Exhausted and crabby

Something they don’t tell you about the CPAP: it’s gonna lead to occasional times where you don’t feel like you’re getting enough oxygen just for the hell of it. I’m having one right now. Objectively, I’m fine; I’ve actually taken pulse ox measurements during these times and they’re fine. According to my watch right now I’m at 93%, which is a little low, admittedly, but the Apple Watch is not exactly a precision medical instrument, right?

I was going to blame panic attacks, but who the hell knows; maybe I’m dying. At any rate I’ve reached the point where if the thing didn’t tether me to my bed (it’s not exactly portable) I’d wear it all the time just for the hell of it. There’s something weirdly comforting about having oxygen shoved into your lungs whether you want it there or not.

At any rate, according to the device I’ve been sleeping just fine lately, but hell if I wasn’t tired and irritated all day today, at one point breaking up what was heading toward a fight in the hallway without breaking my stride, swatting a phone out of one kid’s hand and simply bullying the other one along in my path until they gave up and walked away on their own. You wanna get expelled, go ahead, but they’re gonna learn not to do it around me. Go upstairs if you wanna fight. Being home has improved my mood somewhat but not the tired; it’s 7:15 right now and I’m seriously considering just going the hell to bed as soon as I finish this.

I was not, for the record, expecting That Man to be arrested today, and in fact as soon as he announced that it was imminent I decided that it was going to happen any day but today. The more in the know than the former president seem to be suggesting that tomorrow is the earliest possible day an indictment could be handed down, and while the fact that they’re literally erecting metal barricades around the courthouse in New York indicates that this time this should probably be taken with a degree of seriousness I’m still not– forgive me for this, given the first two paragraphs– holding my breath. An indictment is definitely progress but at this point I won’t be satisfied until the fucker dies in jail. It can’t happen soon enough.

In which I get an award

I mentioned to my first hour that I had a band and choir concert to go to tonight at my son’s school, and a moment later joked that I kind of had to go because I am still married to the boy’s mother and we still all live in the same house and it would be rather difficult to pretend that I had something else that I needed to be doing other than going to the concert.

This provoked a literal chorus– multiple kids– telling me that their dads were still married to their moms and never showed up for any of their concerts anyway, and why was I such a good dad (calling it “doing the absolute minimum” probably didn’t help) and could I be their dad instead of the actual dads that they have now.

Uh. Oops?

At any rate, middle school band anchor concert, and it’s 9:00, and we just got home, and I’ve been there for (no exaggeration) hours, so I’m gonna cut this short and go to bed now.

On 2023’s books

Reading sucks this year, and I don’t know what to do about it. If you’ve been around for more than a couple of months you know that one of the posts I look most forward to every year is my best books of the year post in late December. I’ve done 10 (!!) of them, and they work like this: I keep track of everything I read on Goodreads, and I keep a shelf for my shortlist for the end of the year. Typically by the end of the year I have 20-25 books on there by the end of the year and I winnow that down to the top 10 or 15 or whatever when I sit down to write the post.

It is 2/3 of the way through March and I don’t have a single book on that list for 2023 yet. And I feel like my DNF rate is way higher than it usually is, too. I’ve read some books I’ve liked, but nothing that moved me to review it and nothing good enough that I was even seriously thinking about it being a contender for the end of the year. Shit, I’ve only read sixteen books so far this year, too, which is way off my usual pace. That’s less than 70 on the year. That’s crazy low. The best thing I’ve read so far is Christopher Buehlman’s The Blacktongue Thief, and I suppose I could put that on the list just to have something but my initial feeling was that it shouldn’t be.

(I feel like anhedonia in general is kind of a problem this year, and I feel like I’ve talked about that relatively recently. I’m not unhappy, mind you, and I definitely don’t think I’m depressed. Hell, between the new job and the life improvements that the CPAP has brought me my mental health is probably as good as it’s been in a really long time. I just … haven’t really found anything to be enthusiastic about in a while?)

What’s new and good out there? Recommend anything you like; y’all know I like my genre stuff but that’s clearly not clicking so well this year so tell me anything you’ve really liked. I want out of this rut, damn it.

On experimentation and grading

I did something this quarter that you normally can’t do in schools, and that’s using my students to perform an experiment. I have two honors Algebra classes, and I decided early in the 3rd quarter that I was going to grade most of their assignments simply on completion. In other words, I wasn’t going to go through any of them question by question and decide, okay, this one is a 9/10, or this is a 7/10, or whatever. Turned it in, and it looks like you tried? 10/10. Didn’t turn it in? 0/10. Same late work policy as the rest of my classes; ie, if it gets turned in it gets graded and I don’t care how “late” it is.

One would think, that if the only grades that were possible outside of tests were either zeroes or A+, that would really skew grades toward failing or high-A grades, and with a group of honors kids, generally more predisposed than others to turn in work, one would expect to see higher grades across the board.

