Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans

At what point do you try to rebuild and at what point do you cut bait?

Granted, if I'd just bought a house there and was banking on a good job for me and my husband (as is the situation of a close friend), I'd stubbornly hang on. But way out here, on the other side of the country where I'm considerably out of reach of hurricanes, I think maybe the Gulf wants New Orleans back. It seems like a wise idea to just let her keep it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


What little I know I like. I admit I'm completely new to this, so please take everything I say with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, learning about GIS is like learning about the Internet for the first time and thinking, "Wow, that's really cool. Why didn't I know about it sooner?"

It's more than just maps and pretty pictures, geographic information science (or systems, depending on who you talk to) puts spatial information to use.

Take the 2004 election results. (Yes, Balloon Pirate, you inspired me.)
It's not just red and blue states, it's this.

Want something more relevant? GIS makes it possible to do live tracking of hurricanes across the Gulf coast (photo from ESRI) and enables rescue workers to work accurately and efficiently. Remember how 9/11 knocked out the emergency routing information for New York City? GIS put it back together again.

Department stores use it to track customers, historians use it to discuss changes in segregation policies, and people in forestry use it to track everything from logging to endangered species. The first documented use of what would become GIS was in 1854 when John Snow mapped a cholera epidemic and tracked it to local water supplies.

So like I said, "Wow this is really cool. Why didn't I know about it sooner?"

Monday, August 29, 2005

new shoes

L got her first pair of shoes today. She hates them. In socked feet, the little one will practically dance across the floor; with shoes, she rolls around as if in pain and tugs at her toes. They throw off her balance. I can't wait to see her in roller skates some day.

I have never been so loved...

Or so the flier says.

We're waiting for a table at a local Chinese restaurant, and a woman with three kids offers me a spot on the bench next to her. I accept. She and her husband politely comment on L--she's beautiful, how old is she? etc. Then they ask "Are you from around here?" Hmmm, getting a little personal. But we're killing time anyway, so what's the harm in answering a couple questions?

Soon I'm holding a flier for her Baptist church and lying through my teeth: "Yes, we're Christians." Now please leave us alone.
"Have you been saved?"
"That's great. Because that's so important. I love to preach the gospel and remind people that Jesus Christ . . ."
The 30 minute wait suddenly got a lot longer.

I don't begrudge this family their right to worship or even to talk to people about what they believe. It's the prying into my personal life and the manipulation to get us into their church that bothers me. What's a polite way to tell someone that I really don't want to answer personal questions about my religion? My husband joked later that we should have responded with questions about their sex life.

For me, it is that personal. I don't want to discuss whether or not I'm going to hell or whether or not there is a God who gave his only son so that I can be saved. I lie because I think it will make the conversation end faster. I'm not worried that a devout Christian will be rude to me if I pour out my spiritual soul, but I'm afraid that telling the truth is offering them a big opportunity to Save Me.

The whole incident left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I'm sick of disasters. My thoughts are with those living in New Orleans. Audrey, my dear pregnant friend, be safe.

In the mid-90s a rash of "great floods" swept across Missouri's riverbanks. My mother, a scholar of housing, wrote about the importance of place and why people choose to leave or not leave their homes in face of impending disaster. I remember taking weekend trips to help sandbag, dropping off canned corn and spaghetti sauce at the temporary shelters.

I should have learned something from all of this--come away with a greater sense of what "home" means, know how to prepare for losing everything, or at least remember a few anecdotes about everyday heroes. But I'm not any the wiser.

Nature is sublime; the beauty and terror of a natural disaster never loses its edge, no matter how many you live through.


At some point in your life, you'll be sitting around in a circle with a bunch of strangers and someone (probably a teacher) will ask "If you were in a fire and could only save a couple things, what would you take?"

