Saturday, February 28, 2009

Technical difficulties

I'm having computer problems that force me to use an external keyboard and mouse with my laptop -- its keyboard and trackpad aren't responding. A box is on the way from AppleCare. Meanwhile, enjoy picturing the Rube Goldberg-esque contortions I had to go through to post today's post about springtime arm coverings on Toxophily!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sets and equations

I just finished reading a book called Is God A Mathematician? by Mario Livio. (I'll be reviewing it for the A.V. Club soon.) It's an entertaining historical guide to the debate between formalists -- those who believe mathematics is a human construct that we apply to the world -- and realists -- those who consider math the inherent language of nature itself.

It's hard not to think of Archer while exploring both sides of this debate. This morning Archer was talking about words that don't count in Scrabble, and Noel commented that some proper nouns are also words in the dictionary -- like "archer." Archer immediately jumped in: "Yeah, and Archer scores 1 -- 2 -- 5 -- 9 -- 11 points." It's a source of endless delight to him that almost everything he encounters can be associated with a number or equation.

I asked Archer this past week, after a similar conversation, whether it made him happy that the world comes equipped with numbers, and he assented with his usual, "Oh, yeah." In some ways I thank my lucky stars that Archer is growing up in a world where so many numbers are already assigned to its features -- highways, temperatures, addresses, library books, schedules, sports. Time and space are mapped onto Cartesian coordinates, and everything you consider can be delineated by an integer, and those integers can be manipulated and explored in innumerable ways.

In another time or place, he might have had to assign his own numbers to the elements of his environment. Or maybe there would not have been enough enumeration in his culture to allow his fixation on mathematics to bloom and grow. Whether the numerical nature of the world is discovered or invented, it exists for him, and it's allowed him to be who he is. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I woke up this morning with a glorious feeling. It's Thursday -- a day I typically have no classes and only a lunch meeting. And my boss is in Kansas City, which means no lunch meeting either! The day stretched out in front of me, empty, ready to be filled with productive projects.

And for the morning, I was in good shape. I wrote some recommendation letters, created a couple of online advertisements for events, wrote long-delayed e-mails. One of those e-mails I'd put off for twenty-four hours after getting some bad news. A few days ago I'd contacted the executive committee of my regional scholarly organization in order to discuss nominations for the elected office that will need to be filled next weekend at our annual meeting. But the president-elect replied to say he'd been given a time-consuming administrative post at his university, and would have to resign immediately.

That means that instead of searching for one good person to nominate as usual, I needed two. And I needed them right away, and from only three colleagues instead of four. I stewed about it for a day, then wrote the e-mail describing the urgency of the situation and begging for help.

Then the chair of another department on campus e-mailed to say that a faculty member we'd been counting on might not be able to teach with us in the fall. And suddenly my free day began to crumble. Around the edges of my equanimity prowled the sense of abandonment. I couldn't begin to imagine a Plan B if it turned out the faculty member couldn't teach for us, or if my executive committee failed to come up with any nominations, or if no one agreed to serve. I wondered whether the responsibility for plugging these holes really rested with me, or if the chips were going to have to fall where they may after I'd done my level best to find solutions.

Then Noel called. He'd heard a load cracking noise that he thought was a transformer blowing outside the house. But it was followed by the sound of water gushing. The tank of the toilet in the kids' bathroom had spontaneously split apart, and its contents were spilling on the bathroom floor. He managed to get it stopped except for a drip, and called the plumber and then me.

Now such a confluence of bad news might have sidelined me on another day. But I think the good feeling I started with insulated me to some degree. I simply did not want to acknowledge the intractable problems I was now saddled with. I tried for detachment. I didn't succeed, entirely, but I felt as if what was called for wasn't frustration or anger; some sort of resolve that the responsibility for these dilemmas didn't rest ultimately with me -- that's what I desired, and what a part of me felt I deserved.

When the plumber came later, he lifted my mood with an offhand observation. Oftentimes when these tanks crack all of a sudden, he said, there's nobody home. And when folks do get home, they find themselves ankle-deep in the water that kept coming and coming.

So problem #3 wasn't as bad as it could have been. We're getting a new toilet tomorrow to match the nice low-flow model we have in the master bathroom (after the seal around the old one in there deteriorated last year). And the painter just called to say he could start on our house tomorrow -- the first step in what I hope will be a veritable cascade of home improvements in the months to come.

