conuly: (Default)
Or simply very OLD English songs, is that they often refer to a small number of birds with various symbolic meanings. Cuckoos herald warm weather (and also unfaithfulness), larks have to do with the morning, turtledoves are about... love? (you can't convince me that's not because the words rhyme nicely), nightingales sing nicely, and there's always magpie poems.

Yeah, none of these exist where I live. We have mockingbirds and American robins (not like English robins at all) and blue jays and cardinals and the hermit thrush, but those don't make much of an appearance. Mourning doves do, but probably because it exactly matches the scansion of "turtledove".

And you know, awkward as I might find it to try to sing a piece in Middle English, it's even weirder when you think that cuckoos don't come here in the warm months and never will. I'm not likely to see one in my lifetime, nor hear one. (Well, I mean, there are cuckoos in the sense of "birds of the cuckoo family" in America, but not the one people think of when they think of cuckoos, the one that makes the classic call. The only one that springs instantly to mind is the roadrunner, so... yeah.)

There's not much to be done about this. Trying to change the references to local birds (or plants, when that occurs and they haven't been introduced to the Americas) would be pointless and almost certainly wouldn't rhyme or scan or have the same "meaning" even if it ought to. But it just... nags at me. I mean, the whole refrain is a lie to me! "Loudly sing, cuckoo?" Not likely! Sure, the meadow is blooming and all that, and I'm sure the sheep and cows are acting like sheep and cows, introduced species that they are, that the deer are the same the world over - but there's that cuckoo again! Poor thing must be lost.


Do you ever think you overthink things?
conuly: (Default)
It's a good enough book, and I have every expectation that the author will continue to improve in any sequels (and there are bound to be some).

One thing kinda bugged me, and it relates to the premise and long-ago backstory. It's ignorable because there are other explanations, but I still felt, well, bothered by it.

This isn't so spoilery )

Anyway, other than that it's a pretty good middle-grade book.
conuly: (cucumber)
They can't ask me the definition of any word and just get it, I have to take them through the etymology of it as well. (Plus I make them guess from context FIRST, and usually do charades as well. I'm easily entertained.)

My ultimate goal is to convince them to stop asking me, but I'll accept "educate them" as a (distant!) second answer. So when Evangeline asked me why I called "that thing" a "structure" I took her through CONstruction and DEstruction and INstruction as well. (One of the few concrete benefits of taking Latin, however poorly I may have done at that, is that I can rattle this stuff off without blinking.)

I also am prone to doing things like this if they ask me to spell stuff for them and telling them "sheesh, sound it out already" (my default answer - we're not supposed to tell them how to spell things according to the schools) isn't likely to work, I run through WHY it has the weird spelling it has (if, indeed, it has a weird spelling).

I'd rather have a sensible orthography, but that's not likely.

And what really bugs me beyond belief is the argument that if we had a sensible, reasonable, rational orthography we'd somehow lose all knowledge of etymology! It's a silly argument to begin with, but it's made even sillier when nobody (well, almost nobody) teaches this to kids to begin with! (Few people really grasp it even as adults, apparently, which is just sad, but that's beside the point.)

I browsed a list of tips for teaching unintuitive spellings the other day, and one of them was about using mnemonics. Well, I can go with that - but the example given was of a teacher who told her students that "grammar comes from Mars".

And that just bugged me. Why not tell them that it's related to the word grammatical (which it is, and also glamor and grimoire, the root concept for all of these being "learning", but neither of those words really is helpful in this instance, and I have the feeling it's a different sort of related anyway), which is equally mnemonic and also teaches them something useful? (That this has to be taught strikes me as strange, but if it were obvious people wouldn't get it wrong so often, would they?)

Interestingly, the case of grammar indicates another issue with spelling reform that opponents never ever mention, the question of whether we'd do everything totally phonemically (for whatever dialect we'd just have to pick or invent to do it all in) or whether we'd do it morpheme by morpheme. The first has the advantage of being really easy to spell and read, the second has the advantage of keeping similar spellings for words that vary only according to suffix (so grammar/grammatical would start off the same way, just like they do now, even though they sound like they have a different vowel.)

Opponents of spelling reform, though, hardly ever seem to have any good arguments. I've noticed that. I don't know why that should be, but I've noticed it. It's not fair that I should have to argue their side as well! (It's probably because it's never gonna happen, so they don't have to bother. But it's still laziness.)

: )

Jun. 17th, 2011 11:37 pm
conuly: (gravity still_burning)
There's this one restaurant on Staten Island that runs commercials saying, at the end, "There's Nothing Like It On Staten Island!"

This, of course, drives my mother absolutely wild because, of course, there *is* something like it on Staten Island, and that's the restaurant itself.

I've got a new one for her. Reading A Wizard of Mars (although I've been a lot less enthused with that series since A Wizard Alone... and really, the first three books continue to be the best) they have the line "Mars is the most earthlike planet in our solar system." Except it's not. Earth, pretty much by definition, is the most earthlike planet in our solar system. Mars is second-best.

I mean, duh.

A word to the wise. None of you, ever, engage in a conversation with my mother, or anybody else in my family. Especially over Scrabble (which you'll lose if it's against my mother) or Boggle (ditto). I love my family, but really - it's an affliction.
conuly: Dr. Horrible quote: All the birds are singing, you're gonna die : ) (birds are singing)

Now, I realize that they are required to have a certain number of half-days and administrative days (where the teachers go in but the kids don't) in the year. And I can appreciate that you might want to put them near the end of the calendar just in case you have a substantial number of snow days and whatnot to mess with the plans. I get it.

But it's absolutely absurd to have a calendar that gives us a half day on Tuesday, a whole day off on Thursday, and then another half day on Monday. And the school year ends with a half day on Tuesday the 28th. And yes, they make you come in (or send your kids in) for that last half day, at least, they do if you intend to get a report card. (Well, it's better than last year, a damn half day on a Monday. WTF?)

The one advantage of these half days is that the nieces get to have a nice, hot, homemade lunch. I mean, lunch is served on half days, but I mostly send them with just a snack and make something at home.

The disadvantage of these half days is that the nieces get to whine about their nice, hot, homemade lunch. *sigh* Well, Ana does. She's the one who eats her breakfast, and her sister's too. Evangeline is the one who eats her lunch, and has Ana's for an afternoon snack. (And on that note, I'm going to try pasta puttanesca this Tuesday. Evangeline will eat it no matter what, and Ana won't, so I don't think it matters what I make.)

I keep thinking maybe it'd be better to take one of those half days off and go do something for the day instead. I mean, they're at the *end of the year*! (Now we see the secret plan. Nothing gets done on half days anyway, so why not put them during the month when nobody expects to learn anything?) If Jenn and 'dul okay it, maybe we'll take the Monday and head to a museum or something. Might hit the Tenement museum like I wanted to, make a day of it. I mean, I never went to school on a half day when I was their age, because we were really far from our school.

What I really want to do, this summer anyway, is GO SOMEWHERE. I don't just live in a city, I live in a city that's in a whole cluster of cities, and we never go anywhere. (Heck, like most people, we hardly go anywhere within our own city either!) There's no reason we can't take a day trip out of the city and do something else, if only I knew what I wanted to do outside of the city. Ideas?
conuly: (can't)
Is there anything you can't grow in a greenhouse? Like, say, what if we wanted to produce rubber in NY, could we do that with sufficient money? Or cinnamon, or cocoa, or... tea? Obviously this is a little absurd, but could you do that?
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
It's really not such a far walk... or, I didn't think it was, but Google is telling me it's two miles. Whoops.

At any rate, this meant I cut through Hero Park (where I found the nest) and also that I walked past a cemetery. Or, more accurately, four cemeteries that all seem to abut each other - check out the map here! They're the ones right next to Silver Lake! Some gorgeous land, with great views, on a hill, and it's taken up with graves.

I remember as a kid reading various books where superstitious characters would hold their breath when going past any place that might conceivably have a grave. If you're that superstitious, I suggest you avoid the area entirely, as you'll end up in your own grave if you try holding your breath that long!

