Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's Student Email Time Again

Did you ever want to reach through somebody's monitor and poke them in the eye? Me neither.

The semester is nearly half over. Midterm exams are next week. The students have all had their very own copy of the syllabus, on which are all the official course rules, among other things, since last August. And yet, I still get emails begging for exceptions.

(I've removed the student email I had posted here. I just didn't feel right exposing her to public ridicule, even though she deserved it.)

The gist of the email, though, was that even though she'd missed several classes, she demanded an exception and wanted me to email all of her missed work to her. Plus, her email was badly spelled, completely devoid of good grammar, and demanding.

She didn't ask, she demanded. And the answer is "no."

Help me, Rhonda, help me get it out of my head.

There are no make-ups in this class!!!!! (Unless you've got a way better excuse than. . . nothing. And when you get all elitist on me)

And when you can't phrase an email any better than this.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:49 PM | |

Monday, February 26, 2007

Everything But Money, and a Caged Bird, Too.

"Listen carefully to what country people call mother wit. In those homely sayings are couched the collective wisdom of generations." -- Maya Angelou

Whenever I re-read the chapter in "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" where Marguerite visits Mrs. Flowers, and gets that advice from her (among other things), I think of Sam Levinson. I love his books so very incredibly much. I don't think I have ever read any other books that contain so much wisdom, and so many quotable quotes.

On the third-to-the-last-page of his wonderful "In One Era and Out The Other," he talks about the humanitarian tradition, which, according to Sam, is ". . .philanthropic in its original Greek meaning: love of man. How love of man is best carried out for the good and welfare of the individual and society is superbly expressed by . . . Moses Maimonides, who died in Spain in the year 1204."

Remembering that 'charity' actually means 'love,' here are Moses Maimonides' levels of charity:

The first and lowest degree is to give - but with reluctance or regret. This is the gift of the hand but not of the heart.

The second is to give cheerfully, but not proportionately to the distress of the suffering.

The third is to give cheerfully and proportionately but not until we are solicited.

The fourth is to give cheerfully, proportionately, and even unsolicited, but to put it in the poor man's hand, thereby exciting in him the painful emotion of shame.

The fifth is to give charity in such a way that the distressed may receive the bounty and know their benefactor without their being known to him.

The sixth, which rises still higher, is to know the objects of our bounty, but remain unknown to them.

The seventh is still more meritorious, namely, to bestow charity in such a way that the benefactor may not know the relieved persons, nor they the name of their benefactor.

The eighth and most meritorious of all is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty: namely, to assist the reduced brother either by a considerable gift, or a loan of money, or by teaching him a trade, or by putting him in the way of business, so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding up his hand for charity. . . . This is the highest step and the summit of charity's golden ladder.

I am of the opinion that it is the responsibility of the teacher to instill that eighth level into all of his/her students. To use it on them, and to teach them to use it on others.

Others will disgree, of course, because it's a lot easier to merely teach to a test, but I could never do just that. I wanted better things for my students.

That is, of course, one reason why I'm not in the public schools any more. It is also one reason why I am very, very glad of that.

Because Mrs. Flowers took the time to give Marguerite Johnson some personal and individual attention, we have Maya Angelou.

Who else might we have, if teachers are ever permitted to give personal and individual attention again? Who might we have? Who might we have had? Who did we never have?

I think it's time to take back our schools.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:34 PM | |

There's A Traffic Jam In Harlem That's Backed Up To Jackson Heights

Remember when most tv sitcoms had a theme song? With words? I remember having sing-a-longs on the playground, of tv theme songs.

The Beverly Hillbillies. Petticoat Junction. The Brady Bunch. The Patty Duke Show. Car 54. The Addams Family. Green Acres. Gilligan's Island. Flipper. Happy Days. The Muppet Show. Laverne & Shirley. The Jefferson's. Welcome Back Kotter. Cheers. Bosom Buddies. Facts of Life. Family Ties. WKRP. Three's Company. And a lot of others.

I miss that.

Now, of course, tv shows either have some instrumental thing, or they use various pop hits, and it's just not the same. It's not cool at all.

I do love some of the tv show soundtracks, though. I was never consistent in my loves and hates. I don't watch tv now, anyway. But when I was a little kid, I knew ALL the words.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:41 AM | |

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I Might Have Been Perfect But I Was Born Too Late

Things that really, really annoy me, and there's no good reason for it, they just DO:

1. . . . trying to read a piece of writing that might have been pretty good if the writer had not used DH, DD, DS, etc. What in the world is up with that? Can't the writer spell these words? When I try to read a piece of writing about somebody's DH, I almost throw up a little back in my throat. Spell it out, dammit; are you twelve years old? When you use these initials, you come off sounding like a tool.

2. People in the grocery store who don't notice that they are in the "ten items or under" line until they get right up to the cashier, and then they smile sheepishly and start putting their stuff on the little short counter that was only meant to hold ten items or under, anyway. Are you illiterate? Are you THAT DISTRACTED by your obnoxious children? When you pretend to be all astounded at your "mistake," it just adds to the farce. Nobody believes you did it accidentally; it was just the shortest line and you dove into it. Jerk. I stand behind you with my gallon of milk and my sack of green seedless grapes, and I loathe you.

3. People who park in the handicapped space because they're just going to run in for a second. I wish the cops would ticket those people every single time no matter who they are, and I wish the fines were really, really big. A few years ago, during a local election, I did not vote for a guy I had originally planned to vote for, because one of his workers parked in a handicapped spot at the post office, to run in for 'just a sec.' I figured, if that was the kind of person he wanted working for him, he wasn't the kind of person I wanted to vote for. And I told everybody I knew.

4. Parents who believe they and their children are above the school rules. Administrators who enable them. Scum, both.

5. Drivers who do not signal before they turn. Drivers who swing way out into another lane whilst turning.

6. People who do not read the rules and then get all huffy because they're expected to abide by them anyway. (Item: check out your kid's school handbook. Don't stomp to school and make an idiot of yourself over an issue that's clearly spelled out in a book you've had at your disposal since August.)

7. Keep your animals out of other people's yards. Let them poop in YOUR yard.

8. Nice people do not light a cigarette anywhere except their own home or maybe a bar that doesn't mind catering to drug addicts. Preferably with all the doors and windows shut tight so they can't stink up any other parts of the world.

9. People who don't vote. I believe that only voters have the right to be whiners. People who don't vote have chosen of their own free will to forfeit all whining rights, later. Why would anybody care about the political opinions of somebody who didn't even have the balls to get out there and vote? Not me.

10. People who have no elevator manners.

11. People who try to cut a line.

12. People who allow someone to cut in front of them. They're not just cutting in front of YOU, you moron, they're cutting in front of everybody behind you, too. You have no right to sanction that.

13. People who don't discipline their children and yet insist on taking them out in public. Blah.

14. Administrators of almost every kind. If I ever meet a good one, I will start making exceptions.

15. Parents who let their kids boss them around. Homes in which the kids rule. Listen, ask your kid what he wants for dinner only if he's buying it.

16. Parents (and I use that term loosely) who buy luxuries for themselves instead of socks and mittens and pencils and milk for their children. In fact, parents who buy ANYTHING for themselves, rather than socks and mittens for their children, are scum.

17. People of any age who SCREAM. In public or in private, I really don't care. Modulate your voice, you screeching moron.

18. People who don't keep their word. Promises aren't something you say during the convenience of a moment. Promises are supposed to be carved in stone, and kept, no matter what the inconvenience to you, and it doesn't matter if you changed your mind. When we hired an Amish family to build our house, some twenty years ago, there wasn't a piece of paper anywhere, concerning the deal. It was made verbally and sealed with a handshake. Both sides kept their word. It was a matter of honesty and honor. The bank, of course, had no honor or honesty and there was a mountain of paperwork involved there. What a difference.

