Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Look at my sister!

First of all, I lost a bunch of my widgets when I changed layout, so I'll have to put those back in. Boo. But I do like the new look.

Second, and more importantly, my sister E. and her boyfriend J. are FAMOUS. OK, well, they have an article that J. wrote on the Slow Food Nation blog, and I hope it gets them lots of publicity and work. They're trying to make creating small vegetable gardens in people's homes a business, and frankly, I think it's a good idea that will hopefully take on. Click here to go directly to their website. Just look at the pictures if you want. I think I'm going to ask E. to help me can a bunch of stuff--it's one way I can think of to keep this great local produce around for the winter and utilize it, and it won't take up all the room in the freezer.

Oh, and another green tip: I found a stapler that doesn't use staples. Cool.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What do you think of the new layout?, Part II

My dad said it was way too green, so I'll try this.

And be honest. I think it might look too green. Also, if anyone has tips on how to get a picture to stretch out (like yours, Scarlet), that would be great. Princess Powerless, thanks for your help from last time!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One more reason why my husband is cool

Well, we had the Masonic picnic this weekend and it went quite well, due in large to my lovely parents lending us two gigantic coolers and a 20x20 tent, the kind you pay about $100 to rent. Thanks, Mom and R! We had nice weather, the dog was good with the little girls, nobody got hurt, and no toilets overflowed. To me, that's success. Next year: more tables. We didn't have enough.

Here's the cool part, with a little background: T's friend M. has lymphoma and had to shave his head for the chemo. In a move of solidarity, T. and his friend E. both shaved their heads so they could look like M. Admittedly, T. did not have long hair to start with, but I still love that he did it and I know that he would've no matter how luxuriant his tresses. I do have to give serious points to E., who had been growing his hair for seven years; it was about as long as mine. He donated the majority to Locks for Love, and the rest will line various bird nests, I guess. I'll post pictures tomorrow. In a funny side note, he didn't tell his girlfriend [of three years] of his plan and freaked her out when he came home. As he said, "I can grow my hair; I can't grow another M." Well put.

In other news, today Penny got her cone off and got her staples out. Sigh. After tomorrow I think we should start asking for Frequent Flyer discounts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I just realized something

I mentioned Penny's in the cone again and had to get staples because her surgery incision opened up. Now I think I know why: It was already a little shaky and then, THEN, the other day I had the Scary Neighbor Dog Walk:

We were almost home from a walk when the Airedale on the corner comes running at Penny. She's always been a little afraid of this dog; he's bigger, barks aggressively, and Penny's a beta if I ever saw one. Well, this time the dog keeps coming and I realize not only does the invisible fence not seem to work, the dog has no collar on. My first thought is to grab this other dog before he runs into the street, but there's nothing to hold on to. Next thing I know he's got Penny on her back, she's making this horrible, high-pitched squeal-bark which I now interpret as, "I'm terrified! Get away from me!", I panic and try to pick her up, and the owner comes running over and finally gets her canine menace away. She's asking, "Oh, is she ok?" over and over again, truly feeling terrible about this (and I don't care about her feeling bad, I am shaken and angry, and she better feel bad), and fortunately Penny is unharmed. I say, "You know, usually when we walk by here the invisible fence is on. And he has a collar of some kind," and she responds with something about them showing the house and the fence must've been turned off and your dog is so cute, and I just want to get away from her and get home. So I get Penny out of there, even crossing the street because she's still so scared. She had no visible cuts or scrapes, but I bet all that thrashing around caused her incision to open further. That's my realization.

When I told T about our walk, he got very quietly angry: I could see his body tense up and I felt this tangible fury come out of him. Uncanny, really. He only said in a low voice, "Boy, was that dog lucky that I wasn't there." Yikes. If there's a next time, I'm sorry, I will grab the other dog's tail and bodily pull the animal off my dog. In a somewhat delayed reaction, I also burst into tears an hour after it happened as I realized what might have transpired. But we gave her lots of treats and love, and she seems fine, except for staples and that dumb collar she now has to wear AGAIN. Good thing these people are moving and taking their mongrel cur with them.

People, please, PLEASE train your dogs and keep them leashed if needed. I'm doing the best to train mine so these things don't happen to other dogs or people, so please do the same. Now I'm going to pet my girl and prepare for the Mason picnic, which should be lots of good, clean fun.

