Slacking, and a recommitment.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a letter. Maybe since last Thursday, maybe longer. I’ve been busy, sure: work, general life maintenance, school, studying for the big math test, the *cough* blog–however little I work on it. But I’ve not been any busier than I was in April, say, and I managed to keep up with my letters well enough then.

I miss the daily writing of something. Through my teens and twenties I was a steady journal writer. My life has shifted away from needing to pour words out on pages–my current journal is one of those five year jobbers that you get four lines per day. It suits me well at the stage I’m in. But I think I enjoy writing enough that my year of letter writing has brought me great pleasure. It’s different than a journal in that I’m connecting with someone who will read what I’m writing. And it’s less formal than the blog in that I don’t have to worry too much about grammar and spelling and also I know who will be most likely reading what I write.

(Not knowing who is reading what I write is one of the weirdest things about blogging for me. Recently, I had 99 visitors in a week. Who are those people? They read a little bit, based on the average amount of time visited. But because they don’t comment, I have no way of knowing who my audience is.)

So I am recommitting to my New Year’s resolution today, October 19, 2008. I will write something (if only a postcard) every single day for the rest of the year.

Are you wishing to get a letter from me? Add a comment saying so.

ps. Next year’s resolution will not involve work on a daily basis.

Three sentence movie reviews–The Band’s Visit.

Another of those movies where the plot comes is conveyed less through dialogue and more through facial expressions. A charming, sweet, funny–Matt and I both howled with laughter during a scene–and sad movie that more people should see. Sometimes I think that movies are the only universal means of communication.

poster from:

17 ways to live happily…children

Don’t have children.

It may be too late for some of you, but if you don’t have an innate desire to have children, then don’t. I know that your parents probably want grandchildren and that there is subtle pressure to reproduce from all corners. However, raising children is hard work and if you aren’t into it, your child is the one that suffers. From a “living within your means” standpoint, the less people you have to spread your money around to, the easier it is to live within your means. Plus, you know how hard it is to resist when you yourself want “fabulous tchotka that will make your life so much better”? Imagine if it was your cute 8 year-old offspring making the argument. Based on the number of Heeleys at the school I work at, I’m guessing that saying “no” to the fruit of your loins is even harder than saying to yourself.

Math. The Internet Helps.

I’m spending 2 1/2 hours a week studying for a math test I am taking on January 10. Passing the test is one of the requirements to become certified in Middle School Math in Oregon so I want to do well and pass it the first time. It covers a lot of material: algebra, geometry, etc. Most of those things I haven’t done since I learned them in high school.

Aside: one pet peeve of mine is when adults say “They never taught me.” the “They” in question being teachers. That phrase causes me to wonder how much of the things that were never taught, were actually taught but not retained?

So three mornings a week for a half hour and one hour on the weekend I am up to my ears in math. I just spent several weeks on Algebra and am now reviewing Geometry. The best part of this whole venture is that the Internet was invented between my high school experience and today. Back in high school when I didn’t get something I could reread the chapter, look at the examples, refer to my notes and sometimes look in the back of the book for a solution. If I was still stuck–and I often was–I was left with the “I don’t get it” option of either pressing on through the assignment or giving up.

Today when I hit the “I don’t get it” point I have many, many helpers just standing in the wings. Here’s what I discovered while reviewing algebra.

Purple Math. The best site for explaining all things algebra and I love that she grew up not liking math.

The Math Page. His “Skill in Algebra” review was invaluable and his page has a feature that allows you to do problems he suggests and step-by-step uncover what is happening. I also love that you can start reviewing math with his Skill in Arithmetic and work your way up all the way through Plane Geometry, Algebra, Trigonometry, Precalculus, Calculus, and Real Numbers.

West Texas A&M’s Virtual Math Lab was my next step in solving things. They have step-by-step instructions and practice problems with answers.

As I move into the Geometry Review I found the best thing ever. A simple program that creates PDF flash cards. Oh, to have had this in college! I would have avoided writing out those thousands of flash cards. I’ve been typing my definitions into Word so I can check my spelling, etc., then copying them onto the fields provided.

One of my favorite things about the Internet is that people would take time to build web pages to help little old me with what I am doing.

Three sentence movie reviews–Ghost World

The main character thought that everyone and everything was so lame that by the end of the movie all I could think was, “You are totally lame and this movie is totally lame.” How in the heck did it end up on so many 2001 “best movie” lists?

Note. Movie was so lame I only needed two sentences.


I have to say, one of the great small pleasures of living at the turn of the century is the fun with dates. Back in the 80’s dates were rarely fun. Sure, June 7, 1989 was fun (6/7/89) but being in the low numbers in the calendar provides ample fun days. We’ve had 8/8/8, we’ve had 6/7/8 and today? 10/9/8. I get a zing of joy every time I realize that today is a fun date.

Oh the irony!

Way back in the 90s, Dishwasher Pete used to pop up every once in awhile on This American Life, telling tales from his quest to wash dishes in all fifty states. I enjoyed listening to his views from the dish machine. Imagine my surprise today, when one of the student teachers mentioned her brother-in-law was visiting Teacher John’s class today as a guest author. I asked what her brother-in-law had written and she said, “Oh, a book about how he was trying to wash dishes in all fifty states.”

“Your brother-in-law is Dishwasher Pete!” I shrieked.

I was very excited to meet him. Alas, the universe had other plans. As one of my many hats, I manage the school lunch program which means, among other things, that if the lunch volunteer does not show up for her shift, I get to serve lunch and clean up afterward. This usually throws a wrench in a few people’s plans because if I serve lunch it means that I can’t do my usual recess coverage which means Maureen has to do all of the recess duty which puts both of us in grumpy moods.

So you can imagine the volume of grumpy today when the lunch volunteer didn’t show and instead of meeting Dishwasher Pete and discussing various aspects of his dishwasher life with him, I was instead serving food to students and yes, doing dishes. Teacher John took pity on me and got me a Dishwasher Pete autograph on a post it note, but I was pretty forlorn at my lunch serving table. Dishwasher Pete and I exhchanged waves as he was leaving and I was serving lunch, but it wasn’t quite the same.

Here’s my tribute to my time with Dishwasher Pete: that’s the autograph, right there on the dishwasher.
Teacher John also lent me his copy of Dishwasher. That will have to do for now.
ps. We don’t really have a dishwasher, it’s a sanitizer.

17 ways to live happily…walk.

Take walks.

Walks are a great form of free entertainment. You get some exercise. You get to look at interesting houses, buildings, people, and lawn art. If you walk with a companion, you get to have some good conversations. It can also benefit you in other ways. When I was trying to understand better my 35 millimeter camera I took a 30 minute walk every day where my goal was to take three pictures. I ended up understanding my camera and how to frame a picture, plus some of the pictures turned out great and ended up framed as Christmas presents.