Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rainbow Music

On this site, clicking on a raindrop begins a loop of tones. Create your own music by clicking on the above picture to head over there.

I Wish I'd Taken These

Perfectly beautiful photographs by Ryan Benyi. . .

. . . wish I'd taken them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This Survey Will Only Take 3 Minutes!!

I received three of those notices to complete surveys this morning in my email. Since when is it our obligation as citizens of the world to do marketing surveys? I'm accosted in the mall, on the phone, everywhere. And now here.

I also received this:
A communique involving attending an all-day workshop on "Understanding and Engaging the Under-Resourced College Student." I didn't bother reading the handout but I think in the old days we used to call them Students Who Were There in Body but Absent in Brain.

And a notice from the college that read in part:

The collegial-consultation District Strategic Planning Committee has reached consensus on a draft District Strategic Plan, based on thoughtful consideration of a variety of information, comments received in the March feedback round, and a great deal of discussion.

In addition to the Strategic Directions and Goals you have already seen, the draft includes sections on strategic issues, planning assumptions, student characteristics, updated environmental scan information, and financial planning, and specific objectives under each Goal.

Because of the Accrediting Commission's emphasis on input from and alignment with the Colleges' strategic and educational master plans, and on guidance of further College planning, you will see that the Committee has drawn heavily on the content of existing College plans in this phase of its work. (In the second phase of District strategic planning next year, the Committee will refine the Plan further.)
I don't blame you if your eyes glazed over after the first few words.

And this:
--which is a directive from a fellow faculty member about how to help the wildlife around our campus, complete with a yellow sunflower (image slightly skewed) and yellow background for the numbers of local pet shop and experts who can help us if we find fallen "baby birds."

I have now finished going through my mailbox, which took nearly one hour, because it was preceeded by a call to the Help Desk because my password has expired. We cannot update our passwords nor change them from off-campus and I am an adjunct and do 99/9% of my computer work off campus. Our passwords expire every three months, which is 12 weeks. Our semester is 18 weeks long. Do you see the problem?

Just a day in the life.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Take Some Time

There was a path installed near the humanities building when I was attending the University of California, and on either side of this path-to-nowhere (really it led to a tiny hidden grove of orange trees) was a poem, spelled out in bronze embedded letters. The way I happened on it was the reading backwards from the end of the poem. So the words that stuck with me, "Time Take," were an inverse of the above title, but became a tiny logo of mine, with different punctuation pushing the meaning to a different place: Time. Take. or Time, Take or Time--Take.

However I slipped those symbols in, the meaning was the same: time was around and I needed to stop and take some. It was never clear to me what I would do with this time that I was taking, but it was the stuff of poems, and hurried grad students, and bronze letters embedded on a path to a minuscule orange grove behind the brick buildings that smelled like heaven in the spring months when I would take the time to walk through those trees.

So, I took some time this morning to think about what I do with my time, and one thing I tend to do is to catch up on my Google reader, where, more often than not, after reading blog after blog, I come away feeling like my life is just so banal and trite and disorganized and unfulfilling and undecorated and uncrafty and generally unproductive.

I "clip" news items to act on, quilts to make, books to read, always falling farther and farther behind, or so it feels. This morning, a little wake-up post by Jeezebel helped to articulate this feeling. I can't recommend this site, by the way, but I can recommend this article to all you who are out there in Blog Land feeling slightly overwhelmed by the pressures of blogging clever, beautiful, creative, productive, ever-so-interesting lives, every day or two. It's funny to happen on this today, this morning, as last night I looked at the number of blogs I have coming in to my Google Reader, and put it on a diet, trimming the list by half--definitely getting rid of that decorator blog who is always putting pictures of other perfectionist decorators on her blog, with a chatty style that implies we just need to get with it a bit and that artist who artfully lays our her collections of old bias tape, rusty keys and pink erasers, one day at a time, sending the photo out into the world. I have this old junk, I think, why am I not doing the same artsy thing? You see how it goes.

That link led to another link (so typical) and I found this song, a good antidote for what ails me.

Time, take, and listen to this quirky song that deals in a roundabout way with expectations. And perfection--or not.

And if I have any extra time today, I'll head over and take a photo of the path, words and all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Homemade Biscotti is Like No Other. Really.

Somewhere in the middle of grading, when the papers are like the flights currently stuck in Europe because of the Iceland volcano--no end in sight and no relief--my mind always turns to baking to ease the pain.

This episode's relief recipe is homemade biscotti. I've posted the recipe and the origin over on my recipe blog, Elizabeth Cooks. They're not a difficult cookie to make and the texture is so different than store-bought biscotti, that I'll probably be ruined for an easy Costco purchase forever.

Research papers come in next Wednesday. Stay tuned for that baking frenzy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Flying Baby

My friend Judy puts a poem up now and again on her blog. I read this on the Christian Science Monitor, and couldn't resist following in her footsteps.

