30 May 2008

Smart pet tricks

Wow, what a parrot! But I still don't want any birds chez moi.

So, seeing this parrot talk, makes me look at my dog and wonder, is it that he's so smart he won't do all the tricks I try to teach him, or is it that he's so smart he does just enough for me to think he can learn more, so I keep giving him treats to train him? To date, my Beau can do only a handful of tricks: sit, stand (we call it dancing), lie down, roll over and shake. It makes for an entertaining morning before he gets his bowl of food. He doesn't talk, but to paraphrase a bumper sticker: "My dog ate your fancy, talking bird."

27 May 2008

At last, at last, thank God, a winner at last!

Yesterday I attended my fourth Poetry Slam at the Barnes & Noble in Newnan. With a small crowd, my own children as a judging team and two of my own students as competition (and a darling little girl who couldn't have been more than 7 years old)...I WON! Youpi! Hourah! The $25 gift card is mine and Marie won a free desert for a cute little drawing. Below you'll find the winning poems and art work.

Guard Dog
Small black dog
asleep on a chair.
From outside
an engine's rumble or a neighbor's knock,
he's all snarls and barks and bristled hair.
Short races he makes
from one corner to another of the window ledge,
then two big brown eyes look back
for approval.
A short pant and a yip, a groan and a grunt,
now the home, protected once more,
gets a quick tour from a faithful
four-footed detective.
A damp black nose
sniffs ottoman and coffee table.
All's well.
Back to the chair,
once, twice, thrice
a circle of steps
before settling down again to surveille
the living room
for potential danger.
Little black pup,
homebound K9,
keeps me safe and sane.

Lazy Monday
Drip-drop from the espresso machine in the shop.
A rookie barista gets me the last cookie in the bakery case
to eat here despite the to-go-bag.
In this place where I can relax amid words and music,
and after only a small deduction from my debit card!
I take pleasure in the moment's leisure
to peruse a few books,
check out a Blu-ray that my device won't play
'til prices one day come down.
So back to the books where my mind makes up the pictures
in mental high def.
All that's left in my paper cup, a swig or two,
and time is up!
The last of my pax arabica
before going home to resume
the pattern of commute and reboot,
of work and rest.

Marie's Flower: crayon, marker and graphite on 20 lb. paper

25 May 2008

L'art baroque

Here is a presentation that I prepared last fall for my Visual Arts 1 class. Maybe others might find a mini lesson of their own in here. In 2008-09, I'll have at least two art classes. With a second run at this course, I can fine tune my projects, rework the failures and imagine some new options. Art for everyone, I say, more of it!

24 May 2008

When's the absolute last day I can turn in...?

There's always at least one student who wants to know just when the proverbial hammer comes down. Apparently words like Final Exam and Last Day of School don't provide a clue to these special students. Yet I relent. I have more than a couple appointments for the first planning day so that repentant students can turn in late assignments. Am I foolishly compassionate or just foolish?

18 May 2008

Magnolia blossom

Southern magnolia blossom on a springtime Sunday morning (Olympus E410)

Grease is the word

Saturday night, my children and I attended Northgate's spring musical, a rather good production of Grease. The standout performers were Kelsey Adams as Sandy and Libba Beaucham as Rizzo. The two girls handily belted melodies and hotly blazed as the stars they are. All the students in the cast and crew came together to put on a rockin' show full of humor, solid dancing, charming characters and more. Where vocals did lack tonality here and there, showmanship and spectacle kept the entertainment level high. Because the young performers were so engaged in the moment on stage, the audience willfully and easily suspended disbelief and enjoyed every moment of the show.

I felt so very pleased to witness the whole ensemble as they ushered Rydell High into Newnan, GA. For so long, the Northgate stage has been as dry as a Georgia drought with only a smattering of showers, momentarily lifting spirits only to set them back into despair. This latest production is far and away the torrential slaking of quality theater for which the Viking stage has thirsted. I can hardly wait for the next drink of refreshment from our Backstage Players.

Alarming phone calls

The usual ringtone couldn't prepare me
I'd never heard my boyfriend cry
In fact rarely have I seen him angered or more than frustrated
His emotions run at cool temperatures
His heart pumps propylene glycol, not blood.

Instead of the regular calm collection
Of wits and temper
This time
His voice cracked
I could here his words break in two
His stifled sobs broke into our conversation.

Go to your dinner he said
I couldn't; I wouldn't
I called to cancel
Made excuses
Then followed that call
With another to him
For three hours maybe.

Though the time connected was nothing new
It was a new kind of conversation for us
He leaned on me
And for once it seemed I took the pressure
And didn't buckle beneath it.

When I heard it might be cancer
I stayed calm
Sent word for family and friends to say a few prayers.

Not a false alarm
More like a fire drill, a call to arms
Smoking has to stop
The inflammation causing pain in the chest and back
All a warning, a violently frightening alert
To a stubborn man who doesn't care often when he receives health advice
Smoking and drinking go hand in hand with eating, sleeping and bathing.

But maybe this time
It will take
This warning gets attention.

Doctors, X-rays and CT scans aren't just a Greek chorus of Cassandras
But instead
The Oracle at Delphi, a Papal decree
Telling a stubbornly calm man
To take heed, to listen, to be well and to take care
So that he can be there
When we need each other.

