Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
In 1936 three corporations connected with the car industry (General Motors, Standard Oil of California and the tyre company Firestone) formed a new company called National City Lines whose purpose was to buy up alternative transport systems and close them down. By 1956 over a hundred electric surface rail systems in forty-five cities had been purchased and then closed.
Later on General Motors purchased half of the company that made tetraethyl lead for "leaded" gasolines. GM then increased the octane needs of its vehicles to create a demand for this lead. Between 1946 and 1968, the amount of lead used per vehicle mile rose by 80%. Lead was a known poison and eventually the government stepped in and required that all fuels be unleaded.
Finally, in 1981 General Motors asked the city of Detroit to use eminent domain to displace over 1000 homes and 600 businesses and churches so it could build a new car plant. In return, it said the plant would provide at least 6000 new jobs. The city agreed. Once the plant had been built, GM decided to use automated labor in its plant instead of the 6000 people it had promised.
Thanks for making it through the history lesson. The point is:
For a century GM has ruined businesses, neighborhoods, and the environment in its attempt to make profits. GM has never striven to give consumers what they want. Instead it creates false demand. And now its failing at that. Boo hoo. Lets kick it to the side and focus on reemploying its workers in companies that actually benefit consumers - that is what capitalism is supposed to be about after all.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Next semester is terrifying to even think about - my classes will increase in both number and workload. But in the meantime, it feels good to be on vacation. I can't believe I'm only an eighth of the way through my program (at the most). Its been awhile since I've ever been in one place for as long as I'm signed up to be in Houston (and I don't even like Houston).
So, I discovered that I enjoy the computer programming involved with statistics much more than the formal math - proofs anyone? I actually just finished writing a computer simulation to model blackjack and used it to compare the payout rates of various card counting strategies over a million hands.
Unfortunately, I've been too busy to draw or even hit the gym on a regular basis (which isn't a problem because I'm developing a "starvation - chic" look). I've come up with some great story ideas for a graphic novel. But fear I'll never have a chance to finish it.
But for today at least, I can do whatever I want.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I actually gasped aloud. A couple people on the custodial staff were taking photos outside.
At first it was more of an icy rain, but by 6pm there were fat snowflakes! I saw a few cars that had a nice dusting of snow on them.
The snow's not going to collect on the ground, but it will collect in my heart.
Monday, December 8, 2008
- Eau d' Old Money
- Unlaundered DHAs (sweat pants)
- Lampoon Lobster Bisque
- Widener Library Musty Musk
- Urine and Sweat On Bronze, by John Harvard
- Winds of the Subway Caressing My Face
- Spare Change Guy
- Burdick's Hot Chocolate Mist
- Natalie Portman's Been Here
Monday, December 1, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Garrett and I are grateful for each other, our health, our friends and family, the health of our friends and family, and (on good days) our sanity. We are also thankful for the 3.2 people who read this blog -- we appreciate it!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
- It is a herbivorous rodent.
- It is originally from South America but can be seen worldwide now. It is considered an invasive species by many.
- It has webbed hind feet.
- It was introduced in Louisiana in the 1930s for its fur, but its destructive habits (eating aquatic vegetation; eroding river banks by burrowing; and munching on tires, houses, etc.) led to a massive eradication program a few years ago.
- It can host a parasite that can infect human skin, causing "Nutria Itch."
- It is nocturnal. (Our friends were having a late-night snack?)
- It is not a muskrat. (Didn't Nixon say that?)
Nuits a Paris... avec nutria-lined coat on right... early 1950s:
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
A wet squirrel took refuge on our windowsill for some time this afternoon. It has been raining all day. I think taking the photo through the screen gives the squirrel an Impressionistic look. It also reminds me of paintings by the German Romantic artist, Caspar David Friedrich, in which a lone figure contemplates the landscape and life.
Perhaps if I am spending my time photographing squirrels like a tourist in Harvard Yard, I should look out a window and do some contemplating of my own.
