End of an era

Today marks the end of an era.  No, I am not writing about the 102 years it has been since both Chicago MLB teams were last in the playoffs.  I will leave that blog post to a more sports-interested blogger.  I am referring to the end of Randhurst Mall.  Today was the last day for all the stores inside the mall.  According to the article I read they will soon start tearing it down inside, but the reconstuction won’t begin in earnest until next year (as the anchor stores that remain open breathe a sigh of relief for the holidays).  I wan’t alive when it first opened in the sixties, but I do remember going there as a child.  I remember the Kresge’s that used to be there a long time ago.  I remember before they rebuilt the center and replaced the merry-go-round with a food court.  I remember as a teen visiting the arcade known as Supercade.  I even worked at two stores over there at different times- Circuit City and Software Etc.  All gone now.  I knew about this day coming and I could kick myself for not getting over there to take some pictures.  I got busy and forgot I guess.  Oh well.  It’s not as if I’ve never visited a virtual ghost-town mall before- I remember the last days of Meadows Mall before they tore it down to make way for a Walmart and Sam’s Club- but I should have gotten pictures for this blog.  They say the new so-called “lifestyle center” will be completed in 2010.  I’ll probably visit it once just to see, but it just won’t be the same.

They are moving the movie theaters in the process, so I wonder what they will do to improve them, as I’m sure AMC won’t miss the opportunity.  They didn’t build the theaters after all, merely purchased General Cinemas, who had the original theaters there.  They were already rebuilt once after large-capacity theaters went out of style and they replaced four theaters with sixteen smaller ones.  I wonder what AMC will do to put their own mark on it?

Well, I guess you will be wanting a link to the story I mentioned.  It even contains a few pictures that I fully do not take credit for as I missed my opportunity. 😛

Randhurst Shopping Center reaches the end

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Mine is smaller than yours!

Wait- that’s not quite how the saying goes of two boys comparing sizes, is it?  Well, in second grade apparently that is quite the appropriate comparison for comparing the lengths of their pencils.  Literally speaking of course- how can you even think…! 😮  Oh, never mind.  Anyway, the lower grades can prove to be quite interesting as the way a small child thinks is so alien to adults.  In the case I mentioned, two boys were in competition to see who could use the shortest stub of a pencil.  The clear winner was the one who sharpened his pencil so much only the metal eraser band was left with only a small point at the other end.  The next day, there was a boy who would break the point on his pencil on purpose and just use the broken tip.  I guess that actually beats the stub from the day before.  Including last Wednesday, I kind of just worked my way down the hall from one second grade room to the next.  Each room had its own challenges and own interesting characters.

Umm, ‘scuse me a minute while a close my window.  A skunk just walked by…  There.  Whew.  Where was I?  Oh- characters.  The latest room had a boy who liked to fight and apparently did so at recess time yesterday.  He was supposed to spend lunch with the principal today, but he didn’t show up.  Did his mom keep him home?  There was also the hearing-impaired girl who required me to wear a microphone.  I had to try to remember to take it off when I wasn’t talking to the whole class or to her.  For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to stuff it in my shirt pocket when not in use.  Bad idea of course.  Instead of getting me talking to others, she got the scratching of the microphone against the material of my shirt.  She never told me.  Only during the afternoon today did she tell her one-on-one assistant who told me.  Apparently Pokemon is still in fashion, as one boy showed me his small book of cards he would take with him to lunch.  And you already read about the pencil boys.

Of course as is normal for primary grades, there was the ever-present “this is how we do things and so you’d better get it exactly right.”  Okay, it wasn’t that bad but small children really aren’t as flexible as older ones when it comes to routine.  speaking of routine, it was nice how the teachers worked together and had their classes doing a lot of the same things.  Some of the stuff I got to teach more than one class, making it easier for the second since I already knew what I was doing.  All-in-all, it really wasn’t that bad working the five days with second grade.  Experience normally has me dreading multiple primary days as so much extra focus is required compared to the older ones, but this wasn’t bad at all, perhaps because the teachers were still there (doing testing) and checked in from time to time taking some of the pressure off.  I don’t know.  Tomorrow will be a little different in any event.  I have two half-days for music, but I might drop the afternoon because there’s a job fair going on at that time that I should attend.

