Before I forget

Hosea showed up to class this morning in a new mask, if in fact I’m actually allowed to use the word “mask” to describe a cut-up sock. Because he had a cut-up sock on his face. When I gave him a new mask from my stash and told him to put it on, he asked me why he needed it.

“Because you have a sock on your face, Hosea,” I said.

“No I don’t,” he said. (Remember, reflexively denying anything is a big part of whatever is wrong with this kid.)

“Yes, you do,” I said. “You are not wearing a sock on your face at school. Put the mask on.”

There then followed a ten-second stare down while I stood there holding the mask, at which point he said “Fine,” took it, and put it on. I don’t know what happened to the sock.

I was going to tell a whole story here about a bit of delivery nonsense involving UPS delivery of my son’s new phone– yeah, that’s a thing that’s happened now– but I no longer have the energy for the entire story so I’ll just tell the important parts: I had to redirect the phone to a UPS location because Verizon insisted on a signature and they weren’t going to be delivering while anyone was home. They did not give me a choice of locations, and directed me to their main distribution center, which is out past the airport, which you should understand to mean far away from everything. I got an email that said it was there and waiting for me.

When I got there yesterday, this sign was on the door:

You may note several possibly relevant pieces of information missing from the sign.

Despite that, the door opened as I was standing there trying to decide what to do and someone let me in, telling me she hoped she didn’t get in trouble for letting me in. She then told me that my package was still on a truck, despite the email that I’d gotten, and that it would be ready today. Okay, fine. Are you sure it’s not going to get redirected? No, it won’t be, but if it is, you’ll get an email.


I did not get an email. When I got there today, this had happened:

The story ends with me getting the phone, which was indeed at that location, behind the caution tape and the locked door, but … well, imagine trying to explain this to customer service robots over the phone. I was moments away from my nuclear method of reaching a human when stuck in customer service robot hell (start swearing and yelling racial epithets into the phone; believe me, these systems recognize profanity) when the door opened and half a dozen UPS employees poured out, all carrying various broken pieces of wood, and threw everything into a nearby dumpster, an act that provoked a surprising amount of rejoicing on their parts. Then the lady I’d spoken with yesterday recognized me, ushered me past the caution tape and past the locked door with the “don’t come in here” sign, gave me my package, and sent me on my way.

I swear everything in this post is true, and I dare you to make any of it make any fucking sense.

On the new newness

After several years where I was reliably getting a new phone every single year and basically coming to terms with the fact that I’d become That Guy, I waited three full cellphone generations– from the iPhone 7+ I’ve been carrying around forever to today– to upgrade my phone, and finally caved and came home with an iPhone 11 Pro Max in the Midnight Green color. I told myself I was going to wait until I could walk into the store and walk out with a phone, and that happened today. What ended up getting me to jump was the massive improvement in the cameras– I’m super psyched about getting to play with the new triple-camera setup, and the damn phone is gorgeous, to the point where for the first time I’m getting a clear case. It’s currently in my bedroom transferring all of my settings and apps and photos from the original phone, a process that was originally projected to take two hours, then 24 minutes, so I figured I had time to come out into the living room and write a blog post before going back and checking on it.

This was a long and interesting week; I was out of my classroom for two days at that rarest of beasts, a really interesting professional development opportunity, and I had parent-teacher conferences Wednesday night, which was the busiest I’ve ever been at PTCs– I had a line out my door for two hours and fifteen minutes– and then I had a parent-teacher conference for my own son on Thursday. Today most the kids actually had a recess as a little reward for surviving the first quarter, and a dozen or so of them organized an honest-to-God, flag-waving-and-chanting impromptu gay pride parade (!!!) on the soccer field. This is the first year of my career where I’ve had more than one or two kids who were conspicuously and un-selfconsciously out of the closet– there are a lot of 8th graders in my building who are somewhere on the QUILTBAG spectrum and don’t seem to give a damn who knows it.

A genuine oddity: they exist alongside the rather large contingent of more typical 8th-grade straight boys who enjoy nothing more than ceaselessly calling each other gay, and yet I have never once— and I’m watching, God damn it– seen any anti-gay bullying of any of the actual gay kids, and there are at least two boys in the 8th grade who are gay at twenty feet, if you know what I mean. I’ve never seen anyone call either of them names, even the kids who are quickest to toss “gay” at any of their straight friends.

So there may be several posts this weekend, is what I’m getting at, depending on whether I decide I want to talk about these things more. The training, at least, will probably get a post tomorrow or Sunday.

In which something works the way it’s supposed to

My biggest sin as an educator– other than my cynicism, anxiety, various and sundry mental issues, and recent conviction that society will not be around long enough for an education to actually help any of my current students in any meaningful way– is that I am terrible at parent contact. I’m good at email, but a lot of my parents don’t use email and it can be difficult to collect email addresses that work via any method other than brute force. I despise calling parents on the phone to complain to them about their kids. Absolutely hate it, and I’ll do anything to avoid doing it– including just continuing to put up with shitty behavior when it’s possible that calling home might actually help. Does it always? Of course not, and unfortunately the kids with the most issues most frequently come with parents who aren’t going to help me out. Not always, but frequently.

Yesterday was rough as hell. Everybody in the building was in a bad damn mood all day, and every single one of my classes was substantially more poorly-behaved than usual. I sent more kids to the office yesterday alone than I have for the entire first, what, four weeks of the year combined, including three from my seventh hour class, which is far and away my roughest group, to the point where the other five barely even register in comparison.

