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Archive for August, 2012

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
Hump Day

It can stop being hot any day now. Okay, really it’s cooler than yesterday, but not in my classroom. And the smoke from the Idaho fires is settling in tonight.

The fair starts tomorrow. The kids entered some art pieces and I’m really hoping they had some success with them. They are, of course, excited about the idea of rides. I am not so excited. But I will take them and I will be patient. Sure with the man was here to hang out with. Doesn’t feel right not to go without him. Sigh. This living apart thing sucks big time.

Class seems to be going well. Except the heat is getting to us. No AC and inside the classroom has been steamy. Supposedly the temperatures are going to drop in a couple of days. I hope it does. I have a ton of stuff to do already for class. I’m already behind. I hate being behind.

I’m in the mood for ice cream and I have none. This I don’t like. (of course DQ is out the backdoor and about a fifty foot walk. Maybe sixty. I shouldn’t complain. And my folks took the kids there while I was at work today. So much envy!)

I did clean the terribly dirty fish tank tonight. I’ll have to do it again next week and probably the week after. This is what happens when I go traveling. A lot of buildup in the bottom of the tank. Poor fish.

I’m in the mood to bake some bread. Or cinnamon rolls. I should do that. Or pie. With ice cream.

Still no one buying our house. Sigh.

Sunday, August 26th, 2012
ready or not, back to work

I finished putting together my class today and uploaded it into the Moodle system. Well, it’s not really done. I’m afraid I’m something of a pantser when it comes to teaching. I like to go with the teachable moments and be flexible. So I’ve outlined the main due dates, given this week’s full assignment schedule, and then sketched out for myself what will go on next week, but I’m going to wait and see if I need to shift things up and where my focus ought to be. But I’m ready for tomorrow, except for the stupid afternoon schedule. I don’t teach afternoons. I’m sluggish then. I always teach in the mornings. But there was some sort of error with inputting the class into the system and I didn’t think to check. I’ve never had an issue before. So afternoons it is. At least for the first block. The rest of them are all a.m. blocks.

But now I have to figure out a schedule and a routine. It’s a pain, because the routine will last all of 2 weeks, and then my kids will go back to school and it will change up again, and then again when I get to a.m. classes. So really, no routine forthcoming. I am going to have to make to do lists and make sure that I get things done. Organization is going to be key. And self-discipline. Did I mention I have to finish page proofs on Blood Winter this week? Not to mention get some writing done.

Saturday, August 25th, 2012
Oh I WANTS it! I Do I Do!

Just found this. Yep, you read it right: Writers Tears Irish Whiskey. I’m going to have to figure out how to get some of this. Wonder how it tastes. Bitter? Or oh so sweet? Apparently you can’t get it in the US. Too bad.

Made a foray into buying kid school supplies today. Still not sure what my son needs. There’s an orientation on Monday night to find some of that out I hope.

Also, I ran across this today, which is a newly documented amphibian species. It’s nicknamed a “penis snake.” Guess why?

My mom’s corgi (my boys’ brother that we rescued) has pancreatitis. Anybody have experience with this with dogs? No idea what brought it on. He’s slender, athletic, and doesn’t eat anything out of the ordinary. I wonder if it has anything to do with abuse that happened before we got him? I’m very concerned. He’s had intravenous fluids the last couple of days and doesn’t want to eat. They are coming here tomorrow. Long drive and two days. I’m working on setting up a vet appointment here for Monday to get him into immediate care. They are coming to help me with the kids while I start teaching. Kids don’t start back for a couple of weeks. I hope the poor guy is okay. I’m terribly worried about him.

Friday, August 24th, 2012
A Blog About Teaching

I frequently dislike teaching freshman composition. It’s not that it’s a freshman course, or that it’s a writing course and students are frequently underprepared, though the latter is frustrating when I’m trying to teach writing in 18 days on the block. It’s difficult to get students over grammar/punctuation/spelling issues in that time. They have to dig deep to make that happen.

No, the reason I frequently dislike teaching the course is that in order to do it well, it requires a theme or a subject. In other words, they need something to write about. In the past, over semester courses, I developed an amazing and very successful method involving human rights research. Students engaged well with it, researched deeply, and wrote good papers. Can’t do it on the block. There simply is no time to do the research, assimilate and internalize it, and then write multiple papers.

