Thursday, June 30, 2005

Carnival of Education #21

Go read some entertaining and informative blogs on educational topics.
Hosted by Education Wonks, it's the 21st Carnival of Education!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Three Things Part 2

The landscapers didn't come to trim the trees in my yard today.

I forgot the second thing.

I need a last name, but I think that I came up with a good one with Bear's help.

Oh, yeah. The second thing. On the comment where Bear and Dean talk about using the words Target and fearless leader in the same sentence, I was going to comment that "These aren't the bloggers you're looking for. They can go about their business. Move along."

Before you call me a geek (which I do resemble), realize that if you know what I'm referring to, you also qualify for geekdom.

Obscure Alphabet

My current favorite artist, Ursula Vernon has some prints for sale. A sort of obsure alphabetical bestiary. So far she's got a set of "A", "B", and "C." Take a look, and if you shop early for Christmas, you've got me covered for a measly twenty dollars.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Three Things

Both Tigger and Piglet just died.
Thanks to Transcendental Floss.

I'm going to go to Target tomorrow. Anyone need anything?

Haloscan hates me. I've been trying to leave comments at all my favorite sites, and Haloscan shows my comment in Preview and then throws it out. Fascist comment software!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Teachers Get Paid Too Much

I was over at educationwonks today, reading about the average teacher salary. That's about $10,000 more than I make per year.

Then I got to the comments section, where some guy had this to say:

"I played golf with a few teachers who made 90+ a year they didn't have too many problems with the pay.

The other problem I find in the comparison of pay is the time in the office, where I work starting you get two weeks a year (1-5 years of work), my friends who teach get 18 weeks off. Teaching they got right around 40K a year but normalizing the wages (34 weeks on duty + 2 Vaction to normalize the rate with my standard vaction~$1111.00/36 weeks) then factoring for working a 50 on-2 off schedule its the equvilanet of starting at ~58K a year which is higer than many a starting salary.

Thats the problem I have when they discuss teachers salaries is they always seem to ignore the increased time off compensation that comes with the job." the Pirate

I'm not sure that I understand all of his weird math, but he's wrong about the time off. I wish I knew where to go to get eighteen weeks off in a year. I work in Texas, and we get about eight weeks for the summer and two for winter, then maybe another two for other breaks. He doesn't mention that we don't get paid for these breaks.

Here's the thing. I only get paid for the days that I work, and whether I agree or not, my employer gets to take that amount and divide it up into twelve equal payments. My net pay equals about two-thirds of my gross, since the state gets to take out huge chunks for my "retirement." I have no say in how much goes out or who gets control of my money. I also am not eligible for Social Security, even though I paid into it for at least ten years before I started teaching.

My employer also won't let me work extra days for pay, even if I want to. Think about it this way. You've been offered a really cool job, at a great hourly rate. But the boss tells you after you've accepted the job that you have a mandatory period where you're not allowed to work and you won't get paid for that.

I get paid about two-hundred dollars a day. Sounds great, right? But I only get paid for 187 days, no matter how many hours I work above and beyond. Work through lunch? Too bad. Work from seven am to eight-thirty pm? Thanks for the dedication to your students. Have a cookie on the way out. My contract actually specifies that I undertake any and all "duties assigned" to me by the principal, and my principal frequently reminds us that we don't have hours, that we work "until the job gets done."

I have to use the time in the summer to get an extra job to make my house payments. And I don't even live in the upscale neighborhood where I teach.

If I were to get babysitting wages, I'd earn better than this. Three dollars an hour, five hours a day, twenty students. This is being EXTREMELY conservative, because I work at least seven hours a day, and I have had 34 kids in class before but class size limits don't apply to me as a "specials" teacher. That adds up to $54,000 a year. I make $17,000 less than that, even less if you take out the retirement that I'll never see. Texas has a history of mishandling state employee pensions.

In addition, last year my budget for consumable supplies (paper, crayons, pencils) consisted of less than $0.50 for each of my students. I frequently have to use MY money to make sure that my students have what they need. And I work in one of the more affluent suburban districts.

