Labyrinth, New Age Whales, and Alabama Lyrics

So, I was on my way to work when the David Bowie songfest kicked in on Monday. I kinda wondered what was up, since the AM crew on that station tends to do more recent music before 10:00 AM (recent being 80s and early 90s). Then it was announced during the news break that Bowie had died. As I got ready for class, I was reciting the opening to “Dance Magic Dance” from Labyrinth under my breath and wondering if any of my students had ever seen it. It is possible, although this year it is (arrrrrgh!!!) 30 years old. Continue reading


New Semester, Old Complications

Student 1: “What do we need to keep from last semester?”

Miss Red: “Probably the material from the last two chapters, since it has a direct connection with this chapter.”

Student 1: “Oh, too bad. I already threw everything away.”  Several other students nod with energetic agreement.

Miss Red (while biting tongue, at least metaphorically speaking): “Then make note of the chapters in the book that covered the material.”

A little later . . .

Miss Red: “Be aware we will probably have a goodly number of snow days . . .”

Entire class perks up and looks toward the window.

Miss Red: “Sigh.”


Three hours later, a stream of confused older students wanders in during what had been my off period with an empty classroom.

Miss Red: “Can I help y’all?”

Student 2: “We’re supposed to have study hall in here.”

Miss Red: “No problem.” That’s not what I was thinking, but it’s not their fault I just lost my work/meeting space. Technically I was done for the day, and the room wasn’t being used, so now it is.

Five minutes later, without teacher . . .

Miss Red: “Who’s supposed to be the teacher?”

Student 3: “Mrs. Kramer.” The councilor, who I had not yet seen that day. Which is nothing new, because she has an office but works all over the building.

Student 4: “Can I go look for her?”

Miss Red: “Yes.”

A minute later Mrs. Kramer returns with the student. “Sorry, My schedule said room 103 and I was there all on my own.”

Miss Red: “No problem.” This time I did roll my eyes, thinking Just like last semester. I had class in “my” room, but the student schedules put them in the band room.


Two teachers are watching incoming traffic, having survived the walk-like-a-penguin trip across the faculty lot.

Mrs. L: “This should be interesting.”

Mr. R. :”Yup”  Sips his coffee.

Enter little grey sports car, stage left, zipping across parking lot, or trying to.

Mrs. L. :”Three sixty or light pole?”

Mr. R.: “Three sixty.”

Car slides across lot, driver’s eyes and white knuckles clearly visible. Does a two-seventy, over corrects, and ends up facing ninety degrees from original direction of travel.

Mr. R. (sounding disappointed): “Dang. I thought he had more momentum.”


Miss Red (observes coworker in break-room perspiring, fanning tongue, holding bagel sandwich): “Buffalo chicken?”

Miss D. (in squeaky voice): “Yes!”  She sniffs hard, wipes eyes and nose, takes another bite. More fanning and weeping ensue.

Miss Red: “Ah, I didn’t think it was that hot.”

Miss D. : “It isn’t, so I got one with the spicy mustard as well, to see if it would clear my sinuses. It works.”

Miss Red: “You could have tried some of Mr. C’s wife’s home-made chutney.” The Cs are from Madras.

Miss D. : “No way! That stuff’s too hot!”

The Center (of the Pipe) Cannot Hold

It is said that civilization is in trouble when neither a man’s arguments nor his pipes can hold water. If that is true, than Amarillo is in a world of hurt, because we’ve been having water-line breaks left, right, and center since Dec 30 or so. Age, weather, and rising usage have taken their toll on the original 50+ year old pipe, with quite obvious results. Brown fountains should not appear at the end of the ally, nor rivers of muddy water gush through the gutter. When all is well, the water does not get cut off at 0300 while trucks with flashing lights trundle back and forth through the darkness. But the Panhandle has always been hard on pipes. Continue reading

How Many Steps from History?

How far are you from the past? I started thinking about it again the other day as I watched the New Year’s concert from Vienna and listening to Julie Andrews talking about Franz Josef, the last Habsburg to die in office. Less than 100 years has passed since the Habsburg Empire fell apart. We are less than 100 years, three generations, from the end of WWI, two from WWII. Operation Desert Storm/ the First Gulf War has not quite hit the magical 30 year point where it becomes history instead of a relatively distant current event (although my students might disagree). How far are you from the past? Continue reading

Update on Occupy: Toilet Mat

Well, the on-going protest movement in Redquarters, Athena T. Cat’s occupation of the mat in front of the commode in the front bathroom, has reached a winter hiatus. Now she only wants the mat when your feet are warming it. There is a bit of a draft in winter, you see, and she cares not one whit for the chill. So she has moved to a more prominent place to stage her protest. Protesting what? Lack of attention when she desires attention, too much attention when she does not want it, too much ice/not enough ice in her water dish, lack of sunshine, sunshine in the wrong place, someone forgot to put her ramp back after vacuuming the floor (OK, that one’s legit), in other words, all the things a cat complains about. Continue reading

Global Cooling – 1870s Style

Some of my long-term research projects require paying attention to local and regional weather and climate patters, often going back several hundred years if possible. When you start digging that far at that level of detail, interesting things appear, the sort of thing that makes you sit back and go, “huh. I’m kinda glad I wasn’t there then,” or “Geepers, no wonder they [action]. If both those rivers went dry, I’d [action] too.” As more and more historians are pulling more and more climate data and weather observation into their work, it’s becoming apparent that while we certainly cannot, and should not, credit or blame climate events for all human actions, the weather has played more of a role than we’ve previously given it credit for. Geoffrey Parker’s book about the 17th century is probably going to become one of the classics in terms of that, up there with Le Roi Ladurie’s Times of Feast, Times of Famine. On a local scale, reading ranch records and military reports, and local newspapers reveals just how tough things were in the High Plains at the end of the Little Ice Age. Continue reading