Thursday, December 31, 2009

Headlong. Ruthless.

I have had this book for many years, so many that I can't remember, although the initial publication date was 2001. Then the movie came out and I studiously avoided any mention of what happened, who did what, how the book turned out.

I wanted to discover it for myself, for one of the few pleasures of reading is turning pages, building up anticipation, hardly waiting for the climactic denouement and knowing that no pages can be skipped, that a reader must doggedly keep at it until the last page is turned. I wanted to savor a story.

It centers around forgiveness, the lack of it, repentance, atoning for one's errors and misjudgments and sins and mistakes. It's our lives that this book reveals, for as I've gotten older I realize that life really is all about repenting of mistakes, forgiving others for theirs.

Briony, the center of this book, is a young girl of 13 when the novel opens and she wants to be a writer. She's begun by writing plays, stories, and in her mind, struggling to see the future, half-seeing it, half-imagining it. She takes after her mother in this regard, and in one scene, the mother--fighting off a migraine--lays in her bed and imagines that:
"There was a presence in the room, her aggrieved, overlooked ten-year-old self, a girl even quieter than Briony, who used to wonder at the massive emptiness of time. . . . It was haunting Emily once more. Briony was her last, and nothing between now and the grave would be as elementally important or pleasurable as the care of a child. . . and she, Emily, would grow stiffer in the limbs and more irrelevant by the day; . . . And here was the ghost of her childhood, diffused throughout the room, to remind her of the limited arc of existence. How quickly the story was over. Not massive and empty at all, but headlong. Ruthless." (141-2)
The tangled web of mother, father, family, lovers, war, sacrifice, error, injustice all combined to propel me through the book. I finished last night, interested in the structure that was built, yet dismantled in the end.

I do recommend it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Reality Bites

Back to reality, after a week of fun. I pulled out the syllabus that I had carefully sent to Printing Services two weeks before, feeling so smug with myself that I'd done something ahead of time for the upcoming course I was teaching.

But what to my wondering eyes should appear? The date of "Spring 2009."


So I'm now in the middle of reprinting, collating, and stapling in order to reflect the correct date. What a dummkopf I was.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Butternut Crunch Toffee

I've posted another round of recipes on my other blog: Elizabeth's Kitchen. One of them is this one, Butternut Crunch Toffee. I have also put up the menu from my husband's work Open House, and a TON of recipes from that event. In addition, I updated the caramel recipe, adding a few more pictures showing how to wrap those little bits of goodness. Enjoy.

On a side note, my son Matthew hooked me up with a domain name, so now I'm a full-fledged contributing member to Web 2.0 as He also set it up so it refers over to the current Elizabeth's Kitchen. I'm completely impressed with his skills. My other son, Peter, is trying to work some kind of magic somewhere as well on this. Should be a fun Christmas break, as we pull out the laptops to see what will go down. Thanks, boys!

Monday, December 14, 2009

When I'm Eighty-Four

Okay, this is an example of the zeitgeist at work in my life.

I just awoke from a dream where I was playing one-on-one basketball with Charles Barkley. Like I know who he is, but there you go. It was a dream. He had a normal ball, a normal goal, but my "ball" was shaped in the form of a soft black oblong with a handle at one end, and my basket was about twice as high. When I would attempt to throw my "ball" up, it would get stuck. Meanwhile, he was cleaning my clock with all his scores. I know, in regular one-on-one there's only one ball. It was my dream so you have to stay out of it.

Then I awoke to read in Ben Schott's column in the New York Times a gradient of National Social Life, Health and Aging Project for Americans aged 57-84, and the section on Difficulties in Daily Living caught me eye, providing me the interpretation for my (silly) dream.

Getting older is like they change the rules for a simple pick-up game: the shape of the ball, the opponent, the goal--they all change, and as an older person you know you can't compete. At that point you can either walk off the court, or challenge Charles Barkley to a game where you know you can beat him, say, a Spelling Bee or something. I think the point is to stay in some game, somewhere, and to keep at it.