Maybe problems #1 and #2 will similarly turn out to be blessings in disguise, or at least have silver linings. If not, then I feel confident I can distance myself from their most vexing anxieties, at least on the best of days.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A dream of life

Tonight I showed Jules and Jim to my class. The reaction was decidedly mixed. A few of the men in the class hated the movie virulently. A couple of the women thought it was terrific.

I don't know if I can properly convey to them what energizes me about the French New Wave, and about Truffaut in particular. It's not my favorite cinematic scene by a long shot. But I respond almost viscerally to the infectious sense of freedom and experimentation in those movies -- the belief that everything in culture, everything in photography and film history, is available to be recontextualized, remixed, repurposed to express a spontaneous feeling of the moment.

That shouldn't be a surprise, because I'm always jolted by that boldness and freedom in art. Whether it succeeds or fails, I get excited when someone asserts a vision, especially if they do it by annexing a powerful piece of art that already exists, bending it to their will.

I'll be interested to see what the students do with their blogs this week. I suspect there will be some talk about bricolage as an artistic strategy, and probably a lot of discussion of cool women. And I fully expect some students to make the case that this film and these characters aren't worth their time. If you're intrigued too, stay tuned -- I'll provide some links in a few days.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fly on the wall

One of the reasons I like reading what Archer writes for his school assignments is that they provide an unintended window into his classroom. If you can believe this week's spelling word sentences, the teacher spends a lot of time telling the students to be quiet.

  1. I wish I had a puppy.
  2. If you were a millionaire you would be lucky.
  3. Miss Lea will not be happy if she hears us talking.
  4. Ms. Lea is a lady.
  5. Don't act silly in the second grade because that's acting like a preschooler.
  6. There should not be very many talkers.
  7. Everyone should not be noisy.

  8. And a bonus from his dictionary search assignment:

  9. Only if you are not noisy you get a cookie.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lovely lovely fish heads

Today's post about dead fishes that eat little girls' heads (much to their delight) is at Toxophily.

And while yarn did not come to the house as I had hoped today, this roving/spindle kit and this sushi wallet and one of these little creatures did. So despite the fact that I barely had time to turn around today, the house is filled with the promise of fibers and sticks and things to make. Now I just need the leisure to transform them.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scheduled to the hilt

It was an unexpectedly busy day here in post ICTE-land. Here's the breakdown.
  • Since I missed my usual sleep-in day on Saturday (had to be at school by 8 am for the first of my two morning events), Noel let me have an hour of extra sleep this morning.

  • But that was all, because I had to be up an hour ahead of our departure for church so that Noel could shower and shave.

  • We took the kids to Sunday school, then snuck off for to sip caffeinated beverages and eat pastries at Starbucks. I annoyed Noel by reminding him to stop at the red light when there was a police car behind us; it's a compulsion.

  • Noel dropped me off back at church and headed home to finish up some work while I socialized, collected the kids, and went to the service.

  • After Noel joined us for Eucharist, we allowed Archer to finish what might be his favorite part of the week: juggling the bulletin, prayer book, and two hymnals while following the liturgy like a road map and participating at top volume.

  • Off to lunch at Wendy's, where the kids, prompted by their food bags, asked us when we're going to get a Wii. (Cady Gray: "But a Wii costs a lot of money, so we can't get one.")

  • Back home, the kids go to their naps and Noel and I catch up on a Battlestar Galactica and Thursday's penultimate Conan. Fall off the couch laughing at the classic "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Covers the Line for Attack of the Clones Premiere" segment.

  • Kids get up and Noel takes them to the playground. I take the opportunity to sew the X'd out dead eyes onto Cady Gray's fish hat.

  • Noel tags me and I take the kids to a birthday party they got invited to at the last minute. There is much jumping, Capri Sun, air hockey, jumping, and cake.

  • We return home for a dinner of leftovers. Noel's already been liveblogging the Oscars for the A.V. Club for half a hour. While getting the containers out of the refrigerator, he accidentally knocks a cup of tea on the floor, and I mop up the spill with paper towels. Watching from the door, Cady Gray remarks with a world-weary air, "Dad makes dinner, and Mom just cleans up his mess."

  • After dinner he disappears into the back to stay on the blogging frontlines while I get the kids ready for bed and negotiate disputes related to their games of Arcade Bowling on Dad's iPod Touch.