Have a good weekend, folks! Play nicely!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Seven Things About Me, Part 2

Although first I have to tell you all that poor Penny had to get staples in her little spayed area because the stitches reopened (yuck) and she has to wear The Cone again. Poor wee pumpkin. Plus we're having T's annual Masonic picnic at our house this weekend, so everyone gets to meet Her Elizabethan Collarness while she's not quite her sweet, perky self. We'll get her a lot of sympathy petting.

All right, I did 1-4, so now it's time for 5-7.

5. I love words, wordplay, etymology, all of that stuff. Words fascinate me. How can authors put words together in such beautiful, interesting, funny, awful, puzzling, enthralling ways? Aside from that, I love knowing facts like the word disaster literally means "a bad alignment of the stars", from dis-, meaning "not" or "bad", and -aster, meaning "star". Isn't that cool? The word sinister comes from the same Latin word, which meant "left-handed" or "unlucky" because left-handedness was considered unlucky or evil. I also love other languages and accents--connecting English to other languages gives me such a kick. I should have taken Latin. I speak Spanish and German, plan to learn French, and would like to learn a non-romance language such as Chinese. Now I just have to find places to speak my languages so I don't lose them completely. As always, suggestions welcome. I think my passion for words extends to all parts of my life: I teach English, I sing, I do accents, I admonish my students for using the same words in their writing over and over again when so many others exist. My favorite word I taught my husband?

To throw something out a window. Think about it: The word for window in three different languages is ventana (Spanish), fenetre (French), and fenster (German). It all adds up! Isn't that thrilling? I think so.

6. No matter how old I get, no matter how many places I go, I still find simple joys the best. Jaded, utterly sophisticated people must live such sad lives because it takes so much to make them interested or happy, if they even allow themselves to feel those emotions. I've had people laugh at me because I got excited about something they found ridiculous or unimportant: What do I care? I see it as me getting a lot more out of life than they do. The sound of wind in the trees, the curve of a shell, the emotion of a beautiful song with my choir, the feel of eight people rowing totally in synch, my puppy's wagging tail, the weight of my husband's hand on mine, the feeling of euphoria as I laugh with friends....Those joys fill me with life and make me whole.

7. I procrastinate. A lot. And I often feel like I'm faking it, and that it's just a matter of time until everyone finds out. I've started to figure out why I do this: At one point in my life, when things were rocky at home and I was away at school, I made a point to be "fine" so nobody worried about me. I was smart enough in school and life to get by, often doing things last minute but pulling it all out in the end. I didn't want to ask for help because of the previous point of appearing to deal with everything and because some part of me thought, "Well, you should know how to do this, so don't ask or you'll look foolish or feel ashamed." This of course led to a shame spiral, I now see. I think the procrastination has to do with avoidance, a technique that probably shielded me from some tough stuff at one point but that now sabotages me. The part of me that learned to deal with everyday life never asked for help and never learned to deal with things as an adult does. I have the little voice inside me that says not to open the mail, to play one more game of Solitaire, that I have plenty of time to grade those papers and doesn't stop to think that I have to get 100 of them graded by the end of the quarter. Then I pay the bill late or don't cash a check, stay up late doing lesson plans, and grade 100 papers in two days. So I've started listening to that voice and responding with a better way of doing things, or ignoring the child voice altogether. It's hard. She's been there a long, long time and she has a lot of say, but I think I can drown her out or at least turn her down. I've also realized that I'm not alone, I don't have to be perfect, and I have to forgive myself for being human. I have remind myself of that a lot, but I have wonderful people who do it for me when I forget.

Whoa, I didn't know I was going to let that last one out right there, though I'd been planning to write about it at some point. So now you know something about me, and maybe I made you realize something about yourselves. I tag any of you out there who blog to do this although, as Scarlet Lily pointed out, I think we all know the same bloggers, more or less.

I'm going to go check on Penny and grab a nap; that took more out of me than I'd thought. Happy Wednesday, dears.

Time for change

I'm bored with the look of this blog. How do I make it look like the rest of your cool blogs out there without taking a tech course? I can change the template, blah, etc., but how do I add fun pictures and things?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"That's worse than Murphy's Law!"

So I actually copied Scarlet Lily and got The Shoes. Quite comfortable, I will attest, very attractive. I wore them for the first time tonight. Walking back to the car, I caught one heel in a sidewalk crack and the bottom cover part came right off. Upon calling Scarlet to tell her this story, she replied with the above statement. I could not disagree.

Fortunately I know of a cobbler to fix the problem, but, come on. Well, as I say to my students, "If that's the worst thing that happens to you all day, you've had an excellent day." Again, I cannot disagree: I did have an excellent day. Yay.

