Saturday, November 14, 2009


For those few of you who have this blog subscribed to in your RSS readers (or bookmarked?), I should mention that I am picking up shop and settling down in Wordpress territory.

The new blog address is:

I am doing this mostly because I dislike the width of the text column here on blogspot.

This is the last post on this particular blog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Stupidest Angel

My roommate Sam got us a new cat last Friday. He was a stray, though likes people and knows how to use the litterbox, so he is probably safer to have in the house than, say, an ocelot.

This is our cat (pictured to the right (click for full-size)).

His name is Mrs. McKibbens the Ballbarian (the name was not my choosing), though we've taken to calling him either "Mrs." (because it is ironic and we are cool hipster kids) or "Mickey", which is semi-ironic, given that it is the name of a cartoon mouse, and cats and mice generally are considered to be natural enemies (as evidenced by "Tom and Jerry"), except that cats do not understand irony and he doesn't really seem to care what we call him.

He was named after Rachel McKibbens, who is a pretty rad poet and human being, and, as far as I can tell, mostly writes sad poems, but that's alright with me. She also writes some really raunchy poems, which are also pretty alright (and totally not safe for work).

We love Rachel McKibbens.

Mickey (as I'm going to call him - for those of you who claim that it is not gender neutral, when I was in 6th grade, the security guard at my school was a woman named Mickey (there was also a man named Marshall). Also for those of you who claim that "Mickey" is not gender-neutral: Like "Mrs." is!) is a good cat, mostly.

(This is me with Mickey).
By good, I mean mild-mannered. He's got this really annoying thing where he really likes to touch people's faces with his face (I don't care if he does it to others. I just don't like my face being touched by anyone I've known less than a month, regardless of how cute and/or fluffy they might be). He also meows a lot - the first 2 hours he was home, he walked around the house and meowed at everything he saw.

...Sometimes twice.

But we get along pretty well, for the most part. If I am sitting on the couch, he will probably sit next to me, and will almost certainly meow. Sometimes he will lay across me, if I let him (it's taken almost a week, but he's figured out that if I do not want him on me, the best thing he can do is accept it and sit next to me, and I will still scratch him behind the ears from time to time). If I am eating, he tries as hard as he can to help me eat (it's a good bet that if I am unwilling to rub faces with you, I am unwilling to share my food), but I bet I can break him of this habit before too long.

All that said, he is still a giant mystery to us, because he came to us as a stray. But I have figured out a few things:

1) He loves people. So very much.

2) His hind legs are not very strong, and he can only jump about 8-10 inches off the ground, which is problematic if he is a creature known for jumping ability. Also: he is not very coordinated either. I'm not sure if this is because he's still young, or if he was somehow injured (he gets scared if I move my hands quickly, which makes me wonder if he was abused at some point).

3) He is really not very bright. Sam calls him "The stupidest angel". I feel as though this is accurate.

4) He is a gaseous kitty. Occasionally to the point of clearing a room. And he meows constantly, though it is quiet and kinda pathetic-sounding. I'm betting we can fix the former with some diet adjustment. I'm not too worried about the latter.

5) Mostly, his favourite thing in the world to do is sleep next to (or on) people. And if people are not around, then he will sleep until they come back. (The picture to the right is of him sleeping on my other roommate, Christopher). I don't let him into my room when I am sleeping, but he does not meow at the door. He just waits for me to come back out and sit down where he can see me such that he can sleep next to, or on, or near me.

Or whomever's home. He doesn't care.

But he is a very sweet cat, all in all. Dumb, and sometimes smelly, but sweet. I hope that he is happy here, or at least happier than he was.

And I hope that he does not get too offended when we call him our Stupidest Angel.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Next Time I Am a Teacher

I want to wear a tweed jacket (with leather arm-patches) and carry around a bubble-pipe.

Ideally, there will be a globe on my desk, as well as a really dusty leatherbound dictionary from 1934.

My chalkboard will be ridiculously clean, and I will refer to all my students as "Mr." or "Ms.".

That is what it will be like the next time I am a teacher.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Autumn Tennis

One of the best parts of this summer has been my twice-a-week tennis habit, typically with an old college roommate, with a mutual friend of ours, or with my younger sister (who is the reason I started to play tennis when she asked me during her freshman year if I would play with her so she could try out for the team).  I picked up a new racquet, a case of 24 cans of balls, and finally started figuring out my serve (which, at its best, goes in at around 100 mph - not fast by pro standards, but still pretty darn fast).  After adjusting to the new racquet, I spent the entire month of July hitting my forehands harder and more accurately than I'd ever hit them before, and developing my backhand into a moderately reliable stroke (as opposed to a complete and utter liability).

This was in sharp comparison to the previous summer, in which I spent most of my time with the poetry team and in preparing for the upcoming year of teaching.

