Sunday, December 14, 2008


I am stuck in a parallel universe where the only interesting thing on TV is the Lifetime Movie Network. Tonight's fare is How I Married My High School Crush. (It has Katee Sackhoff in it, so I'm getting something of a fix to hold me over until BSG comes back.)

Tyson has graciously volunteered to go to the grocery store for me, because LMN has sapped my will to work, shop, eat, or even get off the couch.

Ugh. Only 5 more school days to go.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I hate things.

Today, I hate things.

Yesterday, I hated things.

I think the day before that, everything was OK, except my computer hated everything so I couldn't blog about it.

This isn't the end of the world, I just keep getting stuck staring at my feet.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yankee-Mex is not Tex-Mex, but is pretty okay nontheless.

Actually, it was flan and tres leches cake.  Tasty!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spartan vs. Athenian

So I flew out to my sister's in Rochester, New York, on Saturday, and, as usual when I am confronted with anyone still in college, I just started feeling...soft. When was the last time I learned anything? Wrote anything of consequence? Had a pointless, purely intellectual discussion? Bought an article of clothing ironically? Chatted up people in a public park (or any public place, for that matter)? She had a rehearsal from 9-11 (pm!) and then invited me to a party, and even though it would feel more like 8 or so my time, I still opted out and went to bed early.

Which gave me time to practice living alone in an urban apartment building. The best part was the absence of crap everywhere--no boxes of clothes and toys set out three months ago for a trip to Goodwill that never happened, no inch-thick layer of dust on every flat surface (woo-hoo, humidity!), no closetful of boxes labelled "high school" or "art supplies" or any of the other things I've held on to because I've only had to move them twice and hey, they're already in their own box!, no as-seen-on-TV fitness equipment shoved into forgotten corners, no pile of bills on the desk--and the romantic, high-school appeal of throwing some clothes and the dogs into my car and just driving away was definitely strong (with or without Tyson, Nick, or cats, depending on the different permutations of the fantasy).

The problem is that I really like my stuff. This morning, my achy shoulders and back definitely miss my 1.5 acres of memory-foam-topped Sleep Number bed. I've finally amassed a small army of good-quality kitchen appliances. We have more books than we have shelf space, even with three walls of the third bedroom devoted to bookcases. I have not one, not two, but three motorized forms of transportation (and 4 kayaks, in case an escape over water is necessary).

Anyway, this is getting pointless, and I need to bundle up to brave the snow in order to get pastries for breakfast.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My kind of fun!

This will be my first election to come out a winner!

It's fun!  Let's be sure to do this again!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Will you be watching election coverage on six different networks from your couch while also keeping an eye on the web? I will! This map will have real-time data on national and local races so you can feed your addiction to information practically intravenously.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Apparently there was some kind of sporting-event-contest at my alma mater yesterday.  (To my credit, I DO seem to remember something about how we hated UT.)  In a strange outbreak of coincidence, a mysterious package arrived in the mail from my stepson's grandmother (ex-mother-in-law, once removed?) that had two Texas Tech t-shirts in it.  I put one on, and we went to eat Thai food at a restaurant that had the game on.

I am going to wear them just for the inherent credibility of supporting a non-local college team, and also to clean the bathroom and wash dishes.

Plus, if they DO win that national championship, I can say I was a fan, like, way before.

Then that all will be out of the way and I can go back to thinking sports are silly.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On watching Last of the Mohicans for the millionth time

Daniel Day-Lewis is fucking SEXY.

You know this is true.

Sounds like throwing in the towel to me...

So McCain "may" drop by his own election-night watch party at the Biltmore in Phoenix, but it looks instead as though he'll allow his campaign workers to contine busting their asses while they tally all those second-place votes while he addresses his elect on the front lawn.

A bit of a harsh goodbye to those who stood by him throughout the race.

Anyway, I have to go take an aspirin and break into a friend's house so their dogs can get fed and poop outside instead of on the kitchen floor.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I wonder how much they had to offer her to go on Hardball...

I haven't taken Government since my senior year of high school.  Granted, I may have been absent the day we learned about the executive branch, but I'm fairly sure the role of the Veep is not "to be in charge of the United States Senate."

Chris Matthews reduces Palin's spokesperson Nancy Photenhauer to a stammering mess in this clip:

On a related note, let's get the media to root out all the anti-Americans in Congress!

Having finally finished with the Puritans, my AmLit class is moving on to the Enlightenment.  I am making them read the introduction to The Assault on Reason by Al Gore and crossing my fingers that maybe one or two of them will get it.  And no, it's not because I'm voting for Obama and want to use my position of power to feed my liberal agenda to the impressionable minds of today's youth, but because that section has everything to do with what the Founders had in mind when framing the Constitution: that it was necessary for a conscientious, informed public to use reasoned, rational thinking to enact the best policy decisions.  The review from the NYT explains better than I could, and with quotes even:

Mr. Gore’s central argument is that “reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions” and that the country’s public discourse has become “less focused and clear, less reasoned.” This “assault on reason,” he suggests, is personified by the way the Bush White House operates. Echoing many reporters and former administration insiders, Mr. Gore says that the administration tends to ignore expert advice (be it on troop levels, global warming or the deficit), to circumvent the usual policy-making machinery of analysis and debate, and frequently to suppress or disdain the best evidence available on a given subject so it can promote predetermined, ideologically driven policies.

That's my rehash of recent politics.  Go nuts, kids.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I may just have to get the picture of T-Rex in the last panel permanently etched onto my body.

Then I could give myself the giggles whenever I felt shitty.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Sourdough toast with Nutella is perhaps the best breakfast food anywhere.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Several really, really great questions came up at the debates last night, but I want to talk about one in particular, in which the questioner reminded Obama that during wartime, presidents during the first half of the last century asked the American people for sacrifices, and what sacrifices might he ask for during these times.

That's something that's been bothering me throughout the Bush administration, and I was glad to hear Obama talk about this.  I was disappointed that he didn't mention that no government in the history of the world has ever LOWERED taxes during wartime, but I guess on a scale of what people want to hear to what they don't, nobody really wants that little tidbit thrown back at them.

But I was glad to hear him say Bush had basically been a moron to respond to crisis by asking people to go out and shop.  It's a resentment I'd been harboring since 2001, and it was good to hear it echoed by someone who actually stands to make a real difference, not just six English teachers around a lunch table.

Then I got to thinking:

While the little voice of rampant teenage idealism in my head tells me that we should all just stop being so materialistic and spending beyond our means, I know that no politician alive can say that because spending beyond our means is what drives our economy (into the ground, it turns out).  But I decided last night that where our generation can make the kind of sacrifices that will make the biggest difference is in our time.  Obama almost got there on this question last night, but I would love to see a widespread, grassroots effort to get people involved in service.  First, I think THE REASON for the world being the fucked-up place that it is is that technological progress has done away with too many human interactions.  Actually, I LIKE drive-through pharmacies and automated phone systems and having all my questions answered by the Internet instead of real people, but by and large, I think we're losing something important by limiting social interactions between strangers.  Second, the more people are involved in helping members of their communities, the less the government is going to have to do to help people.  And who knows better what the people in the community need than, say, other people in that community? While I think the government's prime responsibility is helping people, it usually takes twice as long and uses ten times as much money as the groups who are already doing that work.

So that being said, I am volunteering with the Pumpkin Triathlon in Boulder City next weekend, and offering extra credit to students who come and help.

Monday, October 06, 2008


I have a test to write.

So of course I am playing on the internets instead.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I am a dork.

Those of you who know me only by reputation (or from my blog) may see me as this hipster cool twentysomething living it up in Sin City, bypassing the mile-long lines at the ultralounges, calling in sick so I can go to Ditch Friday at the pool at the Hard Rock and chat it up with celebrities, but really, that's just the image I try to cultivate.

