Friday, December 31, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

When I sew, I like to listen to podcasts and my two favorites are Radiolab and This American Life.  Recently on the podcast from Radiolab titled Stayin' Alive, they told about a CPR class and the magic tempo of chest compressions that will keep a person alive.  If the person doing the compressions is too slow, not enough pressure is generated to circulate the blood around the body. If the chest compressions are done too fast, then the heart doesn't have time to fill back up. The magic tempo is 100 beats per minute and it's a real challenge to get people to keep that tempo.

A physician in Hawaii took advantage of the fact that if you ask people to remember a song, they remember the song at the correct tempo.  So he searched for a song that would assist people to get that perfect tempo.  The song? Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees. (Click the link for some bonafide Disco music.) Perfect for someone trying to do a good turn on another.  Apparently CPR classes all over the globe are using this tune to keep that tempo.

However, the producer on Radiolab came up with another song that, according to her, "has a much simpler and a more direct downbeat."  It's Queen's Another One Bites the Dust.  A perfect tune for a New Year's Eve post.

So, I leave you with a video rendition of Another One Bites the Dust, complete with a rockin' out lead singer in white tennies and a horned baseball cap. (Were we really that geeky?  Don't answer that.) 

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I found this on Boing Boing: "Genrocks's "Filmography 2010" remixes 270 of this year's big budget movies into one giant video -- six minutes of thematically linked, brilliantly edited loveliness."

It makes me want to go and spend my vacation time renting videos. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

Sunset, Kingman Arizona--December 2010
We began the Christmas season, really, in Kingman Arizona (although Dave did get up our Christmas lights on Thanksgiving weekend).  But it was in Kingman that I photographed this "pink rainbow," as my grandson Riley called it, and felt that loving hand of peace gently set down in my life--that familiar feeling of good will toward all men that seems to surround me the best at Christmas time.

Today in church, Kristie mentioned that for her it had been the "most hurried" Christmas she could remember in a long time.  "Rushing in, rushing out," was what another friend said in agreement.  And I thought it was only me that felt that this year was compressed--not enough time to even put up a tree, let alone find the time to schlepp down to Target and purchase it.

I rather prefer those Christmas seasons where the anticipation is long and languid and I can wallow in carols, making caramels and writing cards (another thing that was jettisoned this year).  This was not one of those years, and apparently not just for me.

To completely up-end my sense of order, today's lesson was on gratitude--a Thanksgiving topic.  It was the other bookend to the lesson I had given on Thanksgiving weekend about (yes) gratitude.  I guess it's a good theme to tackle post-Christmas, but I think I would have preferred one more in keeping with the season of Christmas, since the whirring rush of days has left me disoriented and a bit out of sorts.

What's the antidote for this feeling?  In Britain, they have Boxing Day--a day to box up and deliver goods to the poor and the needy--perhaps a way to extend that peace on earth, goodwill to all sort of experience.  My Boxing Day was spent clearing the counter of extraneous detritus, and packing up my past semester's courses and moving them downstairs to the bench, preparatory to finding a place for them in my (new-to-me) file drawers outside.  Boxing up, moving out, cleaning and clearing up.  My daughter already has her decorations down, eager to clear up the clutter and put away the mess.

What I need, really, is another night where I can glimpse a pink rainbow, enjoy the crisp air and have time to chat with a loved one, a young boy who, at four years old, was more than eager to hop down off the hood of my car and jump right back into the ring to go at it again.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grades In.

I submitted my grades last night, so I feel a little like Emilee and Megan in this picture, recently posted by their mother Kim on her Facebook page.

We hosted a party for Dave's faculty last night, and it was really successful (we were kicking them out two hours past the end time).  We're happy, but tired. Now on to the Christmas festivities!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Dance--re-edited

Editors Note: This is a better, and more fitting, Happy Dance

This is to celebrate the completion of:
  • research paper grading
  • developmental English paper grading
  • final exam written
  • final exam key written

This is to bemoan that I still have:
  • a whole set of essays for one class to grade
  • those final exams (which they're taking tomorrow).

