What a week

The Thursday before last, I shot all of one car at two dealers- highly unusual, so on Monday that was more than made up for by having 18 cars to do between the same two dealers.  Normally this would make me quite happy, but not so much on a Monday following a snowfall.  For starters, I knew I couldn’t leave as early as normal because the dealers needed time to clean up their lots.  The first one was still doing it when I arrived.  Monday nights I have small group at my church, so it is the only night I need to finish on time so starting late and then finding I had so many cars to do, some of which would have to be brushed off, was less than thrilling.  I finished the second dealer a little before 7PM, then headed back.  It was dark and I was traveling 50MPH, so I can probably be excused for not seeing the massive pothole in the right lane.  I kept moving, but I feared it would cause my tire to go flat on the way home.  It didn’t and I was able to drive the car for the rest of the week, but when I brought the car into the shop Saturday because I needed a brake job, surprise!  A $500 repair bill.  Actually, it was higher but he gave me a break (on top of the four brakes 😛 ) because my mother and I were good customers.  $210 was for the brakes, $30 was for the oil change- that meant the rest was for the new axle and bearings on the potholed wheel.  Incidentally, I was an hour late for small group, partly because I stopped to eat on the way.


Tuesday I found myself in supersized district to sub- a rare occurrence these days as I can find few jobs available there even the mornings of.  And sub I dd- in bilingual kindergarten.  Fortunately there was an assistant with me for both classes- a different one for each class.  The morning had Spanish-speakers who knew very little English.  The assistant ended up running most of the morning.  It was a struggle.  Oddly enough there was a boy who I’m told actually knows English and very little Spanish, yet he was required to do everything in Spanish like the rest of the class!  The afternoon was supposedly Polish-speakers (hence the different assistant) but all of them knew English so I was actually able to take charge of this group.  I felt I accomplished much more with this group.


Wednesday I had only a half-day in, what do I call it again- next-door district?  It was for middle-school math.  The website said 7th grade, but when I got there I found out it was 8th grade.  Oh well, the system has been wrong before.  It was actually quite easy- most of the classes had tests, though I also went over homework answers.  This teacher actually teaches five different classes out of her six teaching periods- unusual for middle school.  Usually there are no more than three different classes, repeating the same lesson for more than one.  Her one repeated class was in the morning so I only had two different lessons, though I did start the 5th-period class which would have been my third different plan.  She arrived less than ten minutes in and took over.


Totally forgetting Wednesday when I had that entire afternoon free that there was a dealer in Barrington with two cars, I could kick myself when I realized I had forgotten and would have to fit them in Thursday instead.  This is a small dealer that only has a couple of cars every few weeks.  At least I did remember.  Eventually.  So I started off the morning by going there.  Of course, there had been some more snow Wednesday night so I didn’t get there too early.  I did the cars and was on my way to the next dealer when- 25-min in I realized I still had a set of keys from the first place.  Oops.  I turned around, angry with myself once all over again.  The better part of an hour wasted.  So I finally arrived at the next place, their lot cleared of snow, and found I had another bunch of cars like Monday.  Two of them were too loaded with salt to do (hey, I just used three forms of a homophone/nym!), so I breathed a sigh of relief and headed to the final dealer with a good three hours of light to go, though it would be less by the time I got there.  I finished with some light to spare.  You are probably wondering about Monday right now.  Yes, I did run out of light Monday, but when there is pressure to get things done at the end of the day like that I get all the photos out of the way first before I do the options and print the stickers, which tends to be the bulk of my time spent.


Friday I had only one dealer in the afternoon so I took a morning job in next-door district (still not sure if that’s the name I gave it).  It was for 3rd/4th grade.  When I arrived, I said who I was there for and was handed a folder for a classroom that turned out to be 1st and 2nd grade.  I looked at the name and it sounded right when I said it to myself, but while I didn’t quite remember the spelling of the name I knew it didn’t look right.  I asked another teacher if this teacher taught 3rd/4th grade last year as sometimes that info doesn’t get updated on the sub system (remember Wednesday).  She thought for a few seconds and then informed me there was another teacher upstairs with almost the same name!  I went back to the office to verify I was in the right class and found out that I was indeed given the wrong folder.  Both teachers were out this morning, probably both for the same meeting I knew at least the one was at.  I went upstairs to let the other sub know we had been duped.  She had almost the same story as me, knowing something wasn’t quite right with the room she was in.  We traded folders and I finally got a chance to look at the right plans.  The morning actually went quite well.  For the afternoon, instead of the usual two or three cars I had nine because for some reason the other photographer either didn’t go there the day before like he usually does, or they didn’t have any ready when he did which would have been strange considering nine were ready this time.  Well, more commission for me I guess- something I will need because of the car repair bill.  Sigh.


Saturday I was supposed to go cross-country skiing with a few guys from church, but when I called around Friday I couldn’t find anyone who rented skis close by, and the one store that was recommended to me closed at 6PM Friday night, too early for me to go there.  Well, I hope the others had a good time.  Instead, I stayed home to receive that repair-bill shock…


Well, that was my week.  How was yours?


A week ago (sadly, my most recent blog post) I blogged about a school district monitoring their students by remotely turning on the webcams of their school-issued laptops.  This story has really ballooned.  On one site I have been following a thread about it and many links have been posted.  Here are a few- click the titles for the full articles:


Lower Pervian School District vs. Mike and Ikes

…AP reports the FBI is investigating the school district’s webcam program, and district spokesman Doug Young suggests without claiming that Harriton High School student Blake J. Robbins’ webcam was activated only because the laptop had been reported stolen — in accordance with an established policy. The boy was charged with an undisclosed infraction based on an image the school picked up from his webcam. District superintendent Christopher W. McGinley, in an orotund statement, defends the program while canceling it. And just to make clear that we’re still in high school, Master Robbins appears to have gotten in trouble when he was photographed eating Mike and Ikes…


Federal judge orders Pa. schools to stop laptop spying

…Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Jan DuBois issued a consent order that prevents Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa., from “remotely activating any and all web cams embedded in lap top [sic] computers issued to students … or from remotely taking screenshots of such computers.”

Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young said today that the district would fully cooperate with the court order…


The Spy at Harriton High (and more)

…The truly amazing part of this story is what’s coming out from comments from the students themselves. Some of the interesting points:

  • Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes
  • Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated
  • Disabling the camera was impossible
  • Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion

When I spoke at MIT about the wealth of electronic evidence I came across regarding Chinese gymnasts, I used the phrase “compulsory transparency”. I never thought I would be using the phrase to describe America, especially so soon, but that appears to be exactly the case…


Software maker blasts ‘vigilantism’ in Pa. school spying case

The company selling the software used by a Pennsylvania school district to allegedly spy on its students blasted what it called laptop theft-recovery “vigilantism” today.

Absolute Software said it dissuades users of theft-recovery software from acting on their own. “We discourage any customer from taking theft recovery into their own hands,” said Stephen Midgley, the company’s head of marketing, in an interview Monday. “That’s best left in the hands of professionals.”…


There is now a Wikipedia page about the ongoing investigation of this lawsuit, though the blogs and articles (full of even more links for your perusal by the way) are more interesting IMHO.

Next up, something about my own unexciting life.  Hopefully. 🙂

How Far is Too Far?

Besides being a song from a show I was in once, this is a question we ask ourselves over and over again as the government or some other entity does some eyebrow-raising stunt.  It seems a lot of such stunts have occurred in the recent decades, and this one isn’t going to make you feel better.  The question here is, what should a school be allowed to do to keep tabs on their students or the school property they use, in this case laptop computers?  A lawsuit has been brought against a school district for remotely activating webcams when the computer is off-site.  This came to light when a school had the gall to discipline a student for something that happened at his home using webcam footage as evidence.  Now I can fully understand monitoring computer use when the computers are at the school.  After all, at school students should be engaged in schoolwork.  But at home?  It isn’t mentioned just what the student did at home, but even if it had something to do with the computer, should the school really be allowed to turn on the webcam?  What if the student left his or her computer open in the bedroom while undressing for the night or to shower?  I really hope this school goes down for this, but not with some big financial settlement as it would be the taxpayers of course who wind up paying.  What a stupid decision, in my humble opinion of course.  Here is the article:


BoingBoing: School used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home

School used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home

No sleeping in for me

Whenever I have had a subbing day this year it has almost always been a result of getting up early and hitting the web. Last night I was able to secure a job in 6th grade a little after 10 which didn’t have a start time until almost 8:30, meaning I could sleep in, at least a little bit. Okay, knowing about the snow meant I should be up about 20 minutes earlier to get shoveling out of the way. Still, I could get up about an hour later than usual. Of course you know something was bound to happen, and happen it did at about 4AM. That’s when I was jarred out of my sleep by what I thought then was the neighbors slamming the door. It took me about a half hour to get back to sleep. I was worried because it didn’t sound like a door slamming, but what else could it be.  Well, eventually I did get up at about 6:45 and didn’t worry about it all day.  Unfortunately it wasn’t quite early enough as there was more snow than I would have hoped waiting to be shoveled, making me a little bit late.  At least I still arrived before the kids.


Yesterday I subbed for music at one of hometown district’s middle schools- I actually got a call for it about five minutes before the alarm was set to go off.  Very uneventful.  We watched videos in all classes.  At least I got to see Blue Man Group, a group I had never heard before though I of course knew about them.  Other class videos included Stomp and The Wizard of Oz.  Today I was excited because I was subbing in an elementary school, and what that usually means is getting to teach instead of just babysit.  Well, not so much.  The plans didn’t include videos, but they did include a test, lots of reading and working on their own, and skit performances for social studies, in which they are studying Greek Mythology- a topic I really enjoyed myself when I was in 6th grade.  Well, there was a spelling game too, and at least that was interactive.  I also worked in a short math review not on the plans before they started working on their assignment, and at least one other subject, vocabulary, was more interactive as well.  Additionally, I worked in some word puzzles which I like to do in elementary classes.  Definitely a more productive day for me than yesterday, overall.


So back to what woke me up.  On one of the forums I read someone who I know lives around here made a post humorously telling California to keep the earthquakes to themselves.  Say what?  I read his post then had to go to my newspaper website to see just what he was talking about.  Sure enough, there was a 3.5 magnitude earthquake a short distance from us.  An earthquake.  In Illinois.  At 3:59AM.  That’s right, not a slamming door.  Well, I guess if our tornadoes can be exported to other areas, I shouldn’t be surprised when earthquakes are imported to our relatively-geologically-stable part of the country.  Here’s a link to the story (click the title), and a short excerpt:

Small earthquake wakes up northern Illinois

To some, it sounded like a train derailing, a snowplow taking out a car, a plane crash, a sonic boom.

To dogs, it was clearly something to panic about.

But the U.S. Geological Survey said what woke people well before dawn Wednesday was a mild, 3.8 magnitude earthquake whose epicenter was about three miles beneath a farm field a short distance south of Pingree Grove, near Route 20 and Switzer Road in western Kane County.

It started rumbling at 3:59 a.m. Wednesday and lasted just seven seconds.