Thursday, February 28, 2008

Comments and Spam

I really love getting comments on my blogs. Checking them is one of the first things I do every morning, after getting ready and dressed for work. So I hate to put a stumbling block in anyone's way, but I've had to turn on the "word verification" feature, where you must type in a word that is given to you each time you leave a comment. Someone who is trying to sell virus protection software has discovered my blogs, and is sending their automated spam in the form of comments. Boo to you, Spammer!

I hope this won't discourage any of you from leaving comments.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Over in the Meadow - Part 2

I spent some time today experimenting with styles for the Counting Book (see yesterday's post). I've discovered that I can photograph the origami "babies," and, using Photoshop Elements, paste them onto my background as many times as necessary. That means I won't have to make TEN frogs.

Here's a rough draft of pages one and two. By the way -- those are the toads, not the frogs. The toad isn't that difficult, but the frog is a bear! (How can a frog be a bear?)

You can click on the picture, to see it a little larger.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Over in the Meadow

Sweetpea's Book of Colors finally shipped from the printer. I'm not as thrilled with it as I was with Sweetpea's ABC Book, which I did first. But, it's done, and now I'm thinking of a counting book.

A few days ago I pulled all of my origami books out of the closet, so I could do some origami for my 366 Photos in 2008 blog, since "origami" is one of the themes. Most of these books were gifts from our Japanese exchange students, so they are not in English. For the most part, though, the diagrams are understandable without the text. I ended up folding some blossoms on a branch, and had a lot of fun with it. And that's when the idea came to me to try something different for Sweetpea's Counting Book. Instead of using photography, I thought I might do origami animals, to illustrate the traditional "Over in the Meadow" song.

Yesterday afternoon I started trying to fold the frog. What a disaster! I understood the directions, but my folds just didn't come out neat and clean like in the diagram. I must have tried six or seven times to fold a perfect frog, each time without success. I might, eventually, be able to fold one handsome frog, but, according to the song, I'll need "a green mother frog and her little froggies nine." That's TEN frogs! I probably should rethink this idea, but it's still intriguing to me, and I think I'll give it a little more time and effort before I abandon it. Wish me luck. I'll need it. After the frogs come "a gray mother spider and her little spiders ten."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Remedial Classes vs. Electives

(or It's My Blog so I'll Rant if I Want To #2)

On February 12, an editorial ran in the Albuquerque Journal. This paragraph, from the article, is in reference to Albuquerque Public Schools (APS):
“Last year 6,250 ninth- and 11th-graders tested as not proficient in English, 5,343 in math. This fall, high schoolers who don't test proficient in those core subjects will have to take remedial courses to get them up to speed. And unless schedules change, that remedial course will be in lieu of an elective.”
The editor goes on to express his opinion that this move is “vital . . . if all APS grads are going to become productive members of society.” His recommendation is for schools to switch to block schedules that would accommodate both remedial coursework and an elective of the student's choosing.

In today’s Journal there are eight student responses, from a social studies class at a local middle school. I understand these are middle school students, so I would not expect perfection in spelling, grammar, or logic. However, when I read their responses today, I was actually embarrassed for them, especially considering that they wrote these letters knowing that they would be published in the newspaper.

Their own letters to the editor, which were intended to dispute the proposed APS policy, are, instead, prime evidence for the policy’s necessity, in my opinion. Below are a few excerpts from the letters, with all spelling and grammar exactly as it was written. Of the eight letters, there were two that were well-written for middle-schoolers (one of which was the only one in favor of the new policy). Of the other six letters, the following excerpts are typical.
“Are teacher read this article on Monday and I and other kids in are class wasn’t very happy about it.”

“I didn’t like that they toke out are elective because I heard that there was really good electives in High School.”

“I think thats not fair to the kids that are chalened in those euents because what if they dont get a good score? What if you were that kid would you wont to have your eletive tooken away.”

“The “ALL WORK, NO PLAY” artical was a pice of crap.”

“If we have to do even more we are in trouble and so will our grades . . . Comeing from a kid myself belive me this wont help us, if anything it will get us more confused haveing to do like two math clases if we dont get such a good grade on that part of the test.”