My senior year of college, I got the privilege of being an assistant coach to a high school girls' varsity tennis team, thanks to one of the English teachers at the school where I did my student teaching.  It was the first chance I'd had to really play tennis since my sophomore year of college, when I severely strained the tendons and ligaments in both elbows via a combination of rowing, squash, and ignoring pain as much as I could.

By the time all the damage was done, I could barely throw a baseball or grip a plate full of food in one hand.  It was really a rather potent combination, which took my entire junior year of college to heal properly.

However, I healed through a regimen of forced rest (easing my way back into physical activity with moderate amounts of squash and lots of rest), and was finally healthy enough my senior year that I could again play tennis regularly.

When I moved to Kansas, though, I left the tennis courts behind (the town in which I lived had two concrete courts, with wobbly not-quite-accurate lines and a too-low net; the math teacher and I played a few times, but not enough to be meaningful.

After that nine-month hiatus, returning to Lincoln was nice.  The University has several very nice hard-courts with ample lighting, and I had found a few willing opponents.

With fall fast approaching (it's here already, actually), I know that it's only a matter of time before the weather turns too cold for tennis to be a viable option on any but the rarest of warm streaks.  However, it's become clear that I'll have to hang up my racquet a little sooner than that, as the elbow pain has returned. 

It's not anywhere near as sharp as it once was, but over the course of the last month, I've noticed it more and more as my groundstokes lost their pop and my serve all but deserted me.  Now, I can occasionally hit a big forehand, but I haven't been able to do so reliably since before the US Open, and have been relying more and more on slice and loopy topspin just to keep the point going (can you say "pusher"?).

This is a difficult place to be in, because I really do love playing tennis.  Between the sheer elegance of the game (when played well, I'd liken it to ballet) and the strategies therein, the satisfaction of a well-struck ball, and knowing that I'm going to get a good 90 minutes of exercise, it's difficult, if not impossible, to not love.

However, I also know that I play, I'm actively hurting myself and setting myself up for a life of pain, suffering and despair (), at least in my right elbow.

There was a time when I'd have kept playing up until I was incapacitated (I remember a track practice where I pulled my hamstring at the start of practice, and continued running, and after a while limping and hopping around the track until my coach forced me to stop), but I am older now, and either wiser, or more concerned with survival now that I know that I am neither invincible nor timeless (though I remain unconvinced of the first point).

For now, though, it's time to reduce the time I spend playing, to settle for trying to win points without hitting big forehands, and to get ready for a winter without racquets.  And perhaps it is this winter that I will finally make good on what I should have been doing all along: pushups, pullups and core-strength work (I cannot afford a gym membership right now, though perhaps I'll be able to in a few months).

Or it might be that this is the winter where I finally admit my body's limitations (it's not uncommon for me to go for a stretch of a few days either without eating enough or sleeping enough; in fact, it is extremely common). 

But more likely, this represents what is only a temporary hiatus, determined mostly by pain tolerance; what's a little elbow pain, when compared to the sheer thrill of smacking an inside-out forehand winner?

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Open Letter to the Cat Who Lives With Me

(With apologies to Diona)

Dear Rufus,

You might not know this (I do not know if you have a sense of time, or access to a calendar), but you have now lived with us for almost two weeks.  In that time, I like to think that you and I have bonded, much more so than I have bonded with any other cat.

More to the point, Rufus, I like you. I like how you greet me at the door, and how you never seem to mind when I pet you.  I even like this thing we have going where I sit on the couch to read and you sit on the other half of the couch to nap.  It feels like home.

That said, Rufus, you and I need to talk a bit.  As much as I appreciate you, there are times when I appreciate you less than I otherwise might: namely, the hours between one and five in the morning.  Even this is flexible, as my sleeping schedule is pretty erratic.

Now, I leave my bedroom door open (we all do, since Diona told us about how it freaks you out when people are behind closed doors.  I swear, you knock louder than most humans, and for much longer), so that way you can come and sleep on my bed if you so desire (or just hang out in my windowsill; that one works, too).

I do this for you, Rufus. I really do.

But like I said, there are hours when I do not appreciate your attention as much as I otherwise might.  Specifically, when I am sleeping and you wish to let me know that you are there by biting me, or by putting your paws on my face (or, last night, both).

Last night, for example, I stayed up with you until about two, and set my alarm to go off at six.  You, however, perhaps in your desire to stop me from snoring, or in your desire to make sure I do not oversleep, woke me up at 2:30, 3:15, 3:30, 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, and 5:30, either by biting me, poking at my face, or poking at me while attempting to fit your head in my mouth (for the last time, I'm sorry that I snore).

