Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A very funny post on Rate Your Students, a blog I head to when I need a laugh, or see other profs angrier than I am on a bad day (in other words, there's a lot of profanity, so be warned). Here's this year's Thanksgiving Post:

What will Thanksgiving be like if my Chemistry 101 students are in charge of cooking?

Based on my typical course dropout rate, 20% will walk out of the kitchen before we are halfway through warming up the oven.

I’ll have a mountain of pointless INS and Homeland Security forms to fill out just so my foreign students can use a potato peeler.

Given the rampant cheating on campus, many of the future chefs will copy each other’s recipes, resulting in mashed turkey stuffed with green bean casserole, sprinkled with cinnamon and marshmallows. Others will sneak out, buy a roasted chicken and side dishes at Boston Market and try to pass it off as their own.

A few dopes will forget what holiday it was and bring Halloween candy.

Since the turkey has to cook at 325 degrees for 4 hours, somebody will try to turn the oven to 1300 and then complain, “math is so hard!”

Half a dozen engineering students will show up with the most high-tech meat thermometers but not know how to use them.

After burning the rolls, a student will explain, “but that’s how my high school home ec teacher told us to do it.”

They will complain to the Dean that the dessert recipe is too hard. I will be told I must allow students to substitute a carton of Wal Mart brand ice cream for homemade pumpkin pie.

After receiving failing grades for their work, they will ask if they could bake some Christmas cookies for extra credit.

Of course, supervising the students will be handled by a graduate student who learned to run a kitchen during a one-hour orientation workshop at the beginning of the year and doesn’t speak English. I’ll be on the couch watching the Cowboys game, and for that I am very thankful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Red Leather Chairs, Soda Store and Chinese Dumplings

After the morning's events, and since we were already in the Grand Old El-Lay Basin (Los Angeles), Dave and I decided to hit a few different places that had been on our T0 Do List for a while.
First stop: Macy's Furniture Clearance Center. Unlike my daughter, who is nesting because she's due with her third baby at ANY MOMENT, I'm nesting too but in the older, Empty Nest Fashion. Which means rearranging all the furniture and declaring that I'm Sick To Death of the way things have been around here for the past twenty years. I mean, we haven't changed the layout of our living room since we plunked down the furniture when we first moved in.

I sat down in this red chair; it swirled around a bit. Then it rocked. We'd seen a rocking chair at a garage sale on our way in this morning. Dave offered to go and get it for me, but this was better. WAAAAAY better. We got up, tried a few more chairs, looked over the bashed and damaged and missing-handled furniture, then went back and sat in the chairs some more. We really liked them.

I called our decorator (Barbara) and she laughed and said we were going more modern and was that okay? Really, a very comfortable chair. Really it was going to be okay. And in the fastest Home Fashion Decision ever of his entire life, Dave said, "Want to get them?" Yep. So we bought them, loaded them in the car and went on the next stop.

Galco's Old World Grocery Store.
I first heard about them on an NPR radio broadcast, and hurriedly scrawled down the name.

Over two-hundred varieties of soda, including this one: Mr. Q. Cumber.

Multiple kinds of root beers, birch beers, sarsaparillas, apple beer, fruit beer, fruit sodas.
Old Timer and Baby Boomer Heaven.

We wheeled a cart around, picking and choosing and choosing some more.

Sometimes I took a photo because I loved the name, like this cola, called Cheerwine Cola.

Leninade--a party in every bottle. Very clever sayings on both side of the bottle.

I think they were advertising the fact that it was made with pure cane sugar. That actually seemed to be rather important. I guess corn syrup's the new villain now.

I'd heard my Dad talk about egg cream soda. Here it is, from the Egg Cream Soda Company.

Dog N' Suds Root Beer.

We weren't interested at all in their beer section, except for the packaging of this one:
"Monty Python's Holy Ale: Tempered over burning witches."

This one's got Moxie.

The next stop, for we were really hungry by now, was the Din Tai Fung Dumpling House. We always get the Juicy Pork/Crab Dumplings and green beans--without MSG. This place is one of our favorites.

Then we stopped at Crate and Barrel for Dave's gifts to his lab assistants and lab rats (the grad students). We went to Victoria Gardens Shopping Center. It was packed--PACKED!! I forgot it was the week before Thanksgiving. After we finished that task, we took a quick look upstairs and saw multiple barrel-type leather chairs--even one in red. (Actually ours are named "Cranberry.") We feel so with it, for at least a year. Then home, driving the freeways in a glorious sunset.