Normally, when I go past any of these cemeteries, I'm on the bus or in car service, so I don't take a good look. But I was walking, so I read the gravestones as I passed. I really ought to go in one day and look at them properly, the names are all mixed up just like the city. You have a Polish family next to an Irish family next to some guy from Pakistan in 1907... huh.

It was surprising to me, actually, how many graves there were with Muslim names and/or marked with a star-and-crescent. Well, not how many graves there were, but how old they were, with death dates starting in the late 1880s and moving into the 1900s. I knew there had been Muslims in the US for longer than most people assume, but I guess I hadn't really thought about it before. And look, there's all these old graves!
conuly: Good Omens quote: "Kids! Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous!" (armageddon)
Nothing new goes on, I just rehash the same thoughts, but it's always there in the back of my mind. It is never gonna happen, but if it's okay for people to seriously discuss the characters on their favorite series, it's gotta be okay for me to spend some time seriously thinking about reforming our writing system.

The nieces were, as I said, home sick today, and they spent some time playing on the computer, doing a PBS game called, I thought, "Ecohouse". Do not let your kids find this site. It is boring and patronizing. "You are going to bed. Should you leave every single light in the house on, or turn them all off? Which is better for the earth?" "You are waiting for your friend. Should your mom and dad leave the car running for ten minutes, or turn it off while you wait?" To make it even more insulting, it is always the second answer. So even if you're completely ignorant and also devoid of all common sense, you can still get it right if you have a basic ability to make patterns.

At any rate, it turns out the site is named "Eeko" house. Or so Ana told me, I didn't check personally. So I had to explain to her that sometimes you can - if and only if you know what you're doing! - make the stylistic choice to deliberately misspell a word for some sort of effect. What sort of effect "eeko" makes rather than "eco" I don't know, but maybe it has to do with copyright or something.

Obviously, with any reasonable orthography this would be limited, at best... at least, if you wanted to keep the same pronunciation. And that would be a loss, actually. Not one that justifies the mess that is English (I mean, why exactly is it that the w in one is nonexistent and the w in two is silent? No, don't tell me why, I do know the reason, but it's beyond silly to pretend that those spellings make sense nowadays), but a loss nonetheless. (And one that, for whatever reason, the "Never Reform!" people never mention.)

Well, it's fine for me to talk like this. We'll see the end of "spring forward, fall back" long before there's any momentum to fix writing - and even if there were, it'd take ages for them to start doing it!
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
The scaffolding comes down when the roof gets fixed, and there have been delays with that because the contractor was overbooked. They can't just switch contractors because it's a historic building and their options are limited. And it all sucks all around because they're not going to build their new playground until the roof is fixed. The money is set aside for both projects, but nothing is being done there, and half the yard is eaten up with scaffolds.

But the kids, you know, the kids make do. Mostly by climbing on the scaffolds, but what can you do?

Yesterday, Ana told me about some third grade girls. They had climbed up in the scaffolding, "tangled themselves up", and told Ana to get some boy so he could "save" them, because (Ana said) they think he's cute. Ana didn't, and that's probably just as well. There's a lot wrong with this story, but you'll notice it all starts with these girls climbing as high up on the scaffolding around the building as they could.

And they're not alone. Just about every day we hang out in the yard a few minutes after school and see the kids, boys and girls, climbing and flipping and hanging upside down on the scaffolding... at least when their parents aren't watching. Every day I see them climbing on the fence. Right now it's the boys down the block who climb up on the garages and jump off, but two decades ago it was Justina and Precious. (Princess? We had one of each on our block point and I never could figure out which girl went with which name.)

So when I read old posts like this, it really makes my blood boil.

This woman has two sons who run down the block, climb on the scaffolding, and walk on walls. She doesn't remember doing that as a child (and I'm not going to point out how fallible human memory can be) and she saw this ONE girl ONCE walking sedately down the block, and she's decided that this is because boys are boys and girls are girls.

The complete lack of logic is what steams me. How can you make any generalizations from two brothers, your memories, and a glimpse of a stranger's kid?

And even if you could (which is absurd), how can you then take those generalizations and make sweeping statements as to why the difference?

What she describes her boys as doing is exactly what my nieces do on any given day, and exactly how I acted as a child. I remember clearly walking along one of the tree fences while holding my father's hand. I remember the book I lost in a neighbor's yard while jumping off their wall. (I found it several months later, brought it home, and dried it on the radiator. It was still readable!) I remember sitting on the scaffold outside my mother's job after an orthodontist appointment.

Of course, I didn't always do this. I'm willing to bet her boys don't really always do this either. I'm also willing to bet that that girl she saw doesn't always act so nicely. Maybe that day she was tired, or on her way someplace special, or dressed nicely. Maybe her mother discourages her from climbing instead of just letting her do it.

It's bad enough people see what they want to see in times like this. (HOW many times, when the nieces were little, did somebody inanely remark to me about how "girly" Evangeline was... as Evangeline pushed a truck on the ground? HOW many times did I hear somebody comment proudly that their son was a "real boy" and "didn't play with" dolls/cooking toys/dress-up clothes... and I looked over their shoulder and watched their son doing exactly that?) What really pisses me off is that they then take their little anecdotes and decide that gosh, it's all inborn. It's not that, say, girls act "girly" because we encourage them to do that, or that boys act "boyish" because we don't stop them. Oh, no, never.

Comments are closed, but I've had this conversation before. Somebody makes a wildly sweeping statement about BOYS and GIRLS on the basis of two or three small and specific examples. I make as many - or more! - examples contradicting them... and do they go "Oh, I hadn't considered that" or "You're right, I shouldn't be generalizing from only a few children" or "I guess the situation is more complex than I realized"? No, no they do not. Instead they go "Well, THOSE kids are the EXCEPTION" and "YOUR kids are not EVERYbody's kids" and "THAT is only TWO (or three, or four, or five, or ten) examples, THAT doesn't count" or "*I* know what *I* am talking about!"

It's the hypocrisy of the whole thing that I really cannot stand. More than anything else, I loathe hypocrisy.

Of course, I guess it does prove my point. They expect to see that girls and boys are DIFFERENT, and so they DO see that, and they refuse to see any evidence that contradicts this. I don't imagine I'm much different, I see what I expect to see too... but the difference is that what *I* expect to see (kids acting like kids) doesn't involve me ignoring a lot of what I *do* see. Not in this regard, anyway.

I just wish people would pay attention sometimes. They might be surprised for a change.
conuly: Fuzzy picture of the Verrazano Bridge. Quote in Cursive Hebrew (bridge)
Which is now several situations and counting.

Evangeline was somewhat interested in it because a classmate of hers moved to Egypt a few months into the school year. Ana mostly rolled her eyes, to which I said that although I know she doesn't think it's interesting now (or maybe she does - she can be SUCH a teenager sometimes about letting us know she's interested in ANYthing!) she'll be glad when she's a grown-up to be able to say she knew about this as it was happening. She doesn't believe me when I say this is a very exciting time to be alive, but I think she'll understand when she's older. (She doesn't have a friend in Egypt, after all, unlike her sister. Evangeline is torn between hoping her friend saw all the excitement and worrying that he and his family aren't safe.)

We talked about it, and we went over to our free Doctors Without Borders map on the wall to see where all these countries are, and it occurs to me that because I read my news online Ana is missing out on something important. She's not reading the newspaper. Doesn't watch TV news much either.

My father was a history and current events geek. I mean seriously. There is a reason I know more world capitals than is quite reasonable. (I can assure you, I have never in my life needed to know that the capital of Suriname is Parimaribo. For crying out loud, spellcheck doesn't even recognize it! I have found memorizing 7! to be more useful*, you know!)

So he read the paper every day, and we talked about it a lot, and he was always well-versed on what was going on in the world. If we ever had a question about the political situation or recent events in some small country nobody else had even heard of, he would be able to answer it.

