Stikkit to Lesson Plans

Posted Friday, 7 December 2007 by vergil66
Categories: Tools

(And my apologies to Stikkit for the lousy title).

I’m as interested as the next teacher who likes the technology stuff to get organized. Lesson planning is no exception.

Most of us began our scripting of beautiful lesson plans with those really nice spiral-bound Lesson Plan books that even gave us some overview of the basics of a lesson plan and perhaps, a refresher of Bloom’s taxonomy. And so, each year, I would faithful chart out my beginning days of the trimester during the beginning of the year meetings and feel good that I had “planned out” or “organized” my classes. I had a plan and I had a book to keep those plans in.

Then, like many other types of organizers, I would miss a day and then a week. I would scratch down an outline of the day in my composition book or on a sticky note only to neglect my faithful Lesson Plan Book.

Enter the power (and distraction) of the computer and the internet and now we’re faced with countless possibilities in managing the shape of how our classes will look, feel, act, and move. Many mimic the paper version of the Lesson Planner Book that we grew up with; others will add lots of Standards-based features. In the end, I really could not take any of those programs seriously.

Most of last year, I used Dave Winer’s OPML editor. In a sense, I used the outlining feature because it was simple, fast and very flexible. It was fairly transferable to other programs and was very easy to create sub plans. I really liked that there were both a Mac and a Windows version of the program so that I could work from home and at school on my plans.

But because of some glitch with my computer, I really couldn’t use the OPML editor this school year. So, I went back to the paper Lesson Planner Book, but still longed for an easier way to keep track of my day-to-day plans (for I would sometimes forget to update the plans in the book). I found myself writing daily plans on sticky notes.

Because I’ve listen to Merlin Mann on other podcasts, I checked out Stikkits awhile ago and then didn’t see the value for yet another sticky note metaphor. A week ago, when trying to decide to organize my student publication class, I returned to Stikkit and decided to take it for a spin in organizing my stuff through a favorite metaphor (who doesn’t love the sticky note? Sort of a twitter on a piece of paper).

And though I went with a wiki for organizing my student publications class, I found that Stikkit is really smart and cool and easy to use.I won’t take much time explaining how to use the site as I would encourage to start playing around and look at the online help; create some Stikkits and see what happens to those notes.

Stikkit Lesson PlanningI like Stikkits for lesson planning because it does remain flexible and “thinks” through some of my items and cross references certain items to todo things or time-sensitive stuff. I have an overall shape for my classes (the big picture) along with the pacing of the weeks (what I want to accomplish). Lesson plans, as I see it, are the outline to carry out that shape or intent of the day–it’s a set list that you may have for a gig; it’s the songs with a few transitions and key changes and perhaps a few words to help move the performance along. For me, it’s not necessary to mark down all of the details (that seems to come in other documents); for me, the plan is enough information that I or someone (such as a sub) could work their way through the class. (If I’ve done my job right, students already have an idea of the pacing of my class).

So I’ve using Stikkits for that past few days and I think I’ve found my lesson planner. From this example, I list my classes and use the todo key term (-) to indicate something to check off. The rest of the example is enough information, in an outline form, to help prompt me through my classes. Some feature that I really like are the tagging feature (which, for right now, I just put at the bottom) and the Discussion tab, which I use for my own reflection on the day or ways that I could use Stikkits more effectively.

My only misgiving with the program as a lesson planner is printing: it’s not very clean and there’s extra stuff (the side bar, for example) that shows up on the printed page. The only really reason why I need to print out my lesson is in case I need a substitute teacher. In that case, I plan on doing a copy/paste into a word processor for formating prettiness (and clarity for the sub). (Update: I’m ill today and I tried this, and it works great: I just copied from Flock [a Firefox-based browser] and pasted into a new OpenOffice doc and the result was very pretty: all formating transfered as it should).

