Thursday, April 26, 2007

So... here's a thing I did recently

Here's a little bit of preface: as most of you know, I'm married. My wife rules, and I'm not just saying that because she now reads this blog (hi babe!). She's hot, she's funny, she's wicked smaht (I was once in a bar in Philly and met a couple of girls she went to high school with. One of them, after discovering who I was married to said, "Wow. She was always really smart... like... scary smart.")

So let me beat you all to the "so what is she doing with you" joke. The answer? Well, it's for a variety of reasons. I mean, after all, how can you turn down a guy who:

1. Might have a drinking problem
2. Can't make it through a meal without messing on himself, to the point where a friend once recommended getting a "plastic eating suit"
3. Is incredibly clumsy and rountinely breaks things, including his own bones
4. Forgets EVERYTHING important but can tell you that Bill Mueller won the batting title in 2003 with a .327 average while playing for Boston, or that Frank Miller's mid-80's run of Daredevil were some of the best comic books of all time
5. Swears pretty much constantly
6. Talks obsessively about music, science-fiction movies, detective novels, comic books, sports and video games
7. Can recite every line from Big Trouble in Little China from start to finish, and proudly proclaims it as his all-time, hands-down favorite movie
8. Has nothing but loudmouth alcoholic hooligans for friends

Hmmm... maybe she should stop reading...

Anyway, on to the point of the post (besides pointing out my own shortfalls):

Forgive the shitty picture, but it's taken a) with a camera phone and b) using a mirror. So it's both out of focus and backwards, but you get the point.

Anyway, as you can see, I got a new tattoo. If you look closely, you can see the bottom of my very first tattoo above this one. The new one I got Sunday (it's my 5th). Too soon to tell if it came out well. It's Gaelic (or Irish, if you're picky) for "Yours Forever", which is what's engraved on my wedding ring (also shown, along with my giant monkey hand).

Tattoos are funny things. The first two I got, I picked off the wall at the tattoo joint. One of them I'm happy with, the other I regret. Not because it's ugly or says the name of a girl I'm not with anymore, but because it's got no connection with me. I got it because I wanted a tattoo, and didn't think it through. The third was a symbol for Pisces, which I like. It's on my ankle, and lemme tell you, folks - if you have a low pain threshold, I don't recommend the ankle. All three of those I got within a two year span about 12 years ago.

10 years later I got number four, which is much larger, and on my back. I don't have a picture of it, but it's my favorite. And now I have this one. I thought for a while about what to get, and I wanted it to be somehow symbolic of my relationship with Mrs. TK. But I wasn't getting her name, because I don't like name tattoos, so... what? I thought about getting a Celtic knot, (she's Irish), but after doing my research I learned that most Celtic knots don't have any real meaning.
I honestly never thought I'd be the type to tattoo anything like this on me, particularly since I've never had words done before. But something about this idea appealed to me, so here we are.

That's all I got for today. Have a good weekend.

To quote Eliot Ness: Let's do some good.

Well, this is something new for me. I'm not usually one to pimp other people's blogs, but whatever.

Meg, over at Hobocamp wrote a pretty compelling post about the volunteer work she does with HIV-positive kids. It would take a pretty black-hearted person to read it and not feel a little tug in your chest. She's doing the AIDS walk in NYC, and while it wasn't much, I donated a bit. I'm encouraging anyone who reads this, whether you're a regular or because you came here looking for info on Faith No More or my drunken ramblings, to head over there, read the post, and if you have the means, give a little (or a lot). As an added motivator, here's a pic of one of the little moppets she works with:

That's all.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Can't blog... busy

If you need me, look here:

Happy spring.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hey, they're tryin' to learn for free! Get 'em!

Here's a thing you may not know about me.

I don't like math. Actually, that's not quite accurate. I genuinely fear math. It creates a visceral reaction in my guts. There are few things in this world that I fear as much. I think the list goes:

1. Death of a family member
2. Shark attack
3. Math
4. Nuclear Holocaust

It's really pretty sad. I stopped taking math in 11th grade. I never took a single math class in college, unless you count statistics. And truthfully, you can't even count stats, because I cheated my way through the class.

I was reading a post at You Look Really Great, where she was talking about her GMAT class, and for some god-forsaken reason she felt the need to write out the math problem that came up in the class. I got dizzy. I wanted to lie down. I almost threw up. Math is the real reason I've never taken the GRE. I'm terrified of it. If my career path ever gets to the point where I need a graduate degree, I'm completely screwed, because I have no shot in hell of passing the math section. Fortunately, this does not appear to have happened yet. But people (aka my dad) keep telling me that I should take it soon, before I forget everything I've learned.

