Thursday, January 27, 2011

You have GOT to be kidding me!

I'll admit it.  My guilty pleasure.  Aside from singing Britney Spears songs at the top of my lungs when no one is home, I read celebrity gossip.  I'm intrigued at how desperately some facets of our culture literally depend on these "famous people" to get their kicks in life.

Now, I'm not a gossip monger like the hypocrite Perez Hilton (yes, I used to read his website; no, I don't anymore), or a paparazzi crazed scene like TMZ... but occasionally I will read People and see what is happening in the expensive, glitter filled world.

I have another confession.

I've never, ever, EVER, watched an episode of the "Jersey Shore" and I don't ever plan on doing so.  Some of you may be gasping, recoiling in horror- but no, I'm not a pathetic sheep. 

I think the concept behind Jersey Shore is ridiculous, uncalled for, immature, pointless, disgusting, and oh, you know... AN EMBARRASSMENT TO THE HUMAN RACE.  How people can be so addicted to that show that promotes drunkenness, public drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, and violence (just to name a few) is beyond me.  I am personally insulted by the idiots that traipse around on that reality garbage. 

I am an American.  I have ancestors who came from pretty much every corner of the Earth, including Italy.  In fact, if you take a good, long look at my geneological research and my extensive family tree that dates back to the 1300's, you will see that of all the cultures I come from, there is an awful lot of Italian (amongst the Czech, German, English, Irish, Scottish, Russian, Dutch, etc).  In fact, more Italian that just about anything. 

I think the words guido and guidette are insulting.  They fall in the same category as other derogatory terms like chink, dink, gringo, greaser, goyum, ginzo, jap, kike, oreo, redneck, redskin, spic, towel head, any variation of the word nigger (including nigga), fob... the list goes on and on.  The words are DISGUSTING.  Yet, on this pathetic show, some of them are thrown around so casually that they have become words commonly accepted in American culture.

Does anyone honestly think that, in this particular case, Italians and Italian Americans like to be called guidos? How about ginzos?

So, back to the People Magazine thing.  I had seen on Twitter and Facebook the most ridiculous thing.  That the assinine cast of the Jersey Shore would be filming an upcoming season in Italy.  MTV's Chris Linn said in a statement "The cast is headed to the birthplace of the culture they love and live by. We can't wait to see what erupts as a result."


I'm pretty sure that most of them don't know the FIRST thing about Italian culture.  Just because you have last names like Polizzi, Sorrentino, Delvecchio, Guadagnino and Giancola (and YES, I did have to Google those names because I wouldn't know them otherwise) doesn't make them WORSHIPPERS AND FOLLOWERS OF THE ITALIAN CULTURE!  News flash to that idiot Snooki: In Italy, girls don't look orange, they don't wear their hair in those ridiculous puffs on the tops of their heads, they don't act like COMPLETE morons, they know how to handle their liquor, and oh, did I forget to mention THEY ACTUALLY HAVE SOME CLASS?!

What the hell is the culture of this country coming to?  Shame on MTV for promoting this show and keeping it on the air.  I for one will NEVER tune in to their show, I will never accept that this is what our society has come to, and I sincerely hope that the entire fame-hungry cast of this moronic reality show get a serious wake-up call in Italy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The comparison stops here.

I stumbled upon an article on this morning, and what I read really made me concerned.  The following picture appears on the website.

Photo from

The caption underneath read:
The average American woman wears a size 14. Is it possible our ideal body type is shifting from very thin to more realistic?

Regardless of whether or not our ideal body type is shifting- how on earth could Elle run that montage of photographs?  How many of the women in those pictures are a size 14? There is no way one can compare Gabourey Sidibe and Nicole Richie, or Kim Kardashian and Angelina Jolie.

There is no way. 

Instead, can't we all focus on changing the state of food indulgence in this country?  Nearly everything we eat is processed, fake, loaded with additives and chemicals...

On my trip to Italy last November, everyone warned me that I would gain weight.  I accepted this, and said you know what, five pounds won't kill me.  I want to enjoy the cuisine and the wine.  Lo and behold, I LOST five pounds, and I contribute this entirely to the fact that every, single, solitary meal that I ate in Italy had been prepared fresh.  Fresh fish, pasta, vegetables.  And we walked- EVERYWHERE.  Perhaps if we weren't such a bunch of gasoline asses in this country who would rather have McDonalds than spend some time preparing our own healthy meals, we wouldn't have this issue with "the changing body ideal".