  • Teeth are brushed, vitamins are consumed, Cady Gray's book is read, Archer's therapy homework is done (new name for his school: "The Fun House"), and we're back on the couch watching the red carpet show. It's a busman's holiday for Noel who will be tapping away all night. I'll be knitting thumbs onto a pair of gauntlets and firing up the random number generator to select my next fingering-weight project.
I don't have too many horses in the Oscar races tonight -- for the first time in years I was too busy to fill out a ballot -- but I'll be sniping at the gowns as usual. (Amy Adam's collar? Fabulous! Miley Cyrus' rhinestone lava flow? Dreadful!) Hope you're enjoying your watch party, too!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oh, is it the weekend?

I can finally take a breath after twenty-four hours of a conference I helped organize (three sessions, a reception, and a keynote address) and an overlapping sophomore matriculation session at which I was pressed into emergency service to moderate a session after two alumni went missing. Suddenly it's Saturday at 4 pm, and I've been engaged in academics more intensely since Friday at 3 pm than I am most workdays.

The Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Theology and Energy, I can now say with some confidence, was a huge success. The session room, which was set up for 52 attendees plus four presenters, was nicely filled for all three sessions -- even this morning, when a cold rain descended on our locale; over 70 people came to the keynote address at our sister college across town; and 20 people stayed for a post-conference discussion on further energy issues.

Our grants made it possible for us to subsidize the registration for about 30 students from both institutions, and a few more came on their own or were sponsored by other organizations. I experienced a surprising warmth when the speakers -- including the keynote speaker, a woman of charismatic brilliance and charm -- praised my scholarship and expressed appreciation for my work in co-hosting the conference. I was keenly aware that my students were hearing me being described as a prominent thinker in the fields in question. At those moments, I felt the spheres of my relationships with students and my relationships with theological colleagues around the globe colliding, and it wasn't something I was prepared for. For a while, at least, the Honors students in attendence at those events will see me in a new light.

My own paper, "'One More Stitch': Relational Productivity and Creative Energy," was very well received and sparked much discussion. I was thoroughly pleased, and relieved in a sense to have ideas that have been consuming me for the past several months released into the academic environment. It's possible that the conference papers will form the basis of a book, and if so, I'll look forward to the response from a wider public.

For now, I look forward to an evening of relaxation at last. The effort was worth it. And I hadn't expected it, but bringing people I know and interact with on a national level to my campus was immensely satisfying. My pride in my college, my university, and my students filled me with an energy I had not anticipated. I think I can ride on that feeling of achievement at least until it's time to undertake the next gargantuan act of creation.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Organizing an event is an anxious high wire act. After all the details, all the plans, all the money, all the publicity, all the anticipation, the moment arrives, and you teeter between success and failure. The whole event is nothing, literally no thing, until it begins.

So watching people fill our conference room, name tags dangling from their necks, programs in front of them, and greeting the eight invited presenters as they arrive, and then to have it all begin -- it's an astounding transformation. Possibility suddenly, inexplicably becomes reality. Out of nothing, seemingly -- because all the work has produced nothing but a promise and a opening -- something appears, something that is actually happening.

In short, the first session of the conference came off. The keynote address at Hendrix College was everything we could have hoped for. And no matter what happens tomorrow in the final two sessions, a conference exists. The ICTE is real.

Tomorrow I'll talk about an unexpected benefit of bringing prominent people to talk to your students. For now, I'm going to relax and bask in the success -- which is to say, the reality here now that was not here at 2:30 pm this afternoon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Large and in charge

After almost a full year of planning, a colleague and I are finally on the brink of our very own conference. The Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Theology and Energy (ICTE) starts tomorrow at 3 pm, at the conference center on our campus.

This all started when Clayton Crockett, a professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy and an old acquaintance from my graduate school days at the University of Virginia, asked me to help him mount a conference that would inspire theological and theoretical reflection on the issue of energy. My role was to provide some expertise in conference planning (since I had participated in the organization of our National Collegiate Honors Council-sponsored technology workshop in the summer of '07) and in grant-getting (specifically from the American Academy of Religion's regional development grants program).

