Priceless dog therapy

Okay, those are two things mashed together in the title describing events of Wednesday, my only day of subbing this week (though I am still trying for some Friday work).  What happened to Tuesday?  Well, I had to push my Monday photo work to Tuesday due to that annoyance to the daily routine known as jury duty, or in my case non-duty.  Fortunately no driving was required for this civic duty as the location was Chicago.  In fact, I would just not show up rather than drive there due to the ridiculous traffic.  Fortunately, the train stations are within walking distance both from my home and the courthouse in the city.  I also was glad this was the civil court instead of the criminal one- I don’t know how people are able to serve on juries for criminal trials that can often take weeks to complete.  I realize jobs can’t fire you for jury duty but they don’t have to pay you, and that lack of pay would be a huge problem, at least for me.  You noticed, I’m sure, that I wrote “non-duty” earlier.  What actually happened was my group got called down (while I was in the bathroom no less) and we went down to a courtroom, only to wait and be told that the two parties came to a settlement so no jury would need to be picked.  So we went back up to the jury waiting room in case we might be needed again.  About an hour later we were called up again, jury trial take two, or so I thought.  However, this time we were given our checks and sent home- I guess being called up once can count as our civic duty even if we didn’t make it to jury selection, let alone trial.  We did have to wait until they were sure we would no longer be needed though.  With half the day still left, I stopped for lunch since the next train wouldn’t depart for another 45 minutes.  Unfortunately, with the light leaving us earlier these days I was not able to go to even one of the dealers since I couldn’t be sure how long it would take and didn’t want to make a wasted hour round-trip anywhere.  Yes, I could have blogged Monday, but I just wasn’t up to it.

Which leads us to the topic of the title, my sub-job Wednesday.  I had to get up at 5:30 to start looking since it is near impossible this year to get a sub job in advance for some reason.  I somehow managed to secure one at a nearby school in their mentally-impaired program.  I must remember never to show up any later than 10-minutes early at this school.  I was right on time, but ended up about ten minutes late because they closed the lot by the front doors due to buses meaning I had to ask where the other lot was, wait in traffic to get to it, suffer leagues of parents dropping off their kids in the very same lot, find a spot, then walk a quarter mile back to the front doors of the school.  I did note there were still spots left in the front lot as I headed to the doors.

So I eventually made it to the classroom, somehow still before the kids arrived to the class (though I still had to work my way around several at their lockers).  Being a MI class there were of course teaching assistants so I was able to cool down from the hassle of my arrival.  They showed me the schedule for the day, but being Vet’s day that schedule was just made to be broken.  Instead of an hour of guided reading, for example, they had maybe 20 minutes before heading to their 2nd-grade buddy class.  That teacher talked a little bit about Veteran’s Day, and then a couple of soldiers came in to visit- one from the Army, the other a Marine.  Both had served time in you-know-what part of the world (the marine couldn’t tell us where- essentially saying it was classified, but the army soldier had been to Afghanistan).  They talked a little about what they did, what life was like with their respective units, and their families.  The 2nd-graders had written several questions to ask them during their visit.  It was quite interesting.  Once the principal came in and whisked them to their next class to visit, we headed back to our own room for snack time.  The next schedule change came during this time.  Just as they finished eating and sat down to read silently, in walks a vet.  Okay, she wasn’t a vet but I just had to use that play on words.  Notice how I didn’t capitalize the word this time?  That’s because this person was a pet therapist, if not a veterinarian.  Both work with pets, though for different reasons- oh never mind.  So my pun didn’t work- sue me. 😉

Anyway, the therapist reminded the kids how to handle the dog (apparently she had been here before), making sure they let this lap dog sniff their hands before they could pet him.  She also taught them how to give the dog treats (in an open hand, because the dog could bite your fingers if you hold the treat by the thumb and forefinger).  She also had the dog do some tricks.  The kids one at a time rolled a die and the dog would jump through a hoop for the number of times it showed, then later they did dog bowling where the kids would hide a treat among foam pins, and the dog would knock a number of them down to get to the treat.  Cute.

