Monday, August 31, 2020

Not Quite Finished

I was a bit busy last week. Ah, the joys of a new school year. I'll get more into that in the posts later this week. 

But for today, that means that I didn't make a whole lot of progress over last week on niece's tank top. 

I removed the loops from the bottom before I posted last week, so all I really accomplished were one and a half straps. 

Which I now get to rip out. 

I texted the pics to niece to make sure they looked okay. She wants them narrower. Sigh. 

But I learned my lesson with the loops from last week. Have niece approve before finishing up. This way she's sure to like it.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Emoji Boys

Have you ever done a Google Hangout? 

I know most people are doing the Zoom thing, but my district decided that they'd utilize the programs they already had, especially since the computers that the students use are Chromebooks. It's a little clunky, but we're all learning how to do things in this new reality we find ourselves in. 

In Google Hangouts, there is a messaging capability, where users can type in their thoughts. I knew this was there, but I hadn't really thought much about it. 

The boys are broken down into two classes: the freshmen and sophomores, and the juniors and seniors. 

The frosh/soph class discovered the messaging. And they've been using it. 

So, while I'm talking about the biosphere or absolute values, a little dialog box pops up in the bottom right hand corner of all our screens with some random emoji on it. And then another. And then another. 

It's very distracting. 

Ronan keeps typing in "Massey= *clown emoji*". Then Massey has to retaliate. The poop emoji has made several appearances. So, then Miles (if you remember my summer session posts, he was the "third boy") has to join the fray. And I'm trying to, you know, teach, so I'm not really reading and deciphering. But they think it's all good fun. . . 


Half of me wants to find a way to turn off the messaging. The other half of me is thinking this might be a useful way of checking understanding of concepts during lessons. 

I should have known the boys would find some way to goof off during class, even from their own homes via a video conference.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Technical Difficulties?

The first week of school (last week) was the weirdest first week I've ever seen. Naturally. 

The first day was a Tuesday. It was pretty much the kiddos who had attended the summer session. By Friday, all but two or three students were attending at least one of my classes a day. (I'm covering the math and science classes, so I have them all twice a day.)  

And then there's Juan. 

I worked from campus on Thursday. I went up to the office for one thing or another when I ran into the principal and Juan. Juan hadn't attended any classes thus far. Supposedly, it was because his computer wasn't working. 

So, they'd given Juan a new computer, and the principal asked me for my Google Classroom codes so Juan could add my classes. (I didn't have them on me, but I had sent Juan emails with them. The principal easily located those emails and got Juan signed in to my classes.) 

I've been emailing the kiddos the link code for the Google Meet daily. (There are reasons why I'm doing it this way.) They seem to be getting them as I have five to six students in each class. (It's a small school with sixteen students total. I have eight students enrolled in each period.) 

I worked from home on Friday. I got this email during second period:

Juan has been on line, but couldn't join first and now second period because he doesn't have an invitation. 

Please all teachers, send Juan an invitation link. 

My response: 

Sigh. I send out the meet link daily to all their emails. I sent it to him again. Is he checking his district email?

I had him again fifth period. Did he show? Nope.

It seems like Juan either doesn't understand how any of it works, or he's figured out the way to ditch class without getting penalized in his attendance. I'm not sure which. 

When I went to check the work turned in, guess who had done the day's assignment? 

It'll be interesting to see if Juan shows up to class next week. 

Classes now have the "in person" component, that is when they meet with me in Google Hangouts, and they have their "assignment" component, that is when they do assigned work and turn it in via Google Classroom. They can do one and not the other, although more of them are "showing up" to class but not turning in any work.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Teaching to an Empty Room

Every time I do a first day of school, it's different. And every time I learn something new. 

And this year is so much different than any year that has come before. 

I am continuing the class that I was covering in summer school. Sort of. Instead of teaching English, I've been swapped into teaching math and science. (The principal discussed this with me during the summer session, and as I'm way more comfortable with math, I was quite happy to make the switch.) 