Well . . .

What do you think? Might remedial coursework be in order?

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Nike Years

Dan worked for Nike for several years, when our boys were young. I really hadn't thought about it in awhile, until my friend, Gloria, mentioned that we had bought their daughter her very first pair of Nikes -- size 2, pink and white.

Shopping at the Nike Company Store was the best part of Dan's job, at least from the perspective of the boys and me. As employees (or family), we could buy Nike products at a fraction of the regular retail cost. We were allowed to purchase, without limit, for ourselves or as gifts for others.

As a result of the super prices, we did almost all of our boys' school-clothes shopping there. We could buy shirts, jackets, sweat suits, shoes (of course), back packs, and even underwear there! You hardly ever saw either Chris or Tim without "swooshes" on their clothing.

At this time, Chris was about 12 years old, and just becoming aware of "cool" clothing. And, in those years, Nike was about as cool as you could get! I hadn't realized just how important clothing was becoming to him, until the day came when Dan told the boys that he would be changing jobs -- moving from Nike to another company, to better his career.

To our utter surprise, upon hearing this news flash, Chris suddenly broke into tears. "Now I'll have to wear junky clothes," he howled, knowing (correctly) that his days of an all-Nike wardrobe were coming to an end.

Mr. Nike - Sixth Grade

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Winds - Literal and Figurative

It was 1968, and I was planning my wedding. I was also a sophomore at Abilene Christian College, living thousands of miles away from my mom and dad, making it a little difficult to coordinate all of our preparations. Wisely, I believe, I was planning a very simple wedding, so I wasn't terribly stressed out about it.

But I did have to find a wedding dress. My good friend and roommate, Chris, came shopping with me, and we found the perfect dress without much trouble. Like the wedding itself, my dress was simple; but you must remember it was the 1960s, and compared to the "flower child" weddings happening all around me, it was elegant!

We were trying to keep to a modest budget, so I came up with a novel idea for paying for my dress. Back home in Alaska, hanging in my closet, was my beautiful fox fur winter parka. It looked as if my days of living in Alaska were about to come to an end, since I was marrying a Texas boy. I might as well sell my parka to pay for my wedding dress. A lady in the Juneau church, named Ann, happily purchased my parka for an amount that covered the cost of my dress. Little did I know, at that time, that Dan and I would spend two lengthy periods of time living back in Juneau as a married couple -- the first time from 1971 to 1978, and the second time from 1998 to 2003.

Here I am, posing in my fox fur parka - summer of 1968.

My wedding dress lies, folded up in blue paper and a zippered plastic bag, in my closet. And, when we left Juneau this last time, in 2003, Ann was still wearing "my" fur parka on the coldest winter days. There were times, when the temperature dropped low, the bitter Taku winds were howling, and the snow was whipping along the streets, that I wished it were still mine. But then I would think back on that day, in June of 1969, when I walked down the aisle with my father, who placed my hand in Dan's. Though I never again wore the wedding dress, it memorializes to me our love and commitment, which, together, have cloaked us through the winds of almost four decades of marriage.

(Edit - Here's a passage from an e-mail from an Oregon friend who read this blog: "I received your blog about selling your warm jacket so that you could purchase your wedding dress. After the wedding, you had your hubby and love to keep you warm, even in Alaska. " So true!)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shopping with Sherry

After our Saturday morning breakfast, Dan and I stopped by a sporting goods store to see if they had any monopod/walking sticks in stock. I've been researching them on the Internet, and Dan gave me the "go ahead" to purchase one as my birthday gift. So, what is this strange contraption? It's a telescoping walking stick that has an attachment at the top, allowing you to mount your camera. It's not quite as stable as a tripod, but it's pretty good, considering it will serve two purposes - stabilizing my camera, and stabilizing ME.

The store we stopped at didn't have one like I was looking for, so we gave up and went home. Or, maybe I should say that Dan gave up; I was still determined to find one. So, I gave my friend and photography-buddy, Sherry, a call. She has also been wanting to purchase one. We spent all afternoon shopping in sporting goods stores and, finally and more successfully, in an old-fashioned camera shop.

