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September 2009

4 day holiday

We're going to Shenandoah to camp this weekend, leaving tomorrow night. I want to share photos here, but won't be able to respond until I get back. I just figured out how to make sure the message arrives, so yay! It's so beautiful there. I hope you, at least one or two of you, will enjoy seeing some of it. 

homeschool emo death poetry

which is a phrase I can't imagine anyone else has typed before. 

I left in the misspellings because they're funny. 

11 year-old

Yesterday I walked in the kitchen and broke
A glass I yelled Oh Noes!
Mom said c'mon we're having sloppy joes
So when I walked outside
I triped and I died.

And then at my funeral
Urkel came and used the urinal
Then my brothers went to McDonald's
That reminded me that they're burgers were awful...

12 year-old

Death ain't painfull Death ain't Time
Death will happen once every time
When it happens it won't change me
Once you die they will see.

You can't stop it you can't stop the drum
It will keep going Bum Bum Bum Death.
Death I see you there up there
Without a care 
I see you in the soul of that little hare.

It will happen to you it will happen to me
and when it does you will see.

Death is unstopablle Death's in its prime
So it WILL happen every time.

15 year-old

What's the point of life? Why are we here?
Please lend your ear to my rhyme,
and make the shadows all go away...

When I touch your black heart, it makes my eyeballs shart,
And my cold ears hear everything your dark soul has to say...
I open up the door, my heart falls onto the floor,
I think that I just pooped inside my pants...

The skys are orange and black, it feels as though
my soul fell on a tack, had a heart attack, 
shatted out my ear holes then just died.

17 year-old

I clutched the Bible to my chest
in the corner
of my hotel room
and cried
as I readied myself
for the end.

Oh lord, how he has forsaken
in the deep
I shall die
for my own sins
at the strike
of the night...
and never

I'm challenging you, calling you out!

Okay, I was looking for poems for my kids to memorize and went to a trash heap of emo cutter verse called poetry.com. I told my kids: Okay! Right now! Write a poem about death! Make it "better" than the one I just read you, and make it fast. And by better, I mean even more pretentious and whiny, if possible.

I admit it; I was the one who wrote my paper right before class in high school and got a good grade on it because I had a big vocabulary and could fake depth. I think the teachers couldn't tell if I was serious. 

This took me about 3 minutes. You write one now, a crappy poem about "death," and submit it to me. I bet you can fake it just as well. It has to suck but look like maybe it doesn't. If you don't belong to Vox, just sign up, silly OR stick it somewhere and give me the url. I DARE YOU. Because it's fun. 

Summer decays window breeze
sneezing acrid displeasure, I
shiver in the fading light

Pressing my hand onto cold glass
it shatters at my touch
In my head at least—frame intact
solid and clear, all that broke
is my will to live

Despair in hibernation dark
huddled against grey walls
cornered by Nature's calm repose
I wait in silence for life to return

In the next post, I'm going to type out my kids' attempts at making fun of emo poetry. 

well, some of it was true

I was fondly remembering my effort at creating this two years ago, and realizing I haven't done anything this ambitious since then, though I meant to. And never did learn Esperanto.

