johnstonmr: (Default)
Let's see... Summer Checklist:

1. Get Blue Room Cleaned and turned back into an office/guest room: 99% COMPLETE (Just need to find homes for a few more things that go in other rooms, then touch up the paint on one wall, then get a desk, which might be a while).

2. Get healthier, lose weight: Working on it; still losing weight overall but I could be better about exercise. This week I've kind of blown it on the food front. But I'm re-energized as of today.

3. Write book: NOT EVEN CLOSE. I had hoped to work on it a lot this summer, but I've barely touched it.
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(reposted from my other blog)

Of work issues, anyway.

Today was the last day I need to set foot on campus until August, when I’ll go back for some inservice learning and Common Planning Time with my department, as well as setting my room up for the new year.

It LOOKS like next year I’ll be teaching English 11, Journalism, English 9, and Advanced English 9. Adv. English is really just the same thing as English 9 (freshman stuff), but with added expectations and complexity. Where I might read two novels all year in English 9, Adv. 9 will do four. Where Eng 9 will write a 2 page essay, Adv. will write 3 or 4 pages.

English 11 is American Literature, and I love to teach that class. I only get one section of it this year, but I’m hoping I impress someone and get more of it the year after; it’s actually my favorite class to teach. I love to teach English 12 (British Lit) too, but the kids really don’t give a rat’s ass about Chaucer and Shakespeare, but I have ways of making them care about Native American lit (which I start with), and they really tend to love the filter through which I teach Eng 11, which is “What makes an American?” We start off with that question, then look at the ways each successive wave of immigrants has changed the American discourse, with of course a liberal dose of grammar and writing instruction, too. It’s really the class that has made successive years of students ask me if I was teaching English or History, because in English 11, the answer to that question is “Yes.”

That brings me to today’s slight depression. Slowly, I’m learning not to look at I loathe that site. I know I should stay away from it, but I can’t help it–I have this entirely naive idea that if I look at the “reviews” of my teaching posted there, and apply a slight filter of reality over them, I’ll come away with at least somewhat valid critiques of my teaching that I can use to improve. Sadly, this does not often happen. See, the site allows students to comment anonymously, and so there are lots of “reviews” that are 99% lies, or at best distortions. And then there are the ones that are just written to be mean. And then there are the ones where I’m sure the student actually believes what he or she is writing, but they tend to rate teachers based on their idea of what the topic of the class is, not the reality of it. So my English 9 freshmen this year often said I wasn’t teaching them, because they thought English 9 was an English language class–grammar, etc–when it’s actually the beginning of analysis, and focuses more on critical thinking skills and writing than the “laws” of grammar. And no matter how often I told them that, they got mad. So even the kids who have no grammar issues were pissed because I wasn’t teaching grammar every day, but only teaching mini-lessons when the class had shown they needed one. Meh.

Anyway, I’ve learned. I’m no longer looking at it–especially as today, I looked up a lot of the other English teachers–and even the ones I KNOW are good teachers have pretty shitty ratings, with terrible things said about them, too. I also need to remind myself that I’m there to teach them, not to be their favorite.

I know I made mistakes this year. Those things are no longer in play, and I know how to fix the mistakes I made and make sure they don’t occur next year.

Now my focus shifts to summer, and how I’ll spend the next few months. Of course a lot of time will be spent with my four year old daughter, having fun and getting her ready for kindergarten, which she starts in August. And I want to get at least half my current work in progress done, which means at least 50,000 words. I want to get my home office back together–it’s currently a room full of crap–and I need to exercise a lot. That’s the primary goal of Summer Vacation, and my daughter is in on it. We’re calling it Operation: Made Daddy Skinny.

O:DS is all about changing how and what I eat, being more strict that I perhaps need to be (but not going crazy; I’ll still eat burgers now and then), and more than anything, getting off my butt. I need to shock my body into losing the weight, because eating better alone isn’t going to cut it for me. I’m not going to lose all 100 extra pounds in 2.5 months, of course–it would be stupid to even try that–but the goal is to get myself going enough that I can keep it up. And I want the loss I do manage to be noticeable.