One of my favorite things about Stikkits is that I find out how dang simple it is and yet how that simplicity can be very powerful; I learn something new almost everyday. I could see how I really don’t need GoogleNotebook nor GoogleCalendar because through the strong sticky note metaphor, I can keep all my notes in one place. And, if you’ve done some GTD stuff or training, then you will find how Stikkits fit right well in managing tasks.

I’ll give up an update in a week to let know you know what I’ve learned (and, if I’ve kept up with Stikkits).

Coffee Stains: Bet your bottom dollar

Posted Wednesday, 5 December 2007 by vergil66
Categories: Coffee Stains

Annie was my second cassette purchase; The Muppet Movie, the first.

Sure, I had owned several LPs (mostly from the soundtrack genre), but when we got our first tape recorder, our view of music changed forever. We could, you see, record one of our records onto the tape and then hit the REWIND button and listen to that song or songs whenever we wanted. And this gave way to the concept of making a tape for someone. I did it for my friends and later for Lori when we were courting.

I think we still have the tape and…well, hold on for a few moments, let me get it (I think it’s in the impossible-to-open drawer below the built-in china cabinet thing). It might be… (Oh, and by the way, “It’s a hardknock life” is playing..yes, it’s the Annie soundtrack). Be right back (Oh, now she’s singing “Tomorrow“…warm feelings…”clears away the cobwebs and sorrow”…and “say, oh!”)

[Steps away from the eMac for moment]

Okay, I’m back and I couldn’t find it: I think it’s upstairs. I did find the following tapes: My Songs: Evan (one of those tapes where the singer inserts your name in the song), American Pie (Don McLean–1988), and Lori’s first cassette tape: You Light Up My Life (Debby Boone–1977). We get into these conversations when remembering the good old days of our music, often. Recently it began with my telling Lori about my trip to Martin’s:

“So,” I say, ” I got the creamer and coffee and the sandwich rolls and then made my way over to the Starbucks.”
“Did you get me anything?” she asks.
“No,” I say. “I thought you wouldn’t want anything.”
“Oh,” she responds.
“Anyway,” I ,because I want to tell the punch line. “So, the bartistaperson is making my latte thing…I know, I wanted something different. Guess what she’s humming?”
“No!” she says.
And then I hum, which isn’t a super reliable way of getting music across to another human being, but for some reason that’s the mode I went with…and she got it.
“Yep! Uncanny, eh” I say and then we start singing/humming the words/tune of “Maybe” from Annie.

Then I remind Lori that my second cassette purchase was the soundtrack to Annie; The Muppet Movie, the first. She mentions the Debbie Boone tape and perhaps she sings (with great emotion, mind you) “And you, LIGHT up my life…

We both like music, and I wouldn’t claim that we’re eclectic (which is a common response to “what kind of music do you like?”); no, we’re pretty predictable. She was listening to the radio during the early ’80s while I was amassing quite a soundtrack collection (which was started with The Muppet Movie and Annie). And so, it’s no surprise that I would make Lori a tape for our first year anniversary of courting (yes, I know it’s dating…courting sounds a bit more formal).

It’s roughly 90 minutes of my favorite songs of that time with commentary between each song (yes, it is dreadfully painful to listen to…simply cruel to anyone who hears it). And I think Lori listened to the whole tape once (until we found it 10 years later and abandoned the tape’s second listen). The title of the tape: “365 days with Lori Bickel.” And no, I will not digitize the thing; it really needs to be put out of its misery–or ours.

The tape recorder that evening in a dorm room in Winona Lake, Indiana was my way of creating a thing for Lori. And back in the 1970s when we got our first Panasonic Tape Recorder (it was red plastic with a black handle) my sister and I would create a wide variety of stuff. Most were silly little skits that always seemed to end with some guy falling off a very high cliff into a very deep valley floor (I think it was usually the Grand Canyon…we’d seen the two-part Brady Bunch vacation enough times to know what it looked and sounded like…though no one fell off the cliff).