But I read my news online, and Jenn does too I guess (saving trees, of course), and we haven't been talking about this at dinner, much less incessantly. Their education is lacking, and I need to find time for it. It's probably not that useful to know more capitals than you can count, but it *is* useful to have a basic understanding of current events. It's not something you do once a week on Friday.

*My sixth (or maybe seventh) grade math teacher believed in reviewing old material on every single test. This meant that after we learned how to do factorials, we got tested on them every few weeks, one question per test. For some reason she picked 7! several times in a row. This caused me to do two things. First, I figured out that my calculator had a factorial button and it wasn't necessary to work it out step by step. I'm not sure anybody else noticed this. And second, I learned that 7! is 5040. I'll know that to the day I die, and it has come in handy exactly once, in college, where I used that fact to accidentally make a professor (in Classics) think I was some sort of math genius. I'm not. The number is simply emblazoned upon my mind, and when he mentioned that one or another thinker thought 5040 was the ideal population, the phrase "Why, that's seven factorial!" popped out before I could stop it. Sure, it's only once that this random factoid has been useful, but as I never expected it could be useful to have that memorized I think I've beaten the odds there. Even once means it's come in handy far more often than I ever would have anticipated.
conuly: A picture of the Castleton Castle. Quote: "Where are our dreams? Where are our castles?" (castle)
February 2nd is the start of spring. (Actually, I do this four times a year, but it's most noticeable in spring because I want it to hurry up by now!)

When you can actually poke your head outside in broad daylight at 4pm and you can hear the birds singing (as Evangeline delightedly pointed out to me) and see the trees budding (that was Ana) it's easy to see that spring is springing all around.

Which means that the snow is starting to melt! We had so much of that stuff I thought we'd see piles of it until June, and maybe we still will, but a lot of it turned into rivers Monday. Oh, it was so warm. I went outside without my jacket! Sure, yesterday it was in the 30s again, but we're holding on to Monday in our minds.

It's so funny about jackets and coats. When winter starts and you finally dig out your blankets and your heavy coat and your sweaters, it feels so nice and comforting and *safe* to bury yourself in them and be warm. But then when the first really warm day comes back and you throw them aside, you don't ever want to see them again. (And this is how I lose $20 every year from April until October. Whatever, it's a nice candy-cane bonus.)

In a way, it's the same with the snow. The nieces were thrilled with the first big snowfall, and absolutely fascinated by the way ice formed on top of powder (I remember being delighted with it in the last big storm of my childhood, in 96 - childhood, I say, but I was already in middle school!), but by the third storm they were begging the clouds to go away! There's one big advantage to spending the past month and a half wending through snow tunnels, though - underneath it all, the grass is green. Usually in February it's dry and brown, but this year it's bright green already. Evangeline, of course, was thrilled at a few bare patches she saw yesterday: "Grass, beautiful grass! It's so green, beautiful green grass! And the snow is pretty, but the grass is green!" She did a whole little song!
conuly: Dr. Horrible quote: All the birds are singing, you're gonna die : ) (birds)
They only ever seem to come out to play when the sun goes down. And you're thinking "Well, it's winter, it goes down early" and that's true enough (although now that we're past Groundhog's Day the sun is up until past five! Spring is springing!) but... they do this in the summer too! And I know, you're thinking "Well, it's hot in the summer" and that's *also* true, but... in the springtime? And don't blame school, because this goes on on weekends as well. They stay in all day, and then as soon as the sun goes down they're playing in the street (kickball lately) wearing dark clothes.

Dark clothes!

They're minimally supervised vampires, it's the only explanation.
conuly: A picture of the Castleton Castle. Quote: "Where are our dreams? Where are our castles?" (castle)
Or should a physical rehab center ice its ramp two days after the blizzard? Or at least adequately shovel the thing?
conuly: Quote: "I'm blogging this" (blogging)
A few weeks ago (more like a month) we were walking to the library, and, as it was a windy day, the last of the leaves were falling off the trees. Ana and Evangeline jumped to catch them and I said "Each leaf is a happy day!"

This isn't really spoilery, but just in case )
conuly: Discworld quote: "The new day is a great big fish!" (fish)
but then I found out that no, they really take a month or more to heal, and all those times I thought I was better within a week were anomalous (or, more likely, the ankle never healed which is why I keep having troubles with it).

So instead I'll post something else:

Today I happened to be thinking about The Maze in the Heart of the Castle, which is this awesome book that, sadly, is out of print. (Used copies go for an absurd price. I need a new copy. This displeases me greatly.)

Funny thing. I can't think about that book (and one particular chapter) without immediately hearing this movement from Rodeo. (And no, it's not the ground beef song.)

I know why, of course - this one time I read the book while listening to the whole thing on tape. I do adore Copland. But it's strange - I don't associate other movements with other parts of the book, and that's not the first nor definitive time I read that book either.

This is far from the only book/music combination I have. Scheherezade, for example, brings to mind A Wrinkle in Time AND (a different part) A Little Princess, and the Deep Space Nine theme song, aside from reminding me of Deep Space Nine, flashes me immediately back to reading the NY Times in my kitchen. (Boy, I haven't bought a copy of that in years, now that I can read it online!)

Now, aside from giving you all far too much insight into my childhood listening habits, I have to ask - is this normal? One of the problems of my life is that I'm never sure where normal is. (That probably is normal, sadly.)

So... is it normal to hear certain pieces of music and immediately and vividly recollect various types of reading material (and vice versa)? Or is it just me?
conuly: Quote from Veronica Mars - "Sometimes I'm even persnickety-ER" (persnickety)
The movie reminds me of an interesting question that I've thought about a few times before and since. What if you DID find a capsule with an alien baby inside? One who looks *alien*, that is. Let's face it, Superman is pretty darn unrealistic. What're the odds that the intelligent beings of another planet would look like us? I mean, even on Earth, the only critters that look like people are our own cousins. Even if aliens had our own basic shape (something which already strikes me as pretty unlikely when there are so many possibilities), it's still fantastically improbable that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference just by looking, right?

So, what do you do? You're not going to just send the kid to school, I know that for damn sure. I mean, we've all seen the movies - and not just the cheerful, "strange visitor from another planet", superhero movies. The scary movies where government agents chop up innocent aliens while singing cheerfully about it and going home to enjoy a nice dinner.

So it seems to me that the thing to do is to homeschool. But you don't really want to raise the kid locked in an attic for safety, right? Better get somewhere out in the rural wilderness where the kid can go outside now and again without being snatched up by shadowy conspiratorial agencies every time they blink.

But what would your alien child eat? Better enlist the aid of a doctor/scientist - one of the reputable, humane ones, thanks! - to help you figure out the best child for your little foundling. And socialization is (probably) important... luckily, people can chat online nowadays, so that's *something* anyway, but if you can get some trustworthy friends with trustworthy (or else incredibly UNtrustworthy, so nobody believes them) children (possibly blind children) to come over, so much the better.

I suppose it's not impossible. But then, what do you do when the kid grows up? Maybe you should rethink this plan, move to an area with a large Muslim population, and dress your adopted kid in a burqa at all times. Not very fashionable, but that's beside the point. Of course, the flaw with this plan is that people will assume you're Muslim, and that can lead to all kinds of awkward if you don't want it.


I just don't know.

I do know that I believe in being prepared. So, pre-emptively, should I ever find myself in this (unlikely) situation, who here is a. sufficiently isolated and b. willing to help out in the eventual relocation effort?
conuly: Quote: "I'm blogging this" (blogging)
Down's Syndrome is a type of trisomy - they have an extra copy of chromosome 21.

1. If somebody with some form of aneuploidy has a child, is it heritable at that point?
2. Sometimes, closely related species seem to have vastly different amounts of chromosomes. Do we know why this can happen? I mean, this isn't one of those slow development things that makes sense to me. How do extra sets of chromosomes appear (or spare sets disappear)?
conuly: Picture of a sad orange (from Sinfest). Quote: "I... I'm tasty!" (orange)
I know that you're not supposed to boil certain vegetables because they lose some of their vitamins to the water. You're supposed to steam them or cook them in some other way instead.

