evilhippo: hippo (73 [attack])
( May. 18th, 2010 10:30 pm)
It's been a rough few days, and in the interest in not writing down an essay's worth of whining, I'm going to stick to last night, because last night was good.

I got to see Patrick Watson at Schubas. In fact, I'd almost forgotten I'd even bought the tickets (good thing I usually put things like that in my iPod calendar, otherwise I'd be forgetting things left and right). And right off the bat... I love Schubas. I think I've covered that before, though. They even have free wireless so when I invariably arrive way earlier than necessary I have something to do. But most importantly, it's the smallest, coziest, best-sounding place I've been in Chicago. It's just nice. I hadn't been there since I saw the Bowerbirds last year, and unfortunately for that show it was mostly Pitchforky hipsters standing around with their arms crossed and chatting the whole time (which I think made the Bowerbirds kind of cross). This show was entirely the opposite. The opener was from Chicago, and amazingly (considering my history with local openers) she was good. And she'd brought a lot of her friends, who cheered and clapped and made the entire crowd seem a lot warmer. But it was obvious from the start that it wasn't the usual hipster crowd. The people I was next to had come all the way up from Louisville, Kentucky. It hadn't occurred to me, since I was lucky enough to have seen him at Hillside last year, that Patrick Watson could very well be one of those artists who just doesn't venture into the US much. (Stop being selfish, Canada!) So, what we had was a crowd of friends-of-the-opening-act, travelling fanatics, and... maybe some of us were hipsters? But there was so much cheering and mutual laughter between us and the band and just... fantastic vibes. And I think a good part of that was also that the band just does not stop smiling, or laughing at each other and the occasional little slip-up. They have a fantastic presence, and the energy is rather contagious. Also, the music is awesome. This show is definitely up there on my list of Great Shows I've Been To. Sure, there wasn't rain, thunder, or risk of electrocution, but the show concluded with Patrick donning a megaphone contraption that looked like it was inspired by Doctor Octopus and trekking out into the crowd to sing a cappella. Then, since it was such a small place, he did one more song truly a cappella. And both of these songs ended in massive sing-alongs (one of which was entirely spontaneous). By this point, though, I think Patrick could've led us out into the streets and we all would've followed in neat lines, so maybe he just had to think "They should sing along now!" and we did. Considering the number of people who were obviously video taping it on their phones and cameras, I am severely disappointed that something isn't up on youtube yet.

In conclusion, may I just say that I adore the way this man (and his band) makes music. They're just up there making wonderful noise in as many ways possible: the percussionist beating on tins and other flotsam, banging on guitar strings with a couple of chopsticks, Patrick humming into a megaphone with a toilet plunger used as a mute or shouting up and out above the mic to get an echo from the ceiling... it's just crazy fun to witness, and with the existence of the megaphone suit, it borders on mad aural science, which is entirely the sort of thing I am wont to adore in a group of people.

And then I biked the 13 miles home, but the wind was behind me and it wasn't freezing out, so I was happy.

Everything else is just going to be disregarded for now, because I could catch you all up on the last five days of my life, but it'd be ridiculous and you'd think it was all hyperbole anyway. I will say this, though: Bad timing is bad. On every front. Especially today (holy crap especially today). Related to the portion of the drama that is (hopefully) less messy, I've also exponentially increased the number of people I owe pies to (which could go either way, except I hate making pastry crust). Whine whine whine; I've made my day, now I have to sleep in it.

But oh! There is one bit from Saturday morning I should point out. You know that random cliche on TV or in movies where groups of high school kids are liable to burst randomly into song, even (sometimes especially) in situations involving boredom and drudgery? So, I spent my Saturday morning running detention at the high school I've been volunteering at. We had the detention kids and the team work on Instant Challenge packets as a way to raise money for the team to go to Globals. And we had some music on in the background and guys... guys you think TV is lying to you, but I can say from experience that inner-city high school kids in detention really can and do burst into song at random. (Seriously, I adore this high school more and more every time I'm there. It's so interesting! And completely unlike high school as I knew it.)
evilhippo: hippo (101 [devious])
( Apr. 29th, 2010 11:34 pm)
Allegation one: This American Life is my fandom.

