It rained all day yesterday. Every time I checked the radar for an idea of when it might stop — the wind was blowing, so it should have been headed somewhere — it seemed the same little scrap of precipitation was more or less circling over southeast Michigan. Sometimes it would rain hard, sometimes it would just drip a little, but it never actually stopped.
So when Kate came home with her school-supply list, it seemed like a good time to hit Staples. As Staples go, ours is probably a bare-minimum footprint, tucked as it is into a pre-war urban neighborhood. Still, it has plenty of parking, although it’s rare to see more than a dozen cars there at a time. Not last night. No supply lists were mailed or posted online in advance of the school year; students show up on day one with a pen, and come home with a list. Which means that instead of shopping the sales in August, or spreading the purchase out over a couple of weeks here and there, every parent in the district is at Staples on the second evening of the school year. I saw more familiar faces than at the orientation meeting the previous night. And after all the binders, paper, pens and suchlike had been thrown in the cart, I confronted the big purchase — the graphing calculator. The least expensive of the three acceptable models was sold out. The second one was in stock, for a mere $125.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked the nice Staples guy who was helping me sort things out. I looked at the bulky package, and noted all the selling points — acceptable for use during the SAT/ACT! USB cord included! Carries you through algebra II, calculus and trigonometry! “Does it make coffee or something?”
It does not. It just costs an arm and a leg. The priciest option — the one with the color screen — was $150. So the Texas Instruments TI-84 it was, and no, they didn’t have any pink ones. I’m told the cost will drop to $109.99 after mail-in rebates, which I am so totally getting. The cashier asked if I’d like to make a donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Detroit, which will use the money for school supplies. Oh, hell yes. I can’t imagine being a parent in that city, with all the mountains you must climb just to get your children an education, confronting the news that now your high-schooler needs a $100 calculator to take geometry. Take my money, please.
At least I’m enrolled in the rewards program.
In a college TV production class, we were required to write and perform in a 30-second commercial for a product of our choosing. Mine was a Casio four-function hand-held calculator. My selling point was that you don’t need a square-root key to balance your checkbook. “It adds, subtracts, multiplies and divides — what more do you need?” I got an A.
Amusing detail from the product listing in the Staples circular: Among the classes the TI-84 is suitable for? “English/Language Arts.” Ha ha ha ha ha.
A big teaching chore awaits me today, so here goes with the bloggage:
A Texas wildfire on the march. A YouTube video, but taken with a tripod. As irritating as all-day rain can be, the alternative can be far worse. Actually, whenever I see the meteorological contrasts our country is capable of, I think about the day, which I expect to see in my lifetime, when the southwest finally stops hemming and hawing and makes its case for a transcontinental water pipeline to bring some H2O from chill, overcast and soggy Michigan to sunny, warm Arizona. That’s the day I start pouring sugar into bulldozer gas tanks.
While we’re at YouTube, a friend posted this clip from “2001: A Space Odyssey” today — Hal’s death scene. I’d forgotten how moving it is. Hal was voiced by one of the actors from the Stratford Shakespeare company, and if you want to know how to make a computer voice emotional without changing its machine-like quality by one iota, well, there’s your scene. I don’t know how he does it, but I guess that’s why he’s the pro.
And while we’re still on YouTube, this was served as a “related” video to the fire clip — a Pomeranian puppy, howling. We aren’t amusing ourselves to death, we’re drowning in Cute.
At the goading of some of you, who were discussing it in comments, I turned on the GOP debate last night. Good. GOD. A nation of more than 300 million, a vulnerable president, and this is the alternative? Was that a cheer I heard when the Texas death penalty was mentioned? Who are you people?
Via Mitch Harper in the Fort, a look at Southtown Mall in that city, late, unlamented, but one of the city’s fabulous ruins, for a time. I forgot about that Orange Julius.
Finally, for a good cry, this, the eternal mystery of the human heart.
And I think that’s it. I can smell weekend in the air — can you?