Monday, December 21, 2009

Bilingual and ESL Classrooms

If anyone is interested in purchasing the textbook Bilingual & ESL Classrooms by Carlos Ovando, Mary Carol Combs and Virginia Collier, please email me at I purchased one for $50 in the summer for the Arizona SEI Course I had to take, and would be happy to pass it along for something in that ballpark to recoup my investment and save you some money as well. I am in the Phoenix West Valley. Used versions are $66 on Amazon, and new ones are like $275, which is slightly more of an outrage than the recent banking bailout.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bush redux

The only upside to Fitial's victory is that I'm eager to see the opus written by Ed Propst capturing the outrage over the cosmic absurdity of what just happened. This event is an eery reminder of Bush's re-election in 2004: Very obviously a bad decision at the time, but a cautious "let's stick with our guy" mindset. With warning signs more than clear, a selfish electorate in an issueless race, drunk on fear given recent events, again empowered a dipshit. Let me restate -- maybe the shock will wear off: Saipan, on the precipice of complete meltdown, re-elected a demonstrably corrupt, incompetent, misguided moron. I can't help but think that this is what is deserved. I've not been this annoyed by something that has so little impact on me in a long time.
For anyone curious about the origin of the pic, I google imaged WTF and went with that one.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Yankees win, the Yankees win.

The Yankees won their 27th World Series this week. As usual, I followed the entire post season very closely. There are several things that stuck out to me about the experience.

Yankee fans have become extremely negative. Not one time in this post season were the Yankees in trouble. The only time they were down in any of the rounds was when they trailed 0-1 in the World Series to a Phillies team with exactly one good pitcher. How that team went that far with so little pitching remains a mystery. Yet the sense of doom was always palpable among the fan base. The Yankees had some key games, but they never really had a must win game in the entire post season. In following the fan reaction on WFAN in New York, on Twitter, and in the frequent texts between friends, so much worry and negativity was evident that I am not sure these fans could really enjoy this team's success. That joylessness defeats the purpose of the vast time suckage of following sports.

The most depressing thing for a fan, to me, is to follow the very long regular season, and then for your team to undergo a quick exit in the wild card series. Your team plays 162 games to qualify, and then they can be bounced out in three games in the division series. That has happened to the Yankees a lot in the last ten years, which I suppose is where some of this negativity came from. They were bounced in round one in 2o02, 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2008 they didn't make the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years and went on a spending spree for the ages. With a division series loss, the season is just over in a blink. Such a quick and unsatisfying ending makes you feel like a chump for watching all year. When it is a great series, such as the famous 1995 series against Seattle, it is easier to live with. In all those other years, it wasn't even much of a series. For many of those years, the biggest issue was living up to the amazing success of the 1996 to 2001 teams. I took the above picture in 1999 when I was working in New York city and had a company office on Wall Street. This team in 2009 looked a lot more like those vaunted teams in the relentlessness and the comebacks.

I think some negativity also comes from that and from scars from the Boston collapse in 2004, not to mention the still grating World Series loss in 2003 to the Marlins when the Yankees underperformed. This joylessness, which wasn't even as bad as it was in previous years, is still overblown in my opinion.

The other striking thing is how brilliant Mariano Rivera still is at nearly 40 years old. I think every Yankee fan is either a Jeter guy or a Rivera guy. I'm a Rivera guy and always have been. I pulled this from Jon Heyman's column:
For the 19th time in 29 postseason series, Rivera did not allow a run. His
patented cutter is a mystery to practically everyone, but especially to National
League batters who haven't seen it. He actually lowered his lifetime 0.77
postseason ERA to 0.74 by allowing one run in 16 innings. He might be the most
valuable player of his generation.