The kids got their silent reading in, and then we skipped math to do calendar in the short time left before lunch.  This is where the next part of the title comes into play- the look of surprise on a 5th-grader’s face when you sneak up behind him while he’s eating lunch and ask him a question in a place he does not expect to hear or see his church and summer camp leader as he turns and recognizes me.  Priceless.  As I talked to him, two more kids from my church got up to talk to me- one of whom I was going to talk to next, the other a surprise to me.  What was funny about this encounter was the girl who I had worked with in church drama last year didn’t know what to call me since she only remembered my first name, which is what I use at church- Mr. Derek.  She had clearly been taught to not use an adult’s first name at school.  Maybe I told her last year, I don’t know.  I didn’t know the third one came to this school, but this school being the closest to my church means several kids do happen to attend school here.  I know of three others in the junior high area who I know I have mentioned before (two are the girl’s brothers, twins whom I have also worked with at church).

The rest of the day was pretty mild.  I had an extra half-hour off due to the kids going to music, and when they came back we scrapped writing for some reason to watch part of a movie.  You know, I don’t think I have ever watched 101 Dalmatians before even though I kind of know the story.  We only watched a little bit of it before getting ready to go home, where I rested up until choir rehearsal, where I just want to mention that another pair of twins I taught a few years ago are regularly a part of- they finally came down to the tenor section after singing alto for the last couple of years (hey, they were 12-13 at the time!).  I can even name a couple more sets of twins and a set of triplets too.  I don’t know why, but they are not all that uncommon at my church.  Well, if I can think of some story to write about them sometime I may say some more.

Getting close now…

Well, school is almost upon us once again.  Depending on where you live, it can be a week or three, or maybe your kids attend an all-year school that started up again in July after a much shorter break.  In the two districts I’m signed up with, it starts in 1½ and 2½ weeks.  What’s that you say?  Two districts?  That’s right.  I am only in hometown and supersized districts this year due to my continued job of shooting pictures of cars.  I have chosen to work three days a week on the cars for now leaving two days to teach.  Of course it will likely be another month before I am needed as a sub, but that’s the plan.  As you probably figured out already, these two districts are where I have gotten most of my work in the past and so I stuck with them, losing the less productive ones, even though near-urban paid me the most.

So how is the new job going?  Well, I got my first store finally- unfortunately it’s 45-minutes away!  The one who had this store didn’t do a very good job so he was replaced.  Not the best way to start, but I’ll take whatever I can get.  Today, in fact, Kim (one of the owners of the company I work for) and I spent much time fixing the stickers on the cars that were tilted, stuck over unremoved adhesive from previous buyer’s guide (warranty info which by law has to be in the window even if just handwritten) or otherwise placed with a lack of care.  I think we did no less than two dozen.  The rest of my time was spent in doing four cars that were ready for me.  Not a lot, but the idea is to have three dealers (four if they are small like this one) in one day to shoot a reasonable amount.  The most I had in one day training with Rene was 42.  At $7 a car that was nearly $300 for the day for her.  Of course that was three large dealers, and even then that number is rare.  My goal is eventually 20-30 cars per day.  Another trainee may be leaving as his school just gave him a reality check- no, it is not possible to graduate in a reasonable time if you only have classes two days a week.  If he leaves then I am hoping to get one of the stores promised to him, but not the other one.  There is a dealer that is way over toward Chicago (strike one for the bad traffic).  They require the cars to be shot in their warehouse a mile away, meaning the cars have to be driven from their lot to there, adding a tremendous amount of time (strike two).  Also, the warehouse has bad lighting with three of the five lights burnt out the last two times I was there making it difficult to take pictures inside the cars (strike three).  I am scheduled to do new cars every other week, but the one who has been doing the used cars while Pat was training to take it over can keep that part as a punishment for his bad performance at the dealer he lost (yes, same guy)!

