Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Myth with Aliens

I hold certain beliefs that many people find to be a bit "out there". (I try not to blast them on the blog.) But one thing I do not believe in are cryptozoology creatures.

Nope. Don't exist. Most have been proven to be hoaxes. (I'm sure I can find other links, but I'm not going to spend much more time on this.)

So, the other day, as I contemplated what I was going to write for my next what if, a thought occurred.

Imagine seeing such a strange creature. Something you've never seen before. It doesn't fit into any category of creature that you've heard of. Although, perhaps it seems like a mythological creature or something that you heard a snippet about on some random show.

What if you encountered this alien creature (as in an alien being observing Earth), and because it was so foreign, you assumed you saw a Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, etc...?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Final Review?

The lesson plan was a bit vague:
Work on review for final. Continue reading and outlining chapter 25. 
Good enough.

I explained this to the class: "Ms. G would like you to review for your final and/or continue outlining chapter 25."

Hand in air: "Can we review for our final?"

Okay, seriously? I mean, it's not like I haven't encountered this sort of thing before. But I expected better of them.

It was an AP class.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Had a Very Shiny Nose

Passing before 6th period. Middle school--likely 8th graders. (The student wasn't coming into my class, but the teacher next door also taught 8th grade. I think.)

"♫ ♪ ♫ Rudolph the red nosed reindeer... ♪ ♫ ♪"

Um, it's January...

And then I remembered what I look like.

I woke up on Sunday with the ugliest big red zit on my nose. It discolored my entire nose, making that feature look a bit like W.C. Fields'. (I'm not posting a pic of this awfulness. You're welcome.)

I hadn't spent much time thinking about it. No one said anything to me about it. I only remembered when I looked into a mirror, or when someone sang about red noses...

Gee, thanks, kiddo. Way to be subtle. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Plotting, Planning, and Designing

I get these strange ideas sometimes.

A couple years ago (longer?), I saw this pillow thing in a catalog. I thought it was a clever idea, but it only came in green, and I didn't really want to buy it. Interesting, but not interesting enough to go to all the trouble of ordering.

But it got me thinking.

At any one time, I have several ideas stewing. And I wondered if I could knit a pillow like that. But wondering is where it stayed until last weekend.

I'm not sure what brought it to life. I had some time in class to ponder how I could knit an equilateral triangle. And once I solved that little problem, I knew what I should do.

In my head for 2+ years. On the needles for two days...

And to the use for which it was intended...  

I'm not sure. It works fine on a level surface. But when I'm lying in bed (where I do the bulk of my reading), the angle is wrong.  

Perhaps I need to make a bigger one.  

Ah well. Back to the proverbial drawing board.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Iteration of the Grandfather Paradox

A student wanted to ask me a hypothetical question. Well, I'm game.

"Assume that someone invented a time machine. Then I go back in time and kill him before he has a chance to invent the time machine. Did I go back in time?"

I'm well-versed in science fiction tropes. So, I went with the parallel universes response--the universe created by killing the time machine inventor would be different than the one the student originated from.

This was not the response the student wanted. Apparently, she'd been asking various friends this, convinced that the only solution was that then she never would have gone back in time. The friends found my answer amusing, saying that I'd "schooled" her.

I hadn't intended to shame her or "school" her. She asked a question that I had an answer to.

So, I introduced her to the grandfather paradox. It was pretty much what she had come up with, just in a slightly different form. And that one blew her mind as well.

Deep thoughts are good things. (Even if it was a history class, and this was not history.) I posed some other questions that were just as mind twisting, and we got into an interesting discussion about physics and science and science fiction and...


We both jumped when the student's shoe hit the ceiling. What he was doing that made it fly off his foot...

So, back to work. I glared at that boy. Asked him what the blank? (I was good. I didn't swear.) He was more chagrined than anything. He didn't expect the shoe to do that. (Although what he was doing that made this possible didn't seem to be an issue to him.)


The class got back to the study guide that they were working on. And another student asked me if I watch Doctor Who. Well, as a matter of fact...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Fictional Life

Last week I covered a class that watched A Beautiful Mind. (Psychology. Teacher had a last minute family emergency, so the lesson plans were a bit thrown together. Understandable, considering the circumstances.)

