Manual How TV Ruined My Sex Life and a Bunch of Other Messed Up Misadventures

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Lahey falls off the wagon on the day of Sunnyvale's big appraisal, which Julian, Ricky and the crew do their best to ruin. Leslie puts Sunnyvale park under lock down, Julian holds an open house at the motel and Ricky has an adventure in the woods. Julian gets desperate in his attempt to reclaim Sunnyvale, Ricky finally might get his family back, and Mr. Lahey falls further off the wagon. It's morning in Sunnyvale as Julian carries out the final stage of his big reverse psychology plan to get his beloved trailer park back. While Julian celebrates the bar's success and Ricky and Lucy try for a baby, a familiar face returns from jail to shake things up at the park.

Desperate for quick cash to fight the court case, the boys try to collect outstanding lot fees at the park, and consider a return to petty crime. As Barb and her sidekicks try to strong-arm Mr. Lahey and Randy into testifying for her in court, the boys set out to case a fancy neighbourhood. After handing over Trinity's wedding money, Ricky swears off crime, but Julian talks him into one last job at the Denture King offices.

When a truck heist goes awry, the boys turn to Sam the Denture King for help. But a fight at his office quickly spirals out of control. When Julian turns his bar into an all-inclusive casino, the ad made by Bubbles and Ricky stirs up trouble, and gets a celebrity's attention. A visit from Snoop Dogg and friends sets the trailer park abuzz, and Sunnyvale fan Tom Arnold fulfills a bucket-list dream with Bubbles. Bubbles battles a bad case of nerves at his open mic gig, and Lucy weighs a startling offer from Tom Arnold.

Bobby Farrelly. Tom sets out on an adventure with Lucy, while Snoop tries Ricky's new concoction and Mr. Lahey plots a diabolical mission. Still shaken up, the gang gets ready for Trinity and Jacob's wedding. Meanwhile, Barb struggles with a big decision about the park. Bubbles and Ricky are doing well with their new pizza sauce company, but a new opportunity arises when they get a tip on where Julian's been living. Ricky mistakes a sick-looking Jacob for a "zombley" and Bubbles thinks he's an alien.

The boys make Cory and Jacob steal "fertilizer" from a farmer. When Mo shoots Ricky in the groin, the boys argue over what medical attention, if any, he should have. Ricky must stay behind and look after Mo while Julian and Bubbles go lobster fishing. Lahey warns Ricky that the cops are out to get him. Ricky has a meltdown trying to process the information he learned from Lahey.

The boys have to get Bubbles' truck back from George Green. Ricky's injury isn't healing properly, so the boys head back to see Sam Losco. Ricky takes drastic action when the power gets shut off at the rink. Julian sends Lahey and Ricky off on a golf outing that leads to a confrontation. A "free weed" sign draws a bunch of stoners to the shipping container, where the boys face off with Lahey, Randy, and a pair of cops. The boys' deal with Snoop Dogg hits a snag when they're accused of killing Lahey and Randy, then everything goes haywire with Cory and Jacob.

All hell breaks loose on the ocean as the boys prepare for the drop-off while trying to find Bubbles and avoid Lahey and Randy. Bubble's new brewing business is taking off, but things aren't going well for Julian and even worse for Ricky, who claims he has a big announcement. In an attempt to go legit, Julian looks for a job at the mall and Ricky becomes a handyman. Lahey and Randy head to the racetrack. Julian runs a side hustle at his security job. Ricky sends Jacob and Trinity to his car when he hosts Susan for a romantic dinner that turns chaotic.

Bubs loses it when Ricky "borrows" the truck to deal with a rat problem in the park, then lends it to Julian as part of another racket at the mall. The boys cause a panic in the park when a stunt they organize for Bubble's birthday goes a bit haywire. Julian puts his job in jeopardy. The boys learn that the prosecutor for Julian's trial is his ex. Ricky steps in to represent Julian in court after another plan goes awry. Bruce McCulloch. Ricky and Julian help Bubbles fill a huge order of his new beer, Freedom 35, but a secret Ricky's been keeping could derail the delivery. Lahey tries to squeeze his way into the beer business.

Ricky and Susan's fighting prevents Candy from getting a private moment with Julian. Bubbles organizes a huge stag party for Julian and Ricky, but when they hear police sirens approaching, it turns into an escape operation. Note: Jason is referred to as having the last name "Peterson. Ricky, Julian, and Mr.

How TV Ruined My Sex Life and a Bunch of Other Messed Up Misadventures

Lahey appeared for the very first time in this short film. While the characters use the same names, the short is not canon to the rest of the series. It is the story of two friends, one who is leaving their home town. The other one wants to tell him that he is in love with him. He is nervous about it so they go drinking to a number of establishments before he gets the courage to tell him.

