Friday, September 30, 2011

Talker's Block

Seth Grodin's  column on "Talker's Block" hit home for me today.

He writes:
"No one ever gets talker's block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down.
"Why then, is writer's block endemic?"

Writing is a part of my life: I work with a community of writers in my English class.  I belong to a Writers Group.  I have a few friends who have blogs, and lots of people chatter away on Facebook.  This latter category, I believe, plays into this admonition:

"Writer's block isn't hard to cure.
Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better."

He advises that everyone should have a blog or use Tumblr or something on that order and he suggests that the comments should be turned off, because "you don't need more criticism, you need more writing."

I like this column of his.  Every time Writers Group rolls around, I've about convinced myself that it's an idea that has played itself out, that we are a bunch of post-grads trying to act as if we are still in grad school with its combined burst of energy and exhaustion.  Then I go to group, and find out how exhilarating it is to be around those who write and even though none of us seems to be writing every day, we are writing. 

Which is exactly Grodin's point.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Google Docs Enthusiasm

I introduced Google Docs to my class today as a way for them to collaborate on a group document that won't get lost.  Or forgotten.  Or when Student X drops the class, and they lose the work (common in group projects).  I know Google Docs been pretty big everywhere else, but it seems to have slipped by our student body.

I reserved the computer area for the class, and set them all on machines in groups.  Previously I had gone in and set up a Google Doc for each group, so that I would own the document and could have a little control over it.  I sent an invite to their emails and told them to save the link.  We noticed that those who used the student email, or AOL, couldn't access them.  One young man went around helping people sign up for Gmail--he should get a commission from them as I think about 8 or 9 students signed up.

At first, the students were tentative.  I had my list of Google Docs up on the display screen, and selected a strong group to show their document.  At first there were a lot of giggles as they watched a little colorful flag, attached to the writing, work its way across the screen as they typed.  I had them change their notifications.  I showed them how I knew they were there, working.  I then placed a comment on each document and showed them how to respond.  The volume in the classroom zoomed, as they started typing, watching the changes appear on their own computers, and figured out that this was truly a collaborative effort.  Some were stalled (the groups without a strong personality) and I went around and tried to help them find their way.

After class ended, one student came up to me and said he was in three other groups for his classes, and he was going to show them this technology.  He had me show him how to set it up, and how to invite others.  He was totally jazzed.  So was I.

I showed my friend my group plan and the Google Docs idea; she called me Meriwether.  But since it's all still new and I don't know if it will work, I may have just jumped off of a cliff.

Here's Google's video of what happens on a Google Doc:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


In an article in the New York Times, the authors note that a couple of educators are trying to get a handle on what makes students succeed--in the long run.  They compiled a list of 24 character traits and set out to see how they could incorporate these ideas into their schools.  Some of the ideals are "zest" and "grit."

As I read a tiny thought kept echoing in the back of my mind: this is what I learned at home.  And now it must be taught in the schools of some at-risk neighborhoods in order to propel these students through to a better place.  I was encouraged by the educators' willingness to tackle these ideas and communicate them to their students, but saddened that home was failing these youngsters.  All in all, a provocative article about the topic of teaching character, and to translate it to the school setting.

The blue letters in those pictures are not digitally added.  It is blue tape.  Want to a video of how they created the word "Grit" in the gymnasium?  Click *here.*

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Few Odd Things

Odd, as in odds and ends.  I need to get on Pinterest, especially after Barbara's post.  But here's a few interesting things I've found while trolling the web.  I think my favorite is below: Carpe Futurum.

And the first tomato from my garden.  Actually it's the first tomato from my garden that the varmints didn't chew into.  I harvested it today, cut it up and had it for lunch.  Complete ambrosia.  Yes, we're a little late, as I didn't even decide to put in any plants until we got home from May's camp out in Zion.  I guess I was just tired, or something.  But there are a couple little companion tomatoes on the heirloom tomato plant in the next box over, and I've enjoyed cutting basil all summer long.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Walk Around the Morning

I awoke at 5:20 a.m. and tried to pretend I could still keep sleeping.  The other side of the bed was empty (gone on a business trip) and so it was just me, the lightening skies, the sound of the fans whapping around in their boxes, and my thoughts.  I've been waking up early for a while now, as I contemplate the eddies and whirlpools in my life, reviewing things as they are now.  A family relationship was abruptly interrupted/ended recently and this interrupts my dreams and my sleep until I busy myself with the tasks of the day.  First up: a walk.

