Jessamyn is in...|
30dec02 . . . .
return to the crowded house
Hey! No one checked my ID at the airport! I mean, they sort of did, but I never handed it to the ticket lady when I checked my bag and then the screener at the metal detector didn't even match my ID with my ticket. No one asked if my bags had been out of my control. I still had to get all back-hand felt up since I always wear my overalls. I'd rather be comfy and endure a little prodding than be lousily uncomfortable the entire flight. Anyhow, I have mixed feeling about airport security, but it did make me feel a little a) more free b) scared. Isn't that always how it is?
I have been enjoying myself repeating my favorite phrase "the personal is political" while writing worksheets for math books. I write a lot of word problems. They are for mostly ESL students. Now, if every kid I used for an example was named Susie or Timmy, the overlap between student names in the book and names of actual students would likely be zero. However, if every ethnic name I use is shown in some stereotyped way [every little Asian girl is an origami expert, for example] that is also not super useful or desirable. As a result, it's important to attempt to use cultural refences and names without being overtly cultural to the point where you actually alienate or annoy people from that culture. Keeping in mind that anything that seem to "lack culture" is probably just from your own culture. Some call this PC behavior, which I think is utter bullshit. Remaining value-neutral is a pipe dream; my question for today is whether it's breaking the rules to try to interject some of my own culture in the process? The lesson on miles per gallon was begging for an example using a hybrid car. I couldn't resist using the pricing lesson to compare apples and oranges. The map example features my town in Vermont, which has probably never been featured anywhere before, ever. Since choices have to be made, and people are part of the process, I figure it's best if we let some of our own personalities shine through rather than always trying [and likely failing] to represent only the personalities of others [or Others, if you're postmodern]. Chapter 16 uses the names of all my housemates, guests, housepets and rappers I could think of.
27dec02 . . . .
on the eve of yet more aggression
A conversation between Mark Kurlansky and Isaac Bashevis Singer
MK: Do you think that the Holocaust was an anomaly of human history?
IBS: No. It's a part of human history. The whole of human history is a holocaust.
MK: If that is true, and there is a God, what is God doing?
IBS: [shouting angrily] He did it! HE did it! I didn't do it! He created a world in which animals and man and God knows what else fight like hell all of the time. Fight! They fight for sex. They fight for territory. They fight for all kinds of cultures. They fight about religion.
MK What is it like to be 83? What does the world look like?
IBS: The same like 23 because I am the same man. I have the same troubles. I have the same passions. I have even somehow, although I don't have as much, hope as I had at 20, but more or less the same. Maybe I'll write another good story.
MK: But you mean all of the questions you have been asking all of your life, none of them have been answered?
IBS: No. No question can be. Of course if I ask what time it is and someone gives me the time, a question has been answered, but when it comes to the so-called eternal questions, none of them were answered.
MK: So you keep asking them?
IBS: I was always compelled to. We always say what did God do? And God is silent as ever. We have to make peace with it or else.
- from A Chosen Few: The Resurrection of European Jewry
24dec02 . . . .
work, or something like it
In this dream I had, the terrorists were robbing our city bus and instead of taking my money,
they gave me $20. I wonder if the dream is the result of some sort of internalized guilt about the weird popularity of those library signs I made? Maybe it's just a mental reminder that I should really get to a bank machine.
I think it has more to do with the fact that I was up until 3 am drinking coffee and writing math worksheets. The last one I did before I went to sleep explainined the meaning of the holiday Patriot's Day, a formerly low-scale holiday [unless you grew up in Massachusetts] celebrating the first shots fired in the battle for American independence. This is not to be confused with Patriot Day, now on September 11th of every year, which is sort of a day of remembrance, half-staff flags and a moment of silence. If the two holidays were really not supposed to be confused, don't you think that could have named the new holday something else? Weirdly, the original date for the earliest observation of the holiday that was to become Patriot's Day in Massachusetts was on September 8th
They'll probably wind up cutting that worksheet anyhow.
I'm hiding out in San Francisco getting some work done, playing with the cats, and looking out the big windows of my friends' house on the top of Potrero Hill. This will be the lowest-key Christmas I've had since the year I stayed in Vermont by myself and worked at the church supper. I hope it's equally as pleasant.
20dec02 . . . .
queen for two days
Greg -- who has gotten a job working for garden.org -- had some thoughful things to say about this Trent Lott thing, which is a good lead-in to the three bits of data exchange that crossed my threshold over the last day or so.
1. Trent Lott on BET [paraphrased]
BET: You voted against the MLK holiday.
Lott: Well, at that time, I just didn't understand how important
King was to our country, but I've grown a lot since then.
BET: This was in 1994.
BET: You've consistently been against affirmative action...
Lott: No, I'm in favor of affirmative action - I have Black
people on my staff!
BET: You do understand that there's a difference between a federal
affirmative action program, and hiring three Black people, right?
2. The one piece of email I got that was not so nice:
Let's hope the next Islamo-Fascist attack on the United States finds
you standing right in the middle of its bullseye.