The film was recorded in , but wasn't released to the public until October 30th , when it was made available to premium members of Swearnet. Behind-the-scenes look at the making of Trailer Park Boys. Directed and narrated by Annemarie Cassidy, then-wife of Mike Clattenburg. This special is packed with clips from the first six seasons as well as producer and cast interviews.

It has been one year since the boys' successful "train ride" in Maine at the conclusion of Season 7 , and Julian has been sitting on the money to avoid arousing suspicion. Ricky and Bubbles think they are about to become rich, but Jim Lahey is back on the liquor and looking to thwart their plans yet again.

Working in cahoots with Lahey and Randy, Sam Losco ambushes the boys on the eve of doling out the cash, and the money is lost forever. Ray is back living at the dump and running a bootleg liquor operation, the boys are penniless once again, and Ricky must come to terms with Randy's relationship with Lucy and Baby Randy. Determined to finally make the park respectable, Lahey hatches a greasy plan to set the boys up and get them sent to jail yet again.

The plan involves a singles dance, dope, bootleg liquor, and bologna sandwiches, but Julian sees an opportunity to screw Lahey over and steal all the proceeds. In the end, a long list of characters vow revenge against Jim Lahey once they get out of jail. The boys head to Ireland after winning a contest to see Rush but are arrested by Immigration and must perform a community-service puppet show. When Julian's latest scheme goes awry, the boys must to travel to the North Pole, i. But boozy Lahey wants to spoil it all. Can Bubbles save the day? And what's that stain on the Ghost of Christmas Past?

Ricky, Julian and Bubbles bring their trailer park humor out onto the stage for a night of liquor, schemes and an intoxicated acting demo. The boys are at it again in the southern state of Texas. Bubbles is auditioning for a movie in Austin, TX and brings the boys with him. A whole lot of alcohol, drugs and shenanigans await them live on stage. Ricky and Julian promised Bubbles they'd play space today. But Ricky has a major fucking situation on his hands and needs to blow up something bigger than a rocket! Ricky, Julian and Bubbles head to the "tubey" thing to blow that cocksucker up. Yeah boys, try to look invisible so the fucking cops don't see you How the fuck are the boys gonna blow up a foot high silo with a gallon of gas?

Don't worry, Bubbles will make some calculations Will she blow, boys Fuck blowing shit up, let's go to the zoo and look for this supposed "zonkey" thing Ricky, Julian and Bubbles are back in jail, trying to cope in their own ways. Bubbles is fixing shitty toasters, Julian is working on a money-making scheme Bubbles has a major fucking problem! If he doesn't help Lahey defend himself against Ricky, the Sunnyvale shit walkers are coming for him It's all going to shit in jail!

Randy prepares to break bad news to Lahey, and Bubbles' day is about to get very fucky indeed Bubbles takes a traumatic trip to the examination room, and Mr. Lahey finally confronts Ricky and his shit-shank! Ricky does some book learning while his ass recovers from the multi-driver mishap, and Julian involves Bubbles further in his moneymaking scheme. Randy takes Don out for fine North American dining at "The King", and prepares to deliver some big news. Meanwhile in jail, the boys are being forced to chow down on fucking lettuce! Ricky's spent a week getting fucked over in solitary and he's come out a different man!

Meanwhile, Randy has some great news for Mr. Bubbles interrupts Ricky and Julian's epic Pong game to talk about his interview for the Early Release program. Will he be following Lahey out the jail gates, and back to Sunnyvale? Bubbles fucks up Ricky and Julian's Pong game because he has big news! Jim Lahey meets someone that could change his life, and Ricky gets a hot phone call from Lucy.

Meanwhile, Randy picks up more than chicken nuggets during his visit to "The King" J-Roc takes Bubbles to get new swag, and Jim Lahey's new friend is helping him on the path to sober living. Everyone is busy making plans! Bubbles is back in the park and working on a new business; Julian is trying out his psychological tricks; Ricky wants to make a new start with his family. And Lahey is working on some BIG fucking plans Bubbles visits Ricky and Julian in jail and gets into trouble over his Eon's spending spree.

Ricky tries to talk Julian out of reading his 'stupid fucking brain books'. And Sarah has a proposal for Donna! Bubbles is worried about new developments in the park — what the fuck is happening to Sunnyvale? Ricky and Julian go in front of the parole board and reveal their plans for a crime-free future. And who will finally be declared Pong champion? The boys are excited to arrive in London until they learn they must execute weird tasks to earn spending money. First up: steal the queen's underwear.