When was the last time that a corporation required an employees to go to the store and buy pencils and paper and pens not only for themselves, but for 500 other people in the office?

Pirate, please let me know how many teachers actually make $90,000 a year. Last I heard, only superintendents in DISD and football coaches ever got anywhere near that much. I'm in Texas, a "right to work" state. No unions allowed, no tenure, no job security, crappy pay and forced "vacations." Sounds like your dream job now, huh?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Mom and Dad's Wedding

My mom and dad got married in 1961. My mom still has this dress somewhere in a closet, but it's aged a bit. Cigarette smoke will do that. My dad had just gotten out of the Air Force, I think. Soon after this they went to California to live, and my mother had my brother Brad there, in a town called Walnut Creek.

My father got accepted to Berkeley, but never attended. Later, they went back to New York and I and my sisters were born in small towns in upstate New York. We all stayed there until 1979, when we moved to Texas. My dad accepted a job with Texas Instruments. They recruited people from all over the country at that time.

I love this photo. My parents young and with their futures ahead of them. That's my grandpa right behind the cake. I never met him, or my grandmother on my mother's side.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I've Been Tagged

I've been tagged by the diva with a book meme.

I will not, however, be held to this count. It's only an estimate.

1) Number of books I own.

About 500. I counted up to 478, and then realized that I didn't really want to count all my sketchbooks, so that's what you get.

2) Last book I bought.

Annotated Grimm's Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar. It's got footnotes that tell some alternate story points and tells some fascinating things about these generally gruesome stories.

3) Last book I read.

I went to the library and got two drawing books, and a copy of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel, Vols. I and II. I heard the movie sucked, so I didn't go see that.
I rather liked the comic. I thought that I would, because I've never not liked something by Alan Moore.

4) Books that mean a lot to me.


The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Sure, I know what you're thinking, "like buttah", but that's not why. This book contains really beautiful language, and not a hint of Streisand anywhere.


A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony
The first in The Magic of Xanth series, and still the best.

God Stalk by PC Hodgell
The first quest story I read that contained an adventurer GIRL who kicks ass, and it's a really good book. My original paperback copy has been read about fifty times, and looks it. Atheneum published God Stalk in 1982, and the third of the trilogy came out in 2001. Long time to wait for the conclusion to a story.


The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein
The first sci-fi book that I ever read, borrowed from my math teacher. I don't like most of Heinlein's other books. And, I really liked this movie too. B-movies with a sense of humor can be better than A-movies, if you're in the right mood.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Funny in that wonderful dry, British way. If you haven't read Adams' non-Hitchhiker's stuff, you should. I really enjoyed both The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

Graphic Novels
Any of The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman.
Wonderful storytelling, with a framework of myth, legend, gods, magic, life and death. I particularly liked the story arc A Game of You. Neil made me remember that I wanted to tell stories, and that good stories still exist to tell.

Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman
The original four comics tell the story of a young English boy, approached by four men in trenchcoats who wish to show him the ways of magic. Some call him Tim. No, it's not THAT kind of book.

The X-Men by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
I grew up reading the X-Men, and still do when I get a chance.

5) Tag (at least) five more.

Um, not sure I have five more to tag as I seem to remember one or two of these people did it in the past, but here goes.






Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Father's Day

Father's Day began last week for me, and ended Sunday evening.

My mother decided to buy my father a gas grill he wanted, and asked if we (her children) might like to contribute to the hefty price tag. We said yes, so she waited about a week to call the store and find it and put one on hold.

I told her that such a large item might not fit into my trusty, small Honda, so she thought we could put it into my brother's Corolla instead. Sure, mom, as soon as you start using your magic shrinking powers. I asked my friend to loan us his small truck, and he reluctantly agreed, and even said that I could drive it. He's pretty particular about his things, so I'm actually quite greatful.

Saturday morning, mom and I traveled to the Sport & Outdoor Store to pick up the grill. Mary started off being bossy and cranky, and the young man went to the back to find our purchase. He asked if we minded black instead of silver trim in an already assembled version of our grill, so Mary said of course not and paid while I went and got the truck.

