On social uncertainty

ei1c10_parmesan_crisp.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscapeTook a field trip today, taking a small group of seventh and eighth graders to a reasonably swanky annual luncheon run by a local charity.   It’s always interesting watching kids in social situations they’re not familiar with, and “three-course meal” is certainly a set of circumstances that most of my students are not familiar with.  I was worried that picky eating was going to be an issue; these kids have never heard of orzo, for example, which was on the menu, but it looked like everyone was trying everything.  There was a Parmesan crisp on top of the salad; even had no idea what it was at first, and I had some fun refusing to tell the kids what they were eating and watching their faces when they realized it was cheese.

Yesterday it was me in the uncertain social situation, and this is going to be a rare two-picture post, because I feel like it needs a visual aid.  A former student who is now a junior in high school contacted me a couple of weeks ago asking me to come to an event that her school was holding where a number of their juniors and seniors, her included, would be doing brief presentations on research they’ve been conducting in conjunction with professors at local universities.  She’s at a fairly posh and high-level local private high school, a school that I’ve known about the existence of for as long as I’ve lived here– it’s across the street from where I went to elementary school– but I’ve never set foot inside of. I was running a bit late when I got there, and I hit my first problem when I realized that what I had always assumed was the way into the building was actually the exit.  The entire place is literally surrounded by a ten-foot spiked fence, and the school does not occupy the entire grounds, so I had a bit of a challenge figuring out how the hell to get in.  Visual aid time:

IMG_1752Does this look like the main entrance to a school to you?  Because to me it looks like the maintenance man left the servants’ gate open by accident.  I just happened to drive by at the right time to see my student’s mother walking in through this gate, so I just followed her lead and parked on the street (turns out there’s no parking lot inside anyway) and walked in.  I was greeted by a rather large dog, which was alarming until it turned out that it was friendly, and upon questioning the dog’s owner was told to go through the door that you can sorta see on the right side of the picture.  Again, this was setting me up to be confused: I’m not used to the “main entrance” of a school to be so … well, side-door looking, and I was standing there trying to figure out if I should push the teeny-tiny little doorbell (Schools have buzzers! Prominent buzzers!) or just try to open the door (which I was assuming was locked) and go in when the student I was there to see opened the door.

Um, okay.  Hi!  This is good.  Weird, because there are presumably hundreds of humans here and finding the one I want immediately is kinda strange, right?  It’s not helping with the mild discombobulation.

Anyway.  Student has told me previously to find someone when I get inside and find out where the “auditorium” is.  Picture an auditorium.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  First Google result:


Yeah.  That’s actually a bit smaller than what I had in mind, but whatever, right?  She leads me through some hallways, stopping (still in the hall) outside a room where I can see some chairs are set up.  A woman comes over and says hi.  I am a split second from introducing myself as Luther Siler when she realizes I’m with my student and calls me by my actual name.  Wait, what?  You know me?  How the hell do you know me?

She and the kid have this brief I’m right here I can hear you both kind of conversation where they’re discussing some sort of snafu with my email address, so apparently she was supposed to directly invite me, which is how she knows my name?  Still, kinda weird.  Then she tells my student to make me my name tag.

Wait.  Why are there name tags why is this a name tag thing I thought there was an auditorium oh god do I have to mingle I am not prepared for this.

At this time another adult who I do not know comes over and introduces himself, but other than his name does not say who he is.  In other words, yes, thank you, Steve Johnson, I’m glad I know you’re Steve Johnson, but why are you telling me that you’re Steve Johnson?  Are you a teacher?  The principal?  Another parent?

He later turns out to be the headmaster– this is a school important enough that they have a headmaster and not just a principal– but he gives me no indication of this.

Anyway.  Yeah.  The “auditorium.”  It’s twice the size of my bedroom, maybe.  It’s got like forty chairs in it.  People are mingling and it is terrifying.  I do not do this well.

I go in and sit, resolving to speak to no one until my badly-shaken equilibrium is back.

