Saturday, July 09, 2005

Insomnia and the Web

When you can't sleep, you end up looking for random things to occupy the time. Unfortunately, I was able to finish my book, so I started looking around for odd little sites to occupy my mind until I got tired again (I haven't gotten tired yet). Anyway, this quiz is quite funny, and the site it is on also has some other quite interesting quizzes (I am apparently not a great American). Though it can sometimes be a dark place, the web really is a wonderful tool for the person who cannot sleep. A few nights ago I read about the history of Kyoto. Why? Well, it just popped up while I was reading a former college friend's blog. She now lives in Japan teaching English to corporations.
Oh, and if you have a television (some people don't, nowadays), you should check out the movie
Defending Your Life. It's an absolutely brilliant and quite funny look at what could be waiting for us when we die, along with a message about life. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Ok, on with the rest of the day now.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Secret to Dating

I bet the title caught your eye. Looking over several different sites over the last few days, I have noticed more and more people talking about the rules, or the secrets to, or just "What you need to know in order to date." I find it fascinating. I know people who are single, and I know people who are married. Everyone has advice on the subject of dating. Honestly, it's almost as if 75% (arbitrary number of course) of bloggers talk about dating. Heck, I've even talked about it in a previous post or two.
Before we get to the dating world, however, I want to share one quick funny note. Over the course of the last few months that I have been blogging, my lovely wife has never really looked in on what I am writing. Today, after writing about my warning from a police officer, my wife decides to read my blog and immediately calls me to make fun of me. Gee honey, thanks, and I love you too (I bet she never reads this).
Ok, beyond the fact that the blogging world is dating crazed, a few events have made me think about how dating has changed. It starts last night. As I arrived at St. Thomas for my Master's class, I got to the door just before a young woman. Now, I am a cynical person. If you ask me, chivalry didn't die, it just moved to Hoboken and settled in to married life. However, I held the door open for her and said, "after you." Most people I know would thank you and move in. Not this young woman. She stopped in her tracks, turned to me, and blasted me for being a "typical male." You see, according to her logic, I was attempting to take away power from her by holding the door open. I was honestly dumbstruck. The gentleman who came to the door while she was yelling at me was also surprised, but he bolted through the door while I held it open. (And yes, he did say, "Thank you.")
After class was over, I talked to Coach again (you may remember her as the lovely gal who asked me to walk her to her car). This time, though not awkward, I believed that, according to the rules of flirting (there's that word: rules), she was, in fact, not flirting with me. Fine, I had no problem with that. (Beyond my cynicism, I also believe that I am not really a good looking guy. Yay, personality!) My next problem occurred outside.
As I walked up the street to the ramp I parked in, I saw that I was going to pass what could be considered an attractive young woman wearing a very low cut dress. Being as I was in a pretty good mood (class ended early) I was whistling as I walked. However, though I noticed this woman would be attractive to most men, I never looked at her as we approached each other. Maybe I'm weird, but ever since I married, I don't really look at other women that way. Anyway, after I passed her without really looking at her, she stopped and called out at me, "Hey you in the red shirt!" (Do I really need to explain that I was wearing a red shirt? I guess I just did.) I, of course, turned, and, like an idiot, asked, "Me?" I knew she meant me, but I was honestly kind of annoyed by being stopped.
"Yes, you. Why didn't you look?"
"Excuse me?" I replied. "What am I supposed to look at?"
"Me! Why didn't you look at me?"
Ok, boys and girls, if we look at the rules (that damn word again), then I have to be very careful how I answer, right? If I say, "There are a lot of other things I could look at," then she may press me as to what, and I come off as, well, an ass. If I tell her, "I did, but I didn't want to be rude," then I come off as an odd duck. And, of course, I could always just say, "I'm married and have no need to look at other women anymore." You can't really argue with that one. My answer, however, wasn't really any of these three:
"I don't know. I guess I didn't think about it."
At this point, she starts to get louder and people stop to look at us.
"What do you mean you don't know?! I'm hot, dammit!"
Not wanting to continue this scene anymore, because, honestly, I wanted to go home after my long day, I pulled off my sunglasses and made a point to look her up and down. I didn't really see anything (as my mind was working overtime trying to contain the situation), but I made a point when I was done to say:
"Hey, nice work. You're great. Can I go now?"
With that, she turned and walked off in a huff.
So how would you deal with it? I ended up feeling annoyed. I held a door open earlier to be nice and was told I was an ass. Later I tried not to be like every other man in the world and look at this young lady, and, again, I get yelled at. Am I in the Twilight Zone?
So why, then, if I seem to not understand the opposite sex, am I talking about the Secret to Dating? Easy: I'm married. I don't date anymore, but I know alot of men and women who do. Whether married, dating, or single, everyone always talks about how the grass is always greener in the next pasture. You single? You don't want to be alone, so you wish you were dating. You dating? You wish that you had more of a commitment like married couples (yes, I am generalizing. Not EVERYONE feels this way). Married (note: this does NOT apply to me)? You then wish you either had more time alone (a la single) or could be with other people (via dating).
So Leab, you're probably cursing now, what the hell is the secret? You really want to know? Fine, the secret to dating is....There is no secret. There's no guarantee that works everytime. There are no real rules (I really hate that word). Why do I pick on "the rules of dating"? I do it, because rules are meant to be limitations. They limit what can be done. By attaching rules to dating or love or whatever, you limit the possibilities. For example, if you believe the rule that, as one man told me, "unless a woman makes eye contact and a motion toward you, you can't talk to her," then you'll never talk to a woman unless she literally bumps into you. How is that helping you?
So what's my advice to single people out there? Do your own thing. Remember, life is not like the movies. The music doesn't swell, the guy doesn't always chase down the airplane to tell the girl he needs her, etc. Just take all the rules, all the advice, all the crap about Mars and Venus and whatever, and just pitch it. There are no perfect guarantees when it comes to dating or marriages. That's why half of marriages now end in divorce. There's no blueprint, folks.
So, if you're single, don't fret. Your chances to date or meet someone don't end because you turn 40 or whatever. A colleague of mine is 51, and he just got married (for the first time). Get out there and have fun. Just remember, there is one rule ( freaking limitation, as it were): If the girl or guy is wearing a ring on the left hand that says, "our love eternal," that person is probably married...or has a lot of cats.