19. People who bring animals to crowded places. I know that little Tiffin is like your child, but children don't belong everywhere, either. Also, Tiffin's shit stinks, and when she starts yip yip yipping, it's as obnoxious as a child's whining would be. Hire a sitter for your dog next time.

20. People who don't bathe. I've had teachers with nasty hair, and I've seen professional people who smell like skank or locker room. What's up with that? There's no excuse. Buy a mirror and look in it. And while you're at the store, buy some soap and shampoo and use it. Daily. Pewww.

I'm sure I have many more peeves, but that's enough for now. I'm really a very nice person, as long as you don't stink or do rude selfish things. And you are allowed to think the same kind of things about me.

Because, I'm not perfect either, even though people think I am.

Maybe I was just born too late.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:46 PM | |

Surrealistic Snow Cones

See this snow cone? Now imagine thousands of them falling from the sky, painfully pelting you and covering your car with ice. Imagine walking through kazillions of snow cones all over the street.

Can you hear the sound of snow cones hitting your windshield? Can you open your car's skylight and see the snow cones hurtling towards you? Imagine the amazing WETNESS of a world full of falling snow cones. A blinding icy snow cone storm, when the temperature is 38 degrees and it's completely impossible to have a snow cone storm when it's above freezing and yet we had a terrible one.

That's exactly what it was like in Indianapolis this afternoon. We were hit by an incredible icestorm of falling snow cones. The only thing missing was the colored syrup.

My shoes are still sopping wet. Ick. I hate wet feet in shoes.

Patriside says it's time to post our Mystery Mixmania themes, and since he is one of the bosses of me, here is mine: "indecision at the crossroads."

At his request, I ask you to remember that "your next best snot on a chair post is at Patriside."

In spite of the falling snow cones, this was a good shopping trip. I now own a bathrobe. You all don't think that's any big deal right now, but if you ever come to visit me, you'll be glad.

From the sound of giants using my roof as bongo drums, the ice storm has followed me home shifted south. That's okay, for I love drifting off to sleep to the sound of a storm outside.

Not that I'm going to be going to bed any time soon. Heck, it's only 3:50 a.m.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:26 AM | |

Friday, February 23, 2007

Thousands For An Oscar's Dress, Nothing For Education

I had a doctor's appointment this morning (11:50 is MORNING, as far as I'm concerned) Oh, whatever.

While I was in the waiting room, I read up on the Oscars. They're, what, Sunday night or something? Eh, I don't watch TV.

I read about the dresses and the tuxes and the shoes and the underwear, or lack thereof. I read about the hairstyles, and the jewelry, and who was going with whom, and why or why not. I read about the designers, and how they all got started, and who wore 'their' creations. And how much some of those dresses cost; these people are nuckin futz. One question about that: WHY?

I admired some of the outfits, giggled over others, and mentally recommended extensive therapy for anyone who would be caught dead in others, or anyone who would pay that much for a few yards of red silk and a feather.

I read little synopses of the films, and I read about the personal battles with drugs, fat, custody, acne, and misplaced toe rings some of the nominees are struggling with.

There was mention of parties afterwards, and the guest lists thereof.

But really, I am not very interested in the Oscars this year. The last movie I saw in a theater was that latest Superman film, and before that, it was Harry Potter, I think. I didn't see either of them listed in the roster of nominees.

The movies I love best are seldom mentioned when it's Oscar time, in fact. They don't nominate the movies that people like me love. Not any more. They used to, but somewhere along the line, they stopped caring about movies for people like me. You know, films about nice people who fall in love and laugh a lot and have adventures with happy endings. That 'happy ending' thing is VERY important to me. I will not pay money to see a movie with an unsatisfactory ending. I inject myself into beloved movies and books, and if the ending isn't wrapped up beautifully and happily, I brood over it, like, forever. I'm still brooding over movies I saw when I was eight years old. Still re-writing them over and over in my head so the ending comes out right.

But that's okay, because I don't care if the Oscars pay attention to the movies I love. I don't pay any attention to the Oscars, either. But when I do find a movie I love, I tell everybody. And when it's released on DVD, I buy it. And I give it to other people as birthday presents and love gifts, too. So oh well.

This year, I realized that I have not seen a single nominated movie, no, not even one. In fact, the whole thing bores me so thoroughly that I didn't finish the article, not even to see the nominated songs.

All I can think of these days is how all that money that's being spent on makeup, shoes, sparkly stockings, jewels, parties, gift baskets, etc, could be put to better use. Our children sit in classrooms that have no windows or insulation, but there are people who are willing to spend eight hundred thousand dollars for a pair of shoes? I can't rationalize that.

And I've seen too many shiftless parents who send their kids to school with no socks or pencils standing in line at the theater to see the latest "Rocky" movie, smoking cigarettes and reeking of liquor. I think of all the warm socks and little shirts and new tablets and pencils they might have purchased for their children, instead of spending it on themselves for something so selfish as personal entertainment and addiction enhancement.

"I got me a right to a little somethin' for myself once in a while!"

"No, you don't. Not until you've taken care of your children. You have a right to NOTHING until you've fed and clothed your kids, and made sure they're got the things they need so they can learn to rise above YOU."

Boy, can I digress or what. . . .
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:56 PM | |

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tis The Gift To Be Simple. . . .***

I drove past a house last night that still had a zillion Christmas decorations all over the lawn, still sparkling and twinkling and jolly. I made silent fun of those people all the way home.

The fact that I still have Christmas salt-and-pepper-shakers on the little shelf above the stove is not the same thing at all. There's a very good reason why I am still using my Christmas salt-and-pepper-shakers.

When I got out the Christmas dishes last November, I packed away the regular shakers and now I can't find them.

See? Totally different.

Somewhere in this house, there are two sets of very pretty non-holiday salt-and-pepper-shakers. Your guess is as good as mine.

I've been shopping for some cheap-but-pretty shakers, but all the little shaky-holes are HUGE, the kind you see on Parmesian shakers. I do not care for a small mountain of salt or pepper on my green beans, so until I find some normal shakers with normal holes at a normal price (fitty cent is good), or happen onto the shakers that are already in this house, somewhere. . . . ho ho ho.

***Because's it's a Shaker song.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:21 PM | |

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I Love My Flash Drive

This is one of the handiest little gadgets I've ever had. If you transfer files of ANY kind from one computer to another on a regular basis, you need one, too.

They're cheap. What are you waiting for? And who needs jewels when you can wear a hard drive around your neck?

I keep all my tests, quizzes, worksheets, and grades on mine. With plenty of room for Mp3's. Anything that's on your home computer can be saved to the flash drive, and once stuff is on the flash drive, it can be called up on any computer, anywhere.

Most of my students have them; they store their essays, etc, on their flash drive and then print them out at school.

Sure, you can email stuff to yourself, but you don't need to do that when you can just carry your file cabinet with you, on a string or chain around your neck.

They're cheap now, too. At Fry's you can get a full gig for under twenty bucks. At WalMart you can buy smaller ones for five bucks.

Some of them are practically miniscule, but I needed one that I could find on a messy desktop. They come in all colors now. You can put it on your keychain or wear it as a pendant or a bracelet charm.

I think everybody needs a flash drive.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:33 PM | |

We'll All Throw Together, When We Throwwwwww.

The latest Carnival of Education is up, over at History Is Elementary. Click on over there and get current on what educators and parents are thinking about and doing these days. Next week, maybe some of you could contribute something of your own! And well you should, too.