I often try to get rid of spare vegetables by adding them to something else. Carrots, for example - the nieces don't consistently like carrots (that is, when one does the other doesn't), but they're cheap and we always have them, so I'm always grating them up finely and adding them where they're relatively inconspicuous. This helps bulk out the meal slightly, makes it a little more nutritious, and I get to move some carrots out of the fridge! (You'd think I'd learn and stop buying carrots, but then I see a few pounds of them for a dollar in the dubious produce section, and even old carrots keep. The siren call of carrots cannot be resisted...!)

Now, I've recently started making spinach rice. It's a good way to use up spinach (you buy it, but it doesn't get used that fast!), and it's yummy. You cook the rice same way as always, but when it's almost done you toss spinach leaves and butter (or margarine) on top and let it cook a bit longer. And in the process, I discovered that if you add very finely grated carrots to the rice BEFORE you cook it, and stir it in, the rice turns a pretty orange color, but that's about all. I love it!

Except... do the vitamins go away or not? I know that some of them disappear into the water when boiled, but then the water gets absorbed by the rice, so...? Are the vitamins gone now, or are they part of the rice, or what? (My knowledge of nutrition is somewhat limited, admittedly.)


Oct. 8th, 2010 01:18 pm
conuly: image of Elisa Mazda (Gargoyles) - "Watcher of the City" (watcher of the city)
A palimpsest is, as everybody knows, a manuscript page that's been reused after scraping off old text.

It's also the outline of an old building that's been torn down on the wall of a formerly connected building.

I tend to use the word in my head to refer to the writing on a used book - like a note I cherish from an unknown young reader of my copy of "Where The Sidewalk Ends" who marked on one page "my favorit pome". (The writing in MY books tends to be phone numbers, recipes, shopping lists, and, from old books, homework assignments. Plus a number of "addresses" where I go from street, city, and state to country, planet, and solar system. But who doesn't do that?)

Is that a transparent enough extension that other people who know the word at all should get it without my having to explain it, or is it a neologism best kept to myself?
conuly: A picture of the Castleton Castle. Quote: "Where are our dreams? Where are our castles?" (castle)
Ana's homework today was ANOTHER sheet where she's supposed to rewrite the sentence and add descriptive words. It's getting a bit repetitive, but it's a chance for her to practice - her cursive! (Yes, she has progressed enough that she's doing it on homework assignments!) Our focus this year is getting her sizing and spacing right. She finally seems to have her spacing down, but her sizing is... dubious, at best. Still, she's seven. I'm not worried. We're also still talking about holding her pencil properly, I should've been firmer about that back in kindergarten. (Evangeline gets to hear all about it now.)

And she had a math sheet, and she also had a page of paragraphs to read and answer context questions like "What does gaze mean in the paragraph above?"

The last gave me a chance to teach her a very useful trick - read the question first. By reading the question first she was actually able to ANSWER most of the questions without reading the paragraph above at all. Win! And the few she did have to read, she could skim because she knew what she was looking for. This is a useful skill, because next year she's starting a long and tedious career of test-taking. (Boo!)

Also, of course, it speeds up homework. Two pages of reading and questions boiled down to about 30 seconds of circling the answers.

Now, the nieces' school, of course, has uniforms - blue and navy. And PS 16 has uniforms, white and navy, and the charter sharing with Trinity Lutheran has uniforms, gold and navy, and Trinity Lutheran of course has white and navy, and PS 75, in the annex of PS 16 has uniforms, the dark green and khaki. (That last pisses me off. Every other school in the area has navy, and half the kids at 75 must have older brothers and sisters! I can understand having a different colored shirt so you can differentiate your kids from the ones at 16, you're sharing that space, but to make it so NOTHING can be handed down? There are families in this area with two or three kids, close in age, going to a different elementary school each (as they all scramble to stay out of 16 if they can, or if they can't to get into the bilingual program or the gifted program there), and you're screwing up the whole system by having your kids wear khaki!)

This of course is wildly different from when I was a kid, when only the non-public schools had uniforms. (Well, Trinity Lutheran isn't a public school anyway.) But a "law" was passed about a decade ago (if you call a totally opt-in ruling a "law") to encourage uniforms, and now something like 85 or 90% of the elementary schools have them, although they vary with how they're enforced and how strict the uniform is to begin with. (Some schools only ask for a certain color of shirt and whatever pants you like, which is sensible in a poorer neighborhood.)

As I recall, the rationale was primarily "Uniforms keep kids from arguing over who has better clothes, keeps the focus on schoolwork, and lessens gang activity in the schools". It seemed like a silly argument even then - surely, a determined enough gang will always find SOME way to differentiate themselves, and absolutely kids will find other ways to compare and contrast even if it's only by sneakers, but that's beside the point here.

The point is that it's only the elementary schools that require uniforms. After you leave the 5th grade, they don't. I mean, I think some charters do, but that's about it.

But... if the big push was "gang activity" and "let's not have them dividing themselves up by class", shouldn't uniforms START when kids are older? Pre-k kids are a lot less likely to do harm with any form of violence, even if they know what gangs *are*. And they're also less likely to try wearing very revealing clothes either.

Which leads us (sorta) into my segue here: The middle school options on the Island suck. I went to IS 61, and it wasn't a bad school then (academically, if you were in the "smart" classes... though they had a REAL problem with bullying, ask me how I know that - or don't, actually) but right now it's hideously overcrowded. And I don't see it getting better - we're finally getting new elementary schools (finally!), but the kids whose parents started pushing for this originally, they're already in the 4th and 5th grades!

And obviously the nieces will be zoned for the same school I was.

So the real solution right now is we need more middle schools. Charter school, regular public, I actually don't care, but we need more of them. And I have *no* idea how to go about doing that. But I'm actively trying to find out. (Everybody says I have to talk to Jackie down the block, who does know how to do things like this, but I'm putting it off and putting it off.)
conuly: A picture of the Castleton Castle. Quote: "Where are our dreams? Where are our castles?" (castle)
This is pretty self-explanatory, it's a list of plants I probably shouldn't like, but really do.

First up, ornamental porcelain berry. It's a nasty, invasive plant. It's all over the Island, which means it's all over my yard, which means that when I bother to care I spend a lot of time yanking it up.

But it's so pretty, and the girls love eating the berries. (Every time they find out about another edible plant, they fall in love with it.)

Pokeberry. It's not invasive, but it sure does like to spread. I know that it's almost impossible to grub up out of the dirt. I know that the plant is toxic (the leaves are "non-poisonous" only on a technicality, and I sure am not boiling them a dozen times!) and that it's a carcinogen. And you can be sure I know it stains! But it's so pretty in the fall with its black berries on bright fuchsia stems, and the neon green leaves. It's a nice change of pace from brown and orange and red and yellow. It's purple!

Nightshade. Jenn seems to think it's amazing that I know what it looks like. I think it's amazing nobody else does, it's another plant that's all over the place. We've got this type, and the type with the black berries as well. I *do* pull this up when I see it, but I stop and admire the flowers first. They're so small and dainty.
conuly: Quote: "I'm blogging this" (blogging)

I may have been watching a few too many videos lately.

(It's frightening how many of those I actually remember by heart once the first notes are out there. And I didn't even watch that much TV growing up! Scooby Doo in the mornings, Smurfs on the weekends as some sort of weird Belgian pride thing (no, seriously, that's how it seemed to me at the time), TMNT because my mom thought it was terrific, and of course Gummi Bears if I was home in time, which I never was and deeply regretted.)
conuly: (Default)
See, my nieces want to watch more TV. This is dubiously okay with me because it's about the only way my grandmother wants to spend time with them, and I think spending time with her is more important than worrying about thirty minutes to an hour of television.

I'm... not a fan of what's on TV for their age group, really, so it's all Backyardigans all the time if I can help it. Or Franklin.

But you know, the real problem with modern TV is that it's just not... well...

