Sunday, September 28, 2014

When It Comes to Kleenex, I Feel Like I'm Losing My Mind

I woke up with a terribly stuffy nose this morning.  It cooled off enough this weekend to open up the windows at night, so I'm hoping I'm just suffering from allergies rather than actually sick.  That's what I keep telling myself anyways.  But that's not my point tonight.  What I'm really going on about...I can't find my freaking Kleenex!!!  Every time I come down with a bug or these darn allergies, I head to the store and buy some Kleenex.  And, because this is America, I can get 3-5 boxes for the price of one.  From there, part of one is used for the duration of the illness and then sporadically after that.  The remaining boxes are stored.  Where?  I don't have a clue?  I know for a fact that I have at least two boxes sitting in a cupboard somewhere in this house, but for the life of me, I can not find any of them.  So how do I know they are here?  Because I found the ones I couldn't find last time over summer break while looking for something else, saying to myself, "Ah!  There they are!  At least I have them for next time."  Well, it's next time, and they are NOWHERE!!  I may have to resort to paper towels if I run out before I can get to the store tomorrow.  That's hard on the nose!
It's been a few months since I've seen a movie...summer break is the worst time of the year to see them unless you're a 10 year old.  Now that fall is here, the quality of films has improved, and I've seen three over the last three weekends.
The Drop, which was James Gandolfini's last role...
but Tom Hardy was amazing in it.  It was intense, but well done.
This is Where I Leave You - a good cast and a ton of laugh out loud scenes.  The reviews were so-so, but I really enjoyed it.
Makes me wish I had a large family...and then maybe not.
A Walk Among the Tombstones - based on Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder novels, with Liam Neeson...
Holy cow!  It was suspenseful and kind of creepy.  It wasn't what I expected it to be, but it was good.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

First World Problems - I Don't Know How to Do it Like That Anymore

Before school started this year, I wrote about starting the year WITHOUT an electronic whiteboard.  I've had one in my classroom (between this school and my previous school) for about eight years.  The first day of school is spent more on getting-to-know-you activities and learning procedures so my panic over not having a board in my room after the "updating" was for not.  That afternoon we were told that the new and improved boards would be installed the next day...the second day of school.  After taking the kids to another room for a couple of hours we returned to a classroom with a new board.  There was a small learning curve as I had been using a Promethean Board for all those years and the new one is a Smartboard.  Within in week though, things were up and running fairly smoothly and over the next 5 weeks it was a regular part of my teaching repertoire.
Then it new Smartboard started to get glitchy about a week ago!  I lost the ability to write on it and shortly after lost the ability to use the touchscreen altogether.  It's currently only a REALLY expensive screen and projector.
And I'm SOOOO frustrated!  Now that we are well into the school year, I use it for almost every lesson or activity for one reason or another.  To have no access to it now...well I don't know how to teach without it anymore.  And right now I'm stumbling through old school lessons and just pointing to assignments in actual size, not projected 100X larger in front of the kids.  I would not dream of teaching without it, and here I am living the nightmare of very limited tech in the classroom!
Someone from the installing company came out today, and apparently there is a camera in the board that is out and there's something wrong with the bezel...whatever that is.  The parts have been ordered and I have to suffer through it for 3-5 more days.  Humph...

Oh!  And after updating to IOS 8, my iPad will no longer send group texts!!!
I tell ya, I'm having a tough week!  ;)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Equal Pay for Women (and I may have to give my feminist card back now)

