Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stoopid Computer Flu

Well, I'm able to use my computer, but it's slow as molasses and temperamental as all get-out.

So I'm using it sparingly, and looking forward to Friday, when Rocco comes back to wipe it clean and reinstall everything. I'll be backing up all of my documents soon. Good times.

Do You Believe In God, Ms. C?

This morning, I was showing my first grade group today some of the Ojo de Dios that my middle school kids have been making. As I wove yarn around a popsicle-stick cross, the quiet was broken by a soft-spoken voice as little Johnny (not his real name), whispered, "I believe in God, Ms. C. Do you?"
How do you answer to a six-year-old? How do you tell him, "I'm not really allowed to tell you my answer to that, because I could get in trouble. If you told your parents what I said, they could complain, and I could get in trouble." Do you ignore him? You could snap, "Raise your hand if you have a question, young man!" Do you answer him and hope that nothing comes of it?
What do you say, now that religion is such a taboo subject in our schools?
I am wary of answering such questions, because the truth is, I don't really know sometimes. I suppose I believe in some sort of higher power, but my Christianity has been in question since college. I don't identify myself as Christian, yet I'm reluctant to say that I'm agnostic. The truth is, I simply believe in something bigger than myself, something that represents love, forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance.
I'm uncomfortable praying with others, and prefer to keep my version of prayer (a very informal, one-on-one conversation with what I refer to as God) private and heartfelt. Yet even though it made me uncomfortable that my DV choirs used to pray together before concerts (while I just sort of bowed my head and hoped it was over quickly), I don't think that religion should be totally absent from our public schools.
Our nation was, of course, founded on seperation of church and state, and I whole-heartedly believe that no one's God should be the catalyst for political decision-making. I get angry when politicians and their supporters point to the Bible as a defense for denying gay marriage or abortion rights. I'm not gay, and I certainly can't see myself ever choosing abortion as an option for myself, but I cannot, in good conscience, force my lifestyle or views on others (I could go on, but that's at least two more blog entries). Especially not on the word of God as it was interpreted by man.
One of the greatest things about this nation--the one ideal that makes me so proud to be a citizen--is freedom of religion. It should be celebrated--agnostics and atheists should be able to feel comfortable saying, "No, I don't really believe...but I accept that you do." Christians should be able to feel saying, "I believe Christ died for my sins" without being labeled a zealot or that dreaded insult, "Oh, you're conservative."
How do you explain that to a six-year-old?
The truth is, you don't. You weakly reply, "We don't really talk about that stuff at school, and quickly move on to another activity before he can follow up with the inevitible, "Why?"

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


My computer has swine flu.
Well, you know what I mean. See, a week or so ago, I got a message that Norton Antivirus was no longer running on my computer. What AT&T Yahoo failed to tell me was that now I must switch to McAffee. So I didn't. And now I have all kinds of bad stuff in my hard drive and spent $65 last night for a guy named Rocco (I kid you not) to clean it up for me.
But wait! We're not done. Being the Year of Expensive Costs for me ($800 for a sick cat, $1600 for car servicing, $700 for new tires...), of course we're not done. He could have finished last night, but...wait for it...
I seem to have completely lost my restoration disk. Yep. Gone.
I looked in my book cases, my file drawer (going so far as to pull every single folder out and search inside), my night tables, my CDs, my DVDs, hell, I was just about to look in my makeup drawer at one point. There is no sign of that stupid disk. So Rocco is going to order a new one so he can restore my computer. I'm going crazy trying to think where it could be, because it is not in the obvious places, or even the not-so-obvious places. It's not something I would throw away (on purpose, but then I once threw away my TV remote by accident), so God only knows where it's beeen since I moved to Stockton.
Which means as soon as I've paid for a new one, and Rocco has restored my computer, I'll find the old disk.
Hopefully he can do that tonight, so I can be back in business (WITH McAffee, thankyouverymuch).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spray Jobs and Swine Flu

