Wow, I finally finished. It took the better part of 5 weeks of planning, learning, and implementation, but the major summer project was finished as of Friday morning: the Workshop Site.
Ok, I'll explain: like many community colleges (and often in 4-year universities), our college has workshops for those learning and/or improving their English reading and writing skills. Some of the workshops are grammar-based, others are study-skill-based, but they're all open to any student so that they can improve their chances at a higher grade in their courses. For the foreign language students, well, there ain't squat. We have been sending them to these grammar courses, since many times students will come in with questions on parts of speech and the like--the product of not having studied these elements since elementary school or, in very rare cases, middle school. The problem is that, since these courses are geared for those who either are learning English or who are very poor readers and writers, they aren't really helpful for those who are fully literate and capable English-speaking adults. They needed something a bit different...but we didn't have anything.
So, I made it my mission to create an on-line solution, using the online course management software that we use in the district, which I have been using for the last several years extensively. It took a lot of time to conceptualize what I wanted it to look like, the content both on the site and in the movies/animated PowerPoint slides...but I finally got it done. And I did it on my own...as in, without pay. (Such a dedicated employee....) As a reward, I decided to take the weekend off.
Yesterday, I packed some stuff to work on in my leisure (why can't I just lay on a beach and sleep???), a picnic lunch, and took off in my car. I started down Ca
The horoscope roundtable yielded some interesting results. While the first 3 that I read this morning hardly elicited a chuckle from me, this one from Minerva (of all the names! really!) for the week to come by far was the best:
Well, Minerva, and I doubt that's your real name...how is that different than any other week? I often have 'monetary issues'...it's called being broke. The last time I wasn't was....well, um, a long time ago. And for the record, I'm always feeling passionate, especially when I haven't, well, you know, in a while. Actually, I take that back...I'm just passionate, all the time, not to mention always ready for social interaction...why am I going to be any different this coming week? I can't wait to see how this one will end up.
Hopefully the real Minerva will drop some wisdom on your arse...or whatever she sees fit. Taking the name of such a goddess, puh-lease....
For once I'd like a horoscope to really get it right: "Hey, DoL, not much is going to change this day/week from the previous. The sun will still shine, albeit with a bit of coastal fogginess in the morning. Your cat is going to give you attention, but will be a bit whiny in asking for more. You might get a message from a dude who's somewhat interested in you, but then again you might not. You have a ton of work to do, both domestic and academic, but you'll enjoy it; after all, they're projects that you created or signed on for. Oh, hey, it's Sunday in September, so you'll watch both football and baseball. By the way, don't pick the tomatoes yet; you just sprayed them with malathion on Friday, so they can't be picked until Wednesday. That'll teach the bleeping white flies...."
Hmmmm...wouldn't that be refreshing?
I had a confirmation of an epiphany yesterday. It was a revelation of something that I deeply suspected, but had been afraid to act upon for some time, and in truth I should have just bucked up and taken the reins and confronted this truth.
Ladies and gentlemen, I like salmon.
Trust me, this is a shock. For years and years, the only way I liked salmon was as sashimi...since raw salmon didn't have that pungent olor that put me off. And I do love other types of fleshy fish...everything from orange roughy to cod to petrale sole, from tuna of all varieties to swordfish to halibut...love me some eel, skate...just about anything. Except salmon...I just consistently got turned off for years.
Yesterday was my cat's birthday, and my present to her, so to speak, is to go to the fish monger and get her a couple of prawns. It's a birthday dinner that lasts a couple of days, and one which she really can't get enough of. I poach one prawn in a bit of water, cut it up in very small pieces, and serve her with the delicious dish. She eats a bit at first, and then lets it sit so she can savor it the rest of the evening. And she does...I woke up this morning, only to find that the once 3/4 full dish of shrimpy goodness was now empty.
Of course, I'm not just going to buy two shrimp and call it a day...I usually get something for myself. Yesterday at the fish monger there was a huge variety of salmon: Wild Oregonian King Salmon; Australian King Salmon that, according to FishSource, is sustainably and responsibly raised; farmed Coho Salmon--just a start. So after a brief chat with the fish dude, I settled on a small Aussie King Salmon fillet. With a couple of other purchases done, I went home to show Bella her birthday gift, and to contemplate dinner preparation.
My decision was to go basic and simple: drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped herbs from the garden. I wanted to be able to truly taste the fish, so I wanted something clean. I was going to put it on the gas grill outside, but seeing as how there was no more gas in the tank, well, I nixed that idea. So I settled on a quick pan sear on both sides, 2 minutes per side, and then a 5 minute rest. Squeeze of lemon after cooking.
Um...wow...holy wowzer. This was good! What in the hell was I thinking before? Perfectly cooked--meaning barely cooked in the middle--and buttery. No off-putting flavor whatsoever. Amazing! It's still not going to replace my favorite--albacore and bluefin tuna steaks--but it's a damned good investment. Ok, I've been changed.
Which leads me to wonder...were there years of crappy salmon in my past, or have my taste buds changed? What else needs to be crossed off the relatively short list of foods that I do not like?
(By the way, tripe and most organ meats will continue to be on that list...I keep trying, and I can't stomach them.)