And here’s how it’s done:

You’d start with a high pitch “Ahhhhhh” and slowly descended to a lower, more intense and louder “Ahhhh” and a the last moment you’d take you thumb and “squish” the built-in microphone. It was a really cool sound and we really thought that’s what a body impacting the Grand Canyon floor sounded like. We were suckers.

And we all are, aren’t we: suckers? We’re predictable as much as we say that we are “an individual.” We will hum some silly line from some silly Disney film or some silly Broadway song. And sometimes I have to catch myself, because I might just enjoy the moment too much. Someone might see or hear my silly humming song, that might break out in a full-blown “The sun will come out, tomorrow!”

Okay, well, I need to pick up the boys. Looking forward to listening to the “Xmas Music for the Van, volume 2.5” CD.

“Maybe”

Coffee Stains: Revisiting Original Writing in view of recent events

Posted Tuesday, 27 November 2007 by vergil66
Categories: All Things Organized, Belief, Coffee Stains

Perhaps you might consider it cheating (me creating something new each week and using something that I’ve written a couple years ago) but it’s on my mind. It’s a part of a much longer piece that I wrote at the (get ready, lots of initials and capitalized words coming your way) Indiana Teachers of Writing National Writing Project Advanced Institute (or, ITW-NP AI) at Notre Dame University back in 2003. My goal for the week was to write 10,000 words–good or bad– personal narrative stuff and lots of experimenting and playing with language (which could be another way of saying: “Eh, it may just be crap”).

This is not a good thing to say in evaluating your own writing, but this is my favorite passage from the summer. I say that with some reluctance because the general rule or wisdom within writing is that if you really love it, cut it out. You are no longer objective about your work and you have fallen in love with your words. You simply can not judge the relationship between nouns and verbs and the syntax and tone and pacing with any clarity: your mind is cluttered with smiles and self-congratulations.

And I know that, but I still like it.

Here’s the setting: I’ve just written about how my father and mother got divorced and that he is now restricted to his car when he picks us–Mike, Stephany and me–up for the court-okayed visits. I begin this section my father’s car and the joy of getting it washed, then, the part I like at Bodega Dunes.

I do, though think of Bodega Bay with my father after the initial divorce proceedings. He’d pick us up in his white Cadillac equipped with power windows and an 8-track player. I remember Neil Diamond most of all and hearing “Sweet Caroline” when he took us through the Bubble Machine car wash located off of 4th Street in Santa Rosa. This wasn’t like the car wash on Steele Avenue where you had to get out of the car and watch it move through brushes and various stages of the washing process. No, in the Bubble Machine you stayed in the car and viewed the water and soap and cleansing from the inside. And Preston would say, “This is just like being the submarine” and I believed him. His service in the Navy had him stationed on a sub for some months and who was I to argue with him. He was my father and father’s always right, isn’t he? I find that when we are in the van and the boys are strapped into their seats and we’re beckoned to pull forward into the car wash at the Phillips 66 station by Goshen Middle School, I’ll smile. Invariably I tell the boys with giddy delight, “We’re going through the Bubble Machine” and they’ll laugh not so much they know the reference but because dad has said something funny.
Preston took us to the beach one Saturday or at least he had told us the last time that he dropped us off that we’d be going to the Dunes the next time. It didn’t look good with the grey clouds and 65-degree weather in town. And we knew this would be a problem because the coast, like the City (San Francisco) was always 15 degrees cooler than Santa Rosa. We heard the honk and followed the wave (he was confined to staying in the car during this part of the divorce process). We loaded into the back seat and headed for the coast by way of Highway 12. He assuaged our fears when he told us that though it looked grey, we were still going to the Dunes. We were going to fly a kite.
Sebastopol, apple orchards, windy roads with steep inclines, the town of Bodega where some of The Birds was filmed, the graveyard on the right side where we had played on the tombstones when we got a flat tire last year and then Highway 1. Highway 1 is the epitome of Northern California coastal driving. It’s the romantic, drive with the top down, leisurely wind the car up the coast with curves and hairpin turns that made you one with the Pacific Ocean. The Bodega Dunes is the first major beach you come to and we made the left-turn into the long gravel road to its parking lot.
Grey, windy, salt misty cold, a divorced father with his divorced children making an outing of the day. He said that we could add string to make the kite go higher and we chorused for the extension into the heavens. He was kind to us and he seemed to be focused on our gathering, of our flying of this kite. Perhaps we laughed and were giddy like the way my sons get excited about something we all do together that has that sense of awe and newness about it. It’s that moment that completely takes you over and take a clear, focused snap shot of the wide-angle image of the time and place and emotion and snap!
The sting broke and the scene stops and we look to Preston and Mike is running after the line but it remains out of reach and Stephany is upset and we look to Dad with questions and he looks and says that it’s lost.
We are back in the car. No 8-track is playing or at least I can’t hear it now but I am looking, searching out the window for our kite. We turn onto Highway 12 and still no sign of the kite or back in the apple orchards and I think I might have been asking the question aloud or maybe he saw me through the rearview mirror because he said, “It must have floated somewhere far away.” I still look out the window for the kite when we visit Bodega Bay. Maybe it’s out of habit or maybe it’s out of hope.