Firefighters, Police officers....Teachers?

Warning: Coarse Language is used. Viewer discretion is advised (no suing).
Today I am finally vindicated in saying that teaching is one of the hardest professions in the world. There are so many people who believe that you can just stand up in front of a classroom, start talking, and the students will just go with it. Hmmm. No. A lot of times you feel like Will Ferrell's Alex Trebek on Celebrity Jeopardy. You know what I mean. Sometimes you just cannot believe what you are hearing. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching (and I'm using the word "love" here). I love the challenge with all the preparing that needs to go into it, and the fact that no matter how well you cover every angle, you can still be surprised or occasionally unprepared. Still, I have been out at parties with my wife's co-workers (all engineers) who tell me that teaching is easy. Oh really, Mr. Smarty-Pants? Try it for one day. If you aren't prepared, you'll burn out quickly. I saw it all through my Master's program. One guy even quit student teaching not once, but twice. He thought the first time was due to outside influences, but really it was just that he couldn't handle it.
Honest to God, there are days when I would rather work for a bomb squad, because I truly believe there would be less pressure. In a totally egotistical manner, I look at it this way. I have between 30 to 45 people in my classroom. If I say the wrong thing or if I'm too harsh on one of them, it's very possible that my comment can affect that student so much, that they can never recover. Doctor's only have one life on the table, I have 30 to 40 in front of me everyday. Granted, that's a little bit of a self-serving way to look at it, but I feel it's true.
So why do I say I feel vindicated? Because today I was pulled over by a state trooper. Yup, yours truly was speeding along at 15 over the speed limit. The officer pulled me over and walked up to the car. He asked for my license. As I handed it to him, he noticed my badge (which I had forgotten to take off). Looking at it carefully, he asked me:
"Are you a teacher?"
I replied, "Yes I am, officer. I was just coming from teaching summer school."
"What do you teach?"
"I teach Basic Standards Reading."
"Eighth graders and high school kids."
"You're working with high school kids in the summer?"
"Yes, sir, I am."
After contemplating this for a moment, he handed me back my license.
"I"m going to give you a warning, Mr. Leab. I think you've had enough punishment for today."
"Thank you so much."
"No, thank you. You're the one trying to fix our kids." (Note: I'm not sure I agree with his statement, but I don't want the ticket.)
So there you have it. A police officer, arguably one of the toughest professions, essentially told me that I have a tough job. Anyone who thinks teaching is just "really easy" needs to take note of this. It's not easy. Ask any teacher, and he or she will tell you the amount of work that goes into it. The key is that we have to take our work home with us. A lot of the people my wife work with do not.
So remember, boys and girls, respect your teachers. Realize that they are human too. We do have feelings, we just try not to let you see them.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Best Law Story....Ever