There is nothing that makes an instructor-type person feel more frustrated and/or helpless than to watch a student, who you know is well-prepared and otherwise studious participant in all areas, collapse emotionally while taking an exam.
You sit there proctoring the exam, and you see said student freak out--be it crying, sweating profusely, or their eyes start growing to the size of flying saucers. You can't, by protocol, do a damned thing...you can't tell them anything, you can't give them extra time...nothing. And you know that this person studied, perhaps even over-studied. Worse yet is when they tend to excel in every other area, but when an exam comes into their presence, they can't handle it.
Their brain goes into hyperspeed. They start to hyperventilate. Telling them to "just keep breathing" or "calm down" actually works in reverse, making them panic even more. Will the others in class notice? What if I fail!? Holy )(*()_)(&_) And then the tears tend to fall.
In over 12 years of teaching, I've come across most all of the standard and uncommon learning disabilities. Most all of them, either I know a few teaching techniques to help the students, or I can recognize elements that I can address. But test anxiety...ugh. Not only can I not combat it, I don't even understand it. See, I always loved exams...ok, ok, 'love' is too strong a word. But I never did shrink from them...they were simply puzzles for me to play. Or to BS my way through, either way tests are challenges, and I like challenges. Sure, I occasionally was nervous (see: PhD comprehensive exams), but never having panic attacks. So for me to council a person who suffers from test anxiety, well, would be like a professional skydiver to council me on my fear of falling when up on a high platform. How in the hell can you empathize properly and not sound condescending??
This week was midterm week...well, for me, at least. All 3 of my main courses had their midterms. Thursday's class is a special group, with personalities that shine and eager pupils who want to know everything about everyone. One of my honors students was freaking out a bit, but was still upbeat. Then, halfway through the exam, I heard a lot of heavy breathing...like someone was trying to calm themselves down. I looked around, but I couldn't figure out who it is...and in a room with 9 students, it should be easy to do. Ten minutes later, I hear the even heavier breathing and sniffling. I look up, and my honors student is doing the sniffling. But knowing that she suffers from allergies, and the pollen is thick right now, I don't know if she's suffering an allergy attack, or what. Another ten minutes go by, and I see that there are tears rolling down her face...and the sniffling is being stifled unsuccessfully. And my heart sinks.
She ends up being the last to finish...and I technically gave her an extra 5 minutes, seeing as no one else was in the classroom, and no one would know. Once she turned in her exam, she started sobbing...the listening comprehension portion of the exam freaked her out and got her off rhythm, and so she felt like she ran out of time. After talking with her for a few minutes, trying to get her to calm down a bit, I started the slow walk home. I really didn't want to grade her exam, fearing sections of blank whiteness.
Eventually, it had to be done...I had to start grading the exams from that Thursday class, including that of the honors student who freaked out. As I went through the exams, including hers, I found that she wasn't doing that bad...yes, she had sections where she fouled up, but not so much that there was incomprehensible Spanish. Yes, she ran out of time, but there was no catastrophic or epic fail. In fact, as I totted up her score, she passed...barely, with about 4% to spare, but she passed.
At that point, I felt a tear streak down my cheek.
Edit to include the PS:
Last night, after writing this, I emailed the student to let her know about her grade...I never do this, and make all of them wait until I pass the exam back. But I let her know how she did, and what I think the next steps are. Within 20 minutes she replied...and happily. I can now enjoy the weekend
Yes, GhostOfClayton, your entry talking about Human League has put me in a right 80s mood. Actually, to be fair, I was listening to a fair bit of Madness, Clash, and others this afternoon before reading the blog, but still.
So, finals are over! Well, for me they are. I had everything graded by last night, 10pm...record time, I might add. Then again, it was pretty clear that many of my students just didn't do so well on the final paper. I mean, sure, it's an in-class essay, but when I give you a month to practice it, you should get darned good at it. Of course, if everyone did, then they'd all get As, and that's not exactly my thing. So, a good spread of grades overall.
But it got me thinking of how I want to tweak the assignment. My intermediate Spanish students have to pick a movie off of a list (of course, the movies are Spanish-language), and write a specific essay which tests various linguistic elements. It's cumulative in the truest sense of the word, because it's meant to accurately encapsulate their capabilities at that time. Since the course is a 3-semester series, as students progress they do better. And interestingly, the native speakers in the class don't necessarily do better than the language learners; since I have the students type up the essays, they have to use spell-check, although many don't, or they choose incorrectly from the options that Microsoft Word offers up. Either way, good students tend to do well, while mediocre students don't. Poor students often don't show up, or they come to the final exam time with the "duh" look on their face...usually the result of them not watching a movie and following the instructions of the assignment.
So, grades are in...let the games begin!
Winter Break starts with me playing hostess and tour guide. My very good friend Alanna is out here visiting...her first visit to Northern California. The bad news is that tomorrow is the only day of her visit that is scheduled to be a dry day; the entire rest of the trip there are storms blowing in off the Pacific. At least tomorrow we'll get in a fair amount of sight-seeing in San Francisco. Friday we'll get some things in, perhaps, but Saturday is a complete howler of a day; 50 mph gusts and tons of rain are projected. Sounds more like a day to catch a movie locally, stay home and catch up. Then Sunday morning she takes off for her hometown in central Massachusetts.