Then it took about forty-five minutes for them to load the 350 pound grill into the truck and tie it down. Ever try to fit two not-small people and a large propane tank into the cab of a Tacoma? Not fun. Plus the blanket that cushioned the truck came loose, and I felt like a really old woman driving so slow.

After driving the grill almost there, we stopped at my sibs house and asked them to come to the parents' house for the presentation to Dad. Jenny had to get dressed and Brad had to eat breakfast. Mary took the opportunity to sit in the front yard and have a smoke. That took another hour. But, we got it back to the homestead finally.

Dad looked really shocked and pleased. He thanked us all and hugged us. Apparently the good things didn't last long. I called over after we'd left the parents' and been gone for a while. Dad had hooked up the propane to cook a hotdog, and the damn thing didn't work. So, doing the logical thing*, my father took the grill apart to fix it.

Yeah, you read that right, he took it apart. Still couldn't get it to work. Sunday, he and my friend took the grill back in the little truck, and my father spent about an hour yelling at salespeople to take the damn thing back and give him one that worked, which they did. My father can be quite persuasive when he yells.

So yesterday, he put the new one together, and cooked my mom a burger, so all's well, yeah?
Anyway, I've posted an old photo above of my dad holding me right after I was born. I wish I had one that showed his face better, but you get what you get. He's got his tongue sticking out, so maybe that's better anyway, to show his personality.

*Not sure logic applies here, but he says it does, so I must agree, right?

Monday, June 20, 2005


I read Ursula V.'s livejournal pretty much daily. She's makes great art with a wonderful sense of humor, and her descriptions make me laugh more than the art, most times.

The other day, she made a post related to a discussion (scroll way down to see her comment) that started over at Pharyngula related to Narnia. For those of you that don't click links, the discussion centered on Ursula's disappointment that Narnia turned out to be a Christian allegory. For this statement, she received much grief, and at last count that post has over 200 comments on it.

I have to agree with her. I read Narnia at a pretty young age, but I don't remember exactly. Nine or ten, or something like that. Then, a few years later I learned that Lewis intended Aslan to be Christ. I didn't have a problem with Christianity at twelve, but this struck me as a crappy thing to do to a kid, and like Ursula I felt betrayed.

Here I was, reading a great, wonderful story about a group of kids in a fantasy world, only to find out later that the adult who wrote it had to sneak his agenda into MY* world.

I don't know if I'd have had the reaction had the message been about Buddha, but frankly that's an irrelevant line of thought. It wasn't, and thinking about that won't change the feelings that I had at twelve.

So I have a question for you: Did you read Narnia knowing that it was about Christ, or did you not know and have a similar reaction?

*Because don't we love these worlds we discover and come to feel we own them?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bateman, er, I mean Batman*

Let me be up front. I don't like Christian Bale. I don't think he's dreamy or cute or hot or any other form of attractive. I don't hate Christian Bale or his work. I do think that either his American accent needs refining or his speech impediment. Not sure which.

I went to see Batman this morning. Our family ritual works like this. Friday or Saturday, Brad or Big Brad (my brother and father, respectively) calls to let me know the name of the designated movie for the weekend. We always go on Sunday morning, the first show available if possible.

We (the Brads and I) always invite my mom, my sister Jenny, our friend Scott, and my friend Bear. We meet at Big Brad and Mary's house, and Brad drives us in his car. It's the biggest. Then, we drive to the theater about twenty minutes before the start, where we meet Scott. Scott parks in the first space under the tree, and Brad directly to the right.

Brad collects money from everyone, or not, and buys the tickets. We go in, no snacks, sit in the middle fairly close to the screen, and make fun of people until the commercials start. The commercials usually suck, but Scott's pretty good with the making fun, so we enjoy that.

Today, Mary and Jenny didn't go. Mary (my mom) doesn't do sci-fi, cartoons of any kind, or comic books. Jenny loves her sleep. Brad decided to relinquish stewardship of the tickets to me as we walked to the ticket booth. Which is fine, but I don't carry cash with me usually. So I had to ask Big Brad for cash, on Father's Day. I gave it back at the end somehow, but way to bait and switch.

