Monday, August 29, 2011

Weekly Kodachrome - The Summer of George

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We have people who make our lives far more surreal; these are the individuals who—when they knock on our door—that we don’t even pretend that we aren’t home. We open the door…every. single. time they knock.

I had just moved into my townhouse back 2007 and I only knew a few of my neighbors—three to be exact. I remember walking out to get the mail one night and thinking to myself, “Teachinfourth, you don’t know hardly anyone around here.” I decided then and there that the next person I saw, I’d introduce myself and make them my friend.

I met Marc.

He was heading out to his car to get something, and on my way back to my house we struck up a conversation; that was the day we became friends. I’m happy to say that Marc and I have been friends for somewhere in the vicinity of four years.

One day—not long ago—Marc and I were talking about how we didn’t know hardly anyone who lived around us; well, we decided to do something about it. We decided that we would host a block party, a Festivus for the rest of us. Fittingly, we’d christen it, “The Summer of George” and invite all of our neighbors (as well as bloggers who felt like coming).

I can’t tell you the feeling of awesomeness I had whenever someone approached out little gala and I was able to cry out—with hands in the air mind you, “The Summer of George!”

When our little afternoon celebration concluded, the world wasn’t changed, and we didn’t get to know all of our neighbors, but we did get to meet a few…and a blogger or two to boot.

Here’s to The Summer of George. Here’s to taking the time to taste the fruits, and letting the juices drip down our chins…

Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living
Did you take a photo in the past seven days that made you smile? If so, feel free to include a link to the image in the linky. (If you try to crop your photo with the linky, it won’t always show up, you might just want to let the program self-crop it). 

Willing to share the Weekly Kodachrome on your own blog? If so, feel free to grab the code for the linky here, or snag the html for the button above. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Empty Cups and Plates

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In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I've never gone hungry and always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket shoes on my feet
In my own little world
Population me

I try to stay awake through the Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give 'til it hurts
And I turn off the news when I don't like what I see
It's easy to do when it's
population me

What if there's a bigger picture
What if I'm missing out?
What if there's a greater purpose
I could be living right now?
Outside my own little world
Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Outside the car, saw a sign, said "Help this homeless widow"

Just above this sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, "God, what have I been doing?"
So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by?
I gave her some money then I drove on through
In my own little world there's
Population two

Start breaking my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
Put Your light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me

- Matthew West

Friday, August 26, 2011

Media of the Week - Move Along

Pin It There are moments in life when I need a lift.

I feel that I just can’t go forward another step.

To get up in the morning is a struggle.

I lie in bed and wonder what the day has in store for me.

I shudder.

I close my eyes and wonder if I can make it through another day.

I hit the snooze button two or three times and stare at the ceiling, waiting for it to go off the next time, being the final indicator for me to get up.

We all experience days like this from time to time. I figure that none of us has the perfect life where we leap from our beds and embrace each and every day like it were our last and live it to the fullest.

Maybe I’m wrong—perhaps you do. Maybe you are greeted by herds of unicorns dancing on your lawn each and every morning that shoot rainbow wishes from their eyes that you capture in Mason jars and conceal away in the attic for rainy days.

I don’t.

But would I love to have them...

Sometimes I don’t turn on the lights in the bathroom in the mornings. I like to believe that when I climb in the shower that it’s really raining outside, and that I’m really standing in the deluge. I feel a sense of control and power in knowing that I can change the temperature and intensity at will.

I will often fumble for my iPod on these mornings.

I keep a playlist in my arsenal; I call it, “Feel Good Music.”

It’s just that—music that makes me feel good. When the sounds embedded in that playlist tears through the speakers and rip through the fabric of morning air, I feel the world around me change—or maybe it’s simply my perception of it. The world becomes a beautiful place.

I smile at the day when I walk out of my house and breathe in the fresh morning air. I find myself in awe of the clouds hovering around Timpanogos, capturing the first rays of morning light.

The world is an adventure waiting to be had—a conquest anticipating its time.

To this playlist I add yet another song which helps me to change my attitude. Though a few years old, it is a good one nonetheless. Plus, the video’s editing is nothing short of pure, unadulterated geniusness.

If you’d like to add a song that builds you up and inspires you to the playlist we started together about nine months ago, feel free to let me know and—if it’s available—I’ll add it in.

Because—after all—we each need our own form of unicorn wishes.

Oh, and don't forget that Saturday (tomorrow) is Festivus. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Moments with Joey - Marriage

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. AFTERNOON, HALLWAY. The teacher is walking in with the class from recess; as the students stop in at the restroom, and to get drinks from the fountain, one fifth grade boy sidles up to his teacher.