Hopefully more Happy Dance later.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Peri-Partum Cardiomyopathy Hits the News

Today on the Washington Post, they have a story about a young woman who gave birth to her first child and then passed away some days later from peri-partum cardiomyopathy.  When talking to Barbara this morning, she tipped me off to it, and I just read it.  It's told in "Facebook" epistolary style--a series of running entries that the Post has edited down.

While Barbara's condition is not as severe at this point, it is the same disease, and can vary and fluctuate at whim.  We're glad the meds have stabilized Barbara's health.  We always think about the events  of her diagnosis at this time of year, as that's when it first began.

Last week I was sifting through some old emails, and found emails about this experience from my family and friends.  Thanks for all your concern and care and love.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Christmas Star Quilt

I put the Christmas Star Quilt on the bed.  Read all about it *here.*
It's the Merry Christmas Season!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Cleaning Up for the Holidays

How to clean your house for the holidays:

Meet Jeff.  Meet Billy.

They come with this truck.

Legs not included with dryer.

No messy fingerprints to wipe down, or spills to deal with.

Yes.  This is the best way to clean your fridge for the holidays.  Buy a new one.
This is a corollary to "Merry Christmas! Your gift's in the kitchen.  And the laundry room."
When the dryer sounded like it was entertaining stampeding elephants, and the fridge's front started rusting out around the dispenser (bad design, apparently--it was all over the internet), and California is offering a rebate and so's the City--it's time to go down and visit our friends at Taylor's, and see what's what.  Due to the rebates, we could replace the Stampeding Elephants the same time we replaced the Rusty Front, as long as I chose the right dryer.  That means: no matching set.  I'll survive, since I try to spend as little time as possible in the laundry room.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grading Avoidance

I'm doing heavy-duty Grading Avoidance.  It's an art.

Procrastination from Johnny Kelly on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fantasy Room

My husband's fantasy room is a place about the size of a gymnasium, filled with table after table after table.  He likes to see his stuff, all laid out on tables, and likes to be able to create a new stack whenever he likes.

My fantasy room is a room of any size filled with cupboards--lots of cupboards--like the room above.  However unlike the room above, I want lots of the cupboards to have doors on them, where I can hide my stuff away.

I found this picutre on a website where the poster suggested it was good for those people who like to pick up random stuff on their walks and bring it home.  I like that idea as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thankful Post

As I was zipping down the freeway to school today, to teach students who complained mightily about having class on the day before Thanksgiving--but who all showed up for class (all but one, but he's been celebrating his 21st birthday for about two weeks now, complete with hangovers, new earring and a new tattoo, so I didn't expect him)--I was talking to my mother about how I think she's a terrific Mom.

My compliment to her had been prompted by her observation about how terrific my husband is (which he is).  And like thankfulness begetting thankfulness, when I arrived home on this Turkey Eve, I found a lovely note in my email box from a student I'd had last year.  It read:

During last two semesters I couldn't help but think just how much your Eng 101 class improved my ability to write academic papers. Not only did your classroom instruction stick with me, but I have also referred to the dozens of immaculate handouts, rubrics, samples, and activities you created for us on countless occasions. So, thank you. Thank you for creating a positive and productive classroom setting, hard copies of helpful hints. . . and your time. I really appreciate it and have raved about you to other college students inquiring about “good English teachers."

Is thankfulness like that?  If so, quickly express your thankfulness to someone, letting the good feelings flow on past you as if you are going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for a grand feast not only of turkey and potatoes and pie, but for a grand meal of gratitude--a necessary break from the histrionic chatter elsewhere in our lives.

Last night I could see that a few houses already had their holiday lights up, the Christmas season upon us one more time.  But instead of feeling grumpy about how this vast wasteland of material excess was intruding upon my favorite holiday, it felt more like watching the world decorate for a big party, complete with party favors.  It is always like this--that we have a moment of thanksgiving, and push onwards to the party?