When the principal asked what books I wanted the kiddos to have, as they were putting together what they'd send home for each kiddo, I had no answer. Since we did the summer session virtually, I hadn't been to campus. What books were available? What did I have to work with. 

So, for the first time ever, I got prep time. . . 

Friday before school started, I went to campus. I got assigned a classroom, and I checked out a key. 

So, instead of scrambling on the first day of school, I had some time to set something up. I had time to look around the classroom and figure out what I had to work with. (For summer session I used an old summer school classroom photo. The photo above is of the actual classroom.) 

I'm still scrambling, of course, but it's not nearly as pronounced. The school had no chemistry textbooks, yet I have five chemistry students. I don't have access to the online component of the math textbooks yet. (I've seen what they have in other math classes I've covered.) And I was on my own to figure out lesson plans and such. 

But, I walked in on the first day knowing what I had to work with and having a plan for the kiddos. That's huge. 

Yes, walked in. I taught in an actual classroom on the first day of school. Of course, I was the only one there. . .

I live in Los Angeles County in California. Our Covid numbers are up, and the county has said no to in person school. We're teaching virtually. 

I don't know what each and every district is doing; I only know what my district is doing. We have a modified schedule. We meet online in Google Hangouts. And teachers have the option of working on campus or from home. 

The office staff is there. The principal is on campus. The instructional aides are working on some project. The janitorial staff is keeping it all clean. 

We have to wear masks, of course. They check our temperature when we get to school, and if we're going to be on campus, we need to do a "self check" before coming in. (If sick or possibly exposed, we're to stay home.) 

It's a balance between the familiar and the new normal. 

At least it'll keep the blog in stories. 

For the record, I'm working about half at school and half from home. I've been going in to get materials, and if I need to get materials, I might as well do my lessons from the classroom. They have the good air conditioning. I have a desk to work from. But if I have everything I need, I can sleep in another hour and do the lessons from home. 

We'll see if I keep going in. I haven't decided just yet. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Virtual Learning

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

School started up for us here last week. And we're doing the virtual thing. There are pros and cons to school this way, which is where this week's question is coming from. . .

What if, after all of this is over, schools keep the virtual school option?

Monday, August 24, 2020

Summer Crochet, Part 2

I'm making progress on my niece's top. 

I texted her Wednesday with the warning that I would soon need a decision (and measurements) about the straps. . . 

Thursday night I finished the body part. . . 

And she really wasn't feeling the loopy, lacy embellishment at the bottom. Which, honestly, wasn't a surprise. I mean, I like it, but the pictures she's been sending me are fairly plain with more of a clean aesthetic. 

I removed the loops Friday. But I haven't gotten a picture of it yet. This was enough to get her strap measurements, so I'm good to go on that. 

Hopefully I'll be done by next week. We'll see. It depends if the straps go easily or not so much.

Friday, August 21, 2020

100 Most Popular TV Shows


This week I've gone back to the list site for our quiz. Unlike last time, this list has a bit of authority behind it via the IMDb (Internet Movie Database). 

The list is weighted way more heavily towards more current TV shows. Since many of us are running out of things to watch (I can't be the only one), the list might spark some ideas. Just a thought. 

100 Most Popular TV Shows (IMDb)

I got 27 out of 100. I didn't count any shows I'd seen an episode or two of, like shows that I watched the pilot and decided they weren't for me (Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Lost). But I did count shows that I started, watched two or three seasons of, and then gave up (Psych, Supernatural, NCIS). And I counted Friends even though I was more of a hit or miss viewer.

I'm generally more of a completest when it comes to TV shows, so more often than not, I watched the full run (or I'm up to date). Giving up on a show does not come naturally. I'll let you judge whether or not to count a series as "watched" or not however you wish. 

How many have you seen? Are there any on the list you're tempted to try?

