Friday, August 31, 2012

Sad to lose a friend in town

One of our friends died two nights ago: she was getting on, and had been in very ill -- and declining -- health for a while, but it is sad to see her go.

Yours, saddened,

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Clint Eastwood, Republican Hero

7 children, 5 wives.  He could have been a Mormon.

Yours, conventionally incredulous to the very end,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Meeting with teachers, and hearing from the principal

This morning the principal called, with some interesting ideas put forth by his new sixth grade science teacher:  participating in some national science events, and he wanted my take on it.  It felt like he was actually asking from my input, and was a much more pleasant interaction than previous ones.
Then this evening we went out to dinner with Skibo's teacher, and her husband, the fifth grade teacher and Skibo's wrestling coach: a really really pleasant evening, lots of interesting conversations about the school, kids, curriculum, and life in general!

Yours, calming down,

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Meeting with the superintendent

We met with the superintendent today: trying not to be confrontational, but wanting to let her know how we feel about the situation with the school at the moment.  She was reassuring on many issues, and promised to get the principal to slow things down and consult more.  She's clearly a pol, though, and it did feel a little bit like we were being played.
Oh well, we'll stay alert and aware, and assess things as and when they change.  For now, it looks like the garden is going well, at least, and the hang-tag issue may be addressed.

Yours, squeaking like a wheel,

Monday, August 27, 2012

The garden

On Saturday morning a couple of dozen of us: parents, teachers, students, alumni of the school, gathered in the garden, weeding, pulling up beds, mulching, planting, and the garden, which admittedly was a little overgrown, is now looking in much better shape.  Some of us stayed for a couple of hours, others were there from 8am until late in the afternoon.
To everyone who came out, we want to say a huge Thank You!!!

Yours, in gratitude for all the hard work at short notice,

Sunday, August 26, 2012

And in mathematics, a loss as huge

Here's hoping that Bill Thurston gains access to the book.

Yours, doubly sad,

One big death for a man

One giant loss for mankind.

Haunt the stars, Neil Armstrong.

Yours, sadly,

Saturday, August 25, 2012


LOML met with the principal yesterday, and he seems to be backing down on the garden: so this morning we're heading over to the school for a work day.  Lots of weeding in our future.  At least on this issue he's showing signs of being reasonable.  I'm still very concerned about him, but at least the immediate "we've got to get the kids to another school" feeling has been diminished.
Yours, still concerned about the principal of the thing,

Friday, August 24, 2012

Poor Boo

And tired me.  Boo got up at 3am and came into our room, ready to vomit.  Since LOML doesn't respond well in this circumstance (that is, immediately needs to vomit in sympathy), I was up for the rest of the night, trying my best to comfort my little girl as she threw up every seven or eight minutes.  I'm not entirely sure how well I will get through the rest of the day, though.  At least Boo seemed to have stopped throwing up by the time I left for work.

Yours, exhausted,

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A letter, in progress

I'm so angry right now that I need to compose this letter in public before I send it.  Or in semi-private, except for those of you who know me.

Dear Superintendent of our school district,
I am writing to you to let you know what you have wrought on our Elementary School with your choice of principal.  In three days of school you have taken us from being super-engaged parents, willing to come into the classroom and teach origami, to shelve library books, to build a garden and help teachers build hands-on science lessons, to organize amazing science events, and to try to help the school, the teachers and the students in every possible way --- you've taken us from that --- to being disgusted with the decisions being made by the principal, and with the manner in which the decisions are being made, discussed and carried out.

It began with the first day that the principal was in the school, before he even took over.  He decided that he would eliminate casual Friday dress for the teachers --- on the grounds that one day they might have to stand in front of a TV camera for some reason.  At the time I thought that he was just a poppycock-peacock, that his cufflinks for show were way too much, that he was attempting to win a battle where whether he won or lost the battle he'd lose the teachers' hearts.  And my heart felt sad.
That same day, he he announced the end of the "Words of Wisdom" moment before school starts: apparently those three minutes a day can be better used.  I wasn't too bothered by that, but Boo was intensely upset.  She even wrote an email to him about it expressing her dismay.  I'm in agreement with Boo on this issue, since she's upset --- it would be easy to find another three minutes in the day by cutting the end-of-day recess by three minutes.  As much as the words of wisdom were pablum, they were good thoughts, and the children liked them.