Ok, yesterday I told you about what has to be the most frivolous lawsuit ever. Today, I am going to share with you my favorite law story. Maybe it's true, maybe it's an urban legend, but the tale is so uproariously funny, that it must be told.
A Charlotte, NC, lawyer purchased a box of very rare and expensive cigars, then insured them against fire among other things. Within a month having smoked his entire stockpile of these great cigars and without yet having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the lawyer filed claim against the insurance company.
In his claim, the lawyer stated the cigars were lost "in a series of small fires." The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason: that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion.
The lawyer sued....and won! In delivering the ruling the judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous. The Judge stated nevertheless, that the lawyer held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable fire," and was obligated to pay the claim.
Rather than endure lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid $15,000.00 to the lawyer for his loss of the rare cigars lost in the "fires."
NOW FOR THE BEST PART... After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of ARSON!!!! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000.00 fine.
Again, it's probably not true, but we so hope that it is, because we want justice to prevail. We want the bad guy to lose, and we want to believe that they will be tripped up by clever consequences. The thing about the real world that is so hard for people to deal with is that here the bad guys can win, and they can win big. We want a world like the movies where the good guy rides in, cleans up the town, gets the girl (and treats her right), and kills the bad guy. It doesn't happen that way in real life, but we hope it will. Perhaps I'm being too cynical, but for every one happy ending, there are four unhappy endings. Like I said, maybe I'm just too cynical.
On a separate note, I want to invite all of you readers (what four, five now?) to check out my belle Michele's
website. She has a keen eye about life, and she's a fellow educator. If I knew any real French, I would use it here. Unfortunately I know German, and all it does is march over the French language every 50 years or so....Now go look at that website, people.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Most Frivolous Lawsuit....EVER!

This is AWESOME!! So, Marina Bai has decided to sue NASA for 300 million dollars because of the universe's, "moral suffering." That's freaking awesome. She also told someone that NASA's experiment would "deform her horoscope."
If this lawsuit is allowed to go through, then I am going to sue the city of Robbinsdale for making me mow my lawn. Think about it: Everytime I mow, I am killing innocent grass and thus, like the
Butterfly Effect, I am affecting not only my realm but the entire universe in a negative fashion by having to mow my lawn. Can I get several million for moral suffering and negative karmic influence?
This may be worse than the guy who sued a movie theater for showing R-rated movies. His argument was that because the theater was showing the movies, he would HAVE to watch them. He would HAVE TO WATCH THEM? That's the dumbest argument ever. He has a choice not to go. However, the lawsuit for the universe (which essentially this is) surpasses that lawsuit by far. I mean, come on, what's next? Can we sue on behalf of ants that are being killed by
Terminix? This is ridiculous. These are the types of lawsuits that we need to eradicate. Not the ones where a doctor screws up and kills a patient. Look, I know McDonald's is evil. They have nasty food that will kill you, but you have the choice not to eat there. Pure and simple. A typical meal there costs, what, five bucks with tax? Eat it everyday, three times a day, that's 105 dollars a week. You can grocery shop for less. You just have to, horror of horrors, cook.
To the Marina Bai, who is suing the U.S. Space Agency, I think the universe will be fine. It somehow managed to make it millions of years (or several thousand if you're a Creationist) without a problem, I think it will be fine. However, if a black hole develops over the Earth, then I'm wrong.

French Humility

Oh Jacques Chirac, why must you make things soooooo personal. Yes, Paris, the front runner, lost the 2012 games to London. The final standings were as follows:
1. London
2. Paris
3. Madrid
4. New York
5. Moscow
There are many funny aspects to this final standing. First of all, Moscow, which
Putin "guaranteed" would ready, was judged, "too far from ready." Ouch. Next was New York. The city that never sleeps was apparently crushed that they lost, but the IOC said there were too many security risks. Really? Security risks? In a city that was claiming that there are, at any given point, 22 million people (including the suburbs)? Noooooo. Then there was Madrid. It was apparently voted out because of security concerns as well. (Anyone remember the whole bombing thing?) So it came down to Paris and London.
Now, Paris was the favorite, but it shot itself in the foot many, many times like a twitching gunfighter. First of all, there was politics. France was the first country to pull out of the new European Union constitution. Not a smart move. The second issue, however, was Chirac's actions at a conclave in Russia. Apparently he was meeting with Putin and Schroeder (the German Chancellor) and made the following comment:

"The only thing the British contributed to European agriculture was mad cow disease." Now, the food of a country is not considered by the IOC, but still, that's a low blow. He apparently ragged on American food at the same time. Could his negative comments and attitude have been the reason that Paris lost the games? Many in the media sure think so.
Chirac made it personal, however, when he said that he believed that Paris lost the games because of him. Well, I'm glad to see that you feel you have that much power, Mr. Chirac.
I would like to congratulate London on receiving the games. There's a lot of work to be down, but you do have seven years. Good luck.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Fireworks Go BOOM!