Thursday, August 20, 2020


As we begin a new school year, I thought it appropriate for today's #ThrowbackThursday to revisit the beginning of the school year last year. Which was a different world compared to our beginning this year.

Last year I ended up covering a middle school English class for about the first three weeks. This year I'm continuing with the alternative education center's classes for about two more weeks. This year I get to do a bit more planning ahead, so that'll be nice. Last year I walked in cold, but I had a contingency plan anyway... 

Yesterday I whined about getting stuck with a vacant class. But this wasn't my first rodeo. Even when the sub caller told me it wasn't a vacant class, I prepped for the day as if it was. And that saved my butt.

Because while there was a school-wide activity prepped for the first day, there wasn't one for the second.

I decided to have the kiddos interview each other.

It was a simple activity. I prepped ten questions for them to ask each other. Then I gave them a sentence frame to insert their partner's answers into. Finally, everyone got a chance to read their sentence frames out loud.

The seventh graders did very well. The most popular wish was to ask for more wishes. I was surprised how many students considered Alfredo their favorite food. One student told how his partner had gone to Ohio over the summer. The partner clarified that he had actually gone to Idaho.

The eighth graders...

Yeah. Um. They finished interviewing each other. That was cool.

However, we did not have time for them to read their interview answers. Because, um, yeah, it took that long to get through the interviews.

Did I mention last year how horrible the seventh graders were? I may not have. But let me just say, um, yep, horrible. And this year they're eighth graders.

On the bright side, that means we'll probably go through half as many lessons. And hopefully, the honeymoon period will last until they get a teacher in to cover the class for the rest of the year.

Last year's horrible eighth graders are this year's ninth graders. Oh joy. And they did hire a teacher to take over the class, as I think I mentioned in my posts last year. 

I got a chance to chat with Mr. F much of the year (until we shut down), and he was happy with the group. He managed to get the difficult eighth graders to accomplish something. (He had been hoping to get a middle school placement.) He came in as a long-term sub for the first semester, then he was asked to finish off the year, and then he got offered a full-time contract. (I had told him that the class was essentially vacant, and he proceeded accordingly.) 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Airwolf for 8 Cellos

I'm keeping this week light for me as school started back up on Tuesday. (Stories about my first week will appear next week.) I am continuing to cover the class I covered in July for summer school, with my end date being at the beginning of September. (As a sub on a sub credential, I can only cover the same class for 30 days total.) 

A couple months back I shared Samara Ginsberg's rendition of the theme from Knight Rider. She's continued to post a new video about once a week since then. (If you're as enchanted by these as I am, you might want to subscribe to her channel.) 

This week I'm sharing her video from July 5th, the theme from Airwolf


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Swapping Times

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

Today's topic: time travel. 

What if you could go (and stay) in a different time (future or past), but you had to swap places with someone (who was willing to make the swap)? 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Summer Crochet

My niece finally texted me her measurements, so I was finally able to start on her tank top. She picked out the Crochet Tie Strap Crop Top, which conveniently was a free pattern. She's not too into the tie straps, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

It's a very simple pattern. The only reason I haven't gotten very far is entirely due to the amount of time I've put into it. Where does all the time go? I mean, it's not like I've had that much to do, but it seems like my days just fly by. 

Anyway, I've got about five inches done. She wants it eight inches long. . .

If you take a look at the pattern, you'll see that there is a bit of an embellishment at the hem. Then the straps. But it's really a pretty simple pattern. I should thank niece for giving me an easy project. 

Although, she hasn't really given me terrible requests in the past. I mean, there was The Gray Behemoth. . . 

. . .but that wasn't difficult, just cumbersome. And I had been curious as to how to knit something with yarn that chunky, so it was a good experience. Shipping the thing to Ohio was a challenge, however. 

The top will easily ship. I first have to finish it, though. 

I hope you all are staying cool.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Which Golden Girls Character Are You?


I found today's quiz via Facebook. I haven't watched The Golden Girls since it aired originally, but it is still in syndication. And it's more popular than ever. 

