Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eighth Grade or Ninth

I used to have a MySpace account.  I started my blog there.  But after I had a few too many technical difficulties, I moved the blog here.  I have since closed the MySpace account.  I hate to lose all of my blogs from that time, so from time to time I'm going to repost them here. 

This one was originally posted on September 22, 2006. 

It was 5:45 AM when my cell phone rang.  I was barely awake but alert enough to take the call.  I was going to get to work today.

The sub caller gave me two choices.  English--8th or 9th grade.

For me, that was a toss up.  Eighth graders are evil.  But ninth graders (especially so early in the year) can be difficult as well.  I needed more information.  I asked for the teachers' names.

This gave me a bit more, but both classes were still pretty evenly matched.  I had subbed for each teacher in the past, and neither class seemed objectionable.  Both teachers had a fair amount of control over their classes.  Neither group would be a nightmare.

The 8th grade teacher tended to have more of a "reading" class (the less bright of the grade).  But the kids seem to think that the 9th grade teacher is "weird" (they may take their frustrations out on me). 

Six of one, half dozen of another.

The 9th grade English classes are class size limited--no more than 20 students in a class.  So, 9th grade it is.

Mind you, this took me less than a minute to decide.  Can't keep the sub caller waiting.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Steggie Progress

Last week I wrote about my next knitting project.  I started work slightly before that post, so I've now been working on the sweater for a little over a week.  I thought I'd comment on my progress.

The body of the sweater is easy enough.  That part is done...

steggie front

As it turns out, the challenging part is on the sleeves.  I got started on this on Saturday.  My progress thus far...

steggie sleeve

The tricky part is those spiky things.  That's why the sleeve (this is the left sleeve) is taking me longer than the body did.  But then again, I think I've gotten the hang of this (I hope!).

Why purple and orange?  My nephew likes orange.  (Although, green is his favorite color.)  And I like the combo of orange and purple.  (I like strange color combinations.)

I think I've done rather well in a little over a week.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Beyond My Control

This incident happened a few years ago, pre-blog.  I always meant to write a post about it, but with one thing or another, I've either forgotten about it, or I had something more interesting to say.  I'm not sure why I remembered it today, but I figured it was about time I recorded it.

I was covering a 10th grade English class.  They were supposed to be reading silently.  The silent was working, but for the most part they weren't reading.  There was too much writing going on for me to believe that they were doing their reading.  I had to keep after them to keep the silent, so that's primarily what I was doing.

Then, out of nowhere, this girl who was sitting in the back of the room yelled, "If you have something to say, say it to me!"

She was angry.  I attempted to insert myself into the conversation and calm things down, but the girl was way too angry for that.  The girl she was yelling at was now yelling back.

I knew where this was going.  I walked to the back of the room to the phone.  I dialed security.

I'm pretty sure I had to redial security before I got through.  I identified myself to the lady who answered, and then I told her that I was about to have a fight in the classroom.  She replied that she could tell (the whole class was into it by now, and it was very loud), and she would send someone right away.

I hung up, and I watched the proceedings.  I probably should have tried a little harder to restore calm.  In my defense, I had started there, but I had been ignored.

The instigator had had enough, so she stood up, and as she stood she threw her folder down on her desk.  She started towards the other girl.  The other girl was seated three seats in front of the instigator, and she started to back up.  They headed for the center of the room.

This classroom was set up so that the teacher had a lot of room to roam in the center.  The seats were kind of in corners, and the center was empty space.  So, it was a good location to begin the fight.

At that moment, the classroom door opened, and one of the security ladies stood there.  The instigator, already moving forward at this point, continued walking straight out the door.  It looked as if she had intended to go outside the entire time as she didn't even hesitate a step.  Security looked at the other girl and indicated that she should come on outside too.

That's when the second security lady showed up.  (Later, the teacher next door said that she heard the commotion and had called for backup as well.)

I attempted to restore calm.  One boy complained, "Why did you have to call security?  I wanted to see the fight."

