Archive for January, 2009

Another one

23 January 2009

It’s going to be another one of those weeks.  The end of another marking period, grades are due on Friday next, I have a backlog of grading to do.  Well, at least I am not taking any online graduate courses right now!  And I finished reading C. J. Cherryh’s latest: Regenesis (I shouldn’t have started it, but I love Cherryh and it is a sequel to her novel Cyteen) so that won’t be bugging me.  I don’t HAVE to do any Japanese lessons, since I am my own taskmaster in that.

So if you don’t hear from me again until February, now you know why.

In the meantime, here is a photo of the hard disk from my parents’ old computer, that I took apart and ran a strong magnet over a bunch of times so nobody can steal their data.  And then I hung the disk itself in the dining room by the sliding glass door, in hope that it will discourage wood doves from flinging themselves at it.


5 homework points for you

19 January 2009

I do not collect and grade homework.  It takes me long enough to grade tests, quizzes, and lab reports without putting more into the mix.  What I do instead is a walk around the classroom with a rubber stamp and an ink pad and I stamp completed homework.  Then, when it’s time to take the test, I collect all the homework and enter the grades into the computer:  5 points for a stamped assignment, 4 points for an unstamped assignment that was completed after I stamped papers, and 3, 2, 1, or 0 points for unstamped, partially completed assignments.

It is important that the stamps I use are unique—students must not be able to simply go to the craft store and buy an identical stamp and use it to gain points they didn’t earn.  Or worse, they might sell their stamping services to other students!

While in the past I have relied on commercial stamps that I acquired long enough ago for them to be hard to find, this year I decided to customize.  I bought two stamps to start with: a flower shape and a spiral.  The flower petals got the letters P-H-Y-S-I-C-S carved into them, while I carved out the “negative space” around those letters in the spiral, so they show up with the ink color rather than as the paper color.

For the upcoming third marking period, I wanted to make my own stamp.  I looked for information on the internet, but I was unhappy with what I found.  Either I would need to use a polymer set by a UV light (like some dental fillings) or one site recommended cutting up rubber bands.  Or there was eraser carving, or linoleum block carving, neither of which fit what I wanted.  So I decided to wing it.  I spent some time wandering through a couple of craft stores, and came home with two pieces of foam rubber, some glue, and some wood bits, from which I made a working rubber stamp!  The foam worked well, and I think I might make an instructable on this technique…though until further testing I do not know how long this stamp will hold up.

Here are my stamp images, in the same colors I have been using at school:


The orange-colored one is the one I just made from foam rubber.  Here are the two most recent stamps, with the newly-made foam stamp on the right:



17 January 2009

As in much of the Northern USA, it is cold here too this weekend, though when I checked the thermometer when I got up today it read 10 degrees (F) which is not that cold compared to say, Maine or Vermont.  I told my students that they should go out at night when it is coldest and blow bubbles, to see if they could get them to freeze, another tip picked up from the prolific Swans on Tea.  I hope some of them got it to work!  There are some awesome photos of frozen bubbles (they look like moons from Saturn!) on the site Swans on Tea linked to.


16 January 2009

When I was first given my Nintendo DS, I knew that in Japan people used them to learn English.  Now THAT’s useful, I said to my husband, who of course was the one who told me about it.  They should have a program so I can learn Japanese.

Well, now they do, so I bought it.  I can say yes, no, bad, good, hello, goodbye, and thank you, and I am learning how to correctly pronounce karaoke, karate, futon, ninja, anime, manga, tsunami, and samurai.  “Futon” is difficult for me!  It is more of a sound effect than a word, as I hear it.


One of the really neat features is that you can listen to the nice Japanese lady say each word, then record your own pronunciation, then listen to your pronunciation, then listen to you and the nice Japanese lady saying the word in unison (or not in unison…darn futon!)

There are silly little games, like whack-a-mole, well, tap-a-gopher, where you have to tap the correct gopher according to the words shown on little placards below each hole.  And word search.  The first time I looked for kamikaze in a word search, it was tough!  The letter combinations are not what I’m used to!

So far I have only done the very tiniest first bit.  But there are supposedly 10,000 vocabulary words and 1,000 lessons.  You can use it to learn to write kanji too, so maybe I will learn that as well.  There is a dictionary/phrasebook contained in the program for use when you travel to Japan, and if you fail to speak you can use the sketchbook function to draw a picture of what you need!

I do not have any current plans to visit Japan, however.  Maybe someday!


13 January 2009

Swans on Tea pointed me to this site where you can make a photograph of a natural scene look unnaturally like a photograph of a miniature scene.  I tried it out with a photo from our honeymoon of the main square of Cusco, Peru, that I took from Sacsayhuaman.  Cool!


In addition to making large swaths of the photo unfocused, the procedure also enhances the colors so they look more painted.

Ok, I better stop procrastinating!

Snowdrops again

12 January 2009

This blog isn’t quite a year old, and it was last February 10th that I first posted about the snowdrops blooming in my garden.  Well, they are blooming again, earlier this year!

Giving 2

12 January 2009

I win.

You know how it is really fun to find someone exactly the right gift, and they didn’t even know they wanted it or even suspect it as a possibility?

And then they react to it, and you feel all smiley inside because they love it, and its perfect, and you are so amazing to have found it!

I did that.

When I visited my parents over break, I perused the outside of their refrigerator as I always do, scanning the postcards, photos, newspaper clippings, and other things that find themselves stuck on refrigerators.  I tend to re-read the poems there, clipped from the Buffalo News and yellowed with several years of existence.

