Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Magnetic Poetry

Knowing that the kids would be in somewhat of a party mood today due to the anticipation of tomorrow's school trip to Epcot, I planned ahead. I brought in bags of magnetic word poetry, dumped a handful on each desk about fifteen minutes before class ended, and told the students to get their creative juices flowing and see what they make of the words they'd been given. The only real requirement was that within the time frame given, each person had to make a contribution to what we called the "Word Board" (which was actually just my metal door, but I like to give things fancy names).

3/31/10: Making arrangements

The results varied according to the student, but several students surprised even themselves with their various uses of creativity, poetic imagery, humor, and of course occasional bursts of complete incoherence.

Some personal favorites:

woman sleep & shop

think in fiction

old smell is man lather

she searched for another villain to find wicked new magic

I whisper vows to woo wanton women of beauty and romance

turn the delicate page

good use of time & wisdom

I felt drunk at science time

you inspire people

show character under slander

wicked temptings haunt me

chocolate though luscious can create deathly torment

my desire is always to live & love life as if it will end tonight

beautiful art teaches magic

a whale tale has some truth to it

I sweat black blood and stare into the sea

fear the storm

search art within

I sleep like a whale

imagine fiction like smeared rain

seek happiness through lordship

why is mother always bare

I want a pink haired puppy

some must whisper questions

your play car is shorter than my finger

man next to thee hast exploded

not so loud

see time cry and eat

see no evil

if you damn grace you will be cursed

her whale haunts each difficult girl

rob this author of his almost saucy codpiece

smear there page with peaches

get well soon at drunkard club

woo ladys

take me over to their favorite lover

I see chocolate death

the beautiful goddess has saucy hair

rip open the tongue

I think of you all the time

grow up

I am always mean

raw juice

where could we live

soon after seeking a white hero drunk blue knife trifle

I desire her to watch for slander

death enter the soul to show light

the love of lady is like a laughing whale who has a torment'd night and a empty vulgar heart

seeking white whale

purple suit
red dress

imagine life and you never know what it is like to live epicly

* * * *

As you can see, whale was quite a popular word today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Speaking of Questions

Every afternoon I monitor a study hall last period. The array of students differs from day to day depending on the students' schedules, but for me the tedium is constant.

Study halls make my brain melt. Although I would gladly teach an extra class rather than draw a study hall in my schedule rotation, I have learned that study halls are part of the educational cross that I must bear.

Here at our school, the responsibilities of the study hall monitor are as follows:
1) Keep control of the students, maintaining order, quiet, and discipline. (check)
2) Be sure each student is working constructively and not sleeping. (A bit harder to police, but for the most part... check)
3) Administer homework help on an as-needed basis. (please no, not math, no)
4) Keep self from letting the monotony and tedium turn brain to blancmange. (meh)

The bulk of today's story concernes Responsibility #3: Homework help. I have two boys in particular who (occasionally) have actual homework help questions but more often will raise their hands to ask any and every question that their little brains can churn up in order to keep a dialogue going.


1) What the homework?
2) I go fill up my water bottle?
3) 'Scuse me Miss, uh may I go fill up my water bottle?
4) What your favorite book?
5) You like Girl Scout cookies?
6) What you favorite flavor?
7) What does conterminous mean?
8) May I go to the restroom?
9) May I get a drink of water?
10) May I get a Tylenol?
11) May I go get some glue? (Who knows.)
12) What is a bison?
13) What is a geranium?
14) May I go get a tissue?
15) May I ask [another student] a question?
16) Do you know when the next [service project] is?
17) Have you graded our essays yet?

See if you can tell where Child #1's questions leave off and Child #2s begins. Yes, all of the above questions were asked by two students within the space of about fifteen minutes, at the end of which time I pronounced a moratorium on questions for the remainder of the period and settled down to grade aforementioned essays.

* * *

Speaking of questions, one of my 9th grade students was just telling a story about his older sister, who is in college. Their parents are flying from Miami to Bermuda today, and she asked them if they had a connecting flight, then couldn't understand why the entire family was laughing at her. I had to restrain myself from reminding him that he used to ask such foolish questions himself before he came here to our school and took a geography class, a subject which we still consider compulsory.

Tea for Two and Two for Tea

A few weeks ago when my mom was over at my place, I served her some lemongrass tea (which, by the way, I totally recommend. Not that you all have to serve it to your mothers, but you should at least try it). She enjoyed it so much that I decided to get her a little box of her own.

When I gave it to her, the following conversation ensued:

ME: (holding box behind back) I got you something.

MOM: You did?

ME: Yes. Do you want me to give it to you?

MOM: Sure. (extends her cheek for a kiss)

ME: No, mom. I actually GOT you SOMETHING. (extends box of tea)

MOM: Oh! Thank you! But... (in horror) You spent MONEY on me.

