Saturday, December 25, 2010


For Friends, Chef, and Sis( I knew you wanted to know how to do this so I'm including you)

I presume you will know most of what I tell you but I will try not to leave anything out. My Mama taught me this beside a hot stove. (Mama was a world class cook raised in the South Louisiana traditions. No Shortcuts.)

"Gumbo" is the Swahili word for okra. The word and the vegetable were first brought to the West Indies by slaves from Africa and from there to Louisiana.  The soup/stew is as individual as the cooks who make it. My "Cane River Cuisine" cook book from Natchitoches (nak a tish) is the best guide with  9 different  recipes. (I pick and choose ingredients instead of following just one recipe)

In order of use: In a large cast iron skillet, (or dutch oven)

The best cooks begin with bacon drippings. !/2 cup should do.  Some, with the skill, use real butter, Cheaters use cooking oil but it has much less flavor (and flavor is our goal).

To the hot drippings add the veggies: one medium Onion, chopped fine.
One bell pepper chopped fine, 4 to 8 green onions, pealed and chopped, four ribs of celery chopped. (I use a half cup of the chopped celery leaves, others do not use the leaves at all) It doesn't matter how you chop the celery stalks, if you cook the gumbo right, in the end the celery falls apart. (the celery leaves need to be finely chopped) Cook until onions are clear. Remove veggies from fat.

Some cooks leave out the okra entirely. I fry mine separately in about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet.  1 to 4 cups okra. Cut the fresh okra into 1/2 inch pieces (or smaller). Frozen okra is a mess and a danger when added to hot oil. Cook until the goo is gone and the okra is a greenish tan. If you do not stir it constantly  it will stick and burn. (some of the goo will stick and burn anyway-which is why I cook it separately.) Drain the okra and reserve in the bowl with the other cooked veggies. Throw this okra oil away.

I suppose chefs will call this "dark rue". (replace any bacon fat lost in cooking the Veggies) Into the bacon fat from the onion, celery, add 1 cup flour.  Stirring constantly over low heat, cook flour until it is dark dark brown ( a shade between milk chocolate and dark chocolate) it will smell awful, like it is beginning to burn. If it doesn't smell awful you haven't cooked it long enough. Slowly add a small amount of water (remember stirring constantly) then a little more in small amounts until you have a thick gravy. 

If you didn't start in a large dutch oven, pour the gravy into a large cooking pot and add 4 quarts of stock. The stock can be chicken stock bought in cans from the store, stock from boiling a big ham bone, or ham hocks, or fish stock (made by boiling fish bones and heads from when you fillet fish and the shrimp peals.)  {cheaters use just plain water} Add the cooked veggies,  a couple of cans, or fresh  chopped tomatoes with juice,  one can of tomato paste and 2-4 bay leaves.

Now is where real cooks start to get creative.

Seafood Gumbo: one-two pounds white fish cut in 1 inch chunks. One-two pounds Shrimp, pealed, devained. Do not add salt until the last thing before serving or the shrimp will turn into little curly rubber things. one pint raw oysters, and a pound or can of Crab meat. For real New Orleans style Gumbo Add 4 whole crabs. (Mama did this once. It turned out pretty good.) Fresh crabs may need special treatment to keep them from barfing sand into the gumbo. (Don't ask me, I don't know how.)

Chicken, sausage Gumbo: One or two old hens each cut into 8 -10 pieces and a couple of pounds of smoked sausage cut in 1/2 inch slices. If you use friers from the store do not add the pieces until the last half hour or so of cooking. (or you will end up with the chicken cooked to bits... old hens will not cook apart) or cooked de-boned chicken.)

Turkey from after Thanksgiving, Duck or wild duck, Squirrel, rabbit for hunters. I have never heard of cooks using fresh pork or beef.

Or, what may be the real origin of gumbo, Throw in a pile of fresh okra... maybe four pounds or so.