Recently, my sister visited us and we both ran in the Grand Rapids Marathon (great race, by the way). On our way home from the South Bend Airport via the 20 bypass, she mentioned that she and Mike had been in contact with Preston in the past year. I haven’t heard from my father since the last court-ordered support check in 1987. He didn’t respond to my college graduation card, nor my wedding invitation, nor Evan’s birth (I think we gave up and didn’t bother sending a birth announcement for Colin). I was, surprised at the news.

And it’s at this point where I am supposed to reflect on something heavy, about all of the issues that I’ve struggled with stuff because I haven’t had contact with my father in 30 years. But that won’t happen. I think I understand why he didn’t maintain contact and I think that sometimes we just need to leave people to their private lives instead of making it into something that is truly about us and not so much them.

I still like what I wrote, though.

It’s nice to settle for Safari

Posted Tuesday, 27 November 2007 by vergil66
Categories: All Things Organized, Apple, Productivity, Writing

I’m looking at a draft post that I never did finish. It’s about how I was getting frustrated with switching to a certain browser for specific tasks. Call me old-fashioned, but I want it my way and that way (in my perfect world) is that one browser should be able to do all of my basic InterNetTubes things I do: 

  1. Quick browsing
  2. Really good display of pages
  3. Ability to enter text into a html text field (or something like it).

Specifically, WordPress and Moodle text fields.And up to this point, Safari always met the first two requirements but always failed on the third one.Bummer.And so, here’s what I was typing 4 months back as I was working through my browser-angst:

I’m writing this entry in Safari to see if I can do the “Code” work around to get the post to look how it ought to.See, for any of my usual browsing, feed-reading, emailing, Safari is great. I have an older machine with limited resources available, and I would rather use the Cocoa app that is known as Safari.But, for the times when I want to do any text-editing windows, Safari simply will not render the correct editing toolbar. Thus, I have to switch over to Camino (which is also lightweight and snappy) to do editing on two of my major sites: vergil66.com (a Moodle-based site) and vergilscoffee.com (a WordPress.com site).Here’s what I mean:Moodle-editing (vergil66.com)This is my main classroom site throughout the school year and I am constantly updating information, communicating with students and posting assignments. The typical set-up in creating an assignment or any text-based item has a html-edit area as follows:(Dang, I just saved my WordPress post for this piece and now all the formating is gone:          

BTW, that’s exactly how the editing came out: one big long text block. But not anymore with the recent update to Safari. In their blog post, the developer folk over at WebKit mention the improvements and my particular priority (#3) was addressed as their #1.

