Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's late

Yes, it's late, but I've only been home from work for about 90 minutes. I don't want to go to bed yet because then I just have to get up in about 4 hours and do it all again. Tomorrow is Friday though. (Actually it's already Friday--12:30 a.m.) :-)

I'm really bummed because I made a 76 on my cataloging midterm. I actually did quite well on the actually cataloging part of the test--26 of 30 points. However, I stupidly missed 4 of the multiple choice questions. One wrong answer was the result, I think, of carelessly choosing the wrong button because I knew the answer without looking up anything. Another one was the result of a guess; I couldn't find any definitive information to help me know the correct answer. The remaining missed questions, I don't know why I missed them. I guess I just didn't read carefully enough. I can still make a B in the class and might still be able to make an A, but I am really disappointed in myself for making that 76. Now, I have to work my ass off and make sure that my two big projects are really well done. I don't have room for any slacking or procrastinating, and I hate it when that happens.

This weekend will not be much fun, I'm sure. I have much class work to do and much grading to do. I wanted to go to the museum today or Sunday. Today, I worked late, and it looks like I will be working all day Sunday. I hate being a responsible grown up. I want to be an irresponsible grown up instead.

Okay, I hear On Beauty and my bed calling me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The other NPR thing

I got up early this morning & planned to blog about two things that I heard on NPR recently, but I only had time for one of them. Here's the rest of that post.

If you are a regular or even a semi-regular reader of this blog, you know that I buy lots of books and don't really need much encouragement to do so.

Yesterday on the way home from work, listening to All Things Considered on NPR, I heard the latest installment of You Must Read This, a series of commentaries by writers about their buttonhole books--"the ones [they] urge passionately on friends, colleagues and passersby." The latest installment is Why Libraries Should Stock Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Alice McDermott. I was so moved by McDermott's commentary that I headed to Half-Price Books before coming home last night. However, I had no luck finding the book there. Despite really wanting to go to another bookstore, I resisted the temptation and decided to check my school's library for the book. Unfortunately, my school library doesn't have the book either. I am taking this as a sign that I really don't need the book at this moment. I don't have time to read it right now, and I already have a mountain of books for a TBR pile. Yes, I will be good...for now anyway.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot--not. ;-) Sunday, I bought two books. For a long time now, I have thought that I needed to read something by Iris Murdoch, then Zadie Smith mentioned her at a reading last month, and I knew that I needed to read something by her. So I went to the bookstore Sunday and bought Murdoch's Booker Prize winner The Sea, The Sea, and Margaret Atwood's new book of short stories, Moral Disorder--I can't resist a new Atwood book.

I can't wait until my Thanksgiving holiday week. I am going to spend the whole week reading. I will go to the movie several times too, but I really just need some time to read for pleasure.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Two things from NPR

I have an hour commute to and from work each day, and I usually listen to NPR coming and going. On Friday, I heard this story about the power of poetry in a time of war, Baghdad Poets Find an Oasis from Violence. A Kurdish women's rights organizer set up a tent in Baghdad and brought together Shiites from Sadr City and Sunnis from Madaan to share their poetry. I love the idea of poetry as peacemaker, even if the peace is only temporary. The event is called Freedom Space. Here's a quote from one of the participants: "'We can never find beauty in this ugly reality, but for a moment we can write about the beloved, the friend, the brother, to escape from this reality,' says Hussein al Lami, 21, a poet who has a rare chance to perform in public." I really do believe that power of poetry/art are important even in today's world. I wish that I could articulate my feelings about poetry better, but my brain isn't quite awake this morning.

Well, I have to get ready for work now, so I will save the second thing for later.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday Miscellany

I am having a wonderful Sunday morning, sitting outside, drinking coffee, and surfing the Internet. When I first sat down out here, it was only about 55 degrees and pleasantly windy. It has warmed up to about 60 now, but it is still gloriously cool, even for Houston on an October Sunday.

Yesterday, I got up early and drove to work (an hour away for those who aren't regular readers of this blog) to attend the dedication of our new school building. It was a surprisingly pleasant, rather understated affair. The four guest speakers, three of whom are normally quite verbose, stuck to their allotted time, all saying some great things about the faculty, staff, and students of the school. It actually made me feel rather proud of working there. Since I was there already, I did grade some papers after the ceremony, but for those of you who are long suffering readers of this blog, you know I had to be procrastinating on doing something else, right? :-)

I was putting off starting the midterm for my cataloging class. I didn't feel as prepared as I should be. To further procrastinate, I decided to stop for a late lunch and do some reading. In Houston, I don't think waitpersons are very bothered by solo diners who don't want to eat and run, but in a smaller community, I sometimes feel like the waitperson feels a bit uncomfortable serving a solo diner. I was enjoying my reading and my hamburger and didn't want to rush through my meal, but the waitress seemed to be bothered by me. She wasn't unpleasant, but she asked if I wanted a to go box when I had only eaten half my meal. When I finally said I was ready for the check, she seemed quite relieved to be able to give it to me.