I cook until any raw meat is done and the gravy is moderately thick. Last I add spices to taste. Salt should be first or everything will taste funny. Add the salt a little at a time, you've got a lot of time and money in that pot now... and those "how to compensate for too much salt" ideas just make it worse. When the salt is right I toss in the other spices stir and cook a couple of minutes before tasting again.  If you have a finiky observer, they will get nervous over your tasteing and dipping with the same spoon. (Well Geez, the gumbo is boiling, The germs are all going to die with the next dip. Alternately, you can dip with one spoon and pour into a second... kind of helps cool too.)

Spices: black pepper, red pepper, garlic, thyme, tabasco, worchester  sauce, lemon juice/peal grated, paprika, basil, parsley, file' (fee lay)

...A fair amount of black pepper. Not much red. a fair amount of parsley, not much garlic, and two tablespoons of File'... I have not tried the others.

I serve it over a heaping serving spoon size portion of cooked basmati ( also called aeromatic) rice in a soup bowl. It goes better with a darker beer (for me anyway) because of the strong flavors.  Others prefer tea or coffee. Mama always made a strong tea with lots of sugar and lemon. I usually had two bowls of this and no dessert... well, maybe strawberry shortcake with cream (not whipped) and sugar.

You should try a pot first before inviting guests.

Good Luck, Rob

Friday, December 24, 2010

First Year Teaching

First Year Teaching

This story begins with a letter from the President of the United States. “Greetings,... “ it began. Any young man between the ages of 18 and 26, and a low draft number during the Viet Nam conflict, can tell you the rest of the message. Actually, my message was that my student deferment had been canceled and I had one semester to finish my college degree. The D in Abstract Algebra did it. (You don't know what Abstract Algebra is? … neither do I)

The worse news was that in my seeking a degree in Secondary Education, Physics and Chemistry, I had all the Mathematics requirements and only part of the Physics and Chemistry. A serious discussion with my advisor showed that I could get a degree in Secondary Education, Mathematics, Biology, and General Science in one semester, by taking a full schedule of education courses. (This diploma in Mathematics grates on my pride every time I have to write it down on a resume)

If I finish the degree and get a teaching job in Mathematics or Science I will be eligible for a draft deferment for teaching a critical need. Which I did. All this needing to be settled before the end of the semester, I began a job search in the excellent job placement office at my college. I found a relatively high (for a teacher) paying job in the city of my birth. I was needed ASAP.

My parents co-signed a note to help me buy a brand new car to replace the ten year old, fire engine red, Chevy I normally drove. I took my last test in the afternoon and headed for City. On arrival I called School Board Member, who gave directions to School and promised to meet me in the parking lot next morning before school.

I arrive. I wait. Bell rings. Students go in. No School Board Member. I continue to wait. After several minutes, A car rushes into the lot and a young man dashes out. He is wearing a football jacket from my college, so I stop him. He seems startled by my approach but recovers as I introduce myself and describe my problem: I don't know what I am suppose to do, or where I am suppose to go... never having been a teacher before.

Oh, Mr. Watson!!” he exclaims brightly, “You are the new teacher. Come with me. I can take you to the office.” And, he does. In the Office the two secretaries spring to their feet on my introduction and exclaim “Mr. Watson, Principal has been wondering where you were... Go right in!” (My mama told me there would be days like this, and it is going to get worse.)

Principal rises authoritatively from his desk and offers a hand shake. He invites me to sit, perhaps anticipating my reaction to what he has to say next. “Your room number is 135. These are your text books,” handing me two. “Do you have any questions?” (That was not the dumbest question I had experienced, to date, in my life, [I should write about the first place sometime] but it was not far behind.)

I had spent my entire life in one school system. The first thing I noticed was that the bells rang at different times. From my ignorant and flabbergasted state, the only question I could form was: “Can you tell me when the bells ring and what they mean?” “Sure” and he rattled them off. (I found Coach later and he wrote them down for me.) Without further delay, Principal escorted me to my classroom, dismissed the adult there, Introduced me to the students, and left.