Because my secret identity as a sappy D&D dork must be protected at all costs.

Thanks to my friend-in-law, Kurt, I have been playing Neverwinter Nights for about five years now.  (I have a very long attention span for games I like a lot and tend to play them over and over again.  I'd like to say I take an analytical approach, playing them differently each time to get the most out of the game, but I don't.)  This is easily the best D&D RPG game ever, although it's also the only one I've played (not counting a half-hour of WoW, in which I only barely mastered the controls).  I've beaten it a bunch of times, created dozens of different characters, and probably spent more hours of my life devoted to hacking up bad guys than I would care to admit.  When I first started playing, I had to make myself a schedule where I was limited to skipping only one class a week so I would not have to explain to the advisors in the education department why, exactly, I failed my freshman-level composition class.

Anyway, in this one expansion pack, one of the optional members of your party you can add is this fighter/weapon master tiefling, Valen, and if you are a female character and not a complete twat, he eventually harbors a massive hard-on for you. 

I am not kidding.

This is a picture of Valen about to confess his passionate and undying love for me.  We just got duped by a powerful demon and sent to Cania, one of the Seven Hells (the frozen one, I guess).  Now we are on a quest to discover this demon's True Name so we can get out of here and go get all hitched or whatever.  (He does not normally glow green, I am just holding the mouse over him.  By far the best feature of the game is that, essentially, all you have to do to beat bad guys is click on them, and the badassery of your character does the rest.  My Whirlwind Attack can take down four drow warriors at a time with just one click of the mouse--way easier than enrolling at that Kung Fu studio was going to be.)  

The grown-up part of me understands that this is all just a video game, that neither Valen nor my patently made-up character who wields two +7 katanas with energy-draining, electrical-zapping powers and can run around all day with 533 pounds of stuff (thanks to my +24 strength!) and beat up all kinds of undead dragons and such are not actually real people, but I have to say I was looking forward to this chapter of the game since I started playing it again.  Something about making a broody, angsty, ass-kicking boy go all weak-kneed and sappy is just so yummy.

And I think it's not quite as pathetic as reading romance novels?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Well, shit.

I lost my only motorcycle key at work yesterday.  It was in my pants pocket, then it wasn't.

Now we are trying to figure out the cheapest way to combine a blank key we can pick up from Yamaha, a locksmith, and a bike that won't go anywhere unless we sweet-talk someone with a trailer.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I am tired.

School has been in session nearly four weeks now, and I am pretty exhausted.  I am usually there from 6 to 4, then I come home, usually with more school work in tow, and make dinner (sometimes), clean up (on some days), do laundry, or just sit on the couch and ignore everything until I go to bed sometime between 8:30 and 10.  (I'm usually quite proud of myself if I make it into double digits in the evening.)

So for everyone bugging me about not posting, fuck off.  

And for everyone else (especially parents and in-laws), kindly pardon my absence from cyberspace.  

Posting just feels like too much work after everything else.

P.S. Deidre: Happy Birthday.  Your phone must be broken, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

T Minus 4 Days and Counting....

I probably cannot organize thoughts this morning into any kind of coherent blog post, but let's try.

Start here: We were in the ER all day Tuesday as Tyson missed his second day of school with not-pneumonia and not-meningitis but something equally awful-feeling. Everything is going a little better now, thanks for asking, and he hasn't run a fever since Tuesday afternoon, but he'll post something on his blog about it, I'm sure. Especially the part where the nurse who didn't speak English tried to wheel him up to surgery.

But that's just the backstory. His real nurse, the one who coordinated the blood work and lumbar puncture and chest x-ray and put everything in the computer and got us out when we were ready to go, he was wonderful. The results are simply astounding when you see someone doing a job they really love. The best part was listening through the open door as he greeted new patients, joked with them about their conditions, and generally made people feel about as good as they could, considering their presence in an overcrowded ER. I remember feeling kind of jealous that he had found himself working a job that seemed to suit him so well.

Part 2: My work year officially started yesterday, even though I've been in about 30 times over the summer and have probably put in a few hundred hours of work since June, and what I realized at about 5:30 this morning on the treadmill at the gym was that I don't need to be jealous of the ER nurse because I am that guy. Everything seems to be just clicking into place at work, and I realized that was happening because of me. I made things work out. I've never really had a ton of confidence in my own expertise, assuming that I was just pretty average or OK, and I'm still not going to sit here and wax poetic about how brilliant I am, but for the first time I feel.....solid. Like it's not just by some miracle I'm not currently fucking everything up right now.

Example (included partially so I will remember when I get to campus today): My school banker convinced me yesterday there was a niche for spirit wear, and she happened to have a woman's number who could get me literally thousands of different items with custom logos embroidered on them--and on a pre-order basis, no less, so I don't have to worry about an inventory! This I was very excited about, and I started turning over in my head how best to get the word out. I was imagining posters and commercial spots on the morning news the school broadcast team puts out, but then I thought WAIT!!

I'm supposed to be asking myself "What would Steve Jobs do?" every time I go to put something else on my to-do list. My Company classes will have managers to take care of anything that comes up that is below my pay grade, so to speak, and Steve Jobs would never deign to get a sheet of posterboard and some markers and make ads for his new iPhone, and then I thought WAIT!!

As part of my English curriculum, I have to teach advertising strategies--bandwagon, appeal to emotion, false dilemma, and so on--and

[drumroll, please]


Did I mention I think I am working the right job for me?

Update: For some reason, Blogger sucks today for line breaks showing up on "preview" but not on the internets. If for you that diminishes the impact of my post (it certainly does for me), I apologize, but Steve Jobs would probably brush his teeth and go to work rather than mess around any more on his blog this morning.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I guess I'll just go to bed early, then.

The two most compelling programs on all my 800 channels of digital cable during the 10 p.m. PDT time slot this evening are:

1. EL INFIERNO: LLAMAS SOBRE BERLIN, which I think translates to "Hell: The Sober Llamas of Berlin," on Telemundo.  I imagine it's the gripping tale of teetotaling camelids in 1920s Berlin who become ensnared in the ever-tightening noose of fascist persecution.  Which sounds exciting, but really, my Spanish is pretty bad.

2. A documentary on the History Channel discussing the seven most likely scenarios for the annihilation of the human race that has the balls to place "black holes" and "artificial intelligence" among the more probable (and more solveable) "nuclear war" and "climate change."

Fuck the History Channel.  There are so many more likely world-ending scenarios out there than black holes and AI:

1. Republicans.

2. The ideology of the nation-state.

3. Giant multinational corporations that dehumanize workers by making them robot slaves.

4. Free-market capitalism.

And so on.

Anyway, I'm almost 28 now, and I guess I'm too old to be thinking about staying up much past ten on a Saturday, anyways.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Birthday Fairy visits early this year!

The best gifts (besides love and all that intangible crap that works great for Mothers' Day but doesn't cut it for birthdays or Christmas) are the ones you want, but for whatever reason won't buy for yourself. Ever stop to think about why twenty-dollar candles and baskets of bath stuff make such great last-minute, no-brainer gifts? 'Cause we walk by and want them, but sigh and buy that dollar bottle of Suave body wash instead.

I've been doing a lot of baking in the past few weeks--two kinds of pie, biscuits, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, and so on--and after watching me cut 2 tablespoons of butter into a half-cup of flour SIX TIMES in my teensy one-cup food processor for things like biscuits and pie crusts, and turning out three lenticular pancakes at a time in my biggest pan on the stove, and not only flipping but rearranging roasted potatoes on the baking sheet so some would be on the light part and some on the dark part (P.S. that's the baking sheet I caught on fire a few weeks ago on the grill, and I still haven't scrubbed off all the carbon-powder stuff yet), Tyson visited our brand new neighborhood Target and bought me a food processor, a Calphalon baking set, and an electric griddle.