I guess.

By the way, in my dream? The ref was just as baffled as I was, kept shaking his head as he called foul after foul on the The Round Mound of Rebound (one of Barkley's nicknames). I woke up tired, as I do after such dreams. But this morning I've got my walking clothes on and am heading out the door today, trying to get back in the game.

P.S. Click on the image to go to complete chart.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Not Quite That Dusty

This is a photo from the horrendous red dust storms in Australia this summer. Someone opened up their laundry room door and took a photo. I'm sure she shut it quickly, so as to keep the dust outside.

Besides blogging, another thing that's been neglected is the housekeeping. I keep the living room fairly tidy, swiping it with a rag every now and again and with just the two of us, it doesn't get too dirty.

But this computer desk, and the desk over there loaded with Christmas fabric in swaths of unfolded glory are another story. The fabric came out mid-November on one of those days when I felt well and thought I'd just whip up a Christmas quilt for our bed. Then the research papers came in, then the homework, then the. . . you get the picture.

That's when I just shut the door, like the woman up above. However, I'm keeping the dust IN.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Student Evaluations--the Dichotomy

I had my conference with the Dean yesterday. He's a great guy, relaxed, so that makes the nervous adjunct who just came out of the rain and is sitting in his office, relaxed. Our college evaluates adjuncts every six semesters, although except for meeting some internal administrative criteria, I can't figure out why: I receive no pay raise for a good evaluation, nor is my job made more secure (painfully illustrated this semester when our college's goal--as delivered to them by the financial office--was to cut 1/6th of our classes, and most of the adjuncts lost one of the two classes they were teaching).

But here it is, delivered out of the mouth of babes, as written by two of my students:
A lot of the instructions and materials are scattered and disorganized. There are so many pieces of information for any task that is is often stressful to know what's expected. Aside from that, she is very helpful, kind and caring as a teacher and as a person.
Not only does Professor Eastmond do her duty to make sure everyone understands and completes the basic knowledge and meets minimal standards, she goes far out of her way to guide those who wish for it even further, beyond the constraints of the class.
The first was written (I'm pretty sure) by a nice kid--I like him--who comes late to class. Every class, every time. For yesterday's class, where they were writing an in-class essay, he was 30 minutes late, cutting his writing time short by a third. He can't find things in his binder, and an expedition to clean out his backpack could receive national funding.

A Typical Experience: He sat down yesterday, pulled out a piece of paper and then looked around. He raised his hand and asked if we were supposed to use a Blue Book? I nodded, and then he began searching for that in his backpack, and not finding it, kind of looked back at me quizzically. K., who was watching the whole thing, reached into his well-organized backpack, and donated one to The Cause.

The only reason I think the comment above is from him, is because not only do I pass out a detailed Course Calendar, listing and showing nearly everything that is expected, I also provide a (detailed) handout for each of our five essays. And for those techno-students, we also have a blog, where I update any small changes to these documents. One day the above student complained to me that it was confusing to have to look everywhere to get information, this after he missed the news about some required reading regarding our novel, which was on the essay handout.

He's one of my favorites, though. I wish him well in his next class, where most likely, he won't get a woman who's raised four teenagers, and has the heart of a grandmother.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wit, with Emma Thompson

I had no idea of the ride this movie would take me on when I slid it into the DVD last night. Wit, with Emma Thompson, is a brilliant rendition of her character's treatment of stage IV ovarian metastatic cancer, from the detached delivery of the diagnosis by her doctor in his office to the final ending scenes of her journey through modern medical science. I have known doctors like this, smug in their knowledge, flanked by a cohort of white-coated residents. I generally hope to avoid these types.

My friend Heather is currently undergoing chemotherapy, essentially a somewhat violent method of dealing with a violent intruder to the body: cancer. So that made this movie initially difficult to watch, but I wanted to learn, to know. This movie excels in narrating the journey that Dr. Bearing (her character, a renowned and tough professor whose emphasis is the metaphysical poetry of John Donne) takes from cerebral and abstract depictions of the struggle of life and death to the concrete and palpable illustrations of a patient who struggles with with her own failings, of issues of mortality. And chemo. And kindness.

