Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I was listening to Midmorning today on Minnesota Public Radio and heard Kerri Miller interview poet Nikki Giovanni. What a great program. Nikki has spark and snap. During her discussion, she was talking about copyright and whether people could use her work. She said that as long as she's alive, she wants people to use her work. And when she dies, she will have left instructions with her executor that people will still be able to use her work. She believes that her art is meant to be shared.
She's a girl after my own heart. What with all the big companies clamping down on copyright, sometimes even trying to squelch fair use, it's getting so that I feel I must get permission from artists merely to be inspired by their work. It's a dreadful state of affairs. Thankfully, there's a movement afoot to counteract some of this overreaching by heavy-duty copyright owners (who have the bankrolls to lobby for themselves and hire lawyers to glare at and sue anyone who dares put a finger on their works). That movement includes something called Creative Commons. Creative Commons is a voluntary licensing program wherein the creator of a work can choose the rights he/she wants to reserve. By using the Creative Commons program and posting the Creative Commons notice on a work, those who want to use it to inspire their own works will know exactly what rights they've been allowed. I've added a Creative Commons license (CC) to my blog. The license I've chosen allows others to use my work, but they must attribute it to me, they can't use it for commercial purposes, and if they use it, they have to be willing to share it.
Labels: album art, blog, copyright, creative commons, inspiration, mpr, nikki giovanni, poet, share
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The Result - 10 words, 20 minutes
I took my writing exercise, 10 words, 20 minutes, to writers group last night. Each of the four of us set to work on the 10 words I posted on this blog a few days ago, only we had about 15 minutes to work, rather than 20. Strangely enough, all of us started what might amount to short stories, even though we had a couple of poets in the group. The words were thus:
cream, irony, notch, beg, scarab, taste, harmony, juvenile, leather, scribble
Upon hearing the list, one of our writers said that it sounded vaguely sexual. Hmmm.
Here's what I came up with during the exercise:
"He sat back in the chair, thumped his heels on the wooded table, and put his hands behind his head. He was pleased with himself - another notch in his leather belt, is what he was thinking. If he'd had a cowboy hat, he would've tipped it low and tasted the irony. His mother would've called his coup no more than the workings of a juvenile delinquent. Instead, he was lapping up the cream of his antics.
They were begging him to join Scarab Industries. The company's representative was sitting here before him, scribbling an offer he couldn't possibly refuse on a napkin. He'd take his sweet time giving them an answer - long enough, but not too long. Couldn't let them think he was too eager. He had to see if the figure the company rep was about to show him was harmonious with his lifestyle."
By far, the most difficult word to deal with in this list was scarab. It's an interesting word, though. One of our writers came up with a scarab ring. I thought my use of the word as a company name was a bit of a cop-out, but when I consider it further, I want to know what exactly Scarab Industries produces. Bit of a mystery there.
Labels: exercise, story, words, writers, writing
Sunday, February 25, 2007
During the middle of the snowstorm last night, the hubby and I ventured out to the video store and rented the movie Kinky Boots. It's a Miramax film. The screen shots are stunning and gorgeous. The story is fabulous. Kinky Boots didn't get much press upon release, but it is well worth seeing. Do not let the title scare you. It's rated PG-13. The basic plot is about a man who inherits his family's shoe factory in England. He doesn't really want the thing and the men's shoes the factory makes are going out of style. Enter a drag queen, who is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the plight of the factory shifts. Chiwetel has quite a list of professional credits, although this is the first movie I've seen him in. Judging by his performance, which was dead-on fantastic - especially his singing as Lola - he should reach a high level of fame. Here's hoping he does.
Labels: chiwetel ejiofor, drag queen, husband, kinky boots, movie, shoe, snow, story
About fourteen inches of snow later - with a few more inches expected tonight - and this morning it was time for Minnesotans to clean up. The plows were out. The husband shoveled. The neighbors shoveled. I got in the car to retrieve our boys from sleepovers and got stuck. Help was immediately on the way. When I drove around, being careful to avoid plow debris, there were people out everywhere, shoveling and snowblowing and plowing. I never see so many people on the street and in their yards as when there has been a massive snowstorm. And everyone is so helpful. Our boys helped shovel out a couple of sidewalks; our daughter plans to do the same this afternoon. There's still the car to clean off and shovel out in the backyard, which I'll be doing momentarily.