I do not attribute your actions to malice.  And I still appreciate you very much, and would be more than happy to scratch your tummy, or behind your ears.  Heck, I'll even make sure to be very careful such that, when you are trying to walk as closely to me as possible, I do not fall down the stairs again.  I'll even come play with you in the basement, because I know that it freaks you out to be down there by yourself.

But you gotta leave me alone when I'm sleeping.  That's all I ask.  Okay, leave me alone while I'm sleeping, and catch a mouse or two. Those are the only two things I ask.

So please, Rufus, in the interest of making sure that I do not feel compelled to kick you out of my room and rely on the one-two punch of my snoring and my hearing loss to justify not hearing you to let you in, leave me alone when I sleep. You can curl up next to me. You can sit in the windowsill. You can even sit halfway beneath my bed and twitch your tail.  But no biting, please?

Your roommate, Andrew

p.s. We still love you. Very much. And we'll be sad when you go home.
p.p.s. Sam might or might not try to run away with you to Canada. Or Honduras
p.p.p.s. There's pizza in the fridge. Help yourself if you get hungry.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pun of the Day, 5 September 2009

I was introduced to a fellow earlier this week by a friend of mine, who is a few years older than me; we were walking downtown, when this fellow started waving from across the street.  Once my friend realized what happened, she waved back and we crossed.

After the initial hand-shaking and exchanges of greetings, my friend and this fellow started catching up (they had not seen each other in years).  My friend pointed out that, last she remembered, this fellow was starting to go bald (she wouldn't have normally pointed this out, but he had a very full head of hair, which I suppose surprised her).

The man was surprisingly unabashed at this, and responded "Yes, actually. I was going bald."

"What happened?" my friend asked.

"Well, by the end of the year after you graduated, I was more or less hairless, and it was just killing me, y'know?  I didn't feel like I could go on dates with women, my confidence was shot to hell, and I really didn't like the way I looked."

"So, what did you do?" (At this point, I became curious, too, as he really did have a full head of hair).

"Well, I tried shaving my head first - going with the old bald-on-purpose look - but that didn't feel right.  Then I tried Rogaine, but that only made the problem worse, as my hair came in patchy and in different colours.  I even tried wigs, but they were ridiculously itchy and made me look like an unwashed musician from the 60's."

"But... you're not bald now, right?"

"No, thankfully! In fact, I was so depressed and I was gaining weight, nearly lost my job, and had a couple of health scares; really close to the end of my rope! I was ready to make a deal with the devil to get my hair back! And whaddya know, Satan himself pops up and says 'I'll give you a full head of hair in exchange for dinner and a game of frisbee'!"

"He wanted dinner and a game of Frisbee?  I thougth Satan was into the whole stealing your soul thing?"

"I thought so too, but he said the market isn't as competitive as it once was.  Anyhow, I grilled some steak and we tossed a frisbee around, and before he left, he summoned a hairpiece for me.  It joined seamlessly with my scalp, stays perfectly styled all the time, and never gets dandruff!"

"That's a pretty sweet deal!"

"I know. I'm really glad for my hell toupee."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August Update

It's August, and I haven't posted for a while.  Let this be a general update for those of you whom I'm friends with and whom I haven't talked to in a while. 

But since I've moved to Lincoln, I've been spending a lot of time working and not very much time socializing, outside of a pretty small circle.  I spent so little time socializing while I was in Oakley (if you exclude Wednesday night basketball, I think I went to a grand total of 3 social functions (defined as a planned social interaction with one or more persons) outside of school the entire year... not exactly a huge number) that it's been weird getting back to where I know people in town and where I hang out with people in town.  All the same, I'm still apparently quite the hermit, though I'd probably love to see you. 

Back To School

Or, rather, not.  This is the first August in about 20 years that hasn't featured me getting ready to go to school/back to school in some capacity.  College classes start up on Monday.  The kids in the school district in which I used to teach go back on Wednesday (their teachers have been in in-service for about a week now).  The kids in the school-district here in Lincoln have been back for a few days.

I miss teaching, and interacting with students.  Several of my kids from Southeast have expressed quite a bit of disappointment that I'm not teaching this year.  I guess I'm somewhat disappointed, too, but it might be nice to have a job that doesn't require me to swallow my philosophical/moral beliefs, and which doesn't make me hate myself.  I'd like to return to teaching someday, but when I do, I'm going to be very careful about how I do it, and where.  The moral sacrifices required in most school districts right now, though, make me too sad and angry for it to be a viable option.

That said, as my kids from Southeast are heading off to college, I'm getting all nostalgic.  Best of luck to you guys.  I know you'll do amazing things.

Speaking of Jobs...

While I left Oakley to pursue a project as director of student outreach for a non-profit here in Lincoln, that opportunity pretty quickly became untenable (for a variety of reasons, at least some of them my fault), and so I will not be doing anything even resembling that.

Well, sort of.

