Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
It's called "Rangel" but the official name is (ready?) "The Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School at Chappie James". Miss Irma was an attorney and state legislator from south Texas. The school was established about five or six years ago and will have its first senior class ever this upcoming school year. There were 28 girls in the original class and 21 of them have stayed with the program and are seniors. The numbers per grade increase as you go down the ladder. The lowest grade is the 6th.
The prospective students have to jump through all sorts of hoops to get accepted, including essay-writing and an extensive interview. Naturally, they have to have the grades and test scores just to get a foot in the door. What are the benefits? How 'bout no boys, for starters. Having loitered around the school now since February, I can tell you that serious instruction with little or no distractions is the norm. The curriculum is tough. Each student is issued a laptop. I can vouch for the fact that these girls carry books home every night and seem to constantly be working on projects.
Here's the best perk of all: all girls who stay with the school and graduate qualify for a college scholarship to the tune of 12K/year. To keep the scholarship they must maintain a 3.0 GPA. One semester below that and they lose the scholarship. This money isn't DISD money. The school employs a couple of folks who are money solicitors...talking to corporations and foundations and raising the funds.
It's one impressive place. Having spent 36 years in the district and seeing mostly the grimy underbelly of urban education, this school is a breath of fresh air. The girls, for the most part, are mature and serious. I said "for the most part" because I had a couple of silly 6th graders on my bus this year that I don't think had the necessary attitude and approach and will probably not be around much longer. It was cool this year having passengers on my bus who were actually discussing what they had learned at school that day...unbelievable! I know one thing...I never want to drive for any other school. I finally reached nirvana.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
What's cool about this is that since these boys live in San Antonio, we seldom spend lengthy time with them. Carole and I usually visit them only on weekends, usually 3 or 4 times a year. But now we have 'em for 4+ days and the bonding time is abundant. We are seeing Zach and Ethan up close and personal. And so far it's been a blast.
I spent this week driving the bus for the Rangel Leadership School. This is an all girls school developed for the best and brightest DISD females. This week was all about teaching commitment to the community. The girls worked with immigrants striving to learn English, tutoring homeless children, visiting a senior citizen center, and touring the Scottish Rite hospital. These girls are going to be movers and shakers in the future and the goal this week was to let them know about societal problems and hopefully be involved in solving those problems someday. It was cool to be a small part of this.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Carole and I searched for some time before I located it hiding behind some pictures on the entertainment center. How Tom got there I'll never know. Anyway, I programmed the new locations I would need this week. On Friday, I got ready to drive to Dallas so I could do a trial run on my route and...Tom was once again AWOL. This created stress because (a) I needed it to guide me around town on this new route, and (b) I was picking up another driver at 9:15 on my way in. Again, Carole and I turned the house inside out, this time taking about 5 minutes as that was all the time I had. No luck.
I drove my route with the aid of Mapsco and one phone call to Carole to have her look up a suggested route on google maps. It was tedious and laborious and I was fuming at Tom for sneaking off again. Got home and resumed the search with no luck. Tried to take a nap without success. And as I lay there, it dawned on me that Tom had to be in my car, even though I had searched the vehicle repeatedly. It simply could not be anywhere else. Sure enough, I located the rascal in a small pocket in my bookbag right there in the car. I hadn't searched that particular pocket because I assumed it was too small for Tom. And the crazy thing is, I had the bookbag with me all the time was laboriously driving the route.
Carole had not helped matters during the search, saying things like,"You're gonna have to buy another TomTom to locate the first TomTom." Har-de-har. Amazingly, this is the 4th time since I bought the device that I've lost it. I say, "I've lost it," knowing full well that this pesky thing has moved on its own to new hiding places, giggling merrily along the whole way. Maybe God is punishing me for buying something my parents would never have bought for themselves. Maybe I should take the sorry gadget back to Circuit City. Now let me see, where did I put it?
Friday, July 18, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I had been contacted by a guy who worked "airside" at DFW Airport. He had an amazing job, even though it paid just over $13 an hour. He got to drive an official yellow pickup around the runways and perimeter roads and be a combination of security guy and go-fer fellow. If a pilot reported a dead coyote on a runway (it's happened), they would shut down the runway and this guy would go dispatch the coyote. Anyway, he wanted to know if I would like to ride along with him and take photos. Well, yeah!!
For this particular shot, he parked his pickup about 20 yards from runway 36R. Here came American Airlines flight 60 from Tokyo. It had probably been in the air 11 hours or so. What I liked was that it was a Boeing 777, the monster of the AA fleet. It is highly photogenic and very loud...a visual and auditory overdose. I stood in the bed of his vehicle, spread my feet, and leaned my kneecaps against the back window for further support. And I snapped away.
What I try to do at this angle is to get a shot at the exact moment the wheels hit concrete. One reason I like this shot is that I got lucky. The right landing gear has made contact a millisecond before the left...note that a tiny cloud of tire smoke has begun on the plane's right set of wheels...while on the left, only one of the wheels has begun to touch pavement. The pilot has come extremely close to nailing a perfect landing, and perhaps only a photo could convince the passengers that there was any flaw in the touchdown. Seconds later, the wing passed by incredibly close, the thrust-reversers were deployed, and waves of auditory overload cascaded over me. It was way cool.
But the shot apparently isn't that great. One aviation picture website rejected it, saying it wasn't up to their standards. I reworked it six times and they still didn't like it. And, to top it off, I have lost contact with my contact. After 7 or 8 sessions "inside the fence" at DFW, I now have to position myself outside the perimeter like everyone else. I knew it was too good to last. But boy did I love it while it lasted!