So I’ve gone back to trial and error, trying to find books or ideas to help focus the writing, and I’ve had success, but nothing like what I’d like. But I may have found my mojo.

I’m going to focus this class on Critical Thinking and Identity. This is particular perfect given the political ads and speeches that work so hard to convince people who they are, who they are not, who they should be, who they should not be, and what fears to have, beliefs to have, and so on and so forth.

It starts with this, which is a plank of the Republican Part of Texas platform:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Essentially, they flat out say in their platform (and this is a quote from it) that they do not want anything to happen in school that might cause people to critically think.

Whoa. That is idea contradicts on every level what I think school should be. But it’s where our discussion will start. My goal is to have students become aware of logical fallacies and to get them, you guessed it, thinking critically about what they believe and why. If they say, “I believe it because God tells me so,” then I’m going to want them to go to their Bible or religious document and read it for themselves. I do not want them accepting what other people say as truth. If they say, Mitt Romney is lying about X, then I want them to find some proof. Or reason through it. I don’t care so much What they believe, so much as they believe for a reason beyond that’s what they’ve been told. I want them to find out for themselves and then I want them to write about it and communicate it effectively. I want them to think about their words and consider them carefully, along with what they are implying along with what they are actually saying.

I’m feeling excited about this. I’m thinking about making The Daily Show and The Colbert Report assigned watching. Or maybe we’ll watch in class.

Of course we will watch this answer to the Texas Critical Thinking plank: Colbert Report: The Word

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
Thunder and Lightning

We made the drive back from Salem yesterday. Took 13.5 hours. Probably would have been quicker but for some roadwork that caused a fair bit of delay. The last three hours were attended by a bunch of rain and a fabulous lightning storm. It flashed across the entire sky and putting the mountains in sharp relief. It was really stunning. A little disconcerting here and there as some of that struck awfully close, but all the same, it was one of those experiences I was glad to have.

I don’t like movie remakes in general. But I have to admit that I really like the Steve Martin Pink Panther. So do the kids. Doesn’t hurt that Clive Owen has a cameo.I do like me some Clive Owen.

So anybody have some home town quirky stories they want to tell? I’m in the mood for some. Like here, a student was telling me about a guy who kept all his clipped toenails and put them in a jar to sell to ebay. And of a woman who like to go gamble at the local gas station/gambling joint and who was tired of her lovebirds and was considering shooting them. She’s something like 80.

Share your odd/quirky/strange people/town or otherwise stories!

Monday, August 20th, 2012
Today and Tomorrow

Tomorrow I start back to Montana. It should take two days. Actually I can do it in one, but I want to stop overnight and go to Costco before I go home. So I probably will.

On the really cool mystery front, this is about an Australian cold case that sounds fascinating. I wish I’d see it solved. Could be interesting for a story. Is it a murder? Is it a suicide? Was he a spy? And a book is the central clue. How cool is that?

next week I start back to school. Teaching that is. I have to go home and plan my class out some more. I have a tendency to change it up and so I’m going to. It will be easy this fall to teach about logical fallacy though, what with political ads and speeches. I mean, do politicians have a list and check it twice to make sure that everything they say is a logical fallacy? Seems like it sometimes. Anyhow, it’s fertile ground for working with logic and reason. Or lack thereof. I love teaching students how to be critical of commercials. And news. And politicians. Pretty much everything, really.

Been reading the Wishcraft series by Heather Blake. I do enjoy it. It’s magical mystery and kind of a cozy.

I also have to research southern living, southern style, southern language, southern behavior . . . I’m thinking of southern here to mean Alabama/Georgia, maybe South Carolina. So if anybody has suggestions for movies, TV, documentaries, books, youtube, anything really, that would help with that, I’d love to hear. I may hit you up for more of that on a continuing basis. Seriously, anything you’ve got would be helpful. I’ve got some things, but I’m looking for more. Lots more.

Saturday, August 18th, 2012
Sweet cool down

Today the temps in Salem dropped significantly. It was a relief. It even rained. The dogs got out for a good walk and we ran errands and explored and did a bit of geocaching for International Geocaching Day.

