Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Open Letter to Authors of Nonfiction Monographs and Contributed Texts

Dear Authors:

Please provide the ISSUE NUMBERS of the articles in the references. I cannot look ALL of them up for you.


Your Proofreader

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Me, Elsewhere

It occurs to me that although I'll want to blog about my attempts to lose weight, not everyone will want to read about them. I myself find weight-loss blogs rather dull. So, La Dolce Vita will continue with regularly scheduled programming, while I'll post all my weighty matters (ha ha) here.


New Ears for New Years

I received my coveted iPod (Nano) for Christmas from my honeypie. I'm not one for getting attached to my gadgets, but I freaking LOVE this thing. Strangely, listening to my tunes in this new way has changed my opinions about some of them. For example, now that I can hear some of the details of Fischerspooner (electronica band) more clearly, I like them even more. Ditto for Beck. On the other hand, I preferred not being able to understand what Outkast was saying. (Really? We're "pistol-whipping"? What does that even mean, Andre? Second thought...No, don't tell me.)

Have you ever experienced something similar? Your perception of music changing based on the medium through which it's delivered?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Year-End Questions

From Narya.

1. What was the most surprising pleasant thing that happened to you this year? What was the most surprising unpleasant thing?

The most surprising pleasant thing was actually quitting my publishing job of 7 years. It was like spending 7 years as a prisoner, no end in sight despite plenty of failed escape plots, when one day the warden enters with the big key ring and says, "This way out." My last day was Oct. 30.

The most surprising unpleasant thing was the economic downturn. I'm thankful that I myself have not been much effected.

UPDATE: Another unpleasant surprise was the wiry, super-curly, shiny white hair I pulled out of my scalp last week. Oy, being 30.

2. What food(s) did you start eating this year that you haven't eaten much before? Did you stop eating something, or dramatically reduce your intake? Why?

I started eating high-fiber bread because Trader Joe's makes a pretty tasty one, and I've been conscientious about upping my fiber intake. (Dull but true.) I got on a good weight-loss kick for most of the summer, including a lower-fat, lower-glycemic index diet, but work became super-chaotic around August and my new eating patterns crumbled. Between August and the present I regained all the weight I'd lost. On the other hand, I have retained some "thin person" ways of thinking, such as: "These soggy fries/this dry pastry/these mediocre candies aren't good enough to waste my calories and fat on."

Oh! I also tried Cambodian food for the first time. The amok royal at Elephant Walk was amazing, a coconut-milk-creamy dish of scallops, shrimp, and whitefish, delicately infused with Cambodian spices, wrapped in a banana leaf. I look forward to trying more Cambodian dishes, especially since many of the kids in one of my schools are from Cambodia.

Over the last few weeks, I've been making Vedic recipes from my current favorite cookbook. It's great to make my own Indian food at home. I can cut the ghee in half.

UPDATE: How could I forget my introduction to Polish chocolates over Labor Day weekend? My sister lives in a Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn. The rest is history.

3. What risks did you take? How did they work out?

Left my tedious, cutthroat job of 7 years for an irregularly-paying combo of substitute teaching and freelance proofreading, with a non-paying side of grad school. It's fucking fantastic. I am so much happier every single day.

4. What performance (music, dance, movie, theater, etc.) did you most enjoy this year? (If you were doing the performing, then which did you most enjoy doing, and which did you most enjoy experiencing?)

Oooh, this is bad...I don't think I got to any live performances. I went to the MFA a lot, though. I most enjoyed the Karsh 100 exhibit.

Movies....Mamma Mia! was not brilliant cinema, but it was tons of fun. TV: Alec Baldwin as Jack on 30 Rock. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on SNL. New appreciation for Lenny Henry as Gareth Blackstock on Chef!

UPDATE: I just remembered that we caught the wonderful fall concert of the Concord Orchestra. They were excellent!

5. What habits are you trying to change? What's encouraging, motivating, and/or inhibiting you in your efforts? Did you add any new habits that feel like they're becoming part of you? Did you drop any that you'd like to resume?

Gotta start my weight loss efforts again. In fact, my new health insurance has given me 12 weeks' free Weight Watchers sessions, which I'll begin on Tuesday. My approach will be to focus on nutrient-rich foods--whole grains, veggies, fruits--and use the WW points system to track intake. I think it will be good for me to have the longer-term "nutrition" vision, instead of looking solely at calories, fat, "points." To me, there's greater motivation in making sure that I get cancer-preventing foods (for example) than in just counting calories and grams of fat. It helps that I'm reading Food & Mood and also proofreading a book on oncology nutrition. Since starting to read Food & Mood, I've been paying more attention to how I feel right after eating a meal. Oatmeal with wheat germ--I feel great! Broccoli and tofu--fantastic, alert but calm! Pizza--sluggish, heavy, and not quite full.

I've also been swimming sporadically ever since I discovered that the high school pool is open, sporadically, for public use. I may join a center with a pool I could use regularly.

G. and I took up coed recreational volleyball in the spring. He is still loving the vball, going every week, sad when a week in canceled. I quit in the fall: too many obnoxious, super-competitive people at the BEGINNER session. I realized I didn't like vball enough to put up with them! I'm glad that G. has an activity he loves, though. He's been trying to coax me to come back; I've been trying to coax him to try another community ed class with me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry! Happy!

I'm wishing everyone a joyous Noel, a peaceful Holy Night, a merry Christmas, and a prosperous, healthy, happy, safe New Year. Even of you celebrate neither Christmas nor the New Year, I wish you all of the warmth, joy, peace, and love possible.

Amen. So mote it Be. Namaste.

Let's EAT!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Making Milk Drinkable

I'm not a moo juice drinker. The taste hasn't appealed since...well, puberty, come to think of it...and I have trouble digesting it. I can eat aged cheeses just fine because the lactose is mostly eroded during the aging process. Yogurt can go either way. However, in the interest of eating a lower-fat diet, I've been feeling the pressure to try--just try!--to drink some low-fat milk.

The vegetarian temple cooking of India reveres milk, which, I presume, is likely why Hindus revere cows. I was thumbing through the back of my Vedic cooking Bible when I noticed a section on menu planning by season. The tome suggested enjoying a hot milk drink, like cardamom milk, with breakfast on winter mornings.

Cardamom milk. That sounded good.

I turned to the recipe, finding it embedded in a generous collection of recipes for hot milk drinks, all of which sounded good. I made the cardamom milk, admittedly a little bit of a project for someone half-awake, and drank it with breakfast yesterday. It was Absolutely Delicious--creamy, warm, slightly sweet, gently spiced, hint of coconut. It was also, rather to my surprise, a cinch to digest. I attribute this to the cooking of the milk, which perhaps breaks down some of the difficult components, and the addition of cardamom, a spice that aids in digestion.

This morning: hot banana-nutmeg milk!

UPDATE: The banana-nutmeg milk is sort of like drinking banana bread, or like banana eggnog. I prefer the cardamom-laced stuff, but this is tasty.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Solstice!

We have reached the darkest, deepest part of the cave, and now we begin the ascent into the light. in the meantime, while we're snug in the den, let's drink a few hot toddies and light the yule log.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

K stop nao plz thx bai

We have plenty of snow for a white Christmas. It can stop now.

OMG, still snowing!

My snowy-day plans begin with wrapping G's presents while he's out interviewing a Wesleyan applicant for the admissions office. I will then find a chickpea curry recipe from my Bible of Vedic cooking and begin any required bean-soaking. There is proofreading to be done, there are gifts to be ordered (still! ack!), and there is fresh snow on which to snowshoe. I would visit the community pool, but my throat is a wee bit sore and warmish water is known for fostering germies.

I'd better get going!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Greetings from the snowy northeast. We should receive a foot of snow by the time the clouds clear tomorrow. The white flakes fell thick and fast starting around 1 PM, and when the sun set, the cloud cover made the darkness absolute.

I taught PE (ha!) during the morning and then came home and proofread. The snow helps me to stay focused and more productive: No clear sky and mild temperatures luring me outdoors. My husband, on the other hand, had trouble focusing. He felt like it was a snow day! No school! No work!

I need to move a little. I'll probably pop an aerobics dance DVD in the player. All the reference-checking made me dumb. I need to move fresh blood to my brain. I hope to coax G. into cooking dinner tonight. He makes the pad thai so much better than I do.

Be well, stay warm.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yuletide Cheer

Happy Yule! I'm feeling festive. The tree is decorated and most of the presents are purchased. The stores are bedecked in shiny reds, greens, and golds, and Trader Joe's is replete with seasonal chocolate-peppermint confections. The ground sports a crunchy layer of snow begging for my snowshoes. Dripping icicles hang off the power lines. We play the soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The cats, as always, nap.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snapshots of the Day

It was a rough day with the notorious, gang-infested 6th grade. Here are a few moments that amused or enlightened, however. Names changed.