JOEY: Mr. Z, are you married?

TEACHER: Joey, for the last time…stop asking me. I will NOT marry you...

[The teacher starts laughing].

JOEY: Well, if you aren’t, don’t EVER get married.


JOEY: All girls ever do is nag, nag, nag…

TEACHER: You’re still pretty young, Joey, how would you know this?

JOEY: My dad told me.


JOEY: And boy, does my mom ever

[Fade to black].

Oh, and I did post over at Four Perspectives today.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekly Kodachrome - Cool is as Cool Does

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Do you remember the name of your best Friend when you were growing up? Do you remember those secret rendezvous in the hot, summer evenings when the sun had long since set, and the orchestral chime of crickets had taken over the night air?

Do you recall running through the long, grass and getting caught in the patches of stinging nettles? The wanderings through the lazy summers when you knew, knew mind you, that you were cool in your cutoff shorts and flip-flops; as you went to the lake or river with a cooler full of sandwiches and lounged on that inner tube until you battled for it with your siblings, friends, or cousins?

Do you remember finding those sunglasses? That pair in the store that you just had to have because they were so amazingly awesome? That pair you begged your parents for until they finally caved and bought them for you—or let you buy them with your hard-earned allowance?

You put them on and you knew then and there that you were cool…in fact, you were cooler than cool—and nobody had to tell you either…you just knew it.

Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living

Sunday, August 21, 2011

This Post has no Title

Pin It I fought my way through the depths of Walmart on Saturday evening.

Moving through the school supply aisles was like trying to claw my way out of the seventh level of Dante’s Inferno; there were melees of carts careening in all directions. Sets of beleaguered parents consulted with school lists as their confused children blocked the walkways like the buffalo in Yellowstone National Park. The shelves around them looked like war-ravaged aftermath—or something comparable to the Los Angeles looting during the riots of 1992.

I felt relieved that I didn’t give out class supply lists, but rather furnished my students with the basic necessities they’d need for the school year: glasses of water and crusts of bread.

Of course, I know that to some parents this is a rite of passage into the new year: buying the newest morphed generation of the Trapper Keeper and the retro Casio calculator watch which is as much a sentimental journey for themselves as a supply run for their offspring.

However, who am I to stop the forward ambling of progress?

I dodged down a few deserted aisles and was able to pick up my various and sundry items—rather quickly I might add—and within the space of another 10 minutes or so, I fled the store to the safety of my vehicle. I shut the door and settled back in the driver’s seat with the feeling like I’d just escaped from drowning,

I should have waited until midnight…

Today came—and went—rather quickly I might add, bringing with it the ominous realization that tomorrow, yet another school year would begin.


I’d thought I was done with the major preparations before the tidal wave of students would arrive on the morrow; however, after a slew of thought I realized that there was still so much yet to be done.

Fast-forward some 9 or so hours later to where I stumbled out of my classroom just minutes before the alarm system armed itself, with my eyes glassy and a feeling of being completely and utterly worn out.

I slumped in my car and drove toward home, the miles of road stretching before me as I listened to the silence.

It sounded nice.

Tomorrow will come. I wonder tonight if sleep will evade me; it seems that it always does this time of year. Chances are I will lie there and think about my students…I will wonder about them as they spend their last few hours either in giddy anticipation or in downcast hesitancy of the new school year and the death of their old friend, summertime.

Will they be sleeping soundly tonight? Will they awaken with that selfsame feeling of newness that the first day of school seemed to always bring for me when was a kid?

I read over an email or two, wrote this post, and then I readied to close my computer for the evening. Before shutting down I decided to check Facebook; I saw that a message had been sent to my Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living page.

It was a photograph from Megan Wade.

I stared for a few moments at the image filling my screen, all the while the neurons in my brain made their connections in regard to what it all meant…and then I started to laugh, my energy slowly returning.

Tomorrow will come, and I’m so ready to meet you, Joey. I’m excited to start our educational journey, and to begin our plethora of adventures together…

Friday, August 19, 2011

Going Viral

Pin It Did you ever watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid II – Rodrick Rules?

I did.

Now, before you go off and start judging me, remember that I teach 5th grade; I have to keep up on the current slapstick media of the day or I find myself behind the times and can’t drop current pop culture references like the rain in classroom lessons.

Plus the first movie was pretty darn funny.

Remember that particular scene where Greg decides he wants a YouTube video that will go completely viral? He is convinced that if he gets his friend, Rowley, to be a complete dork lip-synching to Ke$a’s TiK-ToK, it will be an Internet sensation—as popular as the falling granny—and make them famous. He also believes that Rowley’s fake fall at the end (and the underwear on his head) will really be the clinchers to fame.