ME: No. I stole it.

MOM: Oh, good.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Some Days We Become that Other Person

Somewhere today, someone arrives home from taking his GRE and says to his roommate, "Yeah, the test was fine... But you should have seen this chick in the cubicle next to me....

"First her nose is running, right? And she sniffs and sniffs, but she doesn't have any tissues, because we're not allowed to, like, take anything into the testing center with us. So she sits with her hand up for a while and when she finally gets the guy's attention, she does these huge, over-reactionary miming gestures. Like we all haven't heard her sniffing, or maybe she thinks he's mentally retarded or something. So anyway, he figures out she needs tissues and brings them. So I think to myself at least now the sniffling will stop. Well that's when she start's honking. I mean, just going to town and blowing out that nose as hard as she can, one nostril at a time.

"And just when we think at last things will quiet down, that's when her stomach starts growling. Only it's not a regular growl. It's more like the deep, hollow gurgle of an emptying drain. Meanwhile she's still sniffling and honking, and when she's not doing that, she's mouth-breathing.

"And then there's the typing. I don't mean ordinary, everyday typing. I mean that she's attacking the keyboard with these super-rigid, noise-producing fingers. She's not so much tapping at the keys as she is making a seeming attempt to bore directly through the keypad with her bare hands.

"I think she realized what a mess she was, too, because every once in a while she would stop typing and look around sheepishly, as if to apologize to the rest of us. Then she would calm down, breathe slowly, and start to click away quietly at the keys... for about a nanosecond. Then we're right back to the spastic bursts of machine-gun typing, mouth-breathing, nose-whistling, and stomach-gurgling... The complimentary noise-reduction earphones barely muted the noise pollution produced by this one auditory train wreck.

"Well, obviously something had to be done. At first the staff merely emptied out the two cubicles next to her and surrounded her area with bio-hazard caution tape, but eventually we banded together and staged a revolt, refusing to take the optional research-only section of the test until she had agreed to take the rest of her test from inside a hyperbaric chamber.

"--What? Oh, I don't know. I canceled my scores before viewing them and made an appointment to go back and take it again next month. There was really no point in finishing the test, what with all that noise making it impossible to concentrate..."

And maybe when he tells this story, he will be exaggerating.

Then again, maybe not.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why I Should Quit

1/2/10: Rest

Dear School Administrator, I'm sorry to announce that I am handing in my resignation. I know this may come as a surprise, but due to rather compelling evidence (compiled below) I feel justified in withdrawing from the work force, effective immediately.

12 Reasons Why I Am Quitting My Job to Become an Indolent Loaf-about:
1. More time to take the daily Wait Wait Don't Tell Me news quiz, not to mention having the chance to catch Says You live on Fridays.
2. Golden Corral's breakfast buffet doesn't open until 7:30.
3. Sweatpants
4. More time to calculate Diane Rehm's actual age. (Don't let that picture fool you. I've heard her show, and she's at least 1,000.)
5. Can more effectively stalk global network of friends from the comfort of my own home. (Mentioning no particular names at this time, *ahem ahem*)
6. I like sleep.
7. Epic X-files Watch-a-thon no longer bound by scheduling considerations.
8. I've noticed this week that a majority of my male neighbors don't seem to work. If I stay home, I will be able to spy on them and figure out what they are really up to.
9. The Beach.
10. It would make my brother really, really jealous.
11. Only in this way will I ever have the chance to read even a fraction of the books I'd like to read during my lifetime.
12. Work is hard.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Break Staycation

I did originally have a trip planned for this week (to Haiti) but for obvious reasons, that has been postponed until October. So here I find myself, at home over spring break for the first time in five years.

Things I have loved about this break:
  • Long, leisurely coffee/breakfast/devotional sessions.
  • Staying in my pajamas until early afternoon.
  • Catching up with friends (both face-to-face and via teh internets)
  • Indulging in naps in the patch of sunlight that falls directly across my bed just after lunch.
  • 8-10 hours of sleep per night.
  • Having time to begin filtering through and organizing all of my stuff in a preemptive packing blitz just in case we do decide to move out when our lease is up in June. (Not that I've actually bothered to do any of this yet. But I do have the time available to do it. You know, if I ever work up the enthusiasm.)
Things I have not liked about this break:
  • Studying math in preparation my date Saturday with the GRE. (Hate, hate, hate!)
  • Having a broken clothes washer the one week I'm home and actually have time to catch up on my laundry.
  • Feeling that there's so much more I should be doing this week instead of just taking it easy.
  • Putting up with Florida's anomalously uncooperative temperature issues. (Come on, Florida, all I'm asking for is a little beach weather.)
Lest I end on a negative note, I must say that given a choice between getting enough sleep and soaking in some sun, I'll have to admit that the sleep seems to be doing me good. At least now I won't have to endure the rest of the semester looking like a cross between a jaundiced sailor and The Addams Family.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Top Two Entries (and by that, I mean the only two)


The Care and Feeding of Ruthette

March 5, 2010

Figure 1: The Ruthette takes a defensive posture.