Rant over.

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

I learned how to swim at a young age.  I have swum for two different teams, for a total of eleven years.  I now help coach a CYO swim team in my neighborhood.  I am a former certified lifeguard and I am a Water Safety Instructor.  I've gone through countless bathing suits, caps, goggles, pairs of flippers, towels, containers of baby powder, and bottles of de-chlorinating shampoo and conditioner.
I've even been the owner of three different "racing suits"- two aquablades and one fastskin.  I used all three in high school, when I was a member of Midwood's Varsity Swim Team.  Three years out of my four on the team, we were the undefeated Brooklyn Champs and swam in the playoffs every year.  My freshmen year, my 200 free relay placed 1st in the Novice Championships at Lehman College for PSAL.  The years after I placed respectively in 3rd, 4th and 5th places in the 200 medley relay, 100 butterfly, and 400 free relay.  The bathing suits I wore while I swam those events probably didn't have much of an effect on my times- unlike these miracle polyurethane bathing suits that had much of the swimming community in an uproar.  (Yes, I am aware that I am behind the times on this, but it came up in conversation at swim practice last week and I've decided I want to write about it).

In 2009, the World Swimming Organization FINA made the decision to ban polyurethane bathing suits, after Speedo had introduced the LZR Racer Swimsuit at the 2008 Olympic Games.  The LZR had panels coated in polyurethane- these panels happened to be located over parts of the body which experience the highest amount of drag, aka, any part of the body that has fat or a developed muscle.  If these panels compressed those areas of the body, the swimmer automatically becomes more streamlined, drag is reduced, and the speed of the swimmer in the water increased. 
Once manufacturers realized what a gem they had stumbled upon, they went about creating a full body suit- made entirely of polyurethane.

Picture this (for you non-swimmers)- a full body suit that instantly slims all your “worry spots”, that makes you feel like you are walking on air.  Forget about gravity- who needs that?  This miracle suit will make you lighter, as well as look slimmer. 

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Wrong.  For swimmers wearing a full body polyurethane suit- this is a reality.  Aside from compressing areas of fat and muscle, a full body suit creates an air pocket of sorts, between the water and the skin.  For those familiar with the science behind something like this, you understand that the air between the water and the skin creates a force that pushes the body up and out of the water.  Buoyancy. How well a swimmer floats in the water.  If one floats very close to the surface of the water while swimming, less power is needed to propel the swimmer through the water.  The motion created by a swimmer’s kick moves them forward, instead of having to do double duty and keep them afloat, as well. 

So what?  There are two important ideas at stake here- one: does this miracle suit change the biomechanics of the act of swimming; and two: if these suits really do increase a swimmer’s ability, how will this change the face of swimming?

Case and point: at the 2009FINA World Championships, Michael Phelps finished second to Paul Biedermann of Germany in the 200m Free.  Biedermann smashed Phelps’ record for the event by almost an entire second- which may not seem like a lot, but in the swimming world is an incredible amount of time.  While Phelps seemed content with accepting his 2nd place finish, his coach, Bob Bowman was not.  You see, Mr. Phelps was swimming in his Speedo LZR swimsuit with polyurethane panels, and Mr. Biedermann was wearing his full body polyurethane suit. Did the full polyurethane suit provide an advantage?  Bowman threatened to withdraw Phelps from the international swimming competition stating "It took me five years to get Michael from 1:46 to 1:42 and this guy has done it in 11 months. That's an amazing training performance. I'd like to know how to do that."
Bowman has a point.  But how can you prove something like this?
Take a look at the video here:

Granted this is not the best video to look at to analyze the stroke of the two swimmers, but you do notice that Biedermann’s body position in the water is higher than Phelps’ body position, especially towards the end of the race.  Biedermann’s kick is propelling him forward, while Phelps must use his kick to stay above the water and move forward.  Before you jump out of your seat and declare that Phelps was robbed- consider some other factors.  If Phelps was more tired than Biedermann at the end of the race, then sure, Bidermann would have easily overtaken him.  Of course, if Biedermann’s polyurethane suit helped to keep him on top of the water, he would be less fatigued, because the bathing suit would have helped him to conserve his energy over the course of the race. 