    I am an oblique sketch of an anachronistic dilettante

    I've information useful and unorthodox that I can flaunt

    I know the capitals of states from Arizona to Vermont

    And I can spell each one from front to back and also back to front

    I'm well adjusted in the woods or in a formal restaurant

    I apprehend the transcendental logic offered by Herr Kant

    About the art of making pie I'm filled with a whole host of facts

    With many cheerful tidbits on the use of various extracts

    I'm very good at bowling and on history I can catechize

    I know the rules of Pinochle, can knit a scarf and harmonize

    In information useful and unorthodox that I can flaunt

    I am an oblique sketch of an anachronistic dilettante

    I know our TV history, Arthur Godfrey through The Wonder Years

    The theme from Barney Miller is still music to my aging ears

    I answer in minutiae like Cliff Clavin in that bar on Cheers

    I quote from The X-Files not everything is as it appears 

    Then I can write a poem in double dactylic dimeter

    And I can name the difference between scimitar and cimiter 

    I know a dozen methods to prepare each type of crucifer

    Then I can also cite the family name of every conifer

    I know how to upholster chairs and sculpture busts from crayon wax

    I make my own floor cleaner from boiled and ground up chicken backs

    In information useful and unorthodox that I can flaunt

    I am an oblique sketch of an anachronistic dilettante

In fact, when I can name the mystery toxin found on rhubarb

When I can tell at sight the male sex traits of a Fourspotted Barb

When I am adept at the art of forming witty syllepses

And when I understand the process of agamogenesis

When I have mastered all the finer techniques of acrography

When I know all the instruments used to perform ziglibithy

In short, when I've a smattering of verse learned in Esperanto

You'll say a better dilettante has never brewed homemade Pernod

Though currently my literary ouevre for which I have gold stars 

Only extends to reciting dialogue from Red Planet Mars 

In information useful and unorthodox that I can flaunt

I am an oblique sketch of an anachronistic dilettante

QotD: Run Away

Did you ever run away from home?

Not exactly. But I did always want to be a hobo, so now and then I'd tie things inside a piece of cloth attached to a stick and take long walks through the fields and over the creek, etc. I was always disappointed that I couldn't find a polka-dotted handkerchief, having to do with the usual paisley-ish pattern instead. And I never had the nerve to jump onto an open freight train, but did enjoy watching them go by over my head from the creek bank, counting the open and closed cars. 

I never saw a passenger train until I moved to New Jersey in 2000.

equinox photoshop fun part one

We went to the woods yesterday. The photos I took were not that inspired. Mostly just green. It was a pretty woods, but quite lacking in contrast, should be quite different in a month. Here are a few photos I played adjustment and filter games with, because they weren't very woodsy, were they? I have a few more to share another time, and later this evening I'll post some of the "regular" ones. Okay, I've edited this now to include befores and afters. :-)

Click, then click again to see full-sized. 

I think this house might have belonged to the person who donated these woods.

This one's mostly the same, just increased the contrast a bit before sharpening.

QotD: My Favorite Quick & Healthy Recipe

What’s your favorite quick, easy, and healthy recipe?
Presented by Intel, Sponsors of Tomorrow.Click Here

This is an odd question to me. I'm certain I don't have a favorite quick, easy, and healthy recipe. But here's something you may enjoy doing: semi-homemade spaghetti sauce. 

Heat a large pan to medium and add some extra-virgin olive oil. Um, a couple of spoonfuls? I dunno, depends on the next part. Add some chopped onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic, that is, your choice among those* but definitely garlic, and a couple of spoonfuls of dried mixed Italian seasoning. (I have all those herbs fresh but this is good, trust me, especially with Costco's Tuscan seasoning.) Stir that around until the stuff is softened, then add in, oh, a half cup of wine or vermouth. Sure, red is good (not too dry, though,) but white will be fine (but not a dessert one.) It should be drinkable, but not expensive. Simmer that on low for about 5 minutes, then stir in one small can of tomato paste, and a large can of crushed tomatoes. You can use a large can of diced tomatoes instead if you like; my kids do not. Simmer this for a few minutes, stirring a few times, and you're done. You might like a pinch of salt and pepper near the end. It'll keep in the refrigerator for a week or you can freeze it. It will feed 6-8, thereabouts and is worth the time to have some for later if there are not 6-8 of you. 

*Like, 1 small onion or half a larger one, 1/2-1 bell pepper, a handful of mushrooms, 2-3 garlic cloves or spoons of that jarred stuff.

A nice thing to do is take about half the sauce and add a quarter cup or so of heavy cream to it, warm and serve that way, with some thicker pasta like linguini. 

Tthis really is how I cook most of the time and it works out fine. But I've missed sharing real recipes here, so I'm going to work on doing that on the weekends again. It's that time of year. :-)

Tweeting the Emmys

It's pretty self-serving, but I was having fun with a few friends. If you want to read this, start from the bottom. Obviously some of it is one-sided. 


