Monday, January 31, 2005

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day - January 31, 2005
From AlterNet, an article called The Idea That Brought Slavery to Its Knees: "In the idea that those who suffer 'no grievance or injury' have the obligation to speak up for those who have suffered them lies the birth of the vision that human rights are universal." The setting of this historic moment?: 1787, London. Thanks to T for drawing it to my attention.

Today in French class at M Middle School, the students watched "La Petite Sirene," which, of course, is le "28e chef d'oevre d'animation de Disney" and features the beloved song "Sous l'ocean."

While the kids watched that, I read yet another YA novel (part of my campaign to make up for not having taken a course in it in library school). In an hour, I can read about 80 pages of a kid book. The book in question, Surviving the Applewhites, features an artsy family, their home-schooled kids, a self-identifying Bad Kid from the City with pink spiked hair, and a show that - yes - gets put on in the barn. I enjoyed it.

Math and Science
During study hall, for the first time in a long time, students asked if I could help them with homework. Alas. something on charting and graphing eluded me, even when I studied the example. I took one glance at the pre-chemistry business of balancing formulas and my brain clicked off in denial: No, I never could understand that.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


Not as much ice, so far, as last weekend. At four a.m., I woke up to rain and dripping noises. It is pretty, but that 1994 ice storm (imagine every tree in your town shorn like this), like Isabel, made me uneasy about the trees. When will they go down, and what will they take with them?

For those at home this weekend needing snow day projects for small people, see: Ed Emberley - children's book author and illustrator.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


This week, I took my Girl Scout and kid knowledge to a meeting at the American Cancer Society. A former co-worker works there now, and developed a Girl Scout patch program to help girls learn about healthy behaviors that can prevent cancer.

The ACS provides a wealth of information on its website, Check it out now; bookmark it for future reference. Remember that when you evaluate a website for its usefulness, you should consider authority and bias. A drug company or a medical reference site that takes ads may represent information differently than a non-profit does.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Left Behind

I think that the young science teacher for whom I subbed today will find somewhere in the stack of classwork and notes I left her a paper on which I wrote something like:

I have observed that students are more likely to do their work quietly if I sit at the front of the room writing ("Is it a note to our teacher?") than if I sit there with a good book.

And on that strategy, along with my usual one of demanding silence -- yet actually letting some muttering go unnoticed -- we got through the day. I didn't mean to leave the paper, of course; the absent teacher had the 4th block off and I was ready to leave. I hope nothing more incriminating (kids names I didn't really need to Report to her for behavior problems; curses about how messy her desk was).

The book I refrained from reading today was Donna Tartt's The Secret History. (Note to self, when CNB recommends a book, read it right away.) Though I feel like Tartt made fall and spring in New England too warm, and that she used a few random words ("hoarse" comes to mind) too often, I find it well-written and compelling. It reminds me of The Virgin Suicides (Eugenides).

As for Spirited Away: wow. It swept me away, dazzled me. I watched it twice on Tuesday, the day I borrowed it from Maggi. The painterly backdrops took my breath away. The villain Yubaba lives in exquisite rooms at the top of a bath house. The light, the radish spirit (so creepy! yet, apparently benign!) the train journey (as an article in the NYer points out; that's what started this), and even Chihiro's car trip at the beginning just knocked my socks off. I expected a bigger cultural chasm than I felt. I imagine that certain characters or their forms would speak to me on a deeper level if I had an understanding of Japanese myth and iconography, but I never felt befuddled. Actually, I did for a moment, but Chihrio says of the funny, snakey squiggle in the sky, "Haku's a dragon." Miyazaki's dragon has a feline (or canine per the New Yorker piece) head and long snake-like, though maybe fur-covered, body. Maybe all Japanese dragons look like that? Would you all agree that in the west dragons appear more reptilian, and often seem chunky, like a Brontosaurus?

