Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Page a Day

It's Thursday, so I'm going to talk about writing. (I could do it on Wednesdays, but that would lead to the obvious alliteration, and I just can't do that.)

I got my first real novel idea in the 10th grade. The problem was getting the courage to sit down and actually, um, do the writing of it. That was an issue for a very long time. I would think about sitting down and writing, but I'd never get around to doing it. Then, when I'd get around to sitting in front of the computer (it had to be a computer as I get wicked writer's cramp), I might fiddle around for an hour or so, but nothing would get accomplished.

It wasn't until I made a habit of writing that I got any writing done. And I started simple. I made a commitment to write a page of something every day.

Depending upon my work schedule, I'd do it before or after work. I wrote on my birthday and on Christmas. I wrote when I wasn't feeling all that well. I wrote.

I started a novel that I never finished. I had days where I just didn’t feel like writing, so I wrote journal pages. I worked on short stories. And somewhere in there, writing daily became so ingrained that a day didn’t feel complete unless I got my writing in there somewhere.

Since then, I have moved up from a page a day. It’s not much more than that, but at least it’s a weekly goal, and it’s a weekly goal that I can meet, even when other obligations must be met. I’ve learned a lot about how I work best in that time. I’ve managed to complete (first drafts of) two novels. And I’m working on a third. (I’ll get one of them ready to be read by someone other than me one of these days.)

Starting something new is hard. Figuring out how to accomplish it in manageable steps helps. So, if I had to give a new writer any advice, it would be to write a page of something every day. It’s what worked for me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How I Dye Felted Beads

I dyed beads today. Since I had nothing else for the blog, I thought I'd document my process.

First, I soak the beads in warm water with a little vinegar added (when I do this with Kool-Aid, I don't need to use the vinegar)...

beads in prep

I know what you're thinking. How much vinegar? How long? Yeah, I don't really pay that much attention. If I had to ballpark it, I'd say I used about a cup of vinegar. Maybe less (a cup wasn't much considering that this was a 2 liter container).

I let it soak until the beads were waterlogged. (I had breakfast, started my laundry, and watched some TV before starting the dyeing process.) I'd guess it was about an hour.

Then I divvied up the beads into four containers...

beads before dyeing

Well, first I filled each glass container with about an inch's worth of warm water. Then I put in the food coloring. And then I added the beads (and took the picture).

I put the containers in the microwave for 2 minutes. Then, with oven mitts, I took them out and let them sit. Before they got too cool, I repeated the process. The idea was to keep the water near boiling temperature until the dye soaked in.

There is a lot of dead time during this procedure. I managed to check all my email, read all of the blogs I follow, do a couple loads of laundry, wash my sheets and make up my bed, and play a good hour's worth of solitaire (this version) all while occasionally checking in and reheating the water.

In a little over two hours, I had this...

beads after dyeing

It might be hard to see from this picture (if you click on it, you can get a larger view), but the water got clearer while the beads got color. (Except for the blue. I used too much dye in the blue container.)

Then I poured out the water and washed the beads...

beads after wash

...and I laid them out to dry. It should take about a day (although, considering how cool it's been here, it might take longer).

The next thing I need to learn is how to mix colors better. I was doing a lot of guessing with these. I wanted a lighter orange, a darker green, and periwinkle. I wasn't too particular about the purple, and I really like how that turned out. As for the other colors...

I suppose I should start a notebook with recipes. Who am I kidding? I doubt I'll ever be able to manage precision with this.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teenage Wishes Part 5

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 repost them here.

I did something like ten of these before. To refresh memories, here are links to part 1part 2, part 3, and part 4. This one originally appeared on March 5, 2007.

I'm back with "The Wishes You'd Like to Come True" answered by some students at the continuation high school a couple weeks ago. I've explained what I've been doing in parts 1-4, so please refer to those if you are unfamiliar with the questionnaire.

First up today: "The thing I'd change about myself, and why."

Some responses:

"My life style. I will like to change the shoes I walk in."

"My face. I would be nice to have clear skin."

"Is being a dad, because of paying child support."

