Sunday, July 31, 2005

no fear

First day of school on Monday.

Friday, July 29, 2005

change of plans

I was supposed to meet a friend today, and it fell through. Very frustrating.

L got scratched by another little girl at daycare. Early last week I saw one of the instructors pull a child by the arm out of anger. It's been haunting me ever since. I can't wait to move L somewhere else.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

school funding

. . . is actually pretty darn good in my new district. Not what you expected me to say, was it?

It's true. The school office stocked me up with new supplies. They're building a new basketball court and bleachers for student recognition assemblies. There have been coffee, danishes, and fruit at every faculty collaboration so far. (At my last school, we only had food once a year. It was potluck style, and one teacher brought hamburgers from White Castle.)

Every student has a textbook in their class. Every student has ANOTHER textbook at home. Teachers get eMacs in their classroom. Three-quarters of the rooms have a digital projector installed in the ceiling.

And, the kicker, I get paid well.

Disclaimer: The district receives additional federal funding because ninety percent of the students are on free and reduced lunch. These students need all the resources they can get.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


It's my first week at a new school. Students will arrive Monday, which leaves three paid days for planning curriculum, creating arbitrary rules that I will strictly enforce, pretending to care about what color my bulletin boards are, and attending lots and lots of meetings.

Yesterday I found out what grade I'm teaching. Today I got a key for my classroom. I'm making good progress.

My class (a reading class, mind you) includes half an empty bookshelf and a teacher's desk. I scoured the room to discover my entire set of school supplies: a single pair of scissors. The rounded kind from elementary school. No books. No paper. No pencils. Not even a crayon in sight.

This might take a bit of creativity.

Monday, July 25, 2005

the craft

I caught the tail end of Jon Stewart's interview on Fresh Air last week. He was asked why stand-up comedy is so much more difficult than making his friends laugh. Stewart responded simply: humor is a craft.

From the audience side of entertainment, it's easy to forget how many hours go into editing that novel, setting up that joke, or creating that character in a movie.

I'm hoping to catching a glimpse of one such process next weekend. Philip Morton of ScreenwriterBones is hosting a workshop at a local cafe. At best, I'll get a chance to meet some interesting people, hear a few writing strategies, and come away a little more educated. At worst, it's a nice Saturday drive.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

in poor taste

If you have not done so already, read The Onion.

Choice headlines:
Bush Awaits Orders From Rove On Handling Of Rove Scandal
Marine Corps Shortens Slogan To 'The Few'
Scopes Monkey Trial Raises Troubling Question: Is Science Being Taught In Our Schools?

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Hrm, well, I've gone and bought a house.

Friday, July 22, 2005


I know nothing. To its credit, my new school district takes poverty very seriously. As they should--ninety percent of my students will be on free and reduced menus.

Lots of good intentions today, even a little good advice. Still, I started to squirm when a woman dressed in a cream-colored business suit with matching earrings, watch, and pumps explained that people in poverty think "concretely" whereas "we" think abstractly. They speak "in circles" whereas "we" speak directly and logically, etc. Then she started defining the life of Tammy Crabtree according to a matrix of financial resources, emotional resources, spiritual resources, mental resources ... You get the idea. It seems all wrong to me.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

all in the family

I met a man today whose son just came home from a year in Iraq. He served in Vietnam. Both in the army. I wonder if that helps, or if it just makes it harder to talk about it.

Another loose acquaintance is headed there in August as a firefighter. He's young, drinks like a fish, and will see his younger brother get married on Saturday.

I'm too tired to think about it right now, but somehow it weighs on me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

why John is better than Janice

After last night's nomination of John Roberts to fill the eighth seat on the Supreme Court, I admit I was disappointed it wasn't a woman. Then I got to thinking about it, and I was relieved it wasn't a woman.

Politically, I'd much prefer Janice Rogers Brown to John Roberts, Sandra Day O'Connor to them, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer to all three. But in terms of women's rights (the ugly and all-important Roe vs. Wade precedent aside), I don't want O'Connor's seat on the bench to be known as "the woman's seat." Sadly, that's exactly how Ronald Reagan got her there in the first place.