In many ways this was the worst of any school system I have ever been in. However, there are two good comments to be made. My fellow teachers recognized my distress, took me under their collective wing, and smoothed some of the rough places. This is not unusual, in my experience, as most all teachers are really great human beings. Secondly, the cafeteria staff, for the 10:00 break, everyday without fail, produced a 3ft by 3ft tray of steaming hot biscuits, with real butter, jelly, coffee, and juice, exclusively for us twelve or so teachers. Biscuit aficionados know there are variations in size, flavor, doneness, etc. These were a clear 9.5 out of ten, every day.

My own short comings as a teacher of the bored and uninterested, were a huge contributor to my troubles then, and in fact any time I was fool enough to try teaching the youth of our world. I never escaped the feeling of responsibility to teach. When I teach I focus on how to best present the subject. I frequently fail to comprehend the extraneous activities of the unengaged students. I can focus on maintaining order but not teach at the same time. Later in life, when I began teaching interested adults, I was able to soar.
One day, one of my larger students performed a credible imitation of a great ape. He bounded around the room, screeching like a chimpanzee, scratching, and making faces. In throwing him out of class, I told Assistant Principal he was “acting like a monkey” instead of my more accurate description above. That night I got a screaming, yelling father on the phone, exclaiming that he did appreciate my calling his child a monkey. The next day Assistant Principal called me to his office to face Father. Father repeated his rant several times, while Assistant Principal folded his hands before him and smiled. I was never given the chance to defend myself or explain “acting like a monkey” My angry, defiant face was highly compromised by the tears streaming down it. The story, spread by Chimp himself, was a huge hit with many of the students.

On another day, a girl came to me and asked if I had gotten a call from her father the previous night. She may have wished for some of the notoriety given to Chimp above. I truthfully reported that I had not spoken to any parent recently. “Well my father called somebody named Watson last night and gave him Hell!” I smiled and said it was not me.

I had sixty students divided into two classes of thirty. I had each of these twice a day for General Science and Mathematics. After a short time it became clear these were different. I had already been told, by my fellow teachers, that at the end of the year teachers were allowed to select their students for their classes. For these classes there had been no one to choose. Theoretically I had gotten the dregs. A careful examination of their records showed that not a single one of these sixty had made better than a D in Math or Science in the preceding nine years. Most had F most of the time.

On the lighter side, Coach enlisted my aid in various endeavors when he needed help with some after school activity. The most disastrous was when the time keeper at a basketball game got sick and had to leave. The other team was vastly better than ours and was way ahead when I allowed myself to be talked into replacing the timekeeper.

Timekeeper is a simple job in basketball. The ref blows the whistle, turn the clock on. The ref blows the whistle again, turn the clock off. A trained monkey could do it blindfolded. But, I wasn't blindfolded. I was interested in my students who were on the court. Whistle blows, clock keeps on doing what it was doing. It did not take long for the opposing fans to catch on to the irregularities in the operation of the clock. Being in the center of the room I could hear many of the shouted insults. When I forgot to turn the thing on there was yelling that I was trying to give our team time to catch up. When I forgot to turn it off. There was yelling that I was trying to cheat by shortening the game. There were even periods when the clock was doing the exact opposite of what it was supposed to be doing. Off at the on whistle, on at the off whistle. I have known some rabid fans in my life. I like to imagine those there that night being a confused, jiggling, out of control, mass of fury by the end of the game. From then on, Coach was more receptive to my saying “No, I probably won't do well at that.” when he wanted me to cover for an official of one kind or other.

Thinking of this incident always brings a smile to my face. In later years, when someone is nearly out of control, yelling abusive things at me, for some misunderstanding, it is not unusual for the smallest if smiles to creep across my face. (I usually do care that a person is upset, but the smile comes from looking into the future to when those people realize what an ass they have made of themselves.)