"My hair, cause I want hot pink hair." (Note: written by a boy.)

And lastly for today: "The place I'd most like to go is...and why."

"Brazil, because a friend of mine wanted to go there but he passed before he got a chance to."

"A dreamlike state. Because there, life is ridiculous, I feel more loved. I feel as if I am truely me."

"Wall of China. To be the first tagger to write on the Great Wall of China."

And that's about it for today. See you next time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Finished Purse

It took me a while. First, I finished the knitting and felting.

felted purse

Then I looked at it for a long time. (How long? Well, I mentioned that I had finished the thing in a May 2nd post.) I pondered. I thought. I went out and bought supplies. Then I thought some more.

Last Wednesday, I finally got out the sewing machine. I added a zipper...

felted purse zipper close up

I put in a lining (not in that order)...

lining of purse

And now, it's finished.

felted purse with zipper

I learned a lot on this one. First, I shouldn't spend so much time thinking about it. Second, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. And third, I should think a bit more about how I'm going to close the thing as I'm knitting it.

I actually like this one. I even used it. It's about time. The last one I made (2005) needs to be replaced.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I spend some time trolling for movies. I go through the listings of various channels that play only movies, and I read descriptions. I find a lot of terrible movies that way. I also find interesting movies that I might not have otherwise happened upon.

A little bit ago (one month? two?) I happened upon TiMER. Click on the link for the rundown on what it's about and who's in it. I wanted to talk about what it made me think about.

Sometimes I have a fundamental disagreement with the idea of a movie. I did with this one. Yet, I found that I wasn't ticked off enough to turn the thing off. In fact, the movie was just my speed, and it charmed me. I found myself thinking about it for days after watching it.

What if you knew when you'd meet your "one true love"? What would that do to your life? Would that even be possible?

These were the questions that kept bugging me. I have my own thought on this. It seemed like the movie took one point of view, but by the end of the movie, I thought that perhaps it hadn't. It gave me a lot to think about, and sometimes that's a very good thing.

Any interesting movies that I should go and see?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What Am I Doing?

I don't spent a lot of time talking about my writing. I don't even write a lot about my writing. There's a simple reason for that. I have no idea what I'm doing.

There are so many writing blogs out there with great advice, interesting tidbits, and good information. I don't have that. So, I write about what I know, and I read about what I don't know.

But it's summer. The sub jobs kind of dry up when school is not in session.

I've decided that it's about time I write something about writing. But since I don't know anything useful about writing, I can only write about how I write. Hey, it's a great way to fill up my Thursdays.

Before I got the courage to sit down and attempt to write something, I read a lot about how writers write. Some of the information was useless, but some of what I read helped me figure out what kind of writer I am. I guess that's what we're all doing here--figuring out what we're doing by using the example of others.

Yeah, it's much simpler when I have crazy sub days to write about.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Picking a Color

I've been knitting beads. (Again.) Since I finally learned how to get close up shots on my camera (yes, this was an obvious thing, but it took me way too long to figure it out), I have better pictures.

Here's what they look like after I've knit them...

unfelted beads

Then I run them through the washing machine to felt them...

felted beads

And then I dye them...

dyed beads

Aren't those colors pretty?

I mention this all for a reason. I have no idea what color to try next.

I used food dyes for them. (These.) I've exhausted the box. But, there are recipes for other colors. It's time to experiment, but I don't know which color to try next.

I can actually do four batches at the same time, so it's not like I really need to narrow things down too much. I guess it's just the plethora of choices that's making choosing so hard. That, and I have another box of food dyes to play with as well.

Any ideas? I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Teenage Wishes Part 4

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 repost them here.

I did something like ten of these before. To refresh memories, here are links to part 1part 2, and part 3. This one originally appeared on March 2, 2007.

Remember the questionnaire? It's been a few days, so perhaps not.

A week or so ago I was at the continuation high school, and they filled out this worksheet called "The Wishes You'd Like to Come True". I've been posting some of their responses, editing only for clarity (but leaving all their words). And I'm not nearly done yet.

First up: "The person I'd choose as my best friend, and why."

"[name deleted], because I always kick it with him."