Well, I was thinking to myself the other day…just what is it that makes something go viral? I mean, what is it that causes media to hit society like a shockwave and rise like nothing else?

Well, in doing a little research I learned that going viral it is usually the result of something hilarious, cool, amazing, or completely stupid that is rapidly passed on by a lot of people. Now in the old school days it was usually done by word of mouth; you would tell a neighbor, friend, or family member...or perhaps something would be printed in the paper, or it would show up on the news or was heard on the radio.

Today going viral appears to happen when something is broadcast (perhaps in the same ways as before) but it seems to travel much further and faster through the mediums of social networking…you know, Facebook, twitter, Blogs, email, and that new-fangled Google+ (that new network that we’ve all heard about, probably been invited to, but perhaps haven’t plunged into just yet).

Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is an example of something that went viral. It was a relatively unknown video that showed up on YouTube and then—before anyone really knew what was gong on—it became an Internet sensation. All because of social networking.

Yeah, I hated the song at first, too…but now? Yeah, just like you…I can’t get enough of it—it’s like my own, personal version of crack cocaine; besides, because of it I now know all the days of the week.

Speaking of Friday...I couldn’t sleep this morning, and when I woke up I was struck with the idea that I wanted to go viral.

Well, not really me, myself…but a few of those people I have tucked way in Google Reader.

So here’s what I’m asking.

I know that I don’t have nearly enough cyberspacular clout to try to get any of these folks enough exposure for their blogs, but if there was a post amongst these 8 that struck you, would you be willing to pass it onward? You know, share the love? Send it on to somebody else with the same petition: to send it on to someone else as well?

What I would love is to see each and every one of these people to go viral with their post.

I also just know that revisiting dozens of each of your posts via your blogs in the early of this morning was wonderful.

I was able to reacquaint myself with your lives for several hours via archived posts in Reader and found myself smiling at the reminders of things in your lives; the events that brought you to today, even those events I reread over the months that were sad. I won’t lie about this; some of the hardships you are/were enduring in your lives brought me to the realization that we are all living such varied, exciting, and difficult lives.

Now, please also don’t think anything like, “Man, Teachinfourth didn’t choose anything from my blog, that must mean that he doesn’t like ME.” Far from it. Believe it or not, I read through close to 500 posts this morning all to choose between 5-8 that stood out to me. There were a few others that did as well, and then it came down to narrowing the field.

It was hard.

Your lives are so amazingly awesome.

Please don’t be offended if yours isn’t in this particular grouping; after all, if I could give out medals and awards at the Olympics, everyone would get the gold. However, I guess that would kind of defeat the purpose now, wouldn’t it?

I guess that's why I teach 5th grade...

But, if one of these posts rings a chord with you, would you do a bit to try to help it to go viral?

So, just how could you help it out?

Tweet it
Blog it
Email it
Google+ it
Facebook it it
Digg This it
Buzz it
Stumble it
Forum it
Blogher it
Bloghim it
Blogfrog it

I just know that I can’t get something to go viral all on my own, I simply don’t have the power. Also, just know that there was something particular in each of these posts which jumped out to me, but if there was somebody/something else you liked, would you do the same for them instead if you’d rather?

Great, now let’s go viral...and thanks, in advance.

Think Stew - I Had No Idea. A few thoughts on what it's like being a dad.

Abe - What Parents Say, What Kids Hear. Yeah, the title pretty much sums it all up...

Gerb - I So Totally Rock, Dude! As an adult - and after having a family of a few kids - Gerb decided to finally learn to swim.

Natalie - Where Sasquatch Really Comes From. What happens after a baby shower, a long ride home, and a discussion with a kid not even in the second grade yet? Yep, it's pretty much all about the hair.

Karen - Shuffled. A an argument on a long drive with an uncooperative iPod.

Kelly - Stages. We all experience moments along the roadway known as life. We all have bumps and - at times - we see the turmoil and wish to pass by it. Maybe we should just hang on to these moments and enjoy them.

Mindee - All You Have to do is Ask. Just why do parents name their kids what they do? She gives some helpful advice in this one.

Wendy - One Dream. Would we really trade the dream for the reality we have?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Summer of George - Teachinfourth Personally Invites You

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I would love to see you here. Like the invitation says, email your RSVP and to get an address at:

Besides, you remember Marc, right?

Cupcake Marc?

Future Marc?

Creepy Marc that wasn't really creepy?

Yeah, he'll be there too...and if that isn't enough to draw you in, then I just don't know what would be.