Once we found the model we wanted, Sherry, in her sweet Southern drawl, asked the clerk if, by chance, they were running a sale. "No," he replied, "but if you buy two of them, I'll give you 15% off." Yahoo!

Watch out world; nothing will stop us now! (Raise your right hand and repeat after me . . . ) Neither rain nor snow, nor sleet nor dark of night shall stay these photographers from capturing State-Fair-blue-ribbon-award-winning images.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Dan, Technology, and Me

Since about 1972, Dan has worked with computers. He has had his hand in many different aspects of computer technology, including programming, networking, systems analysis, and who knows what else. As a result, he has always been the one leading me or, sometimes, pushing me into new frontiers of technology.

For example, I remember the day, sometime in the early-nineties, when he took me to the library at the small university, in Oregon, where I worked, and sat me down in front of a computer. He opened up a program called Mosaic and keyed in a string of letters. After a brief pause, something resembling a research paper on some (now-forgotten) topic appeared on the screen.

"Uh-huh," I said. I just didn't understand what was so exciting about this, although Dan seemed totally jazzed. He moved the cursor to a couple of words that were underlined, clicked on them, and up came another report on a topic related to those words. He skipped from report to report by clicking on words. I was both confused and unimpressed.

This was my introduction to the World Wide Web, although it had a very different appearance then - no graphics, no photos, just text.

"Well," I said, "I guess this might be useful. But where's the index or card catalog, so I can find something about a specific topic?" It was a logical question, but the answer was that there wasn't one; neither Google nor Yahoo, nor any other search engine, existed back then.

Dan, who none the less was enthused about this technology, tried to tell me that it was sort of like walking through a huge warehouse, stacked to the ceiling with merchandise. As you looked into box after box for a pair of tennis shoes, you might, eventually find a note that said, "Tennis shoes are located in the northeast corner of the building, on the second shelf." If you never found the note, you'd probably never find the shoes, but you'd have a great time snooping in all the boxes and digging through the piles anyway. I guess this was his way of explaining what we now refer to as "surfing."

Although I saw no use, that day (not so long ago), for what I perceived as a hodge-podge of unindexed information, I now wonder what I'd do without the Internet. I use it EVERY day - for doing research at work; for looking up addresses and driving directions; for reading articles about photography and blogs about my friends and family; for ordering birthday gifts; for looking up medical information or definitions of words; for making hotel reservations; for paying my bills and doing my banking; and on and on it goes.

Dan is often amused at how, after he initially drags me into some new area of technology, and I finally become a convert, I immerse myself in it and turn into its new most zealous proponent.

Monday, February 4, 2008

An Ember Rekindled

Every now and then it’s good to be reminded of the needs of people in distress. We all know, intellectually, that we are blessed beyond reason, here in this country; and that, even when we are struggling, our life is so much better than the best of times in other parts of the world.

But intellectual awareness is something we can give a nod to, and walk away from with little or no effect upon us.

Yesterday we listened to Jim Miller, from Lifeline of Hope, speak about the orphans being cared for through that good work. We were touched and moved by what we heard from Jim and saw on the slide show -- touched by the plight of the children, and moved by what a difference is being made in their lives through seemingly insignificant amounts of money and by hugely significant compassion on the part of individuals.

I don’t mean to sound like Sally Field on a TV ad. I just want to share with you what I received yesterday – the rekindling of an ember that has been glowing somewhat dimly in my life, into a little flame of good works fueled by love.

"Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows and refuse to let the world corrupt us." James 1:27

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Shift in Emphasis

I've kept this blog going since July and, although I'm not intending to abandon it, I am going to slow down my pace. One reason, to be honest, is that I'm running out of interesting old stories about my family and myself. Another reason is that I've added my 366 Photos for 2008 blog, which is taking a lot of my free time.

I'd recommend continuing to check here every week or so for anything new, but take a look at my photo blog more frequently. Since I hope to post photos on all 366 themes this year, I will be posting there very regularly. The temperature moderated a bit today, so I went downtown after work and took a few theme pictures, namely Library, Cinema, and Reflections. Go take a look. I especially like the Reflections one.