It has been my privilege to care for and feed the ferocious and yet majestic Ruthette many times over the past few years. The key to remember when dealing with this amazing creature is that the Ruthette does not like to be “fussed over.” The diligent caretaker will take steps to ensure that whatever activities are undertaken in order to best serve the Ruthette’s needs are performed in a fluid, natural manner that will not arouse the Ruthette’s natural anxiety or fury.

Figure 5: The Ruthette attacks.

The Ruthette, for some reason unexplained by science or evolution, becomes enraged at the sight of glitter or “cuteness.” While it is impossible to single out every item that would be an issue in caring for the Ruthette, the wise keeper will avoid anything with unicorns, fluffy kittens, scratch-n-sniff, or scented fur. Be warned: do not entertain the idea of using a Care Bear as a comfort and companion for the Ruthette. Ruthettes in the wild have been known to mangle Care Bears and even turn on the foolish keeper who provided them.

Figure 3: Snacktime!

The Ruthette will eat just about anything, but it is unwise to feed the Ruthette large amounts of green vegetables or beans. Macaroons and starchy foods are a boon, but the caregiver must be sure not to make these seem in any way as though they have been specially provided. Nonchalance is the key. Also, cheese is the Ruthette’s favorite food, and I recommend encasing any unpleasant food or medicine in cheese as a dosing method.

Cake is not recommended, however.

A Good Leap!

The Ruthette is both playful and intelligent, and very high-spirited. Frequent activity is recommended—the Ruthette loves to jump! Be aware, however, that the Ruthette is not remarkably coordinated and some exploits may lend themselves to supervision.

This is not a comprehensive guide to the care and feeding of the Ruthette. For that, you will need to read my seminal work, Not Without My Coffee: The Inside Story of Ruthette. These pointers, however, should enable you to join the many who have found joy and companionship with the Ruthette.

--K. R.



Chapter 1 - Introduction to a Ruthette
The day you bring home your first Ruthette is very exciting! No doubt you will have spent a lot of time picking out your Ruthette and getting everything ready to make your Ruthette feel right at home. To ensure a happy, contented Ruthette make sure you provide her with a variety of book choices at all times. Other things all Ruthettes enjoy are vinyl records, BBC miniseries, and phonebooks. Seeing these things available to her from the start will put your Ruthette at ease right away.
When you bring your Ruthette into the house for the first time, make sure you give her a tour of all the rooms in the house. If there are certain rooms where she is not allowed to enter this is the best time to tell her so. Make sure your Ruthette has a space for her very own. A separate room works best, but if your Ruthette has to share a room with others, make sure she has a space where she can retreat when she needs solitude. Many people find a laundry basket in a dark closet works well. Ruthettes are very protective of their sleeping areas, and will be happiest if they have their own bed. If they must share a bed, frequent laundering of the bedding is essential.
Don’t be alarmed if your Ruthette spends the first few hours at home re-arranging all of her new things. Ruthettes can be very particular concerning the arrangement of their things; after the first day, re-arranging sessions may happen sporadically throughout the next few days with episodes lasting between fifteen minutes and an hour and a half.

Chapter 2 - The Natural Ruthette
Ruthettes have seven different senses. In addition to the five standard senses, Ruthettes are equipped with special senses of Humor and Justice. We will discuss the weakest senses first, and end with the strongest.
Sight - The poorest of a Ruthette’s senses is her eyesight. Your Ruthette will very likely need glasses or contact lenses to correct her vision. Do not be surprised if your Ruthette has to squint to see things even while wearing her glasses; this is normal.
Smell - A Ruthette has quite an active sense of smell. Lingering scents of trash in the hallway, raw chicken down the kitchen drain, smelly shoes, flatulence and other distasteful smells are likely to elicit a negative response from the most patient Ruthette. On the other hand, Ruthettes enjoy a variety of peculiar smells, such as babies' heads, coffee, National Geographics, and fresh ink. Each Ruthette is unique and will have her own particular smell that she enjoys.
Taste - A Ruthette’s sense of taste is quite strong. Because of this, most Ruthettes start out in life being very picky eaters. It is not uncommon for young Ruthettes to get upset when foods touch each other (even when both are favorite foods!) This and other “picky eater” behaviors can be easily corrected in a young Ruthette, but is harder to correct as an adult. Through proper training, a Ruthettes sense of taste can be desensitized easily. Ruthettes love basic flavors: bread, cheese, potatoes, rice, and chicken. Some seasonings they also find enjoyable, but Ruthettes as a rule do not enjoy spicy foods. Because of a genetic anomaly, a Ruthette’s tongue is super-sensitive to hot flavors. So even if your Ruthette likes the taste of spicy food, it is literally painful for her to eat them.
Hearing - A Ruthette’s sense of hearing is the same as an average human. However, even though a Ruthette hears the same things as you and I, she has special receptors in her brain that interpret those sounds and filter out the sounds of dishonesty and injustice.
Humor - It will not take you long to realize that your Ruthette has a very strong sense of humor. Making others laugh with quick wit is a favorite pastime for all Ruthettes. To keep your Ruthette happy, make sure you are ready to laugh at funny stories, and try to give her a fresh audience at least once a week.
Justice - Strongest of all Ruthettes’ senses is their Sense Of Justice. All other aspects of your Ruthette’s behavior are ruled mainly by this sense. Be aware that Injustice and Bad/Rebellious Behavior will bring out a strong reaction of Righteous Indignation in your Ruthette. You should balance this tendency by supplementing her diet with large doses of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. With proper training, this strongest of her senses can make your Ruthette a valuable asset.

