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.