Anyone else wanna come along?
Today I printed off the dissertation. All 150 pages of it. Oh, there's plenty left, since this is the first time that my committee will have the entire work at their disposal. And I've done quite a bit of re-arranging of previous work, to go along with more editing than I care to do. This is all in anticipation of a 'meeting of the minds' for the first week of November, when I must fly back to Austin. I'm mentally exhausted.
But, oh, wait! In the last month, I've put off so many chores, so this month that I have in the interim is going to be full. I'm about to be evaluated at work, so I have to get my portfolio together; that doesn't take long, but it's getting in the way. Gotta prep for the spring courses, as well as find additional part time work to pick up the slack. Gotta earn money on the side, since I'll be moving out in a few months. Oh, and look for full-time employment for the fall! Yeah, just a few things on the to-do list!
So, due to my cranial fatigue, reading Don Tomato's longwinded canticle of ne'erdowell actions, I'm bushed. Can someone give me the Cliff's Notes version?
*Taking off the Dr. John hat and feathers for a moment*
First, one must read this: Judge in hot water over Web site sex links
So, basically, California is a laughing stock, and our beloved 9th District Court of Appeals is up to usual shennanigans. Just google them, and see how idiotic they are, in general.
There is much that comes to mind when I see/read this. But what slays me is this:
I'm sorry...how does one not know what's on one's website??? Oh, and then this beaut...
What the f*&)((&* hell is your kid (I don't care how old) uploading shit onto your site...and you're a bleeding judge??? How does one not know what content is on one's site????? Where do you draw the line? How about telling your kid that dude needs help, and taking the proverbial keys away!
Christ, where to start....
*Trapses back to the keyboard...puts the Dr. John hat and feathers back on...*
How many students will try to fool the professor...update at 11. (AM...Pacific Daylight Time)
The experiment ended early...I'm off coffee again. Yesterday I didn't feel like coffee, considering that the day before my tongue was slightly swollen all day and I felt a hair jittery. I know there's a bit of caffeine in decaffeinated coffee, but clearly 3 days in a row my body was saying "basta!" So yesterday I went back to milk, this morning it's red rooibos chai tea. This is something that my body likes; yesterday I felt normal again, and today, well, who knows.
Last day before 'Spring Break' begins...since I don't teach on Fridays, it's easy. The sanitation department decided to give me my Easter present early, as at 5am there was a slamming of someone's garbage dumpster very loudly. This is not normal for Thursdays...and I was rudely snatched from an amazing dream of being in Rome with my love (whoever that is...as of now this is not known), at the Trevi Fountain, making a wish. I got a little more rest, but was up at 6:30am instead of my usual 7:15. So this will be a very weird day.
It's also one of only a couple of days in the next week where we're scheduled not to have rain. I guess I'll have to make the most of the afternoon. Perhaps a twirl around on the river walk/bike trail. Or a nice nap in the sun...either one would be fine.
I've paid my dues -
Time after time -
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime -
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face -
But I've come through
We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the world -
I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls -
You brought me fame and fortuen and everything that goes with it
I thank you all -
But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise -
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race -
And I ain't gonna lose -
We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the world
The last time it happened was 1954. The boys were still living in New York, playing at the Polo Grounds. This kid Mays was patrolling centerfield, The Say Hey Kid made a catch in the first game that is still considered one of, if not the, greatest defensive play of all time. In that series, the boys from New York swept the boys from Lake Erie, and there was so much hope for the team. Surely they would win more championships. Alas, they didn't.
In 1957 the ownership decided to be part of the expansion of baseball to the West Coast, along with their biggest rivals, Dem Bums. Dem Owners of Dem Bums at least bothered to tell the fan base at the beginning of the season, so their fans had a chance to say their goodbyes, albeit unwillingly. But the Boys from the 'Grounds, well, the owners sprung it on the fans very late...and were in such a rush to get out, they left the plaque honoring their Captain Eddie, who died fighting in the Great War. A curse was placed on the Boys, that they would never win as long as they were in California.
1962...one of the greatest teams ever. Los Hermanos Alou patrolled the outfield, the only pair of brothers to do so in the World Series in the history of the sport, before or since. The Dominican Dandy could not be beat...or so we thought. Stretch hit the ball so hard and so far...but came up just shy. Peanut at third sucked in everything that came his way and threw out anyone who tried to run on him. Yet the Bronx Bombers knocked us down in 7. Maris, Mantle...yikes.
1989...A team that was easy to like. Kruk, Big Daddy and the rest of the pitching staff was one of the best in baseball. Mitch, Will The Thrill...they hit the ball a country mile, reminding us of Stretch. An infield of Matty, OOOO-RIIIIBAY, Rockin Robbie and Will The Thrill made twin killings look like eating a slab of sourdough. Even our opponents were fortuitous...the Athletics from just across the Bay. But Mother Nature had other ideas, and on the 17th, just before the first World Series game at Candlestick since 1962, she decided to give us a great big shake. Some say she was in cahoots with Captain Eddie and the Boys already up at the Big 'Grounds in the Sky.
