Saturday, December 31, 2005

under the weather

This phrase meaning ill dates to 1827 (OED2). The phrase probably derives from the idea that the weather can affect your mood and health.

Isil claims that it is a clipped form of the nautical phrase under the weather bow, a reference to the side of the ship's bow that is taking the brunt of rough seas, and is a reference to seasickness.

Partridge, refers to a British/Australian nautical use of the phrase to mean drunk. This usage is from the original Americanism. Isil may have confused the two senses.

  • Literally, we're under the threat of a rainstorm pushing towards Southern California.
  • Idiomatically, I've got a bad cold.
  • Unfortunately, no one in our house is getting drunk tonight, though if we did it would be from Feuerzangenbowle.Thanks to Stefan for teaching me about this German tradition as well as the Shirley Temple equivalent, kinderpunsch.

  • Friday, December 30, 2005

    in the year 2037

    I just delved into the morass of my Internet security (or lack thereof) and discovered four sites gave me cookies set to expire in 2037 or 2038:


    I knew hotmail was evil, but the imdb surprised me. As for sitemeter, that was a link I followed from someone else's blog, not a cookie I willingly set while creating my own stat counter.

    Rumors of Google trying to infiltrate everything possible about my life (and everyone else while they're at it) inspired the closer look. Granted, I should clean up after myself on a regular basis and not have to worry about such things. Still, a cookie that lives longer than Christ--that seems a bit ridiculous.

    Thursday, December 29, 2005

    a new year

    My life has changed so much in one year. I know a guy who closed on a new house, was offered a new job, and his wife gave birth in the same week (that order). At least it wasn't an election year, too.

    It's almost the opposite of entropy--so much easier to enter into these binding agreements than to extricate yourself from them. I guess that's part of the thrill.

    Wednesday, December 28, 2005


    This is not my body, just some photo I grabbed off the Internet. It's about the right size and pretty close to the ultrasound images I saw yesterday.

    Though we couldn't hear it, the baby's heart was winking away in the images. That confirmation of a live, beating heart was the reason for the ultrasound. The baby was incredibly mobile, flipping, kicking, even punching with his/her tiny, undeveloped limbs. I thought I'd been feeling little flutter kicks, but didn't believe that was possible so early in the pregnancy. The nurse said she had no doubt I was feeling kicks with a baby that active.

    I had no idea I'd get to see an ultrasound so soon in the pregnancy. I'm scheduled for a more official ultrasound where they can take measurements and give me a more accurate due date.

    For more than you ever wanted to know about ultrasounds, try this link. Or if you've got an hour to view a lecture involving strange pictures of people sitting in tubs of water to make the early images of 2-D scanning, go here.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    playin' hooky

    School's out, L is at daycare, I'm free for the day. I feel like I should have daisies in my hair, life is so grand. Even read a little poetry today.

    Took the other half out to lunch. On the way back we were driving behind a black Benz that I thought looked a little ominous. So he makes up this song on the fly about carrying a body in the trunk ... ba bunk ba bunk ba bunk ba bunk ... over the bumps it makes a thunk ... in the summer it kinda stunk ... so in the lake, it finally sunk. Had to be there, I think. Trust me, it was hilarious.

    Monday, December 26, 2005


    Sunday, December 25, 2005

    Xmas stash

    One of the overloaded stockings fell down behind the stereo system as I was playing Santa Claus, and when I leaned over to pick it up, by god, I found a stash of goodies. So that's where our little mouse has been hiding all her juice cups, a remote control, and a green Lego.

    Saturday, December 24, 2005


    I finally listened to the words of "I'll be home for Christmas" and realized that the person in the song never makes it home, at least not for Christmas. Watched a bit of CNN this morning. The Holiday Greetings from soldiers made me cry. Hoping that all of you can be close to the people you love, whether in person, email, or spirit.

    Friday, December 23, 2005

    home for the holidays

    We're spending Christmas at home. My dad and grandmother flew in to visit for the weekend. It's wonderful to have our own Christmas instead of being the visitor over the holidays. I think it will be even better when our own place is literally our own and not an apartment.