I've got class in an hour and I'm really, really tired, but I hardly think I'll get up and walk out because I "can't keep my eyes open." Unlike the boy in my Monday afternoon class, who was in such a hurry to leave after the first break that he didn't even ask if he could take the quiz first. Which is fine, because even if he had, he still wouldn't be passing because he so seldom comes to class. It was the gall of the whole thing that sort of blew us all away. And that teacher (oh, she so mean) who fired her empty plastic Diet Coke bottle at the door, well, that was coincidental. It was empty and she was aiming for the wastebasket, but it was highly satisfactory to see it hit the door and bounce off. So, yeah, that student left early. I told him I'd try to be a little more interesting and he took that seriously and said it wouldn't matter because he'd had a late night and just needed a nap RIGHT NOW. I don't think I could have, or would have, ever just gotten up and walked out of a class for any reason but an emergency that involved gushes of blood or chest pains, and if my classmates were discussing sex biases in various societal levels, CARNivals, the historical origins of the word 'fuck,' and Shakespearian fragments (giggle) I think I would have stuck around for it and called an ambulance for myself later. He was supposed to be in my class yesterday, too, but he never made it at all for that one. As usual.

I'd had a late night, too, involving Belle and the electrical system in her car which just went completely OFF as she was driving down the road at midnight, and I was still on the road at 2 a.m., and 3, but I made it to class and managed to stay awake. But then maybe I'm just Supergirl grown up.

I was kidding: I'll never grow up. But sometimes I put on a good front, and I think it's high time this student learned to do that, too. But oh well. Life is full of choices. He is choosing to nap rather than go to class, and whatta you bet he'll ask for extensions and privileges when it comes grade time. I'll keep you posted.

I have a weakness for green seedless grapes. Somebody make me stop.

Also, I had never heard of a weather condition called "frozen fog advisory." We're having one as I type; I haven't looked out the windows yet because I'm fundamentally lazy, but it doesn't sound all that safe.

This semester, I've got the best schedule I've ever had. I thought last semester's schedule was the best I'd ever had but it was just the practice best; this semester is the best. But when you love your job, absolutely LOVE your job, I supposed most any schedule would be the best schedule.

But this semester's schedule is fantastic. Heck, I don't even go to work on M and W until 1:30 p.m. Mmm, college.

Get these grapes away from me.

Looking more closely at the bowl, it might be too late.

I'm rambling, so I'll stop, and go get ready for class now. I hope I can stay awake; I had a late night last night, too. Yawn. This guest presenter from the main campus had better be really good, because it's his JOB to keep me awake. Right?

Nothing is my fault; it must all come from the OUTSIDE.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:30 AM | |

The Only Good Principal Is A. . . . well, actually, I don't know; I've never had a good principal.

Some of the 'teacher blogs' are humming tonight with talk of administrators, mostly negative, so I would like to take a moment to talk about some of the really good principals and superintendents I have worked with over the past 26 years.

I really would like to. Unfortunately, I can't, because I have never had a good principal or superintendent.

Whoops, wait a minute, I take that back. I once had a good superintendent, but of course, in THIS town, he didn't last long. He was pretty much set up, framed, and run out of town, because that's, by golly, what we DO to non-political types who try to be impartial and treat everybody's kid the same, around these parts.

Let's see, when I first started teaching, in a little town south of here, I had a principal who came to me on opening night of "Harvey" and told me that one of the scenes had to go. He'd had the play on his desk for four months, and almost every day I asked him how he liked the play, did he have any suggestions, etc, and he always told me that everything was fine. And on opening night, he said we could not go on unless that scene was removed. I refused, because if you've ever worked with kids on a production like this, and had it all blocked out and memorized, etc, it's just not practical to change it around a couple of hours before the curtain rises. He was furious with me, and I don't think he ever forgave me for disgracing the school like that with a dark, subversive, alcohol-advocating show like "Harvey." You know, the big white rabbit?

My second principal was a man who liked to wear deely-boppers almost daily, and who loved to get on the loudspeaker and say things like "Let's be SPONTANEOUS today! Let's have fourth period during seventh period, second period during eighth period, etc." Never any warning, and it didn't matter if you'd been counting on running off a test for eighth period during your third period prep. He also refused to admit that several of our 8th grade girls were pregnant, and absolutely would not allow any counseling, etc, because it wasn't necessary because the girls were nice girls from good families and they WERE NOT PREGNANT. But they were. Oh, and he used to count ballots himself so he could stack the student council, awards nights, etc, with the children of important people.

Third, I had a principal who kept a Lazy-Boy recliner down in the janitor's lounge in the boiler room, and every. single. afternoon. he went down there and took a two-three hour nap. He was also a pathological liar.

Fourth, after they demoted the Lazy Boy, a young principal was imported from outside the system (almost unheard of) and his main goal was to raise morale. He did this by putting us into the shithole, money-wise, but people smiled a little more than they used to. The week after he promised us, as a group, that he intended to stay at our school for many years, he was promoted and walked out without so much as a backward glance.

Fifth was a genuine nightmare. This was the principal who, daily, wore the green jacket with the rotted, faded underarms. Who kept his teeth in his back pocket, so that when he sat down, he bit himself on the butt. Whose tie was covered with many years' worth of dried crusty food. Whenever he walked into the cafeteria, the sound of lunchboxes being slammed shut echoed all over the room, because he had the bad habit of helping himself to thises and thats from little kids' lunchboxes as he walked up and down the aisles of the cafeteria. Who was SEEN, more than once, taking an ice cream cone from a child, licking it, and giving it back. Who brought a girl into his office, and told her to remove her offensive t-shirt right there in front of him. She refused, and he tried to punish her, and got sued. Who eventually went nuts.

Sixth was a man who was nothing but a used car salesman. A telemarketer. His only experience was in sales. He was very good with budgets, etc, but knew nothing whatsoever about kids. He, too, loved the wealthier families best.

Seventh was just weird. He had absolutely no crowd control, and he became angry at people who did. He once, microphone in hand, yelled to a bunch of kids "Don't make me come up there and shit!" He meant 'sit,' I assume, but that's not what he said. Most of his ineptitude was down in the office, and when he was demoted, the secretaries had a celebration.

Eighth should never have been given the position in the first place. He had three years' experience, as a substitute elementary teacher, and knew nothing about older kids. He tried to treat our kids like elementary kids, and once you do that, you've lost them forever. He was a good ol' boy, and all the male teachers got along jest fine with him, but the women teachers could do nothing right. He knew nothing about the internet and the sad and sorry truth was, he wasn't smart enough to be a principal.

Ninth tried, she really did. But she was a firm believer in the rulebook and the handbook, and even when common sense dictated that something be overlooked, it never was, because if it was in the handbook, it was carved in stone. She often wore shorts to work, though she didn't have the figure for it, and once, at an assembly, in front of the whole student body, she demonstrated what the handbook meant by "too short" by raising her shorts up to her crotch, thereby producing an entire gymnasium full of boys who vowed they would never marry. She and I managed to stay friends in spite of her stubbornness about rules and my disregard for them.

Tenth was an absolute idiot. I really don't know how else to describe him. He was the last principal I worked for, and he was not competent to work with people. Not just in a school, ANYWHERE. No "people skills" whatsoever. No computer skills, either.

I won't go into the superintendent thing tonight; but perhaps those on that other blog (and it's one of my favorite blogs; it was a commenter who disagreed with me there) who think I'm making an ad hominem attack might understand why I do not trust principals unless they prove themselves competent, and they do that by supporting their teachers, using common sense, and refusing to buckle under parental pressure for exceptions. They don't play favorites; they're not 'good ol' boys;' they're smart; and they respect their teachers enough to leave them alone and let them teach. They handle discipline problems fairly and promptly, which does NOT mean sending the kid right back to the classroom, and if the misbehaving kid is the offspring of important people, or an athlete, that doesn't make the least bit of difference.