"The vioces in my head, cause they always talk to me."

"God. Because he's got my back."

Those were kind of weak, weren't they? Let me try again. Next: "The animal I'd like to be, and why."

"Dolphin, because they are in the water and they are free."

"Bald Eagle. Mile long vision. Razor sharp tallons."

"A cat, because I could lay around all day and be pet by hot girls."

"A bug, so I can bug the hell out of you."

Well, that's it for this installment. Still to come...what they want to make a living at and how many children they want to have. Should be interesting.

Monday, June 20, 2011

No Still Hands

I've finally started my Christmas knitting. Yes, I know it's June. But last year I started in February, so I'm actually behind.

I have to knit something. I've been kind of between projects since I finished my niece's birthday present.


And a close up...

dress 2

I get a sense of accomplishment whenever I finish a project. It lasts maybe ten minutes. Then I panic. What am I going to knit now?

I have to have something to do with my hands. I can't just sit and watch TV. I have to be doing something!

Yeah, so it's now time to start my Christmas knitting. I hope that'll keep me busy for a while.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

End of School Year Review

The school year is over. It's time to compile the stats. (I'm not the only one.)

There are usually 180 days in the school year. I'm not sure about that number this year. There were supposed to be a couple furlough days. Most of the school calendars I saw said 180 days total, but then there was one that said 178, so I don't know which number is correct. (And I'm not going to count them. I've done enough counting today.)

I worked 108 days this year. Last year, I worked 104. The difference is surprising. Since I was on all early morning wake up calls (rather than a majority of days scheduled ahead as was my usual), I expected to have worked fewer days.

More specifically, I worked 43 days in high school classes, 22 days in middle school classes, and 41 days at the continuation high school. In case you're checking my math, yes, I'm two off. Those other two days I worked in reentry. That's sort of in the continuation high school, but sort of not.

I also tallied how many days I covered each subject. Since this is boring in paragraph form, I'm just going to make a list:

  • Science: 31 days
    • Biology and life sciences: 9
    • Physics: 6
    • 7th grade: 5
    • 8th grade: 6
  • English: 14 days
  • Social science/history: 27 days
    • Government and/or economics: 11
  • Math: 21 days
    • Algebra 1: 14
    • Calculus: 2
  • Opportunity: 3 days
    • Although, I did cover 5 days of opportunity over the summer. I did not count those days in this list, because this list is school year only.   
  • Miscellany: 10 days
    • Various electives and special ed.  
(If you're still checking my math, you've noticed that I didn't include every specific subject under each bullet point. That would make the list a bit too long.) 

I worked the last day of school but not the first, although my first working day was in the second week of school. I got 26 extra period assignments (down from last year). Some of those were covering another teacher while others were for teachers who didn't have a prep period.  

Any other subs out there? How many days did you work this year?  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Graduation Daydream

A couple years ago I had this thought (full story here) and I posted in on the blog. Every year at this time, the end of the school year, I think of it. Since the end of the school year was yesterday...

It starts with a stage. On this stage, there's a group of teens in caps and gowns. They look over the audience filled with proud parents.

After the graduation ceremony, the new graduates slowly descend the steps at the side of the stage. They hug each other. Many are in tears. they meet up with parents, take pictures, and gradually leave the area.

The stage is empty, but not for long.

Off to the other side of the stage is another group of students a year younger than those who just exited. They climb the stairs and claim the stage for themselves.

The new senior class surveys its domain. Some look in corners. Others go to the edge of the stage and peer out at the audience. Many are cheering, fist pumping, and bouncing up and down. Two boys run at each other and bump chests. They have arrived.

While the new senior class celebrates, the area just off the stage that was just vacated starts to fill. This group looks around in awe and wonder. A few look up the steps, itching to join the seniors. Several look out over the line that stretches out behind them. It's a long line and it seems to disappear into the horizon.

As each group moves up to the next position, they look over their new surroundings. The new freshman class, however, is so busy celebrating and laughing at the group just below them that they don't notice how trashed their new position is. Then again, their old spot in the line wasn't much better.