One night, while attending a basket ball game, the rear window of my car was broken out. I found a small rock imbedded in the remains. It could have been thrown by hand, or a spinning car tire. No one ever commented on it, though I expect every student knew the responsible party.

This, my first year of teaching, was the last year of all white (and all black) schools in Louisiana. In my parents store, about half the folks I served where black, and integration was never a real issue with me. The next year, when I had a high percentage of blacks in my classes, they were all just students to me. I seldom make notice of what race a person is unless they make an issue of it.

Toward the end of my year teaching at School in City, they were struggling with the plans to integrate. They quietly ask the teachers if they would give up their positions to allow places for the black teachers. I always assumed those with tenure either retired or were sent to a formerly Black school. I knew I would not be back. (Thought I was going to Michigan.) I told them to put me down as a volunteer.

The Boot Gang was a group of six or so of the poor students. They claimed credit for running off the two teachers before me. The leader said he would run me off as well. Technically speaking they did run me off. I just didn't leave until my contract was up. When final grades were in, more than half of these sixty poor students had less than 60% on all work, an F in my book. When I turned them in, Assistant Principal informed me that they graded on the curve and I had “failed entirely too many students”. If you go back a few paragraphs you will be reminded why that was news to me. Sooo, I went back to my grade book, altered the grades of those whom I felt had made some effort, and gave them Ds. The Boot Gang got to stay in Junior High and have another try at running off a teacher.

My last class of the day was General Science. This had a normal cross section of normal students. It has its own humorous tale. (Humorous to my perverse sense of humor) and begins with a rule passed down by the state school board. Any student who failed their final test in a subject, failed for the year. Also, Anyone caught cheating on any test failed for the year.

For the final I designed two tests The questions were all the same, just in different places. With the class arranged in rows, if a student copied from the person on either side, their answers were the same, just not correct for his test. I was careful to choreograph handing out the tests to avoid raising suspicion. Twelve A and B students were caught in the trap. Because their answers were wrong, there was no need to prove cheating. However, if one were to grade the cheaters test with the other master, they made much better grades. As Assistant Principal was the responsible party for explaining the twelve failures, I have always wondered if it wasn't all written off as a bad teacher. This leaves the question of how many other students copied off the guys that copied off the next row over and ended with the correct answer. The good news was, while some of the cheaters were a huge surprise to me, the students whom I regarded as my best, did well.

Our wedding was to be May 30. My last day there, May 28, was a work day and was mostly consumed with the manipulations described above. In the evening of May 26, my future bride called to say she had been laid off her job in Michigan. I immediately called my Dad and asked him to call the schools at home to see if there was an opening. I called him back a day later to see what he had found. Yep they had a job and would be happy to have me.

It was late afternoon when I shook the dust of that place from my shoes and drove off into my future. To give this tale a happy ending, I met my new principal a few days later. Then, I thought he would be a good man to work for. Today, forty years later, I am sure he is the finest boss for whom I have ever worked, anywhere! That is another whole story. I shall write it down soon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Juvenile Correctional Center

The Juvenile Correctional Center

This story starts way back in October. The phone rang. I answered. The voice of a young man said " I'm Principal at Westside School. We need a substitute for three weeks, from Thanksgiving week to Christmas vacation". As this request was more work than I had done in the last two years combined, I readily agreed.

Then, I started asking all the questions I should have asked first. "Is Westside the school north of the high school?" "No, we are out at the Kansas State Hospital." (For all you Louisiana types, that is the Kansas equivalent of "Pineville".) "We are in the Juvenile Correctional Center".

Now I try to dodge the bullet. "Do I need a teaching certificate?" "Well, yes. I suppose you do." he says with disappointment in his voice. "Mine expired in August, and the substitute certificate I applied for has not come in… They said it might be six weeks or so before they can process it." It only needed to be one day late for me to miss this assignment. (What a heart breaker.)