I was reading The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, which is a compilation of his books column in the Believer. Both Danielle at A Work in Progress and Sandra at Book World had praised Hornby's humorous columns. All of his columns begin with a list of books bought and books read during the previous month. I knew of Hornby's fiction--I had listened to About a Boy on tape and had read High Fidelity several years ago. I thought both novels were entertaining and humorous. I don't remember how humorous those books were, but if they were as funny as his Believer columns, then I'm sure I got some good laughs out of them.

Hornby is one of us--one of those people that buy more books than he will ever read. My only quibble with Hornby is that he doesn't like literary fiction which is my favorite genre. However, he does have a way of writing about what he reads that is extremely entertaining and true. I wish I could write about the books I read as effectively as he does. I feel rather inept here trying to write about my reading of his book containing his writing about books that he read.

I love what he says about his book collection:
"But as I was finding a home for them in the Arts and Lit non-fiction section (I personally find that for domestic purposes, the Trivial Pursuit system works better than Dewey), I suddenly had a little epiphany: all the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. My music is me, too, of course--but as I only really like rock and roll and its mutations, huge chunks of me--my rarely examined operatic streak, for example--are unrepresented in my CD collection. And I don't have wall space or the money for all the art I would want, and my house is a shabby mess, ruined by children...But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not."

Recently, I blogged (or planned to blog--I'm too lazy to search my archives) about why I don't like to borrow books, give away books that I read, or sell books. I think that all the books I have read are a part of me and getting rid of a book means getting rid of a part of myself. So I must continue to buy books to better express who I am, right? :-)

One more thing about this book, the proceeds from the book are split between two non-profit organizations benefiting children, Treehouse and 826NYC. I didn't know this when I purchased the book, but I like the idea of my book buying/reading contributing to some worthwhile organizations.

Earlier in the post (I had no intention of making this post so long--sorry!), I mentioned my midterm. I did do most of it last night, and I wasn't as unprepared as I thought. I knew where to find the pertinent rules to help answer to the multiple choice questions, and I feel good about those 14 questions. The other three questions require the creation of complete records for three items. I did the first one last night, and I feel okay (not good, just okay--I hope partial credit will be given). After a break for a late night dinner with Valerie and Adrienne, I started the second one, but my energy flagged. But I know that I will finish today well before the midnight deadline.

Finally, surfing the Chronicle site this morning, I came across this article about a Paul Klee exhibit at the Menil. I am not familiar with Klee's work, but I think I have heard of him before. The photos of some of his works that accompany the article make me want to see this exhibit. I will have to put it on my to do list and on my calendar so that I don't wait too long to check it out.

Now, I have run on long enough. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday. Although they don't play until tomorrow, it is a Sunday in October, which means football for me, so I must say, Go Cowboys!!! :-)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rainy Monday

I went to bed last night around 3:00a.m. after completing an online quiz for my cataloging class and wasting at least an hour watching television and listening to the constant, driving rain. For most of that hour, I was wishing that I didn't have to go to bed at all because that would mean I would have to go to work sooner. Imagine my pleasure when I turned on the television at 5:30 this morning and found that the road I travel out of Houston was closed due to high water. I kept thinking I would figure another route to work, but the weather just made me not even want to try. I called work and left messages for everyone that I could think of. We can't schedule a sub online after 5:00a.m., so I knew that I needed to talk to the principal or the asst. principal in charge of subs. Sadly, I don't feel bad about missing today despite having missed Thursday and Friday due to illness.

It has rained most of the day, but I have enjoyed the peace and quiet punctuated with downpour after downpour. I read just a little of On Beauty, which I really need to finish and write about soon. I studied for my cataloging class. I graded a few papers--unfortunately, I have to get many more papers graded tonight. All in all, this has been a good Monday.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Another Early Start

I haven't posted in over a week. I said I was going to post more, but I haven't. I had plenty of time over the weekend, but I couldn't find anything interesting to write. Instead, I wasted much of the weekend just being lazy. I did some classwork on Saturday morning, but I never did the grading that I needed to do. I never seem to do the grading that I need to do, but I refuse to be upset about it. Maybe I will do it this weekend. I will do some when I get to work very early this morning.

