Sunday, May 31, 2009

Poem for May: Sea Fever.

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

John Masefield

I first encountered this poem in an anthology I read for English class in High School. I really loved the sea at the time, especially because I rarely got to go down to the sea, being a resident of a land-locked state.

This is a great poem to memorize; the words flow together and the initial memorization only took me a few days. I spent the rest of the month making sure it was stuck fast in my head. The hardest part was figuring out the best way to get by the word "spume" which, depending on the audience might cause giggles. The word sounds vaguely naughty--one can imagine it being utilized in a porn title--and means foam, froth or scum.

While reciting the poem, I was struck that few people I know have such a need to "go down to" their job. Who would write such a poem about coding, or filling prescriptions or being a secretary at a charter school?

Books read in May

Yet another month with not many books read. Thank goodness I am getting a good amount of sleep.

Positive Discipline in the Classroom
Jane Nelsen
This book challenges you to make a better classroom by giving over control of every aspect of it. The school I teach at uses the Positive Discipline philosophy as our discipline policy and I've seen how well it works. The book includes many different activities from starting your positive discipline from scratch, and answers the many questions and objections you may have.

Prodigal Summer
Barbara Kingsolver
Because I cannot seem to find good fiction, I have decided to reread some of my favorites. This is my favorite Kingsolver book and probably a top-20 favorite overall. I love this book because the characters are so vivid and likable (especially the crotchity old man), but also because it shows the many ways our lives are woven together without our awareness. I love books that take the time to wonder where a chair on a cabin porch comes from , and later provides you with an answer.

Aside from memorable characters and a wonderful plot, the discriptions of the forest and farm settings make me want to spend more time outside. Kingsolver carefully weaves in a lot of ecology, without making it sound preachy. Nearly a perfect book.

Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon
I'm guessing that in a couple of decades, I will look back and recognize this as a seminal book in my life. I have no plans to offically restrict my diet to within 100 miles of my house, as these authors did (and started a movement), but I've begun to look at the landscape with a different eye. This book was also laugh-out-loud funny, which I didn't expect and was a pleasant surpise. The authors also are about my age, and some of the life questions they wrestle within their chapters are very familiar to me. This book is the opposite of preachy, but its humor and thoughfulness have changed my life and might change yours. It also includes recipies. Mmmmmm.

Started but did not finish
Joe Jones
Anne Lamott
I was seduced by the modern cover of this book, thinking it was new. Ten pages in, I realized I had read it years ago. Tricky republishing industry.

What's Math Got to Do With it?
Jo Boaler
I was reading this slowly because it was so good, and the only reason I didn't finish it was because someone else had it on hold and I had to return it. Boaler questions the way we teach math in the United States. When so many Americans proudly proclaim they "can't do math" and "aren't good at math" why is there such a push to continue teaching mathematics the way our parents and grandparents learned? Boaler highlights innovative ways teachers, at home and abroad, engage their students in learning and move math from a "drill and kill" experience to one where students become mathematicians, not just rote memorizers.

Did not even start
I started every book I finished this month!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Waiting for the Starlight Parade

I don't mind being the one to go down to the parade hours before it begins to hold a space for everyone else. I have my book and a comfortable chair and a good amount of people watching. It is a fun way for me to spend my time.
Then when people show up I get to chat with them.
Or take pictures of their very cute baby.
Why are there no pictures of the actual parade? Because right before it began, my camera battery died.

Friday, May 29, 2009


It's not just the title of a book.
Every once in awhile I realize that I have no fiction to read. How does this happen? I like non-fiction okay, but I need to retreat into made up worlds on a regular basis. If I don't, I can actually feel it in my body. I've also not been reading much in general, what with work and school etc. So I can't really describe the thrill I had bringing home these five books. I can't imagine a better Friday night than collapsing on the couch with a heap of new books. Pure joy.


When I was growing up it cost fifty cents to put a hold on a book. Because of this large cost I never did that, not even when the sequel to Gone With the Wind came out. I can remember my dad putting a hold on a book once. Now, thanks to computers, I get 90% of my books from the hold shelf.

Though I enjoy looking up books in the catalog and finding them in the stacks, as well as wandering the fiction stacks to happen upon a new author or series, I have to say I love the hold system more. Sure, it takes the random happenstance out of the library process, but our library has many enthusiastic patrons and also has many branches which means that if you have a certain book in mind it is most likely either 1) checked out or 2) checked out at your branch but available at another branch. Because of this, it is much easier to just find the book online and place a hold. Then the kindly library employees get to to your branch, place it on a shelf for you and send you an email letting you know the book is ready. All this is free! Free!

