Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Books read in March

Man, 2009 isn't shaping up to be a good reading year. I'm not sure what is wrong.

What on Earth Have I Done?
Robert Fulghum
Nice collection of very short thoughts by the most famous Unitarian Universalist minister in the world.

The Given Day
Dennis Lehane
Okay, the only person who does star-crossed love better than Dennis Lehane is Aaron Sorkin. Based on the Boston Policemen Strike in the early 1900s, this is an action packed book that I devoured over a weekend. Great characters, great action, really bad villains, and Babe Ruth! Did I mention star-crossed love? Dennis Lehane rocks! Plus, a good reminder of the importance of the labor movement in our country.

Gardening When it Counts
Steve Soloman
Soloman gives advice about how to grow food when you don't have much money and really, really need the food. I like this book because it is one of the few that repeatedly says, "you don't need this and that and the other thing." You only need these few things and you can get by without some of them.

Gardening Without Irrigation, or Without Much, Anyway
Steve Soloman
Specific to the Pacific Northwest, Soloman explains how to grow food without dragging the hoses around all the time and running water. I wondered how our pioneer ancestors watered everything without running water and this book sheds insight on that process. Very small book, but good information.

Started but did not finish
Your Backyard Herb Garden
Miranda Smith
Nicely illustrated informational book about the many different kinds of herbs you can plant for medicinal and culinary purposes. It also contains suggestions for a fragrant herb garden, a kitchen herb garden and a medicinal herb garden. I liked this book so much I bought it.

What Color is Your Parachute?
Richard Nelson Bolles
The classic "figure out who you are so you can find something you like to do for a living" book. I checked this out to read more about informational interviewing.

Did not even start.
A Perfect Revenge
Annabel Dilke
Maybe in the afterlife I will meet all these books I check out from the library and return unread. I will die, and then the first thing I will see after I go toward the white light will be hundreds of books I picked for their cover and never even cracked open. I'm not sure what will happen after that. Maybe I will perform an apology ceremony and move on toward the pearly gates. At any rate, this book will be among them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

March. The month in which I drink the Kool-Aid

Growing up, I loved records. I had many, many 45s (the smaller ones with the big hole in the middle) and dreamed of someday having my own jukebox. Technology changed and records went away (and that phrase nicely avoids my years of complaining about that fact.) Given my love of both music and random playing of songs, one would think that I would have jumped on the ipod wagon early. But I didn't. I didn't like how expensive they were and how everyone had one. But mostly I didn't like how individual they were.

One important thing to me is that music be communal. Back in the day, if you wanted to hear music you had to create it using your voice or a musical instrument. Then there was the radio, which played music, but for a lot of people to listened to. After the invention of the phonograph, people have always had ways of dragging their favorite music with them. But until the digitalization of music, it took effort to bring your music along. Record players weren't that portable, cassette tapes took up a lot of space and CDs scratched easily. Now that music can be bits and bytes, people can have thousands of songs in a tiny device.

And that is my point. All those people listening to ipods on the train in the morning are picking and choosing what they want to hear. It's individualized, sure, and they get to hear what songs they want without commercials. But I can't help lament the loss of the local radio station as a place to hear music. I realize I'm mourning something that doesn't really exist anymore, thanks to Clear Channel and the deregulation of the airwaves. Regardless, I think our communities suffer when they lack media outlets that tie the entire community together. And that friends, is why I have resisted the ipod.

The other reason I never bought an ipod is that I never had a lot of use for it. When I am walking hither and yon, I don't like to have music in my ears. I like to think, or I sing to myself. Most of the time I already can hear music in my head, I don't need a device. I also never listen to music while I exercise. I need to be alert, and music blocks the sounds that keep me tuned in to what is going on around me. Plus, it is hard to get in a meditative state when I'm fiddling with a device. And all of you kids are going to go deaf, with that music playing too loudly in your ears all the time.

But then they came out with the ipod touch. My co-worker showed me how it worked and I was mesmerized. "We are living in the future!" I gasped. Because my tax refund was large this year, I drank the Kool-Aid and ordered my own. And it is magical.

Here, I'm trying to get a picture of the engraving I chose. It didn't turn out, but I like the picture anyway.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--Slumdog Millionaire.

Things, that when seen in movies I don't recover from and thus, dislike the move: torture, intentional maiming of children, anything covered in human excrement. When they are all three in one movie I spend the movie breathing deeply, not watching the screen and wishing we had chosen to watch the bad acting of Twilight. I also thought the ending was stupid--though I liked the dancing at the very end.


