31 March 2013


You can't get on Facebook or the Blogosphere and not read something about DOMA this week. It's as prevalent as a trucker hat at a roadside diner along I-80 during Trucker's Week at lunchtime. I do live in DC, but that doesn't mean I know everything about this crazy city or the country it represents or it's governing systems or roadside diners. DOMA is something I know little about. I first figured DOMA was an internet abbreviation like unto ROFL (Rolling on the Floor Laughing) or BRB (Be Right Back). But a quick AOL search quickly revealed the obvious truth. (I always go with AOL as my search engine. They just have such a way of finding exactly what I'm looking for in the first 234 pages.) According to America Online, DOMA stands for the Deliberately Owning Maracas Act. Apparently there was some legislation passed back in the nineties that sought to define how maracas could be owned. It was determined that maracas should never be deliberately owned, but that since there were many of them in existence already it was acceptable to 'accidentely' own a pair. You might 'accidently' own a pair if they were given to you as a gift or if your five year old came back from school with a homemade pair made of paper plates and dried beans. When the legislation first passed many people were pleased, and many people (musicians especially) were dismayed. For me, as far as homemade Latin instruments go, I would have to say I'm more partial to lining up old glass bottles and creating a xylophone than I am to the Maraca. If the government tried to limit my xylophone use I would never win any alphabet games again. Xylophone is the only 'x' word I know, and I only learned it didn't begin with a 'z' about 4 minutes ago when I tried to look it up. Turns out I never should have won all those road trip games when we passed all the xylophone factories next to the yam farms and zoos. But back to DOMA. I saw in the newspaper that a lot of people were camping outside the Supreme Court trying to get in to hear the arguments. To them, I say I prefer to camp in a place where I can build a real fire (as opposed to metaphorical one) and where I can wear a flannel shirt and sweats without being looked at like I'm homeless. If I wanted to camp in DC I'd join Occupy DC. If I wanted to sleep in a tent in DC I'd go to the REI store.
So much passion for some instruments! The last time I felt such feelings for a musical instrument was in 4th grade when Matt Greenfeld grabbed my recorder straight outta my mouth, snapped it in two across his knee, and shouted at me "Record THAT, &$*#($!" Something tells me Matt Greenfeld is not in favor of maracas either. Well anyway, that's neither here nor there.
Deliberately owning maracas may be good and it may be bad. The whole issue is just over my head, and probably too much to discuss on a mere blog post such as this. Check my twitter feed for 160 character updates, I guess.

27 March 2013

Spring Break 2013!

