feel differently than the “normal” folk do.  I told him the best thing to do would be to approach the boy the next morning at school and simply say “Thank you for thinking about me” and leave it at that.

Well, after school today, Youngest Son told me what he did.  He went to the boy and said thank you for the card and candy.  The boy said that he had been confused the evening before because he had received a card and candy addressed to him with Youngest Son’s name as the sender.  They both realized together — they were the victims of a poorly thought out prank.  Someone was trying to make them both look “bad” and get rumors started.  Both boys agreed that they weren’t going to fall into the “trap” that was laid for them and that they’d both enjoy the candy they didn’t have to pay for and would still be friends and hang-out in the mornings with the rest of their group.  No hard feelings and just laughter at whomever wasted their time and money on the trick.  They even told their friends what had happened and all of the other guys and girls thought it was funny that they figured out they’d been “pranked” and laughed that someone would be insensitive and silly enough to try it.  The group is still together and Youngest Son is even having a few (guys only, of course) over this weekend for a Star Wars marathon.  I still can’t believe that these are some of the smartest kids in the school and many STILL haven’t seen the original trilogy!!  How can that be??

Anyway, at least Youngest Son learned a valuable lesson.  He needs to think before he posts and be much more sensitive of other people’s feelings.  The world has changed and bullying doesn’t just happen on the schoolyard anymore.  I hope this lesson sticks with him for a long time ’cause I know high school won’t be any easier.

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