A good principal is a person who is to be greatly feared by the rotten kids, because they KNOW he/she will give them exactly what they have earned, and greatly respected by the good kids, for that same reason. Good kids are not afraid of a good principal, but there is something in me that thinks that the bad kids should be.

As for the bad principals. . . . EVERYBODY should be afraid of them. That kind of power in those incompetent hands? Heaven help us.

I have seen good principals, but never in my school. I always envied the teachers in buildings with a good principal. Heck, I have former students who are principals now. I've never seen them in action but I bet they're good.

My former school was kind of like the Principal's Burying Grounds; we got everybody's discards.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my job now? More and more, daily. Especially when I come back from a walk down memory lane.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:27 AM | |

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What Kind Of A Vase Would You Use?

Why? Because a person can be serious for only a limited number of posts in a row. . . .

From my Tumorless Sister, early this morning, comes this soon-to-be-classic observation:

I wonder what kind of a vase you would use to display these.

I wonder if they come in different colors.

I wonder about the fragrance.

I wonder if it would help to put those preservative packets
in the water.

I wonder whether they would look better on the kitchen
table or in the entry.

I wonder if they are cheaper by the dozen.

I wonder if they come in long-stemmed.

Captured at 115th and
Allisonville Road, Indianapolis !

The sign is real and was up for about two hours before someone stopped and told them how to spell peonies.

Got something to add? By all means, do so.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:23 AM | |

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Cold Equation

Most of life, nowadays, allows people leeway. Most often, this is a good thing.

When I was a kid, I read the short story "The Cold Equation" by Tom Godwin. It scared me to death. That there could be a situation wherein the milk of human kindness had no power, that there could be a situation wherein someone, of her own free will, could happily and blindly enter into something with the best of intentions, and die for it, gave me nightmares for years. The cold fact that there are, indeed, cold facts, still gives me the shakes.

Equations are made up of factors, and once certain factors are selected, the combination thereof is an absolute, unless the factors are changed. (Look, Ma, I'm mathing!) However, UNLESS the factors are changed, the answer can't be any different than the natural result of those particular factors.

2 + 2 = 4. If '7' wants to elbow in, it must be rejected, if both 2's are to stay, and if the answer MUST be 4. There is no room for a '7' in this equation, unless we change the whole intent of the equation.

When the weather is such that it creates snow, or tornadoes, or rain, etc, those things are the natural result of a combination of factors which have no choice but to produce that particular outcome.

No amount of bargaining or begging can change the natural outcome of an equation. Occasionally, we are allowed to change a factor, but most often, that isn't possible. When it is, we should be thankful, not gratified and entitled.

When student A is told, on the first day of class, what the outcome must be, it is the student's responsibility to make sure all the entered factors will add up to that stated outcome. If the student chooses, of his own free will, NOT to enter enough factors, or to try to change the factors, or, worst of all, to try to alter the outcome to fit his own personal situation, then I think the concept of the Cold Equation must be brought into play.

Unfortunately, the sense of entitlement felt by so many families these days causes them to label the 'outcome' as unrealistic, etc, and to believe that they have a right to change what the outcome should be, and that the outcome should be whatever they personally feel they have time to deal with, etc.

Sometimes, in this life, there are things that can be adapted. If someone does not have the ability to do certain things, certainly those certain things, most of them, can and should be adapted somewhat.

But in this life, there are also things that shouldn't have to be adapted. Adapting things because someone wanted to sleep in, or go to Florida, or got a sore throat, or decided they were worth a 'Me' day, etc. . . . . No. I got an email a few minutes from a student who was up really late last night and wondered if I could just put any assignments for today's class in my mailbox and she'll pick them up later tonight. . . . No. The fact is, unless you are in class today, you won't have a clue what the quizzes and worksheets and essays are about, and if you do them incorrectly, you will fail. If you have too many low grades, you will fail the course. If you are absent too much, you will fail the course. The natural outcome of too many absences or low grades is failure. Failure is a choice: yours.

You signed up for the course, you know what the outcome must be, and it is up to YOU to make bloody sure you factor in all the parts of this equation, yourself. I am your instructor, yes, but if you are not there, there isn't much I can do for you.

Teachers are people. When people are treated fairly, they tend to give their all. When people are treated unfairly, even those who weren't in the original equation will change their factors.

When I first started teaching, "Values Clarification" was the big thing. Only a few years later, schools forbade "Values Clarification" but in the schools, this stuff comes and goes, reappearing later under a new name, and schools pay for it again, in more ways than one.

Too many people in the lifeboat? Three of them must go, and we must decide which three. The doctor? No, he's needed. The young woman? No, we might need her for breeding purposes later. The young man? Same. The sick elderly man? Can he actively contribute something that is absolutely necessary for the survival of the group? He's the only one who can speak and understand the language of the country the boat's heading for? He can stay, then. Look around at the group, students, and find the people who have the least capabilities, who will bring the others down, who can't do anything practical. . . . . and throw them overboard. Because if you don't, EVERYONE will die.

People were horrified with "Values Clarification," because in any situation that most people can comprehend, the factors can always be altered so the outcome will still be 'survival' but perhaps a different kind.

When they finally come face-to-face with a Cold Equation, one that can not be altered in any way, shape, or form, they buckle.

In the short story, a young woman barely out of her teens decides to stow away on a rocket ship headed for a distant planet. She's a pleasant, kindhearted, sweet girl, and her intention is only to see her brother, a scientist working on that distant planet, whom she hasn't seen in many years. When she was found, she was willing to pay any penalty for stowing away; she knew she was breaking the law, it was just that she HAD to see her brother, and when she realized that this particular rocket was going to his planet, she felt that it was her chance.

This rocket was going to that planet because the people on that planet were ill, dying of a disease, and they desperately needed the medicine that this rocket was carrying. If the rocket didn't make it to the planet on time, all the people there would die.

This planet was so far away, travel to and from was terribly difficult. This mission, getting the serum to the planet, was important, in terms of saving many lives.

The fuel for such a trip had to be calculated to the nth. Everything on the ship, including the lone pilot, had been weighed and factored into the outcome: getting to the planet in time to save all those lives.

The pilot discovers that the weight of the ship is off by about a hundred pounds. That hundred pounds would cause the ship to use more fuel than the original equation had noted. That hundred pounds had to be discovered and jettisoned, or all those people would die.

The hundred pounds turned out to be Marilyn, the young giggling girl. She stopped giggling when she realized what was going to happen, what HAD to happen, what the pilot had no choice but to do.

The pilot allowed the girl to speak to her brother, on the distant planet. The second her brother heard his sister's voice, he knew what she'd done, and he knew what would have to be done with her. There was no pleading, no begging, just a few questions about factors, and a heartbroken acceptance of what could not be helped. If the girl stayed, not only would all the others die, but the ship would not have enough fuel to even reach the planet, and she AND the pilot would die anyway.

"You're going to make me die, and I didn't do anything to die for."

But Marilyn, you did. Of your own free will, you inserted yourself into an already-factored equation, and the addition did not fit. Any altering of the equation would bring death to several others; jettisoning YOU is the only solution.

And that is exactly what happened. This young, innocent, giggling girl who only wanted to see her brother again, was jettisoned out into the uncaring instant death of space.

If you overload the lifeboat, everybody dies. If the pilot had sacrificed himself, instead, which he was tempted to do, the girl would have died anyway because she wasn't a pilot, and so would all those people awaiting the serum.

