Saturday, August 30, 2008

All Things Sign
Detritus from here and there---yeah, okay, it's Labor Day and I'm taking a break from active posting.

Metro Station
Alexandria, VA

Children Playing
Alexandria, VA

Home of Peace
Jewish Cemetary

Alexandria, VA

I photographed this sign in Washington DC during the last election cycle.

Imperial Light Cruiser
Senate Office Building

Washington, DC

Minneapolis, MN
Wonder how this will go over with Sarah Palin and the Republicans this week?

Gospel Truck
Washington, DC

We traveled this many miles and saw many of these signs--differing from state to state. Makes you think.

No Bozos
Kingman, AZ

Friday, August 29, 2008

Okay, I admit it. I'm going through withdrawal.

First it was Michael Phelps, the tightly-wound Chinese and their perfect Olympics. Every night I watched the spectacle.

Then America segued right into the Democratic National Convention. I began to follow fashion blogs on Michelle Obama, read commentary on Hill and Bill, and was surprised to hear a speech from John Kerry that was really fiery and natural. I spent many hours with Jim Lehrer and his PBS sidekicks, and watched every bit of the final speechifying at Mile High Stadium, joining 38 million other viewers (more than watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies).

I happened to like the set, but it did work better in the evening. For those of you who are also going through televisionland withdrawal, here's one final tidbit from that evening: Barney Smith.

Thank heavens the Republicans start in three days!
Just finished reading this book, and I really enjoyed it. I know so little about how farming works these days, more familiar with stories of farming in the early days of our century. It's an interesting read. I only wish it had some recipes (but that's another type of book).

I picked this up at Vroman's, a independent bookstore in Pasadena, when I went to join my sister Susan for a night (she was at a conference). We had dinner at a local place, then walked to Vroman's, each of us picking out some reading material and a chocolate bar. We strolled home, and talked the evening away while watching the opening ceremonies and eating our chocolate. I headed home in the morning; she went back to her conference.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Angel-Hair Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Start here: with fresh tomatoes from the garden, or good quality toms from the farmer's market.

Recipe is from an old Gourmet magazine (no date):
1 small clove garlic
1 pinch salt
3 lbs tomatoes (I used 4-5 large tomatoes)
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 lb capellini (angel-hair pasta)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (I used 1/4 cup of basil ribbons)

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with the pinch of salt, using a large heavy knife (or a cheap small one with lots of leaning on it).

Core and coarsely chop two-thirds of tomatoes (I left the skins on and it wasn't a problem). Halve remaining tomatoes crosswise, then rub cut sides of tomatoes against large holes of a box grater set in a large bowl (very important!), reserving pulp and discarding skin. Toss pulp with chopped tomatoes, garlic paste, lemon juice, 1 tsp. salt, sugar and pepper. Let stand until ready to use, at least 10 minutes and up to 2 hours.

While tomatoes stand, cook angel hair pasta in a large pot of boiling water (I didn't add salt), uncovered, until al dente, about 2-3 minutes. (Mine took about 4 minutes--test continuously so you don't overcook.) Drain and immediately add to tomato mixture, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with basil. Pass salt and pepper at the table.

Amazing! I loved this and it was really really easy and fast. Perfect for this week's weather (topping nearly 100 degrees).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Yes! A community college teacher!

Read all about Jill Biden at the New York Times. Biden's stock has gone up in my eyes because of his wife.

And Happy First Day of School to all the High School Teachers, Elementary School and Middle School Teachers, especially Traci, Liz and Rosalyn. When you get home tonight, put up your feet and have fun watching the Olympics--oops, I mean the Dem's party at their convention.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Why I No Longer Send Really Nice Gifts to the Bride and Groom

One thing in their favor: at least they sent a thank-you note. My receiving average is about 33% on that score. And to think I wrote over 250 hand-written notes. Both times.

We did receive one of our career-best bridal thank-you's last month from one of Dave's friend's daughter. She addressed us by name, mentioned the gift, expressed her enthusiasm for it (and it was merely a Target gift card--the wedding was far away) so much that she made us feel as if we'd done something really nice for her. We put our thank-you notes up on our refrigerator door to enjoy the notes. That one stayed up for a long time, as do the notes from my family.

I realize I sound a bit of a freak on this thank-you note business. Yep, certifiably so. I inherited it from my great-grandmother who was English and proper and had beautiful gardens. I'm willing to spot those who are unable to get them out everytime; my own personal batting average is far short of a hundred percent.

I guess I'm really railing about the lack of thoughtfulness on the part of much of the current crop of Brides-and-Grooms. They do the bit about being clever enough to include their registry information in their wedding invitations (horrors! don't even make me go there) making sure I know where to pick up their gifts and what they'd like. I have laughed at some of them, especially the ones who list television sets and high-priced items, better left for a shower hostess to coordinate.

I used to try and give a betrothed couple a plate from their china, or their everyday setting. I remember my china plate given to me by my piano teacher, Mrs. Shakes among others. I remember my mother when I use my silver, my now-deceased Aunt Ellen when I get out the Lenox platter. My sister's in-laws, the Pettys, gave me a beautiful cut-crystal pitcher, perfect for a small gathering. My sister brought a lacy tablecloth from Italy.

