Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Change in the Daily Routine

So, time was, not too long past, I was all excited about this service called Blogarithm, that would e-mail a daily digest of all my subscribed blog updates straight to my inbox. It was convenient, although it was getting a bit daunting, to be able to peruse the digest at my leisure. I was starting to think about switching to Google Reader just because it's easier to mark things as read, to look through some blogs but not others, etc. And I'm already a Google whore in terms of my use of other Google products, so it seemed only natural.

This past week, when Blogarithm was bought out by RSSFWD, I realized that the time to switch to Google Reader had come. How did I know this? By the fact that my daily digest started looking like crap. Sorry, RSSFWD, but it's just not working out. You cannot send me a digest in which every single link is in a numbered footnote at the bottom of the message. No, no, no.

So today marks the official completion of the changeover, complete with an enormous number of new subscriptions--especially to kidlitosphere blogs that I hadn't quite gotten around to subscribing to before. I hope to be able to spend my blog-reading time more effectively now. It was a source of frustration, let me tell you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Way-Back Machine, Part II

There's nothing like feedback to inspire a writer to new heights...at least, that's what you hope. Generally, I find new lows, but in this case--after hearing back from a former schoolmate in response to my post about Groter School--I'm motivated to write about Groter: Year Two. I'm sorry to say that I don't remember the classmate who contacted me, but I was only 6 or 7 years old at the time. Plus, judging from the angry, jagged crayon strokes of my coloring, I wasn't very happy and probably wanted to block it out. Anyway, without further ado, some memories from Groter: Year Two.

  • I was six when I moved to the older kids' classroom at Groter School. We were taught by Mrs. Groter the Younger, of the short, iron-gray hair and nasally voice, and occasionally by Mrs. Groter the Elder, who I understood to be her mother (though I could be wrong). The Elder was much nicer, as I recall. The Younger was the one who would announce over the intercom every time someone's parent arrived to pick them up, "Sarah to go home....Michelle to go home..." Parents would pull up in the circular driveway in front of the school and wait for their kids to come out. On one memorable occasion I was sent home early because I had measle-like red spots all over my face, though I didn't feel sick. In retrospect, I assume I was having a reaction to a vaccination.
  • As Anonymous noted below, there were some interesting characters in the class. I remember a brother and sister, Miriam and Simeon. I remember an older kid, maybe 12 or possibly 13, who wore Pink Floyd t-shirts. At that age, I had only the vaguest idea of who or what Pink Floyd was, and so when I saw this guy wear a t-shirt that read "Pink Floyd...The Wall," I assumed that "to Pink Floyd" was some kind of verb, and this dude was advocating that one should literally Pink Floyd the wall. I also had a friend named Michelle, who was perhaps the only person from that school whom I ever saw outside of class.
  • There were also some kids who misbehaved. At Groter School, evidently it was still okay to use outdated methods of punishment that would no doubt be construed as abuse these days, unless perhaps you are a vengeful nun. For instance, there was Shayna, a girl in my class who talked a lot. One day, for talking too much during class, the teacher washed her mouth out with soap in front of everyone. Even worse was a kid named Travis. I don't remember exactly what he did that was so bad, but I do remember that he had his bare bottom spanked with a ruler in front of the entire class. I also remember that I closed my eyes when it happened. I sure didn't want to watch him get his bare butt spanked.
  • Disciplinary methods were not the only antiquated part of the Groter classroom. There were also some rather unique choices made in terms of curriculum. For instance, I recall the main form of reading instruction was via the McGuffey Readers. As someone who learned to read when I was two, needless to say, this bored the shit out of me. I remember getting to do some independent reading in a library-like room off the main classroom--i.e., reading ahead to the later McGuffeys. Ironically, while the reading instruction was too easy for me, the math instruction turned out to be the opposite. I recall being forced to do long division, which was completely ridiculous at six years old. For me, anyway. One thing I did like were the weekly (?) German lessons, taught by a nice lady who would come in and teach us easy stuff like please and thank-you and numbers and songs. I remember one song to this day: "Ich bin ein musikante/und komme aus Schwabenland! (Wir sind die musikante und kommen aus Schwabenland!) Ich kann spielen (wir konnen spielen) aus ein trompete (aus ein trompete! Da-da-da-da da-da-da-da da-da-da-da-da-da."
  • Another song taught to us, this one by Mrs. Groter: "We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria....We are marching to Pretoria...Pretoria, hurrah!" Why? You might well ask.
  • Random memories: there was a purple-inked ditto machine in an office behind the classroom. I remember getting to use it (supervised, of course) on one memorable occasion. Oh, those purple-inked ditto pages, and that characteristic smell. Another random memory: kids who were extra good, or had accomplished something (I can't quite remember what) were invited to a "luncheon" in the library room situated at one side of the classroom. I don't recall if these were weekly or monthly, but I do remember some kind of taco salad.
  • I remember learning about pneumatic tubes at Groter. I THINK--though it's possible this was a dream--that one day we set up little office "cubicles" under our desks and used cardboard tubes as pneumatic tubes to send notes back and forth. It seems weird and implausible, but no more so than any of the other stuff I remember.
  • I remember one morning we were practicing writing letters, and I wrote a letter of apology to my mom. Earlier that morning I had decided I was going to run away from home, and I'd dutifully packed a bag with some toys and some leftover breakfast in a baggie. I went to my mom and said, "I'm running away." I think my mom said, "Okay, well, why don't we go to school first, and then when you get back you can think about running away." I argued briefly and then she explained something about truant officers roaming the neighborhood looking for delinquent children, and I was scared straight. Later, in class, I wrote a letter beginning, "Dear Mom, I'm sorry I denyed [sic] you this morning."