Oh, but he isn't making cupcakes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moments with Joey - Dreams & Nightmares

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. MORNING, CLASSROOM. The class is taking their seats before the tardy bell rings and announcements start. As the teacher begins to take attendance, a fifth grade boy approaches him and whispers quietly.

JOEY: I had a dream about you last night.

TEACHER: You realize that I don’t normally make home visits during the school year, don’t you?

[The boy grins].

JOEY: You were chasing me.


TEACHER: Well, lots of people have dreams with other people in them.

JOEY: But did you know that there’s a lot of kids that have dreams about you where they’re hurt, stressed out, or that you’re chasing after them?


TEACHER: And just what was your dream about? Why was I chasing you?

JOEY: You were trying to sell me on the Internet…


TEACHER: I was trying to sell you?

JOEY: Yeah, it was a nightmare.

TEACHER: Well, one boy’s nightmare is another teacher’s dream.


JOEY: So, you dream about me, too?

[Fade to black].

By the way, I posted over at Four Perspectives if you hadn’t had a chance to see it yet, also you still have two days left to add a photo to the current Weekly Kodachrome if you feel so inclined.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Weekly Kodachrome - The Builder

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I went with a group of friends to the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum in Salt Lake on Friday.

It’d been years since I’d been there.

The hands-on exhibits surrounded us like a smorgasbord of awesomeness, and there seemed to be something for everyone. However, our youngest goers seemed to be the most entranced. I saw a friend from New York there as well…always an added bonus when it is unplanned as well as unexpected.

She admitted that her mancubs were forgetting what it was like to live in the suburbs. They went camping and one of them had forgotten how to use a sleeping bag…they also were wondering when the water was going to be shut off, not realizing that most rivers—unlike fountains in NYC parks—don’t have set schedules.

I saw someone else across the way I swore that I knew. I finally approached her and we began to play the Seven Levels of Teachinfourth, but we both finally conceded to a draw after—exhausting all possible options of how we could have known each other—we just couldn’t figure it out, even though we both knew that each of us looked familiar to the other.

Her name was Stacy…and I’m pretty sure that her mom has got it going on.

I returned to my group and sat at the magnetized block table. I saw my friend’s nephew building away and—as he looked up—I snapped the Weekly Kodachrome. It made me grin…also, to be honest, it was hard to pick only one shot from this trip when there were so many I could have used.

Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living

Did you take a photo in the past seven days that made you smile? If so, feel free to include a link to the image in the linky. (If you try to crop your photo with the linky, it won’t always show up, you might just want to let the program self-crop it). 

Willing to share the Weekly Kodachrome on your own blog? If so, feel free to grab the code for the linky here or snag the html for the button above. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Secret

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Remember as a child when you would have a secret that was just so deliciously glorious that you wanted to tell the world? It was just so titillating that you just felt you couldn’t contain it any longer for fear you would burst?

Yeah, I’ve had those secrets before, too…

And no, I don’t have one at the present; I was just curious.

“There are secrets that we still have left to find. There are answers we’re not wise enough to see.”

- John Ondrasik
“The Riddle”

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I was featured for an article I wrote for i Heart faces about four days ago. If you wanted to see the aforementioned literary piece, you could view it here. If you didn’t want to view it, then you could not see it over at that link I mentioned in the last sentence. I also wrote these to help folks become better photographers...feel free to share any of these links with your friends - real or imaginary - Blogging or Facebook - whichever type your friends may be.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

It Makes no Sensa to Me

Pin It I was checking my email the other day when I noticed the ad on the sidebar. Usually I ignore these things…after all, it seems that we’re inundated with the petitions to buy this, that, or the other—those things that we never knew before existed, but upon learning about them, we now know that we’ll not be able to go another day living without said item simply because.

Or so they say…

Yeah, you know these ads.

This particular advertisement caught my eye simply because my currently petty goal in life is to lose about 4 more lbs. before my students return to the classroom in another eight days.

So I paused to read over the information.

I glanced at the image of the ripped African-American on the sidebar, his skin glistening with an incandescent sheen and abs you probably couldn’t even crack with a sledgehammer. His arms looked like something akin to the branches of an Oak tree. Wow, and all this from Sensa?

I could be African?
Glistening like a sun-ridden vampire?
Six-Packian like Dr. Pepper?
All with no drugs?
No pills?
No Frills, furbelows, or accompaniments?
No stimulants?
I could still eat like a total pig and lose weight, gaining muscle and looking like something having just descended from the jagged, cloud-topped peaks of Mount Olympus?

Man, where do I sign up?