Okay, let's fess up. I'm fishing for an excuse to purchase a few DVDs for, um, them. Fraggle Rock, Darkwing Duck, Avonlea... you know, what I watched as a kid.

Is this wrong?

I mean, TV was much cooler when I was young anyway, right? (Excepting Backyardigans. That show is just awesome all over.)

In other questions, when people exhort one to "talk about" TV shows with their children, they, uh, do mean "by addicting them to TVTropes", right? I'm not sure if I'm prouder that Ana, upon a chance viewing of an ad, confidently informed her Nanen that "they're just saying that to get us to buy their things" or that Evangeline, upon reading Elephant and Piggie with me, was able to go "Look, she's winking at us, she's breaking the fourth wall!"
conuly: Discworld quote: "The new day is a great big fish!" (fish)

And I got shuttled off to the hospital for one two three four five six seven EIGHT hours while both our phones died. Yay!

Luckily, I brought a book. (I always bring a book.) In fact, I brought several books. In fact, I brought the first several books I could find, which turned out to be my boxed set of The Underland Chronicles. I've wanted to re-read both Hunger Games books waiting for the third, but one of them got LENT OUT (who the hell lends out other people's books, anyway?) so this is the next best thing.

I hadn't re-read them in a while, but I managed to go through all of them while there. Well, what else was I going to do? (You know what I could've done? I could've walked home and picked up my recharger and walked back, that's what I could've done. I didn't do that.)

So as I read them, a few things occurred to me:

Read more... )
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
She did this while dressed as a man.

You know, you really have to wonder after a while exactly what percentage of sailors and soldiers and pirates and stagecoach drivers and what-all else were either openly defying gender norms or were hiding a big secret.

And just think - those links? Those are just the people we know about! Hell, for all we know every other woman to have ever existed may have done a stint in a typically male job! It's like Monstrous Regiment but with fewer monsters and more real people!
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
The answer is, of course, none at all, but she's postulating a magical ceiling that ignores light pollution, tall buildings, and looking like a tourist.

This got me briefly looking up constellations - here on Staten Island I can reliably see three, maybe four - Cassiopeia (the w), the Big Dipper (the one everybody knows), Orion (the OTHER one everybody knows), and occasionally something else which is probably a constellation but I don't know what.

And that's about it. I understand why these stars were picked out of the sky - they must be very bright if I can see them and not others. Wikipedia has a list of former constellations up. I knew that other cultures don't always divide the sky the same way, but I didn't know you could just take a constellation and say "Well, we're not going to count this anymore, sorry". It's not like Pluto at all! Constellations have no scientific meaning, do they? They're just groups of stars that seem to make pictures due to our vantage point and perverse desire to see patterns in every random happenstance we come across.

I know it's not like the stars care, certainly, or like suddenly they move just because we don't recognize one constellation or another, but the very thought of this... I don't know, it's just weird to me.
conuly: Quote: "I'm blogging this" (blogging)
I'll probably post on Freecycle, but why not post here too? I need magazines for the nieces to cut up, especially Evangeline. I'll pay shipping if you have the old magazines, and they'll end up recycled, whatever's left of them. Evangeline's supposed to work on her cutting this summer.

Oh, and incidentally, those left-handed scissors (and a box each of right-handed scissors!) were a big hit. They're very nicely made, too. I was impressed!

This year - pre-k! Next year - KINDERGARTEN!
conuly: A picture of the Castleton Castle. Quote: "Where are our dreams? Where are our castles?" (castle)
Escalate is a backformation of escalator.

This is just a segue for an interesting question that kept me up all night: What is the verb form of backformation? Is it backform or backformate?
conuly: image of a rubber ducky - "Somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you" (ducky predicate)
It DID NOT RAIN, so why her friends from school didn't show, I don't know. I know some people on SI don't like to leave the island, but seriously, you can't call?

But we had fun anyway with Michele and her kids and Kimberley and HER kids.

We saw the ducklings in the pond by the Hunger Memorial! (The President of Ireland was there, with, like, no security whatsoever, I guess because there's no terrorism in Ireland or... wait... no, actually, I don't know why there was so little security.) They were so cute!

We also saw the little kids feeding the ducks, ignoring the sign that says not to do that. (Okay, the sign pertains to the fish, but same diff.) Here's the thing: It's one thing if you feed the ducks a little bit and wait until all the food is eaten before giving some more. It's not GOOD for them, but neither will it kill them if this is an occasional treat for the birds (although in a busy park like BPC, it's best to refrain). However, if you fill the pond with food and it doesn't get eaten it's going to mold and spread disease. Poor ducklings!

I also saw the little kids who wanted to pet the ducklings, and kept reaching over to do so. Stupid! I wanted to toss them in the water.

No, that wouldn't be fair. They obviously didn't know better. I wanted to give them a stern look and tell them firmly to knock it off. And then I wanted to shove their father in the water. At least, I think it was their father. It could've been just some guy, and that would've been awkward. So nobody got thrown in the water, even though they deserved it mightily.

And I had leftover frosting so I added some more butter (it was a cream cheese frosting, but with strained sheep yogurt instead - Jenn pointed out it's much cheaper and yummier to strain yogurt than to buy goat cheese, so I think I'll do that more often now!) and cocoa and made another cake a few days ago. I love baking cakes!

Seriously, don't feed wild ducks your table scraps.
conuly: Discworld quote: "The new day is a great big fish!" (fish)
How is it that a dish *I* am not totally impressed by can be the one my nieces love?

Well, Ana thinks this one rocks and devoured it, and I didn't dislike it or anything, it just wasn't my favorite chickpea recipe ever, so I'll probably make it again one day. Maybe I'll see if I can find another recipe, though....

Edit: Apparently, some anti-virus programs don't like that site and think it's trojan-riffic. Mine didn't care, but click at your own risk.
conuly: Picture of a young River Tam. Quote: Independent thought, independent lives, independent dreams (independent)
REALLY lost. And we drove back and forth several times past a school which had a banner about praying for some girl. I looked her up when we got back to the house, she'd been missing for close to a year.

A few months ago her body was found. There was a thing on yahoo about it, and even as I clicked the link about how "missing girl in cali found" I knew it was going to be this girl. And it was.

She had been murdered, and they found the guy who did it, I believe.

The wide coverage of cases like this leads a lot of people to feel that these cases are increasing. They get scared, and no surprise.

But when you think about it, consider this: California is a big state. This girl had already been missing a long time when I was there, and longer, of course, when her body was found (just this past winter). And yet, when I clicked the link thinking "It's going to be the same girl who was missing this past summer" I was right.

There weren't so many notable cases of missing, probably abducted teenagers* that her name was buried in the mix, or that I was going to be surprised when I clicked the link. That is the fact to take away from this.

*The tragic thing, of course, is that there are plenty of missing teenagers who are probably runaways or "throwaways" whose parents or foster care just don't care. But there's no media storm about them... maybe because they're far more common than happy middle class kids who get picked up off the streets in SHOCKING cases. And not all of those kids end up happy when they're grown, with a few funny stories about their exotic past. At any rate, though, if you care enough about your kid to worry about them, this probably isn't going to be your personal problem.
conuly: Picture of a young River Tam. Quote: Independent thought, independent lives, independent dreams (independent)
This seems to me to be a mistake. I spend half my life trying to KEEP Ana from reading!

Let's run through my day. We'll take a L O N G day where I not only bring them to school (that's every day lately) but Jenn is running super late so I put them to bed. This will give you an idea of the full extent of the problem:

I go upstairs and wake up the nieces. They're dead tired, probably because they stayed up all night with a flashlight and a pile of books. I shake them, and sing to them, and finally cajole them into going to the bathroom.

I make breakfast. Why isn't Ana out of the bathroom yet? Oh. She's reading. No book until she's dressed.

I put breakfast on the table. Why isn't Ana here yet? Why isn't she DRESSED yet? She's reading! Book gets properly CONFISCATED this time. Sheesh.