I think I've delivered on those promises. We acquired a $4000 grant from AAR and almost $6000 in funds from departments, institutes, colleges, and centers on our campus and at Hendrix College. Clayton identified several speakers to invite from around the country from his fields of interest, and I added a few from the process theological side. We subsized their travel through our grant funds. Everyone submitted their papers several weeks ahead, and we made them available to registrants through a website download as password-protected PDFs. Tomorrow at 3 pm, the first three speakers will briefly summarize (not read!) their papers, followed by discussion with everyone in attendance. Afterwards, everyone will go across town on a chartered bus to the location of the keynote address by Catherine Keller of Drew University. And on Saturday, there will be six more invited presentations, with most of the time reserved for everyone to participate.

It's been a huge undertaking, but I feel good about having delivered the funds and know-how for which I was brought on board. I'm looking forward to hearing what the attendees think of my paper, "'One More Stitch': Relational Productivity and Creative Energy." As of this afternoon, there were 54 registrations, with the bulk of them students. We're expecting a few walk-up registrations tomorrow. But the best thing about it? The whole endeavor is one big 24-hour push. I actually have to miss one of the three sessions because the weekend coincides with our sophomore matriculation event. By 3 pm Saturday, it will be all over, and I'll be leading anyone who wants to hang around and talk about local energy issues to our student lounge. And then I'll come home and collapse.

We hope that with some editing and rewriting, the conference papers could become a book aimed at a general audience, or at least with some traction outside the scholarly realm. So I can't point you to the papers, much as I'd like to know what you think of mine. When the whirlwind is over, I'll write a report to the agencies that gave us money, and I'll share any successes, failures, and lessons learned with you, too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The mad punter strikes again

After quite a day -- chaos and crisis at work, intestinal distress and colorful face masks drawn on with markers at home, then back to work for a three-hour class -- you know what's coming. Archer's spelling sentences for this week this week provide plenty of good advice with just a sprinkling of math.

  1. You should try and not quit.
  2. Can you find the answer to 81,086 x 20,888?
  3. Do not ride your bike at night.
  4. You should be trying to get the right answer.
  5. You should not get in a fight.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The pictures take me take me

While I was helping with her pajamas, my daughter read me a clever picture book called The Pencil, in which a pencil draws a whole village but has to contend with an overzealous eraser he draws to rub out some mistakes.

The story reminded me of my longtime fascination with stories in which a world is drawn. There's Harold and the Purple Crayon, of course. And there's "Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings," which aired on Captain Kangaroo in the seventies. At a farther remove, there's the very strange Mike Myers parody of "Simon" that appeared on Saturday Night Live in the early nineties; although the theme song claimed "I like to do draw-rings!", all Simon ever did was sit in the bathtub.

By far my strongest association with this world-creating impulse is the book Trash Can Toys and Games by Leonard Todd. I had this book as an adolescent, and I'll never forget its corrugated cardboard cover. It was good for hours of dreaming about making Aztec idols out of paperboard and caterpillars out of egg cartons.

There was one huge layout made out of Clorox bottles and milk jugs -- a space station complete with spool-and-marble astronauts and dishwashing liquid container rockets. I stared at it for ages, thinking about how to gather enough trash to recreate it, and despairing of ever making anything as perfect as portrayed in the book.

It's the scale and success of these sketched or constructed worlds that paralyzed me as a child. I frequently sat down with my Lego sets with the intention of building an entire city. But it never emerged the way I saw it in my head, and rather than just going with the flow and accident of the moment, I usually gave up amid a vague feeling of inferiority and dissatisfaction.

And I must admit that when I suggest large creative projects to my children -- to build a city with their blocks, or write and draw a story in their notebooks -- I worry that I'm setting them up for the same sense of inadequacy. Cady Gray seems unbothered by the pictures of Tinkertoy machines or Lego dwellings on the outside of her toy containers, and Archer appears quite up to the task of writing and illustrating complex creations (at least when the subject matter meshes with his obsessions). If I bought them a book like I had when I was a kid, intended to spark their imaginations, would it stifle and disappoint them instead?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Let me show it to you

Just in time for an evening I have to spend at school -- one of three this week! -- Archer has decided to produce a slideshow about himself. Thanks for the content, son!

I gather from talking to him that Archer has seen a couple of Powerpoint presentations in the principal's office. (Not for punishment ... not really sure why.) When he ran across Powerpoint while playing around on our largely-defunct desktop computer, he got right to work creating a presentation called "All About Me." (I don't know why he calls it "a pinnacle presentation" -- the company that produced one of the ones he saw, maybe?) He spent his President's Day holiday perfecting the presentation below; I saw a shorter preliminary version yesterday. The only thing I showed him, no lie, is where the "new slide" command is on the insert menu. Actually, I didn't even show him that -- just described it from two rooms over.