Flying Baby

A baby sits quietly
on his mother's lap,
frightened and calm,
weary and curious,
beloved – and so – loving.
Old ladies struggling
with irregular carry-ons spot him
like a star on the horizon.
Passing by, each one
touches the baby's head
with detached and utter
affection, sparks of God.
– C. Malcolm Ellsworth

Here's our babies.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stop Squirming and Get Moving

Occasionally I like to read my horoscope. I don't read it only one paper, but I like to compare it across several papers, choosing my favorite. Sometimes they are so off the mark, it's hard to believe that it is anything but Mumbo-Jumbo. And then other days I can't believe how uncanny the resemblance is to my real life. Take today's, for example, in the Washington Post:

For Monday, April 12 -Stop squirming and get moving. When you're this restless, there's usually just one reason: There's something you know you need to do, but you feel unable to do it. In this case, it may be that you want to make some big changes around the house, but they're so epic that you're not sure you can handle them alone. Make a few calls and see what happens -- if you don't know a contractor personally, you can at least find the number for a hardware store.

How did the writer of today's blurb know I was out shopping today in Lowe's and Empire Tile? How did they know I met with Pat today, a "shower guy" recommended by the "floor guy?" How did they know I bought a Bathrooms book so I could change my current master bath from this:

to this:

or this?

This one actually is the exact shower picture I showed to my shower guy (I mean, my "potential" shower guy) because I like the look of the pristine white tiles and the blue band for accent. He said he liked the sanitary look too.


Okey-dokey. Maybe he's not the one for me. I have another estimate on Wednesday morning with another shower guy. Maybe he's the one?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Have You Seen This One Yet?

Click *here* for a great video trailer about every movie you've seen since the 1980s (according to Jim Emerson, another blogger).

Friday, April 09, 2010

Things Remain Undone

On the way to meet my son Chad for lunch, I caught the last of an interview with Ian McEwan on the occasion of his new book, Solar, and heard Mr. McEwan read this snippet:
"He'd been deluded. He'd always assumed that a time would come in adulthood—a kind of plateau—when he would have learned all the tricks of managing, of simply being. All mails and emails answered, all papers in order, books alphabetically on the shelves. Clothes and shoes in good repair in the wardrobes and all his stuff where he could find it. . . the private life settled and serene. In all these years, this settlement, the calm plateau had never appeared. And yet he had continued to assume, without reflecting on the matter, that it was just around the next turn, that he would exert himself and reach it. . . . [About the time his daughter was born] he thought he saw for the first time that on the day he died he would be wearing unmatching socks, there would be unanswered emails, and [at home] there would still be shirts missing cuff buttons, a malfunctioning light in the hall, unpaid bills, uncleared attics, dead flies, friends waiting for a reply. . . "
So Mr. McEwan finally captures the frantic race we all feel to Get Stuff Done, but we rarely achieve that "settlement, that calm plateau" he writes about. That would explain the mess in my study. That would explain why the cracked tiles in my bathroom have not been replaced in three years. That would explain the general overwhelmingness that visits me for for sometimes very lengthy intervals, riding around on my shoulder, a little chirpy voice whispering in my ear while the pen scratches out on paper a list of things that need to be done, no, must be done.

I've always had this belief that I can get caught up, and in some places there is a division of labor in my life: the grading will finish, the students will no longer show up in class, the fences will be built, the house will get painted. And then I start believing that this finality will gradually appear in other areas of my life: the quilts all sewn, the closets cleaned out, the floor mopped, the laundry completed.

Obviously, it's not a belief. It's a fantasy.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

New Fence

New fences at our home this past week, but only on two sides. One side was replaced a few years ago. Don't make me think when. All my years are running together now. I used to be able to anchor events around the children's births, or where I was in school; now we use the sabbatical in Washington DC as a milestone, and even then we're always asking each other: "Was it before we went?" A shrug. Who knows. It's so bad now that when our water heater was replaced I got out a marker and wrote the date on it. . . just so I'd know. Our new windows have their manufacture date on the interior separating the dual-paned glass, and we got the new kitchen counters and stove then as well. Those guys are on to our forgetful minds.

Because my father is a fan of Robert Frost, I give you a fragment of Frost's famous poem Mending Wall:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'
Sometimes living here in Southern California I love a wall to make me feel like we have our own little fiefdom, tiny as it is. I had to walk around the block to the backside to enlist the approval of that neighbor (who asked me to please remind him when to send me the check; all I could think was, please, you're a grown man, give me a break and ask your own wife to do that for you)--and the next door neighbor below us. They both have pools so they have to have fences.

Our fence has been in bad repair for years. We had a lovely wedding reception in our backyard for our daughter and somehow, one of the fence posts had broken off and we didn't notice it in all the fixing up we did for that celebration. It's in all her pictures, this snaggle-tooth fence post.

Things like that, and the fact that I can't remember what year that was, keep me humble. Without further ado, the photos of our new fences.

We had a stockpile of fence boards in the corner near the garage and I asked the men to take them, please. This little animal had made a nest at the base, protected by the leaning wood. It's gone now, scared off by the noise of the workmen's air compressor.

I couldn't resist giving you a photo of the lovely wisteria, snaking around our wall, heavy with lavender, fragrant blossoms. I love spring.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April Fools!

I love a good April Fools Day joke, as long as it's not on me.