Cold Equation. Not everything can be altered. Sometimes, we must alter ourselves, FORCE ourselves to do things we really would rather not do. Those who insist that life be altered to suit them are living in a fool's paradise. All the insistence in the world will not stop a tornado in its path, or make a tidal wave change its mind and turn back.

In other words, do your damn homework and get to class.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:39 AM | |

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Please Help If You Can; This Could Happen To Any Of Us, and Has

I get a lot of email from people I don't know. Most of the time, I delete them without so much as a backward glance. If I don't know the source, I figure it's spam.

The email I got a few minutes ago is not spam. It's a horror story that I began following a few weeks ago when I first read about it over at the Education Wonks, and when I call it a horror story, I am not exaggerating.

It is not easy to be a teacher these days. I do not mean the actual 'teaching;' I mean, the ever-increasing list of peripherals that make our job harder and harder to accomplish. Teachers are responsible for everything that happens in the classroom, even when it's not their fault. Even when a little thing such as an administration that knows just a tiny little bit about computers could explain something, teachers are still held responsible. Even when accusations are ridiculous, and so easily explained, and, and, and, when an administrator who had just a LITTLE computer knowledge could understand, laugh, and fix it. But that's too hard, you know. It's so much easier to just blame the teacher and destroy his/her life. I've seen it happen too many times; I've SEEN it happen. I've been there.

This woman's life is being destroyed, and from where I sit, it appears that it's the same old story about an administration that refuses to take responsibility for its own computer-ignorance, inability to understand just what people can do with a computer, and how, when administrative ignorance is compounded with a student's error, a teacher is caught in a drama NOT of her own making. A drama that could have been so easily explained, and IS, in fact, easily explained, but which has now escalated into an attempt, by administration, to blame the teacher for something she did not do.

How shameful. And how frighteningly commonplace it is becoming. Anyone who works with or deals with students in ANY WAY, and especially an administrator, who does not have a pretty damn good working relationship with a computer, is NOT QUALIFIED. An administrator who doesn't understand what can happen, beyond the control of the person at the screen, is NOT QUALIFIED.

When I read this saga, my blood runs cold. Here is the email:


Julie Amero is the substitute teacher in the Norwich, Connecticut
school district who was the victim of a porn popup storm while in the

On October 19, 2004, Amero was substituting a seventh-grade classroom,
which had an internet-connected computer in the classroom. One of the
students visited a site that purported to be "hairstyling site," but
actually was a gateway to porn.

Unbeknowst to Amero, the district had failed to protect classroom
computers from sites unsafe for middle-school students. Also,
district policies reportedly forbid computer users from shutting down
any district-owned computer in the classroom. Subsequently, the
computer began displaying sexually-explicit images.

Amero was railroaded -- found guilty of four counts of risk of injury
to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child. She faces a sentence of
up to 40 years in prison. The case, from beginning to end, was a
travesty of justice.

Ms. Amero was the victim of malware


and the incompetence of the school district's IT department.


My original post, and some interesting comments:


interview with Julie Amero


From Casting Out Nines ,


There's a blog for Julie Amero


and a legal defense fund


The fund has been verified by several sources.

Wes Volle, Julie's husband, writes:


Julie and I can’t afford to fight this battle on our own. Our expenses
have been in excess of $20,000 to date. That may not sound like a lot
to many people, but when you consider it is almost twice what she made
substitute teaching in one year it puts it in
>Please contribute as much as you can.

Teacher Eric Hoefler wrote:


If this trial stands, how can we ever use technology without a
constant fear plaguing us?

Please join me in helping with Ms. Amero's legal defense.

Liz Ditz

blog: http://lizditz.typepad.com


Dear God in Heaven, when will it all end? When a loving and competent teacher, or a sub like Julie, is accused of unspeakable things because other people misused a computer, when administration sees only the result and doesn't really care about the cause, what are we coming to?

I can tell you the answer to that. The end.

We are coming to the end.

I am too upset to write. For now, I'm just going to sit here and pray.

For Julie, and all the other teachers I know who have been persecuted for things that were not their fault, and for the children who suffer in the long run because so many administrators are "too busy" or "too old" or "whatever" to study in-depth what someone can do with a computer, and who would rather just blame the teacher than learn.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:14 PM | |

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Thinker, by Rodin. I mean, by me.

Wow! ElementaryHistoryTeacher has tagged me as a "Thinking Blogger." Thank you so much; I am very flattered and humbled. I never really considered myself to be anybody who mattered all that much. That somebody thinks I do means a lot to me. Thank you, ElementaryHistoryTeacher.

And now, according to the rules, I am supposed to tag five other bloggers who make me think. This is difficult, because ALL of my blogroll makes me think, in one way or another. Therefore, I shall limit my tags to bloggers who make me think great things. No, wait, that's most of them, too. Hmm. Okay, here are five blogs that make me analyze the human condition and strive to make it better. Plus, they update regularly and very, very often.

1. The Education Wonks. This blog always has relevant and helpful posts, and Ed himself is the instigator of the Carnival of Education, wherein he solicits posts and opinions about our kids and our schools so that we can all become enlightened about new, and old, things that make education in this country important.

2. Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred. The three good doctors are learned and snarky and kind, and whenever I read their posts, I feel smarter. They are definitely not objective, but that's just one of many reasons why I love them.

3. NYC Educator. He teaches in New York, and I teach in Indiana, but the problems in our public schools are universal. NYC Educator is not afraid to expose them. I greatly admire his courage and dedication.

4. Siempre Fiel. This blog is a recent discovery for me, but how did I ever manage without it? I absolutely love it. Check out the "Pan's Labyrinth" review. On this recommendation alone, I MUST SEE THIS FILM. Plus, I love how she enjoys the occasional 'quickie' in her classroom.

5. A Mark On My Wall. If you have not yet discovered the incredible Vicki, please click and do it before the sun goes down. Her writing is wonderful, and the pictures she posts are works of art. That Vicki even knows my name makes me feel like 'somebody.' I adore her.

6. House of Fame. This is number six, I know, and doesn't really count, but how could I ever leave out this amazing blog, the likes of which none of you has ever seen before? I guess it's the Literature geek in me, but I absolutely adore this blog.

And now, according to the rules, each of my nominated five must (only if you wish to, of course) nominate five blogs that make you think.

Please do it. You get to display this cool icon and everything.

Thank you so very much, ElementaryHistoryTeacher. You have, as Clint would say, made my day. You have made my day.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:43 PM | |

The Spices of Antiquity

Bluegrass Mama wrote about her Old Spice, but I can beat her story.

I've got a can of paprika that I bought in 1977. I still use it.

Care for a deviled egg?
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:33 AM | |

Friday, February 16, 2007

Expired Orange Juice and Pharmacy Milk and Last Summer's Diet Cokes

If I seem a little wonky tonight, it's because I've been drinking orange juice that expired on February 7. It looked fine and tasted great, honest! I mean, it's not like I've been eating peanut butter.

Why would I drink expired orange juice, you might wonder. Because it's all we had, orange-juice-wise, that's why. Besides, it looked fine and tasted great, honest. I feel great.

It had been sitting out on the counter for a few hours, but even so.

Well, I had to put it somewhere, because I bought two gallons of milk at the pharmacy and they had to go in the refrigerator, and the tall milk section was full of bottled water and expired miniature Diet Coke bottles, so something had to give.

Why did I buy milk at the pharmacy, you might wonder. Because I had a coupon worth eight dollars that expired tonight at midnight, and I had to use it or lose it. So I used it. I also got cranberry tablets, because when you're prone to urinary tract infections, nothing fends them off like cranberry tablets. But that's probably way more information than you really needed.