Maybe he's just gunning for more pancakes?


Monday, July 28, 2008

Revolution #6

Today I woke up and just couldn't take it any more.

I took a long look in the mirror, poked at a few blemishes cropping up under my jawline.

Made alternating "fat belly/skinny belly" poses.

Tried to get my hair to lay down with some water and hair gel.

Examined the freakishly large, colorless mole in my hairline.

Tried to determine if the "extra whitening" toothpaste I've been using is really working.

Leaned over the toilet bowl...

And shaved my head.

I haven't seen my natural color (except growing in at the bottom of another color) in more than 10 years.  It's nicer than I remembered.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God Dammit!

The Mountain Goats announced their fall tour schedule today.  Apparently, it's more worth their time to play a Halloween gig in Lubbock than to come to Vegas.  Ever.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Yesterday, Tyson was hankering for something tasty to eat, so I made us a blueberry pie. No kidding, I did the whole cold-butter-cold-shortening-ice-water pie crust thing, then made a filling with blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and rice flour to put in between.

I think I will start keeping a batch of pie crust in the freezer for when fruit is on sale. I feel a lattice-topped peach pie coming on soon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

*blink blink*

By far the most noticeable and sort of strange side effect of taking phentermine to get both my bootylicious curves and cholesterol under control is an incredible ability to focus my attention on tasks.

No kidding.  When I very first started taking it, I was all aflutter with nervous energy for the first few hours until I levelled out, but lately I get this crazy focus along with it.  I can get on a cardio machine at the gym and hammer out 40 minutes without really thinking about it.  I'll start on a project and forget to eat, go to the bathroom, feed the dogs, or whatever, and before I know it, HOURS have gone by.  Tyson's been gone this week, and I've been alternating between playing video games and reading blogs and stuff and working on materials for my class next year in about four-hour stretches at a time.

Today a contractor with a giant tile cutter pulled up in front of the neighbor's at 6 a.m.  The dogs started barking so I got dressed, fed them, let the dogs out of the back house, ate some quick breakfast, took my meds, and sat down at the computer at about 8.  I remember resurfacing at noon and thinking, "man, I'm hungry," preheating the oven for leftover pizza, and forgetting all about it for another hour.  I did think to set a timer once I put the pizza in, or I may well have caught the whole house on fire.  

Based on information from my browser history and jump drive, I have reconstructed what my day looked like, I think:

1. Read blogs.

2. Read comics.

3. Did crossword on yahoo.

4. Made a blog post.

5. Dicked around on Facebook. (This is about where my medicine would have kicked in.  I remember feeling really thirsty about then, a sure sign of being hopped up on stimulants.)

6. Started working on school stuff.  Typed up job descriptions for 6 management positions, training checklists for 4 of them, and evaluation sheets for all.  Lots of it was straight off the hard copies I have in a folder, but I had to invent some things, too.

7. Made a long list of logs, calendars, and other organizational templates I still have to make.  Decided not to get into an involved search for whether I could import XML files from my gradebook program into Word, or if I needed an Excel table instead.  Made sketches of what some of the tables should look like, instead.  Somewhere in here is where I ate leftover pizza (sort of--I kept forgetting I was supposed to be eating and kept working instead until it was cold).

8.  Started searching for school and office supply wholesalers.  Specifically, compared prices on cheapest 2" binders available.  This is where my right hand started to ache and I had to switch to my left.

9.  Shook head to clear the cobwebs.  Realized my butt and right foot were asleep and I really had to pee.

10. Checked email.

11. Remembered I was supposed to check the status of my federal student loan consolidation application.  (Hooray for 4.2% interest!!)  Waded through online bureaucracy to find out my loan was in "preprocessing," meaning nobody's probably even looked at it yet.

12. Read increasingly desperate emails from local Kung Fu studio I expressed interest in.  Followed links to some interesting videos on the different styles they teach.

13. Facebook again.  After my students last year accessed my blog from my profile, I removed it, and now that I am back on I am driven by an intense need to know what's been going on in the lives of lots of people I don't really like in person all that much.

14. Blogs again.  Nothing new since this morning.  I need a bigger blogroll.

15. Realized I was very, very hungry and the dishes I started this morning are still sitting in cold, murky water in the sink.  Ate ice cream and tried not to think about it.

And now it's, well, it's now.  I purposely worked too hard at the gym yesterday (I'm sure there was a reason, but now I've forgotten it), and my mouse arm and shoulder are aching.  I stayed up too late and woke up too early, but my brain is still just humming away.  If I wasn't so sore, I'd be doing a few more things, like: looking online for a memory foam mattress topper, doing research on the AWESOME Christmas present I'm thinking of getting Tyson, looking up ab exercises, playing with Pandora radio, trying to learn how to use Excel, trying to figure out why dividing a portion of text in a long Word document into columns makes a new section start, therefore restarting page numbering and also how to fix it, looking for or designing a snazzy logo for my program's course expectations, making a list of school supplies we can sell to get the other stuff we want since our budget's all slashed to hell, looking for advice on how to write a small grant to get some DVDs from Boys Town Press, practicing importing XML files into other documents, reconciling my checking account in Quicken, plugging the AmLit reading list I made yesterday into a week-by-week planning chart for each quarter of next year, going back over the stuff I did today and making sure a few of the details are consistent with my 25-page expectations packet, figuring out how the code for my "Recent Comments" plug-in got broken and how to fix it, and pricing plane tickets to Rochester in November.

Whew.  I am glad I have to go to the airport soon to pick up friends or I might never leave this chair.

UPDATE: This is possibly the stupidest post ever.  Still, I seem to have expended an awful lot of energy getting it all down.  Case in point?

Great Comic Today!

From Cat and Girl.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

in which I have a new hobby!

This is even more fun than that "No Blood For Oil" graffiti debate in that bathroom stall in the English building!*  It's "Missed Connections"** on Craigslist!

You: Astonishing young lady in "LOVE" t-shirt and "Death or Glory" sneakers. Brown eyes, and a penchant for bright minty-green colors. 

Me: Tall blond guy in the row behind you, across the aisle 

I noticed you at the Vegas airport, and thought you noticed me. I nearly sat by you on the plane but then got sidetracked across the aisle and a row back. I am not looking for anything interaction-wise, but I wanted you to know that you are probably the most attractive woman I have ever seen. Just perfect, really. 

I noticed that you are a nervous flier. I used to be one, too, but reading the novel "Airframe" by Michael Crichton really helped me with that. You might try it. 

Thanks for making the flight more pleasant.

*I used to check in every Thursday afternoon between American Lit and my creative writing workshop to see what someone had written.  It must have been 2003, just before we got into the war and Tyson and I were like the only people on Earth who thought that was a bad idea, and I have to say reading that bizarre, vitriolic conversation scrawled on the bathroom stall was the most entertaining part of my week.

**Yes, I know I should have started following these after reading Ghost World.  But it takes me awhile sometimes to get on the bandwagon.  (It's quite a big decision.)

Monday, July 07, 2008


I make this meatloaf dinner almost every week during the winter.  People in the know (such as my moms and Deidre) will recognize this as a recipe from The New Best Recipe book, great as a cookbook and highly informational as well.  It took some experimenting to get the potatoes ready before the meatloaf cools because they cook at a higher temperature, and turning up the oven with the meatloaf in it makes it ooze way too much.  You'll probably have to buy a full pound of veal and of pork; just put the rest in a bag in the freezer for next time.