For now, though, I just wanted to post a couple of random things.

First, I did do some reading of On Beauty this weekend, and I am really enjoying this novel. I have a couple of passages marked to blog about and will do that soon.

Second, Kiran Desai won the Booker Prize for her novel, The Inheritance of Loss. I haven't read it yet, but it is on my TBR list. Desai and her mother Anita Desai are scheduled to read here in Houston in March.

Third, I am not aging gracefully. My ankles and calves are swelling every day, and the swelling causes horrible itching. Itching that can not be ignored. My endocrinologist prescribed me some pills that diabetics take because my blood sugar was high, not as high as a diabetics, but higher than it should be. I have been taking the pills, but the swelling & itching seem to be getting worse, certainly not any better. I did some research on the web last night--not the first time I have done this, I assure you. I came across some info about varicose veins that sounded just like what I am feeling. The very idea that I might have varicose veins makes me feel older and more unhealthy than I already feel. Still if I can get some relief from the swelling and especially the itching, I won't mind having an old woman's problem. I have to figure out what kind of doctor to see about this problem and not procrastinate--my middle name--in making an appointment.

Finally, I have decided to search for a librarian job for the spring semester. I want to leave my current job in December. More about this later.

Enough of my boring random thoughts. I'll try to write something worth reading in the next blog post. I have to get ready for work now or I won't get there early as I planned.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

An Early Start

It's early, so I thought I would make a quick post before I leave for work this morning. Despite being depressed about my job situation, some good things did occur.

First, I figured out that I could be finished with my library science degree in December of 2007, assuming that I will be approved to take the combination of courses I want for the spring and summer.

Second, my sister's children, who feel like my own in some ways, had good report cards. Her daughter did not attend school last spring. She was supposed to be homeschooling, but she wasn't. She had considered moving in with me to return to school, but decided to try the hometown high school one more time. So far, she is doing okay. I am very proud of her for having the courage to go back to school as a sophomore (she should be a junior). My nephew is a freshman and a football player. He decided that he didn't want to ever have to worry about being eligible to play football and set himself a goal of making nothing less than a B, and he met his goal. It's hard to believe that he is so determined and serious about anything since he is such a silly, clown of a boy about half the time. I wish all the football players that I teach were as determined to do well rather than be satisfied with just passing.

Third, I walked for two days in a row. It's been a while since I walked regularly, and I need to do it for exercise and for my psyche. Sunday, I didn't feel that great during or after, but yesterday, I felt great. I actually felt like I was moving freely with some good speed. Before I moved to Houston about 7 or 8 years ago, I walked five miles almost every day. Since moving to Houston, I have never walked regularly for more than a few months. I don't know why I don't do it every day; it really makes me feel better physically and mentally.

Okay, I'm off to work now. Later.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Zadie Smith

Several weeks ago, Valerie and I went to see Zadie Smith, the opening author in the Inprint Brown Reading Series for this year. I wish I had not been so tired when I returned home that night because I'm sure this post will not do her reading justice. I did make a few notes that night and the next day.

After she was introduced, she came out, gave a brief introduction to the portion of On Beauty that she was going to read, apologized for the voices she would use for the various characters, and began to read. I enjoyed the part of On Beauty that she read and didn't mind the character voices at all. After the reading, she was interviewed by Elizabeth Brown-Guillory, an English professor from University of Houston. I've written in the past about these post-reading interviews by English professors. The best post-reading interviews that I have seen have been done by Fritz Lanham of the Houston Chronicle. He knows how to ask questions that will interest an audience of various types of readers, not just academics. Well, Dr. Brown-Guillory was not bad; she asked very few English professor questions then asked several good audience questions.

Here are fragments of Smith's answers to some of the interview questions:

When asked about her writing process, she said that she works like a college student. She works in pajamas until about 4:30, hoping someone will call her to go out. She said that she went straight from being a college student to being a working writer, so she never developed any other working routine.

When asked to give advice to young writers, she said simply, "Read."

She talked some about Iris Murdoch. I'm not sure I understood completely or remember clearly, but she is working on a nonfiction book called (I think) Fail Better, that title comes from a quote from Iris Murdoch. (I did a search for this quote and found some references to it and Iris Murdoch in some recent interviews but nothing definitive.)

