Archive for August, 2009


27 August 2009

My close, personal friends know that I have had some frustrations with my school district’s technology management in the past.  I will not enumerate my frustrations here.

In this first week of teacher workdays, which are scheduled before the start of the kids’ school year and called “inservice days,” my district has introduced us to several new software packages.  These replace other software packages that we will no longer be using for various reasons.

As a teacher who uses “technology” often both in class and outside of it, I can immediately see both advantages and disadvantages to the various new systems.  I can also see things that I have counted on being able to do for the past several years becoming impossible.

I am hoping to mend my past differences with the district technology management, and I am going to suggest that a teacher focus group or study committee or whatever the proper name would be, be established so that we can help the district determine how to help the classroom teachers most effectively use technology to accomplish their goals with students.  Right now, I don’t think that happens.

I really want a voice in this.

My beloved husband, who works in a university supporting professors in their technology use, considers that if he isn’t enabling his professors to accomplish what they want to, he is failing at his job.  I am hoping to be a voice that will help myself and my colleagues get the functionality we need within the means of the district.

Wish me luck!


14 August 2009

I promised I would tell you things I had accomplished this summer, to counter the complaints I made on Monday.  First is the collection of sixty (60) jars of pickles, jam, and dessert topping that now live in our basement.  This is not including the jars that we have given away or consumed the contents of, or that I made in a class.  Or the three unused pint jars that are destined to contain pickled beets as of next weekend.  I am honestly amazed to count up all these jars (though my numbers are miniscule compared to Marisa’s):

  • 4 8-oz jars blackberries in chambord
  • 1 pint jar watermelon rind pickles
  • 8 pint jars dill spears
  • 7 pint jars bread & butter pickles
  • 3 pint jars cucumber relish
  • 12 8-oz jars blueberry jam
  • 4 8-oz jars peach dessert sauce
  • 7 8-oz jars black-and-blue berry jam
  • 9 jars raspberry jam (mixed sizes)
  • 5 jars peach/berry jam (mixed sizes)

Before this summer, I had never canned anything.  But now I am very much on the bandwagon with everyone else in the “canvolution.”


What else?

I acquired a car to convert to a plug-in electric vehicle.  Thanks, Melissa!  Interestingly, I have already gotten two inquiries about the car from prospective buyers (one a driveway-sealer guy driving by, another from a pizza delivery guy) and a tentative recipient of the engine and transmission (somebody the guy next door knows).  Today my minions and I removed the radiators (there were two!), alternator, spark plugs, a belt, the battery, the fuse box, part of the exhaust, the coolant reservoir, and unhooked much of the wiring.  If only I had minions more often!  But they are all off to college and I am off to vacation, and then I will be in school.  I suggested we might work on the car again the day after Thanksgiving.  We shall see.  I am in touch with the minions on facebook, so hopefully we will manage to accomplish more.

I built a foam-cutter.  This is a wooden platform and a taut, vertical nichome wire that I can pass some electric current through.  The current makes the wire hot, so it can cut through polystyrene foam with ease, and with noxious fumes.  It is only for use in a well-ventilated area.  Then I needed a power supply for the foam cutter, and it ought to be variable- i.e. I want to be able to adjust the voltage continuously from 0V to 12V.  It is only partially constructed, but I have all the parts.  I have a nifty new soldering station that made construction of the power supply (I converted a computer’s ATX power supply) easy peasy!

I went to the library numerous times, read a bunch of books, constructed two jigsaw puzzles, read two e-books on my iPod, caught up on some podcast-listening, organized some stuff in my office better, sorted through several large stacks of paper in my office, fixed up a mobile made by one of my students so that it is much sturdier, acquired some uranium-doped glass marbles, took three teacher workshops (one a week long and two 3-day workshops), foisted cucumbers off on anyone and everyone, had jury duty for a day, took a pickling class, picked quarts and quarts of berries, and made pies!

One thing I managed to do that I am very pleased with is getting a lot of unframed artwork that has been sitting around the house (in one case since we moved in) framed professionally.  One of those pieces has not been sitting around that long, it is a watercolor painting by my dad.  We will hang it in the guest room, but we don’t know which will be the appropriate bit of wall, yet, so in the meantime it is on the futon:


All that and I still found time to lie about on my backside doing sudoku puzzles and watching Law and Order and Bones on TV. Which explains why three major projects aren’t finished yet…and I am going on vacation tomorrow!  I will come back and have three days to get my act together before school inservices begin!  ACK!

