Sunday, March 28, 2010

I'm Awesome

Last month one of my kids was telling me about her parents and I asked her, "How come you turned out so well?" She responded, "Because I'm awesome." And she is awesome. Then the other day she was telling us about a her new favorites song she heard on the radio where the guy just kept saying "I'm awesome," but she was unable to recall any other lyrics. A few days later I heard the song on the radio and immediately recognized it.

The song is written by a guy from Maine who calls himself Spose. Listen to it before reading further.

Now with Spose as the new inspiration rap figure in my life, I decided to write my own version of "I'm awesome." I performed it for my second period on 3/26/10, 'cause I'm awesome.


Thought of the Week

I should've known it wasn't going to work out between my ex-wife and me. After all, I'm a Libra and she's a bitch.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Moment of Trepidation


Today's post is not a humor column. So if you were looking for a light-hearted story for a laugh you'll have to wait for another week. But it is still true and real. So if you want to keep reading...


After a pretty good fall Dad decided to go again. He climbed back into the boat while we went back to pick up his other ski. I heard a thud against the boat and Dad let out a yell. Uncle Paul quickly ran to the back of the boat and jumped in to assist him. I feel like I’m constantly surrounded by people over-reacting, and I try to balance that out. Assuming my dad had run into the boat and my uncle was attending to him I stood in the boat nonchalantly until my cousin Shelley shelled at me, “Kevin, get in the water and help your father!” Until that point I hadn’t realized the gravity of the situation; I looked out behind the boat and didn’t see Dad at all.

I quickly jumped into the water and went under to assess the situation. I located him immediately. Thankfully, he wasn’t far from the surface. With his head less than a foot from the surface I just had to pull him up a little and everything would be fine. I grabbed on to his jacket with my left hand and grabbed the boat with my right arm so I had the leverage to pull him up.

Paul was on his left and I was on his right. With both of us pulling we still couldn’t get his head above the water. My cousin Shelley leaned over the back of the boat and cried out a prayer as Paul and I struggled to get is head above the water.

The next day upon hearing the story my sister replied, “Oh, I’m so glad Kevin was there. He always knows what to do.” Not today. I had no idea what to do. My dad was now inches from the surface and I didn’t know how to help him.

Fortunately, other people in my family thought to get the weight to the front of the boat. As the weight shifted to the front it raised the back of the boat just enough.

Paul had managed to wedge his leg into the motor so he had enough leverage to use both of his arms to help Dad. Paul was fighting. I was fighting. Dad was not. He wasn’t even moving at this point.

That’s when it happened. Probably the scariest moment of my life. For just a moment, as if time was operating in slow-motion… I can’t even describe the emotion. I knew we were pulling my dad up above the surface, but I did not know if he was dead or alive. As his head made it up to the surface he coughed. The struggle wasn’t over yet, but the fear subsided. Dad was going to make it.

My dad’s first words were, “Take off my suit.” His suit was so tangled in the prop that it was tying him to motor and holding him below the water. He and Paul had already tried to get it off, but were not able. At that point Paul told me he would take my dad’s weight while I worked on the suit. So he now held him up solo while I tried to set him free.

Somehow with Dad manipulating his body I was able to get his suit off, and we got him out and into the boat.

I wasn’t ready to see my dad go. Especially, not like that. Dad said God gave him a peace under the water that allowed him to be still.

That night I said to Shelley, “Hey, thanks for telling me to get in the water.” She grinned and nodded.

I took Spanish 1 in High School

High Spirits sans Spirits

I picked up Heather Wednesday night to go out and said to her, "My blood alcohol level is low, but my spirits are high."

She thought that was pretty funny.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

From Fred Savage to Math

It turns out Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper from the Wonder Years) grew up and decided to write math books targeted for 13-year-old girls.

Sexy photos like this one used to market her books and peek my personal interest led me to also learn that she recently married in 2009.

I won't likely be buying a class set anytime soon, but it was interesting to learn about her endeavor geared toward our female students.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pizza Special

The other day Gio and I decided to order some pizza while we watched the game. We found a Round Table coupon for a double pepperoni for $10.99. We agreed that we would prefer two toppings and decided to go with pepperoni and pineapple. I didn’t hear the beginning of the call, but I walked in and could at least hear his side of the conversation.

“We would like to get the special and add pineapple.”

“Oh, you can’t add a topping to the special? Can I just get a side of pineapples then? Maybe you can put them in a bowl or something and I could later apply them to the pizza myself.”

“Oh, you don’t sell sides either.” (pause for brief deliberation with me.)

“Well how much is it to just order a pepperoni and pineapple pizza?”


“Okay. We’ll get just the special then. One large double pepperoni pizza with extra sauce… and a side of pineapples.”

Follow-up story.

Thought of the Week

There is sometimes only a small difference between yelling at someone and phrasing things with certain emphasis. Often the distinction depends on the receiver.

Name Win

Great Bar Name:

My Favorite Manicurist:

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I just started reading A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, who is also the author of You Suck and Lamb.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Visit to Black Church

Preface: I got a little long-winded today so I will include a summary at the bottom in case you don’t want to read the entire column.

Every Sunday morning the parking lot at my complex fills up. Often from my window I observe well-dressed Black people that still believe in wearing their “Sunday best.” For a few months now I’ve been planning on visiting their church. Today I went.