Phelps maintained that he was in fact beaten by the swimmer and not by the swimsuit.  This does raise major issues in the wide world of sports- when does it become okay for technology to interfere in these kinds of ways?  Is it ethical, logical, moral?  On January 1, 2010, swimmers were banned from participating in competitive events wearing neoprene and polyurethane swim suits.  If you ask me, the damage has already been done.  Records set by swimmers wearing those suits won’t be touched for years- if ever.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"I think you should promote her to being a complete teacher"

This past Thursday night into Friday morning New York City got MORE snow... so I got myself out of bed at an unsightly hour to get ready for work, figuring that at least one teacher would call out of work, and would need a sub.  Of course (as is usually my luck), I got to work and they didn’t need anyone.  I stayed in my Mom’s classroom for the day, and helped out with guided reading in the morning. 

While in the office that morning, one of the Kindergarten teachers (who I had subbed for prior that week) was lamenting over the fact that her Smartboard didn’t work.  What exactly is the point of buying and installing all this expensive technology if you can’t use it?  I told her that I would come by and see if I could see what was wrong. 

Don’t get me wrong- I’m no technological genius.  I can troubleshoot.  I can usually figure out what the problem is, and occasionally I can fix it.  This mostly comes from being a product of the Information Age- I’ve grown up with computers and cell phones  and iPods.  So usually things that are blatantly obvious to me are like rocket science to other people.  Most of the time with the Smartboards... I usually fail at fixing them.  They are a new piece of technology.  I haven’t really had a lot of experience with them.  I love them- they really do open up a lot of windows in the classroom- but until teachers become more comfortable and experienced using them, they will be far under-utilized. 

I headed out to the portable classrooms (where this particular Kindergarten class “lives”), armed with my notepad, installation CDs, manuals, and the expectation that I would at least be able to figure out what the issue was and why the Smartboard wasn’t working.  Needless to say, after about 40 minutes of tinkering and restarting and hooking up and setting up and unknotting cables and wires- by something short of a miracle- I got the Smartboard to work.  The fix wasn’t complicated by my standards whatsoever- but to someone unfamiliar with the way projectors, laptops, and Smarboards work when they are all connected- it was pretty confusing.  Of course, once  I got everything to work, I realized that two of the pens didn’t register with the Smartboard- the same issue that about 50% of the teachers in that school have with their pen trays.  There must have been a defect when the boards were manufactured, or the way they were installed... and of course you can’t get customer service or technical support to fix anything without paying them a fortune. 

Much to my happiness, this particular teacher told me that she would e-mail the principal and tell him that he really needed to hire me since I had fixed the Smartboard- wouldn’t that be nice??

Elated by my technological know-how, I decided to go into one of the 4th grade classrooms to try and fix that Smartboard.  The board hasn’t been interactive since September.  When the boards were installed last June, everything worked.  All the boards were interactive, all the pens worked, the sound was fantastic... then school let out for summer.  The custodial staff unplugged every wire from every Smartboard and every computer so that they could clean and sand the floors.  Come September, 85% of the teachers can’t hook their computers or Smarboards back up.  No internet, no printers, no nothing.  I’ve subbed in this particular classroom a few times- and I love the kids.  They really are sweet, and I enjoy being with them.  They were thrilled to see me come in, but figured that I wouldn’t be able to fix the Smartboard.  They have seen me try on numerous occasions to get it to work to no avail. 

I re-installed the Smartboard drivers and hardware on the computer.  Still nothing.  I ran the troubleshooting steps through the Connection Wizard to see if I could get anything to work.  Nada.  The board projected the computer screen, but wasn’t interactive.  Now, the Smartboards are nailed to the walls.  You can’t move them.  And everything- and I mean everything, is hooked up BEHIND the Smartboard.  I couldn’t unplug and replug anything even if I tried.  There are a few USB cables that are in easy reach.  So I said, eh, what the heck.  I might as well unplug these and see what works.  And then- by pure chance and some kind of technological divine intervention- I got it to work.  I let out a gasp of pure shock- the kids (who were taking a social studies test) let out a big cheer- THE SMARTBOARD WORKED!  I still haven’t figured out why it doesn’t have any sound- but that is another issue for another day. 

After I fixed the Smartboard I went back into my Mom’s classroom to help out the ESL kids with their Social Studies assignment.  Two students from the class down the hall came into the room with letters that they had written- to the principal, telling him to hire me as a teacher!  I pretty much cried when I read them.  They really are sweet- and in all their glory, here they are for your enjoyment.