Third, in an effort to supposedly make the school safer, the new principal decided that when picking up children, parents had to have a hang-tag with their kids names on.  A bright yellow hang-tag, made of cheap cardboard.  With some extra words on.  This will, apparently, keep unauthorized individuals from picking children up.  But it would be a trivial manner to scan the card, print off a few copies, write some kids names on, and play the pied piper of Hamelin.  And when we cycle to school to pick up the kids, we have to take a near-letter-sized sheet of card with us to show who we are.
Now, if I were to write some other child's name on a sheet of card, and take it with me, I'd fail, because the teachers and staff outside would recognize that I wasn't the child's parent.  But here's the thing: this has nothing  to do with the card, and everything to do with the incredibly competent teachers.  They would be the ones stopping it, and I sing their praises to the ceiling.  They basically know every child and every parent, and put them all together.  There may be some need for more security -- I don't feel that it's a big issue in a small school, but I can see an administrator feeling a need for it --- but this is not a solution, this is begging for a lawsuit, it's so misguided.

And then, today, after all the hard work LOML and others have put into the garden at the school, we receive word it's to be pulled up.  No thought to the uses it's been put to: to students going out to plant, to watch seeds grow into shoots, then plants, then fruit: no thought to the study of insects: butterflies, ants, etc: no thought to the kids who run through the gardens at recess smelling the flowers: no, the principal would rather it be grass.  Actually, I suspect he'd rather it be concrete.  As of Monday the raised beds are to go, and then we have a two week moratorium to make a case for the non-raised portions of the garden.

Rarely have I had such little respect for an individual in education.  One person comes to mind, my history teacher from high school., who, 32 years ago, ruined my brother's educational prospects.  I can't think of another educator I can detest as much.  And the school term is only 3 days old.  We're contemplating switching schools.  I hate that, but I can see our beloved school circling the drain so quickly, it's ridiculous.

Yours, having to try extremely hard to keep the expletives deleted,

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

First class, done

And I'm off to the next in a few minutes.

Yours, second class,

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cycling to school again

The children are back in school again, and the weather being beautiful, we decided to cycle.  It's wonderful to see how much better cyclists they are now than a year ago: much stronger and faster!  And there was very little complaining too:-)

Yours, spinning my wheels,

Monday, August 20, 2012

Snake Charmers

Yours, charmed too,

Still searching

Every year I try to get that perfect shot of a pelican.  This is not it.  That said, I do like this picture.

Yours, not that gullible,

Another semester begins

A couple of days before I teach, but today marks the start of another semester: finalizing syllabi, preparing for early mornings, and generally getting ready for the term to begin.

Yours, in anticipation,

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Won't you come into my parlour

Said the spider to the (dragon) fly

Seen at the nature interpretive center near the beach.

Yours, impressed,

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Back home

It's been a wonderful week, but it's now over.  A longish drive home, shorter in reality than we expected, made longer by Skibo being in a mood to squabble, and we are back at the house, unpacked, and ready-ish to face the first week of school.

Yours, having enjoyed the week behind, and looking forward to the week ahead,

Friday, August 17, 2012

Last day blues

It's always a little sad when we get to the last day of the beach.  Everyone realizes that we only have a few hours left before we have to pack up the van and head home.
Still, it has been a lovely week, great to reconnect, and reconnect so well with old friends whom we had not seen in so long --- and wonderful to see how the three children immediately fit together again.  We've continued some traditions, and, I hope, started some new ones.  I really hope that the kids will look back in the future and remember how lovely it was to go to the beach each year....

Yours, building the memories, one at a time,

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Runs in the family

This morning, we took a side trip, to a local nature interpretive center: we've driven past it many many times over the past few years, and finally decided we wanted to check it out.  It was a delightful place, very well run, and with a fantastic interpreter at the information desk: we spent a good half an hour or more chatting with him about their exhibits and the property.
Boo showed just how much she takes after LOML, showing Skibo several of the exhibits, and demonstrating just how wonderful an historical interpreter she is, at one point getting Skibo to lie down in a small space to demonstrate how cramped slave quarters were.
And then at lunch, we tried a lovely little diner a couple of miles down the road, where they covered the tables with butchers' paper: Skibo took out the crayons they provided, and immediately started writing down division and multiplication problems.  Like Breadbox, like son!