All this work, and the fluffy white stuff is simply beautiful. Ahhh.
Labels: children, husband, minnesota, shoveling, snow, weather
Saturday, February 24, 2007
10 words, 20 minutes
Hey, hey! It's snowing! We haven't gotten much, so far, just a coating over the grass, but it's picking up speed. I vaguely remember hearing thunder last night - how weird is that?
Anyway, I promised a writing exercise for this weekend in one of my comments. I call it 10 words, 20 minutes. I'll give you 10 random words. You have 20 minutes to do something with them. Use them to write a poem or essay or song, heck, draw a picture using them if you like. The only rules are that you have to use all 10 words and you have only 20 minutes to do it. (You can fudge the time a weensy bit if you're finishing a thought when time's up, but don't keep writing on and on forever.) Feel free to alter the words using generally accepted English language principles, i.e. snow can become snowing, or snows, or snowed.
Ready? Here are your words:
If you need to look up any of the words, your dictionary time doesn't count towards the 20 minutes.
Gather yourself together and Go!
Labels: create, dictionary, exercise, snow, thunder, weather, winter, words, writing
Friday, February 23, 2007
A Promised Snowstorm
We in Minnesota are waiting with baited breath* for a promised snowstorm. Forecasts all day have been saying to expect 12 to 14 inches over the weekend. We're thrilled at the prospect, but a little doubtful all the same. The situation reminds me of a short story that I once read in an Alfred Hitchcock anthology. The story was about a girl who was originally from Earth, but her family had immigrated to another planet. On this new planet, the sun only shone once every so often - at some ridiculously long, but predictible interval. The little girl missed sunshine and was teased for her weirdness. She was in class the day the sun was due to shine, but the mean little buggers who were her classmates locked her in a closet and she missed the whole thing. That's where the story ended, leaving readers to wonder whether she went insane and slashed her wrists or mowed the little snots down with a machine gun.
So, here we are, Minnesotans chomping at the bit for snow. The grocery store was packed with people stocking up in hopes of hunkering down all weekend. The results remain to be seen. The ten o'clock news showed that the system had shifted about 100 miles south, so some of us might not get the promised snowstorm. Darn it, darn it, darn it. Please, please, please . . . if we promise to be good, can we have some snow? A great big dumping? Please, please, please?
*Baited breath - What is that exactly? The fumes from an anchovy and onion pizza?
Labels: alfred hitchcock, baited breath, earth, grocery store, minnesota, reading, snow, story, winter
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Fortune Cookie Fortunes
I collect fortune cookie fortunes. Like most fortune telling methods, fortune cookie fortunes are what you make of them. My penchant for fortune cookie fortunes comes from an assignment I got in a college art class. The professor had a collection of fortunes and had each student pick one. The assignment was to take our fortune and illustrate it as a self-portrait. My fortune, which I still have almost twenty years later, was "Your everlasting patience will be rewarded sooner or later." I threw a towel over my head and drew myself as a wry-looking Virgin Mary, which is who I was named for. I did the drawing in chalk pastels, a medium I love using, but it's difficult to store over the long haul. I liked how it turned out - it was a pretty convincing rendition of me - but the thing was huge and I couldn't afford to frame it. I kept it under the bed as long as I could and then finally trashed it. Bummer. At least I still have the fortune, plus a burgeoning collection of fortunes I've gathered over the years. Along with inspiration for art pieces, they also make great writing prompts. For the creatives out there reading this, here's one for you to use as you will:
The best men are molded of their faults.
The fortune comes with lucky numbers, too: 20, 25, 37, 41, 9, 44.
If you choose to create something with the fortune, feel free to share, either by emailing me or leaving a comment.
Labels: chalk pastels. art, class, drawing, faults, fortune cookies, fortunes, luck, virgin mary, writing
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The IE Gremlin
I had something a little freaky happen on my computer last night. My son was closing out the program he was using and he said that the Mozilla Firefox icon was gone. In its place was an Internet Explorer (IE) icon. Strange, as the original IE icon was still on my desktop. I looked under my Start button and found the Firefox icon, but it said that the program was running in safe mode. I clicked it and got a message, which I didn't quite understand, so I cancelled it. I logged off and logged back on, thinking that would clear things up. Nope. I decided to drag the Firefox logo under the Start button onto the desktop to make a new icon. The new icon had a little number 2, which indicated it was the second one on the desktop, but the first was nowhere in sight. I dragged the new IE icon into the recycling bin. I looked in the bin and found that the IE icon had turned into a Firefox icon. I dragged it out to the desktop and it turned back into an IE icon. Back to the recycling bin, it became Firefox. Dragged it out again and it finally stayed Firefox. Does anyone know what caused this phenomenon? Is IE just messing with us?
