Saturday, January 30, 2016

Don't You Care

I have never heard of this week's song or band - The Buckinghams' Don't You Care
1) What's something that seems to fascinate everyone else, but you just don't care about?  Winter weather.  If I remember correctly, most of the country gets snow every single winter, and sometimes a lot of it.  So I'm not quite sure why a snowstorm in January warrants 24-7 media coverage.  Oh, and the supposed El Nino that is "here".  We've had like 60 days of news (in a row) about it and only one day of rain.  
2) The lyrics refer to "the times we cried and laughed." Which did you do more recently, cry or laugh?  Definitely laughed most recently, but I have to admit that I am a sentimental crier, or weller-upper would be more accurate.  A cute dog, a young person respecting his elders, someone saving the day, my students accomplishing something especially challenging, all bring tears to my eyes.
3) In the song, our hero seems surprised that his girlfriend doesn't believe him. Are you more believing and trusting, or suspicious and skeptical?  Khaled Hosseini wrote (in the Kite Runner) "And that's the thing about people who mean everything they say.  They think everyone else does too."  That about sums up where I come from.  
4) This song is just over two minutes long, which seems short for a song but awful long when Sam is waiting for her chicken soup to heat in the microwave. What's the last thing you heated in a microwave?  My lunch in the staff room.
5) This week's band, The Buckinghams, was one of the first acts to perform at Chicago's premiere summer festival, The Taste of Chicago.* Let's think ahead: Have you made any plans for Summer 2016?  Summer plans are usually not something I make...After the school year is over, the last people I want to see are kids, and they tend to be EVERYWHERE in the summer.  Plus it's hot and usually twice as expensive.  So summer is usually a quiet, trip-free time, preferring travel over winter or spring break.  So no.
6) In 1967, when this song was popular, Rolling Stone magazine published its first issue. What magazines do you subscribe to? Do they arrive in the mail, or do you read them online?  I've let all my subscriptions expire since pretty much everything is available online anymore.  However, I must have signed up for a lifetime subscription to Vanity Fair because I keep getting it and I don't think I've actually paid for a subscription in quite some time.  It arrives on my doorstep (or in various other places around the front of my house) as they now now "hand deliver".  It also pops up in the newsstand on the apple products, but I don't tend to read it there.
7) Country star/American Idol judge Keith Urban was born in 1967. Are you watching the final season of American Idol?  I do record America Idol and actually watch it from time to time.  I had stopped for quite a few years, but a weekly dose of Harry Connick Jr. is enticing.  
8) In 1967, the average cost of a movie ticket was $1.25. By 2015, it had risen $8.60. What's the last movie you saw in a theater?  I saw the Hateful Eight on New Year's Day, but haven't seen anything since.  I wish the tickets were $8.60!  A matinee here is anywhere from $11-$15!
9) Random question: Sam's taking everyone out to dinner and she's buying. Would you prefer the steak or the lobster?  A medium filet or ribeye please.  I've heard good things about lobster, but I can't eat it, so steak it is!

Monday, January 25, 2016


For the last few years, I've seen and heard criticism towards educators for no longer teaching/prioritizing writing by hand, whether it be printing or cursive.  My initial reaction to that criticism is one of defense.  It is a fact, in the 67 Language Arts and 27 Math standards that I am required to teach my kids, handwriting is no longer part of the curriculum.  What is part of the curriculum is producing writing on the computer using a keyboard.  While I understand the need for kids to be keyboard literate, I will save my rant about giving WPM requirements to people whose fingers aren't long enough to type correctly on the keyboard for another day.  With the emphasis on creating career-ready individuals the need for handwriting skills is, if we are being honest, no longer a priority. Ask anyone in business, technology has inundated every part of the work day and handwritten anything is essentially nonexistent.  Going further, the amount of pressure put on districts, sites, and the teachers in regards to standardized testing, not one of those entities is going to put the time into something that will not end up on that test.  And I also have a third, personal, take on it as well.  Kids are picking up pencils at a younger age.  Parents send their kids to academic preschool, and those kids are being given homework to complete.  However, no one is teaching them HOW to form letters, and many of those kids are not developmentally ready to do so either.  With a year or two of preschool and maybe even a year of pre K, kids who are entering kindergarten are coming in with some terrible writing habits.  For example, starting from the top, down when forming printing letters is not a skill most small children have, so they start from the bottom, up.  A lot of young kids also feel more comfortable holding the pencil with a fist, again due to developmental control, rather than the correct hold.  Both can lead to a lack of control, and very sloppy printing.  Those habits are extremely hard to break in the span of a school day when other curriculum is deemed more important.  Writing by hand has definitely been left by the wayside.
And part of me agrees with that decision.  On the other hand (no pun intended) handwriting is a form of expression, and it does sadden me some that kids aren't being given the chance to perfect it.  And after watching this video, that feeling is reinforced.  This guy is amazing!
Writing by hand is truly an art form.
In our current educational system with the emphasis on standardized testing and quantity over quality, removing handwriting is what we have to do.  If the teachers had any input into what we taught and how we tested, I suspect we'd find a place for it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday 9