Of course we had to try the sodas. So the first we tried was Mr. Q. Cumber. The owner said it was a really good soda, if you like cucumber. We do. It was really good, and tasted and smelled like fresh cucumbers, but sweet and bubbly. Very refreshing. We'd buy this one again.

So here they are all--everyone we bought, all lined up. We had the Calypso Mandarin Lemonade today with Sunday lunch. Eh. Bland and sweet. Not getting that one again. We tried the A&W Root Beer Float for snacks. Another eh. I thought it tasted like chemicals, but with a root beer undertone. Awfully sweet. No fizziness and it was kind of a grey, root-beery float color, but not extremely appetizing.

I reminded Dave of when we were first in Riverside and we were invited to a department event: a wine-tasting and potluck dinner. I think we were the first non-drinkers they'd had, or something, but we had a "water tasting." Right.

So all the wine bottles were wrapped in foil, as were the water bottles. We were supposed to taste each one, then give a guess as to what it was. I failed miserably, but I knew I wasn't a water snob (or a wine afficiaonado).

However, after our visit to Galco's, I think I could become a root beer snob, for sure.

Friday, November 21, 2008

And here's something fun!

I changed the background of my Google email to Cherry Blossoms.
It makes me smile as I read student emails.
She calls this one Light and Shadow.

I call this one "owie" as I don't know what she calls it.
I named this creation "Girls Listening." She said she wanted to make a record player that they were all listening to, but she got too tired, so now she supposes they are all listening to each other. I like that better.

I wanted to buy a set of flashcards of this poster to give to all the grandkids, but when I went to her commercial side of the blog, there weren't any for sale. Maybe she'll re-issue them?

So who is "she?" She's Michelle Romo.

When I'm too tired of floating in the Grading Galaxy, I mindlessly surf the web, and began tonight with one of my favorites: print and pattern. That slung me over to Crowded Teeth, a year-long project of Michelle Romo, a designer. For her 25th year she decided to make a piece of art a day, and post them on her blog. It was amazing to stroll through her creativity and creative cycles.

Her artwork is above. She talks a lot about being tired. Yeah, I'd be tired too. But really excited if I could keep at something for a whole year.

I recently bought an 18 month journal, and on Election Night I decided that I would begin writing in it. I'm not writing it for any reason but for that the reason I wanted to see if I had enough discipline to jot a few lines every night. I was doing fine until this Wednesday. Now I owe three nights to my journal. I can't even imagine having enough discipline to do 365 art projects in one year. I'm in awe. And tired just thinking about it.

She says this is about LA traffic.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two More Fire Images (from LATimes)

A surfer at Huntington Beach surveys the smoke hovering over the ocean.

I assume this is our Freeway Fire, a clearer shot of what we took earlier.
The Weekend's Business:
1) Say Good-bye to the Sofa of Many Colors

As soon as it was posted on Cyberstake--a listserv from the church--Evan Eastman (yes, Jessica's husband) said he had a Home Teaching family who needed a sofa. I don't think he looked at the photo on the listserv because he seemed kind of surprised when he saw it.
But they took it anyway.

2) Watch the progress of the fires.
The weather has been hot, with the Santa Ana winds careening through the area with hairdryer weather, as I call it. This is a shot from the 91 Freeway and Central Ave, showing the billowing cloud of smoke over Corona, Yorba Linda and Diamond Bar. This was one of three fires going down here.

3) Make Snickerdoodles. Click here for the recipe.
(I sometimes get tired of chocolate chip.)
As I add a little spice to these cookies, I love that I can pull out my jar of whole nutmegs from Italy, grate some on the teensy little grater than came with it, and remember our time near Lake Maggiore.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

All Things: Stairs

Carnegie Library
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Home by Frank Lloyd Wright

Snail Stairs
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

University of Virginia Staircase

University of Virginia Staircase

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Studio of Exhaustion From Diligent Service

The Qianlong Emperor’s Studio of Exhaustion From Diligent Service (or Juanqinzhai) is an 18th-century jewel box tucked away in the northeast quadrant of the Forbidden City. While it's on my list of things to see in my life, the reason I want to see it is not because of its historical importance, or furnishings, or authenticity. (The room shown above is the theater.)