Searching for pictures makes this a cruddy bit of prose -- and reminds me of bits I forgot: Yubaba's weird head henchmen (they remind me of the head of Jebadiah Springfield in an old video game); her sister's enchanted lantern that meats Chihiro and her friends at the train; and the scene where Chihiro runs along the drainpipe, smashing together Charles Sheeler, classic American cartoon antics, and an Eastern asymmetry.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Still No School

Did I mention I haven't worked since the county sent us home eary Wednesday in a light snow? It snowed a little Thursday, so no school Friday. Saturday afternoon brought snow, sleet, and rain in temperatures dropping through the 20s. Also, there was thunder. This resulted in half an inch or more of ice; not enough to pull down tree branches, but more than I could hack off my porch effectively.

Thus, shout out to GA for

I am nerdier than 41% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!
this. The questions are directed at the computer-based nerd, rather than us word nerds. Also thanks to CNB for loaning Donna Tartt's The Secret History, which I finally started. And cheers, I hope, to Maggi for leaving a video for me.

Monday, January 24, 2005


To me, contrasting conservative complaints about SpongeBob with Bugs Bunny's cross dressing, as boingboing folks do here, is almost an anachronism. There was something (innocently?) funny about put-on cross dressing for much of the first half of the twentieth century that we just don't get anymore. Consider woman-less weddings and powder puff football. I don't think that women ever dressed as men in the guise of a humorous fundraiser. (Girls and young women at girls' schools and camps, at women's colleges, dressing as males for plays, pageants, and dances isn't the same intent.) I suppose I should go read the student paper mentioned in the update to see if that's the direction he toook.
Search Me

An interesting report on Search Engine Users, brought to you by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. From the Summary of Findings section, I learned that 87% of searchers indicated that "have successful search experiences most of the time," but that only 38% know the difference between paid and unpaid results. One of the most important skills in using a search engine is to be able to evaluate the results you get. A successful experience is not just getting an answer, it's getting a good answer. If you're searching for a good pizza place for your trip to the Big City, Pizza Hut's paid result might appear first on the list, and you know that's not going to be the best pizza in town. Please, make room for a teachable moment this week and make sure you help a co-worker, family member, or kid understand more about searching. Smart searchers consider the source (reputable? paid ad?) and how recently it was written or posted; they construct a search that will give them a managable number of hits. For more, see this typical guide.

Reading: Bone, by Jeff Smith; Summerland, by Michael Chabon
Capital City weather: cold and windy; about 1/2 an inch of ice from Saturday's storm closed schools for the third school day in a row

Friday, January 21, 2005

Clipping File

Maybe this undated article (saved from clippings and whatnot I have been throwing out over the last month) is from fall 1984 or later -- maybe Mom mailed it to me while I was at school. Otherwise, I am not sure why I would have cut it out, or kept it. It's an AP item titled "Computer raid / W&M officials stunned by student's work." It reads in part

It was a clear case of trespassing, if not burglary, but College of William and Mary officials were more concerned with how it was done than in calling in the police.

In the summer of 1982, a student at the college, using trial and error, gained unauthorized access to the school's main computer. He wandered at will through the confidential files of students and faculty. ...

The intruder accomplished his feat without picking a lock or prying open a window. It was all done from the comfort of home.

It was the first known incident of a personal home computer, or microcomputer, breaking into the college's computer system.

Officials have increased security in anticipation of future intrusions by what some computerists call "hackers" - computer wizards who figure out how to break into supposedly secure computer systems.

The article concludes that the student "'did no harm'" and received only a reprimand.
Another Snow Day
A picture of last night. I don't think we got more than two inches of snow. I know I got two SubFinder calls before I could get online for official snow closings and be sure I don't really have to/get to work.

I got some stuff done yesterday; today I could go up Route 1 to the Bank of Essex and the mall. I also see the value of going to Belmont library to volunteer: I am not earning money; might as well earn experience. Or, I could stay home with a book, or rent a movie (The New Yorker piece on Miyazaki put his stuff high on my list).