11 May 2008

Sunday morning: fresh air, fresh coffee, sweetened sourdough

After walking my dog this morning in the rain scoured and wind freshened air, I returned to the apartment to brew coffee, wash dishes and to set out dough to rise. While my coffee brewed, I washed some blueberries and put them over soy yogurt. That I ate with some whole grain toast and a café au lait (de soja). Although I have stacks of papers to check, I'm wasting a bit of time updating this here blog. [[Grading papers sucks. If there were some way to teaching in truly a Socratic fashion, I'd be happy. No grades, no seemingly arbitrary curriculum, but pure discovery. That'd be an educational Utopia, for me anyway.]

For the past several months, I've been experimenting with home grown sour dough starter. Until I conducted a small amount of research on the toile mondiale, I thought it was some great secret known only to chuck wagon cooks and San Franciscan artisan bread bakers. Hah! It's a delightful accident of nature. One cup of flour (whole grain, baby, whole grain!) and one cup of filtered water mixed well and left to stand from 1 to 24 hours, and then you've got sourdough starter. Wow. So, for about six months now, I've had a continuously cultured batch of starter, separating and feeding it about every 7 to 10 days, using about 1/3 to make more starter, the rest in a loaf of bread. Here's my recipe for the dough that's rising now.

  • 2/3 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3 cups whole grain AP flour
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp soy margarine
  • 100% whole wheat flour for dusting

I just threw it all in my trusty KitchenAid and let the machine work until the dough became a smooth, fat ball. I put the ball into a greased, tightly lidded plastic container to chill in the refrigerator over night. I took the container out of the refrigerator this morning, and I'm going to allow it to rise as long as needed until it has doubled and bulk. Natural yeasts can take quite a long time to rise bread, but it's all so worth it! Then I plan to form it into two baguettes, then allow those to rise a bit longer. Then I'll bake them until they are deeply golden brown and have that lovely hollow thump when tapped. I'm the only one home, and these generally don't last more than three days. They're wonderful with breakfast, with lunch, with dinner, or with a snack. Okay, I'm addicted to bread. My midsection is a witness to that.

The rest of my papers await this Mother's day for my pen to score points and then this little computer demands that I update the grade records so that I can distribute progress reports to my students. [See notes above about Socratic methods.]

10 May 2008

Tranlsation madness

Of late, I've been a translating fiend. IHG has had loads of work because of the reconfiguration of their job application portal. It still amazes me that I get this work. Pinch me; it must be a dream. I'm sure that I can put the money to good use, what with my upcoming EdS classes. Settling on a top notch computer to put me through my classes is enticing, but just paying off some credit card debt would be a better choice. Probably, putting translation earnings and the money from George Bush into the bank would serve me the best. Getting a bit more out of debt may not do for the economy what the President might hope, but it helps my personal economy closer to debt free and have a bit more disposable income on hand. Gas prices are about to leave me homebound! Maybe I can conserve during my summer break by staying home and walking to places nearby whenever possible. We'll see.

05 May 2008

Testing the waters before taking the plunge

Based on my dad's positive experience working on his PhD through Capella University online, I've decided to test those waters myself. I won't go quite into the deep end, instead I've initiated an application to do an EdS in Curriculum and Instruction. It will probably mean working my ass off for the next two years--teaching, studying and the occasional translation to pay for the studying. Two and a half years of work to create few more career options down the road.

03 May 2008

They forget they love you when they get their grades

After five hours spent Thursday grading projects for my French 2 class, I was physically and mentally exhausted. This week was scheduled for our state end of course testing. Although my subject doesn't have one, it can be a difficult time for my students. Because of material to check in all my courses, I had got a bit behind in checking some projects, so I used my extended planning period on one of the testing days as well as some time during a long club function to shorten the stack in my proverbial inbox. The vast majority of students accepted that my evaluation of their work was fair. I had provided a well delineated rubric at the start, explained those details and stuck to the list as I checked off criteria and added points. The few who failed had egregious shortcomings. I had to remind those with slightly more vociferous complaints that if I graded everyone's work based on my like or dislike of them, they'd all fail. There are students who make my blood boil that still get an A, and there are those for whom I'd sacrifice home and hearth that get an F. Either you're speaking and writing French and you're following directions, or your not.

It's been a bit of time since my last entry. School is hectic, and suddenly InterContinental Hotels needs a lot of translation of materials for their employment web portal as it receives updates for French. Je suis actuellement très recherché ! So finding time to post has been a challenge all on its own.

My weekend in Long Island with John was good but short. John and I managed to find two really good local restaurants. First there was the Rainbow Cookie Café on Route 112 in Medford, NY. I can't find a website, but I'm sending them a coffee mug. It's a delightful diner with charming owners and a folksy clientèle. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the delicious breakfasts served to us. As for Manhattan, I don't know yet, but Suffolk County seems to harbor a nice bunch of people. Next there we found The Good Steer. The food was home cooking and the atmosphere of the third-generation family run business was wonderful. Don't forget the "7-Layer Chocolate Cake".

Getting out to find the mom & pop shops makes for a real introduction to the community. I'm looking forward to more trips to New York and becoming more familiar with part of the Northeast of these United States.