Friday, April 25, 2008

Teaching - Week 8, Finale - Thursday 4/24/2008

The view from inside the classroom.

Everyone's working on their final project.

It's pretty great when they're concentrating!

The last class went well. We had a good project to work on. The teacher who works with them during the day had them take photographs of each of these concepts before I arrived, and then we wrote about them.

How do you see yourself?
How do your parents see you?
How do others see you?
How do you look when no one can see you?
How do you see yourself in ten years?

I also wanted pix for “How do you want people to see you?” but she’d run out of time.

We did extra writing about how they see their parents, and what they find most interesting about their parents (M came up with that question and “Do you trust your parents?") and more questions about how they see themselves in 10 years.

I’d taken a group photo on the first day and then again last week, and they had copies of both of those to finish up writing with what Taking the Reins had meant to them, their favorite and least favorite parts of it (no one said the writing class for either, which was a good break even, as far as I’m concerned). The last question was “What would you tell someone who is considering coming to Taking the Reins.”

Most of them said things like “you will love it” or that you have to watch your feet so you don’t get stepped on!

One of them said, as we were leaving, “We won’t ever see you again!” She says she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

It was a good experience. I will probably teach again in some context. I did offer to help them with fund raising events and to substitute if they need someone down the road here and there.

Thanks so much to Mags for getting me involved with this wonderful organization!

Going Hollywood - Wednesday 4/23/2008

On my way over to Braveheart's for a rescheduled writing group meeting I stopped off at the Hollywood branch of 24-Hour Fitness. I'm really impressed with the friendliness of the staff at all three of the branches I've visited.

If you look really closely, you can see the Hollywood sign above the upper window divider. This was my view from my spot in the row of elliptical machines.

That dome lurking outside the windows is the once mighty Cinerama Dome.

I went with a friend to see the very first matinee showing of Star Trek IV : The Voyage Home. We sat on the sidewalk for about an hour and a half playing eucre with a couple of former mid-westerners who were in line ahead of us. It was a good day.

According to Wikipedia, "In 2002 after a two-year closure, the Cinerama Dome was reopened as a part of a 14-screen complex called ArcLight Cinemas, a division of Pacific Theatres. The dome remains essentially unchanged though there have been improvements, notably in the acoustics. But for the first time ever, the Cinerama Dome began showing movies in the three-projector format. It is one of only three such theaters in the world today."

Being a newbie to these rooms full of running, pedaling, panting humans, I still get this sense of being in a scene from Brave New World or something. Wouldn't my turn-of-the 19th Century great grandparents have found the idea of a bunch of people using machines to work their bodies science fiction-esque?

Another view of the Cinerama Dome from the parking lot.

Now, this is my kind of development. Take what was once a big empty parking lot and build into an already-bustling part of the world not only more parking, but more space for businesses. Good thinking!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Practicing Earthiness - Tuesday 4/23/2008

I'm going to talk a bit about Earth Day efforts, but first let's enjoy some of the amazing things the planet is doing for us right now. Like this cactus flower we saw on our evening hike around our local hills.

Hydra pointed out these nifty little flat white flowers. Not sure you can see them terribly well. These are survivors.

Okay, everyone's talking about what we can do to reduce our impact on the environment today. I'm up for it too. These are mostly small ideas, but I think that by making an effort to do them, I've become a bit more conscious about my impact on the world that I get so much pleasure from.

Awareness also makes one question things like a recent story on NPR about some Dutch designers who are building floating islands that can support buildings off the coast of Dubai. No one even asked about the environmental impact of casting huge shadows over the living water beneath them, and I was kind of astounded.

Here are some things I'm trying to do:
  • Use reusable shopping bags
  • Not buy bottled water
  • Hang as much laundry as possible to dry rather than using the dryer (easier in a dry climate like ours, I know! They don't even all have to go outside.)
  • Cancel unwanted catalogs and magazines
  • Opt out of as much junk mail as possible
  • Recycle cans
  • Set aside batteries and other toxics to take to one of the bi-weekly collections

A lot of the things I'm doing I came across on Carbon Conscious Consumer, which sponsored monthly challenges to change in 2007.

For instance, here's their advice on stopping all that junk mail. I used their form letters to contact several direct mail companies. One of these companies sent me a big packet warning me of the dangers of opting out. Sheesh, like I'm going to miss another opportunity to spend my money.

I found a telephone number on my credit card statements where I could call and get extra mailings stopped. For Pete's sake, every time I get a sheet of zero balance checks in the mail, it's like I've received toxic waste. Into the shredder it goes. These seem like ripe opportunities for fraud...a thief wouldn't even have to be smart enough to steal my identity with one of these.

