Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wayback - Trevor

This post is about my little friend Trevor. It originally appeared on September 9, 2004.

Today I was in the hall, delivering some students back to class when Trevor appears and hugs me. He looks up at me with his adorable face and says, "Hi. "

I hug him back for a bit, and then let him know that I have to go. "Trevor honey, there are students in my room and I have to go."
"Okay," he says, "I can come and help you with them."
"Well, not today," I tell him. "We'll have to talk to your teacher and find a really good time for you to come help me. Maybe we can try it when you've had a really good day and have been nice to Mrs. Smith." I hug him again and tell him to be good, and that I will see him later.
I turn to go back to my room, and there he is again.
He looks at me and says, "How much do you love me?"
I put my arms around him, look at him, and without hesitation I say, "I love you a lot."
Trevor turns up his face for a kiss, and although this is not something that I normally do, I kiss my little friend. He smiles at me and goes back to his class.

Monday, December 26, 2011

P. C. Hodgell

My absolute favorite book, other than Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is called Godstalk*  by PC Hodgell. I have no recollection where I got it, but I know that I loaned it to a friend and didn't get it back for at least a year. Mine is a very beat up Berkley edition from 1983. I have no idea how many times I've read it, and I can't believe it's not more well known.

Her world building includes one of the concepts that I remember from tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber, that gods exist because of belief in same, and must have followers to continue. This idea continues most recently in Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

I loved that this book had a female protagonist, a girl with no memory. She comes to a city called Tai-Tastigon and gets taken in by an innkeeper. Then she has adventures around the city, which has various organizations that of course include a thieves guild. Magic exists, and gods and other dimensions too. It's all fascinating stuff.

From Chapter 1, Jame (short for Jamethiel) staggers around the city on its most dangerous night:

Her legs betrayed her, and she went down, too spent to remember her bad arm until she tried to break her fall with it. Pain dazed her, spiraled her senses toward darkness. "Don't go," she heard someone cry. "Don't leave me alone, not again!" Yes, it was her voice, but this time no one answered. For a moment she clung to the image of that empty hallway, the last of her old home that she would ever see. Then it too slipped away.

The cobbles beneath her hand were hard and cold, glazed with ice from the bitter rain that had begun to fall. She lifted her face to it. It seemed to wash away everything - icy street, shuttered windows, even, at last, itself. Jame let them all go. Numbly, like a sleepwalker, she rose and stumbled on, beyond guilt and grief at last, moving blindly forward until the night swallowed all.

*Which isn't in print any more, you have to either buy a used copy or as part of an omnibus (also out of print) or reissue.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

February 2010

It's not snowing here, and it almost never does on Christmas. But, it has snowed in DFW in February the last two years in a row, so I posted these as a suitably Christmassy alternative.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, to you and yours, and may you be with those you love for more hours than those you merely tolerate. Here's hoping that you receive warmth, goodwill and love in addition to whatever goodies might be under your tree.*

February, 2011

*Or not, since maybe you don't celebrate Christmas, I don't know. I'm about as religious as my cat (or some suitably atheist person I can't come up with right now) and I still have family time and gifts and crap. I'm not judging. 

Sunday Cat

Calvin on his new favorite pillow, rearranging for more sleep. He doesn't like the flash either.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Frozen Breakfast Smoothie

1 1/2 c. soymilk 
lemon or orange zest
dash salt
4-5 large strawberries, frozen
1/2 c. blueberries, frozen
handful raspberries
1 scoop soy protein
1 banana, frozen

1 tbsp peanut butter or almond butter
1/2 c. oatmeal
spinach (haven't tried it yet)

Put the soy milk in a large measuring cup. (Mine is a 4 cup Pyrex, and I blend it and then transfer it to my travel mug to drink in the car on the way to work.) Grate the lemon zest in to the soymilk, about four or five times, and add the dash of salt. Add the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. I add the protein before the banana so that it gets covered by fruit and doesn't stick to the blender. Slice the frozen banana with a very sharp knife (I use a ceramic one) and put it in, then blend. When you freeze the bananas, wait until they have a few dark spots on the outside before peeling them and putting them in a container. The frozen bananas make it extra smooth, and there's no need for ice if all the fruit is frozen.  It's sweet enough without adding sugar or other sweeteners.

About two years ago I decided I should do something about my diet. Not to lose weight, though that might be a nice side effect. No, I looked at my food choices and saw a blandness that couldn't be healthy. I generally ate toast with butter for breakfast, a deli meat sandwich with cheese and mayo, no veggies, and chicken and some kind of mashed potatoes or pasta with cheese and tomato sauce for dinner. 

I saw Alton Brown do a smoothie show, and went directly to Amazon to buy a hand blender. This model lasted about a year, and then the gears (?) that attached the motor to the blade wore down and stopped catching. 