It's kind of scary how naturally he fits himself into the form and imitates the use of titles and bullets. Well on his way to mid-level management, I'd say.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Organizational frenzy

Today's post about everything in its mysterious, number place is at Toxophily.

And speaking of organization, this is the weekend I have set aside for filling out the booklet for the tax preparer. Next weekend I'm going to be occupied with the ICTE, and my goal is always to mail the materials off before the end of February.

Naturally I left it until Sunday evening. But my goal really isn't to be done with it tonight -- in actuality, that's impossible, since Noel's primary employer hasn't sent him a 1099-MISC yet. (Um, guys? Deadline was Jan. 31.) Really, I just want to see what I have to go hunting for. Which brokerage account will I have to dig up online access codes for to download dividend statements? Should be a good scavenger hunt for the next couple of weeks!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Giving my heart away

For Valentine's day, a short list of things I love:
  • Routine
  • My Kindle
  • Walking to school on a clear day
  • Watching water flow
  • Macaroni and cheese with ketchup on it
  • Pixar movies
  • The bay window in our front room
  • Sleeping
  • Unknit yarn (ah, the possibilities)
  • Vintage "Little Orphan Annie"
  • Friday afternoon Soapboxes
  • My sweet, beautiful daughter
  • My brilliant, strange son
  • My talented, hardworking husband
  • Hotels
  • Seasonal Reese's candy (trees, hearts, pumpkins, etc.)
  • Weekends
  • Delivering lectures or presentations
  • Tangelos
  • Mario games
  • Handknit socks
  • Peace and quiet
  • Home improvement
  • Finishing something

Friday, February 13, 2009

Words, words, words

As I bask in the glow of an early Valentine's dinner out with my husband, I'll pass along some of Archer's writing this week. Here are the sentences he created with his spelling words this week, which were all homophones.
  1. Fly a plane if you're traveling more than 300 miles.
  2. Some stuff are fancy, some are plain.
  3. Lots and lots of animals have a tail.
  4. There are 3 different kinds of tales: fairy tale, folk tale, and tall tale.
  5. 1/1 in words is "one whole."
  6. My dad and I usually go to the store.
  7. Cady Gray had a party at Jump!Zone, me too.
  8. A boy and a girl are two kids.
  9. Do you know what "The Tortoise and the Hare" is about?
  10. Some hair should be on top of your head.
And a bonus from his weekly spelling word dictionary search assignment, in which he was directed to write a sentence using at least 3 of the words. He wrote a song lyric called "Same Sounds" with music notes sprinkled around it and "Verse 1" in brackets alongside: Plane and plain, tail and tale, have the same sound!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Attitude adjustment

I'm struggling with my attitude at work right now. No, I don't have a problem with negativity or cynicism. Quite the opposite. I find myself in the rather lonely position of being too positive and enthusiastic.

Over the last couple of years, I've become completely amazed at the initiative, skill, and depth of the student body with whom I'm fortunate to work. They schedule, create, and attend presentations on their own time and for no academic credit. They fight to help us teach. They show such appreciation when we help them with their projects, or demonstrate that we care about what they do. And in all frankness, I'm both inspired and instructed by them.

But this puts me in the minority of college professors, I think. As much as we all care about our students, it's hard to see them outside the classroom as anything other than a timesuck. When we have to go to student presentations or performances and sit in the audience, we tend to think about all the productive use to which we could be putting our time. And so if we can get out of going -- or if we're reasonably assured that other faculty will be present -- we tend to demur.

I think two factors have led me to look forward to student presentations, and to find the general faculty avoidance (which I shared several years ago) moderately bewildering. First, the students are just plain good most of the time. I learn from them and I get a peek into what they care about. It's genuinely interesting. And second, I don't sit and twiddle my thumbs. I knit while I listen (as I encourage students to knit, crochet, sketch, color, tat, or make chain mail while they participate in my classes). If it's a great presentation, I enjoy myself and I get some knitting done. If it's not so great, I get some knitting done.

