Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Trip down memory lane.

I've been enjoying a stroll down memory lane.  One of my sisters took all my mother and grandmother's slides and scanned them, then put them on a flash drive.  It took her days, because there were lots of slides!  The thing is, they are not in any particular order.  So there will be a picture of us when we were small, then pictures of our children, then scenes from high school plays and assemblies, and so on.  I have realized two important things:  I was way cuter than I thought I was at the time, and my mother managed to make me some fabulous dresses that I had completely forgotten.  

I have heard others say how uncomfortable they were with themselves during the teenage years, then looking back realized that they had it all.  I don't remember thinking I was good-looking.  I just remember worrying about my hair, my freckles, the small scar on my face from an auto accident, yada yada.  And the only dress I remember purchasing was for my Junior Prom.  Maybe there were more, but my mother was a talented seamstress with limited means, so I think she made most of them.

I also found this picture of the method I used for getting my naturally curly hair to lay as smooth and controlled as possible.  It took FOREVER to dry because the cans had no ventilation and the hair was long.  But if I took the cans out too soon, I'd frizz for sure.  My dad used to tease me about getting radio signals from across the country.

This is me and my oldest son.  I must have been about 22 years old.  I actually remember this outfit.  Notice the smooth hair.

Maybe in a few days I'll post pictures of some of the fabulous outfits I had for various occasions.  In high school, I was often in plays, operettas, traveling assemblies, and other activities that required special clothing.  I have realized that I did not adequately appreciate my mother's talent.  

Just tell me if I get too carried away  and annoying with this reminiscence.  I'm having lots of fun remembering.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Good Customer Service

Someday soon I'm going to write about politics again.  When things begin to annoy me too much, it's either a controlled vent or blow out.  We're getting there so this is just fair warning.

Right now, I'm thinking about customer service--the good, the bad, and the non-existent.  I have had the occasion several times lately to request information or service from several on-line companies.  I love being able to e-mail a company at 10:00 p.m. in my pajamas if that's what I need to do.

First, I ordered a birthday gift for my 5-year-old granddaughter from Fat Brain Toys.  I forgot, until after the order was placed, that I had an online discount.  I e-mailed them and they applied it to my order.  Sweet!

Next, I had trouble with my Roomba battery, but corresponding with iRobot is difficult.  They will respond with a strange-looking message and instructions to write "only" between these two lines asking for detailed numbers and codes.  You might get a follow-up response,  but mine just told me what I already knew.  No help was offered, but I can buy a new battery.

I have occasionally ordered on-line from Avon.  This time part of my order consisted of some eye pencils.  Just a day or two after I placed the order, I got an advertisement offering them for half of what I paid.  I e-mailed Avon to see if they could give me a credit because I hadn't even received my order.  No deal; they do not offer sale prices on things already ordered.  That bothered me, because nearly all retail stores will honor a sale price on something purchased just a few days before.  Avon gets a demerit or two.

This morning I was reading on my Kindle and it froze.  I couldn't change the page, go to the home screen, and even turning off the switch did nothing to the display.  I logged on to Amazon and went to the Kindle section.  There was the coolest thing.  I put in my phone number and within 10 seconds my phone rang.  Within 20 more seconds, I was talking to a live human who spoke lovely English.  He told me how to find the reset, what to do, and stayed with me until it was working again.  Amazon gets bonus points!

It seems logical to me that businesses would want to keep customers happy, but there sure is a difference in the way they think it should be done.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Old Typist

I admit it, I'm a baby boomer.  I learned to type on a--wait for it--typewriter!  It was the kind where you had to use your left hand to move the carriage to a new line.  Our teacher kept the room frosty cold (crisp, he called it), and corrections had to be made with a type eraser--the kind with a little brush on the end.  Many years later I had a bunch of those erasers and the students thought they were so clever, though obviously they knew nothing about their original use with typewriters.

When I went to work in the office of The School of Arts and Letters at the college, I was really in fat city.  They had an IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter.  I got good enough that I didn't even watch.  It was like my hands could tell when I had made a mistake and they automatically backed up and corrected it.  Cool.