In the meantime, all this work has meant that I haven’t gotten the DVD done yet for my kids from camp- I’d better start on it soon, or just do what I did the first year- give them a CD with all the pictures, but that’s no fun and can’t be viewed without a computer.


I am back from camp and have in fact enjoyed a nice afternoon with C & L, who are in the area for tomorrow’s Chicago vs. Chicago game. There was a new indoor mini-golf place over at Stratford Square mall which we were told just opened last week. I’ll take their word for it since it has been over ten years since I have been there. Following 18 holes of golf (out of 54) we decided our eyes were getting tired of the black-lighting (the whole place was lit that way with the neon paints) and proceeded to have some dinner. Deciding against the one real restaurant which L said seemed like an Applebee’s after looking at the menu, we opted for the food court. I had Chinese, they had Sbarro’s and some pretzel dogs. All of us had blue raspberry lemonades from the pretzel stand which was quite good. Instead of going back to play more golf, which we could have as the fee C paid for us covered the entire day, we talked for a bit and walked around the mall which surprisingly was still quite active with seemingly less than 5% vacancy. I guess maybe I am used to other local malls, not counting Woodfield in Schaumburg, that have closed in the last several years. We stopped at a pet store and C & L found that they could happily own a glorified mutt with a fancy name for the bargain price of $1600. No, I didn’t accidentally add an extra digit. Not $160 or $600, but over a grand and a half! Ouch. Well, that was pretty much it. They had to go shortly after and so we went our separate ways.

What? You wanted to hear about my week at camp? Well, that is coming soon. As for the title, C talked me into updating Live Messenger with the newer Live Essentials version and I noticed I could install a Writer program to write my blog posts. Right now I am seeing this post exactly as it should appear on my blog page once published- grey background, full justification, and lowercase title included, unlike the WordPress editor on which I would have to click a preview button to see how it would look. It seems pretty nice and barring any difficulties I will probably give this a longer test run with added pictures and whatnot. There seem to be things that I don’t think the WordPress editor even has. I’ll see how it goes. Well, until later…

Edit: Well, that didn’t go well- I needed to edit the post straight away.  It added a bunch of #160s and forgot to encase the paragraph tags in <> symbols so the post had extra p, em, /em and /p characters included in the text.  I guess there are bugs to be worked out- oh well.

I hate bureaucracy

Yes, hate- a stong word for someone such as myself.  Here’s the new thing in IL- mess up and forget to register your plates on time and you have to jump through bureaucratic hoops.  I noticed yesterday my plates were expired.  Oops- they sent me notice two months ago but it got buried and forgotten.  No problem, I’ll just go to the currency exchange to reregister as I always do.  Nothing doing apparently- now they require an emissions test first.  What?  Of course, with expired plates it’s illegal to drive there.  So what do they do?  Make available temporary registration that I’m told will only allow me to legally drive to the test facility, nowhere else.  Are they convenient to obtain?  This is government we’re talking about, so what do you think?  I drove to the local DMV which I thought was full service.  Nope.  They gave me the addresses of the three closest places- all over 20 miles away (in Chicago traffic remember!).  So I’m left with a choice- knowingly drive illegally to the test station and hope they don’t check the registration, or jump through this latest hoop and hope I can still get registered before the price-increase deadline.  Nanny states- why many people love them I will never know.  Conservativism clearly rules the day here.

One boy for sale

Or rather, just over 100 boys and girls in the production of Oliver! I saw last night.  There was a boy, a former student in the 4th/5th grade class at my church who invited me to come.  His older brother, also a former student, helped out by running a spotlight.  How could I say no?  Even though they never saw me when I was in Oliver! just two years ago…  I was so disappointed then that not a single student from my church came, or at least told me they came if they did.  I advertised this to them for a few weekends, but nothing.  Oh, well.

