Thursday, June 28, 2007

Birthday #29

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! I'm 29, and I absolutely can't believe it. I'm starting to understand why older people go so wiggy about birthdays. It really does seem like I just turned 21 about five minutes ago. Oh well, there's not a damn thing we can do about it, so there's not point in getting all worked up. Just like the day I was born, it was rainy here today. We couldn't do a picnic dinner, so we just did a sort of picnic inside. My mom was here, my little brother is here, and of course M is always here. He stopped on the way home to buy me olives and dolmades and other tasties that he knows I like. He really is terribly sweet. I also got the Beatles album, Rubber Soul, two Wallace & Grommit DVD's, and several interesting looking books. I should not whine so much because I really am one lucky girl.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lacking in Focus

Brain not focused. No creativity or drive to do much of anything. No opinion on politics or current events or other important things. Can't even concentrate on news stories or novel plots. Can hardly concentrate on what to have for lunch. All previous mental acuity waning as brain slowly turns to mush. Desire to take naps in the sunshine becoming overwhelming. Terrible suspicion that I may be turning into a cat.

Monday, June 25, 2007

At Last!

They may have taken our sanity, but now we have our freeeeeeeeeedoooooooooomm!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Field Day 2007

We won! We won! We won! Not only is my homeroom filled with brilliant honors kids, it is also filled with super athletes! Yesterday was our field day where we spend time outside enjoying many different games. The sun was shining, the kids were in a great mood, and everyone was ready to have a good time.

First we had the water relay where ten kids line up behind a jar filled with water. The kid at the front of the line uses a plastic teaspoon to scoop up water, run across the track, and dump the water in a beaker, and then he races back and gives the spoon to the next kid. We go on like this for three minutes with me yelling and screaming encouragement. WE had 49 CC's of water at the final tally, and the next closest class had only 38. It turns out that slow and very steady really does win that race. We earned four points for first place.

Next, we won the dodge ball tournament by several hard whacks of the ball. We added four more points to our total for first place. Unfortunately, we were not quite so lucky in the Over-Under Relay, but really it was not a big deal since we were doing so well in the tallies. At the end of the third even, we had eight points and the next three contenders each had five points. All we needed to guarantee a tie was one point in the final game.

Tug'0'War is not a competition you would usually think brainy kids could win, but actually there is strategy here as well. One of the boys on our team worked out the two rules to follow: First, keep your feet and hands moving all the time, and second, sync up those movements. It was amazingly successful. Our team pulled one opponent after another off their feet. I was screaming encouragement, and we ended up taking second place. The final scores were my class, eleven points, next highest team nine points. The crowd went wild. I told them they were my superlative class.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Counting It Up

Here's part of the to-do list for this week in numerical terms:

About a million--- The number of staples and pushpins to be removed from walls and boards

900--- The number of celebratory packaged cookies needing to be delivered to classrooms, by me, tomorrow during 4th period.

305--- The number of comment codes to be applied to student grade reports

240--- The number of textbooks to be inventoried and stored

105--- The number of grades to be reported

At least 100--- The number of times today I've told various kids to knock it off, pick it up, leave that alone, or stop touching him/her

72--- The number of computer parts needing to be bound, bagged, and stored in bins

65--- The number of goodbye cards I need to write to students

15--- The number of bookcases and shelves that must be fronted with butcher paper and taped shut to avoid getting industrial carpet cleaning soap on the books.

7--- The number of signatures I need on my check-out card before I can leave

31--- The number of teachers who need my signature (dept. chair) for summer check-out

2--- The number who have done this already

2--- The number of kids from my class who have already been excused (by the vice) from end of year festivities due to bad behavior

11--- The number of kid hours left in the school year

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Blocking and Printing

Today has been all about the printing. I'm here in my dad's shop in Oregon, and we have been working hard all day. First I blocked and pin-holed screens, then we registered the screens on the press, and finally we played around with different ink colors. I mixed my very own not-quite-white, and it looks quite lovely if I do say so myself.