I was thrown for a loop, as Dave will attest, struggling to process what I'd seen. I had just written my friend a somewhat light-hearted letter after she described to me the physical ravages of her first week of chemo. I tried to be empathetic and understanding because I'm keenly interested in her. But after seeing this movie, I wondered how I could be a better support to her--it's much different when a person might have physical discomfort recovering from a surgical procedure vs. having physical discomfort by choice--choosing the chemo to bring on symptoms of pain because the end result of ridding the body of cancer is the goal, the sought-after prize.

One of the best scenes (there were many) in the movie is the interchange of the younger Dr. Bearing with her mentor. This graduate advisor does figure in at the end as well, and is played with exceptional delicacy by Eileen Atkins. Her impatience with the use of a semi-colon rather than a comma in Donne's famous work Death Be Not Proud, is instructive.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Better Than Lady GaGa

I don't know why, but I like this remix/imitation version so much better than the real thing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods. . .

There's some new recipes up on Elizabeth's Kitchen: Roast Turkey, Turkey Gravy, Creamy Chocolate Fudge, and my famous Christmas Caramels. The category is Christmas/Thanksgiving if you want them all together.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 23, 2009

So Today's Just Such a Monday

It was one of those days, where after I finished getting ready for school, I walked it to say good-bye to Dave and said, "I just don't feel like going to class."

Just as I made the turn up into Crafton, Joe Cocker's "Feeling Alright" came on the iPod (do a search on YouTube to hear it) and that pumped me up enough to get into the flow of things. The students were higher than kites and the interaction was great and high and fun and when one young woman told me this was her favorite class, things were good.

Home again, eating my sandwiches from my lunch bag, feeling Alright and ready to jump into things. But the day went quiet, with me fixing up my Christmas list on my iPod, then it headed a bit south, then right on in to melancholy as I sat there in front of the computer hunting up new Christmas songs for this season (an annual event).

Judy called and it was great to talk to her again, and we spoke of lots of things: her mother's passing, the funeral last week in Utah, our kids, our challenges, Grading Avoidance (a condition we both fight on a regular basis), all things school, the changes in plans I'd had for Christmas and the new difficulties in the season ahead. The conversation wound down and I got off.

Dave found me trying to slit open the leeks to rinse out all the dirt, and I turned to him and said, "Can we just go and get a burger or something?" Wise man that he is, we shared a Happy Star experience at our local Carl's Jr. restaurant.

I finished the dishes from yesterday's Persimmon Bread bake-off (recipes to be posted maybe tomorrow) and came upstairs to hear him on iTunes this time, then YouTube, looking at different videos. We chatted, he left, leaving on Allison Krauss and Yo Yo Ma playing a duet. I clicked on to the next one, perhaps my all-time favorite Christmas carol. I post it here for your enjoyment: The Wexford Carol.

Another song to add to my Christmas tunes this year, and not a bad way to end such a Monday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

To Do List, November 20, 2009

Serious List of Get Things Done (take 3, 333, 234) Date: November 20, 2009

Dry and style hair (yes, it's this bad that I have to write this on the list)

Clean off computer desk and dust

Find Christmas China plates

Plan field trip next Friday (Galco's, furniture place, where for lunch?)

Do visiting teaching

Decide on Christmas quilt and begin to cut square #1 of 72

Stitch one block of above to see if I like it

Make the Bday present

Mail Keagan's birthday card

Organize calendar pages

Plan meals

Clear off microwave

Find red berry garland for chandelier

Do laundry

Post Munich posts on travel blog (finish that)

Write in Munich notebook (if you can remember any of it)

Write in Florence notebook (if you can remember any of it)

Stay off the interent unless the "timer" on Dashboard is going--a nifty widget that keeps a timer going for me when I need it.