We went in, watched the commercials, made fun of the people etc. The movie started. I didn't expect much, because I didn't know that Christopher Nolan of Memento directed it, and also the not liking Christian Bale. I liked it.

I'm not talking "Hey, this movie made me question my place in the world and all the choices I've made in my life," but "Hey, I think this seems to suit the spirit of the comic book." For those of you who don't know, I love comic books. I've been reading them forever, with the aid of Brad. He's got almost as many comics as a store, and goes for quality more than quantity. I've challenged my students to ask me trivia about the X-Men (comic), and they can't stump me. You can try if you want.

So, the movie. I liked it. First the good stuff. The visuals of the costume, batcave and batmobile worked well. I liked most of the Raz Al Ghul/origin stuff, and also the back in Gotham storyline. Michael Caine did great, loved his accent and character.

Now the iffy parts. Katie Holmes and Chrisitan Bale had NO chemistry. I didn't believe for a second that either one cared about the other. Bale spoke in this awful guttural voice as Batman, I guess to disguise it. The main horrible weapon made no sense for a variety of reasons, and even a cursory mopping up of the mess of the climactic battle didn't make it on film.

I'm unreasonably prejudiced, I'll admit. I watched American Psycho a few years ago, and cannot list all the reasons that movie sucked. Not the least of which was the stupid premise, but also because Bale didn't sell me on the psycho bit, even as he waved around a chainsaw.

Do you like comics? Do you like movies about comics? Do you enjoy Batman as dark, tortured hero-type? Do you like Christian Bale? Do Ninjas do it for you? Do you heart Mrs. Cruise? Would you like seeing Michael Caine play Alfred as a dutiful but smart-ass cockney? Do you enjoy love interests without passion? Will you watch needlessly convoluted super-villian plots and equally convoluted solutions to said plots? Need explosions and car chases in your flicks? Have you got the hots for Liam Neeson?

If you answered yes to two or more of the above, go see Batman.

*Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Photo Self Portrait

I've got a self portrait up at Distilled, if you ever wanted to see what I look like. Except I'm in diguise. I guess that's a true measure of my paranoia.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

I'm Frightened

When this can happen in our country, the land of the free, I'm a bit scared.

Since when does creating art deserve harrassment by the Secret Service? Perhaps we could take all of it and make a Degenerate Art Show, like Hitler did. Not comparing our fearless leader directly to Nazis, but free speech doesn't really mean free anymore, does it?

Soon, all the amendments but the Second shall disappear. Sucks to be us.

EDIT: Here's a related question. If a piece of art depicts the president with a gun pointed at him, but no overtly stated threat of harm, does it fall under protected speech? Someone I know insists that such art could be construed as an incitement to violence, and thus not protected. Please, let me know what you think. Even if you think that I won't agree.

HHGttG Game

I found the box for my HHGttG game. It came with what you see here. Clockwise from the left: yellow Order for Destruction from Cottingshire County, silver Vogon Order for Destruction, game box, sunglasses made of black cardstock (don't show up in the pic, sorry), Microscopic Space Fleet, navel lint, and 5 1/4" floppy disk.

I downloaded the game yesterday from a site, but haven't yet tried to play.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Text Games

In high school, a friend introduced me to HHGttG text game. I loved it, and bought it, and to this day still own a microscopic space fleet and some bellybutton fluff. I can't use the disk anymore, 'cuz, well, it's a 5" floppy. But, then there was Zork.

Here's a link that I got from Making Light today: Wiki Zork.

Technology at its most advanced.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Airing Your Dirty Laundry

I watched part of *gasp* Oprah the other day. She had on mothers and daughters, and they were hashing all their problems out on stage, in front of a live studio audience. And, you know how that crap goes. (Or do you?)

Oprah tends to side with one or the other, and of course most of her audience follows suit. Not surprisingly, the audience, the doctor and Oprah sided against the mother who was trying to control her twenty-seven year old daughters life. Then, when asked if she felt that they'd ganged up on her, she lied and said no.