I bought the Kitchen Aid one, which is okay, but I'm not sure that I'm cleaning it well enough because of the way the blade assembly works. It's got a plastic disk over it with a sort of loose attachment, and I know food is getting under there that I can't reach. Can you get salmonella from that? Also the Kitchen Aid doesn't gradually speed up, it immediately hits high speed and splashes unless completely submerged, and sometimes even then.

I'd love a Vitamix, but I finally looked those up and I had no idea you could get a blender for the cost of an iPad. I guess $200 is the limit I'd put on blender prices in my head. I used to buy tiny bags of frozen blueberries and fresh strawberries from the grocery store. Now I buy giant bags of frozen strawberries and blueberries from Costco. For a little variety, I bought the giant tropical fruit mix, which had too many strawberries and not enough pineapple for me.

I thought I might tire of them, but I haven't. There are endless possiblities, and even several websites dedicated to smoothie recipes. One of my other favorites is banana, cherries and 2 tablespoons of sweetened cocoa powder.

Now I just have to figure out a way to eat more vegetables, which can be hard when you only like corn, carrots and sweet potatoes. Kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, beans, none of them appeal to me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wayback - My Little Friend Had a Bad Day

Back 7 or so years ago when I taught at the elementary school in a different district, we had a troubled, very young student. He had emotional and learning issues, and he and I bonded. Not all of the posts about him have survived The Great Deletion. Anyway, here's something about Trevor (not his real name.) This post is from August 23, 2004.

Last Monday, my first with Trevor, was a hard day for him. He has never been to school before last week. He doesn’t know the rules; he can’t do lots of things, and he strikes out when he doesn’t understand instead of asking for help. When you don’t know how to ask, you can’t.

My first grade class was writing their names on their work folders. Trevor doesn’t know not to do things with his pencil like poke people, throw it, and give it to someone and then grab it back. In order to help him learn not to do these things, I took Trevor’s work, his pencil and his ruler away. Trevor’s response was to kick the underside of the table for 10 minutes. Okay. I thought that we could start slowly. As I am making sure that the other 20 children don’t need me, I am next to Trevor after his tantrum telling him what he needs to do to get his folder back. I tell him that if he can wait for three minutes without kicking or making noise, then I will give his things back to him. Three minutes turns out to be way too long. I walk to him to ask him why he’s having such a hard time. He has his head on the table and his sad face on. I say, “You can do this Trevor. You can sit quietly. You’re a good boy.”

Without looking at me he says, “No, I’m a bad boy. Always a bad boy. I can’t be good, because I’m bad.” This almost makes me walk away and let him do anything he wants, but I must persevere, or he won’t survive here. I reduce the time to one minute. I tell him to watch my timer and then when it gets to one, he can have his things. I tell him that he is a good boy, I know he can be a good boy and that I love him.

He says okay, and away we go. This time it works. He sits and writes his name, and draws a bit, and then it is time to clean up and go back to class.
He looks at me and says, “You mean we can’t stay here? I don’t want to go back to the class. Why can’t I stay with you?” I hug him and say, “No, but you’ll do a good job in your class. I’ll walk down there with you.” The class lines up, and we go back to his class. I hug him again, and remind him that he is a good boy.

Then, last Thursday, his teacher comes to my door almost at the end of the day. I have my last class, and we will be getting ready to leave in 15 minutes or so. Mrs. Smith opens the door and looks in. I ask what she needs, and she says, “Trevor has been doing such a good job today. We had a talk, and I told him that since he wanted to see you so badly today, if he behaved he could come see you.”

Wow. She could have knocked me over by looking at me too hard. Nothing like love at first sight. I say yes, of course, and he comes in and sits and draws a little in the back of the class. He sits quietly and works, and after a few minutes I tell him it’s time to go. He shows me his paper, gives me a big smile and a hug, and goes back to first grade.

Today, I see Trevor first thing. He comes into school, sees me and I hug him. I tell him that he’s a good boy, and that he will have a good day. Unfortunately, this turns out to be less than true.

Later, Mrs. Smith’s class comes in and sits down. They continue using rulers. The other students complete their pictures and then begin to color them with crayons. Trevor picks up his ruler and starts hitting someone else’s ruler with it. He grabs the crayon box and puts it in his lap, four different times. I explain to him that he must share the crayons, but as soon as I move away from the table, it is in his lap again. I take his folder and ruler and pencil. Trevor tells me he doesn’t care, he doesn’t want it back. He doesn’t like me and he likes to be mean. He goes under the table.

I ask the two students at his table to sit somewhere else, for their own safety. At this point I have no idea what he will do. While Trevor is under the table, he starts humming to himself. I think, maybe this is what he does when upset, I’ll let him sit for a minute. I do, but then go to him to get him back in his chair. He seems calm, but then tells me that he is mean. “You watch out, I’ll be mean to you. I’ll call you names, I’ll call you a [brat], I’ll get you,” he says. The other kids hear this and gasp, and I tell them to ignore him. I tell him that he won’t do any of those things and then get him in his chair. He gets under the table again after I say that he will get his things back once he can raise his hand.

