Monday, August 31, 2009

Brave New World, Chapter 1

Lessons I have learned from my first day teaching with my smartboard:

1. My handwriting is sort of mediocre in the brave new world. I've always prided myself on having good handwriting -- and good chalkboard handwriting at that. On the smartboard, not so much. BUT the nice thing is that the smartboard has the capability of turning my handwriting into typed text with the click of a button -- and it does so with only minimal "misunderstandings."

2. I really think that the smartboard will make me a more organized teacher. I am shooting for a goal of having lecture notes on the smartboard and realized that, because of my handwriting insecurity, I could just typed stuff up ahead of time and have it easier to read -- and then make notes on top of it. Very cool.

3. My hair looks really funky in the light of the LCD projector. In my old age, my hair has suddenly gone kind of curly, and those curls that stick up all over my head make me look a bit like I should have been a member of the cast of Where the Wild Things Are.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brave New World

Another school year has started and with it comes a lot of the typical "stuff" -- lesson planning, pre-testing, et cetera. This year, I have the comfort of not adding any new classes to my schedule. For the first time in several years, I'm teaching all classes I've taught before. That doesn't mean that this year doesn't present challenges, though. This year's new challenge is one I am excited to get my hands on.

You see, there's a new addition to good old room 207 (that's my classroom number). When I walked in a week ago to begin the process of unpacking and organizing my room, I met my new best friend -- a smartboard hanging where a blackboard had once been.

For the uninitiated, a smartboard is an amazing piece of technology. It is essentially an interactive screen. It is connected to my computer. With the help of an LCD projector, whatever is showing on my computer screen can be shown on the smartboard. The board has interactive capabilities, though, where just touching the screen allows me to perform functions. I can write on the screen, highlight text, move stuff around. As my friend Ford says, I'm pretty much going to be able to teach like I'm a political commentator on CNN.

While this new piece of technology excites me as I consider the endless possibilities and how I'll be able to engage my students much more in the learning process (even if that engagement just comes with a little smoke and mirrors), I'm also a bit intimidated. I went to a brief workshop last week to get the basics of the smartboard and spent the whole session with my jaw just on the floor, stunned at what I could now do. I have a lot to learn about using this thing, and I hope my students are patient as I master the intricacies of the touch screen and find ways to replace the old chalk-and-chalkboard method of teaching with this new technology. It will be stressful but exciting all at the same time. I start teaching in earnest this week (the first two days of school are always full of administrative stuff more than actual teaching), and I can't wait to see how this all plays out.

Wish me luck as I embark on this new teaching adventure!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion Sleeps At Last

When I was growing up, I had a set of World Book Encyclopedias sitting on a bookcase in my bedroom. (For my younger readers, an encyclopedia is like wikipedia only in book form and perhaps more accurate if not as up-to-date.) My set was only slightly out of date, listing our current president as Gerald Ford (which isn't that big of a deal when you remember that I would have been reading that during the Carter and early Reagan years). I spent many hours of my childhood sprawled on the floor of my bedroom (with its Raggedy Ann and Andy wallpaper) pouring over the pages in these volumes. I particularly loved reading passages that dealt with American history and politics (SHOCKER!). I would often keep the P volume open to the pages listing all of our presidents so that I could look up each president and read about his life. I will never forget the day when I read the story of John F. Kennedy. I can remember crying when I read about his assassination and saw the pictures of young John John saluting his father's coffin. I then turned the page and read the story of his brother Robert. I was inconsolable with sadness at their deaths, deaths which had happened more than a decade before my reading of it. I formed a real emotional connection that afternoon with John and Bobby and the entire Kennedy family. I often wonder if that was my first real step towards becoming a Democrat.

Shortly after reading those passages, I can remember spending a Saturday morning reading the paper with my dad. Our local paper had a pull-out section in the Saturday paper for kids called "The Mini Page" (it still has it, by the way), so my dad would read the "big" paper and I would read the little one. That particular day, the Mini Page was devoted the upcoming primaries of 1980. I was interested to see that John Connolly, whose name I remembered as being one of the people in the car with JFK when he was shot, was running for president as well as some guy named Ronald Reagan. I turned the page to read a little about the Democratic challengers to President Carter. I gasped when I read one of the names.

"DAD!" I exclaimed. "President Kennedy's brother is running for president!"

"Yes, I know," my father replied.

"That is so cool! Are you going to vote for him?"

