Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gas Prices

One of the things I do is track the gas mileage in my crappy car. I keep a spreadsheet that shows my car's mileage and what I paid for gas.

I don't know about you guys, but here in the great state of West Virginia, we're paying about 80¢ less for a gallon of regular unleaded than we were about a month ago.

On 12 August 2006, I paid $3.029 for a regular unleaded. Yesterday, the price here was down to $2.299. I never thought I'd see the day when I thought $2.299 was a good deal. When I started driving in 1990, right after the first Gulf War, we were outraged that gas had gone over $1.00 a gallon, all the way up to the outrageous price of $1.36 a gallon.

The funny thing is that even though the price of fuel has been plummeting, I've not seen anything on the news about it. Even Dubya and his cronies, who have taken the brunt of the criticism for rising fuel costs, have kept their mouths shut about this.

Is this like a pitcher taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning? He's in the zone and no one wants to talk to him for fear of breaking it up. If someone mentions gas prices, they're afraid they'll shoot back up as they have in the past.

I thought it was odd that the price of gas was dropping over the Labor Day weekend, even though demand is usually up over that time because that's when people are traveling. Simple economics says that the price should have actually risen.

So what's up?

The last time gas has been this low was back around 24 February 2006, when I paid $2.249 a gallon for regular unleaded. Then, very quickly, the price jumped up to $2.49 on 7 March and kept going up to its high of about $3.159 in August of this year.

I haven't been keeping any eye on the price of oil, but I don't think it's changed much. The gas companies will say that they're switching to their winter fuel mixtures, but that surely doesn't account for 80¢ a gallon. We were told back when prices were skyrocketing that all of the oil fields around the world were working at full capacity so production hasn't increased (unless we were being lied to about that).

My theory, without any basis in fact, is that Dubya and his buddies have chosen to lean on their buddies in the oil community now to bring prices down. They're not making a big deal out of it because they know that's too obvious a ploy, but they're hoping that voter hostility will wane and won't hurt them at the polls as much.

I do find it coincidental that gas prices dropped with almost exactly two months to go before the mid-term elections.

Mind you, I'm not complaining, but this isn't going to make me want to vote for any Republicans.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rock Star: Supernova, week 10

After Storm getting the boot last week, I think that pretty much puts Magni and Lukas in the driver's seat going into the finale. Toby has come on strong lately, but I think he is the weakest of the remaining contestants. I also think Dilana is not going to win, so that leaves Lukas and Magni.

My pick would be Magni because I think he is the most polished and ready to go of the contestants. Lukas, despite his rabid fanbase, is just too edgy for the band (in my opinion). Plus, he's mush-mouthed and I can't stand that.

Between grading papers, I've been half paying attention to the third season of Dancing With the Stars.

Here are my quick thoughts:

Sara looked really nervous. Plus she got the Dead-Man's Spot.

Emmitt and Willa looked good.

Monique was okay.

Tucker was awful.

Joey could either be the next Drew Lachey or he could bomb.

Thank God for the split screen. Mario "I had Ali Landry and still couldn't keep it in my pants" Lopez is pretty good.

After the filler at the beginning with Ryan's encore, we get to see Toby. Not good, not great. I'm not a fan of his and the song leaves me just kind of "meh". Of course, what "the world" thinks this week is irrelevant since the band is picking the winner. Then he's singing while Magni plays the guitar. Still okay.

Next up is Lukas and I still dislike him. His singing voice does nothing for me and I think it goes back to what Jason told him early on about opening his mouth to sing. He sounds like he's holding back. He's good on stage but not for me. Of course, I didn't think Jackass should have won last year, so what do I know?

Back to the other screen and Shanna is on. She's pretty but not as good as Willa and not as bad as Tucker.

Next up is Mr. Lisa Rinna. At least he's trying. And he's got a good coach and a wife who can help/hinder him.

Wait . . . why is Paula Adbul on Rock Star? And why is Brooke giving us numbers? I guess we are voting this week.

Now Dilana is on and she's singing the Police. Acoustic. I didn't like her in the beginning, but she's grown on me (in the good way). If there were a woman who could hold her own with this band, it would be her (Storm would be pretty good, too). She even got the boys to sing with her. And now she's singing a repeat. Not as good as "Roxanne" but still good.

Vivica is on the other screen and she's pretty good, too.

Last up is Magni, who is as good as usual. I think he should win.

I'm having a hard time watching Magni because Jerry Springer is on the other channel and he's surprisingly good. He doesn't have a chance in hell of winning, but at least he looks like he's having fun. He's sure to beat Tucker, in the fan voting if nothing else.

Back to Magni. He's really good on stage and I think the band likes him.

I wonder if they're going to show us the finishing order tonight; they do. It's Dilana, Toby, Lukas and Magni in the preliminary results. I guess I'm going to have to watch two results shows tomorrow night.

High Lord. Out.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Rock Star: Supernova, week 9

We're down to five people: Dilana, Lukas, Magni, Storm and Toby. I wonder if they're going to pack the show with filler and crap or let them sing.

Sure enough, we get filler. Not as much filler as American Idol, but still filler. Each person is singing two songs, one from the list and one original song.

First up is Dilana who has ripped a calf muscle. How do you "rip" a muscle? Is that a tear? Or a pull? She doesn't have her usual deep, raspy voice . . . no wait, there it is. She draws The Who and the whole performance is "meh". Could have been better. Could have been worse.

