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Trial Balloon Category Archive: Bubby Spamden

The Windmills of His Mind

Posted at 6:00 AM on May 28, 2010 by Dale Connelly (32 Comments)
Filed under: Bubby Spamden

We have a new message from Bubby Spamden. They must be done with all their testing at Wendell Wilkie High School. His mind is wandering.

Hey, Mr. C.,


But it's just another Friday.

Well, not just another Friday, because it's the Friday before a three day weekend, which is the coolest kind of Friday to have. It's, like, all potential. Anything could happen. I'm going to spend the whole day daydreaming - looking out the window in Ms. Pakratz's class and thinking of the fun I'm going to have with the extra day off.

Once you begin to actually HAVE the fun and it becomes part of your past you can't go back and change it. That sucks. Like when me and my friend Kyle decided we were going to ride our mountain bikes across the railroad bridge. It sounded like a cool thing to be able to tell people we did, but really doing it was kinda scary and uncomfortable and expensive.

I'm thinking of getting my folks' phone number tattooed on my forehead so the authorities can quit asking me to repeat it.

Anyway, all I'm saying is the fun that's still ahead is always more fun than the fun you just had. That's what I'll be thinking about in school today (why are there still TWO WEEKS to go?) and I know I'm not alone. The teachers are doing it too. Like Mr. Boozenporn. He's always got that faraway look in his eyes. Bet if the FBI seized his computer, they'd find some wild stuff.

Anyway, have an awesome weekend, even if it's only in your mind!

Your friend,

What was your best summer vacation experience, real or imagined?

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The Big Fib

Posted at 6:00 AM on May 20, 2010 by Dale Connelly (42 Comments)
Filed under: Bubby Spamden

Radio Heartland has tickets to give away for another sold out concert at the Cedar Cultural Center.
Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro and singer/songwriter Jake Armerding will perform on Sunday, May 23rd at 7:30 pm.

Enter the drawing.
Obey the rules.
Good luck!

In my in box this morning I found the following e-mail from our friend at Wendell Wilkie High School, perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden.

Hi Mr. C.,

Well the year is almost over here at Wilkie , and the graduating seniors are having a great time with that Adam Wheeler story. He's the guy who's getting sued by Harvard because he they gave him 50 thousand dollars in scholarships that he didn't deserve.

But it's the non-graduating seniors who really love this story. They're amazed at how far you can get in higher education by telling lies, lies and more lies. It gives them hope.

Wheeler said he went to a fancy private high school. He didn't.
He said he was the class valedictorian. He wasn't.
He said he had PERFECT scores on his SAT's.

And yet he got all the way into a big deal Ivy League school and almost out the other side! He would have made it if not for plagiarizing some stuff, and then he got caught fibbing when he applied to transfer to Yale.

Who knew a simple liar could trick so many people at a famous brainy place like Harvard?

Lots of students lie about their SAT's. It happens all the time at Wilkie - usually at lunch when my biggest underachiever friend, Dopey Stuart, tries to convince us that he got a really high score. Then somebody says something like "If you got THAT, then I got THIS", and then somebody else tops it, then others do the same until a half dozen people who can't even add their age to their IQ are saying they got perfect scores and a free ride to Princeton. And we go on from there, with numbers being shouted across the table that are well over 2400, or what we call perfect PLUS! With all the laughing and hooting we get louder and louder and before long some food gets thrown and the lunch cops have to step in and start writing out detention slips.

It's fun.

Anyway, I've been a sophomore long enough to know all the reasons why it's wrong to lie, starting with "you'll get caught". My teachers are always talking about Madoff and Petters and John Edwards and blah, blah, blah. If all they did was ask us to repeat that stuff on the SAT I'd have been out of here years ago. But the test makers keep wanting to know about all that math and junk. What for? All I want is to be a star, and there are all these examples of people who got to be famous for being good, but not great, liars.

So here's my question - If you were going to try to be the best liar ever, where would you go to get that education? It looks like schools teach a lot of different subjects, but I don't see anybody who offers a degree in it, or even better - a Doctor of Falsehood, which would be a really cool thing to have.

I feel my future unfolding, but I still don't know - what's the next step?

I'm speechless. Anyone?

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A Reason to Get Up in the Morning

Posted at 6:00 AM on April 14, 2010 by Dale Connelly (35 Comments)
Filed under: Bubby Spamden

Here's the latest message to come in from a young person searching for his place in the world.

Hey Mr. C.

As you know, I'm keeping an eagle eye on everything about the workforce 'cause someday I might actually apply for one.
A job, that is.