Mix in a small bowl and set aside:

1/2 c. ketchup

1/4 c. brown sugar

4 t. cider vinegar

Sautee in olive oil:

1 medium onion, diced

Whisk together in a large bowl:

2 eggs

1/2 t. dried thyme

1 t. salt

1/2 t. ground pepper

2 t. Dijon mustard

2 t. Worchestershire sauce

dash hot pepper sauce

1/2 c. milk


1 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound ground veal

16 crushed saltine crackers

sauteed onions

1. Mix thoroughly and shape into a 9"x5" loaf on a foil-covered pan.  Your hands are all dirty already, so smear on about half of the ketchup glaze.  Bake in a 350 degree oven until thermometer registers 160 degrees.

2. While the meatloaf cooks, cut 2 pounds of red potatoes into even pieces.  Golf-ball-sized potatoes can be cut in half; cut larger potatoes into fourths or eighths.  Put into a gallon-sized bag with 2T olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper and toss to coat.  Pour potatoes onto a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer so that all potatoes have one cut side down.  Cover baking sheet tightly with foil.

3. After 44-50 minutes of baking time, add the sheet of potatoes to the oven.  When the meatloaf is done, carefully remove the foil with a potholder or tongs.  No kidding, I've steam-burned myself here, and it's no good.  Take the meatloaf out and cover it with the potato foil.  Turn the oven up to 450 and cook the potatoes for 15 minutes.

4. Using a metal spatula, scrape the potatoes off the baking sheet and flip so that each potato has the other cut side down.  Return to oven and cook 12-15 more minutes, or until skins are wrinkled.

5. To get everything done at once, use the oilve-oil bag to coat some asparagus spears.  Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and add to the oven when you flip the potatoes.  Depending on thickness, they will take 10-15 minutes to cook.

I hope you enjoy!

More dismal budget news...

A few days ago, a message went out from my principal saying we'd hold off on ordering until August, when we were more sure what was going to happen with the budget.  I tried not to sweat it too much, even though there's about $15K worth of furniture and facilities for my program in the order queue.

Today the news is worse: our anticipated budget of $490,000 has been cut to $185,000.  That's for any new purchases for all of our clubs, organizations, programs, special ed, facilities and maintenance, athletics, and academic departments.  EVERYTHING but utilities and payroll, essentially.  So for now, no new books, no consumable supplies (looks like I'll be buying my own red pens and dry erase markers this year!), no nothing.  No word yet on what it means for my program.  It'll be a long year if I wind up with 4 sections of regular old English I and no compensation for the 150 or so hours of work I've done already.

My husband's boss makes more than that a year, and he DOESN'T have to run a school for 2200 kids out of his own pocket.

Friday, July 04, 2008

God Bless America

I am halfway through reading Al Gore's recent book, The Assault on Reason, and you know what?  It may well make a flag-wavin' American out of me yet.  I'm glad to see someone with money and some degree of power and influence who thinks there is something fundamentally wrong with things, but that our society can be saved, and, in fact, is worthy of more than continuing to live in Backwards Land.

But besides making me feel smarmy and hopeful, he really lays out the egregious ass-fucking we've been receiving since, oh, January of 2001.  That was the first presidential election I could vote in, and I was so, so excited to be involved.  Then, when Bush became president, I adopted a "duck-and-cover" mentality when it came to news--I was like the paranoid depressive who knows everything is so bad, you might as well not leave the house so you can avoid seeing the specific ways in which everything is screwed up, and instead pulls the curtains and sits on the couch, clutching her knees and rocking back and forth under a ratty afghan.  So I missed an awful lot of the Bush Legacy, apparently.  The McCain Amendment, anyone?  The fact that there are more than 100 prisoners at Gitmo that we actually tell people we don't want going free, but we have no intention of ever charging with a crime?  I think I'm gearing up here for an extra-fancy blog post, complete with all sorts of hyperlinks and stuff, but I'm not going there right this second.

Another Video Copout Excuse for a Blog Entry

This is Robert Moraine.  Tyson has posted him before, but he was back on So You Think You Can Dance last night.  Definitely made the million or so commercial breaks worth sitting through.  Seriously, Fox, how many commercial breaks need to go in a single hour of television?  Everybody knows the hipsters only buy stuff they see on the Internets these days.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Update: Hooray for the Internet

Marmots: They're sort of both.  Males are territorial and have harems of multiple females and offspring, usually creating a family unit of less than 20 animals.  We can split the 10 points.

Planets: Here are descriptions of where the planets are chillin' at over the course of this year.  They are not always visible, but it was probably either Jupiter, which is at opposition right now (essentially we're seeing a "full Jupiter") or Saturn that we looked at with binoculars.  One million points for me for general astronomical correctness; ten for Tyson for correctly differentiating between a star and a planet.

A Dirty Sanchez is either funny or gross, depending on the degree of seriousness with which it's suggested.

Brian Jones founded the Rolling Stones and is now dead.  I still don't know how or why John Darnielle thinks he'd be like Brian Wilson. Maybe sort of old and sad, and trying to capitalize on their past success?

Dinu Lipatti was a Romanian pianist.  I don't know why someone would need his bones.

Gas in Baker is an even $5.

Sand accumulates not because of static cling or anything like that, but primarily because of a process called saltation.

The lake that covered a big chunk of the intermountain west was Lake Lahontan.  A summary of Nevada's brief history as a seafloor is here.

As for Mercury, that's going to take some digging, and I haven't downloaded Google Earth on this computer yet.  If anything interesting turns up, I'll post it.


My trip to the ER in Mammoth reminded me of this video (by not being anything like this).

Arguments and Discussions that Require Internet Assistance, but Arose While Travelling Without Immediate Computer Access

What is the deal with the town of Mercury?  The sign says there are no services, and roads leading into town appear to be gated.  Also: check Google Earth for satellite photos of the Nevada Test Site.

What are the social habits of yellow-bellied marmots?  Are they social, like prairie dogs, or more territorial?  (Ten points for me if they're social.)

Was that, in fact, Saturn we saw the other night?  Can someone please find a way to explain to Tyson that Jupiter and Saturn are NOT visible every night, all the time? (Minus one million points for me if I'm wrong on that one, because I'm not.)

What are the physical properties related to the movement of sand dunes?  How come all the sand in the Great Basin desert is all in one place?  What keeps the sand together as it moves?  (I say the size of the particles and their composition--lots of silica--does a static-cling maneuver and holds everything in place.

What parts of Nevada were, at one time, under water?  When?  How many times?  Salty or fresh water?  What about the lake that covered central Nevada all the way to Idaho and into Washington, and now survives as the Great Salt Lake in Utah?

What is a Dirty Sanchez?

What happened to Picaridin, a DEET alternative in bug repellent that keeps bugs off but DOESN'T melt plastic?

Who is Brian Jones, and why would he be like Brian Wilson?

Who is Dinu Lipatti?

If gas in Mammoth Lakes is $4.99 a gallon, what's it going for in Baker right now?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And it only took a week longer than expected!

Our car is fixed! We are headed to the Sierra!

We dropped our car off at the dealership more than two weeks ago, and the engine has finally been put back together and it looks like we are just about ready to drive the hell out of it again. We were told it would be ready by last Wednesday or Thursday, and when it wasn't put back together by Saturday, they rented us a little Scion for cheap, but we are SO READY to have the Matrix back--and with a rebuilt, not used, engine like we wanted in it.

Tyson, naturally, has been packed and ready to go for the last two weeks, and we cleaned up the house and threw the rest of the stuff together this afternoon. We're going up to Rock Creek Lake and hiking up to a lake and a pass a couple of miles above North Lake. We will definitely have pics when we get back!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

HTML is making me crazy

I feel like hurting someone.