I know that this year I plan to linger at the table, joining with our son Peter, his wife Megan and their dog, Allie.  Maybe I'll enjoy a story about Megan's work on the Sacramento Delta.  Or listen to Peter tell a funny one about writing websites for a living.  Or maybe I'll tell one on my students, or on myself.  Sitting there, sated on turkey and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, I know it's seeing the world in the rosy light of harvest, of abundance, and that all too soon, they'll get back in the car and drive away and I won't see them for months.  I'll go back to the grading, the lesson prep, and Thanksgiving will be over for another year.  Yet thanks giving can go on, casting its golden glow over teachers who sit at their computers on a chilly afternoon, surprised and grateful for the impulse that prompted a student to write, to say a thank you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Right after I posted yesterday, a student sent me this that her sister (also a teacher) had used on her blog.  It made me laugh.  So here's to all the teachers out there!  Just duplicate this and hand it out next time you get The Question.  (Because there will always be a next time.)

Question frequently asked by students after missing a class

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours.

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 per cent.

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning.
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose.

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter.
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder.
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
but it was one place
And you weren’t here.

Poem written by Tom Wayman, a Canadian poet, and published in:
Wayman, T. (1993). Did I miss anything? Selected poems 1973-1993. Vancouver, BC: Harbour

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teaching Has Its Moments

I realize the last post was a bit hysterical--it's only because it was a hysterical day.  I fixed our favorite comfort soup, and with the comments of kind fellow-teachers and others, I made it through.

We've just finished studying Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a lovely novel about two pre-teens: Henry, who is Chinese-American, and Keiko,  a Japanese-American, who eventually gets placed in an internment camp with her family.  The assignment was to choose one of the topics we brainstormed in class, and write a compare/contrast paragraph based on a theme from the book.  I've gotten a range of responses, and they all been fairly carefully organized, with the exception of the following.  I quote it verbatim (spelling and everything):

"In the time in which the book HCBS took place, the main characters dined on lunches primarily related to there culture as opposed to the generation which are a melting pot of all ethnicities.  In the book the main characters consumed Japanese/Chinese cuisine such as breaded chicken and gravy.  Currently American lunches consist of fast food and unhealthy snacks such as fruit roll ups and hostess products.  As a result of the products that were eaten in the book, Americans decided to bully the Japanese.  It is unlikely that at lunch table today you will see foods that are multi cultural, foods that are not particular to certain ethnicities are no longer a cause for bullying instead ethnic foods are generally those that are most envied at the lunch table."

Food fight, anyone?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Parallel Tears

Once, a hundred-billion years ago, I was a long-term sub in our local high school.  They needed a teacher to take a class for a "few days" while they found/got/hired the teacher.  At about three weeks into the semester of me posing like I was their teacher, living the tiny lie in order to keep control of the classroom, one young man started acting out.  Dealt with. Then I was late one day to get in line at the copy machine, not finishing up my copies until the bell was ringing.  I heard the secretary's voice behind me asking me how things were going--not a friendly voice. I was grading five periods, prepping three classes of all ages, pretending I was having a good time at 80 bucks per day, while the secretary would take my freebie "prep" period away and have me teach another class somewhere.  I was staying up late, getting up early, and the papers to be graded stacked up like planes over LaGuardia on a foggy day.  I mentioned this state of affairs--plus the fact that it had pretty much killed any sex drive--to the librarian and she simply said "Welcome to my life."  Yuch.

The next day that same acting-out student threw a stink bomb into our portable classroom, and I called security, who never came.  So I marched the entire class down to the only available space--the auditorium--read them the riot act, had them each write a note about what they saw/knew/did.  Security arrived and wondered what the heck we were doing in there; all they cared about was that we were not in our classroom--not the fact that our classroom was uninhabitable.  I let the students out 10 minutes early.  I didn't care a bit where they went, or if I were to be canned, or anything.  I took the notes down to the principal's secretary, wordlessly handed them to her and sat down in the chair beside her desk and burst into tears.