2002...one of the greatest players of all time, the son of a great Giant and the godson of one of the Say Hey Kid, was on our side. Of course, we found out later that he was a bit more amped than usual...but oh well. He had a partner at second base that wasn't anyone to sneeze at. Great hitters...but they couldn't content with the Halos, who were managed by a former Bum. Of course, they lost...and in heartbreaking fashion.
And now...with a pitching staff that is young, virile, and heart-breakingly good...with a collection of hitters and fielders who most everyone easily overlooked...against a bunch of Rangers who were considered the huge favorites...in 5 games we stomped them into the ground. Once again, the old adage is true: great pitching defeats great hitting. We beat the Bravos, we beat the Phighting Phils, and now we've beaten the Rangers.
Not that it's noteworthy, but this year there were a series of plaques installed around AT&T Park, celebrating the great Giants of yore. Captain Eddies was one of the first installed.
If you need me, I'll be on Market Street, celebrating with my boys.
Wanted: 3 more hours in the day
Job description: I need 3 more hours per day in order to finish all of the work that I need to do. In those said 3 hours I need to do a combination of any of the following activities:
** sleep and/or rest
** grade papers
** finish editing
** play with Bella the Feline
** have a pot of tea
** go out into the garden and play in the dirt
** take a walk
** go for a swim
Compensation: Getting more things done in the day.
Any takers? Anyone? Bueler?
I love me some Foo Fighters. Seriously...my one fantasy revolves around Dave Grohl...I won't provide other details, as it's not necessary.
How much to I love me some Foos? Everlong is my general ringtone on my Blackberry. Yeah, I said it. Everlong...the most Nirvana-like song they have.
And here comes the paradox...I hate Nirvana. Well, to be fair, it's not the entire band that makes me change the station on the radio...it's only the lead singer. Kurt Cobain has (had?) a voice that I absolutely can't stand...it literally hurts my ears. A whiny quality that just unsettles me in a negative way.
And yet...when you listen to just about anything early that Dave Grohl wrote for the Foos, it's clear that Nirvana was still on his mind. The video, however, is not even remotely Nirvana-like, and one could even argue it was the start of Dave Grohl branching out into joke-dom. The band has become famous for it now, throwing in at least one video per album that is a spoof. In my quite humble opinion, the video for "Long Road To Ruin" is the best one of their work, although "Big Me" is nothing to sneeze at, either.
The album that came out this year, Wasting Light, is no different...although the 'joke video' is on a song that I don't like. If you download the entire album from iTunes, you get the videos for both "White Limo" (the song I can't stand on the album) and a live video for "Walk" (the song that might be my favorite). For you metal fans, you'll love "White Limo;" very influenced by all that is metal. Being the complete antithesis of a fan of heavy metal...yeah, it hurts my ears, badly. "Rope" is a great song, but the lyrics are very dark...but wow that guitar gets me moving around the room.
on the other hand, it perhaps the most upbeat song that the Foos have ever produce. About getting ready to start again, because it's time...and get ready, because I'm back for real. In fact...hmmmmmm...could "Walk" unseat "Everlong" as my general ringtone? I dunno....that's a huge upset...but I might have to try it out for a bit
March is an amazing month here in Baghdad-By-The-Bay. The weather is either rainy (but not cold...55'F or so) or gloriously sunny. It seems like we're done with the rain for about a week, so I spent much of the mid-morning and early-afternoon outside. Bella was all too eager to join me, and was ecstatic to be outside again. I don't know who had more fun: her going all over the backyard as I cleaned up the debris from the neighborhood trees, or me playing with her. She took several naps in the sun while I read (more on the book below). After about 3 hours outside, she wanted in, so I obliged her. The rest of the day one or both doors were open, letting in the springtime air.
I got quite a bit done outside. I wanted to fertilize the plants and prune the rosemary bush. I pulled a ton of weeds that had been growing wantonly between the brickwork. My landlord keeps saying he's going to come by with weed killer, and I know he means to. But I also know he's more than got his hands full with other duties. Besides, I told him the backyard was something I somewhat wanted to keep up, so he lets me do pretty much whatever I want. Nothing major, but general upkeep. The only thing I won't do is the bar; I'll clean up my own stuff, but if the boys can't take away their dirty pint glasses, well, tough shit. I ain't their mamma. My landlord has threatened to recycle/throw away their deserted glassware...and still no action. Hmmm, maybe he and I will talk about that.
Overall this was a productive day. Along with the backyard gardening, I finally got to the 9-months' worth of paper shredding. I finished the survey that I'll send to my students, so that I can plan my private courses in the fall. I finished the biography on Marco Polo that my dad gave me (Laurence Bergreen's 2007 Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu), which I recommend very highly. It's under 400 pages, yet you get the feeling you've read a huge volume's worth of text on the great Venetian. I also did some general farting about--a luxury I was afforded having done most of the grading yesterday, and one which I haven't had in a few weeks.