  1. "Shawna's out today. She's getting her hair done by my mom." (I KNOW that hair braiding takes at least 8 hours, but it would never occur to me as a legitimate reason to KEEP YOUR CHILD FROM SCHOOL.)

  2. "Teacher, you're 30? My mom is 31." (The child was 12 or 13.)

  3. There was a boy named Darius in my class. The next period, Darius came back and told me his name was Darren. I thought I was losing my mind. The other kids did not register that anything was amiss. I asked Darren, "Weren't you already in here last period?" He said that he was not. He did not have the air of a student pulling a fast one; nor did he offer any explanation. I did not inquire further, because I did not want to be the insane white teacher to whom all the black kids looked alike.

    When the classes changed, I found another teacher in the hall. "Are there twins in this grade?" I asked tentatively. "Yes," she replied, "And for some reason the parents thought it was a good idea to name them 'Darius' and 'Darren.'" "Good, I'm not losing my mind," I replied. She answered, "Some days I can almost tell them apart."

  4. Today, the vice principal threw an ice cream sundae party for the fifteen kids in 6th grade who are passing all of their classes. Achievement!
I need to get back to the suburbs. Suburbs, please call!

Friday, December 12, 2008

In which I am not a useful or productive member of society.

I was going to write a detailed blog post about how I can't seem to get anything done,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yay! The Suburbs called today!

I'm going to sub in the suburbs! For art! And the school day will be the normal 7 hours! Rather than 8.5!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A note about The School.

I mentioned this in the comments, but I thought it deserved a space on the main page:

I should stress that this school (where I've been subbing) is in an economically depressed inner-city, and full of the children of immigrants from impoverished and/or war-torn nations. That is to say, this school is trying to help kids coming from the worst of circumstances; these kids are the products of the worst of circumstances.

I'm in no way implying that all--or most--4th graders are like the ones I met and attempted to teach on Monday. In fact, I recently spent a lovely day covering 5th grade in a comfortable suburb, full of children of educated and employed parents who do not come from impoverished, war-torn nations (though many came from India)--and it was a different universe.

Stage 2

I am having what could be described as "a crappy week". First, there was the day from hell with 4th grade. Then, my nagging fear became reality: That as soon as I was devoid of regular income, my car would require costly repairs. Take the first two ingredients and mix together with scant hours of sunlight, and voila!, a slightly down kStyle.

Something deeper has been gnawing at me, though. Even though I just finished my semester, and the holidays, with their generous time off for everyone in school, are approaching, I've been feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I've been feeling that this whole career change is a more insidious climb up a taller mountain than I even thought it was, and fearing that I would run out of energy and provisions before I could scale it. I've also been feeling sad that, as a sub, no matter how often I work at the same school, I'm an outsider there.

Yesterday, a book I'd ordered for my thesis work arrived. As I flipped idly through it, the stages of second culture acquisition popped out at me. I learned about this over the summer, but it was stored in the dusty bins at the back of my brain. I realized that I'm going through a similar process of adjustment, adjusting to a new career, to grad school, to the school where I substitute, to a new, topsy-turvy life, while adjusting my identity to include "teacher". And I realized that I recently progressed from Stage 1, the honeymoon, to the difficult Stage 2, culture shock. I quote from page 183 of the 4th ed. of Brown's Principles of Language Learning and Teaching:

1. Stage 1 is a period of excitement and euphoria over the newness of the surroundings.
2. Stage 2--culture shock--emerges as individuals feel the intrusion of more and more cultural differences into their own images of self and security.

Although Stage 2 feels pretty crappy, it is a sign of progress. It means I am closer to integration, to becoming an ESL teacher. But for now, I feel crabby and sensitive. Intellectually, though, I understand this is a positive step.

Can't we just skip Stage 2?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Oh, car. You had better keep running.

Wheel bearing, part and labor
2 new tires 87 x 2
Oil change

Paid M/C

The mechanic was encouraging, said that the sales tax on a new car would cost more, and that I was correct to assume my engine would run forever and ever, amen. Plus, I instantly liked him because he's Indian-American and wears a tricked-out gold bling OM around his neck.

It's never good when the mechanic calls while he's repairing your car.

That is all.

Pop obsessions.

(Each links to a YouTube video.)


80s retro.

Reggae pop.

These are not necessarily new or unusual, just (happily) booty-shakin' and in my head.

Why the 4th graders were weird.

From an email to my mom, who is a veteran teacher and will understand. All names have been changed because it seemed like a good idea.

First, the teacher was highly disorganized and I couldn't find anything on her super-messy desk. She also left the wrong spelling worksheet, which sent the children into an absolute tizzy. In general, the "cherubs" (as they say at this school) were acting like 1st graders rather than 4th: tattling, crying, pretending to feel sick for attention, refusing to get off the floor, etc etc. A girl named Marina cried because she misbehaved at SPED pull-out and did not get a candy cane. It took half an hour to do a 26-word spelling pretest, because the class Would Not Settle Down. (The teacher had alotted 15 minutes.) Two girls were loud, hyperactive, whiny, and bossy, but more-or-less normal, if infuriating. (At one point, talking to bossy-loud-talkin' back-ADHD-whiner Sabrina, I clasped my hands firmly behind my back to make sure I would not hit her in my impatience.) Two boys were very loud clearly had ADHD, too. But again, these were the normal ones.

Then there were the weirdos. Terron smelled like he was wearing a dirty diaper. He was slightly cross-eyed, cried because a girl was "mean" to him, and was obsessed with getting the rock candy another teacher had apparently promised him at some point. He kept coming up to me and saying, without context, "Rock candy. Rock candy." I tried to cover my nose discreetly and avoid gagging. Then there was Visal, recently from Cambodia, who kept saying he saw "ghosts" and "floating eyeballs" in the room. Naturally, it was distracting for everyone. He was a spooky little kid with lots of dandruff. I pretended to kick the ghosts out of the room, but that was not enough. When the SPED teacher came in for him, I pulled her aside and asked about the "ghosts." She said he is in counseling, and no one knows for sure whether it's just a cultural thing (apparently Cambodians are into ghosts) or a mental illness. She told me he pulls the ghosts routine with new people, and he also likes to tell people about all the horrible things he went through in Cambodia, but no one knows whether he's lying or not. Then she said he's a really manipulative kid and it can be best to ignore him. So, I started to ignore him, and then I would see his facial expression get really angry, like a dark cloud was passing over. Made me think it was mostly manipulation. I asked the SPED teacher to check in again if she had a chance, to make sure we were all still alive in the afternoon.

But the strangest of all was Berdine. She had a total, utter, crying meltdown in math. Would not lift her head off the desk. I gave her 20 minutes, then asked her to do some work. No response. Next thing I know, she's in the corner below the coat hooks, pressing her head against the wall and crying. I told her I was out of patience and she had to cry at the tables in the hallway. When lunchtime rolled around, I was damned if Berdine was going to keep me from having a few minutes to eat and pee. I asked her to go into the cafeteria. She refused and refused. Finally, I walked her up to the vice-principal, who was busy with a gaggle of 8th-grade girls and simply shook his head "no" through the office door. Praise St. Anthony, the guidance counselor (Cara) was right across the hall with her door open. She took Berdine off my tired hands. When I finished lunch, Cara found me and said (I quote), "I will be a monkey's uncle if that girl is not autistic." Cara has sent her for screening, but nothing came of it, so she was looking up the file. Cara reassured me that I hadn't done anything wrong. Berdine is now, as of yesterday, allowed to eat lunch quietly with another teacher, so she doesn't have to cope with all the noise and chaos of the cafeteria; hopefully that will prevent breakdowns in the class before lunch.

Berdine was at the nurse, but (lucky me!) would soon return to class. Berdine cried the rest of the day and said her "body hurt all over." I took the kids out to recess to make them run off some insane energy before they had afternoon specials. Berdine stuck by me, sniffling and whining and--YES!--she flapped her arms at one point.

Finally, I was relieved because the bus kids--including Sabrina, her hyper sidekick Mariah, smelly Terron, ghost whisperer Visal, and especially nuclear Berdine--would not return to the classroom after specials.

But then, during my free period, the nurse called me because apparently a teacher (not me) allowed Berdine to use the classroom phone to call home. I got an earful about how Berdine's aunt called the nurse back and said that Berdine is "a drama queen," and only the nurse can let kids call home, and the nurse had NOT let Berdine call home, etc. I explained that it didn't happen in my class and I was just the sub, anyway. The nurse said she was going to speak to the principal and the whole team of teachers. I repeated that it wasn't me. The nurse said, "I know! Thanks for your time." She was just venting. I did not need her venting at that point.