The newest middle schoolers carefully take up their new position. They are all wide-eyed wonder. The more adventurous pull their peers along. They take their time looking around, acclimating to their new position in line. There's a demarcation behind them, and they thought they'd never get beyond that border. Now that they are, they're not sure what they're going to do next.

Each elementary grade moves up one. As the former kindergartners take their first grade spot (and make themselves right at home), an empty spot is left at the end of the line. But like all the other spots in line, this one doesn't remain empty for long.

Off in the distance, family groups start to arrive. The parents push their little ones into their spot in line. Some of these children run to take over their spot. Others cling. The families stand there, watching their little ones for some time, not sure what to do next.

One mother shakes her head as she watches her little one acclimate to the line. "They grow up so fast," she says.

Nearby, various people are on their way out of the area. One woman hears the kindergartner's mother, so she turns to her and says, "You have no idea."

The woman looks off into the distance where her graduate is off with friends. "You have no idea," the woman repeats.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Early Summer Exit

"Oh wow. That was a double fail."

Outside the classroom, a girl had fallen. At that moment, a teacher and two students happened to be walking by. The teacher showed concern. Dane entered my classroom and announced the above to the class once we learned why the girl fell. She tripped over a huge cockroach.

Eventually, Dane left. I have had this student in class a few times. None of these do I remember fondly. He was not on my roll sheets for today, so I thought I wouldn't have to deal with him. Unfortunately, he kept coming by to "visit".

The second time he turned up, he had cookies. He had snagged some from the office. He was giving them away, but no one wanted them even though he had them wrapped up in a paper towel. First Dane told me that he wasn't going to let me have any, but when no one else wanted his last one, he offered it to me. (I declined.)

When it appeared that he wasn't going to leave, I asked him where he was supposed to be. He told me that he was supposed to be where he was, and no room could keep him. So, I asked him on whose roll sheet he was listed. He was supposed to be in science class. I told him to go back there.

Most of the students (the ones who bothered to show up at all--it was the last day at the continuation high school) were wound up. It was that kind of day. Dane found someone else to bother, and I didn't see him again until the last period of the day.

I was in the office. Dane was talking to an administrator. The admin. said, "Most people would like to start summer vacation early." Dane replied that he didn't want to leave yet. The admin. didn't back down. Dane left the office only to return a second later.

The admin. had turned around. A couple of us in the office saw Dane return, and the admin. must have seen it in our eyes. She turned back around and then Dane left. For good. Or at least for the summer.

By the reactions of the various people in the office, I knew I was not alone in being glad that Dane had left campus.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lucky Lockdown

"Teachers, lock your doors. We are on lockdown."

There were less than 15 minutes left in 4th period. The lockdown lasted through "lunch" and 5th period. And tomorrow is the last day of school.

I was so lucky!

Lockdowns don't happen all that frequently. Sure, I got caught in one last week, but today's puts me at three total this school year. They can be long, and the students get testy. The students whine. And complain. And there's nothing I can do about it.

But, 4th period was my prep today.

Yep, I got locked down in an empty classroom with a working computer.

I could hear the students next door. They were loud. One girl complained that she had to use the restroom. I heard students call the office to find out how much longer the lockdown was going to be (the office didn't know).

I heard a helicopter circling outside, so something was up. (Later I learned that the police were looking for a car thief.)

When the bell rang and the students were finally let free, a collective cheer went up at the school. We got a long break, and then we skipped 5th period and went into 6th.

Again, I lucked out. While 5th period wasn't terrible, 6th period was a dream. Four students. Who worked quietly. (I had this group last week, so I kind of knew what to expect.)

I'm covering this teacher again tomorrow. Did I mention that tomorrow is the last day of school?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teenage Wishes Part 3

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 repost them here.

This is part 3 of the series. (I believe there ended up being 10 total.) To refresh memories, here are links to part 1 and part 2. This originally appeared on February 26, 2007.

I'm back with more of that questionnaire. Today's question: "The time in history when I'd like to have lived, and why."

Some responses:

"Midevil time, so I could fight with swords."

"80's, because that's when the Lakers were at their best. Their nickname was 'Showtime'."