Is there something wrong with me when I look at my house full of stuff, junk, dust bunnies in every corner, the constant hovering of YOU'RE NOT WRITING hanging over me and I'm stretching to find things to put on this list?

Time to go back to the internet, or grade something.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Annual Question

A brilliant observation from Bizarro.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day, 2009

Click on picture for a different Veteran's Day story, from the New York Times.

And the poppy, a remembrance of the veterans, often used in Europe.
Happy Veteran's Day.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Altered Books

I was quite intrigued by Brian Dettmer's transfiguration of a Webster's Dictionary. He cuts, glues, keeps, discards pieces of the book revealing a closer look inside. I found his work through a series of links, but he is represented by a Chicago art gallery. They don't give the prices, but it's a different way to look at books, that's for sure.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


I check horoscopes frequently, usually just for fun. I like to think of them as little treasures from the universe but don't let them rule my life.

You can't gain one thing without losing something else, and you never lose without gaining something. The trick is in deciding what is most valuable.

Yeah, okay. Maybe the horoscoper had in mind something significant when they did whatever they do to come up with these things. But in my case, it fit right into my life. I've been sick for three weeks, and if you frequent this blog (which I really haven't given you any reason to lately, because I've been sick) you've seen the picture of me in bed with a cough for too long.

It began over three weeks ago with losing my voice. Yep--completely. Then it moved into a strep throat, then lung-cough-asthma and yes, I kept right on grading, teaching, because if you're as highly paid as we community college adjuncts are, you just don't want to let anyone down. I cancelled a class in there when I was communicable (disease-wise), but that's all. So Thursday I was finally feeling much better--in the 80% range. Yay!! I'd done it!! I'd beat the quasi-swine-flu-strep-throat-no-voice disease that had been dogging me out. A long-lost friend called about 9:30 that night just as I was headed to bed. I enjoy talking with this friend as it happens infrequently, but to be frank, after about 10 minutes I was done. However the Polite Disease kicked in and I finally crawled into bed a long time later.

That's where the horoscope comes in. I traded that phone call for what I am today: a sneezy-coughy-achy-tired person, tucked away in bed on a perfectly gorgeous afternoon when I could be out for a drive, or finishing up projects or ripping out the dead tomato plants out of my garden.

I did lose sleep. I gained this horrid cold. I did lose the quasi-swine-flu. I've gained a runny nose. If you want to know what I look like, check out last week's post. The only bright side I can see is that I'm knocking out all my diseases/illnesses in one month and come January when a new class starts and it's filled with hacking, sneezy students, I'll be immune. Wonder what my horoscope will say then?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Can't Stop Coughing

And now Dave has the cough.  (Disclaimer: That is not a portrait of him above.)  I realize I haven't posted--not that anyone reads this, but if you are, my apologies.  I'm now going to go swallow a slug of cough syrup and hopefully sleep well so I can wake  up tomorrow and grade my brains out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Ages of Man

From an interesting chart, published in the New York Times by one of my favorite columnists (currently): Ben Schott. Here's another (below) and don't miss the one in the lower right of his chart titled, A. A. Gill, who gave a riff on how the ages of man can be compared to European nations.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Life in France

One bit of silver lining about being sick is the chance to reach into your nightstand drawer and pull out one of the books tucked away in there, and finally read it.

I just finished My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme last night, laying low because Dave said I needed a rest (Did that mean I was a bit crabby?  A bit.).

I ripped through this pausing only for a snack or two, but that is to be expected considering the entire book is about her experience with food.  She begins in Paris, then to Marsaille, and the writing of her cookbook manuscript takes over and becomes the thread that runs through the other places that she lives: Germany and Norway, then finally back to the United States.

 If you've seen the movie Julie and Julia, much of the information in this book feels familiar, as Nora Ephron leaned heavily on this book for her screenplay.