And then the kids start talking.  And the first two, at least, are so clearly preternaturally brilliant and poised and mature that I quickly find myself wondering if my gnome-book-writin’ ass is the dumbest guy in the room.  Call me arrogant if you like: I’m used to being at least in the top half, right?  These kids may as well be speaking Greek, and that’s before the kid whose research is literally in pure mathematics and whose presentation appears to be entirely in equations gets a chance to talk.

Luckily, the fourth or fifth kid was clearly a meathead, so I felt a bit better.  And, of the fifteen or so kids who spoke, my student was the only one who managed to get a laugh out of the audience, which made me remember why I like her.  (“She got that from me,” I later told her mother, who shot me a quarter-second of a forbidding look and then smiled.)

There was a question and answer period later, and interestingly my student fielded more questions about her work than any of the rest of them.  She had another proud-of-you moment during the Q&A session, where a parent who I was starting to suspect was showing off a bit asked her if the students had to have any specialized training prior to being allowed into the program.

“Well, no.  We’re teenagers,” she deadpanned, cracking up the audience– well, me, at least– and shutting up the showoff.

Maybe not recognizing orzo isn’t that big of a deal.  🙂


About that wedding…

10570415_903878939640335_2608527244589607807_nSo this is a new thing.  I’ve never come home from a wedding wanting to do research before.  My cousin’s new bride is Lebanese, and her entire family are Melkite Catholics.  The wedding woke up every last bit of me that used to be a religious scholar, and I walked away all kinds of full of questions.  The ceremony was split fairly evenly between English and Arabic, which was already fascinating enough on its own, and the full name of the church is the Melkite Greek Catholic Church– and there was Greek in abundance all over the church itself– despite the fact that it is an Arab Catholic church.

There is history here, and I must learn it.  I managed to wedge my way into an interesting conversation with the deacon at the reception, only to get called away by the distribution of wedding cake and Lebanese baklava, which caused me to ask my cousin all sorts of questions about the Melkite position on polygamy.  Needless to say, I did not manage to acquire a second Melkite wife to make baklava for me.  These are an interesting people, and I wish to know more of them.

So, yeah: the reception.  The reception started off with what I would call typical reception music; the newlyweds walked into the hall to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, which I approved of greatly.  Maybe twenty minutes into the dancing, the DJ abruptly veered into what initially felt to me like Arabic pop music, but probably wasn’t, because her entire family immediately knew what to do about it.  This was awesome, especially when the oldest, fattest dude at the wedding proceeded to manage to get every Lebanese woman at the reception, as well as most of the younger white ones, dancing in a circle around him while he cut a rug worthy of BB King in his prime– at which point he broke the circle and dragged my only-barely-willing cousin and his new bride into the middle of it so they could dance around them instead.  Dude was amazing.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to get good footage of him, because while my iPhone can handle darkish rooms for pictures, video with bad lighting just isn’t happening.

The song after the Arabic dance music?  Yeah!!!  Which was also hilarious.

Then there was this dude.  I love this dude, just for rocking that suit:

IMG_1518The jacket matched the pants perfectly and was positively Zoot-suit like in its length.  I didn’t get a chance to talk to this guy much but he is my favorite.  Well, my second favorite, after that other dude.

All I want to do today

Here it is; this is the entire agenda:

  • Shower
  • Eat Something that Isn’t Garbage
  • Buy Pants and Socks
  • Write Fiction

That’s all.  Errythang.  But holy cats am I a smelly lump of undifferentiated lazy and achy right now– I slept like crap last night, but in that horrible way where the bed isn’t comfortable enough to allow sleep but that getting out of bed to, say, achieve ibuprofen– which I very badly needed for most of the wee morning hours– is simply too much to expect from any living human being.

I want to buy pants today; I suspect it may well be more of a challenge than I can handle to wear pants today.

Blargh.  At least I was smart enough to take the evening off from OtherJob last night.  And the party went quite well.  It’s responsible for my current half-human state, but it went well.  That’s gotta be worth something, right?


darren-millars-6th-birthday-29th-february-2008Extravviversary?  The words don’t combine together very well.