I inserted some nifty code recently so I could divide my posts like you see here.  I thought it would be nice to put that whole long copy-pasted entry  below the fold, so to speak, to make scrolling through the page easier.  Unfortunately, my new code uses the "span" designation, which is also what Blogger defaults to whenever you, you know, DO ANYTHING, like hit enter or change the text color or anything else.  It was really driving me crazy.  That last post took me about an hour and a half of picking through all the damn tags that kept getting added every time I checked my work.  Finally I just gave up.  Does anyone (Brannon?) know if there is a way to bypass Blogger's HTML editor if I want to write all my own code once in a while?

On the bright side, this post was relatively straightforward.

Budget Cuts!

I started the morning today with a somewhat dismaying message via school email from our superintendent RE: state budget cuts: 

DATE: June 24, 2008
TO: All Employees
FROM: Walt Rulffes
SUBJECT: Status of State Budget Cuts

Many people have contacted me asking the status of how CCSD will handle the increasing State budget cuts. An answer I gave that was accurate last week needs to be revised this week as the picture continues to change. If you are observing media reports, then you are likely as current as I am regarding the amount of State reductions in revenue. The purpose of this memo is to bring you up to date regarding how CCSD is affected, which most likely will change as State conditions change.

The school district has no authority to unilaterally increase its revenue. Federal funds and bond funds are legally restricted in use and must be spent specifically as designated. The day-to-day operations of the school district are funded from its general fund, which is controlled by the State.

I won’t discuss herein the initial cuts that have already been made, as that information has been provided elsewhere and is not germane for this discussion. Of importance now is how does the district deal with more major reductions in its funding?

Here’s the gloomy background. The latest State projected additional revenue shortfall, after more than $900 million has already been cut, is identified below:
 $250 million or more for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2008; and $1.2 billion for the next biennium, which is the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.

The big question is, “How much will CCSD’s share of the shortfall be?” I wish I knew, but since public education as a whole makes up half the State’s budget, it’s a fair assumption that CCSD’s hit could be as follows:
 Another $50 to 70 million for 2008-2009 school year; and Another $135 million for the 2009-2010 school year.

Against this background, here’s my prognosis for how funding reductions will translate to CCSD.

Q: What about the 4% employee COLA the Legislature included in its original funding?

A: The District and Unions followed the provisions of collective bargaining and put the 4% COLA into contract agreements. The Support Staff Union contract was ratified by Support members and approved by the School Board. The CCEA and the CCASAPE contracts have been ratified by their respective members and are scheduled for School Board action on
June 26, 2008. My recommendation is to approve the contracts.

Q: What about all the talk of taking the COLA’s to offset the State shortfall?

A: Here’s why I am recommending to the Board to approve the contracts. First and foremost, you deserve it. I don't know how we can expect our employees to absorb the increased cost of living, e.g., gasoline, food, and in the case of teachers – health care. There are about 7,000 employees who are not eligible for a step-increase, and the 4% is their only improvement. The support staff contract has been signed, sealed, and delivered, as well as the employee contracts in most other school districts throughout the State. I do not see how school districts can legally breach contract agreements, and CCSD’s staff deserves equal treatment to that of other school districts in regard to the COLA.
There’s more. While this has not been widely recognized, if the District/CCEA contract agreement is not approved, the new program for the retired teacher health plan falls through the crack, leaving future teacher retirees without a reasonable medical plan.

Q: So what’s the consequence of the cuts?

A: Well, hopefully the State will minimize cuts to public education with other alternatives – to which I am not privy at this time. I know that there are legislators and others who are seeking options to avoid further cuts in essential State services. Examples include the proposed 3% room tax, Terry Lanni's proposal to add an increase in the payroll tax to the mix, and borrowing against future revenues such as the Tobacco fund.

Q: If further cuts are necessary, what’s at risk in CCSD?

A: This is the tough part. We will be forced to cut the central, regional, and school administrative services where we can, as well as support functions. The Budget Department has already told central administrators to submit 6% cuts in their budgets. Out-of-state travel requests, contract and consulting services, and capital purchases from the general fund will require approval of the Budget Department. The Human Resources Division (HR) has placed a hold on certain categories of hiring, not only because of the budget cuts that are looming, but also because enrollment growth has dramatically slowed. Expenditures from the SB 185 funds, which are the school improvement grants, have been put on hold. SB 185 funds will likely be withheld by the State. Also, remember the District is facing unfunded inflation (as in fuel) and added costs (as in 7 new school openings). Some relief could be possible if a fee is imposed for certain services, e.g. transportation and non-academic activities, but it will be very unpopular.
The big dollars will have to come from where big expenditures are occurring. HR is holding many classroom vacancies open until more is learned from the State because those vacancies will likely be needed to absorb teachers who are currently assigned to non-classroom functions. In an earlier message, it was estimated that the projected reduction in CCSD revenue is the equivalent of an estimated 2,000 positions. Nothing has changed to reduce that estimate.

Q: What’s the timing of all this?

A: Timing depends on the State. At the time of this writing, the Legislature is scheduled for a special session to begin on June 27, 2008. If that occurs, or if a resolution is worked out prior instead of having a special session, we should know before July 1, 2008, what the fiscal impact will be on the upcoming school year. At this point, the bulk of what I am hearing centers around "cuts" rather than finding new revenues to make up the difference.

Q: What's the prognosis for the budget we're submitting for the next biennium?

A: We have been directed by the Nevada Department of Education to submit $133 million in cuts for the next biennium in September of 2008, which takes effect for July 1, 2009, assuming it’s approved by the Legislature. While we are complying with this request, it is important to remember that the level of funding for education and the opportunity to provide new revenue sources will certainly be a major topic of the 2009 legislative session, and I hope you will join me in working to find alternatives to the devastation this level of cuts would produce.

God forbid our governor raise taxes on local folks to, you know, learn their kids to read.  I'm really REALLY glad our weak excuse for a union (an "association," actually, as if that explains the inefficacy of most of their presence in Carson City) bundled the cost of living increase in with provisions for retiree health benefits.  At this time last year, when it was unclear whether retirees after 2008 would, in fact, be eligible for insurance coverage, we were projecting something like 5000 people to retire this year, and I just don't think the state wants to have to deal with it's largest county's teachers not getting salary increases AND needing to hire 5000 more new teachers.

What I find most worrisome is that it looks like the area that'll be taking the biggest hit is research.  Ruffles mentions curtailing expenses for "consultants" and SB 185 funds, and it's that money that A) brings new research into the district and B) disseminates it to teachers--new teachers in most cases.  SB 185 money is designated "School Improvement" money--we all write a school improvement plan each year, and these funds help schools achieve their goals, generally in the area of subgroups passing the Big Tests.  Schools with a pattern of not making AYP get extra help, such as mentors and money to pay teachers to go to conferences, and to pay other teachers to come to site-based trainings to hear what the other people learned at their conferences so that everybody can stay up on current research. 

Yes, we could probably limit some of the "consultant" spending because I've seen some of the people and research the district brings in, and a lot of it is redundant and I'm sure some of it is pretty screwy.  On the other hand, Harry Wong spoke at one of the new teacher conferences I went to, and all teachers got treated to a presentation by Ron Clark one staff development day last year, and I found both of those experiences valuable.  And it was SB 185 funds that paid for the two full-time mentors I had at the middle school in Northtown, where I learned enough in a year and a half to be a project leader next year and my administrator's nominee for Teacher of the Year.