A couple days after this, I ran into the teacher who I had been subbing for.  I had, of course, written about the whole incident in my report to her.

The teacher told me that she had been expecting a fight, but she had not expected that the instigating girl would be in it.  She was surprised because the instigating girl had been absent more than present all year.

The next time I ran into the instigating girl, she was at the continuation high school.  And the complaining boy? He also ended up there.

This happened long enough ago that those two are no longer in school.  I know the complaining boy graduated, but as for the girl, I never heard.

The fight had something to do with the second girl.  I was told that she had been spreading rumors about the instigating girl.  Her "friend" told her of this while they were supposed to be reading.

I didn't get the class back to reading.  Luckily, there was another assignment to distract them, and the class, while never getting back to calm, wasn't too bad once they were working.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Overwhelmed by the Internet

There is so much out there on the Internet.

I've been debating whether or not to get a Twitter account.  I see the value in it at the moment, but am I just jumping on the bandwagon?  And a bit late at that.

Last month I discovered Squidoo.  I bet you've heard of it, but I hadn't.  I'm sure there's a lot of interesting stuff out there that I haven't found yet.  So, I've been exploring Squidoo of late.

I made a couple "lenses" of my own.  A while ago, I wrote a blog post on affirmation passwords.  I thought it an interesting idea, so I turned it into a lens.  (I also made a lens for my shop.)  I've now got a bunch of ideas for other lenses, but I wonder if it'll just turn into another time suck.

That's what the Internet is, isn't it?  I can waste so much time on random things.

I guess the point of this post is a question.  What else is out there?  What am I missing?  Are there any interesting sites that I haven't stumbled across yet?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Creative Excuses

I used to have a MySpace account.  I started my blog there.  But after I had a few too many technical difficulties, I moved the blog here.  I have since closed the MySpace account.  I hate to lose all of my blogs from that time, so from time to time I'm going to repost them here. This one was originally posted on August 25, 2006. 

It's good to get out of the house.  It's good to work.  Ah, but the teenagers!

The other schools don't start until September 7th, but the continuation high school has been going since late July.  And now the teachers are starting to be out. 

It always troubles me when they're happy to see me.  Either the teacher is one they hate, which means that they're going to take it out on me, or they "like" me, which means I let them get away with something that I shouldn't have.  And the perfectionist in me hates making those sorts of mistakes.

One student explained his glee.  "He chains our ankles to the desks.  If we're right handed he chains our left wrists as well."  This explanation was accompanied by a demonstration, which was hampered by the fact that there was no shackle to help out.  It was completely ludicrous, so I laughed. 

It's better if I don't question them on it.  It's when I start to question them that I get the really creative explanations.

One kid was not working.  I had a group of seniors (government and economics).  Seniors theoretically are close to graduating.  So, I looked at his empty desk and respectfully suggested that he might want to get some work done.  If he got some work done he might get closer to that elusive graduation.

"But I don't want to graduate.  I like school.  I will miss it if I graduate."

(Continuation high school.  They got sent there because they weren't completing credits at the traditional high schools.  They're either working hard to get out or they're complaining about being stuck.)  The explanation was completely ridiculous.

"You can keep the school thing going by going to college."

It was my own fault for coming up with a reasonable argument.  He then explained that college was in the plan.  First to a community college, then to university...  I'd have believed him more if he had been at least attempting to do the work assigned.  But that's the thing.  He would rather come up with some long and involved excuse rather than getting out a piece of paper and doing the work.

But I guess that's the teenage way.

I had one kid going all Eddie Haskell on me.  When he finally tired of making a pretense of working he asked for favors.  Could I turn on the TV?  Could I let them watch a movie?  Could I let him get on the computer?  So then he finally asked if he could read a book quietly from his seat.  A reasonable request.  (A request I know he didn't really mean.)  He got his yes, and his response: "I always get my way".  Okay, spin it whatever way you want.