And, finally, I want to get this blog actually going somewhere. So hopefully more regular updates. But I’ve said that before, so let’s not waste the time again, eh? Sarcasm: The Fun Part!
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It's been more than a month since I last posted. And yet I've read nearly every day.

I think I suck at blogging now. Let's chalk that up to fatherhood and call it a night.

Ok, so in the last month, I've turned 41, stopped myself from going postal at my students 47 times, and basically been brain dead. Yay.

Next week is (finally) finals. Thank the Nine.
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One of my students is posting lies, damn lies, and gross exaggerations about my teaching on That annoys the bejeezus out of me.

I removed the Mass Effect community from my feed because, drunken jaysus on a pogo stick, it was spamming the everliving frack out of my friends page view, and I missed a lot of posts by actual people I give a toss about.

My writing is suffering, as I'm in the "Oh god can it please be June NOW" stage of the teaching year. All of my creative energy is going into trying to keep 150 kids from imploding while also fending off the BS complaints that I don't teach anything. Dear gods, kid--if you honestly don't know what I've taught this year, then you're not smart enough to be in high school. MLA Essay Format, the Heroic Journey pattern, the proper use of semicolons, how to annotate text, how to take notes, how to create a powerpoint presentation that doesn't make your audience want to kill themselves, how to present to a class, how to debate an issue, how to research a topic, how to choose sources... and more.

Annoying little git.
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Huh. Maintaining two blogs is harder than expected. But I'm still posting my writing-related posts at Michael R. Johnston on WordPress. My personal stuff will remain here--so if I ever DO become the famous writer, I'll still have a place to not have to watch my tone so much. :)

I find that my friends page is rather filled with communities; perhaps I should start trimming some of those.

Not much happening at school; except that I had conferences with something like 20 students today. Perhaps conferences is too strong a word; they were more like "chit-chats" about their behavior and academic progress, letting them know where they stand and where they need to be. Hopefully it will work, and I got some good feedback from the kids, too.

Tegan is awesome; she was very happy today to wear her "Rose Tyler shirt," which you can see below is a British flag shirt. She's developing into quite the little anglophile, and she has been a Whovian for years already--and she's only four! Her favorite Doctor is currently David Tennant, seconded by Peter Davison and then Matt Smith. Her favorite companion is Amy Pond, then Donna Noble, then Ace.

johnstonmr: (glasses)
Mass Effect: I'm almost done with my first playthrough. I know, I know--but I get maybe two hours in a given week to play, unless I stay up really late on a Friday, which I rarely have much energy for. I played for something like six hours today, and am at the point where I am about to rescue some Elcor, then assault the Illusive Man's hideout. Then I guess the push is on for Earth and the finale. Which I've managed to avoid spoilers for.

Parenting: My daughter is awesome, and getting sweeter each day. We're dealing with some "not listening" problems, but for the most part, she's doing pretty well for four. She got into the school we wanted her to be in for Kindergarten, so that's good.

Stuff: Violin practice proceeds. It's hard, man--I'm almost at the point where I can read the music and know which fingering position they are (which is less important in the style I'm learning, Celtic folk, as that style is traditionally taught by ear, but I want to read music as well), but I haven't played regularly in a long time, so I've lost a bit of the ability to tell if my fingers are in the right place. This is where woodwinds have an advantage--on an instrument with keys, it's relatively easy to produce a given note, but on a stringed instrument, it's a pain in the butt. I know approximately where to place my fingers, but if I'm a fraction of an inch off, it sounds bad, and that throws me off.