This semester has had some similarities to that ill-fated five-week sojourn in high school.  The first similarity is the caliber of student.  One class I'm teaching is a remedial English class (oops, now we called it Developmental English) and many of those students are just now--13 weeks into the 18 week semester--figuring out that this really is college and that 43% grade is all theirs.  They earned it all by themselves.  They can't blame mom, the principal, the evil PE teacher, the bus driver, whatever or whoever.   They can only blame their lack of preparation, realizing that all that goofing around in high school has penalized their performance now in college, even at the lowest level of English that we offer.

The other class is a lovely, divine, brilliantly delightful Introduction to Literature class where I really get to talk about stories and poems and all those things I studied in grad school.  However.  It would really be all those things in the above sentence if I had half a clue what I was doing.  I feel like I'm about 20 minutes ahead of them, all the while maintaining that subtle lie that I Do Know What I'm Talking About.  I do, sort of.  But this week they hit the first of their assignments on their literary research paper and I feel like I've thrown my students into the swamp and left the rescue equipment back at the house.  Really, I'm in the swamp with them, surfing "Literary Research Papers" on the web at night, hoping to find something to guide me that will help me guide them.  There's no mentoring at this level--we're that Budget-Cut Community College you read about, where most of the teaching is done by adjuncts (80% at our school) and there's no money for anything.

Especially literary databases that will help the students with their research papers. We went to the library for some help, and while it was a fine presentation, it was painfully obvious that our little college was set up for English Comp research papers, not the more critically-intense areas of literature.  After the librarian left, I clued them all into the Big U down the freeway and suggested they head over there for database access.  But I realize I don't even have a clue how to tell them to find what they need. It's a painful realization.  Add that feeling of failure to the lack of sleep, the constant prepping, constant grading, and the realization that if I stop the machine to have a night off--like I did for Quilt Night last week--I'll just be more behind the next day.  (Hence, the dearth of posts on this blog.)

So, today in office hours, when a student started crying over her Fiction Essay, I handed her a tissue, coached her into re-evaluating her thesis, and then talked to her for another 30 minutes past office hours time about her application to Big U, her self-statement, her parents' divorce, the fact that she'd just now gotten her textbook (!), I have to admit feeling a little of the same pile-up in my own life.

When I got home, my saintly mother sent me an email with a video link to a flash culture mob of 650 choral artists gathering at Macy's in Philadelphia for a flashmob of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.  (She does things like that to keep me in the human race, I think.)  I watched the people sing this glorious song, line by line, tenor, bass, alto, soprano and I joined in and then wept, letting the good feelings, the smiles, the happy faces of those people wash over me.  Parallel tears to my student's.  Tears for my own inadequacy.  Tears for my students' frustration. Tears for me, for the writing I don't do because I let everything else take precedence. Tears celebrating that it will soon be time to pull Handel up to the top of the playlist--tears to signify the end of this very long semester.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Happy Election Night

You can tell I'm too busy grading to put up a proper post. Only 5 more weeks after this one until I get my life back.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Afternoon Break

Our local bakery, right across the street from the eye doctor, makes such lovely cookies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Need a Smile?

Here's the full report:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Student Emails--October

Hi Professor E.  I wanted to inform you that I will be absent from class all next week.  My reason why, is because I got the job I was interviewed for on Wednesday.  They're going to be training me all next week from 8am-4pm.  My question is are you just going to give me zeros on those days or can I make it up somehow?  Can I email the work?  Can you please work with me on this. 
Thank You For Your Time

Dear TYFYT--
Are you really this dumb?
Are you really asking me if you can receive credit for not coming to class and not turning in your work? 

Just checking--
Ms. E.