Labels: computer, desktop, firefox, gremlin, icon, internet explorer, recycling, son, technology
Woohoo! I finished knitting a pair of fingerless gloves tonight. While they are no more than tubes with a thumb hole, I'd say it's quite an accomplishment, especially considering my first knitting-in-the-round project happened in December 2006. I'm eyeing up a pair of socks, have even read the instructions (little nervous about the gusset for the heel), nice thick, short things. They'd make good house slippers, something I can slip over my regular socks. In the winter, I'm most assuredly a two-pair of socks woman. My engine runs a little cold. Those who know me know why. I'm a skinny slip of a thing, not much body fat to keep me warm. It's the blessing of a high-running metabolism. My body operates like a hummingbird's. I can eat whatever I want, but I also have to make sure I eat enough, or I go into a woozy state from low blood sugar. I would not do well in a famine, which makes me wonder how my skinny ancestors survived in order to pass their genes along to me.
My daughter just read the opening sentence of this post and said that now I can make her some fingerless gloves. Isn't she a gem?
Labels: ancestors, blood sugar, body, cold, daughter, fat, gloves, knitting, skinny, socks, weight, winter
Monday, February 19, 2007
Sand in my brain
It's a writing day today. Lucky me, I had one yesterday, too. Yesterday, I added a smidge to my current story and found a bit of a plot hole having to do with whether one can unclog a toilet using a drain cleaner. I've never done this because a plunger usually does the trick. It didn't occur to me to try it because the drain pipe is so big compared to one for a tub or sink. I wondered if there was ever any condition under which one would throw drain cleaner down a toilet and did a little online search. While a few sites indicated it was possible, it is NOT recommended. Too dangerous if you put in drain cleaner and then try to plunge after. So, I had to fix my story and not have my character use drain cleaner.
Today, I have the start of a headache, with pressure at the base of my skull and at my temples. It feels as though my brain is filled with sand. Thoughts keep sifting around, tough to grab. It's hard to write under this condition. I have to baby myself through it. "Only two or three sentences, that's all you have to do," I tell myself, and pretty soon I have a couple of paragraphs. I'm thankful for the editing process when this hits, yet I've never been able to tell the difference between a bad writing day and a good one when I reread my work. I would assume that a bad writing day would leave some major section that would have to be cut, but that isn't the case. Bad day or good, there's stuff all over the story that needs revision.
My analogy of sand in the brain may have a basis in the South Park episode I watched last night. It's the one where everyone is up in arms about Mohammed being shown on the Family Guy. This show was created after a Dutch newspaper ran a political cartoon showing Mohammed and Muslims got upset. On the show, most of the adults in South Park want to have the epidsode pulled from the air in order to avoid retaliation from Muslims. Fox, the station that airs Family Guy, has announced that they will be showing the episode because the writers will stop working if it isn't shown. After this announcement, the people of South Park decide that they need a plan to show Muslims that they aren't complicit in this affair. They figure that if they literally bury their heads in sand, that'll prove to Muslims that they didn't watch the show. Meanwhile, Kyle, one of the South Park kids, tries to fight for free speech. South Park, crude as it can be, is heavy on social messages. It's what I like about the show. Also, there is always something suprisingly funny in the situations presented. For instance, if you haven't seen this episode (which is a two-parter, I believe), you'll get a kick out of who the writers for Family Guy are.
Labels: brain, family guy, fox, freedom of speech, muslims, sand, south park, story, television, toilet, writing
Sunday, February 18, 2007
To do? Or, not to do?
Got other things on my mind today besides blog posting. Hey, it happens. Being as how I'm a person full of questions, here's one for you:
What do you do when you're not doing what you do?