I've learned something quite astounding. If you're making progress on a project that is important to you, no time is wasted. Maybe what I ought to do for my faculty friends is show them how good the students' work is and how much our presence means to them. Oh, and teach them to knit.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So you wanna be a rock and roll star

I rushed home from my evening class to cover tonight's American Idol for the TV Club; regular correspondent Claire had a long-standing engagement that interfered with the Idol blogging gig. That's my writing for tonight, folks, so head on over and check it out! And apologies in advance for the cynicism.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reaching out

Two pieces of schoolwork from Archer:

Assignment: On the back of this paper write a Valentine poem to someone you love. Use the rhyming words in the candy box!
Did you know that all
I love
is a beautiful, bright pink dove?
Assignment: Write a thank-you note to someone at school who has helped you.
2/6/09 <--Date (Heading)

Dear Skylar, <--Greeting

Body --> Thank you for helping me do the "Hatching Geese" page! When can you give me a thank you note? <-- Body

Sincerely, <-- Closing
Archer <-- Signature

Monday, February 9, 2009

Open the case

We never watched Deal Or No Deal during its heyday as a staple of the new game shows that were saving networks, sussing it out (correctly) as a triumph of style (and endless delay) over substance. But Archer loves its monetary, banker, and case-number aspects, so we have ended up watching quite a bit of it with him.

And a more frustrating viewing experience I could not have imagined. First, let me give the show its propers: You really root for the contestant. Unfortunately, that's because their boneheadedness makes for such painful, inevitable failure, and their crumpled faces and crushed sp.

You see, the people in the studio -- I'm looking right at you, invariably-complicit family and friends -- are rooting for the contestant for the wrong reasons. What is the object of the game? To get the banker to give you a lot more money than your case is worth. What is not the object of the game? To "believe in yourself" and continue on to the bitter end under the delusion that your case holds the million dollars. Yet this is without exception what friends-and-family urge the contestant to do. They talk about all the hardship this person has suffered, and all the dedication it took to get there, as if the universe owes her. Instead of surveying the odds, they beg the contestant to will the jackpot into her case, Schroedinger-like.

If the game billed itself as being about shrewdness and probability, rather than about heartwarming stories of misplaced self-confidence, people would play differently. Instead, you see over and over again contestants once offered six figures -- six figures! -- reduced to accepting a hundred bucks at the end. And all because of some bizarre American conviction that game shows exist to balance the moral scales and reward damn-the-torpedoes heedlessness.

If that were the case, my friends, by now I'd have found some way to monetize all the hours I've spent yelling "TAKE THE DEAL!" at the television.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Baby, we were born to run

Today's post with coverings for both feet and hands is at Toxophily.

From the Kids Have The Darnedest Timing Department: As we walked into the women's bathroom at church this morning, meeting some ladies (one a visitor to the church) who were on their way out, apropos of nothing Cady Gray asked me, "Mom, when you're mad, it doesn't mean you don't love me, does it?"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The 7th President

This week in school, Archer wrote a sort of poem. The top is decorated with musical notes and accents ("DUM DUM >DUM!<") and there's a smiling person with a big 7 on his chest and a medal with "PRESIDENT USA" written around the outside, next to a sign that says "THE 7TH PRESI." Arrows saying "That way!" point to the president. Here's the poem on the front:

If I ruled the world, If I were president, C'mon! I'm in a school! I would make people be content! I can, I can, be in the U.S. But if I ruled, I can be the best.

And on the back is a song with the music written out in 6/8 time. (When I asked him to sing it to me this afternoon, he did so in perfect pitch.) The incomplete words are where he hit the edge of the paper.

1. I will be a great man.

Oh, oh, sweetie.

2. I can be pres-i-dent. REFRAI
3. Go away you bo-ther! REFRA
4. (Instrumental Verse) REFRAI

Friday, February 6, 2009

Open up

We have a desktop iMac back in our bedroom that has slowly been going out of date and losing its functionality. For awhile we let the kids use it to play flash games on the web, but somewhere along the way Shockwave and Flash stopped working, and no amount of downloading and reinstalling seems to help.

Right now we use it only for a shared USB all-in-one printer. And even that has stopped working well, since I can't get the scanner software to run, so the printer is now limping along on one function. I haven't reinstalled the operating system because I haven't the heart to dig through my discs to find an installer.

Something Jeremy said during his presentation on alternative, open-source software made me remember our old iMac. He mentioned that in eastern Europe, where he spent part of last summer, many people have turned to Linux because it runs better on older hardware.