I send a note to the principal. When the student taking the note leaves, Trevor decides that he must follow the student, so I have to then guard the door so that Trevor may not leave the room. When the principal arrives, she tries to explain to Trevor that he must behave. He ain’t buying it. She accompanies us back to his class, at which point I leave.

I found out today that he's been abandoned by his parents and thrust on the grandmother, who also doesn't want him. Nothing like the innocence of childhood, huh?

Tomorrow he’ll probably be asking to see me again. I’ll have to deal with that when it comes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Three Things

1. My car wouldn't start the other day, so I took it to the garage and they couldn't get it to 'not start' so they didn't charge me anything.

2. I hate the cold, and it's only 45° outside. It's a good thing I don't still live in upstate NY.

3. My cat loves my fake fur blanket so much, he's been grooming it, and now it's damp, yay.

Go ahead, tell me three things.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Prince of Tides

Before Prince of Tides, the Movie, there was Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. The paperback copy that I own makes it look like a romance novel, and I'll post a photo of the back cover soon. I couldn't find one on the internet.

I've read it twice, and been in awe of Conroy's use of language both times. It tells the deeply moving story of one horribly dysfunctional family in South Carolina, and what happens when the sister of the main character tries to take her own life. Her brother travels to New York City to help her recover, and ends up telling his family's story to her psychiatrist.

Chapter 4 begins:
There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past. I am more fabulist than historian, but I will try to give you the insoluble, unedited terror of my youth.

Later, in Chapter 5:
I spent the first few days reviewing the tapes that so chillingly recorded the extent of my sister's breakdown. She spoke in hurt fragments of language. I wrote her screams down on paper, studied them, and each day startled myself with some clear vision of memory I had repressed or forgotten. Each of her phrases, no matter how surreal or bizarre, had a foundation in reality, and each memory led to another and another until my head blazed with small intricate geometries of illumination. the unconscious I began to encounter both wild fruit and vast disciplined vineyards. I tried to censor the superfluous or the commonplace, yet I knew large truths lay hidden in the clovers, sweet grasses and wild mint. As gleaner of my sister's troubled past, I wanted to leave nothing out but wished to find the one rose that might contain the image of the tiger when found blooming on the trellis.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Cat

An older photo of Hobbes, about a month after I got him. He and his brother love this windowsill most.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Finished Banana Bread

Here's the banana bread out of the oven. I made a double batch, and got eight mini loaves for my favored co-workers.

Stanley Tucci

I'm watching Easy A and thinking, "Wow, Stanley Tucci is hot." I have entered that stage of adulthood where guys who are dads and are over 50 can be hot. Conversely, I no longer find Pierce Brosnan attractive, as he's gotten a little too doughy for me, at least in Bag of Bones. But ohh, Remington Steele? That guy was hot.

And Matt Bomer? So my type, unless rumors are true. Also, I'm not so much consistent in my attraction to men. Huh.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Banana Bread

White Nut Bread 
makes moist, tasty sandwiches for luncheons* and lunch boxes.

3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. soft shortening
1 egg
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups GOLD MEDAL Flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350° (mod.). grease a loaf pan, 9x5x3" or three 20 oz. cans. Mix sugar, shortening and egg thoroughly. Stir in milk. measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting (see p. 6). Blend dry ingredients; stir in. Blend in nuts. Pour into pan or cans. Bake 60 to 70 min., or until toothpick stuck into center comes out clean. (Crack in top of loaf is characteristic.) Cool thoroughly before slicing with a thin, sharp knife. 

Banana Nut Bread
Make White Nut Bread (above) except increase sugar to 1 cup. Use only 3/4 cup milk and add 1 cup mashed bananas. 

Again from the 1961 Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book, my famous Banana Bread. I've never actually made the White Nut Bread, just sort of the Banana Nut Bread variation on the page below the main recipe. I don't really follow either recipe.

I have no idea why, but I got it into my head that it needed to be a spiced banana bread, so I fiddled with the recipe over a period of about a year. I don't increase the sugar or decrease the milk. I double the butter and cream it with the sugar. Then I add the egg and the spices. After my experiments, I settled on 1 tsp. of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg and 1/4 tsp. of cloves. I add two or three VERY overripe bananas and incorporate them. Then I blend in the milk, the baking powder and the salt, and lastly the flour. I never put nuts in my bread. I object to nuts in things on general principal, especially walnuts, which I hate, because they taste like sand.