EDIT: I forgot to mention the “does this look like the face of a guilty person” look of innocence one of the boys gave me when I asked him to change his card (behavior system).  It reminded me of when a sixth-grader tried this a couple of years ago with another teacher.  It failed then too- the teacher just said (a little sarcastically), “aww- how cute”  then gave him his punishment anyway.

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Near disaster

Last night I was a bit exhausted from work, short nights of sleep, choir on the weekend, small group… Well, you get the picture.  So it is understandable that when I read a news item about some new Vista Ultimate extras and I went to Windows update to get them and saw SP1 asking to be installed instead, I decided why not?

Well, as it turns out, the answer to that question is the reason it showed up for me so many months after its release.  I forgot that I rejected it a while back due to problems I read about.  What problems you ask?  Failed installations for starters.  No problem, right?  I can always restore if there’s a problem. Why not just forget for the moment this is the infamous Microsoft we’re discussing?  Yeah, sure, I did. 🙁

I didn’t remember I rejected it, and I didn’t remember the installation issues.  So as I said I started the installation, which by the way said could take over an hour and did even on this fast machine of mine.  I should say unsuccessful installation.  It seemed like it worked, but then it rebooted, disk activity for a while, then… blue screen of death.  Great…  Okay, rebooted to try again, same results.  Starting to feel the dread coming on I chose to repair next time and it asked me if I wanted to restore.  Sigh.  All that time wasted.  I clicked yes and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Eventually, I looked at the hard drive activity light and no activity.  What?  I unsuccessfully tried a few other things and eventually wound up at the restore application itself (the other was the repair app) and noticed all the points I could choose from.  All one of them that is.  The SP1 installation created a point and decided, hey why not delete the old restore points?  Gee, thanks Microsoft.  Well, I tried the one restore point and started the process.  Things were looking good until it got to the end where it was “finalizing the restore.” At this point (no pun intended) all hard drive activity stopped and the finalizing animation kept going, and going… Clearly, this was the point where the repair program failed.

I looked online on the other computer and found out that this was a common problem, and there were few solutions.  I wound up downloading a Vista recovery CD and a Ubuntu (Linux) CD in case I had to restore the entire system.  With that, I could hopefully move critical files to the D: drive before reformattiong.  You may have noticed in the headline I wrote near disaster.  As it turned out, I didn’t need the Linux CD because the Vista recovery CD worked.  Not that I expected it to after I saw it just had the same tools as on my HD that I already tried.  I tried the repair, and it actually found a problem.  Maybe.  It said the boot record was corrupt and repaired it.  Reboot.  Nope.  Now it seemed worse.  Wonderful.  I booted the CD again and tried the restore program just for kicks.  Well, surprise surprise- no, really- it actually finished the restore!  By now the computer had my full attention as I watched it reboot, start loading, get past the problem point, get to the GUI, and… LOGIN SCREEN!  YES!!

Lesson learned- no service packs on this computer, a big thanks but no thanks.  Security updates, but no big service packs.  And I think my next software purchase will be a good backup program that is hopefully mostly painless unlike the basic one included with the OS.  Ghost maybe?  During yesteryear it was supposed to be a good program.  Now…?

Well, back to the regular posts next time.

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Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

On this official International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I forgot one thing while subbing- I forgot to talk like a pirate.  Despite my reminder to myself.  I think the kids would have enjoyed it.  Oh, well.  Cleanup continues here on the home flood front- I finally ripped up the carpet at the foot of the stairs which has not dried since getting flooded.  The other day I also discovered that the dryer did not in fact survive the sump-pump failure.  It started once for a test run, but then once I put a load of clothes in suddenly the dryer wouldn’t keep going once the start button was released.  Later that evening, I came down to an odd smell, which after looking up the problem was probably a fried heat control board which is $130.  Sigh.   At least the washer works so I only have to dry at the laundromat for now.

