Saturday, April 28, 2007

Busy, Busy

I spent the whole day in an Open Space meeting with teachers from three schools. This was my first experience of Open Space. It's wonderful but it's also intense, particularly when it's conducted mostly in your third language. I'm exhausted and my brain is full. By the end I was zoning out for a few seconds at a time and coming back to realize I didn't know what was being said.

I hope to blog more in the future about Open Space. It is a technique that works well in a variety of situations, and in our case, where we're trying to do some professional development for teachers in rural schools who belong to a very different culture from ours, it fit the bill perfectly. This type of meeting puts everyone on an equal footing as participants, learners, and contributors. I had read a bit about Open Space before because La Leche League, an organization for which I do volunteer work, has used it.

I didn't even get to read the Saturday Review of Books this morning or work in my classroom, as I usually do. But that's OK, because I think we started some valuable conversations.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Articles I've Read Recently

I like to read the New Yorker. We actually get a paper copy, and lots of the time the articles I want to link aren't available online. Here are a few good ones I've read recently.

Last night I read this one about Dan Everett and his work in the Amazon jungle with a group that he thinks disproves some of Chomsky's ideas. I found this article fascinating.

For the next one there's just an abstract available, not the full text. This one made my brain hurt. Here's the abstract.

This one is about interpreters who have worked with US personnel in Iraq. It may give you nightmares.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Carnival #116

Time for another Carnival! Take a look.

Pregnancy-Induced Insanity

I'm not pregnant, but as I read this article, I had a flashback to when I was, and felt a twinge of sympathy for the cow. Because I too, especially in the last trimester when I couldn't get comfortable in any position at all (and I'm guessing that's worse for cows because their positional options are more limited), felt a strong urge to rampage across a major city, doing 25,000 Euros worth of damage before being shot by a tranquilizer gun and captured. But I never acted on those feelings.

Power Fixed

City power came on! Hooray! It was only out for ten days!

I can't tell you how much better life seems when the electricity works.

Monday, April 23, 2007


So it's Shakespeare's birthday today. Here's a great list of resources on Shakespeare posted by Semicolon. Here's my post about his birthday last year.

Oh yeah, and that was my first day of blogging, so it's also my blog's first birthday. Here's my first post.

I have very much enjoyed blogging this year even though I doubt my readership has ever reached the double digits on any one day. Happy birthday to me.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Electricity Update

Well, not an update exactly. There's nothing new to report except that today makes one week since the last time we had city power.

Although the electric company has not seen fit to send a team to fix our problem, which affects perhaps eight or ten houses, someone has been dispatched to bring us a bill. So at least we know they're on the ball.

The generator acted up briefly the other night but new spark plugs made it run better. It's not really designed for such constant use.

Saturday Review of Books

Here's today's edition.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Best Children's Books of the Last 70 Years

Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti, I found this article, announcing the shortlist of a Carnegie of Carnegies - the best children's books of the last 70 years. This list is fascinating to me, not least because I've only read one of them, the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. The list calls it Northern Lights, but I read it as The Golden Compass; I'm assuming the difference is between the British and American editions.

Of course I can't comment on the books I haven't read, but in all this strikes me as a bit of a quirky list. Here's the lead of the article:

"One is a cosy bedtime read about a family of tiny people who live beneath the floor; another takes you into the world of a 14-year-old heroin user; and a third enacts an elaborate fantasy of demons and witch-clans.

They are among 10 books today nominated as the most important children's novels of the past 70 years, and encompass gritty themes of murder, war and illness as well as the deeds of fairies, angels and strange beings."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Why didn't I think of this?

Carnival #115

Come on down to this week's Education Carnival!

Electricity Woes

Two weeks ago our electricity went out on Saturday. About an hour after it had come on, while I was putting the kids to bed, we had a blackout. I didn't think anything of it - that happens constantly - until I looked out the window and saw that streetlight across the street, still glowing brightly. The people across the street have their own transformer, and so they are often spared the outages the rest of us suffer.

On Wednesday night when the power came on, ours worked. (This was after a couple of nights of power that wasn't even half-strength.) Then this past Saturday, the same thing happened. It's still out now. Every night the power comes on (and there's been a lot), and every night we don't have any. We watch that cheery glow from across the street and try not to be consumed with jealousy.

This morning the city power was still on when we came to school (and it's still on now). I'm running the AC in my classroom because of course, as soon as we go on generator (we're still on the backup generator), I'll have to turn the AC off again. It's nice to get a little chill in the room before the kids get here.

A couple of weeks ago there was a pole down behind our school. (This was classic - people were burning trash around the bottom of the electrical/telephone pole. Finally the fire burned right through the pole and it fell down across the road.) It was blocking traffic, so we thought it would be a priority for the electric company. We called on Saturday and they said the problem had already been reported. They finally came on Thursday and did some makeshift repairs, and then on Saturday, a week after the pole fell, they fixed things in a more permanent way. Meanwhile, all this time, power lines were down across a busy street.

We know our repair is lower priority than that, so we're just trying to wait patiently. And here at school, the air conditioners are still humming!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Better Day

The circumstances are identical to those last week - in fact, worse, because our electricity is out again at home - but I'm in a much better frame of mind today. I'm remembering why I love "my" kids so much, and how lovable they really are.

Today there is a girls' soccer game and several of my seventh graders are involved. They got to wear their team shirts to school, and they all sat together and congratulated themselves. I called them our soccer champions and they just beamed. Several of the boys told them they aren't going to win, and I said that whether they do or not, they are still our soccer champions. It's fun to see them that enthusiastic about something.