Maybe it's not all bad.  Because our district is so huge (fifth largest in the nation), reducing the amount spent on research consultants means going back to tried and true practices and GIVING THEM TIME TO WORK before jumping straight onto the next bandwagon when we don't see immediate results.  Cutting funds in these areas will allow our district to function reasonably well for next year, even two or three more years, but I don't want to be around here in another 10 when we're really feeling the effects of allowing our district's current research-based practices to stagnate.  Once the state sees that we can do without this budget money, the odds of us getting it back are slim, and funding will probably never be back to the level it is now.  I also think we'll see much lower retention rates for new teachers because it is primarily them that the SB 185 money helps.  Most of our new hires are locked in to jobs veteran teachers don't want, and without a support system present, I can imagine many of them looking at their measly $34K salary and wondering if it's really worth it.  And there's not much of an incentive for veteran teachers, especially those approaching retirement, to pass on their expertise or to continue to develop their own practices.

So anyway, we'll see how this goes.  I've been fortunate this summer in that my principal is highly committed to my program and finding the money to get it off the ground.  She submitted my entire list of facilities requests, about $18,000 total, to the banker without striking anything, quibbling about costs, or even questioning any of the items we asked for.  Nothing can get paid for until the July 1, but so far, my stuff's first in line.  It's not district budget problems that affect me, I just need to make sure I keep the same principal forever.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A sad little hip-hip-huzzah for irreverance

If I were in charge of things around here...

I was looking forward to this post over at Daily Kos, and I got to thinking about what other pie in the sky ideas might make America even better. Because I'm just coming off three days of late nights with friends who are in town, I can't exactly remember what my ideas were, exactly, but I had some.

What are your "so crazy they just might work" plans?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How did I miss this??

Oh, man!  Can anybody spot me, like, 400 bucks?

The Amaz!ng Meeting is in town this weekend, featuring 2 of my favorite internet boyfriends:

Yes, that's Adam Savage and PZ Myers.

For those of you who don't know, the James Randi Educational Foundation (sponsors) is the one offering the million-dollar prize for verifiable evidence of any paranormal or supernatural event.  Thousands of hot, sexy rationalists are affiliated with the JREF, and they and their fans will be taking over the Flamingo for the weekend.  I'm sure all the dealers in the casino are thrilled to have a bunch of intellectuals roaming around, scoffing at all the rubes who bet red because it's "due" or yell at the guy next to them at the blackjack table for "taking" their cards.

Locals Penn and Teller will be there too, but their show has been vitriolic and sucky lately ("Lesbians on a blind date prove the 0-60 on the Prius is awful; therefore, alternative fuel is a left-wing lie."), so I won't be sorry to miss them.  [Interestingly enough, Penn used to visit my Starbucks pretty often.  Don't ask me how I remember these things, but he used to get a venti iced coffee with vanilla and lots of room.  And he is REALLY tall.  And his daughter's middle name is Crimefighter, he said on NPR.  Really, I am not a stalker, not even a fan (but I would still totally name my kid Moxie Crimefighter).]

As much as I really, REALLY want to go shamelessly throw myself at Adam from Mythbusters, registration is RIDICULOUS.  I guess real rationalists are supposed to be smart enough not to have student loans or multiple high-interest credit cards.

That's What I Just Said!

Some bigshot (I initially typed "bogshit"--twice!--how's that for a Freudian slip?) over at the Chicago Trib just had to add his two cents to my reminiscing about summertime and cheap(er) gas prices. 

So fucking original, dude.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Off the couch, and out of the bathroom

You can tell just how unexciting my travel-free summer has been so far as soon as we start diving into the subject matter of today's post:

A bladder infection!!!

Yes, the biggest, most interesting thing to happen since I last posted was that I spent a total of about three hours in the can today, and about six more sitting at my computer or on the couch furiously jiggling my knee and repeating "I will not wet my pants I will not wet my pants."

It was seriously the worst one of these I have ever had.  You should have seen the chunks of bladder-flesh that left my body today.  But, thanks to the miracle in a box that is phenazopyridine hydrochloride, I actually sat through a whole movie without a trip to the bathroom (plus, my pee is a psychedelic red-orange--fun, huh?).

So I haven't actually left the house since Friday, and I am looking forward to getting up early and dashing up to school to get some stuff to work on while we host a national debate tournament and I'll be toiling away off-campus all week, although I freely admit the reason I didn't go anywhere yesterday was that I just felt like being a total scrub, not that I couldn't risk being 30 seconds from a bathroom.

I hope everyone else is finishing up a much more productive (and less painful in the pants area) weekend.  Happy Fathers' Day to my dad, Tyson, Bob, John, Brannon, J, DBB, Michael, and anyone else I've forgotten!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's the end of an era.

It makes me really sad that Americans' God-given right to throwing camping gear in the trunk and driving aimlessly around the country for days on end seems to be over.

Not that it's been very economical for two or so years now, but 4 dollars a gallon? Now the low-budget road-trip is a dying institution.

Tyson's been on shaving strike since school got out until he catches fish. He got as far as laying all the camping and fishing gear out in the living room, packing some of it in the motorcycle saddlebags, and, well, that was it. The official reason for the delay of tonight's scheduled departure to California's southern Sierra is the wind, which on our smallish bike in the middle of the night is certainly a legitimate concern. In a frenzied fit of cabin fever, he even proposed both of us taking the van. Consider the horrendous fuel economy (about 10MPG lately) and the fact that the a/c isn't working, and you'll see just how desperate we are to even entertain the notion of a road trip.

One of the best things about living in Vegas is the sheer variety of outdoor stuff within just a few hours--from the beach, to Baja, to the Sierras, to the Colorado Plateau, to the Grand Canyon, to great fishing and hiking and kayaking and climbing. Let's face it: Vegas is not the most interesting place to actually be if you're not a tourist, club whore, or rich. The huge appeal (besides not ever having to wear more than a jacket over a t-shirt in the winter) is in going somewhere else.

I can remember waking up one Saturday morning in the early fall having just gotten over a nasty, lingering cold. On an impulse, we threw all our crap in the Matrix and went west and north about 4 hours to the Alta Toquima wilderness. We hiked around through yellow aspens, and it was so nice to feel like I was finally over that cold. But the water was low and the fishing was not great, and it was still way too light out to set up camp and sit around until 11, so we drove about 4 more hours back east, making a big zig-zag across the lower half of the state to get to the Snake Range and Great Basin National Park, where we camped out and in the morning were practically assaulted by gangs of deer who just marched through our morning coffee and oatmeal. We hiked up to a bristlecone grove, then drove back home, stopping to look over to top of Cathedral Gorge and again for dinner at the old Caliente train depot.

All said and done, we drove about 800 miles in 36 hours, just to get out of our house. Driving the van right now, that's 80 gallons of gas, or $320. That's just not the kind of money regular people can afford to pay for no good reason.

But for people like me and many others in the West, there is a perfectly good reason to take trips like that. One of the reasons we moved out here was to explore and enjoy this relatively wild and empty part of the country. Impractical? Yes. Romantic? Definitely. Yes, I realize how whiny I sound, getting all bent out of shape about not being able to drive aimlessly all over the place. I know that my attitude is probably representative of stereotypes of American hubris and entitlement. But dammit, I'm done working for 10 weeks, and I want to go hiking in the mountains because it's 105 outside and it hurts my skin to stand in the sun for more than two minutes.

