July 27, 2010

Reading (Link) of the Day:
The System
Being Productive

Daily Rituals.

Make a pot of coffee.
Pour coffee into cup.
Set cup of coffee down.
Refill cup with coffee.
Write for 8 hours interrupted with various clients and preparation for clients.
Make another pot of coffee.
Read email & drink coffee.
Gloss RSS feeds.
Read comics.
Read to the children.
Watch old Top Gear episodes.
Fall asleep holding coffee.

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June 30 2010

Word of the Day:

My pot of coffee was postponed by my son dumping Biology Day all over the kitchen floor when he tipped the shelf over.
The coffee grinder dial refused to stay put. I need a new coffee grinder.
Making coffee made me late to work.
I won a coffee-flavored contest.
It smelled like coffee when we left the programming room at the library. My student and I said so at the same time.
Coffee house for knit night tonight.

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June 7 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:

Adventure of the Day:
First day of Summer School with my One-Room Schoolhouse:
1 kindergarten girl, 2 boys, 2 3rd grade girls, 2 4th grade boys, 1 5th grade boy, 1 6th grade girl, 1 8th grade girl.

Thoughts of the Day:
Some supplies are better off distributed at the time of the activity and not in individual's boxes.

Boxes should be better labeled with names and such.

I burned my hand on a pan on the stove cooking the agar for the bacteria cultures. Review kitchen safety with students doing kitchen projects.

4 cups of water to 4 tbs agar is WAY too much for 14 petri dishes. I recommend 1/2 cup to 1/2 tbs per 10 dishes. I put cherries and apples from lunch into the remaining gelling agar and it's kind of bland--much better with lime juice or something under it. Texture is better than Jello.

Room fans and paper do not mix.

Long rolls of paper across the table are awesome for students to do group projects.

Cheek cultures are best taken when kids are in a line and things are prelabeled.

Prelabel stuff. It may get the younger kids to learn how to spell their name, but reduce their workload on the other end, then.

Have lots and lots of water available. Juice is nice but not as effective as water. Set your own cup somewhere where you will remember its location, and somewhere between workplaces so you can grab a drink as you go by.

Letting the older kids debate something as simple as "What makes it alive?" is good enough to keep them busy while you work with the littlest ones on name writing, and giving the littlest ones some rulers and having them trace the rulers and "measure" things is enough to keep them busy while you join the discussion.

If you have a one-room schoolhouse planned for any reason, do not expect to stop moving for the duration.

Remember to ask the quieter kids to answer specific questions sometimes instead of just throw questions out there.

I do not want to run a classroom for a living.

I had fun. I can't wait until next week.

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June 4 2010

Teaching Link of the Day
Scripps Spelling Bee

As we have no television, we went to a family member's house for the Spelling Bee. My daughter--an avid reader reading at 2x her age level--is a mediocre speller. She doesn't find it interesting, or particularly useful. She did not want to watch the Bee. Then the ten kids walked on stage--kids! She was intrigued. The live show and the profiles of the spellers kept her spellbound for the entirety. She was breathless as the timer counted down, and when they got it right (she read the letters at the bottom of the screen) she jumped and clapped and sighed in relief, and when they got it wrong, she was bummed. Maybe she will want to study for Spelling Bee 2016 after all.

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June 2 2010

Thought of the Day

The following is an article I wrote for the personal finance blog right about the time I stopped writing for them. I never submitted it and it's never been published. I've been hoarding this article for a year, and it's time to let it out into the world. Unfortunately, the topic of the post is as relevant today as it was a whole year ago. Oy!

It's a monster out there. I have created a monster, just for the sake of frugality, of keeping a few extra dollars in my own pocket, I now have something I can barely face. When I must, and I know that day will come, I will dread it.

The story goes something like this: My husband hates recycling. I've been trying for years to turn recycling into something that is natural not only for me but for him. Different bins, different locations, different methods. Certain things we recycle and certain things we don't. I manage to keep up after him, but it's still an ever-present thing.

About a year ago a coupon book came in the mail advertising five cents more a pound for aluminum. This peaked his interest and gave us some direction. It's pretty easy to drive some aluminum cans to a place not a whole mile away. We started saving our aluminum. Instead of hauling it to the curb with the recycling we have to pay to have picked up, we figured we could offset that cost by taking the aluminum downtown. It turns out, we are not very prompt people. Our pile grew. We added to that the full bag of crushed cans my mother-in-law accumulates in a month. And our aunt's aluminum. Bags came home and overflowed a box. A big, wooden box.

One day I loaded up the car to take them down to the metal recycling place. Before I took off, I decided to call around and make sure the coupon which came in every coupon book was the best deal. It wasn't, and the recycling place with the best deal wasn't open that day. So I waited. The next day was not convenient. Nor the next. Then the kids and I went (in the car without the aluminum, the seats in that car were all taken) to the recycling center for a field trip. I learned that the aluminum prices are greater during the winter. I came home and removed the cans so we could use the car again, and waited for winter.

Unfortunately, with winter came snow, and buried my bags of cans. As spring approached, I was faced with a big, wet pile of aluminum cans. All for a few cents a pound more, I'll have to spend several hours of a day to rebag, dump, and reload all my cans.

Is it really a small price to pay? Is it worth it?