We eat. No, Ana, we can't read at the table. No, we can NOT read at the table. No - look, it's rude, and anyway, you'll spill food on your book, and you need to EAT. No, I don't care if you're reading to Eva... oh, just give me that, I will read it.

Time to put our shoes on! No, Ana, give me the book, I just READ IT to you, there's no need to read it again.

We head out the door. We put books DOWN when walking down stairs, don't want to trip!

Down the block - oh, Ana left her bookbag. Well, hurry up and fetch it and meet us at the corner. She doesn't meet us. When I catch back up to her I find out... she's looking at birds. (Well, at least there's no book in her hands. I shudder to think of her crossing the street!)

She's in school alllll daaaaaay.

After school, I pick her up. She's... reading, and continues reading the whole walk home. At one point she sits down on the sidewalk to read some more. I take the book away.

When we get home, she tells me she got in trouble today. Why? She didn't listen to her teacher. "But I didn't HEAR her!" Now, I have an idea where this is going, and I bet you do too: "What were you doing?" "Reading." (Sometimes the story is that she didn't go out to recess because she didn't realize there WAS recess until lunch was over, she was too busy with her book.

We start her homework. She has to read for 20 minutes! I wonder, honestly, about the sense of this but I let her have at it. 40 minutes later she's still going "just one more page!" at me, and I have to drag her bodily away to start her worksheets or her journal. (We're trying something new where she does all her worksheets for the week on Monday, and then just has her journal to worry about the rest of the week.)

She stops to re-read her journal. Every entry. Page by page. It's not that scintillating, Ana!

We suffer through homework, and she goes to play. Unless she stops to read a book first.

She reads while she brushes her teeth, reads while she poos, and reads while I read to her sister. When I read a chapter book, she tells us what happens in that chapter. "Ana! Shut up! And stop reading ahead!" For the love of god, she can't read a different chapter book? It's not like we have a shortage!

Into our PJs... no, we have to put the book DOWN to get dressed, put it DOWN... well, okay, so we don't have to, but it's faster if we do.

Into bed. Sing. Quiet.

And then we all spend the next three hours sneaking in and snatching books right out of her hands.

I'm happy that she likes to read. I'm thrilled. But can't she like to read a little less? I feel like saying "Go out to play in the sun for half an hour, and then you can come back and read." (Admittedly, the main reason she's not going out to play right now is she's fighting with the boys down the block and doesn't want to deal with them.)

So, here's my thought. Encouraging children to read, as we all know, just convinces them that reading is HARD and BORING and GOOD FOR YOU.

Clearly, once your child has the basics down and you've identified one or two dozen books they might be interested in, the thing to do is to engineer the situation so you're constantly taking books AWAY. Make him sneak off to do it! Convince him, as my parents convinced me, that if he leaves his book FOR A SECOND you'll run off and read it yourself before giving it back. (They didn't do this to teach me anything. They were just SUPER ANNOYING and they liked the same books we did. But I did learn to read very fast.)

As for me... can anybody tell me how to get her to stop reading all the time? Most of the time would be fine by me.
conuly: A picture of the bridge at night. Quote: "Spanned with a poem" (poem)
It was also a Friday. (This means, I realize now, that my mother didn't even get a Mother's Day that year, which must have just sucked.)

That year one of my sister's routines for the dance recital was to Carribean Blue. My father used to stay in the waiting room while we practiced because, really, there was no point in heading home just to turn around and come back. I guess he liked the song, and it is a pretty song, and that year that one dance was dedicated to him.

And this was what was playing when I went out to get dinner tonight. Here I am trying to watch the girls, order the food, and listen to the song.

I actually stayed at the dance studio the day my father died, until somebody could pick me up. It was close to the bus stop. It seems strange to me, it was years ago, but I can remember the studio so well - the chairs, sitting on the carpet carefully shaking a soda to watch the bubbles (NOT to open it later, thank you!), the paneling in the dressing room, the cardinal that lived in the overgrown backyard that you couldn't get into. (I thought it was a robin. I'd never seen a robin that I knew of, and I knew from reading English books that robins are called Robin Redbreast, so I thought a redbird must be a robin. I can recall it now and realize it was a cardinal the whole time.)

I can remember details of places and things so clearly, but specific stories? Specific times at the dance studio waiting with my father, or dancing...? Those memories could be gathered together in a small heap, and tied with string. It's not fair. I'd rather remember all the individual stories but be unclear on how, exactly, things looked and sounded during them.
conuly: image of a rubber ducky - "Somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you" (ducky predicate)
Let's say you had to do some math in your head. No calculator or pen and paper, though you could also use your fingers and toes (or other body parts as appropriate. As a kid, I'd count to twelve by closing my eyes!)

There's a lot of ways to do this, and they don't all rely on what you do when writing with pen and paper.

Like, take 8 + 5. Working with Ana, I've found that I usually add 5 + 5 and then 3 more. I could also add 8 + 2 and then 3 more, but even though that's the same equation I would not do that. I don't know why. It's just easier to break apart the numbers that aren't fives.

Ana starts with 8 and starts counting upward. Evangeline... well, that's a bit big for her, but with smaller numbers she counts with her fingers, even if she's not using her fingers. So she would go "One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight" before counting straight up to 13.

But I have no idea what other people do. I'm sure there's a huge range of things. (I'm sure plenty of people have, for the sake of convenience, all their single digit combinations memorized, for example.) What do you do?
conuly: image of Elisa Mazda (Gargoyles) - "Watcher of the City" (watcher of the city)
And every time I fully fund a project I get a gift card in the mail, so basically at this point I'm donating to projects with gift cards from projects I donated to with a gift card I got from donating to a project (with a gift card). Sheesh.

I got three of those gift cards in the mail today. One of them is from an 8th grade class. And they say they're not teaching cursive anymore! I've got this note written in teeny tiny cursive such that I have to squint and guess at various squiggles from context. Which is probably the only way this student got away with calling his/her (the names were censored) teacher "possibly senile".

Actually, that's one thing I've noticed from getting various groups of thank you cards in the mail is that handwriting is clearly regional. In one batch I'll get letters where the kids all write their lowercase a's like it appears in times new roman, with that arch over. In this batch apparently the fashion is for kids to write such that no letter takes up more than half the line... and that lower case letters take up even less space. Neat or messy, cursive or print, none of them takes up as much space as was standard with the kids when and where *I* was in the 8th grade (where everybody seemed to have the same large, very ROUND handwriting.

Of course, I don't know if this is the style of a particular school or teacher they picked up, or if it's spread from one kid to another, or what.

*looks through next set*

Like this set! I should scan it in, because every time I see the word "books" in any of this next set of letters the k is written disconnected, in two parts.

I knew in general that there were different handwriting styles taught in different schools, of course, and that one might be more prevalent in one area than another, and of course I know different people have different handwriting (and I wouldn't confuse one of these for another's, of course), but I don't think I ever realized before how handwriting can have an accent... even, I think, if an effort is made to teach it to one standard.
conuly: image of a rubber ducky - "Somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you" (ducky predicate)
Just for a bit to gape and ask "Do you understand this?", the implication being that he didn't. (I *let* him have it, it wasn't, you know, snatched out of my grasp.)

I just kinda shrugged at him. I didn't see that as the point.

I'm browsing around a bit and remembering that I re-read Emma in Winter a lot as a kid. I never really understood it, but I liked it.

Oftentimes a "kid's review" over at Amazon will whine "I didn't understand it!!!!! And it sucks!!!!" except they'll spell it all wrong and forget to capitalize. They always do this about books I thought at their approximate ages to be perfectly plain and obvious, but... honestly, as a kid I never really thought understanding it was the point. You read a book, you take what you can, you read it again. After you read it several times you understand it a bit more. Sometimes you understand one chapter only to lose it the next time you read it, that happens.

Some books, of course, were transparently easy to grasp. The various series fiction might've been incredibly formulaic, but that meant that you never had to figure them out. The Giver might hit you over the head a few times, but once you stop trying to work out the math it's painfully obvious what's going on. But just understanding a book is not the same as liking it, and the two never seemed (or still seem - I read most PTerry books twice before I really get the surface of them, and that's not even getting into any sort of annotation, but I don't know why this is) to correlate.