1. Enhanced Rich Text Editing As you browse the web with a WebKit 3 based browser, you will get a complete and functional rich text editing experience on the new read-write web. Here’s a sweet demo of our improved editing support, just click the text and editing controls appear.Specifically, we have worked together with developers of RTE libraries and applications to improve compatibility. WebKit 3 fixes many bugs, and supports additional text editing features like links and lists. We now have support from web applications like WordPressGoogle DocsGMailBlogger, and many more. We’ve also improved editing to support libraries like TinyMCE and FCKeditor. We expect even more web apps and toolkits to add support over time.       

My Moodle editing issue hasn’t changed, but that doesn’t affect me as much anymore: most of my editing for that site is done from another computer.Thanks WebKit bugwatching-developer folk; thanks for listening and improving a really good browser.  

Update: my post, as you can see, was a bit premature: WordPress editing looks good when you’re editing, but gets lumped together (esp. paragraphing). I don’t know, when I use Camino and other browsers, if I hit Return in the editing field and it will show up as a new paragraph…not so with Safari (BTW, I’m using the most recent build of WebKit). So, I suppose I will continue to switch back and forth between Safari for #1 and #2, Camino for #3.  (and the only way to get this last paragraph to paragraph was to enter in the <p> tags manually) <sigh>.

The Things I Love

Posted Sunday, 25 November 2007 by vergil66
Categories: Belief, Boys, Culture, Indiana, inuksuk, running, Writing

We’re back from the 9th annual family gathering of the Bickels (Lois’ parents and Lois’ brother, his wife [Jinger] and their son), the Certalics (Jinger’s parents) and us on Thanksgiving weekend in Schaumburg, IL (home of the Woodfield Mall<= really big).

And, for the last 9 years, we had all read the same book and had a book talk (this year: A Thousand Splendid Sunsets [Hosseini of The Kite Runner]). At the suggestion by Lois, we each created a list of “Things we loved” that didn’t include the usual things like family or country or belief-like items. I scribbled mine on the back of notes from a little talk that I gave the editors of the Student Publications class and found more room on the hotel’s small notepad paper. It was interesting to hear each person’s list and was in general a pretty cool to do.

Try it sometime…or now–as a response to this post–it’s fun. It’s not so much in making this list, but sharing it with someone else who has made the list too.

So, here’s mine:

The Things I love:

  • Venti Bold lots of room for cream with four packets of Sugar in the Raw from Starbucks at 7:07 a.m. before school.
  • New England Clam Chowder with sour dough bread at The Tides restaurant in Bodega Bay, California.
  • The Mac OS X OS with its Unix core underneath and the bling bling of the UI on our eMac.
  • That each Bickel has a bottle of nasal spray on their night stand.
  • Celtic Women, Riverdance, and “Danny Boy.”
  • Most BBC comedies.
  • Netflixing with Lois.
  • Colin’s red hair and Evan’s hitting the floor.
  • Making Ken and Doris coffee.
  • The first bass note in a song.
  • The pictures of Lois and me at the Japanese Tea Gardens (Golden Gate Park) in 1989 and 2001.
  • The beginning, middle and end of a marathon.
  • My 2007 Grand Rapids Marathon shirt.
  • NPR (“Wait, wait…Don’t Tell me,” “This American Life,” and “Speaking of Faith”).
  • Troubleshooting a website’s code and the moment when it works as it ought to.
  • Writing in a black marble composition book.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge on a bright foggy day.
  • My running shoes.
  • My Timberland shoes.
  • A 1988 Ford Festiva.
  • Building inuksuk on the Lake Michigan shore in Milwaukee, WI.
  • The flatness of the Midwest.
  • When Lois calls me a jackass.