Should I put in a spoiler alert here? You've seen this one, right? Well, if you haven't and you don't want a spoiler, skip this post.

Anyway, we got to the point where we learn that it had all been a delusion, and the class went silent. (They're weren't talking that much to begin with, but at this point they were riveted.) And then Christopher Plummer's doctor says something to Jennifer Connelly's wife character, and I knew I had my what if for the week.

(Yes, this has been done in movies before. Ignore that. Just ponder the thought.)

What if you discovered that a part (or all) of your life is a lie? A fiction? A delusion? Not real?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crocheting for Peace, Final Post

A couple weeks ago, I wrote up the pattern for my crocheted peace patch, promising to do a post with photos. I finally got around to taking the pictures...

(I made six of these things for my photo session, and since many of you don't crochet, I thought some of you might want them. I will send one to each of the first six commenters who want one. Just make sure your profile links to your email or leave your email in the comment and I will contact you.)  

Peace Patch Instructions

Gauge isn't important as a thicker yarn will make a bigger patch and a thinner yarn a smaller one. I used worsted weight yarn and a size I hook, but just match hook size to yarn weight.  

Into a magic loop, chain 3. Then work 11 more double crochets into that loop. Tighten. Slip stitch into first chain 3.

Round 2: Chain 3. Then work 2 dc into each dc of previous round, counting the chain 3 as the first dc. Slip stitch into the first chain 3 and cut yarn. Wind in ends.

Completed disc
Fold disc in half. (I found it easier to use a hook one size smaller--in this case a size H--to do the detail work in the center.) Using a different color yarn, single crochet into a double crochet, then work a row of single crochet along the face of the disc. Two single crochets per double crochet post seemed to work.

Just get the hook in there as best you can
Work to the other side of the disc, making sure to work into the top of the double crochet on the other end.

Go ahead and leave the ends loose. They're easily hidden in the final step.
Start at the center, leaving one double crochet on the disc between where you're starting and where the center line was. Pull up a loop and single crochet from the center to the edge.

You can kind of see what's happening here. Click on any image to make it larger.

There is a gap. We'll take care of that in a moment.
Repeat for the other side--the other "leg" of the peace sign.

All ends are still there. I just tucked them under for the pic.
Using a tapestry needle (I used a smaller crochet hook, but that's just how I roll), take the ends at the center and thread them through the first stitch of the "leg", through the center line, back to the "leg" (through the top of the stitch), and then wind that end through that "leg".

You can kind of see how the ends go through the center line here.
This connects the "legs" to the center line, making it all look like one piece.

And here the center ends are all wound in. It sort of looks like there's a stitch there, but really there's not.
Next, I switched back to the larger (size I) hook. I used the reverse single crochet (or crab stitch), but a round of single crochet would work just as well. Start anywhere, and work a round around the outside, making sure to trap the ends under the reverse single crochet as you work the round.  

It's so much better to catch the ends this way. If I had to wind in all those ends, I would hate this project.
Cut yarn, bind off, and wind that last end through. Finished product...  

And now that I figured out how to make them, I have absolutely no use for them. Ideas?  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Testing on the Fly

The history teacher relayed his lesson plans over the phone. The class was supposed to have a test, but he had not been on campus to set it up. (Family emergency. Last minute.)

My instructions were to find the study guides (four of them), pick 30 random questions (no multiple choice), and read these questions to the class.

I picked random questions. Stuff that I thought was interesting. Questions that contained words I could pronounce (names). This didn't limit my choices too much, since I had over 100 questions to choose from.

Some students take tests in a different room. So, of course there was a student who needed to go. And needed a printed version of the test. A version I did not have.

Then, in another class, we got through the whole thing, but one student was off by one. He asked to see my version of the test so that he could figure out where he lost track. But "my version" was his study guide with the numbers I (sort of) randomly picked marked.

(He skipped question #9.)