I awoke from my daydream and thought about that abdominal workout that seemed to be pretty popular a few years ago—the one where you just had to hook up the small electrodes to your stomach and chest and in just a few weeks, PRESTO! You’d be toned, trim, and ripped like never before without ever leaving your couch and by doing nothing but watching television and eating boxfuls of Krispe Kremes slathered in barbecue sauce and bear lard (see again, photo of toned African-American male).

I laughed as I thought over this and even Googled the ‘magic’ remedy of Sensa to discover that it’s really all about magic…just like James’ magic crystals from James and the Giant Peach. You see, all you have to do is sprinkle a dusting of magic powder over your meals that enchantingly makes you believe that you’re full, and you lose weight because of—get this—the smell.

Not even Hogwarts has something this outlandish.

I started laughing as I closed the browser window, copied the image for the ad, and started to write this post; I was thinking the whole time of how wrong they really have it…the ‘magic’ remedy for weight loss—or so it seems to me—is the usual: eat fewer calories and get a bit more exercise. For the most part, this seems to work the best for me, and it will probably be the weight loss program I’ll stick with…after all, it’s worked before.

However, should anyone know of a magic dust that transforms flab to abs, and melts away the inches with zero effort whatsoever on my part, then I hope you’ll pass this choice little tidbit of information my way because you better believe that I’d be all ears.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my elliptical machine and I have an appointment.

Oh, and as for that toned African-American-with-the-skin-glistening-with-that-incandescent-vampirian-sheen-and-abs-like-concrete-awesomeness? Yeah, he has no legs...they didn’t mention THAT little side-effect in the AD did they? Maybe Sensa’s really not the wonder drug for me...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Moments with Joey - Tracking Hilarity

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. MORNING, CLASSROOM. The teacher is taking roll for the day and submitting attendance to the office. As he does, he notices one of his fifth grade students standing in front of him with a blue sticky note and a pen. The boy is smiling as wide as Christmas.


[The boy smiles even wider and rocks forward on his toes].

JOEY: You’re a funny guy; did you know that?

TEACHER: Yeah, I’m pretty much fraught with hilarity…

JOEY: See, there you go again. You’re always making us laugh with jokes and stuff. It makes the day go quicker and it’s a lot of fun.

TEACHER: I guess it helps that you can’t laugh and throw up at the same time.

JOEY: There’s another one!

TEACHER: Another one, what?

JOEY: Something funny. [There is a pause while the boy puts two tally marks on the sticky note]. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to keep track of every time you say something funny all day on this piece of paper. At the end of the day, I’ll know just how funny you really are.

TEACHER: Wow, my own personal happiness meter; you know, I might just have to scrape the rust off of my personality for today.

JOEY: That was funny, too.

[The boy adds another tally to the note and returns to his desk, looking expectantly at the teacher].

SCENES 2-13, INTERIOR SHOTS. MIDMORNING THROUGH AFTERNOON, CLASSROOM. Various quick cuts of the teacher as he is giving instructions and interacting with his students throughout the day. These shots are interspersed throughout a variety of lessons. Quick shots are also of Joey as the boy ‘rates’ his teacher discretely with either a thumbs up, down, or a shake of the hand indicating the level to which he is impressed by the comments throughout the day. Tally marks are made on the sticky note during this time. A song plays in the background during the medley of clips: ‘You’re the Best’ by Joe Esposito, originally used in the movie, The Karate Kid.

TEACHER: You are not only the child, but also the pet I never had but always wanted. [Thumbs up]

TEACHER: You do realize that if you have an accident, you’re going to have to clean it up yourself. [Thumbs up].

TEACHER: The answer to the math problem can never be bacon…it’s delicious, but it’s never the answer. [Thumbs up].

TEACHER: I guess if you were drowning you could always stand on your head and you’d be safe, right? [Wavered hand].

TEACHER: If you head explodes, I’ll just put it in a plastic baggie and give it to your mom after school. [Thumbs up].

TEACHER: I’m not sure if I have a soul, I never checked. [Thumbs up].

TEACHER: Look; if you don’t go out to recess, then I can’t start missing you now can I? [Thumbs up].

TEACHER: [Spoken to three dawdling boys as the class is lining up to go to lunch]. Mimsy, Muffy, Buffy, let’s get a move on here…I’m not getting any younger and neither are the three of you. But I am getting better looking every. single. minute. Pretty soon I’m going to start blinding you all with my good looks. [Thumbs up].

TEACHER: If my darkest nightmares had a soundtrack and choreography, I think it would look and sound something just like this. [Thumbs up].

TEACHER: The book usually works a whole lot better if you open it first. [Wavered hand].