The central library branch has been my branch since I moved here in 2001. When the new Kenton branch opens I will change branches, but it will be with a heavy heart. I love going weekly into that great structure. When I first started picking up holds at the library, someone named Collins, Melanie Dee also had a lot of holds. I would see her books every time I went in to pick up my holds. I thought one day I would run into her, but she disappeared. Or at least her holds did. She has been replaced by Collins, Callie Jo. Perhaps I will encounter her one day. Or perhaps not. Strangely, I never look to see what either of my hold-mates read. It seems a bit voyeuristic.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Flower sale. My last one.

I'm ending my tenure as a Youth Advisor at my church after seven years and this Easter was my last flower sale. I will miss some things about YRUU, but I can't count the flower sale among them. It is usually wet and cold and in the past few years the youth don't show up to help. All of those things were true today and I froze, while silently cursing all of the above. We didn't even make that much money. Another thing done!

Trains on the bus mall, oh my!

Trimet has decided to add Max trains to the Bus Mall mix. I think this is a dumb idea, but they didn't ask me specifically, and so they just kept keeping on with the idea. Dumb idea or no, I got excited when I saw one today. They don't officially move there until August/September, but they are training this month. My line is one that is shifting from the original tracks to the "Transit Mall" as it is referred to now. On the one hand, my walking commute to work will be shorter, but on the other, I will have to walk out of my way to go to the library and church. Also, the beginning of the line won't be as accessable to me. I don't like that so much.

Don't forget the importance of welders

Somewhere, some company was commissioned to make this poster. And thank goodness they did. I hadn't contemplated the importance of welders in nary a week.

Bus tips: Tuck in.

This photo was taken (all stealthy like although that guy sitting below noticed me doing it) on the #6 bus. You remember that bus, right? The super crowded one that has all sorts of interesting people? This woman was using her bag as a defensive maneuver to avoid someone sitting next to her. I find this rude, especially on a crowded bus line like this one.

So here's the deal. When you have a bag (or more than one) it is your job to keep it in your space. Your space is defined by the line separating two seats. If there are other people on the bus, it is your responsibility to stay within the bounds of your seat. This helps not only to pack the bus efficiently, but also to keep people from having to ask if they can sit there.

And men, that line is there for you too. Just because you think you have to sit with your legs spread wide doesn't mean that you actually get to. Tuck in. Seriously. Also, both men and women: if you bring more than one bag on the bus, it is still your responsibility to keep all your possessions in your space. If you can't do this, it is your responsibility to send out massive apologetic vibes to everyone who eyes the space you are taking up.

Bus tip: enjoy your private coach.

Aside from the excitement I feel when I get the same bus driver both ways! I love when there is no one else on the bus and I get my own private car. On this side of town, this usually doesn't last long, but it is quite fun. Take time to appreciate the small pleasures of public transportation.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dead Relative Tour 2009

I love cemeteries. They have so many interesting things to see. Here is a smattering of them:

I plan to be cremated, but if I were buried, the last thing I would want is this heavy slab on top of me.

No, not that Jimi Hendrix

"Is that a...?" "I think it might be....It is a coyote in an urban cemetery!"

The whole road through the cemetery is lined with these highly pruned holly trees. I kind of like their super structure.


I took this picture just to hear Matt say their name with a German accent.
Which he did without prompting.
I know him well.

Either Mrs. or Miss Fenstermacher was a member of the Wahkeena Chapter of the DAR.

Oftentimes it is fun to say the names on the gravestone. Say it with me: "Slack." I also like Mrs. Slack's name: Nettie Elnora.

I was surprised by the very Disney looking Bambi carving on this stone, but this must have been before Disney started cracking down on its copyright. Or maybe they had a whole line of Disney themed gravestones? That wouldn't surprise me.

Poor Leo. It looks like Mrs. Schlesinger found another place to rest her head. Also, I like the simple flower carvings and the font.

The section of the cemetery we visit has more than a few abandoned husbands. Mr. Van Winkle is not going to wake up from this nap.

These are fake flowers, but I did check to see who had this grave. Most of the graves in the section we go to aren't very decorated.

It turned out to be a baby's grave. Those are always sad, but someone hasn't forgotten this child.

I can never resist taking pictures of the mausoleum where my Great Uncle Tom is. Swinging early 70s meets quasi religious touches meets a TON of artificial flowers.

Marble AND a brass chainmail curtain? I love it!

"We're not religious, but we will throw some stained glass up for those of you who are."

Different cemetery: The MAunts (looking more and more like my grandparents every day) decorating Grandma and Grandpa's grave.

My Grandparents' view.

The only problem with cremation is you don't get a gravestone. They always look so nice to me.

Their neighbor

I initially stopped because I liked their last name because it reminded me of the nursery rhyme.

