Archive for the ‘Star Wars’ category

A Merry Lego Santa Claus Family Portrait

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Familiar friends at the Lego store The first 15 minutes of the Lego® Store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago is fairly entertaining; anything beyond that becomes a form of Chinese lead torture.

It’s what they love now, Legos®, and both Evan and Colin arrange much of their living space around the mighty investment into the building brick sets. Evan counted up how many pieces are dedicated to the Lego® Star Wars® sets and the number is approximately 11, 561.

We have a lot Legos® in our house.

And I think we can justify the purchases on the idea that both Evan and Colin still play with the Legos®. They might rebuild the set or might morph together sets and create new vehicles for Luke or Yoda or Darth Vader to do a flyby over Luke the cat. And as parents we like the idea of the boys creating stuff from bricks; it’s the good stuff of play. And it’s really hard to break the little things and no batteries are required.

But they do burn…or melt as I found out in 3rd grade.

The story is sometimes still in dispute, and is probably as controversial as the fire alarm story. In the fire alarm story (and I’m not kidding, my brother who is 5 years my senior and I still “discuss” it) I am the victim of a coercive brother. In the fire alarm story (it’s amazing how much of our childhood had some type of pyromania in them) Mike and I are at Yulupa Elementary School and it’s summer. And we’re roaming the hallways of school and around the corner from the water fountain by the bathrooms was a red “Pull for Fire” object about 4 feet up the wall. I’m watching Mike and he says (at least from my version of the story) that nothing happens when you pull it and he pulls it (or at least it appears that he has) and nothing happens. Then he says, “Now you try it.”

You cannot turn off a school fire alarm by banging your shoe against it. Apparently you need a key. Also, it is difficult to run across an uneven field and across a busy road with a shoe on your left foot and the other shoe in your hand: it just isn’t efficient in trying to make a quick get away when you hear the fire trucks coming to the school where you have just pulled the fire alarm. Lastly, it’s amazing that you might know that your brother has tricked you into doing something bad, and yet you still will be at his beckon call when he tries another stunt on you.

But that wasn’t the case with the Lego® house that we built when my mother was away. It was a group project: Mike, Steph and I are digging through the basket of Legos® and we’ve decided we’re building a mansion. We use the large green plate pieces for the foundation and then begin the two-story structure. We give up a strict color scheme on the second story when we run out of red bricks, but we’ve finished the house. It has windows, a door and a chimney.

See where this story is headed?

Again, I maintain that it was Mike’s idea, but perhaps we all wanted it and Mike lit the paper that we stuffed through the top of the chimney and I think I remember running for some reason (as if that would save me from the nasty burning Lego® house that was all of one foot high). The fire (or smoldering) was put out and we quickly cleaned up the mess and I even think we did the cartoon whistle-with-hands-behind-backs strolling about the house toward the door to the back yard.

Mom was not happy when she found out. It wasn’t the melting plastic from our realistic Lego® 2-story, but perhaps she even swore something silly when we sat down to eat dinner sometime later (that day or week or perhaps a month) and she saw the burn stain in her beautiful oak table.

Later, I was playing with the Legos® and found that some of the melted pieces didn’t make it into the garbage. I might have even used the evidence against Mike or Steph, but more than that, I didn’t have enough pieces to build whatever structure I was making at the time.

My sons haven’t discovered the wonders of fire but their lives do encompass Legos® and building and creation. I’m sure (and I know…I’ve heard it) they try and make their creations real: through battle sounds and often tossing the plane or ship into the spinning blades of their bedroom ceiling fan.

The big guy and the family And it continues to amaze me that when we go to the Lego® Store in Chicago around Xmas that we will inevitably stop by the Lego® Santa Claus, in his sleigh, with his reindeer. We will gather around the big guy in Red Suit (lots of red bricks) and get a picture of our entire family much like a family picture during Thanksgiving in Schamburg or during the summer in Pennsylvania.


Coffee Stains: Tempus Fugit

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Salvete, discipuli et discipulae!

There were times when I thought that I was put on earth for one purpose: to tell my sister what time it was. That changed, though, when I lost my Darth Vader digital watch in 1979. Then, when Stephany would ask what time it was, I would have to look for a clock in the kitchen or in a bedroom. Without the convenience of time on my wrist, I began to get impatient with her every time she’d ask what time it was. And then it hit me.

“Chris, what time is it?”

“Why don’t you look for yourself?”

“You have a watch.”

(By the way, this is all done with a least one room between us).

“No I don’t,” I said.

“Where is your watch?” she asked.

“It’s lost,” I said.


My sister’s been in town since Thursday, and time is still an issue in our relationship. She still asks me “What time is it?” or “Why didn’t I wake her up sooner?” and I still get that sinking feeling that I had back in 1979: the irritation that “I’m not my sister’s timekeeper.” Actually, it’s mostly the loss of my Darth Vader watch (it was a really cool).

We’re getting ready to play a game of chess last night (sort of our thing to do when she comes out to visit), and we were doing the usual sibling badgering. I think I made some comment about how losing builds character and she retorts with this zinger:

“Have you ever heard of positive reinforcement for your students as opposed to negative criticism toward them?”

Earlier that evening I had read some quote from a local school official on how there’s there is a huge correlation between self-esteem and GPA. I was annoyed at the simplicity of the claim and the person’s use of the word “huge” in making an educational statement and so I pounced on my sister’s question.

Not many encouraging things were said during the first few moves of the game. And, as is the case of a complicated opening (no captured pieces until move 14), if you let a conversation play out for a while, you end up with the thing that really bothers both sides. For Stephany it was the tone of her workplace and how there’s people there who incessantly complain and bicker but also don’t work very hard; for me, it was trying to convince my sister that some students don’t need positive reinforcement because they’ve been told too many times that “you are doing great” or “you are so special.” As a result of this general “feel-goodness,” not all of my students “do their best work.”

“Why should they?” I asked her. “What’s in it for them? Grades? Approval? Internal joy and happiness?”

And she gave me one of those “you can’t say that, can you?” looks.

It amazes me that my family is concerned about the time when they are rarely punctual. Time, for my family, is a mere suggestion rather than a list to keep up with. This didn’t bode well when Lori’s family was 20 minutes early for the before-the-wedding pictures and the Judsons ambled in, relaxed, 25 minutes late. And I still believe today what went through my mind then: I’m stuck with them and there’s no changing people for my own convenience.

I have little choice in who takes my classes (or, probably more accurately, who is assigned to my classes). I also have little say in whether or not students do their homework, do well on exams and, most of all, care about the work they do for my assignments. One of the greatest harms that our profession can promote is replacing a clear and fair assessment of student work with points of positive praise for egos. Self-worth and self-esteem come not from my words or approval or grades, but from your own self. The problem though, is that most people want to wallow in self-pity and self-reflection instead of accepting that some things in life are just plain difficult to do and you just have to work at it. I can kind of understand the underlying annoyance when Yoda responds to yet another whiny Luke Skywalker question: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

For the last weeks of the trimester, that’s a timely assessment– fair and clear.


Magister Judson

Darth Colin

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Darth Colin

Originally uploaded by vergil66.

“Darth Colin: Don’t let your boys grow up to be Darth Vader” video…watch it at:

New Star Wars TV series acomin’

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Sure, I think I've read this about a year ago, but the confirmed announcement makes me happy.