    Dad & Grandma are such good sports. They spent all day traveling, living off of stale danishes from airports and braving L.A. traffic to see us. At the end of the day, my dad said, "Just being able to hug Laura made the whole trip worth it." I hope we're able to keep them entertained, well-fed, and plied up with cute photos of a little girl for the rest of the holiday.

    The other big news is my dad coming out of the closet. I haven't quite had a chance to think about it much, yet. I'm mostly just glad that he feels ok telling us. I've heard it's hard for a kid to tell his parents he's gay; I can't imagine the other way around would be any easier. Honestly, though, I was far more affected by the news last year that he had cataracts and was going blind. That was scary. This is, in a strange way, a relief. Like most kids, I just want my parents to be happy.

    Last, and probably least, I've opted to follow the traditions so many other people out there have written about--the orange in the toe of the stocking. I can't wait to play Santa Claus tomorrow night.

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    terrific day

    Had a great day at work yesterday. Every once in a while I feel like the students might be learning something. Then a boy in the middle of writing a rap (school-related) asked for a little help and replied with a surprised grin: "She's got flow!" It might have been the best and most inaccurate compliment I've had all week.

    Our little family celebration was perfect. Dinner was good, and L was quite the entertainment. It felt good to laugh so much.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    the fifth

    Dec. 21 is our anniversary. We were married on a cold Thursday night, stamping snow off our boots and cozying up next to the fireplace at a B&B with family and friends. My maid of honor was my sister-in-law; his best man, my brother. His most vivid memory was burning his hand with hot wax during the ceremony and managing not to curse. Mine is the exploding wine bottle when I moved it from the chilly trunk of a car (where it had sat for hours) to a warm hotel lobby. We're planning something simple tonight--out to dinner, with L strapped to a highchair next to us. I love being married to my best friend.

    Book Crossing

    There are over two million books released into the wild, waiting to be found by readers curious enough to log onto the Book Crossing website. Someone should pair this idea with geocaching. Hide and seek, books, and a GPS toy--what's not to love?

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    beginning to show

    I popped the top button off my pants today. I've never been so happy to gain weight. The first OB appointment is next Tuesday, and I admit I'm looking forward to it more than Christmas. I just hope that I can hold my tummy in long enough to keep my job for next year. Though legally no employer can discriminate based on pregnancy, it's got to be a factor in the back of any principal's mind, if not an excuse to scrutinize other areas more carefully.

    Sunday, December 18, 2005


    Laura was so excited to be a present in the holiday skit at her daycare that she refused to take her costume off all night. At least she took the bow off her head.

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    garden of zen

    Also of Huntington. This little piece of calm and beauty was taken by Aaron Logan.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005


    We were sipping coffee after a breakfast of pancakes, trying to figure out what to do the rest of the weekend, when my father-in-law, an L.A.-escapee, remembers the Huntington Gardens. This was how I spent my last day of Thanksgiving vacation. So many prickly plants and so little time.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    I'm a believer

    A story by Saur (that I disagree with), Terri Gross' interview with Neil Diamond, and an incredibly long Tuesday inspired this lazy post:

    I thought love was only true in fairy tales
    Meant for someone else but not for me.
    Love was out to get me
    That's the way it seemed.
    Disappointment haunted all my dreams.

    Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer
    Not a trace of doubt in my mind.
    I'm in love, I'm a believer!
    I couldn't leave her if I tried.

    I thought love was more or less a given thing,
    Seems the more I gave the less I got.
    What's the use in tryin'?
    All you get is pain.
    When I needed sunshine I got rain.

    Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer
    Not a trace of doubt in my mind.
    I'm in love, I'm a believer!
    I couldn't leave her if I tried.

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Justice, Faith & Power

    These are the colors of Mardi Gras, so declared the King of Carnival, Rex in 1872 (purple=justice; green=faith; gold=power).