Monday, November 10, 2008
We purchased this lovely loveseat at a lovely price from a local furniture store that is going out of business. We spent most of Saturday renting a U-Haul van and moving the couch into our second-floor apartment. After 3 months in Houston, we can finally sit together while watching TV -- and not have to take turns sitting in the Ikea Poang chair.
We've come sofa! ;)
It's a lazy Sunday, and I plan to spend some of the day on the couch and some of the day baking cookies. It's part of my plan to become a top-notch FBI agent.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
We've all know a gal or two named April, May, or June... but I just read a news article which quoted a woman (at least I think it is a woman) with the first name of Januari. I can see it now, the future towards which we are working in the field of early childhood education: a classroom in which children learn the months of the year by having their friends stand in a line and sing about their names! I think it's possible -- we could totally bring back ancient Roman names like "Augustus" or "Septimius" to help the cause. And why not add a silent "h" to Marc? It's going to make the Apples and Moseses of the world a tad jealous.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Yesterday, on a quiet sunny day in Rice Village, the Christmas season arrived like an unexpected guest in the middle of the night. Sure, the debris from Hurricane Ike (September 13th), may still be piled up at the end of your driveway, but why not forget your woes and those of the nation by shopping early?
Here is a picture of me with the "Wild Boar of Florence (and/or Rice Village)." This statue is a replica of one in Italy, into which visitors throw coins that go to charities. Here in Houston, your pennies help the Houston Zoo.
Garrett and I were startled when we went shopping on October 22nd to see Christmas decorations at the front of every store. We were especially startled at Michaels, where we were searching for fake spider webs for Garrett's Halloween costume. A sales associate told us that they were all out of fake spider webs, and instead offered us fake Christmas snow as a substitute. Um, no thanks.
I knew the seasons were changing this morning, when the temperature fell to about 60 degrees and the wind was blowing mightily. A four-year-old on the playground shrieked, "I'm freezing like I'm in Alaska!!!" I didn't have the heart to tell her what "real cold" feels like, or the courage to ask her if she could also see Russia from the top of the jungle gym.
Autumn celebrations: I passed my first Texas educator certification test in special education, and Garrett passed his first midterm as a PhD student with a score of 98%. The kids are alright!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
If you are thinking about reducing a fresh pumpkin into pumpkin pie filling, here are the steps:
1) Buy a big, beautiful pumpkin.
2) Carve a very cute face -- not to fierce to frighten the little kids.
3) After Halloween, take the pumpkin and place it in a very sturdy bag.
4) Take the bag and put it in your garbage.
5) Get on your bike and go to your local supermarket.
6) In the canned vegetable section, look for Libby's Pumpkin Pie Filling.
7) Open the can very carefully without destroying the recipe on the label.
8) Follow directions on the label.
9) While at the supermarket, buy Pillsbury fresh pie crusts in the refrigerated food section.
Follow steps 1-5.
6) Visit the bakery section or the frozen pie section and buy one.
This is an old family recipe and you have permission to share it with others.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Just when you thought it was safe to stop worrying about hurricanes, another environmental whammy strikes southeastern Texas! Houston is now the second city in the country (after Los Angeles) to be labeled by the EPA as having a severe smog problem.
I have yet to notice smog driving to or from work each day, but I try to avoid the many massive highways that encircle the city. (I'm pretty sure that Houston commuters also rank second in the nation for highest blood pressure levels.)
The city now has an additional NINE years to meet federal health standards from ELEVEN years ago. I'm not the one studying math in this household, but it doesn't make sense to me!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
a) Sarah Palin's missing cue card
b) a pot of gold
c) an economic bailout plan
d) a wasps' nest
Extra credit if you can guess where they put it after they found it!
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Top 10 Reasons a Preschooler Should Learn to Clap Out Syllables:
10) To improve phonemic awareness.
9) To write haikus.