Today completed a week (well, 3½ days) of elementary subbing.  Up until this week it was all middle school.  Two days ago I showed up at a classroom expecting 4th/5th and it turned out to be 2nd.  The teacher changed grades this year and her info was not updated I guess.  I’m mad at myself about that day by the way.  I overheard something from one of the kids and I said to myself, “blog moment.”  Now I can’t remember what it was.  Next time I will write it down I think.  Anyway, an interesting thing happened that day.  I walked in on a meeting- yes, even the elementary teachers sometimes have team meetings- they must time their specials to coincide- and one of the teachers mentioned that I subbed for her last year and the kids loved me, asking for me to sub again.  And since the students were being tested, the whole reason a sub was needed in the first place in this case, and that teacher has two days scheduled next week to do the same, she took the opportunity to ask if I was available.  Another teacher asked the same.  One will be testing Monday and Tuesday, the other Wednesday and Thursday.  So… long story short [too late] I have four days in second grade next week.  Will I survive?  Well, you’ll have to tune into the blog to find out. 🙂

So… This brings me to yesterday, a half day of PE.  Two mentally impaired classes where I really just helped the assistants work with the kids, and three 4th or 5th grade classes where the kids got to toss the pigskin around, preparing for the passing part of a pass, punt, and kick contest some time in the future, apparently sponsored by the NFL.  A few of the 5th graders really had good arms- could throw pretty far.

Today was a mix.  Between morning and afternoon I had 3rd-6th grade (one 3rd/4th multiage class, one 5th/6th multiage.  They were at two different schools too, meaning I had to spend half my lunch leaving one school, travelling, and checking in at the other school.  Fortunately the plans at the second school were pretty easy so I was able to go over them quickly.  Nothing too special.  A lot of worksheets in the morning and a lot of supervising while students read or wrote in the afternoon.  Actually, scratch that- there was reading with a group for 45 minutes and during their independent reading time I did book conferences with a few kids so I did get to do some actual work beyond classroom management.  Speaking of which, this was a slightly tough crowd to keep under control.  Nothing like the ELL fiasco a couple of years back, mind you, but challenging just the same.  Fortunately I did have help in the form of an assisatnt and a high-school helper.  You know, why didn’t I ever have the opportunity to go back to elementary school when I was in high school?  It would have been fun I think, and a break from real schoolwork, though I suppose this high-schooler will have to write up her experience, or keeps some sort of log.  That could take the fun out of it I expect.

Hi Griffin, meet Griffin

Well, the new pump is installed and cleanup continues.  We picked up some wet items from downstairs and put them outside to dry, afterwhich we’ll try washing them.  The second dehumidifier which I said doesn’t work actually seems to after all.  It just draws a lot of power.  I switched it to another outlet and it worked fine, didn’t trip the circuit breaker.  However, I used an extension cord with it, an office-style 3-prong job, and the connector area got pretty warm.  Now I know that the dehumidifier says not to use an extension cord, but the cord they provide is short, and with the basement outlets set high I have to have to have the dehumidifier practically against the wall in order to plug it in, but it seems that’s what I will have to do.

Anyway, on to the headline.  I was at a restaurant tonight and I overheard an encounter between two dads and their boys, both named Griffin.  I have encountered boys with this name, but not two at once.  It was a surprise to the dads too.  One is seven and the other nine, so they are still quite young which is my experience as I haven’t known any older boys or men with that name, though it’s possible some that I met are teens now.  According to Behind the Name, the name Griffin has ranked in the mid 200’s for the last decade, with its peak in 1998 at 215.  The year before, it was at 225 with the popularity going down drastically with the years going back.  Before the 80’s, it doesn’t rank at all.  I bring up 1997 specifically because a certain event happened that may have improved the popularity of the name somewhat.  That event being the release of the first book in a series of seven.  The book I speak of is of course Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone.  While not a main character’s name, or any character that I can recall for that matter, the name of his house was Griffyndor, and I believe they did encounter a griffin (the mythical beast, not someone with the name) in the first book, though it could have been one of the next few.  Is it a stretch to tie this book with the name?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I think I’ve written enough on it though.

Today I had no job, but then one district had two days off due to flooding (the town is by a river) and another I am still waiting for my login info for, which the woman I talked to said would be a couple of weeks due to limited time processing new subs and taking it in order of hire.  I do have a full day tomorrow though so perhaps something to write about.  Until then.