Oh, always and forever! RT: @OfficeLiberator Bob Newhart. still awesome.

21 minutes ago from web

RT: @chippers87: Bryan Cranston, I'm happy for you, and I'm gonna let u finish, but HUGH LAURIE IS THE BEST LEAD DRAMATIC ACTOR OF ALL TIME.

24 minutes ago from web



30 minutes ago from web


Somebody must have tipped off Glenn Close and *that's* why she bothered to dress up this year instead of wandering in from bed. #emmys

38 minutes ago from web


Old school vampire wins. #emmys

about 1 hour ago from web


@alex_rae Yes! I am vindicated!

about 1 hour ago from Twitterrific in reply to alex_rae


@thelostdwarf I have tried coaxing @officeliberator into Mad Men many times but he has no attention span. He will after tonight, I bet.

about 1 hour ago from web in reply to thelostdwarf


@vitawash Oh, I know. She just sort of bugs me, even though she's a good singer. I can't take her very seriously, maybe I'm awful.

about 1 hour ago from Twitterrific in reply to vitawash


Oh, don't you always go "I liked that guy! He's dead? How did I miss so many of them?"

about 1 hour ago from web


Sarah MacLachlan is singing her abused pets song for the dead people. It's a bit creepy. #emmys

about 1 hour ago from web

@thelostdwarf I keep meaning to watch Big Bang Theory but then I forget.

about 1 hour ago from web in reply to thelostdwarf


Notice something derivative in those SNL clips? Hugh Laurie, did you say? And Stephen Fry? Why yes, I remember. http://tinyurl.com/4s94ox

about 1 hour ago from web


Oh, Ricky Gervais, you've gone Hollywood and I kind of love you for it. :-)

about 1 hour ago from web

What happened to Brian Williams' face? #emmys

about 1 hour ago from web


Wow, Johnny Galecki is as wee a fellow as Tracy Morgan. I'd like to see them next to each other. Like Jack Benny and Andy Williams. #emmys

about 2 hours ago from web


Oh, Jessica Lange thank you for not disappointing me, all sweet with your awkward face lift and your slightly dizzy countenance. #emmys

about 2 hours ago from web


Patty Arquette, you are the wrong height for that shoulder thingy. And also? It's just not right. You look bundled into your dress. #emmys

about 2 hours ago from web


@alex_rae @vitawash I think there are enough "unscripted" shows to distinguish between real competition and the "situational" stuff I hate.

about 2 hours ago from web


Seriously, competitions like those shouldn't be lumped in with weight-loss programs or awful date ones. They're more akin to the talk shows.

about 2 hours ago from web


I wouldn't have thought of Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance as "reality tv," partly because they're not horrible. #emmys

about 2 hours ago from web

@alex_rae I have a hard time with sitcoms to begin with, and 30 Rock just stresses me so much.

about 3 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to alex_rae


I'm going to go on record here and say I don't think Amy Poehler is funny. Or interesting. At all. #emmys

about 3 hours ago from web


I'm going to go on record here and say I don't think 30 Rock is funny. Or interesting. At all. #emmys

about 3 hours ago from web


Yes! Pushing Daisies was Absolutely Fricking Awesome. Congratulations, Kristen Chenoweth. #emmys

about 3 hours ago from web


Ohh, Jon Hamm. What else is there to say? #emmys

about 3 hours ago from web


Okay, young Neil. You win. And so do your writers. #emmys

about 3 hours ago from web


Really excited about Neil Patrick Harris. It could have been Craig. I might have died. But if not Craig, then who better? #emmys

about 3 hours ago from web


Oh, hey, Glenn Close. You dressed up. It's nice, really. You should go with that as a trend. Seriously. #emmys

about 3 hours ago from web


Good lord, David Boreanaz, are those your real shoulders? He just gets better and better. It's nice when that happens. #emmys

about 3 hours ago from web


@alex_rae He is marrying Emily Blunt. He almost makes me wish I was younger. But not quite. :-) And I can't be a "cougar."