The other striking thing about being a Yankees fan is that nothing can match 1996. For Red Sox fans, I'm sure the same can be said about 2004. In 1996, the Yankees were the underdog. They hadn't won in 18 years. They lost the first two games of the World Series to the Braves. No one expected them to come back. Then Cone gutted one out. Then Leyritz hit that homerun, then Pettite beat Smoltz 1-0 and then Girardi hit that triple at the stadium. As great as this post season run was, nothing in my lifetime of watching sports can match the joy of 1996.

Very disappointed in Obama so far

I see the Congress just passed the watered down health care bill. There are a few improvements such as removing the whole pre-existing condition scam, but overall this, like the entire Obama presidency thus far, is a vast disappointment. It's nice not to have a complete moron in charge, but the man is far too willing to compromise with lunatics who never have and never will be reasonable or play fair.

When Bush was in office, that crop had the votes and just did what it wanted to do. They give the impression they at least believed in all their evil, misguided deeds. The Dems, as always, are wishy washy and spineless. They send the message they don't even really believe in what they're doing. Obama can't even tell students to take responsibility for themselves, set goals and study hard without it becoming a controversy. At my school all the teachers were given an explicit directive not to show Obama's speech, not that I planned to. This made me half wonder if I was still allowed to tell my students to study hard and set goals for themselves. That phony controversy should have made everything clear to him about the crop he was trying to woo.

This week the Democrats lost a governorship in a Democratic state, my state, of New Jersey. I would bet the house they lose the house in the mid-terms next election. What will be left is this presidency will be Clinton without the sex scandals -- a talented man accomplishing little and being a vast disappointment. I hope I'm wrong.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

U2 in Glendale

Somehow my seldom blog updates have become U2 centric. I didn't plan it that way, and while I'm still a big fan, I'm not in the enthrall I once was. Regardless, I've been meaning to sit down and relate my thoughts on the show here two weeks ago.

I haven't seen the band since the unfairly maligned Popmart album and tour in 1997, which I saw at Giants Stadium. I also saw them in 1992 in about the third total Achtung Baby concert in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was in college back then and didn't know them as well at that point. Being overseas for a long time, I missed several of the tours. I got to make up for that lost opportunity by seeing a great show at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale a few weeks ago.

For this 360 tour, U2 set up an a general admission area known as "the pit." There is a large ring around the stage, and the enclosed area closest to the stage is "the pit." It is not the most comfortable place to wait or watch a concert, as it is standing room only and crowded, but given that most concerts with actual seats, at least up close, are standing room only, this isn't the end of the world -- no pun intended. The general admission tickets in the pit area are not unreasonable -- in fact they are very moderately priced at about $60. I dropped by at the opening of the line up-just to check it out at around 11 am. There were several people there already at that time. The arena opened up at 5 to allow people in, and that's when I got there -- about three hours before the show. This was still plenty of time to get into the pit, which is the way I'd recommend seeing the show. I was about 12 feet from the stage. If I waited all day, I'd have been about 4 feet away. I was happy with that trade.

The band connects the center stage to the outer rings with a movable bridge. I took the above picture of the Edge, who was literally that far away. The man is a guitar genius. I love his use of guitar effects. The band is an entirely different experience that close. I saw Dave Matthews last Summer from row six, and then again in May from the lawn. The first was a seminal experience-- perhaps also because they chose a particularly inspired set list that night. The latter felt like a pointless ripoff being that far away. It cost about $90 for two sets with indistinct sound and a visual set up I could barely see from so far. The lawn has its charm for some, but I won't do it again, and these shed tours are pretty much the norm these days. How many arena acts do we even still have?

For the U2 shows, I've read different reports on the sound quality being weak in the upper areas, but in the pit area the sound was immaculate. Bono radiates a real personableness and a general stage presence and humanity that really puts him high on the list of people I most admire. The concert helped build some appreciation for the band's latest album, which is good, but is definitely not great. The set list included some less renowned favorites like Ultraviolet and the Unforgettable Fire, and other classics like Streets Have No Names. My only disappointment is that Bad wasn't on the set list, which I happen to think is the best song of the 80s. They have played it on other stops of this tour. I just watched the streaming youtube cast they did from Los Angeles, and that has been a nice way to relive it as well -- a far better value than the $45 t-shirts.