This is my answer, in the order I grabbed it:

1. shorts
2. Laura
3. fleece bodysuit for Laura, tag still on
4. wallet & keys
5. sandals

My husband:
1. me
2. shoes
3. "important documents" folder
4. wallet & keys
5. sunglasses

Friday, August 26, 2005


This might explain why I've been absent lately. I live--past tense, lived--in that building.

And yes, thankfully, we are all ok.

Monday, August 22, 2005


When you're in eighth grade, you're still young enough to be excited by learning new words with funny spellings. You might even seek out your English teacher during lunch just to ask what it means.

Does that kind of curiosity and learning for the sake of learning wear off? or just dissipate a little? I want to be surrounded by people like that.


I'm always calmed by the stillness of the mornings. The serenity almost makes me forget that I'm only up this early because I've been procrastinating.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

black humor

I've never noticed how dark the humor in The Simpsons is.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

a drink at any hour

It's only natural to follow a football post with one about alcohol.

I love states without blue laws. At 11 p.m. I can buy a 6-pack of beer from a grocery store. On Sunday, I can pick up a bottle of wine to go with dinner. It's more than convenience; it makes sense. The morality argument behind banning the sale of alcohol on Sunday is ludicrous.

That said, there probably are times and places when alcohol should probably be a little less accessible. There are some who logically argue that extending bar close times would increase widespread problems of binge drinking, as in Britain. (Old Man Rich, I expect you have a thought or two on this topic.)

Then there are others with cogent arguments insisting that a later bar close would prevent incidents of binge drinking, such as "power hour" among the newly-turned 21-year-olds. As my own birthday approaches, I think sauntering down to the local bar and slamming 27 shots sounds like a really, really bad idea.

I've drunk less than four beers in two years what with pregnancy, nursing, and the like. I miss the context of drinking more than the actual drinks. I think it's that social aspect of drinking that's really the heart of the debate about bar close times.

It's a problem when binge drinking becomes socially acceptable, even cheered. But a group of friends kicking back and watching "the game" with a few pints--no harm in that, is there? Even on a Sunday.

Friday, August 19, 2005

fantasy football

My husband finally has time to be a football (U.S. style) fan for the first time in years. I came home last night to the sound of a pregame show. Surprisingly, it was a very comforting noise.

Now he's part of a fantasy football league, which is a clever way to get football fans obsessed with ALL the teams instead of just the home team. The biggest downside is that now we have to cheer for Randy Moss, the world's most abhorrent professional athlete. And yes, that is saying a lot.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I am searching Google in vain for a humor post I saw two years ago. It was a retelling of "Lord of the Rings" in the style of dozens of renowned authors from Stephen King to James Joyce to Dr. Seuss. Extra Credit to anyone who can help me find it again.

p.s. Still going strong in the teaching world. Except that I lost my voice. That complicates classroom management (or lack thereof). Wish me luck at the parents/guardians back-to-school night tomorrow.

Monday, August 15, 2005


It's a bad habit. I'm trying to break it. Teachers seem to be infamous for either doing far too much or far too little. There's got to be a middle ground out there somewhere....

Sunday, August 14, 2005

standardized politics

You've probably heard about cultural bias in standardized tests. But here's a new one--political bias. What about a (hypothetical) question that assumes there are only two candidates running for office and ignores the segment of the population who votes third party, writes in a candidate, or omits that question? I'm one of the cynics who believe that third partiers don't usually have much of a chance (Ventura being the most prominent exception), but to completely ignore their existence? That's a bit harsh.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Did I mention that L took a step last week? Just as Balloon Pirate is off to visit his son the Lieutenant, my little girl is asserting her own small form of independence.

choose your battles

This is probably the best advice my mom ever gave me. It came to mind twice recently.

1. John Tierney has a decent editorial in the NYT about why he's pro-choice and anti-Naral. The inflammatory ad against John Roberts is misleading and misguided. It's also the wrong battle to fight, in my opinion.