Ok, the title is a given, but this past long weekend was all about the Chinese invention. With the U.S. celebrating its birthday (happy belated, U.S.A., you look like a monkey) fireworks were being shot off from every corner of the country. On my street alone, there were several houses firing off bottle rockets and other so called "illegal" fireworks. No ambulance or firetrucks, so all went well, though I did see one guy light a fire in his garage my not aiming his firework correctly. He had a fire extinguisher, however, so I guess that works out. His dog, however, may be forever traumatized. I didn't see where the rocket landed, but I heard a lot of yelping.
It wasn't just here in Minnesota, however, that I saw fireworks (though ours started around 10 PM). Yes, both New York and Boston had their celebrations on national television. I didn't really see the Boston celebration, because I was outside watching Minnesota's (as best I could), but New York's celebration (which I saw most of) was unfortunately cheesy and badly produced on television. I've seen a Fourth of July celebration in New York live. My father took me when I was a child. It's an amazing experience to see the fireworks light up the sky. NBC took that away with its quick cuts, cheesy picture in picture looks, and by cutting to the crowd at the most inopportune time. I'll give you a few examples:
1. The Donald. Ok, this, right off the bat, is incredibly cheesy and, for lack of a better term, lame. He starts the countdown late (catching up with the crowd) and then yells, "You're fired," into the camera (no, I won't pay). The funniest part, however, was when the camera cut to Trump sitting with his wife and Al Roker. You could tell, as he watched the sky, that he was thinking, "I am the richest man in New York. Why am I sitting on a folding chair next to the BBQ guy from the
Food Network? This is not Uuge (intentionally misspelled to get it the way he says it)."
2. The Cuts. I understand that studies have shown that the modern television audience must have a cut or movement or change every three seconds. Fine. NBC was able to work with that, but some of their cuts drove me insane. Here comes the big finale of "God Bless America" with big red, white, and blue fireworks. As the rockets are about to explode, NBC cuts to the choir singing the song. Now, I don't know about you, but I could care less about the freaking choir (who aren't very attractive as is). No, I want to see the lights, the explosions, etc. Why did you cut away from the pretty stuff NBC? WHY!?!?!?! If you don't believe me about cut times, watch a video on MTV. Unless the camera is moving, no shot will last longer then 2 seconds. That's right: 2 seconds. No wonder we're all becoming ADD.
3. Picture in Picture. If it wasn't the cuts, then it was cutting off the fireworks by putting in a picture of the New York Symphony. Hey, they're great, but the visual we want is the fireworks, not a lead violin. Imagine watching a football game on TV. Your team is at the ten yard line trying to score. You're excited. As the ball is about to be snapped, a big ole box appears over the endzone, and a reporter starts talking to a fan, or the owner, or someone who is not playing. The ball is caught in the endzone, but you don't see it. You have to wait for the replay. Wouldn't that be annoying? Well that's what was happening there.

4. (and most annoying) The Olympic Plug. Look, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: let it go, New York. You do not want the Olympics. It was incredibly lame that you gave flags to the people and played the Olympic theme (a la John Williams, not the real one) and tried to make New York look like one big happy family ready for the Olympics. Let it go! It will not bring in more money. New Yorkers will not be happy. Besides, the 2010 Winter Games are in Vancouver. They try not to give the same continent the games twice in a row. New York and Vancouver are on the same continent. Therefore, anyone....anyone....Yes, Buller? That's right, it's not likely that New York will get the games for that reason.
The fireworks we did see were gorgeous. There's a majesty to the spectacle that turns us all, no matter how old we may be, to kids again. We shout, "oooohhh, ahhh, etc," with gaping mouths. Don't take that away from us to show some ten year old kid watching himself in a monitor that has been setup by the crowd. If he or she were watching the fireworks and being awed, that's one thing, but to see a kid who's just watching himself... well... sucks. Don't do that, it's boring.
I hope you all had a fantastic fourth.
I forgot to mention that we had a fire alarm today at school, because some genius students decided to light firecrackers in the hallway...under the smoke alarm. My students were all excited, because they thought it meant they wouldn't have to take their test. They were very wrong and are now very mad at the students who did it.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Par Five in the Lorillard section