    What these colors stand for and what that party of the year represents is hotly under debate right now in the Big Easy. This story on All Things Considered shows a fair representation of both sides: those desperate to get tourism up and running to jumpstart New Orleans' economy, and those mortified that such a raucous celebration could take place amidst death, poverty, and devastation.

    Personally, my heart is in New Orleans right now, not for the city leaders or the tourists or even those who lost everything from Katrina and Rita. My thoughts are with a tiny baby boy, yet to be(?), already(?) born to a mother who works in the mayor's office and a father who writes for AP. They returned to their mostly-ok home in Algiers--just across the river from the French Quarter--about a month ago. Hospitals still aren't all up and running, but my friend insisted that she wanted to have the baby in New Orleans.

    Somewhere in that city gasping for breath is a little boy taking his firsts, and new life is rising up in the Delta.


    I know him mostly from Blazing Saddles, where the new black sherriff (NOT played by Pryor, my mistake) holds a gun to his head and says, "Nobody moves or the n***** gets it!" This is what else I've learned in the last few days following Pryor's death.

    "I've always thought that a big laugh is a really loud noise from the soul saying, 'Ain't that the truth!' Richard Pryor is the truth machine. He has taken black street humor to its highest universal level." -Quincy Jones

    His website still reads "I ain't dead yet m*therf@ck%r!!"

    In 1998, Richard Pryor was awarded the first Kennedy Center Mark Twain Humor Prize. His acceptance statement was released as follows: "Two things people throughout history have had in common are hatred and humor. I am proud, that like Mark Twain, I've been able to use humor to lessen people's hatred. I feel great about accepting this prize. It is nice to be regarded on par with a great white man. Now that's funny." (Rotten Library)

    Sunday, December 11, 2005


    Watched 8 mile last night with the family for lack of anything better to do. Apparently, L is a big fan of rap. I'm starting to wonder what we should and should not be showing her. At this point I'm not so concerned that she'll recite Eminem lyrics at daycare when she can't even say "mama," but the scenes with violence made me awfully uncomfortable. Last week she saw a cartoon Bart Simpson fall off a cartoon cliff and she started screaming. Then again, she screams at shoes, too.

    Saturday, December 10, 2005


    It's been a long time since I went to a play. We were lucky in Minneapolis, with the dozens of venues of small theatres and the Guthrie. Last Friday, L's daycare put on a puppet show.
    I guess I'll take what I can get.

    Friday, December 09, 2005

    Tookie Williams: my opinion

    I put up this question a bit ago and appreciated hearing your comments. The more I think about it, though, the more his whole case bothers me. I've come to the decision that he should not be granted clemency. Here's why:

    The arguments for saving his life come down to these:
    1) The death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. It shouldn't exist in the first place. Thus anyone who can be pardoned/granted clemency should be.

    2) Williams can do more harm than good if he lives.

    3) If the point of our justice system is rehabilitation, then surely Williams is rehabilitated. He regrets that he started the crips and has been continually working against gang violence.

    4) Maybe, just maybe, he didn't commit those crimes.

    My counter-arguments:
    1) Yes. (Ok, this is a bad counter-argument.) But if we truly want justice, we should not simply grant life in prison without parole to those people who happen to gain lots of national attention. It should be granted to all persons, regardless of crime, race, age, wealth, intelligence, or popularity. Making a few exceptions here and there because the public eye makes us feel guilty cheapens our legal system. Better to do more good by revising the system.

    2) At first blush, I agreed with this. Then it started to piss me off. So we should pardon a rich doctor from murder because he can save lives, but a poor person working part-time at Stater Bros. grocery store should die? Should we forgive the politician because he's so important and powerful? Should we say that a teacher should be forgiven of sex scandals because she can teach people to learn to read? I certainly hope not. This really comes down to people who feel uncomfortable with the death penalty, I think (see #1).

    3) The first true mark of rehabilitation is admitting to your crimes and feeling remorse. Tookie Williams has never admitted to the four murders he is accused of. And this is the kicker--he's not on death row for being a gang member, not even a powerful gang member. He's on death row because he has been found guilty by a jury of his peers for four bloody murders. He can feel sorry for being a gang member all he wants. How do you make that up to the family of the poor guy shot in the back three times for working at a gas station?