I start to wonder --as the idea of going out there and "taking care" of my aluminum recycling haunts me-- if there are more things I am doing for the sake of saving money that are really just causing me stress and extra work. It is not pleasant to hoard. What is it? My quiet desperation to revive my xeriscape and kill my weeds every summer? The piano that isn't tuned because I don't own the tools? The sacks of things to fix in my basement because throwing them away and replacing them is out of the question?

It would not cost me any more to put the cans on the curb with the rest of the recycling, but it will cost me time and gas to load them up and drive them down.

Tomorrow is recycling day. I can't...let...go...

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June 1 2010

Teaching Link of the Day: National Summer Learning Association (formerly, National Center for Summer Learning, of John Hopkins University)

From the site:

A recent Johns Hopkins study found that 65 percent of the achievement gap in reading between poor and more advantaged ninth-graders is due to unequal summer learning experiences during elementary school years. That gap makes a difference in whether students decide to drop out or go on to college.

Adventure of the Season:

Summer has arrived!

Time for new students, a new schedule, and faster progress.

I am hosting a Summer School for 10 family and friends. It is a one-room schoolhouse, K-8th grade, cross-curriculum, immersive design. It is 3 hours one day a week. Each week's day has a theme, with each day contributing to the development of the others as well as proving independent development. (It's also free!)

The 10 week curriculum looks something like this:
Biology Day
Hammer Day
Park Physics Day
Magnetism and Electricity
Water Day
Fire Day
Rock Day
Lego Day
Paper Day
Uncle Remus Day

For details on the curriculum for each day, tune in every Monday starting June 7 through August 16. I'm not sure if I'll post on the day of school, the day before, or the day after, but I'll include assessments of the activities and the experience of the schoolhouse design, which I've never done before.

In addition, I have six signed contracts, three pending contracts, two potential contracts, and three potential call-backs. That makes 14 potential students by the end of the summer. I expect to be quite busy!

10-15 hours/ week on medical advertising copy writing/editing
Homeschooling my own children, the kindergartner learning to read, write, and perform sums and the elder learning American History and multiple-digit sums and preparing her end-of-year train project.

Random Fact of the Day:
National Summer Learning Day is Monday, June 21. This is Park Physics Day. I'll be registering this event, and any additional attendees are welcome. Contact me for details.

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May 31 2010

Thought of the Day
Courtesy of XKCD

(Hover over pic for original title text)

My definition?: A nerd is a well-rounded geek. A geek is someone versed in a particular field or set of related fields.

Hence, I was always a band geek, a lit geek, a math geek, an internet geek, a grammar geek, a chemistry geek, a biology geek, and I always ended up at a table alone because of it, being that I never shut up about anything because there wasn't a topic I could stay on for long or that would stump me, making me Queen Nerd, as my mother called me, or "The Biggest Purple One In The Box" as my sister called me, or "The Annoying One" as everyone else called me.

I'm careful to distinguish between Geek and Nerd. Geeks don't know as much, but are invaluable in furthering my own knowledge.

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May 28 2010

Thought of the Day

The interwebs are buzzing about Facebook: May 31 is Quit Facebook Day, apparently.

A few thoughts:

Being On Facebook:
If you spend more time on Facebook than you do in front of the TV, kudos. You have more of a social life than the couch-potato generation. I like to see social web-works grow and TV shows get the boot. People talking to people is awesome.

Facebook Privacy:
If you think Facebook has privacy issues, maybe it's you. You choose what you post on Facebook. If it's private, keep it to an email. If it's okay to be public, list it. Just because Facebook asks you to fill out a field does not mean you have to type something into it.

If you are worried about Applications sharing your information, don't use the applications. How many people have the Snowball Fight app still? It's the middle of May, and Snowball Fight is using your information for whatever it wants, because you said it could. Weigh fun against privacy, please.

If you insist on listing things and using applications, learn to adjust your privacy settings. Who cares what the default is? I don't even know any more. Every time I log in I check the privacy settings to make sure it is doing what I want it to be doing. If you're a parent of a minor, do it for your kids.

Photographs and Privacy:
Speaking of parents of minors, why post pictures of your children on Facebook? (or MySpace, or anywhere?) Every picture of my children I have is locked up for limited visibility, or of the back of their heads. Don't jeopardize your children's future privacy for your own fun and entertainment. If a friend of mine posts a picture of my kids, I make sure I'm not tagged on the photo, so that no one can see that monster belongs to me anyway.

Most people don't look at pictures of your kids, anyway. Or of your drunk nights out. People look at what their interested in: If they haven't seen you in ages, they want to see how wealthy you are, what's your car? your house? the interior of your house? your job? Sometimes people respond to shock value, like "That's a BIG dog!" or "You let your kids do WHAT?" They also like to reminisce, "That picture was 20 years ago! I can't believe you still have that!" (which I'm not sure why that is so unbelievable. People are pack rats.)
The Internet and Privacy:
When was the last time you did a websearch for yourself? What information about you is available from other sources? Did you set up a Yahoo! profile page some time ago and have forgotten? Did you know that anybody can look at county records of your house? How about online newspapers: have you ever been quoted, have a marriage, birth, or death listing for you or your family? Had a picture printed? All that is available online, too. And in libraries. Ever have a landline? Most landline numbers and their owners from the past 10 years or so can be found online.

And all of that is for free. If I really wanted to, I could find out much, much more about you by dropping a bit of cash.