Sometimes all the excuses just exhaust me.  If they just put as much effort into getting their work done that they put into trying to get out of the work...  Well, maybe one day they'll figure that out for themselves.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Dinosaur Sweater

My nephew's birthday is in December.  December 26th.

A couple years ago, I made him a dinosaur sweater.  He's mad about dinosaurs.  I looked everywhere for a good pattern, but all I found was a reference to a pattern that had been published sometime in the '80s.  That pattern is out of print and impossible to find.  So, I designed something myself.

I was not pleased with the results: the front and the back.

Shortly after giving my nephew the sweater, Knitty published a dinosaur sweater pattern.  It was way cuter than the one I had just finished.  But, I had just made the other sweater, and I was not in the mood to make another.  At least, not yet.

It's been a couple years, and I felt ready to tackle another sweater for the nephew's 5th birthday.  I have the time.  (And I just saw another dinosaur sweater pattern.  Why are the dinosaur sweaters popular now?)

First thing, I needed my nephew's measurements.  He wanted to know why.  I started off by trying to be coy.  My niece gets it when I measure her and act coy.  But my nephew hasn't caught on to the surprise factor yet.

My niece tried to explain the concept.  "She's going to knit you something."  Well, he wanted to know what.  And for when.  And what was it going to be.

On the one hand, I'm all about the surprise.  But it occurred to me that if he hated it, he would have no compunction about telling me so.  (When I go over to his house, he'll greet me with, "What are you doing here?")  I figured it would be better to see if he liked it, rather than spending the time making something he'd hate.

I pulled up the website and showed him the picture.  He liked it.  Okay, then.

But then he was all about when he was going to get the sweater.  December is a long time from now, especially for a child.  And he hasn't learned that knitting a sweater takes time (especially when I haven't even gotten the yarn, yet).

Maybe he'll forget about the sweater before December.  Maybe he'll pester me about it from now until then.  I think I made a mistake.  I shouldn't have told him about it.  Or should I have?

Friday, August 20, 2010

To the Tape

Wednesday night.  Babysitting duty.

I have one of those Flip cameras.  I thought I'd pull it out.  I don't record the kids enough, and the camera is easy enough that the kids can record themselves as well.

My niece and nephew were painting.  My nephew started in on some random long explanation of the show that was on TV (Avatar: The Last Airbender).  He's obsessed with the show.  Did I mention that he's 4?  The explanation was hard to follow.

I thought that this would be a wonderful thing to record for posterity.  It would be so much fun to pull out when he's 16.  See.  See what you were obsessed with at 4.  So, I started recording.  Suddenly, he had nothing to say.

I tried asking questions.  What is going on with the show?

His sister answered.  (She's 9.)  Then somehow this became a back and forth thing.  "Don't ask me, ask him."

"Don't ask me, ask her."

It was kind of brilliant.  Back and forth.  Great sibling fight.  On video.

The back and forth ended, so I went to stop the recording.  Only, I was starting the recording.  The whole thing?  Not taped.

Insert reaction shot here.

I had pressed the red button.  Apparently, I had not pressed the red button hard enough.  Or something.

The kids were game to try again, but you can't stage those things.  Sigh.

I did get some other great random images.  The 4-year-old trying to film.  He seemed to think that moving the camera around really fast would get great results.  He hasn't figured out how to point the thing at the action either.

Although, he did manage to press the red button hard enough.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lanyard Envy

I have a district ID.  It's awful.  The picture is worse than the one on my driver's license.  But campus security and all that...

The teachers all have these nifty little lanyards.  They have the school name in the school colors.  I wanted one, sort of.  I would need one for each school.  Wearing the lanyard of the other school would be bad.  There are rivalries to consider.

That's when I decided to make one of my own.  I couldn't find one that I liked (well, that's not true as I didn't look all that hard).  And it was an interesting challenge.

The first one I made turned out to be way too long.  The second one was better.  And then I realized that I could use fluffy novelty yarn.  An idea was born.

(I sell them.  I would put up pictures of the ones I use, but silly me, I never took any.  My shop pics are better anyway.)

