30 Aug

The Dresslers

This past weekend, Eileen and I went to a wedding down in Kenosha. Kris Dressler married Leslie Rattan. Kris goes by the name “Dress” to the extent that the guy who married them said something like, “Dress, do you take Leslie to be. . . ” On the way home from the wedding, Eileen and I were discussing how Leslie’s new name, Leslie Dressler, sounds a little strange not just because of its slant rhyme, but because “Dressler” is essentially the first name of the man she married.

“Leslie and Dressler sounds okay, but Leslie Dressler sounds really strange,” Eileen observed. “It would be like if my name had become Eileen Tim. Now, Leslie Kristofer sounds alright. . .”

Sounds good to me, too.

28 Aug

Plumber Dude

This past week, the plumber dude came over to fix our leaking shower. We call him plumber dude because he says “dude” a lot, which adds to his entertaining nature. And he’s the coolest plumber I’ve ever dealt with (he’s also the third, so. . .). In any case, it was one of the most pleasant interactions I’ve ever had with a home improvement house call. Lots of times, those guys kinda scold you when they come across some amateur work. You know, something like, “You put in this dry wall?” You answer meekly, “yeah?” And then they berate you on how the taping job is messy and you didn’t go all the way down to the floor did you? And you start lying.

I accompanied plumber dude into the workspace, pointing out the various problems and mentally taking notes on his work. At one point, when he was working on the showerhead, he said to me, “who put this teflon tape here?” I thought about blaming my brother, but I told the truth and said, “I did.” I readied myself for a little lecture on how the teflon tape was the cause of the whole problem, but instead, plumber dude said, “teflon tape rocks!” and went on working.

24 Aug

Still in progress

Well I’ve managed to save all the old entries and whatnot, but updating to wordpress is a little more complicated. I’m basically redesigning everything. So. Right now, I’m using some other guy’s template just so the page is visible. I like his idea of changing headers, so I think I’ll try to implement that, but otherwise, I’m going to try to go back to everything I used to have. In the meantime, what you see is what you get. The entries transferred well except that the punctuation is a little differently formatted.

I have some stories to tell, including the Holmen parade and the fish boil, both from last weekend. So stay tuned.

19 Aug

All grown up.

Tonight, I accompanied Eileen and her relatives to the Monona Terrace for something called Dane Dances, a rooftop concert social event that goes on every Friday or so. Later in the evening, I ran into a few parents of rowers I coached about 7 years ago. My first conversation, with Steve Schaefer, was pleasant. We touched upon reverse culture shock, my teaching in Ecuador, his experiences teaching adults vs. undergraduates, and my trepidation over the fast-approaching school year.

Steve then took me over to the rest of the group he came with so that I could briefly say hi. The first person to greet me said, �well you finally got a grown-up haircut!�

I would like to just take a moment to analyze that statement a little, since it�s been irking me ever since she uttered it. First off, and most obviously, the observation implies that I wasn�t grown up before, and that now I at least have the appearance of being more adult. Of course, I might not actually be a mature adult; and this particular parent clarified that she doesn�t really believe I�m grown up when she commented on how I might be mistaken for a student at the high school where I teach.

But what�s more interesting are the implications about respectability in her remark. The military and Republican party would tend to agree with her: short hair is the mark of a more respectable person. Short hair implies a sense of conformity, a sense of abiding by the rules. And for this particular parent � I very well know � the rules are important.

Back when I was her daughter�s coach, I was apparently a too-young (and therefore foolish) adolescent dangerously close to breaking the rules. Now, I may not be any better, but at least I �finally� have a respectable appearance. I look like I might be a more mature, rule-following, conformist. And that, in her mind, is a good thing.

What the statement quickly brought back to mind was just how unpleasant my experience was as a high school rowing coach 7 years ago, since her statement really did more to invoke the past than it did to comment on the present.

Incidentally, I should mention that Steve had told me earlier about how, in talking with the current rowing team�s high school students about �Mr. Storm,� he had ascertained that I was �cool,� and �definitely on the A team.� I wish I could have walked away from the evening with Steve�s words of encouragement. Unfortunately, I�m usually more affected by the criticisms than I am by the compliments. And so, the rowing mom�s comments five minutes later about my haircut were the ones I took home with me to mull over for the rest of the night.

I was not a bad rowing coach. In fact, I still keep in touch with this particular mother�s daughter, who is a very warm-hearted person. And yet, in one thoughtless comment, this parent implied very clearly that she really doesn�t, or at least didn�t, respect me.