And that's only just the start of a search. If someone were after your children, they could use county records of where you live to determine where your child goes to school, and then the school website to find out when school is in session. They could even find out what the names of the teachers your children have, having found their birth announcements in the newspaper online and knowing their likely age and grade.

Are you afraid?
Are you afraid of what people can find out about you from your Facebook page? I've determined a girlfriend of a friend had still been talking to her ex fiance. I've determined where's she'd likely to be on a Thursday night between 6 and 10. I knew what income bracket her family was in, her graduation year, the school she was attending and a narrow field of likely classes she'd be in. And that was before I ever met her. How? Because she didn't take control of her own information. She let it all hang out.

Are you afraid of what people can find out about you from the Internet? I've found a friend I haven't seen in 12 years, know when he got married, that his wife won the raffle at a church, and that he works somewhere that gave him an employer-based email account. I know where he lives, what his phone number is, his wife's name, and his email address. He has no internet presence, no social networking. It wouldn't be his thing.

I don't hack, I just search savvy. The internet makes the world a small, small place, and all your friends a little creepier.

Some Links:
Get your Facebook Privacy Back: ReclaimPrivacy.org
The Mesa County Assessor's Office webpage: Online search for properties and their owners
Simple place to type your name and see what comes up: Search
Mesa County School District: Listings of all the schools, hours of operation, and links to teacher pages
Mesa State College Student Directory: Search
Simple phone book search: SuperPages

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May 26 2010

Show of the Day:
*Caution Spoilers*

It's over, and it was a bit odd, kinda hokey, but I loved the montages. They made me tear up. If anyone wants a synopsis of LOST, they could watch this one episode. It said everything.

Anyway. Another good show bites the dust and I'll have no more story to look forward to. Where did the pilot end up? What happened when the plane got off the island? What did Hurly and Ben have to face? Who was next? Why did Desmond know? Why did Juliet say that the bomb worked, that they got off the island? And what was ABC thinking when they let this be the last season? Eh, at least it wasn't another Firefly.

Also, I want to make thorough fun of everyone who watched this show one week at a time. What were you THINKING? Suck it up for a summer and get the DVD so you can watch every episode commercial free and in marathon until your brain turns to mush. In short, I am very happy never to have seen an episode of LOST at its original airdate. We watched this last season on Hulu to avoid being spoiled on accident.

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May 22 2010

Thought of the Day:
"The Pledge of Allegiance, a debate in small bites."

Pledge History: Written by the NEA's* chairman for the 400-ennial celebration of Columbus Day 1892.
I say: For the nation's schoolkids to feel patriotic for the European's hostile takeover of the continent. Great note for the pledge to start on.

*NEA: National Educational Association

Part 2 Pledge History: The original 1892 wording was "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Oct 1892 "to" was added between "to my Flag and ^ the Republic."
I say:
I'm a linguist, and I can't find purpose for that second "to," unless we're trying to separate the Flag from the Republic.

Part 3 Pledge History: "My" changed to "To" and "Of the United States of America" in 1924 because the American Legion and the DAR* thought it was better.
I say: I like to think of it as MY flag. Personally patriotic. But being specific of which flag is good. Specificity is good.

*Daughters of the American Revolution

Part 4 Pledge History:The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal benefit society, campaigned for the 'under God' addition to the pledge, with no comma separation from the 'one nation', making our patriotic symbol a prayer. This passed in 1952, during the Cold War, the same year we exploded our first H-bomb.
I say: Congress in 1952 must have thought God likes H-bombs.

Part 5 Pledge History: The current pledge is recited "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."
I say:
Do we really need to be redundant naming the country of the flag and then again our allegiance to the Republic? And do we really need to continue to suggest our nation can (could, tried to) disband by saying it is "indivisible?"

Part 6 Pledge History:
A Republic is generally defined as "not a monarchy," or more specifically, "governed by the impact of (at least some) of the people."
I say: How many people who recite this pledge can name the congressperson partly responsible for 1 of 3 parts of every national law's passage? How many people vote for anything other than President, such as those people who govern us? Why is the President treated as a king?

Part 7 Pledge History: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag..."
I say: Why are we allies with a FLAG, a symbol, an inanimate object, something that is not immutable, as we've seen over the past 234 years, where we've added 37 more stars to it? What if they've added a star to the flag since the last time I said the pledge? (ask people since Utah, 1896) Do I suddenly become UNallegiant? What is it really that deserves my allegiance?

Part 8 Pledge History:
Prior to 1892, a philosopher argued that American political tradition was built on 'equality, liberty and justice for all'. The word "equality" was left out of the pledge because some NEA members were against equality for women and African-Americans.
I say: Every day our pledge stands by that bigotry.

Part 9 Pledge History:
The pledge has changed. The pledge is likely to change again.
I say: "I pledge allegiance to the United States of America and to the servicemembers who fight beneath its Flag for Equality, Liberty, and Justice for all." I left out God re: equality for religious choice. I left out Republic and Nation re: no need to be redundant (USA). I left out indivisible re: again, redundant (United). I added equality. I added mention of those people that keep this a Republic. I shifted allegiance to the Nation, not a symbol. I expanded the realm of "for all." I am an ally of my nation and of the people fighting for which it stands. That is what I pledge.

What is your suggested modern pledge?

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May 14 2010

Garden of the Day:

More on rescuing your plants from pests: ReNest

We had four freezing days in two weeks after we put our garden in.
We used bed sheets (vegetable bed--ha ha!) and luminaries to keep them warm enough to survive.