Let's also hope that information which could have prevented the attack
had been prevented from being discovered in advance by your signs.
from a guy who, interestingly enough, is the CEO
of a California biometrics company
. Not surprising that we have different opinions, I guess. I bet his stockholders love him.
3. Health insurance woes:
Me: I just got a final notice that you are going to cancel my health insurance in three weeks unless you get my income verification. I mailed in my income verification to you guys last month. Did you get it?
My health insurance: Well, to be perfectly honest, we are working with a five week backlog of mail, so if you sent it a month ago, we probably haven't even opened ityet.
Me: Are you really going to cancel my health insurance because you can't keep up with your mail?
My health insurance: Well, if we do, here's how to file an appeal.....
Sunday I fly down to San Francisco for a week. I will be carrying with me one copy of a pre-publication version of Ideas of the Modern World: Anti-Capitalism -- which I am reading as an "expert reader" -- in my carry-on bag. Anyone want to place bets on whether this will be a problem or not? Isn't it a bit lame that I even have to think about this?
18dec02 . . . .
queen for a day
Hey, I was famous for a day, yesterday. Did you miss it? It was crazy, I posted this page on librarian.net Five Technically Legal Signs for Your Library. It's about the FBI mainly. As you likely know, the USA PATRIOT Act allows the FBI to come into a library and request patron information, install monitoring software on computers, or just hang around and spy. This sucks. What sucks even harder is that librarians [and the same is true for bookstore owners] are legally not allowed to tell their patrons that the FBI has been there. What bullshit! So, I figured, in a burst of late night inspiration, that you need to be proactive in your library. If you tell patrons that the FBI hasn't been there [technically legal] then you can rely on your patrons to maybe notice when they have been there. Or at least notice that the sign was gone. So, I posted the page and figured my faithful readers would enjoy it, say "way to go" and that would be it. But ... then it got linked on BoingBoing, and a host of other URLs that I didn't recognize. Suddenly my stats files that were never over 700K for a few days were approaching 20MB. I began to be happy that I had an unmetered account with my ISP. I began to wonder if I would crash their server. Then Wired called, or emailed me and told me to call and I called them back, because I am a dork like that, sort of. The conversation with them was a bit odd:
"So you don't actually work in a library?"
"you live in Seattle and Vermont? How about if I just say Seattle?"
"So these are some kind of a joke?"
They were pretty nice and who knows what will come of all of it. After about 15,000 hits on that page, the hype is starting to taper off. I'm dropping in the Daypop Top 40, the phone hasn't rung all evening. I still don't really have a job. I got about five emails saying "way to go!" which I think sort of sums up the nature of the web these days ".............. oh that's nice ................. ha ha .................. click ............ hey look at this ................ click ................. wow ............... click" It was fun while it lasted and, more importantly, I got to tell people how much I dislike the policies of our government and seem like I wasn't totally crazy, for once.
Also, two more interesting things: My Messy House & my ex-pseudo-husband's wedding announcement.
16dec02 . . . .
work week,work weekend
I spent the weekend trying to consolidate my bookmarks, a near-hopeless task which I may have made more hopeless by trying to fix it. The issue is this: I have at least three computers that I use regularly, with different operating systems and different browsers. I used to really like the way Netscape had a bookmark list that was all in HTML and could also be used as a home page. IE has no such feature and every time I try to manipulate the IE bookmarks I feel like someone in Redmond is giving me the finger. In fact, the info I got on the QT was that the bookmark app in IE 5 was developed by a summer intern, figures. So, I just exported all my bookmarks into a big HTML file [with varying results] and then picked through it by hand to try to tease apart something resembling a hierarchical list of nicely nestled folders. This is what hell is like for librarians. I think the real motivation for this ridiculous task is that my new job -- writing ESL helper worksheets to go with a sixth grade math textbook -- is actually challenging and hard enough that I find myself engaged in actual procrastination. This is a new feeling for me since having a regular job is also a new feeling for me. I head to San Francisco, to a catsitting work vacation, this weekend.
In other interesting-to-me news, Jessamyn West's book Friendly Persuasion, a compelling novel about Quakers and one family's response to the Civil War, has been chosen as Indianapolis's One City One Book book. As a result, I have been beefing up my Jessamyn West page, since it seems to be the only one on the web with much of any content.
10dec02 . . . .
Revolting Librarians Redux -- edited by me and the lovely and talented Katia Roberto -- now has an ISBN and a publication date! It also has a cover price of $35, so if you can't afford it, feel free to request it at your local library and amuse your librarian. Or come by and borrow my copy; I honestly don't care if anyone buys it, I'm just happy to see it in print.
09dec02 . . . .
The Santa Rampage was this weekend which was basically, except for food shopping, the first time I have ventured out of the house since I got back Tuesday night. I was the designated driver for my snowperson friends so I didn't have much to drink. Turns out that this is one of those events -- for me anyways -- which is just as much fun sober as not. Pictures are here. Other online traces of my weekend include the Blank White Card game in which my cards show a disturbingly literal trend.