Thursday, January 20, 2005

In Honor of Inauguration Day

If, like me, you're a bit cranky today, please read these links -- and act. Let your national and local legislators know what's on your mind.

Capital City denizens, check out city council on-line (or on TV on Monday nights...).

My fellow Virginians, find your General Assembly members and their e-mail addresses here. Use this link to read proposals of interest. If you want to write about any of the library bills, note that the Virginia Library Association has useful information here.

If your gripes, er, concerns are national in scope, here's a link for the U.S. Senate; and one for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Other Links
: which describes itself this way: "Our nationwide network of more than 2,000,000 online activists is one of the most effective and responsive outlets for democratic participation available today."

The Democratic Party of Virginia has links and important issues at that page.

Tim Kaine for Governor. 'Nuf said.

From the House of Hull, these:
The best thing to come out of William & Mary

Another perspective

Name says it all

Connect with other politically-minded folks

This is a joke, people

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Shopping News: The BLOG Shirt
Trend Spotter
I recently picked up a new blog to look in on. Here she tells a good story about the I-gave-to-a-good-cause bracelets, and others added some good comments.

I started out the school year thinking it's great that the young people think about cancer and give to charity, and moved to quiet resignation: Oh, it's a fad. A fading fad, at this point.

Cheers to BLH, the first of our library school class to be published - on the letters page - in American Libraries. He remains a role model to us all.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Friday, January 14, 2005

Pictures of Saturn's moon, Titan, here! So freakin cool. The All Things Considered story reported that while the data is fresh and unanalyzed, this moon appears to have been softed of its craters by something in liquid form.

Yesterday: record-breaking temperatures around 76
Today: overnight low of 27 forecasted
Tomorrow: Dean's record player party. I picked out a swell 78; I get one more record, and am torn between my heart (childhood LP of John Denver's greatest hits) and trying to look cool.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

You Heard It Here
Article about archiving sound at the Smithsonian. I like the point that the world was dominated by natural sounds until the late 19th century -- and we may be returning to that state, especially as "the roar of the internal combustion engine is muted by the whir of electric or fuel-cell motors." While the author does note that the sounds are recorded on a variety of media, he misses the chance to talk about preserving the content on tapes, records, and CDs so that they won't be lost.

At Today's School
A faculty bathroom I used had a sign posted in it: "Clean Restroom Award [date]." It looked like it was signed by the housekeeping staff. Well, isn't that a nice way to encourage grown ups to take care of their space, I thought. Then I looked at the fake plant on the little table the sign was on: fake poison ivy?? Why would anyone make such a thing? Who would buy it? People who care about how their bathroom looks, but who are not very outdoorsy, obviously.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle.
Until Bill mentioned it, I forgot that I had forgotten to blog that I saw the preview for the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie last week. From the first note of music, I thought, "Oh, something heartwarming. Yawn." Then as the camera pulled back, I thought, as I often do when I see images of the earth in space these last 20-some years, in snippets of H2G2 text: "utterly insignificant little blue-green planet"; "unfashionable end of ... the galaxy." Just as those began to run through my head, the preview got to the, as it were, payoff pitch, and I saw that for once I was right to have had those thoughts. I actually bounced in my seat a little.

Monday, January 10, 2005

At an East End High School
. . . I didn't have as bad a day as the day that made me swear I'd never return, but it had some low points. Like when the teaching assistant I got 5th period locked me out when we went for lunch. I wanted to go to the bathroom, then return to have lunch in the room. Rather than let me go all the way to the office, she gave me bad directions to an over-crowded students' restroom. From there, I went to the library, where I knew where the staff bathroom was. Then, I walked back to class and found the door locked. It seemed easiest to head back to the library where I begged a library clerk (who is very nice) for a chair in her space so I could sit and eat two pretzels and a tangerine in the 4 minutes I had left for lunch.

The low of being there is just something in the air at that school: there's so much more swearing, so many more (vivid) public displays of affection, and fights are so frequent that I can't help but imagine half of these young people as the "heads of household" in broken homes by 2007. I see future angry, ignorant young mothers, and young men who wouldn't hesitate to hit - or leave - rather than be a partner in a household or family.