Fermilab-CERN rivalry

12 August 2009

There is a rivalry of sorts between Fermilab, in the US, and CERN, in Switzerland.  Both laboratories are racing to detect the Higgs boson, and last year the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was completed at CERN.  Last summer, a video of the LHC Rap was posted on YouTube, to the delight of physics teachers everywhere.

Fermilab is finally making a countermove, having asked funky49 “the Rapbassador” to create a rap for Fermilab.  I’ll link to the video when it is available.


12 August 2009

I first met Madge when I was training to ride in the Philadelphia->DC AIDS ride in 1996.  Her husband, Dick, was the chemistry lab assistant at the school I was teaching at in Philadelphia, and they were members of the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia who were also regular ride leaders.  Dick invited me on rides, offered to lead groups of teachers on rides, and introduced me to Madge.

Madge was a wonderful, generous woman who immediately offered to let me stay overnight the night before the ride, and transportation to the ride start at some incredibly early hour of the morning.  She was encouraging and helpful, and made sure I carbo-loaded properly the night before the ride and well hydrated.

Here I am, ready to go at 6:30 AM outside the old Philadelphia Civic Center (since demolished), thanks to Madge and Dick.AIDSridestart

Since the AIDS ride, I continued to ride on occasion with Madge and Dick off and on for a few years.  Their Saturday rides were an easy pace that always featured a stop for pancake brunch.  Since they always started in Northeast Philly, however, I began to find it bothersome to drive there for a ride on Saturday morning, and after moving in with my husband I stopped riding with them altogether.

I am sorry that I have not ridden lately, I am sorry not to have spent more time with Madge.  She died on Saturday, on a ride with Dick and loyal riders who have been riding with them on Saturdays for years.  I have no photos of Madge, but I have good memories.

Dick, my heartfelt sympathies are with you, your children and grandchildren.  I will see you at the viewing on Thursday.  I’m so sorry for your loss.  I know you know how lucky you both were to have each other for so long.  She was one of those people who touch your heart and make you feel warm and cared for.

List of complaints

10 August 2009

Today I feel like if I can just get past the annoyances and grumpy-causing things, I can go be productive.  So I am getting these off my chest:

1.  Seasonal allergies.  sniff. ker-choo!  sniff.  blubber into tissue.  AAGH!  This is WITH daily claritin!  The neti pot helps, but it feels like it takes forever to dump the whole pot of water through my nostrils, so I don’t do it every day.  I think today I will do neti, though!

2. The skylights are leaking again.  Well, one of them is, and only when it rains REALLY HARD like it did yesterday morning, but still, damn.  We just had that fixed a couple of years ago.

3. It is finally hot and humid like summer usually is, but I have been spoiled by the pleasant temperatures of the previous two months and the humidity makes me feel blah.  Plus we are using the AC a lot more, which is using a lot of energy.

4. It’s already August and I haven’t finished all the things I want to get done before school starts!  Though I will try to remember to post later this week about all my accomplishments of the summer, and then you and I can all be impressed.

5. Before you say “but school doesn’t start until September” let me explain that I am going on vacation with family next week and then I have teacher inservice (meetings, trainings, getting classrooms set up, making seating charts, reading IEP‘s, rearranging seating charts so the kids who are supposed to sit up front are in the right place, finding misplaced items, waiting for computer software updates) for a week and kids will show up on Monday, August 31.  So really I have one week left to get a lot of stuff done.

6. When I was cleaning Buzz’s litterbox this morning one of those creepy cave crickets got on my chin, and I felt it tickle and I thought it was just my hair and when I used the back of my wrist to push the hair aside I CRUSHED THE CRICKET AGAINST MY NECK!  EEEEEEEWWWWWWW!  (We have cave crickets in the basement and garage.  They are silent, and because of mental defects they jump TOWARD a disturbance, creeping me out when they do it to me!)

7. I really need to get my hair cut but my wonderful hairdresser QUIT her job to pursue an entirely different career, so I need to find a new salon and a hairdresser who can give me the cut I want.  I hate finding a new hairdresser!  But I haven’t had my hair cut since May and I am getting annoyed with it, so I really need to do it!

OK, that is enough complaining!  Time to get stuff done!