TEACHER: You do realize that you’re breathing my air, don’t you? [Thumbs up].

TEACHER: Be careful when reaching in your desk, Joey pulled a pony out of his yesterday…it was in the back, stuffed behind an old bologna sandwich. [Thumbs up].

TEACHER: [Spoken to a boy]. Okay Buttercream, let’s get to work while we’re still all capable of breathing. [Thumbs up].

SCENE 14, INTERIOR. AFTERNOON, CLASSROOM. The bell has just sounded; the students are giving the teacher high fives—and a few are giving him a quick hug as they depart the classroom. One boy holds back as he counts the tallies from his sticky note. After a minute he writes a number on the paper that he circles; he approaches the teacher.

JOEY: Mr. Z, you were pretty funny today.

[The boy taps the sticky note with the pen he’s been using].

TEACHER: Really? So…I made the cut?

JOEY: Well, there were some lame things you said today, but I didn’t keep track of those.

TEACHER: Thank heaven for small miracles and slatherings of awesomeness.

[The boy starts to laugh and makes another tally mark on his sticky note].

JOEY: Mr. Z, you were funny a total of 86 times today…that’s really funny!


TEACHER: That’s probably why they pay me the big bucks.

[There is a pause as the boy stares bemusedly at the teacher for a moment].

TEACHER: Um…that was a joke.

JOEY: Yeah, but it wasn’t very funny

TEACHER: You’re telling me…

[Fade to black].

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekly Kodachrome - The Survivor Wall

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A lone tree stands at the memorial in Oklahoma City—The Survivor Tree—a mighty elm that lived through the blast of the 1995 bombing of the Federal building. At first, people thought the tree was lifeless with shards of debris, glass, as well as other wreckage from the discharge deeply embedded in its hundred year-old trunk.

But still the tree still lived.

It thrived.

It became a monument to which millions have flocked to over the years and have gained strength from.

The inscription nearby reads:

The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.

As I worked in my classroom this past weekend in anticipation of the upcoming school year, I found the letters my class wrote as one of their final assignments for the year. They were to write advice to the incoming fifth graders.

I leafed through the letters as I read over their sage advice, gleaned over the span of nine months—gestation enough for rebirth—and smiled at their writing which was sometimes humorous, often serious, and always valuable.

This year I dedicated a portion of my classroom—for a little while—to become ‘The Survivor Wall’ in honor of those students who made it out with their sanity intact—in other words—all of them.

Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living

Did you take a photo in the past seven days that made you smile? Please feel free to include a link to the image in the comments section if you did...or, use the linky below.

Willing to share the Weekly Kodachrome on your own blog? If so, feel free to grab the code here

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Good Friends

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What makes a good friend?

When I was a boy, I would have said it was someone who shared their M&Ms without hesitation. It was someone who wouldn’t share your secrets with another soul, not matter how hard they were pressed in which to do so. It was a person that would stick by you when you were confronted with those tormentors that seem to follow you throughout the varied ages and spaces of your life.

When I was a boy, I’d have said that a friend was someone who was more than willing to overlook your mistakes; they were someone who’d ignore the dumb things you said, and they’d be someone who’d forgive you for the thoughtlessness you show when you didn’t mean to, and love you when you least deserved it.

And do you know what?

I still believe this today…

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Taking Great Photos Part 6 – ISO

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ISO? Holy Hannah, Teachinfourth...what the heck is THAT? You give a few lessons in photography and then you throw out something that sounds like a disease?

I’m so glad you asked me to clarify....

You see, ISO is an abbreviation that stands for International Organization for Standardization—which is something you probably don’t even care about and—more importantly—will probably never use the name of ever again in your lifetime, but it does sound impressive when you can rattle that off at a party to a group of people who don’t know you; it makes you sound all intelligent and brainy.

For the layman’s definition though, ISO is just a fancy way of referring to how sensitive you’re allowing your camera to be to light.

Say what?

Break it down a bit more? You got it…

Tell you what, let’s jump into our time-traveling DeLorean and program the time circuits back to the days before digital cameras hit the market for the majority of the general populace—yeah, sometime around 1999—Prince’s planned year of partying—and we’ll let the flux capacitor and plutonium chamber do the rest.

Now, you remember those little cylindrical canisters your parents—and possibly you—used to buy that allowed you to take 24 pictures, right? Well, ISO is pretty much the same thing as the speed of film you used to buy, but all without the film. Usually when you went to the store, you probably bought 100 or 200 speed film—unless you were planning on taking photos at sporting events, or in low-light situations, in which case you probably forked out a few extra bucks and purchased the 400 speed. Anything higher than that and you had to head to the local business that specialized in film processing and photo supplies to get it.