About the first week of November, Principal calls again to inquire as to the status of my certificate. "Sorry, I haven't gotten anything yet." Then I call the State of Kansas to inquire for myself… "No, I'm sorry, I don't see where any action has been done on that." "… phew, dodged a bullet." says I to myself.

That call was probably a mistake, because, a few days later the completed certificate arrived in the mail. Its arrival was followed a day or so later by a call from Principal, who elatedly informed me the certificate had been approved and I should get it in the mail soon. (I did not tell him it was laying next to the phone.) I realized I was on the hook and was looking for a way to wiggle off when he invited me to come in for a tour of the facility. I could keep my original poorly thought out agreement, or admit I was a coward.

Somewhere in the Bible it says something like "If your word is no good, calling down God as a witness adds nothing to its worth." Which forces one to evaluate the value of ones own word. For myself, I would like to think my word has some value. Also, there is a saying like "Put up or shut up." Perhaps Principal was wondering why it was taking so long for me to accept his invitation… a question that shall be answered later.

I accepted his invitation, and went to "Westside School" a few days later for my tour. If one ignores all the surrounding buildings one passes on the way in (The ones with sixteen foot fences and razor wire tops), Westside appears, from the outside, as any school might. Stepping in the door ends any illusion… very heavy glass, steel doors, and locks all around, quickly bring the reassessment.

I don't remember exactly who greeted me. The first lesson I learned followed quickly as the nice officer directed me to his metal detector. After several passes I was down to my pants, underwear, and socks. When I came back for work I selected clothes with plastic closures so as not to have to strip every day,

A fair amount of information was passed to me by the great size of the smiles on Principal's and Coach's faces as we introduced ourselves. It was clear they were in a bind and I was their man to get them out of it. Presumably the frown on my face passed information in their direction.

Second lesson, every door is locked. Most electronic locks had a four second delay from activation to open. Everyone carried a ID tag with picture that activated these locks. Most other door locks were controlled by the security center and covered by camera. One pressed a button nearby to call attention to ones need. A small number of doors had keyed locks. One retrieved ones set of keys from a code locked cabinet in a locked room before going into the metal detector. A later count revealed five locked doors between Coach/my office and the teachers' lounge/admin offices. Without keys and badge that move could not be made.

I saw a group of "youth residents" (YR) moving quietly down the hall under the direction and watchful eye of a "Juvenile Corrections Officer"(JCO). I was to learn that was almost the only time YR's were quiet or followed direction. In the gym classes I directed, "control" had a fair resemblance to " herding cats" unless the activity was agreeable to the YRs or, the "Activity Therapist" (AT) and one or more JCOs threw their weight into the task. To be fair, my fourth hour class was a group of four YRs that had earned their way into a special class for "honor" students. These young men were pleasant, cooperative, hardworking guys. Actually the sort you would like to have in the real schools, and seldom have. But, for my tour, that was all in the future.

I asked Coach what sorts of guys were in the JCC. His reply: "murders, rapists, thieves, armed robbers, drug dealers, gang bangers, mentally unstable... just about every kind of criminal there is... " I could have done without that information.

After seeing way more than I wanted to see, I was being ushered toward the last few of the locked doors, on my way out. Here, I decided, was the time for negotiations. They offered me a day of paid training to get up to speed on procedures. I asked for three. We settled on two and a half. I would use Coach's passwords, instead of creating a new set, and his keys. With those things settled I admitted that except for bailing a boss out of jail, (at three am) the JCC was the only jail I had ever been in. Then I asked "Do you guys realize how scary this place is?" A synchronized positive nod answered that question.  "Have any others come on your tour?" brought another synchronized nod. Then I followed with "Did they come back?" which brought a synchronized negative shake of heads. For sure, I was in too deep to escape. I agreed to come back.