"1800's, because their were hardcore cowboys back then, I would be an outlaw and wanted in the U.S."

"None, because their was too much racism and wars going on."

"Around 1800's, because of the many revolutions."

"1800's, because I wanted to be the one to make a difference."

"'80's'. These seem like the days when people were themselves."

"The future. To see what it's like."

"Is in slavery. I wonder if I could run away successful and out smart people."

"1960's. I would of liked to march with Martin Luther King Jr. to change the future."

"Ancient Egypt. I would like to speak in their language and dress like queens."

"Now. Well, why not? Life isn't great or perfect. Just embrace the present."

"Jesus time. I would of like to met Jesus."

"WWII, so I could have fought in the war and killed people."

"In the early 1990's, because I love a lot of music that was made in that time."

The '80's? Boy, do I feel old!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Open Note Test

Yesterday was the last Friday of the school year. I was not surprised at the number of teachers who were out. I fully expected to cover an extra period. Luckily, it was right next door to the class I covered all day.

My extra period assignment was a 7th grade world history class. They had a final. 30 multiple choice questions. And it was open note.

I followed the lesson plan and gave the class 15 minutes of last minute cram time. Then I gave the class my usual test warning about no talking, and I passed out the test.

They settled nicely. I had been warned that they were not to use books for the test, so I walked around to make sure no one was trying that. Instead, I found one boy using the notes of the girl seated behind him.

The boy explained that he was missing some information in his notes, so he was borrowing the girl's notes to fill in those gaps. I reiterated that he could only use his own notes on the test. He told me that they were the same notes.

Apparently not.

I kept a closer eye on those two, but the boy didn't attempt to use the girl's notes any more. And the notes were to be turned in with the test, so once the girl finished, neither of them had access to the notes.

The boy ended up being the last one done with his test, taking a good ten minutes longer than the rest of the class. Part of me felt sorry for him. But hopefully next time he'll take a little more care in making sure his notes are complete.

I shouldn't feel too bad. He did have a whole 15 minutes to update his notes before I passed out the test.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Description Needed Winners

Remember my contest? It's time to announce winners.

I liked all of the keywords and descriptions, so rather than judge, I decided to let pick a number. Congratulations, M.j.

For the second prize, I only had one entrant, so congratulations Theresa Milstein.

I wonder if I should do this again. I've been thinking. Perhaps next time I should think about giving away a eReader cozy. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Powers of Perception

Math class at the continuation high school. 2nd period.

A student asked me if he could turn on the radio. Because music mellows the group (I've seen it happen many times), I let him. I even let him select the station. When a girl complained because a song she hated came on, he changed the station.

Girl: "What station is this?"

Boy: "I don't know. Do I look like someone who likes this kind of music?"

Since I thought that a ridiculous statement, I followed up: "What would someone who likes this kind of music look like?"

The boy hemmed and hawed a bit. I pressed the question. The only description he could come up with was "normal". I asked if that meant that he was not "normal"? I then asked if you could tell what kind of music someone liked based on appearance.  

While I didn't go into full rant mode, I did get a little intense. Prejudice is based on the idea that we can pre-judge someone based solely on some random attribute. And can you really tell anything about someone just by looking at them?

I went on like that for a couple minutes. The boy admitted that I was probably right. Then to provide example, the boy indicated the boy sitting next to him. The first boy told me that he used to think that the second boy was gay solely because the second boy didn't talk much.

(This was the first time the second boy had heard this or at least that's how it appeared.)

After I asked what makes someone look gay, we dropped the subject. I think I got my point across. At least, I hope I did.

Later, the boy got ready to leave class. Others asked him what he was doing. He pointed out that the period was almost over. The others reminded him that we were on lock down.

Boy: "Since when have we been on lock down?"

Me: "Since the beginning of the period. Didn't you notice all the teachers rushing you into class?"

He hadn't.

On a separate note, Jane did graduate today. However, the lock down did hold her up for another hour.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Graduation Postponed

"No! He's not here?"