Let the water flow…up

As in up out of the sump pump pit when the sump pump fails…  You may have heard of, or even experienced the weather happening around here while Ike was pounding the Gulf coast.  Rain.  Lots of it.  It wasn’t as bad as the storm system that hovered over us for days last year [EDIT: According to this morning’s paper it actually was worse], but then last year we had a working sump pump.  Apparently our sump pump got its intake clogged causing it to run dry and burn out.  I learned this the other morning when I went downstairs to use the bathroom so as not to disturb the other occupant here.  I tend to not turn on the light at the bottom of the stairs because I know my way around.  Normally not a problem, but this day I put my foot down the final stair to a splash.  Yuck.  Four inches of water.  Not so bad, but then think about where the water came from and what goes through that pit…

Bottom line, we needed a new sump pump.  So did hundreds of others around here.  After learning that Lowes, Home Depot, Sears, etc. were out, I found that Menards apparently stocks hundreds of the things as when I got there they had dozens left on the shelf and the cashier told me they sold wel over a hundred that day.  In the meantime, we do have a backup pump and my brother and I set it up.  Unfortunately a hose was securely attached so its status as a backup remained firm.  We had to run the hose up the stairs, buying and attaching another length to make it possible to run it out the door.  Once set up, it took a few hours to drain the basement while the rain poured mercilessly down.  Later that night, after church, I was able to secure that new pump along with the attachments my brother said we needed.  We would have had it hooked up tonight, but the PVC cement takes several hours to cure so we will have to finish tomorrow.  Good thing the weather report shows that we are pretty much finished with the rain for now.  After that, let the cleanup and damage assessment begin.  Both of our dehumidifiers were caught in the indoor lake, but one of them still works.  Hopefully once the other dries out it can be put into active duty as well.

Other casualties from the rain included a hot water heater that I only was able to restart a few hours ago and a closed road today next to a retention pond- pretty full when we passed it yesterday, and that was before another nearly 30 hours of rain.  Another casualty was my lower back.  It started hurting pretty bad yesterday to the point where I could only stand for a limited period of time and when sitting I had to make sure my back was supported.  At one point I sat down and could not get back up it hurt so bad.  It is a little better today and I am using a heating pad on it as I type.  I did learn that Aleve does not ease back pain.

I am not looking forward to the rest of the week.  So far I have 2½ days assigned (my first elementary jobs of the year- up to now it has been middle school only) and a large cleanup job in the basement.  By the way, the ELL assignment went without hitches.  My boycott of ELL assignments in that school is over for now.


We all know what that date represents.  Well, most of us do.  As I mentioned a couple of posts ago I worked will ELL students today.  One student actually didn’t know about what happened seven years ago as he just came to this country less than a year ago.  I suspect there were others as well.  Needless to say, he had a little trouble answering the journal question, “What happened on September 11, 2001?”

Believe it or not, I have been subbing for a few years but this is the first year that the school I was at had a big thing going for September 11.  The morning started with the entire school crowding around the flagpole.  No, it wasn’t a “see you at the pole” event, though I would wish it would get these kinds of crowds.  If more kids were followers of Jesus there would be so much less trouble at our schools.  Back to the topic, the principal called out everyone to observe the all-too-recent holiday remembering what happened those seven years ago.  There was the flag raising of course, a speech by the principal, and some students read poems they wrote.  The principal made himself heard, but they really needed some amplification for the kids- I wasn’t able to understand, or in some cases even hear a single poem.

After that, everyone went in and first period started (late).  The 9/11 theme continued with the aforementioned journal question, and then we saw an interactive CDROM.  Apparently the Chicago Tribune gave away these CDs back in 2002 commemorating the one-year anniversary.  It provided archival footage of ten days of the Tribune headlines following the destruction with some commentary and a Flash intro to start.  I was hoping to provide a download link for this, but I guess after six years it’s either off the map or I didn’t look hard enough.  Actually, I did find a torrent (peer-to-peer download) with the title (When Evil Struck America) but there didn’t appear to be any seeds, meaning it couldn’t be downloaded.  I’ll check Usenet in a bit, but I’m not holding my breath.  To the students’ credit, they really were engaged and asking questions.  A few periods later I was helping in the 7th grade social studies classroom, and the teacher did his own presentation on 9/11.  He chose some really thought-provoking pictures, including one building closeup where people could be seen to the side falling because they had jumped from the towers, perhaps hoping for a better outcome than death by fire or smoke inhalation.

These were the only periods I had dealing with this topic, but it seemed like half the day.  The rest of the day had typical lessons.  I either taught, helped out, or led a review.  I could say more on that, but I think I will leave this post focusing more on 9/11.  Until tomorrow.

EDIT:  I may not be able to give you the Tribune CD, but the History Channel has it’s own interactive media: 102 Minutes that Changed America

(Not my picture.  For more pictures like this, CLICK HERE)