I was really disappointed to see a bunch of news articles last week with the shameful about-face done by the Carlsburg Beer Company in Germany when it comes to their worker's sacred right to drink the product they manufacture while they're on the job.

I guess some of the so-called "higher ups" decided they know better than the actual hands-on beer makers when it comes to how much brew they can chug and still stay productive. The company says they have to limit it to three cups at lunch. The guys and gals in the plant say it should be the way it always has been ... unlimited beer for everyone all day long!

I'm a high school sophomore, so beer isn't cool for me right now personally 'cause I'd get disqualified from all the extracurricular activities I keep saying I'll join someday if I was ever caught drinking it. But this is another example of why a lot of people in my generation feels like it's just not worth it to work hard to get a job anymore - all of the cool perks are going away!

It used to be a person with a good job could drive around in a company car and have a three martini lunch every day and take home all the sharpie markers and colored pencils they wanted from the office supplies closet, but now companies are cracking down and special privileges just don't exist unless you're some kind of a foreign diplomat or an executive at a Wall Street bank.

So here's my question - are there any good jobs left that have really super unwritten benefits that would probably get taken away if anyone other than the people enjoying them actually knew what was going on? Now that all the bottomless beer stein jobs are disappearing, I need to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Otherwise I guess I'll always be ...

Your friend,
Perennial Sophomore Bubby Spamden

I told Bubby that being a radio disc jockey means you get to have lots of free duplicate CD's. Once there's a copy in the library, the extras are OK to take home. And the more obscure and desperate-for-attention the performer, the more duplicates of their disc you'll find floating around.

Of course, before very long CD's and the machines that pay them will be obsolete. But then so will disc jockeys and radio stations.

Ever had a job with extremely cool perks?

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Under Surveillance

Posted at 6:00 AM on March 23, 2010 by Dale Connelly (26 Comments)
Filed under: Bubby Spamden

A recent article in the New York Times explained how retailers are using video footage from cameras mounted inside their stores to redesign the entire retail "experience". Marketing experts watch how traffic flows around sales floors with an eye for how people shop. They're looking to eliminate anything that interferes with unbridled, profligate spending.

In the course of this noble work, observers also note some unusual things that I'm sure were not expected. One incident described in the article has to do with teenage boys who thought they were unobserved apparently putting their hands on a mannequin.

Coincidentally, I received the following note from an old friend:

Hello Mr. C.,

I have a question - you know some professional journalists, right? I mean old school journalists - the kind who do actual research that's not just whatever's on Wikipedia?
I'm asking because I need to find out if ALL police records are, like, in the public domain for anybody to see whenever they want?
I mean the records of shopping mall police especially.

I bet you're wondering why I ask. It's not that big a deal, really - just a huge misunderstanding. At the mall last weekend I found out that there are cameras all over the place, and the people at the stores are watching, like, ALL THE TIME! No wonder my mom can never find anybody to run the check out once she finally finds those slacks she spent HOURS looking for. They're all behind the scenes watching us on video.

How do I know? On Saturday afternoon I had a chance to talk for a long, long time with some people in the mall management.

All I have to say about the whole incident is this: Me and Kyle noticed that the mannequin had, like, her clothes slipping off and we were just trying to re-arrange the stuff so it wouldn't fall on the floor and get all trampled on and filthy and ruined. We weren't trying to steal anything because Duh! We're not girls so stealing girls clothes would be dumb.

And the security guy who said we were groping? C'mon! We learned in, like, 3rd grade that groping is wrong! There was even this whole controversy where a bunch of parents got upset that anybody even said the word "groping" to 3rd graders. Really. You can look it up!

Anyway, going into a mall and groping anyone is really bad, and doing it to a fake person is a whole different kind of pathetic. We're not that lame and we'd never do that, especially if we knew there was a camera on us.

Here's what I want to know - is this going to go on my permanent record? I was just about to decide that my best ever possible job is either to be a planet hunter, or to work with robots someday. But if it gets in my record that I was charged with mannequin abuse, I'm afraid I'll never get that chance. Heck, I may never get hired. Anywhere. Ever.

Your falsely accused friend,

I told Bubby that I would check with the real journalists I know to see what they had to say about shopping mall security records, but I doubt any of them would know. What's more likely, I told him, is that they would want his name and number so they could follow up on this emerging trend of apparent misbehavior being caught on retail store cameras. Was he OK with that, I wanted to know?

I got a three word response: "Uh, never mind."

When you go into a store, do you have the feeling you're being watched?

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Pakratz Replies

Posted at 6:06 AM on March 2, 2010 by Dale Connelly (43 Comments)
Filed under: Bubby Spamden

Here's one response to yesterday's complaint from Bubby regarding his grade in history class.