(How popular? I know Earvin was a fan. How do I know this? He told me. Plus, he had this Golden Girls t-shirt he frequently wore. Just imagine it: Black teenager in t-shirt about old white women. It was memorable.) 

Which Golden Girls Character Are You?

I ended up with Sophia. I always figured I was more of a Dorothy. . . Ah well.

Are you a Golden Girls fan? Which character did you end up with? 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Wrong Name

While plotting out my blog posts for this week, I flashed on this particular incident for #ThrowbackThursday. I didn't write about it at the time as it was a bit too complex, especially when I had other stories that were easier to write. But I might as well tackle it today as classes haven't started up for us just yet. 

Setup: I have worked for and with Ms. K many times. She's a special ed teacher, but she co-teaches much of her day. 

It was spring. I was covering the general ed English teacher that works with Ms. K for two or three periods. So, between classes, during lunch, and while the kiddos are working, we'd talk about various things. 

I don't know how or why the topic came up, but Ms. K told me that her name change had finally come through with the district. She and her husband, Mr. K, were now divorced, and she had gone back to her maiden name. 

Her maiden name was (not actually, but for blog purposes) Ms. James. Simple enough, right? But for some reason, everyone mistook it for Ms. Jones. Telemarketers. Her bank. Any time she made an appointment. Grocery clerks. Basically anyone who saw her name said "Jones" instead of "James". 

The school year ended. A new one began. I figured she had introduced herself to the new classes as Ms. James, especially as she was listed as Ms. James on the teacher phone list.

The incident: I had had a couple periods on my own, but for 3rd period, I was co-teaching with Ms. James. It was passing period. She hadn't arrived yet, but I knew she'd get there in good time. 

But seeing just me, the kiddos asked the usual question. 

Because of sub shortages and both teachers being out on the same days sometimes, there were a couple possible configurations to class coverage. It was clear that Ms. B was out because I was there. Would Ms. James be there, too? Did she have a sub? Were both teachers out, and I was the only sub there? 

By "usual question", I mean they asked something along those lines. 

And I said, "No, Ms. Jones is here today." 

Ms. Jones. Uh huh. I went and said it. 

And what's worse? Ms. James was walking in the room just as I said it. 

I just. . . I don't. . . Yeah, as soon as the name was out of my mouth, I knew I had gone and done it. Sigh. 

Luckily, I think there was so much noise in the room Ms. James missed my faux pas. I mean, I hope she missed it. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


Lately, I have been partaking of streaming TV. Netflix. Hulu. Apple +. I've been starting a bunch of new shows, and. . . When I'm checking the time to see how much longer until it ends, it's a sign that that might not be a show for me (*stares meaningfully at For All Mankind*). Or when I find myself fast forwarding through a fifteen minute stretch because I just can't sit through the idiocy (*side eyes Hollywood*). 

But occasionally, I've hit gold. 

Marcy Hatch mentioned Travelers to me, so when it popped up as I was scrolling shows on Netflix, I figured I might as well give it a try. And I'm hooked. 

Travelers is a show about time travelers from the distant future. They've come back to our time to "fix" things. But they don't come back in their own bodies. The hand-waving mechanism of choice involves quantum entanglement whereby they take over the bodies of people who are about to die. The consciousness transfer is fatal to the host, but they were about to die anyway, so it's kind of okay? 

Like many Netflix shows, this only has three seasons. I'm currently through season two. (I'm deliberately holding off on season three partly because I don't want it to end.) 

It was created by Brad Wright, who worked on shows from the Stargate universe, which might be one reason I took to it so readily. Or it just could be that it's an interesting show. 

We get to see how they finance things (betting on horse races and lottery numbers), how they figure out how to live as their hosts, and how they get instructions from the future (consciousness transfers to children apparently aren't fatal). 