I've been spending large parts of the Summer working with Ryan at setting up a new business.  Without divulging too much, we'll be an Arts and Entertainment hub, likely in downtown Omaha, with two 100+ seat theatres (for performances), a full-scale cafe, and a gaming center.  My job is to run our community outreach programs, and to do whatever I can to make everything else function smoothly, efficiently, and effectively.  Right now, we're narrowing down our list of buildings in which we might put this thing.

It's given me a chance to meet a lot of interesting people, and I've been spending a lot of time learning all sorts of new things.

That said, I've also been pulling 60-100 hour weeks most weeks, with more than a few 14-16 hour days.

Who knew starting a full-scale effort like this from scratch would be so much work?

First Crickets, Now This?

You may remember my ongoing battle with crickets from about a year ago (1, 2, 3).  I haven't had any insect problems in the new house, which I share with 3 members of the Lincoln slam community, but instead we've had slightly larger, squeakier problems:


At least 3 of them.  They live in our ventilation system, which means the various humane traps we've placed around the house have done exactly bupkus, as have the slightly less humane sticky traps.  I called an exterminator about a week ago, but so far, we haven't been able to get them out of the vents long enough to catch them, humanely or otherwise.

Last year, I'd have entered into some type of long, moral dilemma regarding the ethical course of action.  But I've hardened quite a bit since last year, and now I just want the mice gone.  It'd be preferable if I could find another place for them to live, but frankly, timeliness is my top concern. Very specifically, I want them gone, and I want them gone now.

If I had a moustache and a 12-gallon hat, I'd even post a "Wanted (out of my home): Dead or Alive" poster and call all of my roommates "Pardner", but I don't have either of those.

Sorry, little mice.  You are so very cute with your whiskers and your twitchy noses.  But find somewhere else to live.  You are no longer welcome here.

Back to the Basics

A few interesting developments have sprung up this Summer: a house without internet, and lots of walking.

I do not have internet access at my house.  I can see several wireless routers in the area, but all of them are protected by WPA/WEP (or equivalent), and so they are unusable.  So we have no internet access whatsoever (no cable, either, for what it's worth).

I never thought I'd say this, especially given how the internet was, in many ways, my lifeline while in Kansas, but I like it.  It means fewer hours surfing facebook. less checking my e-mail, and almost no online gaming.

It also means that if I want to send an e-mail/facebook message to someone, I have to physically move somewhere with internet access, which in turn means I usually just pick up the phone and call, or I don't worry about it.

When you couple this with how I've been walking most places, it means that I spend less time sitting around on the internet, or if I am going to sit around, I have to walk 20 minutes first.  The only time I drive is if I don't have to pay for parking, or if I need the ability to get to different places quickly, or if it's going to rain.

I don't know why, but I never walked anywhere while I was in Oakley. I drove to school (which took, at most, 3 minutes), drove to the grocery store (another 3 minutes), and drove to the next town when I needed things I couldn't get at the grocery store (that one's reasonable, as the next town over is about 22 miles away).  But I never really walked, except when I was walking to a football game to film it.

I don't know why that is.  Maybe I wanted the ability to leave quickly after I was done for the day? Maybe I was just lazy?  Maybe it was nice just knowing that if I wanted to, I could pick up and go somewhere else?

Whatever the psychological reason, I find it strange that I rarely (if ever) walked while in a small town, and now that I live in a mid-sized city, I walk almost everywhere.

I'm still de-compressing from last year, but being in Nebraska feels healthier.  I have issues remembering to eat regularly (or sometimes at all), and I'm pulling ridiculous workdays, but I'm generally much more relaxed now than I was even 6 months ago.

Some of this is because I've gotten rid of a lot of the distractions I used as intellectual anesthetic (I no longer feel the need to stop thinking and be still), and some of it is because I'm getting a lot more social interaction than I've been used to.  A lot of it is because I'm getting a lot of physical activity, between walking everywhere and playing tennis.

But it's nice. I am writing and sleeping and sometimes even eating, and I think I am happy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Weird Phone Call at the Office (A Dramatic Scene)

Scene: The fairly non-descript office of the Nebraska Writers Collective.  Andrew is sitting at his desk when the phone rings.  He answers it.

Andrew: Nebraska Writers Collective, this is Andrew, how can I help you?
Caller: Matt?
A: I'm sorry, I think you've got the wrong number.
C: How'd you know it was me?
A: I'm sorry?
C: Where's my brother?
A: Matt?
C: Yeah, where is he?
A: There's no one here by that name, I'm sorry
A few seconds of silence elapse.
C: So... where is he?
A: Right now you're talking to a fellow named Andrew, at the office of a non-profit organization. No one named Matt works here.  So I think you've got a wrong number.
C: Okay...