"Um, no." My father went on to explain that Ted Kennedy was a Democrat and that he, my dad, was a Republican. He also said some disparaging things about Ted Kennedy and some woman in a car accident, but I ignored that and went to find my mom.

"Mom, President Kennedy's brother is running for president! Please vote for him! PLEASE!!"

This plea also fell on deaf ears. Seriously, my parents were real political disappointments for me -- as I'm sure I was for them in that moment when they surely realized that they had somehow created a liberal Democrat who would spend the next 30 years idolizing the man who had the cojones to take on a sitting President, a man who would become a powerful symbol for both liberalism and bi-partisanship.

I woke up this morning and turned on CNN, and that's how I found out the news that Ted Kennedy died last night a year to the day from his inspiring address to the Democratic National Convention. It was a day we all knew was coming ever since he was diagnosed with a brain tumor a little more than a year ago. And yet I found myself sitting on my bed and crying, filled with the same grief that filled that little girl who read about the deaths of his older brothers. My grief, though, was also filled with a real sense of what we, as a nation, were losing, for the adult who mourns Ted Kennedy understands just what this man has meant to our country and our political system for the 46 years he has served us in the Senate.

Think just about that -- 46 years. That's longer than a lot of us have been alive. He spent those 46 years, though, serving with passion and vigor. Despite the fact that he was a man of great wealth, he championed those of us who weren't so fortunate as he worked in those years to champion civil rights, education, and health care. His fight for those causes (among many) made him a punching bag for conservatives, a rallying cry and exemplar of all that was wrong with the liberal movement. What those cries often failed to appreciate is what a model of bi-partisanship Ted Kennedy was. As faithful as he was to the party, he also understood that he was elected not to serve the Democratic party but to serve the American people. He crossed the aisle to broker deals. He brought a spirit of compromise and unity to sometimes divisive issues. In short, he was a model of what a Senator SHOULD be -- thoughtful, passionate, and willing to fight for those who can't fight for themselves.

This morning, I mourn the man who rose above the scandals, who forged a legacy of his own, who emerged from the shadows of two mighty towers, and who showed us what true service is. Good night, Lion. Sleep in peace.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Words Are Worlds I Sail Upon

Today was one of those days that reaffirmed my ongoing love affair with the written word. God, I love words!

It started off with a visit to a bookstore, which is like a trip to Disneyworld is for a little kid. A small, independently owned bookstore opened here in town today -- a bookstore that enjoys the "honor" of being Galesburg's ONLY bookstore that's not either a college bookstore or one devoted solely to Christian books. Our Waldenbooks closed about eight months ago, and it's been a tough stretch for a book junkie like me. I've made do with buying books at Wal-Mart or Target, but the selection there is so limited. Today, though, I walked into Stone Alley and was immediately at peace. I literally breathed a huge sigh of relief when I walked in the door and began the process of browsing the shelves. Stone Alley deals primarily in used books, so inventory is limited but still more extensive than anything we've had access to here in town since Waldenbooks closed. The nice thing about used books is that they cost less which means I'll be able to do some real damage for less money! I stayed strong today and walked out with just one book -- a copy of Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot -- and a determination to return again come pay day when I can spend a little more comfortably.

From there, I then went with a friend of mine to go see Julie and Julia, which I've been dying to see all summer. What an amazing movie! Meryl Streep continues to leave me breathless with her gift. The movie will make you want to go home and cook (which I did -- making a delicious homemade pizza with fresh tomatoes and basil). More than that, though, the movie reminded me once more of the intense power of the written word. It is words that come to both Julia Child and Julie Powell and help them find their purpose and their escape. Both are at points in their lives when they feel as if they are at the end of their spiritual ropes. Yes, they find a purpose via cooking -- Julia enrolls in classes at Le Cordon Bleu and Julie begins her odyssey of tackling every recipe in Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- but it is words that really becomes their life preserver. Julia begins tackling the Herculean task of composing her seminal cookbook, a task that will eventually make her a cultural icon ... and lead her into the life of Julie Powell. Julie tracks her cooking via a blog. It is really the blog that becomes her salvation as she discovers (or re-discovers) her own passion for language and writing. It is the blog that becomes her lifeline out of a miserable job and allows her to become the writer she never knew she could be. These women both found success through writing and language, and I found their stories completely inspirational.