But I liked what they had carved on their gravestone. For Jean: wife, mother, teacher.

For George: Father, Musician, Horseman. (I'm trying not to be annoyed that he hasn't listed "husband" to go with his partners "wife," because overall, I like the concept.)

It is back to the bus mall!

This is the last weekend I will catch the bus on Third or Fourth avenues. Very soon, the bus stops will move back where they belong: on the bus mall. There will be a summer of "only" buses, cars, pedestrians, then in August and September the new Max lines will also join the cars and bikes and buses on the "transit mall." We shall see how that goes. At any rate, I'll be glad to be back on the mall. The sight lines are much better there.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The song I can't get out of my head right now.

This came about because I wanted to hear the song "I do" by J. Giles Band. When seized by this desire of late, I have taken to finding the song on YouTube. If there isn't an official video there, someone has done their own mediocre slide show/video that I can not watch while still hearing the song. While listening to "I Do," I stumbled across someone's 80's play list and it was quite good. I YouTube spiraled for a bit until I stumbled across this song.

Reading the title, I thought to myself "I have no idea what John Couger Mellencamp song this is." I hit play and dimly from the back crannies of my mind remembered it from so long ago. And bam! Stuck in my head. I really like the lyrics, though. In a sparse song way, they rightly capture young love and all its fumblings

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--Wolverine

This movie was a hot mess which gave me time to contemplate many things including: why did Liev Schreiber torture himself with the bulking up and the high protein diet when he wears an overcoat for 98% of the movie? And: Could a movie as cool as Star Trek be made if the male-to-female ratio was reversed? That's right, I was contemplating gender theory of an entirely different movie, which means that this movie is a waste of time.

Bechdel score: Two women: nope.

My first fully "read" audiobook: Th1rteen R3asons Why.

Audio books aren't my thing. For me, the act of reading has to involve my eye moving over a page of some sort. I don't count audio books as reading and I'm a bit of a snob about it. For me, reading is the one thing in my life that I do by itself. When I'm reading, I 'm not watching television, or washing the dishes or cleaning, it is just me and the book, on the couch, relaxing (or on the train, or waiting for an appointment, etc.) Smoking used to provide that time for me in my life, the do-nothing time, but I've sacrificed that vice for my health. I sill miss the not-doing time. There is no way I'm going to take time away from do-nothing reading time and replace it with do-something audio book time.

I don't think I've ever voluntarily started an audio book, but this one came recommended by An Embarrassment of Riches, which is a blog written by our librarians. Because of the like in the post, I was under the impression (misguided, as it turned out) that the book only came in Audio book form. Plus, it was the dreaded spring pledge drive and I had cooking to do. One can only listen to so many hours of reasons why you should support OBP (and you should, don't get me wrong. And I do.) So away we went into audio book land.

So Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, is probably a really good audio book. The premise is that a teenager finds a package addressed to him containing seven audio cassette tapes. When he plays the first one (in the garage because the old stereo in the shop area is the only one with a tape player) he hears the voice of Hannah Baker, the girl who committed suicide two weeks prior. She explains that there are thirteen reasons why she ended her life, and each one is a person. Each side of a tape discusses one of the thirteen people and every person who received the package must listen to all of the tapes and then send them to the next person on the list. If they do not do this, then the tapes will be released in a very public way.

So wow, good premise. And good reading by the two actors who played Clay and Hannah. Maybe a little too good. They perfectly captured the adolescent angst of both teenagers, with Debra Wiseman particularly hitting the mark of Hannah. Aaaaaand that was the problem. Hannah Baker drove me crazy. By person/reason four all I could think was "Seriously? You ended your life because of this? There better be something really good later on, because this isn't cutting it." I think if I had been reading the book, the voice I supplied for Hannah would not have been as grating. Debra hit her mark, alright, but the sarcasm/angst/anger level she hit was hard to listen to for six hours, even if it did feel authentic.

One of my fellow workers actually read this book recently, no foolin', because her 12 year old daughter read it and told her mother she must read it, it was such a good book. The fellow worker correctly summed it up as, "entirely unfulfilling for adults because there is no adult translation of those very strong adolescent feelings. They are just very present." And that was what drove me crazy. Still, I kept listening, at first to see what number the main character was, and later because I couldn't stop. There is something fascinating about listening to a voice from beyond the grave, especially if that voice is explaining why she is now beyond the grave.

In book form, I probably would have consumed this in a day. In audio book form it took me about a week, which gave me more time to think about different parts of the story. When it was all over, I still wished I had read the book.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Civics test

This post has been hanging around since January!

Always one for a good test, I took the American Civics Literacy Test back on January 26. There are 33 questions and the header for the test proclaims "OUR FADING HERITAGE." As a certified Social Studies Teacher, a proud American, a History Major, I can tell you that it is important that people know the items on this test.