After a few more seconds of silence, Andrew hangs up the phone. His facial expression reveals that he is confused, and is trying to decide if he was overly rude to this (clearly very confused) caller.  He sits back down at his desk, and opens up his blog.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two Books I Would Like to Write, and an Unrelated Note

1) "Why I Am No Longer a Teacher, and Why I Will Always Be a Teacher"

An ethical discussion of the US's public education system and moreover, an indictment of the ways I find it to be morally and philosophically deficient, interwoven with memoir and interviews (similar to the way Don Miller writes), and also likely lots of humour.

2) "How to Write So That I Will Love You"

The first sentence of this book will be "I will probably never love you, but there is still hope yet for your happiness and writing acumen yet!"  The last sentence of this book will be "I might someday love you."

The in-between bits will be a stylistic exploration of writing, with lots of illustrative examples and also lots of useful lies.  I plan on also following Drew and Erika's lead by using "Strunk&White!" as an expletive throughout the book.

The Elements of Style can go roll an egg.

Also: a rhetorical primer, and likely some discourse on what I believe the roots of narrative writing are (Hint: It starts with a "C", and rhymes with "Hair-ick-turr"), as well as how we might begin accessing those roots.

Related: Stephanie Meyer can also go roll an egg.  So can Dan Brown.  Tom Clancy doesn't have to go roll an egg, though I want him to watch so that he understands very clearly what he's done.

* * * * *

On a completely unrelated note, the city of St. Louis is now my second favourite city in which I've spent less than 2 weeks of total time.  The first is Madison, WI, but only by a very small margin.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Last Night Was a Good Night

1) My hearing-aid is finally getting fixed.

2) Stir-fry and board-games with a friend last night. He made the stir-fry (various sweet peppers, celery and beef strips, accompanied by white rice), I made a delicious smoothie (Orange juice, fresh raspberries and blueberries, vanilla yogurt and a banana; it was a nice fruity smoothie with a bit of a blueberry aftertaste) and we tried to figure out how to play Race for the Galaxy

There was some fun as we each tried to find a way to make the other guy pick "Produce" or "Consume", and so the game lasted a little longer than perhaps it should have. The friend ended up beating me by 11 (39 to 50), as he had two six-point development cards out.

It's a fun game; I like the "optimization" type games, and I appreciate how the game does not allow players to screw each other over at all.  Not that a bit of screwage isn't fun at times in a board game, but it's nice every so often to play a game that focuses on progressing faster rather than slowing your opponent down.

3) Played tennis with two friends. It's my 3rd time out on the court in the last 3 or 4 months, and after we played king-of-the-court for a while, a fellow from the other court, who is a CPA in a town nearby, decided to join us. I think he played tennis while in college (probably a decade or so ago, if I had to guess), and so he and I rallied for a while while my two friends (who just started playing last year) rallied on a different court.

I was hitting my backhands better than I've ever hit them, as I finally switched back to a two-hander and apparently figured out my footwork.  He was the better player by a pretty decent margin, but it was cool just being able to keep up with him and win a few points. 

I wouldn't be able to hold my own in a match against this guy without a solid month of work on my serve (at least!) and serve-return, and even then, would probably not do much better than a 6-4 set (with him winning and me playing at my absolute best), but it was still pretty cool to be able to hold my own in rallies.

4) Mumbles and Dusty, two poets from Sacramento, were in Omaha and needed a place to stay.  I saw them perform at the National Poetry Slam last year (in a duet piece, actually), and so (after a phone call to me by a member of the Omaha poetry community) they drove down to Lincoln, arrived at 1 am, and we talked for a bit.  I had an air mattress set up for them, and I think they were happy to not have to sleep in their cars.  I imagine that they are still asleep.

I'm off to make a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. It will probably have very thinly sliced apples in it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pun of the Day: 1 June 2009

A violinist was was working on composing a new piece when he noticed that every time he played it, his dog and cat would come into the room, sit quietly, and then fall asleep. Being the observant sort, as well as something of an amateur scientist, he tried this at a friend's house; the same thing happened to her dogs! Immediately, this violinist contacted the director of the local zoo to see just how far his abilities extended.

He'd had some splendid success at the zoo, where he could enter the tiger pit and play the tigers to sleep with the soothing sounds of his violin, but wanted to test out his hypothesis in a more challenging environment: the jungle!

After several hours of hard hiking, the violinist found an ideal clearing, which happened to be right in the middle of an area known for its wildlife. He takes his violin out of its case and begins playing.

Sure enough, before too long, a pack of gorillas (who are, by nature, wary) sauntered by. They were immediately entranced by the music and sat to watch. Several minutes later, the same thing happened to several elephants. Before too long, there were tigers, ocelots, jackals, and a whole variety of birds, all sitting very still and very peacefully while this violinist played.