The subject, by the way, was history. For 20th Century US, the teacher left a great timeline activity. It was a 7 period day, though, and I felt like I never had time to explain the assignment, encourage them to use good websites (American Experience, Wikiepedia, ones from school, etc.) and not Ask Jeeves, and maintain order. I really wanted them to get something out of it, but I just couldn't reach them in 45 minutes. Some classes were world history. Apparently, my reading of PowerPoint slides (printed on paper) really impressed a couple of classes as they listened attentively, seemed to retain about 3 facts, and asked, Wow, are you a real history teacher?

That, and the fact that, even as I write this, that I know that I don't really take any work worries home made it an acceptable day. I was on I-64 when I felt all the stress go away forever.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

I remember generalizations and the big picture well; I have a terrible memory for details. So I am studying for J's LOTR viewing marathon with this Lord of the Rings site. I need to be sure I still know Orcs from Uruk-hai, and the Elves of Lothlorien from those of Rivendell. Let me know if you know other good sites to study.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I only half-way listened to an NPR story on an electronics show. The commentator seemed to conclude that the manufacturers were pusing connectivity as well as multifunctional gadgets. Here's an example of how such a world might look in a library.
At a West End High School

One girl told me Wikipedia is one of her favorite web sources.

I asked the "vintage" alligator sweater-wearing boy with the KISS wallpaper on his iBook what his favorite song by the band was. "I dunno, there are so many good ones. Umm, 'Rock City'?" I don't know that one but I nodded knowingly.

The boy with the mop of sandy hair and an AC/DC t-shirt is reading Ayn Rand's Ahthem.

A knitting note from those visiting from Maggi's site: I finished off mitten one Tuesday and knit the ribbing for mitten two last night.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

At a high school library yesterday, a boy thanked me very sincerely for helping him find several books on immigration and for showing him some web sources for students. I hope his report turns out okay. I did some shelving, some circ, and tried to keep students from actually shouting across the library. And I still had time to read most of Ann Brashare's book The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. In the voice of a character providing a prologue, she admits that the characters are types: jock, beauty, shy, etc., but in general, each girl has some real characteristics readers can relate to. The girls' (separate) summer adventures make up the story. Maybe they are a bit extreme -- even the girl working at the big box store has some intense experiences -- but maybe they tell the readers something about seeing the adventure in everyday life. I bet that bits that made me smile make teens hoot with laughter. The kind of quotations I have liked since I was about the age of the characters divide the chapters. For example:

Luck never gives: it only lends.
- Chinese proverb

There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.
- Jerry Seinfeld

Capital City weather: foggy and chill for 2 days in a row

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Maybe this is why I don't have a library job yet. Common Wisdom seems to say that librarians (and academics "and other learned types") don't like Wikipedia. I directed a patron to it just a week ago. When I checked back ("did you find what you needed?"), he said it helped. Since he had gone back repeatedly to nearly everyone that morning looking for more, I don't think he was just being polite.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Music News

A cool pre-teen demonstrates record player use here. She won her 15 minutes of fame on ABC News, apparently.

Gregg's band has rennovated its website.

On the Muzak at Grace St. Ukrop's: "Head Over Heels" (Tears for Fears), "Big Country" (was the band called Big Country, too?), and something by Belinda Carlisle.

Capital City weather: clear, mid 60s

Sunday, January 02, 2005

For a good time, go see "The Incredibles." Sarah Vowell, the coolest geek of our times, voices the teen girl -- reason enough to go.