The defendant admits the allegations in section one. It seems like every other week has been relevant-to-my-interests awesome lately (with differently-awesome in between). In particular, the segment on Steve Poizner's book about teaching in a high school in San Jose was fantastic for getting me thinking about all the ways I could've come at my high school DI teams from a completely different angle. Given my background (and, honestly, my dayglo paleness), they were probably expecting White Privileged Girl Comes in to Frightening Inner-City School to Prove She's got a Heart of Gold, which explains the very different reactions I got between the beginning and end. Between me cementing my idea that King College Prep is pretty much not frightening, despite the efforts of the kids who heckled me occasionally when I came in to the school and them (hopefully) figuring out that I was there for fun and not to polish my resume by getting my feet a bit dirty, there was a lot of opportunity for misinterpretation. I'm very glad I came at it from enough of a middling background not to be frightened by the lack of Ferrari dealerships and bakeries (au contraire, I generally ended up going 'Holy crap Kenwood is bigger than I thought and frak man what is with all these mansions? And they're only a couple of blocks from these frightening empty lots and derelict buildings! Also, I notice that no one is killing me right now, cool'). But that's the amazing thing--I get the impression that Mount Pleasant was a lot like King. Bordered by a pretty affluent area, but still a public school firmly on the middle ground, even if the drop-off between affluent and inner-city was a lot closer together, and a lot more pronounced--there's not much in Chicago that is white picket fences. I could see someone bringing the same sort of preconceptions in, and coming out with many of the same conclusions that Poizner did. But Mr. Poizner, one thing, my kids were fantastically successful in what I was trying to help them do (often despite my efforts to help), and I didn't get a Stand and Deliver moment, either.

The defendant also acknowledges working on something a little like This American Life fanfiction as a frame for part of a larger fiction project she's working on. But it's not fanfic if it's just used to pedal some exposition, right?

Allegation Two: Bicycling is my fandom.

Based on the facts provided, the defendant can neither admit nor deny allegation two. I will, however, note that there are some times you should Just Know Better, and 40mph gusts of wind from the south while you are heading south is just one of those times. I swear there were times I was rolling backwards, and my attempt to ride on the streets for as long as possible so the buildings would block the wind just filled my eyes with dust. I gave up at 29th street and took the bus. In keeping with the prior theme, it was the 3 King Drive bus, which took me through what I suppose would be a rough part of town, except I was busy noticing that 43rd street (which I walked down every week I was working at King) was actually Muddy Waters street and we have a secret blues district (I am rarely as far west as King Drive, which is why I don't know these things). The secret blues district doesn't seem to have any of our blues clubs, though... probably because blues clubs are for tourists. Also I was also busy commiserating with the other bike commuter who'd given in against the relentless sandblasting and lack of momentum.

Allegation Three: My job is my fandom.

LIES. Though after the morally questionable things I've witnessed, I have the dumbest fiction bunny ever. It's something that would probably count as work fanfic, written like an RTD Doctor Who finale. I'm not sure which side I'd be parodying, but at this point, given the way my job just endlessly one-ups itself as far as evil plots go, it seems like pretty much the only way to write it and do it any kind of justice.

In other news, I think [livejournal.com profile] aphelion_rpg may be my actual fandom, because it's been eating up my brain in wonderful ways lately. Even if I still haven't (and may never) nailed down the Master's motivations or voice properly (darn you, lack of canon scenarios in which he is not completely in charge of the situation after months of careful planning that already happened behind the scenes and/or bats!). And I need to stop laughing at stupid plot ideas at work, even if the thought of supercharging a set of jet engines attached to giant space conkers a spinning couple of asteroids seems like fun. Saddest fact of the night: I researched this, too, and came to the conclusion that manufacturing nitrous oxide on top of the liquid hydrogen and oxygen needed for fuel would be pretty useless and not have as big an effect as my pseudoscience-preferring background would like.

Oh right also guys, hi, I'm a massive nerd.
So right, something that isn't about my job! Today was the regional DI tournament, and I got to be torn between appraising and several wild attempts at sprinting the length of a middle school in order to catch the two high school teams I'd been working with.