Poor Bubby - a good effort in mostly good faith. Ms. Pakratz may be tired of Bubby's efforts or she may be just tired (because it is the beginning of March) or maybe she has seen this paper before. Who knows why she would "give" him a C-? There are always two sides of the story and i'd like to know Ms. Pakratz's story.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | March 1, 2010 6:38 AM

Good point, Barb. So would I. As luck would have it, late in the day yesterday, I received a note Ms. Pakratz herself!

Dear Mr. Connelly,

I am not surprised to learn that Mr. Spamden took his complaint about my grading to an online group. As a public school teacher, I am accustomed to to the feeling that someone with an agenda is looking over my shoulder. I'm grateful to see that I did not receive instant condemnation from your community. That's unusual for the internet, where brutality is the standard in every forum.

I once worked at a grade school and was required to put in time as a playground monitor. One veteran "playground lady" advised me to take a deep breath each time an aggrieved party made the accusation that someone else had been "messing with me". I was instructed to ask this question before taking any action: "What was happening just BEFORE he or she started 'messing with you'?" I often heard enlightening accounts that described pushing, throwing or taunting by the alleged victim - details that were left out of initial complaint.

Here is the assignment Mr. Spamden was asked to complete along with the rest of the class: Folk wisdom regarding the weather is often based in truth, but does that make it true? Choose a popular weather "saying" and assess it against known scientific fact. 400 words minimum. List sources.

Mr. Spamden listed only one source, and that was an online blog. In the syllabus I specifically exclude Wikipedia and blogs as reliable sources of information. As a blog writer, I'm sure you understand why. The daily pressure to produce something, combined with the traditional allure of outrageousness and controversy will always favor opinion over truth. While Mr. Spamden's points about the activity level of lions and lambs are undeniably true, it should have been easy to find legitimate sources. Apparently he didn't go to the trouble.

More than a third of Mr. Spamden's paper is taken up with making a case for the lowering of standards in my class. I'm sure it was fun for him to perform that section when he read his work to the group, and he got the laughs he was after, but agitating for a reduction in the workload was not the assignment.

Like many teachers, I feel frustrated when I know a student can do much, much better. Mr. Spamden is coasting. Being a high school sophomore has become very comfortable for him, and it is my job to get him to sit up, pay attention and move on. I thought the C- would do that. I should have guessed he would turn it into an opportunity to trumpet his victimhood online. Too bad. He is smart enough to have a very productive and satisfying life if he applies himself, but by the time he figures that out I am afraid it will be too late.

Lucille Pakratz
History Teacher - Wendell Wilkie High School

Hmm. I don't think Bubby will be able to get that grade changed. And if Ms. Pakratz has her way, he might have to become a high school junior someday soon.

Who was your most challenging teacher?

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Like a Lion

Posted at 6:00 AM on March 1, 2010 by Dale Connelly (47 Comments)
Filed under: Bubby Spamden

Welcome to March! Here's a communiqué from Wendell Wilkie High School and perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden:

Hi Mr. C.,

I have a terrible injustice to share with you and your blog people. It's a report I wrote last week for my Science & Nature class.

"They say 'March Comes In Like A Lion And Goes Out Like A Lamb". People think this means that the beginning of the month is supposed to be harsh and stormy and the end is usually nice and calm. True? Sometimes, but not always. Animal biology tells a different story!

Lions aren't all that ferocious, unless you happen to be a sick, straggling wildebeest and lions have their mighty jaws clamped around your neck. Otherwise, lions just lie around most of the time. So when people say that "March Comes In Like a Lion", they are thinking about the way a lion acts during a very short part of its life.

Lambs, on the other hand, are full of crazy energy. We think of them as cute and gentle, but Dr. Kirk Esmond, a veterinarian in Texas, says this about lambs in his blog: At the Ranch With Kirk.

It is very common for a lamb to be up and nursing on its feet within 10 minutes of birth. By the 4-5th day, they are seeking out other lambs and enjoy beginning to head butt one another. By 2-3 weeks of age, they definitely run as a group, often just jumping up off all 4 feet and kicking out with their back feet. They are just like very active small children on a playground.

That's about as busy as you can be.

So if the saying is true about all lion and lamb behavior rather than just a few highly publicized minutes, March should begin in a very relaxed, drowsy way and end with a lot of pointless running around and head butting.