about 4 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to alex_rae


Hayden Panattiere is perfectly put together. I would enjoy being unkind to the celebrities, but they're all doing so well so far. #emmys

about 4 hours ago from web


Oh, Sarah Silverman, no. You are not Queen Elizabeth. Pockets, really? No. You look pretty from the waist up, though. #emmys

about 4 hours ago from web


Jim from The Office is very handsome in real life. A bit young for me, but still. #emmys

about 4 hours ago from web


I still ::heart:: Kevin Kline. And other than botox and a bit of hair dye, he seems to have left himself alone, so that's nice. #emmys

about 4 hours ago from web


Dana Delaney looks spectacular. I am almost never jealous of the celebrities, but I kind of am, because she's older than me and wow. #emmys

about 4 hours ago from web


Alyson Hannigan just told us to follow her on Twitter @alydenisof, so I am, because why not? Motherhood looks beautiful on her. #emmys

about 4 hours ago from web


@vitawash I'm finding it much more palatable, though it seemed for awhile that Rob Lowe took over and wouldn't let go.

about 4 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to vitawash


@FastEddiesRetro I find the awards shows go down easier with a bit of a BAC.

about 4 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to FastEddiesRetro


Tracy Morgan is a wee little man, isn't he? The dude with the microphone shouldn't have asked him about Ye. That was lame. #emmys

about 4 hours ago from web


@FastEddiesRetro I plan to commentate here for awhile because I usually do it in my blog. Plus, I have beer.

about 4 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to FastEddiesRetro

I've gone with TVGN; both the Seacrest and Jay Manuel were much too much for me.

about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific


@marykir Well, I definitely want to see Hugh!

about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to marykir

@marykir Well, I was trying to determine who would annoy less, Ryan or Carrie-Ann. If there's little difference I guess it won't matter.

about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to marykir


Am I supposed to be watching E! or TVGN for the red carpet stuff? I don't wish to switch back and forth; I like a more zen TV experience.

about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific

Please let me help you improve your handwriting. :-)

I believe in the pen. I think pens and paper pads are wonderful things. Sadly, they are largely ignored or abused these days. Schools don't bother much with handwriting anymore, but I still hope to teach at least a couple of my children to achieve good penmanship. I think it's good for the brain, though I have no concrete evidence of this. 

When I was in school, I was handicapped by teachers who had a handwriting method to impart to us without deviation. I'm left-handed. The method was not set up to accomodate that quirk of my physical nature. Teachers found me a bother to deal with.

I was awkward anyway. Clumsy with a pencil, hand always dirty from dragging it across what I'd just written, it was just another embarrassing element to my fairly embarrassing early school days. I got "passing" grades for penmanship and no better. No one cared, because I was aces at the actual school work. But by the time I finished 9th grade, I was worried. I wanted to write and I wanted to do well in school, but handwriting was punishing work for me, and those reports I had to write weren't getting any shorter. So I spent the summer after 9th grade teaching myself as I was inventing for myself, an intuitive form of handwriting I've been perfecting ever since. I had to give myself permission, literally, to let go of the conventions and demands of 2nd and 3rd grade handwriting instruction, and just work with what I knew I could succeed at, instead. 

These days in elementary school, no one even bothers with penmanship or the grading of it. And most adults I know spend so much time on a keyboard, their handwriting is barely legible. But mine is; it was hard-won, and I'm not giving it up. I believe mine would be a good method for others to use in learning or improving handwriting, and for most people, wouldn't require more than a few minutes' practice a day.

Here's a basic view of the thing, and then a few notes on how you can make it work for you and/or your kids, if you'd like to try. 

You can click twice to see it Very Large. 

You see I don't write beautifully, but it's uniform, neat, and legible. And that's what counts. I would like it to also be pretty, so I do focus on that when I have time. Also, since I am left-handed, I use a spiral notebook backwards. There's no teacher around but me, and I don't give myself bad grades for writing on the "back" of the paper. 

The top alphabet is for people who already write; if you practice the letters this way, then you can start putting together combinations naturally. With each word you write, there will be sections that easily "join together," and letters that more easily stand alone. That's the idea: go with it! 