Labels: blog, doing, question
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Break It Down
Now that the word is out about the human connection to global warming and how we've royally screwed up the planet, it's time to move out of overwhelm - or, as my daughter likes to call it, the "We're all gonna die!" feeling. We know the problem is a big one and that we're going to have to act fast to reverse climate damage, but many of us also feel like the problem is so big that there's not much hope we can change things. We're paralyzed. Now, it's time to break it down into manageable chunks. How much CO2 would we keep out of the atmosphere if every household replaced one regular lightbulb with a flourescent one? What if we all changed two or three light bulbs? What if we decided to run one load of laundry per week on cold water, rather than warm or hot? What if we hand-washed the dishes once a week (turning off the faucet while scrubbing), rather than running a load through the dishwasher? What if, in the warmer, sunnier months, we dried one load of clothes each week outside on the clotheslines? (Do you even remember clotheslines?) I'd like to see someone do an analysis of the cumulative effects of these small actions on global warming. We can't all rush out and buy a hybrid car, much as we might like to. We can't all erect windmills in our yards. Climatecrisis.net suggests these small changes that we can all make, but there is no exacting analysis to show us the effects of these changes. The other thing we need to do is set a goal of how much we want to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere in one year's time. If we have a measurable goal, we have something to work for. If we have the effects of the small changes, we know how we're going to get to that goal.
Labels: carbon dioxide, climate, global warming, idea, light bulbs, problem
Friday, February 16, 2007
By jove, I think I've got it! As I was thinking about my idea for a Dave Matthews Band compilation album of romantic songs and the possible marketing doodads to go with it, the thought occurred that the chocolates could be called "Tuckles." Tuckle is one of the best made-up words I've ever heard. It's found in DMB's song "When the World Ends." Doesn't tuckle just sound like comfort food?
Labels: chocolate, dave matthews band, dmb, songs, tuckles, word
I held a new baby this evening. She's just over a week old and still can't focus on details. Her eyes drift around and catch the edges of objects and she looks surprised when she makes eye contact with someone. Having three children of my own and watching them grow through babyhood, I was struck with the amount of potential that's in this baby girl. She's quite somber, according to her mom, and I wonder if she'll remain that way, or if she has mischief inside waiting to make its debut. How will life affect her? How will she affect life? The seeds are there, waiting to grow.
Labels: baby, children, mom, potential
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Candy Hearts and Dogs
Happy Valentine's Day, to those of you who celebrate. Our family doesn't because we aren't particularly attached to the holiday. It feels too much like a marketer's holiday to us and we don't buy into conspicuous consumption. As for celebrating our togetherness, the hubby and I do that on our wedding anniversary. I do have one weakness when it comes to Valentine season - candy hearts - the ones with sayings. Mmm, mmm! I break down and buy some of these every year for the family. I've noticed that the candy heart makers don't seem to be able to keep up with technological change any better than I do. There are still hearts that say "Fax me," but none (that I could find) that say "IM me." My husband, aside from enjoying a little Valentine chocolate, has a different seasonal weakness: The Westminster Kennel Club's big dog show, generally held at Madison Square Garden. Puppies and hearts, puppies and hearts. It's love.
Labels: candy hearts, dog show, dogs, family, holidays, husband, marketing, technology, valentine's day, wedding
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Several of my writer friends are aware that I have written a story where synesthesia figures prominently. I just found this posting via reddit that shows 8 Diseases That Give You Superhuman Powers. One of those listed is synesthesia. The post details a couple of the ways it can manifest. The list also mentions epilepsy. Epilepsy has been linked to a high artistic ability. Strangely enough, my grandpa had petit mal epilepsy through a portion of his life and was a prolific landscape artist. The final disorder listed is hypergraphia, something you writers out there might wish for. It's the overwhelming urge to write. Of course, to have this disorder, you'd also have to put up with mania and epilepsy.
Labels: artist, disease, epilepsy, grandpa, hypergraphia, reddit, story, superhuman powers, synesthesia, writing
Monday, February 12, 2007
Dave Matthews Band - Woo
I had an idea for the Dave Matthews Band, the Masters of Repackaging. The band is continually releasing albums that are compilations of previous songs, most of these compilations being live versions of songs because the band has a reputation for good live performances. I ran across a comment in the Two Knives blog that got me thinking about this. A poster named Wayne Wenzel describes how he used the music of Dave Matthews Band to pick up chicks. Then I heard the statistic that 51 percent of women in the United States are unmarried. Putting two and ten together, I thought that maybe the band should create a compilation album of their romantic songs specifically for these audiences. When I considered it further, I thought maybe this idea was silliness incarnate, but then again, maybe not. Here's how I see it. Wayne and other guys who've figured out this DMB dating strategy have hijacked the band's music for their own purposes. I'm sure the band didn't exactly intend for this to happen, it just happened. This is what is called a brand hijack. Of course, if the band's music already appeals to the ladies, then repackaging the romantic songs will surely hook them further.