I cook the bread according to the recipe, though I generally have to cook it longer because my oven temp is way off. I can never wait for it to cool so I immediately start to peel the yummy, crunchy crust off the top. It's good right out of the oven, or sliced into pieces and then frozen, microwaved and buttered. When I'm in a baking mood, I make a loaf to take to school for my mid-morning snack.

*From a time when people still used the word "luncheon." 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Things Wrong with Me - My Breasts

Offered without further comment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wayback - My Dad

Today would have been my father's 72nd birthday. Here's something I wrote about him from December 9, 2004 from before The Great Deletion.

My father stands about 5' 9". He's not very tall, but he has width. If he was a smaller object, you might say he had a good heft. He definitely takes up space, and he takes up space so well that people imagine him taller. His beard and white hair make him resemble either Santa Claus or Kenny Rogers, but he won't respond well to being called either.

His parents named him Brad, after his father, and he likes people to call him Brad, not Mr. He says that thing that older people say, you know, "Mr. X is my father. Call me Brad." He and my mom named my brother Brad too.

Growing up, my father played games with us. He did physical things, like hold us with one hand or let us grab his thumbs and walk up his body and flip over. My father the jungle gym. Later, when I got older, he played other games with us.

We had fun, mostly, except at Monopoly. My father insists that we play all games by the explicit rules, the ones written on or in the box. So, when we played Monopoly we had to own the three properties to build houses or hotels, we had to pay rent on everything we hit, and woe betide the person who asked if we could put money in 'Free Parking.' "Free Parking is just Free Parking," he'd say. "It doesn't say, 'Pay me for Parking here.'"

He and my mother share a passion for information and knowledge, and they've passed that down to their children. Each of us possesses knowledge about a specific area. Sometimes more than one. Brad my brother knows comic books, computers and computer games. Chloe, my sister (who just had a baby) knows reality TV, specifically Survivor and American Idol and the telecom business. Jenny knows music, all kinds of music. She knows the artist, the song title and probably all the lyrics too. I know movies and TV, and a little comics. (I love to astound my students by telling them that I accept all challenges to knowledge of The X-Men. Only failed to answer one question so far.)

My father and mother like reference books too, so we grew up with an unabridged dictionary, a giant encyclopedia, atlases and movie and TV show guides. Any time one of us said, "Mom, what does BLANK mean?" she or my father would go look it up, even if we didn't want them to.

I'm actually quite worried about my dad. Like I said, he doesn't take care of himself, and he drinks too much. We don't talk about it, except in passing. We all bug my mom about the smoking, so I wonder why that is? Big Brad won't talk about it.

A while ago, about a year and a few months now, my dad fell down. He hurt his hand and his foot. He lost a nail. You know, black and blue and then fell off? We had to have help getting him off the ground outside next to Jenny's pool. For a minute we thought he'd banged his head on the side of the house.

He got up, someone drove him home, and then he quit drinking. For a few months. Sort of like Mom quit smoking for a bit after the SECOND heart attack. Dad's drinking again, and I worry. He might fall down again. He might have cirrhosis. He might be pickling all his organs.

But, we don't talk about it. Not unless one of us feels especially brave that day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The One - AKA Hobbes

Following along with Carmi at Written Inc., here's an entry to his Thematic Photographic. This weeks theme is The One.  Because I lack a life outside of school right now you see something that I see everyday, for which the internet has an apparently endless appetite. At least on YouTube anyway.

Three Things

1. Taco Delite has great tacos, so much so that yesterday I went and bought six so that I could have two for lunch, two for dinner and another two for lunch tomorrow.

2. I've had Dish Network since I bought my house back in 2004, and I think it's about time for a change. They wanted to charge me a fee when their DVR box quit working, and the new one keeps doing weird crap.

3. Both the estimable John Scalzi at Whatever and Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Making Light have recently made "Three Things" posts. I'm in good company.

Go ahead, tell me three things.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mary Oliver

I've already posted this about an encounter my sister and I had in an airport with a woman who read us a poem by Mary Oliver. I'm endeavoring to cultivate more appreciation for poetry that doesn't have the words, "um", "baby", and "la, la, la" in it, so I went searching for more Mary Oliver to read since I loved "Wild Geese."

It seems I have a bird theme, which doesn't make much sense because I don't like birds. Here is an excerpt of The Swan:

Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Cat

Hobbes plays with his feather toy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Roast Chicken

Here's what the chicken looked like when I took it out of the oven. I wish I could find either bigger chickens or smaller turkeys, because I think that a 9 pound chicken would be about the right size.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Chicken with Stuffing

Bread Stuffing 
1 qt. for 4-lb chicken
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup finely minced onion
4 cups coarse or fine crumbs or cubes
1/2 cup chopped celery (stalks and leaves)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried sage, thyme or marjoram
poultry seasoning 

Melt butter in large heavy skillet. Add onion and cook until yellow, stirring occasionally. Stir in some of bread crumbs. Heat, stirring to prevent excessive browning. Turn into deep bowl. Mix in remaining ingredients lightly. For dry stuffing, add little or no liquid. For moist stuffing, mix in  lightly with fork just enough hot water or broth to moisten dry crumbs. Cool and place stuffing in bird when ready to bake. 