Most people at the Tobacco Document Depository worked one of two shifts: the morning shift was from opening (around 8 am) to 3 or 4 PM. The other shift was from 10 or 11 AM until closing (around 6 PM). When I first started, I would do the morning shift, but eventually I wanted to take Fridays off, so I would work Monday through Thursday from opening to close. That way I got my forty hours a week. However, the best part of working until close was when several of us would knock off at 5:15 (this was, of course, when no clients, lawyers, or bosses were around. This was alot shortly before I left), and we would play the nine holes of the Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository golf course. That's right, we created an indoor golf course (of sorts).
Now, we were limited by three things:
1. Space: Even though this was a warehouse, you have to understand that there were row after row of shelves filled with boxes. Every shelf went from floor to ceiling. If you were claustrophobic, this was not the place for you to work. Only one person at a time could move through the stacks. While most of the walls were made of drywall (more on that a little later), a few were security walls, so they had to be tougher and thicker. This meant that if a ball bounced off that wall, it could go anywhere: off a co-worker (see #2), way out into the rough (near the bosses' office), or, in a few cases, it could bounce back right at you. Imagine being able to see, from start to finish, the very thing that was going to knock you out or hurt you. You brain ends up doing this:

WHACK! Oh that sounded good. Ping! (off the wall and back at your head.) Oh, this will not end well....WHAM! Annnnnnnnd, good night...
2. Co-workers: In order to make the holes work, we had to move from one side of the warehouse to the other (both side to side and front to back). If someone was sitting at a particular desk (like Tanya, who started with one table and somehow created a space for five people that only she would be allowed to sit at), then they might either complain, or be in the way. I can honestly recall one time I was playing with Bill trying to get out of the RJR Tobacco section. Our chip shots were way off that night. Eric, another worker, was working dilligently and wouldn't move. Well, Bill tried to chip around Eric, only, again, the shots were off that night, so he smacked Eric right in the head with a golf ball. Granted it wasn't that hard of a shot (remember, cramped spaces), but it still left a welt on Eric's head. I thought he was going to grab Bill's club and beat him to death. It was also really hard not to laugh. It's the Three Stooges principle: It's extremly funny when someone else is getting hurt. When it becomes you, then it's infuriating.
3. Clubs: We had only three
clubs: a 3-wood, a five iron, and a putter. For a good golfer, three clubs would probably not be a problem, but those of us who were part of the MTDD Golf Club all, well, what's a good word....sucked. You ended up using the five iron more than any other club, but you had to be careful of either putting the club or the ball through the drywall. That actually happened once. The same night we hit Eric in the head, I actually chipped too hard and put my ball through the wall in the Phillip Morris section. I had to take a drop (two shots, damn it) and get a new ball. That was also the night that we put a hole in a box and had to make a quickie patch in order to hide the evidence.
Three days before I left the Depot, a few of us (all of us leaving) played a round for the MTDD Master's Trophy, or a 40 oz can of Budweiser in layman's terms. Three guys, bored out of their minds, played an incredible round of golf. It all came down to final hole (which was a par five in the Lorillard section. You had to start by the wall, curve around the next stack, get around to the far back of the warehouse, and then sink the put into the coffee cup that had apparently been on the floor by the wall since the place opened (a few years by the time I got there). If you were able to use the wall correctly, you could rebound off the end of the stack, down the next stack and then chip to the cup and sink a put for birdie. If you missed the wall, however, then you were screwed. Your ball would roll all the way down to the RJR section. The only way you could avoid a double bogey at that point was with a miracle.
All of us made it to the cup in three shots, so it would come down to whoever missed the putt. As John stepped up to take his putt, we heard our boss bringing a few lawyers to the back to look at the Lorillard section. John panicked and slammed the putter into the ball smashing the cup and driving the ball off a fire door and back toward where the lawyers were coming. If I hadn't taken a face-planting dive, they would have discovered our game. We were able to hide the clubs, and John made a big deal about, "breaking his lucky mug," by tripping on carpet seam. They bought it.
So nobody won. One day, before the Depot closes, the three of us will return for one more game. I don't really drink anymore, but I want bragging rights. I better start practicing my putts and my ability to be the ball. (Note to self: call Chevy Chase.)