Bechdel score: Two women? Nope.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2008/slumdog_millionaire.html

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--North Country

This movie is a very well made movie, but hard to watch, and I'm sure that not nearly the number of men saw it that should have. Full of super fabulous actors bringing their A-game, it is a good reminder, yet again, of how recently women's right to work has had to be affirmed by the courts. And this, ladies and gentleman, is why all of us had to sit through multitudes of sexual harassment trainings in the 90s.

Becdel rating: Has two women characters: Yes. Who talk to each other: Yes. About something besides a man: Yes. Although the men are the problem in this movie. So sort of no.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2005/north_country.html

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--Sweet Home Alabama.

I didn't see this when it first came out because I find Josh Lucas' features to be very ferret-like and that distracts me (though I'm sure he is a very nice person and has many redeeming qualities.) It was an okay movie, with some nice unique romantic comedy touches. I would rate this movie a good "flu movie" meaning one to put on when you are home sick in bed.

Bechdel reveiw: two women: yes. Who talk to each other: yes. About something besides a man: nope.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2002/sweet_home_alabama.html

Monday, March 23, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--Mrs. Henderson Presents.

A fine film, one to watch with your grandmother, even if it is a bit risque. The actors act well, the story is fine and you get to see a full frontal of Bob Hoskins. I'll leave you to decide if that is an attraction or deterrent.

Bechdel score: Two women: Yes. Talk to each other: Yes. About something other than a man? Sort of...
poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2005/mrs_henderson_presents_ver2.html

The Navy Wants ME!

Oh look! The Navy wants me! They think I've set my sights on a bachelor's degree and they can help me get it. And look at all the incredible perks. Hmmm. No mention that we are at war right now. I'd better join quickly as I'm currently 34, the maximum age for non-prior service enlistments. Thanks, PSU, for selling my name.

Requiem: Spatula

O! Dollar Store Spatula! How perfect you were! This was a replacement spatula for a similar one I picked up in college, lo those many years ago. That one met a similar fate, and I loudly mourned its passing. This one showed up in my Christmas stocking a few weeks later, my mother having heard a lot of the trials of spatula-less life. Which are many. Trying to flip fried eggs, spatula-less? Very difficult.

I was amazed that the new one was exactly like the one that came before it. "Where ever did you manage to find it?" I asked, temporarily forgetting the standardized modern manufacturing and distribution process.

"I got it at the dollar store." my mother replied, shaking me back into the present. Of course there is more than one basic plastic spatula.

This one met its end when I was banging it against the sink trying to remove collard greens. It just split in two. Adieu, good friend and trusty helper.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--City of Angels

I only made it through about 1/3 of this movie so here is my truncated review:

While watching this incredibly slow movie from 1998 all I could think was, "Man, remember how big the obsession with angels was in the 1990s? What ever happened to that?"

Bechdel review: Two women. Nope.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/1998/city_of_angels.html

Merry Pranksters.

I'm surprised more people don't stick these temporary "No Parking" sings in funny places. The power of magnets. Easy for city workers to place temporary signs. Easy for possibly drunk funny people to find the closest odd metal surface to stick the sign.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Your Bank Americard welcome here.

This is an iconic store downtown, straight out of 1953. I'm sure every tourist and plenty of locals have a picture of it. This time when I was walking by, the BankAmericard sign caught my eye. I can see someone accidentally time traveling here from 1968 and feeling relieved to see the sign. "My BankAmerica card is welcome here? What a relief!" I'm not sure a card of the same vintage as the sign would be accepted, but, you never know. I mean, did they have the magnetic strip then? I think not. And would our time-traveler benefit from the purchase of Western Wear? I'll leave it to you to decide.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--Revolutionary Road.

Sometimes, it makes all the difference who you watch the movie with. With me in the theater were two women who found a lot of this movie funny and laughed accordingly. I wouldn't have noticed if I was watching it by myself, but the things they were laughing at were funny, even in this grim, depressing, well-acted movie.

Bechdel rating: Two women. Yep. Who talk to each other. Yep. About something besides a man. Not really.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A message from Future Patricia


Future Patricia here. And let me tell you, April 26 looks a lot different than March 16. The weather is a bit warmer, for one. And the clover is over a foot tall, rather than just two or three inches. But enough about that. I've traveled here from the future, because I am dedicated to keeping my blog posts in order. And I realize I'm terribly behind. But that doesn't mean there are not posts coming. They will be posted, eventually. In the meantime, I want to tell you about a discussion group I am starting that Current Patricia hadn't thought up on March 16. It is a discussion group for the book Your Money or Your Life. And it is online, so you, Out & About fan, could join us, even if you don't live anywhere near Portland. Are you interested? Read on. I'll copy and paste the information that Future Patricia sent out to people.

