Monday, January 30, 2006

Chess Club Humor

I had Chess Club today, my grade 4-6 group. They are a bunch of rowdy boys who want to settle each chess game with a wrestling match. Elementary school boys constantly practice the social skills that will eventually become flirting -- a glance, a wink, an accidental brush of the hand-- but it tends to blow up into a free for all.

I was weary of trying to keep them in check. After worrying about Dean all weekend I was tired of trying to analyze boys and more interested in just appreciating them. I started to have a meeting to talk about future plans but I kept getting interrupted by giggles about the fact that John had rearranged some books to spell the word "poop".

I asked John to stand up and give us a one minute speech about why bathroom humor was funny. He was confused, but other kids wanted to volunteer, so we spent a while "tag teaming" a bathroom humor speech. Then I called for a Chess Club tradition: "Tell Mrs. Och a Joke" day.

I started with this one:

Little Red Riding Hood is skipping down the road when she sees a big bad wolf crouched down behind a log. "My, what big eyes you have, Mr.Wolf." The wolf jumps up and runs away.

Further down the road Little Red Riding Hood sees the wolf again and this time he is crouched behind a bush."My, what big ears you have, Mr. Wolf." Again, the wolf jumps up and runs away.

About two miles down the road Little Red Riding Hood sees the wolf again and this time he is crouched down behind a rock. "My, what big teeth you have, Mr. Wolf."

With that the wolf jumps up and screams, "Will you knock it off, I'm trying to poop!"

Someone told a "punny poop joke":
Q: Why was Spock searching Captain Kirk's bathroom?
A: He was looking for the captain's log.
Everyone told a joke, including some that didn't involve poop:
There were a surfer, a priest, and a blonde who were going to be left on a deserted island and they each got to bring one thing. The surfer brought water, the priest brought some food, and the blonde brought a car door. They asked the blonde "What are you going to do with a car door?" and she said "If we get too hot I'll just roll down the window."
The lady walked into the store and asked the clerk "Can I try on that dress in the window?"

"Sure," he said, "but you'll attract less attention if you try in on in the dressing room..."
Blonde jokes were popular. A new genre was sections of dialogue from current movies, although most of the time these weren't very funny, either because the kids didn't remember them that well, or they didn't understand them in the first place They just knew that everyone thought that those lines were funny. Kassy tried to tell the joke about the blonde astronaut that planned to fly to the sun but she said "moon" instead of "sun" so it didn't work. (They tell the blonde that she can't go to the sun because she'll burn up and she says "Duh. I'm going at night.")

It all served to remind me of what it's like to be a kid. There's always a joke that you don't quite get or can't quite tell straight. There's always something that seems easy for everyone else, but you struggle, and you don't know why.

We had oatmeal cookies for snack. Dividing the snack is always a task to figure out in Chess Club. Yesterday we had enough cookies so that everyone could have two and a half. To figure out the halves, I asked around until someone could come up with the "divide and choose" method, where one person divides the cookie into what he thinks is two equal portions, but the other one gets to choose which portion they want. Growing up in a large family, I always thought that everyone did things this way, but most of the kids in chess club had never heard of it. They figured out the ramifications almost immediately; if I gave a kid a cookie and told him to divide it he was eager, but as soon as he realized that his partner would be choosing, he'd drop it like a hot potato.

"Divide and choose" is a building block for a branch of game theory devoted to resource division. There are various ways to extend the process to more that two players, but they tend to become overly complicated. Still, they can be useful tools for mediation. I would like to try them with my chess kids as a way of tying game playing to life at large.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Found, continued

Liz was there when the Record Eagle reporter talked to Ellen. Liz told me that Ellen said he was "nice, but quiet" and "fun to play with." It didn't come out that way in the paper.

We dissected the story at breakfast after church today. Liz said that Ellen never used the words "dark side"; she talked about how they used to play in the creek by their houses and in the basement in the winter. Both Shelagh and Liz thought the line about Dean being "approachable" was ridiculous. Leland is a small school where everyone knows each other and the emphasis on team projects makes the sort of isolation that the reporter was expecting pretty much impossible.

It turns out that Dean did buy a semi-automatic rifle in Traverse City, something he was eligible to do as soon as he turned 18.

He told police he was on his way back to turn himself in. I'm glad of that. Most people only know a few stories, and the "teen goes postal" story almost always ends with a stand-off or a shoot-out.

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Found Again

I worked from 10 am to 1 am again this Saturday. I just got home and found a message in my email saying that Dean was found this morning walking near Grawn. The police picked him up.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Border Closed

Unreal. They closed the border to Canada for one hour yesterday because they thought that "armed and dangerous" Dean might be trying to get to Canada.

One of the paintball guys emailed me:
I agree with ryan that his "assault rifle" may have in fact been his M16 paintball gun replica. I wonder what the basis of him possible having a pistol is... General armed and dangerous description maybe? or do they figure that if he can get an assault weapon he can get a pistol....

I work early today, another poker tournament. I expect Dean will be the subject of gossip and wild rumours by now. If I can, I will get out early and come home to my kids.

