Saturday, October 24, 2009

Not a Scavenger Hunt

What is this called, when one clue leads to another, and eventually you find the prize at the end?

My nephew's 10th birthday was a few days ago, so last night I made him 10 clues to find his gift. My son wanted a clue hunt, too, so I just now made him 7 clues (he's 7). I love putting these together.

For my nephew J
Clue #1:
This clue is a real pleaser,
If you look in the _______.

Clue #2:
Don’t trouble your head,
Next clue is in the ____.

Clue #3:
First give your aunt a hug,
Then look in your favorite ___.

Clue #4:
Freddy is a happy elf,
He says look on the book____.

Clue #5:
Give your aunt a bit more lovin’,
Now go look in the ____.

Clue #6:
This clue rocks!
Look in the da-da-da-___.
(I had to help with this one. It was the Jack-in-the-___. When they played the tune and it popped open, the paper clue popped way out. It was great!)

Clue #7:
When you fight,
you often say ouch,
Now look in the ____.

Clue #8:
When we got lice,
we cut off our ____,
Now go look behind the ____.

Clue #9:
Hope you’re not too tired to look,
Next clue is inside a ____.

Clue #10:
Last clue, almost home,
Look for your gift under the ____.

Here's the one my son gets to do in the morning. (I'm up in the middle of the night because I couldn't sleep...)

For R

Clue #1:
Don’t be a fool,
Look under the _____.

Clue #2:
If this clue is not a liar,
The next one will be in the ______.

Clue #3:
Don’t go too far,
Find a clue
On the ___.

Clue #4:
Tell Punkie to stop her clawing,
Now look behind a cool car ______.

Clue #5:
Give your mom a great big hug,
Now look under a different ___.

Clue #6:
Solve all puzzles if you’re able,
Next clue is under a folding _____.

Clue #7:
You are getting very hot!
Find your prize in the old ___-___.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Action on Climate Change

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce seems to be in the way of progress on this issue, so...

I just heard on Democracy Now that the Yes Men have struck again. From their website, it looks like their last 'prank' was in 2007. Yesterday they impersonated the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, made a press release, and gave a press conference. See it on YouTube, it's hilarious!

Medill Innocence Project Pressured

This program at Northwestern University has done so much good. Now, when a new hearing has been scheduled for a man in prison for 31 years for a murder he may not have committed, the prosecutors office is harassing the students who helped get the evidence to exonerate him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

VanGogh online

I have two favorite artists - Vincent vanGogh and Georgia O'Keeffe. peacay at BibliOdyssey has just posted a bunch of vanGogh's sketches, included in his letters. It's a wonderful collection.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

There's not enough time in the day...

I love being a mommy. I love the work I'm doing on this book. I love teaching math.

But I want to sing with friends, and there's not space in my life for it.

I love riding my bike, and haven't done it for months. Same with swimming and yoga.

I don't suppose anyone gets to do everything they love, huh?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

If he could X, they'd blame him for Y

I have no newspaper, I watch no TV, so you can imagine how little I follow the day-to-day political wrangling. But I have the internet, and I've heard a bit about tea parties and lifers and racists demeaning the president, so I was heartened by this speech by Rep. Alan Grayson. I hope there are Republicans who are ashamed of the antics of their party, and I don't think the Democrats are really on my side (as an anarchist and a Green), but I think this speaks to the ridiculous bitterness directed at Obama:

America understands that there's one party in this country that's in favor of health care reform and one party that's against it and they know why.

They understand if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world, the Republicans would blame him for over-population.

They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace, they'd blame him for destroying the defense industry.

In fact they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon.

Seen at Video Cafe.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Great Books?

On The Chronicle of Higher Education website, there's an article by W.A. Pannapacker titled Confessions of a Middlebrow Professor. He reminisces about his working class upbringing with parents who valued 'high culture'. The had a set of "Great Books of the Western World, in 54 leatherette volumes", which he loved. His reminiscences are in response to a recent book by Alex Beam titled A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books.