My principal emailed me and asked me– ha, asked, he says– to contact the parents of the three and let them know what had happened. Which I dutifully did, hating every second of it, but for two of the three I had a decent conversation with a parent and the third I left a detailed message.

Today was a better day across the board, and there was a notable improvement in behavior from all three of yesterday’s miscreants. And I should point out, to be fair, that two of the three are rarely problems, and in fact those two often help to rein in the third, who is more prone to having issues. They just didn’t yesterday, and each of them being dismissed from the room one at a time did not help things. But, point is: today all three gave me no trouble at all. So not only did the two parents I spoke to talk to their kids in a meaningful way, but apparently so did the third, based only on the voicemail message.

I pulled them aside at the end of the day and gave them the option of a second phone call today, one passing on that today featured good behavior, and all three of the boys seemed pretty excited by the idea and said I should do it. Which meant that I got the exquisite and fairly rare pleasure of calling three parents in a row– because this time the voicemail parent answered the phone– and savoring that first moment where they’re pissed off because if I’ve called two days in a row it must be because somebody fucked up and then giving them good news instead.

It’s not something I get to do often, but I enjoy it quite a lot when I do.

In which I demonstrate restraint

compare-iphone-7-201609.pngI am… not immediately pre-ordering an iPhone 7?  Like, for real?  This is a thing that’s not happening?  I don’t understand; I currently own an iPhone 6, and before that I had a 5.  I re-order my phones when a new number comes out.  The 7 is out, or at least it’s about to be.  And yet I paid my phone bill this afternoon, meaning that I went directly to the very place where one might go to order a new iPhone, and yet somehow there is no new iPhone with my name on it either beginning to be shipped to me or being manufactured for my eventual ownership.

I’m confused.  I’m New Tech Guy.  I’m Ooh Shiny Guy.  What the hell?

Actually, I know the answer, if I’m being honest.  I’m perfectly happy with my current phone– the upgrade to the 6 from the 5 was a no-brainer because of the bigger screen, and I’ve got no complaints about it, no matter how hard I try.  And I will have complaints about the 7, because one of the ways I use my phone a lot is in the car, with the phone plugged both into the auxiliary jack on my car stereo and the… well, power thingy.  I don’t mind the idea of ditching the audio port in general, but it interferes with how I use the phone in my current car, and the phone gets a lot of use as an audio device in my car.  I don’t often use headphones one way or another, so the idea of eventually spending $140 on a wireless set doesn’t appeal.  I’m not gonna whine about it much, but right now this change doesn’t work for me.

Additionally, from what I’ve seen the best change to the device is the camera, and the biggest change to the camera is on the Seven plus.  The two-camera thing looks really cool. Being able to shoot bokeh photos with my phone seems really neat.  But I’m not sure I need (well, okay, need has nothing to do with this, I’m not sure I want) the bigger phone that I would need to buy in order to get the better camera– and, again, I have no complaints about my current phone, which includes the camera.  I love the idea of a better camera but I don’t really need it right now.

So… am I, like, maturing or something, or is the fact that I’m thinking new car, then new phone so that my phone can interface properly with the car a sign that I’m actually a bigger idiot than I was before?

(Oh.  Let’s not talk about the new Apple Watch until I have hard data on the battery life.  As soon as I don’t have to charge it every single night, I’ll jump ship.  I love my Pebble, but I’m waiting for Apple to catch up in a couple of key areas and then I’m done.)


giphy-1Naturally, this happens the week after Searching for Malumba comes out.  Consider it a bonus story.

I have a number of former students with whom I am in at least irregular contact.  One of them, a former DC student, which is why she has my phone number, reliably texts me three or four days a week about something or another.  Today I got a text from her as I was leaving the house.  She was griping about her teeth; she’d just been to the dentist and had them (apparently rather thoroughly) cleaned, and they hurt.  I reassured her that it was unlikely that her teeth were going to hurt forever and went on my way– which, at that particular time, involved going and getting in my car to go pick up my son.  A moment later, I got three more picture texts– I can tell when someone sends me a picture because of the way my watch shows me the notification, but can’t actually get a thumbnail or anything.

I, waiting at a red light, glanced at the pictures a couple of minutes later and realized that she’d sent me three pictures of her new high school, since they just moved.  She thinks it looks like a jail.  She’s right.

I don’t text while driving often (he said) but when I do, I voice text, and it’s generally pretty damn accurate.  I sent her the following message:

It took me a minute before I had a chance to look at those and at first I thought you had sent me pictures of your teeth.

Because, of course, she’d just come from the dentist!  Smile a couple of times– hell, point the camera at the filling in your molar, hell if I know– and send off the pictures of your nice freshly cleaned teeth.  Not an out-of-context picture of a jail-like school building.

I glanced at my phone before hitting Send.  Thank fucking God.

It took me a minute before I had a chance to look at those and at first I thought you had sent me pictures of your titties.

WHAT THE FUCK, VOICE TEXT.  This is supposed to be an adaptive program, right?  It learns your voice and all that shit.  Y’all have been reading me for a minute.  You know I swear.  You have hundreds of thousands of words of my writing to wade through on this site.  I dare you to find another place where I said “titties.”   Why the fuck would my phone think I said “titties” when I said “teeth”?

I’d have had to drive off a bridge.  I’d have had to find a bridge, because hell if I can think of where the closest one is off the top of my head, and then I’d have to drive off of it, because my only options at that point would have been to be arrested or to become an internet meme.

Phones are stupid.