THEN, the Spanish teacher calls to say that Berdine is returning to my room! Because she called her dad and her dad said her mom would pick her up! And ADHD Mariah also came back because she did not hear the direction (stated at least 3x) that bus kids should bring all their things and would not return to class. Then Berdine spent the rest of the afternoon sniffling and worried that her mom would not pick her up. At one point, she picked up the phone without my permission and was about to dial her dad! I reprimanded her very firmly for that--had crazy teacher eyes. Then I was stuck with Berdine because the afterschool teacher who monitors the pick-up kids was absent and no sub had been called in. Finally, I found a salaried teacher who was supervising the afterschool kids until someone else showed up, and dumped Berdine on her. Then I hightailed it out of there.

Toughest $100 I've made lately. On the other hand, some of the class, esp. the Cambodian girls, a boy named Darion, and Arrek, a rotund, half-Vietnemese kid who gave me a restaurant tip, were exceptionally good. The Cambodian girls all made pop-up cards for me in their free time. I wanted to adopt little Alida, but I think her family is probably very attached to her.


PS Sorry that was really long!
PPS I forgot to tell you! The principal's house burnt down over the weekend, killing her 3 dogs. So, no principal.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Today's theme.

These are some weird 4th graders, and not in a good way. Now I am exhausted but still must buy groceries.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Being silly. Being sleepy.

After I put the last touches on my term paper Friday, I decided to treat myself to a movie matinee and popcorn. I saw Twilight. Yes, it is silly-teen-angsty. Yes, I sat in the theater surrounded by gaggles of text-messaging young teen girls and two of their moms. Yes, it was all I could do not to ROFL when we learned that vampires avoid sunlight because it makes them Sparkle! Like diamonds!

But, the movie was enchanting and visually gorgeous, and it sucked me utterly into its world. It was magic, as movies should be.

After my last classes for the semester yesterday, G. and I celebrated with sushi. Then I came home, collapsed into bed at 9:30, and did not wake up until 8 AM. That's a whole lot of sleep. I had dreams I was practicing archery in a giant swimming pool.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Being skeptical.

A dear friend who is slightly (OK, quite a bit) farther along the New Age continuum than I has begun distributing raw chocolate blended with acai and blueberries. Apparently it's a superfood. She says it's the Best Chocolate she has ever tasted.

I tried a square. Tastes like stale dark chocolate to me. Did not cure the weird mole on my back.

Have you heard of Anne Lamott?

I just heard of her for the first time. Evangelical Christian writer with progressive politics, a foul mouth, and maybe a touch of crazy. It's interesting. I sometimes reflect that my relatively even temperament equates to less need for (a) god.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This quiz cracks me up.

And it's really difficult!

Pictures for Ann.

I ran across these online and thought of you, my nuanced friend who enjoys winter! All are by Sisse Brimberg. For some reason Blogger is cutting the photos in half horizontally--click on them and watch them unfurl!


Thank heavens, I got a respite today: No substitute teaching calls. (Of course, I wonder: Did I do something wrong? Will they never call again?)

I've been slammin'-productive this morning, tidying up the straggling NCLB citations (new favorite typographical symbol: the section sign) and piecing together my ILP proposal. All that remains is to produce a proposal timeline and give everything a good proofread. Wahoo!

PS Also, just landed a proofreading gig for during my break between semesters, AND turned down a copyediting gig for that same timeframe! (I'm really glad the proofing gig got a hold of me first: it pays better, which is backwards. Copyediting should pay more.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In which the days have themes.

Yesterday was "all the fifth graders have ADD!" day. Today was "eighth grade girls with serious 'tudes" day. What will tomorrow bring?

I can tell with one glance at a classroom whether my day will be difficult or relatively easy. If the desks are in neat, ordered rows, I'm in trouble. Rows say, the teacher Is The Boss in this top-down ("autocratic," in ed parlance) classroom. Might makes right. That means trouble for the sub, who is not the usual teacher and therefore has neither might nor right. If the desks are in groups, a horseshoe, or other non-row formation, I am all set. The teacher runs a so-called "democratic" classroom with lots of interaction, where the students share responsibility for classroom management, and therefore feel some sense of ownership. The day will never be perfect, but it will be much, much better.

Today's desks were in an E shape. The day went well.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oh, and also, too

I may have mentioned this before, but Black Orpheus remains the most lovely, beautiful, elegant, touching, whimsical film ever, EVER. Although it is my very favorite movie, I don't watch it very often, and I wonder why until I next view it. Then I remember just how very sad it is, hopeful and often funny but sad, and then I put it aside for another long passage of time, until I forget how sad it really is. Later I watch it yet again, and again grow surprised at my own weepiness.

What a perfect soundtrack it has, too. Tristeza nao tem fim...


My research paper on the legislative roots of NCLB is now, at long last, at the point where Dubya is going to take office and reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act under the name No Child Left Behind. What a journey it's been, from Sputnik and Brown v. Board of Education, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the origin of ESEA in '65, leaping ahead to Reagan (crazy, crazy Reagan), Bush I, and Bill Clinton. The influence of governors, the influence of corporations, the influences of the Cold War and civil rights...Sigh.

After we tidy up Bush and the current Act, we'll speculate about Obama, fix the references, and hopefully call it a day.

Then I'll need to finish my thesis proposal. Thankfully, that's in pretty good shape.

Thanksgiving has been like this: Type-eat-read, type-read-eat, type-check email-procrastinate, read-read-type, type, type.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving!


PS I keep thinking it's Christmas for some reason.
PPS Highly recommend these cookies.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wearing red.

I am wearing red today, to see if it might "melt off the fat". I'm not any thinner yet, but I do believe it plays a little psychological trick. My red scarf is like a red string around the finger, a reminder of my intent not to visit the vending machine, a reminder to take those few extra steps.

Those magickal people are clever, even if they don't know why.

All I'm askin' is for a little RE RE RE RE

Three girls, around age 13 or 14, were incredibly disrespectful today. It amazes me, given the high premium placed on respect in teen culture, that some kids do not understand that they need to give respect. I told them as much: That I treat them with respect and expect the same. They had Evil in their eyes today, though; they were possessed with some demon of adolescence. Hence, two girls who had been "mostly good" with a side of "not doing much work" rapidly elevated their stature to "major pain in the ass". One had me so angry, somehow, through some adolescent demoncraft, that I was consciously avoiding telling her just what a f-ing pain she was being. Consciously restraining myself from cursing at a student--NICE. Trust me that I was provoked. Then their friend who is not very bright and just follows along joined in the fun and was sent to the assistant principal to join her belligerent friends.

Then a kid puked in my class, right after returning from the nurse with a headache. He looked gray! Poor guy. Poor us, cleaning it up.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Oh, is THAT all I had to do?

My appetite--especially for sweets--increases fourfold in the winter. I Googled "Winter Weight Management" for tips on preventing the creeping hibernation belly, and the first result is, er, surprising.

Still. I'm totally going to wear red. Any little bit.


that's pronounced "khi-mai", is the most beautiful language in the world. Now I'm lucky enough to hear it almost every day at work, where about half of the children speak Khmer as their native tongue.

Even the writing is beautiful.

Of course, I am open to the possibility that I'm enamored with this Cambodian language largely because I can't understand what the kids are saying in it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A brief moment of complaint.

I think I'm getting a cold. I also am definitely getting my period soon. Altogether, I feel foggy, tired, stuffy, sniffly, sneezy, and irritable. And hungry. The "hungry" bit is all PMS.

Plus, I have a lot of work, and it seems like many friendly souls cannot comprehend the idea that I really, truly cannot do anything except substitute teaching and grad school work until Dec 6. Really. TRULY.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Debate topic: Chocolate chip cookies.

Soft or crispy? Support your answer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ths positive side of winter.

Sure, my hands were as cold as death as I tried to type in the library, and yes, the pitch-black world pressed against the windows at 4 PM, but, hey!, let's try to find some positive things about this godforsaken time of year.

Ruby red grapefruit is in season!
Maybe I'll snowshoe soon!
Lips are chapped! (Sorry--not positive!)
Soup and bread!
That special clear quality of sunlight when it appears for half an hour!
The Nutcracker Suite!
Fluffy bathrobe!
The shower: That happy warm place with moisture in the air!

Come to think of it, maybe I'll just stay in the shower until April. Hand me a grapefruit once in a while, would you? I'll pipe in The Nutcraker.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

SOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUP. And on being a lump.

I made a simple cabbage soup from the French Farmhouse Cookbook this evening. It was elegant, hearty, warming, and delicious.

In other news: It is dark and cold and I am becoming a lump. Though in fairness to myself, I did take a 30 minute walk yesterday, when school let out but before the sun went down, and I did about 30 minutes of yoga, as well. But then I stayed up too late and woke up too early. As a result, today I was sleep-deprived while minding 8th graders, and when I came home I fell asleep on the couch without much ado. Upon waking, I peeled myself off the couch and made soup while G. went to volleyball alone. (My rotator cuff is Not Quite Right. I could certainly use the exercise and the leaving-the-house, but my shoulder needs to work into old age.) He came home, we ate soup, we watched The Mentalist, and here we all are.