Seven Facts About Me, Part 1

OK, Feather Nester asked me to do this, so I'll let you all know seven facts about me (hence the title) that I think you might be interested in.

1. As my friends and family know, I have a bizarrely accurate memory for birthdays, movie quotes, song lyrics, and random actors. The song part has gone down as of late because I listen to current music mainly so I know what my students should not sing in class. However, if you ask me who that guy was in that movie with Michael Caine, I'll probably know who it is. DH is also strangely good at this game with movies--he can recognize faces like that. I can quote entire chunks of certain movies, as Greenlight and others will attest. My sister M. once called me from a bar to ask me an actor's name and won a bet as a result. Unfortunately, that memory prowess does not extend to bills, dates when grades are due, or where I put my glasses. I've begun to work on this: I tend to remember things that are important to me, so I need to work on making those other things more important. Suggestions welcome.

2. My left eye does not actually move to the left. I have something called Duane Syndrome, a rare congenital defect that basically means my eyes are miswired and my left eye muscles never had a chance to develop. It used to be slightly crossed in, but I had surgery at age 2 to help with this and I've worn glasses since then. As a result my right eye is my "seein' eye" and I use the left only for peripheral vision, which I have very little of. Thus when I drive, I have a gigantic blind spot and have to crane my head around before I switch into the left lane. It also makes me look cross-eyed if I cut my eyes to the left. I cannot do any of those Magic Eye puzzles because my eyes do not work in tandem. Oh, well, no magic eyes for me.

3. When I'm alone, if it's there, I will eat elbow macaroni with my fingers. The macaroni can be hot or cold.

4. Few things get me angrier than bullying of any kind. I think I've written about this before, about the time I screamed at this huge football player friend of ours in college because he made Feather Nester cry, making fun of her for failing a class. It's one act I will absolutely not tolerate in the classroom in any form; my students know this. I don't scream then--instead I go into a cold rage and get very stern, the temperature drops about five degrees, and I radiate anger until I'm almost shaking. I know this happens because the entire feeling in the room changes and my students get quiet. A professor of mine once said, "If you are intelligent and you use that intelligence to make someone slower than you feel inferior, you are the ignorant person." I could not agree more. Ditto for any kind of using of superiority to make someone feel inferior. Don't do it in front of me.

I have to run, so I'll do the rest later.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Am I creating the future in this blogosphere?

I've read a bunch of educational articles recently, several having to do with how to assess reading in the digital age. Do we look at digital literacy as something different from reading literacy? As I understand it, digital literacy has to do with reading a lot of information quickly, often assessing it and interacting with others through sites that allow it. Thus people can look for a topic, say, "Olympics", and come up with all sorts of sites and information, and glean what they need. My problem with this (and others' problem as well) has to do with several facts:

1) People may not know the difference between legitimate, accredited sites and ones that have either incorrect or unsubstantiated information.

2) This sort of quick jumping around, while causing certain neurons in the brain to fire and react, certainly doesn't help with sustained attention. It may even hinder it, according to certain experts. [NB 1: I find it mildly ironic that I learned about this while reading it online in the NYTimes.]

As a teacher, when I write people, I really mean students because that's who this concerns. If, as I wrote before, a decent chunk of the working world increasingly requires its employees to be Internet-savvy, doesn't it also require them to have an attention span longer than ten minutes to complete a task? Doesn't it require them to sometimes analyze data properly and put that data together? Thus it's up to my profession to do that. What am I really trying to express here? I think it comes down to the fact that I believe today's youth need to practice activities that grab their attention for a sustained amount of time, and I believe teachers need to incorporate more Internet-based strategies in their teaching. How to do this? Not sure. My dad made a point on a previous entry that I'll put here, with his permission, that I think has a lot of merit as well:

While I usually agree with your take on things, and not just because I’m your father but because they are thoughtful, I have to disagree on one of your concerns. You say that when your students go out into the working world they will be dealing with IM, texting, blogs, Facebook, my space etc . No, actually they will not. Whether they are in a steel plant or an investment banking house or a law office, those things are by and large not part of the real work-a-day world; they are a huge part of their social fabric of the non working world of the generation that you teach. For that reason they are important, but they must know that the vast number of employers, except for a few newly rich 20 something entrepreneurs, do not use those things in how they do their jobs. The internet is the key to accessing facts which with thought may turn to knowledge but those other devices/tools are social facilitators.

He's right. The working world certainly is not all about social networking; it's about knowing a skill and sticking to it to get things done.