It's been a brutal couple of weeks for entertainers of a certain age, hasn't it?  This week's Sat. 9 is linked to Glen Frey's (1948-2016) The One You Love.
1) In this song, Glenn explores one of the great romantic conundrums. This week, Saturday 9 is confronting it, too. If you had to choose, would you prefer to be loved, or to be in love?  Hmmm, I've found those to be mutually exclusive.
2) The song describes an awkward moment: an old boyfriend calls when a woman is on a date with someone new. To whom did you last say, "I can't talk now?"  Oh I say that all that time, especially if someone calls me on the phone.  
3) The lyrics talk about heart vs head. When you find yourself in that predicament, which usually wins -- heart or head?  Oh, definitely my head, to a fault.
4) This song was from Glenn Frey's solo album, No Fun Aloud. What fun stuff are you looking forward to this weekend?  Sleeping in!  What?  Sleeping is fun!!
5) Glenn Frey was born in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit. The Motor City is known for car manufacturing. Is your car domestic or foreign?  This car is a Nissan so in theory it's foreign I think.  But I have read some Nissans are actually manufactured in the US, but I don't know.  This is my first foreign made car.  My dad always made me buy Fords, and once I bought a GMC (blasphemy). 
6) The popular 1990s sitcom Home Improvement was set in Royal Oak. Are you handy around the house?  No, not really at all.
7) Glenn Frey co-founded The Eagles in 1970. What's your favorite Eagles' song? I know all the words to Hotel California and I always liked Dirty Laundry.
8) The Eagles helped define "California Rock," but in recent years Glenn and his wife lived in Tribeca. Have you ever been to New York? If so, did you like it?  I have been to NYC a few times.  There are parts I like and parts I don't.  There is a lot to do, and I really appreciate the ability to get around easily without a car.  To me, summers there are suffocating and claustrophobic, but the rest of the year it's a fun place to visit.
9) Glenn wrote "Smuggler's Blues" and "You Belong to the City" for the iconic 1980s TV show, Miami Vice. What else comes to mind when you think of the 80s?  My childhood.  And big hair.  I was always envious of the big hair as I could never get mine big.  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Girl and Her Bolt Cutters - First the Kitchen, Next...The World?

