Sunday, February 22, 2015

Make Up Your Minds!

(Disclaimer: I am married to a wonderful woman who happens to teach students with learning disabilities in a public high school.)

Would somebody please explain to me why schools still have report cards when we have standardized tests.

Standardized tests are nothing new. They've gone through multiple versions over the years since they started them back in the mid 1990's. (We didn't have them when I went to school. I graduated in 1984. You know, back then we used stone tablets and chisels . . . ) Each time a new one comes out, it is touted as THE solution to failing school education. As I wrote in "A Swat a Day, Keeps the Gum Away", our government officials "take money from lobbyists who represent companies that SELL tests and curriculum and force it upon the schools." Each one supersedes the last test that was supposed to fix the schools. You know, follow the money.

My question is, why do we have both report cards AND standardized tests? If a student has completed all the assigned work (designed to instill the knowledge gained), participated in class, and passed all the tests, he/she will pass each grade level and graduate. The report card shows how the student did throughout the years, with parent/teacher conferences and other communication to supplement. If they successfully pass according to their report cards but FAIL the standardized test, they DON'T GRADUATE. Really?!?

That means either the student wasted an entire high school education successfully learning what was taught, or failed because what was taught was not THE TEST. Rote Memorization is the lowest form of education. It has the shortest longevity and the least impact when it comes to higher education - or just life. (As a matter of fact, I've NEVER been asked to complete a "bubble test" for ANY employer I've ever had! When I took Microsoft Certification exams, they all were around the completion of tasks that demonstrated I knew the material. No little ovals to fill in with a #2 pencil. Life normally doesn't come with multiple choice answers.) When you make the TEST the most important function (because politicians say it is), you find that education becomes Rote Memorization in order to pass the test. Education does NOT improve, which is the exact opposite of the reason FOR the TEST in the first place.

(I'm a perfect example of Rote Memorization: when I was in 7th or 8th grade, I took a Social Studies class [a.k.a. "History"]. I would memorize the names, places, and dates in order to pass the tests. Once a test was finished you could ask me ANYTHING and I would give you a blank stare in response. I remembered NOTHING! Heck, my wife has me hooked on YouTube videos of Hip Hughes now so I am not completely oblivious . . . )

(Dear Ohio Governor Kasich [ R ]: If you continue to push such baloney as Common Core and PARCC Assessments upon our schools, you will FORCE me to vote Democrat in the next election. Signed: An Independent Voter who previously voted Republican)

So, either get rid of report cards, parent/teacher conferences, and other communication, and focus on TEST memorization, or get rid of the TEST. Both is stupid. Both is contradictory redundancy.

If you want suggestions on how to fix the schools, you can read "A Swat a Day, Keeps the Gum Away". Unless you are a politician. Don't want to hurt your feelings with my humble but accurate opinion!

© Emittravel

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Just a Blink of an Eye

A single breath in passing
A moment and it's gone
A thought grasped but slipping
The pain it feels so wrong

We focus on the moment
Each life to us we face
Soon buried in the rubble
Forever be the chase

To hang on one more second
To make each minute count
Find peace in single hour
Last day for each surmount

What drives the inside hunger
The pangs for just one more
To glean the effervescence
Of lives beyond three score

To find the hope and beauty
To cling to love and mate
To live beyond the total
Escape the claws of fate

If I said "goodbye" now
Left the sand and rust
Would tomorrow forget me
In beams of light like dust

I reach for words of meaning
To share with what I've found
But through my tears I'm humbled
My voice has lost its sound

For each life is but passing
Each friendship one day cease
No value found in fighting
In acceptance is found peace

J.P. Wiegand
© Emittravel 2015

I was reading a blog that talked of how fleeting our lives actually are; in the grand scheme of the universe. There was a deep ache that formed in me and I needed to express it.

Have you ever noticed that you exist? Can you remember a time when you didn't? No wonder we can't imagine not existing in the future. We hunger for life after death - or more appropriately, never-ceasing life. We exercise, Botox, pray, and smear things on ourselves, all in order to keep the Not-So-Pleasant Reaper from knocking on our doors.

One who lives a philosophy that all there is is the now of life, is living such a life in misery - in my humble but accurate opinion. -j.p.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Latest and Greatest

Yesterday, on our date night to the B Spot in Crocker Park, Westlake, OH, we did a visit to the Apple Store. Lisa was (finally) ready to upgrade from her iPhone 4 to a newer model. She ended up jumping to the newest, the iPhone 6 (there is a 6 Plus, but it is the size of a small SUV). I wanted to encourage her to move up to the iPhone 6, because whereas I tend to buy the "newest" technology (a.k.a. "early adopter" - wanna buy a Zune, or Surface RT?), she tends to get the almost-obsolete-but-it-will-work technology.

I said she was "finally" ready, because she has been using this iPhone 4 since December 5, 2011 (do the math). Her cell phone had officially died that day, so we went to our carrier and both got set up with the iPhone 4 smartphones. So, that was way past the two-year contract time that Verizon had us tied to, so the option to upgrade has been there awhile.