Off topic... many things there began with JC. It reminded me of working at Texas Instruments where many things began with TI. The most amusing acronym was for "Texas Instruments Language Translator" (TILT) this was a computer program that, with proper input, could translate anything written in the normal keyboard character set into anything else written in the normal keyboard character set. That is to say for any language besides Chinese and the Arabic languages. it could translate one language into any other, including the many computer languages. My friend, then, who was one of the few experts in TILT was heard to say "If you ever tried to learn TILT you would understand why they called it that."

On topic... My first few days at JCC, aka Westside School were high stress, fear filled hours for me. Lesson number three was that no one touched anyone else. Some of the tiniest disputes exploded into shouting, gesticulating contests between YRs, JCOs, and ATs. I got out of the way fast!! But, no one ever touched... at least where I was. (I heard radio calls directing JCOs to fights in the resident areas.)

Every staff member carried a "man down" box, some with buttons, others with plugs. When activated the box produced a radio signal that alerted central security as to its location. Central security radioed all JCOs, and some came running (literally). I witnessed one "man down" call from a long hall and saw a young JCO dash, full speed, more than 50 yards before going out of sight. Apparently the flow of JCOs to a trouble area continued until one present reported the situation under control. I asked Coach if his box had ever failed, "yes, but I just went to the JCO there and used his." "Do they work every where?" " No, in some areas outside they do not work. Once when that happened to me, I just threw it toward an area I knew worked and it activated the alarm." Then "don't worry it is too cold to go outside now anyway." And he was right except for one day.

A conflict in my area drew the AT who assisted me, six or seven JCOs and a supervisor type before the inflow was stopped. One person was two feet from the YR causing the commotion. The rest formed a close circle around these two. Shouting was the main form of communication until the supervisor arrived. The circle expanded enough to let him in. The JCO facing the YR joined the circle. Here a few more shouts were exchanged. Then the supervisor began to speak in a soft, calm voice. The YR continued his ranting, but the JCOs expanded the circle until they were ten or twelve feet from the center. The YR backed against a wall and the JCOs formed a semicircle with a radius of twelve feet. After three or four more minutes the YR showed an inclination to calm down. Under the direction of the supervisor he started to move toward the door. Some of the JCOs dropped out of the circle and it collapsed to the six foot diameter that followed the YR out of the gym and into the hall. Next day, the YR was back in class as if the previous blowup had not happened.

When a man down signal goes off, much of the facility is locked down and most movement is stopped, by the simple expedient of disabling all the electronic locks and the locks activated by the central control. One such blowup happened while I was in the office area, It was nearly a half hour before I was able to go back to the gym. Fortunately my classes were over at that time.

Other blowups were less dramatic, needing two to four JCO to form the circle and move the YR along. If things got serious later, the YR was "locked down" for a number of days and did not reappear.

The well behaved YRs got increasing numbers of privliges. If this continued they were given blue shirts to indicate as much. Some with blue shirts would not wear them. Privilages included electronic games, television, and later bedtimes. Some YRs assisted with the tasks of running the place, janitorial work, delivering meals to locked down inmates, etc. Well behaved guys had access to better classes, cooking in the "restaurant" that sold meals to the staff, and better Physical Education classes. Those that earned a high school diploma or passed their GED were allowed to work on Technical Skill Certificates and Associate Degrees through Barton Community College (classes were held in house).

Coach allowed (required) me to select  my own class activities. Unfortunately I had never heard of them (designed for indoor activities) before that time, except for Basketball (reserved for the last class day of the week) team Dodge ball, and indoor softball played with a wiffle  ball. That left 12 days… The ATs and the YRs were familiar with them so that lessened the load. Except, of course, most were unpopular, or there were not enough YRs to make teams. Reverting to Basketball, a favorite, was a no no.

