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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rothko's Black Paintings

In the National Gallery of Art in the Tower, is a gallery currently showing several of Mark Rothko's paintings that are all black.  Or, at least that's what the viewer may think when first coming into the room.  Two or three to a wall, they hang--large black rectangles.  I was tired--it was the end of my day, so I sat down on a bench to take a breather.

What would cause an artist, so thoroughly known for his color studies, to paint black?  Some have said they were "tokens of the depression and illness that began to plague him in 1961, a harbinger of his suicide in 1970" (from the exhibition notes, Smithsonian).  But others think it was the next logical step in his development, influenced as he was by Matisse's painting, French Window at Collioure.

Matisse's French Window at Collioure
 Of that one (above), Matisse said, "I began to use pure black as a color of light and not as a color of darkness."

 The exhibition notes go on to infer that it was Rothko's intent to "raise painting to the 'level of poignancy of music and poetry' " believing that "aesthetic harmony was empty if it did not reflect the range of human passions, from terror to joy."

By now my eyes had adjusted to the light and I began to see a chocolate-colored "black" rectangle within the formerly all-black painting.  I looked again at the others, and was able to distinguish differences now. Some tones were green-black.  Others were magenta-black.  One painting was black-black but the surrounding "frame" was a grey-black and a rougher texture.  Rothko's black canvases did indeed have color radiating out from them, as he wanted.  They did indeed have an "inner light," as he had once stated about some of his other paintings.

I left that gallery, walked through the Munch (quickly now, it was 10 minutes until closing), visited the Arcimboldo look-alike (made by Phillip Haas), only huged up and made from fiberglass instead of vegetables, and then out the door at closing, the guard shooing us all out with a sweep of his hand through the revolving door.

I got into the mood of self-portraits while photographing the glass pyramids in the front of National Gallery of Art West, and snapped one of myself, reflecting all the angles, the sky, the sculptures, the clouds, and the day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Learning Styles

Oh Hallelujah!  I thought I had died and gone to Teachery Heaven when I read this quote from a recent article published in the New York Times:
Take the notion that children have specific learning styles, that some are “visual learners” and others are auditory; some are “left-brain” students, others “right-brain.” In a recent review of the relevant research, published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for such ideas. “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing,” the researchers concluded.

It was in the article on Good Study Habits, and it called to mind my favorite example of this erroneous thinking (which, by the way, is all through my brand new textbook, reinforcing this (dare I say it?) delusion).

The first year I taught English Comp I had a hot-shot athlete in the back who was trying to transfer to Cal Berkeley on the strength of his water polo moves, or so he said.  His work was barely above a C-level, although I think he was probably capable of more.  That would have required some exertion, which he didn't seem to want to do in an English Class.  But I liked this student, generally.

Near the end of the class, I conferenced with all the students over their research paper.  His was a mess, and that's being polite.  It was full of plagiarized sections, grammatical errors, misspellings and typos and it was basically a giant Cut-and-Paste effort in order to pass (they had to turn in a research paper, or risk failing the class).  I also reviewed his lackluster grades over the term while I had him sitting there.

"Oh," he said.  "Those failing grades on quizzes are easy to explain."  He went on.  "I'm a visual learner, and I just can't seem to learn by listening or reading, or any other way, for that matter."  He leaned back in his chair, the challenge thrown down to a proffie who basically taught by group discussion, and yes, reading and listening.  I looked at him, hoping the perfect repartee would come to mind.

"Might I suggest," I offered, "that you learn a few other strategies?"  He landed the feet of the tipped chair gently on the floor, and we went on with our conference.  It was then that I really truly hated that whole thinking of Learning Styles.

I remember getting the first of these memos from one of children's teachers.  [On a side note, I feel like some of my children got caught in a lot of the Hocus Pocus of failed teaching strategies of the last decade such as Whole Language, Group Algebra, etc.] In order to help this child--a so-called kinesthetic learner--we made pudding and wrote out the spelling words out in pudding.  We also broke spaghetti into small pieces and created words.  I had them write the words on my back with their finger, tracing the shapes as I tried to cook dinner.  We were all drinking the Koolaid, I think.

Nice to know there's no basis for any of this.  Go and read the article--it's really about studying styles and can be helpful for all those parents of my grandchildren out there, as well as any other classroom teacher.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Funny Indian Commercials

In class last week I showed some film clips of poems being read in various movies.  Gretchen, who sat right next to the audio video cart, said she'd just done a speech and had a couple she wanted to show as well.  Since class hadn't started yet, I gave her free reign of the computer, and she came up with these two.

Why Indian commercials? Because I was showing the similarities between Beyonce's latest hit "Single Ladies" and the Indian music I'd heard at an Indian wedding. We were discussing meter and rhyme and I thought I'd catch their attention with the idea of rhythm in songs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy Us

I had fun on a website last night, making up this formal crest.  I entered the names and year, and then presto! it was sent to my email for free.  After a pretty busy week, this is what community college adjuncts do for fun on Friday night, instead of sitting in a chair, staring blankly at a wall.  They sit in a chair and stare blankly at a computer screen.