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May 10 2010

When really bad things happen to my friends
people who are close to me
I feel really, really terrible.

Everyone is a piece of me
and their pain is my pain
and it's weird.

People are used to living isolated
with their pain and their fears
while the world spins around them.

I am not that way.
I am not much without my friends.
I am just a bit. A little bit.

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May 9 2010

I want to share all the things about today
But I don't have pictures so you will just have to imagine it all with me:

I hosted Mother's Day here at my house,
with 10 people I re-arranged the tables and chairs in my house to fit everyone
with the kids they sorted the rest of the toys I found hiding behind the bed
with Flyin' Roosters or Hooters as previous suggestions I had Husband barbecue up some wings
and concoct some buffalo sauces
with his delight in all things hot sauce, he barbecued up some crab legs
I sliced the rabbit food
I served on my purple place mats from our wedding
with red napkins from christmas, or maroon napkins from the matching set that was GiGi's (another mother we miss)
and on yellow plates handed down from Granny
The salad was fruit: strawberry, banana, orange, pear and mango. I chopped up what I had around.
I set out chips and salsa while we were waiting. We decided the salsa was not spicy.
We ate so much food
The buffalo sauce was decided to also be not hot
but it burned my lips and made my nose run and definitely made me happy
Everyone was stuffed
Only the kids and I ate the ice cream cake leftover from my birthday for dessert. Everyone else stayed stuffed.
My son got in trouble for throwing things.
My daughter got in trouble for not minding her own business.
My nephew decided a dark, long-sleeved shirt would suffice in the heat of the afternoon, in the sun.
My niece played guitar. And got antsy. And played guitar some more.
My husband cooked food and I prepped the other dishes and the table.
My mother-in-law brought me a hen-and-chicks.
My sister-in-law made that ice cream cake, which is the most awesome ice-cream cake ever imagined.
My brother-in-law wore a shirt that was not black.
My aunt-in-law gave out hugs from her daughter on the East Coast who called during dinner.

When things wound down the kids and I ended with a game of bingo and the adults discussed music and parts of music.
Then I sat down and uploaded pictures for my own mom.

As lemons for the crab dripped down my scraped knuckles and cracked calluses and scratched hands
and as oranges refused to be removed from their peels so I ate them
and as the knife sliced through banana in a mocking "this is overkill" kind of way
and the pit of the mango proved a formidable foe

the one person I was not prepping for was my own mom
I only get one, I only have one, and whether or not anyone actually remembers Mother's Day for anything other than florists' deliveries and stamped and wrapped card stock from Hallmark, she has made all the difference

and as I caption all the pictures as I upload them and after I load them and send her the email, after she has gone to bed, I'm sure
I see the faces of the creatures that gave me that title, the name "Mom"
as they evolve over the course of a year in one slideshow
and know that I am the only mom they get, too
their own mom
and whether anyone remembers Mother's Day as something more than giving mom a nap or a pedicure,
I get to make a difference

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April 29 2010

Thought of the Day:

For a restful night's sleep, don't break this rule

A) never accept a client you had a hard time working with before because they complained about your rates, back when your rates were half what they are now, even for barter
B) especially if they expect you to cut your old rate in half for one of their own clients which you will be working for at the complaining client's house
C) instead, refer them to someone who either doesn't know what their work is worth, someone whose work is worth a quarter of your rate, someone so starved for work they don't care what they get paid, or someone who doesn't do this for a living.

posted after 2 hours and 40 minutes of lying awake in bed agonizing over how the meeting with my complaining client's client will go as they learn that there is no way I am improving the quality of life for less than what they pay for childcare. I am not a babysitter. Why do people think they can pay tutors what I pay my niece to watch my kids?!

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April 18 2010

According to all my lovable Facebook friends, this is the weekend for bubbles. An extraordinary number of friends have chosen to update about bubbles this week, friends that don't know each other and live on opposite sides of the continent, friends of different backgrounds and with different life paths. Today I celebrate the universality of bubbles.