Email #1, at 10:50 a.m. (when class ends and when I pack up all my stuff and move upstairs to a different classroom to teach a different class) 
Dear Mrs. E.,
       I'm writing you this email to let you know that I wasn't in class today because I had to take my mother to class this morning. I have my paper typed up and ready to turn in. Thank you and have a good day.
Lost in Space

Email #2, at 12:52 p.m. (at the end of my second class, but before I got home and checked my mail)

Mrs. E.,
I noticed you weren't in the library or in your classroom so I kind of panicked and didn't know if I should hold on to my paper or turn in so I left it in the classroom next to the hard drive. I hope you receive/ find it.
Lost in Space

Dear Lost in Space,
I'm happy your mother got to class today--it's nice that you are so dependable and helpful.  In case you didn't notice from our discussion the other day about adjunct professors (of which I am one), I do not have a classroom.  I do not have an office.  I lug my stuff around in that geeky rolling briefcase that I bring to class.  Finally, when I'm done teaching, I skedaddle. 

In addition, it's always SUCH a great idea to leave your papers hanging around on desks in empty classrooms.

Ms. E.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's a Girl!!

Danielle Karen
Parents: my son, Matthew & his wife, Kim
Born today! in the afternoon sometime
Weight: 7 lbs. 13 ounces
Length: 19 1/2"

P.S.  My son just put her picture up on FB.  Here it is!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Shoes--Spring Fashions, October 2010

Spring Fashions are all over the news and I'm here to show you some shoes.

Those shoes just get higher and higher.  I think the decor on the back of this one looks like the security tag from the department store was left on.  I wonder if the model set off the electronic alarms.  Hairy accents seem to be popular, as also shown by the above sandals. With those ruffs at your ankle, who will ever worry about shaving their legs anymore?  It will just add to the overall hairy look.

 I like these.  But I'm always drawn to orange, even though I rarely ever wear the color--and who can resist aqua soles and orange lace-ups with fuschia stilettos?  I do have to say, though, that I always remember the scene from The Devil Wears Prada where all the workers exchange their comfortable shoes for heels when Meryl Streep walks in.  I'm to the point in my life where life is too short to break my ankle wearing these.  But I still think they look great.

 Look!!  Shoes for me!!  Low-heeled sandals with metallic accents were found in some of the collections.  I do have to smile, though, at how red this model's toes are.  Wonder if she were wearing the orange lace-ups before she slipped into these?

Lovely.  My feet are cheering.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


I was reading one of my favorite sections of the New York Times: the wedding section, where they talk about some fancy society wedding of two well-placed and groomed persons.  Complete fantasy.

This time they had a picture of the couple's wedding dinner.  The table setting is simple and perfect.

From the Times caption: "For dinner, the 240 guests gathered at three long rectangular tables in a tent with boxlike paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The tables were decorated with  little glass vases containing the kind of simple flowers — white, of course — you might find at a nearby farm stand, each arrangement slightly different from the next."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Penultimate Bathroom Post (whew!)

 At long last, the floor is done.
It took many more days than anticipated, giving rise to the workman (Donald) and I calling this a spooked job.  Some things that got in the way:

The Leak.
The little hose that connects from the wall to the toilet had a slow and steady drip drip drip the entire week we were gone to Delaware.

 The Fix.
Cut up, haul out and carry away damp floor; replace with new.

The Beginning.
Donald started in that area, laying down our new wood floor.

The Daily Haul, Up the Stairs.
Compressor for the nail gun (the floor was both glued and nailed), vacuum, extension cords, floor protector. He stacked the wood flooring (in the boxes) in the corner of the bathroom.
Some other obstacles faced:
The Heat. 
In case you hadn't heard, LA and Phoenix weather swapped places for two days, which caused all the power to go out.  No nail gun.  No saw.  See you tomorrow, Donald.
My Schedule.
I work MWF mornings, and most days he couldn't come until around 2 p.m.
The Toilet's Peculiarities.
Two wax rings, new bolts.  If you've ever seen a toilet installed, you understand all that.

But yesterday, we declared it done.

Last Saturday (about 4 days ago), I couldn't stand it any more and told Dave I was taking a shower in the new shower even if it was covered in construction dust, and only had half of a floor. It was lovely.