I made a bunch in different colors so I could match my different outfits.  And they're fun.  Fun is always a bonus.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Flipping Backpacks

I used to have a MySpace account.  I started my blog there.  But after I had a few too many technical difficulties, I moved the blog here.  I have since closed the MySpace account.  I hate to lose all of my blogs from that time, so from time to time I'm going to repost them here. 

I'm kind of going through the old posts randomly.  This one was originally posted on March 4, 2007. 

He slowly, carefully pulled the blue backpack towards himself. Quietly, he started to pull the notebooks and papers out...

"You're not really going to do that with me sitting right here, are you?" I asked.

"Wha?" he asked, feigning innocence like the guilty do.

And as he said that, he quietly pushed the backpack back towards its owner's seat with his foot.

This is a prank that I only got introduced to when I started subbing. I never saw it when I was a student. The prankster "borrows" a classmate's backpack, removes all the backpack's contents, turns the backpack inside out, replaces the contents, zips it back up, and puts it back from where he got it. It's harmless, silly, and it annoys the pranked. As the teacher I'm supposed to stop it (if I catch them).

I actually haven't seen this gag in a while. I thought that perhaps it had gone out of style. Maybe I just haven't been in the classes where it's most likely to occur in a while. Because it's not gone. This all happened on Friday.

In an earlier period this happened to another student. He was so upset, slamming his stuff as he reflipped the backpack. And of course the purported culprit (several students in the class identified him) denied any involvement. So, I turned my "flipping" radar back on. But apparently it needs some serious repair. Later in the same period described earlier, that same blue backpack did get flipped. The owner was putting it right not ten minutes after the above encounter.

Sigh. I tried. I really did.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Between Projects

I am an unusual knitter, at least if I go by what I read online.  I generally have one project going at a time.  (I hear that most knitters have many projects going.  I don't even have any UFOs.)  So, when I finish a project, I'm at a loss.  My fingers start to itch.  I need to have something to work on.

I only recently learned how to have more than one project going at a time.  I had been knitting two scarves.  I finished the first one last week.

chunky braided scarf

I finished the second one yesterday.

scallop scarf 2

Now I have to figure out what to knit next.

Today, I got an email telling me that the preview for the next issue of Vogue Knitting is up.  Of course, I had to check it out.  Interesting, but nothing I'm terribly interested in making.  (Heather, check out the second sweater under "Head of the Class".  It made me think of you.)

I guess until I find something I really want to knit, I'll have to work on bottle cozies or those hair things that I make a version of.  They won't take long, but they'll keep my hands moving.  I have to keep my hands moving.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Short Story

I've found a few interesting websites lately.  They're not new, but they are new to me.  I wonder why no one pointed them out to me before.  I guess I wasn't ready to find them.

One of the sites I found is called Scribd.  It's a place where people post various documents that can then be accessed by the public for free.  At least, some of the content is free.  Some of the content is for sale.

Because I am the way I am, I spent a few days looking the site over.  I explored what was on there.  And I waged an internal debate.  Today, I finally jumped in and did it.

I uploaded one of my short stories.  It's called "Roland's Quest".

Feel free to click on the link and check it out.  Comments welcomed and appreciated.

I've gone back to check it, and I find that there are errors on the page.  I re-uploaded the file, but the errors persist.  I'll have to do some troubleshooting to figure out what the problem is.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Goths at Disneyland

I used to have a MySpace account. I started my blog there. But after I had a few too many technical difficulties, I moved the blog here. I have since closed the MySpace account. I hate to lose all of my blogs from that time, so from time to time I'm going to repost them here.

I wrote this a few days after the repost from yesterday. I couldn't resist--originally posted on August 21, 2006.

Disneyland. Sunday.

It was forecasted to be 84 degrees. I wore cropped pants and a light, sleeveless top. I made sure to remember my sunscreen and plenty of water. It was not a day to go in costume.

We noticed a couple at first. Wondered. Why would anyone wear a full-length black coat on a day like this? A latex dress?