So anyway, we're about sick of dealing with the Matrix. We're waiting for a phone call from Toyota corporate tomorrow to find out if they're willing to help out with the $4000 engine replacement, but are not very hopeful. I think going about 14 months without an oil change is not going to help us out there. Our new Plan B is to trade the Matrix, and quite possibly also the van, for the smallest, cheapest, most fuel-efficient, best-warranty-having hatchback we can get (a Kia Rio5 or Spectra is looking good) and paying it off as fast as possible for approximately what we're paying now. Then, when that's paid off in about 3 years, we can get the natural-gas-powered Civic we really want. If we get things squared away in the next week, we can probably make it to the Sierras before Tyson has to be back for jury duty and I have to watch our neighbor's dogs.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Summer Vacation, Day 1

It's the first day I don't have to get up and go to work.

So what did I do?

Woke up at 6 and made a gradebook template for my program with the right calendar information, attendance codes and categories, color-coding, score categories and weights, and semester grade calculations. Then I went to the gym, then got JUST ABOUT done with formatting the 28-page syllabus (We call it an Employee Handbook!). I just need to double-check some factual things, like how many extra grade points you get for an AP course, and it's good to send out to my team. I'm sure there'll be more edits to make before we go back in August, but edits are way faster and easier than starting from scratch so the hours I've spent on it, even at 6 a.m. on my first day of vacation, were in no way time wasted.

Now it's 10:30, and I'm actually getting a little worn out. I think that's enough school work until I go in to school on Monday to bully my facilities guy into writing a very large check for furniture.

Because I can't really afford a vacation this summer....

So I just pore wistfully over maps.

Like this one:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

One more to go...

I have just under three hours of "kid time" left.  After that, I have "scantron machine time," "course expectation writing & formatting time," "pretending to carefully read and score essay time," and lots and lots of alone time with my filing cabinets.  I need to track down a half-dozen people who can order books, supplies, and furniture for my program, drop off a series of sketches for my facilities guy to look at, pretend I've been keeping impeccable and timely hard-copy attendance records, turn in stuff, and get a bunch of signatures on my checkout list.

But then, I have "dyeing my hair purple" time and "staff barbecue time," followed by a "we did it day," more ordering, etc etc.  

And hooray for me; I am pretty sure I get to teach Watchmen next year in Honors American Lit.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Moving sale... everything must go!

I did some re-arranging today. First, I removed all work-related names from my blog, and I moved a few posts to Echoes. I also made both blogs public again. the new address is .
So tell the masses.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Cookies and a Contest

But not a cookie contest, unfortunately.

I am making my very very favorite cookies to celebrate Tyson's last day of school, which he is celebrating by playing poker.  It is a combination of two recipes:

Kitchen Sink Cookies (with commentary)

2 sticks butter, softened but still cool (not margarine, not canola sticks, not shortening; real, honest-to-god butter)
1 cup brown sugar (the darkest you can find--better for brown sugar cookies later!)
1 cup white sugar (I used washed raw sugar last time because that's all I had, and it was good, too.)
2 eggs
1 T vanilla extract (don't be cheap; use the real stuff)
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t cinnamon
dash ginger or whatever else I'm in the mood for
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 c flour
3 c whole (not quick) oats
1/2 bag good-quality dark chocolate chips (like Ghirardelli)
1/2 bag butterscotch chips
1/2 c dried cherries (or Sunkist makes a really good mix of blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and raspberries, except I don't like the texture of the raspberries so I pick them out first)
1/4 c raisins
1/2 c walnuts or pecans (or a combination of both)

Beat butter until creamy; add sugars and beat until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla.
With the mixer or by hand, add the baking powder and spices, then gradually add flour until combined.
With a wooden spoon, mix in oats, chips, dried fruit, and nuts.  Shape into 2-inch blobs on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes, rotate the tray, and bake 10-12 more minutes or until done.  (For super-easy clean-up, line your baking sheet with parchment.  I think this is supposed to help even out the heat distribution, but the jury's still out on that one.) Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool.  
Really, wait for a good 20 minutes or so: this is one cookie that isn't as good straight from the oven.  If you need something to tide you over, sneak a little of the dough.

So those are the cookies.  The very best thing about them is that it takes half a bag of the chips and dried fruits, so there's a built-in reason to make more before too long.  And if you staggered the chips and the fruit, you'd become trapped in a delicious cycle of cookie making.

The contest is the link Tyson posted yesterday.  First person to explain how it works wins.  Maybe if you are Tyson, or Juan or Karen who live in our back house but probably don't read my blog, you win some cookies!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

MY sister is better than YOUR sister

She's performing with her wind ensemble at Carnegie Hall on Monday.

Suck on THAT, beeyotches!

UPDATE: She and her ensemble won their contest.  Hooray $2500!  Head over there and give her hair a muss, won't you?

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Dilemma of Ethics

My car has been afflicted with the automotive equivalent of gout.

But it still goes.

No warning lights appear on the instrument panel that would make anyone suspect anything is wrong.

It still runs reasonably smoothly--not so rough that one would suspect a problem.  (The occasional cloud of white smoke on startup is a bit alarming, though.)

My dad planted the bug in my ear yesterday that I might just trade it in for something newer.

How much trouble (if any) can I get into for trading it to a dealer and not saying anything?  Despite the title of my post today, the real quandary is not "is this right?" (it isn't, not really, not in the way we teach little kids about right and wrong--although I can find lots and lots of justification for pulling one over on a used-car dealership) but "can I be punished for this?"  Because I'm ethically opposed to being sued, or fined, or whatever may happen.  After all, there is proof out there that I knew the car needed a new engine in it.  All it would take is a phone call to the Toyota dealership to find that out.

On the other hand, I do have a mechanic who is interested in working on it, and can probably get a new engine, or all the necessary parts, at least, dropped in for half what the dealership wants, and then there are only about 10 payments left to make on it.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fuck fuck fuckity fuckfuckfuck

So my car had been running a little chuggy lately, like I had suddenly forgotten how to drive a stickshift, and I dropped it off at Toyota on Monday night.  It was pulling into the driveway afterwards that Tyson got the call from his stepmom about his dad.  So, fuck.  I took the day off today to get Tyson to the airport, and the car people were supposed to call me, not him, about the repairs, but they didn't pay attention and called him instead.  

Anyway, apparently all the motor oil in my car has turned to thick rubbery goo, and now I need a new engine, say the Toyota people.  There was a class action lawsuit recently regarding this very problem in the 1999-2002 model years, and mine's an '04, but the engine is essentially the same.  But the people Tyson talked to today insist that because I've only had about 10 oil changes in the last 4 years, it's totally my fault, like that's just what happens if you don't change the oil every 3000 miles and I hope I learned my lesson this time.


Today sucks, needless to say.  Today's events have reduced me to a pathetic, snivelling little ball of helplessness.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hold Me!

So I've been on hold with the IRS for 27 minutes now, and I figured, what better way to get someone to pick up on the other end than to start some kind of project or something? (If this doesn't work, I'll get in the shower. Surely the instant I step into the water someone will get around to taking my call.) Turns out--surprise, surprise--you have to fill out forms (well, one, but it's so complicated it felt like more) when you sell stock or quit a job that gives you stock. I had a ton of stock options when I left Starbucks, and they "short-sold" them for me, meaning they lent me the money to buy them and then promptly sold them, giving me the profit. Well, when they told the IRS about this, it looked like I'd make almost TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS in stock sales. So I had to call them to see what to do, then call Fidelity and get them to send all my relevant paperwork, then I could not for the life of me figure out what in hell was going on, so I had a tax-preparer friend of mine fill out a Schedule D. After some massive confusion regarding "gross" and "taxable" income got cleared up, it was fairly simple, but now I am stuck waiting to get a real, live person on the phone at a government office to tell them I'm still in the wrong, but to the tune of like TWO thousand, not TWENTY.

Besides the barrel of fun this is turning out to be, I have my New Teacher Training Cadre interview tomorrow, where I am going to wow them with my impressive evaluation from my administrator and a 1920s slang activity that meets components of "classroom environment" and "instruction" professional domains. It'll be the bee's knees.