The expired miniature Diet Coke bottles are there because last summer, the grocery store ran a special on actual Diet Coke: four twelve-packs for ten dollars, and you got a case of miniature bottles for free. I put the case of miniatures behind a big box, intending to bring them out to impress guests, but once the case was behind that big box, I couldn't see it and I forgot about it until months later, and by then, it tasted really bad. There are still a few bottles in the 'fridge because, well, YOU come over and throw them out, okay? Sometimes I'll open one and mix it in with a glass of the good stuff, and pretend it tastes fine. I hate to waste anything, and I'm a great one to put generic Honey Nut Cheerios in a real Honey Nut Cheerios box, or generic crackers in a Keebler cracker box, etc. Ask Belle. Neither of my kids will touch a box of cereal in my house unless it's still sealed. Scoffers. They're imagining things, and besides, I don't do it any more.

Somehow all of the above trivia made me think we needed some pecan-studded brownies, so I made some, and they're on top of the stove as I type, cooling. Come on over.

We've got miniature Diet Cokes. They're really cute and classy. I saved them for guests. Have one?

P.S. I got up early this morning because I thought I had a doctor's appointment, but it's next week. This mental lapse occurred BEFORE I drank the ancient orange juice, so obviously I was starting to lose it long before I poisoned my system with ancient citrus drippings.

P.P.S. After I ate all that brownie batter, I felt lots better. My glucometer says otherwise, but I just hid it behind the cranberry tablets so I wouldn't have to look at it.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:21 PM | |

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Two Things. Or Three. I Forget.

Two things:

1. The latest Carnival of Education is up, over at the Education Wonks. It's an exceptionally good one, too. Really, now, if we don't keep up with what's going on in our schools, how can we whine intelligently? I mean, any putz can gripe about things they know nothing whatsoever about. Is that the kind of whiner you want to be? I thought not, even though it's the easiest way to go, whine-wise. Get over there now and become an enlightened whiner.

2. If Allstate calls me one. more. time. wanting me to buy their insurance, I'm going to scream and I don't think I'll be able to stop. Doesn't this count as a marketing call? I thought that phone call a few years ago put a stop to this scheisse. I hate you, Allstate. Stop calling me.

3. I hate a sales pitch that begins with "How are you this morning?" because A. The caller doesn't care how I am this morning, and B. "This morning" means IN THE MORNING which is, by my way of calculation, any time before noon on a day I go in to the college late, and C. I loathe a salesperson, Mormon, or Jehovah's Witness who is obviously quoting from a script. I count Girl Scouts, homeschoolers selling candy at 7:30 a.m., and all service contract callers in this blistering, unfair diatribe. If you can't put it in your own words, you don't really know, now do you. . . .

Did I say "two things?" I was never very good at math. It's the only thing I have in common with Barbie.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:43 PM | |

My Name Is Aldonza

I love the Man of La Mancha. Not that dreadful movie version: the stage musical. I have collected quotations all my adult life, and in that show, every few lines, there is a collector's item.

Over at Miguel's blog, which is excellent in every way except that he seldom posts, his last piece (far too long ago, so please update, Miguel dear) mentioned the fabulous Raul Julia, and the heartbreaking fact that we can never go home again.

I have long been a fan of Raul Julia, from Spider Woman to The Addams Family and in between, and Miguel's beautiful and musical description of standing before the poster advertising Julia in Man of La Mancha, and having not enough money to see him in it, and then Julia died and it was too late and he would never see him doff Senor Quijana and take on Don Quixote de la Mancha, broke my heart in a breathtaking way.

Miguel is like that, you see. He writes about these things, and as you read, suddenly there is music, and wonderful roses. . . .

Why don't you all go over there and tell him so?

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:01 AM | |

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentines, Kisses, Hormones, Oddities, and My Motto

Happy Valentine's Day. Not because it's a man-made holiday that exploits the guilt feelings of both men and women and forces them to go forth (or fifth) and spend a lot of money on flowers that will die and candy that will be eaten, but because it's just one more excuse for me to tell the blogosphere how very much I love it, and how very much at home I feel when I am in it. This golden heart is supposed to sing and dance but I have no control over the feng shui of the universe. I thank you all for being my blogging neighbors.

During my annual re-reading of "A Lantern in Her Hand" and "A White Bird Flying" (two of my very favorites and I highly recommend them to all of you) I was again struck and reduced to tears by the simple message etched on the stones in the garden path at the home of J. Sterling Morton (who gave Arbor Day to the nation) and his bride: Hours fly, Flowers die. New days, New ways, Pass by. Love stays.

Love stays.

And in the book, Laura is more touched and moved by the sight of one simple little china dish, a little china hen spreading her china wings, that Mrs. Morton brought to Nebraska with her, than by the grandeur of the governor's eventual home. I am that way, too, for it is the small things that make a home, not any grand exterior or grounds. I love these two books beyond any ability to tell you how much.

The new motto of the Wittenburg Door is this, by Molly Ivins, and I may have to adopt it as my motto, too.

"... keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."

I have never been much of a fighter, but maybe it's time to start swinging.

No, not THAT kind of swinging. Scheisse, I love the blogosophere.

I hope everyone's day is full of love and Hershey's Kisses. They're called 'kisses' because of the sound the machine makes when it lays one down on the belt. How would you like to work there? "Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss. . . ." all day long. By the time those people get home, their hormones must be raw and ready to be salved. If you know what I mean.

Love doesn't need a designated day, but as busy as many people are, it's just as well that they're reminded of it once in a while. But friends, what we don't need is more flowers and candy. What we really want are wireless digital picture frames, massages, and a night out. It doesn't have to be an expensive night out, either. Then again, I am very, very low-maintenance, and proud of it.

". . . all the oddities that freedom can produce. . . ." Why would we ever want anything else?

I miss you, Molly. But, love stays.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:59 AM | |

Monday, February 12, 2007

Blogging For Books

Whenever I get out the photo albums and look at all the pictures of my children when they were babies, and toddlers, and small children, and middle-sized children, and older children, and preteens, and teens. . . .I dream that night that they’re dead.

It’s to the point that I am frightened of their baby pictures. I look at those two beautiful little faces, the fluffy golden curls, the spiky bright-red curls, the gorgeous little eyebrows, the tiny little ears, the sweet miniature teeth, the gaptoothed smiles, the fat, dimpled legs, the thin straight legs, the tiny feet with the curled-up toes, the snapshot of two toddlers playing in the middle of the living room with the huge case of Pampers showing there in the back corner, my freshly two-year-old daughter holding her newborn brother on our old couch with the denim patches to keep the springs from hurting us. . . .and I dream that night that they’re dead.

Some nights, after looking at old pictures, I dream that I’m at an airport, frantically trying to find my children in a crowd of people who don’t speak English and who are in too much of a hurry to help me. I stand on a chair, and I can just see a curly golden head and a spiky red head waving, and I can just barely hear two baby voices calling for me as they’re borne along by the crowds. . . .and I wake up in a cold sweat of horror, that somehow, and I can never remember how, I’ve lost my babies.

Sometimes, when I walk around the yard, I remember my children playing there, in the big sandbox my father made, that finally rotted away and blended with the grass. . . .I remember the swing that was so wide both toddlers could sit together on it: that swing that was fastened to a branch so high up, the physics of it allowed that swing to swing higher than any children’s swing should ever swing. I can close my eyes and see them sitting in it, and I can hear them reciting their swing poems: “How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the air so bluuuuuuuuuue. . . .” and, once they got some momentum and could see the ‘neighbor cows’ to the left, “The friendly cow all red and while, I love with all my haaaaaart. . . .” Now, I look at the cover of “A Child’s Garden of Verses” and the memories flood over me until I choke and nearly drown. I'll be afraid to sleep that night, because I know what the dreams will be like: I'll be frantically wandering in a garden, trying to find my tiny children by following their voices, their sweet little voices, reciting poems and singing songs and getting farther and farther away as I get more and more frantic. . . .