I even made one for our church's organization for women, then erased the "and" and moved the words around, via Photoshop.  (More staring at the screen.)
I imagine the possibilities are endless.  Have fun!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Two Views, Springboarded off of Krugman

Paul Krugman penned a rather depressing column in the New York Times about the coming bad years, titled 1938 in 2010.  Yes, apparently there's more to come. I find Krugman, a Nobel Laureate, compelling reading.  I guess it's time to make sure we have our Food Storage all tucked away.  However, no matter what viewpoint a columnist writes, I always find it instructive to read the comments afterwards, seeing what others might say.
Here are two letters:

 Paul Krugman is nostalgic for the glorious big-government New Deal days of 1938. Actually, the 2009 stimulus did stimulate one industry. That's the sign industry, which created The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act propaganda signs which are polluting the American landscape.

and #2:
Enough, Nobel laureate Krugman. Enough.

Look at the bright side. You will get even more tax breaks, which you should use to save yourself and your family. Go live in a country that is civilized. We prefer guns, hate, war, and tax cuts for the wealthy: the divine rights of white Conservatives.

Let's celebrate with a beer. And tune in to watch our Conservative majority Supreme Court and the Conservative dominated Congress rewrite the Constitution in their image.

The stupids have triumphed. No regrets. After all, we let them have our media and then our minds. Given enough repetition, their lies and half-truths sound comforting, like the crackling of fire on a cold winter's day. And that fire will burn brightly for a long time as we feed it with the contents of our public libraries (those liberal dumps of anti-Christian Socialist, Communist, liberation theology turned out to have a good use after all.)

I, personally, will dye my hair blond and look into lightening my skin color. And will definitely shred my college diploma. Our new leaders won't like edumacated folks. No big words from me. Just "yes sir," "no sir," and "Jesus saves."

We should all try to fit in. It's the American way.

And on a somewhat unrelated note, I offer this interesting picture, full of angles and grids.  It's in the Executive Office Building, a fancy old building at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue, near the White House.  I'm sure there's a tunnel into this place for I rarely saw people come in and out.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Blues on the Bed, finally

Finally got the bluesy quilt done and on the bed.  Click *here* to go over the the quilt blog and see another shot (and an explanation of what I watched in order to Get It Done).  I hate that in this new Blogger I can't link photos to websites.  Oh well.

I'm trying to cram everything in this weekend, before I start back on on the School Forced March.  It's been a luxurious wallow of time this past two days--books in the corner, working on quilts, watching old movies.  Time has become my currency and I guard it like I used to guard real cash in our bank account, back in the teenager years when we felt like money was flying out the window (it was).  So when the sweet lady at church asked me today to write the Roadshow Script for our congregation, I politely declined.  It was a struggle--for a minute or so.

For those who don't know what a Roadshow is, it's a very fun/crazy/insane day where several congregations present their 7-10 minute show.  You are given 2 minutes to get your scenery on and 2 minutes to get your scenery off after you finish, hurrying before the next one begins.  I've written several Roadshow Scripts in my lifetime, and one even won Best Roadshow Script.  One of my favorite Roadshows was when I taught the entire cast the song to Take Me Out to the Ballgame, but one note off, so when we finished the words, there was still one note waiting to be sung.  We left it lingering in the air until it was almost painful, then had a cast member step out and sing that final note.   The theme was American Traditions, and during the song, another cast member (a teenaged boy), sat down on the stage and ate an entire cherry pie.  We were a hit.

I remember doing the make-up for a stage show our larger church put on--with a cast drawn from many congregations.  (My daughter Barbara was one of the dancers, so I also helped make costumes.)  I've painted, sewn, written, choreographed dances, blocked out stage directions, driven children and other cast members, directed (and not directed) many Roadshows.  I know what it takes.  Given the delicate balance this semester of work and sanity, I turned it down, with a twinge of regret. 

On a different note, I asked Dave to figure out what we're going to have for our Labor Day Barbecue.  I want to smell Labor Day, I said to him.  I want something on the barbecue that has a really good smell, that's a new taste, something that we can sit and enjoy while out on our patio in the late afternoon. One candidate is the Char Siu Tacos, found in this presentation at the New York Times, but we were also intrigued by the Rattlesnake Tails, if only for their name (they're not really rattlesnake tales, but my friends Judy and Bob--who eat from all parts of the food chain--would have gone for it).

 I hope you have a good Labor Day, with a good barbecue, a nice break before Fall officially begins on Tuesday.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Bathroom Almost Done

Monday the shower was grouted.  Also on that day, Steve (the counter guy) came and installed all the drawers and the pull-out shelves (on the right and left) and the door handles.

This is the shot of them on Tuesday, installing the mirror.

Steve and Ceasar.

Artsy shot of the bathroom.

While I am not crazy with the wall color, I've decided to live with it (too tired to paint it over).  We had the bids on the glass enclosure and I'm just trying to decide which child to sell in order to pay for that.  At this point in the refresh, they have you over a barrel: you just want it DONE so anything that comes is kind of like paying a ransom.  I like the shower enclosure guy, and I'm sure it will be done very well. After the flooring (which comes in on Tuesday). In a couple of weeks.  About the same time the light fixtures over the mirror come in, and the electrical in the pull-outs will be done.
THEN I can take a shower in our new bathroom and declare THIS PROJECT OVER.
It's been a great ride, we had great contractors and I'm happy to have a lovely new bathroom.  Now on to other things.
(And in just in case you want to compare, here's BEFORE.)