Suddenly, the violinist was attacked from behind by a leopard, and killed!

The animals were aghast (they're anthropomorphized for the sake of this joke), and asked the leopard "Why, why, why did you kill this man?!"


"The music, you fool! You killed the music! Didn't you hear it?"

"What music?"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pun of the Day: 23 May 2009

(This one is an Andrew Ek original)

If, instead of using palm-reading to tell the future, I am using nostril-reading to tell someone's future, am I making prognostrilcations?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Poem: Love Letter from Ares, God of War, to Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Wife to Hephaestus, God of Blacksmith'ry

(Draft 1 - critiques welcome)

“A Love Letter From Ares, God of War, to Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Wife to Hephaestus, God of Blacksmith'ry”
Andrew Ek

Can you feel the sunshine, love,
bearing down warm upon your face?

You spend so much time underground
with him, the lord of volcanos, but
the world deserves your beauty;
your belief that you do not deserve
its beauty in return mystifies me.

I do not understand why you
render yourself absent so often,
and yet you do, Aphrodite.

His reason is simple; he is outcast, as am I, markedly different.
His mark a disfigured body, mine a disfigured soul
both too twisted for the realms of perfection
and yet I strive sometimes for normalcy, for calmness.
It is in these moments of lucidity that I can think.
These moments unnerve me, but I find myself in one now. 
Still, I much prefer the blind passion
of battle, of love, of conquest.

You, you are love incarnate,
and found in carnality, in the flesh.
We are kindred in temperature
and temperament, with none
of the cool rationality that marks
him to whom you bound yourself.

But Aphrodite, you and I are
creatures of passion, and the
blood coursing through your veins
is much the same as mine,
as is the blood left on the battlefield
by my work in the affairs of men
and their foaming at their mouths.

It is all the same, all made of heat.

Aphrodite, your name means “foam-born”
and your very birth was an act of violence
when your father stabbed his father
and stole the throne
you were borne of the droplets of blood, of conquering
it is only natural then that we should love each other.

We are not like your husband working at his forge,
steely and deliberate; the impulses he delivers with his
hammer are different from the impulses which govern our lives;
They are arguably more pure.

He loves you deliberately, beautifully, but not like I do.
His love is a cool and solid thing.
He is the better man.

We are that which we create, Aphrodite:
lust for flesh and lust for blood;
you and I create passion, blind and fervid.
We are the genesis of the uncontrolled,
making men and women out of cowards,
but it is just as often that we make cowards
out of men and women.  Surely you remember
how we fled the shores of Ilium?

I create bloodlust and hatred;
I am rage and destruction.
These are hardly conditions for you.

Your husband, Hephaestus, creates strength;
his creations at the forge are solid, ornate, beautiful.
You inspire him in a way that you never did me,
and every shield, every breastplate, every buckler exists
to bring a warrior back home to his lover after the fighting ceases,
after my work is done.
I am the cause for death, grieving, tears and destruction.
He preserves life, such that you might make life joyful
after the burnt farms have grown back and the dead are buried.

It is too often that our works destroy each other, Aphrodite,
and so it is better that we are apart,
lest we destroy each other too.
It is better that you are underground.

But even with this distance, Aphrodite, I still wonder:
can you feel the sunshine, love,
bearing down warm upon your face?

I do
like waves of blood
on the fields of slaughter.
The feeling reminds me of you;
there is a certain serenity in it,
a certain sense of peace.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Things My Students Said

1) "The Almost-Present on My Front Porch"

One of my junior boys: Mr. Ek, have you ever seen a badger?
Me: Yes, (student), I have.
Him: They're kinda freaky lookin', don't you think?
Me: Yeah... kinda awesome looking, too.
Him: Y'know, I found one last night.
Me: Yeah?
Him: Yeah. It was dead. I didn't know if you'd seen a badger before, so I was gonna come and put it on your front porch, but I didn't really want to put a dead badger in my pick-up if you'd already seen one, so I buried it instead.

2) "They Say Dogs Don't See in Colour"

Student, pointing at his choice-novel project (a drawing): "This is the house, and this is the kid, and this is Old Yeller, only he isn't yeller yet 'cause I haven't coloured him in."

3) "I Know He's a Good Actor, But He Isn't That Good"

One of my freshmen after school as she worked on an English extension project (basically, extra credit) over modern adaptatations of "Romeo and Juliet": Wow, Mr. Ek, this version of Romeo and Juliet earned a ton of money!
Me: How much did it earn?
Her: 46.3 million dollars! That's a lot!
Me: That is a lot of money. Was this the Leonardo DiCaprio version?
Her: No... it's the William Shakespeare version.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pun of the Day: 14 May 2009

[stolen shamelessly from the Mensa website]

A man enters a bar with a 6-inch amphibian perched on his shoulder.

