Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If it wasn't for bad luck...

For those that know me, you know I'm a weather geek. There's nothing I enjoy more than a big outbreak of severe weather. That's what makes this season so depressing. For the first time in years, I attended a spotter training class back in March. I knew a lot of what to look for, but I wanted to update what I knew and add to my knowledge base. I also went out and purchased a wind meter because my wind estimation was always my weakest point. So how have I been rewarded for my time and money? One of the calmest severe weather seasons in Wisconsin since they started tracking severe weather outbreaks in 1981. only 13 weak (EF0 & EF1) tornadoes statewide, 7th fewest overall. Only 1995 (7), 1990 (9), 1991 and 1999 (10 each), 2001 and 2006 (12 each) have had fewer tornadoes statewide. The Green Bay WSO set a record by not issuing any severe weather warnings for the entire month of June which is traditionally the peak of severe weather in Wisconsin.

I suppose that it can be considered a good thing. Severe weather causes so many problems, from injuries to deaths to massive crop losses, that a calm year should be a good thing. I guess I'm a little selfish. I love severe weather. I want severe weather.

Oh well, I guess there's always next year. I'm used to saying that. I am a Cubs fan.

Back to school, fun for all!

Well, it's that time of the year again. Time to get the kids ready to head back for another school year. Every year, the supply list gets more detailed and confusing. Can someone explain why our taxes go up and we are required to buy more and more supplies for the teacher? My first grader had to supply one box of Kleenex, one Sharpie, and two dark colored dry erase markers. I have no doubt that these are supplies that are meant for the classroom/teacher. Is there a parent out there that would trust your 6-7 year old with a black permanent marker? Me either.

The most frustrating thing is the stores. How hard is it to plan for the rush? How about the schools send the list of supplies to the local stores a few weeks in advance of sending it to the parents? I honestly had to go to 5 stores to find the ten folders in four different colors that the teacher requires. This is insane. Two different Walgreen's, Wal-Mart, Target, and Office Max. I finally found the folders in a somewhat out of the way Walgreen's.

What ever happened to a few pencils, some markers, some glue, and maybe a folder or two? Now kids need two different kinds of markers, ten glue sticks, ten different colored folders, a 1 1/2" binder, 24 pre sharpened pencils, and colored pencils. Granted, with the great back to school sales, this isn't a huge out of pocket expense (not counting a new backpack, we spent maybe $40). Still, are first graders doing more busy work than learning? Am I being forced to send my child to a touchy feely "whole learning" classroom? I hope not.

We wonder why our kids are not living up to their potential. It's more important to make them feel good instead of learning anything. We need to make sure every kid has the exact same supplies so nobody feels left out. No wonder why socialism is becoming more and more rampant in this country...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Where did Phonics go?

I've been asking this in my real world life for some time, but I think it's time for a post about it. My daughter will be entering first grade this fall. During her year in Kindergarten last year, they began to start the kids along the path to reading (that's a rant for some other time). She is really into learning as much as she can. Math, reading, and writing are her favorites and she wants to practice as much as she can. What really threw me was, as we were working with her I would ask her to try to sound out words that she was having trouble with. She couldn't do it. After a bit of questioning I found out that what they have been teaching them were "sight" words. They teach the kids the words not by the sounds but by memorizing the letters. As far as she told me, the teacher spent little to no time on teaching the kids the sounds the letters/letter combos make.

Now, it has been many, many moons since I was in school. I have also sustained a fair amount of head injuries which has limited my memory to basically what happened a few seconds ago, but still, somewhere in the dark nether regions of my mind I do recall having to learn the sounds before the words. Maybe the school will work more on that this year, but I have my doubts. In this age of accelerated learning, I'm guessing she will be expected to be reading at a level that was considered a third grade level when I was young by the time she leaves first grade.

I suppose that this is a result of the deteriorating education system. With every politician making education an issue, the answer to falling test scores was not teaching better, but teaching more sooner. What really hurt was an entire generation that was taught that it didn't matter that they didn't get the right answer but that it did matter that they felt good about themselves.