So, with this in mind, just know that when you pick a higher ISO setting on your digital camera you are telling it—in essence—that you want to take photos at a fast shutter speed in low-light.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

However, there is always a trade-off when it comes to something like this. I mean, you can’t just magically switch a setting and instantly get better photos without sacrificing something, right? After all, this isn’t Hogwarts...I mean if this was all there was to it, then why not always crank up the ISO to the highest possible number and fire away?

Such a good question.

Well, the reason for this is all because you’ve got to give a little to get a little…and here’s what it is that you have to give up: the higher your ISO setting, the greater ‘noise,’ or grain, you’ll see in your photos.

Wait just a minute, Teachinfourth…why in the world would I want to shoot at a high ISO if I’m only going to get a grainy photo as the result? I mean, what is the point of that?

That is such a good question, I’m glad to see that you’re paying attention.

Well, let’s say that it’s Twilight (no, not that movie about hormonally-ridden teenage girls, overaged pedofile vampires, and shirtless, hunky werewolves) and let’s say that you’re trying to take a photo of a group of friends—without a flash—but all the shots you take come out either really dark OR blurry beyond belief.

Yeah, this has happened to you before, hasn’t it?

Well, if you step up your ISO just a bit, you’re telling your camera to be more sensitive to the existing light. Your camera responds immediately and does just this, giving you a more decently-exposed photo but it also—unfortunately—allows a grainy appearance the higher you go; however, isn’t it much better to have a grainy shot of all your friends than an image that looks like it was shot in Batman’s secret lair?Or one that looks like it was taken while running through the forest from an axe murderer because of that fantastic blurring action you’ve got going on?

Sometimes grain is highly preferable to the alternative…

Yeah, much better.

Here is an example of a photo that I took of my friend’s son where I wanted to freeze the action of him swinging in the late evening-ish light. I wanted to take the photo without a flash because I wanted nothing but natural light, but the sun was just about set and the swings were under heavily-leafed tree branches making quite a bit of shade. In order to stop the action AND get a photo that was properly exposed, I decided to take the shot at 1/500th of a second to ensure that I had no blurring whatsover. I also kicked the ISO up to 1600 because of the low lighting. If you click on the image to bring up a larger version, you’ll see that there is a definite graininess to it.

Now, compare that shot with the one I took below. This one was taken on a shoot several hours earlier in the day where there were much brighter conditions; in addition to this, my subject was not moving so I didn’t need as fast of a shutter speed. I took this shot at 1/125th of a second with an ISO setting of 100. If you click on this image, you will notice that there is little to no noticeable grain in the shot.

The top image, though grainy, is preferable to the first few shots I was rewarded with which were blurry (because of the slow shutter speed) and dark (because of lack of sufficient light). I jacked up my ISO and was willing to take on more grain to capture a beautiful moment in low light that would have been impossible in any other way without a flash or adding another source of artificial light.

So, just as a reminder, you have three things that work together make up a good photo: ISO (sensitivity to light), shutter speed (how quickly the photo is taken) and aperture (the opening size of the lens letting in light) and they all play an important role in exposing your image correctly. These three things work together like lettuce, peanut butter, and bacon creating the ultimate BLT (without the tomato) in a trio of awesomeness. *(Well, actually white balance does play an important role as well, but I don’t want your brain to explode out the backside of your head).

Take one of these three items out, and a good photo is simply not possible.

Have I lost you?

To make this a bit easier, follow these simple tips if your photo is a bit too dark and you can’t do anything about the light source (just remember though, if you’re in full automatic mode, your camera probably won’t allow you to do any of these need to be in just about any of the other modes):

1. Bump up your ISO a bit (but remember, each time you do, you add just a little bit of grain to your image).
2. Open your aperture a little bit more (but remember, this will diminish your ‘in focus’ area).
3. Decrease your shutter speed (but remember, decreasing your shutter speed gives you a greater chance of a blurry photo).

Changing any of these will help you take a well-exposed photo in low light conditions; however, you need to decide which trade-off you are willing to make, and which one will do the best job for you.

Okay, it’s about time to return to the present day and the age of digital, but as a final note, would you like to know my general personal rule when it comes to ISO? Yeah, I knew you would. Here it is: I always shoot at the lowest ISO possible because I want to avoid unnecessary film grain if I can, but I’m willing to take grain if the alternative is no photo at all.