Appointing another woman to fill her place could, at worst, send the message that the U.S. can wait until that woman retires before needing to appoint another. The Supreme Court shouldn't have a quota; it should have equality.

Obviously, the next Chief Justice should be a woman.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

quote of the day

Groping momentarily for words, Mr. Bush said he was trying for a reply "that sounds profound to you without actually answering your question." --NYT

dumb question

From a teaching application for a job I turned down:

Change is often scary for people. How do you respond to change?

Not a good sign, is it, when you start feeling sarcastic about a job while filling out the application? I was hoping to avoid pop psychology, people moving cheese, and six sigma sychophantic stuff by going into public education. Oh well.

Yesterday was one of those defining moments. It was the kind of event where music would be swelling if my life were a movie, but in reality, it's surprisingly mundane. The clock keeps on ticking without missing a beat, and I get back in my car and drive away. Changed but not much different.

Daycare was a lot easier than I expected. And I only cried a little.

Monday, July 18, 2005

hiking tips

  • When you're allergic to wasps but leave your epi pen at home, you should consider turning around.
  • When you have to cross a fast-moving stream on a log, with a baby strapped to your chest, you should consider turning around.
  • When you lose the trail at the first dry creek bed and spend fifteen minutes looking for it before a forest ranger happens to wander by and point you in the right direction, you should consider turning around.
  • When the afore-mentioned ranger asks "How far you goin'?" and raises his eyebrows at your answer, you should consider turning around.
  • When you drain two-thirds of your water supply and have been hiking for two hours, you should consider turning around.
  • When you're tired, sore, scratched up, and think "I can go just a little longer," stop considering it. Turn around.
  • Saturday, July 16, 2005

    current record = 9 seconds

    Homo erectus

    Thursday, July 14, 2005


    My faith in journalism is renewed. David Johnston and Richard Stevenson of the New York Times joined the fray with this controversial article, thanks in no small part to someone who "declined to be identified." Across the country, the L.A. Times published two articles about potential conflicts of interest--Schwarzenegger's 8 million dollar outside salary and NIH scientists moonlighting for pharmaceutical companies.

    It will be a good year for Pulitzers.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2005


    Google ads in the margin I can live with. Even the Volvo ads spliced between paragraphs in the New York Times is excusable. But when money lenders start bombarding someone's comments section, that's bad. Very bad.

    The Best said...
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    Saturday, July 09, 2005 11:59:11 PM

    Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    state and church

    I always hear this phrase reversed. Here's an interesting post about singing patriotic songs in church.

    Monday, July 11, 2005


    My friend John believes the world is divided between Elvis fans and Beatles fans. And then there's the Rolling Stones.

    Another beautiful day in paradise today. So much is going well right now personally and so much is going wrong in the world that it's almost cloying. My husband claims he only writes well when he's depressed. Since we've been together, he's written very little. I take that as an odd kind of compliment.

    A local man was killed while trying to use his baby daughter as a shield in a police shootout. The girl also died. I can't fathom how that woman can go to sleep tonight, after losing a husband and daughter. It makes me think, too, about post-partem depression and what demons a person must be fighting to endanger their own child's life. Morbid.

    Let's go home and draw the curtains
    Music on the radio

    Sunday, July 10, 2005

    nice photos

    of beer & puddles

    Saturday, July 09, 2005

    chocolate roulette

    Spent the day house hunting. Ran out of batteries, digital card space, and energy.

    Despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars that separate some of these homes in the land of blue skies and sunshine, there seems to be a couple of leveling-off points. At first the houses get progressively nicer; then you start paying for more subtle differences like square inches on the master bathroom floor. Do I really need a bathroom so huge that you can--never mind.

    My favorite amenity was at a house well beyond even our dream price range. The entryway patio was centered around a stand-alone fireplace. This is SoCal! Hmm, does that make the gratuitous outdoor fireplace even more ridiculous or simply explain it?

    After a long day, I came to the conclusion that the rest of the country has long known: Housing in this region is insane. We need a Cesar Chavez of real estate to help us middle class folk rebel against megalomaniac developers and their master-planned communities.