One would be wrong. This policy barely moved grades at all. Most of the kids whose grades changed also turned in more work. There was no skew to the extremes, because kids inclined to failing assignments also don’t turn in a lot of work, and the amount of work kids turn in is really damn close to the scores they get on the assignments they turn in. Find me a kid who turns in every single assignment on time and I’ll show you a kid getting an A. Damn near every time.

Tests, of course, are a great leveler, and one other thing I have to pay attention to is whether test grades are plummeting, which might also be a side effect of this policy. Once kids figure out they don’t necessarily have to work super hard on classwork, because missing a question or two isn’t going to hurt their grades, maybe they don’t learn as well and that shows on the tests? All I can say is I didn’t see it, and I was paying pretty close attention. I might take one of my regular ed classes next quarter and see how well this policy works; I’m not going to try and apply it to everybody, though, at least not until I’m certain what kind of effect it’s having, and I don’t have remotely enough evidence for that right now.

(Reminder: all grading is arbitrary. Yes, all grading, even the system you have in mind right now.)

Third quarter ended today. Two weeks to Spring Break, about a month to ILEARN, and then that’s year 19 done and dusted. Amazing how fast the year has flown by since I changed schools. Just amazing.

On cultural memory

Interesting discovery earlier this week: I do a trivia question for my kids every week, right? Usually something connected to history, but not always. It’s completely optional and not for a grade; the people who get it right get a piece of candy on Friday and that’s really it. Just a little fun thing.

This month’s questions have all been about women, since it’s Women’s History Month, and this week’s was Who is the highest-selling woman author in the world? I was pretty certain I knew the answer, but I needed to double-check it before posting the question, because if I was wrong and it turned out to be She Who Shall Not Be Named, I was going to have to come up with a different question.

And I found a list— not perfect, Wikipedia admits– of the top-selling authors of all time. And it’s shocking, because of the number of authors on it that I have never heard of. Now, granted, people have been writing books for a long time, and I can’t read or know about all of them, but given how much of my life I have dedicated to reading and books, even given that several of them aren’t close to being in my genre, the fact that I haven’t ever heard of half of the top ten– half!— frankly blows my mind. Here’s the list:

  1. William Shakespeare. And, okay, yeah. I feel like there’s an argument to be made that Shakespeare doesn’t belong on the same list as the rest of these people, since he was a playwright and not a novelist or actual prose author, but I’m not going to make that argument right now. At any rate, I’ve heard of and read Shakespeare.
  2. Agatha Christie, meaning that my guess about the best-selling woman author was correct. Somewhere between two and four billion books sold. I have read three of them.
  3. Barbara Cartland, who I have never heard of in my entire life despite the fact that she has written seven hundred and twenty-three books and sold a billion copies of those books. I don’t read romance, granted! But how the hell have I never heard of her??
  4. Danielle Steel. Wouldn’t have guessed that she was this big-time, but okay. I haven’t read anything by her but at least I’m familiar with her.
  5. Harold Robbins. No idea. 23 books, American, around 750 million sales. Never heard of him.
  6. Georges Simenon. I’ll cut myself a bit of slack because he wrote in French and is Belgian, but there are 700 million copies of his 570 books out there and I’ve never seen one in translation? Fucking seriously? HOW??
  7. She Who Shall Not Be Named. Whatever.
  8. Enid Blyton. I think that maybe if you’d asked me who Enid Blyton was before I saw this list I might have been able to say she was an author. Maybe. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to provide more detail than that, and I’m willing to toss her on the “never heard of” pile.
  9. Sidney Sheldon. Between 370 and 600 million books sold. A suspense author, so his(?) books are probably much more aligned to my tastes. No clue.
  10. Eiichiro Oda. I’ll call him a .5, because I’ve never heard his name, but he’s the One Piece guy and I’ve heard of One Piece.

I have also never heard of #11, Gilbert Patten, #13, Akira Toriyama, but see Oda because it’s a similar situation, or #15, a Spaniard named Corin Tellado who supposedly has written four thousand books. Weirdly, after that, you have to roll through a couple dozen before I hit someone I’m unfamiliar with, and there are no American or English authors on the rest of the list who I’ve never heard of.

(Also, I just went and checked dates, and there are only three in the top 10 whose lives didn’t overlap with mine: Shakespeare, of course; Blyton, who died in 1964, and, ironically, Christie, who died six months before I was born. These are not nineteenth-century authors or anything, with the obvious exception of Shakespeare. They are all relatively modern.)

How the hell do you sell a billion books and you leave so small (or so specific) a cultural footprint that I, a person who has been reading constantly for his entire life, have never heard of you? I know I’m edging toward– if not trampling on– the idea that Nothing I Haven’t Heard Of Is Important, which I don’t believe, but books are kind of my thing, and the notion that I don’t know half of the top 10 writers who ever lived is weird, right? And not weird in a “something is wrong with me” type of way, but in a “something’s going on here” sort of way? Is romance that sequestered from every other genre of writing that this is normal?

I dunno. How many of these ten authors have you heard of? Is there anybody reading this who knows all ten of them?