The bartender (as is the norm with these jokes) asks, "What'll it be?"

"A pint of Guinness for me, and another pint for Tiny here," he says, pointing to his shoulder.

"You call him 'Tiny' because he's small? He looks pretty big for a salamander..."

The man laughs and says "No, I call him 'Tiny' because he is my newt."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Puns of the Day: 3 May 2009

These were written for one of my students who competed at the State Forensics meet with a compilation of poems by Langston Hughes:

1) If Langston Hughes were ten feet tall, would we call him Langston Huge?

2) If Langston Hughes weighed twice as much, would we call him Langs-two-ton Hughes?

3) Langston Hughes wanted to run in the Boston Marathon, but was not allowed because of his skin colour. So he started a new Marathon that went through New York City.  It's name: The Harlem Run-assaince

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pun of the Day: 27 April 2009

I once knew a rancher who claimed, without fail, that he had 100 head of cattle, and that he knew this without counting.

I counted one day, and told him "Hey! You only have 97 head of cattle! What gives?"

"Count again after I round 'em up."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pun of the Day: 21 April 2009

Like most outdoor businesses in the Midwest, campgrounds usually shut their gates in October or November on account of the cold weather.

A sign on the gates of the Happy Valley Nudst Camp: "Clothed until April"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pun of the Day: 20 April 2009

Two brooms, engaged to be married, were out for a quiet dinner by themselves the night before their wedding.

After the dinner plates were whisked away, and before dessert (an ice-cream sundae for two: their favourite) was brought out, the soon-to-be-wife broom looked her soon-to-be-husband broom in the eye, smiled, and said "I've got some wonderful news for you."

"Oh?" The male broom smiled, certain that this was going to be a fantastic surprise. "Do tell."

"I'm pregnant. We've got a little broom on the way".

The male broom was aghast, and started hyperventilating. "You're pregnant?"

"Yes, I'm pregnant. Aren't you excited?"

"Well, of course I'm excited." His face was flushed. He began frantically searching for some water, and was most clearly not excited.

"You look upset. Why are you upset?"

"Are you sure it's mine?"

"What?! I just told you I'm pregnant, we're getting married tomorrow, and now you're questioning my fidelity?" She was most definitely upset.

Recognizing the delicateness of their situation, and the fact that it would be very impossible for him to marry the broom of his dreams tomorrow if she stormed out today and left for Kazahkstan on the first flight out the next morning. That would be bad for all involved parties. "No, no no... I'm not questioning anything. I'm just- I'm surprised is all."

She softened, ever so slightly. "Surprised? Why are you surprised?"

"It's just a bit of a shock, y'know? I mean, we've only swept together once!"

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pun of the Day: 18 April 2009

There once was a herring who, strangely enough, befriended a large whale. Of course, the two of them swam all over the ocean together, and were practically inseperable, so much so that they were simply associated. They didn't talk much, of course, but were constant companions.

One day they actually did talk, and had a fairly heated argument (it was an election year, after all).

The next day, the whale didn't show up at their meeting spot, and so the herring (knowing full well that the whale could take care of itself for the day and was probably otherwise occupied, or perhaps still blowing off some steam) simply went about its rounds, still vaguely irate.

The other denizens of the sea, so used to seeing them together, inquired as to whether or not the whale was alright ("Does he have the stomach flu? Measles?"). The herring tried to ignore the questions, but they persisted well past the point of anger, until finally he snapped: "How should I know? Do I look like my blubber's kipper?!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pun of the Day, 17 April 2009

Two birds are sitting on a perch. One turns to the other and asks "Does it smell like fish to you?"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pun of the Day: 16 April 2009

2 archaeologists, Laura and Susan, are in Mexico excavating the Mayan ruins there looking for a full human specimen to take back to their museum.

Unfortunately, they're not having nearly as much luck as they'd like; all the human specimens are horrendously de-composed, and therefore unsuitable for museum use (they'd fall apart before ever getting there!).

"Susan", says Laura, "I don't think we're going to find anything down here!"

"Keep digging, Laura, I'm sure we'll find something," Susan responds.  "A good Mayan is hard to find."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pun of the Day: 15 April 2009

A cowboy walked into a bar and ordered a whiskey. When the bartender delivered the drink, the cowboy asked, “Where is everybody?”

The bartender replied, “They’ve gone to the hanging.”

“Hanging? Who are they hanging?”

“Brown Paper Pete,” the bartender replied.

“What kind of a name is that?” the cowboy asked.

“Well,”said the bartender, “he wears a brown paper hat, brown paper shirt, brown paper trousers and brown paper shoes.”

“Weird guy,” said the cowboy. “What are they hanging him for?”


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pun of the Day: 14 April 2009

I was wondering why the baseball kept growing larger and larger. Then it hit me.