We all arrived at school today to find hot pink spray paint adorning many buildings on campus. The graffiti artists targeted many 7th/8th grade teachers in their ranting, excluding yours truly and other new teachers this year, leading us to believe it's an alumni.
Mrs. Principal has cancelled ALL middle school activities (end-of-year dance, 8th grade trip to Great America, graduation ceremony, etc.) until we find out who did it. Stockton PD are investigating. She told each middle school class this morning, and not a peep was heard. I have a feeling, though, that by the time they come to me at 12:00, I'll be hearing about how unfair it is.
Well, my darlings, I have news for you: sometimes life is unfair.
Innocent people get screwed over every day. They either sit there and cry, and never recover, or they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get on with it. I'm not saying its easy to keep going, but really, what other options are there?
It was bad enough seeing my colleagues' names painted on the walls after big F-words and such, but worse was seeing an 8th grade girl's name followed by "is a bitch" painted on the floor of the main hallway at the front of the school. Targeting a young girl like that is just disgusting.
Unfortunately, we have no surveillance at our school, so we have to count on tips from the kids. Undoubtedly, there are kids who know. This neighborhood is close-knit and kids will hear gossip. We figure it was done by someone who attended our school last year.
In other fabulous news, there is a possible case of swine flu at a school in Sacramento. A kid who recently visisted Mexico came back, got sick, and other kids got sick, as well. Samples have been sent to the Center for Disease Control, so no word yet. Here's the thing: my school is at least 90% Mexican. What are the chances that someone has recently visited Mexico, or had family from Mexico visit? And, apparently, there has been some kind of flu bug going around. One colleague had it last week (and has recovered).
I don't want to panic, but you can bet I'm going to be washing my hands frequently and making a BIG deal out of mouth-covering and germ-spreading.
I think I'll avoid using Puppet Friends for a while, too. Can viruses live in cloth?
Mrs. Principal told me to keep my eyes and ears open, and to let her know if I hear of kids who have recently visited Mexico (not likely, as they tend to go at Christmas) or had family visit. Also, to watch out for kids who may be showing flu symptoms.
Just another Manic Monday. And my jeans stink like grease.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Deep-Fried Madness

So today was my day to volunteer at the Stockton Asparagus Festival. I had never been, so I was interested in seeing what it's all about. I was assigned to Asparagus Alley, which, as it turns out, is a circus-tent-like structure where deep-fried asparagus is cooked and served by what had to be over 100 people.

I left my apartment around noon, with plenty of Alley Spear-it.

I parked at San Joaquin Delta College and took the "AsparaBus" to downtown a few miles away. Parking at Delta was free for the day, and my wrist band got me on the bus for free, too.

We arrived downtown to the entrance to the festival, and I spent a few minutes wandering towards Asparagus Alley with my camera out.

I took pictures of some downtown buildings, and showed my disapproval of the NASCAR car on display (the winner of last year's race, which I attended).

Finally, I found my way to the food section. I was a little disappointed to note that Asparagus Ice Cream was not on the menu (Gilroy's Garlic Festival has Garlic Ice Cream), and intrigued by the Aspar-ritas. But I didn't think the Rotary people would appreciate me showing up to work with tequila on my breath.

When I made my way into Asparagus Alley, I found chaos. Complete chaos. No one told me (or anyone) where to go. There were over 100 people, and it was a shift change.

I waited what seemed like ages, never getting closer to the table. Finally, I found two ladies I know from Chorale, and one gave us the low-down. She had worked on Friday night, too. It still took several minutes for me to figure out (again, no one told me) where to go for an apron and hat, where to go to give someone my purse for safekeeping (and then they had only ONE marker to mark the paper bag I put it in, so I had to wait for that, too). It was maddening.

And then I got to work.

I was a "finisher," assigned to parmesan cheese.

Essentially, every table group had five people. At one end were two people dipping asparagus spears into batter. One would then put them in the fryer. A third person would man the fryer, dumping finished spears into a tray where they would drain for about 5 seconds before Finisher #1 picked them up with tongs and put them in another tray for seasoning. Finisher #1 would season them, load them into a little paper boat, and hand them off to Finisher #2 for a sprinkle of parmesan. After the labor-intensive parmesan adornment, Finisher #2 hands the boat off to a waiting runner, who takes the asparagus to a window where someone is patiently waiting for their purchase.

In other words, I'd stand there doing nothing for 2-3 minutes, then sprinkle parmesan on a boat of asparagus (six spears per boat), hand it off, and stand around for another 2-3 minutes.

I was not a happy camper.

After a few minutes, in which I blatantly leaned on the table, whistled, rolled my eyes, and took my camera out to take pictures (following this paragraph!), I was asked if I would trade with a girl who wanted to be working next to her best friend. And so, I was promoted to Finisher #1.

So things got the teensiest bit more entertaining for me, but still, I was feeling like there were five people at each table, doing the job of three. I was bored. This little high school girl got to be with her best friend, but I couldn't even see any of my chorale cronies from where I was standing.

