Sunday, February 28, 2010

Knitting Olympics: DNF

My sweater is actually a tad longer, but not much.  I still have one more skein after the current skein is finished, to use on the body, which leaves me 3 skeins for the sleeves.  I'm actually going to move to the sleeves when I finish the current skein because I always shorten my sleeves by 3 inches.  (I have VERY short arms, and do this on all sweaters).  Then I can use the rest of the yarn to get a longer sweater since I don't like short sweaters.    I'm just hoping  this will fit.

So I guess I'm a slower knitter than I thought.  It takes me about an hour to do 4 lace rows.  It's a very easy lace pattern, but they are long rows  (almost 400 stitches). And despite the fact that it's a quickly memorized pattern, I still make mistakes and find I lost a yarn over, or put it in the wrong place. 

It's okay that I won't make the finish in time.  I've been enjoying the process and that's what counts.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book #18 Midnight Come Again

Midnight Come Again (Kate Shugak, Book 10) Midnight Come Again by Dana Stabenow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I stayed up til the wee hours with this one!  Kate Shugak has left her homestead, changed her name, and abandoned her friends in her deep grief.  Meanwhile, Jim Chopin has been tapped to go undercover by the FBI to trace a Russian Mafia plutonium smuggling scheme.  Off he goes to Bering, where he takes a job as a freight handler at the local airstrip.  Imagine his surprise when the other employee turns out to be Kate!  This novel features Jim Chopin prominently and much of it is told from his point of view.  As the novel progresses, however, Kate is brought back to the forefront as she finally begins to emerge from her paralyzing grief.  Once again, Dana Stabenow evokes the culture and geography of Alaska well, and her characters take on new depths as the story plays out.  I've already started the next one in the series!

View all my reviews >>

Friday, February 26, 2010

And So the Week Ends

So I end my winter break sick --- 2 days of a sore throat, swollen glands, headache, which is morphing now into a head cold and tight cough.  I had to go into school yesterday and today for workshops, and if I'm being honest, they were not the most productive use of my time.  While some of the work was necessary, it could have been condensed into one day.  Today especially felt like busy work to me.  It was hard enough to have to go into school these last two days; at least give me a meaningful task to accomplish or give me time to work in my classroom on planning.  

I have not gotten as far as wanted to on my knitting.  I may, if I do nothing but knit from now til Sunday, finish the body of my sweater, but not the sleeves.  I'm disappointed, but that's okay.  I gave myself a challenge, and it's okay that I didn't finish . . . .I also couldn't watch all of the ice skating last night --- 11 pm is too late for me to watch TV on a school night!   I did enjoy the men's aerials, though I think they're crazy!!

Here's a good read:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (The BuckShaw Chronicles, #1) The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Flavia deLuce is the eleven year old sleuth in this debut novel.  She's precocious, imaginative, lonely, and passionate about chemistry.  Flavia is the youngest daughter of a widowed philatelist, and she's devoted to finding ways to "get even" with her older sisters Daphne and Ophelia. She's especially fascinated with poisons, and uses her knowledge of pharmacology to "prank" her sister.   She lives in 1950's England in Buckland, the ancestral home of her family, and her family has a reputation for eccentricity.   As a schoolboy, her father was involved in the suicide/accidental death/murder of his schoolmaster and also in the disappearance of a very rare stamp.  When a dead body appears in Flavia's garden, her father is a suspect, and off she goes, hot on the trail of the murderer, finding clues that even Inspector Hewitt misses.  I really enjoyed this book.  I'm not sure if it's being marketed as a young adult mystery, an adult mystery, or a children's book. It would certainly appeal to some of my more mature readers on some levels.  I learned a lot too -- about chemistry and stamp-collecting, and I could see this book being used as a hook in a chemistry lab. 

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winter Break - cont'd

Edited:  So the power cut off before I could post the book review--- here's what I wrote yesterday . . .and I'm still sick, but have to at least show my face at school, then come home early, I hope!

Today is my last day of break - back to school tomorrow and Friday.  At least it's workshops, so somebody else has done the "lesson-planning" and I get to be the student for a change!

I spent Sunday and Monday doing school work --- grading papers and  planning lessons, including working on a new science unit.  I had to reach back to high school physics for this one - wave energy, sound, and light.  I read a couple of science textbooks to familiarize myself with content, and tried a couple of the suggested lab experiments.  Yesterday was supposed to be tax day --- I set out to organize all our info so that I can send it to the accountant, but I got sidetracked by illness.  I have developed a horrible sore throat and fever, achiness, etc.  I should go to the doctor, but we are in the middle of a huge snowstorm --- 14 inches on the ground and it's still coming.  Nobody's going anywhere.  Right now, the tylenol has me in an "okay, maybe I'm getting better" state, but I'm not holding my breath.  We'll see.  I want to be knitting, but the needles feel too heavy right now, and the lace pattern of my sweater too daunting  --- that's the illness talking there.