About a year ago I bought two of these pot lid organizers.
They seemed to be a perfect solution to my small kitchen cupboard problem.  You see, the two cupboards that would logically hold pots and pans are actually quite long, but the access to both are tiny tiny openings, making it so I can really only access what is near the door.  Retrieving anything from further back requires climbing inside the cupboard which is hard to do when the opening is only about as big as my head.  So accessing my 18 piece pot/pan set is difficult with everything stacked upon itself.  These lid holders would allow me to stack lids and smaller pans, utilizing vertical space without everything toppling down when taking the pieces on the bottom.  That was the plan anyways when I ordered them.  There was a little hitch in the plan when they arrived and DIDN'T FIT!  Even though I had measured, the drawer that sits above the cupboard lessened the height in parts of the cupboard that hadn't been accounted for.  Bound and determined to make them work, I found another spot further back in the cupboard, but it wasn't ideal.
This past week however I had some work down on the kitchen and had to move everything in the cupboards and drawers out of the kitchen and into the living room.  It finished up right after my vacation was over so I spent this weekend getting it all put back.  While working on the pots and pans cupboard, these organizers were tried in various directions and places, but they were just too tall to fit where they would be ideal.  With my head still inside the cupboard willing them to fit, I noticed that if it were just one layer less it would fit which led me on a search for how to remove that layer.  First I checked my toolbox which has acquired various tools over the years, but nothing looked promising.  Searching the internet for how to cut plastic coated metal led me to a site that gave various options for cutting vinyl coated closet organizers.  A bolt cutter was the solution.  I rummaged back through the toolbox, but I had not yet acquired one.  I called the hardware store asking if that was something they would do for me in their closet organizer section but was told they would only cut materials purchased from them.  But before hanging up I was also told that they accept returns with no questions asked, meaning come buy the cutters and return them after I used them.
While searching for one at Lowes, one of the salesmen stopped and ask if I needed help.  I told him my story and he recommended aviation snips instead since they would make a straighter cut. I took them home, and they did not work.  I went back, bound and determined to buy bolt cutters.  While looking at them I was stopped again by a different salesman who, also again, talked me out of buying them and just buying a stronger snip.  I did, and they didn't work either.  I love Lowes because they are very very helpful and never make me feel like a stupid girl trying to be handy, but I just couldn't go back a third time.  I went to Home Depot, where they are known to be not terribly helpful to women, figuring no one would try to help me and I could buy these darn bolt cutters once and for all!  And I was right.  I asked someone where the bolt cutters were and without even looking up the salesman told me the aisle they were in.  I found the size I needed and brought them home.  Within five minutes both lid holders were one layer shorter and slid inside the cupboard right where I wanted them!
One layer less!  The cuts aren't pretty, but who cares?  Not me!
 See how they slid right in, underneath the drawer?
 Ahhhh, organization heaven!
I can't tell you how happy this makes me.  To be able to find what I need without rummaging is so exciting.  
I will not be returning the bolt cutters.  They are a nice addition to the tool box.  I love feeling handy!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Just For Fun

As I whine and complain about getting up at 5am and going back to work tomorrow, I'm a little bit excited to get to school and share these with my class.
When we start back up tomorrow, the kids will begin a reading and writing unit about polar bears.  I saw someone do these on Pinterest and just had to have them to kick off the week.  I go every three weeks to get a new set of gels.  I don't know if I'll last that long with polar bears on my fingers, but for this next week they'll be fun.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Five O'Clock World

It's been awhile since doing a Saturday 9.  This week the song link is Five O'Clock World by The Vogues.   I didn't know the song by name, but it is a familiar tune.
1. Think back to Friday. Did it fly by? Or did you find yourself checking the clock and wishing it was 5:00?  This was the last week of winter break so every day went by fast, Friday especially.
2. This song refers to the 5:00 whistle that signifies the end of the work day. What's the last whistle, alarm or buzzer you heard?  I've been having some work done on my house this past week since I've been home.  The alarm has been set all week for 7:40 (about 3 ours earlier than I normally get up during vacation).  Funnily enough, it didn't go off today (not quite sure why) which made me a bit frantic and unorganized all day.  
3. In the 1960s, the Vogues often appeared on TV variety shows to promote their record albums. Do you have the TV on now, as you answer these questions?  No, the house is quiet.
4. "Vogue" means "popular or fashionable." Tell us about something that you feel is in vogue today.  Jeans and boots, thankfully!
5. Vogue magazine reported that the big Fall/Winter trend was brocade. Describe the latest addition to your Fall/Winter wardrobe.  After our first big rainstorm of the El Nino season, the water flowed into my yard a good inch or two deep.  I almost drowned, so I ordered these cute Chookas and hope to have them before the next storm arrives.  
6. Vogue editor Anna Wintour is such a difficult boss that disgruntled employees nicknamed her "Nuclear Wintour." What qualities do you think make a good boss? A good boss is someone who sets down expectations and then trusts that his/her people will get it done.  If someone isn't pulling their weight, then they are dealt with.  Micromanaging is, in my opinion, a boss's worst trait.  
7. Ms. Wintour was rumored to be the inspiration for the character of Amanda in the book and movie, The Devil Wears Prada. Did you receive any books or movies for Christmas 2015? Did you receive any gift cards that you then used for books or movies?  No actual books/movies but did get some movie tickets and Barnes and Noble gift cards.  I rarely actually buy books for me (opting to borrow from library or friends), so instead I bought some new picture books for my classroom.  
8. "Vogue" was also a dance, made famous by Madonna in her 1990 hit by the same name. Can you name another Madonna song? As a child of the 80s I can probably name most of Madonna's songs.
9. Random question from a Sat9-er: How organized are your clean clothes? (Stacked in piles, folded neatly in drawers, still in the dryer....?) Drawers and closet.  By the end of the week I often have a pile of clothes at the foot of the bed that haven't yet made it to the hamper.  They are the "only worn for a short time so not dirty enough to go in the hamper but not clean enough to go back in the drawer or closet" clothes.
Happy Saturday!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