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April 16 2010

Teaching Link of the Day: Crossword Puzzle Generator

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April 8 2010

Thursday Bus
5 am
Drive to airport in Nashville after eating a muffin and drinking a coffee and an orange juice.
Missed the car return lane (who can read at that time of morning? Use pictures! Graphics! Logos!)
Got it the second time around
Infernal beeping at the gate: 45 minutes of 2-toned beeps even the security guards couldn't turn off--another airline guy did it.
Load the plane, sitting next to a candidate for a job at the Christian Sports Camp in Durango
She didn't like sitting in front of toddlers so she moved.
I didn't mind, but I didn't sleep much, either.
Landed early, and waited on the tarmac.
I couldn't wait to get off the plane. I started to ache.
Off the plane and down to baggage claim
where I was the baggage, since I hadn't brought any and that was where my ride was claiming me
--my scrubby ride, with his pseudo daughter, his girlfriend's (I guess she's his girlfriend) daughter
Through Denver to the bus station
And a lovely walk with language of social mischief (like mooning the camera at a model's shoot in the park) after I bought my ticket
My seat on the bus was next to a baggageless, pistachio eating gentleman with a t-shirt over his long-sleeved shirt and a scrubby days-on-the-road face topped with a ball cap.
He was on his way to San Bernardino.
We looked at the bus station in Idaho Springs where no one got on.
Stops like that slow us down.
Then the bus broke down.
Proper woosh and more infernal beeping.
The driver pulled over and got out.
And in. And out. And in.
And turned the bus off. And on. And off.
At least when he turned the bus off, the beeping stopped, and when he decided he was having a smoke, he left the bus and the beeping off.
Then he told us we would be there a while and we could get off it we wanted.
I wanted.
I had wanted to make a snowman since we'd stopped.
I had wanted to throw snowballs since I started aching from all the sitting.
So I went.
And I built a snowball but all my fight offers were declined.
So I built a snowman.
I put a chain belt on him.
I put a chunk of wood as his arm, and a plastic, ridged tube as the other arm.
I hunted for a hat.
I found a newspaper to fold into a hat.
But by then he was wearing a hubcap. The gentleman in the baseball cap going to San Bernardino had helped.
My snowman was cheerful.
I marked his location on my garmin.
I followed the footprints across the field and up the hill to watch the interstate traffic with the others who had preceded me.
One man had lost his phone tromping through the snow.
He found it on his way back to look for it. Just *plop* in the snow. He must have just dropped it.
The snow had made my fingers cold. I kept rubbing my hands together.
Someone headed down the hill with a guitar. He had been odd. He was still odd. He had bemoaned not getting off at that stop that was useless. He should have gotten off there.
Some others took their luggage off the truck. They headed up hill. Hitchhiking. To the nearest ski town.
Some others took their luggage off the truck. A friend came to get them. For skiing.
The rest of us took our luggage off the truck after the mechanic (who finally arrived) said he couldn't guarantee the air brakes would work for the rest of the trip.
A new bus came. The hitchhiking passengers left us with more sitting room.
We didn't need to stop in Frisco for a smoke break. We were 5 hours behind schedule.
The boy behind me would get to his destination just before 9 am if there were no more delays, said my garmin.
He said good, he was getting off leave from the navy base where he worked on a nuclear reactor. He would get in trouble if he wasn't there by 9.
I said good, because nuclear reactors aren't something you should be willing to allow people to be late to work for.
(Then I thought of the price for Maggie Simpson, and the corresponding beep.)
In Glenwood Canyon we passed the hole in the highway where the rockslide took out a chunk of asphalt the size of my living room. We could see in it while they worked on it. Buses are tall that way.
We stopped for food in Glenwood Springs where no one saw the fast food place but me, and no one listened while I announced it, and everyone complained that I had a burger and they had convenience store food.
Then I ate my burger and wished I had potato chips.
Then it got dark. I told the girl sitting across from me who I gave my apple to that I would wake her in Clifton to call her ride.
Then I tried to sleep. Then we got to Clifton. Then woke her. Then I called my ride.
Then I got off the bus and was picked up and then I picked up my kids and went home to bed with a kid nestled on each shoulder.
I had been gone a long time.

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April 7 2010

Word of the Day:
Irony of Fate - The concept that the Gods, Fates, etc. are toying with humans for amusement by using irony.

I promise, I was amused.

I know you don't know the story, but I'm writing it and if it publishes--when it publishes (staying optimistic) I'll publish it for you. I fully went looking for a good story, but the story couldn't have been more perfect if I had fictionalized the entire event. It just happened as a good story.

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March 21 2010

Garden of the Day:

Weeded these out of my garden, using a shovel:
And found so many of these! The best year of worms in my garden--ever.

Game of the Day

Kid Quote of the Day:

My five-year-old, covered in dirt from playing outside, comes in and sits down next to me and waits for a break in the conversation. When addressed, he didn't even stall or stutter:

"What is the name of a six-cornered shape?"

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March 19 2010

Yay gardening!

New label:
Garden of the Day (to include my myriad adventures in gardening)
How to Start a Garden in Western Colorado

Choosing land and plants
First, you call 811 and have them mark where the gas lines or anything else are so you don't dig into them on accident.

Then pick a plot of land. Watch your yard and potential land plots over the course of the day and determine sunlight patterns.

Design the garden, thinking of what you'd like to grow. EVERYTHING grows here, except citrus, so you can have a good variety. For ideas, go to the nursery--my favorite is Bookcliff Gardens. As you design, stand at your plot of land and say, "here we'll put this, and here and here" and walk between your plants as if you are harvesting. This way, you can visualize how close your plants need to be practically, and how many plants and of what types you'll want. Include in your design pathways for harvest.

Some things we've learned about plants:
Tomatoes are great volunteers. If you let what grows late freeze and rot in the ground over winter, you will get tomatoes the next year and will not need to buy. However, they are unpredictable in location, so either transplant after they start sprouting, or maintain a corner for perpetual tomatoes.

One brussels sprout plant is enough. It grows a kabillion and two sprouts. Harvest often.

One artichoke plant will yield four or five flowers to eat, and you may get more than one at once, so love artichokes.

Bell peppers are very happy here. I recommend several colors.

Spicy pepper plants grow peppers abundantly.
They get spicier in hotter, drier environments. Choose carefully, or have lots of spicy-loving friends. Also, keep the pets away.

Tomatillos will strangle your other plants, so prune early. Also, without pruning they don't produce much.

A young cherry tree will yield a couple of cherries a year the first few years.

Mint is not as robust as it has been touted when a dog gets after it shortly after planting.

Lemon oregano is very very hardy, likes harsh sunlight, and is a perennial.