* * * *

I forgot how to throw a boomerang, but it eventually came back to me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pun of the Day: 8 April 2009

Police arrested a man for throwing land-mines, but he walked away after they dropped the charges.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pun of the Day: 3 April 2009

I used to be a tap dancer, but stopped after I fell into the sink.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pun of the Day: 2 April 2009

Some people's noses and feet were built backwards: their noses run and their feet smell.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pun of the Day: 1 April 2009

A young child swallows a whole piggy bank's worth of coins, and is soon rushed to the hospital after developing massive stomach-aches. The doctors took him to have some tests run and some x-rays done.

His parents, of course, were worried sick, and when the doctor (and accompanying orderlies) wheeled the boy back into his hospital room they inquired as to the boy's condition.

"No change yet," the doctor replied.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pun of the Day: 30 March 2009

Did you hear what the ex-CIA interrogator-turned-watchmaker said to the broken Rolex he was repairing?

"We have ways of making you tock!"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pun of the Day: 29 March 2009

(This one is an original Andrew Ek pun)

If a frat boy hates another frat boy, is it called "brodium"?

Pun of the Day: 28 March 2009

A young boy has just turned 14, which means that he is now able to get a part-time job (making sure to follow OSHA regulations). The only place that will hire him, though, is the local mom-and-pop grocery store, owned by a family friend. And even then, they will only hire him as a grocery bagger.

Regardless, the boy enjoys his job, as well as the resultant income (it gives him enough to buy comic books), however meagre it might be, and spends a few hours per week merrily bagging groceries and helping people carry said sacks full of groceries out to the car.

Well, the grocery store has just come off a very successful fiscal year, and so the owner decides to expand, and into with the deli (which you'll find in any grocery store worth its beans) he puts a smoothie station.

This smoothie station was different, because the juice they used came from fresh fruit (usually oranges) which were cut up and run through a juicing machine right there at the counter.

The boy, schooled by years of advice from his father ("Always look for a chance to grow and move up, son! It's the only way to get ahead in life"), decides to ask his manager to transfer him over to the smoothie station.

"I've done such a good job as a bagger, and, well, I think it would be nice to try something different. I know how to work the machine and everything."

The manager considers his plea briefly, but says "No, I think you will stay where you are."

"But why? Have I done something wrong?"

"You haven't done anything wrong. In fact, you're a great worker. But the simple fact of life is, son, baggers can't be juicers."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elbows and Professionalism

I walked into my 6th hour freshmen English class right after lunch today, and was greeted by a room of 14 and 15 year olds trying to touch their tongues to their own elbows, telling each other "Hey, lick my weenis! Lick my weenis!"

This was a moment where I forgot my job title and started laughing.

Had I been more "professional", I would have yelled at them for being inappropriate, knowing full well that the "Weenis" is the skin of the elbow (in addition to being a word that rhymes with "penis") and therefore not in the least bit inappropriate (if we go by the strict sense of the words).

Had I been more crafty, I'd have taught them that they most likely masticate at least three times per day. Sometimes they masticate in groups, and sometimes by themselves.

As it was, I just laughed, and then we went on with the lesson.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


My friend Matt was feeling particularly down one day, about 3 years ago, and was in the middle of a nasty depressive streak (he hadn't smiled in a month or two). He had arrived at the conclusion that life is meaningless, and that it really gave him no reason to continue on (he would anyways, of course, because it's probably less bad than the alternative, but even so, there was a definite existential crisis).

And so there were a bunch of people on my couch crowded around him, trying to explain to him that there is purpose, and life is worth living, and urging him to try all sorts of "Look on the bright side!" perspective adjustments so as to not be such a Sad Sam (or, in this case, a Melancholy Matt).

And he was having none of it. The pleas were ineffectual, and he was as down as ever.

I'd been sitting quietly at my desk, reading or doing some work, or likely browsing on the internet or trying to beat my sister's time record for Solitaire, when I turned around and said "Matt, you know what I do when I'm feeling sad?"

He shook his head.

"I think to myself, 'There are a lot of owls in the forest. That means that things are pretty okay.' I think these things when I'm sad. It helps me, even, to imagine a huge majestic redwood forest, or something in Washington. Maybe an expanse of pine trees and maple trees in Minnesota. The type of forest depends on the day, of course, and how sad I am. But all the trees have owls in them; that's the important part."

"Go on...."

"And then I think about how, due to development by humans, and logging, and relaxed environmental protection standards, people are cutting down the forests. They're cutting them down, and the owls have nowhere to go."

And Matt laughed and laughed, for the first time in a few months.

The other people who were in the room with us were, of course, quite peeved at me for the next few hours, and that week I received a lot of whispered "How dare you!?"s. But it was worth it.

The point is, even though there aren't any forests around, I'm thinking about owls right now.