Dinner even tickled my creative bone: Cajun-Asian Fritto Misto. Say what? Basically, cubed yellow squash and chicken breast are quickly marinated in a milk, vinegar, and Tabasco batter, fried, and then sprinkled with more Tabasco and soy sauce. Outfrigginstanding. Dessert was taking platanillos (the very small banana-like fruit, yellow ones which are in between a plantain and a banana in the starchy scale) and fixing them the only way I like a banana: sauteed in butter and brown sugar, with rum. No ice cream...I don't want it in the house, or else I'll eat it...particularly when I get home from teaching.
For tonight...Well, I should really start on what remains of the grading. That way, tomorrow is a domestic day, ending with the finishing of the grading and the creation of the last of this round of midterms. Then again, the Sharks are playing tonight...hmmmmm....
Well, after more than 3 years of waiting, plus another year of paperwork SNAFUs, it's now official. I am both an Italian and an American, as are my brothers and my mom. I can proudly wear the red-white-and-blue and the tri-colori and not get ripped for it. I can go in the short line when travelling through European customs; I can stay in Italy and other EU countries for longer periods of time (watch out, European UNRV members!), and grant-funded trips to EU countries, from what I hear, will now be easier to obtain.
So look out, world...there are 4 more Italians on the block! Really!
12 hours from now. 12 hours from right now, the plane'll be taxing the runway at San Francisco International Airport, on its way to Zurich. Then a 90 minute layover, and onto Roma.
Holy crap. I'm finally going 'home'.
Ok, let's be clear...I've never been to Italy. Not only is this my first trip there, my mother's family hasn't been back there since we left 100 years ago--with the sole exception of my great-uncle and his wife going back in the mid-80s. My parents are there for a month, and I'll be there for 2 weeks. I am completely and totally geeked.
I told myself yesterday that there was no need to be nervous. I even blogged it here. And yet...after writing that, my stomach's been in a bit of a twist, and I've been a bit jumpier compared to usual. I had a doctor's appointment yesterday (all's well, thanks), but they noted that my usual and steady 120/70 had jumped to 140/93...I know it's the trip and this combination of anxiety, excitement, and thrills. Actually, my neighbor said I was restrained...not in the positive way, but the 'I have to hold back, or else I'll explode with a ball of energy' kind of way.
The cable has been out since Friday--the landlord forgot to pay the bill, and for whatever reason it's still out--so I've been listening to a lot of music and watching DVDs at night. Lots of calming music...Brazilian samba for the most part, but I did end up switching to a little Afro-Cuban in the afternoon. Last night's movie (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) ended a bit late, but I figured that would be a good thing. Stay up a bit later, maybe get more tired, and then I'll for sure sleep well.
Nope...I was still tossing and turning all night, a bundle of nerves just ready to go run across the Atlantic Ocean for the motherland. I was up by 6am (instead of the planned 7am), and I've been slow-moving. Purposely, by the way. I've got an extremely long day today. 14 hours of flying, 9 hours time change, and, well, I lose 24 hours total. Ma vado a Italia!!!!
So, with luck, I'll be blogging from Italy over the next couple of weeks. Tons of pictures; I plan on hitting the Forum (the one in ruins, not just the one online) on Friday or Saturday, and will take pictures from Tuscany, as well. Hopefully we get to go to Lombardy and find some cousins...we shall see. Either way, Lady Fortuna hopefully will be by my side, the gods will be favoring me. Mercury, please bestow luck on me during my travels. And dear Juno, I have no quarrel with you, so please don't treat me like you did Aeneas and his crew.
Heh here I am, at the airport in Rome. It's 10pm local. I couldn't get a hotel room near the aiport for the night, and since my flight out is bright and early, I'll just sleep here. Oh, I've done it before, with more luggage than what I have now. And while I had talked people into thinking that I was very comfortable with this, the truth is that I'm only relatively comfortable with this. In some way, I hope that a repeat of 2003 doesn't happen.
**flashing back to 31 July 2003**
I had taken the train from Alicante to Madrid the night before my flight--same situation as now--and camped out in the Madrid airport near the Delta international desk. This woman was sitting next to me, and we started what I then thought would be a short conversation. She said she was from a very small town outside of Grenada, on the coast, and was on a trip to the US. How nice, you say. But there's more, of course. This woman had never been to Seville, let alone Madrid...and she's on her way, alone, to Los Angeles. Um. Yeah. Turns out her husband of 22 years gave her a trip to LA for her 40th birthday, so that she could visit a gentleman friend she made online...who lives in the San Fernando Valley and worked as an actor. Alone.
(For those of who you do not know the area, when someone (especially under the age of 25) says they live in the San Fernando Valley and is an actor, you can pretty much bet that they are in the type of films that require very little clothing and a whole lot of lubrication.)
At any rate, this woman kept me up *all night long* talking about herself, her life, her trip, etc. I did impart wisdom on her--mostly about how while there are Spanish-speakers in the area, don't count on everyone speaking the language, and other important information that one should have when visiting SoCal. But by the time I finally got on the plane the next morning, I was so exhausted that I passed out in my chair, despite sitting in the middle seat of the row. I don't remember much from that flight home.
**returning to the present**
Anyway, hopefully I'll be writing next from my apartment. It's a long day tomorrow: 1 hour flight from Rome to Zurich, 2 hour layover, then a 10 hour flight from Zurich to San Francisco, followed by a 2 hour public transit ride home. But I will be home. And with so very many stories to tell and pictures to show.