He has a lot to say about 'Great Books' and about 'strivers' (people who are trying to move up in status). He appreciates what reading those books did for his mind. I get that. But I found the comments pretty one-dimensional, and didn't see any real critique of the notion of a canon inherent in the idea of some particular set of books being the ones called 'Great Books'. My comment there was pretty long, and could have been longer. Here it is, with minor changes:

A previous commenter wrote:
What has to be stressed is that the books comprising the "Great Books" set are, indeed, great books--and that the vociferous critics of the very idea of a great book who have infested academic life in recent decades aren't capable of producing even modestly good books.

I enjoyed most of the comments here, but please don't push the pendulum back the other way, folks. I suppose I'm middlebrow (I hadn't heard the term before), but not at all in the way the author described. My dad was the first in his family to go to college, my mom never did finish college. They're both big readers. They may care about status, but I never did much. I read voraciously because it was what I liked to do.

I went to the University of Michigan in 74, and their honors program included a course in Great Books for entering students. (It started with the Bible, included lots of Greeks, and ended with Dante and Faust. Nothing originally in English, which my higher-brow roommate pointed out.) I had just spent the previous year reading every feminist book I could get my hands on, and was pretty disgusted at all the male heroics. I think I would have liked The Iliad and the Odyssey more when I was young and reading The Arabian Nights. The professor would talk about universal themes, and I'd sit there thinking about how the themes felt pretty male to me. (In a lecture hall of hundreds it wasn't easy to comment.) My favorite semi-universal theme is overcoming oppression, and I didn't see much of that in the books we read.

How about Oprah's pushing of great books? No capitals here; I'll bet she doesn't think of her choices as a canon. (I wouldn't know for sure, as I don't watch TV. I just hear people who do talking about her books.) She has gotten lots of people (many you'd call lowbrow, I think) reading, and discussing, better books.

I think it's possible to have a respect for great literature that doesn't include the notion of a canon. Instead of alleged universal themes that don't include me (as a woman, or as a lesbian) or my friends of color, let's think together about what might be universal themes, and how differently they might be expressed in different works.

My degrees are in math, but I considered a second masters in literature. It won't happen, though - too much pretension in lit courses, and I can't stand being graded on my thoughts.

My personal canon includes The Color Purple, The Salt Eaters (Bamabara), The Yellow Wallpaper (Gilman), The Bean Trees (Kingsolver), and The Word for World is Forest (LeGuin). I'd love to hear what books others think of as 'great books', that aren't in the traditional canon.

One last bit: I was intrigued to see this side of Virginia Woolf. The side of her I know best is displayed in A Room of One's Own, where she dissects sexism by looking at books on Woman in the British Library. (Her upper-class perspective did show in her notion of genteel poverty being someone with a small inheritance.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What a week! Chickens, Lice, and the book

As I wrote this to a friend, I thought about putting it here, to share with anyone else who might want to hear about my life. Let me know if you're out there...

Well, the chickens weren't the big news this week. The lice were. Last week two of the girls at Wildcat (same family) discovered they had lice. So their family went through all that. When I got the email, I had R (my son, 7) come over to me, and I looked through the hair at the nape of his neck. I didn't see anything, and I figured we were ok.

On Thursday, they did a lice check at school. They found lice on R, and I had them check me. I had the worst lice they'd seen. Big ones, little ones, nits - lots of everything. S was recommending this place called Lice Control. "You go there, they get rid of all of it. You don't spend hours." I called and they said they didn't have a salon any more, but they could come to my home. The price they quoted on the phone sounded about the same. It didn't end up the same. I paid $325! Which I can't afford. But it's still the best thing. I would have been stressed for days and weeks, trying to do a good enough job, and worrying about how hard it is to see them. He offered us a free 2nd treatment on Monday, when they're training people. So we're driving to Castro Valley (half hour), and getting re-treated.

He said he usually gets everything out on the first treatment, but R's case was bad (worse than mine), and he was sure there were still nits. He asked me to cut R's hair. So last night D cut his hair. He now has a Mohawk. This is his first 'fun' haircut ever.