The boys head to Berlin, where they must perform the "Chicken Dance" wearing lederhosen, take nude sunbathing selfies, and run in the Berlin Marathon. In the capital of Denmark, the boys must climb into the boxing ring with a heavyweight champion and tour the city sporting a conspicuous sex device. In Oslo, the boys are ordered to give an "atomic hover wedgie" to a cherished landmark and escort a local celebrity on a date to an ice bar.

In Stockholm, the boys must eat a gut-busting meal of Swedish meatballs and fermented herring without barfing and make a save against a hockey legend. In a visit to Finland the boys meet the real Santa Claus, sing karaoke in a taxi, deliver a weather report, and try their hands at ice sculpture. The boys sport culturally-traditional footwear, ride a three-person bicycle, and visit a coffee shop while touring the capital of the Netherlands.

Still in Amsterdam, the boys meet and have a sing-along with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, then visit a lady of the night in the red light district. After finding out that Bubs misread the fine print about their hotel situation, the boys head to the astronaut training program at NASA. Still in Orlando, Bubbles and the boys go to a big cat park. But what do I know? Kris: It's funny you mention Stephanie Plum because one of my most popular posts ever on this blog is one where I call Stephanie a "ho bag.

So it felt like infidelity to me. Which bothered me. But not as much as the fact that Stephanie refused to OWN the fact that she "cheated" on Joe again, in my mind". She blamed the fact that she kept having sex with Ranger on the fact that Joe's weirdo grandma put a "curse" on her. Which annoyed me more than the perceived "cheating. OWN IT! And to use such a lame excuse? Needless to say I finally broke up with the series after that because Stephanie turned into a hypocrite. Joe had to be faithful to her, but she wasn't to him - and when she WAS unfaithful, she tried to play it off on a "curse.

AL: It's exhausting - truly. I've seen romance readers fall all over themselves for heroes who are basically sociopaths, but the heroine will get flayed alive for much lesser "infractions. Also, I think the idea of the heroine being a placeholder is one we don't discuss enough in the genre. I do think there's a lot of readers out there who like to "imagine" themselves as the heroine.

Even if they don't think they're doing that - a little piece of them probably is. Who doesn't get excited by a book that features a "relateable" heroine to their own experiences? I know I have. Like, real bored. By the never-arcing protagonist and the non-arcing romance. So yes, what you mentioned would have ruined it for me too, had it not already been ruined. If you're going to do something, dammit, do it, then own it, at least inside your own head, whatever you show to the outside world. Aztec said "about sympathetic scoundrel heroes That's what I want to know. Can't she be charming or funny or somehow fascinating or fun to read about, AND have major foibles?

I don't even care if over the course of the story, she arcs to view her 'badness' as not okay, or changes it somehow. Not bleak and unrelentingly angry or bitter or Aztec also said: "Why are we the larger romance reading audience as a whole, not any smaller 'we' so unwilling to consider ANY woman worthy of happiness Honestly, I think a lot of it is the protection thing Wendy mentioned.

Maybe not so much rescue, but This post really got me thinking - especially since I'm in the throes of working on a new series idea. I love the idea of bad girls, and like lots of the other commentators, I don't get why readers are so unforgiving of them when they forgive heroes almost anything. Is this even more true in historicals? The problem is that if you have a 'bad' heroine she's immediately an outcast.

It's difficult to let heroines have sex in historicals, never mind let them have lots of sex with lots of men though I'd love to have a go at that one! Which rules out the rake-equivalent heroine, doesn't it? I've had a heroine who took opium. I'd just finished a courtesan heroine though her experience was only with one man and I'm currently writing a card sharp. But they're not 'bad', they are victims of their situation. And maybe I'm wondering, having read this post I compromised on the impact of their experiences on their behaviour to make them more acceptable heroines. So is 'bad' ballsy, big-mouthed, confrontational, hard as nails then?

But readers like these even less in historicals than in contemporary romance - I don't know why, but it's true. So does that mean you can't have a 'bad' historical heroine? I've racked my brains, and fallen back on Georgette Heyer. Deborah, from Faro's Daughter, and Venetia. But they are so likeable, I don't know if they count. So I'd love to know, do they exist? Or have I got the whole 'bad' thing totally wrong? I was shocked, shocked, shocked when she slept with Ranger, not because I didn't want her to but because she was, as far as I was concerned at that point, committed to Joe.

Or not committed, as it turned out. Kris: I think you bring up a really good point about "protection. And a hero who will do everything in his power, whether it's brutal or awful or whatever, to ensure the heroine's safety - I get it. Giggles and while it made my eyes cross, I totally get how it would appeal to some readers. Well, hypothetically then. On his face was a pained look.