We're still waiting for the lights over the mirror to come in, but I did want to show you the nifty plugs in our pull-our cupboards/drawers:

I never have to put away my curling iron again.  Or the hair dryer.
We are really happy to be at this point--and our two-to-three week job only took 7 1/2 weeks!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Actual Student Emails, September Version

Hi Mrs. E.,
I will not be in class today, I had previously told my grandmother that I would drive her to Redlands for a bone-density test. What would you like me to do with my essay? And what did I miss in class today?

Student #1

Dear Student #1,
I would like you to take your essay, decorate it, then fold it into origami shapes. Then I want you to go to the Redlands Farmer's market and see if you can make some money selling your essay. I always tell all my students to do this. Why turn it in to the professor when you can make a little money on it?

And there's nothing more I would like to do than reteach the class over again, so you can catch up what you missed.

Professor E.

Hey Ms. Eastmond I'm not doing very well, I cant walk two feet without blowing chunks I might have salmonella or just super bad food poisoning is there any way I can email you my JW-4 and my P-1?

Dear Student #2,
I have no idea who this is. Perhaps you want to tell me?

By the way, since you and I have a formal, student-professor relationship, and we don't know each other intimately, it's okay in the future to simply say "I'm quite ill with food poisoning." You don't have to share the details.

Thanks, to whoever this is--
Ms. E.
I want to send it as an email just in case I'm not able to print it.

Dear Student #3 (whoever you are),
I think in the future, if I'm lacking some aspect of lesson planning, I'll just send it over to you on your smart phone (the one you keep looking at during class) and then I won't have to worry about going over to the Printing Services, dealing with the ladies there, or worrying about if I have enough copies for class.

What a bright idea! Wish I'd thought of just sending, without permission, the things I need printed.

Ms. E.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

in C

Sometimes you're just going along and think you have a good handle on the world in general, and maybe know a few details someone else doesn't know, and then--BAM--you hear something that makes you feel like you are clueless.

Like tonight.

Keeping hands busy, I listened to RadioLab's presentation on in C, a piece in the key of C by one Terry Riley.  I hadn't heard of in C, let alone Terry Riley, even though the people on the radio segment kept saying how famous it was, how it was a precursor to Phillip Glass (who I do know about) and Techno and how it influenced many other tangents of contemporary.

RadioLab played three cuts from the in C remix CD, and one of my favorites was by Zoe Keating, titled Zinc (that's Z for Zoe, and the inc came from in C).  Lovely.

Here's the trailer for the CD--it's that kind of music you put on in the background while doing homework, or grading or keeping your hands busy and your mind active, but don't want interruption from lyrics.  I'd recommend a listen, if you have some time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Higher/Lower/Lowest Education

ask3r (you may remember him from an earlier post) came in late today, took a long time to write the grammar test, and finally needed to finish it in office hours.  No problemo.  He joined two others, but after they left he asked for more help.

He came to the United States with his family when he was 14 and his younger brother was 5.  The younger brother "caught" the language--this confusing English language--but ask3r (not his real name) has not.  He is struggling.  He struggles with understanding what I say in class (I probably move about 300% faster than he is capable of comprehending), struggles with the reading of the novel, struggles with reading in the textbook and struggles with the 6 or 7 practices that accompany each grammar lesson.

So we work together on Subject-Verb agreement, and I begin to explain the charts of the conjugation of the verb "to be," "to have," and "to do."
--What is to do? he asks.  From what follows I gather that he wants me to translate it with my limited Spanish.  I do that.
--"Es hacer," I say.  "To do is the same as the Spanish verb hacer."
--He borrows my pen (he only has a pencil) and carefully writes in his book "aser."

I realize then that he doesn't know his own, his native language. This is a gap that all my enthusiasm, my scribblings on the whiteboard, the carefully executed Powerpoints from the textbook manufacturer, or my painstakingly written handouts can't address.  ask3r is in over his head in my class, and it's the lowest English class we teach.