Underneath the deck in the back of the house are two little round sleds. They’re been under the deck for years now; I don’t think anybody knows they’re there but me. I look at them and remember tiny children in snowsuits, being pulled over the snow by me, by their father, by visiting cousins. . . . .by my father, who’s been gone for many years now. This night, I'll dream that my father is pulling my babies away from me, and no matter how fast I run after them, I can't catch up, and I watch helplessly as my father and my babies disappear. I stay up very late on those nights, too.

My father has been gone for several years. But, the two toddlers he pulled across the snow are gone, too. They’re gone. My children were here, today, and I looked at their dear faces and I loved them so much I couldn’t say it. . . . I even heard some scolding words come out of my mouth, when what I really wanted to say was, oh, my children, you’re still in there somewhere, I can see that you are by your eyebrows that are still exactly the same as the day you were born, and the fluffy golden curls, and the spiky red curls, and the huge green eyes, and the huge blue eyes, and the gestures, your gestures are still exactly the same, look, look at these pictures of your childhood, these faces are in the faces you have now, still, like rings in a tree, every age you ever were is still in you somewhere, my babies, my toddlers, my children, my beautiful young adults. . . . look at yourselves in these pictures. . . .

They’re gone now, and it’s after 4 a.m., and I’m still up, typing, because I’m afraid to go to bed.

I know I will dream, and I know what the dream will be. No, I’ll stay awake a while longer.

Those babies are still here. It’s just that some days, I can’t find them. Or perhaps, some days, they don’t want to be found. . . .

I’ll sleep some other time.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:22 AM | |

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Marsh Should Hire Me To Write Their Marketing But I Bet Coca Cola Wouldn't Let Me Within A Hundred Yards Of Their Corporate Office

I am in shock tonight, for I have just paid eight dollars for a 24-pack of Diet Coke, when I could have purchased identical Diet Coke clone colas at Marsh for almost exactly half that price.

The Marsh diet colas, they are identical in every way to the unbelievably expensive actual Diet Cokes, just as a clone cow is identical to its donor, and if all you want is some cheap milk, who cares which cow you get it from? Not me.

I have no brand loyalties whatsoever, buying whatever is on sale or strikes my fancy as long as it's on sale, but the prospect of ice and sleet and deep snow sent me running to the local big grocery store, which is NOT Marsh, to stock up on milk and bread and whatever, the most important thing being the diet colas, and since I don't like the harsh "twang" of most generic diet colas, and since we have no Marsh with the fantastic generic diet colas in this town, I put the real Diet Coke carton in my cart and pretended I spent that much money all the time, no big deal for me, nope, here, take my blood and a slice of my spleen and in return, I'll drink genuine Diet Coke, 24 cans-worth, which might last me three or four days, because when it comes to caffeine addiction, I am the Poster Child.

This icestorm and blizzard is supposed to hit Monday morning, early, and by golly, it had better hit, because if I paid Jay C Plus eight bucks for Diet Coke, I'd better be trapped in the house drinking one can after another of them, with all possible routes to town closed, and the local campus shut down, and the Four Horsemen bearing down with fire in their eyes.

Eight bucks. At Marsh, I'd have brought home 48 cans for eight bucks.

MARSH, please build your next store here, for I love you and your cheap Marsh diet coke clones, and your fantastic Buy one, get one free sales, and your ten-for-ten-bucks sales, and your coupon books that you stamp every week that I might get free turkeys and hams for the holidays.

That's one of the main reasons why I love to teach on the main campus, you know. On my way home, I drive past Marsh, and there's no driving PAST Marsh, because once I see it there, I have to pull into the parking lot and go inside and purchase their wonderful diet coke clone cola. And possibly some green seedless grapes.

I looked for a nice pork tenderloin at the store today, and they had it, but it wasn't on sale as it usually is at Marsh. I would have bought some, too, because the Pork Board has apologized to the Lactivist.

So I cooked up a pound of bacon and made bacon-and-mustard sandwiches for dinner. For some reason, Hub wasn't interested so he had pizza.

Bacon and mustard. . . . . mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:11 PM | |

Friday, February 09, 2007

How Can Your New Makeup And The Grand Canyon Both Be "Awesome?"

When we use a word too much, it loses a lot of its power. The word "love" comes to mind.

Love is a powerful emotion, and the word "love" should rightfully be reserved for that. Instead, we use it in trivial ways.

We love pizza. We love dancing. We love Nordstrom's.

This is a word that should not be used lightly. We shouldn't say that we love some small thing in the same tone of voice we would use to say that we loved our Maker or our spouse or our sweetheart. (That was Aunt Jamesina's advice to Anne and Priscilla and Phillipa and Stella. Bonus points if you recognize the reference.)

Of course, the difference between "love" and "in love" are vast, too. Christine loved Erik, but she was in love with Raoul.

The word "awesome" has been trivialized, too. If we have an awesome time at a party, or we think someone's haircut is awesome, or we receive any and every little piece of news by thinking that it's all AWESOME, what have we left to describe a sunset, or a miracle?

People who describe every little thing in their lives with the superlative make me wonder how they describe the really important things.

When someone goes off the deep end over a trifle, what's left to describe a real tragedy?

I am also disappointed that the word "awful" has undergone such a drastic change. "Awful" is really the same thing as "awesome." When people spoke of something that was "God-awful" it was a positive thing, an inspiring thing, something that was, literally, "full of awe." Wondrous. Now, people use the expression "God-awful" when they describe something bad, like a burned pizza or a tacky outfit or a bad hair day. I hate that.

"Awesome" should never be used unless something is genuinely awesome. Don't waste it on a good pedicure. Goldie's brilliantly creative son (I would have LOVED to have him in class!) made this same observation a while back. (not about a pedicure, but the idea was the same.) (A pedicure was the most mundane thing I could think of at the moment.)

I said, a post or two back, that by overusing words that are supposed to have a real kick to them, we remove the kick. Some words are SUPPOSED to have shock value, so they can best describe truly shocking things. Other words are supposed to strike a chord deep within the recesses of our hearts, but we've cheapened them by using them to describe cheeseburgers.

We're so used to hearing dirty words, that the dirt is gone. Even the F-word has ceased to have much shock value any more. We're all beyond being shocked, or deeply touched, or blown away, or thunder-struck, or filled with wonder, any more, by words, and I really think it's because we have made the words that are supposed to be reserved for great emotion too common.

As for me, though, I can still be had with a few well-chosen words. They have power over me when nothing or no one else does. I'm sorry for people who are immune to the hypnotic and enriching power of words. You might not have me at 'hello,' but you might with some other word. So to speak.

Keep trying.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:14 PM | |

Diffident Vamping of the Bad Parts

The first batch of essays is always an experience. Would one of you please tell me what kind of experience I'm having? This is one of the papers, and the others are similar in structure. It's supposed to be a comparison/contrast paper.


Two Diffident Jobs

____ and _______ both deal with people but in very diffident way. ____ deal with intertainment and _____ with health care taking of the elderly. _____ make television, VCR, stereo and many more things with plugs. Dealing mostly television, they range from 19 inches up to 80 inches, the bigger not sticking out as much. There the Television were put together then sent through a testesing process. When something found wrong than set to repair person to fix the set by vamping the bad part. When check out okay then sent to a touch person to touch for bad places on set. If bad places touch fine then sent to be packed tightly in a big box and shipped to diffident store to be sold.