Today was one of those last minute, unplanned call outs. If it wasn't a teacher I subbed for several times, I might have been worried. But, I know where he keeps his lesson plans, so if he had not prepared ahead on Friday, I would have been able to give the class the assignment he intended.

There was one thing I couldn't do, however.

Jane is ready to graduate. (That was her quote at the top.) She spent Saturday doing enough homework to finish her science credits. At least, that's what she told me as she pulled out said work and organized it so that she could turn it in.

The continuation high school works a little differently than a traditional high school. Credits are earned when a student completes a set number of assignments. A student who sits in class and does no work earns no credits. A student who does all the work and asks for more earns credits faster.

To graduate, a student must complete 220 credits. 40 must be in English, 20 in math, 20 in science, etc. Once the student has earned all 220 credits, she graduates, whether it be June, October, or February.

(The graduation ceremony is next week.)

Until Jane's work is corrected and recorded, she doesn't get those credits. And until she gets those credits, she can't graduate. She still has to attend school until those final credits are recorded, but once she graduates, she no longer has to show up.

Understandably, Jane was upset. She had science for two periods. During that time, she finished her last two credits (in a different subject), turned them in, and got those credits recorded. Now she just has to wait for the science teacher to return. (Jane asked an administrator if she could correct the final assignments, but Jane was told she would have to wait.)

There was only one thing I could do. I wrote in my note to the teacher: "Jane finished her homework and is anxious to graduate. She's waiting on you. Her work is on top."

Hopefully, by this time tomorrow Jane will be a high school graduate.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rather Have Homework

Contest still going. You have until June 6th to enter...

Today was another 8th grade day. (The sub caller was happy that I was available to work. As it was, there were still several teachers sub-less.) The teacher left all of her classes review work. They have a final next week. This was their time to start getting ready for it.

I spent most of the day walking the room and staring significantly at those students not doing the assignment. I made the usual comments. They made the usual excuses.

5th period. One girl had put her math packet away. She had nothing on her desk. I asked if she was finished. She admitted that she wasn't. So, I reminded her that whatever didn't get done in class was going to be homework.

"But I like homework."

I stood there, trying to think up a different comeback. I heard this same sentiment several times today, and I was bored of the usual, "Yeah, sure, right," as I shake my head in disbelief. But I didn't get a chance to say anything, for the girl then continued.

"If I have homework, I won't have to go to church on Sunday, and I can sleep in."

This required a bit more explanation. I wondered how having homework allowed her to sleep in. If she had to stay home to do the homework, then shouldn't she be awake so that she could do it?

The girl explained that if she had homework, she could tell her mother not to wake her on Sunday, so then she could sleep in.

Did you get that? I'm still fuzzy on those details.

I reasoned that she could always lie about having homework. The math packet had pages of work, and she could claim that the next page was due. But the point of all this was for her not to have to work in class, so of course this was not an option.

If I got a dollar every time a student says, "But I want homework"...

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Yesterday, as I sat in the jury box and it became clear that neither attorney was going to dismiss me, a feeling of acceptance came over me. I was stuck. I might as well make the best of it, I thought.  

So, after two days on jury duty (ugh!), I've been thinking over what lessons I learned from the experience. Number one: things go a lot smoother once I stop fighting what I can not change. (And it could have been so much worse. I only lost two days of work.)  

In no particular order, here are some other things I learned from the experience:  
  1. They take a lot of breaks. We'd sit in court for an hour, and then the judge would call a ten minute break. Another hour, another 15 minutes off.  
  2. An hour and a half for lunch!  
  3. Things look a lot different from the jury box. Everyone was talking to us. And those chairs weren't half bad.  
  4. Apparently, in my location we could do the orientation online. But only if we logged in on Sunday before the week we had to report. So, instead of getting there before 8 AM, I could have shown up after 9. (Instead, I tried to log in the night before. Sigh.)  
  5. It's surprisingly easy to find other things to talk about with the other jurors besides the case. Although, inappropriate jokes did wend their way in as well.  
  6. How to find the jury foreman: appoint the guy who volunteers.
Finally, the biggest thing I took away from the experience is how much I hated coming up with a verdict. That was hard!