In the meantime, keep in mind the weather is improving. And the blog posts will be posted, eventually.

Future Patricia

Hello blogging friends,

I've recently picked up the book Your Money or Your Life again. I read and followed its practices in the early part of this decade and lately, I've been feeling the pull to return to its lessons. I thought it would be fun (and more motivating) to invite others along so I’m starting a study group.

Apologies to those of you who previously received an email about this topic. Due to the pace of modern life/work schedules/pregnancy/”the economy” etc. it turns out that meeting in person for a discussion group doesn’t work very well. So I have re-jiggered the discussion group to be online. So perhaps you couldn’t participate before in person, but now you can virtually.

As a member of the study group you will read a chapter of the book per week, post to the newly created Y$YL blog (http://PDXYMYL.blogspot.com) and do your best to “do” one of the nine steps as best you can. Some of them are more involved than others.

You can see a discussion course outline by going to http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dj9fzf2_54fdr8zqvw

(That link is iffy, let me know if you need me to send the outline to you.) Our first discussion is May 15, so that gives you time to get the book and post an introduction.

More about the book:

Read the customer reviews of Your Money or Your Life at Amazon.com and the common theme you will hear is--"it changed my life!" Lots of authors aim to change people’s lives with their books. How many pull it off? Your Money or Your Life pulled it off because it revealed the connection between solving money problems and solving work problems. Looking back, one is tempted to say that the insight should long have been obvious to all. The reality is, it wasn’t. Your Money or Your Life has been a global bestseller for 13 years because it got to the root of the money management project and said something about it that had never been said before--the best reason to save is not to escape work but to free yourself to do a different kind of work.


If you are interested, or have questions, please email me to RSVP. stenaros [at] gmail.com

If you aren’t interested, but know someone who might be, feel free to forward this.


Sunday, March 15, 2009


The math test went well. I was pleased with the amount of studying I did. I'm not sure how they will score the three constructed response questions that are worth 33%. I worry that I should have been more wordy in my answers. But I knew how do all of them, with the exception of one part of one question. This has not been the case in the practice sessions.

I finished all of the 40 multiple choice questions. If a question was confusing to me, I skipped it to go back later and do it. I was not sure I would finish every question and I wanted to do the easier ones I had more chances of getting right first. When I got to the end, there were only eight that I didn't do the first time around. Of those eight, seven I fiddled with and came up with an answer that seemed like a good guess. The remaining one, I had no idea and I went with "C".

I thought I developed a particularly good time management strategy. I spent 5 minutes reading over the test at the beginning. That calmed my fears a lot as everything looked familiar. Then I spent 10 minutes on the first constructed response and 15 minutes on multiple choice. I alternated those until I had finished the constructed response. When there were 30 minutes remaining, I took a look at where I was and strategized. I think this back and forth effort helped me not only finish everything, but also not worry that I was going to run out of time before I had even attempted large sections of the test.

The other thing that was nice was that almost every time when I came up with an answer it was one of the choices on the multiple choice. When I was studying I would often puzzle my way through a problem only to find that my answer wasn't there. It was a bit defeating. This time, even if I figured wrong, I was at least validated by the answer being present.

So overall, I think I did well. I'm not sure it is enough to pass, but even if it isn't I have now taken the test and know what to expect if I take it again next time.

I came home, and alternately napped and read Dennis Lehane's new book which is very, very good.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I am caught up!

One plus of being extra busy with normal life is that it is so routine that there is not much to blog about. That, plus the fact I've been avoiding studying for the test in the mornings, means that I am caught up on this blog for the first time since June 2008! That's right. If you are reading this on Friday, March 13, that would be the same day in which I typed this! So exciting.

I'm aware that this blog is in its "In & Inactive" state again. That is partially because I forgot to bring my camera when I went to Sunriver last weekend with the staff of my school. There would have been pictures from that, but alas. Hopefully with the coming of spring (and spring break!) there will be more pictures.

So I take the big Praxis test tomorrow. 10:45. Wish me luck. I'm hoping to not have to take it again.

Math teacher report 3/13

I'm warning you right now, this will be a "didn't really do it" sort of post. I'm really tired and my mental energy is going toward the test on Saturday and my final project for my class. Both of those are things that are essential for me becoming a math teacher, so it isn't like I'm not doing anything.

Finish that message thing

Not done yet. I think I need to find three or so teachers to give me advice and then send them some version to see what they like best.

Look at three potential volunteer tutor jobs
I didn't even remember that I made this goal.

Contact five people about informational interviewing


Write two blog posts.
I wrote one. I have another one burbling in my brain. I have some ideas for a series.