Perhaps I will stick them into the Principal’s mailbox on Monday... a few persuasive letters can only help my case- and perhaps in September I’ll be blogging about my own classroom full of darlings (and hopefully a Smartboard that works! )

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

Is there a point you reach when you become entirely sick of the snow?  A time in which you realize that frozen, white stuff falling from the sky isn’t pretty, but your enemy?  An exact moment in which you begin to curse Mother Nature for punishing us by dumping inches and feet of powder on our streets?

I hit that point years ago.  In fact, I think the last time I enjoyed snow was in the 9th grade.  Rewind to January 2003- no school for me- the almighty Regents Week had arrived.  I didn’t have to worry about walking to the bus stop and schleping myself and my 90-lb. bookbag from the junction to Midwood.  Bitter cold freezing temperatures? Who cared! I was snuggled at home on the couch with hot chocolate, sleeping in and not caring about the weather outside.  Then, miracle of all miracles!  A snowstorm that warranted enough snow for a NYC Public School snow day!  (NYC Public Schools have only been closed 6 times since 1978 for a total of 8 lost educational days, according to the NYC government).  My mom and my sisters were off from work and school, and I got bundled up and went outside to play in the snow with my two best friends.  We didn’t have to shovel, we didn’t have to clean off the car, or worry about driving in the snow.  We were free and clear and happy as can be.  We sledded and skated and made snow angels until we couldn’t feel our faces anymore.

Fast forward to January 2011.  New York City has received 36.1 inches of snow THIS SEASON.  That is 14 inches over the average snowfall the city usually gets.  Needless to say, I’m sick of it.  I’m sick of having to shovel, and argue with my neighbor about the driveway.  I’m tired of having to get up an hour earlier to clear off the steps to my house and to get the car cleared off.  I’m totally over not being able to find a parking spot near the school I work in, and I am most definitely tired of having to skate across treacherous ice skating rinks (the sidewalks in front of houses where the people are too damn lazy to shovel) as I walk down the block. 

I missed the Christmas Blizzard this year- but wasn’t spared the side effects.  I cruised the Caribbean for Christmas and got to escape the frigid winter cold of NY for a week.  We docked in Tampa at 7am, and I turned on my cell phone after a week of no texting, bbming and emailing (pure torture I tell you) to find an e-mail from Jet Blue saying that my 7:35pm flight from Tampa to New York had been CANCELED.  Canceled?!!? Why?!? We knew nothing of the impending doom about to befall New York.  Tried as we might, we couldn’t get another flight into NY.  Instead my sisters and I flew to Pittsburgh (ugh Steelers country) to stay with our Grandma, rather than sleep in the Tampa airport.  Turned out it was a good thing, since some French Witch tripped my Grandma with her suitcase as we were disembarking and Grandma ended up with a broken wrist.  We arrived in Pittsburgh at 7pm, and were there from Dec. 26th to Dec. 31st.  We were spared the digging out and shoveling at home.  Luckily my Uncle has a truck and was able to drive out of the 8 foot drifts in his backyard to come and rescue us from the airport!

The Christmas Blizzard made Dictator Bloombag the most wanted man in NYC.  What a disaster... at least the citizens of New York City were able to see our assinine Mayor’s true colors as he jetsetted to his vacation home in Bermuda, while the rest of us were stuck in the Blizzard.  The majority of the city was never plowed, even though Bloombag proclaimed that every single block had been plowed.  What a liar.  Not that Bloombutt is the only one to blame.  I blame Sanitation too- they could have been far more pro-active in snow removal.  Instead, everyone has to point fingers and pass the buck instead of stepping up and doing the right thing.

Then on January 11th and 12th we got hit with ANOTHER storm- my neck of the woods got a whopping 8 inches of snow.  On the night of the 11th, my facebook newsfeed was filled with the stati (statuses?) of the private school kids (yay snow day!) and the public school teachers/kids (PLEASE IF THERE IS A GOD GIVE US A SNOW DAY).  I know plenty of teachers who kicked back, had a glass of wine, and pretty much assumed that we would have a snow day, or, at the very least a delayed opening.  I set my alarm for 5am to check to see if we had a snow day- and SHOCKER! Our illegal Mayor declared that schools were indeed OPEN.  5:25 am I got a text asking if I could sub.  That is one good thing about lousy weather- I am almost guaranteed a day of work.  One glance out my bedroom window led to an automatic groan.  Of course we hadn’t been plowed, of course the car was buried, of course there wouldn’t be anywhere to park.  So into the shower I went, and to work I walked, trudging along in 8 inches of snow for a mile.  At some points the snow was up to my hips (I kid you not), since some people chose not to shovel after the Christmas blizzard.  We had almost 20 people call out of work that day.  Attendance rates in the NYC Public Schools hovered near 46%.