Two things from childhood; do slant your book to the left if you're right-handed, or to the right if you're left-handed. And pay attention to how you hold the pen: the back of your hand should be curved at only a slight angle from your wrist. Good posture really does help; sit in a straight-backed chair and don't lean too far over your paper.

The bottom section is a way you can teach a child to first form letters. The a, d, h, i, k, l, m, n, t and u are best formed with a slight tail at the end; it looks nice and makes joining up easier once the letters are mastered. The k can be formed with the top loop or without; I find the loop more natural, personally. Most of these letters are formed beginning at the top; the d and q are formed beginning at the top of the circle. And the e begins with the formation of the center loop. It's crucial that you get your kids started forming the letters in the proper direction from the very beginning. They need to form correct muscle habits early in order to form them well. 

Once they form the letters individually, they can learn to write short words they can read, and you can show them how to connect a p by bringing forward a stem from the bottom of the circle if you wish. As children form more words and sentences, you can encourage them to create more of an angle with the letters in order to progress to a smoother italicized pattern of writing. Discourage forming connection loops with letters that have lower "hooks," as this is how people start to make craziness and inconsistency all over the paper, and they are harder to read even when done well. 

I think 15 minutes at sitting is enough for a child; as an adult, you could do 15 minutes twice a day, or arrange the time you have for it accordingly. But if you bore or tire yourself with it, you won't stick to it, so don't go overboard. 

Whew! First day of not-school at a close

What we got done? Well, we got into doing some work, so that's the main thing. I read Plato's allegory of the cave, and explained how it can relate to what we learn at home and how we "learn to learn." We can go out into the world able to see and learn about reality all around us, or be bound to narrow and childish notions of what's real, and refuse to really look and hear and touch. I did not relate Plato's view on reality and Forms, but if they find themselves in the middle of that discussion someday, they'll have a starting point. 

I had them do a lesson on how people communicated before speech. I want this to be a warm-up to several things; first, how humans developed, for which we might go all the way back to Australopethicines, second, to learn about the development of written language and of our language, and third, a sort of sociological view of how humans communicate, and sometimes manipulate and control each other with language, in various historical contexts. But for today it was basically, "how do we point out, hunt down, and kill these rabbits for our group to eat if we can't speak about them?" and "how do we communicate with our pets?"

Not a bad start, but tomorrow we get into math review, a short geography unit, and each will choose a poem to memorize and recite. I'll try to make it not-too painful. 

It might've benefited from a red carpet pre-show


I heard about the president's speech to schoolchildren via a complaint about it. But my impression was that this person wasn't much complaining about the president or what he might say, but about the study materials teachers were to use alongside the event. From what I saw, I could appreciate that concern. I didn't think it merited the level of reaction it got, but I don't have a problem with parents wanting to assert control here and there if they really feel strongly about it. 

I don't think the president himself intended for the speech to take on such a political tone. People kid themselves, though, if they think he's not surrounded by people for whom that is the goal, but those eager beavers have this "well-meaning," don't we all want the same things? view, and they are often confused to learn not everyone sees it that way. 

However, this is not a unique scenario. It's how it always is with the president. It's business as usual, and to think that each administration has some specialer, more creepier agenda than the previous one is to be kind of obnoxiously naive. They don't all have the same agenda, but it's generally to be assumed that it has to do with taking central control over something or other, which at least half of us will find objectionable. (I find the whole notion of central control idealogically objectionable, but that's for another day, of course.)

Being the president is like being in a trap. It's weird how some people want to put themselves there, if you ask me. It seems they don't always originally feel political in their goals, but those goals will always be politicized and turned into a tedious, complex game. Our president is particularly good at playing that game, however, he strikes me, as most of the others have, as someone who would be happy to set it aside once in awhile and just hash things out over dinner. I'll wait to send an invitation, though, until after he's left office.