It's what I love most about middle schoolers - those flashes you still see in them of childish excitement and joy - childish in the best sense of that word. Those moments when they forget how cool they are supposed to be. And then in the same day, in the same kid, you see such amazing maturity, again in flashes. They really are in the crossroads between little kids and grown up, responsible people. Well, people who may yet become responsible some day.

What helps me most to understand what they're dealing with, and feel affection for them instead of irritation, is remembering what it was like to be 13. Then I don't take their behavior so personally.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Selling Food by the Side of the Road

And then I see something like this and feel ridiculous for even complaining at all about my easy life.

There are many women in this country, too, who live this way. Air conditioning would be an impossible luxury for such a person. It makes me ashamed of myself.


We're still on our "back-up" generator, which is small and won't support all the air conditioners we have on campus. We've had a few days without any air conditioning at all, but today we rationed it, so that we took turns having our AC on for one period. It made it easier for me to put on a happy face today with my eighth graders. Any teacher knows that a big part of the job is making yourself be "on" all the time, a bit like an actor. Today my heart wasn't really in it, because there was a family funeral in another country that I sure would have liked to attend. But having a little bit of air in my classroom helped, anyway.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Well, frankly, at the moment I'd rather read a different kind of Carnival, as I've just about had it with education. It's just that time of year, I guess, plus the problems we're having with our generator, plus general fatigue. I hate being the kind of person who lives for the future, and I try not to be, but right now I am spending a lot of energy anticipating summer vacation.

But anyway, here's this week's Education Carnival, should you feel like that sort of thing.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Perfect Bacon Sandwich

In the Important News Category, experts at Leeds University spent more than a thousand hours experimenting and coming up with a mathematical formula on how to make the perfect bacon sandwich. Read all about it!

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Three years ago someone I loved died on Easter Sunday. This year it happened again - on Saturday evening, this time, but the effect is the same. The loss makes this Easter day an even stronger reminder than usual about the hope of the resurrection. Oh grave, where is thy victory?

But it hurts.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

School Starting in Japan

I've been very much enjoying Here and There Japan lately. The new school year is starting, and there have been photos of many things connected with school, including supplies that all Japanese kids need. Quite fascinating.

Saturday Review of Books


Friday, April 06, 2007

Reading Update

Book #27 for 2007 was The Landscape of Love, by Sally Beauman. It was absorbing, if somewhat odd.

I stayed up until 2:30 this morning finishing book #28, The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I loved her book of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, but the novel is even better. It is my favorite kind of book - about immigrants, people relating across cultures, identity. It is filled with perfectly chosen details that make every character, every setting, and even every meal come to life. Here's a little taste: "Though no longer pregnant, she continues, at times, to mix Rice Krispies and peanuts and onions in a bowl. For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy - a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect."

I'm 85 pages into War and Peace. There are lots of characters, and since many of their names are similar, especially to a non-Russian speaker like myself, it's not such a quick read. I'm enjoying it, though.

Here's a scene from a party: "The count peeped from behind the crystal of the decanters and fruit-dishes at his wife and her high cap with blue ribbons, and zealously poured out wine for his neighbors, not overlooking himself. The countess, too, while mindful of her duties as hostess, cast significant glances from behind the pineapples at her husband, whose face and bald head struck her as looking particularly red against his grey hair. At the ladies' end there was a rhythmic murmur of talk, but at the other end of the table the men's voices grew louder and louder, especially the voice of the colonel of hussars, who, getting more and more flushed, ate and drank so much that the count held him up as a pattern to the rest. Berg with a tender smile was telling Vera that love was an emotion not of earth but of heaven. Boris was telling his new friend Pierre the names of the guests, while he exchanged glances with Natasha sitting opposite him. Pierre said little, looked about at the new faces, and ate a great deal."

I kind of wish I had Boris to help me with the names of all these guests, and I know it's uncultured, but the names Boris and Natasha have different associations for me.

Later in the same party: "The German tutor was trying to learn by heart a list of all the kinds of dishes, desserts, and wines, in order to write a detailed description of them to the folks at home in Germany, and was greatly mortified that the butler with the bottle in the napkin had passed him over. The German knitted his brows, and tried to look as though he would not have cared to take that wine, but he was mortified because no one would understand that he had not wanted the wine to quench his thirst, or through greed, but from a conscientious desire for knowledge."

It's all in the details, isn't it? I'm always going to remember Ashima, mixing up her imitation Indian snack in her new home in the United States, musing about the similarities of pregnancy and being a foreigner, and I think I'll always remember that German tutor, too, trying to commit the menu to memory so that he could write home about it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

National Poetry Month

This year I'm receiving a poem a day from two different lists to celebrate National Poetry Month. One is from Knopf Poetry (you can subscribe here) and the other from (you can subscribe to this one here). Here's some more information on National Poetry Month from

Charles Bernstein doesn't support National Poetry month. I think he makes a good point.

I read poetry all year round, and share a poem with my students each day, but I do enjoy being introduced to new poets every April. And if some more poetry books get sold, I'm all for that too.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


I hope you got a chance to look at some of the entries for today's Theme Day (see the post below). I particularly enjoyed this one - there's nothing like getting a letter. Email is great, but a letter on paper...

Speaking of which, have you heard about Gmail's new Gmail Paper?

DP Theme Day - Mailbox

On the first of every month, the City Daily Photo blogs do a Theme Day. April's DP Theme is a mailbox. Here's the entry from Sharon, CT, along with links to all the other DP blogs participating.