Saturday, June 09, 2007

View from the office

Three days ago I got to play air taxi pilot. The owner of my flight school's Piper Arrow needed to go to Greensboro, NC. He wanted to use his airplane to get there but needed someone to bring it back here to Northern Virginia so it can keep flying for the school. I volunteered to take him and on the return leg I witnessed a beautiful sunset, reminding me once again why in addition to air traffic control, my flight instructing "job" is the best in the world. I say "job" because it's not work, it's fun! Here's a video I took to share with y'all, the wonderful Readers.

Everybody please send happy thoughts towards MB to help her recover from grading those 300,000 AP English tests. She finished this afternoon but is so drained she's staying another night in Louisville rather than try to drive back to Ohio in her exhausted condition.

As the pending husband of a horse-racing enthusiast, I watched the Belmont Stakes tonight, and it was quite a race! However, as soon as I saw the amazing dental work on the British owners, I switched back to watching the Nascar Busch series race. When you're rich enough to own a horse, can't you afford a dentist? At least supposedly "redneck" Nascar drivers have good orthodontists.

Congrats to the filly at:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Blonde Champagne Cribs

Two weeks from today MB and I will close on a beautiful townhouse here in Northern Virginia. Of course, with prices the way they are in this area there is no way we can afford it on our own. However, thanks to my brother Dan, who will be "investing" in the place with us, we won't have to live in an apartment for the first year or two of our married life. Thanks Dan!

Here's a video of the main floor. My favorite feature is the "see-through" staircase.

No, I don't watch MTV at:

Thursday, June 07, 2007

This Technique Is Called

The majestic woman who taught me AP English died yesterday.

I think she'd be very proud that my first instinct is to write about this, which I will do when I can raise my head off the desk.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Belle of Louisville

For those of you wondering what a thousand English teachers grading 300,000 essays looks like, it's this:

We're only grading one of three questions in this room, so for a full measure of the excitement here in Derby City, multiply what you see here by two-thirds. Or something. The statistics people are grading across the street, and it's not worth getting hit by a bourbon truck to try and find out exactly.

As the water poured into cups at our daily Doughnut Rumble tastes like it was ladled directly from the Ohio River, I stopped by a drugstore this afternoon to find something from a more palatable source, such as the bottom of a Newark sewer. There I found the candy displays completely wiped out. We have entirely depleted Louisville of its sugar supply. Send Junior Mints and tequila.

Today I graded 74 essays, some of which rose to the following levels of scholarship:

"The son doesn't want to hurt his father's fillings."

"Male bondage was very important in 1937."

"The son clearly has an umbundant amount of admiration for his father."

"There are a lot of naturous images in this book."

"Open space is conducive to death by coyote, bear, and myriad other creatures."

"In this passage from Johnny Got His Gum..."

Then there's the I Am Completely Lost Without My Windows XP Thesaurus Function Award: "The author is very descriptive when describing the environment and gives an in-depth description of the fishing rod."

About this rod: The essays we're grading deal with a passage which tell the story of a son going off to fish for the first time with a friend instead of his father, and as a sign of his love and devotion and general Wardness, the father offers his valuable rod to the son. So for three days all we've been doing is reading various interpretations of how the rod IS the father, and how the son and the father are just one over this rod, and how the rod is in fact a phallic symbol, and how the father will always be a part of the son as long as he has this magnificent, amber-plated rod cradled close to his heart.

Well, the room leader decided to read aloud the next several paragraphs in Johnny Got His Gun, and it turns out... the son loses the freaking rod. It goes right to the bottom of the lake. We almost couldn't deal with this. We sat there at our tables and fiddled with the empty wrappers from our Reese's Cups, utterly dejected, unable to grade.

But then it was break time. Doughnuts heal all wounds.

one half per prof at:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Life At Table 73

Johnny And His Gun Fest continues here in Louisville. We all sit in tables of five with a "leader." Sometimes the leader tells us that we suck and sometimes the leader gives us candy and sometimes we hurl candy at the leader. Today my leader told me that I have been scoring too generously. Allow me to reprint that for the benefit of certain former students.


The candy is very important. At first we had a few paltry M&Ms in a styrofoam bowl, but the more we got to know Johnny and his gun, the more sugar we started piling next to one another. This is the candy we've amassed so far at Table 73:

mini Reese's peanut butter cups
gummy orange slices
fake Peppermint Patties
caramel Kisses
peanut butter Kisses
Swedish fish
Werther's Original Coffee Caramels

Nothing helps.

Sometimes we have calibration sessions in which the entire room scores the same essay just to make sure we aren't all sucking simultaneously. Names and schools are removed to protect the horrible; the essays are all given to us in a packet, designated by letter, and we are all very careful to discuss the work in terms of "the student" and "the essayist," even though I personally would take the microphone and announce, "Let us all turn to the piece of $%&@ that is Essay H."

Overall, I've been pleasantly surprised by the quality of most of the students' essays, but others, alas, make me want to stab myself in the carotid artery with the point of a Kiss, be it caramel or peanut butter. Actual quotes:

"The writing is flowy, yet awkward."

"I will now discuss very important literature. In the novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone..."

"In this sentence, the author uses words."

"Each year, as they go camping, the father and son hunt aquatic beings together."

"In this poem..." (Which would not be funny at all, were the student not discussing a novel excerpt.)

"Emily Bronte's Withering Heights..."

"Thank you for reading my essay."

you're welcome at:

Monday, June 04, 2007



After three years of novels, novellas, short stories, timed essays, sweating, crying, eating, poetry, and all things worse, here's what it comes down to.


I am in Louisville. I am in a very large room. I will be here for a week. Grading. Papers. The same paper. For eight hours a day. There are no horses. But there is a lot of what horses leave behind.

Over 300,000 students took the AP English Literature exam last month. The College Board brought in a thousand English teachers to grade it-- one thousand English teachers all reaching for the same doughnut. It took a mere 45 minutes for someone to bust out a "quadraphonic" in a sentence.

We're also here with the teachers grading the statistics AP exam, as well as the French one. So not only am I surrounded by 999 Other People who want my doughnut, there are Other People... speaking French. They parlez-vous the living crap out of each other all day long. Or they're doing math, on purpose, and want to talk about it.

The essay I am grading asks the students to assess a passage from that uplifting American classic, Johnny Got His Gun. Man, remember when Johnny got his gun? That was awesome.

It is Day Two. I am very tired of both Johnny and his gun.

Yesterday they fed us powdered eggs for half an hour and then crammed us in a room and a person holding a microphone said, "I am now required to read you the following statement about sexual harassment." Oh look! It's time for Mary Beth to get her gun.

techniques are very important when it comes to writing literature at:

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