They were everywhere, travelling in packs. Goths. The first few that we saw we thought were crazy. But eventually we figured out that it had to be a theme. It was Goth Day.

Now, this sort of thing would make more sense in October. November. Maybe January or February when it's cooler out. Summer sun and black are not the best in combo. But at least we got some entertainment out of it.

It was late afternoon before I realized I had a camera. I mean, I knew I had it--I had been taking pictures of my party all day. But late afternoon was when I started my Goth Scavenger Hunt.

I didn't want to be too blatantly obvious about it. They were there to have fun, not to be stared at like freaks. So, I tried to surreptitiously capture them on (digital) film. Unfortunately, I was not terribly successful.

I got a few as they walked by. My camera has that delay that the digital cameras have. I would press the shutter and long seconds would pass, during which time the subjects would walk out of frame (or worse--some kid would dart through). If they were still, then they were paying attention, and I couldn't get away with it.

I had my camera out many times, waiting. Not a one would be around. Then I'd put the camera away, and boom, the place was packed with three or four groups going by. At one point I got a group that was almost still, and I pretended to be taking a picture of the scenery. But one noticed me, and she courteously moved her group out of the way so I could shoot said scenery.

I guess that's what I get for my little "game". I probably should have just asked them to pose. I guess I just wanted "proof". But it was fun, and that's what amusement parks are for, right?

I've seen cameras now that don't have that delay. And this summer has been so mild here. 84 degrees? We've barely seen the 80s.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Knitting Left-Handed

First of all, happy sequential numbers day.  I just noticed it, and I had to comment.

As for the rest of it, I'm reposting again, mostly because I have nothing original to say today.  As I've been doing this summer, this is a repost from MySpace, before I deleted the account.  This was originally posted on August 16, 2006.  

I had to knit another I-cord. 

An I-cord is a very useful item.  Basically, it's a rope, made of knitting, and it can be used as an edging, a tie, a drawstring, a strap, or anything else you can use a rope for.  It's a very simple item to knit.  (Cast on 3-5 stitches using a double pointed needle, slide the knitting to the opposite side, knit, and repeat only knitting on the right side until the rope is as long as you want it.)

I hate I-cords.

They're useful, sure.  But they are incredibly tedious to make.  It's the same thing, over and over, and while that describes knitting as well, the I-cord ends up being more like typing the same word over and over (as opposed to typing out an email to a friend).  The first hundred times it's not so bad, but by about one million, you want a new word.

But so many patterns call for I-cords, and they're so (I know, I'm repeating myself) useful.

[I spent a weekend making a knitted collar for an old shirt.]  It tied up using an I-cord.  So, once I finished the collar, I had to make an I-cord to go with it.  And while I was doing this, I had a thought.  I remembered something.

A magazine I subscribe to (Knitter's) had this letter from the editor a while back.  He is a lefty.  He talked about how he learned to knit both right and left-handed, and how useful a skill that was.  I thought it was an interesting idea, but I set it aside as something I couldn't pursue at that time.

Suddenly I had the opportunity.

I was about halfway through this I-cord when it occurred to me--why couldn't I knit the I-cord left-handed (I'm a righty)?  It would be the perfect time to learn.  I hated the things anyway, so why not turn what I usually consider a chore into a learning opportunity?

Well, I was already halfway through that I-cord, and the idea of starting on it again when I was so close to finishing it (it's not the sort of thing you can just switch hands on in the middle) gave me chills, so I just finished it up.  But I had a second shirt that I was going to add a collar to, and that collar would need an I-cord as well.

It was not as hard as I expected.  But it wasn't easy either.  First I had to figure out how to cast on, reversing everything I was used to doing.  I had to stop and watch myself do something that I had done without thinking for some time.  I stopped and watched, reversed hands, then tried to repeat.  It didn't work.  Then I realized that I was holding the yarn wrong, and that I had to pull from the outside, not the inside. 