He's Back!

My dog nephew, Murphy, is visiting this week while his family is up in Mammoth.  This visit has gone along like last visit - Rigby is a moose who just wants to play, and Murphy wants to play but is too chicken to play because of said moose-dom.  Overall, however it's been a good visit so far.  Rigby is trying so hard to be gentle and calm, and Murphy has found that finding a high spot in the house  is mostly a good idea.
The only time it's not is when Rigby jumps on up on the couch and tries to wrestle him from there.
What is funny though is Rigby's behavior towards me this week.  I always try especially hard to love her up more than usual when we have Murphy here. It's her house, and I know dogs can get jealous when their person is doting over another. But this time, Rigby is being VERY clingy, especially at night after putting Murphy in his crate.  Rigby sleeps on my bed with me (don't judge).  This week, as I'm getting into bed she's stuck to me like glue.  I've fallen asleep with her body on my pillow and her head on my shoulder and am wakened throughout the night with her sleeping on my head or my back.  I happen to have a giant bed, and I'm getting about a foot of it to sleep in this week with the dog blocking just about every movement I make.  It's really very cute, but it has made sleeping a little less restful.  

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Year in Review - 2015 Movies

After my two weeks of winter break, I've seen quite a few good movies.  This time of year is full of them with awards season nearing.  The rest of the year is blah in comparison.  I'm finding I'm going less and less than I used to because there isn't all that much I'm interested in seeing, with December being the exception.   Even so, there were still a fair amount to review this year.  As 2015 ends and 2016 begins, here's my two-cents worth...
Selma - Even though Selma was part of last year's award season, it wasn't actually released to the public until January.  It tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.'s struggle to secure voting rights for all people in the mid 60s.  Even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act desegregated the South, voter registration remained difficult for African-Americans due to discrimination.  Based in Alabama, Dr. King led protests, including the march from Selma to Montgomery.  His (and his followers) efforts led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  This film is very powerful and brought me to tears.  It's hard to believe that not too long ago it was viewed as "ok" to treat another human being so poorly.
Taken 3 - I'm not usually a fan of sequels and threequels, but I will admit that I've seen all the Taken movies, and I like them very much.  Liam Neeson and the rest of the main cast of characters continued their role in 3.  Having a different premise - Neeson's ex-wife is murdered and he is the main suspect - the threequel was able to tell a different story than another kidnapping.  Taken isn't earning any awards, but it's an entertaining series.
Kingsman: The Secret Service - Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Samuel Jackson star in this secret-spy film.  The Kingsman are an English spy organization who are tasked with stopping Jackson's character's diabolical plan.  A little bit Bond, only sillier - if that's possible.
McFarland, USA - I enjoyed this typical feel-good, based-on-a-true-story film about a down-and-out high school coach who forms a bumbling cross country running team in McFarland, California.
Danny Collins - Al Pacino stars as an aging rock star who has neglected his family for many years.  At his birthday party, he receives a long lost letter that was written to him 40 years earlier by John Lennon.  The letter contains some sage advice, which sets Danny Collins on a journey to reconnect with family and change his rock star ways.  The story is based on the real life lost letter that John Lennon and Yoko Ono sent folk singer Steve Tilston.  It was a nice story, although a bit predictable.
Run All Night - Another Liam Neeson film (he's been a busy guy the last couple of years), this time he stars as a mob hitman whose estranged son is being targeted by the very mob who he works for.  Father spends the rest of the film trying to protect son (and his family).  A typical action film with a lot of twists and turns.  Again, the film isn't award material, but it was entertaining and suspenseful.
The Gunman - Sean Penn, who we haven't seen in awhile, stars as an ex-assassin who begins humanitarian work in Africa to make up for his past.  When there is an attempt on his life as well as some of his colleagues, he begins investigating his former employer - a contract security firm.  The reviews were pretty dismal for this film, but with my partiality to secret-spy type movies, I found it entertaining.
