Monday, December 29, 2003

Dan mentioned the other day that what he really wants is a seven-floor department store. I just want a department store with a tidy ladies' room and space between the racks of clothes. In a book about diners, bowling alleys, and trailer parks (and suburbanization), historian Andrew Hurley asserts that when "the large department stores . . . opened branch outlets in the 1950s [in the suburbs, they] abandoned their formal downtown sales techniques in favor of a no-frills, self-service approach more convenient and less intimidating to affluent blue-collar customers." Well, sure, Hecht's is less intimidating than Bergdof Goodman, but there's a difference between self-service and no service.

And now to finalize my wardrobe for a quick trip to Baltimore. . . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Having time off at The Holidays always makes me think I will catch up on all kinds of reading. I never read most of last year's Christmas gift books. In the To Read stack: a collection of excerpts from memoirs, a book about the lifesaving stations on the Outer Banks, a book of baseball essays, Gregg Kimball's book on Richmond, and Nelson Lankford's Richmond Burning. I haven't touched a one of them, yet. The party, shopping (modest as it was this year), and wrapping filled my time. I am making my way through the New Yorker with the green cover (there's another, somewhere, right?) and Style.

In last week's Style, Slipek gushes about Main Street Station and there's a pretty good piece on highways and development. Apparently, Capital City has more highway miles per capita than just about anyone else. The author interviews urban planner types from VCU who assert that building roads creates the mess rather than solves it.

Icky weather (okay, rainy, but 58 degrees) and that feeling that a cold is catching up to me may keep me from my tradition of a walk through Byrd Park on Christmas Eve morning.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Crowd Dodging

Ellwood Thompsons wasn't too busy around 10 a.m., but every spot in the parking lot at the Carytown Ukrop's was full.

4 batches of cookies, out of a possible 5
1 Xmas special on TV
1 seasonal movie ("Holiday Inn")
1 cat maybe getting an onion, not coal, in her stocking
.75 clean house
? days til I go see "Return of the King"

Thursday, December 18, 2003

I Love This Roll of Silver

Monday, I taught high school English. Using good imagery (and every class had two or three students who could recite a good definition of imagery) techniques, the students wrote ten-line poems describing an object, without naming it. Tyler did a nice one on duct tape: “I love this roll of silver.” Kelmern wrote about his broken iBook, rhyming “charger vanished” and “mouse pad banished.” They impressed me.

Wednesday, I took on high school social studies. One block of study hall, two of Virginia and U.S. government, and a huge class of ninth graders preparing for a test on the Civil War. The most interesting bit was the young woman in study hall who muttered to her friends, “It seem like time has stopped.”

In each classroom, I noted the failure a standard bit of advice. When I stood and walked around the room, I tended to excite more noise than if I “hid” at the desk. Much of the social studies work was to be done with “no talking, laughing, giggling, or throwing harpoons.” If I walked around to be sure their iBooks were open to Mr. H.’s history presentation and not random websites, the kids started chatting – asking me random questions, or gossiping with each other. If I sat at Mr. H’s desk and picked at the Sunday crossword I brought with me, the students did their work, or at least stared into space. I’m thinking mingling is the tactic for when I am teaching, speaking, leading; and sitting at the desk acting like I am writing their names down is the strategy for quiet work time.

Today: cookies to bake, miles to clean before I sleep.

2 trees out of 2
1 Xmas special on TV
1 house cat getting coal in her stocking
0 clean houses
1 train station reopened!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

I don't know if the "happy holdiays" link will stay on the front page / news releases section of the Big Braves website, but give it a try. It's a smile.
Rediscovered: a web designer's spiffy advent calendar.

3 out of 3 exams
1 out of 1 papers
2 out of 2 projects
[equals 1 complete semester!]
2 parties out of ??
1 Xmas special on TV: "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
1 tree out of 2
0 houses cleaned

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The USGS site rules! This Event cdbf_03 Map is built off of input from people who felt the quake. Wow, it had just central Virginia, before I went to class, and you could hover the cursor over a county and see how many people reported it.

And here's the seismogram.

3 out of 3 exams done
1 out of 2 projects
.75 out of 1 paper for archives
Hell's bells, it was an earthquake: channel 6 said so. It was a rumble and a lot of rattling. It reminded me of the way my windows and possessions rattled when they blew up one of the James River bridges 10 years ago; of dozens of huge trucks on Mulberry Street; of the college boys who lived below me in my last apartment, who played music so loud that the whole building shook. I unplugged the computer and stood in a doorway, just in case. After perhaps a minute, only one window kept rattling: I put my hand on it and it stopped.

Oh, here, see if this link will stay active. The US Geological Survey says 4.5; started west of here at a minute to 4, EST. My clock said a minute or two past four at the moment that I got off the sofa and said "what the hell is that?"
I got 8 out of 10 on this quiz: The Grinch on TV

Monday, December 08, 2003

Sunday, December 07, 2003

But Who's Counting?