Ah well. These are the things that we must make do with at times like these. Things I can live with. These problems are so much easier than dealing with a day with no lesson plans whatsoever. (And it helped that they were juniors. They're better at rolling with things.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sweating in the Winter

When I walked into the classroom last Monday, the thermostat read 45°. And my jaw hit the floor.

Last week started off cold. It had been cold for a few weeks. Well, cold for us. I know the rest of you that get real weather, like snow, consider us wimps, and perhaps we are. No, no perhaps. I guess it's just what you're used to, and we're used to things being a little bit warmer.

I shivered under my heavy sweater. Then I turned on the heater.

The heater worked well. By the time the class showed up, the temperature was up to 52°. By the end of first period, we were at a comfortable 70°.

About that time, when we had achieved room temperature, a girl called me over.

"Could you turn on the air conditioner? It's too warm in here."

Never fails. I don't care what the temperature is. Someone always wants me to turn on the air conditioner.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Wild Binky Hunt

Last Thursday, I did a little babysitting. My 2 1/2-year-old nephew.

He wears a binky all the time. It's attached to a strap that's attached to his clothing. But frequently it falls off.

The third time he asked me where his binky had gone, I had no idea. (The first two times I knew exactly where it was and pointed it out.) I asked him when he had had it last.

Yes, I know that was a stupid question to ask a 2-year-old. I did it anyway.

Then we went on a binky hunt. Where could the thing be?

For some reason, this hunt required me to affect an accent. It was sort of quasi British with a bit of a Southern twang thrown in. It was a strange voice. BooBoo thought so as well.

"Stop talking strange," he told me.

I suppose I should have. But I was in a silly mood. So, even though I knew I was annoying the child, I kept it up. Probably to annoy him.

Since "stop talking strange" didn't work, BooBoo asked me to just "stop talking".

We found the binky. It was under the dining table. And then BooBoo found Russian cartoons on YouTube and mellowed out for the night.

The silly voice? I was done with it by then.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Shrinking Population

Last week, Slate published an article about how the world population's increase may be slowing down. (If you know me on Facebook or Twitter, you've already seen this.)

So, this week it's not so much a "what if?". Imagine a world in which the population is shrinking, not by any nefarious plot or natural disaster but by ordinary human forces. What would that look like?

What would happen to our schools? Our institutions? Might this be a good thing? What unforeseen problems might occur? (Although, "unforeseen" means connotes things that we wouldn't expect.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Keeping Them Productive

I hear the flu is brutal this year.

I covered the reentry class first on Tuesday of last week. There was a big teacher meeting. So, it wasn't until later (when I was supposed to leave that class to go and cover another) that we realized that she wasn't at school at all.

Then Wednesday she called out again. And Thursday.

For some classes, the lesson plans would be an issue by Thursday. But this was reentry. The lesson plan is pretty much the same every day.

Reentry is where students who failed to graduate with their class can continue working towards their high school diploma. They have plenty of time to spend just working through the high school curriculum--four hours a day. Most of the work is on computer, and they just work through each contract until they finish. Then they start a new one.

They have plenty to keep them occupied. But on day three, some had finished their current contract.

Instead of telling me this, however, they just found stuff to entertain themselves with on the Internet.

When I questioned them on this, they explained that they had finished their work. I followed up with, what did they need to work on next? And why didn't they come to me at that point so they wouldn't have to waste their time in class?

I guess they didn't realize that I could move them on to something else.

I suppose it is my job to catch these things. But you'd think that with the amount of times I've covered this class, they'd know by now that I can give them something to do. So that they're not wasting their time while the teacher is ill.

Although, I think they were disappointed. Shopping for shoes is way more interesting than studying STDs.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Monitoring the Students

Sometimes it's fun to be Big Brother.

Reentry. They do most of their work on computers.

Many of them stay on task. A few of them do not. (I can only ask them to get on task so many times. After that I make a note of who is not.) The few try to hide their other activities by having what they're supposed to be working on open with a smaller window with what they're actually doing on top.

I approached two students who would not get on task. Of course, as soon as I got to them, their Internet search (of car parts) had vanished. I commented on the car parts search (nitrous oxide systems). They played dumb.