Her comment illustrates precisely why I am so filled with fear at the prospect of returning to high school teaching. I will be living and teaching in a place that doesn�t respect what I do. And at West High School, I will be hearing from those disgruntled parents who mistakenly think that my job is one that is not that difficult and one that I must not be capable of if their child isn�t getting an A. And in fact, the more heart and soul I pour into the profession, the more it will hurt when, years down the line, some parent condescendingly comments on how �grown up� I seem.

18 Aug

How to Cancel AOL

A couple of days ago, I was at my mom’s house, helping her set up her new computer, a mac mini. In the process, we switched her from AOL to Earthlink. I don’t know much about Earthlink, but it was the quickest way to get her off AOL since it comes with new macs, ready to activate. And the switch away from AOL has been long overdue. Since it sucks, that is.

Unfortunately, if you want to cancel AOL, it’s a little difficult. On AOL’s website, there is no link to account information or to help. We googled “aol cancel account” and came up with a list in 0.11 seconds. The first page listed was an ad for a different ISP. The second site listed was AOL’s help page, which hadn’t been accessible to us from AOL’s page. We clicked on the help page link, but we got this message: “There was an error processing your request. Please return to AOL Help and try again.” Ironically, if you go back to “AOL help,” you end up at the same page telling you about the error. If you keep clicking it 666 times, a portal to hell opens up in your browser.

We didn’t do that.

Instead, we went back to the google page and clicked on the third link, which was a page from a website named “lifehacker” with an entry titled, “How to cancel your AOL account” and included this introductory sentence: “An AOL dialup account has always been notoriously easy to sign up for and hard to cancel.” Perfect.

The post gave us step-by-step instructions on how to call AOL, say “cancellation,” and then talk to a live person. I followed the instructions to a tee — up until step three, which warned, “Just repeat: I didn�t like it. I didn�t like it. Don�t be any more specific, or they�ll go off into a tree.” Boy were they right.

AOL Dude: Can you tell me why you didn’t like it?
Me: I just didn’t like it.
AOL Dude: Was there something specific?
Me: Um, ease of use. (< ------note mistake)
AOL Dude: Yous of use?
Me: Ease of use.
AOL Dude: Use of use?
Me: It was diff-i-cult to use!
AOL Dude: Oh, ok. And do you have another service provider in mind?
Me: Yes.
AOL Dude: Who would that be?
Me: Earthlink.
AOL Dude: Ok. And have you tried other service providers before?
Me: Yes.
AOL Dude: Which ones?
Me: Charter, SBC, Earthlink (here, I proceeded to name every service provider I’ve ever even considered using to scare him off. He switched tactics.)
AOL Dude: What version of AOL did you have?
Me: I don’t know.
AOL Dude: Well, how long have you had it?
Me: I don’t know.
AOL Dude: Ok, can you hold on for a second?
Me: Look, I. . . (he put me on hold, no doubt to look up our account history, which he had to retrieve from hell).
AOL Dude: Looks like you’ve been with us for a long time. Why haven’t you cancelled before?
Me: My mom uses the computer here and she’s not that into computers, so she didn’t really have the know-how. Plus, as we’re finding out now, it’s very difficult to cancel.
AOL Dude: It’s not difficult to cancel. I’ll do it for you. But I’m curious why you had the account for so long if it’s difficult to use.
Me: It’s all my mom knew. And as I told you, she’s not very computer saavy.
AOL Dude: Well, I just don’t understand. You seem to be saying two different things.
Me: And what would that be?
AOL Dude: You’re saying she was used to it, but it’s difficult to use.
Me: I didn’t say she was used to it. I said it was all she knew.
AOL Dude: Ok, well, that just doesn’t make much sense to me.
Me: God. Look. I just want to cancel the account. We don’t like AOL.
AOL Dude: Ok. That’s an easy thing to do.
Me: No, it’s not.
AOL Dude: I’m doing for you right now. What’s not easy about it?
Me: You’ve just spent the last two minutes scolding me for wanting to cancel.
AOL Dude: Scolding?
Me: Yes.

There was actually a little more to the conversation than the above, if you can believe it. AOL Dude eventually did cancel the account, but only after putting his high school forensics club experience to work in a nice, hearty debate about whether or not we had a good reason to cancel. For anyone out there who tries the same, follow this script:

AOL Dude: Was there something specific you didn’t like?
You: I didn’t like it.
AOL Dude: But what exactly didn’t you like?
You: I didn’t like it.
AOL Dude: Look, help me out here. I have to write in a specific answer on this form.
You: I didn’t like it.
AOL Dude: Ok, fine. Can you at least tell me how long you had the service?
You: I didn’t like it.
AOL Dude: What version of AOL do you have?
You: I didn’t like it.

Get the idea? Say nothing more than “I didn’t like it.” The only other thing you’re permitted to say is “In the name of Jesus, get behind me Satan!” Keep a bible near you.

Good luck.