Right. Folks, I'm 32 years old. I haven't taken a math class in 15 years, and the last one I took was a borderline-remedial class. It was a step away from a class where the kids had to wear helmets and mittens. A real cork-on-the-fork type of crew. I'm pretty sure what little useful mathematical knowledge I had is looooong gone.

Ironically, I consider myself to be a relatively smart person. I did well in English and History. I majored in Political Science in college, and did pretty well in those classes. But Math, and Science, well - they're my kryptonite. Is there a point to this story besides my telling you what an idiot I am? Absolutely. As usual, I just have a roundabout way of getting to it.

Here's the thing. I went to what is perhaps one of the top ten public high schools in the country. I mean it. It was a palace of educational opportunity. It looked like a goddamn prison, but it was an amazing school. For the most part, the teachers were brilliant. We had teachers with PhD's, we had some truly revolutionary educators there. My history and english classes were unbelievable. It was true classic discourse. Small class sizes, a broad variety of books and learning tools, all of that great stuff. Same goes for (from what I heard) the math and science classes. We had kids who would take five or six Advanced Placement classes at a time. It was really quite remarkable.

But, as with everything in this world, there was dead weight. Both teachers and students. I was a weird mix - history, english, philosophy - I was a rock star. Math and science? Not so much. But the truth is, schools such as mine focus so much on the success stories, that frequently kids got left behind. In a way, I was one of the ones that got left behind. In junior high school, I was actually pretty good at math. I won't go so far as to say I liked it, but I could handle it. Freshman year in high school, I didn't adjust all that well. For a variety of unimportant reasons. I had a biology teacher who had no patience for the kids who didn't get it right away, and a math teacher who was very similar. Teachers who got impatient when you held up the class with questions.

And so what happens? You stop asking questions. And what happens next? You stop paying attention. And then you flat-out stop giving a damn. I ended up focusing on the other subjects, and floundered in math and science. At the end of the year, the teachers are responsible for recommending whether or not you go into honors-level classes, regular class, or the class for "challenged" kids.

Guess where I ended up? Now again, I'm not placing sole blame on the teacher. I could have done more. I could have studied more at night. I could have gotten a tutor. But I also should have been able to ask a simple question without feeling like I was going the wrong way down a one-way street. So I went off to what my friends called "crayola math". And never came back. Because the truth is this: It is unbelievably easy to take a step back. It is near impossible to take a step forward after that's happened.

Now I'm not an educational policy specialist. And my story is far from the worst the world has to offer. I mean, I had opportunities that other kids couldn't dream of. And to a certain extent, I squandered them. I admit that. In the end, I turned out OK. Despite a pretty substantial affinity for alcohol and hallucinogens, I managed to get into a decent college, and now I have a pretty good job that I genuinely like.

This was not one written to ask for sympathy. I don't want it and don't deserve it. But the fact of the matter is it only took one teacher, one class, to shake my faith in my abilities. Sure, I took care of the rest, but here's what scares me about the bigger picture: I went to one of the best high schools in the country. And all it took was one slight push in the wrong direction to begin the process of derailing. Kids are more fragile that we sometimes think. It doesn't take much to push them down the spiral.

What's it like at the other schools? What's it like at the schools where they can't afford books, or spend more money on metal detectors and security guards then they do on actual educating? And worse yet (and here's where my point comes full circle), what about the teachers and administrators and policy engineers that don't give a shit? I mean, let's be real about it. The world has very few Michelle Pfeiffers and Edward James Olmos's teaching out there. There aren't a hell of a lot of great teachers working in inner city Chicago, or South Central L.A., or in backwoods Mississippi (with a few exceptions, of course. Who's motivating those kids? Who's making them hungry? Because that's the thing. Education should make you hungry. It should work off of the natural curiosity of kids, and make them hungry to learn something new, something different. Solving a problem should be about wanting to know the answer, not doing it because you have to. Our educational system should be designed around that premise, it should be smart and innovative and creative. It should teach kids to want to learn. Schools should be palaces, teachers should be ridiculously well-paid. Goddamnit, we should be burying our schools in money and opportunity. But at some schools, it must sometimes feel like nothing but constant pushes in the wrong direction.