I did finish this book last night (or early this am when I couldn't sleep!)

Shadows in Bronze (Marcus Didius Falco, #2) Shadows in Bronze by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Shadows in Bronze is the second book in the Marcus Didius Falco series, and it's a wild romp through Rome, Pompeii, Hercanuleum, and the coastline of southern Italy.  Falco is working as Vespasian's informer, trying to earn enough money to purchase a higher rank.  Vespasian gives him all the "dirty" jobs however, like ridding Rome of inconvenient corpses and mopping up a failed anti-Vespasian conspiracy.  Helena Justina is back in the picture, despite Falco's resolve to forget her, and their relationship takes some unexpected turns and twists.  I have to admit that I got a little lost in the intricacy of the plot, and the abruptness of chapters got  a bit in the way of my enjoyment.  However, this was quite a satisfying adventure, and could lend itself to a great action/wry twist humor TV series.  I'm looking forward to reading #3 in the series!

View all my reviews >>

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Break

This may be our last year of a February winter break and an April spring break.  Our school board wants to combine the 2 weeks into one March break.  Many of us are against this idea for a lot of reasons.  The board wants us to be able to get out of school a week earlier, which sounds nice.  The downside to that however, is that it extends the summer learning loss window.  Kids lose a lot of ground over the 9 weeks they already have off.  Adding one more week to that doesn't seem educationally sound to me.  In New England, the period of time between Christmas and March is a long dark tunnel.  The Feb break comes along at the height of flu and cold season, and does a great job of breaking up that cycle.  We will see what happens with the calendar - decisions will be made in a few weeks.

This year though my winter break is shorter than usual.  The kids have the whole week off; teachers just have M-W off.  We have workshops scheduled for Thursday and Friday.  This is a huge change, and one that we had no say in.  Don't get me wrong, the professional development time is valuable.  It's just that in the past, it wasn't scheduled into a 50 years plus-old tradition, and it wasn't sprung on us with no input.    There's a lot of unhappiness in the ranks. 

So what am I doing for this break?  On Saturday, we traveled to Boston to visit with our sons.  Son #2 lives in LA and flew east with his lovely girlfriend on business.  Son #1 lives in Providence so  he drove up and we all met at the Prudential Center.  We had a lovely day visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  I was fascinated by two of the special exhibits there:  Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC 
and Luís Meléndez: Master of Spanish Still Life.  The Egyptian artifacts painted a detailed picture of everyday life but I was so bothered by the fact that I haven't been able to teach social studies for the last two years.  I kept wanting to buy resources in the gift shop for the 6th graders, but I refuse to spend money on something I'm not teaching.  I fell in love with the paintings in the still life exhibit.  Meléndez's paintings of fruits, vegetables, and kitchen implements were amazing.  He was a keen observer and captured details like the water droplets oozing out of a cut watermelon, the reflection of fruit off a silver platter, and the iridescence of a freshly-caught fish's eye.  Imagine a cauliflower so true to life that it seemed 3 dimensional!    After our cultural enhancement we headed to the North End for a great Italian dinner on Hanover Street, followed by sensational cannolli  from Mikes Pastry.  

Yesterday I spent grading science reports and today I'm working on developing a new science unit on waves, sound, and light.  Thus I am reading the textbook and doing some research since high school physics was the last time I thought about wave energy.  I have the state GLE's and a ton of resources to use, so that's my game plan for today.  Tomorrow is tax day, and then Wednesday will be a day off.  Thursday and Friday it's back to school for work shops, and then it's the weekend. . . .I guess the break part is the fact that I can sleep in!

And I can stay up a bit later to watch the Olympics.  I am not a sports person by any stretch of the imagination,but I just love watching Olympic competition --- curling, bobsledding, skating, skiiing, I don't care!   My knitting is coming along - I probably won't finish my sweater by the end of closing ceremonies, but I'm giving it a valiant try.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tough Day Ahead

I do not like the day before a break, especially one that's set up to be crazy.  I don't understand why we set kids up to get overexcited and wild by scheduling super high energy events such as pep rallies, and whole school tug of wars on the Friday before winter vacation.  All week long the excitement has been building . . . . and the kids who have trouble focusing and keeping their impulses under control have already had a harder than usual time.  I suspect it won't be pretty.

There will be some big decisions made shortly too, about reorganization of teaching teams.  I'm one of the folks on the cusp of another unwanted change.  I alternate between anger and half-hearted optimism, but mostly feel betrayed once again. 

As I said, a tough day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Silver Pigs -

I liked this new series I discovered by Lindsey Davis.  As a history major, and erstwhile social studies teacher, I love historical fiction, and it's especially enjoyable when it's set in a favorite time period.  In this case, it's ancient Rome during the time of Vespasian.  The Empire is in turmoil, having just endured the Year of Four Emperors.  As is usual for imperial Rome, intrigue is never far away.

