Letters to Holly

Friday, December 11

A Man With A Plan

I bought a digest-sized magazine called Make. It's a geek craft title. My nesting instincts are driving me to expand my knowledge base, including making stuff. I can design it. I can decorate it. It's that crucial corporeal component that eludes me. I wanna work on that. This issue is geared toward kids, and that sounds like the perfect entry point for me to hop aboard.

I ordered HD for our satellite service, and it will be installed the day after Christmas. We've had the TV for almost a year without making that final step. Now I think we're ready to be gobsmacked by every broadcast image. I ordered early to avoid the inevitable rush after many an HD TV are unwrapped this year.

If there's a food Your Sister is craving, it's cheese. It's quickly emerged as the common ingredient in all our dishes. Maybe it's the salt. We check to see if it's pasteurized, and in it goes into he dish by the bucketful. Instead of thawing leftovers as we planned, she asked if we could zip to the local Italian place for pizza. That we can do.

Suddenly, it's December, and suddenly, it's two weeks from Christmas, and I don't have clues what to buy people. You mentioned kayak stuff, and we'll be glad to do that once you give us details. So give us details. Everything I think to buy Your Sister is immediately disqualified by her hologram in my head.

Also, it's shockingly cold.

Picture of the Day
No introduction needed.

Thursday, December 10

A Brief Whine

Obviously the next six months will be tougher on Your Sister than on me. I've had very little inconvenience since we discovered we were pregnant and began alterations. One of them was her edict that chicken is out the door. She lost the taste for it. That included, of course, buffalo wings, a staple of my weekly diet.

I've had them once a week for ten years. It was true comfort food, synchronized with the roughest work days. It was usually a Monday because that's when the alt-weekly went to press; I often worked 11 hours to prepare and FTP the issue. We recently moved it to Fridays to cap off our work week. But it's gone now, and I acceded sincerely. What she needs is what we'll do. I'll treat the pregnancy as frat-food Lent. Why should she suffer alone?

So I haven't had buffalo wings since October. Only two months. Not much of a hardship. (So far, the whole pregnancy has been an easyship. It shouldn't go this well, should it? The shoe has to drop, right? The baby will be born with faces on its knees or something.) I don't have the heart to grumble about losing wings while she deals with daily nausea in front of schoolkids. Sickness with an audience even sounds hellish.

But let me just exhale heavily at the cruel fate that decided that the new business that opens next week across from my office windows is a wing restaurant. Fucking fuck.

Picture of the Day
Da wonna wonga is Bib Fortuna's best pick-up line, I'm sure.

Wednesday, December 9

It's Not Quite Over

After all the entire semester, after all the alleged cramming between the end of Thanksgiving and yesterday, after giving me the runaround and then asking for one last big favor, after slamming together a rudimentary semblance of a comic, and after a last-second mentor review, he didn't turn it in. As of lunchtime yesterday, his teacher didn't receive the final product. He may as well not have done any work at all. From what I saw, he practically didn't.

The project has three graded elements: a 5-page-minimum paper discussing the field he chose, a portfolio documenting his progress of the product, and a 7-minute minimum oral presentation on the whole effort. Two of them are utter crap from what I hear, and he hasn't said seven total minutes of anything to me since we met in October.

He's not alone though: a number of seniors blew off the deadline. But they know they have another chance next semester if there's enough room in those classes scheduled to host senior projects. If they can't get in, they fail. If they get in and bomb their second project, they fail. And a good number of them have to apply for college and worry about their other classes too. It's a tough spot they put themselves in.

Your Sister called up the local comic store and bought a replacement copy of the Hellboy issue he trashed. That gets extra smooches.

Headslapping Picture of the Day
This is what he made after two months of advice and examples. He taped 24 sketched panels onto the final pages.

Tuesday, December 8

Is It Over?

Your Sis got home at 8 last night and handed me the folder with my minicomic stuff. It was all there. The full-size Hellboy issue was trashed, and it feels like it was drenched before drying. I should have bagged and boarded it. Also inside was his final product, the comic he wanted to make beginning in September.

It's tragic. He didn't follow my templates. He merely folded letter-size pages and cut them into strips. There were no page numbers. Also, instead of drawing on the pages, he cut out and taped his sketch work onto the pages. Those panels are about a quarter of the size of each minicomic page. The lettering is horrid. Yes, high-school boys don't necessarily have good penmanship, but when the lettering is technically artwork, it needs to be clear. Legible would be nice. I remembered late last night that I had suggested he do a minicomic to make his final product heftier and more impressive. Had he worked at a traditional size, we might have gotten three pages stapled at the corner.

The mentor verification form was filled with a pencil instead of the mandatory ink, but he did list the correct number and dates of our meetings. He actually undercut the length of the first meeting by half, and I didn't correct him. I had some questions to answer, and I noted I couldn't verify he had completed 15 hours of work outside our meetings. I also wrote a paragraph saying his final product didn't look anything like the examples I had shown him nor did it represent the standards I had set for him. I wanted to write more, but Your Sis said the point was made. I asked her to xerox the form I completed before giving the original and minicomic back to him today.

His teachers already know from my emails how his project failed to materialize. I think my participation is now over. I may be called to explain what went wrong to a group of teachers who grade the projects, and I'll use my notes as reference. I emailed one teacher to thank her for approving the original zombie-comic project and to offer mentoring on a similar project in the future. What a disaster.

I promised myself I'd tackle some home projects when my one-pager and this project were done. The DVD closet needs an overhaul, and I may have to finally chuck all my VHS tapes. I'll try to convert my theatre recordings to DVD at least. Also, we need to put up the tree before the weekend.
+ + +

Your Sister's students recommend Beau Hunter as a name for Roo. Impressive.