Sometime in the late spring of 2014 I upgraded to the Lumia Icon (the "flagship" Windows phone on Verizon). Again, latest and greatest. Of course, since then, the only way to get upgrades is to join the Developer Preview, which only helped with the OS upgrades. The firmware still needs to go through the carriers (Microsoft, you guys are morons), so I'm still waiting two firmware versions behind the phone maker.

My wife is using a laptop running Windows Vista. Yeah, I said "Vista". Me? I'm running Windows 8.1 on our desktop and Windows 10 Developer Preview on a laptop (again, "early adopter"). So, you'll understand why I was thrilled that she upgraded to the latest and greatest iPhone.

Why this blog article? Yesterday during date night, while walking into Walmart (what? You don't go to Walmart on YOUR dates?!?), I saw a display of Valentine's items and made the stupid comment: "I hope you like your Valentine's Day gift." She replied, "It finally took me nine years to realize that we don't do Valentine's Day."

Open mouth. Insert foot.

I have said for years that "we don't do Valentine's Day". Why? I believe that a holiday like Valentine's is just a reminder to men to do something nice for their lady, whereas I believe that men should do nice things for their lady all year round.

Husbands (boyfriends, etc.): you want to know how to be good in your "role"? Love her with everything that you have and are. Don't hold anything back. Make it a point to surprise her whenever possible. I make it a point of bringing home flowers when I'm NOT trying to apologize for being an idiot. She always tells me that I shouldn't buy her flowers, but I don't listen. And that is exactly the point. After all, she IS the latest and greatest.

And if doing something nice happens to fall on a holiday designed to remind men to not be idiots, so be it.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Fair Winds and Following Seas

I celebrated my 30th birthday in October of 1995. I remember turning to my (then) 60 year old dad and saying, "Remember when you were my age, you had me." Without skipping a beat, he looked at me and said, "Don't remind me."

For some reason I took that as a joke about him having ME, and that might be right. But upon reflection, it may be that he went through the same "crisis" as I was going through when he turned 30.

Thirty. That was the only birthday that I've experienced, in my 49+ years going around the sun, that had an impact. The rest were just like any other day.

Thirty was not necessarily the beginning of a new era, but the ending of others. Twelve years of school were over. My teen years. Four years in the Navy. Hell, even "dating" was over (I was married to my ex at the time). I felt more the loss of life, than the excitement of what was to come. C'mon: I was too young to be having a mid-life crisis!

This weekend I attended the end of another 30 year "life". On Friday, January 30, the USS Elrod (FFG-55) was decommissioned. Twenty-three of us "Plankowners" (the ship's commissioning crew) were there to watch her last crew disembark, and to see the last watch secured. The same twenty-three (out of approximately 190 crew) who had the honor of being there to first man the rails at her commissioning ceremony.

(Note: there were actually twenty-four of us in attendance. One was there by proxy. He was on a deployment, and was in attendance via Skype.)

The USS Elrod had 19 captains. I had the pleasure of serving under the first two. During her career, she sailed around two million miles and had conducted 19 deployments. I was there for the first deployment to the Persian Gulf in 1987-1988. She had served the United States proudly, in true recognition of her namesake, Major Henry Tallmadge Elrod, who served valiantly during World War II on Wake Island.

"To all the former commanding officers and former crew members in the audience, we want you to know that all the way to the end, Elrod's radars detected and tracked aircraft, her sonars detected and tracked submarines, her communication equipment function[ed] as designed, her guns shot straight and her engines ran fast." - Commander Brad L. Stallings, the final Commanding Officer of the USS Elrod.

Video from U.S. Navy of USS Elrod Decommissioning

After the ceremony had ended, the twenty-three of us gathered around to have pictures taken, with the Elrod in the background. We were accompanied by Commander Stallings and guest speaker Brigadier General Raymond R. Descheneaux. General Descheneaux had "jockeyed" to be in attendance, and we were proud to have him there. As a Marine, he spoke passionately of Major Elrod and his team's actions on Wake Island. He said that, when telling the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) of his opportunity to attend, that the CNO "beamed", knowing the sacrifices made of both Major Elrod and the ship that bore his name.

My wife noted so accurately, that what we were attending was in essence a funeral. And like most funerals, the tone was somber at the event, and nostalgically joyous during the gatherings that followed. During the decommissioning, there was not a dry eye among us (as mine are wet now, while I write this), and we hung onto the memories shared with laughter the common expression.

My wife Lisa and I on the flight deck
Thirty years. Unlike the Elrod, whose future is either the scrapyard, or hopefully a few more years serving in a foreign navy, I still have many more to go. Many more years to build upon the memories and friendships that have been made.

To you, the Plankowners and crews of the USS Elrod, I bid you Godspeed in all that you do. Fair winds, and following seas.

Former RM2 J.P. Wiegand.

Me - outside of Radio

© Emittravel 2015