So where did Phonics go? At what point did it become acceptable to ignore the basics? I want my child to learn to walk before she can run, but I'm afraid that if I teach her one thing at home and she hears something completely different at school, she will be confused, frustrated, and then the love of learning she has right now will fade away. That is the last thing I want.

So what's the answer? Do I let her continue to learn this touchy feely education at school? Unfortunately homeschooling and private school are not options right now. Do I try my best to supplement what she is learning and risk confusing her? I guess I should be proud of the fact that I am concerned with my child's education. Too many parents today take little to no interest in their kid's schooling. Every year I hear reports from schools where the students need the most help, parents do not show up for parent/teacher conferences.

We expect more and more of the students, give the teachers less and less authority in the classroom, and hold the parents less and less responsible. I'm shocked the entire system hasn't imploded yet.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

An open letter to Jim Hendry

Dr: Mr. Hendry,

I cannot believe I am saying this. I know you are in an unenviable situation. The sale of the club is hanging like a dark cloud over the Cubs. The current ownership is unwilling to put money into something that they will not see a return on. Any new ownership is scared off by an apparent lack of commitment. On the field, the team is only playing well enough to be a threat in one of, if not the worst divisions in baseball. You cannot be a buyer due to ownership and you can't be a seller otherwise the fans will rebel.

That being said, for the good of the team, you need to either lead the charge or step down. Be aggressive as a buyer or a seller or resign. The drifting nature of the club right now is not doing anyone any good. Yes, injuries have happened, but it seems to be the same few key pieces who are injured. It's time to either make that one big push towards a World Series title or tear down and rebuild. I have been a Cubs fan for over 20 years, so I know that ups and downs are part and parcel of the Cubs. I understand and accept that fact. However, the inability of this years team to put together a consistent effort for all nine innings is not acceptable.

I know that I am not strong enough to make a difference. I don't buy a ton of tickets, merchandise, or ad space. I am just an average fan who is fed up with the current direction of the team.

Thank you very much for your time.

Honestly, I cannot believe it has come to this. In over 20 years of being a fan, I have only been this angry and upset once. The 1994 strike. For one day, I gave up all baseball. The next day I came to my senses and told myself I couldn't give up on the Cubs. This may be the final straw though. I know all of us who are big fans of anything always say it's painful to listen/watch when our teams are struggling, but for me lately it's been more than an expression. It's not that I expect all wins. The best team in MLB history still lost 46 games. I get that. It's how they are losing is what's killing me. Today's loss is the cherry on top of the crappy sundae of a season. The starting pitching is decent, but that matters not one bit because the bullpen couldn't save a game even if they were Superman. A bullpen who blows 16 save chances by August 2nd will not get the job done. I suppose that's understandable with the number of youngsters they have in the pen. The offense is just that, offensive. Consistency is not one of their strong points. I suppose though it's kinda hard to be constant if your injured. As I write this, we have no way of telling if Aramis Ramirez will be out again for an extended period of time. Derek Lee's neck was giving him trouble again recently and there's no way of telling if that is going to come back at a bad time. Not to be outdone, Carlos Zambrano's back is acting up as well.

Not that there haven't been bright spots. In limited time this season, Sam Fuld has shown that he has the skills to be a regular on a MLB roster. Ryan Theriot is showing again that he is one of the Cubs most consistent hitters. Jake Fox is making the best of a bad situation. Reduced to reserve status, he has shown that he deserves a starting spot. However, those few bright spots cannot begin to outshine the darkness that surrounds the Cubs right now. I have a feeling that Lou Piniella is holding this team together with duct tape and baling wire. The rumbles have already started in some circles that Piniella should be fired. I believe that he will walk out on this team before he would be fired.

This all starts at the top, however. That is the reason for the above note. Believe me Mr. Hendry, I understand the tough position you are in. I wouldn't want your job even if they gave me the same amount that Zambrano is making. It cannot be easy to be in a job where every move you make is wrong in someone's eyes. Still, something needs to be done. If you were to ask me, I would blow it up and start over. With over $76 million in just 5 players, the team is very top heavy for what they are getting on the field. It's time to see what the prospects down on the farm can do.

Will I still listen, sure. I am still a Cub fan. I will dust off my not quite so bright blue hat and cheer them on. I cannot say for how much longer, however.