On a similar note, I discussed something with Scarlet Lily recently that has me concerned. Bear with me a moment as I ask: Have any of you seen or even heard of the movie Idiocracy? Not surprised if you haven't; it went pretty much straight to video and the parts I saw annoyed and alarmed me. It's not a quality flick. However, the basic premise comes from the stereotypical idea that uneducated people seem to have more children on the whole than educated folks do. Thus, over time, the educated population will die out, leaving the world filled with, shall we say, less-than-bright people. The idea of the movie is that this guy gets cryogenically frozen (always a recipe for an Oscar-winner) and wakes up 500 years later in a society so dumbed down that he's the most intelligent person on the planet. Wacky, zany hilarity ensues, of course. [NB 2: Do you agree with me that when a comedy is labeled as either "wacky" or "zany", it almost guarantees that it's terrible?]

While Idioocracy will never win any awards, part of it names a possibility that scares the heck out of me. Can that happen? I know intelligence is a dominant trait, but if procreation continues on this track, what exactly will happen in 500 years? Please feel free to tell me I'm an alarmist. I think I see tests and material being watered down because kids "just don't get it" and everything's too hard, and we have to make sure their little egos stay intact so we give every kid a trophy and bring down the bar so it's easier to reach. What good does that do anyone?

I don't mean to gripe, honestly. It's what makes me want to be a hardass teacher because when a student gets an A in my class, she knows she's earned it. I don't care if it means they don't like me--I watched it happen this year. I'm not as bad as my Ethics professor who notoriously said, "God gets an A, I get a B, and everyone else gets Cs and Ds" (Remember, Feather Nester? Good ol' Terrell), but I make them work. I praise them like crazy when they do well, so it all balances out.

What do you all think?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Funny old commercials

Just popped into my head:

This is one of my favorite commercials ever, mostly because it's one of the most random I've ever seen. Robert Loggia? What?

Another one I enjoy is the original "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker" that first ran during the Superbowl a few years ago, even with the use of the word Penny (Ok, that's not the word but it's what Penny technically is). I also don't espouse violence, but there's something bizarrely funny about this:

Speaking of sports, don't you love the Olympics? We have the added bonus of Canadian coverage, which I often prefer. This may have something to do with the fact that they show rowing at normal hours. Anyway, enjoy the beginning of your week!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Summer cleaning

As part of the campaign to clear my head and declutter my life, my mom helped me organize my office. She lives for this kind of thing. We bought a nice, comfy desk chair (the old one was too low for me--it's amazing what a crick you get in your neck when it's craned at even a 60 degree angle for an hour or more while looking at the monitor), a filing cabinet, and folders for organizing my teaching stuff--yay!!!! In case you don't know this, teachers get giddy with excitement at going to any Office Max-type place. We live for it, standing starry-eyed as children in front of a candy store at the sheer variation and volume of pens, dry-erase boards, and organizational files. You give us a choice between a gift certificate to Office Max and one to a nice clothing store, and we'll agonize over which one to choose.

More importantly, Mom helped me purge my old files of about ten years' worth of stuff-I-might-need-or-use-someday. Right. I had notes from college. Old mail. Notebooks from grad school. Receipts. Staff information from two jobs ago. Dried out glue sticks. Student work from 2001. VCR tapes--we don't even have a VCR anymore. Things I didn't even recognize. I did keep some of it, but most went happily into the trash or the recycle bin. See, I'm both a packrat and a piler, which means I have numerous piles of stuff. I am convinced that one day I will go through the pile, pull out the stuff, and use it. This rarely happens. Thus it felt wonderful to unburden myself of years of useless junk and organize what I kept into files and compartments.

I think if I start using the kindergarten mantra of "Everything has a home" and then keep those things in their homes, I may have a lot less stress. Those who know me, of course I'm not going to go all Type-A; it's not who I am. What began in college when my roommates T. and Greenlight finally designated one place only for my constantly missing keys has finally begun to creep into other aspects of my life. For instance, Greenlight, my keys reside in the bowl DH made, in the living room. For others, this idea may seem obvious and simple; for a scatterbrain like me, I have to concentrate on making little changes like this as common as brushing my teeth. It's all part of a revelation I'm having that I'll write about later.

Next stop: The closet. Do I really need the sweater I wore once last winter because I felt guilty about having not worn it the previous year? Probably not.

I'm off--my Six Plus One Traits of Writing book is calling my name from its home on my educational information bookshelf.