He had tried to ask a serious question he thought would help him do his job, and Maria had simply shut him down. A look of disgust swept over his face. This whole damn process is hypothetical. Maria looked at him for a moment and then turned away. Upper half or lower half? There was no doubt it would earn a high score. Definitely a 4, 5, or 6. Maybe we were starting to figure this out.

Although we knew what Maria meant, no one really said anything. What do you think? This essay is clearly upper-middle-upper. Our brief, shining moment of standardization was gone as quickly as it had come. The score Maria announced for virtually any essay would provoke lively discussions and heated debate with scorers, there was always someone that would disagree with the score given to any paper , and never did a consistent scoring system become clear.

At times I would think I got it, and then, wham-o, complete confusion would reign: Maria would be explaining why some essay I thought was a 5 was actually a 4, before then turning around and declaring the next essay—which I did think was a 4—was a 5. At that point it was back to the drawing board, time to recalibrate my thought process and start anew.

It was when we began to take the qualifying tests that things really got ugly. People began to realize it was not inconceivable to fail at qualifying, leading to the very real possibility of being shown the door and losing out on our eight bucks an hour. Given eight dollars was plum pay for Iowa City, none of us was going gently into that good night.

Maria told us not to worry, told us to relax and do our best on the qualifying tests. She told us to heed the wisdom she had been gracing us with. Two, stick with my original score. Three, compare the essay to the Anchor Papers. Four, compare the essay to the descriptors on the rubric. Five, ask myself upper or lower half. Six, uh,. At that point, with time running out and only one more chance to qualify by passing the second test , civilized debate came to an end and nerves started to get frayed.

Did you compare the essay to any Anchor Papers? I compared it to the one that seemed comparable to me. Alacrity, perspicacious, audacity.

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Those are nice word choices. But Anchor Paper 5 has nice vocabulary, too. Nonetheless, succinctly, beforehand. The something said nothing, but you could see the gears in his head grinding. Do you have some sort of reference book I can use to compare pairs or trios of words, so I would know if words are 4-like or 5-like?

Whether apple and alleviate is better than orange and quickly? As a group, we went over each of the 20 essays in the first qualifying set, sour disputes ensuing over the score given to each one. With a smug look on his face, he eventually leaned to the man beside him and whispered something, a something that scorer pretended not to hear. The room was completely silent. Maria broke the tension, asking the professor what score he thought the essay deserved.

Growing Up Fisher: Musings, Memories, and Misadventures by Joely Fisher

I think. Many hearts were. He slunk in his seat, blushing, insults being hurled at him from all sides. Most of the people in the room had scored the essay incorrectly and were realizing they had suffered through the ceaseless whining of a guy who had scored it right! Fortunately for the professor, we shifted our rancor to Maria after she soon made an even bigger gaffe.

When discussing the final paper in that first qualifying set, she stood in front of us and explained with her usual dispassionate rhetoric that Qualifying Paper 20 was a 4. She told us it was a 4 and defended it as a 4, never wavering about the correctness of that number and implying with her body language and demeanor exactly how obvious that score really was. Of course it was a 4, she was saying. He handed her a piece of paper, pointing to something on it.

Between them, they looked at that paper, then another paper, and then back again to the first. She looked up at the ceiling. She looked down at the ground. For a couple of minutes neither she nor Ricky said a word. Ricky busied himself shuttling papers between piles, making a point not to look at his boss, as Maria stood like a statue. Eventually she spun on her heel and looked at the crowd.

It was not my intent to confuse you, but I was wrong. The state range-finding committee is calling Qualifying Paper 20 a 3, not a 4.


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Screaming and swearing ensued. Bellowing came from everywhere. None of it made any sense. The system seemed as standardized as snowflakes, and around the room we were defeated, slumped in chairs, tossing our papers around, bitching loud and long. It took a while, but the crowd eventually calmed down. There was nothing else to do, nowhere to go. Maria apologized. She said, after begging our forgiveness, that Qualifying Paper 20 was, yes, a 3, and she said we had to deal with it.

Then she stood in front of us and explained with her usual dispassionate rhetoric that Qualifying Paper 20 was definitely a 3. She told us it was a 3 and defended it as a 3, never wavering about the correctness of that number and implying with her body language and demeanor just how obvious that score really was. Of course the essay was a 3, she was saying. What other score could it possibly be? As noted, NCS was kind enough to rehire me, post—qualifying test failures, as soon as it discovered it was short on personnel.

Still, while it may have un-fired me, the company did not do so carelessly. When rehiring me, the HR department was very clear a close eye would be kept on me and my kind. How many people willing to do this work? Having survived the bitter battle for qualification, it was time to score essays for real. The writing project proved fundamentally no different than the reading project, as we spent each day reading student responses and slapping numbers onto them.