I sat in the living room at my mother and father's house, watching this with them.
"Hey, Mom, that could never be you." I said.

"What? What do you mean?" she said.

"Well, this woman wants to know every detail of her daughter's life, and constantly interferes in it." I replied.

"No, that's not me." She said. "I'm not a controlling kind of person."

"Sure," I said, "but not only that. To interfere in your children's lives, you might have to get up off the couch. And nobody really wants that."

My mom looked at me for a second, looked at my dad, and they both started to laugh.

It's a really good thing that both of my parents have a sense of humor.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Carnival of Education #18

Come one, come all to the best roundup of stories from the front lines of education!

Read about the teacher whose students complain to the college dean about too much work! Read about the attitudes kids have toward their parents in public!

Be amazed! Be surprised! Tell your friends!

Visit the Carnival of Education #18!

I know, too many exclamation points. It was a thing. Get over it.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Several New Links

Go watch Pulp Fiction, acted out in thirty seconds, by bunnies.

Then, read about the bible, with illustrations in Legos.

And for Apathy Bear, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tor, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Boy Next Door

It's been a while since I've told a story about my past, so here's one so that I can move that gross photo down a bit. In my defense, spaceneedl did ask me to post it.

When my family lived in New York, we lived in the middle of Rochester. My parents rented a house on a street pretty close to the center of town, near a park and the reservoir. Our street was a great place, at least us kids thought so. We had block parties once in a while, and kickball games and Halloween rocked.

A new family moved into the house next door, and they only had one kid, but everybody knew he wasn't nice. That's something that's pretty easy to figure out, when you're a kid. It's almost like you can see immediately the deviance from the norm in other kids. This one just seemed wrong, even though he couldn't have been more than nine.

Anyway, I was out in the front yard playing one day. Don't remember what, not that it matters. The year was probably 1977, so I was only eight or so. I don't recollect exactly what I did, if anything, but the crazy kid got mad at me. And he overreacted. He threw a rock, and hit me in the head.

Now, my brother Brad happened to witness all of this. Brad's not exactly the aggressive type. He's a great brother, but beating people up never suited him. On this occasion, he reverted, I guess is a good word.

My brother ran over to that kid, as I ran into the house crying, and picked him up. He picked him up, held him for a second, and threw him onto the ground. I think at this point my sisters and I had gotten to the window, and my mom too, and watched this happen. My brother came into the house, and the crazy kid got up and went into his house crying.

Of course, that wasn't the end of it. Crazy kid's mom came over, all upset that my older brother (Brad's five years older than me) had picked on her little boy. Mom didn't let her in, but kept her on the porch as she enlightened crazy kid's mom about what he'd done to deserve being thrown.

Crazy kid's mom didn't agree with what my brother had done, of course, but she went away after Mom told her crazy kid had thrown a rock at a younger girl. We avoided crazy kid after that, even more than usual. They didn't stay in the neighborhood long, but while they did nobody played with him.

My head wound consisted of a large bump, which healed pretty quickly. I won't ever forget watching my brother defend me though. That part makes it a pretty good memory.

Obscene nectarine

So this image came out a little grosser than I wanted. Not appetizing at all.
Here you go, spaceneedl.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Strawberries. The nectarines looked a little obscene after I cut them.
This is from a challenge by Carmi in his post about photographing food.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Odd Links

A couple of links for those of you so inclined.
First, a story of the Abominable Snowman, told on Post-It notes.

Second, a cool book, that will appeal to our twisted friend, Apathy Bear. It's about bunnies. No, really. Go and take a look. You'll see. Just don't be drinking when you read the title.


I've got another new blog, this one called Distilled. On it I'll be posting drawings, I hope up to three times a week. One for the everyday matters yahoo newsgroup weekly challenge, one for Illustration Friday which has a theme, and then something on Wednesday. I'm working on that one. I think it's going to be digital, since I have a Wacom tablet and Corel Painter and I never use them.

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


My cat died today.