My little ladybug

My little ladybug had quite the Halloween. Some of the best days of my life are when we go on our Saturday afternoon dates together. She's already a fan of fried calamari and fine cuisine in general.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Having kids is a chance to be a kid again

I've been really blessed to have some really fantastic children, and a heck of a sweet wife who doubles as their mom. What I'm disovering is that having kids is a chance to be a kid again. I do all kinds of stuff I never did, or haven't done in years like playing wiffle ball, pickup basketball, going to laser tag, racing go carts, going to amusement parks, having chicken fights in the pool, giving nuggies to my older boy and throwing wet socks at both the boys in the pool. I never had a younger brother, so this is my chance to be both dad and sometimes big brother/tormentor.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

It's one louder

I think I was trying to see if that amp went up to 11

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Night Train - pretty good for a B movie

I grabbed this flick at Blockbuster the other night on a whim. I knew little of it. It's a decided B-movie without, as I later found out, even a single review at My biggest concern was the cover, which suggested it might be a gruesome, mindless slasher film. It isn't. It turned out to be a pretty good choice.

Night Train is a story of three strangers that meet aboard a train on one snowy night -- one with ridiculously few passengers and not much of a business model. Danny Glover is the train's conductor, Leelee Sobieski is the hot, but unhinged med student, and Steve Zahn is the scheming, eccentric salesman. When a nameless passenger dies shortly after boarding their car, Zahn and Sobieski discover he was carrying a box containing a fortune in diamonds. Together they plot to dispose of the man's body and keep the box's contents for themselves. All manner of paranoia, double-crosses and murder follows. There also may be something more sinister and mysterious to this box than any of them suspect.

The movie is a homage to movies of yore -- dumbed down Hitchcock. The scenery and setting is very appealing. The characters are beguiling. The ending, however, is absurd, and ruins what could almost have been a fantastic movie. Overall, it is still worth a watch.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Putting the band back together, sort of

I lost all interest in blogging for a while and wanted to take a break, but I'm thinking of getting back into it. I like the idea of keeping a journal.

Topics will be a hodge podge of whatever interests me at the moment. It will be niche oriented and in flux. I suspect I will probably be writing about things like Phoenix restaurants, film, comedians and professional sports. I've been gone from Saipan for a year now, so that won't be a topic.

The school year is over and I'm in the midst of doing a number of things like shopping for my first house, getting some health problems evaluated and I'm planning on taking a comedy course that concludes with a set at the Tempe Improv. I'm also hoping to really explore Arizona, and will probably drive out to Las Vegas, which will be my first time there. If fate should smile on me, I'm hoping to get out to either Belize or Roatan to do some diving and to try ziplining. I don't even have a passport right now, which shows how life has changed for me. I applied and that problem should be fixed. Travel to even the Caribbean is impossible without one now.

Alex just completed kindergarten and his growth amazes. He reads up a storm and is very inquisitive. He asked me the other day if God was real. I heard him use the word "addicted" in a sentence -- in his case a reference to his feelings about a videogame, which I thought a pretty impressive word choice for a six-year-old.

My Ashley is developing quite the personality. I can't get over how fast she is growing. I take her in the pool most every day. She walks around "supervising" the place constantly.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

U2 - Magnificent Live on David Letterman

This is my favorite tune off the new U2 album. It's truncated, and Bono is losing his voice to an extent, but it's still cool.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

U2 No Line on the Horizon out today

I got my copy of the new U2 album from Amazon already. I've just finished my first listen, and so far I'm impressed. I'm also looking forward to seeing these guys in concert, as is Cynthia. They have some clunkers of course, but I still find their recent, and not very frequent, albums generally very impressive and not just a nostalgia act.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mitch Fatel

I saw Mitch Fatel last night at the Tempe Improv. What a fantastic show. He had a packed crowd on a Sunday night and I talked to him a few minutes after the show. Cool dude and great comedian.