"You know, I can see what you're working on from the teacher's computer."

They had no idea.

They didn't realize I could read the Twitter feed they accessed. I knew what radio station they played in the background (and I watched as they input a playlist). I saw what fight or basketball game they watched instead of doing their work.

After that, their screens only showed the proper assignment. But I also watch them, and their monitors were doing something strange. They had flipped the screen. That is, the output on their monitors was upside down.

(I've seen this game before. I'm not sure how it's done, but the arrow keys and one of the function buttons used together achieve this result. I think. By the time I get there, the culprit either fixes the screen or is gone and no one knows how to fix the screen.)

Funnily enough, this did not show up on my screen. Just theirs. So, of course they weren't getting any work done, but it kind of looked like they were on task.

Sigh. What they'll do to goof off...

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Non-Pink Bunny Costume

I'd like to know when I became Aunt Clara.

Remember this scene from A Christmas Story? The pink bunny costume?

My sister-in-law tasked me with making birth announcement costumes for her unborn twins. The tortoise and the hare.

First the tortoise...

Isn't he cute? The other participant in the tale is the hare...  

While finishing up the ears, a thought occurred to me. That is, my sister-in-law is having twin boys. And suddenly I felt like Aunt Clara.  

So, nephew who gets stuck in the hare costume, my apologies. It wasn't my idea. Blame your mother. Although, it is a cute idea, and you'll note the decided lack of pink. That was deliberate. 

The hare still needs a couple finishing touches, though. A button to keep the diaper cover closed. And I'm considering making a fuzzy pom-pom tail. What do you think? Tail, or no tail? 

And please, tell me this doesn't look too girly. Please.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hood Attitude

The schools have a dress code. (They don't have uniforms.) Much of it is common sense--nothing too revealing, no gang affiliations, that sort of thing. It's not unreasonable (except for the prohibition of interesting hair colors, but that's for another post), but they're teens, so they must fight it anyway.

The big one is hoods.  

Students are not allowed to wear anything covering their heads indoors (exceptions are made for religious reasons). Especially, no hoods. 

Of course, hoodies are very popular. They can wear hoodies. They just have to put the hoods down in class.  

So, every day I must remind a student or two (or three) to remove their hoods. Some put them right back up after I pass, but for the most part it's a non issue. 

I did not notice the girl with her hood up. She slumped down in a corner. I was busy with other things.  

Another teacher dropped in. (I was covering two classes together in one room. Ms. B had come to check up on her students while she had a break.) She noticed the girl with her hood up. The girl wasn't one of Ms. B's students, but it's so common it's automatic.  

"Remove your hood." She might have even said please. 

The girl was incensed. She argued.  

All the girl had to do was remove her hood. She could put it back up when Ms. B left (because obviously I missed it). But no. 

So, Ms. B removed the girl from class.  

Of all the things to get sent to the office about...  

(For the record, if I had noticed the hood up, I would have asked her to remove it, too. But sometimes these things slip by me.)  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What If I Had No What If?

I'm "what if?" blocked. Usually, I have my blog posts written and scheduled by Sunday (more often than not, by Saturday), but right now it's Tuesday, and I've still got nothing.

I knew this would happen to me one day.

So, for this week, the floor is open. Give me your best "what if?"

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Taking Out the Trash

Last week, Briane asked if I had seen the skunk since that New Year's early morning Day. Yes, a couple times, but not lately. This sighting was the next one, from August 19, 2008. As school is now back in session, I should have some new school stories this time next week. 

I was minding my own business. It was a simple trip. I went out through the garage, hit the dumpster to throw out the trash, and then I continued on. It is easier to continue through the garage and complete the circuit to the mailboxes. I've done this many times.

I ran into a neighbor who was just getting home. We greeted each other as I passed through the gate to the courtyard. I passed by the spa on the right as I usually do. Nothing at all was out of the ordinary.

I followed the sidewalk to where it turned to the left, and that's when I saw it. The skunk. It was standing on the elevated bricks which framed the well-kept up garden. It was facing me. The white stripe along its back and up its tail were very distinctive. It was sort of scrunched up, and its tail was in the air.