The songs I'd include on such a compilation would be (in no particular order)
Crash Into Me, Captain, Crush, Dream Girl, When the World Ends, Lover Lay Down, Hunger for the Great Light, Say Goodbye, So Right, Stolen Away on 55th & 3rd, and Angel
I'd include a couple of brand new songs because when I'm shopping for DMB compilation discs, I look for ones with songs I haven't heard before. I'd create album art that was primarily smoky red, like rose petals or the foil wrapping on chocolates. Going a step further, I'd offer a little something extra with the album, both for the guys trying to get girls and for the girls to treat themselves, if they so choose. I'd offer a small box of chocolates in a collectible tin, along with a charm (probably the headless dancer that Steffan Lessard, the band's bassist, designed). Following the band's choice in Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavors, I'd make the chocolates a blend of raspberry and chocolate - or raspberry and fudge. (Their flavor is called Magic Brownies, in case you want to rush out and get some. I have the empty container sitting on my desk as a keepsake. Silly, no?)
I was trying to think of what to name such a compilation and the first thing that came to mind was "Get the Girl," but that would come off as too crass for the single ladies purchasing the album for themselves. Something like "Romance" or "Love" is too sappy. Many women are not about pink lace, frills and lavendar perfume. Yech! Then, I hit upon the title "Woo." An old-fashioned word, a little off-beat, but simple. It's also said a lot at concerts - not in the old definition of the word, but as in Woooooo-hoooooo!
Do you ever do this, reader? Come up with an idea for your favorite band? If so, please feel free to share.
Labels: band, ben and jerry's, charm, dave matthews band, idea, music, romance, steffan lessard, two knives
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Status Upgrade from Interesting to Truly Interesting
I was reading Moby's blog the other day and wanted to comment on his posts. He seems like a pretty liberal and interesting guy, but there's no way to comment directly to him because he's famous and probably doesn't want to deal with a bunch of cuckoo-loos. (You can post to the message boards, which Moby says he reads, but they tend to degenerate into troll fights and wander off topic.) Then, I got to thinking about some of the other blogs I read, notably Seth Godin's and Neil Gaiman's, and how they don't have their comments enabled. It seems that when one reaches the status of Truly Interesting Human Being (as opposed to Interesting Human Being), one gets flooded with comments and no longer has time to read or respond to them. There goes the commenting feature. Neil and Seth both accept email, though. Neil is forthright in saying that he gets so much email that he can't answer it all and has a backlog of over 1,000. Seth, so far, has responded to every email I've sent (I don't send many - no need to inundate him), albeit his responses are very short. He's a busy guy, so this makes sense, and, frankly, I find it incredible that he has time to respond even this much. It just shows that he is as remarkable as his purple cow.
So, now I'm wondering: At what point does one upgrade from Interesting Human Being to Truly Interesting Human Being such that they have to turn off their commenting feature and can no longer respond personally to people?
Labels: blog, comments, cuckoo-loos, email, human being, moby, neil gaiman, purple cow, seth godin, status, trolls
Saturday, February 10, 2007
This just in from The Gallup Poll: A family of four needs $52,087 per year to meet expenses & such. How are you doing in comparison?
Labels: gallup, income
Stop Lights Revisited
I told my co-worker about the Scientologist and the stop light and she told me that when she was a kid, she and her siblings would chant at stop lights in order to get them to turn green as they approached. Often, this seemed to work. Incidentally, my co-worker is not a Scientologist.
I was thinking more about "The Secret," specifically about the part that says to only ask the universe for what you want once, because if you ask more than once, that means you don't believe the universe will deliver. I can't buy this. I think that asking more than once helps to cement your decision in your mind. It gives you the belief you need and gives you the opportunity to readjust your desires, if necessary. According to that book chapter I referenced on thickening thought forms, the act of repeating your desire made it stronger and signaled to the universe that you were really serious about bringing your wish into reality. This continual feedback also serves as a protective function. We wouldn't want all of the stuff we think about to come true instantly. Think about all the craziness that goes through your head when you're extremely mad. We'd be in for a mess if it was made manifest.