This rather large production is apparently typical of Christian Youth Theater.  This organization started out west, but became a reality around here when someone move to my wonderful state and received permission to branch out here.  Now there are many branches just in the Chicago area, all under the CYT-Chicago umbrella.  This isn’t ordinary community theatre though.  In order to allowed to audition for a show the kids are required to take one of several theatre classes through this organization.  Obviously not a deterrent at all judging by the size of these shows, and even in the number of CYT shows some of them have been in according to the program.  The quality wasn’t bad at all.  The characters for the most part were very convincing and if there were any slipups I didn’t notice.  I did have a couple of issues with their Fagin, but of course since I played the part myself this is only natural.  I wish I could remember what those issues were now.  Anyway, the boy who I came to see, Brian, played an orphan at the beginning of the show, then appeared twice more later during chorus numbers.  During Food Glorious Food he nearly slipped up when he saw me in the audience, front and center.  Interesting spot they sold me- I guess it pays to come by yourself and get those prime spots when groups fail to completely fill up a row!

I was a bit disappointed at a couple of things though.  First off, the show was shortened quite a bit.  The running time was about 1:55, and that included a 20 minute intermission, making the actual running time 1:35.  Since the original show has a running time of well over two hour you can see a lot was not there.  I Shall Scream and Oom-Pah-Pah were two full songs that were cut, and were probably the most obvious to go considering the group.  Bill Sykes’s song, My Name, was cut in half for some reason too though the one who played him did a fine job.  Many scened were abbreviated as well.  Ones I noticed most (again having been in them before) were some scenes in Fagin’s Lair.  However, these weren’t the only places shortened.  The scene where Noah Claypole is introduced was snipped (Oliver just leaves right after Where is Love?).  The scene at the end where everything goes south for Sykes and Fagin’s gang was shortened to the point where Sykes doesn’t even get killed (Nancy still does though), and the scene at the end of Act I where Oliver goes out with Dodger to pickpocket, then gets falsely accused was missing entirely!  Well, that whole thing aside I was also disappointed that for a production so well done they for some reason chose not to have a live orchestra.  Everything was sung to recorded music.  I’m sure they must have had a reason for this, but even so this took something away from the show.  Outside of this, and I should stress that shortening the show sounded much worse in writing than it actually was, it was a very good production.  Christian Youth Theater is something that should be considered for many other areas.

In any event, if you want to know why I didn’t post yesterday this was why. 🙂  Interesting thing: according to Brian he was considered for the role of Oliver, but at 12 years old he was a little tall in comparison to their pick for the Artful Dodger.  Instead they cast an 8-year-old who did a fabulous job considering his age.  This brought my thoughts back to a certain Little Shop of Horrors production where their original pick for Orin, who later dropped out, was actually shorter than me so when considering who would play Seymour they went with someone smaller and I got stuck with being the understudy.  However, I should be happy with that because had the show not been sabotaged by a distraught producer who though he should have been director I wouldn’t have been considered at all as I was still kind of a weak actor at that point.  Did I get all of that right, O great admin who directed this show? 🙂

Will your child graduate?

The answer we all want for this question is of course a resounding yes (I hope :P).  However, if you live in an urban environment the statistics show that his or her chances are lower than if they live in the surrounding suburbs, at least for most of the 50 largest cities.  Chicago, for example, has a 55.7% graduation rate while the Chicago suburbs are at 84.1%.  Two Ohio cities have more drastic statistics with Cleveland at 42.2% vs. 78.1% and Columbus being 40.9% vs. 82.9%, and Baltimore, Md. has the largest gap at 34.6% vs. 81.5% for its suburbs!  However, at the other end of the scale your child is about 10% more likely to graduate in the city of Colorado Springs (83.7%) than its surrounding suburbs (73.5%).  Click the link for rest of the 50 largest cities.

‘Crisis’ graduation gap found between cities, suburbs

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