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Dean Kinske

A hard and sad day today. Dean Kinske, one of Liz's classmates, seems to have gone off the deep end last night, breaking into another classmate's home and holding people at gunpoint. The story in the Record Eagle said that Dean was on the run, the 11 o'clock news described him as "armed and dangerous".

Dean is the kid who was in Chess Club in 4th or 5th grade, but quit towards the end of the year because his mom had a baby and he wanted to stay home and help with his little sister. When he was 14 and 15 he worked at NJ's, the local grocery store, bagging groceries and stocking shelves. One day, while I was shopping, he thanked me for teaching chess, and said that chess club had helped him to be a better player. This was unusual; most high school freshmen are "too cool" to remember what they did in grade school, much less to say thank you to an adult for volunteering.

Dean's family bought a home in Suttons Bay and he attended school there for his junior year. We were glad to hear that he was coming back to Leland for his senior year.

I was shocked to come upon his father's obituary last August. Word around town was that Jon had killed himself. I went to the funeral home to support Dean, but he seemed to be the one supporting everyone else. He thanked me for coming. I told him how shocked and sad I was and asked him how his little sister was doing. He said that she was confused; that it hadn't really sunk in yet. I told him to just keep reminding her that her dad loved her. I was in tears by then. Dean seemed rock solid.

That was the last conversation I had with Dean. I asked around after the funeral and one of ny coworkers said that he had been out playing paintball with a bunch of guys, so I took that as a sign that he was getting out in the world. From time to time I asked Liz how he was doing, but he goes to TBA Career Tech school in Traverse City, so she didn't see him much.

Our sheriff described Dean as "a normal teenager". I've always thought of him as much more responsible and thoughtful than the "normal teenager". And the "normal teenager" is busy locking horns with a live dad, not trying to make up for one who is gone.

Tomorrow is another day. Tonight I pray for Dean, that he will be somehow safe and loved again.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Hunger Site

I am adding a link to my blogs to The Hunger Site. Your click on the "Give Free Food" button funds food for the hungry, paid for by site sponsors whose ads appear after you click and provided to people in need around the world through the efforts of Mercy Corps and America's Second Harvest. One click feeds the hungry with the equivalent of 1.1 cups of food.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

One Fish At Daybreak

A year ago, I wrote about Richard being short of carpentry jobs and spending his time fishing. A year later, life looks almost exactly the same except that construction is even slower and the temperature at daybreak today was 25 degrees instead of 4 below.

He caught one fish today, a nice walleye as soon as he got set up. The ice is about 5 inches thick, good enough for one guy on foot. He has been pretty much alone out there all week, but yesterday he found 40 cars in the parking lot of the boat landing. Sure enough, someone had to get out their snowmobile and run it around on the ice. That's when you hope they stay far away from your holes; if they want to gamble on thin ice, whatever, just don't take anyone else down with you!

The fishing has been good. Richard jokes that he catches fish every time he uses this goofy vanilla scented handcream that one of the teenagers abandoned in our bathroom. Whatever works, I guess.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

New Bread Blog

A lot of successful blogs are about just one topic. The authors write about their one favorite topic and their readers keep coming back, knowing what to expect. I've never been able to settle down to thinking about just one thing, or even one thing at a time. The connections and resonances between topics are what fascinates me.

I've started using "Topics" posts to categorize my entries and make it easier to find everything about, say, baking or chickens. But even my individual posts weave family lore in with recipes.

One of the features of my Sitemeter is that I can see how people got to this blog -- what they were looking for when they stumbled in. Since a large number of people came here looking for bread baking advice, I decided to launch a new blog, Home Baked Bread.

The writing will be, at first, largely lifted from what I've already written in this blog. I have chosen a new and somewhat spare template that I am modifying. Anna and I built the header a few nights ago; I knew how to post the picture but she is much more adept at manipulating images in MS Paint.

Anna is currently working on a Power Point show that features her Polly Pocket dolls starring as our family in an adventure story. It is illustrated with photos that she is taking of the dolls in various places and situations around the house. I'm the one with the blue face. She wants me to post it on this blog when she gets done, so I'll have to figure out a way to do that. Check out the new blog in the meantime.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Poker Tournament

We hosted a poker tournament this weekend, Texas HoldEm, of course. That's all anyone wants to play anymore since that's what's on TV.

The tournament started at 10 am Saturday with 100 players. I was still at work at 10:30 pm when the amateur boxing exhibition in our showroom let out. In the end I worked 15 1/2 hours on Saturday.

At least it was busy, and divided into distinct phases so I could fool myself into thinking that it was really two different days. The first phase was the poker tournament. A lot of our tournaments pay out in seats to other tournaments; you play in order to get closer to a seat in a big tournament, like the World Series of Poker. Last weekend was a cash tournament, our most popular kind. The first place winner took home over $3000.