At the same time, their stories made me a little sad because it also reminded me how rare women like they are and how rare it is that people find such passion and inspiration in words. So many people view reading as a chore and writing as something even worse. Almost daily I worry about the future of the written word as I see the way it is mangled in text messages and twitters and facebook statuses -- not to mention what I read in essays turned in for a grade. The apostrophe has become an endangered species. We've become so lazy that we can't even put the letter "h" at the end of the word "with." And we revel in it! I ran into a student today at the store. She was shopping with her mother and her mother said something to the effect of her daughter being in my class. Her daughter proudly replied, "No, I'm through with grammar." My response? "Yes, I can tell. I've seen your Facebook statuses." (I've never seen this girl post a grammatically correct status -- whether it's dropping the final g from every word that should have one or completely eschewing punctuation altogether. Her statuses are unreadable!) I doubt this girl realized she had been "burned" -- mainly because she smiled with pride and repeated, "Yup, done with grammar."

At a time when communication is made so much easier and more abundant in terms of choices, it makes me sad to think that with that abundance has come this lack of respect for the art of writing itself. And so it was inspiring to see that passion I feel every time I sit down to read a book or every time I sit down to write here put onscreen with such beauty. I wish we all could find the beauty and power of words and seize this opportunity to communicate with the kind of passion and grace that Julie Powell and Julia Child found. It just might change our lives.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Read the Book, See the Movie

Today, I entered the homestretch of summer -- my last seven days before I have to officially report to work. This is about the time where I realize what a slacker I've been all summer and start kicking myself into gear. Today, I had a meeting in Monmouth and then spent a couple hours at school unpacking boxes (we have to box up our personal stuff every summer), making photocopies, and generally getting my room to a state of student-readiness. I then decided to take advantage of one of my last days of freedom and do something I love but rarely have time to do during the school year -- go see a movie. I'm not one of those people who has issues with seeing a movie alone; in fact, I often prefer the solitude of watching a film in a darkened cinema without any distractions like wondering if my companion is enjoying the movie or answering questions or what have you. I love the feeling of immersing myself into the film and "walking around in it" and when it's over, quietly chewing on the whole thing on the drive home.

Today, I decided to go see The Time Traveler's Wife. I'd recently read the book, which is a beautiful, surreal sci-fi romance of sorts. I loved the world that Audrey Niffenegger created and the slow, trickling way she doled out information. The book was like a puzzle where we sat down with all the pieces and then slowly watched her piece it all together for us. I loved the complex characters she gave us in Henry and Claire. I loved that Henry (the time traveler of the title) in particular existed in this sort of ethically ambiguous world where crimes had to be commited for pure survival and that Henry never seemed particularly tormented by this. I loved the Chicago setting and recognizing the names of places I knew. In short, I loved the book.

I went into the film with concerns, concerns fueled by the fact that I opted to read reviews of the film over the weekend. (I often avoid reviews of films I really want to see out of a fear that they will either color my view of the film and/or give way crucial information that I will resent having.) The reviews were pretty negative from both critics who had and had not read the book. I still, though, wanted to see how this complicated little book could become a coherent film.

Now, I should insert a caveat here. I am not necessarily a purist when it comes to the jump from page to screen. I understand that it is impossible to include everything contained within 300+ pages in a two-hour time period. I understand that books and films essentially rely on different modes of storytelling and that those modes are often contradictory and so allowances must be made. I'm not going to nitpick about hair color or outfits chosen because I understand and appreciate the visual choices that film presents. Okay, I've been known to grumble here and there, "That's not how I pictured that character," but I also support the right of the creative team behind a film to make its choices based on what works for them and, frankly, who's available. At some level, I realize I have to shrug and let the professionals do what they have to do and that's make the movie they think will work best.

So of course, we now must beg the question as to whether The Time Traveler's Wife worked best. For the most part, the filmmakers remained true to the basic story, although they played up the romance angle to the exclusion of some of the other threads Niffenegger wove into her piece. Some characters were missing; some were marginalized. Less time was spent telling us the "courtship" that transpires in the book between an adult Henry and a child Claire (I suspect a lot of that would have to do with the creepiness of a 40-year-old man romancing a six-year-old girl.) Niffenegger utilizes a dual first-person narration, with Henry and Claire alternating duties in the telling of their tale, and I missed their "voices" in the film (although a film with shifting narration like that would have just not worked). I wonder if I would have liked the movie had I not read the book, if I hadn't been in possession of more information than was given on the screen, and I'm not sure, to be honest. At times, I felt like the filmmakers were working that Notebook angle and really working our heartstrings. However manipulated I felt, though, it did not stop me from shedding tears at the end. (And I will warn those who've read the book that they DO take liberties a bit at the end, but I liked that choice in terms of how it left the characters. I may be alone in that, though, but I understood what the script was trying to do, and I appreciated it.)