I had grand plans to exercise and to do some work for my classes. But I am foggy-minded today, and it's cold out. I feel all the more lumpish because my husband went to volleyball and came back energized, but I just puttered around.

The soup was probably my crowning achievement for the day. I'm trying to decide whether that's sad or not.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hurray, it's cold enough to bake.

I'm mixin' it up and putting some cornmeal into a white bread recipe. More fun than adding whole wheat! Tomorrow I'll make a French-style cabbage soup to go with it.

I've also become a chutney-makin' fool. This recipe for cranberry chutney is incredible, though I would either leave out the onions or add them at the beginning to give them time to soften. I also left out the celery. I love chutney, I love cranberry sauce, and to have their perfect lovechild gracing my fridge is...NOM.

Ms. F, are you married?

...asked one of the 7th grade boys today. They were lined up to return from library to homeroom. We were waiting for one slow child, and the kids in front of the line noticed my rings.

I said that yes, I was married.

"To who?"

"My husband."

"No, what kind?"

"Oh! Part English, part French..."

"Where's he from? Is he from here?"

"He's from Connecticut. His dad was from Oklahoma, though."

The exoticism of Oklahoma and its cultural distance from New England did not impress the Cambodian kids. Go figure.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How does one clean house, again?

My parents invited themselves over for a visit. The condo is a mess. I don't remember how cleaning works.

...We have been busy lately.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh, the things children say.

The kids at my school are indignant when reprimanded. They have good reason. As one pointed out, "You're just like Ms H--you don't like Asians!" Yes, yes, that's it. I don't like Asians. The truth is, I can't really tell the Cambodians apart from the Hispanics at this school. Most of their names--Shaidiamond? Chansolida? Jeessell?--are not (to me) obviously from any linguistic group. In both ethnic groups, girls tend to wear gold bracelets and hoop earrings. The kids wear school uniforms. Except for a few children obvious in their appearance or in their names (the two Carloses and the two Rafaels, for example, have names that reveal their backgrounds), I cannot guess who is what.

Also: If I disliked Asians, why would I work at a school that is 50% Asian? If I disliked Hispanics, why would I work at a school where the remainder is Hispanic?

Moving on.

Many of the kids seem to have a short circuit in the "consequences" section of their brains. Ergo, when I reprimand one, I often receive the charming response, "Why you pickin' on me?" If my answer is not to the offended child's satisfaction, he often rewards me by saying, "Woooooowwwwwwwww," in exasperated, indignant disbelief at the injustices inflicted upon his poor soul by a soulless substitute teacher.

I say "he", because the girls are more likely to stare at me with an evil, defiant glint in their eyes and repeat the offending behavior, rather than arguing with me, the teacher. Perhaps they are smarter. I'm not convinced that is the case, however. I think that these kids have developed their own gender norms for misbehavior protocol.

It is interesting, this anthropology of adolescents.

Oh, and also! One charming young man called me a bitch and said he hated his fucking school in front of the vice principal, immediately after being released from the vp's office for another offense! Needless to say, he did not make it back to my class that afternoon.

PS Nonetheless, I maintain that 7th grade is way more fun than 1st.

Spent the end of my workday on "soft lockdown".

How was your day?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Interesting factoid uncovered researching NCLB.

The youngest Bush brother, Neil--the Stephen Baldwin of the Bush outfit--owns a test prep and educational software company! Yessiree, he does. I'm sure it's all above-board and NCLB's high-stakes testing has nothing to do with this.

Oh wait, maybe it does.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Guess who's lacking focus and slightly overwhelmed?


I have a lot to do before the term ends on Dec. 6. If you see me blogging too much here when I should be a writing research paper and working on my thesis, please tell me in the comments to go back to work.

Love and thanks,

Monday, November 10, 2008


You may recall that I was nervous about leaving my job of seven years. I was afraid I'd miss it, that I'd discover it was really my life's work.

Turns out? Not my life's work. Do not miss it at all.

Of course, I miss many of my friends. They also email me to say how I'm missed. They STILL have not hired someone for my position. It has now been 7 weeks since I gave notice. Silly.

A List of Things I Do Not Miss about My Former Job:
  1. Should I have capitalized "about" in the above title-case header? Who gives a f^ck?
  2. A colleague informed me today that my former office again smells like dead rat.
  3. They still haven't replaced me? WTF? Get it together, people!
  4. Anal-retentive colleagues with control issues telling me what to do.
  5. Monday morning status meeting. Ye gods, that thing was heinous. The tension!
  6. The tension! The tension!
  7. The steady march of corporatization on the culture and expectations of a formerly small, family-owned publisher.
    7a. Squeezing vendors for every last dime.
    7b. While knowing that said vendors have not received a salary increase in years.
    7c. And that many have had drastic layoffs.
    7d. Managers now must sign off on everything, up to and including wiping your ass.
    7e. Listing monthly "wins". That really was the last nail in the coffin for me.
  8. Boredom. Hours and hours of daily, grinding tedium. The days were sooooooo loooong.
    8a. It's not as if I wasn't busy. I was constantly, completely overloaded with work, and bored to tears by all of it.
  9. Crushing workload. CRUSH-ING.
  10. Although my colleagues are nice people, and many are friends, they are the most neurotic group of individuals you could hope to collect under one roof. Everyone is full of hang-ups. Every conversation could suddenly turn awkward for no apparent reason. See also #4.
  11. Being grossly underpaid.
  12. Pretty much everything about my former job: I do not miss it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Brighter Day Will Come.

I find this video a stirring tribute to the President-Elect.

Meme from Ann: One Word Each.

Where is your mobile phone? Somewhere
Where is your significant other? Bathroom
Your hair color? Brown
Your mother? Mom
Your father? Dad
Your favorite thing? Cats
Your dream last night? Forget
Your dream goal? Homeownership
The room you're in? Office
Your hobby? Cooking
Your fear? Falling
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Present
Where were you last night? Nia
What you're not? Dogmatic
One of your wish-list items? Travel
Where you grew up? Dighton
The last thing you did? Exhale
What are you wearing? Clothes
Your TV? HD
Your pets? Cats!
Your computer? PC :(
Your mood? Fatigued
Missing someone? Unsure
Your car? "Shelley"
Something you're not wearing? Shoes
Favorite shop? Local
Your summer? Short
Love someone? Much
Your favorite colour? Pink
When is the last time you laughed? Today
When is the last time you cried? Election

Friday, November 7, 2008

And now, a word from Protagoras.

Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not or of what sort they may be, because of the obscurity of the subject, and the brevity of human life.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fifth Grade: Really Great.

Of course, it helped that I was in a very different school, a school in an affluent suburb with a normal-length school day, rather than school in a poor city with an 8-hour school day. (Ignore my misplaced modifiers. I know they are there, but lack the reserves for revision.)

I know that the extended school day is a theoretical boon to students, and I concede that the children may be better off at school than at home alone, or wherever else they might go after a short day. However, my experience thus far is that kids cannot handle 8 hours. They become tired, cranky, belligerent. Even with breaks such as enrichment activities and recess, they become overstimulated. It is too much for their young minds and growing bodies. A six-year-old burst into tears on Tuesday because, in the 7th hour of school, he missed his mommy and daddy. Another six-year-old started crying because she missed her brother by hour six. The seventh-graders just got distracted and mean.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Seventh Grade: Much Better.

Oh, there were miserable, evil pre-adolescents, to be sure. However, no one mauled me in a desperate, needy plea for attention. No one tattled. No one cried! There was no crying!! It was excellent. It was a little slice of educational heaven. Well, not quite heaven...but it was much, much better.

The other teachers were friendly and helpful, too. In first grade, not so much.

Hurray for seventh!

Happy Liberal Christmas to All!

I love to see blue.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Christmas in November

Election Day. There is a current in the air just like Christmas. A buzz, an excitement, a nervousness. I hope that Santa is good to the Liberals.

I'm making Election Day brownies and oolong tea. How are you celebrating?

First Grade Sucks.

There is whining. There is tattling. There is grabbing the teacher with grubby little hands of neediness every time she walks by. There is more tattling. There's the sick girl who has to come home. There is forgetting hats, coats, gloves, anon at cafeteria, office, gym, anon. There is lots of noise, and more noise. There is more grabbing the teacher. There's a lot of crying after lunch, when the kids are tired.

There is NOT a lot of listening.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Beginning, Part 2.

Oh, dear. I've been called in to teach FIRST GRADE tomorrow.

Oh, dear.

Oh, dear me.

I'm a dork.

A reference librarian was able to track down an article for me. When the pdf arrived in my inbox, it was like Christmas morning. Title? Peer-Peer Interaction between L2 Learners of Different Proficiency Levels: Their Interactions and Reflections

It is official: Dork dork dork.