Yours, thrilled in each case,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What's that, you say?

Pictures, or it didn't happen????

Yours, presenting proof positive,

Low country boil

Being that we are here, and that there is seafood around, even if we didn't catch any shrimp yesterday, we did a low country boil today.
The recipe is ridiculously easy, and flexible.  What I did is the following:
Boil three quarts of water, or so.
Throw in several tablespoons of old bay, and a crab boil bag.
Throw in 20 or so small red potatoes.
Cut up a couple of kielbasas or smoked sausages and add them to the boil.
Pour in a couple of bottles of beer.
Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Throw in several ears of corn broken into halves.
Simmer for 5 minutes, turn off the heat, add a couple of pounds of shrimp, and let them cook in the heat until pink.  Strain into a big serving bowl, and serve with crusty bread.


Yours, traditionally,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A three hour trip

With the theme from Gilligan's island stuck in my head, we set off at 5:45 this morning to go shrimping and fishing.  A gorgeous morning awaited us, complete with a double sunrise, peaking first through a low band of clouds, and subsequently rising above the band.  
The shrimping here has been off for the past few days, apparently --- and today was no different.  We caught essentially nothing.  To be precise, we caught a shrimp.  And a 90 count shrimp at that!  
So, we moved on from the shrimp grounds to fishing, all of us dropping lines over the side of the boat, mostly  thrilled by catching whiting.  There were some more moments of excitement though: Boo's first catch was a sand shark (which distressed her a little), as was her second.  She finally caught a couple of fish too, though.
Skibo was disappointed not to catch any sharks, but thrilled with catching fish.
For me, the highlight was when the rod bent much further than before: clearly something bigger was on the line.  The boat captain took the rod from me, and passed it out along the side of the boat, and told me to stand on the wooden platform at the stern: I lowered the rod, reeling in as I did, then lifted the rod, lowered and reeled, lifted, over and over, until finally I had pulled up a very large ray.  Very large for me, at least: probably two, perhaps three feet across.  I didn't land it in the boat: the captain unhooked it and released it.

Yours, with my very own fishy story to tell,

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Boo quote

Boo, today, coming in at about noon, scraped up, stung by jellyfish a couple of times:
"Ow, ow!  I think I got stung right here!  This is one of the best days of my life!"

(She'd been boogie-boarding and body surfing all morning)

Yours, thrilled,

Sunday, August 12, 2012

While watching the closing ceremonies

Boo, watching the Spice Girls, said "Seriously?  David Beckham is married to one of those?  He could have made a way better choice!"

Yours, in full agreement,

Saturday afternoon drop-in

Following the driving experience, the kids decided they wanted to do the "big drop". one of those amusement park rides where you are strapped to a chair on a big piece of equipment which lifts up fifty feet or so, then drops precipitously, and repeats many times.
Squeals of joy and laughter rang through the air, and when it was over, there were multiple requests to do it again, and so this time we all went on.  Once I'd decided to suppress my fear of heights, it was actually really fun: a great rush of adrenaline as my stomach went out from under me each time!

Yours, thrilled,

Driven to succeed

On the way to the beach this morning, we stopped at a mini-golf plus place: halfway through the round of mini-golf we managed to spy our friends playing the parallel course: after several minutes of frantically waving and shouting their names they finally spotted us back.  Nice to be able to converge en route, rather than meeting at the beach.
Following the golf, we took the kids to the go-kart track, and Boo and Skibo had their first experience behind the wheel.  Both were rather nervous to begin with, but after a lap they both got into the swing of things: Boo's face turned to nothing but smile, while Skibo had a look of intense concentration.

Yours, anticipating relinquishing the wheel in few years,

Beach life

Sun rising over the waves: a beautiful sight!

Yours, beach inspired,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Skibo!

Skibo turns eight today!!!  Happy Birthday!!!

Yours,wondering where the decade has gone....

Friday, August 10, 2012

Preparing for the trip

Preparing to leave early for the beach: looking forward to catching up with old friends, hanging out in low-key places, eating well, and laughing loudly.