Mom saw me reading and remarked that she would love to have a book of poems by Albert Sterbak, who wrote three of the poems on the fridge.  So, since her birthday is in January (she shares the birthdate with  Stephen Hawking, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, and Mary Queen of Scots) I immediately started searching for such a book.  No luck.  Not on Amazon.  Nothing on Google.  But I was able to find an address.

So I wrote to Mr. Sterbak, with a nice pen on nice paper and sent it in a stamped envelope, hoping to have found the correct Mr. Albert Sterbak in my search.  I did, and he called me up on the land-line phone!  (This is the way we all used to do things)

We had a lovely conversation, and Mr. Sterbak agreed to send an autographed  poem to my mom, since he has no book as of yet.  We decided on a sonnet that is also a recipe, albeit a recipe for weasel (he didn’t tell me that part on the phone) and in less than a week I was on the phone with my mom hearing the excitement in her voice as she read the address from the envelope (in poem form), the sonnet, and the letter from Mr. Sterbak.  She was very happy and very surprised!  WIN!

I wrote back to Mr. Sterbak with a check enclosed.  After all, he had spent time and postage and this was a gift for my mom.  And while he has no book I would have bought one.  But today, I received my own poetically-addressed letter.  Actually, it is a limerick and an additional couplet:

O Postman:

Please rush this without a delay
The Zip, when you go
Is 1 – 9 – 0 – 7- 0
But the rest doesn’t rhyme much, I’d say

Yet, lest this cause you further pain,
Try 1 – 3 – 8 ALTHEA LANE

He refused my check (sent it back), and mentioned that he has placed my letter and the one my mom sent him in thanks on his own refrigerator.

So, maybe eventually there will be a published book of light verse by Mr. Albert Sterbak.  In the meantime, write your favorite living poet a fan letter!  You never know what may happen!

Mid-January 2009

12 January 2009

I apologize for the extremely uncreative title.  But this is a catch-up post.

It’s mid-January already.  The marking period ends next week and all the kids are overwhelmed with projects and tests.  It’s only a week since we came back from break and it seems like break never happened.

My wonderful husband went to California last week to do some work, mostly videotaping but some web-tech stuff also.  Once his work was done he stayed for an extra couple of days to hang out with friends and play Rock Band with people who could really handle it…unlike those of us who played on January 2, who benefitted from the “no-fail feature.”  No, these were people who could keep my husband on his toes!

Meanwhile, I was home, working.  I had to do all of the chores myself: cooking, taking out the trash, feeding the cat, etc.  Which really is not all that hard to do.  I took advantage of mygarliccookbook opportunity and last Tuesday I roasted a chicken, using a recipe from the Garlic, Garlic, Garlic cookbook involving roasting some garlic, then putting the roasted garlic, a halved lemon and some herbs inside the chicken before roasting the chicken.  Afterward, a sauce is made with pan juices, more lemon juice, and the roasted garlic.  The bird comes out really tender and yummy!

I’m still eating chicken.

I am down to a last sandwich-worth of chicken salad, however, so that is pretty good.  I had some of it as soup, when I came down with “the virus going around school” last week.  I woke up freezing cold and wet with sweat several times a night for two nights in a row, and was achy and dizzy and very brain-fogged.  It made teaching a challenge, especially on Friday.  So anyway, I made a really easy chicken soup, as shown here:


Easy chicken soup, by teawithbuzz

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tbs “better than bouillon” chicken base
  • about 1 carrot, chopped
  • about 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • about 1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 handful egg noodles

Put water and chicken base in pot, bring to a boil.  Add carrots and celery, simmer 5 minutes.  Add chicken and egg noodles, simmer until noodles are tender.  Serves 2, or serves one for dinner and serves one again for lunch the next day.

I slept a LOT over the weekend to recover, and I feel much better now, plus I have my husband back now, and he cooked a yummy stir-fry for dinner!    I enjoy having someone else cook dinner!

The new outfit

1 January 2009


As promised, here I am in my new outfit for Hogmanay.  I’m with my good friend and fellow blogger Joanna.  Thanks, Leonard, for taking the photo!

It’s a taffeta skirt with a sash and a separate top.  I’m wearing my wedding tiara as a choker (the jeweler who made the tiara converted it after the wedding) and I’ve already changed into my dancing shoes in the  photo.  The white bit in my skirt is the dance program, which is pinned by a ribbon to the waist of the skirt so I can glance at the directions before each dance.  It seems to be hiding behind the sash.

Pluses: easy to wear, easy to dance in, easy to get in and out of (no need to get hooked or zipped by my helpful husband), shows off tiara/choker well.  Minuses: shows off my flabby upper arms, required buying new underwear which still needs “Hollywood tape” to remain completely hidden, requires dry cleaning.

See you dancing!

New & Improved!

1 January 2009

New and Improved, originally uploaded by TeaWithBuzz.

The “New & Improved!” box on the right contains one ounce less cereal than the box on the left. It also contains 3% less of my “daily whole grain needs” (down to 87% from 90%) and correspondingly contains 42g of whole grains compared to the 45g in the left hand box.

Now, if 45g is 90%, then 42g OUGHT to be 84%, if we use math.

Shredded Oats are still my favorite breakfast cereal, but I do question the use of the adjective “improved” in this case. Maybe it tastes better? I can’t tell.

UPDATE:  I have discovered the improvement!  The new smaller box actually fits on the shelf in the cupboard!  The old box only fit if I jammed it in on a slant.