There has been a lot of chatter this year about the Paycheck Fairness Act which was proposed back in 2009 to counteract the issue of women making 77-86 cents (depending on whose data you read) to every dollar a man makes.  It has faced significant road blocks since its inception and continued to be blocked via filibuster (what hasn't these days) earlier this year.  It seems like a no brainer to me.  If a woman does the same job as a man, that pay should be equal.  Why wouldn't it be.  I know that's idealistic, but it makes sense to me.
One of the push back issues for the Act is the fact that women often take time off or leave the workplace for extended periods of time to have and raise a family.  Women who do this often come back with a wider gap between their pay than that of their male counterparts who didn't take the time off.  While, I understand the rationale to a point, it goes back to - if it's the same job, the same performance standard, it should be equal pay, end of story.  Determining that is another matter entirely, but the pushback on the Act itself was kind of confusing - fair is fair.
This past week, my work colleagues and I met in our staff meeting room to schedule parent/teacher conferences which are coming up in a couple of weeks.  Trying to make it more convenient and increase the chance of our parents showing up to the meeting, we try and schedule sibling conference times close together.  For about 30 minutes, right after school on a Tuesday, we engage in sort of a free-for-all of scheduling. Identifying teacher colleagues with siblings in their class, locating those colleagues by calling them from across the room, lining up to wait for the teachers on the list to become free, coordinating 2 or more times that match up by fifteen minutes can be anxiety ridden for the faint at heart.  This year I had multiple with three siblings at school and one with 4 (5 kids in all to schedule with 5 different teachers).   Usually, I'm right in the middle of the action to get my times booked, but this year I was hot (it was 107 degrees outside that day) and tired, so I sat at one of the tables and waited for them to come to me.  I spent that 30 minutes nodding and saying, "That's fine," when someone asked me to set a time.  But I digress...
Anyhow, while I sat at the table working with someone, another teacher (I'll call her teacher A) came up to book a time with me.  While she waited for me, another teacher (Teacher B) came to her and I caught bits and pieces of the conversation.  The gist...Teacher B wanted to book a time with Teacher A.  B  already had a pretty full schedule so asked A for a later time (we are contractually required to be available from 3:00 - 6:00 on that particular day).  Teacher A responded with, "No, I'm a mom and won't stay that late."  At first I wasn't fazed.  The mom card is played on a regular basis by a member of my team so I'm pretty much used to it anymore.  But since then, I've kind of been obsessing over it.   You won't stay that late even though those are the required hours?  So because you are a mom you're not required to be available for that time block like the rest of us?  What about the teachers who are Moms (like teacher B) who are booking times later in the day as per their contract...does that make them a bad mom?  There are so many things this person is saying when she says, "I'm a mom so I won't (fill in the blank) at my job."
Since I'm not a mom, this is just my view looking in on the situation, but I'm thinking this is part of the reason we can't get equal pay for equal work.  Some of us (women) are not willing to do the equal work due to family/home commitments or the perception of them anyhow.  Which is certainly their right to do.  However, how can we expect to be paid the same if we play that card and men usually don't.  Just something to ponder.
Now, in my own little world of teacher compensation, we are paid equally - men and women.  Our salary is based on number of years taught and number graduate units attained.  It is placed on a salary schedule and everyone has equal opportunity to attain the highest salary level if desired.  The comment made above irked me a bit because of that salary schedule.  Teacher A is getting paid essentially the same as the rest of us, but when refusing to work the expected hours that she is getting paid for, it is not equal work.  Heck, I don't want to stay until 6 either, but I often do work that late, even when it's not a contractual day like this one is.  And I don't have a Mom card to play.  I have other cards though...plans, appointments, exhaustion, LIFE.  Why is it that we accept one, but not the others?
My intent isn't to bash moms.  In fact, women as a group spend enough time second guessing themselves they don't need anyone else doing it for them.  I know the working mom (part time and full time) vs. stay at home mom is already one decision that gets a lot of judgement from those looking in.  I'm not trying to add to that.  With that being said, I would expect someone who has chosen to work at a paying job to do that job in order to get paid, regardless of them being a mom.  Am I being unreasonable here?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dogs, Elevators, and Boxes

Some things seen over the weekend that made me smile...and I wanted to share with you!
Why I love dogs...
It's a long one, but it'll make you laugh...

A simplified version of Men are From Mars Women are From Venus.   Sweeping generalizations aside, it still made me chuckle.  It's not enlarging very well, so here's the link if you're so inclined.
Have a great week!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wasting Time With a Saturday 9!

It's supposed to be 104+ over the next few days which is making it very hard to motivate this Saturday morning.
This week's Saturday 9 song inspiration is Train's Soul Sister.

1) The video was shot on a street corner in Echo Park in central Los Angeles. If you saw a film crew making a video in your neighborhood, would you stop to watch? Or would you just keep walking? Living in the Valley, just outside of LA, someone is filming something ALL THE TIME.  It's not really a novel thing here.  In fact, for the last two weeks the liquor/convenience store across the street from my school has been closed and restyled for filming.  It's kind of a pain with traffic and people milling around.  So to answer that question...unless George Clooney is there, I keep walking.
2) The singer says he remembers his girl in every dream he dreams. Do you remember if you dreamed last night?  I don't remember most of what I dream...if I dream.  Every so often I'll have some wacky dream, and I remember that.  But most of the time, I don't dream.
3) The band Train is from San Francisco. Have you ever visited The City by the Bay? I love visiting SF.  In fact, I'd like to be there now as they rarely get as hot as we do down here.
4) Lead singer Pat Monahan got his start in a Led Zeppelin cover band. Can you name a Led Zeppelin song?  Stairway to Heaven, Fool in the Rain, When the Levee Breaks, Ramble On are some of my faves.
5) In doing research for this week's Saturday 9, Crazy Sam discovered a publication called Trains, The Magazine of Railroading.What's the last magazine you flipped through? I subscribe to Vanity Fair, but tend to read it on my iPad when I travel.  They still send me an actual magazine, but only sometimes do I flip through it.
6) Do you consider yourself a leader or a follower?  It depends on the situation.  In my job, I tend to be a leader.  In my personal life it's a mixed bag.  The important stuff I feel the need to be in control.  The small things, not so much.  I'd actually rather be a follower for that stuff.  
7) Scholars tell us that "To be or not to be" is Shakespeare's most quoted line. Give us another one.  "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." 