If I installed Ubuntu, I imagine I would get browser functionality back. But could I still print -- maybe even scan? A little Googling about configuring Ubuntu to share a printer with a Mac network reveals some pretty scary hacks needed to make it work. Maybe I should attach the all-in-one to our Airport Extreme and use it that way. Would I be able to scan by installing the scanner software to any computer on the network?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Charity and its discontents

About three weeks ago, my dad and I were at the playground with the kids. Dad got into a conversation with a man who seemed to be in charge of a lot of children there. Seven, in fact. The man came and sat down on my bench after awhile, commented on my Kindle, said he was a painter, and asked whether I needed any work done.

As a matter of fact, I do. The wood eaves and trim of our brick house badly need to be scraped and painted. The guy clearly needed work, and I thought it might be a chance to help him out.

He came by, we agreed on a price, and this morning he brought his stuff and two other guys that he'd picked up from the day laborer line. Then he asked for money so he could get the materials and the other guy he needed to do some woodwork repair (which I had pointed out to him). They all head off to get that done.

The whole morning goes by. Noel is getting concerned. Then in the early afternoon, the other guys came back. And they told Noel that he ought to be careful -- that this guy might be taking our money and buying things that were, shall we say, not related to the job.

Noel calls me and relays these concerns. The guy now comes back, hours after he should have been underway, and starts masking the windows. I decide that it's not worth worrying about whether this guy is going to be reliable -- that we gave him a chance to be professional and he blew it. I head home to fire him.

That's never easy, of course. But I wasn't nervous about it, because the thought of a couple of days not knowing whether this guy is going to do what he says he'll do, even if it eventually gets done, causes me far more anxiety than telling him we don't need his services.

I hated to pull my good deed out from under this poor guy. I have no doubt that he really needs the money. But I also have no doubt that he's not able to do what I need done to get that money -- that is, to act like a professional. I don't have the spare psychic energy to spend worrying about someone who's working for me.

I'm sorry it didn't work out. It would have been great to have helped someone who was helping me -- a real win-win. I would have liked to have been a "blessing" to him, as he kept saying. But I'm going to have to channel whatever stimulus I can provide for the local economy through legitimate businesses, not individuals in need.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How others see us

Archer made a carousel at school out of a circle of paper, crayon-colored horses, and signs affixed to popsicle sticks. I'm guessing that the assignment was to represent his family. Here's what he wrote:

He goes to work.
He is my dad.
He takes trips.

She goes to UCA.
She is my mom.
She goes to meetings.

Cady Gray
She is my 4 yr old sister.
She goes to Child Study Center.
She is my friend.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It was the sound of a crescendo

This semester my students are keeping blogs reflecting on the theme of the class: cool in pop culture. And this week they wrote about the TV shows, music, books, and movies in their lives that came to mind after watching James Cagney in The Public Enemy last week. If anything catches your eye, click in and leave a comment, will ya?
  • Amy earns my everlasting affection by exploring Terrell Owens and The Big Bang Theory.
  • Suzanne compares Sinatra and Shakespeare.
  • Jason clues me in to Fable II and the Joker.
  • Brittney discusses Gatorade commercials and Ellen DeGeneres.
  • Lucy brings together Fagin from Oliver Twist and Mufasa from The Lion King.
  • Julie makes her way to Michael Corleone by way of Danny Zuko.
  • Luke Burroughs brings together Grand Theft Auto and American Gangster.
  • Logan has GTA on his mind, too, along with DePalma's Scarface.
  • Hayley writes about The Indian Runner, the Joker, and Dr. Gregory House.
  • Anna relates 50 Cent to local crime statistics.
  • John collects the Joker, Professor Snape, and Sasuke from Naruto.
  • Amanda's range includes the Joker and Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Emileigh connects superhero movies to our admiration of fearlessness.

Monday, February 2, 2009


I was lucky enough to have a free day in Atlanta (as previously mentioned here). So I took a spiritual journey.

I went to the Episcopal church.

I went to the Methodist church.

I went to the yarn church.

At the last one I stayed for some private devotions.

The altar of Noro inspired particular worship.

Such a beautiful place truly makes you feel close to yarn.

When I left, as that old song says, without a doubt I knew that I had been revived.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

10th avenue freezeout

Today's post catching up on a WIP and a plan B is at Toxophily.

I'm home from Atlanta and happy to be back with the family. And I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl watching Bruce rock the halftime show. Tomorrow it's back to work, but for tonight, I'm gonna sit right back and laugh.