I'll revisit the math teacher goals during/after spring break. The start of the quarter is a good time for me to integrate new things in my life.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Weekly report: becoming a math teacher

Here is my 2/26/09 weekly report of how I'm doing with my job search.

message crafted?

I made some notes about what I wanted in my message. They are the following.
  • teach math/explore math/learn math. This is for what I want to teach. "Teach math" is the most succinct, but I'm wondering if it would be better to say something like "I want to help students learn/understand math..." Explore? Maybe not. It might be a little too touchy-feely.
  • struggling mathematicians. This is what I was/am and who I want specifically to work with students who have trouble making math connections. I believe that my past history with math will help me find more ways to help students understand concepts.
  • organization/goal setting. Something I rock at is organization, anyone who has worked with me will tell you that. I believe that being organized isn't something you are born with, but something you learn. All my students will master steps to become organized learners. I would like to incorporate goal setting into my curriculum. By setting and monitoring weekly and monthly goals, students will not only have a greater understanding of what reasonable goals are and the steps to meet them, they will also use their goals to master math concepts.
  • different ways to solve problems
  • cross curriculum
  • students will learn: math, organization, goal setting.
...Picking up on 3/7. And I ran out of time and had to go to work. So I didn't set goals for this last week. It was a busy week and not a lot happened in the realm of future math teacher Patricia. So I will finish reporting what happened and then make new goals.

student teaching started?

This was much easier than I thought. I asked my boss if she would mind if I observed math class, and taught a unit or two. She thought that was a fine idea. Then I just had to ask the 4/5 teachers. I caught both of them in the kitchen on a short break. Here's how the conversation went:
Me: "For my math thing, I don't technically have to student teach..."
Julie: "Yes"
Jo: "I get her."
(They argue)
Me: "I haven't even finished what I was going to say!"
So I am currently observing Julie's Math class two days per week and will teach a unit sometime in the near future. So far I've observed I need to work on my mental math skills.

informational interviews begun?
Um, yeah, contacting 10 people was a bit much, especially given how much I don't like to do informational interviews. I contacted no people and stewed about the issue and finally decided to order What Color is Your Parachute from the library. I did that and read the chapter on informational interviewing and now that I have done that, I guess I have to move in that direction. Sigh.

blog posts kicked up?
I did three blog posts that first week and have done none since.

Goals for 3/12:
  • finish that message thing
  • look at three potential volunteer tutor jobs
  • contact five people about informational interviewing
  • write two blog posts.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Two short rants.

Hey big-calfed, expensive biked man,

I can see that you spend a lot of time on your bike. You clearly have the physique and have sunk a lot of money into that bike you are riding. And if I cared about speed I would be so impressed with how fast you are. But you know what? One of the reasons I love riding a bike is that mostly people who ride bikes are nice people, friendly, polite. Not you apparently. When you pass someone on the right—because you are so fast and can’t stand to slow down—especially when someone else is passing that person on the left, it would be rather nice if you said something like, “Coming up on your right.” We aren’t trapped in cars, unable to communicate. I don’t listen to an i-pod while biking and can hear quite clearly. Use your words. A, “good morning” would be nice too. And I know that you can’t have fenders on your bike because they add precious weight to your superfast machine. But when you ride without fenders in the autumn/winter/spring in Portland all that road grit goes everywhere. Including on me as you abruptly pass me on the right. Nice. Thanks a lot.

Hello parents at the school in which I work,

Yep, I stand every day at the door at the beginning and end of school and greet you and your children. Some of you even return my greeting, which is nice. You know what isn’t nice? You saying, “You look exhausted!” You know why? Most days I’m not exhausted, just someone with large bags under her eyes getting through a part of her day she doesn’t really enjoy that much. So when I’m doing the part of my job that I have settled into tolerating, and someone comments on how tired I look and I’m not actually tired at all—or, as happened yesterday, feeling the most well-rested I’ve felt in months—it doesn’t feel very good. If you are tired yourself and just projecting, don’t. If you are actually concerned about my physical state, there are better ways to ask. Just don’t assume I am tired.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Why you should stop what you are doing and subscribe to your local paper.

I mean it. Right now. You can even do it while sitting in front of your computer. I can wait.

