Riley OC Trip

I asked my daughter, 8, what she’s packing for. She replied with a simple: “to the beach.” I expanded on that:

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “S/he Said.”

Starbucks, BK Croissantwiches, 15 So toward OC Swap meet, Discovery museum, Laguna & Crescent Beaches, Fairmont in Newport … Riley OC beach trip 2015

Irish Pride and Schoolhouse Rock on the 4th of July

I’m not too happy with some of the misconceptions about 4th of July out there on social media. America was formed because an unruly, righteously driven group of colonists would not accept taxation from Great Britain. My whole concept of being a proud American stems from this basic knowledge.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Familial Feasts.”

Damien_R_1909I’d like to have a holiday honoring the Irish immigrants. They were killed in the streets just because of their ethnicity. They were drive to America by the potato famine and were not prosperous at first. My Riley ancestors went through a lot of crap and struggle so I could enjoy the freedom of education and career I enjoy today. I’m grateful to them for that. But back to the 4th of July. I’m also not too happy with WordPress Daily Post for not creating a 4thn of July prompt. I hope that was not intentional. WordPress is right up there on my “proud to be” list along with being an American. I get most of that from how it was and still is largely an open source technology by the people and for the people. I am eternally grateful for the revolutionary rebel soldiers who won the war and enabled the writing of the Declaration of Independence.

Moment of silence.

Onward and upward … the ribs, corn on the cob, and swimming in the 88 degree weather is calling me. As a teacher, I thought it proper to post for you these 3 minute videos to help your kids and other curious folks understand what the 4th of July means. Schoolhouse Rock says it better than I! Happy 4th of July proud Americans!

Goal Based Teaching and Focus

Of course every teacher wants to be successful every day. Some days this is more possible than others. I say, it’s always possible if you set goals for yourself. The hardest times for me as a professional are when the rules change. In times of financial cutbacks, this is likely to be occurring across the country. In times of adversity, we can still be successful through what I call goal based teaching.

Whether you are teaching a math lessons or esl lessons, you have strategies and programs you can use to teach. This isn’t a post about showing you mine. You can find the best strategy I know of, EDI elsewhere on this blog. I have written numerous posts on how it works and how to use it. This post is, rather, about setting achievable goals and then gauging progress once the teaching day is done. In your quest, check out websites for teachers.

In the early morning minutes before the kids come in, take the time to write down what you want to achieve today. It might look something like:

80% mastery of Reading Standard 2.1 that will be measured through whiteboard answers.
Listen to kids more today. This will be measured by my journaling what one kid from each period told me.

You get the idea. It is possible to teach and be successful in these uncertain and often just plain “weird” times. My heart goes out to the teachers that have been (or will be) issued pink slips. Even if you know they will hire you back, it is still hard. You can still be successful and make a difference though if you don’t lose your focus. It happened to me my 5th year teaching. Then they called it “reduction in force.” They told me I would likely be hired back but I had to teach 3 more months with no guarantees. With a fledgling family of 3 at the time, I was nervous and it was hard to stay focus. Goal based teaching helped me define my own success.

I don’t see success as something you achieve. Rather, it is the daily, hourly triumphs where you take chances and then measure your own success. No one can tell you otherwise when you know you’ve met your own goals. What are your thoughts on taking control with “Goal Based Teaching.”

This post was published first as Goal Based Teaching and Focus on Dynamite Lesson Plan.

3rd of July 2015

I’m sure they still have Unagis. It’s a an eel sushi I’ve ordered for years. Of course that’s no logical reason for them to still have it. Look at all the things that are now obsolete. They aren’t making Hummers anymore and I’m no longer updating my homepage on Geocities. Some things are timeless like gel uniball pens, Pee Chee folders, and … Unagis sushi.

Yep they had it. In case you’re not deductive, we’re eating out at Sushi tonight. After that we’re going to shop like a mad man, or mad men as it were. After all, it’s a 4th of July Hoorah! In the Riley backyard tomorrow.

Mad Max: Fury Road

3 stars
It did well with the critics but not without its detractors. I had read it was a class A action movie and on that basis alone I was excited to see it. I saw Mad Max in high school so I was aware of the character and the austere Australian cult vibe of the movie. This new version was only alike in costumes. The  dialog was minimal but there were some heavy themes present. The evil leader gets his minions to blow themselves up by explaining some sort of after death paradise. Modern parallels anyone?