It was dissimilar, however, in terms of logistics: Instead of six people huddled around an island of computers in a tiny, stinky room, we were 10 people on 10 teams sitting around long, conference tables in a large, musty room. Plus, in lieu of using computers, we would hold in our hands actual student essays, organized and stapled into packets of 20, each packet in a large envelope.

My new tablemates were a fine group, quiet and agreeable. Terry sat at one end of the table, having fretted terribly through the entire training process before passing both qualifying tests. Across the table from me were two former middle school teachers, Maureen and Margie. Sitting to my left was Tammy, an Iowa grad student taking a semester off, a something woman with a big personality and a huge laugh who was nonetheless most notable for her black skin again, it was Iowa. Every day Kim wore a low-cut top, and if I ever happened to glance right, I was invariably greeted by a shot of her tan cleavage.

I tried not to stare, but I was in my 20s. She told us each essay would be read and scored by two different people, so she reminded us to score in a manner that would match our peers. She congratulated us for qualifying and wished us good luck, and then it was time to begin. It was certainly developed, explaining in great detail how the poor boy had been slighted, but the essay was poorly organized and grammatically troubled. The essay was probably a 3 or a 4. Picking up my pencil, I filled in the 3 bubble on my score sheet. I handed her mine. Nonetheless, her essay seemed better than my first one, and although not lengthy, it was clear and organized, with few grammatical mistakes.

What were you going to give it? All around my table, and all around the room, you could see scorers huddled in quiet discussions with their neighbors about what score to give an essay. Terry was so fraught with tension he absolutely peppered Scott at his side with questions. It made one seriously pine for the clarity of the reading project. While the reading project had troubles of its own, it at least included very clear scoring rules: credit for a good bike safety rule, no credit for a bad one.

But you want to talk about a sliding scale? The scale we used to score writing flopped about like a puppy on a frozen pond, going every which way, keeling over and standing up and falling down. In scoring writing, for instance, an essay that had good development of ideas could earn a 6, a 5, a 4, maybe even a 3. An essay that was troubled on the sentence level in terms of grammar, usage, and mechanics could earn a 1, a 2, a 3, perhaps even a 4, 5, or 6.


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  • The point is that essays with identical levels of ability in certain areas could end up due to other considerations on the rubric with significantly different scores. In scoring writing, we were far from having hard and fast rules to live by. The only real assistance I found came in the form of my new supervisor, the delightful redhead, Shawn Black. As she did her backreading work, Shawn would bring essays back to those of us at her table to discuss our decisions. Kneeling beside me to chat about a score I gave that first day, Shawn questioned me about the student response.

    I quickly perused it, a rather lengthy essay about a boy who had difficulties when switching schools. Instead, we sat at our desks, scoring and scoring, essay after essay, hour after hour, day after day. The more essays I saw, the easier the job became. Essays that earned a 6 were incredibly obvious because they were so good. That I could do. I scored and scored. Even if the job was free from stress, however, it was full of monotony. For the duration of the writing project, four weeks long, I worked eight hours a day for at least five days a week and was expected to score approximately 30 essays an hour.

    It was mind-numbing enough to make me want to weep. I scanned and skimmed, skimmed and scored. While I may have missed some subtle distinction a student made on the third paragraph of the second page, his or her score still became obvious in the first paragraph of the first page, where I could see how clear the focus was, how fluent the prose, whether the student understood grammar or possessed voice. In no time I could guess at a score, and a quick peek at the rest of the essay would usually corroborate that. Sometimes I changed my mind, but not often. At break times we would all roll our eyes at the process, at the ambiguity of the scoring itself, but even more at the incredible number of essays we were expected to score every hour, every day, every week.

    More than one person joked, given the reality of what we were doing, that someone should invent a machine that scored essays based on some combination of length and spelling. We should have patented the idea: today such automated scoring systems are available for sale. Because those programs cannot actually read, they simply try to mimic what human readers have done. It could skim and score an essay based on my earlier skimming and scoring of other essays—sort of a skimming to the second power. Most impressive about those automated scoring systems, however, is their speed.

    They are very fast. Seven seconds! I did believe—as quick as my reads might have been—I was scoring accurately. Whatever bubble I penciled in for any essay really was the score I thought it deserved. Regardless, whether I made a perfunctory examination of an essay or a comprehensive study of it, all the student got back was a single digit: 4. It was just a number. I had problems of my own. For one thing, I wanted to care about my writing, not the prose of those bleating teenyboppers.

    For another, life was passing me by, I could just feel it. The whole world was bright with rebirth, yet I sat trapped inside that dank building, scoring scoring scoring. I swore I could feel my muscles atrophying and my synapses freezing, my life force ebbing away. At times the work was so dreary it was painful boyfriend problems, girlfriend problems, mean teachers, homework. It was even worse when NCS began offering overtime on Saturdays. I could barely stomach 40 hours a week, but the overtime cash was so good I had to consider it.