    4) He's worn out the legal system and exhausted all options of appeal. When the system says your guilty, and I'm on the outside without knowing the ins and outs of every piece of evidence, I'm inclined to go with the verdict.

    AIDS prevention with covered eyes

    I'm not trained to teach the mandatory AIDS prevention curriculum. The state is very careful to regulate everything we can say, cannot say, can show, cannot show, etc. So we've been sitting in on another teacher's class. This woman is great. At first I got really angry because she's super conservative, religious, and (as she puts it) "I never even knew what most of this was until I had to teach it."

    Today was STD day. Here are possible STDs you can get, how they are transmitted, how they will affect you. She spent the first fifteen minutes of class saying, "For me, risky behavior meant things like climbing on the roof. When I was in first grade I broke my arm because ... In second grade..." No kidding, she chronicled her escapades growing up in a rural midwest town up till junior high.

    Finally we got to the STDs. I guess she was provided with photographs that show exactly what things like crabs, chlamydia, herpes, etc. look like. She'd say, "Ok, this one's pretty graphic," and click the overhead computer screen window on and off as fast as she possibly could. It was like a peep show. You'd just figure out that the close up photo you were looking at was the tip of a penis, and click, it would be gone.

    And yet, I noticed that because she was so uncomfortable with it, the students were far more interested. In the end, I stopped being angry and was just amused. Luckily, these kids get the same training every year from a different teacher, so hopefully they'll eventually get to know more than they're learning here.

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    East Side rules

    As promised, this is how to solve a multi-step linear equation by activating our prior knowledge about street gangs.

    3x + 2 = 14

    Okay, there's a west side and an east side. Since we live on the east side, we'll say that's the "good side." The east side is to the right of the equals sign; 14 in the example above.

    Now the west side is like the "bad side" because it has the scary gang member, ahem, I mean variable. In this case, the west side is "3x + 2." We've got to figure out how to rescue all the people from the west side without messing with the bad guy. So we want to get rid of the three AND we want to get rid of the 2, that way we can rescue them and leave the bad guy all alone.

    So who's going to be easier to rescue? The person who lives far away from the bad guy and no one will notice if he leaves (the 2)? Or the girlfriend of the bad guy who is really close to him (the 3)? You guessed it, the person far away is easier to rescue first.

    The opposite of +2 is -2, so write that down.

    3x + 2 - 2

    But just like you have to balance on a skateboard so you don't fall down, you better balance your equations, too. Add that -2 on the other side of the equation.

    3x + 2 - 2 = 14 - 2

    Simplify down to:
    3x = 12

    Now comes the tough part. We have to save the bad guy's girlfriend and get her over to the east side. Since she's a little more difficult, we can't just add or subtract. Do the opposite and divide by 3. Both sides--don't fall off your skateboard!
    3x/3 = 12/3

    x = 4

    Perfect. The east side comes up with the answer.


    Ok, so here's a tough question for you. Should Stanley Tookie Williams be put to death?

    The founder of the Crips is appealing for clemency in the state of California in order to avoid the death penalty. Looks like it will be Schwarzenegger's call.

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005


    Stress. Stress. Stress. How do the rest of you stay sane?

    Saturday, December 03, 2005

    show and tell

    Friday afternoon, just after lunch, the school counsellor asks me to drive with him out to a home visit. (This is not a picture of the home, but an example of what a nice home in our neighborhood looks like. Fresh coat of paint, flowers, grass, glass in the windows--these aren't things you see on every house.)

    No problem.

    In the future, he says, we should probably make home visits before lunch because gang members aren't awake then.

    Hmm, good idea.

    We head down the street, two white nicely-dressed adults in my little-too-new car, and start searching down 7th Street in San Bernardino. Interesting fact, he says, I once served on a jury for an attempted triple-homicide by the 7th street gang.

    Oh, gee.