Ci vediamo pronto!
If you are a baseball fan, you are about to be immediately jealous of my vacation trip this year. If you're any kind of sports fan, you also might turn a bit green. For the rest of you, I will explain. My mother, my brother Matt and I are about to embark on a trip to the Shrine and two of the Temples of Major League Baseball.
Tuesday night: we take the red-eye to New York, get in Wednesday morning.
Wednesday: afternoon game at Yankee Stadium (vs. the Baltimore Orioles)
Thursday: night game at Yankee Stadium (vs. the Angels)
Friday: drive to Cooperstown, and go to the Baseball Hall of Fame
Saturday: drive to Boston, night game at Fenway Park (vs. the Oakland A's)
Sunday: fly home
Now, to put this in perspective, Matt and I have talked about doing this trip for years. YEARS. The impetus this year is that it's the last year of Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built. Next year the new one opens up next door, and while the Yankees organization is doing a first-class job on it, it's still not the original home of Ruth, Joe D., Gehrig, Yogi, Mantle, Munster, Mattingly, Jeter, Rivera...you get the picture. So he decided that this was the year to do the trip. And so we are.
The only drawback is that we don't have much time to spend in town...in any of the towns. And while we at least get a day in NYC (and a HUGE thank you to Neph who's been helping us figure out what we're going to do, and will play hostess), we all wish it really was more. But, this is a baseball trip, dammit! I'll be scoring the games, we'll all have our radios to listen to the game (something which we all do at every game we go to)...the ritual is to have a hot dog and a beer the first game at a stadium, and this will be performed. In general, I will be in reverence and in awe.
So, the next (and final) dilemma is whether or not to pack my mitt. I mean, it's a tradition here in San Francisco to bring your glove...you have to, be you chronologically a kid or an adult. Then I hear that in many places that it's looked upon as childish. Right now, I think it's going to be down to how much room I have in my carry-on.
The countdown is on...I'm about to pay hommage to the Baseball Gods.
This week has been utterly brutal. Actually, the last few weeks have, and it wasn't until Thursday that it all came to a head.
I teach an 8am class 3 days a week, on a campus that's 25 miles away. For us 'round here, well, that's not much of a commute, and I really don't view it as being far away. But an 8am class, that means I need to be on campus by 7:30 to get last minute stuff done, which means I have to leave the house no later than 6:45. Originally I thought I had to leave the house at 6:30, but the traffic hasn't been horrific, so I've been leaving later. But I was still waking up at 5:30, simply because I move about as fast in the morning as molasses on a frozen wintry day.
Well, this wasn't working. It's very hard for me to fall asleep before 11:30 (and I really do prefer 12 or so) unless I'm either sick or exhausted. So I was really only getting 6 hours of sleep or less, and while this doesn't sound like a bad thing, with all the running around I was doing, I was getting very tired. Mt. Grading Pile was getting harder and harder to tackle simply because I was having less and less time during the day to get things done, and more and more meetings were being requested. It's great to be wanted and all, but this was getting ridiculous. To make matters worse, my weekends were being filled up with plans to meet up with family and friends; the time I usually take to leisurely grade and prep for the week was being compacted into the space of a few hours during my two days off. I was not a happy Sarah.
When I'm stressed I do one of two things (and sometimes both): I either eat junk and processed foods, or I don't go into REM sleep and therefore wake up anything but refreshed. I can fall asleep, but don't seem to get a good night's sleep; I don't think I toss and turn, but who knows. Well, the last couple of weeks I've been doing the bad-sleep routine, and as a result would hit the snooze alarm 4 and 5 times before I could get myself to turn off the alarm...please, just 8 more minutes...please.... Monday-thru-Thursday I didn't wake up on time once...in fact, twice instead of hitting snooze, I accidentally turned the alarm off totally. Thankfully I caught it; once I only slept 15 minutes before Bella decided to wake me up for good, and the other time, while I slept an entire hour more, I had the time in my schedule to do so. As a result of waking up late all those days, I felt like the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz:" discombobulated. Nothing was working right, and because I was so tired I kept forgetting things, which is highly unlike me. Clearly this 5:30 crap isn't working. My body doesn't function at all.
So, time for a change: Friday I decided I'd set the alarm for 6. Ok, 30 minutes doesn't sound like much, but if I don't have to leave the apartment before 6:45, well, I can get ready in 45 minutes. And it was a kind of magic! Friday I was refreshed...the day went better...and I didn't feel like falling down like a pile of bricks at the end of the day. (I would have done the once-usual of going out for dinner and go to a movie, but since I had eaten both breakfast and lunch 'out', well, it was time to stay home with a salad and my copy of "The Princess Bride.") So, the routine has been changed...and there's a weight that's been lifted from my shoulders.
At 10ish this morning, my phone beeped at me...another news bite from the Associate Press. Thank God I was just walking, and not driving or chopping vegetables when I read this:
Paulson states that the economic crisis is "embarrassing to the United States of America."
The full quote is here (click here for the full article), with the emphasis being mine:
It was an interesting reaction that sprung forth from me as I read that initial news blurb, and then later the article. Fury and laughter at once.
