Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Brag Post

I managed an almost exclusive handmade Christmas. That is, all but one of my gift recipients this year got handmade gifts. I'm rather proud of this.

Of course, not every gift was handmade by me. Two gifts I bought via Etsy. But the rest...

For the niece and nephews. The third was finished in time.

An electric blue scarf for my sister-in-law.

I really should remember to take pics after I finish the piece!
This ended up being a long shawl/scarf thing.
The only non-handmade gift? For my father. Because he prefers lottery tickets.

Friday, December 28, 2012


I love the Internet.

Back at the continuation high school (my last gig before the break), the science class had a crossword puzzle on earthquakes. The lesson plan stated: "Feel free to help them. Give them a few of the tougher answers... I don't have a key." After glancing at the crossword, I saw I was out of my depth.

The puzzle had an author on it. I typed that into Google. The puzzle didn't come up, but all the terms and definitions did. About half the terms were words I had never seen before. Realizing that they'd have more difficulty than me, I decided to make them a word bank.

There were 33 terms, things like "Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale" and "Mohorovicic discontinuity". My hand cramped up just thinking about writing those up on the board. But I had a computer hooked up to a projector.

I love technology.

A quick copy/paste into a word processing program, add bullet points, and voila! I had a word bank for the class.

I wonder if their teacher wanted them to find those terms. Terms that weren't in their textbook (I checked). I mean, these are the students that will not do an assignment just because it's too hard. They got to the continuation high school for a reason. So, helping them out this way was the right thing to do.


(Not all the terms were impossible. The crossword also contained Richter scale, aftershock, foreshock, and other terms that Californians, who have been through many earthquakes, should be familiar with.)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Random Question

How're everybody's holidays going? Anyone left in the blogosphere? Anyone?

*crickets chirping*

Well, if you're here, then you're looking for a random question, so that's what I'm going to post--a question on randomness.

What if nothing is actually random? What if the stuff we perceive as random actually contains an underlying order that we cannot comprehend? 

And that's my last "what if?" for the year. I'll have a new one next week, er, year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Crocheting for Peace, With Instructions

A while ago, I came up with a crocheted peace sign patch:

...and since then I've been meaning to do a post with the instructions. This was going to be the week. I was going to sit down and make the parts to construct a photo instruction post.

And yesterday was Christmas.

Not going to happen this week, either.

But, I can just post the instructions. With the promise that the photo essay is coming (eventually...). Okay?

I used worsted weight yarn and a size I hook, although any weight yarn can be used, just use the hook that's recommended for the yarn.

Start with the magic loop, and double crochet 12 dc into that loop. Slip stitch into the first chain 3, then chain 3, and work 2 dc into every dc of the previous round (24 dc around, counting the ch 3 as one dc). Slip stitch into the first chain 3, cut yarn, and draw through that stitch. This is the background.

Then the peace sign will be made with a yarn in the same weight but a contrasting color. Fold the round in half. Start at one end and single crochet down the middle.

Then for the "legs" of the sign, start at the middle and single crochet down to the bottom, starting at the dc that's two over from where the sc down the middle is. Do the same on the other side.

Wind the tails of yarn from the "legs" of the sign through the center sc to connect.

Then reverse single crochet (or crab stitch) around the outside (single crochet would work too, but I'm partial to rev sc). Wind in ends, and you're done.

Yeah, this'll make a lot more sense when you see it with pictures. Feel free to post any questions in the comments, and I'll make clearer anything that I can.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ever the Optimist

I do this every year. I swear that I'm going to be done with my Christmas knitting early so that I'm not in panic mode days before the holiday. One year, I even managed it. Of course, I started my Christmas knitting in January.

I did start this year's Christmas knitting in January. Okay, maybe it was February. And I had two gifts done by the spring. But then I got sidetracked on other projects...

Ah well. There's nothing quite like the rush of realizing that Christmas is in one week, and I still have two gifts I have yet to start. But start them I did. I even finished one on Saturday. And as of Sunday, my gift knitting for the niece and two nephews looks like:

Two down, one to go
The third one that's still on the needles? Totally will be done by tonight (I'm writing this Sunday afternoon, so by the time you read this, it should be done).

2013. Totally my year. I'll be done early, I swear!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fifty Shades of Rebellion

Biology class at the continuation high school. After the student took her seat, she pulled out a book from her purse. She explained to her friends that she was going to spend the period reading.