I have cousin who is probably a genius. He can do anything with a battery and some wiring. He's like freakin' MacGyver. When he was twelve years old he would routinely disassemble his father's stereo, just to see if he could put it back together. Because he was genuinely curious. It's the type of thing that should be encouraged, should be fed constantly. Instead, it was suffocated. By both his parents and his teachers. And again, he played a role in it. He fucked around, he got into trouble. Instead of learning to develop a more efficient car, he was in the clink for stealing them. But I can't help but feel that if sometime in his younger days, if someone had caught on, had tried to encourage that ability, he could have been more than a cable repairman.

I think programs like Teach For America are a great idea, despite it's problems. I know it's hard for bright-eyed recent college grads to get stuck in the Mississippi Delta, using thirty year-old books and broken pencils. And, of course, what happens after two years? What are the chances those teachers are sticking around, or even finishing the program? Not good, is my guess. When I was a couple years out of college I worked at a homeless shelter for kids. Not easy work. The average case worker lasted about 8 months. It's hard, dirty, and thankless work. Teaching in some places is probably like that. I think that most teachers start out bright-eyed and motivated, and over time, get frustrated with the human condition in general, with the lack of adequate supplies and support, and burn out. Sometimes it'll take 2 years. Sometimes it'll take 20.

Unsurprisingly, I don't have a solution. Well, I do have one solution - money. You'd be surprised how effective money can be in solving the problem. Better teacher salaries, repair of schools, better materials, etc. Of course, we're currently headed in the opposite direction, since our beloved president cut the federal education budget for the first time in more than ten years. Just like he cut the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor. Guess where most of the increases are? Yeah, I'm shocked too.

Anyway, how did a post on my failure at math turn into a criticism of the government? Well, because it's not meant to be about me. It's not about the one kid who had everything and wasted it. It's about the millions of potentially hungry kids out there (figuratively and literally) who aren't getting what they need. The kids we're wasting, who, with just the right push, just a couple of better opportunities, could do something incredible.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Coffee + Justice = A Beautiful Morning

Justice is a beautiful thing. Wait, let's back up a bit.

Every day, my commute to work is a bitch. It's long, it's slow, it's tiresome. This is compounded by the fact that I am not a morning person. Not being a morning person is made all the more frustrating by the fact that I can't but help waking up early. My morning routine consists of my alarm going off at 6:00, me groaning and then glaring at it like it killed my family.

Note: I hate my alarm clock more than anything in this universe. More than George Bush. More than racism. I hate it with the fire of a million hells.

Then I stagger out of bed, walk/fall down the stairs, let the dogs out, feed them, let them out again, and then stumble into the shower. Showering consists of standing under scalding hot water until I remember that I'm there for a reason. On the days when I shave it's always a coin toss whether or not I come out looking smooth and clean, or looking like I got mauled in the face by wolverines. Then comes the complicated process of getting dressed. Not because I'm a clothes horse, but because I'm not actually conscious yet. So I'll sometimes spend 10 minutes simply standing in front of my closet, as if it will provide the keys to the universe if I wait long enough. I'm worthless. Sometimes my wife needs to remind me to put on pants. I'm not kidding.

As a random aside, here's a list of things I've done while getting ready in the morning:
  • Left the house without shoes
  • Walked into a door while brushing my teeth
  • Taken a 20 minute shower, gotten out, dried off, and realized I never actually used soap or shampoo
  • Put hair gel on my toothbrush
  • Fallen asleep in the shower (standing up), resulting in me hitting my head on the wall when my knees buckled.
Finally, back downstairs, pack a lunch, hit the road, stop for a cup of coffee and begin my 20 mile commute to work.

It's important to note that I don't think I actually, technically wake up until around mile 7.

My commute usually consists of driving between 5 and 15 miles per hour for about an hour and 15 minutes. During that time, I listen to either a) sports radio if I can find them discussing something tolerable, b) NPR, or c) music at deafening volumes. All the while, my fellow drivers are either in the same zombie-like state as I, or they drive like complete assholes, thinking if they cut people off and whip in and out of lanes, they'll shave 30 seconds off their commuting time. It bugs the hell out of me. Look, I'm all for driving fast when it's practical. But at 7:30 in the morning in Boston rush-hour traffic, you need to simply accept your fate and suck it up.

Anyway, on to the purpose of the story. Every morning I get to the final intersection near my office, where there are giant signs that say NO LEFT TURN. NO LEFT TURN, people.

Because, if you were to try to turn left, you would back up traffic in both directions. It's simply too busy an intersection. So of course, every goddamn motherfucking morning, some slack-jawed fuck-for-brains tries to turn left. People beep, they lean on their horns, pedestrians point to the signs, to no avail. The usual result is the six or seven people who would make the light if the turner wasn't a complete 'tard, don't make the light.