From the New York Times:
Child also did a lot for France — and the American palate — by introducing French cuisine to American homes. But this book, written with her husband's great-nephew, Alex Prud'homme, before Child's death at 91 in August 2004, is really a love story: she loved Paul Child, 10 years her senior; she loved France; she loved French cooking; and she loved life. Listen to her: "The sweetness and generosity and politeness and gentleness and humanity of the French had shown me how lovely life can be if one takes time to be friendly." And a few pages later: "Oh, how I adored sweet and natural France, with its human warmth, wonderful smells, graciousness, coziness and freedom of spirit." 

I liked reading about her love affair with food, with France (Paris and then the south of France), and with her husband Paul, who seemed to have a generous heart and was very supportive of her endeavors (I love the photo on the original cover of the book, on the right. It is from one of their Valentine's Day cards, preferring to send those out instead of Christmas Cards.)

One thing I did find interesting is the references to "bilious stomach" and dieting and portions in this book.  Seems Julia and her husband Paul balanced their sumptious meals with leaner, lighter fare on other days.  Makes sense. This is a pretty fast read and I much enjoyed it.

I think about the list of cooking blogs I have now on my Google Reader (including my own as well as my daughter Barbara's) and have to think that Julia's enthusiasm for cooking from scratch has played a role in this burst of food writing.  I cooked from scratch for many years, and nearly every recipe began with: "Thaw one pound of hamburger. . ." the assumption being that everyone had a pound of hamburger in their freezer--and we did.

My friend Judy and I were discussing this last night and we both realized that we now rarely cook with hamburger.  Our tastes seemed to have changed (last night I just read Cooking With Dorie's discourse on butter, and now am going to track down "cultured butter" to see if it's similar to the butter I had in France on my Paul sandwich), and we're more adventurous with more time and more money to spend in the direction of cooking.

I don't think she and I cook as much as we did when we both had children growing up around us--we just cook differently.  A home-cooked meal two or three times a week, leftovers or a visit to a restaurant the rest of the time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Signing Time

When Alex came to stay a couple of years ago, when Kristen was pregnant with Andrew (which made her really sick), he loved to watch this series of videos: Signing Time.  I still know the song, but have almost no memory of  the signs except for milk (mimic pulling on a cow's udders with both hands squeezing open and shut) and cookie (hand cupped into a C, and I think you put it on your forearm--not quite sure).

I could have used a few of those signs today as I have been rendered mute by some sort of laryngitis.  I could feel it coming on last night, when I talked with a very husky voice, and today the silence is complete.  If I try to talk, I squeak.  If I try to whisper, I remember that the Mayo Clinic's website said that does harm to the recovering vocal chords.

It's been an interesting day.  I didn't realize how dependent I was on the phone, on my voice.  Dave's probably in seventh heaven, as he's more of an introvert and doesn't mind lots of silence.
I generally don't mind it either, except when its forced upon me, by some random thing floating around in the air.  I don't feel too bad--just a little more tired--but realize I can't do anything because that would require me to talk.  Which I can't.

I have a job in my church which I've titled "The Mute Calling."  It's Primary pianist and except for a pair of hands and eyes, nothing else is required of me.  I am learning to appreciate the low-key calling, giving me time to rest for a season from my labors, but it is interesting to be mute at church, typically a place of lots of talk, chatter and action.

I recently read a book by Anne D. LeClare called Listening Below the Noise.  She chooses one day every two weeks to be completely silent, infusing this with a spiritual quest.  I liked the book, and could handle the religiousity bits.  But I never thought I would like to have a day like that.  I can find stillness in my life and I don't need to shut out the noise (although, again, it was an interesting read).

Apparently one challenge for writers is dealing with the silence, the constant isolation.  I've read that many park themselves in the middle of a busy place, tapping away at their keyboards.  They're not necessarily involved with the busy place, but let it swirl around them as they live in the fictional worlds they've created.  If I ever write a novel, I can already tell I'd be one of those type of writers.