Glorified babysitting- that’s all January 12th was.  I started off the morning with 4 kids.  Slowly they trickled in- up to a whopping 13 out of 30.  Less than half.  I read aloud a story to the kids, then we went to a mass prep.  Then we did some more reading aloud, went to lunch, and then combined with the class next door (where my mom just so happens to be the teacher!).  We wrote letters to the Mayor that afternoon- and most of the kids thanked Bloombag for keeping the schools open- because they got to play all day.  The day was pretty much a day lost in terms of academics.  No teacher taught anything new because there were so many kids out. 

Then, this past Thursday another fast moving snow storm moved through our area.  I’ve never seen snow fall that fast before!  I got up (even though I hadn’t been called that morning to work), figuring that someone would call out and I would get a day of work.  Mom and I bundled up, went outside, cleared the car off twice, and drove on solid ice to work.  No one called out.  Go figure.

Now meteorologists are warning of another miserable storm- and depending on which way the low goes- we might get hit with another storm far too reminiscent of the Christmas Blizzard.  Judging by the past three snow storms, it is a safe bet we won’t be recipients of the elusive snow day... but perhaps I’ll get a day of work.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I'm really failing at keeping up with this blog!

I write and type so many entries and then they never actually make it up here. 

Wednesday January 5 (6th? I don't remember what the date was), 2011
Location: 5 Train.  Destination- 68th Street Hunter College for grad school orientation.

I'm on the train right now, avoiding thinking about Grad School and orientation.  So instead I'm wondering how much Johnnie Walker Black spent for their advertising campaign on the NYC Subways... there are 9 ads for this liquor on this car alone!  "Say it without saying it" is their slogan...

I wish things were as easy as that!  Maybe I should buy my Master's program coordinator and (without saying it) say "Thanks for accepting me into this program, but no thanks.  I'd rather be in the TESOL program than the Literacy program".  Maybe I wouldn't be so nervous about going to orientation then.  And maybe if my morning hadn't been so crazy, and maybe if I could sleep at night and maybe if I had a cup of coffee, AND MAYBE...


I admit it.
I'm scared to go to grad school.
Mistake #1- Going from a private, Catholic school in Westchester Co. to a very public, city university.
Mistake #2- I applied for a program I thought I wanted and now realize that I have no interest in it because a) there are no literacy coaches anymore and b) I'll never get a job with that degree.  The only fields hiring are Special Ed and TESOL and I have no desire to go into


I got on a 5 train and now it is a 2 train?! WTF!  MTA this was a fail.  I don't understand how the train just switched lines and routes without be even noticing! UGH.  Now I'm on another train and then I have to change to a different train again.

Anyway.  I'm scared because Hunter will be so different from Iona.  Iona is my school.  Iona is my home.  My friends and the people who I love are at Iona.  Am I supposed to buy new tee shirts?  New keychains and portfolios?  New stickers for the car?  I don't WANT THAT! I want Iona where the professors know me, where I don't have to take a bus, 3 trains and another bus for an hour and a half each way to get to class.  I want Iona where I can run into LaPenta and always have someone to say hello to.  Hunter is HUGE.  It has four buildings and they go straight up.  There are no dorms, there is no Walsh Hill to sun on when the weather gets nice... just tall, ugly buildings.  Hunter's color is this obnoxious, in your face purple color.  I don't look good in that shade of purple.  I look good in maroon and gold.  What if I don't like anyone in my classes?  What if I can't do this?

Now.  Back to avoiding thinking about grad school and impending doom orientation. Here's hoping I'm working again tomorrow because I have a $4300 tuition and book bill to pay and there isn't that much money in my bank account.  Maybe I should buy Financial Aid at Hunter a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black too.  A bribe of sorts.  So I can pay my bill when I feel like it.

Oh, what it is to be a broke, in between college and the real world kid.