Textbooks should be clear and simple, which is why they're so often boring, but book books? I don't know.

But maybe I'm weird like that, and most people value clear comprehension somewhere higher than I do?
conuly: image of Elisa Mazda (Gargoyles) - "Watcher of the City" (watcher of the city)
Hanes commercial )

First off, that commercial is damn creepy. Really.

But secondly and more importantly, if James went and bought a whole new wardrobe from Hanes while Pete is walking around in the same clothes he's had for the past six years or so, one of the two of them has generated clothing-related waste recently, and it's not Pete.

Now, you might want to consider this clothing line for the future, but really, it's more awesome (and green!) to buy vintage. Might even be cheaper.
conuly: image of a rubber ducky - "Somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you" (ducky predicate)
The Star of David. Is that two triangles placed atop each other, or is it a hexagon with a triangle on each side? Yes, I know, it's both, but intuitively what do you think when you see it?
conuly: Quote from Veronica Mars - "Sometimes I'm even persnickety-ER" (persnickety)
Outfit pre-k by the end of this year (which is, uh, coming up on us FAST), and then kindergarten next year and so on.

Except I've run into a snag. Lefty scissors are more expensive than righty scissors for some arcane reason, and you can't buy them in bulk. I could buy a "classroom pack" of 12 scissors (small classes some people have!) at barely more than the price of one scissor, but there's no such option for lefty scissors! (Not even cheapo scissors necessarily, either.) And while I appreciate that you're unlikely to have a class of 24 (or even 12!) left-handed students, you'll probably have more than one. Remember, Ana's class this year has five! Unless they're some kind of statistical anomaly and the other first grades have none at all, they actually do have enough lefties that, if they wanted to, they actually could make an entire class where the majority isn't right-handed. (And wouldn't that be an interesting social experiment? Well, maybe not. Depends on how far we run with it, I guess.)

So I have two questions.

1. Where is the cheapest place to get left-handed kids scissors? Safety scissors, that is. Blunt tip, short blade if possible.

2. Lefty scissors are, of course, scissors jointed "backwards" from righty scissors. Is it possible to take a pair of right-handed scissors, take them apart, and re-attach them to be left-handed? Not just theoretically "sure", but how would you do this? (Or can't it be done?)
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
On April 24th, the ETG is participating in this... event they run yearly. One of the main attractions, as far as I'm concerned, is the bookswap. If I play my cards right, I can get my living room back. The place is literally floor to ceiling with books... and when I say literally, I mean the place is literally floor to ceiling with books. There's a liiiiiitle itty bitty path to get from the front to the back of the house.

And much though I am loathe to say it, we actually don't need - or want! - many of those books. (If we really want them, we may have multiple copies anyway.)

So I'm going to sort through the books, group the ones we're keeping, and hopefully ditch most of the rest of them. I could just leave them on our neighbor's wall (this "thing" she does where people leave their junk on her wall and other people take them away, kinda like a poor man's freecycle), but I like having a deadline. And when I go there, I'll try, with a herculean force of will, to NOT get any new books! *crosses fingers*

So, yeah, this is my plan. It's a good plan. There must be somebody out there who truly, desperately needs more dictionaries than they can shake a stick at. Old dictionaries, too. (I have to admit, it's scary to realize that for all our glut of dictionaries I still actually need a new one.)

Now, on the subject of books, my sister has a plan to turn the ceiling in the girl's room (which is a dormer, so the ceiling touches the floor) into a big bookcase. This is an awesome plan. Now we have room for all our chapter books! And let's face it, a mostly tend to buy kidlit and YA anyway, so I don't mind letting them store those books for me! (Turning THEIR room into the library is a heck of a lot better than turning MY room into the library, which is what people often think we should do.) So once again, I ask you - any chapter books we urgently need to buy? Fond memories? New ones I might've missed? I am not getting the entire BSC, Goosebumps, or Sweet Valley canon, but just about anything else is fair game!

And since we're still still on the subject of books, I've made two momentous decisions recently.

The first is to go through the picture books, suck it up, and label them with their Guided Reading Levels if I can find 'em online. (How are those even determined, anyway?) That's the system the niece's school uses, and it'll be convenient to say, when they go to read for school (as opposed to reading for fun, of course) that they should stick more or less on the level they're theoretically on. So I'll take a day or two to do this.

The second is to start adding chapter books (!) to my librarything and goodreads libraries. The horror! (I may double up and label THESE with their reading level too!) I had originally decided not to do so because I have such a fucking lot of them. (And we're still just in kid's books!) This will clearly have to wait until after we clear out the unwanteds. I mean, duh. Can you guys give me some moral support for this?
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
They've picked the colors, everything is getting repainted, it's going to rock.

Now, Evangeline wants mermaids and ballerinas on the walls (pre-k and the rigid gender-typing culture of so many four-year-olds has hit her hard, it's all "boy games" this and "girls like" that). Ana, of course, wants a moose.

So I had a brilliant idea.

A ballerina mer-moose!

Tell me that's not just awesome. It could even sparkle! (No, seriously, I'm thinking glittery pink antlers and shiny purple eyes.)

My sister thinks I'm crazy. I know I'm not. I'm just a visionary. A VISIONARY, DO YOU HEAR ME???

Yeppers, this is a great idea. Just think about it.
conuly: image of a rubber ducky - "Somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you" (ducky predicate)
We have a lone crocus in our yard. We did eventually decide to go with a ramp, and all our yard got torn up, but we now have a crocus. Which is really weird, because I don't recall ever *having* crocuses in our yard before at all....

Our chamomile is also rebounding (as are our terrible weeds...) and two little lettuce plants coming up from the dirt. But mostly we're starting from scratch. Again. I look forward to the chance to agitate for putting in fruit trees.

Ana was the one who noticed the crocus, and I reminded her that it's the first flower of spring.

This got me thinking. A few weeks ago, out of boredom, I looked up "Katniss" to see if it was a real plant, and lo and behold it is. Katniss is a Native American name for it, though. The common English name is "Arrowhead". Meaningful! And then I remembered that Primrose indicates "first love", which didn't make sense at all, but I looked up primroses and found out that they are, in many areas, one of the first flowers of spring. (Not so much here, they're not native to the US.) So it is vaguely meaningful for a kid who was destined (sorta) to be called to kill and die at the earliest opportunity. (Except that didn't actually happen, as a matter of fact, but it could have.)

That the crocus is the first flower of spring (that and forsythia, which is popular enough) is something so ingrained in my thoughts that I can say it without thinking. But now, I remember a book that had a character say that it's spring when you can step on a daisy, and now primroses can be a first flower of spring, and in some areas the robin is the first *bird* of spring, but if I've seen one I don't know it.

So what IS the first sign of spring where you're from? Is it a plant or flower? Is it a change in the weather - getting warmer, raining more? Is it an animal, robins or... I don't know, some migratory critter? Is it seeing children bringing home lion and lamb crafts from preschool and kindergarten and the first grade (in much the same way that they bring home snowflakes in December and hand turkeys in November, yes)? Is it people dressing in brighter colors or lighter clothes? How do you know spring has sprung?
conuly: image of a rubber ducky - "Somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you" (ducky predicate)
She HATES doing her journal, but we're putting more emphasis on it because she's behind in writing (and advice = appreciated). She decided to write about the storm and the trees that fell. Well, she's supposed to put in "describing words" so I asked her what sort of trees. So she carefully wrote "Old and big trees". And then she read it over, stopped, and erased to make "big and old trees". Now, she's right to do that - in English, big always comes before old, and never the other way around. (And both of them come before color words.) But she kept the and. I asked her about it and she went "No, I HAVE to have an AND, Connie!" Silly me. (Yesterday she also told me, while doing a worksheet on counting by twos, that "There is no 30 in counting by twos, my teacher told me!" I asked if, instead, her teacher had said that when you count by twos nothing ends in a 3 - the grunt she gave me suggests that I'm probably right, but she didn't want to admit it because then she'd have to fess up to having been wrong.