As for me, Dave's made me some chicken soup (I mimed it) and I'm headed down to eat.  This ought to be an interesting meal--Dave will have to do all the talking!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


While I like the music, it's the dancing that fascinates me. Reminds me of my sisters Christine and Cynthia.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Day at the Office

Mine are never like this.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Be Of Good Cheer

I'd been seeing red, pink, white and orange quilts all over the blogosphere this summer, so I pulled out my stash, added a few (isn't that what we always do?) and made a quilt.  I somehow knew it wasn't mine, but hadn't yet figured out whose it would be.

My daughter Barbara has a rare heart disease, PeriPartum Cardiomyopathy, the onset timed with (and perhaps due to) the delivery of her third child last December, a little clone of my daughter.  While I could detail for you the technical aspects of this disease, basically Barbara has an 80-year-old heart.  So, no pushing her baby around the block in a stroller, no more taking casseroles to all her neighbors, no more running up and down the stairs.  No more sewing and putting things in her Etsy shop.  As her mother, my heart was in a wrench over all this.

As I sewed the colors of a heart (reds) sprinkled with pinks (for love?), orange (for happy) and white (for faith) it became apparent to me that this was her quilt. I poured my heart into my work as I stitched the brightly-colored blocks. While that has a sappy sentimental sound to it, I think that's what happens when the stewing over something moves into your bones, your thoughts, and all the tears and travail and remembrances carry through your hands.  Orange, red, pink, and white all combined to carry a message of love to her.

We traveled to a family reunion and brought the quilt to her in person (they live in AZ, some 7 hours from me).  She was sweet and open and loved the quilt (see her blog where she writes about it), giving me a tender hug.  This quilt is a tender hug for her when I'm not there, telling her that I love her, to hang in there, to believe that better days are ahead.

In short, to Be of Good Cheer.

Here's some details:

The stash lined up on the ironing board.  I tried to use a lot of different fabrics.

The back, held up by my daughter and my husband at the Family Reunion (we held it in Eden, Utah, not too far from Park City!).

A close-up of the quilting, done with a butterfly pattern--Barbara's favorite since she was a child.
My quilter, Cathy Kreter, of CJ Designs, did it in a record two days--a favor to me because she knew the story and knew I was leaving.

Here I am, holding up Madilyn, that third baby.
She's a gift.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Grading Galaxy

I'm on the other side of the universe, caught in The Grading Galaxy.
See you upon re-entry!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thinking About The Situation

My friend Judy and I discuss on a regular basis life, our students, and how our peers interact with the internet, which is (quite frankly) rarely. As a result, she and I are about the only commenters on each other's blogs outside of family members. I told her my daughter's peers have a different mindset (as does her daughter's) and that this younger generation regularly reads and comments on each other's blogs. Or Facebook pages.

I read a lot of blogs. Some dismiss them as narcissistic, lightweight and completely self-referential. Are they? I'd say no more so than personal essays that are published in the newspapers. (Or poems in various collections.)

But the difference between the published accounts and these "free web" accounts is that critical word: "free." I've thought for some time that the web could be a vehicle for publication of some kind, whether it be this blog-self-publishing version, or whether like Pioneer Woman, a blogger is picked up by the major publishing houses for a book, thereby legitimizing what is written by the act of putting ink to page, money into bank account.

In all cases, the goal is to build an audience. When I was at my writer-friend's home the other night, she had several books that she talked about. One was her friend Holly's book, a softcover book that didn't have enough sales so it didn't merit a contract for a second book. So, Holly's done. In a way. Much the way I felt after hitting 400 posts and the only comment was a "encouraged" comment from my husband, as well as a comment from my friend Judy, mentioned above.

Hitting 400 posts is not the same as batting .400, or hitting 400 balls out of the ballpark, or publishing 400 novels, or 400 personal essays, or raising 400 children, or baking 400 cupcakes. It's viewed as someone just sitting down at their computer and larking around with words, text, photos, illustrations, in other words, not serious writing.