I admit it. I ran. It was mere feet to the gate to the outside where the mailboxes are. I got there quickly, and then in my panic I tried to open the gate in when it actually opened out. I figured out what I had done, and then got through the gate quickly.

Luckily, I was making a circuit, so I didn't have to return the way I had come. After I retrieved my mail I stayed on the other side of the fence, although the skunk could have easily gone through and come after me. Not likely, I know, but I walked quickly anyway.

Yes, I know I am a wuss. I want to stay stink-free.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Year in Knitting

I'm a big fat liar.

So, all last week as people posted their New Year's Resolutions (should "resolutions" be capitalized? Ah well...) I stated that I do not do the whole resolution thing.

But then, last week, I started contemplating my knitting. What am I going to make for next Christmas? Which gifts do I need to start now?

The plan started to form.

My sister-in-law's baby shower is coming up. She asked me for something specific (and I found patterns for the turtle and the bunny). I had one hat request, and I wonder what to make the (currently) youngest nephew for his May birthday.

As all these thoughts ran through my brain, I realized that what I was doing was my New Year's Knitting Plan, or my knitting resolutions.

I guess I do make resolutions. They're just of the crafting variety.

So, sorry. I didn't mean to lie about this. But, to explain, I didn't realize I was lying when I said it.

One project down. I'm not sure how many left to go.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Occasional Worker

I ran into Juan quite a lot in December. So, it was no surprise to see him again the last day I worked before the winter break.

The first time I met Juan was in opportunity. Every time I've seen him since, he's been one of the students who spends the period talking. Pestering. And doing no work.

That day, Juan actually took the time to look at the day's assignment and pull out a textbook. He got out paper and a pencil. I didn't think too much of it. I expected it all to be pretense, although it was more than he usually did. Then he really shocked me. He appeared to do the assignment.

I held my breath. This student does no work. Ever. And yet...

He asked me a question. Not "what page?" or "we really have to do this?". Nope. He asked an actual question about how to answer one of the assignment questions (and it was a reasonable question, too).

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I suppose I shouldn't say Juan does no work ever. Because, apparently, he will pull out the book and do some work. Occasionally.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wheel of Fortune

Last week, my random question generated some comments I did not anticipate. (Of course, my posts always generate comments that I do not anticipate. What I conceive in my imagination never gets perceived the way I think it will.) These comments had to do with fate.

Fate versus free will. Yeah, I didn't see that coming out of last week's question. But it got me thinking...

What if we could have a predetermined destiny as well as free will? What if those two concepts weren't mutually exclusive?  

It'll be interesting to see what comments come of this. Because, what I think about this and what you think about this will be totally different. At least, it will as long as things go as they have gone in the past.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Early Morning Fright

It's Tuesday and school's on break, so it must be a Repost Tuesday!  


Luckily, I have not had reason to add too many "skunk sighting" posts of late. Sure, I still smell the buggers, but I have not seen one in quite a while. (Well, I've seen a couple, but those times I was safely ensconced in my car.) Whew. I originally posted this on January 1, 2008.  

Oh my! I saw the skunk!

There is a skunk in the neighborhood. The distinctive odor of eau de skunk permeates the air every so often. But honestly, when I don't smell the skunk, I don't think of the skunk.

So, this morning after returning home from my New Year's Eve out, I went out to retrieve the mail as usual. I noticed the scampering creature but didn't really see it at first. By the time it registered to me that it was a skunk, I was viewing its back end as it was scurrying away from me.

It was black with the very distinctive white markings. Its tail was in the air--a black tail framed in white. I saw all of this as the skunk jumped off the sidewalk and into the gutter. Then it disappeared under the sidewalk into a storm drain.

Very carefully I continued on my way to the mailbox, traversing the sidewalk right above where the skunk had disappeared moments earlier. Then I practically ran to the mailbox and returned to my home just as quickly. My heart was racing, but luckily the neighborhood stink bomb did not return.

I'm sure glad Pepe Le Peu picked flight over fight. I don't even want to think about how I would have gotten rid of skunk stench in the wee hours of New Year's Day.