Woman in Gold - Helen Mirren stars as an Austrian woman (Maria Altmann) who escaped Vienna as a young woman.  Her family was well-off, but when the Nazis invaded they were robbed of all their possessions, including Gustave Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I", which was of Maria's much-loved aunt.  After escaping, Maria spent the remainder of her life in Los Angeles.  In 2000, Maria took advantage of some new laws in Austria which dealt with artwork looted by the Nazis.  She brought her own case against Austria, hoping to reclaim her family's Klimt paintings.  After a long drawn out process, the paintings were returned to her family.  The reviews for this film were not very good, but I liked it.  It's certainly hard to put 70 years of history in a two hour film, but I thought the filmmakers did a good job managing flashbacks and current day.
The Water Diviner - After losing three sons in the Battle of Gallipoli, an Australian man (Russell Crowe) returns to Turkey after his wife dies of a broken heart.  He plans on finding his sons and bringing their remains home to be buried near their mother.  I like Russell Crowe as an actor so try to see most of his films.  This one was nice, nothing too remarkable, but decent.
Aloha - Meh, this movie was disappointing.  Cameron Crowe films are iconic.  I could watch Say Anything, Singles, Fast Times over and over and still enjoy their quick and dry humor.  Aloha was nothing like these others.  I found it slow, with all the clever parts being part of the movie trailer.
Spy - Hysterical!  Megan McCarthy plays a CIA analyst who has to go undercover to track down the killer of her agent, who she is also in love with.  I saw it twice and laughed out loud both times.
Magic Mike XXL - I'm kind of embarrassed to admit I paid my hard-earned money to go see this movie.  Some girlfriends and I went to the first one when it came out a few years ago, so as tradition we took this one in as well.  Funnily enough, we were the only ones in the theater and it was so silly we talked through most of it.  It's only redeeming quality was this clip.
Trainwreck - Comedian Amy Schumer's take on a romantic comedy about a woman with fears of commitment.  As the tagline says, this is not your mother's romantic comedy.  I wouldn't dare see this with my mother, but it was fun and funny and raunchy.
Southpaw - Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a champion boxer, who loses everything.  He pairs up with a tough boxing trainer to help reclaim his life.  A Rocky remake if you will.  Entertaining.
The Man From UNCLE - I LOVED this movie which is based on the television series of the same name.  CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin join forces to stop a nuclear weapons crisis.  Guy Ritchie cowrote this film so the characters all have quick and witty dialogue.  It is full of action, and I laughed through the entire film.
Sicario - Emily Blunt stars as a fast-rising FBI agent who is assigned to a special government task force created to help with the "war on drugs".  Their tactics are not necessarily by the book, which is a concern for Blunt's character, especially after she realizes the task force's leader (Benicio del Toro) is a former sicario, or hitman, for the Columbian drug cartel.  The movie is VERY good and VERY intense.
Black Mass - My previous review.
A Walk in the Woods - My previous review.
The Intern - My previous review
Bridge of Spies - My previous review.
Spectre - I've enjoyed the James Bond films with Daniel Craig as Bond.  This is the fourth, and possibly last, with Craig.  Spectre brings back many of the past villains from the previous three films, tying them together with a blast from James Bond's past.  It is over the top but fun, like usual.  And while watching it, I chuckled about the jumps from one setting to another.  One minute he's sunk his bazillion dollar car in the Tiber river while wearing a custom suit, and the next minute he's riding a snowmobile in the alps dressed in a snowsuit.