Moving Picture of the Day
Finally found it for you.

Monday, December 7

Today, My Favorite F-Word That Ends in K ...

is flunk, because the senior I mentored damn near guaranteed that he has.

A week ago today, he called me to say that he forgot to do any work on the comic during the Thanksgiving holiday (five days off of school). While he was on the phone with me, I could tell he was reading the template instructions for the first time. He set up a meeting time for 12:30 this Saturday at the library, at our usual time and place.

Your Sis and I arrived at 12:15. She had a book and found a corner to sit in. I usually sat outside to meet him, but it was cold and wet (not cold enough for us to get any of the snow that befell our mountains). I made sure to take the first visible seat inside the library, in the periodical section. I grabbed a Village Voice and waited. And waited. I wasn't bored, not with all those wonderfully tawdry advertisements. Man, I miss alt-weeklies.

He has never been on time for a meeting. We've had three of them. This was to be our fourth, the bare minimum required by the senior-project guidelines. After half an hour, I called him. Again, that was nothing new. At earlier meetings, I would wait 15 minutes and ring him up to see if he was en route. He's a teenager. I cut him some slack.

But this time he said that he was not en route. He had spent the night at a friend's house, and they were on their way to the dump. He still had to go back home, get the comic stuff, and get a ride to the library.

Me: Why didn't you call me to let me know?
Him: Uh ...
Me: Yeah. I'm wasting my time here, and my wife [a well-known teacher at this school] is here too wasting her time. When are you gonna be here?
Him: Uh ... ... ... ... uh ... ...
Me: Come on, be decisive. When are you going to be here?
Him: Maybe ... half an hour.
Me: I'll give you a half hour. You call me when you're on the way. Got that?
Him: Yeah?
Me: You're gonna call when you're on the way?
Him: Yeah.
Me: Bye.

I sat next to Your Sister and apologized for the delay. She smiled and went back to reading. I started sketching Wonder Woman because the fucking song won't leave my fucking head (get us out from under, Wonder Womaaaaaan). Travis came by to chat, and we caught up on the pregnancy and holiday plans. I told him that a kid was half an hour away from failing his senior year, and we traded stories from our days as lazy students.

The senior called me at 1:28.

Me: Hey, where are you?
Him: Um, well ...

Thereby hung a tale. He said he got home too late to get a ride from his mom, and he was trying to talk his dead into bringing him, and I'm relating this without the hundred of "uhs" and "ums" that signify bad lies and panic.

Me: So you're not coming?
Him: I'm really sorry I wasted your ...
Me: Yeah. Listen, I'm going home. You're gonna take all the stuff that's mine and whatever I need to sign to the school on Monday and give it to [Your Sister]. When I have it in hand Monday night, I'll call you to confirm I got it, and then I'll send back whatever I'm supposed to. Got that?
Him: Yeah. I'm really sorry ...

I repeated the directions and hung up. I went back to Your Sis and Travis. "Well, he just failed."

I had two emotions fighting for prominence: anger and disbelief. Disbelief was winning. I couldn't fathom, and still can't, that a kid would ask for such a fun project, get it approved, and then blow it by not doing any of the work. There are seniors learning how to rebuild engines, bake cakes, cut hair, learn EMT procedures -- real, actual toil. He was allowed to spend a semester sitting by himself and crafting a zombie story in comic form. And he blew it. My jaw can't hit the ground hard enough to create an appropriately loud crash. I have shock, and my shock has shock. My shock is sitting next to me on a bench, and we're looking at each other in shock.

I got home and emailed his teacher with the update. I was supposed to sign a form confirming we met the minimum amount of times for the appropriate hours. That didn't happen. He was supposed to take photos documenting our communal effort on his project. That didn't happen. I took pics of our first two meetings. I gave him assignments to move his project along cleanly. None of those happened.

Your Sister offered me ideas to meet with him or allow him to get the forms back from me earlier, and I shooed them away. He's gotten enough chances and benefits of doubt. He's screwed, and he has screwed himself.

He emailed me Sunday morning saying he needed the photos of our meetings. I replied that I would email them to him when I had all my stuff in hand Monday night. I don't think he realizes that I won't get them until around 8 tonight; Your Sis is hosting an AP lab and won't be home before then to give me whatever he brings to school. Either way, I have two photos of meeting with him. That's not enough for his project-related portfolio which he'll now be working on within 12 hours of the project's deadline. He didn't take any pictures, as was assigned. I thought I was being helpful, adding to the documentation he would provide. In the end, my few pics were the only documentation. Again, I refer to flunk.

As I told his teachers, I don't begrudge the senior project or resent volunteering to mentor. This had the makings of a fun project. Unfortunately, he thinks, as I did as an underclassmen, that he'll pass because teachers won't hold him accountable. He's too smart, too nice a kid. I grew out of that as a junior, thankfully before I took on projects that could ruin my senior year.

I honestly don't see how he can pass. I give him a 5% chance of it. I say that without joy. Hopefully, he'll learn from it. Double hopefully, this won't count against the next kid who wants to try a similar project. I'd be willing to help that kid. This senior, though, has met the end of my kindness.

+ + +

Your Sis had a rough week of indigestion. I blame a particularly rich weekend diet. She's hit the ravenous stage, and I am cautiously joining her, well aware that I will put on weight in a much sloppier fashion if I match her bite for bite. She slept a lot, even for her, this weekend.

We're at 12 weeks today. The baby book details the skin conditions she might experience and how to treat them. It also mentioned tests for cystic fibrosis. Roo should be at 2.5 inches from rump to head.

EDIT: I was wrong. He only had to meet me three times, but I was supposed to see his final product and sign off on it. That won't happen before he turns it in tomorrow.

Picture of the Day
The gay marriage rhetoric chart.