The laughter came quicker...emerging from the audacity of such a statement. Seriously...the economic crisis is embarrassing??? Or that Paulson and his boys are embarrassed for having fouled up the entire situation, and they make it seem like it's other people's fault.
To be fair, they didn't personally sign over the loan money to millions of Americans. Nor did they personally extend credit to people who perhaps were not the greatest of candidates. Nor did they personally cut the golden parachutes to the CEOs who bailed out of their floundering companies. No, no they didn't.
But what did they do? They allowed the wheels to go into motion. They allowed such lending practices to be in place and, more importantly, turned a blind eye when the various financial institutions hawked ARMs and other such lending programs to people as if it's nothing but cotton candy and kettle corn. The housing market is just like a carnival...it's fun! Everyone wants to go! You want to have a home, right? So let's get you set up! No money down, or very little anyway! Oh, that small print? Nevermind...here's a toaster.
Like a flash of lightning, the laughter at the ridiculousness of the statement turned into fury. I'm sitting there, reading the article and praying that one of my older students comes into class--this way, I can talk to someone who has seen as much, if not more, of life than I have. All I could think about was how "embarrassing" our current state of affairs is. Embarrassing???
Embarrassing is the fact that many college students can't afford textbooks, and rely on state and federal programs to pay for them...just to be able to study, to earn a degree and complete their dreams.
Embarrassing is the fact that because of both good and bad loans, the average American has payments through the nose, and in many cases are going without.
Embarrassing is the fact that the student council at my campus is putting together a food drive...to help out fellow students who have no money for food.
Embarrassing is the number of Americans who cannot afford health insurance; they make too much to qualify for Cal-Med (or the equivalent of their state), but not enough to afford even the most basic of plans.
Embarrassing is the number of people in my STATE who are losing their homes, their jobs, and their lives simply because the cost of living is rising, they are wallowing in debt, and have no hope or confidence.
That, Secretary Paulson, is embarrassing. And F U for making that statement.
Ok, taking a step aside, I will admit that most of the people I talk to don't really know their credit scores, don't honestly have a clue what a budget looks like, let alone how one works. I get that, really. But the damned financial institutions that allowed so many of these irresponsible loans to go out should have also known this, forseen the chaos that potentially arises from this, and done something about it. Instead, the overzealous wolves went after the yummy sheep--the money--hoping that all would work out. Uh, yeah. A bit too risky, doncha think?
The buck used to stop here, so to speak. Where is it going to stop now?
I decided last night to go see "No Country For Old Men," seeing as how it was about to be in a double feature with "There Will Be Blood" (which I don't care to see right now). So, 9:35pm showing...and it was so worth it.
Admittedly, I'm a big Coen Bros. fan. I love their work--"The Big Lebowski" is in permanent residence in my DVD collection, and "Fargo" is about to join it. I love how they can work the dark side of humanity into a central question of society: what is justice? At least, I feel that's their signature message. And they keep bringing different angles to that question.
"No Country For Old Men" is another one in that vein. This time, the question is not only "What is justice?" but it also questions who's version of justice is the 'correct' one. Javier Bardem deserves most every award that he receives for his acting; I'm a huge fan of his. He takes the role of ultimate cerebral antagonist to a level not seen often; perhaps Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter is the only other one, or the one that comes to mind. It's very dark, perhaps darker than "Fargo," but it still riveting. The movie lasted about 2 hours, and I really didn't feel like I spent 2 hours in the theater. And Tommy Lee Jones...well, he's just good, but he's starting to play 'himself'...much like Jack Nicholson does. The other actors did a fine job, but it's truly amazing to watch Jones and Bardem. Sadly, they never share any scenes...oh how I'd love to see that!
(By-the-by, if you're interested in another thought-provoking movie, watch "Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)"--questions who gets to decide life or death. And again Javier Bardem is magnificent.)
So...it's a great movie, and one that many will enjoy.
There are certain smells that just call to us as individuals. Some come from outside--the smell of sweet jasmine in the summer, or of freshly-cut grass. Some come from the inside of an oven, or on top of a stove...perhaps even on a grill. These scents awaken our olfactory system, setting our bodies in motion for a culinary experience which is second to none. Oh, perhaps it revolves around a 5-star feast that would make any gourmand melt into a pile of goo, but more often than not these gastronomic creations come not just from the home, but from the heart. In a phrase, I'm talking comfort food.
I have two dishes which will tug at my stomach strings in ways that nothing else can.
One is a good spaghetti gravy...or, for those of you who are not of the Italian-American persuasion, I'm talking about a tomato rag
Well now, this weekend has so far been full of frivolity. Ok, that's getting carried away a bit. But I actually have had a weekend thus far where I could just simply relax. Of course, there was a reason behind it...always is.
Friday night my upstairs neighbor Hank wanted someone to drink with, so I obliged. We each consumed quite a bit of wine...in fact, it led to a very rough night. So yesterday, while I wasn't hungover, I definitely didn't have the normal unbounded energy that is typical of me. Methinks my major drinking days are over...eh, whatever. A night of ill tummy feelings followed by a day of lounging around isn't all that bad, is it?
Yeah, it is...or it could be. Eh, we shall see.