I got a bit of the cord started, but I looked at it and the stitches looked wrong.  Oops.  I was looping the yarn around the needle in the opposite direction.  I had to rip all that out.

I had to rip out the cord at least five times before I got it going right.  I'd make a mistake, and instead of being able to rip it out just a short ways and place all the stitches back on the needle, I found that I couldn't figure out which way the stitches needed to go, and in the end it was just easier to rip the whole thing out.  It was frustrating but exhilarating.  I could do this!

So, last night I pulled out the needles again and started over.  (I had ripped out the last time and left it.  I was tired and not ready to try again.)  And the motions were not as foreign as I had expected them to be.  It started to make sense.  And while the cord did not end up looking like I'm used to making them look (much more even), it wasn't completely horrible.  I actually finished it.  I made a full I-cord, left-handed.

Hopefully it'll be easier the next time I'm ready to try the left-handed thing.

I have not tried to knit left-handed since then, so I suspect that I'll have to learn it all over again.  But since this time, I got a little machine that makes I-cords for me, so I may never have to hand knit an I-cord ever again.  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Name Magnet

"Do you carry that with you all the time?"

A few years ago, I realized that just about all the classrooms in my district had dry erase boards, and most of the dry erase boards were magnetic.  That's when I came up with the idea of a name magnet.

It's a simple thing.  I got magnetic backed paper from the office supply store.  On my computer in word processing software, I formatted a document in landscape, and I typed my name.  I made it large. I also made it pretty--I used color and fun fonts.  As an afterthought, I added a pronunciation key underneath.

A sheet of paper was way too huge for the task, but half a sheet was the perfect size.  In all, I made four name magnets that day.  I rotate them, depending upon my mood.

It seemed like a good idea.  I have to put my name on the board daily...  (Well, I don't have to.  I sometimes forget, and yet the students still call me by name.  But not every class knows me, and some students like to refer to the name on the board, so I usually put it up.)

I didn't realize that the name magnet would turn into such a conversation piece.  I get all sorts of interesting questions about it.  Many students decide that they want to make one for themselves.  Sometimes I get the random student who wants to touch it and verify that it is indeed a magnet.

And then there are the students who are amazed that I would carry such a thing with me to school every day.

I don't understand the question.  These are not large or heavy things.  My bottle of water weighs more.  I carry a bag with me to school anyway, and the magnets don't take up that much room.

My answer to the question is yes, I do carry it with me every day.  Then I shrug.  And I walk away.

I quickly move on to more important matters, like the assignment for the day.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Can Hear You

I used to have a MySpace account.  I started my blog there.  But after I had a few too many technical difficulties, I moved the blog here.  I have since closed the MySpace account.  I hate to lose all of my blogs from that time, so from time to time I'm going to repost them here. 

I'm kind of going through the old posts randomly.  This one was originally posted on February 2, 2007. 

The teacher I was subbing for had planned this absence, so the students knew to expect a sub.  So...  

A girl walks into the classroom.  She has a friend with her.  She sees me, turns to her friend and says: 

"I wonder if she's mean.  She looks mean.  Why is she looking at me?"  

Because I can hear you, silly girl.  

Monday, August 2, 2010


Yesterday we had a get-together for my birthday.  I got to pick the dessert.  My choice: cake waffles.

I first learned about this concoction online a few years ago.  Take cake batter.  Cook in waffle iron.  So simple. Yet, genius.

I figured this was a no-brainer for my niece and nephew.  I was wrong.  Turns out, my nephew does not like cake.

A 4-year-old who does not like cake?  Seriously?

(I also learned that he does not like mashed potatoes.  Strange child.)

My niece, on the other hand, was all over the cake waffle idea.  We'd both had them before.  She helped me make them (she's nine, so it was well within her ability range.)

The problem with the cake waffles: they look like waffles, so you think waffle, but they're cake.  And one only needs a small piece of cake.  Not 3 cake waffles.  Especially when you're 9.

My niece overindulged, and she paid for it.

So, cake waffles, not such a great idea.  Well, I enjoyed them anyway.