Anyway: today marks, roughly, six years(*) since my wife made the biggest mistake she could ever possibly have made and legally entangled herself in my nonsense forever.

Why “roughly six years,” Siler?  You don’t know your own anniversary?  You scumbag!

Well, no.  I am perfectly aware of the day my wife and I got married.(**)  You’re about to hear about, literally, just about our only argument.  We generally get along very well.  I tend to shake my head sadly at people who complain about marriage; getting married was, hands down, absolutely no room for debate whatsoever the greatest decision I ever made in my life and the best thing that ever happened to me, so I have little patience for popular whining about marriage.  You didn’t have to do it!  You don’t even have to stay if you don’t want to!  It’s okay!

But that’s beside the point and for once I don’t want to get sidetracked.  We got married on Leap Day in 2008– February 29th.  There is, obviously, no February 29th three years out of every four.  The fun part of our marriage (well, one of ’em) is the yearly argument about when to “officially” celebrate our anniversary.

I’m right.  She’s wrong.  I’m about to enunciate my own strong and undeniable reasons for celebrating on the 28th (yesterday) and her own silly and wrong reasons for celebrating on the 1st (today) and then will let the Internet decide once and for all, assuming that the Internet agrees with me, which you should, because I’m right.

(Why am I putting this post up on the 1st, you ask?  Because this year the first is on a Saturday, obviously, and so we’re going out tonight(***).  That doesn’t make today our anniversary.  Yesterday was our anniversary.)



  • We were married on the last day in February on 2008.  This year, the last day of February is the 28th, therefore our anniversary is on the 28th.
  • We were married in February.  March is not February. (I feel that this is my strongest argument, incidentally.)
  • We were married on the day before March 1st.  February 28th is the day before March 1st three years out of four.


  • We were married the day after February 28th, which this year happens to be March 1st.

Now, if you look, you will notice that I have three reasons for my correct decision, a full 300% greater than her paltry one reason.  Also, my reasons are correct and hers are silly.  So obviously I am right.

Internet!  Settle our dispute!

(*) Apparently the traditional gifts for a sixth anniversary are… iron and candy?(****)  I feel like someone creative should be able to come up with some sort of joke for that incredibly odd combination; I am apparently not a creative person today.  But… yeah.  Iron and candy.

(**) Speaking of important dates: I don’t tend to forget the boy’s birthday.  Weirdly, though, I have trouble getting the year he was born stuck in my head properly.  I don’t get it wrong, but I have to think about it.  Can’t explain why; it’s not like it was a long time ago.

(***) Mmm, sushi.  Also, for obvious reasons today is probably gonna be kinda quiet around here.  Although, who the hell am I kidding, I’ll probably get another post up while the boy is napping.  I took the day off from OtherJob, though, so this Saturday won’t be the usual constant-posting day that Saturdays usually are around here.

(****) WWE:  I want to see the Iron Anniversary in the squared circle today, not tomorrow.  Get on that.  The costuming alone should be hilarious.

In which I know nothing at all


Today’s Daily Prompt:

You’re 12 years old. It’s your birthday. Write for ten minutes on that memory. GO.

I can only do this if I type very slowly, because I  r e m e m b e r   n o t h i n g.  Nothing at all.  Zip.  Zilch.  I found out in one of my grad school classes that some non-trivial percentage of adults can remember little more from, say, 10 to 14 than they can from birth to 5.  I have more clear memories from elementary school than I do from seventh and eighth grade, although I guess if I was turning 12 I’d have been in between sixth and seventh, since I was young for my grade.  At any rate, I’ve got nothing at all and even filibustering for a few sentences I’ve only been writing for a minute or so.

(Man.  I’ve been sitting here for several more minutes and I can’t come up with a birthday party story in general worth telling.  Let’s turn this one on you guys: what do you think my twelfth birthday party must have been like?  ENTERTAIN ME WITH YOUR LIES.)

(Real post later; I’ve got a meeting this afternoon so I’m killing an hour at home for lunch.)

More answers to this question after the jump:

Continue reading “In which I know nothing at all”