Meanwhile I'm back working on test scoring [you can too!] and have had somewhat of an epiphany about the nature of low-end jobs. While this job pays well, the people employed for it are basically filling a position that, in ETS's dream world, would be done by machines. The job is as routinized as it can be and the scores we assign are regularly checked to make sure they're "correct." I do a pretty good job, score a lot of essays during my shift, don't make waves, and try to just get the work done. When I had a question about my schedule that necessitated some interaction with a higher-up, the email I received in response was essentially a beat-down for wasting his time and a threat that I would be fired ["terminated"] if I continued this silly time-wasting. I realized that while in regular jobs time served and quality of work count for something -- status and reputation if not actual raises and promotions -- the low-end jobs are often doomed to stay low end jobs forever, and every infraction [real or imagined] is a potential job-threatening issue, no matter how long or how well you have been working. Most of the people working this job with me are high school teachers in California. This job is supposed to be a learning experience for them as well as a chance to make some money. Lately it's seemed more like a lesson in hierarchy. You answer to people above you [scoring leaders, also contract workers, who make 50 cents an hour more] who have just enough information to keep you away from the people a level above them [actual ETS employees, sometimes surly] who are still glorified office workers compared to the people who actually create and administer this testing scenario. There is no feedback loop. Like the job or lump it.
California, and some other states, are early adopters of the standardized exit exams that will become mandated nationwide in a matter of years [unless someone mounts a successful legal challenge]. The law is the "No Child Left Behind" Act [with some creepy non-educational provisions], also sometimes erroneously called the Leave No Child Behind Act which is really a bit too "active voice" for this administration. The reality is that all non-English speakers get left behind, as well as many students with learning disabilities and other non-mainstreamable teens: deaf students, students with hopeless handwriting, the "untrainable". Vermont was considering foregoing the federal funding tied to this bill and refusing to implement statewide testing, claiming that it would cost more than they actually would get in subsidies. Accountability in schools is a wonderful idea, but you wind up with a problem when, like accountability in libraries, the insitutions aren't funded well enough to provide good results. Which means that schools are forced to whore for dollars to provide basic education. Otherwise, their bad results result in less funding. A grim Catch-22 which, this month at least, I seem to be a part of.
05dec02 . . . .
When I left Seattle, I was leaving a bachelor pad that had somewhat been hammered into shape as a liveable space by the three of us. Then I left, both my roomates got girlfriends, and the renovations began. I don't think there's any cause and effect there, but that's how it happened. I'm not saying I don't recognize the house, but there are some unfamiliar spots. I think if I had stayed away a few more weeks, this might have all been transparent to me, but right now the sink in the kitchen drains but does not fill, the stove got installed yesterday, we just moved the fridge into the kitchen [from its home in the living room] and the new granite countertops [and everything else] are covered with a thin layer of plaster dust from where the panelling was removed. The brand new dishwasher got stuck open and now we can't close it. The desk that used to be my "office" is surrounded by four five-foot stacks of plastic packing crates that contain everything that used to be in the kitchen and living room. Finding the coffee machine yesterday morning was an experience I'd like to never revisit.
Meanwhile, I started working again grading the California Achievement Test essays. I work in a plastic crate office and look out over the lush greenbelt, listening to 20s music over the blindingly fast DSL. The house is quiet during the day except for the purring of the cats and the cursing of my roomates' talented friends who are still working on the kitchen. I grew up in a house that, until my father left, was always under construction. Seeing the exposed lathe and the buckets of spackle lying about makes this place feel more like home than ever.
I fell down, or rather over, the stairs today. I'm staying with a friend in Chicago and it has been
snowing hard most of today. We went tramping around in search of a ukelele for a few hours
[another story in and of itself] and were surefooting all over the icy damned place. Then I got indoors and got
sloppy, ran down the inside stairs, next thing I knew I was airborne. Not like bumpbumpbump
Winnie the Pooh style, but like those dreams I have.
Only in the dreams, when I start catching air, I find out I can fly. All I found out in this case is that
my unconscious instincual me is not totally devoid of talent. I read a Drama in Real Life story in Reader's Digest as a kid about
a skydiving disaster, the guy who survived said
"I must have landed right because all five contact points were totally broken but I was still alive." For myself,
I managed to land not
on my wrists, or face, or ankles, or teeth [eesh!] but on my arm, rolling. So, I knocked the wind out of me,
and walked away with a banged up knee and a bruise the size of my palm on my other thigh. I also had a serious
case of the willies after completely hurtling over seven or eight steps and landing on concrete. It's not a really
notable story except in a
"guess you had to be there" way but it's given me a renewed interest in trying to orient and exercise my body
in the same way I am always flexing and working on my mind. If I swam a mile for every book I read,
I'd be in damned good shape.
Returning to Seattle tomorrow night.