No, I want to see it because of the name. How can you resist seeing something called The Studio of Exhaustion from Diligent Service?

This inner room receives its light from the illumination through the double-sided embroidery panels in the screens. A worker peers down at the photographers from the balcony.

The emperor built it for retreat from a tiring life of ruling masses of Chinese citizens. It basically consists of a foyer-type space, with bedroom. There's a secret door that lead to his theater (part of the stage is shown above) where he was treated to theater-for-one as there was only one chair. I suppose that is a parallel to our wide-screen televisions and comfy recliners.

I can think of many places that may qualify in our twentieth century life.
First, the laundry area/room. It's a good place to go to escape. No one follows you there. You can stand in one-ness with the ohm and hum of the washing machine and the dryer, folding Mt. Laundry. The phone's not there, nor is the computer. Just ohm. Just hum. And an occasional clank.

The bedroom. This has to be the ultimate studio of exhaustion from some kind of service, even it the service is only of the cook-and-clean-and-grade-and-bring-home-the-bacon kind of service. In our twentieth century bedrooms, we have multiple pillows (a chore both evening and morning to un-decorate and re-decorate the bed) and comfortable mattresses.

When we went to Shanghai, I sat down on the bed when we arrived, expecting that western "bounce" that comes from sitting on a mattress with springs. No bounce. If felt like I'd perched on the edge of the coffee table, with a thud. We asked for a different mattress. Same thing--really really hard.

The manager came up, for we were there just after 9/11 and were "honored American guests" at his hotel. I asked for another bedspread and he had one brought up, all the while conversing with us in some sort of English. That means that we understood the words to be from the English language, but really couldn't understand a thing he said--the syntax was so interestingly arranged. We'd try, smile, cock our heads towards him as if that would help, and keep smiling.

When the extra comforter arrived, I peeled back the sheets, lay out the bedspread underneath the mattress pad and then made the bed again (actually the two maids there re-made the bed). I asked him to explain our request that they were to keep that there the entire week for the honored American Guests. They bowed, smiled and backed out of the room. I can only imagine what they told their families over the dinner table.

I think this is one of the best spaces in Juanqinzhai. A single throne, with wise sayings (I assume) on the wall, where he would greet people. Then he would probably make them all go away in order to enjoy the paintings in this Studio. He brought in a Jesuit priest from Italy in order to paint scenes of nature during summer; thick masses of wisteria blossoms dangle from the theater's ceilings, as apparently he enjoyed the outdoors.

I could think of many Studios for our tired 20th century dwellers: the car as I drive home from lunch from Chad, no radio and just the satisfying sounds of the road noise as I'm alone with my thoughts. Your place may be in front of your sewing machine, piecing together a quilt, or in the recliner, reading a book. Everyone's is different, but another common place is the backyard.

We were at a friend's home the other night and they had a portable fireplace. We gathered around and watched the sparks fly off into the night, the wood crackling. I've, on occasion, gone out to our backyard as we're lucky enough to have a genuine wisteria vine overhead with fragrant blossoms in the spring. Another friend, a double major in music and physics, believed that when man went outside into nature, all the harmonic intervals and vibrations were in sync--as opposed to trying to line up our karma with man-made items such as plastic and nylon and polyester. She believed we felt better just by being outside. Perhaps.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to push back from this man-made computer, pick up my latest book (Acedia and Me, by Kathleen Norris) and try to get my harmonics back into natural vibration by escaping to My Studio of Exhaustion from Diligent Service.

If you go here, you'll get a video of NBC's tour of the space. You do have to endure an interview with Matt Lauer first, then it gets interesting.
Time to Say Good-bye.

Any Takers?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I went to the pumpkin farm, a scant 10 minutes from my school, before the election, bringing home my bounty to decorate our home. Because they have such a variety of pumpkins and squashes, I always spend time shooting photographs.

I arrived in the late afternoon, when the sun was low in the sky, working on leaving the day to its dusk.

It had been a long day of grading and talking and teaching and it was so nice to wander around, watching the families and their children, the tram pulling the blue-shirted cub scouts; the soft afternoon light was easy on the eyes.

I always fascinated by these random and wild stems--so different than the neatly cropped knobs in the grocery stores.