I got recently accused of never going out...at which point I scoffed in that person's general direction. Define going out, I quipped. I mean, I go to the park regularly to watch the birds, gaze upon a idyllic scene, and read a book. Sometimes I go off for a drive to the coast or to the valley, just to get away from everyone here and be around people there. Just yesterday I spent the day out...ok, it was outside, working on my plants, but still. I'm not dark and tanned, but I do have color on my skin...doesn't that prove that I've been going out?
(This mini semantics lesson brought to you by George Carlin...may you rest in peace, wherever you are...and thank you for explaining the airline safety talk so eloquently.) (By the way, if you aren't knowledgeable of the Good Mr. Carlin and his lectures, there are cuss words...may not be safe for public viewing...then again...)
I have now less than 2 weeks left in the old apartment, and I'm feeling very anxious. Yes, I have some wonderful memories here, but at the same time I cannot wait to get out of here into a place that's twice as big, in an area that I love, and right next to work. There is a forecast for 100% chance of change in my life, and I'm liking those odds. Of course, my horoscope for the week isn't quite as rosy:
So does that mean that I'm going to have to get my hands dirty, so to speak, to get things done? How is this different than any other week? Eh, just as long as I don't get harassed by my landlord or anyone else, I'll be fine. Hmmm, maybe the crankiness has already set in. Ok, time to go run away.
Well, I'm here, it's really day 2 for me in the Eternal City. Yesterday was spent at the heart of Ancient Rome, so to speak: the Palantine Hill ruins, including the Forum and Trajan's Market, the Capolitine, and all that I could get. I took almost 200 pictures yesterday...not bad. I'm definitely doing this on the cheap, so sadly no museums...I have to save most of my money for Tuscany, which starts tomorrow.
Today I'm off to the Vatican and the Pantheon...must really get my religious aspect in
I will write more later, when I'm not on a time limit, but I really wanted to mention here...I'm in awe. I was writing in my journal whilst sitting in the area of the Palantine of Severus' baths, and couldn't get over the fact that I was finally seeing what I had been literally studying all my life. I can't wait for my dad to get here--my parents are here after their time in Tuscany--so that later he and I can swap thoughts on the magic that is Rome.
Ok, just a quickie...like I said, I'll write more probably when I get back to the States. I should be able to check in either tomorrow or the day after. Ci vediamo, tutti!
Admittedly, I spend a good chunk of money on shoes, and for good reason. It can be shown that cheap shoes usually are badly made, and aren't worth the money paid for them. And while I may not be a Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo kind of girl, I definitely will drop some change on footwear. This is particularly true for my gym shoes.
No, seriously, it really is a good idea. I mean, think about all the punishment that you're doling out on your feet when in the gym, or going for a good walk on a trail. With cheap things thrown together, you could seriously hurt yourself, and not just your feet. Add to that the facts that I have high arches (even before I started wearing high heels) and have had knee problems for 25 years, and you start to understand that a $10 pair of kicks aren't going to give me the support that I need to go on a 4-mile walk, or a 1 1/2 hour cardio and weights routine. And since I go well past the 500-mile rule-of-thumb, I get my money out of them.
After a wonderful 2 1/2 years, my recent pair of running shoes has officially died. Yes, I should have gotten the hint when my cat decided that she 'needed' to rub all over them once I took them off...but, no, the decision was made once my left arch started barking. Plantar fasciitis. Joyous fun. And instead of being mildly annoying and going away in 24 hours, it's lingering, very painful, and makes the cardio and walking routines almost out of reach. (On the other hand, I'm swimming more than I have in quite some time...and my skin isn't snow white anymore. Silver lining, and all.)
So, off to the shoe store for me. There's a really great one in the next town over, one that caters specifically to gym shoes and running shoes of all types. They even analyze your foot and your gait in order to get the right shoe. Sure, I knew how much I was going to spend on the shoes, and knew that the extra attention to detail was going to be added onto the price, but the end result is that I get a pair of shoes that fits perfectly, and my foot won't hurt as much anymore.
When I got home, I noticed that Bella hadn't moved from 'her' gym shoes...getting more stinky essence, I guess. I picked up the old shoes, with the intent of giving them a proper burial in the garbage can, when she starts crying. Not just the cute-kitten cry, but the 'Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!' cry. I rolled my eyes, and finished my chore. That was over 2 hours ago...Bella is still sulking in the garage.
Just goes to show: one person's trash is another cat's treasure.
Here in Japantown, there is a cute mix of cuisine. Of course, the predominant theme is Japanese food--some of the best you'll get anywhere, both on the sushi side and the traditional dishes. There's a couple of Chinese places (naturally), some Mexican places (consider San Jos
Ok, let's get things starting off correctly: I'm not the type of girl who sits at home moping around. I could give a bleep less that I don't have a date on Valentine's night...I'm still going out! I mean, hell, if you're sitting in a full restaurant, then you're not eating alone, right?
So last night's plan: take the light rail 'downtown' (aka 15 blocks), go to dinner around 7, watch a bit of hockey at the bar of the restaurant, and then go to my movie (as I mentioned in the latest movie thread, I saw "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show," which got good reviews from me).
Dinner: once I found out that the Sharks (NHL team here in San Jos