Why do you think we all end up loving the ex-presidents so much? The personalities they get to now unleash in full are the ones that first got them into positions of so-called power. They're generally dynamic, often charming, usually more intelligent than they were allowed to demonstrate while in office, trapped in the guise of a figurehead. Their mistakes are no longer the talk of the planet. They get to take a look back at it all and take a measure of themselves. It's made a number of them finer people than they were before, and almost all of them funnier. And if they choose to, they can get back to doing something hands-on about something they care about, without any politics getting in the way. 

I don't want the president to be a role model for my kids. But I might allow the idea that an ex-president could be one. 


Anyway. I've turned on the TV. I like the anchor who comes on CNN at 11am. A woman with a tiny flag sticking out of the top of her head says parents should be deciding if the president can tell their kids to have goals. I feel bad for anyone with a cause, because they tend to be represented by people with flags sticking out the tops of their heads or some such thing. If you are Devoted to a Cause, be assured we're going to mock you because a) you take yourself very, very seriously, and b) you have a krazy cousin who makes you look like a nutjob by association. It's the American Way. 

Now some womancorrespondent with a boring voice is Cliffsnoting the speech for us, which would normally make me turn it off. However, I've gathered the kiddos around for the occasion, so here we are. 

Here is our esteemed leader, looking, frankly, thinner than ever. He's talking to the kids like he's getting ready to play a concert. Okay. You know, if he would really quit smoking, he might not have to get his teeth whitened so much. Just saying. (Can you tell I'm used to doing this for the Emmys, instead?)

He and his speechwriter are very fair hands at parallelism. It's a basic hallmark of a good and easy for listening speech. 

Now we're at the "examples of hard-working people" section. Most of us don't get to be J.K. Rowling or a basketball player, but they came up the same way, you know. Fair enough. I wonder why we never talk about what really seems to separate can-do, go get 'em people from the main crowd. Maybe we don't really know what sets them apart. 

Oh! Wash your hands, everybody! No, I like this speech all right because it's telling some of the truths about how life works, and he's using regular people language to say it. He said "stupid." Heh. 

But what makes troubled kids who need an adult actually seek one out? That's a hard thing to do sometimes. And I can tell you, my kids did not take this speech nearly as seriously as I did. I've reared a sarcastic bunch here, for better or for worse. 

Also, did we need the president in order to point out that previous students made a revolution, civil rights and Google? Seems to me it all went on all along without personal presidential motivation. It was very pleasant, though. Only, is this setting some sort of precedent? And if not, why this one at this time? That's a rhetorical question, by the way. I mean that. 

CNN is now showing us an excerpt of the president's pre-speech talk with some students. We all like when they show us the president as a regular person. It's like reality TV; we pretend we relate to it, then sneer at it when it all starts to go wrong. 

Great Innovations of 1965, plus, it's that time of year

I'm preparing for school right now. Normally I take the month of August to do that. But most of August was spent, needfully, in other ways. So I have this week and the first two days of next. Whee! I've updated and added to my school bookmarks, got the individual objectives listed, and the year added to iCal, but that's about it so far. 

I'm sort of excited, because it's just about the one thing I love to do more than anything else, and I thought some of it was getting disrupted. But I have a reprieve from that. And I have a month's worth of work to do in about a week, and then off we go. 

Okay. I got to scan some things to share with you. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new magazines, in the meantime, here are a few bits of fun from summer of 1965 issues of Saturday Evening Post. You can click through to see them larger, of course.

How exciting must this have been? I know I would have been thrilled to switch from that weird shiny cello tape that was still around when I was a kid for some reason, to this "invisible" tape you could write on. Also, it didn't turn brown and yucky when it got old. Stellar, really. 

Astonishing! We take so much for granted, don't we? 

Along with color TV, my house didn't see a push-button phone until 1981. But the technology had been around since the year of my birth. That's why all the other kids got in faster for the radio contests, I guess. 
Western Electric headquarters was near where I grew up, and I knew many kids whose parents worked there. They made out very well, as I understand it. Then, thanks to the magic of deregulation, we all got to own our own phones and things began to change swiftly!

I don't know if this was interesting to you, but it is to me. Life progresses because of seemingly small changes, with the big ones just coming along once in awhile, you know?