What I Threw Out
(more notes on divesting myself of a few scraps of my childhood)
  • to do lists (“homework / clean room / pack for camping trip”)
  • scraps of paper with summer camp graces lists
  • Grease props folder: check list, by acts; an ugly note added to a bossy one I left
  • elementary school notebooks apparently used only for games of Dots, writing notes

From the Girl Scouts box

  • a lot of the reporting-back part of badge work, such as:
  1. an activities booklet for someone home sick (something Beth and I actually did for SW) with human interst stories (Steve Clark with big, 70s hair) and comics, decorated with stickers
  2. items for the Hostess (?) badge: pictures cut from (probably) the Best catalog of glassware and dishes (fancy and every day – I liked floral patterns at 13, and also glasses decorated to look like packs of Lifesavers), and a menu for Tea that included spiced tea
  3. booklets on citizenship and the environment
  4. Awww! Look at this! My first letter in response to one written to my U.S. senator [I kept this one]. And who would that have been, in 1981? None other than Senator John Warner! My (badge requirement-generated) letter seems to have addressed national parks. “Like you,” he replied, “I am concerned that pollution overcrowding, littering and vandalism may eventually destroy our parks. . . .” Senator Warner mentioned a reduced federal budge and the need to cut staff in the department of interior and, “[t]herefore, much of the responsibility for the maintenance of our parks will fall on responsible citizens like you.” Aw, dissin’ big government to a 13 year old.
  • Evidence that in 1983 I sold 25 boxes of cookies – to family, mostly
  • lots of crafts; mostly, pictures of cats
  • A sign in marker on cardboard: “CITs ONLY (all two of us)”; Happy Birthday signs made by M.S.
  • Wow, a letter from, I think, a Junior GS troop leader listing all the things I did to help her troop during GS year and on a campout. She’d have been a good reference had I ever been motivated for anything that needed one: “You graciously came to our meetings and helped in a confident manner. You helped by guiding them in” and then she lists a ton of things. Did I do all that? I have almost no memory of it. I think that the pin that she enclosed with the letter was the then-new 3 faces trefoil. I do remember having that for several years (before trading it to a Girl Guide from South Africa) and that I would tell people it was a thank-you from a troop I helped. Of course, having been involved in the bureaucracy (a word I do use neutrally) of Girl Scouting for so many years, my second instinct is, You had no business doing those things with a troop without (as I recall) so much as Program Aid training! Then again, that 2 years of helping with this troop and a council event (did I mention vintage thank you notes from the Ws?!) did spur M.S. and I to become CITs and from there, well, you get to the state my life is in now.
  • Hunh. Here’s a reasonable life-skills teaching activity involving splitting up daily responsibilities with a partner (“husband”) and indicating how much time is spent on each activity. It looks like I imagined us in our mid-20s with a kid, a dog, and jobs! Well at least the man of my 20s did cook dinner, as I projected, while I cleaned the house.

Out of a high school creative writing class folder:

  • A Richard Wright piece on learning to fight to save the grocery money. The teacher photocopied a book then mimeographed it: it looked like any other handout. Sometimes I criticize my public high school education for not exposing me to much that was challenging or cutting edge. The scant documentary evidence I have in hand (in the recycling, actually) suggests that I was, it just didn’t sink in. It’s something I think about as I substitute teach: of course they don’t know x, y, or z in the 8th grade. We all have to keep practicing these things – memorizing, writing over in out own words, whatever – before we internalize and apply them.
  • Excerpts from a book called Fiction Writer’s Market
  • I will keep actual writing, though I am not sure why, since I could barley bring myself to read it. The beginnings of maybe two pieces that I looked at seem trite and silly. Where did I get those silly names and concepts: on story opened with two characters walking to their dad’s office – not only nothing that I ever could have or would have done, but also nothing anyone I knew did.

Song sheets from 6th grade chorus:
“Rock Around the Clock,” “Rockin Robin” and “Blueberry Hill” – but wait! That’s not all! You also get “Amazing Grace” and “I’m Gonna Sing” with that immortal line, “I’m gonna pray (repeat) I’m gonna pray when the spirit moves me unto the Lord.” As a special bonus, we’re throwing in “Medley of Civil War Songs” with (as best I can tell) bits of “Tenting Tonight,” “Dixie,” and “Goober Peas.”