This company says the lice can't live more than 24 hours off a person's head. They recommend laundering everything you can and vacuuming the rest, and then staying away from anything that could have had the lice on it, for 24 hours. Did all that. I still have the throw rugs to launder, and piles of stuff in the laundry room, waiting to come out of seclusion. I'm going to do it again with the sheets on Monday, in case we got some lice on them.

There's one more chapter to this story. It really started back in May. My head was itching, so I went to the doctor to see if I had lice. He checked (thoroughly, I thought), and told me I did not have lice. I've been itching for 5 months, and trying to find a good shampoo that wouldn't do this to me. I am itching a little this morning, but I itched a lot less yesterday. I'm thinking it was lice the whole time. I had to write the people who come to my math salon, and tell them - if you sat in my recliner, you may have been exposed... (Embarassing!) I was also angry, thinking about how badly I'd been itching, and how the doctor misled me.

OK. Now I can write about chickens. We got the first one on Saturday evening. We went to S's house, and no one was home. She had told us we could go in back and catch some, so we went in back and managed to catch one. It was quite an ordeal. Her yard is really steep, heading down to a stream. It's rocky and I worry about slipping. It's even like that inside the chicken run. So I was pleased I managed to catch one. We went back on Monday, and she caught us two more.

The first one R named Blackie. She's really dark red and brown. The other two are a lighter brown (reddish too). I need to find out what kind they are. Blackie spent Sunday hiding behind a big brush pile, and I finally had to go behind there with a broom (mostly to get the spiders out of my way), to get her out. After her day of freedom, she wouldn't come out of the coop for a few days. So the first time I saw Squawky chasing her and pecking at her was on Thursday, I think. I put Squawky in the coop for the day, and did she ever hate it! Yesterday they were all in the run together, and they seemed to be OK. We'll see... (Squawky sure rules the roost. I call her Queen Squawk.)

The flies have come. I don't have any screens on my house, so I'll have to deal with that eventually. I still don't have straw, so they haven't gone into the laying boxes in the back of the coop yet. I'm hoping to find that today. The place I bought the feed doesn't have it.

We've gotten 3 eggs so far. I'm still using up the 'boughten' eggs I had in the fridge. When those are done, we'll pretty much ration ourselves to what the girls provide. I'd like to let them out to run around the yard and eat the snails, but I want to fix the fence in one place first, and clear out a better path behind that brush pile.

I had thought my big news this week would be all the chapters for the book arriving. I kept all day Thursday and Friday clear for editing and was so eager for it. Wednesday was the deadline, and I kept checking my email. One chapter came in around 5 pm, and I read it over and sent him some quick comments ("More detail! Tell me more about those students!"), and went back to checking for more chapters. None came. And none came on Thursday. Yesterday morning I emailed all the people who were supposed to send one on Wednesday. No reply yet from any of them... I'm getting nervous. Maybe they needed the weekend. I will hope everyone will come through.


And that's how my week went. Too busy with the lice and the chickens to post here until now.

Just some stuff I like...

Here's a typing practice program that looks fun. I often want to get to where I stop looking at the keys, and enjoy a bit of this sort of practice.

I suppose I could put this one on Math Mama, but it seems more at home here. It's art with a political statement called Running the Numbers. The first one looks like a Charlie Brown picture until you get close enough. It "depicts ten thousand dog and cat collars, equal to the average number of unwanted dogs and cats euthanized in the United States every day."

Learning about taxes for fun?!!

My brother laughed when I said I was following a blog about taxation. Hard to believe that could possibly be interesting, isn't it? I found it by following Mary O'Keeffe, who writes the Albany Area Math Circle blog, to her other blog, Bed buffaloes in your tax code. Lately she's been writing a series of posts on why we should have a National Tax Bee (like the National Spelling Bee). There are 3 so far. I think she's on a roll. You know someone loves what they do when they really believe it could make good TV.

I think the book I'm working on about learning math outside the classroom (and in) is so cool Oprah might want to do a show on it. Maybe I'm delirious. Maybe Mary O'Keeffe is delirious. But we are having fun with ideas, and that's why blogging just might make a difference in the world. You can find someone passionate about anything, and they might even manage to explain it well enough to be contagious.