Lesson number four was that attempting to do the agility exercises, and failing, earned me some affection from most of the YRs. I could not run four lengths of the  gym without becoming completely winded. Remaining standing during some of the pretzel stretches was another failure. Why, is the question. Perhaps I became more human and less intimidating with weaknesses. Lesson number five was that after this, "Please" worked a few times to calm things, or to move things along. It also brought certain students to my aid before things could get out of hand. Later, when asked to write reviews of students behavior, I was able to repay these few.

When listening to other staff discussing YR behavior, some of my better charges were some of their worst. However, it never paid to relax your guard. One day one of my best blew up like a bomb over a non issue. (he was to get a zero for the day for non participation, if the sick bay did not verify that he was sick. It was a non issue because, his A was way beyond danger and the sick bay verified he was indeed sick.). Less important issues resulted in similar reactions. Actually, I cannot now recall any important issue ever coming up. Never relax!

After the first full week, unjustified fear resolved itself and was replaced by high tension in anticipation of the realities of the situation. In the end I was able to brave up, which lead to the following… One YR was fully refusing to follow my directions. I walked up to him and shouted at him. His response was to send a stream of verbal abuse at me personally. I moved closer, put my face in his, and smiled and said "son. I know you could not care less about what I say. What you need to know is that I could not care less about what you say". It probably worked because cursing at other staff always brings a huge negative reaction. Of course I refrained from my two favorite comebacks: "I bet you learned that in fifth grade" and "Do you even know what that means?" The YR sat down and caused no further problems.

Some YRs were pure Dr. Jeckle/ Mr. Hyde, while others all one or all the other. There is a thing called "good time" , apparently given to long term residents. It is taken away for bad behavior. Good time shortens the sentence, sort of time off for good behavior. I asked one of the variable guys why threats to remove good time did not restrain him from bad behaviors. "Well, I got no good time left."

YRs enter or get released whenever… I tried to offer encouragement to one that entered a couple of weeks before I left. He claimed he wanted to be a registered nurse. His scholastic record showed the only high school class he had passed in the past four years was a C in welding. He behaved very well in my class for about a week and a half. Other Teachers said he was lazy in their classes. He had started his slide downward in mine before I left. I guess in that environment, encouragement only goes so far.

Another surprise was the reaction a group of YRs had to my discussion of the return rate to JCC/prison. They were shocked to be told one in three of them would not make it on the outside, and that two of three in the big house would return there. "Not us" they all chimed. We can always hope. (The actual return rate for that unit was slightly under 30%)

On one of my basketball days, all ten YRs, in one class, agreed to play (Unusual!!) then they played a fierce 45 minute full court game, without a break. Except for rebounds and an occasional steal, there was no defense at all. Yes, fierce, and fun to watch. Most other classes had varying amounts of conflict over dressing out, getting dressed at the end, rules and umpire rulings, who said what to whom… you name it. Constant noise, constant stress. I have not checked to see if my blood pressure is going down yet.

 The school district supplies the teaching staff under contract to the state penal system. The school district paid me $100 a day for the first two days and shorted me for the half day. Substitutes with real certificates get that. My real certificate expired in August and I got an uncertified certificate to continue as a substitute. The uncertified get $85 per day. I went to the Westside principal and pointed out that I was no longer certified and should only have been paid the lower amount. Then I went to the holder of the purse strings at the school district and gave them the same information. I stressed they still owed me $12.50 for the half day even though they over paid for the first two days.

When the supplemental check for the half day came in the mail, it showed payment for the higher rate. $50 not $12.50. When I went back to inquire about that mistake, I was told " Well, Mr. Watson, we know that you were once a certified professional and we decided to treat you as one." That may even make me eligible for the rule that pays $169 a day after ten consecutive days, We will see when the rest of the money comes in January.

I was discussing the other-worldliness atmosphere of the JCC with one of the YRs, suggesting I would do almost anything to avoid spending an extra minute there, much less a whole day (that he could loose, of good time, if he misbehaved). He came back "What are you doing here then?" "Well, I gave my word…"