If you like this kind of show, you should check it out. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A Redo

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

I rediscovered Good Eats on the Cooking Channel. I've been recording and rewatching episodes for months now. Alton Brown even has a "new" show called Good Eats: Reloaded where he takes one of the episodes and reworks the recipes. Which got me thinking... 

What if you could go and redo/re-edit/revamp your finished (published) work from bygone years? Would you? 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Mystery Project Reveal

You know the project that I've been working on? The one that I didn't want to talk about, but I managed to write three blog posts about? (The posts: The New Toy, The Tangle, and Frogger.) 

Guess what I finished this week? 

Before I get into the pictures, I should explain the why. I bought a light box a year or so ago. It helps with my pictures. 

But I was having one small, tiny, minuscule problem with it (aside from avoiding using it due to how long it takes to set up). And you can kind of see it in the above photo. I didn't have a good background for my photos. 

It came with a long piece of plastic, but that doesn't cover the sides of the box. If I aim my camera straight in, it works fine. However, I usually like to change angles, and it's easier to do that from my end rather than repositioning what I'm photographing all the time. 

So, I'd been using a piece of fabric to cover the sides, but it was awkward to use. Recently, I bought white cardboard, but that didn't work much better. I thought about pulling out my sewing machine and making something up, but my sewing skills aren't all that great, and I have a tendency to put things like that off. 

Then it occurred to me: why don't I try to knit a backdrop? 

It took me way less time than I expected. 

As you can see, I didn't bother to set the whole light box up for this photo shoot. I think it's easier to see just with the light box frame, anyway. 

Yes, it's a bit smaller than the frame, but that was by design. It'll stretch a bit. I used stockinette stitch for the plainest background, and that's also why I used white. 

Alas, the seams are kind of visible. But still, this is better than what I was using before. 

I even included tabs to hold the thing onto the frame. . .

How well it will work will be determined the next time I need to have a photo shoot. It solved the problems I was having before, but we all know that new problems can crop up with the new solution. 

But I'm happy with it. 

And it was completely a stash project. Those buttons? Yup. According to the packaging, they were 15 cents. The yarn had been purchased for a sweater I was making myself that went horribly wrong, hence the game of yarn chicken

Obviously, I won the yarn chicken. . .

Yeah, I cut it kind of close. But it was a great project to use up that yarn that had been sitting in my stash for years. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Worst Movies Ever?

I've been rather liking the list site for quizzes, so I went back there this week. I'll have to change it up sometime soon, but not quite yet. 

This list is one I disagree with, mostly. I mean, they don't have Dear God on it. I can't take a worst movies ever list seriously if it doesn't have the worst movie I've ever seen on it. (The premise was interesting, but the execution...) 

But, they do have Jupiter Ascending. Seriously, don't. I'm giving you some excellent advice here. Don't bother with either of those movies. Ever. 

Of the 38 listed, I've seen 15. And about half of those I don't regret. Your mileage might vary. 

Worst Movies Ever?

So, how many have you seen? Do you agree that those are the worst movies ever? What's a really bad movie you've seen that isn't listed here?

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Taken Care Of

School support staff are amazing. They keep things running, even in these times. 

So, normally, when I sub, I get a time sheet. Most districts in the area have computerized the system, but not my district. When I arrive for the day, I give the site secretary my time sheet. She fills it out, has the principal sign it, and returns it to me. At the end of the month, I sign it and turn it into the district office. I've been doing this for years. 

But what do I do when I'm not going to campus daily? 

I figured this would be an issue, so I discussed it with the sub caller. I imagined having to go down to the school and get someone to fill out a sheet. It was doable, but it would take some coordinating. After discussing it with her people, the sub caller said that I wasn't going to need to worry about that. (And I got that in email form, so there's a paper trail.) 

I thought no more about it. 

But the last day of summer session, I got an email from the site secretary. She had actually written out a time sheet for me, and she'd submitted it to the district (probably via email as well). 

I really should have realized that she'd be on top of that. 