Here’s a good starting place: if you’re outside on a sunny day, start off at 100 and go up from there if you need to. If it’s cloudy out, consider starting off at 200 and then traveling up or down as needed considering how dark it is. If I’m going to be indoors and shooting without a flash (which is my preference), my personal rule of thumb is to shoot images at an ISO set to 1600 just to be safe. If I see that my images are exposed well enough, I take my ISO down as much as I can, but 1600 is usually my starting point.

Wow, we’ve covered a lot today in a short amount of time, so I think it’s about time for you to go out to recess.

Oh, on one final note: remember that when you’re done playing around, put your camera’s settings back to the way they were. I can’t tell you just how many times I’ve accidentally left the ISO far too high or the aperture too wide, literally destroying the depth of field and ruining my next few shots when I’m in a rush, grab my camera, don’t check the settings, and start clicking away.

Now, take your camera, go practice, have fun, and fill a normally TV-ridden evening with a mock photo session with your kids, pets, or the objects around your house. Just like with riding a bike, you’re never going to get any better if you don’t get off the couch, jump on that sucker, and hit the pavement.

Expect some crashes. Don’t be surprised to get some brilliantly awful images that you’ll immediately delete and never admit to the world that you took. But as you get more comfortable with your camera and the way it works, you’ll get better. Also, don’t forget that your camera came with a manual…use it. Look up little hints in the index from time to time and figure out how to access some of its cool features. You just might surprise yourself with some of the things its capable of.

Until next time; shoot ‘til you get it.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: About Your Camera
Part 3: Aperture
Part 4: Shutter Speed
Part 5: White Balance
Part 6: ISO
Part 7: The Breath
Part 8: The Rule of Thirds

P.S. If you liked this post, and know of someone who could use the information in it, would you pass it along? I knew you would...after all, you're awesome like that...

Oh, and just for fun:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Moments with Joey - Too Many Jokers, Not Enough Aces...

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. AFTERNOON, CLASSROOM. The rain is pelting down from the sky outside and can be heard plainly on the roof. The students are taking part in various inside activities as the teacher enters the math scores for the day. He becomes conscious of one fifth grade boy as he utters numbers repeatedly as if he were Dustin Hoffman from Rain Man.

JOEY: [From across the room, muttered] 42..52..42..42..52 [Louder] Mr. Z, 42!

[The teacher looks up from his laptop].

TEACHER: Joey, what in the world are you talking about?

[The boy holds up a handful of playing cards].

JOEY: I only have 42 cards!

TEACHER: And what does that mean?

[The boy pauses for a second].

JOEY: I’m not playing with a full deck?

TEACHER: You said it, not me…

[The boy bursts out laughing].

[Fade to black].

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Making Magic - The Blogger Challenge II

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Everybody loves comments. Everybody loves to see that somebody else has subscribed to his or her blog. Everybody loves to see that they’re being followed (in a totally non-creepy way via Blogger…not in real life by the mustached man driving in a windowless van claiming to have lost his puppy, and that he needs your help so that he can find it...or the man claiming that his real name is Willy Wonka and he has bagfuls of your favorite kind of candy if only you’ll climb into the back of his vehicle to get them).

It was about a year ago that I first challenged my readers to help everyone out there feel the magic of blogging and truly live a little piece of the dream. So, here’s the deal...

I would like to challenge you to do two things with the reading of this post...especially all of you secret lurkers. Heavens, I know that there are over 350 of you out there who subscribe via email, Google Reader, or carrier pigeon (no, I don’t know who you are, your secret identities are safe...I only am appraised of numbers); however you who are of a silent majority...I’m calling you out and asking you do do something totally and absolutely unprecedented up to this point...

I'm asking you to make a comment on this post, indicating that you’ve been here. Then I’m going to ask you to click over to at least three other blogs via the links in the comments, leaving a comment on a recent post on their sites as well.

Heaven knows we all love to find out that somebody else has read over what we’ve written, and appreciates us for doing it.

Let’s spread a little blogger magic this week, shall we?

By the way, if you’re one of the first few people to comment on this post, return in a few hours/days to check out a few others’ blogs as well…you never know, you just might find your newest favorite blogger—only you never knew that they existed up until now.

To help facilitate this magic moment, comment moderation has been temporarily suspended, probably until...oh, maybe Sunday?

Also, I’ll be visiting everyone’s blogs who leaves a comment to poke around a bit (unless your blog is set to sneaky little devils).

P.S. For those of you who still haven’t reached a point in our relationship where you feel comfortable dropping your cloak of invisibility as of right now, that’s okay, too, Teachinfourth still loves ya...secret insecurities and all. Heck, I’ve got a ton of them myself; maybe one day I’ll blog about the non-creepy windowless van versions someday...

So, for some of you I hope to see you again, for others I hope to meet you for the first time this week.
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