But it is seductive for just that reason: a blogger/writer can mix, match, cull, steal, borrow, video, write, doodle, in short, lark around with all the various types of media that are out there. And it's immediate. And given the writing compulsion of the writer to write, it's easier than wading through publishers, agents, convincing the world out there that supposedly doesn't read, to Please! Notice Me! It's Web 2.o at its finest, and all free.

And if the blogger/writer picks up ads on the side, potentially lucrative. I noticed that Nienie has now opened up her cooking blog and the cynic in me noted that the ads were front and center. Given the proclivities of my generation I don't ever anticipate getting paid for my internet writing. But it's not only ads. Do prizes attract viewers? Do free giveaways bring in the blog numbers? In many cases (mostly those of the under-thirties generation) blogging has become about getting paid for the copy that is put forth into the world. We have come full circle. Does getting paid for maintaining a blog legitimize this endeavor?

Or is ink to paper still the only way for a writer to earn their credentials?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

With This One, It's 400 Posts

Route 400 to Somewhere

400 Fantastic Issues!

400-Watt Ultrasound

Daytona 400, also known as the Pepsi Netzero 400 (apparently)

By 2020 China will have 400 new cities.
We are busy in the U.S. trying to keep our cities from dying.

Seating for 400 in a ballroom.
(Thanks, but no thanks. I'm through with all of our wedding receptions.)

The Atari 400 computer, from 1978
Designed primarily as a computer for children, the Atari 400 has an "advanced child-proof design featuring pressure-sensitive, wipe-clean keyboard."

Boeing 747-400 airplane

World's first 625 line television: The Philips TX-400.

Fundraising pitch from art gallery.

My first post: Thursday, September 14, 2006

Door to Heaven
Disney Concert Hall
Los Angeles, California


It's been a nice journey. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hot Dog Distributor

My horoscope for yesterday:

For Tuesday, September 22 -If work were a camping trip, you'd be in charge of the grill. Why? For one thing, everybody trusts you when it comes to handling fire. You can light it, you can keep it burning, you can make sure it doesn't get so big that is sets the paper plates and tablecloths on fire. Further, people trust you to distribute the hot dogs fairly, equitably and fully cooked. Yep, it's no wonder you're the office equivalent of the grill chef -- who else is as trustworthy as you?

Now you know why I read these things. It's just in case I ever have an identity crisis.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mother's Wheat Germ Bread

I think about the fires recently in the hills around us here in Southern California, and remember back to the Oakland California fires in an earlier era. While many stories were poignant and very sad, one that has stuck in my memory is the story of the woman who lost everything in the fire. Interestingly, she despaired the most over the loss of her recipes, some of which were family treasures passed down for several generations. (I have a few of those as well.)

Some weeks after the fire, one of her neighbors found out where she was living, and brought her a loaf of her own bread, with the recipe attached to it. Little by little, her recipes came back to her, because she had shared them.

My mother cooked for a crowd: her family of seven children. I remember coming home as a teenager to the smell of this bread, freshly baked. It was perfect in the afternoons, just warm crumbly bread, some homemade jam, and a glass of milk. Of course the fantasy memory might include then happily skipping off to do the homework, but I think the real memory probably was slicing one more slice, in order to avoid leaving Mom’s kitchen and her good bread. This is one recipe I don’t want to lose, so I’m posting it here. It's also over at Elizabeth's Kitchen.

Mother’s Wheat Germ Bread

Combine in a mixer bowl:
1 1/2 cups boiling water
6 Tbls. shortening (I suppose you could substitute butter)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt.

Dissolve 2 packages yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and add to above mixture. Then add 2 eggs, mixing well, but not overbeating.

Add: 1 cup wheat germ and 3 cups white flour and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Blend in 2 1/2 cups more flour.

“Blob it in” (the recipe says) into 2 greased loaf “tins,” and let rise to within 1″ of the top of the pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter.

I find that I’m used to a more complete recipe these days: Do I turn the loaves out onto racks immediately, or let them cool for 10 minutes in the pan? When do I brush on the melted butter? How long do I mix the dough? This is a recipe from days when most women cooked, and cooked regularly, and knew what to do. I smile at even earlier recipes that say things like “Cook in a moderate oven until done.” Translation, please?