    On the other hand, the work absolutely sucked, and many weekend mornings I could be counted on to wake up with a rather significant hangover. The money, however, usually won out nearly 12 bucks an hour! I took relief from the tedium wherever I could find it. Occasionally, when the gods were really smiling on me, I would pull the essays out of an envelope to find the entire packet blank, 20 student responses without a single word written on them! Those packets full of blanks were a salvation for me: If I was expected to score a student response every two minutes, that packet of 20 blanks represented 40 minutes of work.

    Basically, finding one meant I could sit at my desk and stare off into space for nearly three-quarters of an hour, fantasizing about Shawn Black or the next soccer World Cup, thinking about anything except those darned kids. Each time a scorer finished a packet, he or she would put the essays and completed score sheet back into the envelope and return it to their table leader.

    Occasionally, however, amid all the piles of envelopes in front of them, the table leader would forget to take out the completed first score sheet, and it would end up in the hands of the second scorer. The first time I pulled out a score sheet that had been completed by someone else in the beginning of the project , I felt guilty. The next time it happened, I was a little less naive and a bit more bored.

    I may have taken the score sheet back up to Shawn, but I managed to memorize the first five scores penciled in before I did so: As I walked back to my place at the table, I chanted those numbers in my head like a mantra, , , Quickly checking the first five essays in the packet, I discovered that would work. I may not have completely agreed with each of those scores, but they were close enough. I penciled in my own By the end of the project, finding a completed score sheet had exactly the same effect on me as did discovering a packet of blanks.

    After a couple of weeks of work, my life had become nothing but essays and ennui, so when I found a completed score sheet I took the easy way out: I copied. It was clearly a kind of cheating, and it would artificially inflate the reliability numbers. That fact helped to ease my conscience, and so I copied away, copied away, freeing myself up each time for forty more minutes of daydreaming. For 40 minutes of free time on that project, I would have bent a lot of the rules.

    Late one Friday afternoon, Maria addressed the crowd, asking for our attention. Her request, however, was met with a palpable apprehension, because we all knew these little speeches never ended well. Worse, it was Friday afternoon, with the weekend so close, and we scorers wanted to wrap up our grueling 5-day work week, wanted to put an end to that miserable hour period during which each of us had been expected to read and score some 1, essays.

    A thousand, I say. That essay had us hooked— virtually every person in that room—with its first sentence alone. We did. We laughed and laughed as the writer penned a serious movie review, utterly deadpan, subtly discussing sex without ever being crass or vulgar. It was a masterful display on his part—artful, even—and the writer seduced us with both his subject matter and his prose skills. Maria read us three full pages, struggling to keep her own composure, the essay remaining steadfastly focused on the film as the writer took us on a fantastic journey from sardonic aside to uproarious punch line.

    She had blushed at one point, but mostly she sat through it with her mouth set into a stern scowl. If the student made a threat but mentioned discussing it with a counselor or parent or friend, we scorers were freed from the responsibility of having to make a dramatic rescue. When Maria first mentioned alerts, some of us had been skeptical. Scott had a good laugh. First they can assess writing skills and now mental health. Of course, Maureen was a little more fixated on the intervention part of the alert than she was on the threat part, and in no time she had flagged essays and brought them to Shawn to alert her to issues of students swearing, students smoking, and students screwing.

    Seems like a parenting issue to me. Later she would find that there was no actual 0 bubble on the score sheet, but for the moment she was content. Maria ignored the chants and announced her decision. The job might not interest dreamers like me or Greg, but plenty of people needed real employment. I could hear Maureen and Margie, the former teachers across the table from me, having a perfectly predictable conversation. By the next day both were gone, happy to have been hired to hawk car insurance instead of score standardized tests.

    Not a two-week notice or even a two-hour notice. They needed health insurance immediately, and so they were done with NCS. As for me, I persevered. Not only did I make it to the end of that project, I started the next one, too. The new project was a small one, with only 20 scorers, but between Shawn and Greg, my friends managed to get me hired. The scores we gave would determine whether each of a group of ESL English as a Second Language students from a midwestern city would graduate from high school. On the 4-point scale, the students needed to get at least a 3 to earn a diploma.

    Every circle I filled in would determine whether or not a student would pass. A couple of the essays I scored the first day were from Hmong students the Hmong is an ethnic group that emigrated to the United States from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar , and their stories absolutely crushed me. The essays were terribly written, those students communicating in their second if not third or fourth language; the writing was practically incomprehensible, huge run-on sentences that were completely out of control, confusing me entirely about who was doing what to whom, and the spelling was almost always wrong, the meaning barely understandable.