In other thoughts, over in Ginmar's journal they're talking about this jerk who... well, read it yourself. Ginmar described him as paying "hundreds of dollars" for car parts. This was corrected in a comment - he spent something like 130,000 in parts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Which is, technically, still hundreds of dollars.

It's also still dozens of dollars, but you can't say that. Why is it some things - cookies, eggs, children - can be counted by dozens, but dollars can't? Dollars can be counted - we can have hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, millions of dollars, but not by dozens or tens. (You can't count eggs by tens either unless you're weird, but you can count them by the hundreds, I guess.) Why is that?
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
For the past several years, people have been saying that the "new recommendation is to start solids at six months". I have no idea when the "new" recommendation will cease being disclaimered like that, but since the advice is currently "six months", waiting until six months is not delaying solids. Waiting until six years is delaying solids. Six months? Not so much.

It's kinda like saying "I decided to delay letting my kid drive a car until he was 16" except that medical recommendations aren't legally enforced.

This has less to do with health or childcare than with... oh, I don't know, speaking right. Don't speak wrong. It's just... icky.
conuly: Quote from Veronica Mars - "Sometimes I'm even persnickety-ER" (persnickety)

That's what people are doing when they say things like "Marriage is DEFINED as between a man and a woman so THEREFORE we can't change the law to allow same-sex marriage".

People do something similar when they pass off old lines like "The Chinese word for "crisis" is made of "opportunity" and "danger" so we can do something in a crisis!" like new wisdom.

I have two thoughts about this. First, if people are just doing it to make a rhetorical point ("there's an opportunity in every crisis!") rather than because they actually think their reasoning is valid, I don't see how it makes a difference. Sure, it'd be a lot simpler to just say what they're thinking outright without resorting to dubious etymology to do so, but whatever.

Second, about that crisis/danger/opportunity one: Why don't these people do it regarding the English word "emergency" and "emergence"? What's so appealing about Chinese, a language most of them don't even speak and wouldn't know if they were wrong?

Well, I think I answered my question there, sorry about that!
conuly: Quote from Veronica Mars - "Sometimes I'm even persnickety-ER" (persnickety)
Monday I'll take all the old ones (except the reds, which I'll get to in a sec) to the library, where they always need new crayons.

I got the 96 box for the nieces, and then, after thinking it over, I got 2 8 boxes and 2 16 boxes as well. Why?

Because there's only one red, no matter what the size of the box.

It's true. If you get the 96 box or the 64 box you'll get lots of oranges. You'll get a few yellows (which is a nice change from my childhood where there were only three, and lemon yellow sucked). You'll get a ton of blues, and greens, and purples. You'll get more browns than anybody can reasonably be said to need. You'll get red-orange, and red-violet, and violet-red. But when it comes time to color a red apple, or a red mouth, or a red strawberry, you'll have to scrounge around and look to find that one broken, nubbed down red crayon.

There's only one red.

And it's always been like this. I lose track of the new crayons they keep adding. Scarlet is a nice addition, and it can do for red in a pinch if you need to, say, color all the math problems that equal "ten" red on the picture for homework. I guess. But it doesn't work for red lollipops, or red rainboots very well, I'll tell you. When I was a kid we had Indian red (which is from India, apparently), but that was sorta brownish. And we had brick red, but that was pinkish. But only one usable, serviceable red.

So now they have 144 new crayons, and 5 of them are red-red, which hopefully will be good enough for anybody.
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
I was the only one who made it - the other grown-ups I saw were taking their kids out of school because of the snow. When Ana gets home, I'll have her change fast and send her out to play, or maybe we'll even go to Silver Lake. It's great packing snow.

They're going over in Ana's class "fact families", which is basically a run-down of the commutative property of addition plus the related subtraction equations. (So if they get the problem 3 + 8 = ? they're supposed to work out 3 + 8 = 11, and then write down three more problems: 8 + 3 = 11, 11 - 8 = 3, 11 - 3 = 8. Easy peasy for some of them.)

So they do group work together, and then they go into their separate leveled groups to do practice work on their own. (Ana is in the "Red" group, but I don't know what group that is. I can guess based upon the fact that these were the kids saying that their work was "easy". I have to talk to Ana about that, and maybe the teacher as well. If they're saying the work is easy, what is the effect on the kids for whom it's not easy? It's not much better than saying, if somebody gets it wrong, "Oh, that's so stupid". Ana wasn't one of the ones commenting on how easy it all was (she was the one saying you're not supposed to talk while working...), but just in case I want to make sure she knows that's Not Acceptable.)

I was also a little concerned, the kids were fidgeting a bit. That's normal - they're six and seven, after all! - but the teacher didn't seem to have much of a way to deal with it other than to tell them to stop and to make threats she obviously didn't want to carry out (you never want to have to carry out a threat, really, because once you do, what do you do NEXT?) about taking away a gumball from the chart that, when it's full of gumballs, will get the class a small treat. At the end of the group work a lot of kids were suddenly getting up with an urgent need for the bathroom (in the classroom) or a tissue, presumably because that doesn't constitute fidgeting. But if they're moving in their seats, it's not because they want to annoy the teacher or disrupt the class, it's because they need to move, right? If you don't want them to fidget, surely it's better to deal with the problem at the source (whatever it is that's making them move around, probably just the effect of sitting still too long) than to try to fix it at the end? Heck, there's probably a way to do that without even pausing the math lesson. But I didn't think that this was the right time or place to bring this up, honestly. There might not be a right time or place for this one.
conuly: image of a rubber ducky - "Somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you" (ducky predicate)
It's a Korman book. Good book. The whole plot revolves around our protagonists trying to simultaneously do their impossible weekend homework (ten questions on random subjects with no clue how to find out the answers, the goal is to learn how to think creatively and find information) and work on their radio show. Naturally, their brains come up with "have a quiz show!" because, after all, nobody is going to call in an answer unless they KNOW the answer, right? So now they just have to keep their teacher from finding out.

And it hit me, midway through this book, that nowadays it makes no sense whatsoever. I mean, plots of books rarely make sense when you think about them, because if they made sense they'd be boring (who wants to read about their own life, seriously?), but more than that. Nowadays, if I gave a kid a list of ten random questions and asked them to find the answers, they wouldn't agonize about it, they'd just go to Google. End of problem.

(My mother, when watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", gets very annoyed whenever they phone-a-friend. She says it'd be so easy to have your friend go to google for you, but none of them do that. I wonder what happens if you phone your friend at the very moment your friend is in the bathroom. Do they answer from the bathroom? On national TV?)
conuly: image of Elisa Mazda (Gargoyles) - "Watcher of the City" (watcher of the city)
And from that roof I get the biggest icicles. I'm sure we have icicles on all sides of our house, which I simply can't reach, but the ones I can get to from my window sometimes get as big as my arm or larger - I swear one year I had one bigger than Ana! But of course, she was smaller then.

I used to take these icicles for myself to lick and then throw out the window or keep in the freezer until summer (something which never works as well as you think), but now I give one each to the nieces. Oh, I know you're not supposed to eat snow anymore and all that, but they don't really eat that much of it before they get bored!

So the big icicles, in the corner by my window, are all gone. (We might get more again soon, it's been snowing off and on all day.) But the little ones I couldn't reach, at the far end, are still there. And it's so strange - they had started out going straight down, like you'd expect, but now that the snow on top has melted some and they're hanging on by a thread (one just popped off just now!) they're all leaning in at an angle, towards the porch. Maybe the base of the icicle wears away unevenly? But why on the side *away* from the sun, then?
conuly: (Default)
Panem. Bread. The nation is the metaphorical bread to the circuses of the Hunger Games. Duh. (And this is why all the Latin-esque names among the ultra-elite of the city, naturally.)

Yeah. They're kinda missing half that entire equation, but it's good that they, you know, tried. Sorta.


conuly: (Default)

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