Sunday, January 28, 2007

Washington, D.C.
December 2005

They Can Do It Right
Washington, D.C.
December 2005

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Long Week

Smokey Hills
January 2007
Yucaipa, California

Orange Building with Shadows
January 2007
Yucaipa, California

Tree Aflame
January 2007
Yucaipa, California

I found out yesterday that a long-worked on project had fallen apart. Where I thought this project had been put to bed, securely tucked in awaiting a lullaby, it had now climbed out and was asking for a drink of water, a snack and to watch another television show.

Today I awoke, heavy-hearted, and feeling very unfit for the labor ahead of me. A normal day on this earth, I suppose, to be added in to the others where gratitude, good fortune and blessings seem to be as abundant and as calming as an orange sunset.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Meet My Neighbors

Today I was bored with my work, so I started clicking the "next blog" button to see who was on the other side of my site. Thought you'd like to know who the neighbors are on my Blog Block.

First up, Mari from some cold Scandanavian place. (We have an international community here on my street--you ought to see our potlucks!)

Nannette, with some sort of appendage on her name. Nannette-icle, like Chron-icle? She's from LA and imparts counsel like "Everyone needs improvements on themselves." She shares a house with Drama Queen (below), and brought a plastic clamshell container of Five-spice Chicken from the local Chinese takeout to the potluck, althought she did make the sticky rice herself.

Ellen Sofie Hetta is out of town right now, serving as a missionary in Bangkok. If I could lay on the beach and talk on the cell phone with friends like Lise, I'd sign up too. Her cousin's staying there while she's gone, but I don't see her at all.

As it is, I'm a missionary for the English language here in my hometown. A sample from a recent (unedited) email homework: "Your wearing blue and i found the picture in the staff information. I work at redlands Security Company I work 40 hr a week. I taken english class before. My major is busnises manegment. My intrest is my new born son born this year on new years day."

Thanks for writing!

Speaking of writers, on the other side of me is Virgil. Every morning he picks up his paper off the driveway in his blue terrycloth bathrobe, his pipe already firmly clenched between his teeth. When I go on my walks, I hear him banging away at his manual typewriter--no keyboard for him, please. Today's musing details a list of what writers do: "Writers write, for one."

Well, some do. Others blog. I never see Virgil again until the evening, when he goes out to get the mail, dressed in a worn flannel shirt, faded olive cords, and (dare I say it?) penny loafers. He brought Doritos and Safeway brand guacamole to the potluck.

Next to him is the retired doctor, who always forgets to encrypt his wireless, so that Virgil, when he forgets to pay his bills because he's on deadline, can still access the internet from his upstairs study window. (He confessed this when the power went out one summer and we all sat around on the doctor's driveway, shooting the breeze until we could escape back into our re-electrified, re-air-conditioned houses.)

Shortly after posting "How much does your heart cost?" the doctor (never did catch his name), died of complications from his plastic surgery. His wife and son haven't kept up his posts, so I don't really know what's going on with them, or how much my heart does cost. I just know a broken one is way more costly that you think. We still talk about the bacon-wrapped scallops they grilled on their barbeque for the potluck. (Turns out they were from Costco, but who cares?)

Finally there's a young woman who lives in the red one-story stucco across the street. She tends to drive like she's always late and while talking on her cell phone. She has the biggest sunglasses you ever saw and last week ran into her own mailbox. We wait until she's gone for the morning before pulling out. We never see her come in at night, but occasionally in the wee hours, there's a lot of laughing that echoes out from her backyard. I don't know how Nannette stands it, as she looks like a very sensible young woman. I do know Drama's a good cook--she brought a huge chocoloate cake topped with fresh raspberries to last year's 4th of July potluck. Nannette confirmed it was homemade ("You should see the kitchen!"). We didn't pursue the topic.

And that's the neighborhood--at least the only ones I come in contact with.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A First in the Nigerian-Scammer-Dept.

I received this today and when I scanned down and saw "Transfer von 18.5 Millionen US Dollar" I realized that the Nigerian scammers are now bilingual. Other telling phrases are: "South Africa" and "für Sie profitables" recognizable even if you don't speak German, which--other than the phrases from Sound of Music--I don't. As you can imagine, the spellcheck on the blog went crazy.

Guten Tag to you too, Fraulein, and do you really live on the Wolfgang Estate?