How does anyone hit major league pitching?

The weather hit like 90 degrees, so it seemed like a pretty good time to take in my first Cactus League game. There is a real quiet to the crowd, which was small, and an intimacy to these games, at least versus the regular season. I was able to get right up on the bullpen, where I remain astonished that anyone can get even a foul tip in major league baseball. The ball comes in like a blur, and this guy throwing isn't exactly Nolan Ryan by major league standards. Omar Vizquel, the wizard at shortstop, was the big attraction for the Indians fans.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Wrestler is a haunting film

I'm not a fan of professional wrestling, and other than a brief period in the early '80s, never was, but the movie "The Wrestler" blew my mind. A week after seeing it, the stark realism of this film, most notably in its highly relatable and sympathetic main character Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, still haunts me. Wrestling is the backdrop, but the movie is really about being lost as a person, clinging to the familiar, simple survival in a rapidly changing world and searching for human connections.

Randy pursues a stripper nearing the end of her run named Cassidy, played brilliantly by Marisa Tomei. Her embrace of change stands in contrast to Randy's more innocent and naive approach to life. Both use their bodies to make a living, and time is the enemy of both, but the difference is Randy genuinely loves what he does and can't think of what else to do. Cassidy doesn't like what she does, but can't think of what else to do, either.

The fact that the movie is set in New Jersey, and filmed in a particularly grim winter with a typically plain yet powerful Springsteen tune as its theme song, adds even more -- at least for me personally.

The film displays much insight into what the real world of professional wrestling is like -- especially on the "has been" circuit in local school gymnasiums, as well as the physical toll the sport takes on a body. Wrestlers often find an early grave, which is documented here. I remember attending a few of these bouts at my local high school when I was a kid. I recently watched the extensive Charlie Rose interview with Mickey Rourke and the actor really does come off as similarly chastened and longing to "get back" as the character he plays. This was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Laser Floyd hits Phoenix

Laser Floyd came to Phoenix this weekend. The tickets were pretty reasonable, getting around and parking in Phoenix is much easier than the typical big city, and it was quite a display.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

All Star Jam Session Crazy Dunk

The NBA All Star Game was in Phoenix this weekend. I went to NBA Jam on Monday and saw this dude pull one crazy stunt -- a backflip slam dunk

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lil Hammerhead outed as Roberta Guerrero

Saipan is too small an island for things to remain a secret for too long. Today Roberta Guerrero was seen editing her "Must Be the Humidity" blog at Java Joes. That's Lil Hammerhead on the left with Killili Sablan and Tina Sablan, the two people her blog is dedicating to venerating -- and who happen to be by far the two best CNMI leaders out there. I'm sure about Roberta. I have two sources. This isn't guesswork or speculation. There is an eyewitness. Beyond that, when you're married to a Filipina who has been on the island for fifteen years, you join a network that gets you a lot of eyes and ears in a lot of places. I knew this would happen eventually.