The Time Traveler's Wife is not a perfect film. It's probably not even a great film, but it was a nice two hours spent with "old friends" and a lovely, if bittersweet, end to my summer.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Who Wants to Buy My Crap?

Today, some friends had a yard sale and I was invited to bring some stuff to try to unload in exchange for acting as "cashier." It's a pretty sweet gig -- I sit in the shade, eat some delicious homemade cinnamon rolls, and maybe end up with a couple bucks in my pocket. Often, there is some bartering amongst us all to take some things off each other's hands. One year, I ended up with an amazing desk that sits in my den as well as a cute little two-shelf bookcase that sits in my kitchen with my microwave on top and all my cookbooks on the shelves. This year, I ended up with a breadmaker which I am dying to try out!

Because of my move last summer, I didn't really have a lot of stuff to try to unload. I'd gotten rid of a lot of junk in the move and some other things had been given to friends to make the moving load a little lighter. What I had not sorted through until this week, though, were tubs and tubs just full of clothes. I spent yesterday sorting through those tubs, deciding what I wanted to hold onto should I lose some weight, what was too gross to try to sell, and what was acceptable for someone other than me. I arrived early this morning at my friend's house with four tubs full of clothes and shoes and purses that I had decided I could live without.

As I sat watching people paw through our soon-to-be former belongings, I was kind of struck by the surreal nature of yard sales. All of us had gone through our homes and determined that these things were no longer desirable to us. We have priced them at ridiculously low prices in the hope that we will entice someone else to take them off our hands. And people buy this stuff -- old candleholders, pasta makers from the 1970s, a hideous pair of pink pants that I bought in a fit of what can only be insanity, a bag of wigs. People shell out their quarters and walk away happy at their find. It also is kind of odd to sit and watch people paw through your things, to see them pick up that t-shirt you bought when you went to see the Smashing Pumpkins, crinkle their noses when they see what band it's for, and throw it back in the pile, to see them reject the shoes you once loved until you realized how much they made your ankles hurt, or even to see them find that hideous pair of pink pants and gasp with delight when they see that the tags are still on, allowing them to get a pair of nearly $30 Isaac Mizrahi (for Target) pants for $1.

At the end of the day, I'd made about $20 which I promptly took to Target and blew on the goodies to be found in the dollar bin . . . goodies which could very well be finding their way to a yard sale table years from now. Here's hoping that some discerning future shopper will approve of my new salt and pepper shakers and Rolling Stones magnet.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

We Won't Forget About Him

It's been a tough summer to be a celebrity. For the past several months, it seems as though they've been dropping like flies. This summer, we've lost Walter Cronkite, Karl Malden, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays, Ed McMahon, and Gidget, the Taco Bell chihuahua. Today, though, as I was checking Twitter, I stumbled across a loss that hit me pretty hard. For those of you who haven't heard yet, director John Hughes died today of a heart attack at the age of 59.

I can't imagine my teen years without the films of John Hughes. Within a two year period (1984-1986), Hughes directed four teen classics -- Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Add to that the fact that he also wrote the scripts for Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, and John Hughes undoubtedly becomes the king of 1980's teendom.

For a girl my age, his films were more than just movies -- they were manna, a guide, a reassurance that we weren't alone. His movies featured seeming outcasts -- nerds, art geeks, or just normal kids who weren't popular or glamorous or part of the cool crowd at school. In other words, they were films about kids just like me. We could see John Hughes's movies and feel that we were not alone, that were we not only part of a larger fabric but that we were interestng people worthy of having our stories told. He gave us modern day fairy tales where the normal girl gets the cool dreamboat to notice her, where kids from different cliques can come together and build a friendship over the course of an afternoon, that geeks could indeed rule the world, and that with a little ingenuity, intelligence, and the help from a computer and keyboard, we could rise above our oppressors and have a really cool day with our friends.

Yes, John Hughes gave us fairy tales, but they were often bittersweet ones that kept reality right there. His happy endings are left open. Can Samantha Baker and Jake Ryan really make it? We'll never know, but I can't be the only person who left the theatre thinking they were probably doomed at some point. Will Andrew, Brian, Bender, Claire, and Allison still be friends come Monday morning? I've always kind of figured they wouldn't, and yet I still left The Breakfast Club uplifted. What does the future hold for Ferris, Cameron, and Sloan? We'll never know, but even Ferris seems to recognize that his upcoming graduation means changes -- and that maybe not all of them are good ones.