The Beginning.

No call came requesting my substitute services for today, so I have a chance to--get this!--get some work done for my master's classes. The Assessment class, in particular, has me feeling buried. I'm doing a much better job keeping up with my thesis, because I chose (as my advisor suggested) a topic which I would dream, eat, and breathe. It amuses me to realize that I've been procrastinating my Assessment work by...working on my thesis.

The last few weeks, I've had NO TIME to help out around our little condo. My cooking night? Pizza it is. Dust bunnies? Let 'em breed. Hungry cats? G. can feed 'em. I am therefore happy, really so very happy that it's silly, that I will have time today to do all the grocery shopping for the week AND have chili on the stove by dinner time. I might even whip up a cake, if I'm feeling crazy. And do some laundry! Imagine! I really want G. to come home and just be able to relax, because he has had to do ALL the chores lately, and he deserves some spoiling.

OK, it's time for me to carry on with my day. I'm keeping a log of how I spend my time to prevent dawdling on the Intertubes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The End.

of my seven-year publishing career. It is over.

I realized on the drive home today that I get to keep the skills and knowledge I gained there, but the company loses a lot of institutional knowledge with my departure. Interesting, that.

We wait and watch. People ask if I'm excited, sad, happy, nervous...I suppose I am all and none of those at once. I don't really know how I feel, and I often feel that I don't know how I feel. I think it's because I'm a meditator: I can hold lots of feelings at once instead of painting them all one color, and I know not to get too attached to any of those feelings.

Most importantly: 30 Rock premiere tonight!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Last Week.

It's my last week at work. It's weird.

I was treated to drinks at the car of the local Mexican restaurant after work today. It was fun. I'll really miss everyone.

I won't miss the work, though, and I suppose that work is the point of work.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In which I cannot be trusted alone with popcorn.

I have created the caramel popcorn equivalent of a meth lab in my kitchen.

The plan was to reduce my consumption of the addictive, high-calorie dark choolate Moose Munch sent as vendor gifts by creating my own, healthy version at home. A little popcorn, a drizzle of homemade low-fat caramel, a few dark chocolate chips--you get the idea.

Instead, I found this caramel popcorn recipe, which was given 5 stars by 929 users. I had all the ingredients. I set to work. Five stars! Almost a thousand users!

I made supremely decadent, unhealthy caramel popcorn when I set out to do the very opposite. And just now, just now as I found you the above link to Moose Munch, yes, just now, I discovered that Harry & David make a light Moose Munch anyway!


My popcorn is mighty tasty, though. I may make it in lieu of Christmas cookies this year.

What is WRONG with me?

I need to exercise. I need to do some yoga, in particular. But it's like I'm so stuck in my head from doing research that I've forgotten how, like I am physically incapable of moving from the computer, unless I am armed with a highlighter and ready to read my hardcopy.

I've become an online databasaholic. I think
What if I search the EBSCO with an AND instead of an OR, and the OR term has to be in the abstract, not just anywhere in the text, and then I might get one additional hit, and if the article only has an abstract available, I can look for full text on Google Scholar, and if it's not there, I'll use WorldCat and see if it's an B.U. and then ask G. to find it for me there? Maybe that would find me two more articles! I already have 14 and I only need 10 for next week, but I'm on a ROLL!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

This Week in Surprises

  1. A small mermaid was frightened by my innocuous pirate hat at the office Halloween party.
  2. The Microsoft Word menu seems to be slightly different between platforms.
  3. The parts of NCLB I'm reading are surprisingly good.
    3A. Apparently most of the screw-ups are thanks to state interpretation and implementation.
  4. Sometimes? When you RTFM? It really does answer your questions about how to use the online library.
  5. Buying health insurance through the state website in MA is surprisingly like choosing a flight. Little comparison tables.
  6. When you get more student loan than you need for tuition, the college sends you a big, fat check that makes you breathe a whole lot easier, and will handily cover health insurance costs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dislike and a Like

There is a woman at volleyball who resembles nothing so much as a terrier.

I dislike terriers. They are aggressive, yappy, noisy, pushy, uncouth, clueless things.

I relate well to cats.

It would be a foolish experiment to put a cat and a terrier in a room together. If one were to be supremely foolish and put a cat and a terrier together for 90 minutes every Tuesday, eventually blood would be drawn. This is not because the terrier is inherently bad; nor is the cat inherently bad. It is because terriers and cats are so fundamentally different as to be completely incompatible.

There is no room large enough for a cat and a terrier to cohabitate peacefully. The cat will attempt to get away from the terrier, but the oblivious terrier will chase the cat in order to yap at it more. This will not do. The cat can only take so much of the terrier before she strikes. The terrier will whimper and not understand what happened.

Terriers are dumb.

On a happier note, I freaking LOVE this stuff:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Signor Lorenzo

Today, we celebrated G's birthday with lunch at Lorenzo's, a venerable Italian restaurant and local landmark since 1950. (Normally I avoid naming specific locations on this blog in the interest of relative anonymity, but I want all who stumble across this humble page to visit Lorenzo's, eat lots and lots of delicious, reasonably priced food, wash it down with some house wine, and chase it with dessert. Go! Eat at Lorenzo's! Mangia! You look too thin! Mangia!)

Lorenzo's was a great location for our purposes, an hour's drive for us, an hour's drive for G's mom, an hour's drive for my brother, and half an hour for my parents. My sister was home for the weekend for a high school chum's wedding, so even she could join us. We were lucky. Everyone was in good spirits, and we had a convivial afternoon.

I ordered chicken livers in marsala sauce. It's a surefire way to prevent anyone from nabbing food from my plate, but in fact, I just really, really like liver, and G. hates it, so I eat it out when I can. My sister agreed to try it. She said, "I don't like it, but I respect you." Later, when my Dad teasingly asked her what she thought of the liver, she replied, "It's disgusting!" It is not. And someday, when everyone else is pale and fatigued with anemia, I shall be rosy-cheeked and whistling a happy tune. Except that I can't whistle. Sad, isn't it?

After we ate desserts and drank coffee, an older, fit man with a shock of thick, wavy white hair, came to our table. It was Lorenzo himself! I charmed him with my three or four words of Italian, and he rewarded me by sharing that he was originally from northern Italy. He told us that optimism was his secret in life, and that he would turn 87 years old in two months. Eighty-seven! He looked about 70 at tops. My dad shared that we were celebrating G's birthday, and Lorenzo asked if we had a cake. We said that no, we had canoli and tiramisu, and they were delicious. Lorenzo would not hear of it. He looked around the room. "Are you their waitress? Bring them a cake! It's his birthday!" No no, we insisted, we were fine. Lorenzo would not hear of it. "Bring them a cake! Bring them a cake!" While we waited for the cake, Lorenzo asked me in Italian if my brother was my husband. I set him straight. He chatted with us about his wife's after-church bingo habits and how his optimism got him through both colon cancer and prostate troubles, and soon a candle-topped cake with blue and white icing was carried glowing into the room. We all sang, including Lorenzo. We thanked him, me in Italian, and then he meandered to the next table to say hello.

Although we were already stuffed, we ate cake. It was good.

Grazie mille, Signor Lorenzo!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This one's for Larry.

Last night I was in Pyongyang. I needed to find Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, to explain to him what makes a good suspense book versus a good suspense movie. My sidekick (whom I didn't know, as in all good suspense fiction) and I ran through the empty streets of the massive city, dodging under overhangs and flattening ourselves against skyscrapers to escape view from black government helicopters.

We found Dan Brown in a park. I explained to him that suspense works better as a book, because in movies, the sound track gives away whether someone is a good guy or a bad guy. Covert message delivered, we ran back through the streets of Pyongyang to our car, again dodging to evade Kim Jong Il's helicopters.

We had stashed money in our car, wads of wide green bills. When we reached the car, the bills were gone, replaced by useless North Korean pennies. We fled, knowing that government operatives had been in the car and it was no longer safe.

We needed to acquire a guanabana soda as a sign of goodwill to the Brazilian spies up north. The better part of our money gone, we checked our wallets to make sure we had enough cash to buy the soda. We set out on foot, running, evading helicopters, toward the northern edge of the city. Ahead we saw the two Brazilians, looking very hip in their black outfits. We had the soda---

The alarm went off. I felt more tired than I had when I went to bed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goodbyes: I'm Not Such a Fan

People at my Day Job are being Really Nice and throwing me a bon voyage party. makes me all, "Oh, maybe I should stay!" But no. No, I shouldn't: I'm simply in that awkward transition of saying "goodbyes" but not yet any "hellos" and it's messing with my head.