Chapter 3 - Feeding the Ruthette
Most Ruthettes are very capable foragers for food. The best thing you can do for your Ruthette is make sure there is plenty of rice, noodles, eggs, and cheese for her to choose from. Other than those four essential items, the Ruthette can forage from whatever you have in your kitchen for her meals.

Chapter 4 - The Productive Ruthette
To have a happy Ruthette in your house, you must train her to some purpose. If you don’t keep her busy, her natural mothering instinct will kick in. This usually results in un-wanted reminders, attempts to complete your sentences and general life plans for your household. Good ways to correct these behaviors are stern looks and a patient “Thanks you, but that’s not necessary.” Eye rolling and impatience will are not effective, and will compound the problem with defensive behavior. Better to avoid this situation by giving your Ruthette a job.

Ruthettes are especially well suited for jobs as a justice of the peace, personal reading advisor, and tour guide. However, most Ruthettes can adapt to a variety of occupations.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

February Book Post

"We read to know we are not alone." ~C.S. Lewis

Book 11 - Christy, Catherine Marshall, 4/5

I first read this novel during my high school days. The CBS network produced a mediocre miniseries based on the novel, and of course I had to read it for myself. I enjoyed it fairly well then, as I recall. This time through, though, I became completely engrossed in the story, hardly coming up for air over the past two days. Although I remembered the basics of the plot, the story felt completely different: no doubt due to the changes that have taken place in my perception of the world since my teen years.

Book 12 - Taggart, Louis L'Amour, 3/5
Strong hero on the run, gold, beautiful girl, the desert, Apaches, betrayal, etc. Exciting!

Book 13 - To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis, 5/5
The New York Times says the following about this book: "No one mixes scientific mumbo jumbo and comedy of manners with more panache than Willis..." I totally agree. I can't remember the last time that I enjoyed a book this much, and this isn't even the first time I've read it! Thank you again to my friend Tabatha for sending me this book a few years ago and insisting that I read it. Now I in turn insist that all of you do the same. You will not be sorry.

Book 14 - Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed, Patricia Cornwell, 3/5
I actually finished reading this book over nearly a week ago, but I put off the review to give the mental dust a time to settle. Although meticulously researched and compelling, going so far as to put the phrase "Case Closed" in the title seems a bit pretentious considering the author's lack of actual physical proof to tie Walter Sickert to the murders. (Not for lack of trying on her part.) Amassing a suspiciously large pile of circumstantial evidence is not the same as closing a case. An unproven theory remains a theory.

Second, allow me to state for the record how glad I am that I did not live in Victorian times for a variety of reasons, but the two that struck me most forcefully were these: 1) it's a wonder that the police every caught anybody for any crimes, and 2) unless one was born into one of the elite classes, life was very, very, very hard.

Book 15 - Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God, The Life Story of the Author of My Utmost for His Highest, 4/5
lease know that I'm rating this book more highly out of sheer respect for the subject matter, not for the writing itself. (Although it should be mentioned that it's not as poorly written as other Christian biographies that I have read.) I thought I knew a bit about him before reading this biography, but it turns out that I knew very little. For example, I had no idea that he was also a very talented artist, musician, and poet. As a matter of fact, there was a time when he thought God's purpose for him was to impact The Arts and revolutionize the way Christians viewed these disciplines.

Oswald Chambers, like all of us, was a flawed, complex, and emotional individual. Unlike all of us, He let God pour through him freely in a powerful way that is all too rare (but should not be). His life impacted all who knew him, and continues to impact those who read his "books," which I did not realize until reading this biography were not originally books at all, but talks and sermons which his wife faithfully spent years transcribing, reformatting, and publishing.