And we did laundry. You might wonder why this gets its own paragraph. Well, I’ll tell you. I was putting stuff in the dryer when I finally read the big rule sign hanging up high above. I think line 4 read something to the effect of: no dying laundry in the washers. Of course this made me think. Does laundry often die at the laundromat? Is this where people take their laundry to die and then abandon the laundry corpses to be dragged off to Potters Field? Or would that be, Rags Field? I’m not sure. It also made me wonder how do you know if your laundry is dying? What if it accidentally dies while you’re washing it? And really, is it all that okay to let your laundry die in the dryer? Is that better somehow? Do they just object to wet dead laundry? If you nurse your laundry through that wash, then maybe killing it in the dryer is fine? I just don’t know. Anybody else find rules about living and dead laundry in their laundromats? Oh! A thought! Perhaps the concern is zombie laundry. Would they be afraid that zombie laundry would arise form the washers and run off and rip the living clothes off people, turning those clothes into zombies and leaving a horrendous population of naked humans?

Perhaps this requires more research.

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Graveyard Shift has a great post today on cop slang. Really great for writers. Bookmark it and remember.

I got word today that it is now certain that Blood Winter will be the last Horngate book. The positive thing is that it really wraps up on a good closing note. The fact is the books aren’t selling well enough. I need to find a way to get more people to know my name and buy my books.

So now to pull my britches up and get on to writing the next thing.

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

From the work in progress:

“You ought to kill this new ambassador,” Olyeron told his father absently as he moved a stone on the merti board. “Soon. Where’s he from?”

Seavik watch his son beneath lowered lids. “Is that opinion or something you’ve seen?”

Yeron lifted his shoulders in a dismissive shrug. “I wouldn’t know. Ask my scribes.” He waved a long fingered hand in the air, his long nails gleaming ebony. All but the nail on his left forefinger. That glistened silver. “I say what I think. Who know how I arrive at it?”

Seavik frowned at the game board. It was always difficult to see Yeron’s strategy. Or more accurately, it was impossible to know if there was a strategy or if his gameplay was a result of his silver born insanity.

He moved a stone, switching it with another and setting that one one an outer corner of the merti. But his mind was only half on the game. He mused over his son’s words. Kill the new ambassador? Why? What would it serve?

“Why does he need to die soon?” he asked, not expecting a real answer. Even in his saner moments, Yeron liked to tie his words into knots and webs.

Monday, August 13th, 2012
a scare and shouting

Yesterday the dog decided that he could not put an ounce of weight on his back leg–the same one that had a ligament replacement just a short while ago. Today he’s limping a bit on it. We’re carrying him in and out of the trailer and walking him only enough to let him pee. Forced rest. Talked to the orthopedic vet today about him, and he said that the rest is all they’d do and wait to see if things got worse or better. Worse and I have to get him into a vet here. Not worse, and I can wait until next week. And right now he’s shouting at us. Sitting on the floor and yelling. Pet me. Put me on your lap. Scratch my stomach. Love me. Look at me. Pet me. He’s very loud about it. Little rat.

It got hot here today. Ran a bunch of errands and filled out paperwork at the man’s job–his benefits finally kicked in!!! That’s always a good thing.

Folks left for CA. I’ve got another week here before I have to go home. Not looking forward to it. Already miss the man. Sigh.

Blackberries are ripe here. We’ve been picking them. Yum.

Which brings up something interesting. There’s a big island of blackberry brambles on a big lot we drive past most days. It’s a rectangle surrounded by roads and is zoned commercial. It’s probably big enough to hold a big gas station and convenience store. So a couple of days ago, someone came out and started tearing out the blackberries. Cleared half of it. It revealed two very large homeless campsites within the brambles. Complete with big mattresses, tons of clothes and other things. I wonder if that’s the point of the clearing–to clear out the homeless. It made me think, though, about how rough that life is and how much ingenuity a person has to have to make so much out of so little. It reminded me of the gypsies in so many novels–derided by most of the people, and frequently admired by others for their hardscrabble abilities.

I can’t imagine living like that. I can’t imagine having to live like that. I hope they find another place that’s reasonably safe.

ETA: Damned dog just jumped up on the couch. I’ve told him over and over not to jump. He is totally not listening. At least it’s a sign that his leg is feeling better.

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