I am happy to discover that working in a print shop is very much like riding a bicycle in that you never forget how it's done. Of course, that is only true for your brain; your muscles tend to forget completely. When you go to print a t-shirt on a manual press, your fingers, arms, shoulders, and stomach muscles are all involved. These are all the places that hurt so far. Later I think my back and feet will get in on the act. Still, it's a tired soreness, not injury, so I can't really complain. I think I will skip all upper body weights at the gym this week.

Of the three designs we did this year for the fair, only the dragon has actually been printed so far. We did it as a four color with two greens, that custom off-white, and a metallic gold over print. I really am happy with the way it's turned out, and I think we might actually do well at the fair this year. I'm still waiting to see how the koi and the bicycle designs will look. I'm hoping to finish a total of eighteen dozen or there abouts.

Tomorrow, it's back to Seattle (providing I can move enough to drive). This week is the last full week of school, and then we have Monday of the following week. In only six more days, I'll be a free agent! A free agent with big muscles that is!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Country Fair Prep 2007

It's time once again to prepare for the Oregon Country Fair (for those who are not familiar, you can read the Country Fair back-story here). This whole process is always interesting, and this year is no exception. The first part is filling out the forms in April. My mom very kindly did this part, and then the rest of us just had to pony up for the fees. The next part was doing the art for new T-shirt designs, and ordering the shirts on which these designs will be printed.

New art is a question we try to consider well before the actual fair, but often it sort of gets left until just a few weeks before the actual event. This year, however, my mom and I were determined not to leave things last minute. We found several acceptable ideas, and then we pared it down to three: a dragon, three goldfish, and a bike. I know, I know, it sounds like a mish-mash, but I have high hopes for each of them turning out well. Using the old-fashioned method of knife and amberlithe, my mom cut color separations for each design. While she was working on that, I started to collect the information to put together a t-shirt order.

Going one item at a time, I used an online catalog and price list. Now this is an interesting challenge because the catalog and the pricelist are separate. The logic for this is that you, the printer, can send a customer to look at the items in the catalog without letting them know what the real wholesale price. They also say that it has to be separate because prices change a lot. These are both ridiculous arguments since this is a COMPUTER program with a user login. Updating the pricelist should take no less time just update the price IN the catalog. Anyway, I digress. After many hours of flipping back and forth, I managed to put together an order of about 200 pieces. I was all set. Now comes the farce.

I called the company to place the order. They told me I was not an authorized buyer on this account (I was using my dad's account with his permission) and hung up. I called my dad since he had not mentioned the need to be a designated buyer. He was not home, so I left him a message and headed out to do some errands. He called me back at 4:57pm. I happened to be sitting in my parked car waiting for my cel phone to charge. He said I should just pretend to be a buyer, and they wouldn't know the difference. I asked for their number as I booted my laptop. I couldn't find a pen, so I had to open the trunk and grab one from there. By the time I found one it was 4:58. I wrote down the number and opened my order on my laptop. I called the company and was very happy to get through. They transferred me to ordering, my call would be monitored..., it rang, and... I got cut off. When I called back, they were closed. Argh! For want of a pen!

My dad finally got the place the order the next day. Now I'm off to Fedex the art to the print shop so my dad can make the screens. I'm going to Oregon this weekend to actually print as many of these shirts as I can. Anything left over will have to be done in the few days before the fair. Just like old times.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Real Politics

Okay, here's your chuckle for the day.

The question (on a social studies test about state government):

7. Citizens have the right to participate in the process of making laws through
the __________ and referendum process.

The correct answer was, of course, initiative.

One girl wrote "lobbyist" in the blank. She has no idea how right she is. I gave her credit for the answer.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Root-less (I hope)

Writing about the squash yesterday made me realize that I never followed up on the "ROOTS" post I did a few weeks ago. I know my regular readers have just been on the edges of their seats waiting to found out what happened! I'm sorry, I know the gardening posts may be a bit boring for most, but I know I have a few readers who can relate. I remember, several years ago, standing over a garden box and exclaiming over the tiny green shoots. The visitor did not understand my enthusiasm, and he said "isn't that what you expected them to do?" Well, yes, but it's still a thrilling process to watch if you ask me. Therefore...