I step outside with Praan on my iTunes, and this beautiful lavender sky arches overhead.  We're supposed to have storms and the morning sky is dim with clouds.

The morning moon is still there, low over the rooftops as I start down the street.  My camera can't find anything to focus on, so the snapshot comes out a misty blur--perfect for how I feel this early morning.  Yesterday my horoscope said to watch out for falls and accidents, but I seemed to make it through the day intact.  Wonder what amusements my horoscope holds for today.  Randomness, says Dave, dismissing it all with a wave as I read his to him on some mornings.  We both laugh, not taking it seriously.  Usually we walk together, but this morning I only have songs for companionship.

That and my Endomundo app, which calls out my mile to me over Tengo La Voz.  Since I've been sick, I'm a full two minutes slower.  Well, at least I'm out here.  At the end of my walk, I stretch out my calves on the curb, wave to neighbor, pick up the paper and carry it inside with me.  The antibiotics I'm on have an interesting side effect of making me feel like I've chewed up a skyscraper in my mouth so the morning's breakfast tastes like metallic banana bread, metallic orange juice, metallic yogurt.   I think about Peter, as I pop the nut from the top of the banana bread into my mouth.  I have this habit of putting slices of walnut on top of the bread, but didn't remember why I did this.  It was a habit started long ago and Peter reminded me of it when we saw each other this summer; he doesn't like nuts and that's how I identified the nutty loaf from the plain.  Funny how you start something and over time it becomes like a tree ring: integral to a life. Like a walk.  Like a relationship. Like the sun rising each morning. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Fine Day Out

While I was at my parents in Utah, they took me to a combo Walmart/Country Western/Army-Navy store called Smith and Edwards.  It's an experience.

My Dad wanted to give me the 30 second tour (he's done this a lot) but I was so amazed by the stuff--tons and tons of stuff--that he realized I wasn't going to be quick. Above, weather vanes.

Spinning whirligig things--all flavors.

Now we begin the country/western part with your gun equipment.

And clothes to wear while you're shooting your guns, er, participating in a tactical exercise.

My favorite picture: a cardboard John Wayne as a Green Beret next to the picture of Jesus and the Children.

Get your parachutes, tarps, Army shirts and security outfits here.

The rope room.  I wanted a shot of the whole room, but darn it if people didn't need some rope and kept getting in the way.  I like the rope that looked like snakeskin.  If my Dad wasn't ready to take me to the next part of the tour,  I might have bought some just to have around. That's in case I needed some camouflage snake rope to rustle up some snakes, or something.

Fishing pole aisle.  I didn't post the gun aisle.  You can imagine that one.

I started laughing when I saw this lamp--reminiscent of A Christmas Story lamp.

Horse-riding jewelry, belt buckles, lassos--this place has everything for the well-turned-out Country/Western dude person.

My Dad bought my Mom a cowboy hat last year.  When I asked her if she had one when she was younger (she lived on a farm), she said "Heavens, no.  I didn't want to be a cowgirl--I was a farm girl."

Horns.  For what, I have no idea, but they have a wide selection.  It's about here that I realize that I am completely out of my suburban element.  

This is where you climb up on the wooden horses and try out your saddles.  Mr. Cowboy Hat will help you, and from what I could tell, he was very knowledgeable about his products.  I would definitely need his help if I ever wanted to buy a saddle.

I think these racks are just for show.

A wide mouth bass trying to catch the fake fisherman's lure.  (He's up on the dressing room roof.)

I had Dad check out the Dickies attire for my photoshoot.

This boot was my favorite.  If I got some of these, I could dance like these ladies: 

One youngster threw a giant tantrum over the pink boots, wailing to her mother that she wanted thoooose boots.  The mother, with her cowboygirl hat on her head, just turned on her heel and walked toward the jeans.

I almost bought this for Dave.  Just kidding.

For the well-turned out bridal couple: a registry. 
I've got to bring my son-in-law here.  He'd love it.  Maybe they have gift cards?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Wedding Flowers

The wedding flowers at Eric and Casey's wedding were luscious, softly colored small bouquets of three at each table.  More flowers were at the sign-up table and on the cake. Enjoy the photographs.


I have no idea what the name of these speckled hydrangeas is, but they were beautiful.