Coffee Stains: Let the rocks be rocks

Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2007 by vergil66
Categories: All Things Organized, Belief, Coffee Stains, education, inuksuk

Inuksuit overlooking the bayI’ve just finished a proposal for a grant that would allow me to be in Nunavut, Canada for over a week to see the the bare landscape of “Arctic” Canada and an incredible section of Baffin Island where Inuksuk are plentiful.

I’ve been taken by these stone structures and find that I often build some makeshift Inuksuit (Inuk-Sweet) when we are on vacation or about or when we visit Lori’s brother and his family in Wisconsin. This trio were built this last month.

I suppose I could say that I’ve a history with rocks: I grew up near Bodega Bay, California and near the impressive Northern California coast (where the Pacific Ocean is not so much to swim in and sun bathe near but as to look at and admire and write somewhat bad poetry about). I think of my literal impression of rocks during a 6th grade outdoor education trip to British Columbia, Canada.

We’re into the 4th day of our trip that began at school in Santa Rosa, California and we were now into the northern part of Oregon. We had various responsibilities on this trip (mine was on the “planning the route” committee) and since the tents were all set up, many of us went to the lake. And where’s there a lake, there are rocks.

I need not explain nor describe the amazing skill and art to the skipping of rocks on a smooth lake: this knowledge comes from the very thing that makes us human. Smooth, flat, sidearm and a flick…yes, it is all in the wrist.

And so we’re skipping rocks and being in the moment and something thumps my on the head.

Any guesses on what?

So, I grab my head, and I don’t think I’m crying as much as slightly annoyed that my head now hurts and someone walks me to the nurse.

No one wanted to see the nurse, mind you. On day One, I mentioned to Todd Eberlee that I thought I didn’t feel good and that maybe I should see the nurse.

Todd shook his head and said “I don’t think you should do that.”

He read the “why?” look on my face and responded “I hear that she’ll make you drink prune juice…no matter what the problem is, she’ll make you drink prune juice.”

And so, upon hearing this, my ache went away. Later that night Russ verified that prune juice claim.

So you might see why I didn’t want to see the nurse, but after drinking the prune juice I realized that I really hated the taste and that it really is as bad as its name.

But something irritated me more than that metal tasting prune juice: being used as an object lesson. Adults are good at this: using a real-life example of an obscure concept. The concept was during the devotional time that evening. Remember, I said this was a private school and so religion was mixed with education as being a positive combination. And one of the adults is talking about anger and tempers and then he says “Much like what happened to Chris tonight.”

All eyes turn toward me.

“When he got hit in the head by a rock, he didn’t swear or say anything bad or hurtful to others.” And then the application went to a bit more discussion and then to a time of prayer (“with all eyes closed and no one looking around”).

I was annoyed with being used as an example for someone’s religious talk because I didn’t think it was accurate. My not swearing nor saying bad things had little to do with religion; I didn’t swear because I didn’t have a temper–Less to do with a higher power, more to do with just who I was.

There is a social norm that says that students listen to the adults and do what the adults say because (fill in your favorite answer). There is a wall of separation, a very thick line, between you the student and me the teacher. Perhaps there’s wisdom in respecting those lines. But, isn’t there value in telling anyone, even it they’re a teacher or an adult on an outdoor education trip with a bunch of 6th graders?

No, I didn’t say anything to the guy who used me as an illustration, mostly because I didn’t think it was my place (it only affected me and thus I would just a whiny outdoor education 6th grader).

And it’s because of this idea, I encourage my editors and students to not take what I say as truth: they should challenge my ideas (for they could be misrepresentations). Few take me up on the offer, many simply smile and nod.

The student publications class which I advise didn’t have an editor-in-chief, nor a managing editor nor any of the traditional hierarchy that seemed to organize my staffs in the past. I was faced with choosing between 5 or so highly-qualified applicants for the editor job and I went with a newer more unconventional way of doing publications. When I told the now disappointed applicants that I was doing away with traditional structures in favor of spreading the responsibilities to all applicants, I explained that this was an experiment that could be a fantastic failure (or some phrase like that) or really be a good way of doing publications.