I think that about exhausts my memories of that bizarre time at Groter. I'm just blown away that somebody else out there remembers it, too. It seems too strange to be true sometimes.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Fun Never Stops

I don't want to go into detail at this moment, but I had an overdose of family fun time this weekend. I enjoyed going to my cousin's college graduation, but awkward after-parties at which both sets of divorced and re-married parents are present (MY divorced and re-married parents, I mean), plus various step-relatives I haven't seen or gone out of my way to contact since I moved out of the house for college 15 years ago, plus a few extra-special family friends I haven't seen since my age was in single digits...well, let's just say I spent most of the evening nervously fidgeting and trying to appear normal.

Oh. Let's not forget that my dad was extra-grumpy due to having had knee surgery a month ago and being in some pain. It also meant he couldn't be up and about and ordering people around to the extent that he normally does, which probably made him even more of a grouch (and I unfortunately had to watch him being unnecessarily bossy to my other cousin--the older sister of the one who graduated). Even more awkward? He didn't bother to hide it, either. So of course all of the friends of the graduating cousin noticed and thought (rather astutely) that he was being a complete jerk.

Oh. Also my brains had been roasted in the sun for two days in a row and I was nursing a few sunburned spots. I sorely wished I had been nursing a good stiff drink, but this was an alcohol-free party.

The high point of the weekend was going to San Diego for the day on Friday. I visited a friend from high school and college who recently had twin girls--they were four months old and very cute, and it was great to see my friend again after a couple of years. Then we went with my mom and stepdad to the San Diego Zoo, which is always pretty fabulous. At least there was one non-stressful day this weekend.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Valley Life

Saturday, I decided to take a drive out to a local farm and apiary I'd heard about, Beekman and Beekman, in order to buy some honey wine for Mother's Day gifts. I found out about it rather fortuitously, by editing an article about their upcoming Lavender Days Festival for the local tourism newsletter.

The honey gift shop and tasting room ended up being farther away than I thought. On MapQuest it looked like it was fairly close to our friend Brian's house, which is a ranchette in the area (and home of the annual Pig Roast). However, it turned out to be a few miles further out into the country. I got to drive out past the town of Ceres, through orchards, past a brand-new allegedly "green" and energy-efficient housing development, past nut processing plants, past the La Favorita radio station office, to the charming farmhouse where the honey wine gift shop was.

The lady inside invited me to taste four types of honey: sage, alfalfa, orange blossom, and buckwheat. The buckwheat honey was the most intensely flavorful. I kind of thought they should use those teeny ice cream sampling spoons for the honey tasting, but they only offered toothpicks for dipping. I personally could have used a teaspoon, but that's just me...

Then the lady carded me for the three bottles of honey wine I bought. I showed her my ID and she exclaimed in surprise at how much older I was than I looked. "So you're what," she said, "about 40?" Evidently 2008 - 1977 is not 31, as I'd previously thought. I gently corrected her.

I decided to try a different route back home, thinking the honey place might be closer to the freeway, possibly a slightly faster journey than country roads, even though I can jam at about 55 or 60 out there (and will get tailgated if I don't). I take a little scenic orchard drive for a few miles, relying on my sense of direction to locate the freeway. I take the exit that leads me through Ceres again on the way home--our house isn't that close to the freeway, so you can take any one of 3 exits and be roughly equidistant.

I passed the Modesto airport on the way back to my house (featuring a handful of flights per day to LAX and SFO! Costing a mere gajillion dollars! Probably.). There was a slight traffic jam, and I looked up to see a little biplane doing very unruly loop-the-loops in the air. Whoever was piloting the thing needed some practice. I kept thinking "Oh, shit! He's goin' down!" And then the plane would gradually pull up and go looping around again.

Anyway, this is a nice season in the Central Valley. (Not to mention we got garlic scapes in the CSA box last week--I'd never seen those before. Photo to come.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Websites, Booze, and Strange Conversations

I cannot seem to find time to post. It's terrible. I did update the image gallery on my website with three new design samples, one new painting (well, not new, but new to the website), and one new illustration. Yay! If I say so myself, the last two posters I designed ROCK BIG-TIME. At least, I was pleased with myself.

I will be back with a real post. I'm starting to see the light at the end of the non-blogging tunnel. Really.

Here's a short conversation for you in the meantime. Please note that my blood was rapidly being replaced by vodka gimlets at the time.

Scene: A very loud dance club/bar in Modesto of the 21-and-over variety that's really more like 30-and-over.

Me (to man of indeterminate ethnicity dancing with my friend): Excuse me, if you don't mind me asking, what's your ethnicity?

Man: I'm Persian.

Me: Ah, I see. I only ask because I'm half-Pakistani myself. I thought you looked, maybe...

Some half-coherent shouted conversation ensues about the state of our respective countries of family origin.

Man: My country, it is very troubled right now. That's why I live here.

Me: (Nodding in agreement)

Man: Plus, the drugs are much better here.