Writing is NOT proceeding. I'm trying, but it's not coming along very well. We'll see what happens when I put more effort into it, but that's sometimes hard. I think I need to do more nights out on my own with the laptop when I can.
Mar. 16th, 2012 07:19 pm


johnstonmr: (Default)
Not much to journal about lately, and I'm staying clear of the Mass Effect community until I finish Mass Effect 3. I do NOT want to be spoiled on the ending. If friends post anything about it, I'll do my best not to read it. :)

This is sad, because it appears that Tycho over at Penny Arcade posted a rather interesting analysis of it, as well as the fan cries over it, and I'd love to read it--but I got about a paragraph in when I realized he meant it, he was going to spoil it--so I took his advice and hightailed it out of there. I'll go back when I've completed the game.

I think, however, that one thing he said (which spoils nothing) is interesting--that those complaining, in his opinion, seemed to be those who do not read extensively in Science Fiction genre. I'll be interested to see if I agree with that once I finish the game and then go back to read all the criticism of said ending.

At most, this will take until the week of April 4, when I'm off all week and will have my daughter for half the day, spending the other half finishing the game--and writing, of course.
Mar. 10th, 2012 09:02 pm


johnstonmr: (Default)

People on the Mass Effect community are already discussing the ending. I got it midnight opening day and I've barely played four hours.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

johnstonmr: (Default)
I haven't actually had a chance to go much past the demo--I'm at the Citadel right after escaping the Solar system--but so far, I am loving this game.

As a player who loves Adepts, I was somewhat bothered by the fact that in ME1 and ME2 I really couldn't rely solely on my biotics. So far I've carried only a pistol and an SMG I've never used, and for long stretches of the first two missions I was using biotics exclusively. This ability to own the map without using my guns may not last, but for now? I am a Biotic GOD.

Now, Spoilers for those who haven't begun the game )
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I don't usually read reviews students post about me, but I did today. And I couldn't help but write this response. It'll never see the light of day, or be published except here--but it made me feel better.

tl;dr: Students suck. I'm mediocre. )
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My daughter's preschool is a private P-6th school. We've had some issues there, primarily that they are more religious than they advertise; they are stuck in the 1950s socially (which we were concerned about when we signed her up, and were assured it wasn't as bad as it looked), etc. My wife talked with the VP about some of our concerns.

Today we got a letter saying that due to that conversation and a few others, they were not accepting our application for enrollment next year because it "would not be a harmonious relationship."

So now we have to scramble to get her a placement in another school for kindergarten next year. Which isn't impossible, but it's not something we wanted to have to deal with right now. We might send her to the local public school, but it isn't our first choice for several reasons.
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Today is my mother's birthday. Had she lived past her 27th, she'd be 61 today.

Traditionally, this has been a day of vague sadness for me--thinking about what might have been is a depressing pastime when your actual life was so full of abuse and fear--but "middle" age has brought me some clarity. My mother was messed up, and her drug use resulted many times in my aunt finding me sitting in my crib crying with a nasty diaper while my mom was passed out on the couch. The odds are that had she not died that night, my life would have been better in some ways, and worse in others. She was no saint, The likelihood is that I would have had the same life I did, but I might have known the woman who gave birth to me. Which sucks, but what can you do? I lived the life I got, and while there are some memories I wouldn't mind losing forever, it got me to a good place. My career may be under attack by the pedagogues, but I have one. I have a good wife, and a beautiful daughter who will never know the bad side of our family as anything but a story dad tells sometimes that makes him a little sad. I can't really complain.
johnstonmr: (Over the glasses)
It's been a week since my grandpa died. And I'm ok. I was numb and sad for several days, as you'd expect, but now it's begun to wear off. And truthfully, I've been expecting it for two years, since his stroke. I saw him a week or so earlier, and he'd been able to recognize me (which wasn't always the case), had smiled at me and looked me in the eye... now I think he knew it would be soon.

So. Life continues, according to the ancient patterns: I wake. I go to work. I play with my kid, kiss my wife, go to bed. Some other stuff happens in between these events if I'm lucky.