Comments were made about this on Monkey Picture's blog, and the comments were deleted. I followed up with the same comments, and she deleted mine as well. It's a designed conversation after all. What a phony! She never deleted it or went so bananas when people said Lil Hammerhead was Ed Propst, but she's going ballistic now. Ed has always stood by his own comments anyway. I'm going to write a very short letter to the editor about this to the Marianas Variety because the squirming will be delicious. Heck, maybe she'll get a Stanley Torres resolution, or maybe he'll buy her a drink. So, the secret is out there. "Must Be the Humidity" is written by Roberta Guerrero, who was described to me as one of the "Godfather's Hags." I don't know anything about her, but the fight is now fair. This cockroach has a big flashlight on her and she's scurrying. Feel free to vent about Roberta -- especially if you are anonymous --- the more salacious the better. She certainly had no problem doing that anonymously to many others. Get ready to take the heat Roberta. I can just imagine you dropping that coffee cup at Java Joes -- kind of like a reverse Dave Kujan at the end of The Usual Suspects when he realizes who Keyser Soze is.
Update: Roberta is not taking her newfound fame very well. Roberta is also getting googled up a storm. She is screeching like a banshee about me in two posts on her blog. My prediction is that she fades away or starts anew under a different name now that she's been outed and the other side can fire back at her. Such is the way of the gutless. Some are trying to muddle the simple truth about Roberta, but it's out there now and you can't put that toothpaste back in the tube no matter how hard you try.
Update Number Two: Here have been the tactics Roberta has used to sweep this under the rug. First, let's just delete all the comments and references to Roberta Guerrero. That didn't work, so she moved on to number two: Bruce Bateman said something mean. Let's call MVA and make this about Bruce. When the absurdity of that was dismissed, she went to number three: I will sue this blogger because this post hurt my feelings. After that silliness is dismissed, I can't wait to see number four. Roberta is up to like five posts about me. She can't get enough. This has made her more unhinged than I ever dreamed. The last leg of her rocker has been shattered like a bat after a Mariano Rivera cutter. Someone commented about doing a full background check on Roberta and having it published. While I'm not going there on this blog, I wonder how she'll react if and when those people follow through. My guess, not well at all.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

If you build it, they might not come

Part of the reason I left Saipan is that I wanted my boys to have better access to sports both as players and fans. For me, major league baseball and professional football rank very high on the interest scale -- with the NBA a very distant third. This wasn't always the case. I remember very distinctly my father taking me to see Julius Erving play in the Spectrum circa 1980 and that ignited a strong interest in the NBA. I went to the 1982 NBA All Star Game in New Jersey, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was horrible that day, and many other games with my dad or my Uncle Freddy. I watched the famous 1980 Lakers Sixers tape delayed NBA finals on a Friday night late at my grandmother's house with my uncle and was not happy with the result.

That interest in the NBA faded drastically while my interest in major league baseball increased dramatically. I've probably been to at least 100 major league games and have seen many different stadiums. My boys are very much into basketball, which is an interest they developed on their own. With some encouragement they really got into the NFL and football in general this year. Despite some mild prodding by me, they don't seem to give a hoot about baseball.

I was talking to one of my colleagues, who is also the athletic director at my school and a baseball coach, and he was relating that he barely has enough players to get a baseball team together. This is out in sunny, nearly rainless Arizona where a kid could play baseball year round. The ones who do come out for baseball, he said, tend to be the chubbiest, least athletic sort -- who are mostly afraid of the ball. Many teens find baseball "boring" -- they find most everything boring, but that's another rant for another day. My colleague thinks baseball is about twenty years from being dead in this country, and I think he might be right. Major league baseball, for the moment, continues to post record revenues, but I've been to enough games to know that it is a very gray haired and white demographic at those games. I've spent enough time in Asia to know that basketball is rising there, and baseball barely exists, though it certainly holds sway in Japan and to a small extent in Korea, but I'm a bit worried that our "National Pastime" is falling victim to today's prolific ADHD culture.

I'm not going to fight the trend too much. Right now I'm coaching my son Carl, who is on the sixth grade boys basketball team at school. He is by far the smallest kid in his class, but he is really an amazing ball handler. We did get smoked in our first game, and while this didn't came as a surprise to me, I found out real quick I'm not exactly John Wooden. I'm hoping to get him in a basketball camp this summer so he can develop his skills. We have three games coming up this week, and I think our team will improve. I'm going to make him at least try little league this spring. I think he might change his mind about the game.