_____ deal with the care a mostly the elderly people called residents. These residents need a lot of care. Families cannot take care of residents at home for diffident reasons. Resident at this time in their lives need a lot of help that they are able to do for their self. Bathing, dressing, some need to be fed and watered, played with. They are nurses to give medicinals or what every need to be done.

_____ and ______ wages are both very good, but health, dentist, vision and also paid for our vacation up to five week. Retirement played for also. They match are four-one K by two percent. ______ we have to pay for all of our insurance but our life. They also match four-one K by one percentage. Vacation we are given so many hours a week.


I honestly do not know what to do with this essay. I don't even know where to start. I'm not sure there is enough red ink in the world.

More importantly, I don't think red ink is what this sweet lady needs on her paper. It's the first piece of writing she's done since her high school days some forty years ago, and she was SO PROUD when she turned it in. . . quadruple-spaced, and with a font you could read from across the room. She needs, and deserves, encouragement and helpful suggestions, and could someone please tell me how to do it?

It's a college course, people. Remedial College Prep, but still, it's a college course. I have to uphold standards, and when the students go to the next level, they'll be expected to know how to put a paper together. (unlike the public schools, where the students are passed from level to level whether they can prove themselves worthy or not. . . .)

I simply will not wipe that smile off her face with red ink and horrified remarks, but sacre MERDE, what can I do with this thing?

I guess the first thing would be to address the spacing and the font. That would be safe and somewhat neutral.

But what would the next step be? If this lady, and her classmates, were fresh out of high school I would know better how to deal with this kind of writing, but how can I deal with this lady, and all these other students, who are in their forties, fifties, and sixties, who haven't written anything since their sophomore year, right before they dropped out and went to work? Making references to basic grammar and spelling wouldn't work here, because it's been so long since they're studied grammar, writing things such as "adverbial misuse" or "comma splice" just wouldn't make any sense to her.

Rewriting her paper for her wouldn't help her, either.

Advice needed.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:29 PM | |

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Saving the Universe, A Little Bit At A Time

Update: she's posted. Now I can tell you who she is. Please click. . . .HERE. I hope you all take a moment to tell her she's a hero.

I am feeling very humbled and grateful and happy and relieved and sad today. Not because of a missed luncheon date, or a furnace, but because of something infinitely more important.

I feel this way because I have a friend who is a hero, an actual, real-life hero. I have a friend who did an incredibly brave thing, at no small personal risk. I have a friend who refused to look the other way, and who stepped in, and interfered, and got called names for it, and stayed anyway. I have a friend who did the right thing. I have a friend who saved a little piece of the world last night.

Many of you know my friend. I won't put a link here until she blogs about it herself, but once she does, I will link to it and you will ALL know what a fantastic, courageous, unselfish person she is.

I am so proud. I have a friend who is a hero.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:43 PM | |

Barney Isn't Really A Dinosaur But My Furnace Is

I was on my way to my regular Thursday after-class luncheon date with Mom and Cousin C when my cell rang. Message: I had to go home immediately and let the furnace guy into the house.

This is how cold my house has been these past two days: I'd been looking forward to this date for a week, but for Randy of Randy's Heating and Cooling, I dropped Mom off at the K-Mart Chinese (it's got a cool name but I don't remember what it is) and drove home. An hour later, the furnace is humming away, and it sounds so wonderful, I don't even care that it doesn't know the words.

It's actually humming to the tune of almost three hundred dollars, but it's better than the price of a whole new furnace. The furnace guy had taken the motor and fan home with him and fixed them himself, because apparently, my furnace is a dinosaur and no longer exists.

How odd. My parents' old house had a furnace that was made of cast iron, and was over fifty years old, and it still worked perfectly, and if it did have a problem, parts could be gotten at any hardware store for it. My furnace is 17 years old, and has broken down several times, although none as completely as this, and now it's a dinosaur with no parts to be had for it.

Thank you, Randy's Heating and Cooling, for coming within the hour of being called, and for taking the time and trouble to pretty much invent and carve the part for me at your home, and for coming in today and installing the home-made part, which, so far at least, is working beautifully.

Built-in, pre-planned, selective obsolescence sucks.

I really wanted to meet Mom and C at the K-Mart Chinese today. Don't confuse this restaurant with the Shoney's Chinese, or the WalMart Chinese. We used to have a Hardee's Chinese, but it's now a Merle Norman shop. (I refuse to go there because I loved the Hardee's Chinese the best.) Sometimes, I meet a friend for lunch at the Big Lots Chinese. All of these restaurants have lovely Asian names but for the life of me, I couldn't tell you which was which. I have my own system, and while people tend to give me funny looks when we talk about Chinese restaurants in this town, they all know exactly which one I mean, whereas when they talk about meeting at the Asian Pearl, I might very well end up at Big Lots.

Also, Barney not only is NOT a dinosaur, he sucks, too. In real life, he'd be devouring those little children, not singing stupid songs to them and prancing around like the hippo ballerinas in "Fantasia."

I used to forbid my middle school students to say "sucks" and now look at me. It's become kind of like "screwed:" the connotative meaning has evolved and the shock value is gone.

Too bad. We need words with shock value in order to properly describe shocking things.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:24 PM | |

I Don't Like To Think That I'm Losing My Magic Touch

Nope, still no heat in this house. Nothing but green wet wood that WILL NOT BURN, and the usually reliable woodstove is inconceivably ornery. ("You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. . . .")

It's supposed to get down to eleven degrees tonight ("These go to eleven.") so after class today I have to go to WalMart (Noooooooooooo. . . . .) and buy an electric space heater. (I'm going to try to heat the universe.) (Beginning with this room.)

Stupid furnace.

I think the thing that makes me maddest is that I am usually FANTASTIC with the one-match-fire. Have I lost my touch? All my life, I have been really, really good at making the wood burst into flames, with one, single, solitary little match. Soaking wet wood, green wood, weird unlabel-able wood. . . it didn't matter. One match in my hands and it erupted into flames. I have even done the unthinkable, and cheated with charcoal, here. Nothing. What's happening wit dis? I was FAMOUS for one-match-fires, big ones, long-lasting ones, huge brilliant bursts of enduring heat. (Oh, yeah, make of it what you will. . . .)


Not this time, and I don't like it.

I can't wait to get to the college; THEY'VE got heat. I hope.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:33 AM | |

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

. . . Wherein I Post Yet Another Forwarded SpamPiece. . . .

Well now, I don't do this very often, and this particular SpamPiece has been around for quite a while, but I'm doing it again: posting a piece of forwarded spam here. "Everybody" has seen it a zillion times; I am usually the last person on the planet to get what everybody else got last year.

But when it showed up again, in today's email, I took it as a sign that maybe I should just post it and hope that people read it and learn something.

Then I deleted the email, with much sighing and possibly a little cursing, aimed at the person who forwarded it to me. (Once in a while, yes. Every thirty seconds, no.) I've posted it on here before, but something is telling me to post it again.

I've read possibly a dozen people's names who supposedly authored this SpamPiece, and supposedly, it was aimed at Dr. Laura, but who knows?

Dr. Laura. Hah. Let's all ask her for advice, okay? Nude pictures of her were posted on the internet; she had an affair with the guy who TOOK the nude pics, while still married to her first husband; she's a mean-spirited know-it-all who calls people names, tells them to stay in abusive relationships, and won't even let her callers finish a sentence without interrupting them. She hasn't spoken to her own mother in years.

Also, she's NOT a doctor. Not the medical kind, anyway.

Occasionally, I will agree with her, and that really bothers me. Oh well. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Here's the SpamPiece:

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan,
Any one of many people to whom this letter is attributed
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:37 PM | |


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