We dug all the soil out of the box and put it on a tarp. Then we clipped all the tree roots we could find (don't worry, this isn't supposed to hurt the tree since it's already very well established). Next, we lined the box with many layers of newspaper. According to several online sources, newspaper is good because it prevents the tree from "smelling" the good soil and sending up roots. Paper is entirely biodegradable, and most papers use a soy-based ink. Of course, this solution will only last one or two seasons at best. However, I'm willing to give it a try. We put all the soil back in the box and even added some rotted steer manure.

Now the garden is beginning to look like a garden instead of a sandbox. We have three tomato plants at one end (Brandy-Wine, Early Girl, and a new one supposedly bred for Mongolia), radish sprouts, red onions, and the first little nubs of salad lettuce. In the side yard are pumpkins, the famous gem squash, peas, eggplant, zucchini, crook-necked squash, and all the herbs. I still have to plant the corn which are going in the side bed along the street. We shall see if the HOA harpies have anything to say about that. I will bat my eyes and say "My yard IS maintained just like it says in the rules. I just happen to enjoy planting crops in with the shrubbery!" Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Illegal Squash

Last summer M's mother came to visit, and in doing so, she committed an agricultural crime. Tucked into her luggage was a single packet of squash seeds. Gem squash are not, to my knowledge, something that normally grows in the U.S., so this was a big deal to import them from South Africa. M loves Gem squash, so this spring, when the weather turned, I tipped six seeds into mounds in our garden. I wasn't sure it would even work since the seeds are now a year old, but I thought it was worth a try.

I joke with M that seeds from Africa have to be very tough indeed, and these little ones were no exception. All of the seeds sprouted after only three days, and now they are growing at an alarming rate. I think I may have to separate the little plants because they are so vigorous. With a little luck and a whole lot of sunshine and water, we will hopefully have gem squash to eat by the middle of summer. Of course, I'm not a huge fan of squash as a food, but who wouldn't appreciate the challenge of growing illicit veggies? Besides, I can always feed them to M.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

When "Science" is Frightening

Peer-reviewed study after peer-reviewed study has found no link between vaccines and autism. However, talk to ten yuppie or hippie parents, and, chances are, you will find one or two doubters who may even go so far as to deny these vaccines to their young children. It's hard to believe that there are actually people out there who expose their children to the risk of serious disease simply because they've "heard something" about vaccines being the cause of autism.

As it turns out, much of the misinformation out there comes from a single source. One father/son team has done more to cast doubt on the safety of vaccines than, perhaps, anyone else. Slate's Medical Examiner has a chilling article about the "work" of these two men in "getting the word out" about the "dangers" of Thimerosal, an ingredient in some older vaccines. Even more disturbing than the misinformation campaign is the "treatment" these two ghouls have dreamed up.

As anyone working in a school will tell you, Autism is a very real, yet mysterious problem. Little is known about its real causes, and this lack of knowledge can lead to all sorts of wild speculation. However, people with Autism spectrum disorders have a hard enough time coping with life without some yahoos coming along to muddy the scientific waters and provide false hope in the form of fake treatments.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hattie Big Sky

Mostly I don't bother doing book reviews unless it's a good book, and I want to recommend it to others. On this book, however, I can't be completely enthusiastic. To set the context, this is a YA novel about life on a Montana homestead during the First World War. The author decided to write this book after discovering that her grandmother actually held a homestead claim in Montana during this era.

Hattie Brooks was, therefore, a real person, and some of the events in the story are taken from actual events that took place at the time. The portrayal of frontier life is very well done, and you really do get a sense of just how hard it was for people to "Prove Up" (In order to keep your property, you had to build certain things on the land and lay a certain amount of fence. You also had to earn enough to afford the fees) their land claims. I was especially fascinated by the story because my own great-grandmother was almost exactly the same age as the main character, and she probably lived much the same life.

The incredibly frustrating part about the book comes with the author’s decision to veer away from the real facts. That is, she decides not to end the story as it really ended for her grandmother. Why, you might ask, if she's gone to all the trouble to be realistic, would she then slip over into complete fiction? Because, she says, she wanted to be authentic! She claims that her grandmother's story was unusually successful for the times, so she had to "correct" for that to remain realistic. Does this make any sense to you at all? Personally, I want to shake her! A completely non-fiction story about a person who perseveres against all odds is a very good story indeed! In short, this is a great read if you just imagine the ending as it really happened.