There was something about his movies, though, that felt like an arm thrown around our shoulder as a voice said, "You know what, kid? You're okay." Girls like me had our queen in Molly Ringwald whose awkwardness belied great beauty and strength, who was like the best friend/sister we always dreamed of and provided us with a template of the kind of girl we could be -- comfortable in our fragility and worthy of great things. Boys had their king in Ferris Bueller and their jester in Anthony Michael Hall, guys who proved that you didn't have to be handsome and built to be cool and that intelligence could be a source of strength and power. We all yearned to live in the John Hughes world and hang out with Sam and Farmer Ted and Duckie and Ferris -- and so many of us went into our own high schools and found those people amongst us (or became them ourselves).

John Hughes's later career never came close to the height of his 80's heyday. He hadn't directed a movie since 1991's Curly Sue, and many of the recent movies he'd written were released under his pen name Edmond Dantes (I would assume since he realized that his good name could be sullied by being associated with classics such as Beethoven's 5th and Drillbit Taylor). Like many, I always held out hope that Hughes had one more great film in him, maybe a film that would speak to my generation the same way now as his older films did back then. I dreamed of a Molly Ringwald reunion and one more chance to spend time with those friends who made our high school years so much more bearable. Unfortunately, that is not to be. Instead, why don't we all break out our Sixteen Candles videos (or your Hughes film of choice) and spend a little time remembering our old friend the way he should be remembered -- laughing, shedding a tear or two, and wondering in the comic genius that is Long Duk Dong.

UPDATE: The following concluded a lovely appraisal of John Hughes's work in today's New York Times by AO Scott, and I thought I'd share:
"Their deaths [Hughes and Michael Jackson] make me feel old, but more than that, they make me aware of belonging to a generation that has yet to figure out adulthood, for whom life can feel like a long John Hughes movie. You know the one. That Spandau Ballet song is playing at the big dance. You remember the lyrics, even if it’s been years since you heard them last. This is the sound of my soul. I bought a ticket to the world, but now I’ve come back again. Why do I find it hard to write the next line?"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Today is President Obama's 48th birthday. In his honor, let's all enjoy a pineapple upside down cake while we listen to a little Don Ho and then watch a good surfing movie -- all in honor of his birthplace of Hawaii.

Yes, Hawaii.

I had largely ignored all the brouhaha being created by this "birther" movement -- the movement that is alleging that Obama's election is invalid because he was really born in Kenya -- because the whole thing just seemed ridiculous. I'm generally not a big proponent of conspiracy theories, and this one seemed so incredibly ludicrous that I couldn't imagine anyone taking it seriously.

I had forgotten about Lou Dobbs. This "journalist" has helped give the birthers momentum by allowing their theories to air on his show as legitimate concerns rather than crackpot ridiculousness.

When Ann Coulter is calling people in your movement "cranks", you know you have a problem.

Bill Maher's warning this weekend really hit home for me, and I think it's important for people of reason to work to put an end to this nonsense. The fact of the matter is that a birth certificate exists showing that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. No matter how "exotic" Cokie Roberts may try to tell us Hawaii is, the fact is that it's still one of our states and being born there makes one a citizen of this nation. I have a hard time swallowing that Barack Obama has spent 48 years crafting this grand scheme to "steal" the White House.

Conservatives, you lost the election. Deal with it. Rather than sitting around whining and picking apart every thing the president does (like whether his choice of beer is "American" enough) and dreaming up these grand fantasies that would render his election invalid, why don't you spend the next couple years getting your shit together and coming up with a viable candidate who could avenge your lost. And a little hint from me to you -- that viable candidate is NOT Sarah Palin.

Meanwhile, have a happy birthday, Mr. President. I hope it is one filled with even just a moment or two of peace and quiet where you can spend time with your loved ones, enjoy a piece of cake, and reflect on how far you've come in your relatively short time on this earth. You deserve at least that much -- if not more.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It's Not Easy Being Green

One of my goals this year has been an attempt to be a little more environmentally friendly in some of my habits. It's not that I've lived a life full of hedonistic wastefulness, but I firmly believe that if each of us were just a little more thoughtful about how we interact with the earth and its resources, we could make a difference -- even if it's just a small one.