The first place winner was one happy camper. He was young, barely 21, grinning as they took his picture with a "turkey tail" fan of cash. I had dealt to the eventual sixth place winner early in the tournament, another young guy. He had never played the game before, had won a seat in the tournament calling into a local radio station. He watched the game on TV and came in and gave it his best shot. At the first break, when the other players had left the table, he told me how nervous he was, how he was so scared on that first hand that he could hardly move.

The older players sometimes get tied in knots by these younger, inexperienced guys. The older guys know the game and they have very firm ideas about the "right" way to play. They figure outs and pot odds. They fold often and are careful not to overbet. The young guys may or may not understand the strategies, but they tend to go out on more limbs and sometimes those limbs hold up. The old guys get irate when they get "rivered", or beat on by the last card. They snarl "What are you playing those cards for?" or "You had no business in that pot!" but I'm pushing the pot towards the younger, presumably dumber, guy.

It's an age-old argument. The oldsters want the youngsters to act less recklessly. The youngsters, still refining their risk-assessment skills, pretty much have to act recklessly at least some of the time. They don't want to be like those old cranky guys.

I wonder if the old guys have tells. It would make sense that young guys would be more adept at reading others' body language. They spend a lot more time meeting and evaluating a lot more people. Of course, the older guys think no such thing: they imagine themselves to be inscrutable. In truth, they tend to spend much more time listening to themselves talk than listening or studying others.

I checked out the beginning of the boxing when I was on break. The first event was young kids, about 10, bundled up and ready to go at it as the music blared and the light banks flashed red, white, and blue around the showroom. The last people I dealt to Saturday were visiting coaches, playing a little blackjack and having a beer while they rehashed their kids' fights. I'm not that into boxing, but I like to see people that are truly engaged with kids and are thoughtful about how to help kids grow up right. It was a pleasant surprise to see these boxing coaches filling that role.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The pace of avian flu news picked up over the weekend as three children from one family in Turkey died of the disease and a fourth is ill. At least 30 people have been hospitalized; it is unknown how many of them will test positive for avian flu.

This is a larger than usual cluster and the first human infection outside of Asia. Turkey, of course, borders Iraq, an area devastated by war and populated by US soldiers who are coming and going all the time.

I'm checking the news at Effect Measure.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Family Lore.

I have a big family. Or at least a family chock full of personalities. Here is a list of family members, there relation ship to me, and posts in which they appear:

My kids three daughters, pictures Christmas 2004 and Christmas 2005. Stories of them abound, like this one in which I make them change a tire.

I started blogging when Shelagh was still applying to colleges. Here she come back from a trip to Michigan State to sit for the Alumni Scholarship exam. Later I chronicled her graduation here and here. Her valedictorian speech is here.

Liz has her say on sibling rivalry here.

Anna doesn't write much, but she likes to put the camera on a tripod and stage adventures to comment about. Or she sees me post a picture and demands to post the commentary herself.
Grandma Bunny, my Dad's mom. Bunny appears here and here. Grandpa Lee, my dad's father, appears here and here.

Grandma Mimi, my maternal grandmother is profiled here.

Grandpa Gord, my mom's dad, is here.

Cousins last summer.

A film roll found in a drawer from 1997.

Another roll from 1989.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Long Winter's Nap

Anna snapped this picture Christmas Day, but it pretty much embodies the post-holiday mood. Even the casino is sleepy after the New Year's rush.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

I worked about 50 hours this week, ending my work week about 3 am last night. Anna crawled into bed with me this morning chattering about her "revolutions". She hopes to be kinder to animals this year, get her school work done and get better grades.

This is one year of blogging for me. I'm still baking bread and I'm already looking through the seed catalogs and planning my seed starting setup. I'm still driving the '90 Plymouth Horizon, and I've come to enjoy it. The gas tank leak worsened about the same time that gas prices peaked at 3.39. Replacing the tank cost less than $200; now 12 gallons of gas lasts me 2 weeks. Anna is in Odyssey of the Mind again, so far with less drama.

Still to do: update the Michigan school funding series, tell the story of the runaway cows, keep up on the avian flu news, write about the Liz's college application process and the new SAT writing test. There are some other srticles in my "draft" file. I hope to flesh them out and present them.

For now, I'll give you the following "Poem for Peace", written by Bhuwan Thapaliya for A Passion For Peace.

Rules to Live By...

Greet the unhappy face,
with a beautiful smile.

Treat the scorched ears,
with the jingle of rhapsody.

Feed the desiccated heart,
with the fountain of love.

Extinguish the darkness,
with the lamp of perception.

Heal the sore of the wounded,
with the balm of compassion.

Escort the estranged soul,
with the cohort of hope.

Solve the violent problem,
with a non-violent solution.

Bathe the desert of malice,
with the dew of harmony.

Chop the branches of woe
with the sickle of laughter.

Enshroud the smoggy mind,
with the luminous rays of humanity.

Demolish the mansion of falsehood,
with the bull-dozer of truth.

Add meaning to your life,
by subtracting the egos one by one.

Paint the canvas of your dreams,
with the blood of your sweat
for you are
the Picasso of your own life.

Copyright 2005 Bhuwan Thapaliya