    Still, as troubled as the essays were, I did manage to glean the gruesome message of each. The first OFF TASK 69 boy told of his father being killed, trapped in a barbed-wire fence and shot dead by military guards as the family tried to illegally flee over a Southeast Asian border, and the second told of a brother lost at sea as an immigrant family tried to float across the Pacific. Not on my watch. I can tell you right now that my default score was 3. When I quit that second writing project, I decided to pack up the car and leave sooner, and heading out of town, I drove past the NCS scoring center for one, final look.

    In , when he graduated from the University of Maine, my father returned to his hometown of Rockport and began teaching at the high school. As I watched the NCS scoring site disappear into my rearview mirror, I made myself a promise: never again, I vowed, never again. It was a job I felt I could have done starting about the eighth grade, and frankly I felt the whole thing was beneath me. My parents convinced me otherwise.

    The sheen of that plum promotion was only somewhat dulled by the fact virtually every one I knew had already been bumped up to the table leader level. Still, I told Maria I needed to think about it.


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    • Greg convinced me I did. The money was interesting, but that last bit was real news. I was joined as a table leader by my friends Greg, Harlan, and Pete, as well as Caitlin, a new woman whose teaching experience had qualified her to begin her NCS career at the supervisory level. The only thing different about that writing assessment was the scoring itself. Not quite so for the new project.

      While its rubric did mention the usual development, organization, sentence structure, and grammar, usage, and mechanics, it was especially interested in organization. The rubric looked like the one on page Still, we figured it would shake out the same in the end, like they all did, but we were wrong. While we managed to get through Anchor Papers 1 through 5 without too vehemently disagreeing with Maria, by the time we got to Anchor Paper 6 see page 77 , we table leaders were scratching our heads.

      Excellent focus and development. Excellent style and sentence fluency. Good focus and development. Good style and sentence fluency. Inconsistent focus and development. Inconsistent style and sentence fluency. Poor focus and development. Poor style and sentence fluency. Poor grammar, usage, and mechanics. Ginger is my favorite pet, and I have many of them.

      She is the best one that I have ever had. I do know that I would be lonely. She is fun and loving and soft. Ginger is fun. Some days after school we play for hours. She likes when I tickle her with a feather. If I give her catnip she goes crazy running in circles. I chase her sometimes and we have a blast.

      Sometimes I take a feather from my pillow and throw it in the air. Ginger watches it like a hawk and then chases it like crazy. I know she likes that. And I like to watch it to. Ginger is loving too. A lot of the time all we do is sit together. If am bored or lonely, Ginger knows it and helps it. She rubs up against my legs or sits on my lap. Ginger really purrs when I pet her. She likes to be brushed and she likes to be rubbed. I know she loves me by how much she takes care of me and how she loves me when I need it. Ginger is soft too. Her fur is soft and her skin is soft.

      Her fat belly is soft too. Where ever I touch ginger my hand feels good. She is like a pillow for me. She is a kind of medicine for me. My heart is cured with Ginger, my soft and furry friend. Someone or something who is important to me is my cat Ginger. I love her, for at least three reasons. She is fun. She is loving. She is soft. What would I do without her? She is the best cat in the world. These are first drafts. Maria looked down at the essay. But if we disagreed a bit with the score of 3 given to Anchor Paper 6, we were dumbstruck when we saw the score of 2 given to Anchor Paper 7: Anchor Paper 7 Score: 2 Through the forest I meander, trees on all sides, the smell of fir and pine surrounding me.

      I trek as quietly as I can, imagining I cut through the forest like the wind, because I know any noise will rouse the birds and the squirrels. I want them to be as comfortable in their homes as I am comfortable visiting them, and I know I have done well when I hear them squeak and trill.

      They are not silent from fear because they do not fear me. The salty smell of the ocean accompanies the sound, and I began to anticipate happiness. I am nearly there, my home away from home. I am almost there. When the forest ends, I am at the edge of cliff, a rocky outcropping a hundred feet above the sea. Below me the waves break on the shore, dark water washing up on to lightly colored sand.

      Driftwood is scattered everywhere. I scan the ocean, and in the distance I see what might be a whale. I see what might be a first whale, and then another, and then I think I see dozens. Although I am not sure, the beauty of this perch is that maybe I do. Whales often breach in these waters. Following the trail along the cliff, I know how close I am. My troubles begin to fade away. No longer do I worry about my grades or that boy in my class. No longer do I worry about homework or doing my chores. I turn a final corner and there it is, the wooden bench my grandfather carved and placed here.