The movie is not from the perspective of Max this time. We see a lot from a group of women who get pregnant and suppy their milk to the group for nourishment. I’m not entirely sure how helpful this was to the plot. It did, however, show by proxy that they had lost civilized conventions … like cow’s milk. The chases and shoot em up scenes are top notch. I wasn’t bored once. The movie really is just one long car race and gang war. If you saw the trailer, you know about the flame thrower guitar. I wondered why that would be there but then recalled how in the revolutionary war the soldiers were often led by flutes and drums. By the way, in addition to the wicked guitar flamethrower, there are some amazing drums on the cars. So often action movies get caught up in storytelling scenes. Max avoids that. It’s just one long running action scene with pointless dialog from time to time and in between. Because it didn’t focus on Max very much and because the story was a little weak it lost points. As an action movie however, I think it will take its place in history as one of the best,

Starbucks Muse

Damien Riley Starbucks
Some days I find my muse at Starbucks modern technology and wi-fi. A Cafe Misto helps as well :)

This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. Prompt #3: “Write a blog post inspired by the word: cool.”

There was a truly cool technology back in the early 2000’s. It was way before smartphones, tablets, and it was in the time of Palm pilots and Pocket PC’s. It was my muse back then for work and writing on my Geocities homepage, though I didn’t start blogging seriously until 2005. I made a lot of websites with Geocities, what a blast that was. Anyone remember that? I truly loved my Pocket PC. It held all my information and it was easily accessible. My apps were limited to Microsoft Office and a highly addictive game came called Lemonade Inc. Though minimal, the Pocket PC defined cool for me at that time.

I think I paid around $150 for mine. It was a silver Compaq model with a stylus. I’d spend hours trying to figure out how to use it instead of actually organizing my life and work on it. By the time I really started using it, something else would come out. My school had a grant to use Palm Pilots for multiple measure grading. They for some reason weren’t as cool for me. We’d walk around desk to desk giving kids a rubric grade through a stylus. I got to use Palms quite a bit through that grant. Unfortunately, even though my usage cost me nothing, I went back to the Pocket PC for my personal use. One of the coolest things I miss about it is that it was metal, not plastic. I felt like Buck Rogers when I’d use it in public places. You could surf the web, and it wasn’t even that slow surprisingly.

I had a Siemens cell phone at that time. It did not have graphics, it was just a phone. My Pocket PC was for creating and innovating and the phone was for getting in touch with my wife and friends. I don’t even think there was a whole lot of texting going on in society at that time. It was about 2002 and I was a newlywed. I bought at Circuit City a fold-able keyboard for the Pocket PC. I was the envy of the lunch room. All the teachers though I was Mr. Tech with that thing. In reality, most the time I was just figuring out how to save in the Pocket Microsoft apps or something banal like that. It did come in handy more than once. One cool thing was the infrared top. I could send phone contacts “through the air” as long as it was no more than a 1/2 inch away. I’m aware it’s probably mostly emotional reasoning but I do miss my totally cool Pocket PC from the early 2,000’s. By the time the iphone had come out, I was beginning to do things like blogging on the Pocket PC. Of course now, I blog from mine all the time and I have 2 keyboards for it.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Going Obsolete.”

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Muse.”

Monkey Kingdom

5 stars
Every time one of these Disney Nature films comes out, my wife and I are Johnny on the spot to take our family. The last 2 we saw at the world famous El Capitan theater in Hollywood. This one we saw in the theater here. It was amazing as expected. It presented the idea of a natural order, potentially upset by the underdog. I will give you no spoils as to the outcome. I felt this movie broke away from the convention Disney has used in the past and brought us some inspiration practically applied. It’s fitting that Disney, the champion of Princes and Princesses in the movies, challenges that concept. Our family liked that most about the film.

For a nature film, this movie is perfect in every way. Every family with young children will love it. The incredible architecture of the fallen monument they make their home is spectacular. It’s a perfect way to tell a story. I would imagine the recipe for making these things is sort of like: 1) Put cameras everywhere and shoot 2) look for what can be made into a story and 3) Make it into a story. Obviously the monkeys are not actors. Cheap labor right? Wait until the union hears about it. The monkey union? At any rate, there is love, struggle, heartbreak, and all the emotions of families trying to make it. Though the monkey’s nature is a different house than ours, it doesn’t take much imagination to see the connections to being a human in our society. This one’s a winner. I give it 5/5.

Don’t Worry About It

Since I tend to worry a lot, even subliminally and out of my control, I truly appreciate it when a stranger I run across in my life urges me to “not worry about it.” I need to be that way with strangers from my end as well.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers.”

peaceful-warriorIt can be as small as being short a few cents when checking out at a store. “Don’t worry about it” is like music to my ears. I actually had a checker once spot me one dollar when I was short. I told her I’d come back and repay her which I did. When I said thank you the second time, she said those magic words. If I’m nervous at the doctor or dentist, those words are so helpful. If I’m being evaluated at work, they are like a million dollars. To have an evaluator use them is heartening.