This same thing happened before I left for college. I was ready to go. It clearly was TIME to go. That summer, one by one, all my high school friends left before me. I'm not sure why it turned out that way. Perhaps some orientations began earlier, perhaps some friends joined college sports teams, perhaps some colleges were further away than mine. As my friends left, one by one, I became sadder and sadder. Then there was just me. I wanted to hang onto something that was clearly past, but it was just because the next part hadn't yet begun for me. When I arrived at my own orientation, things began looking up.

Or maybe I should just work at Day Job until I retire.

PS Clever (I think) tip: I ordered free business cards from Vista Print with my contact info. I'll hand them out at my party. Clever, si?

Anxiety Dreams

So, yes, OK, it is understandable that I would be having some difficulty with my threefold major transition, ie: 1. leave the company that has given me a steady paycheck & benefits (but little joy) for 7 years; 2. close (or put "on hiatus") my shiatsu practice; and 3. begin substitute teaching for less/unsteady income and no benefits.

OMG, I just saw it for the first time: shiatsu hiatus. OMG!

Anyway, my anxieties are lurking at night, waiting to infuse my dreams. To wit:

1. I am working in Chef's kitchen with Lucinda, the sous chef from season 1. Things are not going well. Orders are piled up and we can't cover them. Everyone else is gone and not helping. At any time, Chef Garreth Blackstock will return and begin ranting at us. And, unlike on the show, it won't be funny.

2. My dad is insisting that we go to a health center as a family. I don't want to. They try to make me drink grapefruit juice and put me on a raw foods diet. I run but can't escape the massive building. I finally get out and discover that my sandals are missing and my feet are bare. I have to dodge back in without anyone finding me to retrieve my beloved sandals.

3. I'm starring in a high school production of a musical. I can't get there. I am lost driving on highways. I stop at a green grocer for directions, but I park in the wrong place and get hemmed in, and the delivery man yells at me because it's his drop off area. Inside the green grocer building is a craft shop with lots of cheesy stained glass leaves. I really need to pee, but I can't find a toilet. Someone gives me directions, but when I get in my car, I can't follow them. The show began at 6 PM and now it is 6:12 and I am still 40 minutes away.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Warts and All

My friends, it is time we talk about a serious issue. That issue, my fellow Americans, is bacne.

Now, I am not a zitty person. (Senator McCain--he is zitty. His record is clear on this. His complexion was not.*) I am a veteran of puberty, I have served my hormones, but I was fortunate enough, with God's blessing, to escape acne. From a young age, my face was dry. While the other children in our blue-collar small town were learning to apply benzoyl peroxide and endure salicylic acid, I was exfoliating and slathering on cream. To this day, my face remains blemish-free, except for one monthly whitehead on the side of my chin.

Imagine my surprise, then, my friends, my fellow Americans, my favorite Joe Sixpacks, when I began experiencing body acne, or what Washington insiders call "bacne". My dry back riddled with painfully deep, bacteria-filled eruptions. My pores cry out for a liberator.

Senators Obama, McCain, and I are looking for a solution. We are exploring many possible avenues. Our current plan is to work with a store-brand (imitation Neutrogena) body wash and scrub containing salicylic acid. The online experts call for more expensive solutions that will spend taxpayer money hand-over-fist.

My fellow Americans, our committee needs your solutions. If you have bacne, do what you can for your country and tell me what has helped your skin.

Thank you.

My fellow Americans.

*Just kidding. No idea about McCain's dermatologic history. It was for effect. EFFECT, PEOPLE.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Today in the Life

In the oven: rising dough for classic baguettes and experimental rosemary-sage-olive oil baguettes*

On the radio: American Boy by Estelle

Still in bed: my spouse

On the meditation cushion: in a moment, me

*Most likely I am violating the definition of baguette, but I suspect that deliciousness awaits anyway.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My hospice patients...

...Keep getting better and going off of hospice! Isn't that crazy?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


The Red Sox are in the pennant race. G*d-F^ck1ng D@mmit! Do you know what this means? DO YOU!

It means that for the next month--or however long baseball goes on, see what a fan am I--everyone will be tired. They will be tired, and think that they are somehow Warriors of Fandom for their team. And the next day at work they will say, like a warrior fresh from battle, "I'm exhausted." And I will say, "Me, too. Why are you tired?" And they will give me incredulous/pitying/angry looks, and, although almost too fatigued, they will find the strength, somehow, to explain to me through their exasperation that The Game went late last night. And I will avoid asking which game, and restrain myself from explaining that I am tired from going to grad school while working and running a shiatsu practice, you know, having a real life in which I do things other than cheering.

I will speak to people who live elsewhere and follow baseball. They will assume I am thrilled, or desperately sad, depending on how the Sox are faring. I will try to be polite. It will be a strain.

From Boston right through the 495 belt, everyone will go stark raving mad. In the epicenter, The Hub itself, cars may be turned over. Once a girl was shot in the face. Riots? Riots, people??

Worst of all, my husband's office is in Kenmore Square. Kenmore Square, I now explain for those fortunate enough to be uninitiated, is the home of Fenway Park. Fenway Park is--you got it!--home of the Sox. This means traffic, no parking, mooing out-of-towners shuffling along in herds, taking up the sidewalk, unable to decode the subway. My husband's commute quadrupled, all the lunch spots near his office overrun.

Pray for us.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ranting for Homework

My assignment became a rant.

The prompt asked me to write 1 page about a problem I see facing the educational field today.

I emailed my advisor, saying essentially--

Dear L________:

I am not a yet a teacher. I feel presumptuous telling the field of education what it needs to fix. Please advise.

She wrote back, saying essentially:

Give it a try.

I thought a bit. And here's what I ended up thinking. I ended up thinking that education is becoming more and more corporatized, with the large-scale assessments (aka standardized or "bubble" tests) intended to improve Accountability and Integrity, and with the charter schools being all "charter" with their fancy CEOs, high salaries, and quickness to fire your teachin' ass in the name of Accountability.

And then I thought: Who the hell is holding Wall Street accountable? And what credibility does the corporate world have preaching to education about accountability?

So I wrote a page and a half just like *that*, essentially a rant. I attempted to be scholarly and conclude with a couple paragraphs about how We Need to Examine the Relationship Between Business and Education and Analyzing the Goals of Education, to wit:

1. producing worker bees?
2. allowing students to have a wider intellectual life than their future monotonous jobs?
3. producing people who can analyze and imagine new approaches to business, home, education, the state? (I like this one)
3a. or at least having the skills to grapple with the ethics of daily life? (like this, too)

What do you think?

Rantaciously yours,

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I have to administer a survey to an English Language Learner. I don't have any students, so I had to think of a creative way to accomplish this task. I saw a good chance to get some family history. I called my dad.

"Dad," I asked, "Did you grow up in a bilingual household?"

"What do you mean?" he replied.

"Didn't your grandparents speak Portuguese at home?"

He admitted that they spoke some Portuguese to his parents, but not to him. I persisted nonetheless.

"Did you speak Portuguese with your parents?"







"Karen, I don't speak Portuguese."

"But you know the word for onion," I persisted.

"That's true," he replied, "Cebola. Cebola."


"I also heard some curse words growing up."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

GOING for it

Oh yes, I am giving myself an ambitious Independent Learning Project for my master's degree. I'm going straight to the meat of what interested me most last semester: psycholinguistics. Can Chomsky, Vygotsky, Krashen (aaaah, Krashen, I love you), and Cummins make us better language teachers? I think they can. When and how can we put their theories to best effect?

Other students are going to research how to encourage acculturation, differentiation between language learning needs and learning disabilities, issues of cultural identity, educational models for teaching English in other countries, successful bilingual schools, or how to help language learners pass The Test (whichever test it may be).

I've always been a freaking philosopher, though. I mean, I majored in Classical Civ because I really, really wanted to read Plato in Greek. (For the record: makes more sense in Greek than in translation. Classical Greek syntax does not do well in English. At all. What would Chomsky say about that, I wonder?)

UPDATE (nerd alert...though I suppose it's already too late for that): OMG, Stephen Krashen has a mailing list! I subscribed! So exciting!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weekly Question

In honor of my recent job-quittin', please tell us about a time that you gave your notice.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New York City: Ground Zero

We visited Ground Zero when we went to NYC. We were there Sept. 12-14, so it seemed a fitting thing to do.

It's difficult to get there. The subway line still marked "World Trade Center" doesn't go that far anymore, but there's no one to explain that. After a few subway mishaps and loads of walking through an unseasonably hot, sticky afternoon, we arrived.

A block away from the site idiot protesters were loudly, obnoxiously demanding the Truth about 9/11. They had decided that Bush orchestrated the whole thing. Somehow their shouts seemed incongruous near a place of mourning, and disrespectful to the fire fighters who fell that day. Thankfully, no protesters or vendors are allowed at the site.

Not much construction has been done yet. Ground Zero looked like a scar to me, an absence. Although that somehow felt appropriate to me, G. felt miffed that the construction had gotten nowhere in the course of seven years.