It wasn't until I had started teaching that I got to know computers.  Slowly and gently I changed from "typing" to "keyboarding."  Thankfully, the keys were still Qwerty, so I didn't have to relearn everything.  I had to discard the key that allowed me to go back, lift off, and type over, but much was the same.  

But, for whatever reason, some quirks have stuck with me.  I cannot explain why I want to spell about with an extra a--aboaut.  I do it almost every time.  I also tend to put a k in front of p.  I just did it when I typed spell--skpell.  I often change the order of letters in words, especially "the," and I'm forever exchanging one small word for another.  I just typed "work" instead of "word."  

Unfortunately, my hands don't always recognize my mistakes and if I don't proofread carefully my writing might be quite confusing.  

Thankfully, word processing programs make corrections easy to do.  Otherwise, I'd be covered in eraser dust all the time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Silver linings around black clouds

It is too bad, but nothing seems to bring families together like a funeral.  Weddings are in second place, but don't have the same power to bring people home.

Yesterday was the funeral for my mother's older sister.  This lovely, very intelligent, talented lady had suffered for a number of years and knew she was not ever going to regain good health.  That did not make her passing much easier for those who cared about her except for their belief that she was happy and with her husband, who had died a number of years ago.

The silver lining was the chance to see family members I hadn't seen for many years.   We talked about how it was too bad that it took a death to get people in the same place, but we also laughed and shared and remembered.  Everyone promised to stay in touch.  I hope we will before anyone else we care about passes away.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Basketball made personal

Sometimes my family gets a little irritated when I mention them, but I think this will be okay. One of my brothers has two daughters (he has three sons too, but we're not interested in them at the moment).  My brother has always loved sports and has maintained that in order for his children to learn to do things the right way, he was going to be involved.  He coached his daughters and their friends on various basketball teams from the time they were in elementary school.  They loved it and so did he.

Now, they are attending a small, private college.  This college prides itself on its academics.  They 'just happen' to have basketball teams.  They make no allowances for the athletes, give no special treatment.  This week they are playing in the NAIA National Tournament in Tennessee, and they just won their first game against a team that beat them in the first round last year.

When I checked the college's website for information about the game, this was their picture.  It's the oldest niece, a senior graduating with a bachelors degree and an RN.  This tough but very feminine young woman is a heck of a player.  The younger sister is also talented and will likely shine even more in the next year.  This year it was especially nice because their dad was asked to help as a volunteer coaching assistant.  Naturally, he accepted (he was to all the games anyway), and I when I get to a game, I can see his influence.

 Now they get to play last year's defending champion, but don't count them out just yet.

Congratulations ladies, you've had a terrific year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Awareness or Observance?

As I reread my last post, and the comments, I decided that awareness and observation were not exactly synonymous.  In fact, in my computer's thesaurus, they are not listed that way.

I think all successful teachers have to have a high level of awareness about what is happening in their classrooms.  In fact I remember a "busy" third grader asking me--with real sincerity--if I had eyes in the back of my head.  

Observation, at least to my mind, is different.  While I knew what the students were doing and where the trouble spots were likely to be, I'm not certain I could have accurately described their facial features to a sketch artist.   I mean, I noticed new haircuts or stylish new outfits, or glasses traded for contacts.  Unless they said something, I may not have noticed when someone got braces or got theirs taken off (6th grade is full of metal and I never had fewer than 26 students),  but I do not remember paying attention to the the shape of their eyes or lengths of earlobes.  To sit down and accurately describe the distance between eyes, eyebrow shapes, or length of a nose....I don't know.  Round face, thin face, tall, short, skinny, stocky, dark, fair--that's about the extent of my physical observation skills.

But, maybe I was looking beyond what they "looked like" to what they might be thinking and doing.   While I couldn't have given a good sketch artist what he needed, I could have accurately described the students' reading, writing, and math skills.  I could have described  their interests, habits, and attitudes about school.  Perhaps I was simply aware of the things that mattered most to me.  