In answer to another question, she said that she thought having a writer in the family must be the most embarrassing thing for a family. She said something about it being difficult as a young writer to write about family because you still need their approval too much. However, she acknowledged that an older writer who didn't feel the pull of family ties as much would probably not find writing about family as difficult.

At one point, Brown-Guillory said that she finds that Smith's writing seems like that of an older author. Smith said that she attributes that to her reading of the classics when she was a teenager. She made some joke about not being a very interesting teenager because she didn't do anything except read.

When asked about which character she liked the most. She said the character that you like the most is the one that you write the best. (I think she said that Jerome was her best character in On Beauty, but she might have said Howard.) She went on to say that when you lose compassion for your character, you can't write well about them any longer.

She talked about an anthology of character stories that she is editing. Apparently this book is for free/charity because she made some statement about not knowing when this book would actually be finished since it is how hard to get writers to write for free.

In the final analysis, Zadie Smith is attractive, funny, and very personable. She chatted with everyone who waited in line to have her sign a book. Valerie and I both said that we would like to go out for drinks with her. She seemed like a person who would be fun to hang out with.

I've read the first part of On Beauty, and I like it so far. I have laughed out loud and nodded my head in agreement with observations about Americans and America several times. If I didn't have to work tomorrow, I would probably stay up reading very late tonight and finish the novel tomorrow.

I know that I haven't conveyed, in the least, how much I enjoyed her reading. I really wish I had taken notes during the reading and interview. Next reading, I'm will try to do better. For now though, I'm off to bed, reading myself to sleep with On Beauty.

A Shameful Confession

I had a really bad day at work on Friday. I had to write up two students during one class period. A boy was upset that I said it was his responsibility to be sure that I check his vocabulary work each day and tell me if I missed him. I don't care if students don't like that I make them responsible for those kinds of things--they are seniors and should be responsible. However, he spent the next few minutes mouthing loudly about how unfair I am and how it's my fault he made a 75 instead of a 100. When I told him the subject was closed, he finally shut up, but not before he said one more thing. So I wrote up a discipline referral on him. Then a few minutes later, a girl didn't like my response to her question, which she thought was "stupid." When I tried to explain my reply to her, she said, "Shut up. And don't say anything else to me." I immediately sent her to the assistant principal's office and went to the office to turn in the discipline referral on her.

Her father came up a little while later, and we had to have a conference in the AP's office. The father was a real jerk, wearing his insulated army coveralls--the temp on the Gulf coast on Friday was probably 90, not cool enough to need insulated anything. I'm sure he thought he would intimidate me, but he picked the wrong woman to intimidate. Of course, he thought I was at fault for the incident, and it didn't matter what I said he wouldn't change his opinion. The third time he said, "I know how teachers are. I know how the teachers at this school are"--said in a very negative tone. I told him that I would not stay there any longer and let him judge me based on some past experience he had had with another teachers, and that I would not sit there and let him continue to characterizing me or by co-workers as bad teachers and bad people. And I left the room.

In addition to these incidents, I had an email from a parent of a special ed student. She wants me to allow her son to not use electronic keypads to take his vocabulary tests because he told her that he was having trouble doing it. She absolutely refused to acknowledge that he made an 84 on the test before the most recent one. When I suggested that we encourage him to give the keypads one more time, she flatly refused sighting his special needs as proof that he can't be successful with the keypads. I just don't understand how parents think that immediately giving in to a child's complaint teaches them anything.

I am still depressed over these incidents as well as the realization they caused in me. I truly HATE being a teacher now. My supplies of patience, sympathy, and empathy are completely exhausted. I just can't care enough anymore about students who need special help. I know that this is a horrible thing to say, but I don't want to work hard enough to figure out how to accommodate the needs of special education children or underachievers. I can only tolerate teaching students who are average or above average. I think that many so-called learning disabled students are given too much help. I think that we, as a society, have enabled them to expect accommodations instead of teaching them how to cope and overcome their disabilities.

I feel like a fraud, and I'm not sure that I will be able to keep up the masquerade for the remainder of the year. Even when I have a good day at work, I feel the weight of my discontent in every quiet moment. I never want to go to bed at night because I know that the earlier I go to bed the earlier I will have to get up and go to work.

Sadly, even knowing that I am working on getting out of the classroom provides me with no solace. I have to find a new job. I wonder if I could get out of my contract in December. I have known teachers who have done that; maybe I will check into the possibility of doing that.