Potatoes need no special dirt. Just put them under.

Dirt, Rock, and Water

Dirt is infertile, mostly mineral content, but finer than sand. Topsoil is decomposed organic matter and minerals. You can get mulches which are all decomposed organic matter, but I stick with manure because it both fertilizes and provides additional decomposed organics.

Dig the dirt/soil out of the plot, about 8 to 12 inches. Line the bottom of the plot with rock. Cover with a mix of dirt, topsoil, and manure. Since this is the first gardening, you won't need to till. Next year, you'll weed and till because your dirt is where you want it. If you are going to line/rock your walkways, now is the time. Do not put rocks over your good soil, but instead fill your walkways with infertile dirt or rock. That way you're not wasting your grow dirt and you don't grow where you want to be walking.

All that rock in your garden is essential in this climate. Water will puddle in the walkways and seep into the soil as the soil dries out. It will also puddle in the rock at the bottom. You can encourage water retention by lining under the bedrock with landscaping fabric, or putting landscaping fabric on the top with holes for the plants. I do not put fabric on the top because weeds grow through it (anyway) and when I try to remove them, the fabric pulls on the plants I want to keep.

When you water, soak low and at night, especially if it is a high sunlight area. Watering the leaves during the sunny hours will keep them from frying, and they'll continue to shield your fruit. Misters work best for the daytime water, using less water and encouraging the cooling effects of evaporation.

Putting the Plants in the Ground

Plant anywhere between March and July, though giving the orchards a call and finding out if they expect an early winter will help you decide to plant or not to plant later in the summer. In a normal year, the growing season lasts until Halloween, and even later for hardy, frost-proof plants. (A brussels sprout will withstand a mild freeze that will kill most everything else.)

It is better to underbuy than to have too many plants, so buy the minimum number of plants you think will fit in your garden. Put them in the ground the day you buy them, or the next morning if it is early spring (give them a bit to get used to the ground before shocking them with a colder night).

You can read the tags about optimum spacing, but in this climate, closer is better. I have also reduced the height of the mounds I put my plants atop of: drainage away from the stems is still important, but most plants don't have the root network to reach where the water does end up draining to.

Leaving your plants unattended

If you go out of town, or on vacation, your plants will need some love. Timer sprinklers are okay, but they will water even if it rains, and can freeze if we get a freak temperature drop, which is not totally impossible in this climate. I recommend getting two or three neighbors, friends, or family and arrange they drop by and mist in the hottest weather or soak in the evening, and divvy up the responsibility so that if one becomes unreliable, your plants are still getting the love they need.

If it is harvest season and you go out of town, have someone pick stuff they want. A quick lesson is in order if they have no experience: things like twisting tomatoes instead of pulling straight down, and that artichokes need scissors. There are also people out there that don't know what an ear of corn looks like on the plant, though you will likely not find them in this community. The point is, being obvious never killed a garden.

Bugs and other Pests

Ladybugs love marigolds and eat aphids, so plant marigolds near your tomatoes. It is not an option. Your tomatoes will love you. Dispensing with aphids is a horrid matter.

Some plants will get bugs you will need to wash off, so use a mild soap like Ivory with water, about a 2% solution, and spray them down. A Miracle-Gro mixing bottle that fits on the hose works well because you have pressure, or a plain spray bottle, like those for cleaners. The dead bugs may remain, just hose them off or wipe down the plant.

Rabbits, deer, dogs, cats, and other creatures like gardens because they are cool and have tasty things. A small fence is in order, and maybe a pellet gun depending on the attitude of the cat you're trying to repel. (That part was a joke.) I have no idea how to keep cats out, except with my dog, who digs holes in my garden. Maybe turning on the mister might scare the crud out of them. I would actually love to see a deer in my yard, so I haven't tried to repel them specifically. If you get mice, don't worry: the owls will come after them.

Bees! If you are putting in flowering plants, you will need bees, and will invariably get them. Check with your neighbors if they are not obviously attracting the creatures themselves because they will need to know you are inviting bees into the neighborhood, especially if they are allergic.

Wasps will also come. Keep an eye on any posts, rails, decks, overhangs, garages, and chairs in the vicinity because they will set up housekeeping near your garden. It is, again, a cool supply of water and food.

Molds: If you notice your watering cycle keeps your garden from drying out ever, you will need to inspect your plants and the surface of the dirt around them for molds. If you get them, wash them with your soap solution and let the garden dry out as best you can. You can also dig them up and move them. Molds are the reason I do not use wood mulches in my vegetables, and have a fair amount of infertile dirt mixed in.

Black ants can be ecologically removed with Borax: like a seagull eating alka-seltzer, the Borax expands, and any that is left will not harm your plants.

Things you will need

A hose that will reach your garden from your spigot.
A mister head and a soaker head, or one that does both, and does it unattended (no squeeze handles)
A small shovel for the more wicked weeds
A large shovel for dirt moving
Pruning shears or scissors

(*you don't have to buy each of these, use what you have and buy to supplement. You'll want about a 1-1-1 ratio of the grow stuff and whatever rock fits your design.)

If necessary:
Soap solution


landscape fabric
something to keep the dog out (or rabbits, or cats, or whatever)

If you have grass growing somewhere you're going to plant, and you push under the grass and plant, and water as if it were a flower bed, you'd get fruit yield. Not as good, not as long, and not as much, but you'll get food.