Guten Tag, ich habe Ihre Kontaktadresse von einem vertrauenswürdigen Bekannten erhalten, dessen Namen ich im Moment nicht nennen möchte erhalten. Ich möchte Ihnen ein, für Sie profitables geschäftliches Angebot unterbreiten. Es handelt sich hierbei um den Transfer von 18.5 Millionen US Dollar . {Edited for brevity.} Ich habe das gesamte Erbe meines Mannes veräußert und verfüge nun über eine beträchtliche Summe von 18.5 US Dollar. Dieses Geld möchte ich nach Europa senden. Hierfür bitte ich um Ihre freundliche Unterstützung. Ich möchte das Geld investieren und würde auch hierfür um Ihre Hilfe bitten. Für diese freundliche Unterstützung möchte ich Ihnen 20% des Geldes zukommen lassen. Ich hoffe auf Ihre baldige Antwort und verbleibe höflichst
Dr.Brenda Wolfgang
Wolfgang Group of Companies Ltd

Wolfgang Estate.

47 Strand Street
Cape Town 8001 South Africa

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Saturday's Post: All Things Fire Truck

The most excitement we've had around here for a long time was
yesterday's fire in a neighbor's garage.

I was tired of staring at English 101 lesson plans, so it was a welcome diversion.

Something caught on fire in the water heater closet (don't they read those things about NOT storing anything near the water heater?) but after busting through the garage door, and drowning the box with fire hoses, it was all pretty much over.

So I started noticing the fire trucks, the fire fighters, and how it must have been a slow day it was for fires as we had three fire engines and two trucks.

After a few minutes it was all over.
This truck is backing down the hill and I took this shot just as I returned home.
We drove by the neighbor's house last night and the garage door was back in place, the drowned boxes still on the driveway.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Active Learning

Last night we had our college orientation for Part-Time Faculty (our newest incarnation, although I still prefer "Adjunct Faculty." There's no part-time anything about my job, except the pay.) It was on Active Learning.

To drive the point home immediately, the presenter turned on his Powerpoint slideshow.

It could have been this slide, but it wasn't. Right there, we have a dicotomy: do we lecture in a "non-active" approach (static podium approach with lecture, Powerpoint) to get the idea of "active" learning (aka, Ditch the Lecturing) across? I focused on the free sandwiches with the crunchy bean sprouts while he went through a few more slides.

It was getting worse. I remembered the class where I had the students read Edward Tufte's thoughts (no, actually, it's a diatribe) against Powerpoint, and contrasted it with David Byrne's views (he's the lead singer in the Talking Heads).

In it, Tufte makes the point that most Powerpoint charts are "chartjunk" (nice example above from the web) and that content per slide is very low. (See Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in slideware.) What Powerpoint (or other slideware) is good for is managing slides, that it to say images, etc. I see it used in its best way when I go with Dave to his scientific conferences. Content per slide is extremely high and the best presenters rarely read their slides, but instead reference them. My sister uses slideware in teaching her history classes, where the presentation of images would be a natural fit.

David Byrne used the slideware as a new method of digital art, and made his statements as if it were a series of visual images.

But English 101? A lecture on Active Learning? When the presenter begins slideware show, it sends a message to the listeners that there is a path through this material, thought out beforehand and there will be minimal deviation from this path, Thank You For Listening.

Where I was supposed to be internalizing something like the chart above (Convert! Convert!), the whole evening felt like this:

. . . a bunch of carefully prepared slides that I had to wade through,
figure out, in order to get to the end.

So like a good girl,

I ate my cookie, tried not to think about anything.
Move Over Minnesota!
This morning it hailed for a huge 5 minutes.

Then it snowed. That lasted about 4 minutes.

Okay, now we're back to normal. But it is very cold.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

When You Whack Upon a Star (my apologies to Disney)

When you whack upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your game
No request is too extreme
When you whack upon a star
As players do

Like a bolt out of the blue
A good racket sees you through
When you whack upon a star
Your dreams come true

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Jello Girl shows us the way to have a happy and healthy new year, not only by exercising, but by eating lots and lots and artificially colored and flavored gelatin with no known food value. But to look on the bright side (Jello Girls always look on the bright side in their strawberry bubble dresses), it's low-fat!

Monday, January 01, 2007

It's official. After our Christmas Open House, a multi-stake dance for the youth, a fireside, two meetings and a partridge in a pear tree, my brain has turned to gelatin. Check in tomorrow when Jello Girl exercises.