    The street dead-ends before we get to the house number so we jog around through a few alleys. Shouldn't be too much longer, now.

    Back on the street we're looking for, numbers are getting closer, and I only see a couple of house numbers painted on cardboard strips next to the front doors. What house number is that?

    "Beware of Dog," I read.

    A group of four big guys in undershirts are sticking their heads in a doorless Honda. I go past them, then make a U-turn in the street to head back towards them. We roll down the windows and the counsellor confirms, Yep, those are the twin boys we're looking for.

    They've been truant for 32 school days. 33, the boy wearing the shorts from his PE school uniform corrects him.

    What, they keep track?

    A mother comes out of the house. She makes these faces of meth look gorgeous. My daughter has more teeth than she does. Her upper lip is swollen, sagging, and purple. She looks like she is in her early seventies but is probably not even 40.

    We shake hands and explain the law about students being truant.

    Yeah, I was reading a letter from the school, she says, but I didn't finish it.

    Right. She wants them to go to a different school because she's afraid they'll get jumped at ours.

    These are big boys. I wonder if they didn't try to jump a few kids themselves.

    A girl wanders out from the house, about 15, dressed in sweatpants and fuzzy blue slippers. She's going to the store. Here's two dollars.

    I wonder if the toddler trying to run into the street is hers.

    The counsellor makes an appointment for the mother to meet with the principal. Time to get back.

    Well, boys and girls, let's review. Stay in school. Don't use drugs.

    Next week we'll talk about teen pregnancy and how to solve two-step algebraic equations by playing West Side vs. East Side. Have a good weekend.

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    fish or cut bait in Iraq

    Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, is much wiser and more knowledgable than I on this topic:

    The administration will not simply cut and run. A decent interval will be observed. The White House will need time to recondition public expectations. If it is Machiavellian enough, it will find a way to blame anti-war critics for emboldening the enemy such that phased withdrawal became the only option. The administration will blame allies for not doing more, the United Nations for inadequate election planning, Iran and Syria for fueling the violence and Iraqi security forces for refusing to kill other Iraqis. It will blame everyone except itself. And it will leave behind a deadly, unpredictable, combustible mess.

    I hope I am wrong.

    How to turn things around

    As grim as the situation is, the United States should stay focused on how to achieve success in Iraq, not simply declare it. We owe that to our armed forces and to the Iraqis who believed in us. The bad guys in Iraq are truly bad and cannot be allowed to win. But to have any chance of turning things around, the administration must do what it has steadfastly refused to do — admit mistakes; emphasize a political instead of a military strategy; do what it takes to secure the cooperation of Iraq's neighbors; hold senior officials accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and other blunders; and launch, finally, an economic reconstruction program that puts paychecks in Iraqi wallets and food in Iraqi stomachs.

    The United States will not be in Iraq forever, though it may seem that way to our military families. It is reasonable to begin thinking about strategies for withdrawal. But it is critical that any plan be designed and carried out with ingredients missing from the administration's Iraq policy thus far — honesty, foresight, competence and an accurate assessment of how Iraqis will respond. Perhaps then we will truly be able to talk about "enormous success" in Iraq.
    --USA Today editorial, 1/25/05

    I admire Ms. Albright for her candor and savvy in international relations. She has seen firsthand some horrible fiascos of U.S. involvement abroad, and she has worked tirelessly to save millions of lives and to protect democratic principles around the globe. Moreover, she's absolutely right.

    The job is not finished. We need a Marshall Plan. To the dissidents, who argue that the world's most powerful nations should not police the world, Albright says we must navigate a path "between disengagement, which is not possible, and over-extension, which is not sustainable."

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    World AIDS day

    We have a mandatory curriculum at school for teaching students:
    a) what is AIDS
    b) how to prevent getting it

    It is an amazing experience when a young black woman says, "Why do I need to know this?" and the answer is simply and truthfully "Because it will save your life."


    All is calm in 4 zillion land. Two good teaching observations in two days. Looks like Christmas won't be cancelled after all.