Note the people in the foreground, living life like nothing huge ever happened here. I guess that's how it has to be, especially if you're going to live or work in NYC. It has been, after all, seven years, even if I just visited the site for the first time. I didn't notice this pair until I saw the photo on my computer.

What you can't see in this photograph is all the other pilgrims around me, behind me, like me climbing the stairs across from the site to get a better look, trying to make some sense of the horror of that ripped through that fine September morning. You can't see the little children running around, playing, oblivious to their stricken parents.

Here's the firehouse right next to the site. I mean, right next to it. They lost a lot of men that day.

The wall beside the fire station serves as a memorial for their fallen. There were so many people in the small alley, looking, remembering, that I did not get a front view.

Down by the fire station, one side of the WTC site is left open for viewing, no tarps over the fence. There was a crowd peering through the fence on this Saturday afternoon seven years later.

Plans for the future WTC are here. They were posted near the site, a little beacon of hope. I think they're beautiful.


I see why a mere 2 weeks' notice is standard. I'm not getting much done at work this week, and it's hard to care. I'm supposed to finish my current projects before I leave--that was the plan! my plan!--but I just don't give a crap.

Monday, September 22, 2008



I plan to give my notice at the publishing company today.

It is very strange. I thought I would feel elated and nervous when the day came. Instead, I feel like I don't believe it, and very calm. I wonder how I'll feel once I actually talk to my manager, and over the next month until my last day, October 30.

I wonder how anxious I might feel as I work out health care and banking over the next month, as I defer loans and cash a few matured savings bonds.

I'll be substitute teaching in a couple of towns and maybe freelancing on the side. I figure, pouring all my energy into publishing is not going to help me get into teaching. Substitute teaching will help me get into teaching.

And that is the story for today.

Friday, September 19, 2008

New York City: The Williamsburg Bridge

We walked across the Williamsburg Bridge on Saturday.

G. and The Sister gave me lots of looks for holding them up snapping photos. But who could resist the top of the bridge?

The view was nice, too.

Be sure to click on that last photo. A whole world opens up. A shining city.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New York City!

See this little guy?

He looks so cute and innocent, doesn't he?

He's my sister's kitten. She found him in the bad, scary streets outside the gang-infested school where she works. His mommy had abandoned the litter.

He's doing OK, though.

I suspect his mommy left him too soon, because he DID NOT LET ME SLEEP ALL WEEKEND. He really enjoyed nibbling on MY FACE as soon as I drifted off to sleep. I think he thought that I was his mommy, with magical nipples on my cheekbones and nose.

That would be disconcerting.

Nor did he want to let me read. He's a prodigy in the Feline Campaign Against Literacy. (That's right, cats. I know what you're doing.)

But he suuuure is CUTE.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Weekly Question

Remember when we used to do a Wednesday Writing Assignment at float? Ah yes, that was fun, but I quickly ran out of ideas.

A weekly question is easier, though.

Question: Do you have a tool or object that is like a trusted friend to you? What is it?

I'll also answer in the comments.

Monday, September 15, 2008

OMG. Brilliance.

In case you can't see the embedded video, click here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm gonna wake up in the city that doesn't sleep

Fare thee well, I am off to Brooklyn for the weekend! (with a side of Manhattan)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Good News

There are no student loans, The News told me. They have dried up. Bone dry. Drier than a Chenin Blanc. No loans. NO. LOANS.

It was with some trepidation, then, that I applied for financial aid. I just wanted a little under two grand a semester, enough to cover tuition so that I wouldn't burn through my savings or forgo every small luxury. Enough loan to breathe.

I checked my mail every day for the last three weeks, anxiously hoping for and simultaneously dreading a cream envelope with the navy Cambridge College insignia. I nervously logged on to my college email account and my college e-portfolio-thing looking for news.

Spit it out, kStyle.

OK! They gave me the maximum possible subsidized Stafford loan per semester! That's $8500 each semester. It's ridiculously more than I even need. Then they threw in an extra $500 in unsubsidized Stafford per semester, just in case.

Thank you, Uncle Sam.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mellow Mix

I'm having way too much fun with iTunes this weekend. In no particular order, here are the songs of my Mellow Mix:

Name Artist
Salala (Featuring Peter Gabriel) Angelique Kidjo featuring Peter Gabriel (Thanks, Larry!)
Aguas De Marco Bossacucanova
Space Oddity David Bowie
That's The Way Of The World Earth Wind & Fire
World Seems To Come And Go Holly Cole
Didjtal Vibrations Jamiroquai
What A Wonderful World Louis Armstrong
White Lexus Mike Doughty
Crumblin' Erb Outkast
Golden Lady Stevie Wonder
My Cherie Amour Stevie Wonder
Amber 311
Galileo Indigo Girls
Down on the river by the sugar plant Mike Doughty
True Dreams Of Wichita Soul Coughing
Flake Jack Johnson

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New Template

Blogger has a nice pink template! Have I told you my theory about pink? I swear to goodness that people are nicer to me when I wear pink. I think that Margaret Atwood mentions this theory in one of her novels, too.

She totally got that from me.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Employ Me! And, Your Music Suggestions Requested

I am striking out applying for school positions. I began, optimistically, by applying for full-time faculty and then broadened my scope to include "support staff" positions (ie, tutor, permanent substitute teacher). I have a few theories:

1. Education is even clubbier than other fields. You have to know someone. This is why it's useful to have my dad make calls, but he doesn't know anyone at most of the schools to which I've applied.

2. I may not know the "code" for education applications yet. Each field has certain keys to a successful resume, which may or may not apply to other fields. In publishing production departments, for example, the interview-worthy resume must list at least Office Suite, and preferably includes "Adobe Suite" and "dual platform" as well. We love phrases like "detail-oriented" and "within budget". Outsiders may not realize that the humble PowerPoint can make or break a resume. I suspect that there is a Magical Incantation for the Education Resume that I'm missing.

3. The economy is, shall we say, soft, which means less funding in the town budgets for school faculty and staff.

4. I won't apply for special ed jobs. I know, I just know, that I lack the particular flavor of patience needed to work in special education.


Onto a happier topic. I need workout tunes! Not fast, peppy cardio tunes, but slower, more deliberate weight lifting/calisthenics ones. Poor G. is going to lose his mind if I play any more Bowie. Here's my playlist thus far:

Damien Marley--Beautiful
Bob Marley--Jammin (too sweet for the tough business of weights)
Spoon--I Turn My Camera On*
The Dandy Warhols--We Used to Be Friends* (too played out)
Chromeo--Fancy Footwork
Gaudi--Ayahuasca Deep Fall
Stevie--Higher Ground (too slow, surprisingly)
Jamiroquai--Traveling without Moving, Alright (too dancey), and Virtual Insanity (too negative)
Beatles--Good Day Sunshine, Taxman (way too fast)
Weezer--Island in the Sun

MIA--assorted songs (don't know the titles. may all get deleted on account of being slightly irritating)

So, post me your recs!

*Yes, I bought the Veronica Mars soundtrack.

All this talk of the suddenly-famous Hockey Mom reminding me of a fantastic quote from last season's 30 Rock. In the uproarious "MILF Island" episode, Jack Donaghy (fictitious NBC Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming) reports that new reality TV star Debora (pronounced de-BOR-ah) is a hit with all the major demographics:

"soccer moms, NASCAR dads, white-collar pervs, and the obese.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Raised by...

A dear friend who is a liberal but chose to stay home (mostly) and raise her kid pointed out that no one will play the "childcare" card with Palin, as they shouldn't, but who the heck is raising her (FIVE) kids (one of whom has Down's Syndrome) while she runs the state, runs for VP, and runs marathons?

I posed this question to my dear husband. He thought about it for a moment, and said, "Elks."

My head is full of stuffy

I'm home sick today. I have the sort of stuffed head that reduces reading comprehension, which is Just Not Safe in the publishing industry. I've worked feeling like this before. Inevitably, the fog inside causes me to do something dumb, which I then pay for in a couple of weeks. (Who make that edit? Oh...oh.)

I have an appointment to see the NP at 11:45, when we shall play the game, "Virus, infection, or ragweed?"

UPDATE: It's "just" allergies, but it turns out that I am Very, Very Allergic. The NP looked into my nose, ears, and mouth. She said that the lining of the nasal passages should be the same color as the lining of the mouth. Bright red tissue means infection, pale pink tissue with a film of fluid means allergies. My nasal tissue is white, not even a hint of pink, and covered with lots and lots of fluid. I am already taking Claritin every morning and Chlor-Trimeton every night, leaving just Flo-Nase to add to the arsenal. Grrreeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Same Old Sh...ugar

[Kids, a little language follows. If you're under 18, avert your eyes!]

O, Facebook. In one week, FB connected me with two people: One whom I was delighted to hear from again; one who made me cringe.