More soon.
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Bruce B. Fewel
16 September 1920 - 12 February 2012

My grandfather died last night.

Bruce B. Fewel was born in 1920 in Hood River, Oregon. The youngest of nine children, he joined the US Navy in World War 2 and fought for the United States in the pacific theatre as a communications officer on a PT boat. In addition to his duties, he wrote letters for those on the ship who could not read and write, and read them the letters they got in return.

He had many jobs in his life. He was a car salesman, a Greyhound bus driver, and for many years he owned and ran a Mobile Home sales and service company in Lower Lake, California.

My grandfather could put the fear into me with only a word. For a lot of my life, I was scared of him, but I loved him fiercely. He had a great laugh. Having grown up in the depression, he was generous to a fault. From him I learned to make awesome steak au poivre. I did not inherit his love of prime rib, which he never really forgave me for. And his recipe for the orange fruit salad we call Orange Death is now mine, as is the traditional bowl, so this tasty treat may still be prepared according to the ancient ways.

I knew this was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier. Before his stroke in 2009, we used to sit and talk; he told me stories of my mother, and the War, and my grandmother. When his stroke robbed him of he ability to speak, we just sat. He'd occasionally try to tell me something, then get frustrated. It was heartbreaking.

I loved him, and I will miss him. With his death my world gets dimmer.
Feb. 12th, 2012 06:43 pm

It's over

johnstonmr: (Default)

My grandfather passed away tonight.

Posted via

johnstonmr: (Default)
Not posting much these days; but I'm still reading.

Grandfather made a surprising semi-full recovery, in that he's not going to die today, and the infection was beat, but there will be others, and we'll probably go through all this again--and again and again and again.

An old friend died suddenly last week. Still not really sure how to feel about that. She was a kind soul, but a sometimes-annoying one, and I hadn't spoken to her in some time. I wasn't even aware she'd been sick; I heard she was recovering from a surgical procedure, then she died.
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Grandfather is still alive. Could be a while. He might even live months, though it's unlikely as he's no longer taking the blood thinners that prevent strokes.

I'm now blogging as a quasi-writer (in that I'm working on stuff, but have neither a contract nor even a finished work) at, mostly so I don't have to comb through ten years' of posts here on LJ to weed out the stuff I don't want possible future fans to see. That blog is 90% focussed on writing, with occasional forays into games, movies, etc. There are only three entries there now, to be honest. But if you want it, it's there.
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My grandfather has been a strong, able man for most of his 91 years. Two years ago, he had a stroke, and became mostly bedridden and unable to talk. He's been DNR for two years, and he left us instructions not to force him to live for years like this. So we're not.

Now he's dying.

This past Wednesday, he was non-responsive and had thrown up. My aunt had him transferred from his care home to the ER. There they found he had an infection in his bladder that had spread to his blood. My aunt didn't want to let go, so she had them give him antibiotics. Then on Friday she realized what she was doing--prolonging his suffering. These infections will happen over and over and over again. So she talked to the rest of us and we decided it was time. We've made the transition into comfort care, keeping him pain-free, but no more. No more medicine, no more treatments, no more anything.

And it sucks. It's what he wants, but it sucks watching a once-vital man, a man who could kick my ass well into his sixties, waste away. What's worse is that we haven't got a time frame. Because he's off his coumadin, he could throw a clot and stroke out. Or he could waste away if he doesn't wake up and eat and drink within the next two days. Or he could wake up, eat his meals, drink his drinks, and the next infection will get him.

We just don't know.

And that sucks.
johnstonmr: (Default)
One of the side effects of teaching is that I rarely post these days. I can access Facebook from work for quick updates, but LJ is blocked as a "phishing" site by the filters. I look forward to the day when these things will be administrated by people who grew up with the 'net and can tell a phishing site from a blogging site.

Anyway, I'm here, I'm stressed out because of grad school, and basically I'm just trying to survive through 12/13, when school will be over for the semester.


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