From CB, in Maryland:
Snow fall: 6-7 inches.
Cars stuck in snow drift: 1 out of 2.
Snow men built: 0
Holiday movies watched: 0
Take Home Exams completed: 0 out of 2
Archives essays written: 0 out of 1
C's general good nature: 3 out of 10

My List:
Snow fall: 0 inches
Holiday movies watched: 0
Christmas TV specials viewed: 0
Archives essays written: 0 out of 1
Final projects: 1 out of 2
Exams taken: 2 out of 3
Lights strung: 2 out of 4 or 5 strands

Saturday, December 06, 2003


I spent only about an hour at the Ukrop’s / Retail Merchant’s Association of Greater Richmond Christmas Parade this morning. I stood on Broad Street at about Foushee, facing that Capital City landmark, Harvey’s Progressive Barber Shop. The man next to me on the left looked to be a late-in-life dad, or a not-so-old grandpa, a white man in a tweedy coat and felt hat with three kids. The black woman on my right had a son and a daughter, to whom she had each given a few dollars to spend as they wished on hot chocolate or popcorn or street vendor toys. The street vendors had plastic horns and noise makers and inflatable toys for sale. The latter included Batman, Spiderman, the Hulk, a snowman, and Santas (with white or brown faces). The boy bought a Spiderman; the girl paced her spending, getting only a hot chocolate while I was there.

The parade began a bit tattily: two teenaged girls in flair bottomed jeans, hems torn, and sneakers carried the banner. But all the kids had their eye on the Bob the Builder balloon, not far behind -- so to most, it was a great start.

The first band, decked in green and yellow, represented Henrico High School (nearly all African-American). After their banner came the pep squad or dance squad or whatever they are called these days. Here’s where I might have said, You know, girls in tiny costumes grinning lipstick smiles, prancing and kicking – but this squad included two boys. Go figure. The Richmond City Schools all-school band also had boy . . . majorette? (Is that any more patronizing than “lady doctor”?) From the curb, I’d describe the boys' outfits as wind suits and black sneakers. The most graceful, smilingest guy had a black knit cap and black gloves.

He was much happier than the overly-made up (mostly white, all female) tiny little girls in the baton twirling clubs. The teenagers do execute impressive toss-with-cartwheel moves, but every single child is tarted up. In one club, they all had their hair shellacked back into buns, tied with tinsel (“no short hair allowed in our club”?)The way a chaperone yanked a tearful tot (cold? Tired from having walked about 2 miles and with another ½ mile to go? Had to pee?) by the upper arm and growled “where’s the mini van?” made me sad.

Virginia Military Institute’s band included maybe three young women.

Mayor McCullom, in tie and overcoat, looked better than parka-wearing U.S. Congressman Scott. I think each man rode in a convertible, that traditional way of getting the local car dealers in on the fun. A Cadillac dealer, oddly, just sent a car carrier truck-full. If there were car dealers in the East End, I’d say a delivery got swept into the parade. Nah, there was clearly one of each model; oh, and poinsettias.

I stayed for only one round of Shriners: tiny cars and the Far East band! Wheee! Those cars are so darn cool. Our local Shrine usually contributes clown, motorcycle, and horse units, and a country and western band, so I am sure there was much more fun, but my toes were cold and my paper called.

(Oh, on the way home, I stopped in the new Grace & Harrison Ukrop’s, and bumped into that blue-eyed elf, Mr. Bobby Ukrop himself.)

Capital City weather: cold, partly sunny, damp but no snow. Did it snow where you are?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

There's being out, and then there's be out via news services, like my friend Marie, here.

Monday, December 01, 2003

"I've Forgotten More History Than You'll Ever Know"

I try to be diligent about moving things to a "give to thrift store" pile on a regular basis. Got two new 50s platters for my birthday? The 1980s one must go, to make room. Need a hanger? Find one thing I haven't worn in a year: out it goes. Of course, I often have second thoughts. Today's errands would bring me by a thrift, so I grabbed up two ready bags. I glanced in: a white T-shirt? I put away too many Ts when I switched seasons, let me grab this one. Oh. My history grad school shirt: "I've forgotten more history. . . ." I nabbed it.

At some point in the last two days (as I shift to Student Standard Time, I lose track of actual days), I went on a serious digression, looking for an old notebook. I felt certain I had a whole class at Mount Holyoke on oral history, a topic skimmed in a current class. No sign of it, though, in the box o' notebooks (yes, I am a packrat). My transcript is full of classes with indecipherable abbreviations, none of which seems to be oral history. I guess the project I remember so well, for which I interviewed an elderly alumna, was part of some larger class. I promise I spent less than 20 minutes flipping through notebooks; and I even virtuously pulled out a bunch of photocopied handouts to review and toss. It wasn't a waste of time -- it was cleaning!

I just looked over a couple of inches of photocopied journal articles and book sections: H's African History class; some English class; one of my southern historys; and a huge amount on African-American religion -- did I take a whole class on that? Did I have an English instructor named Ellis, or is this a shared style handout? Look at all this great southern history stuff! Statistics, seminal writings -- *shlush* into the recycling bin, all those things I'd forgotten I had once known. Oh. I always did like that shirt.

Capital City weather: down to 29 over night.
I spent way more time than I ought to have on Sunday cleaning windows. Thank goodness it's a row house: I could have had two more faces of glass and storms! This is not quite consolation for the single homeowner. Yeh, yeh, it's my Own Space. Sure, it's a drag doing big chores single-handed. What I could use are hints on how to tell repairmen I have no husband to confer with; or checklists of regular home check up needs. I had the furnace and bug inspections, but it turns out if someone had looked at the roof regularlly, I wouldn't have damp spots on my ceiling. Maybe. I know the only guarantee with old houses is: Stuff will Break (corollary: stuff will take longer to fix than projected).