I was actually very happy with the way the structure challenge worked out this year. Usually there's no real incentive for the teams to have any sort of skit or props, but either this year we had phenomenally more ambitious teams, or something about having to build out of newspaper and having some small suggestions of scenery and costume requirements actually made teams pay attention to the rest of the challenge. We had a team re-enact the Maldives' underwater global warming summit (only with T-Pain along, too). There was a team with a BBC broadcast and infomercial interruptions (and a fantastic German accent that was, apparently, learned from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. By a tiny, 7th grade girl.) There was a performance about the Knights Templar trying to kill a king for a debt. The story-loving bit of me was downright gleeful. There was also a team that crafted a glass mosaic shoe that was really, really amazing (and apparently took more than 20 hours to make). And the structures, which I suppose were kind of important, were all pretty good, too. They were made of nothing but newspaper and commercially available glue, and several of them held over 100 pounds (two of them held around 160).

I was sad to find out that I wasn't going to get to see either of my high school teams perform, so I visited them all in the early afternoon, wished them luck, and disappeared. Then one of our afternoon teams didn't make it, so I rushed over to their challenge area and managed to catch one of the two teams. I was actually really impressed at what they'd managed to finish over the last couple of days. It was far better than what I'd seen from them on Wednesday, and in fact, was quite a bit better even than what most appraisers expect out of high school teams in general on the regional level. High school teams are notorious for being ill-prepared, for overlooking key bits of the rules, and for bringing in solutions that were invented about 24 hours beforehand. (For this particular team, though, it's kind of a habit, and they work well that way.) Unfortunately, they did overlook a key bit of the rules, which was that there was a giant bit of the floor you weren't supposed to stand on, and if you did it negated your entire score for the mechanical objectives. And... they stood on it. The entire time. I sat there with my face half-hidden in my hands, silently wishing they would at least just accidentally step out of it for a bit, but it didn't happen. And I have no idea how my other team did, because I had to rush back to my challenge as soon as the first team had finished. Their solution had a lot more to it that could have potentially gone wrong, but their team leader also paid closer attention to the rules, so chances are if things went wrong for them, they were technical rather than oversights.

Also, my team of seniors literally stood in front of an entire suburban crowd and, when asked if they were ready, let out a terrifying scream and then shouted "What's the power level... IT'S OVER 9000!!" (This is also the team that was going to do an Elite Beat Agents-based solution, but unfortunately that script was scrapped in favour of a beat poetry story about a delivery boy getting bitten by a dog) I... may have been the only one laughing for the intended reason, but they did get a laugh out of everyone else as well, for absurdity. Also, a friend of mine was quite impressed at their random nerd-pop culture references during another portion of the competition.

Actually, that's one of the things that made things really weird this year. Usually the kids are referencing really weird things, and I know for certain I'm not any more tuned in to pop culture than usual, but this year I got most of their references. So, either these things are on a trickle-down timer, and we've hit the point where the weird sense of (internets) humour that was in its beginning stages while I was in college has extended all the way down to middle schoolers, or... I don't know. (You know what I realized today? A senior in high school this year was a third grader when I was a freshman. A third grader! This means the DI kids I coached my senior year of high school are sophomores, at least. Holy crap I am old).

The other weird thing this year was realizing that there are now a ton of DI alumni being dropped into the system. It was my freshman year when the whole thing started (though OM was around for a long time before that). Now we're to the point that there are kids graduating who've done DI since they were old enough, and a lot of them are coming back in as volunteers. Add to this the fact that we also had a ton (TON!) of people helping on on the Disney give a day get a day thing, and the average age of appraisers at the tournament this year was probably literally cut in half. I think we averaged about 25, and the percentage of us who were teachers was way, way super down, so the scoring, in comparison to years before, was also much more... DI-style. It was bizarre. And... everything ran so much more smoothly. I was kind of stunned. It was like an alternate universe tournament.