      I walk over, dragging my hand across its worn surface, before sitting down and looking out to sea. It is here my grandfather used to tell me that everything would turn out all right, and he was right. He was always right.

      I sit down to watch the sun set, in this my favorite place. Harlan was incredulous. But this is how they want us to score them. She looked at us, resigned. We looked back at her, defeated. Greg shook his head. It boded ill, we thought. To make matters worse—given that we all thought the rubric itself was screwed up—is that the assessment mattered. Apparently state funding and teacher bonuses would hinge on the results of these tests.

      When Maria told us that, we were amazed. On the second day of training, the state Department of Education representative showed up. When Roseanne asked us how things were going, we all smiled dumbly, exactly as Maria had coached us. Regardless of what we may have thought, we knew very well the point of test scorers was to agree, so agree we did. Resistance was futile. She was actually pretty smug about it. A ton of them. Even if we disagreed with the scoring system, however, we table leaders were not particularly stressed about the project.

      She guaranteed it. Maria proved prescient in that regard, although not necessarily due to our sudden brilliance. Caitlin was the first person to finish the second qualifying test, and after she handed her score sheet to Maria, Maria held up her hand to tell Caitlin not to move. After Maria checked the scores, she handed the score sheet back to Caitlin, whispered something to her, and sent her back to her desk, where Caitlin started to rescore the 10 essays.

      Then Maria whispered something to Ricky at her side, a something Ricky turned and whispered into the ear of the table leader closest to him.

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      The whispering continued through the room. Pass it on. I turned to Pete on my right and repeated the information to him. He looked at his score sheet, nodded thankfully, and then repeated that same information to the table leader on his right. Like a game of Telephone, that hint was passed through the entire room. When Harlan whispered that to me, I knew my score of 2 was wrong, so I changed that incorrectly scored essay while hence solving my earlier problem of the repeated score of 2 on essays 1 through 3.

      And so it was that Maria, our fearless leader, was correct: I did pass the qualifying test. We all did. Our first assignment as table leaders was to look cool. Starting Monday morning, Maria would repeat the exact training to the scorers she had just given to the 10 table leaders, and she wanted us supervisors to exude calm and confidence before the scorers had to take their own qualifying tests. She wanted us to keep the scorers from freaking out or arguing too vociferously with the training that would ensue, especially since we knew that training was likely going to be a fiasco.

      The training ended up being pretty funny, though, and we supervisors smirked as Maria squirmed: every complaint we table leaders had voiced was repeated by the scorers, and Maria had to defuse the situation repeatedly. We supervisors promised the tests were a breeze, a fact that turned out to be true. All the scorers passed, aided by no more than a deluge of hints from us table leaders. At my table, under my supervision, I had 10 scorers, including Terry.

      While Terry was every bit as capable as I was of scoring tests, no one ever considered him for a promotion—the poor boy was barely able to manage himself, so no one expected he could supervise anyone else. The other scorers at my table were brand-new, however, including Erin and Wendy, two women in their early 20s. Louise was an older woman who was very quiet and very shy but who was beloved at our table because she regularly delivered us freshly baked cookies.

      The most worrisome scorer at my table was a guy named Harry, a ish fellow who showed up the first day wearing a plaid blazer, a short-sleeved dress shirt, and a clip-on tie. On his head Harry wore Buddy Holly glasses, circa , and he had thick, black hair plastered down with gel, a huge part on the left side. I got the feeling Harry might be the disgruntled type, and I was expecting every day when I read the newspaper to see some story about him shooting up his old workplace.

      I noted to myself not to tick Harry off. When the scoring began, I wanted to be a good table leader, wanted to be liked by the people I supervised. I made it clear such things were beneath us all. I told them to use the phones when they wanted and take breaks when they needed, as long as they managed to score enough essays to meet our required goals. I wished them good luck and told them to get busy. I made an effort to review the first packet that each of my 10 people completed, because I wanted to see how they were scoring, but it was difficult because I was getting swamped with questions and advice.

      Terry was always standing beside me, asking for my opinion about an essay he was reading, and Louise was meekly approaching every couple of minutes, with apologies each time, asking what she should do about this essay or that one. Meanwhile, the piles of completed packets and score sheets were accumulating higher on my desk—as many questions as Terry and Louise and the rest had, the 10 of them were also scoring and scoring, continuing to fill in bubbles as the clock ticked away.

      Whenever they asked me what I thought an essay deserved, I asked them the same question. Great work! Keep it up! Instead, I began to look at packets of essays that had been scored by two of my people, so I could review both of their scores simultaneously. I also made a point to regularly deliver doughnuts or bagels to my team, to keep their spirits up and to keep me from being reviled. Harlan, Greg, and Pete said those treats were making them look bad in front of their teams, but it was every man for himself on that project.