He makes progress through the practices, making good use of my Office Hour, and asks if we can meet again on Friday for another hour.

This is where it gets dicey for me.  While I like helping students and really enjoy teaching, I am only paid for the hours I teach; this semester I teach 8 hours a week.  I also receive part-time pay for "professional development/student contact" up to 8 hours per class per semester.  The practical application of this is that after the lesson prep and grading are figured in, I make less than do most of my students at their Starbucks barrista-type jobs.  I have two new classes I'm teaching, with two new preps.  Frankly, it's all been a bit much this semester.  And do I want to add in student tutoring to the mix?  Do I want to get ask3r through these junior high basics on my own time?  For no pay?

The problem is bigger than just him.  He is one of three in my class that could use this time.  H., a Hmong immigrant, cheerfully sits in front of my desk, a smile on his (mostly) blank face.  L., an older student, is intent, sits next to him, and struggles through his own language issues to maintain a C average. But it's not just that some of my students are learning in different languages.  I'd originally planned to test the students on three chapters at a time (eg: Pronouns, Apostrophes and Parts of Speech), but at their request I winnowed it down to two items, and this week the test addresses only one chapter.  I hate to admit this, but I have resorted to making up the test early.  Then as I review the entire chapter in class, I hone in those parts that will be on the test.  And this last one, I even took some of the test questions from their practices, dumbing it down further.  I don't think I can go any lower and still look myself in the eye.

All of this is to say it's been a long week.  I've got grading for their class to do, lesson prep, and yet I'm going to pile it all in the corner and sew the binding on my Christmas quilt.  The holidays are right around the corner and believe you me, they can't get here fast enough.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stalled Bathroom

Where are we on the bathroom refresh?
Stalled.  And that's not meant to be a pun.

The floor guy came, un-installed the toilet, chipped up a bit of the mess left by the tile, declared The Time Is Too Short, and left.  He wanted to come back the following Monday, but I was in DC that day--unavailable.  So he lay down this carpet padding (ick), set the toilet back in the proximity along with our boards, and left. We left for the East Coast, happy to be out of the chaos.

While we were gone, the tiny hose that connects the water supply to the toilet had a slow and steady leak.  All week long.  When it came through the ceiling yesterday morning, Dave picked up on it, setting buckets underneath.  When I arrived home late afternoon yesterday, I traced the source of the leak, and put a bucket underneath it.  I also called the floor people and shared my deepest and truest feelings about the current state of affairs with them.

This morning, first thing, the owner of the floor shop was out here.  Yep.  We have to tear up the subfloor and then they'll decide what to do next, depending on the damage they see (or don't see).

The great news of the day is that the shower door enclosure guys are here--right now!--installing the shower surround. First shower?  Thursday morning--that is if we can walk on our floors.  That's Greg on the left and Dave with the drill.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


An article in the Washington Post recently was about the new trend in camping.  It's "glamping" or glamour camping.  It was a review of a campground that offers yurts (see above & below) instead of tents for people who want to get out in nature, but in a comfortable way.

It reminded me of the last time we went camping in Zion National Park.  It was the traditional Memorial Day campout with the extended family.  We set up our six man tent, with corded poles looping over and creating our little space.  We unrolled our foam pads, our sleeping bags on the hard ground.  We thought it was pretty good until we looked next door at Chad and Kristen, who had set up a massive multi-room tent, complete with a blow-up air bed, hanging lanterns and the works.  I was completely jealous and determined never to go camping again until I had a blowup air bed like theirs.

But I could go for a yurt.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Delaware Visit

Tuesday morning, I met Rhonda, a friend and quilter from the DC area for brunch and afterwards we headed down to my old quilt guild for their first meeting of the year. See OccasionalPiece-Quilt for the full post.

Harvard Lane
Then on to Delaware to see Christine, my sister.  She married Doug in June and they live now in Newark, Delaware.  As we drove I could see tinges of fall color in some of the trees along the parkway--it would be really fun to be here a month from now to see the full fall color.