I was gunning for 100%, but only got 28 of 33 correct. That gave me an 84.85%--I love that they give your score to the hundredths place--which wasn't as fabulous as I wanted it to be, but better than the average score of 73.8%.

Aside from testing you on knowledge I find important to know, you will receive an email with your results, what questions you missed and their answers and also a link so you can see how citizens and elected officials scored on each question. Answer: not as well as the citizens.

I missed the following questions: 7, 13, 15, 29 and 33. Can you do better?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews: Star Trek

I'm a minor consumer of the Star Trek franchise, which means I saw that movie where they saved the whales and a few episodes of the original series. I didn't expect to love this movie, but I did! The first scene choked me up, the majority of the rest had me alternately smiling, laughing out loud, peeking through my fingers, or jumping in my seat; I can't ask for more than a movie like this.

Bechdel rating: The movie has two women. Yep. Who talk to each other. Not really.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Leverage filming here. Lucky us.

In walking to school from the Max, I cross a parking lot and the attendant and I have our friendly morning wave. This morning, the parking lot was packed. I was puzzled, until I walked by the next parking lot I encountered and remembered that the TV show Leverage is filming here. These trailers for the production were taking up two parking lots, forcing the usual parkers into the first lot.
I know little about the show, aside from the fact that all the press releases state that it stars "Oscar winner Timothy Hutton." To me, the fact that they have to advertise that Timothy Hutton is an Oscar winner doesn't really scream, "I want to spend my time watching it."

Here, they have commandeered the parking lot nearest to my school.
One of my favorite thing about movie/TV crews is their self importance. More than once, I've been walking down the street, headed toward my intended destination and had someone with a walkie talkie and a tool belt tell me in an arrogant tone that I will have to walk a different way "because we are filming." Once, I had to circumnavigate an entire city block to get into the library because their "filming" was much more important than my returning my books.

This crew was no different. Every morning, from 9:45-10:15, the children at my school go into the North Park Blocks for "Morning Movement" which is a large motor movement P.E. thing that the teachers run. This morning was no different except that not one, but two teachers were approached by crew members asking them to keep the children quiet because there was "filming going on." Seriously?


Friday, May 8, 2009


I've walked by this hotel dozens of times and just today noticed the lovely Art Deco style mosaic and rain gutter. Happening across things like this always buoys my spirits.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Houses and Plans

I first noticed this house when it was being renovated. It is a huge and beautiful house with a huge and beautiful double lot. I had plans to buy it and take in foster children and we would have a huge garden. They would learn self-sufficiency skills, I would get to run a large household--without giving birth to any children, the house would be full of life and all would be right with the world. Alas, it seems they are dividing the lot and putting in more houses. I'm a fan of infill, just not sometimes when it keeps me from double lots where I could have a stupendous garden.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Scenes from a bike ride

I meandered a bit on my way to Garden Fever this morning and caught these pictures.

My favorite kind of North Portland house: set back from the road, colorful paint, huge garden, and artistic touch.
The gate had these great trees sculpted on it. Notice also the cinder blocks keeping the gate from falling open. That would be a sign that the artist lives in residence and made this him/herself.
This is one of my favorite houses on N. Williams St. It looks very farm house-y and has a productive front yard with a great chicken run.
Taking a closer look, you can see that these hens are partisan.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Not something you see every day.

I caught this photo while riding the Max. He had just unicycled his way up the killer hill on my commute home. Later, I read an article in the Oregonian about four guys who rode unicycles 100 miles for the annual Reach the Beach ride. This has to be one of them.

Flower Communion

Flower Communion was today at church. I love this ritual. It is simple, but moving. Everyone brings a flower and places it in a basket, the flowers are blessed and everyone takes a different flower upon leaving. It was started in the 1920s in Czechoslovakia by Norbert Capek and brought to the United States in the 1940s by his wife. Unitarian Universalists adapt many religious traditions as part of their faith; this is one of the few that was created within the church.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Graffiti at Portland State

I couldn't help but laugh at these two comments on the stall wall.

That is one way I've not pictured god. Retarded.
Toy Story 2 came out in 1999. Why this person felt obligated to weigh in with such ambivalence at this late date is beyond me.

Three sentence movie reviews--William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

The fairies in this film were a bit too twee, and the title makes me laugh (did they think we would confuse it with the other guy's Midsummer Night's Dream?) I saw this in the theater, but was again reminded how Sam Rockwell (Sam Rockwell, of all people!) managed to steal an entire scene. Might I also observe that Calista Flockheart is unable to look anything but ridiculous in Edwardian garb?
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