Every year my parents would get up early (late for them, early for me) on Thanksgiving to make dinner, filling the house with the most wondrous smells. They aimed for 1:00, but it ended up being more like 2:30. They would have us help, of course. Four sous chefs and table setters, Brad, Jenny, Chloe and Kate. Four nibblers of ingredients too. When Big Brad and Mary got hitched, they were given a copy of the Better Crocker Cookbook published in 1961, and they would use the turkey and stuffing recipe from it.

A few years before she died, my mother found a new one at the Half Price Bookstore that didn't cost extra. I found listings on Amazon that wanted over $100 for an "Very Good" condition. I have the old copy with my mother's notes in the margin as she refined the recipe over the years.

My sister Chloe makes Thanksgiving dinner now at her house about 45 minutes away, which means that I don't usually get leftovers. I decided to try making and stuffing a chicken and then I could keep ALL the leftovers (maniacal laugh)!

Mary's notes say to reduce the salt by at least a fourth to 1/2-3/4 tsp., and use 1 tsp. sage and 1 tsp. poultry seasoning.  I had to use olive oil due to a recently discovered milk allergy, but it still tastes really good. The chicken that I bought had a really small cavity. I could only get 3 cups of stuffing in with using the body cavity and the neck cavity too. Next time I'll just make my own turkey. It's about the same amount of work but then I get more stuffing and breast meat too.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Things Wrong with Me - My Skin

Obviously I'm not perfect. Who is, other than those political pundits, brave enough to cast the first stone? But there are so many ways that the world reminds me that there are all kinds of things I need to change and make better. Thinking about this as I got up and showered, I remembered that old commercial, for Dove, I think. No, it was Caress body bar. (Thanks, Google.)

"Shouldn't your skin be softer than anything that goes next to it?" That's a perfectly reasonable request, right? But this has nothing to do with cute kittens, you say. Wrong! Anything that goes next to my skin could be everything, so I have a lot of work to do. My skin needs to be softer than kittens, or a chenille sweater, or baby bunnies, right? That's a goal, that's something to accomplish. I'm gonna go work on that. Right after I go out and buy a pair of these shoes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wayback - Because I'm Crazy

When I vacated and then re-inhabited this blog years ago, I didn't put all of the posts back. I saved a few of them before the Great Deletion and want to put them back out here, either because I think they're interesting or because I'm too lazy to come up with new content. Anyway, here's the first in a series I'm calling Wayback. Here's a post originally made on September 11, 2004.

Every school has a few. Some we call helicopter moms (thwp, thwp, thwp), some we cringe when they come close, some have bright ideas that they know we will love but have absolutely no feasability. In our school, we have all of the above. Our neighborhood consists of primarily upper middle class residents, with a few lower class/borderline poverty residents too, so many of the maternal units do not have jobs and little to do but Volunteer At School.

One parent the other day had a bright idea for a school-wide project that she proposed. Her proposal: each of the elementary grade levels would be assigned a continent and learn about and create projects about it, omitting North America. Her idea: that different cultures more likely exist on different continents than our own. Now as the world has seven continents and our school has six grades, eliminating one of the continents makes sense. See if you can figure out why she left out the wrong one.

Other parents frustrate with the "I'm exempt from the rules attitude." Again, with many upper middle class residents we get a lot of that. "I have money therefore you can't make me follow the rules if I choose not to."

Our school secretary has to deal with most of these, and we have such a chronic tardiness problem that the truancy court judge in our area has lowered the number of tardies necessary to receive a referral to truancy court. (I used to count kids for the principal after the bell rang last year. One day we had over 100 students arrive after 8am. That's about 1/6 of our student population.)

One of the most egregious offenders of the "I'm exempt" persuasion had what  almost passes for a normal conversation with me yesterday. This man, Mr. Gisbourne, complained incessantly about the early start time of our school when his son started kindergarten last year. We start at 8:00 am. He kept telling anyone whom he could corner, "But I don't have to be at work until 9:30!" Should have kept his sperm in his pants then, don't you think?

Mr. Gisbourne also had a problem with our policy regarding where he could drop his child from the car. We have a carpool driveway, with a great system that (we think) keeps most of the children safe. He didn't want to wait in the line, so he would try to sneak into the teacher parking lot. When we started posting a staff member to keep this lane clear for the school buses, Mr. Gisbourne actually yelled at teachers. "Why can't I drop my kid off in there? It's more convenient for me." His child, not surprisingly, has much the same attitude.