Eventually, a sneeze came on. Eek! I quickly left my post to blow my nose and wash my hands, then donned new gloves and went back. The lady who had filled in for me did not go back to her old position, and I was, once again, stuck on Parmesan Duty.

Then, to add insult to injury, she, a fellow lowly volunteer, told me to go somewhere else--she had a handle on it!

I saw an empty spot at a table behind me, so I went over there. A few minutes later, a girl came to the table, said, "I'm back!" and I was left jobless again.

So I asked an area leader what I could do. He saw the lady who had kicked me off the table doing both Finisher duties and said, "Oh, why don't you do parmesan?"

I almost kicked him.

But I gamely went back to work, only to be told, AGAIN, "We've got a handle on it."

So back to the area leader I went. He came over and said, "Why don't you let her do the parmesan." I almost screamed, composed myself, and listened with dismay as the lowly volunteer said, "Put her somewhere else, we've got a handle on this." Mr. Area Leader, obviously not happy with being told what to do by a lowly volunteer, sniffed and said, "She'll do the parmesan."

I was reaching around to take my apron off and about 5 seconds away from marching out of there. I decided, instead, to take myself elsewhere. I found a much more competent area leader and said, "Do you need me somewhere? Anything but parmesan?" He put me on Dipping Duty.

I could not have been happier.

Now, you see, my inner five-year-old got to play with batter, dipping asparagus spears in, letting the excess drip off, and placing them in the hot oil. By this time, breaks were starting, so I didn't have a fellow dipper, making my job much busier and more entertaining.

It was also quite messy.

Finally, it was my turn for a lunch break. They announced that we'd be getting a hot dog and either chips or a piece of fruit. On Friday, according to my chorale friend, they got free deep fried asparagus, but today, we had to pay (another volunteer I worked with later thought this was tacky). I split a boat with one of my chorale buddies. It was quite good.

By 5:30, I'd had all the fun I could stand, and I needed to stop by Michael's on the way home for some yarn (we're making "Ojo de Dios" in class this week). I checked out, threw my batter-spattered apron in a box, and got the hell out of there before anyone could ask why I was leaving two hours early.

I spent a few minutes walking around the Festival, but didn't find anything that really held my interest, so I caught the AsparaBus back to Delta, ran my errand, and with great relief, arrived home by 7:00. My hair smells like grease, and I'm glad that tomorrow is a washing day.

Next year, remind me to PASS when asked if I'd like to fry asparagus for the chorale...and just to donate some money instead.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Woodland Scottish Games, Part 6: Let the Games Begin!

Finally, the part you've all been waiting (and women) in kilts tossing heavy objects.

First off, I think I have a little bit of a girl-crush on this woman. She's a world champion in some of these events, and she's fierce and awesome. I want her shoulders.

I have no idea what the different events are called. But I rather like this one, using a heavy metal ball with a chain and a handle.

This event involved throwing a large rock.

And, of course, we can't forget caber tossing. My favorite.

I got a video, just barely. These guys never once looked at me but seemed to have a sense that I was there, and just where to move to get in my way.

It was a great day out. I really enjoyed myself and I actually even took an application for the Sacramento Caledonian Club. They have a Tartan Ball every fall--how cool would that be?

Woodland Scottish Games, Part 5: Culture and People and Food, Oh My!

There were so many things to see today. This post is to show the cool artisans, musicians, and dancers...and the yummy food.

Before you ask: No, I did not eat haggis. Though I did learn that it's not made in sheep intestines anymore.


I stopped and spoke to a guy who was tooling a thick piece of leather--very interesting. I also saw a lady spinning wool and a man carving Celtic designs into stones.


Of course, the big draw are the pipe and drum bands.

Of course, even pipers need a break:

There were harpists, as well, and the main stage had plenty of great acts.


I sat for a few minutes to watch some country dancing.

The dancers were quite good--especially the young man in jeans and a red shirt. He was adorable, yes, and quite the dancer.


I was a bad, bad girl today. Well, the Shepherd's pie wasn't too bad of me, but the chocolate-dipped frozen cheesecake was (my excuse was that it was in honor of Bea Arthur...even though I didn't know when I bought it that she'd passed away).

A Walk Through History

I didn't spend too much time in the Walk Through History part, but it was kind of interesting.

Next Up: Let the Games Begin!