I think the saying is true, especially about human behavior here in our Science & Nature class. At the beginning of March we can expect to be sad, beaten down and demoralized about the endless winter and really needing to sleep during Ms. Pakratz's very, very detailed lectures. And at the end of March, we should be all jazzed up about Spring and are probably going to be bouncing off the walls, especially during this class, which comes at the end of the day.

So I think we should follow nature's rhythms and let this useful bit of folk wisdom guide the lesson plan. There should be no tests or difficult reading assignments at the lazy beginning or at the frantic end of this most misunderstood month - March."

Cool report, huh? I worked really hard to write it, plus, it's exactly 402 words, which just makes it over the minimum requirement for this assignment!

But Ms. Pakratz gave me a "C -" and told me I was trying to cause trouble in her class, which is sorta true but anyway, I think I nailed it and the logic holds up. I'm kinda bummed out about that. What do you think?

Your Pal,
Bubby Spamden

I told Bubby I recognized all the usual tricks for stretching a little bit of information into a finished report from my days as a high school sophomore - using misdirection, generalizations, rash assumptions, manufacturing controversy and including a lengthy quote from an outside source. An example of bad writing and faulty logic? Sure. I don't know about the C-, but it's certainly not an A.

However, I did confess that lazy scholarship and being argumentative for its own sake is excellent preparation for life as an adult, particularly if you're planning to be in politics, or you want to write a daily blog.

It reminds me of the time I got a "D" in my Freshman Composition class in college. It was an offense against conventional wisdom - my certain belief that I was very, very smart.

Have you ever received a surprisingly low grade for work that you thought was pretty darn good?

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Art and Artifice

Posted at 6:00 AM on January 25, 2010 by Dale Connelly (39 Comments)
Filed under: Bubby Spamden

Radio Heartland has tickets to see Shawn Colvin at the Dakota this Wednesday, January 27th at 7pm.

Enter the drawing.
Obey the rules.
Good Luck!

A note came in early this morning from an old friend.

Hi Mr. C.,

I spent the whole day stretched on the couch yesterday, relaxing and watching football. It was awful.

And now I can't sleep! I kept playing the games over and over in my mind, especially that last one with the Vikings where it looked like they could win it and then they didn't.

That Brett Farve sure is cool with the gray beard stubble and the "aw, shucks" and all, but I notice that people love him when things are going OK and then a dumb mistake here and a fumble there and all the good stuff he's done gets erased and he's a goat.

Not that I have anything against goats. I know you're connected. But when a person gets called a goat, that's usually not a good thing. Especially an adult who seems to have everything going for him, otherwise. And that's what's keeping me awake, 'cause I make mental mistakes too! Not all the time, but every now and then. Well, once a day at least. Sometimes more.

As far as fumbling goes, I won't tell you the whole story about the cafeteria tray and the little spot of applesauce that someone left on the floor last Tuesday (which was Taco Day - my favorite), but what happened was loud and colorful and if there's any bright side at all to the Vikings losing yesterday, it's that people might focus on that today and finally stop talking about me with Mexican Cheese Medley on my face.

I was thinking that after I got out of school I would like to do some kind of work where I would still be doing my job even when I goof up. So far I've crossed politics, football, golf and acting off my list. And a lot of the ideas I got from your blog people last time also wouldn't work for somebody who isn't very perfect. Teachers, writers, psychologists and repairmen all get hammered for their mistakes, right?

So that's why Brett Farve got me thinking about my life.

He's not a Football Player, he's a Performance Artist.

He got everybody talking and kept them talking all through the fall and winter and now they're REALLY talking and some of them are FEELING things they haven't felt for years and years, and though it's kinda negative, the suffering people of the Monday After at least know that they're alive. And sports fan suffering isn't nearly as bad as real suffering anyway, so I figure it's OK.

So even when things go wrong Brett Farve is doing his job, as long as his job is Secret Performance Artist. Someday he's going to show up someplace in Uptown Minneapolis all barefoot with a beret and a cigarette and he'll announce that the whole thing has been an elaborate put-on to get people to examine their souls. Then Brett and his artist friends will toast each other with wine and eat some exotic French cheeses (or Mexican Cheese Medley!) and walk off, laughing through their noses! Cool!

So that's what I want to be, but I can't tell anybody. Just thought you'd want to know I'm going to be an S.P.A.! That's what I'll put on my college applications, if I ever get to write any. And if anyone asks, I'll say it stands for Sertified Public Accountant, but we'll know the truth. Secret Performance Artist!

I wrote Bubby to thank him for walking us through his post-game rationalizing, and I congratulated him on choosing a career. But I think he still needs to study spelling.
I was once resolved to be a Physical Therapist, but conditions changed.

Any interesting career paths chosen and then changed?

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