The cringeworthy person was known as Stalker Mike, half of the Evil Twins. (Hi, Ann! Haha, good times, right!)

Stalker Mike was, well, my stalker. We were assigned to work together on a history project. I sort of pitied him--he was weird and an outcast and perhaps a little interesting--and I thought it best just to be nice to him. I went to his house one day after school to work on the project. His mother was pretty crazy, maybe bipolar?, but she makes a mean marinara sauce.

O, nice. Do not be nice to a person with latent stalker tendencies. (Disclaimer: he didn't, like, murder my cat or kidnap me or anything serious. Don't get too worked up.)

Stalker Mike decided that he was in love with me, but it was a strange projection of me. He liked to claim that I was wearing a mask, that I wasn't letting out the real me.

Michael was just sort of creepy, and I was too nice. I was brought up on nice. I'm a freakin' pleaser, OK? Raised Catholic by teachers; you try not to be nice. Senior year, I found a month-old love letter from him in my backpack. I had an LL Bean backpack with a gazillion little compartments beneath a gazillion little zippers, and Stalker Mike had the misfortune to place it in a zipper I seldom open.

I flashed back to a month earlier, when the principal had asked me to step into his office. (Hey Ann, I don't think I ever told you this part, because it was too creepy and embarrassing!) The principal asked me if I had a boyfriend named Michael. I said no. I couldn't even think who he would be talking about. The principal told me that "Michael loves Karen" and "Michael + Karen" were spraypainted all over the boys' bathroom. I suggested that perhaps it was the students visiting for some kind of acadmic bowl earlier in the week. I was mystified.

Yet, I thought that Michael's letter deserved the dignity of a response, because, you know, too fucking nice. So I wrote a nice little missive about how, thank you for your interest but you are not a qualified candidate because I don't feel the same. I passed it to him in the cafeteria or study hall. I thought that would be enough.

He came up to me later and thanked me for the response, and then proceeded to argue against it. I can't rememeber what I did.

I went to college. Stalker Mike sent me bizarre letters on graph paper. He often placed the words on the page in a shape. I'm not sure how he got my address, come to think of it. He liked making poetic metaphors that made no sense. I don't recall writing back, but the letters kept coming for a time. At some point, I'm not sure if it was from the letters or what, I noticed that whatever I said or did seemed to be "wrong". I hadn't yet heard of borderline personality disorder.

Now here's where I get stupid. Because, after sophomore year of college, none of my friends were returning to our podunk town (annual event: cow chip festival!) for the summer. College students are endlessly social people and require almost infinite contact with peers. Who was in town? You got it! Stalker Mike and his Evil Twin, Angry James, who had grabbed a girl and shoved her against the lab bench in junior year honors physics.

Stalker Mike had a girlfriend, Heather Who Had Been in a Cult. But Heather, Heather seemed so nice and normal. And at first I didn't know that she had been a Satanist for a while. It was later that she told me of the vengeance ritual that made a beautiful but treacherous model's hair fall out, and by then she was ashamed of her prior self. Stalker Mike was stalking her now. It was all OK! They could be dysfunctional together! I could just enjoy hanging out on Thayer Street in Providence with them. They introduced me to Monty Python (like) and that tedious card game Magic (hated). I was safe because Michael had a lady.

At some point, Stalker Mike and Satanic Heather were living in their own apartment in Providence. At some point, they were kicked out and homeless, living out the car in Lincoln Woods. Then they lived with the kind and patient monks of the local Buddhist monastery for a time. Then they were ("unfairly," said Michael) kicked out of the monastery.

[Note: I cross my heart that I am not making up or even embellishing a word of this.]

At one point, Heather and I sat on the curb of Thayer Street eating our falaffel, and Heather said that she and Michael had talked about taking a "break" when I was home for the summer so that he could date me. I told Heather that I was just not interested in Michael romantically and he didn't seem able to accept it.

I officially told both Evil Twins to stop contacting me my senior year of college, when they were fighting over Heather's affections and asked me to referree by email. Then I jumped up and danced through our on-campus housing, freed at last. In my jumping and spinning I accidentally hit the thermostat with a stray hand and the cover came flying off. Thus I earned the nickname, The Goddess of Destruction.

College students. Everything was hilarious to our former selves. Why is that?

Recently, my family was reminiscing at one get-together or another, and my dad recalled how (unbeknownst to me until that moment) Stalker Mike would drive up and park in the road across from our house at 5:30 AM many days. My poor father would (he said with amusement!) go out to the car and say, "Go home, Michael."

All of which is to explain why I cringed when Stalker Mike found me on FaceBook. Yet, I couldn't quite remember everything I just told you. I had this vague sense of anxiety, distrust, and aversion, but I didn't remember quite why.

But some patterns take a while to change. I thought (of fucking course), People change! I wonder what Michael is up to! I wrote back.

What ensued was a strange correspondence. Michael said (I'm paraphrasing), "Let's play a game. You can ask me one question, I'll answer, and then I'll ask you one." I agreed. I made sure to mention that I was married at every opportunity; that would make me safe. He was living in China; that made me safe, too. This correspondence promised to be interesting. (See? It's my goddamn love of all things interesting that gets me into situations like this.)

My questions were pretty reasonable, I thought: How did you come to live in Asia?, but Stalker Mike wouldn't answer that, not directly. He asked me things like, "When's the last time you had a good cry?" and "What's the biggest mistake you made this week?" I answered them all truthfully, but within boundaries I felt appropriate. For example, when he asked me, "Where are you most ticklish?" which was truly inappropriate, I cleverly replied, "The back of my throat because of the ragweed." He was still not answering my questions. He suggested we talk by phone and
offered to mail me some of his writing. I tactfully ignored him.

Then Michael said "First, let me compliment you. You seem like a very confident and self-possessed person. But it just doesn't fit what I see of you. I know there's a whole galaxy inside there. Why don't you let it out? For example, when you told me about visiting the bees, you just reported it. But I sense that it moved you deeply. So tell me, K, how carefully constructed is your mask?"

I told him it was his own fault if he couldn't see the real me and then quoted the Heart Sutra. I told him to take some responsibility: If he wanted to hear more about the bees, then he should ask.

I asked him, AGAIN, how he wound up living in Asia. He again did not answer.

The next 2 times I logged onto FB, to correspond with that other friend I was happy to talk with, within seconds Stalker Mike was right there on the FB IM trying to reach me. The first time, creeped out, I shut the browser without finishing my message to A. When I logged on again hours later to finish the message, Stalker Mike's name popped up: "Are you there now, K?" I replied, "I don't IM. It's a time suck." He replied, "Well, excuse me, I'll leave you to your super-productive emailing :P". I replied (STILL TOO NICE!), "Going out to run errands. Have a good one."

I came back to find another email from him ("I should have asked more about the bees, you're right, but you can assume that I always want more. I'm a deep guy. You can participate as much or as little as you want."). I decided that enough was enough. Basta cosi!, as the Sicilians say. This morning, I wrote:

Hi Michael,

I'm feeling very angry with you.

I have honestly answered every question you have asked me, but you suggest that I'm hiding behind a mask. Yet, you have still not answered the very basic question I've asked you.

I don't do mindmelds and I don't play mind games. I think you are being very manipulative. I can't be friends. If you see it differently, then our perceptions are so different that we are incompatible as friends, anyway.

Good luck.

And then I removed him from my FB friends, the Ultimate Electronic Insult!

Then I remembered all the ways in which Stalker Mike had earned his nickname, all those elusive memories that were flying like bats hidden below the surface. And now you know, too.

Judge me not.

Update: Actually, I am feeling sort of proud that I had the guts to trust my instincts. I've laid it all out for you so that you can see the stalker thread clearly, but stalkers are crafty and often seem logical, reasonable. You can tell yourself, "He's just a nice guy with a crush on me. There's no need to be cruel. We can be friends." Stalkers, alas, are so delusional that subtlety does not work, although they can be subtle themselves. It's hard to understand, perhaps, unless you've had your own Stalker Mike.

I think having a preserved preserved correspondence helped me to spot the Creepiness.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bring your favorite cheese,

said the hostess of tomorrow's party.

This is a logistical problem. Can you predict the logistical problem?

I thought the St. Andre two days ago.

I broke down and broke into it today.

There is a reason, my friends, that my favorite cheese is not allowed in the house.

Ragweed notwishstanding,

it's really a lovely day out there. The sun is warm on my skin, but the air is dry; the sky bright, clear blue. The grass is saturated green, odd for late August, because of the continuous line of storms that passed over our heads this summer. A few trees are hinting at orange, just at their fingertips. The first few acorns have fallen on the pavement, making for excellent cracking underfoot.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sorry, wrong specialty

If I were fluent in Spanish or eager to work with autistic kids, I would totally have an education job by now.