What will this generation of bridal couples remember? Stocking up on stockings at Target? Picking up plastic plates from Bed, Bath and Beyond? The memories of their wedding and wedding guests will fade as those things wear out. I suppose that's the way of this world, now: disposable, tossable, renewable, recyclable, impersonal.

Why should their thank-you notes be any different?
One of my favorite YouTube clips is "Matt Dancing." I found this funny background clip about dancing with the Huli Wigmen on YouTube this morning. I like the comments Matt wrote about the experience, embedded on the video.

Perfect for a Saturday.

Comments on the video from YouTube:
This was a surprisingly not-so-difficult clip to get. I arrived in Tari, Papua New Guinea with no plans or arrangements and no idea what I was doing.
I met Patrick on the runway and told him I hoped to find the Huli Wigmen. He said "no problem" and we hopped in a truck.
I visited some Huli villages and wandered around the area all morning. Patrick took me to the Wigmen's village and introduced me. It took them an hour or so to get dressed up, and then we had to sit around waiting for the rain to stop.
It stopped, then this happened, then I paid them for their time, and that was that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Women Shouldn't Rule.

Back to school this week. I took my camera to school this week for the ritual of photographing the students (so I can learn their names and faces). Here are some random shots on campus.

Vine-covered library building, built the year I graduated from high school.

Entrance to our rabbit warren of adjunct mailboxes, and on the opposite side, a long desk with 3 computers that mostly work. This sliver of the library has an open ceiling so the students at their computers on the other side of the wall can hear what we're saying. We whisper a lot.

Back to school also means students. On Wednesday, I was lolly-gagging in the room I had just finished teaching in and the students for the next class came in. We started talking, and politics came up. Student A (male) liked Ron Paul and no one else, so didn't think he'd vote. He'd seemed bright enough. Student B (female) said that she really though Bush had done a great job. She was relieved that Hilary didn't have the nomination, because what's Hilary going to do when she has PMS? Bomb a country? She chuckled at a joke that had obviously gotten some mileage around her house.

I commented that at Hilary's age, she was probably past PMS-ing. Student B took that in, then blurted out: "Well. . . women just shouldn't rule."

I let that one sink in, then offered that Maggie Thatcher hadn't done such a bad job, nor was the German chancellor Angela Merkel a slouch either. Student A piped up with"And Golda Meir--wasn't she okay, too?" I nodded.

I was dying to ask Student B if she was home-schooled, as her political position seemed to be in line with other home-schooled students I've met.

Women shouldn't rule. Welcome Back.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympics Pictures, Beijing 2008
The Swimming Cube

Dancers (with LEDs on their costumes) from the Opening Ceremonies
(Mike Blake-Reuters)

The drummers from the Opening Ceremonies
(Adam Pretty-Getty Images)

All these were from the Washington Post--the cube is from a Post photographer, and the others were taken from their Day in Photos section (a real treat--another view on the world). Head to Washington, then to News, then Photo/Video. They have several categories of photojournalism, but I like the Day in Photos best.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Me. Tonight. Nite-nite.
Happy First Day of School
I'm following in Keagan (l) and Emilee's (r) footsteps and heading back to school today. I'm all ready to go and it's only 9 a.m. I've picked out my outfit, printed out lesson plans, read my daily dose of a very irreverent blog that helps keep the snarkiness at bay, packed my bags, and gotten the copies of my syllabus and course calendar from the printing services. I can hardly wait to meet the students and solve the problem of Finding A Parking Place (they don't ticket for the first two weeks, so students park in the faculty parking slots). I've got a full tank of gas so I can circle for some time, if needs be.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Barbara,
Happy Birthday to you!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Italian Chapel
July 2007

"But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

last line of the novel Middlemarch (1871–72), written by George Eliot


from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion book

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups flour

1/2-1 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

In a mixer bowl cream together the shortening, butter, sugar, vanilla and baking powder, beating until smooth. Add the eggs, again beating until smooth. Add the nutmeg and flour (mixed together), scraping the bowl occasionally.

Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl (or a large plastic bag).

Roll the dough (about 1 Tbls each cookie) into balls, then roll it in the cinnamon-sugar (or toss it lightly in the bag, very gently). Place on prepared cookie sheets and bake for 8 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Cool on rack and store in air-tight containers.

Yield: about 7 cozen cookies.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy 19th Anniversary. . .

. . . to us.

Made with composite satellite pictures of the Nile River.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Road Signs

The context:
Cooking up a new assignment for Fall's 101 class which involved making Life Maps (not the touchy-feeling Oprah kind) but more evaluating their life kind. Oprah's wants your hopes, dreams, goals, aspirations (cue the music) but I want the student to use the skills of evaluation to talk about where they've been, where they are and where they see their future to be. A slightly different twist--analysis is the name of the game rather than fairy-tale wishes.

Some can be done in map-form, so I was searching on Google image for Life Maps and found this gaggle of signs.

The others I posted on the newest Eng 101 blog: Assign Me Something.

