Thursday, February 28, 2008

Almost Finished

So here are a few views from my front door. These pictures were taken about 2 weeks ago. We got about 8 inches of snow yesterday. We've had almost 100 inches of snow this winter - a storm a week or more! We get 4-6 inches, followed by some thawing, followed by another 4-6 inches, on a regular basis. It's a bit scary to try to get out of the driveway. I can't see what's coming up or down the road. The snowpiles left by the plows are beginning dwarf my Subaru!



Here are some photos of the almost finished cardigan I started early in January.



It's almost done. I have 32 rows left on the 2nd sleeve, and then the neckband and finishing to do. I decided to start the blocking process though. It will take a day or so for the pieces to dry and they don't all fit at once on the blocking board. So while I'm finishing the sleeve, I have the body blocking. I have really enjoyed knitting this sweater, Cable Vision, from Family Circle Plus Size Knits. I'm using Northampton. I had to go down to size 5 needles to get gauge, and I shortened the sleeves a bit. Otherwise, no major modifications.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Couple More Books

Another middle school novel The Wednesday Wars made me laugh out loud in the middle of silent reading today. (Turned into a great teaching moment, when I shared a passage.) This is a terrific book. Holling Hoodhood is a 7th grader who lives in the Perfect House in the Perfect Neighborhood in 1967 New York. He has the bad luck (to him) of having to spend Wednesday afternoons alone with his teacher Mrs. Baker while every other person in his class goes to CCD or Hebrew school. He is the only Presbyterian in his class and thus has no place to go. The novel follows him month by month as he discovers that perhaps Mrs. Baker doesn't hate his guts, he learns a great deal about Shakespeare, how to handle a bully, and of course, about himself. It's really funny and serious too as events of 1967 and 1968 play out (Viet Nam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr, and Bobby Kennedy) My 8th grade nephew recommended the book to me, and he has great taste! I loved this one.

The 2nd book I finished was so-so. The Friday Night Knitting Club It was slow to get going, and was pretty predictable.

I really should get some of my serious reading done--- but I'm just not in the mood!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Two More Books Read

I finished 2 more books - one light read The Chase by Clive Cussler, and Blackwater Ben by William Durbin which was a middle school novel.

I've read a lot of Clive Cussler who has a series featuring his alter ego, Dirk Pitt, who is a diver and oceanographer who works for NUMA - a quasi-governmental agency that saves the world from one disaster after another. They are quick reads, usually with "thrills and spills" and I started reading them a long time ago on the recommendation of my mom. I really miss my mom's recommendations - she introduced to me a lot of different types of books. They all were on the "light" side of fiction but what a variety -- Georgette Heyer, Daphne DuMaurier, Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Peters, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, Clive Cussler, Dick Francis, Maeve Binchy, Sam Llewellyn, Jan Karon, Dorothy Sayers, Dorothy Eden, Ian Fleming, Ken Follet, Janet Evanovich, Miss Read, Elisabeth Olgivie --- the list goes on. There were some authors she loved that drove me nuts - her Harlequin romances for example, but in general we enjoyed similar tastes for recreational reading. Sometimes when I'm browsing through my local library's shelves, I'm hit with a huge wave of nostalgia and grief when I run into an author my mom loved or an author she introduced me to. For most of my adult life, I lived 1000 miles away from her, but we talked often, and in just about every phone call, we shared what we were reading and recommended books to each other. I really miss those discussions. My sisters and I try to fill her shoes - and we email each other with book recommendations frequently.

The Chase is not a Dirk Pitt novel. It's the story of a turn of the 20th centure detective who is in pursuit of a master thief. It's set in 1906 and the San Franciso earthquake plays a part in the novel as does the railroad.