So, go ahead and ask more than once if you feel the need. If nothing else, the sheer repetition will provide you with the belief that your wish will be granted. Wish well.
Labels: co-worker, repetition, scientologist, stop light, the secret, thickening thought forms, universe, wishes
Thursday, February 08, 2007
The Scientologist and the Stop Light
It's been an interesting day on the thickening thought forms front. Let me 'xplain.
This morning, my husband told me about a newspaper article he saw posted at college. It talked about a Scientologist who believed she could change stop lights at will because of her religious beliefs.
It gets better.
I caught most of Oprah today, missing just the first fifteen minutes, or so. She had on several guests who were teachers of "The Secret." "The Secret," apparently, is a collection of ideas presented in movie and book form on how to fully realize the dreams and goals of your life. There were three steps to "The Secret." 1. Ask. But only ask the universe (God, whatever) for what you want once. 2. Believe. If you ask more than once, you don't believe your desire will come to you. (Your waffling also confuses the universe, so throw your entire belief into it.) 3. Receive.
The speakers on Oprah talked about how to look at stuck situations in your life from a different perspective and that will change everything. Specifically, they suggested that we own up to our part in creating the sticky situation, to ask the situation what it has to teach us, to let go of whatever is holding us back, and to have gratitude for the good things we have. I've seen this idea of concentrating on the good things in life before, most notably in the Conversations with God books by Neale Donald Walsch. What you focus on gets bigger, so if you focus on lack, you will lack more. If you focus on abundance, you will get abundance.
The idea of asking the universe to grant your wishes and then believing that what you wish for is coming your way (albeit, you aren't going to know exactly how your wish will be granted), was presented to me in a book on dreams many years ago. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the book, but I was so taken by a particular chapter that I copied it at the time. I recently ran across this chapter, called "The Theory of Thickening Thought Forms," and reread it. The universe rushes to assist intention and action, therefore, you're supposed to get very clear about what you want, state that intention, believe that it's coming to you and let it happen.
So, can a Scientologist really change a stop light? Perhaps . . . .I can tell you that when I behave as though I'll get my heart's desire, it has happened, but never quite in the way I've imagined it.
Labels: belief, books, conversations with god, neale donald walsch, oprah, scientologist, the secret, thickening thought forms
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
The other day, my brother was bemoaning the fact that the internet is not three-dimensional. Isn't this what real people and real life are for? Of course, this isn't what he meant - I don't think. I suppose he wants pictures to pop out like holograms. Sort of the Princess Leia effect as she delivers her message asking for assistance to save her planet.
My frustration with the internet and Web 2.0 is that a lot of commenting goes on, but what does it lead to in the real world? Does it change anything? Or we all full of a lot of hot air? Maybe we need holograms that can collaborate.
Labels: brother, collaborate, hologram, internet, princess leia, real people
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Both my husband and I have been accused of thinking too much. Frankly, I find this hard to believe. If we think too much, what's going through the minds of other people? A couple of questions for you:
Have you done your fair share of thinking today? What about?
Labels: husband, thinking
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Empathizing with Al
I'm putting two and two together, here. Having watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, I see how long he has worked to bring global warming to humanity's conciousness, and still he is met with skepticism (mostly by big-moneyed interests). I know just how Al must have felt for all those years that no one was listening to him.
In my post called Eighty-nine Dollars, I talk about field trips scheduled by our school district. What with all the field trips, fundraisers, and class fees, our public school is nickel-and-diming us to death. It's an issue I've been dealing with ever since our children started school. When we were on the PTA of the elementary school, we urged those planning fundraisers to tell people that they could give a donation in lieu of buying high-priced merchandise. By accepting direct donations, the full amount given goes to the district. When purchasing merchandise, typically the company offering the stuff gets 50-60 percent of the proceeds. This is money that leaves the district and isn't used for our children. I have many other objections to fundraisers promoted by outside companies, like the fact that they get free child labor, take away from class time, and pull a pump-up swindle job to get our kids to participate by telling them they'll get prizes, which are junk. (Of course, the companies don't tell the kids the prizes are junk.)