So, now I've got a couple weeks off before the official start of the school year. Whatever will I do with my time?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


Summer school at the alternative education center ended last week. It was only 18 days. The school year officially starts mid-August. 

(Well, if it starts. We're still not sure if we're doing in-person or distance. Apparently the district is discussing, but there is no official word. Yet.) 

And, with the end of the summer session came the grades. Which is something I've never had the opportunity to do. Yay? 

There is a program that kind of does school for the kiddos. I'm familiar with it as they use it frequently at the continuation high school. Each assignment is graded in the usual percentage manner. Using those programs, one can just look at the grade and transpose it as the grade for the class. 

But, I was not in charge of either of those classes. The kiddos were enrolled in two, and the other two (permanent) teachers oversaw them. My class was called "study skills". 

Now, I did answer questions about how to log into the program. I spent one day helping the kiddos complete an assignment about creating a budget (sort of). But I didn't have specific work for them to do. I hadn't assigned anything worth points. They had nothing to turn in. 

How was I supposed to give them grades? 

In the end, I came up with a participation point system. 

I figured that would be as fair as anything else. If they showed up and participated (which they kind of had to do as I asked each student specific questions), they got the day's points. If they didn't... 

But then there was the Brandon clause. Brandon showed up about half the time. And he participated... about half the time. There were two sessions where he logged in, but when I asked him a question, he stubbornly left his feed on mute. And he had his camera off. So, for all I knew, he had logged in and walked away. 

Or fell asleep. 

So, full points? Nope. But giving him a zero when he went to the trouble to "show up"? That's not fair, either. 

I figured half points would work there. 

Once I added everything up, I had grades that really did make sense. Brandon got a D. Missing one class dropped the grades from an A to a B. (If we had had more sessions, missing one class wouldn't have made as big an impact.) And most of the students, who hadn't bothered to show up at all, got incompletes. 

I was quite pleased with my solution. Once the school year starts in earnest, they'll be doing actual work with actual points, so the grading won't be as weird. But summer school sessions are a bit weird.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Assigned Spouse

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

While watching something or other on TV, I saw an ad for that show where two people get married the first time they meet, and it got me thinking... 

What if you were assigned a spouse if you were not married by a certain age? 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Waiting Pattern

I have one niece and four nephews. I have given up trying to figure out what to make them. I let them decide. 

Eldest nephew's birthday was the day after Christmas. He turned 14. He requested a drumstick bag (that he got at the beginning of May). Yes, I was behind. 

The twins' birthday came next at the end of April. They turned 7. Via their mom (my SIL) I was told they wanted a Spinosaurus and a shark. After sending those off, I got word via their dad (my brother) that they wanted a kracken and a dragon. Christmas, perhaps. 

Middle nephew's birthday was a little over a week after that, on Star Wars Day. He turned 10. And he asked for (and received) a squid

Between middle nephew's birthday and niece's is about five weeks. I sent her a card and a text with the same message: she got to pick what she wanted me to make her. 

Niece turned 19. When I didn't hear from her for over a month, I didn't worry. She's an adult now. If she wants me to make her something, she has my phone number. She can get in touch with me. 

I was surprised by her text. She found a pattern online of what she wants. (Actually, she found two, but she eventually picked one.) That makes things really simple for me. 

We discussed fiber and color. She's currently enamored of periwinkle. We figured a summer top should be made out of cotton. I didn't have such a thing in my stash, so I ordered the yarn online. I tasked niece with measuring herself (or having someone do it) because I won't guess on sizing. She said she'd send me those measurements in a day or two. 

It took a bit over a week for the yarn to arrive. 

That's the pile of all that I ordered. One skein looks like: 

I've already wound one skein into a ball and started a swatch: 

So, I'm all ready to begin. But I can't. Because niece still hasn't sent me her measurements... 

I sent her a reminder text. She informed me she's camping and will get those measurements to me soon. 

Uh huh. Sure. Whatever. 

She's an adult. If she gets her summer top in the fall, it won't be my fault.