The conversation that he started occurred in the morning as I was enthusiastically greeting all of the students walking in the door, most of whom I actually like. "Wow," Mr. Gisbourne said, "You're very cheerful and enthusiastic this morning. Why can't all of the people here be that friendly?"
So I replied, "Because I'm crazy."
He did not laugh or anything, although that had been the response I projected onto him.

He said, "Well, it just seems like some of those other people could be more pleasant. Why aren't they as pleasant?"
I said, "I don't have to enforce any rules. I'm just the art teacher, so I tell people what to do in my class. The ladies in the office have to tell teachers and parents what all the rules are, and nobody wants to follow them. That might make me cranky too."
Mr. Gisbourne said, "Oh," and turned to say goodbye to his son as little Gisbourne walked to class.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Three Things

1. These cookies ROCK!

2.  I love TV, but I'm so disappointed in it this season. I have deleted Person of Interest, Parenthood, Modern Family, Castle, A Gifted Man, The Secret Circle, Supernatural & Terra Nova season passes.

3. An article about comic books that doesn't use the line, "They're not just for kids!"

Go ahead, tell me three things.

Monday, December 05, 2011

E. E. Cummings

E. E.  Cummings is my favorite poet. I recently bought a poetry book called Poem Crazy. I loaned it to an English teacher friend who still hasn't read it, two months later. It reminded me of a Cummings poem that makes me tear up every time I read it.

love is more thicker than forget

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly

and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win

less never than alive

less bigger than the least begin

less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only

is higher than the sky

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Sunday Cat

I know that sometimes it's Caturday, but I pick Sunday as my cat day. So there.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Finished Chicken Soup

Here's a photo of the soup that I finished making today. It's really good, and will be even better tomorrow. To the recipe from yesterday I added: 3 large potatoes, 4 large carrots, and 2 celery stalks. Then I added a teaspoon of dried thyme and salt and pepper.

Friday, December 02, 2011

222 Posts

222 Posts, on the 2nd of December! That's got to mean something right? At least as much as 12-12-12.


CHICKEN SOUP* - In a large pot place 1 ea. 3 1/2-4# chicken, cut-up into 8-10 PCS. Cover chicken pieces with water. Add 1 small onion cut in half, unpeeled, 2 celery ribs cut in eighths, 2 carrots cut in eighths, about 20 whole peppercorns, 4-6 bay leaves, 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dry thyme). Bring the water to a boil and then love lower the heat and simmer for 3-4 hours. Remove the chicken pieces after 1/2 the simmer time. Cool and remove the meat from the bones. Return the bones to the stock to continue simmering. 

After the stock has simmered for 4 hours, remove from the heat and strain through cheesecloth or dish towel.

Dice carrots, onion, celery and potatos, as many as you want and cook in stock at slow boil until tender. Return chicken meat which you have chopped to the soup. Heat through and serve. Salt and pepper to taste.

 I'm making chicken soup tonight, and thinking about my dad. He was born in 1939, so would have been 72 in twelve days. I'm really lucky that I got him to write down some of his recipes before he had a stroke in March of 2008, so I have them in his handwriting. I'm also lucky to have had him to teach me a love of food.

He might have considered himself somewhat unsuccessful in that regard considering the long list of foods which I will not eat. When I was twenty or so, I finally decided to stop eating chicken tetrazzini and fish because I didn't really like it. Once a year or so after that, I would have to remind him about the tetrazzini. Not the fish. He never really stopped trying to get me and my sibs to eat different things.

Though he wrote many of his recipes down, he didn't follow them to the letter, which pissed off my mom mightily and she let him know it. She said they never tasted the same twice in a row. He would call her a "mouthy broad," and she would reply, "Shove it, Crowe." She would have been 71 in October.

*In caps not because I'm shouting, but because that's how my dad wrote it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sady Doyle

I heart Sady Doyle. And, I wish I could get every girl at the school I teach to read this article, Fight Like a Girl.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Three Things

1. I wish Revenge were on Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays.
2. My cat is going to die from chewing on electrical cords.*
3. Project Gutenberg is awesome!

Go ahead, tell me three things.

*Not my actual cat.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pain, It Sucks

I'm too old. I feel 75, but I'm not. I understand now a little better when my mom used to bitch about getting older. I've been having back problems for a while, and that doesn't help.

I went to my new GP, because I had to dump my old GP who didn't notice that my dad was yellow. And, who never ever x-rayed a man's lungs who had smoked for over 20 years. But anyway, my GP didn't want to help me. The new one. I had to whine and cajole the nurse over the phone. Then I had flashbacks to a bad relationship. It was ugly.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I now have an page here. It seemed like a fun way of putting my various things all on one page. And by fun, I mean "a way to waste two or three hours picking a photo and resizing it several times and then changing the photoshop filter on it and then messing about with fonts and colors of fonts." As you do. Though I'm not the only one who does this, I swear.