I read Blackwater Ben as the result of a book project gone wrong! A student presented his book project to the class last week and it was clear from his presentation that he hadn't read the book. Since I hadn't either, I spent an evening enjoying a tale of a young boy spending a winter as his dad's assistant as cooks at a logging camp. The sad part of this is that after talking to the student in question, I discovered that he and another student who I also teach, both plagiarized the written portion of their projects. It was clear from my first glance that the first student had plagiarized but what a convoluted tale transpired. Student #1 offered to write student #2's report if student #2 did the "art part". Student #2 received a report from the first student and typed it. He then left it at home, and mom faxed it to me because she knew it was due. When I received the faxed report, it was immediately apparent that student #2 hadn't written it. When I asked him if he knew student #1 hadn't written it, he admitted that it "seemed better than his usual level of writing." But he typed it anyway. The report had been copied word for word from a review at the Barnes and Noble website . When I talked to student #1 he admitted that he'd copied his book project from the internet too. I hadn't caught it at first because the report he'd turned in had a number of grammar and spelling mistakes. Sure enough when I googled his project I found a Wikipedia entry from a 4th grader that he'd copied!!!
Both students received failing grades and afterschool detentions, and consequences at home. I've had plagiarism before but this one took the cake! The really sad part is that the assignment I asked them to was designed to prevent plagiarism. Instead of a book review, I'd aske them to write a description of the main character, a description of an important setting, a 5 sentence summary of the plot, and a paragraph describing their favorite scene/event in the book. For the "art part" they had to dress a potato like the main character and place it in a diorama depicting an important scene.

Oh, yes, I enjoyed both books.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

For a "Short" Month . . .

February seems to be very long! I know we have an extra day this year, but even with onlh 29 days, this month seems to be dragging on and on. It's got to be the weather. Even though the hours of daylight are longer, the days without sun and blue sky seem endless. We have had storm after storm, cold, ice, school delays or closings every week, and sickness abounds. Enough already!

I just finished book #13 for the 50/08 challenge. #14, #15 and #16 are also underway. I generally have several books going at once --- one in school, one up on the nightstand, and one on the kitchen table. I have another 4 or 5 waiting in the wings too!

My knitting queue is even longer! I have my cable cardigan on the needles - about 20 rows left on the 2nd front, and then the 2 sleeves, a pair of socks about 1/2 done, and then a baby sweater, a vest, a jacket, and a scarf lined up. That doesn't even include the yarn I've bought but don't have a pattern for yet, and the patterns I have that don't have yarn. There's just not enough time! Which is a weird comment to make considering I started today off with the fact that the month is dragging!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Slow but Steady

Cable vision cardigan

Cable vision cardigan

I am making progress on the Cable Vision cardigan from Family Circle Plus Knits. I've done the back and the left front, and have started the right front. It's really enjoyable -- the pattern isn't that difficult, and my Northampton yarn is perfect for the cables. The color is fawn, and while it's technically a lightish brown, in some lights it catches a greenish tint.

On another note, I just finished a great middle school novel called London Calling, by Edward Bloor. (He wrote Tangerine, another middle school goodie.) It's a time travel novel of redemption, and it's fascinating. Good coming to terms with yourself, your family (divorce, alcoholism) and your options. It also touches on issues such as how history is written, how truth can be distorted, and depression. It's really not as dark as it sounds!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The February Blahs

I always have trouble at this time of year - I'm sick of winter and dreary weather, testing is looming at school, there's a lot of illness roaming around school, etc. etc. This is the first full week of school since before Christmas too - between holidays, a workshop day, a snow day and several delayed openings we haven't had a full five day week yet. And this morning was another delayed opening . . . .

I'm also starting to feel like I've been doing the same job for too long. It's too soon to retire (another 7 years) but I've been teaching the same grade since 1995, and I think I need a break! We have district wide testing starting next month so we're making sure all our T's are crossed and our I's dotted so that the students in our care show improvement in their skills. The pressure gets to me sometimes. You'd think that by 6th grade kids understood capitalization, complete sentences, apostrophes, and so forth. Deep down, I think they do, for the most part. They just don't see the need to use the traditional conventions! And so I hand back paragraphs and projects and tell them to proofread and correct.

I read book #11 for this year - The Knitting Circle It was very gripping, but it's a book that I think I couldn't have read a year or so ago. The protagonist is dealing with her raw grief over loss of her daughter, and I think she is portrayed quite realistically. I connected also because I have used knitting as my anchor to get me through some difficult times as well as for enjoyment.

I hope to get some pictures up soon. I'm working on a cabled cardigan from Family Circle Easy Plus Knits and I have finished the back and the left front. You can see the pattern at my Ravelry site --- dswgr6 is my Id.

Vacation is in 13 days and I'm looking forward to it even though we have nothing planned.