Anyway, though I am now very, very tired (I've been up since before 6), it was a very satisfying day. Hooray!
Today was surprisingly pleasant. I got up way too early, lazed around, and then ended up helping [livejournal.com profile] euthymic get tickets for Hillside, which, if I can get the time off work, I'll be going to too. Of course, this means two weekends in a row in July will be made of music festival, but the only downside I see is going back to work afterwards. (-: And the fact that the two weekends combined will cost me a bit more than $300... but all things considered, that's a ridiculously cheap vacation. And I'm spending the money now, so by July I won't even miss it, and it'll feel like free music.

So this got longer than expected, so here is the day divided up neatly.

From 10-4:30: MSI )

5ish: In which I discover that my neighborhood might be cool )

6-8: Stringed Instruments Continue to Betray Me. And a Torontoan )

And ah... gosh this is long. 8-9: I sat down and wrote about my day because I have nothing better to do, except maybe make dinner like a normal, functional person. I guess today was an eventful day.
evilhippo: hippo (37 [listening])
( Apr. 18th, 2009 08:08 pm)
I came home today to an entire pot of peas standing about an inch and a half tall, all stretching towards my window. I think maybe if the weather holds this week, I'll start putting them out in the morning and bringing them in at night.

Friday night through this morning was a pretty crazy blur. I was up until well after midnight last night working on volunteer schedules for the state DI tournament, then I got up at 5:30 to get to the tournament. And the rest of the morning and afternoon was spent appraising teams. And there were some that I knew from regionals that had made huge improvements on their skits. I was very happy, and quite impressed. I was kind of sad for them, though, that their structures didn't work any better, especially since it's the vast majority of their score.

I also got to take a walk around suburbia with a teacher who adopted me for a few hours after we were done, before my train got in. She talked about all the neighbors, and the new developers building million-dollar homes, the Yuppies and the old families that had been there forever, and she talked about how great it is to be a teacher. Which is good, because I had spent most of Friday night and Saturday realizing that the idea of working in a school for years and years kind of weirds me out on a basic level. Maybe it's the suburban school thing. But I just can't imagine having to sit in a teacher's lounge for lunch, with postage-stamp houses all around and... and parents. Maybe I should teach in an urban public school and just have my soul crushed. In a more urban, nihilistic way. Unfortunately, this doesn't get me any closer to A Plan. I think it's time for me to start seriously researching grad school, though. I'm still just as stuck between going for some sort of publishing thing, or getting a masters in something+education. I'm actually leaning more towards publishing in some form, because I'm finally starting to feel like I'm in an okay enough place with myself to actually communicate with people and make connections and actually get somewhere. If I do go back to school, I aim to get much more out of it, people-wise, than I did out of college. (Though failing to do that would be pretty hard.) I'd really like to be in the sort of Editor position that'd let me pick out people I actually like and give them a leg up.

I got a lot of thinking done on the train back, but most of it was about musical experiments, and whether to take mandolin lessons without a mandolin. Goshdarn my lack of focus. And goshdarn you, Teach Abroad Plan, for letting me down in my Try Things Out experiment.
All right, I feel accomplished. My list of things done this weekend:

- Got the internet working
- Made several attempts to come up with a workable solution to the wire problem in my kitchen (though I'm still working on this, there has been Progress)
- Bought a wealth of wonderful DS games (okay, only three. But how can I go wrong now that I finally own the last two Phoenix Wright games and Hotel Dusk?)
- Got my hair cut (there would be pictures, but my webcam seems to be angry at me.) I have bangs though now... because the girl didn't really give me much of a choice once I suggested it. But I'll live (it actually looks good most of the time, though I'll be living in fear for a while until I get used to them). At least they're long enough that I'll be able to tie them up with the rest of my hair in a few weeks. Temporary bangs, woo.

- And the crowning achievement of my weekend: I e-mailed the regional director of DI and told her I wanted to coach a team. Hopefully I'll hear back from her. This is officially Step One in the grand Get Decent Experience with Kids and then Go Teach Abroad Plan. Step Two is Actually Applying Places. Considering how long it took me to write that e-mail... this will probably take until December. Goshdarn me.

There are tiny ants living on my desk. Since I've made an actual effort (and succeeded) not to eat in here... this is a bit unnerving. But at least they aren't carpenter ants. And hopefully they'll go away if I ignore them and don't give them anything to eat.


evilhippo: hippo (Default)


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