We have a friend who, whenever we play Rock Band, we secretly hope that he doesn't get it in his head to make a new character because that will make it a good forty-five minutes before we can even start picking songs. I'm just saying, there is such a thing as too much choice.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spy vs. Spy

I'm looking for a spy camera on Amazon for a project, when I click on this one. It's got several reviews, and one of those catches my eye. According to a comment, this person is a serial reviewer. I'm off now to see the rest.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mark Reads Books

I think I saw it on Neil Gaiman's twitter. He tweeted or re-tweeted about someone (named Mark) reading American Gods chapter by chapter and posting his reactions. I have not read the posts on American Gods, but I did read his other series on The Hunger Games and Twilight.

If you only have time to read one or two things, I recommend the Twilight series.* Those are hilarious (only if you don't take the Twilight books seriously), not least because they sum up the plots of those books accurately. Be ready for some oft-repeated phrases like "You are not prepared."

Anyway, I am hooked, and I'm now reading along with The Book Thief. And Mark is right. It makes you "cry ALL OF THE TEARS."

And, speaking of Twilight, if you are not reading The Bloggess, though let's face it most people on the internet are already, you should read this post.

*Not literally one or two things, because you will get sucked in if you start, I'm warning you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review of Breaking Dawn

Comics Alliance's Chris Sims watches Breaking Dawn so you don't have to.

"...because, you know, you always want your necrophilia to be fully sanctioned in the eyes of the Lord."

How I Didn't Go to Comic Con

We stayed in a nice condo in Mission Beach, on the Bay side.

We went to Sea World and did the Behind the Scenes tour again. I liked our last tour guide much better than this one.

We went downtown to have lunch at Burger Lounge*, but FAILED in our quest for tickets for the Con next summer. Afterwards, we sat in the lounge of the Hyatt and contemplated the feasibility of camping out overnight. But only for about thirty seconds. We decided instead that the Niece will get famous and get us badges to work her table. I did meet Robin Thorsen and Amy Okuda, very briefly. They had to get to a panel. : (

We had dinner at World Famous and watched the sunset at dinner. Which sounds great unless the sun is DIRECTLY in your eyes.

Then we said goodbye to the palm trees on the way to the airport and back to Texas heat and drought. We're still under water restrictions.

*If you go to San Diego and you like cheeseburgers, you MUST go to Burger Lounge. There won't be a place to sit, but you won't care because your mouth will be in heaven.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy Movement

I have been incredibly moved in the past week by two videos.

Non-violent student protesters getting pepper sprayed by police at UC Davis.
Chancellor Linda Katehi walking out of a press conference to the silent stares of UC Davis students.

The Newts of the world don't get it.

School Districts' HR Policies Suck

One of my co-workers needs an organ transplant. She's been on the list for years, and previous to that time has had to take sick days for her congenital illness. I'm leaving out specifics for privacy.

She told me today that not only does she no longer have sick days, but that though our district has what's called a "Sick Bank" where you can get extra days when other people donate them, she may not use any more because of the arbitrary number allowed in something called a "lifetime benefit."

 HR has told her that it creates too much of a "tax problem" if other teachers, friends of hers, were to donate days so that she doesn't get docked. This woman is wearing medical monitoring equipment to school. I don't even know what to say.

I have to do something about this. I'm going to do something about this. I don't know what, but with all the activism in the air, I can't not.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Teachers, Unprofessional Whiners

So a someone came by to vent about something I wrote in 2005. And I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but this is for 6thand6, I'm going to take it point by point.

"It is my opinion that teachers are the most unprofessional of all of the professions."
Yep, your opinion and you're entitled to it. You'd be ignorant and wrong, but that never stopped someone on the internet.

More about this, if you're so inclined, after the jump.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Am I a writer? I used to think so. I wrote 50,000 (not very good) words for NaNoWriMo in 2004.

I am not working. I am not writing. It's a balmy 80 degrees outside and I sit inside, unable to work on my current project or to come up with an idea for a new one.

I've written approximately 600 words for NaNoWriMo since the 1st of November. I feel like someone looked at me and said that I HAVE to write, and my response to that is the perverse impulse to do the opposite.

I told my father once that I never thought of myself as ambitious. He then proceeded to tell me the story of my efforts to get a teaching degree. The way he told it, I had ambition when it mattered. I wish that I could talk to him, if only to have him remind me of the way he saw me.

Would I be able to push myself to write things were my dad around to encourage me? Maybe. He and my mother seemed to like reading some of my writing.

I am having an extended self-pity party, brought on by my perceived inability to write anything non-derivative. On the project before this one, I found myself copying the opening sequence of another author's story without knowing it. Though being ten years younger, female and a different nationality might have imparted some difference in approach.