The book: Fifty Shades of Grey.

On the one hand, she's reading. A book. Voluntarily. These students don't do that sort of thing usually, so reading is one thing I try to encourage. But Fifty Shades of Grey? Seriously?

(Do I have to censor this? It's not school appropriate. She's under age. But what if she has parent permission?)

The other students recognized it. "Is it that sex book?"

"Read it out loud to us."

There's the limit. I don't know if I should take the book away from her, but I do know that letting her read it to her fellow classmates is definitely not appropriate for school. Especially when they do have an assignment. So, I gave them my definite no.

"You've heard of this book? Have you read it?"

No, I haven't read the book. However, I don't live under a rock. Knowledge of the title and its subject matter has made its way to my attention.

The student opened the book. (She couldn't have been more than a page or two into it.) She looked at it for about a minute. Then she decided that perhaps she should do the class assignment instead. And she put the book away.

I wonder. Do you think if I had made more of a fuss, might she have continued to read?

Ah well. Problem solved.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Recording a Dream

The other day as I finished sewing a zipper into a sweater (nephew's birthday present)...

...I watched a Through the Wormhole I recorded in June. 

(I used to have stuff on the DVR from November 2011. But, unfortunately, the DVR broke last Friday and had to be replaced. Sigh. So many shows went down with the ship.)  

Anyway, that episode contained a segment where a Japanese scientist discussed the possibility of being able to record people's dreams.  

So, as I stitched and watched, I thought about this. And I didn't like it. Which leads to this week's question:  

What if they could record your dreams? What if they could hook you up to some machine as you slept and make a recording of all the strange things that passed through your brain while you were unconscious? Would you let them? Would you want to see them? Would you let others watch your dreams?  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Everything Old Is New Again

It turns out that my nook cozies... Remember my ereader cozies? I haven't mentioned them in a while.

Small Tablet Cozy in Beige

Anyway, it turns out that they fit those new mini tablets (iPad Mini, Nook HD and HD+, Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and Google Nexus 7).  

7 Inch Tablet Cozy in Sage Green

I love making them, but I stopped because the ereaders shrank since I designed this for my first generation nook.  

Out of curiosity, I checked the dimensions of the mini tablet, and I was thrilled that they are nearly the same size as the first generation nook. (The knitting stretches, so the dimensions don't have to be exactly the same.)  

I just wanted to crow about it.   

I have a bunch for sale. (I can even make a custom one if you're interested.) If you're a knitter, the pattern is also for sale. (It's done mostly in the round. Cables are involved. But I included a chart. And it's only $2.)  

Do you have a tablet? A mini tablet? Do you want a tablet or mini tablet? 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Missing the Point

Last Tuesday I covered an English class at the continuation high school. They had a worksheet on commas.

I stood at the front of the room. Two students had various questions, so I helped them a bit. Then I tried to convince the other students to do the assignment.

There was a group of them that all had copies of their transcripts. Because of the way the school works, students have easy access to their current transcripts and a thing called a status report. These report how many credits they currently have and how many credits they need to graduate.

The discussion was all about how close they were to graduating. One student explained that he was ready to go back to his "home school" at the semester break.

(Students get sent to the continuation high school when they aren't going to graduate on time. Whereas at the traditional high school a student earns 5 credits for passing each class each semester, at the CHS a student earns credits based on how much work he/she completes. Students can earn way more than 5 credits per class per semester, but only if the student does the work.

If the student manages to make up the credits he/she is lacking, that student can return and graduate from his/her previous traditional high school. But, to return to the "home school", the only credits the student can have remaining are the credits for the classes that student is going to take for that final semester.)

The student explained that he only needed a few English credits, a couple math credits, and then he could transfer. Since the semester ends at the end of January, he figured he was perfectly situated.

I pointed out that he wasn't doing that day's assignment. An English assignment. An assignment that would be worth points that would lead to another credit so that he could complete the credits needed to get back to his "home school".

He didn't turn anything in that day. Sigh. Just when I think they "get it", they again prove that they don't.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Flying Balls

Is it unreasonable for me to require students not throw a ball around while inside a classroom?

Don't worry, that question is rhetorical (mostly).