The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco, #1) The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ancient Rome, theft, murder, damsels in distress, and true love  - Lindsey Davis introduces Marcus Didius Falco, a professional informer and investigator.  The silver pigs in this novel refer to silver ingots that have been disguised as lead.  Is a Senator involved in smuggling these ingots out of Britain to finance the overthrow of the emperor Vespasian?  Who is responsible for the death of Sosia, the beautiful niece of the beautiful, but fiery Helen Justinia?  Marcus Didius Falco is an Army veteran, sickened by the mismanagement of the "higher ups."  He has no love for the imperial rulers of Rome and in fact is a republican (power to the people, not the emperor!).  He's well-known as a womanizing scoundrel, a doting uncle, and is constantly running from his landlord as he tries to avoid paying his rent as long as possible.  He's found work as an investigator with very-questionable contacts and morals.  Yet, he really does have the proverbial heart of gold, deeply hidden..  I really enjoyed this one!  

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes

I'm glad today was a snow day.  Even though we now risk having to go into the next week in June should we have another snow day, I am glad that today was a day I got to stay home.  I've been fighting the bug that's been making the rounds at school, and I was feeling last night that I was losing the battle.  I did get up at my usual 4:45 am but by 5:20, when the decision to close school was made, I snuggled back into bed and actually went back to sleep until the phone rudely awakened me at 7 am.  I've had a very leisurely day ---- catching up on episodes of Big Love, Castle, Project Runway, and even catching some Olympic curling.  I got lots of knitting done on my Knitting Olympics project, the February Lady Sweater. I napped some too.  I feel like a turned the corner and at least got the immunity cells recharged.

I also had a chance to compose an email to my principal.  He asked me for my thoughts on a proposed assignment change last week, and he gave me some time to think about it.   I've been thinking, and finally got my thoughts down in writing, slept on it, prayed about it, and finally composed the email.   Now I just have to wait and pray that I've made my thoughts persuasive enough.

All in all, a snow day was exactly what I needed today.

Books of 2010: #14 Shades of Grey

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron (Shades of Grey, #1) Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This new novel from Jasper Fforde is very different from both his Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series.  While the biting satire is there, this is a much darker-hued (pun intended) view of the world.   Fforde's novel is set about 500 years in the future after Something Happened.  Society is tightly organized and controlled ( á la 1984 or the The Giver) by a Head Office and National Color.  Your place in society is determined strictly by the color and the percentage of that color that you can  perceive.  Eddie Russet, a potential high-level Red, is sent to the Outer Fringes as punishment for his lack of humility.  Or is that really the reason?  Eddie is trying to "color up" through an advantageous marriage, but he's been known to question things that are supposed to be unquestionable.  He travels to East Carmine with his father, who acts as a healer, using color swatches as his tools.  Eddie meets Jane Grey, a known troublemaker, and through his association with her, discovers far more about his world than he wanted to know.   Fforde creates a very believable world - a world that values spoons, barcodes, and following Munsell's Rules.  There's the characteristic Fforde humor  --- the librarians who can recite the misremembered names of novels that have been removed in the Great Leapbacks, Killer Swans, and the wonder of loopholes.  I liked this book, though not as light-hearted in feeling as his previous books.  I was bothered by the darkness of the ending, but I am looking forward to reading the sequels.  It wasn't a fast (for me, anyway) read. I did get interrupted a lot, but at the same time, the darker side of the humor, slowed me down.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Evening - Random Musings

I'm ending this weekend in a much less stressed frame of mind than this time last Sunday.   I had many fewer "have to's" this weekend.  I still could use another day in between Saturday and Sunday.  Yesterday I did chores - laundry, schoolwork, errands.  I didn't get them all done and just realized that I never got to the bank.   We went to Home Depot to look for carpet for a room we're renovating, but the price wasn't right, so we decided to wait on the carpet.  There's a very worn pine floor that we can cover with a Oriental rug for now, so it's not urgent that we lay down carpet at the moment.    Today I even made some Toll House cookies for my Valentine.  I can't remember the last time I made chocolate chip cookies!  Now the trick will be to limit myself to just one a day as a treat!!

I got to church today which was good in some respects and not so good in others.  I am finding it harder and harder to go the church I've attended for over 30 years.  I am an active member; in fact I'm part of the church leadership team.  Yet I cannot seem to find nourishment during worship.  As I sat in church this morning, trying to open myself up to whatever the Spirit had to offer, I realized how stale and empty the service felt.  I love the people of the congregation - it is a family, which I love dearly, but it doesn't seem to be enough.  I have signed up for a Lenten Bible study which starts tomorrow night to see if that helps.  We've been too long without pastoral leadership, so I keep going, hoping that now that we have a settled pastor, I'll find my way again.  But that quiet voice is starting to shout that perhaps this isn't the place any more. 