If I had any ability to follow through on goals (other than that one time), I might make some. As it is, I just want to not be a teacher until I retire. That's a goal, I guess.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Irony, It Does not Translate

So, in 2006 I had this idea to post something about how I believed that my mother had been a good mother and taught me to do things for myself. I was reacting to an eight year old boy who ruled his house instead of the adults in it.

Since then, I keep getting comments, almost always from "Anonymous" about how I should be grateful for what I had because their mom really was a selfish bitch or they didn't even have a mom so I should just shut the fuck up.

Except for this person:
"I took your writing for what it was. A bit sarcastic. A bit ironic. A bit humorous. A piece of your childhood and how you developed because of it."

Thank you AnonymousJuly27, for getting it. It made me smile, and also reminded me why I used to blog more, this feeling that I could write things that would connect with people.

In contrast, the next AnonymousAugust18 didn't get my point. Look at the subject and verb choices. They are feeling pain but at first distancing themselves from it.

From  "lifelong struggles [of] adult children", "they do better than anyone else out there " to the slightly more personal  "many of us have no idea what that is like" and "Denial and dishonest lacking authenticity and we are so done with that bullshit." 

It makes me wonder why so many people read what I wrote and feel the need to tell me, and the whole other three people who still read this blog, why my life didn't really suck and theirs did. My life did not suck, and I did not say in the post that it did. I have to agree with AnonymousJuly27, that it is one-upsmanship. Perhaps not consciously, because obviously these people feel real pain and maybe they're trying to work through it or let someone know how truly awful they feel about it. 

I have thought about changing the title of the post, and that then the comments about abuse and mistreatment might stop. But I realized today that I don't want to do that, and I will never consider deleting the post or changing the title of it again. "My Mother was a Selfish Bitch" made me feel better, and if it can make other people feel better by being able to comment on my life or their own lives, that's useful, regardless of my original intent for the piece.

Ladybrains, Tee Hee!

"We are no fan. . . of contemporary commercial YA; but we are not fucking dumb enough to argue that the problem is vagina."

"In the pink floral recesses of our tiny girlbrain, we seem to remember being told once that when a person makes his point using Studies, it is often helpful to use Actual Citations; otherwise he sort of sounds like he is Making Up a Lot of Shit. We would be especially interested to see the Study linking Joanne Rowling's choice of pen name to Biology. But what do we know about science! Tee hee!!!!!!"

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I'm so Booooooored!

That going to Wikipedia and hitting the random article button seems more interesting than anything else I could do right now.

Can you tell that school's out?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Testing in Texas

"Texas paid $90,665,041 to a company called Pearson on standardized student assessment for the 2010-2011 school year alone. The same site reported when the Texas Education Agency renewed its contract with Pearson for 2010-2015 to develop the new STAAR test, it was to the tune of $468,392,617, Duncan said."

I think I might move to Austin and see if I can work for Pearson. I could probably figure out a way to split $90 million dollars. And $468 million is only $93 million per year. Wait, that's an increase. Maybe they forgot to check the Greensheet.

I guess that state acted preemptively to get that figure locked in, right? Good on them for going for the bargain. I bet they brought in their best lawyers to negotiate that contract.

I bring this up because we're doing field testing for the new test at my school. Which is all online. But we don't really have enough computers for it. And, they're kicking me out of my room to put computers in it for testing.

Next year, the new state test will occur in the same two week period as AP testing. So apparently the TEA called the College Board and asked them to change the dates of AP testing. I think I cried when one of the administrators told me that. I would have LOVED to have heard that conversation.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Am a "greedy, chalk-dusted succubus."

Jon Stewart has me pegged. I have nothing else to add.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Car Trouble

Seven am.
Bought Coke.
Car died.
No phone.
Ask clerk.
Call friend.
Picked up.
School starts.
Tow truck.
School ends.
Ride home.
Money please.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reading Time

At the high school where I teach, we have a daily reading time. Research suggests that kids who have the opportunity to read each day will do better in school, on tests, one of those things, I forget. Probably tests, because tests? My life.

I've been reading a book out loud to my students and trying to do voices. I'm not that good at it, but I'm trying. One of them told me the other day that she liked the voices that I did, that it helped her to tell the characters apart.

I got to the end of the book yesterday, the climax of this story, and had only two pages of the book left. So I start reading the two pages, and the lead character has to say goodbye to the people with whom he's lived and the place where he's spent his childhood, and I had a hard time reading the words.

I started to get choked up, and cry a little. My voice would not come out right, no matter how hard I concentrated on not sounding sad. And those kids? Those high school kids that apparently I as a teacher (or so the news says) am failing? Those kids looked at me and didn't laugh. They didn't look uncomfortably away.

They shared with me the names of stories that made them cry, telling me that I wasn't alone. And then they asked me to start reading them another book.