It was after snack at the continuation high school on a Friday. Small group. Kick back assignment (video).

Someone found a small ball. It was about 3/4ths the size of a standard volleyball. And the students thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to throw this around at each other?"

They didn't understand why I would put a stop to their fun.

Rather than give the usual explanation, I went more personal. I explained that when things go flying in the classroom, I'm the one that gets hit. True story.

In various classrooms over the years, I've been hit by paper, pencils, erasers, rubber bands, and a book. (It was a math book. Long, ugly story.)

They knew of one pencil incident, so they knew I spoke the truth.

You'd think that the throwing thing would go without saying. Deep sigh.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Helping the Future

A couple weeks back now (I wrote this about a week ahead, and I'm referencing a show from about a week ago), something struck me in a Once Upon a Time episode. It had to do with Rumpelstiltskin and his prison cell...

(Honestly, it doesn't matter. If you've seen the episode, you know to what I'm referring. If you haven't, you won't lose anything by not having the details.)

What if you could see the future? What if you knew your predictions would come true? Would you allow a bad thing to happen to you (or would you remain in a bad situation) if you knew that by doing so you'd help someone else out later?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writing with My Left Hand

Last Wednesday I ended up in a second grade classroom.


(It's a rather long and complicated story involving my assignment on Tuesday, the new sub caller, and my not paying enough attention to early morning wake up calls.)

The teacher was at school when I arrived. She was a bit frantic, as the thing that was taking her away from school that day had happened so last minute that she did not have lesson plans prepared. (She did not explain nor did I ask what her emergency was. Some things are private, and I respect that.)

I tried to get a handle on what needed doing. And figure out the class' schedule. All the while clamping down on my panic at being thrust into a second grade class. The teacher was having a rough enough day. She didn't need to know that her sub had no business being in a room with children under 12.

It was very odd. Since the district is the same, the buildings looked just like the buildings at the high school. For a moment, I felt like a high school class would walk in any minute. Then the little 7-year-olds arrived, and I had to shift into little kid mode. It's not a mode I work in, so it was odd to say the least.

But, it wasn't as bad as I had feared. (The last time I did elementary things were decidedly different. Bad. Very bad.) Somehow I managed to make it through.

The day kind of felt like if I had tried to write with my left hand. While I know what needs to be done, the muscles aren't as accustomed to what my brain wants them to do. So, it's all harder to do. Takes more time. I'm slower. But, I can get it done.

Although, I'm much happier when I can just do the easier thing and work with older kids.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Volunteers? Anyone?

English class. They were reading George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant". Out loud. Together.

This works better for some classes than for others. At the continuation high school, it's generally a bad idea. I don't get volunteers. And if I volunteer them, they balk.

(Some outright refuse to read. Some will read a sentence or two and then refuse to go on. Some pretend not to hear me. Sure, I can browbeat them into reading, but it takes me so long to get them to agree, and then after they finish their one paragraph, I have to do it again. Something that should take 20 minutes can take more than an hour this way.)

It's a good thing I like to read out loud. Some periods I end up doing most of it.

(I opt for getting through the reading to get to the written portion of the assignment rather than telling the teacher that we couldn't get through all the reading in the time allotted )

Most English textbooks nowadays have an audio component. That is, there are files with the stories being read. Pop in CD, push play, and the students only have to follow along. Easy.

But nowadays, those files are more often on the publisher's website, accessible to registered users. Like the teacher. Not the sub.

(The teacher explained that if she hadn't been slammed, she would have gotten the tech guy to download the audio files to CD for me, but she ran out of time.)

Technology. It just gives us a whole new set of problems.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Copying the Word Search

It was another Friday at the continuation high school. The assignment was a word search.

(It was an ordinary word search, much like the one the math class did. It had a bunch of letters from which the students were to find the words that were listed at the bottom. I'm sure you've seen them before, but in case you're unsure, they look like this.)

The continuation high school students aren't the type to voluntarily work on anything, so the word search was worth a lot so long as they finished it and turned it in by the end of the period. Easy enough, right?

For the first two classes it was easy. They finished fairly quickly. But the next group...

I passed out the word search. I called the roll. Then I went about straightening up from the last period (gathering all the collected work and paperclipping it together). As I settled in to observe the group, a couple of the students nearby noticed that something was missing.