Action shots

She has two big brothers and a protective dad helping her enjoy her first ever slide.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Random thoughts of late

Last Saturday I made mariscada for dinner, a pitcher of Sangria and watched "The Song Remains the Same" with my baby girl on my digital projector. I forgot about the famous "Dazed and Confused" clip where Jimmy Page plays with a violin bow. That concert film, preposterous and pretentious in parts of course, takes a lot of heat, but there are some brilliant moments and the No Quarter/Song Remains the Same/Rain Song section ranks really high for seamless transitions of brilliance and innovation. The only thing that flows together as well that I can think of is the Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came in Through the Bathroom Window section of Abbey Road.
I love Ancient history, especially that of Rome, Greece and Egypt. This isn't the best set of podcasts I've heard on these topics, but it is very good and it's free. This one is much better, but it costs money. I got it as a gift from a friend. There are countless others on that website I'd like to have. When traveling, or just farting around in line at the bank or shopping, I absolutely love having access to these lectures and podcasts. There are tons of free podcasts at Itunes. Some of these things pile up, and traveling gives me a chance to catch up on a lot of them.
I love the movies, but find the vast majority wretched beyond belief. I'm not the biggest Eastwood fan, but I plunked down $9.50 and saw Gran Torino last week, and it is a really good film. It captures the generational divide especially pointedly at the vacuous nature of the current one.
I also saw Slumdog Millionaire, and while I liked it, I wasn't overwhelmed or anything. It is a very dark film for sure. It captures India and poverty really well. I saw a Filipino film called Cavite, which also captured poverty really well, but the overall plot of that film was nowhere near as realistic as Slumdog Millionaire. Prior to that I saw Nixon/Frost. I've read and seen a lot about Nixon, who was before my time. The most striking thing about him I think what is that what Bush did is so much worse, but Nixon paid a much higher price. Nixon was chased out and largely ostracized for far less damaging over the top political shenanigans -- crimes for sure, but can they really compare to what W did. Bush will most likely get away with far worse crimes such as lying about reasons for war, torture, extraordinary rendition, the Scooter Libby commutation, asleep during Katrina, the Alberto Gonzales attorney purge scandal and the general politicization of the Attorney General's office, snooping on citizens et al.
I'm normally skeptical of celebrities hawking things out of their area of renown, but I was especially impressed with the Estefan Kitchen cookbook and bought a copy last week. I scanned numerous Cuban cookbooks at my local Barnes and Noble and I thought this one was the most useful by far.
My sister is a big fan of Bill Burr. I think he belabors some of his bits too much, but I like his style and agree with her on his talents. He's coming to the Phoenix area in May. Mitch Fatel will be here late next month, and I will doubtlessly check out that show.
I wonder if this was humbling at all for U2, whose new album and doubtless tour I'm looking forward to seeing. Legendary band at historical moment in a monumental location and all of Bono's efforts can't warm up that frozen stiff crowd.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In case I need a mood lifter

I want this image easily accessible for those dark, depressing or sad moments. I was only slightly comforted that the rest of the country finally "got" what an inept clown this guy was --five years too late for what was painfully obvious on day one. His legacy: financial wreckage centered on an unimaginable debt, joblessness, homes lost, medical care unaffordable, millions of Iraqis dead, thousands of Americans killed or maimed, the terrorist who killed 3,000 Americans still at-large, the language butchered, our global prestige dissipated, the culture even more dumbed down and the document he promised to "preserve, protect and defend" pissed on. Good riddance.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009

It's not kryptonite

I picked up a Himalayan Crystal Rock Salt Lamp in Sedona and I love it. So far it hasn't drained any of my non-existing superpowers.

Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers

I read this book in its entirety last night, which means I found it pretty compelling. I've read Malcolm Gladwell's two previous books, Blink and the Tipping Point, and I liked both of them and the author's manner of presenting scholarly research in a rich, vibrant style with lots of anecdotes and personalized stories. This book takes a look at what factors determine wild success stories, as well as the role of culture as it impacts success in certain endeavors. His chapter on why Asians succeed in math was especially fascinating. There were a few dull sections, and some of the conclusions about education I think are way removed from the real world, but overall this is a fantastic read.

New Years Day in Sedona