P.S. Where are the rest of my "-a-day" from March? They're on ice. I'm slowly drooling things out, as opposed to spitting it out, or even chewing it thoughtfully. It's an interesting method, not really efficient, but it is definitely How it is coming out, and when Ever

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March 2 2010

Reading of the Day:
Here's the challenge--my daughter reads at a soaring level above her maturity. Harry Potter, not yet. More like Hardy Boys. So...into the past where books for children were more innocent--well, not as far as the Brother's Grimm, not much innocence there-- I mean the fifties.

Random Fact of the Day:
Today's advertising work was all about the excrement. See, there's this enzyme that helps people with Cystic Fibrosis to absorb more of the fats in their diet--an essential change for their development. They can measure the fat absorption by, uh, evaluating their stools. And then there's this treatment for women with SUI: Stress Urinary Incontinence. (Oh, the google searches that will turn up my blog!) See, you don't have to live wearing pads advertised with lovely pinkness and radiant, petally pink flowers. No, you can try this treatment that will keep you from--uh--peeing a little when they laugh--a phrase that is now okay in some circles to express a level of LOL. It just disturbs me. Get fixed, girl, then you can laugh so hard your face hurts instead of peeing first. Remember when that happened? I should work in advertising. Oh wait...

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March 1 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:
Sketching Lego Creations

I wrote about a Lego(R) and sketching exercise that we did last year, and this year the lego construction projects have become exponentially more complex. I've been encouraging one model a day become sketched, which increases difficulty to 3D, 2D, rounded bricks and bricks of odd shapes, internal perspectives for things like houses and drawing without grids. It's like jumping jacks for the brain.

Development of the Day:
I spent my afternoon filtering through all my pictures, downloading the newest version of Picasa, running AdAware because Picasa kept crashing, just to get an online album created with photos of the kids for the grandparents.

It took forever ...forever ...forever ...forever

But I don't have to do it again. Re: just upload them to the album when I upload them to my computer.

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February 28 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:
ASVAB testing
Story problems...chess timers... finding out I score off the charts... I love my job...

Food of the Day:

Fondue, with the homemade bread from the other night.

Show of the Day:
Olympic Games Closing Ceremonies

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February 27 2010

Craft of the Day
Today I did nothing but create...a MONSTER

Also, new tag because I make lots of different kinds of things. I'm surprised it took till now to get this tag.

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February 26 2010

Teaching Link of the Day
Circle the command words when you read instructions
A bit down in the instruction is a powerpoint presentation after a discussion of CUBE the question.
Sometimes it's interesting that there are actual people actually teaching the strategies that I always thought I developed on my own on the course of my education.
I never called it CUBE, but this is exactly what I do and how I do it, and what I teach, especially to students who have a terrible time minding the instructions in the first place.

Game of the Day
Assassin's Creed II

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February 25 2010

Teaching Link of the Day
Block Letters and Shading Geometry in 3 dimensions

It all started with Star Wars...
Letters have geometry. They are square and triangular and circular, and drawing block shading makes them prisms. When you do a lesson on art and graphic design, never neglect the technical vocabulary, the science, the math. With young children, you never know if they're interested in the lesson because they will be architects or artists.

Geometric Shapes
Light and Shadow
Perspective and Depth
Angles and Parallelism

Development of the Day
New student: How to beat the ASVAB (Armed services vocational aptitude battery)

Show of the Day
Studio 60
Food of the Day
Bread--in a bread tube.

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February 24 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:
Reading without spaces

Using this as an aid for a student reluctant to read out loud with confidence--or at all in some cases--allows for the curiosity of the experience to overshadow the embarrassment of mispronouncing or guessing at a word. It eliminates the student's ability to guess at a word automatically based on its features as its features have not yet been revealed--features being landmark digraphs, ending letters, vowel patterns. Logic starts to creep in to ensure that the flow of language makes sense, where when reading standard print, a student like this can ignore logic and place any word in any location based on their preconceived notion that they're wrong anyway.

So what does the ability to read text without spaces show about a reader?

With mine, it showed her reading level nearly 250% the level she has been pegged at by her intervention teachers. Yes. Two-hundred-fifty percent higher. It's all psychology.

From the link:
"The few who could read text silently without these spaces between the words, like Julius Caesar and St. Ambrose, were viewed as so extraordinary that this ability is specifically recorded in historical records."

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February 23 2010

Random Fact of the Day:

some things are just too fun not to share. (also, click the picture to go to OnlineSchools.com for more fun and interesting Fact posters)

15 Things You Should Know About Breasts
Via: Online Schools

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February 22 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:
Using workbooks in a classroom.
One One One One

Pick one, any one. Using a workbook to teach and assess your students is not effective. You become distant from the actual process of teaching reading, pigeon-holed by the idea that you are a speaking version of the teacher--the workbook. You allow the workbook to guide your decisions.

And because of this, students appear to fail. Worse yet, they actually fail.

Food of the Day:
Chicken through a meat grinder makes great salad sandwich options. Mix with nigh on anything you'd put on your chicken and spread it on a sandwich.

P.S. I do not fail to see the irony of the meat grinder juxtoposed by the first few lines of this post on the front page.

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February 21 2010

Show of the Day:
I studied this screenplay in my last college class--an independent study that I wrote and implemented. These brothers are fantastic writers, and then they make movies out of what they've written. It's pretty remarkable. They can actually turn that screenplay into film. It's insane.