Fundraisers are ostensibly done so that our children can take field trips. Here's where I get a little crotchety. When I was a kid, there was one big field trip that finished off elementary school for us. Because we only got one big trip in fifth grade, everyone looked forward to it. We did not have constant field trips throughout our school years. This trend has reversed, with each teacher seeming to make field trip decisions on his/her own. There is no input from parents (that I can see) on the necessity of these field trips.
Finally, with all the budget cuts our state has undergone, there no longer seems to be enough money to pay for classroom supplies. We have paid for vocabulary books, art supplies, shop supplies, and home ec (now called Family & Consumer Science) supplies, in addition to the garden variety school supplies required at the beginning of the school year. Perhaps some of that fundraising money could go into classroom supplies rather than into field trips.
Oh, wait a minute, that might actually be a sensible idea. I had another sensible idea along these lines, one that I emailed to our school board members. I suggested that the district create a clearinghouse for The Three F's, field trips, fundraisers and fees. Instead of having individual teachers plan field trips, they should be discussed at a district wide level and spread out among the various schools and grades. Fundraisers, which overlap each other and endlessly take place throughout the year, would be consolidated, too. As for fees, if classroom supplies are needed, the cost should be run through the clearinghouse so that the school board, parents and State Legislature have a true understanding of the cost of educating our kids.
Here's where I empathize with Al Gore. I have not received a single reply to my email. Of course I'm not foolish enough to think that my idea will be accepted as presented. It's still in sketch form and there'd have to be a heck of a lot of discussion for this to be implemented in a meaningful fashion. The point is that not one of the school board members so much as sent me a "Thank you for expressing your concerns," which means that they can pretend that my concerns don't even exist. No one has to do anything if there isn't a problem, right?
Cheers to you, Al, for your patience and thick skin.
Labels: al gore, fees, field trip, fundraisers, global warming, idea, inconvenient truth, problem, school, three f's
This post is done on behalf of Neil Gaiman. Seems there's a little business going on between Neil and magician/radio host/tv show host Penn Jillette. Neil has asked bloggers/website owners to post a particular link in hopes that Google will pull this link up on the first page when anyone googles Penn Jillette's name. The link brings you to Neil Gaiman's post about Penn Jillette. Quite circuitous and well worth the little joke on Penn.
Labels: blog, joke, link, magician, neil gaiman, penn jillette
Saturday, February 03, 2007
No Hands Clapping
I'm about half-way through Toby Young's book The Sound of No Hands Clapping. This is Young's follow-up to the book How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, which I have not yet read. The book is a fast read, which I like. It means he's quick about getting to the point and the language is understandable. Contrast this to Henry David Thoreau, whose work my husband is required to read for college. Thoreau is so stinkin' wordy and convoluted that my husband forgets the point Thoreau was trying to make by the time he gets to the end of a sentence. I've had the same trouble with Thoreau, so, snaps to Young for saying things clearly. The Sound of No Hands Clapping is filled with Young's self-defacating humor. The man has an unerring sense of the inappropriate in so many life situations, that I'm rather hoping he's exaggerating, but fear that he's not. He talks about the underbelly of both the publishing business and the Hollywood movie machine from the standpoint of one who's had experience with both. It's a good thing Young's got a sense of humor, because I'd be a bawling, snivelling, hair-pulling wreck after going through some of what he's experienced.
Labels: books, humor, husband, reading, thoreau, toby young
Thursday, February 01, 2007
For those of you in the know about blogging and news aggregators, feel free to skip this post. For those of you still getting your feet wet on all this blogging stuff (and I know there are a few of you), I wanted to send you a friendly post that explains how I keep track of the blogs I like. You know how the newspaper or a news show puts together a bunch of stories that they present to you? Well, the internet has a way for you to do this with blogs. There are websites that serve as news aggregators. With a news aggregator, you sign up for the blogs you like as you find them and the aggregator will let you know when there are new posts to the blogs on your list. This is very convenient for those blogs that aren't updated regularly. Aggregators also make it easy to scan through many blogs and posts quickly, just like scanning the headlines of a newspaper. The news aggregator I use is Bloglines, but there are many, many more out there. Here's one list of them, along with the Wikipedia definition of a news aggregator. Happy blog surfing!
Labels: blog, bloglines, internet, news, news aggregator