I'm on Spring Break this week, Holla Atchya! style. If there's one word that's synonymous with spring break in my life, it would have to be... dentist. Give me two words and I'll give you 'The dentist.'
One tradition I have each year during my week off is to attend the dentist. It's a wonderful tradition. One year I cancelled a nonrefundable trip to Turks and Caicos the day before because in my hectic life I had forgotten that I had previously scheduled a teeth cleaning and there was no way in heck I was going to let my dentist down. Sure I may have been out $3,500 that year due to the cancellation, but you just can't put a price tag on a good smile and clean teeth.
This year I had my appointment on Monday so I would have plenty of time the rest of the week to do what I do best- practice the Electric Slide. I have now been to this dentist three times (roughly) and the only thing that's been consistent are the receptionistas. Receptionista. I like that word. Pretty sure I made it up, but also pretty sure you know exactly the type of person it describes. Between the first and second time I went to Mira Dental they switched locations. Between the second and third visits they switched dentists. I have yet to recognize a hygienist from my three visits there. I'm really not even sure if I'm still going to the same dentist that I started with two years ago, but I keep getting reminder postcards every six months and since it's the only mail I get I feel a real obligation to respond.
This time my visit was peculiar. My new hygienist-who thought she spoke English but was actually speaking Arabic I'm pretty sure- told me I was due for some x-rays. She then asked me to undress and put on the hospital gown she left behind. I wasn't quite sure why this was necessary, but given my affinity for robes I decided to just follow along. When she returned she apologized to me and and in broken English told me she forgot which job she was at, and mistook her hygienist job for her nursing job. It wasn't required for me to put on the hospital gown after all, but given it's comfort she obliged when I requested I just stay in it.
After five attempts (honestly) she still couldn't get a 'good' x-ray, and scapegoated my pointy nose as the problem. She seriously told me I had a pointy nose that was getting in the way of the equipment. She offered to give me a nose job (her third job, she claimed) but I declined. I'm just glad she scapegoated instead of scalped it. Eventually we had to move to another room and another machine to get the x-rays past my witch nose. My hygienist then said something to me in Arabic and left. I think she got fired. She never came back. I waited there in my gown and chair, and waited some more. Keep in mind there had been zero cleaning done up to this point. Just a lot of biting metal objects and nose discussions. After fifteen minutes I took my slobber gobbler off (Slobber Gobbler: That bib they put around you neck. Another phrase I made up in this post) and went to the rest room. X-rays just make me have to use the rest room, and I didn't know how long it was going to be before the dentist came to see me. I felt like I was in one of those movies where the criminal is on the surgery table, and the doctor turns her back and BAM- the patient is gone. When I returned everything was just as it was before. After roughly 25 minutes the dentist came in. At least she said she was the dentist and she had a white coat on. She was definitely not there on my previous visits to Mira Dental because I would have remembered. Anyway, after the usual pleasantries about my Spring Break, why I was wearing a hospital gown, and the firing of my hygienist 25 minutes previous, she went to work... on my neck. I had never received a neck massage from a dentist, until now. She had me stretch out my neck and felt along the tendons. I guess they connect to my jaw or something; it seemed like a very holistic approach to dental care. She then looked at my teeth and told me they looked wonderful. She informed me there were no problems, but then left with an eerie warning: 'Your fillings are all great. But don't be surprised if one day soon they fall out.' It was reminiscent of a previous appointment I had at the same office where the dentist told me 'You're in great shape. Nothing wrong. But don't be surprised if you get a cavity soon.' I felt like saying to her 'Thanks for the great cleaning. I have zero complaints. But don't be surprised if I come back and burn your practice to the ground with a single match.'
When the dentist left a different hygienist came in, one I had also never seen before, and of an ethnicity I had never encountered before. I swear it's like the UN over there at Mira. She gave me a very quick cleaning, like under ten minutes. I've never had a cleaning that fast (I think she skipped half of the cleaning procedure- whatever that entails).
When I finally left I was very confused. Why did I put the gown on? Why did I have to be in two different rooms? Why did I have two different hygienist? Why couldn't I get the same dentist I had the last time? How did I get there? Where do seeds come from? How long does it take to digest a piece of gun? Luckily I have all Spring Break to ponder these important issues.

16 March 2013

The VCTM Conference 2013

This past weekend I went on a business trip. Wait, what? A teacher who has a business trip? That's crazy talk! Well, maybe it is, but I've never claimed to be entirely sane. I went with four other colleagues to the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics' annual conference in Virginia Beach. You may begin laughing now, though that's not the joke. That's the serious part, I really did go to a math conference. The conference itself was interesting, but I have a feeling you're more interested in my accomodations than the actual math sessions I attended.
There were a lot of important calls to be made on this, my
first business trip.
This was the first time in my life (I'm 27) that I've had a hotel room all to myself. I've shared hotel rooms/hostels with strangers, friends, family members, parakeets, street vendors, knife salesmen, marching bands, and hackey sack players, but never had the opportunity to have a room entirely to myself. This comes with advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage is that there is no one to take your picture, so be prepared for a lot of selfies. I was tempted to invite one of my colleagues to take some pictures for me, but as you can see most of the pictures are of me in a robe and I wasn't sure I would be sending the right message by asking them to come into my room and take photos of me in a robe. One advantage to your own place is that you can DO WHATEVER YOU WANT (limited only by a legal and moral code, of course). So what did I do? I lived like a king. First, I bought a crown. Then I put on the Westin robe, got a diamond encrusted cane, and walked around my room commanding my make-believe peons to bring me things like fizzy water and pears. Isn't that what everyone does when the get a hotel room all to themselves the first time?
Awesome bathrobe.
But don't think it was all play! As you can see from the picture there were lots of phone calls to make and tons of note-taking to do. My first important phone call was to the concierge to learn how late the pool was going to be open. The second call was to the kitchen to see if they had any pears or fizzy water (turns out make-believe food only works in Hook). My third, fourth, fifth, and sixth important calls were to the parking attendant to make sure my car was still there. By the sixth call he seemed a little perturbed so I laid off the phone a bit. As for the note-taking, well, there was a lot of prep work that needed to be done before the conference. Who knew that being in charge of a hotel room could be such a magnificent responsibility? In the past it's always been my mother or the knife salesman that handled everything so I could just relax, but this was not the case flying solo. Some questions I had to give deep thought to included:

  1. Do I want new towels? The Westin had a very complex system of  towel washing, where you had to leave the towels on the ground if you wanted them replaced. Who on Earth came up with that idea? The thing that perplexed me most was, where on the ground? I ended up throwing them all out the window, and they were most certainly not replaced the next day.
  2. Do I want to use both shower heads or just one? The Westin has a (supposedly) patented dual shower head where one is always on, and the second has a switch to turn it on or off. I would have been fine if there was no explanation, but then they threw in this bit about conserving water and preserving renewable resources and before I knew it I was feeling guilty taking a shower. Flummoxed as to what I should do to stay clean while still being considerate of Mother Earth, I opted for a waterless shower. This was especially applicable since all my towels were on the pavement 9 floors below me. I lathered myself with antibacterial disinfectant, washed my face with a Chlorox wetnap, then spent an hour applying lotion so that my skin wouldn't dry out. When I finally went to bed I didn't feel much cleaner.
  3. What to watch? The Westin had so many channels it was crazy. There were sports game, infomercials, movies, and sitcoms all at my fingertips. Do most people get more than 4 channels? I have no idea. When I'm faced with so many choices I usually ask myself, "What would Jesus do in this situation?" This maxim has saved me from a lot of trouble, except for the time I brought wine to a Mormon wedding instead of water, and the time I mistook the Temple Recommend desk for a money changing table and flipped it upside down in a fit of anger. But other than that it's been a great philosophy to live by. I ended up watching a carpenter channel.
  4. How many pillows do I want? My Mom once told me some pillows are for sleeping on, and some are for decoration. I remember that part, but I have no idea how to tell which is which. They all looked white and fluffy to me. I bit into one to make sure it wasn't a marshmallow, and sure enough it wasn't. To solve this problem I came up with an ingenious solution. I invited my co-worker over for a pillow fight, and told her she got all the decorative pillows to use, and I'd take the rest. Is that not a brilliant way to learn the difference without having to admit you can't tell a pillow apart from a marshmallow or what? I was pleased with myself. When I called her she asked why she could hear wood being cut in the background and asked if I was destroying the furniture. It's like she had no trust in me or something.
  5. The final question on my mind regarding my responsibilities with the estate was, "How do I want to wake up in the morning?" At home I have an alarm clock, but I left it at home. At The Westin I could use a wake-up call, but I feel like my most recent doctor's appointment where I was diagnosed with a cat allergy was enough of a wake-up call to last me through the year. Should I use my cell phone alarm clock? I'm always skeptical at using biological instruments (i.e.- a cell phone) as a time keeping device. I could open the blinds and let the sun wake me up old school, but then I remembered there were at least two set of blinds/drapes on the windows and I wasn't smart enough to open even one of them, nevermind two. In the end I decided the only logical thing to do was to buy a rooster. There weren't many rooster shops open at 11:00pm in Virginia Beach, so I settled for buying an alarm clock that made a rooster noise. It worked great.

Watching the carpenter successfully measure
once and cut twice.
In case you haven't noticed yet, I spent a lot of time in that bathrobe. Is there anything better than a nice bathrobe? Maybe a large Hawai'ian pizza, but the bathrobes are definitely a close second.
Asleep at last. I don't remember taking
this picture, but when I woke up in the
morning it was on my phone...
I'm the kind of guy who liked to take FULL advantage of what's been given him. As such, I made sure to use the hotel gym and the hotel pool, even though I had forgotten my swimming trunks (I'll let you think that one through).
Somehow I survived this momentous occasion. My mother was so proud of me when she learned all the things I accomplished, and a little disheartened that I couldn't tell the difference between decorative pillows and sleeping pillows. Perhaps I should have asked the parking attendant...