It happened again today. The cab driver in front of me (I fuckin' HATE cab drivers) tried to take a left. From the right lane. Blocked up traffic in both directions. And then, gloriously, a patrol car watched the whole thing. I saw the cop in the car watch, smile an evil little grin, then whip a U-turn and pull the fucker over. Justice, for once, was served. It reminded me of this:

Courtesy of malfunction junction

It truly is the little things in life sometimes.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The battle rages on

Well, fuck. It was bound to rear it's ugly head again, and I guess this is the time. What the hell am I talking about, you ask?

I am talking about my recurring, on-again, off-again battle with insomnia. God, do I hate it.

So here it is, 1:30AM and I am WIDE awake. I gave it my best to try to get back to sleep, but have been tossing around for the last 45 minutes. Those of you who've had it before know - when you wake up, sometimes you just know you're not getting back to sleep. This was one of those times.

Sleep has historically been an elusive thing for me. I tend to fall asleep late, and wake up early. I require near-absolute silence to fall asleep. That, at least, has gotten better (thanks to my four years living on a main drag in Philadelphia). It used to be that if a car door slammed a block away, I'd wake up. And that is not hyperbole.

And to be fair, my insomnia used to be much worse. When I was a kid, I'd wake up in the middle of the night, get dressed and wander my neighborhood for an hour or two. Thankfully, much of my childhood was spent in a very safe Boston suburb. Through high school, sleep was difficult. College, honestly? It wasn't as much of a problem, and I suspect it's because I rarely went to bed sober.

In my early 20's it was pretty rough, but lately it's been ok. Oddly, I began sleeping much better once I moved in with Mrs. TK, which was about seven years ago. Usually once or twice every couple of weeks, but rarely lasted for more than an hour and change. Tonight, I can already tell, will be one of the bad nights. Most likely I won't get back to sleep until 5AM or so.

Of course, I have no idea why. I'm not particularly stressed - work has been crazy, but work is always crazy. In fact, it sure as hell has been crazier. I'm planning on getting a new tattoo tomorrow, so I'm a little anxious about it. But it's not like it's my first one, so why should that matter? And I had a great evening last night - Mrs. TK and I went to an amazing Greek restaurant, and in general had a great night. But that's the damnable thing about it. I don't think there needs to be a reason.

Worse, my wife has no such problems. She sleeps like a goddamn rock. I could crash my car into the side of the house and she wouldn't stir. She falls asleep at the drop of a dime, and will sleep forever unless woken up. I'd guess that it's due in part to her schedule, which is erratic at best, so she sleeps as much as she can, when she can. But she's always been this way. She's an excellent sleeper.

I suck at it.

Anyway, this will probably win the award for most boring post. But then, this is one of those that's more for me than for you. I really just needed something to do.

Sleep tight.

You bastards.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Dammit Dammit Dammit!

Yesterday, I got hit THREE TIMES.

First, I was in a store shopping for patio furniture and someone frantically came in all a-twitter, raving that Manny Ramirez, left fielder for the Red Sox and one of my faves, had been traded to Chicago. I freaked, ran out to the car and promptly turned on a sports radio station, panicking madly.

Second, I got home and my doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a box on my front steps with a sign on it that said "Please Take Care of This Puppy".

And third, fucking Pajiba posted a piece on The Defining Movie Of Our Generation. That movie? Sister Act.

Aw, screw you, April Fool's Day.

Obviously, Manny was not traded, though I didn't realize it until I got home and scoured ESPN. Thank God, none of the friends I'd called after hearing about it were around to make me realize what an idiot I was.

I fortunately realized that Pajiba was kidding before I blasted off a tirade in their comments section. Although some did not, with hilarious results.

And as for the box? I opened it to find Phillip, the 7-year old kid from up the street, crouched inside, giggling hysterically. His two brothers, Andrew and Francis, promptly came tearing out from the side of the house, and fell to the ground laughing. And you wonder why I don't have kids. I don't need 'em, the kids up the street are enough for now.

Seriously, no one has tried an April Fool's joke on me in probably 10 years. Then I get three in ONE DAY? And fall for all three of them. Ah, well. Though I must confess, I'm now wondering if the anonymous religious comment below is a joke too. Though to be frank, it's a little too sincere, and a little too poorly written, to be quite so clever.

So to Dustin Rowles, Random Dude at the Furniture Store, and Philip, Andrew and Francis - Well played, good sirs. Well played.

And please, feel free to go fuck yourselves. Except for the kids.