No photo of the bread. When it stops hitting temperatures past the hundred-degree mark, I’ll make some, for old times sake, and post a photo then.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Birds on a Wire

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

To quote from Mr. Agnelli:
Reading a newspaper, I saw a picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes (no Photoshop edit). I knew it wasn't the most original idea in the universe. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.

I sent the music to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who I Googled on the internet. He told his editor, who told a reporter and the story ended up as an interview in the very same newspaper.

Here I've posted a short video made with the photo, the music and the score (composed by the birds).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

And Dinner Tonight Was. . .

White Fish with Green Gazpacho Sauce. Make extra sauce (included in my version) because it you'll find yourself wanting to eat more. Since it's so lo-cal and good for you, no guilt when you do.

Head over to Elizabeth's Kitchen for the recipe and comments (click on image to your right, in sidebar).

And the update on Tattoo Student is this:
He wrote a pretty good paper. It has some problems, but he was able to nail quite a few of the elements.

And he complained to the Dept. Chair that because I'd asked him to walk around OUTSIDE, instead of IN my classroom, I wasn't accommodating him on ADA guidelines. Turns out he's most worried that I'll drop him. I told the Chair that Tattoo Student's problem is that he doesn't read and he doesn't listen.

If he read the syllabus that I gave to him when he came to class (he missed the first day and the Age Old Tradition of the Reading of the Syllabus) it clearly states that I don't drop students. I tell them, you got yourself in here, you can get yourself out. And if he'd listened, he'd have heard that I offered him the chance to lie down on my classroom floor with his pillow if he wanted (although with budget cutbacks and sporadic custodial service, who'd want to?).

I just carried home 55 papers to grade this weekend. That should explain why I took time out to cook a nice dinner.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Okay, Here's Some Fun!

You have to try this. Head over to this article in the New York Times, and try to drive and text. Yes, they've set up a driving test (do the Test Drive to get the picture) and then they send you text messages on this phone to the right. You're supposed to drive and text. If there would have been people on this imaginary roadway, I would have wiped them all out.

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Welcome Back to My Real Life

I returned to the classroom yesterday, feeling pretty jetlagged, but ready to go again. We had Peer Review on their first essay, which is a section of class where they bring in their essays, trade with a classmate and then evaluate each other's essay. Not only does it 1) give them an earlier due date so I don't have to read first drafts, it also 2) gives them a chance to have someone else take a look at their essay and 3) improve their editing skills.

See? I've thought it all out.

Except what do you do Student A brings in the SECOND essay to be reviewed? The essay that I'm going to assign tomorrow with a spiffy assignment packet, a presentation and all sorts of tips and strategies?

I met with Student A, a highly decorated (tattoo-wise) military veteran who is in his late twenties, and gently asked him why he chose to do the second essay.

He unfolds a note from his orthopedic doctor explaining that he's going to have surgery soon and he'll have to get up and move around, may not be able to sit. I said that's no problem, just please take a seat on the very back row so you don't disturb others if you have to move. And it's okay to get up and walk around OUTSIDE. As a teacher, can I just say things aren't looking real great?

So I herded him back to the subject at hand.
--Why did he do the second essay?
--Because I want to get ahead.
--But you can't really do that one yet because we haven't finished the first one. Besides, I haven't given out the assignment sheet yet.
--I looked in the Course Calendar and read what you said and went off of that. (He pulls out his notebook, stuffed with papers every which way.) See? Here's all my research for my paper on Tattoos.

Note to self: add "tattoos" to the list of banned topics. And I'm wondering if while in the service, that not only did he enjoy the local tat parlor but also the local drug dealer? *Focus, focus.*

I start him on brainstorming some topics to write about. He reassures me that it's no problem to write an essay about the first time he served in combat--It will be a wonderful essay, he says. Really wonderful.