Christine and Doug's House
Wednesday morning Dave headed off to his conference at the University of Delaware, and Christine and I backed up her hard drive on her laptop (to take it in for a checkup)--cleaning out closets while we waited, as she and Doug are trying to blend two households--as witnessed by the mountain of boxes in several rooms of their house.

Lunch with Jake and Elwood
Yes--they're in McDonald's!
 Then off to do errands, to see her studio space, complete with interesting art objects, such as 3-foot high plastic Santas, etc.  Back home, we tackled shelf papering in some of the kitchen area, then she was off to an art lecture.

Dave and I headed out to a conference dinner, where we visited with old friends.  On the way in, we saw this beautiful plant, which I've tried to identify with no luck.  Can anyone out there help me?

(No, it's not a Porcelein Berry vine.)
Tomorrow: more cleaning out, more errands.

Update: Tracey told me it was a Beautyberry vine. Very cool name.

Morning in DC

(This actually should go before the other post, I suppose.)

I'm rusty on the Metro stuff, and that, combined with arriving last night at 2:30 in the morning, made for a slow start.  First stop was the Renwick, where they had an exhibit titled, "The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946." Click on that link to go to the slide show.  This exhibit showed a lot of the art, as well as the functional pieces, made by the Japanese interned during World War II.  It was very interesting, and showed a lot about the resilience of people put in difficult living conditions when we "imprisoned" Japanese-Americans in internment camps.  I was impressed with their desire to beautify their surroundings, as well as cope with what had to be challenging conditions--deprived of most of their own possessions, and for a time, any religious artifacts.

The show featured some furniture, made from packing crates.  The table has bits of palm frond as decoration, which the curators believe is from the time they were sent to Santa Anita raceway before being sent on to a camp.

These small dolls, in various poses, were made of bits of cloth, wire leftover from camp projects, and the faces are painted very delicately.

One of the camps was built on a dry lake bed, and the internees dug down a few inches to harvest the shells--most as tiny as sees, or a baby's fingernail.  They would bleach them and paint them in order to create these corsages.  Some backings were bottle caps.  They'd get their designs from old National Geographic Magazines that were sent to the camps.

The shirt above is made from a flour sack.  The banner designates a baseball team, complete with the positions the players took.  Many camps formed baseball teams as another way to pass the time.

In our English class, we are reading the novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a story about two young Americans whose lives were affected by this experience.  The museum shop had this for sale.  They were also running a video, which I sat and watched, about life in the camps and quotes from authorities which had a distinctively anti-Japanese flavor.  Since I live in California, many of these quotes are reminiscent of things I hear about the Hispanic immigrants--and I hear echoes of these things when the Muslims are talked about in regards to the "mosque" in New York.  This visit made me think about how we Americans seem not to learn from our own history and experience.

I remember in my high school there was a teacher who would come to our classes and talk about his time in the camps.  He taught me driver's ed, and I didn't understand about what America had done to these citizens and immigrants.  Now, I find it all terribly sad, and am glad some of their stories are around to be told through these artifacts, like the ones I saw in the Renwick.

Renwick Front Door, from the inside

So it was certainly interesting to walk down to the World War II Memorial after that exhibit.  I love this place--it's my favorite monument on the Mall.  But the reality of some of the ugly truths of World War II contrasted with the quotes engraved on the walls.  I've watched Ken Burns' World War II series, and atrocities were committed everywhere.  But all the same. . . to ship out our own citizens seems to be rather extreme.  I know, hindsight is 20/20.  But just as my children's generation will judge our actions of all our "wars," bankrupting their schools with austere measures, and looking at the legacy we leave them with an unwavering eye, I too, look backwards and wonder about all this.

World War II Monument, Atlantic Entrance

It's a beautiful day in Washington, DC--not too hot, but nice and sunny.  I stroll up past the Washington Monument to go to the Museums, and enjoy the rest of the day inside.