If anyone in the reading audience wants to make me a map for a sample, I'd love it. Deadline?
1 October of this year. I'm trying cook up a few myself.

If I get any takers, mail them to me and I'll take photos and post them on the blog. Or--if you don't want to part with it, mail me a photo and a description.

Below is the assignment sheet, thus far. I may add more. . .
Assignment: Evaluate where you are, create a visual representation of that. In addition, write a short essay (1-2 pages) about your memoir, your evaluation.

To begin, read the text pages: 258-9 (intro to chapter), and "Analyzing Writing Strategies" 265-267. Although it may be tricky, we will morph the idea of evaluating a movie or book to evaluating your place in the universe, county, county, family, world, university, education, etc.

In other words, you choose the context and place yourself in the middle. Think of it in steps:
1) Evaluate first by presenting the subject: you and the place where you have set yourself. However, this is more than a simple timeline of Big Events. A timeline is linear in form, and yours may be more far reaching, loop back on itself, or twist over the top.
2) Then somehow give an overall judgment of this. Are you satisfied with where you came from? Where you're going? Your progress thus far on this journey you have identified? Are you satisfied with your place?
3) Next, provide support for this judgment. Identify the reasons why you are where you are/what you are/who you are and somehow create a visual representation of this in the form of a map. You identify the reasons, and how each section of your map provides support for the judgment.
4) You know yourself the best—or do you? Discover your own voice, your own journey, your own map by freewriting first, brainstorming ideas. Look at the ideas on the blog and remember that Thoreau said "Simplify, simplify." You'll have too much information. Simplify so you don't visually overwhelm the viewer, saving the best, discarding the rest.
5) Now you will, in words, reflect on the map you made, explaining what you have done and what it means. In the 500-word essay, include the basic components of evaluation.

Joseph Cornell, a famous artist who created small boxes of art, first wrote and wrote about his subject. Then he would circle words that either jumped out at him, were easier to illustrate, or had significance to the project as a whole. You may choose to work this way: writing your essay first, then mining that for visual ideas.

Lastly, I want you to take your analysis a step further. By looking at this map the way you would any map, where does this map point to? You will have to think beyond yourself and anticipate how others will respond to your creation. This further means that as you work on your map, you need to think about why we make maps, who your audience is, and how your self-portrait map reflects cultural, familial, socio-economic issues and how this all relates to you.

On the day we present these in class, I'll expect some sort of oral explanation from you (1-2 minutes), but please please don't merely read your essay. I'll also be taking photos of your maps for future postings on the web. Head to where you'll see a collection of maps made by other students.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Mueller's Muscle Cars
San Bernardino, CA
February 2006

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Swiped this photo from Dave's niece's blog--so appealing with the red cherries and turquoise baskets.

Thanks, Lisa!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Still watching TED, now while trying to put bindings on quilts.

This talk, by Steven Levitt, is on how seat belts for children over two statistically are just as effective as car seats. Once in a school class, we had to look at new law being enacted and debate whether it was efficacious. I chose the law about children only in the back, protecting them from air bags, largely because the assumption was non-compliance with car seat usage.

When I went to the data posted by the National Highway Safety Board, they gauged the compliance by posting observers at intersections and counting those children who were in car seats. The compliance rate was actually very high. But the piece of data that I found most riveting was the numbers of elderly who were harmed by air bags, but no law anywhere was on the books that they should sit in the back.

I felt like the law in California was written/proposed by some jr. congressman/woman who wanted to brag to her district that she'd gotten the law on the books. I was never, given the data that I saw (posted on this lawmaker's website) entirely convinced that this new law didn't fall somewhere between good intentions and politics.

I'm only one person and my review of the all the data wasn't comprehensive, I'm sure. Shortly thereafter Barbara drove down to visit us, bringing young Keagan. Previously she had ridden facing backwards, in the front, as there were no air bags in Barbara's car on the passenger side. Now Keagan was in the back, and she screamed bloody murder for nearly two hours on the way home, while Barbara tried to drive with her arm over the seat holding in the pacifier. It seemed to me that if Keagan could have seen her mother, been touched by her mother, it would have been a safer drive.

I have thought many times of my grandchildren strapped down in their car seats on long drives, their muscles just aching to move around a bit. (I'm happy they have videos.) If Levitt's data (and analysis) holds true, maybe we should all be writing to our Congressmen/women asking them to slide out from under the grip of the carseat lobby and really take a look.

Again, as Levitt said, there's more data to analyzed. The amount of sorrow and guilt that a parent in this generation faces if they don't "do the right thing" is enormous, so we must always err on the side of extraordinary caution. But perhaps, just perhaps, it's okay to look at the data another way and to consider other options (as he does in the end of his talk).
Everyonce in a while for some (more often for me this summer) your brain just need to vege.

(By the way, saying "vege" for your brain is fine. Saying "veggies" for vegetables is not. This is my world --er-- blog, and I get to make the rules.)

So I head to Blogger Play and watch the shots roll by. These are all the pictures being posted, in a running slideshow, and I catch another glimpse of this fine and varied world we live in. I captured some from last night's session and am posting them here. It's a good way to flat-line your brain cells for a while. And to re-discover your link to humanity.