As I've slowly begun to find ways to be more thoughtful, I've found quite a few challenges in my quest. These challenges have often left me frustrated, annoyed, and even a little angry, and it makes me understand why people are often reluctant to make their own small changes.

Some of the challenges were not all that shocking. The biggest non-shock was the cost involved. As I've tried to make some changes in my buying habits, I've grown frustrated with the cost involved. Recycled paper towels are vastly more expensive than regular paper towels. More eco-friendly dish soap is roughly twice the price of the chemical-infested normal stuff. I've managed to find some products that won't bankrupt me. Wal-Mart sells some great trash bags that are 60% recycled and are really reasonably priced ($2.97 for 20 bags), and I've grown quite fond of Green Works all-purpose cleaner which is roughly the same price as the Fantastik I used to use. I love the smell of Green Works. My kitchen smells so CLEAN when I'm done using it. With other products, though, I've had a hard time making the switch simply because of the cost involved and so I've consoled myself with the thought that the changes I have been able to make are still making a difference.

One of the problems I have had with the products I have switched to, though, is a difference in quality. I am a big fan of Clorox wipes and their kin -- they are so handy for quickly wiping down a counter after dinner or giving the bathroom sink a quick wipe after brushing my teeth. I was excited to find the Green Works made a wipe that was biodegradable AND had that same Green Works smell that I love so much. I was extremely disappointed, though, in the Green Works wipe. First of all, it did not always dispense as quickly and conveniently as I would like. When you're trying to do a quick little clean up, it's frustrating to have to stop and spend more time getting the wipe out of the container than actually cleaning! On top of that, I've noticed they leave little linty-type desposits behind on the counter -- which necessitates getting out the cleaner and wiping it down again. Once more, the "quick and easy" factor is defeated. Sadly, I will have to think long and hard before I buy the Green Works wipes again.

What has really surprised me in my mission, though, is the attitudes I often face. I don't know how many times a checkout clerk has shot me an annoyed look when I've handed her my shopping bags to use in lieu of plastic bags. (Speaking of the reusable shopping bags -- I love them! I made the switch slowly, buying a bag or two every time I went shopping until I had enough that I no longer required any plastic bags when I shopped. The best ones I've found are JC Penney's green bags which run a little more expensive -- $1.99 per bag as opposed to the more standard $1 or $1.50 at other stores -- but they're made from a great, sturdy canvas, are quite lovely, and are a little wider and not quite as deep as other bags which makes them a little more convenient for, say, farmer's marketing.) Yesterday at the grocery store, a bagger barely used my reusable bags and ended up sending me home with 4 plastic bags full of groceries and my bags nearly empty. (Seriously, one bag had 2 bags of shredded cheese and that was it!) When a friend came over for dinner, I was cleaning up and took the empty soda cans out to the garage where we keep our recycling tubs (yes, TUBS -- we usually fill up two every week while we've gotten our non-recycled trash down to typically one bag a week). His comment when he saw that was, "Oh, you're one of THOSE people" -- as if I were diseased. I've had students actually refuse when I've asked them to throw their papers in the recycling box rather than the trash can -- even when they have been standing right beside the recycling tub and the trash can is across the room. I've heard people mocking and ripping on people who drive hybrid cars (which I do not. When I bought my car a couple years ago, I just couldn't afford a hybrid, so I went with the car that got the best mileage I could.) I'm just sort of mystified at the downright hostility I often witness against earth-friendly products and people.

Okay, I know that there are those out there who can be a little preachy in their environmentalism. I'm not going to lie -- I can sometimes be a little self-righteous about it myself. I've been known to shake my head disgustedly when I drive by houses with trash cans lined up in front and not a single recycling tub to be seen. (And really, how silly! Our city essentially offers "free" recycling as part of what we pay for trash collection. We don't even have to pay for the tubs! We are encouraged to recycle in our community. I was thanked profusely when I sheepishly went to see if I could get a second tub because ours was always so full.) This post itself is probably a little self-aggrandizing. It's just so frustrating, though, to see what is essentially an act meant to help everyone be belittled and condemned. I'm not green for myself; I'm green for all of us, and if someone as (let's face it) lazy as I am can make some small changes, can't we all do even something small? It doesn't have to be much, and it doesn't even have to cost you a dime. Throw that empty Coke can in a recycling tub, turn off the water when you're brushing your teeth -- tiny things that can make a difference, even if it is just a tiny one. Baby steps, man. Baby steps.