    In other news, I think I found my little brother a birthday present.

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    faking it

    I never had to dissect a frog in a high school, but if I had, it might have been like trying to read CSS code for the first time: "Oh, so that's where the post-title is. Ewwww, look at all that sidebar junk." I tried not to touch anything I didn't have to. In the end, I faked my way through understanding it and got three dots and a link to appear. Yay.

    10 days

    It is a frightening epiphany to realize the disconnect between what people think you know and what you actually know.

    When I came home from the hospital in September, I remember thinking that I had no clue how to take care of this tiny person we'd named Laura. I mean, besides the mountain of books I'd read, the advice a dozen nurses had given me, and my mother en route to relive her own adventures in baby-care, I had no clue.

    I had much the same feeling when I began teaching. A friend finishing up med school now and another in his first job at a law firm tell me they feel likewise. Even more disturbing than facing my own ignorance, is the realization that my own parents, teachers, doctors, and lawyers (ok, so I don't have a lawyer) were also learning as they go.

    These are all very bright people, don't get me wrong. I'd rather have a doctor who knows how to intelligently go about solving problems than one who's memorized a few solutions to a few well-known problems. That's what we're taught to teach, too--critical thinking and all that jazz. Knowing how to question is more valuable than simply knowing what the answer is.

    But the irony is almost unbearable. In ten days, I leave my child with someone licensed in childcare. In ten days, I begin teaching The Outsiders to children who know a lot more than me about gangs and outsiders.

    Are we capable? Yes. Am I skeptical? Very.

    Good bye, maternity leave. It's been fun.

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    London tragedy

    Best wishes to any and all affected by the horrendous attacks this morning. My thoughts are with you.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005

    blah blah blog

    I meant to go for a long walk, but now I have a bad case of blogache. Why do blogs gives me the illusion that I have something important* to say? And what it so compelling about arguing with strangers in half-inch spaces destined to be forgotten in 24 hours, armed only with a handful of links and shoddy HTML formatting?

    Nonetheless, here goes:

    U.S. vs. U.K.--Yes, it is possible to critique the U.S. without being anti-American. Are people really arguing about this? Huh.

    London vs. Paris
    --Olympics 2012 goes to London. Eat your heart out, Chirac.

    pro-choice vs. pro-abortion--Hillary Clinton is my newest old hero. Balloon pirate and Daniel Hoffmann-Gill are close seconds.

    reporters protecting sources vs. disclosure--Robert Novak is a bastard. That said, journalists have ethical imperatives to protect confidential sources.

    And just for good measure, I'm against school vouchers too.

    *n.b. I applaud you guys out there who discuss government, laws, wars, and ethics in blogs, even when you're criticized for being "too political." Being aware and concerned about what goes on in the world does matter, and it's a much better alternative than apathy.

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    sandra d

    Not this Sandra D., this one.

    I'm going to miss her. Somehow I doubt Ellen Alderman or Caroline Kennedy is on the short list of nominees.

    Laura and an ape watch each other skeptically.


    What can be more extravagant than touring the San Diego zoo from the posh comfort of a baby stroller? Honestly, the little one is much too young to remember any of this. At the glassed-in window facing the hippo pool, a crowd of toddlers eagerly followed every movement of the sluggish beast while L's eyes were glued on them. And we, of course, watched her.

    The elephants ate hay; we ate burritos. The birds screeched; L squealed. A zookeeper nursed a gazelle from a bottle; I nursed L. A tiger paced; we walked in circles. When the wild cats retreated into the cool shade for a nap, we ducked back to our air conditioned car and went home. The zoo was amazing and beautiful and large and overwhelming, so we topped off our fourth of July with margaritas and called it a day.

    Friday, July 01, 2005


    I'm addicted to IMDb. I swear, I got through three semesters of teaching a high school film class with that site. Well, that, and a dozen amazingly good books.

    If only someone out there would create a database of books and authors (besides the Library of Congress), cross-referenced with co-authors, editors, and translators, and reliably updated bibliographies. Then I could die happy.