Spotlight - In my opinion, this is the best film of 2015.  Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe's 2002 investigation into the Catholic Church's cover up of priests accused of molestation.   Everyone is aware of the scandal, so that itself was handled very quietly, respectfully by the film.  Instead it highlighted the actual investigation which was fascinating.  There were so many factors in the cover up, Boston's Catholic community who couldn't imagine it happening being one of those factors.  What they thought the scope of the cover up was when they started the investigation and how that scope exploded in a matter of months was also brilliantly handled.  There were a lot of factors that led to the stories that ran in The Globe that I had not been aware of, and that was very interesting.  One of the lawyers for the victims, played by Stanley Tucci, had a very poignant line at the end of the film, "If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.  That's the truth of it."  And that was really the core of the film.  I think it should do well during awards season.
Secret in Their Eyes - Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in this murder mystery as FBI agents.  The daughter of Robert's character is brutally murdered 13 years before, and the suspect in the case is not charged with the crime due to insufficient evidence.  Thirteen years later, there are some new leads in the case which ends in some surprising developments.  The preview of this film did absolutely nothing to interest me in seeing it.  However, I was invited to do so and am glad I went.  It was quite good, with a lot of twists and turns.
The Big Short - I would highly recommend this film, but if you see it pay VERY close attention and be prepared to be angry.  It is a fast paced film that documents the housing/financial bubble of the mid 2000s, and the investors who bet on it happening.  While the government and the banks were oblivious or didn't really care about the soon-to-be financial crisis and issuing loans to anyone, the more risky the better, these investors (Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale) predicted the ominous outcome.  The film tells their story and the things they learn about what caused it all to go down.  It's very fast paced, and since my banking knowledge is quite limited, a lot of information.  I'd actually like to see it again, just to make sure I didn't miss anything.
Sisters - Tina Fey and Amy Poehler...need I say more?  Two sisters, one newly divorced and one kind of an irresponsible mess, meet up at their parents' home.  The home is up for sale, and they are tasked with cleaning out and packing their childhood room.  They decide to have one last raging party.  Mayhem and shenanigans ensue.  The film isn't going to win an Oscar, but it's pretty funny.
Concussion - Will Smith stars as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who discovers the neurological issues football players are prone to due to repeated head blows in 2002.  The NFL, an American institution, has for years denied there being an issue with repeated concussions.  Dr. Omalu's findings dispute that.  The League finally acknowledged the correlation between head trauma and neurological issues, seven years later.
Joy - Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy Magano, inventor of the Miracle Mop and successful home shopping star.  The movie has a huge cast of dysfunctional characters (mostly family), including Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, and Virginia Madsen.  It was made my David O. Russell who also did Silver Linings Play Book and American Hustle (similar casts).  There were parts of this film that tried to go into that quirky/artsy direction like the other films, but I didn't think they worked in this film and therefore slowed it down some.  Magano's story is interesting, but the movie is just ok.
The Hateful Eight - Quentin Tarantino's western is about a couple of post-Civil War bounty hunters (Kurt Russell and Samuel Jackson) who are on their way to cash in on their bounties.  They get delayed during a blizzard and have to take shelter in a stagecoach lodge.  There, they are joined by some strangers who may or may not be who they say they are.  Well, Tarantino films aren't everyone's cup of tea.  They are violent and wacky with very quick, humorous writing.  This film was no exception.  It was quite slow on the action front, most of it taking place sitting around the lodge.  It is quite long, coming in just under three hours.  I like Tarantino films, and while I don't love the violence it is usually so over the top it is almost comical. The dialogue in this one is good (Samuel Jackson is excellent), but the violence, or rather the gore due to the violence, was a little too much for me.  There were several minutes of the film where I sat with my hand over my eyes after a violent scene because the blood and guts were still part of the image on screen.  It's not my favorite of his films, but if you're a fan you'll like it.  If you are not a fan, I doubt this film will make you one.
There are no other movies currently in the theaters that I wish to see.  So that concludes the 2015 review.  On to 2016!!
I wish everyone a very happy new year!