Some time later:

It worked! They just picked up the phone, gave me an address for where to send my paperwork, and informed me that they had already applied my stimulus check to my outstanding balance (we were going to do that anyway 'cause screw irresponsible fiscal policy!), and I now owe the government (besides student loans--arrg!) less than $200. That is super news!

Monday, May 05, 2008

In other news....

We are about to have our first rainstorm of the year!  It is cloudy and windy and ominous-looking outside and I violently miss West Texas thunderstorms, but if this is as close as I get, I'll still take it.  After new filters, a new pump, and a new motor (not to mention a new electrical hookup to replace the exposed, ungrounded death-trap of a socket on the roof) our swamp cooler is finally working, and it is deliciously cool and damp inside, with pulled pork cooking for dinner and a cat asleep on my lap.  It's little things that get me through Mondays.

In Which I Call My First Meeting

I sent out an email today to the rest of the company team saying we'd have a meeting on Thursday.  This is my first act as a Person In Charge, except posting on the email server that I needed a computer program called Exam View to play around with, and so here we go!

I am nervous that no one will show up and I'll look like an idiot.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Retraction

My freshmen are about ready to kill me for making them read the unabridged version of Great Expectations, and I can understand, seeing as I'm only about four chapters ahead of them myself, and only because I have to teach the damn thing.

So I cut a deal: we'd strike some of the chapters, because I just couldn't deal with the bell-to-bell reading we were having to do to get everything done in the next four weeks.  That's right, we had 300 pages to do and 19 class days to to do it in.

So today I read all the chapter summaries over at Spark Notes, and I have to say, that book gets pretty good!  People are all drowning and catching on fire and sneaking up on each other with sledgehammers, and we haven't even gotten to all the crazy "you're-actually-her-long-lost-father" soap-opera drama yet.  I so should have done this about ten months ago; then I wouldn't have been stressing out since Christmas about this damn book.  

Maybe I'll take on A Tale of Two Cities or something after that magical day, June 4th.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mark your calendars! (a guest-post by Tyson)

According to the internets, May 4th is International Respect for Chickens Day! So everyone get out the party favors, cue up this song and dance and drink to your feathered compatriot's glory!
For my part, I thought I'd post a few pics of our local fowl celebrity from across the street. When I cam home today I saw him strutting around and snapped a few fine photos. According to Nick, this cock was pimpin' as he literally crossed the street:
So there you have it. We're going to enjoy International Respect for Chickens Day by eating some porkchops and southern-cooked collard greens. I suggest you do the same, for National Pig Day is not as far off as you'd think.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Elaine's Rowing, I'm Crowing!

And my reputation is growing!

So I got pulled aside today for a closed-door meeting with my admin (always a little scary!) but what really happened was he told me I am all set to be the program coordinator for those block classes we're doing next year.  He made it sound like I would be essentially an uncompensated argument-settler and work-deligator, which I was happy to be asked to do, even if it didn't have a job title or pay package.  When there's something big that needs to be figured out, I have a lot of trouble with uncertainty where I have no authority to actually do anything about it.  Plus, I'll have someone to back me up when I come across as steamrollering over someone who's not being assertive enough (or just plain has a no-good idea).  Man, am I a controlling bitch or what?

But THEN as I was walking out of his office, my principal stopped me and gave me the same news, except that I would actually be getting a job title (Program Coordinator, with initial capitals) AND a prep buyout if there's money to do it (and there probably would be after count day in October).  What does that mean?  Only an additional 1/7th of my salary!  Well, and the expectation of doing a hell of a lot more work than with the informal title, but being compensated for an extra hour of work a day means I can focus on actually getting it done right rather than trying to cram it in somewhere in between other crap, all the while feeling like I'm done and should be going home.

So anyway, sorry if you have been having a lousy month or something and are continually being subjected to my telling you how great I am, but if that's the case, you've probably stopped reading my blog lately.

Don't worry; soon it will be summer and I will be back to being angsty and restless again and you can stop listening to me brag all the time.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh! Other news!

I got my tentative schedule for classes next year, and I am excited!  (The only thing that bums me out is how much bitching everybody else had to do over lunch today about their schedules.  I know I keep threatening, but I may have to stop eating lunch with those people.)  

Anyways, I have 2 double-blocks (twice as many kids for twice as long, with another teacher in the fancy new office room they're outfitting for us) and a section of HONORS American Lit!  Hooray for me!  No more glazed-over expressions while we strain to read in class because I can make them do that at home!  I can just do the fun stuff that comes before or after reading!  

Sorry, Simon and Garfunkel

I'm not going a back to a silent, no-sound-card-having computer again.

Okay, you're all going to comment (well, Deidre will, at least) to tell me how I'm like a billion years behind everybody else who uses the Internets, but I have been listening constantly to Pandora internet radio and whatever algorithm they're using is like magic!  I just told them I want music like the Decemberists, the Mountain Goats, the Old 97s, Kimya Dawson, Vamipre Weekend, and about 4 or 5 others, and BAM! I've got more mellow angsty music than I can shake a stick at.

AND, like the Jurassic Park dinosaurs, IT LEARNS!  Okay, so my iPod can do this too, but fuck off, okay?  I can even tell things to go away for a month if it keeps coming on too much.

Anyways, I really am just looking for an excuse to ignore the pile of papers on my table that need to be graded.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New laptop woohoo!

I was minding my own business in the kitchen yesterday, making linguine with clam sauce and hot fudge pudding cake, when Tyson comes in with a NEW LAPTOP for me!

Okay, it's an old IBM ThinkPad his school was tired of using as a doorstop, but it has a working OS (would that be an operating operating system?) and a SOUND CARD, which I have not had in several years now.  It also has some fancy-schmancy docking station so I can pile a whole bunch of peripherals on my desk and not have to mess with reconnecting them when I want to puck up my computer and take it with me.  Finally, despite being a year or so older than my Dell, it is about 3/4 the weight and has a little smaller profile (it still won't fit in a manilla envelope like the MacBook Air, but whatever), so I can actually use it as a mobile computing device rather than just sitting it on my desk and only taking it somewhere when it's really worth it to lug 10 pounds of computer around.

Suffice to say, I am extremely excited about this.  Now I just have to put all my old junk--Quicken files, a bunch of folders of old school things I'm not ready to sort through and delete, my photo albums, etc, back on this system (everything's spread between 2 flash drives, Tyson's desktop, and the laptop in the living room).

Oh, and did I mention I can listen to things now because the sound card isn't melted into slag?  Yaay!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Keep your tools sharp!

This is why I care about punctuation.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dinner is Cooking!

Well, it's brining actually.

Tonight I am butterflying and grill-roasting a chicken. I cut out the back (with my new kitchen shears; the old ones weren't quite up to par in the chicken-cutting department) of a 4-pound free range organic hormone-free blah blah blah chicken and it's soaking in salt water to help keep in juicy. When it's done, in about an hour, I'll break the breastbone so it will lay nice and flat on the grill. Then I'll chop up some chilies in adobo sauce until it makes a paste and add minced lime zest and cilantro and smear that all up under the skin. I'll put it on the grill for 15 minutes, smooshing it down with a cookie sheet with bricks on top, then flip it over. Near the end of the cooking time, I'll take a honey-lime glaze and baste the skin.

I am also going to grill up some ears of corn with some of the chili paste, butter, and lime juice.

Finally, I will go to the store and get stuff to make hot fudge pudding cake (even though I made brown sugar cookies yesterday and they are already gone) because I have to get butter anyway.

Can you tell I have been looking forward to this dinner all week?