Her second song is her original song and she can't just sing it, she has to talk first. It's a much better song than the first one, which was just kind of there. Maybe it's because she's hurt, but Dilana has been wholly unimpressive tonight. After going in the lead off spot, she's in serious danger of getting sent home tomorrow. I'm not qualified to judge her songwriting skills, but I'm not blown away.

Next up is Magni, who I think should win. First, he's singing "Back in the U.S.S.R." and he's rocking it out. It's a good cover, the melody is still recognisable, but it's different enough from the original that it qualifies as having his own "stamp" on it.

His original song is good. I like his performance and I could have seen him play it safe by going the powerballad route, but I liked it. Again, I can't pass judgment on his songwriting, but I think Magni should have solidified his spot in the finals next week.

Going third we have Storm who gets to sing with Dave. She's uncharacteristically covered up. I was okay for her. Not blown away, but not bad either.

Storm's original song is okay. Her performance was good. I was not blown away, but she looked like she was having fun. The band enjoyed it.

Occupying the four-spot is Lukas who is singing "Livin' on a Prayer". I'm not crazy about his arrangment of the song and he's doing the mush-mouthed thing again. I flat out don't care for him and that might be colouring my reviews of him. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't for me.

His original song is about his mother. Awww . . . I don't know if he is what the band is looking for. Tommy seems to like him. I actively dislike Lukas. It's part the look, part his being a jackass on the first day and part the way he sings. Still, there are some people out there who think he's the best guy in the competition.

Toby is the last to go, getting the Rock Star pimp spot. His cover song is "Mr. Brightside" which was performed acoustically last year. I like Toby's version more than Marty's. I think Toby is also in danger of begin eliminated tomorrow night, but he's been coming on strong lately.

His original song has a retro feel to it and I don't really care for his stage performance. He's moving around the crowd and we get to see the people in the nosebleeds for the first time, but I'm still not blown away. The band likes him and that could bode well for him come elimination time.

Last week, Magni was the only one who didn't spend any time in the bottom three, and that was after consecutive appearances singing on Wedsnesday nights. I expect both Magni and Lukas to cruise tonight. I think the bottom 3 are going to be Dilana, Storm and Toby, but then again, what the hell do I know?

I'm surprised that they're taking four people into the finale instead of three, like they did last year. I wonder why they're cutting the show a week short . . . are ratings down?

Like American Idol this past year, the five finalists are all pretty strong, which means that as a competition, this thing is wide open. Since the winner is determined by the band and not by voters, I wonder who the band really wants to front them.

In my opinion, Magni is the most seasoned of the finalists. Lukas is way out there, Toby seems kind of bland. As much as the boys say that that they wouldn't mind having a woman as a lead singer, I don't see them picking either Dilana or Storm winning this thing.

At the end of the show, they don't just give us the bottom 3, we are shown the acutal order of voting: Toby, Lukas, Magni, Storm, and finally Dilana.

I think Toby is getting a little bit of a bounce by virtue of having gone last; I am interested to see if that lasts through the night. I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

High Lord. Out.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What a difference a day makes

Last Thursday, after four days in my chemistry/freshmen science class, I got a call from the school board. One of the social studies teachers had a medical emergency and was going to be off for an undisclosed amount of time.

The details are sketchy (and I was hearing them third or fourth hand) but the gist is this: he is having surgery and depending on how that goes, he may be off for two week, six week, four months or maybe even the rest of the year. Tina at the school board wanted to know if I wanted to take a long-term position as his sub and they wanted me to start the next day (last Friday).

It was an agonising decision.

On the one hand, the science job meant stability, since it had been open for some time and no one had bid on it. On the other hand, a long-term assignment in science doesn't help me out for the clinicals and student-teaching that I need to do.

Sarah and I talked about it; the science job was a steady paycheck, but wasn't going to get me closer to graduation. However, the social studies position was a stepping stone towards full-time certification.

I called Tina back and told her I would take the social studies job teaching civics, sociology and ACT prep. I still didn't feel good about it.

Where this could bit me in the butt is if the regular social studies teacher comes in a few weeks (the best case scenario). If that happens, and the science position has been filled by another long-term substitute, I would go back on the sub list and be without a regular assignment. Also, if he comes back before I get in 75 days, I would have to do a clinical for my education degree.

There are many scenarios in which I could end up getting royally screwed here.

However, we had not counted on a 5 day a week teaching job this fall. I had anticipated having to do a 75 hour clinical for school and subbing when I could, so getting bumped out of the full-time position wouldn't really hurt us.

I also felt bad about abandoning the science department at the high school and the kids in my classes. I know that instability is a killer for being able to reach kids and if this science class has even two or three more teachers, they could be lost for the year. At the same time, everyone I talked to says that I need to not worry about the kids or the department and that I need to do what's best for me and my long-term goal which is graduation.

We'll see in a couple of months if I made the right decision.

In a slightly less serious vein, I was serving my first day of bus duty and one of the assistant principals came up to me. He said he ran into a student in the hallway.

"Where are you going?" he asked the student.

"To see you," the student replied somberly.

"What for?"

"I got kicked out of class."

"Who's class are you in?"

The student things for a minute. "You know that dark guy . . . Dave-something? . . . It's not him. It's the guy that was in his class." (meaning the sub they had in for me on Friday)

So now I'm "that dark guy". I thought it was funny.