 To my thinking, observation is surface information.  Awareness is  more of an understanding.  I doubt that's what dictionaries would say, and that still doesn't explain why so many people miss the gorilla.  

Monday, March 9, 2009

Powers of Observation

Do you really look at others?  Are you someone whose mind is so full of thoughts that there is little room to store observations?  Or do you even notice some things?

Some time ago I took an awareness test, just for fun.  It was a short video and one was supposed to count the times a ball was passed among the members of a group.  If you Google (a noun now mostly used as a verb) awareness tests or observation tests, you can find quite a few.  Anyway, I was quite proud of myself for keeping track of the passes (24)....until the question came up about who had seen the gorilla.  A gorilla?!  As I watched again--not counting the passes this time--there was definitely a guy in a gorilla suit who walked through the group.  I had totally missed it.  Apparently when most people concentrate on watching something, other unexpected things are not observed.  I was glad to find out that it wasn't just me.  

When hubby and I stopped to visit at his parents' house a while back, neither parent noticed that he had made a change in his appearance.  I don't want to say too much because no one in my family has seen him recently and I am sure some of them will notice immediately.  I do have close relatives who would NOT have missed the gorilla.  In fact, if there is ever a need for someone to talk to a sketch artist about someone we saw, it had better not be me.  However, I can think of several people who could accurately describe a person down to the shape of their eyebrows.  

I'm trying to be more watchful and observant.  I don't want to miss any more gorillas. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Was it something I said?

I'm a little curious.  What part(s) of my last post put me in a particular liberal/moderate/centrist/conservative political category?  As I read it again, the only thing I mentioned that could show a specific notion was that I didn't agree with the massive government spending (but the first bail-out was before the election).

I mentioned the stock market had dropped a lot since November, but that's a fact and is a result of worried investors and people spending less money.

Was it my contention that the government cannot solve people's problems or my concerns about a generation who feel entitled just because they exist?  Or was it that we seem to be getting away from the personal responsibility and self-reliance of our ancestors?  Aren't we?

Are those ideas really only held by a segment of society?  Has more government control over people's lives ever made anything better?   Maybe my next post will be about taxes.  That ought to stir things up.

I think we hear billions and trillions so often that we're numb, but they are too enormous to comprehend.  I'm borrowing a cool example from Rose's blog.

A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
A billion dollars is only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

A trillion (as all math teachers know) is a thousand billion.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thinking too much.

I spent more than an hour this morning on a new post.  It's still in my draft folder.  It started out as a concern about how things are going in this country, but it grew out of control.  I had quotes from editorials in newspapers,  comments, and personal reflections.  But, the more I wrote, the more there seemed to be to say, until I finally realized that I was being foolish.  I'm not going to change anyone's mind.  Those who believe that government will make their lives better are not going to be swayed by my ideas.  It is arrogant of me to think I have such influence.

Apparently, however, I'm not the only one concerned.  The stock market has fallen 2000 points since the November election.  Our 401(k) accounts (extra cushion for retirement) are worth a fraction of their value just year ago.  The accounts we set up to help with our grandchildren's college expenses have all but disappeared.  With the massive spending going on in Washington, (most of which I think is wrong) inflation is next--making everything worse. 

And I am distressed by the idea that so many people seem to feel like the United States owes them something.   There is an enormous pool of victims who somehow believe that their problems are not of their making and somebody needs to fix things for them.  That is a huge turnaround from the self-reliance and individual responsibility attitude of our past.  When did entitlement take over?  Not in my parents' time or any before that.  My parents (and grandparents and so on) worked very hard, and expected nothing from their government except to allow them to make their own way.  They bought things when they had the money to pay the bills.  Us too.  What has happened?  

I've probably deleted as much as I've written today, but I'm worried about us.  I think too many people are willing to give up their personal freedoms for short-term rewards that may not turn out to be what they are hoping for anyway.  We are heading down a slippery slope and no one seems willing to look at what's at the bottom.