Yours, looking forward to returning refreshed, relaxed, and rested,

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Yellow Stripes

Boo and Skibo went to their martial arts class this afternoon --- much to Boo's dismay, and against her adamant protests: and much to their and my surprise, it was a wonderful thing that they did!
While LOML and Skibo and Boo were in Michigan, their entire class had a testing session, allowing them to move up one step in the belt/stripe hierarchy: we knew they were going to miss the testing session, but the trip was important.  Then we realized that the next testing session is the day we are travelling back from the beach, meaning we'd have to wait until September for any chance for them to move up.
But today, their teacher surprised us at the end of the class by announcing that there were a couple of students who had missed the testing session: he called Boo and Skibo up by name to break a board (a ceremonial part of the testing), then conferred stripes on them, congratulated them, and shook their hands.
We're very proud of them!

Yours, thrilled,

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Flea markets

In England, they have car boot sales.  Here in the southeastern US, they have "flea markets", and occasionally other, stranger terms -- names like "jockey lot".  Flea market at least makes some sense.

Anyway, today I visited a local flea market, and I was absolutely astounded by the magnitude of the thing: there were dozens of aisles of tables, each aisle having several hundred tables.  I'm guessing perhaps a couple of thousand tables, with one table selling vegetables, the next bottles of painkillers, next to a table with old video tapes of 80's movies. There were lots of interesting tables selling strange combinations of things: and then, after walking around 80% of the tables, we happened upon the distressing table.  Very disconcerting.  A table draped with a swastika (four feet square, or so, I'd guess.  Next to it on the table, a portrait photograph, apparently signed, of Hitler.

Yours, very distressed,

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Swimming, and martial arts, and cooking, oh my!

Today felt nicely busy: the kids went swimming in the morning, with the unexpected pleasure of a thorough downpour during their swimming team practice: we then took them to school to register them (seriously, I'm expected to remember the address and phone number of their doctor?), and a couple of hours later it was off to martial arts.
At the same time, I'm getting requests for extra calls on my time for the semester, and am feeling very reticent about accepting them.  I know  that I am inclined to accept them, and that they'll be fun, but I am already so very well committed already....

Yours, wanting to learn how to say "no",

Monday, August 6, 2012

I've finished a book!

Not writing, unfortunately, but reading.  As I have probably whined about before, I've found it very hard to read books for pleasure for the past five or more years.  My friend F, however, sent me a copy of American Terroir, by Rowan Jacobsen, and though it took me a few weeks (and two copies!) I've finally finished it.
A wonderful lyrical, soaring book about food.  I recommend it very highly.

Yours, well read, at least temporarily,

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Many many happy returns of the day, Dad!

Yours, from a grateful child,

Staying up late

There are a few occasions when it is worth staying up late.  I remember moon landings, launches, and other NASA highlights from when I was young.
These days, NASA is rather more hobbled it seems, at least for the near future, except when it comes to Mars landings.  I'm going to try to stay up another 90 minutes for the landing of Curiousity.  Technologically speaking, it should be amazing -- I'm hoping that given the way they plan to make it land they will have video of it from above.  And given everything that could go wrong, I'm crossing fingers and toes and eyes and legs.  Even though I know that doesn't make any difference!

Yours, on tenterhooks,

Sunday, August 5, 2012

In the mood for

I'm in the mood for Fettuccine Alfredo this evening, garlicky, with shrimp, and lots of salt and pepper.  Not the healthiest of options, but I'm giving in to temptation.....

Yours, looking forward to it,

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Origami conference

I've just attended my first origami conference.  Unfortunately, not in person --- Origami Heaven, a two-day conference in Long Island is streaming some of their conference live: there are still some bugs with the technology: especially crackly audio and jumpy video, but it's amazing how easy it is to do something like this now!

Yours, virtually participating,

Friday, August 3, 2012

Happy Birthday LOML

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear LOML,
Happy birthday to you!

Yours, as always,

Thursday, August 2, 2012


A long five weeks is coming to an end: we're spending the day getting students to present solutions to final exam problems on the board.  By and large they've done a good job, but I think that by the time 3pm rolls round we're all going to be exhausted!

Yours, in picky mode,

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I've been watching The Big Bang Theory for the past few months (I first watched some episodes on trans-oceanic flights last fall), and Boo has clearly taken note of this.  In fact, when she decided she had to bring me a gift back from Michigan, she insisted that it be a t-shirt. A bright red t-shirt.  A bright red t-shirt with Sheldon's face on it.  A bright red t-shirt with Sheldon's face on it, and underneath his face, the word BAZINGA!

Yes, I'm wearing it today.

Yours, making people smile,