I admit I entered into the service with the approach of a sociologist that happens to teach math, but I can’t help it. It’s what I do. I think to better understand people you have to experience their culture. Today I’m just going to share my thoughts and observations: cultural, religious, and otherwise.

The sidewalks were crowded as I walked the two blocks from my house to the church. Many people were leaving the last service as others were arriving for the later service. As I approached I heard a faint voice, “Is that Mr. Burrill?” I looked up to find two of my students, one current and one former. I briefly chatted with Emmanuel, who I haven’t seen in three years. I’m happy to report he passed both Algebra and Geometry and is currently taking Algebra II as a junior.

I walked in and asked one of the greeters a question and she responded, “Are you a first-timer?” She walked me over to a gentleman who gave me a welcome pack that included a paper to fill out so the pastor could mail me something, some information, and a Starbucks card. By this time it was about 11:14 so I found my way up to a seat. I was surprised at how empty the service was, but by 11:30 all the seats around me had filled up.

I looked around and noticed about five other White people, which was about five more than I expected. It is interesting how I am so often in situations when the ethnicity of the people around me never even enters my mind, but when in a situation where I was in a very small minority I immediately looked around to see if there were others of my skin color.

Microphones lined across the auditorium. Here the members of the choir didn’t stand in rows, but rather in one long line across the entire church with each of them having an individual microphone. Most of the singers were woman ranging in age from young to old. Maybe twenty women and four men stood across with just enough space between them to allow for dancing.

At one point it seemed the worship songs were finally coming to an end and the worship pastor instructed us to give a shout out to the Lord. It sounded more like a hockey game than a church. He then responded to the energy in the room. “Oh! I feel a praise dance comin’ on.” Then the music picked up ad lib style, and everyone just kept dancing. Many people in front of the congregation had sat down, but some of them stood back up to keep the dance going. I watched one woman in front of me grab her back at one point as if she had pulled something, but then worked it out and kept on dancing. The older White guy in the blue shirt in front of me was dancing, and not particularly well, with all his heart and soul. He even got a nod from the pastor later, “I loved watching my brother in the blue shirt.” Even the White guy was a brother here. I was thinking the worship pastor must do midweek endurance workouts, and buy good deodorant to wear that pastor’s garb and maintain his passion and energy.

Finally, at 12:03 (service started at 11:15) the music ceased and the worship pastor told us to open our Bibles. It turned out the guy that I thought was the worship pastor is actually the head pastor. Don’t worry; he had plenty of energy left. Good thing too, because this was already his third service of the day (I don’t know if in the morning he also felt a praise dance coming on.)

The entire service I noticed a huge cultural difference in the way the congregation responded during the sermon. It was totally acceptable, and expected, to call out and respond while the pastor was preaching. Shouting in agreement, saying examples aloud, clapping and cheering were all appropriate reactions. If pastor was about to say something and you could tell where he was going it was okay to finish the sentence with him. If a baby started crying or a cell phone beeped you would barely notice because of all the other noise.

The pastor thanked the first time guests for joining them this morning, and then he told us that we didn’t need to put anything in the offering except our visitor card because, “Today you are our guests, but when you come back next time you’re family.” Wow, I thought that would take at least a few weeks, but one of my sisters did give me a hug this morning so I guess I made it in.

The pastor shared how our witness is demonstrated in “our sharing, our giving, and our worship.” Then for the first time in my life I watched a pastor in the middle of his sermon dance in front of the congregation.

One of the points I noted from this morning is if you want to reach out to someone you must want to get to know them. You have to be willing to build a relationship with them. Also, don’t portray Jesus as mad or sad, because you can exemplify the joy you have in Him when you reach out to others. The New Living Bible translated Luke 5 as saying go become “fishers of people.” Pastor told us to cast out our nets and pull in our coworkers, our friends, and our family, “even the cousins you don’t like.”

I sat there imagining Pastor Parnell M. Lovelace, Jr. teaching a math lesson to the congregation. “After you factor the trinomial you get (x -7) (x-2) = 0.”

“Oh, yeah you do! Hallelujah!”

“And the first answer is x equals SEVEN!” (Seven said by the pastor in unison with 1/3 of the congregation).

“Or x equals TWO.” (This time everyone joined in on saying the “two.”)

“Amen! Woohoo! X is 7 or 2 oh, yeah!”

Every year our Black students have disproportionately high number of referrals. Is it that our Black students are not taught to be respectful? Do they lack guidance? Those may be factors. However, sitting in church today made me think about a vast cultural difference. This was church, and it was expected to shout out, raise your hand when you agree, and if you enthusiastically agree you can stand up, jump around, dance, and shout. I don’t think I could handle running a class like that, but I do want to try it sometime. Amen.

As the pastor spoke of how the church body should be a witness for Christ I thought about how closely this parallels teaching. If you don’t really want to get to know someone then they don’t want to hear you preach to them just so you can fill your monthly witnessing quota. If you don’t want to get to know your students they probably don’t care too much about what you have to say about 2-step equations. Relationships are key. Can I get an “Amen?”

Summary: Today I visited the Black church two blocks from my house. The experience caused me to reflect on cultural differences that could impact how I relate to the Black students in my classroom.


Thought of the Week

"If a man is not able to do nothing, how can he accomplish anything?"

--From a Kit Kat radio commercial I heard earlier this week on why taking a break is important.