Tonight, as we finished recording a TalkShoe session with some of the editors, I realized that I’m chalking this idea as a fantastic failure and I am incredibly happy that we tried it.

It’s like a thump on the head, isn’t it?

Coffee Stains: A Haiku Moment

Posted Tuesday, 13 November 2007 by vergil66
Categories: Coffee Stains, Culture, education, Writing

I’m going to avoid a nifty post about how sometimes students’ papers are much like “flaming bags of poop”; partly because my last “Coffee Stain” was about plumbing, but mostly because it’s the humor that my sons really like.

So, instead, I’d like to tell you about what prompted Spencer to ask (or retort):

“So, you should be practicing what you preach, eh?” Or something like that.

I think I blame much of the bad writing in student essays and papers on the film Dead Poets Society. It’s that notion that if one just takes all of that angst and emotive power and focuses it into a poem or a writing, that the “feeling” will overshadow all of the “plumbing” of writing (mechanics, usage, grammar) and a thing of beauty will be called into existence.

“Carpe Diem!” Mr. Keating shouts and now you have the confidence to ask the girl out and act in the play on the heels of “sucking all the marrow” out of life.

Actually, I think what was born in that edenic moment were occasions for Xanga and MySpace.

You see why I wanted to write “flaming bags of poop”? But, I resist.

Spencer was responding to my “working through the editing process” that we English teachers talk about in our classes. For some reason, the last three weeks has had me writing three formal pieces: a conference proposal, an article for an educational writing journal and a grant proposal. All of the writings are done (yes, I met my deadlines) and have been sent to their various locales. The most difficult one was the grant proposal as it took more time than usual to figure out the form of the writing.

At one point I think I actually said to the screen “I hate you.”

I had the “stuff” or the details of my proposal, but the way (or, yes, the rhetorical strategy) I was presenting the case for my grant just wasn’t happening. So I did what I usually do in these situations and found an audience who could hear me out (this conversation usually begins with “Hey, I wanted your opinion on this…”). Of course I don’t want the listener’s opinion as much as hearing my voice talk through the options.

The reason: I want to avoid the “flaming bag of poop” type of writing that sometimes comes across my desk.

Sure, I want the grant, I want the article to be published, yes, I want to present at a conference. But more than those nice things, I write for the same reason I run marathons: to amuse myself. It has little to do with “success” (what an impossible, shifty word that is) nor “fame” (though I might not “live forever” the words still hang around…maybe). No, there’s usually a little nuance or something newish that “happens” when I run or when I’m writing something for my writing group or even when I “twitter.” I sometimes refer to those little ironic times as “haiku moments” (it’s the most Oprahish I get, people).

My understanding of the haiku is just that: not so heavy on the form that we’ve restricted it to, but more how the form affects it’s function. Remember: the first two lines are some observation (many times a common place setting) and the last line grins some bit of ironic twist.

A lot of times it is something of nature that somehow crosses my path (as in Mile 17 in the Sunburst Marathon last June, when in the literal heat of the moment, a turtle crossed my path and I resisted carrying the thing across the finish line: that would be a human thing to do, wouldn’t it?). You can’t anticipate these moments, they just happen.

It’s mostly a Halloween prank, but when you really want to “get” someone down the street from you, I’ve been told what you should do: grab some of the dog droppings from the neighbor’s house, put it in a paper bag, and then place that “gift” on the recipient’s of your passive-aggressive wrath. Light bag, ring doorbell, run. The gag: the person answers the door, thinks there’s a fire and they then step on the “flaming bag of poop.”

It’s not that I’m trying to scrape stuff on my teacher shoes from the papers that I’ve received recently or that I find that writing is worse today compared to the days when students “really cared.” No, I’m merely amusing myself because the 11-year-old just saw a word on my screen and it made him smile and laugh and say with amazing glee “Poooooooooop.”