I'd started calling to cancel catalogs a while back, but then I heard about Catalog Choice on NPR. We still receive a few catalogs from companies we have never ordered from as a result of having Hydra's mother's mail forwarded to us after she passed away in 1999! I guess I kept thinking they'd give up, but no. Action is needed.

Avoiding those plastic bags in grocery stores and other shops is not as easy as it sounds. If you're not right on the ball, your stuff is already in a bag. I'm going to e-mail some of my local grocery stores today and bring this up in a pleasant and helpful way. The bag boys seem completely flummoxed by my reusable bags and end up tossing something like a single container of laundry soap into a bag all by itself, even though most of the stores are selling their own reusable bags.

Anyway, there are some ideas. Not trying to preach. It actually makes me feel good to think a little about how I can make a difference.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sitton's No Ho is No Mo! - Monday 4/21/2008

But it's okay. Andrew stepped up to keep the place going.

Of course, this transaction didn't happen over the weekend. The server confirmed that in fact I had been writing at Andrew's for a couple of months!

I love this place, but honestly, couldn't they have busted loose a little extra cash for a nicer sign? The old one wasn't much better, but this just doesn't shout "pride" to me.

The pigeon agreed to appear in this shot only if her identity was obscured.

Not-Bob approves this message.

Is it the fine coffee available inside that keeps him ever-upbeat?

It's sad he never gets to come inside to watch the six a.m. shift change, with all the waitresses saying good morning and goodnight to each other.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Saugus Swapmeet - Sunday 4/20/2008

This morning we went to The Saugus Speedway Swap Meet for the first time. I don't think anybody really swaps anything, but it's an interesting mix of old stuff and new stuff and there's even a live band over near the beer vendor.

I just liked the guy with the chain saw perusing the artwork.

Um.... Does anyone else find this stuff a little creepy?

A sweet looking little boy enjoying lunch with his mom and dad. We were having Jody Maroni sausage sandwiches at the next table and listening to the live music.

I've been appreciating the flowers outside so much this year, and wow, look what's going on at the Trader Joe's in Santa Clarita.

A detail. They almost don't look real!

Veggies we bought from the farm stands in the swap meet. Cleverly, they had bowls of Persian cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers set up for $2.oo a pop. Even the bundles of skinny asparagus were $2.00 each. The grapes were only $1.00 a pound.

This is $11.00 worth of vegetables. Way better than at the grocery!

It was very cool out this morning... only 48 degrees when we arrived. Hard to believe it was in the 90s around there on Friday!

Cool Thing: Our friend John Wainwright and his business were featured in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette today!

Fitness Quest - Saturday 4/19/2008

I know, it's not much of a photo. This was taken in a few seconds alone in the women's locker room at 24 Hour Fitness in Palmdale. Guerrilla photography!

So after months of contemplation, I finally joined a gym. I did some research online and went to another gym last week to check it out, and decided on this chain when I visited their impressive club in Santa Clarita. There are four locations within a 30 minute drive of my house, and a couple within about 15-20 minutes of my work, and 1 even on the way to my writing group. Hmm!

I spent 45 minutes on the elliptical machine doing an intense and varied workout that made me grin, and then did 100 reps on an ab machine. I feel like a person who works out already!

Fish Floor - Friday 4/19/2008

We tried a new sushi bar in Palmdale, called Gold Fish. The food was very good and reasonably priced.

The service wasn't great. The sushi chef was a little slow and he was only taking care of us and one other couple. I had to actually get up and go over to the cash register to order a drink and ask for low sodium soy sauce.

But we'll go back. It was around 4pm and they weren't busy for the evening. Having waited tables, I know that that can be the hardest time to stay focused on good service.

I liked the fish painted on the floors.

Teaching Week 7 - Thursday 4/18/2008

The girls have really been wanting to go back to the park, and not all of them were here when we came over the other time. They were very keyed up the whole day. We had a pretty good little writing session during the first hour, about the magical horses they'd drawn earlier in the day, but it sort of fell apart once we got to the park.

They were reading from some lists we created of things that look at them from above and below and at the same level when I took this shot. We were going to then write a little story using one of each type of word.

Were going to. But one of the girls had brought a camera with her. And it went missing. After about ten minutes of looking for it, one girl admitted she had hidden it. I was really miffed and told her she had just wasted our time. I think I communicated this in a way that said, this is disappointing rather than anything near "you are a bad person." I think it's the first time I have been really cross with them. I didn't flip out, but I was clearly a little fed up.

But the very good thing about this was that unlike Week Three, I didn't feel that I had failed them hugely. I realized it was more their ability to pay attention than anything I was doing. Mags told me it would be like this, but it takes experience to truly understand it.

On the way out of the stable after the class I noticed this hoof print. I think I am making a similarly faint impression on the class. Being able to say small encouraging things to one or the other of them each week and to see the pleasure on her face that an adult has noticed her uniqueness is a wonderful experience.