8) How do you listen to music on the go? Car radio? CD changer? iPod/mp3 player? Your phone? My car is like a 100 years old so I don't have anything fancy like blue tooth or usb drives.  I was in a rental car a couple of weekends ago and I was shocked at all the electronic options available.  I did have a new car stereo installed about 7 years ago that lets me attach my iPod (from inside the glove box).  That's what I listen to in the car.  If I'm traveling but not in the car I have music on my iPhone.  
9) Are you a convincing liar?  No, I'm not.  (Did I convince you?)  I can white lie to people I don't care about pretty well.  Otherwise, I'm not terribly convincing as I wear it all over my face.  Although, I will admit texting makes those white lies easier.  

Happy Saturday!  It's time to brave the heat...wish me luck!

Sunday, September 7, 2014


This week, stricter water restrictions went into effect in California.  Due to the drought, the governor called for conservation efforts early this year, hoping to reduce water usage without having to take severe action.  Unfortunately, California couldn't get it together as a whole to voluntarily conserve so a resolution was passed to establish mandatory conservation measures.  We received our letter from the water company last week.  Most of the mandates are things I never did in the first place like washing down the sidewalk or driveway (a broom works just fine), washing a car without a shut off nozzle, using decorative fountains or features that don't recirculate the water, and runoff caused by over-irrigating.  It kind of boggles my mind that this didn't happen earlier in the year when we were asked to be mindful, especially knowing the water crisis we are in.   But giving the benefit of the doubt, this was our warmest/driest winter on record so that could be why the voluntary reduction seemed for not.  Anyhow, the measures listed above didn't concern me because they're basically common sense, but in addition to those, our outdoor irrigation is being restricted beyond runoff.  We now have to comply to a watering schedule which cuts my summer watering by half.  Gah!  During the months of August - October (maybe November) my watering schedule is every day.  Even then, things get brown and dry.  Now we're limited to three times a week in summer and two times a week in the winter.
I had to adjust the timer this week to match the odd number schedule.  As I looked outside at the temperature hitting 100 this weekend I could just see the ground drying and cracking and my grass dying.  Luckily, our summer has been cooler than summers past, so this was only like the second weekend the temps have been that high.  Even so, this water situation is depressing.
Being part of a Home Owners Association, I wonder how they will react to these restrictions.  They really go after the residents for not keeping up with yards.  What's going to happen when all of our yards die?!?! 
Earlier this summer, there was a news story about a couple in Glendora who were fined by the city when their water conservation browned their lawn.  I would imagine with the restrictions in place, we'd be in the clear from any fines, but you never know.  Californians love their green lawns!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Cold Brew

As mentioned in previous posts I'm a froo froo coffee drinker.  I like coffee as long as it has milk and sugar in it.  If someone else makes it for me at Coffee Bean or Starbucks, that's even better.  I do have a single serve machine that makes outstanding vanilla and caramel lattes, but during most of the summer it gets very little use.  When you wake up in the morning and it's already 80 degrees, a hot cup of coffee isn't terribly refreshing.  However, the caffeine is desperately needed in the morning so I've been playing around with icing and blending those single serve lattes, but they just don't taste the same.  I limit myself to a coffee house ice coffee fix on Thursday mornings because I can't afford to do it any more than that.  There are still 4 work days needing caffeine left.
Then one day a few weeks ago I ran into Trader Joe's and happened upon their Cold Brew.  Not knowing what it was, I made a mental note to look into it when I got home.  I did, and I'll tell you's the bomb!
The gist...when coffee is brewed with hot water it creates an acidity and some bitterness in the flavor, hence the milk and sweetener I require.  In addition, creating cold coffee drinks out of hot brewed coffee creates even MORE acidity making it taste astringent-like.  No wonder my iced lattes out of hot lattes were always somewhat of a fail.  Anyhow, the cold brew method creates less acidity making for a sweeter brew.  In addition to the pre-bottled kind (like from Trader Joe's), it can also be made at home.  There are cold brew pots that can be purchased or a French press can be used, but I spent some time researching alternative home-brew methods and found one that works for me.
I add about a cup and a half of coarsely ground coffee beans to the bottom of a pitcher.  Then pour three and a half cups of cool water over the top of it.  I run a wooden spoon through the mixture a couple of times and then let sit on the counter about 12 hours.  When time is up, I put a regular coffee filter inside a fine mesh strainer and set over a bowl.  The pitcher of newly brewed cold brew is slowly poured into the filter/strainer a little at a time.
Once all the grounds are filtered (I use that wooden spoon to press a bit more liquid out of them) toss them and what is left if the cold brew.  Of course, the measurements can be adjusted, but for me I get about a week's worth of cold brew from this mixture.
Now the thing about cold brew is that it's more like a concentrate.  Some might be able to drink it like that, but the intent is to mix it with water or milk or both and serve over ice.  I fill my Starbucks insulated cup with ice, pour the concentrate in half way, and then add equal parts milk and water to the remaining half.  Sometimes I add some agave or honey,  but I can actually drink this without sweetener too.
I add the straw, twist on the lid, and head to work.  It is a great start to my day!