2. On Friday, I made my first Californian student cry. People who know me generally tell me that I'm a nice person. Too nice, even. But I have a knack for making at least one poor kid burst into tears in every school I've ever worked. Strange that they've all been boys. Anyway, this poor kid (I'll call him James) has the misfortune in being in a "difficult" class.

To make a long story short, I'd called his parents twice last week and haven't been able to get ahold of them (only left a message with an older brother that I'd called). Poor James was in tears at the end of Friday begging me not to call them again. "I was good!" he yelled at me. He desperately wants to play football and knows that his chances are waning every time I call his house. I went against my better judgment and struck a deal with him. I admit it, I want him to play football, too.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Our apartment building had the water turned off all day yesterday. Since we spend most of the day away from home, it was a minor inconvenience. Mostly I use water to shower, use the restroom, wash dishes and clothes, and cook. We buy huge crates of bottled water to drink because we don't trust the city water; a $40 charcoal filter from Target just wasn't cutting it.

As gasoline prices approach the $3.00 mark, I'm pleasantly surprised that our water bill is by far the cheapest natural resource Californians overconsume. Will these prices also increase suddenly, in the manner of California Edison (electricity)? Short term, conservation seems to be the simple solution. We have enough to go around, for now. And it could be worse; I could be living in Waukesha.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

You is mean

... according to 8/10 slips of paper in my classroom's "Constructive Criticism" box. Yes, I know it's lame. Nevertheless, I'd prefer to give students a venue for voicing their discontent that doesn't involve yelling at me in front of the rest of the class.

The 9th said, "your mean."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

abstract art

I'm a big fan of the "wacky fingerpainting" in the lower right.

Monday, August 08, 2005


A fatwa I agree with? One that denounces evil terrorists instead of benign novelists? Unbelievable.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

the daycare plague

My beautiful baby has a horrible runny nose, and my darling husband's voice sounds like Tricky. It's bath time and bedtime for them both. There is truly something beautiful in taking care of someone who needs you.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

cabinets and counters


I'm so out of the loop. I thought I had to be worried about wearing too much red or blue, but apparently it's the plain white t-shirt that shows gang-affiliation these days.

I do stick out as a very white person. Not just Caucasian, but pale to boot. Somehow I got on the subject of race, and I was trying to think if any of my students were white. I honestly can't say. I don't think so.

Quite frankly, race bothered me a lot more when I started teaching in Minnesota. I remember on my first day, looking around the district-wide meeting of faculty and staff, and seeing only white faces. Every single teacher and every single secretary and every single cafeteria worker ... was white. That made me uncomfortable. Those kind of demographics just don't happen by accident.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

pro bono

To quote Rush Limbaugh on Judge Roberts: "There's no question the people on the right are going to say: 'Wait a minute. Wait a minute! The guy is doing pro bono work and helping gay activists?' "

Pro bono work AND helping gay activists!? The horror.

parent phone calls

I spent almost an hour phoning parents today. Only one hung up on me. My favorite call was at the end, when I decided to call a parent or two because I actually had something good to say. This boy's father answered the phone, quickly put down the receiver when he realized I didn't speak Spanish, and--I swear to god--I heard a rooster crowing. "And why not?" said my husband when I told him later.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Daniel HG was off demonstrating for free speech, snapping photos, running from police, and making me jealous. Where have all the good protests gone? Anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

little rebels

After all the build-up wondering how different it would be teaching "at-risk" students, I'm pleasantly surprised by how similar it all is. Kids are kids, whether poor or rich, black or white, from Minnesota or from California.

There are a couple little rebels in my classes, but honestly they're pretty tame. Most of the students seem pretty likeable. There's a boy who loves to read Edgar Allen Poe, a girl who wants me to read everything she's ever written including her science homework, a kid with one earring who acts super cool and writes about how you shouldn't let people bully you, another who admires her single mom for keeping food on the table, and the boy who spontaneously thought about a really funny movie he saw last night and couldn't keep from laughing.

So, yeah, it's good to be back.