You want reasons? Okay here are a few.
  • Newspapers are having trouble making the digital transition. For the most part, reading things on the internet is free, but the ad revenue generated from internet ad sales does not begin to meet traditional sources of ad revenue. While most newspapers are available in online form they aren't the presence they have traditionally been in their paper form.
  • The ad revenue in print sources pays for the reporters who have the time to do the investigations about issues that are important to your life. Issues that you didn't know you cared about until they are reported on. Coming this Sunday, the Oregonian will publish a report about placing foster children with relatives in other countries. The reporters' work led directly to a moratorium placed on this practice.
  • Newspapers are an essential part of creating community. Do you want to know what is going on in your town, city or state in the government, entertainment or sports? The newspaper has the answer.
  • Reading newspapers makes you sound smart. Can I talk intelligently about the proposal to bring Major League Soccer to Portland? Yes. Why is that? Because I've read every article about the issue that was published in the Oregonian, Willamette Week and Portland Mercury.
  • Reading the newspaper introduces you to so many cool things. I can't tell you how often someone has said to me, "How did you even hear about that?" and the answer is always that it was something I read in the newspaper.
Excuses I don't want to hear:
  • I don't agree with the political opinions of my newspaper. Okay stop. I grew up wildly liberal and reading the Idaho Statesman, which does not fit anywhere close to the definition of liberal print media. I disagreed with most of the editorials, their coverage of education and half to three-quarters of the letters to the editor. I still found out incredible amounts about what was going on in my community, as well as following the lives of the Patterson Family in For Better or for Worse.
  • I don't have time to read my newspaper. I didn't say you have to read the newspaper, just subscribe to it. You know those micro-loans that are so successful in third world countries? Think of your subscription as that. Ad revenue is based on the number of subscribers, not on the number of subscribers who read the paper. And really, you don't have time to read even one section? Even the fluffy section? Please.
  • Newspapers waste too many resources. All that paper is expensive and needs to be recycled and I don't want to do it. This is true. It may waste much fewer resources to read things online. But, quite frankly, online newspapers aren't very good. Oregonlive.com, the Oregonian's website recently had an upgrade. It is now simply bad instead of maddeningly frustrating. Like I said above, newspapers are having a tough time making the digital transition. Once they have and are okay, you can discontinue your paper subscription and cease the odious task recycling mounds of paper. Until then, buck up and buy some carbon offsets or something. Also, if you are that person above who doesn't read the paper, recycling becomes much easier.
  • I can't afford it. Yes, yes, times are tough. But as a former colleague once remarked, "I can't believe you can get all that stuff in one paper and it only costs fifty cents." It is a marvel. My monthly subscription is $13.95, which is about the same price as a movie and popcorn. For that I get untold hours of reading enjoyment and grumbling, not to mention the side bonus of being well-informed.
  • I don't really care. You should. For all the reasons pointed out above and in the This Modern World Cartoon from 03/03/09. Remember that trained journalist make a difference.
So don't delay. Subscribe today. Now. I'm not kidding. Do it.


I'm at that point where I am just waiting for three events to be over. Not that I am sitting passively by, all of them require much work on my part, alas. But I am looking forward to these things being done so I can catch up with my "normal life".

The first will be done by 3:00 pm today, that is the Youth Service. It doesn't require a lot of work, but the mental energy commitment is a bit large and every year when it is over, portions of my brain that have been thinking about it, are free to go back to their idle musings.

On March 14, I take the Praxis Middle School Math test. The test itself is 2 hours of my life, but I have spend 43 hours studying in regular half hour chunks since early September. I took a practice test last night and now can complete the problems in the time allotted with the bonus that now I understand how to tackle 95% of them, a fact that was not true when I began this process. So all my studying has benefited me, I just don't know if I will have enough right answers to pass. Time will tell, but I'm most excited that it takes 4 weeks to get your results. So I will have four weeks of not studying.

Following soon on the test's heels is my final paper and project for my math class. This is a tough one, because it requires me to have an actual product--the other ones will happen whether I'm prepared or not, but this requires me to not only produce a paper of some length, but also have a presentation. I can't really fake my way through either of those. So the other back of my mind is working on that problem and I have to carve more time out of my schedule to actually put pen to paper, or rather letters on screen.

While I work on those things, so many other things are dropping by the wayside. Less vegetables are being consumed. My desk has geologic layers on it, marking the passage of time. Someone's birthday present is underneath everything, and I hope I can mail it today. Laundry isn't folded, blog posts aren't finished, bank balances haven't been updated. Goals aren't being made.

I don't mind rising to the occasion and "doing" all of these things, but I really hate the aftermath: I'm tired and then have to catch up all the things that have fallen by the wayside. Mostly I don't mind making the amount of money I make (though I'm always open to more, of course) but it's during these times that I recognize the power of money for easing your life. "It would be nice if I could hire someone to cook and clean up for me." I think to myself. But alas, I can't, so I hobble on. Thank god spring break is coming up. I can't imagine trying to do the catch up without it.