Stress is necessary in life. When a runner goes off at the gun, he needs to stress his muscles to win the race. In making a presentation with hopes of landing an account, a salesman must stress himself. Butterflies in the stomach are unavoidable sometimes but when you learn to not worry about it, you get those butterflies “flying in formation” and you can do great things. Would you like more people to tell you to not worry about it? I recommend you start telling others that. That’s my plan. We’ll see what karma can do for my struggle with worry.


Disney has been writing new stories with Disneyland as a backstory for years now. The worst that comes to mind is the Haunted Mansion. Tomorrowland falls into the “backstory of Disneyland” category. The trouble here is that people don’t share a concept for Tomorrowland. Instead of pushing it aside and making a movie disconnected from the “land” at Disney, to the right at the end of Main Street, They’ve attempted to tell us all the backstory that never was. I think it’s that common insult to Disneyland fans that derails the bus to best picture. They’ve also had mixed success with remakes in the past 2 decades. Having said that, if you can get beyond their puny rationale for what the real life Tomorrowland is, there is a pretty great story here to be enjoyed. So far, the reviews I’ve seen have not been kind to this movie. I have a different take, it’s a pretty great movie. The lofty ideal of hope in movies springs eternal. One of the reasons I love movies is because they often make me feel hopeful.

Tomorrowland gives you a good feeling about the past, present and future. There’s also a personal charge to decide your own fate. These are just a few of the positive messages in the film. If you’re like most people, you’ve read the nasty reviews and seen the low ratings. Don’t pay them any mind. This is a movie for the future citizens of the world. They may have lost points by trying to tie it so closely to Disneyland. It’s slow at times and the characterization is not as good as say: Escape to Witch Mountain. Still, there is a fun “ride” here in the form of a movie. Because they tied it to Disneyland in title and theme, it lost points with me. Never tell a church going person what church is. At the same time, the legions of moviegoers with expired, yellowed Disney passes in their wallets are too strongly connected to the real land. This is one director’s vision and we are all directors. If you can set that aside and see it as its own movie, it’s pretty good. Not excellent but pretty darn good.

My Summer So Far and What Lies Ahead

12754914794_596945a1b6_oLast night my daughter asked everyone at the dinner table to share the best part of their day. Mine was a bit Mercurial, at least you the far off reader may find it so. I was overjoyed yesterday when I was testing pool chemicals and realized my pool was not 30,000 gallons as I had thought for several years. Yep, that’s my high point so far :)

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In the Summertime.”

Damien Riley Sarah Beach 2011A Pentair calculator revealed it is 20,000 (17,900 to be exact). I have been using way too many chemicals and diatomaceous earth. This will make it much easier for me to get through the Summer and ironically keep the pool more sparkling. So far my Summer has consisted with redoing our backyard and just plain “maxin and relaxin” by my pool. This is because my wife has been working. Come Thursday, she’s off for two whole weeks so we are planning to head down to Laguna Beach as well as some OC hot spots. We’ll be staying in hotels as well. I am plumb excited.

We’ve done some great trips with the family through the years but I thing this Summer will be record setting. I’m thankful I have a couple days and her paycheck to plan some other activities for her and I. I lost my wallet and then found it but had cancelled my ATM card so hers is our purchasing source currently. I have gratitude I can use her paycheck today and mine when it comes tomorrow to plan some memories for us as a couple as well as for our kids. Below are just a few Summer pics from past years to give you an idea of how large and in charge this High Desert family is over Summer!

Inside Out

5 stars
There are movies that need no introduction because you can tell from the trailer they are cool. Inside Out was cool out of the gate. Judging my the packed in house on a Monday night when I took my family to see it, people agree it’s cool. There’s something about a simple concept brought to the screen or television with a gang of hella talented people that wins the crowd every time. I compare it to Seinfeld that way. It has a simple premise: a little girl’s mind going through the challenges of school and moving. Her mind is where the characters are and they produce some hilarious if not downright profound discussion material.

Without giving any of its delights away, I will tell you there are two platforms the movie switches back and forth from: the little girl’s mind and the real world she’s in. It heartwarming, suspenseful, enlightening, and entertaining the way they portray her emotions. We get her from the inside-out: emotions first, real world second. It’s an excellent movie for kids because it opens up conversations on fear and anxiety, which as we know children feel from both small and big events in their lives. It’s also quite fitting as a date movie or if you’re just out with a friend. I always like movies that shine a light on the human condition and don’t preach. These sort of movies allow the viewer to pour themselves into the questions and draw their own conclusions. In this case those experiences will be childhood and adulthood.