"Where did the papers go?"

Turns out they were going to copy the previous period's finished word searches. Because, you know, it would be too hard for them to do on their own. (The papers were stashed in a pile under other piles because I know this trick, so I hide previous periods' work as a matter of course.)

Shortly thereafter, another student approached. He wanted to know where his word search from the previous day was (the teacher gave some students the assignment a day ahead). I didn't know. I wasn't going to look. When I questioned him, he admitted that he just wanted his assignment so he could let others copy it.

Several students congregated in a group in a corner. One finished. The others pounced. Oooh, a finished one; one they could copy.

(Until I took that paper from them.)

If they only put in as much effort into doing the work as they do in trying to find a way around the work...

Oh, by the way, does anyone know of any good YouTube videos that would be school appropriate? I had access, and putting a video on in the background might have helped things. I think it's about time I complied a list for days like this one.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gross National Happiness

Perusing Flipboard the other day, I stumbled across this article about Bhutan and their concept of a gross national happiness measure. In brief, Bhutan is more concerned with its citizens' happiness and personal development rather than economic progress.

It's different. An interesting idea.

Off the top of my head, I can think of three different ways I can go with this week's question. I think I'll go this way:

What if we lived by the principle that happiness was more important than economic prosperity? What if that was the basic belief that guided nations (instead of success = lots of money)? What would that look like? What would that do to a society? Would that be a utopian story or a dystopian one?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Good Cell Phone Story

It was one of those meh days. All classes got rated "there was more talking that working going on". I explained the assignment. It was on the board. I passed out paper, offered my assistance, and then left them to it.

In 4th period, a student came over to me. He held his cell phone out to me. He wanted to know what something meant.

Cell phone usage in class is a huge issue, especially at the continuation high school. They know they're not supposed to use them, and they know I can confiscate them (although they don't believe that I will). So, having a student hold out his cell phone was curious.

The assignment was a worksheet on sentence fragments. The boy had looked up the meaning of "fragment" on his phone, and he wanted me to show him which definition applied.

If he had looked up "sentence fragment"...

I explained the error. Then I got a chance to do my job.

He caught on pretty quickly. A couple times he checked to make sure that he was correctly identifying whether the group of words was a sentence or a fragment.

He was one of the two students in class who were actually doing their assignment.

So, I probably should have confiscated that cell phone, but I just didn't have the heart. I like to encourage them to do the assignment.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gray Area


Math class at the continuation high school. They do all their work on the computer, so my job is to make sure they're on the proper program (not checking their Twitter feeds), their scores are recorded as they finish each section, and they have any extra help if they get stuck. Easy day.

Second period needed a bit of a push. Two students hung back acting like they were just going to chill until I reminded them that it was class time. They went to their computers and logged in.

The two boys were on their assigned computers. The correct program was up. They did not slip onto Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other myriad websites that the kids these days like. (I watched.)

However, they were not doing any work.

Should I mention them in my note to their teacher?

Generally, I mention the names of students who behave badly. From time to time, I'll note students who don't work all that well. But it depends on the situation. Students who end up at the continuation high school weren't the most industrious of workers. If they had been, they would never have gotten to the point where they needed to go to the continuation high school.

While the boys weren't doing much at all, they weren't behaving badly. Staring at walls is not behaving badly as far as I'm concerned. They weren't disturbing anybody. They didn't talk back to me. The only thing they were doing wrong was not doing the assignment.

But this teacher is pretty strict. Writing that in my note would get them in trouble.

Which leads to my dilemma: mention them in the note or not.

It's not like the teacher won't know they didn't work. He can see they made no progress. The computers record all sorts of things, like how long a student was on a particular problem or section.

It's a good day when this is what I worry about.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Save the Sweaters?

My great-grandmother taught me to knit. When she passed, I inherited all her tools (as well as her yarn stash). She also left behind some sweaters that she made.

The workmanship is something to behold. But, they don't get worn.

She didn't like making sleeves, but she could.

Very pastel. Very '80s.

The color doesn't come out very well, but it's stunning in person.

There are three in this color. I only posted this one.

I think this was made for my brother, as he was about this size at that time.

As you can see, they're all vests. She didn't like making sleeves. And none of them fit.  

It's time to get rid of them. I hate to see them go, but they're really just taking up space. What should I do with them?