It's my fault really. She was sick, and I waited too long to take her to the vet. She was jaundiced and had liver function problems. She barely moved while on the examination table, and seemed to be laboring to breathe.

I could have spent $1800 to take her to a specialist, or spent hundreds this weekend to build her strength back with IV fluilds and force-feeding. But on Monday, they would have needed to do more tests to see if she could be treated.

My mom said when I told her the cat was sick, "You may have to put her down." That was actually the first thing my mother said.

I keep looking at the pillow on my bed covered with her hair, knowing that she'll never rest her head on my hand or touch my face in the middle of the night or chirp at the birds.

I don't want to talk about it really. I don't want anyone to look at me, because I don't really want to have to explain what happened out loud.

After the regular vet this morning, I took her to the emergency vet. The emergency vet explained all the procedures involved in keeping her over the weekend, and showed me the estimate.

I couldn't even say out loud What if I decide to put her down? but the vet understood my body language, and told me about that. I spent about ten minutes alone with Scully, telling her how sorry I was, and then told the vet that I wouldn't be admitting her for treatment.

So the doctor asked me if I wanted to be present for the shot, but I couldn't do that. And she said, "Do you need more time?" I said no, and she picked her up to take her away. When she got to the door I asked her to wait. I went to my girl and I kissed her on the head and said "Goodbye," and then took an empty cat carrier home.

Then I went and got a hug from my dad and came home to sleep most of the day.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Self Portrait Day

Go out there and discover some new faces. No, not out there, out THERE.

Wait, that's not real life, is it? Maybe you should back away from the keyboard now. I know that I should.

Go out. Go sit in the backyard and just make a quick sketch. It'll make you feel better.

"I'm going outside right now, mom. Yes, I know that I need the fresh air, it'll do me some good."

(mutter: "jeesh, some people. can't just let me do what I want. next thing you know she'll be asking me to do
something with my hair so she can see my pretty face.)"

Me 3, Anxiety 1

I did my presentation today, at a school called Poteet. Hm.

So, I didn't fall over, I only flailed for words twice, and everyone was very nice. It's not my material that I presented, so I wasn't as familiar with it if I had developed it. Still, trying to explain "null curriculum" to a bunch of people can go either way.

I love watching people make their art at these workshops. At least one person in the room disregards every rule the instructor gives, but comes up with a really great piece anyway. I instructed them to create a self-portrait and then fracture it, rearrange the pieces and glue them down to a contrasting sheet.

Several people ripped instead of cutting. One person arranged all of his bits like a waterfall on a really large background. Another decided his needed a three-dimensional piece on the top and built it but didn't like it. (Artists frequently feel this way about their own work. I just tell them that someone at the table is thinking "I wish that I could do that!") And several participants each made two drawings and then wove them together.

I wish I'd remembered my camera. So many of them looked great.

Picasso and Cubism today didn't suck.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Artist Trading Cards

There's this art form called Artist Trading Cards, or ATC. It's a special small format of art, 2.5" x 3.5", and it's one of the new craft things.

Honestly, I prefer my arts and crafts much more arts than crafts. I like drawings and original art far more than rubber-stamped and scrapbooked stuff. I really wish that people weren't so intimidated by drawing, but that's not something I can change for everyone. I do try to make drawing feel accessible to my students. Maybe it's working, I'm not sure.

I found this great site about ATC's today, called Art in Your Pocket: ATCs. It's got some great ideas for making them. Then, you have to trade them. It surprised me to learn that many groups exist for this artform, and they arrange face-to-face swaps or do them by mail.

I just spent the last two hours on my computer trying to make a self-portrait series of ATCs using the helpful PSD download from Art in Your Pocket: ATCs. It's fun, but too time consuming. My computer art teacher told me that for every hour you think it's going to take you to design something on the computer, it takes three actual hours. She was so right.

Tomorrow I'll make some physical ones. I might be able to do that a little more quickly. But, maybe not.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dark America

In the New York Times, one of the saddest articles that I have ever read.

"American openness has always been an inspiration for the whole world, he concluded. 'If you go dark, the world goes dark.' "