My knitting is coming along well -- I've really been enjoying the Winter Olympics.  The short track speed skating last night had me on the edge of my seat, and I really enjoyed the women's moguls competition.  This afternoon I even enjoyed the men's biathlon!  I wish the ice skating wasn't tonight -- I have to go to bed early since there's school tomorrow!  One more week and then a very short break.  The kids have the whole last week of Feb off but we only have 3 days.  We have to go back on Thursday and Friday for professional development days.  This is the first year ever that this has happened.  We've always had the full week.  We are NOT happy campers!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Olympics


So as I sit and watch the Vancouver Winter Games, I am also participating in the The Knitting Olympics. This is a new endeavor for me, and it will definitely be a challenge.  I am attempting the February Lady Sweater.  I'm using Valley Yarns Colrain  in burgundy on size 7 needle.  Last night I cast on at 8 pm EST --- 8 times because I couldn't get the right amount of yarn estimated for the long tail cast on  --- I kept ending up with a way too long tail!  I knit about 4 inches of the yoke (and re-knit several rows several times!).  I have 20 more repeats before I move on to the next step in the yoke. 

This will be challenging to knit in the allotted time span.  I will not have a great deal of knitting time this coming week  -- two evenings out for Lenten Bible Study and Ash Wednesday services, plus all the usual school stuff, but then the following week I have 3 days of Winter Break. (The kids have the whole week, but our school board in its infinite wisdom decided to put 2 of our professional development days at the end of what has always been a full week of winter break!)  So, wish me luck!

It Was a VERY LONG Week

I think the kids took crazy pills this week at school.  I  haven't had such a difficult week behavior-wise in a couple of years.  Student A was suspended from school for a knock-down, drag-out physical fight, spent a n day on "in-school" suspension, and came back into the classroom on Tuesday.  He was in no emotional/mental state to be in the classroom, and I had to remove him  Tuesday.  On Wednesday he managed to stay in the classroom, but I had to file an "incident" report.  On Thursday I was out of the classroom because I am on a district committee that's rewriting the language arts curriculum and my sub had to send him to the principal's office.  Meanwhile Student B was out of control in the classroom on Monday, so I wrote him up and called home.  On Tuesday, I had to write him up again and he spent lunch with the principal.  Also on Tuesday, Student B and Student C had a food fight in the cafeteria because Student D told them too!  Then on Wednesday, Student C and Student A got into a loudly vehement disagreement over whether or not the classroom window should be open.  As I said, it was a crazy week.  Kids really feed off negative energy, even more so than positive energy.  I know that they all were hoping we'd get a snowstorm (the remnants of the massive storm that hit the mid East coast) so storm energy was in the mix too.  Unfortunately we just got snow showers.   I did make some phone calls to parents and I did threaten to make a few more calls, so by Friday, things were much calmer.  I was thinking somehow that it was me but when just about every other teacher experienced a similar week, I decided that it was just one of those weeks.
We have one more week before winter break, so I'm hoping we contain the energy a little bit longer. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Somehow it doesn't seem right that it's just going on 8 pm on Saturday night, and I'm still busy with chores.  Almost 5 hours spent today on business bookkeeping and it's not done, plus a trip to a wallpaper store to purchase wallpaper for the 2nd bedroom renovation that will start once the first room is done  (more on that another time.) I already have a full-time teaching job to fit into my life ----  I don't really have time for a 2nd job! 

It Could Have Been a Good One

 Pirate Latitudes Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
   I found this book dull, perhaps because this was a manuscript found after Michael Crichton died, and it was not polished and edited the way  it might have been had the author himself submitted it for publication.  Although there is potential for a "rollicking, swashbuckling adventure", it's unrealized potential.  This truly felt like the first draft.  The pieces were all there - flawed hero, villainous characters, loyal henchmen, damsel in distress, treasure hunt, pirates, exotic locations, murder, mayhem, and sex.  But none of pieces were developed well.  I felt no rapport with any of the characters, and didn't really care how the drama played out.  All in all, I was glad I borrowed this from the library instead of downloading it on my Kindle.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another Book Review

Hunter's Moon (Kate Shugak, Book 9) Hunter's Moon by Dana Stabenow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I gave this book 4 stars because I can't stop thinking about it, not because I really liked it.  I hated the ending!  To go from the peak to the lowest depths in one novel is gut-wrenching.  Kate and Jack are hired as assistant guides for a backcountry hunting trip.  The clients are German executives on a corporate retreat, and there's something "off" about them.  The company is being investigated on several fronts, and there are some odd signals being sent. All hell breaks loose when one hunter is accidentally shot, and then a second death occurs.  I just couldn't believe the ending!

View all my reviews >>