Wanna know something cool? The first lines of the movie are spoken by Sam Elliot. The first lines of the screenplay: "We are floating up a steep scrubby slope. We hear male voices gently singing "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and a deep, affable, Western-accented voice--Sam Elliot's, perhaps"

And the dream sequences? woah

Adventure of the Day:
The wash was filled with water from the snowmelt and new snow accumulation. The mud on the opposing side proved to be a formidable opponent. I imagine this is exactly why we have the 4x4 van we spent all last summer upgrading into an invincible beast. Plus, my husband is a pretty intelligent driver. We survived.

Reading of the Day:
My daughter just finished the second of the Santa series. At 7, I had questioned her ability to retain her reading of text this complex, but she has proved competent. She starts the third one tomorrow. Anyone know more G or PG rated books she can read? A series is best. If only I could get her to write, she might be the next Coen.

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February 20 2010

Adventure of the Day
I was here, but so was a foot of 3-month-old snow plus another fresh six-to-eight inches.

You can't hear anything when you're here in the winter:
the train goes by and with the snow the sound is muffled.
There are no planes, no cars, no birds.
Snow slides off a tree branch and it makes no noise.
It begins to frighten you, after a while, the total lack of noise.
You go back into the house where you can hear a refrigerator running, the children arguing, and maybe the television or radio.
You look out the windows and enjoy the view without the oppressive silence.

I am too civilized.

Show of the Day:

Granny Square of the Day:
Being snowed in and unable to do some of the work to the practice hall or house because of the detours to prevent the roofs from caving in, I managed to use all the little scraps of yarn into one large granny square. I can't find it though, I must have left it there. I'll get a picture and post it soon. It's about 3'x3'. Pretty cool. I'll make it bigger so it will be a lovely throw.

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February 19 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:
Following Directions Dot to Dot
Well, almost. That's ALMOST it. Instead of translating 1 to the answer of the problem for 1, each problem has a true or false. Here, try this one:

Interestingly, neither 7-year-old I tested this on could complete the puzzle correctly on their own, and not due to lack of addition skills.

Show of the Day:

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February 18 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:
I got a piece of plexiglass. It's dry-erasable.
Being clear, infinitely versatile. The film on the back re-adheres without sticking to the word cards I had cut to go under the glass, instead holding them steadfastly in place. Three columns of words: noun, adjective, noun. The goal was to connect each word with another in a different column, thus organically creating very interesting metaphors and similes. Plus, it's cool to write on something big and clear. And next week, I can have something different to scribble about.

Show of the Day:

Now my kids are talking about how cool it would be to take apart and "explore" the rovers.

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February 17 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:
Rhyming is so not important
Truly, rhyming is an advanced skill of pattern recognition and comprehension. We've inundated ourselves in a world of rhymes to teach with--Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss--that an entire series of cognition development is being hurried, and ultimately suppressed, for some readers. Rhyming will dawn on children, but reading skills--sounding words out, comparison shopping in one's own mind for words with similar structures, roots and affixes--these must all be taught.

An astute child will more quickly notice that squid and wig share similar sounds than closet and deposit. Rhyming is a more advanced pattern. This is why we love freestyle rap, why we ponder orange and purple and silver well into adulthood, and why form poetry (sonnets, limericks, etc. ) have a special place in our hearts. (Have you noticed most limericks are raunchy?)

I repeat, rhyming just dawns on people. Like puns. It just happens. Quit forcing it on kindergartners.

Show of the Day:

I still keep saying this movie didn't make any sense. It just doesn't make any sense. It COULD make sense, but it was incredibly slow up to a point, and that point was the climax, leaving only denouement so it was over anyway, and the whole turning-point thing was vague and I didn't get what I was supposed to get at all. Just--vague.

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February 16 2010

Food of the Day:

Games of the Day

Albums of the Day:

Adventure of the Day:
I bet you can't guess what we did today.

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February 15 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:
Take Apart Party, or Teaching kids to tinker

The kids had a "talking" book with pen that teaches word preliminary reading techniques like rhyming, initial sounds, etc. It got an odd short where it would randomly start and start playing the games by itself, so I rescued the book from the electronic part. The kids watched me remove screws and slice through the contact pad that connected the plastic electronics part to the book cover. I walked away to get the tape and mend the raw edge of the book and when I returned the boy had the screwdriver and was deep in reassembly. During the course of the next few days, the toy was taken apart and put together countless times. The circuit boards were removed and inspected. Capacitors were removed, buttons dissected. "Mom, can we explore this [part of a light-up bouncy ball]?" They brought out a dead calculator and a display phone. They laid on the floor with a set of small screwdrivers and removed every part from every other part.

Album of the Day:
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa covered by Peter Gabriel, recorded for though not included on his cover album, Scratch My Back.

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February 14 2010

Adventure of the Day:
Warmth! Sweatshirt and jeans, Mardi Gras is two days away, and I can finally clean my front porch and back yard. I have tomato plants untended from the early freeze/snow combination from last October. All the tumbleweeds I dreaded hacking down have dried up and been trampled by the heavy ice that the snow from January solidified into in the freeze-thaw cycle. There's still a lot frozen to the earth, but raking it should be a walk in the park compared to hacking at it all in the heat and bugginess of the fall.

Show of the Day:
Stand-up funny guys.

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©20092010 | by TNB