8) To be able to clap along during those wild and crazy Raffi concerts.
7) To be an award-winning square dance caller.
6) To impress grown-ups at cocktail parties.
5) To secure a spot at Harvard.
4) To become a cheerleader. (Bring it!!!)
3) To flamenco while on spring break in Spain.
2) To summon butlers and other servants.
1) To master the slow, sarcastic clap.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Garrett also pretended he had actual free time and started a side project, as he often does. Alas the results were disasterous for his grad student duties. In a numb state of shock, he has returned to his spot in the Pink Floyd-esque disassembly line that is statistics grad school.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
We've been in Houston for nearly 2 months now, and it still feels like we aren't completely moved in. In fact, without light or other electrical delights, it now feels like we're camping in our apartment. Last night, with the temperature rising, we decided to bring out the air mattresses again and sleep directly underneath the window rather than on our bed. This way we were able to feel whatever slight breeze made its way inside. I think I slept better than I have for the last couple nights on our (hot!) bed!
This week I've made two trips to a local laundromat. (Despite what I originally thought, just because we have water doesn't mean the washers at our apartment are working!) I've decided that Hell must be a crowded laundromat. Or at least Limbo. So many power-less people, with so much laundry, competing for all of the machines! I swear there were people there doing enough laundry for a family of 10. I saw one family pull up in a pick-up truck, and the entire bed of the truck was brimming with hampers and laundry baskets! Aye aye aye! I had to get out before someone's head ended up in the dryer on high heat.
Overall the city is a rather unsafe, unpleasant place to be right now. Only about half of the traffic lights are working. A handful of businesses are open, the majority only until sundown. Trees and trash everywhere. And an empty, smelly fridge in our apartment. Our power might not be turned on for another week. Wish us luck!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The Stop 'N Go gas station has, well, stopped being a gas station. Ike blew off the roof that sheltered the gas pumps.
How can this street be both Kirby AND Braeswood, you may ask? Well, Ike blew the Braeswood sign so hard that it turned 45 degrees -- and now labels the street with which it intersects. As if driving in Houston weren't confusing enough already!
For those doing the math, Garrett and I spent 3 nights sleeping on our air mattresses in the Rice business school, with 200 other graduate students. During that time, I read 1 whole book and did 4 crosswords. Garrett did 3 whole problem sets. We each took 1 shower (at home). We watched (or listened to other people watch) at least 6 movies in the auditorium. And how many non-perishables did we eat? So many that it makes me queasy just thinking about those Pop Tart wrappers.
After spending our 4th night at Beth's house, where there was power, Dominos pizza, and a Family Guy mini-marathon, we return to our apartment this evening, where it is very, very dark. On a positive note, it is now a brisk 65 degrees. Thanks for the cold front, Ike!
Friday, September 12, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
We went for a ride this morning, through the surrounding neighborhoods...
...and down by the bayou! Yes, by and by, we live by a bayou! Behold the Braes Bayou.
It was a very pleasant ride. We are entering the Houston fall when it is not chilly, per se, but "less hot." We glimpsed many a fish in the bayou, which were trying desperately but fruitlessly to swim upstream. We also glimpsed the backs of many a hospital at the Texas Medical Center. I'd like to think that if we ever slipped and fell into the bayou, someone from a hospital would take notice. Can't wait to go back!
Monday, September 1, 2008
I took this picture on our road trip as we crossed the border (legally). Ah, Bush Country!
Here is the dorm room where we bunked during Tropical Storm Eduardo. Notice they evacuated us from our apartment building and put us into rooms where one entire wall consisted of windows!
Guess which store is our new favorite? We have developed quite the collection of Allen wrenches as we furnish our apartment.
Gustav hasn't arrived yet, but he's sent word he's on his way. Check out this street sign in front of our building! Does this mean we can't drive trucks through the tree? Hm. No, but seriously folks, they're building new graduate student apartments across the street, and so they have been ripping up Shakespeare Street.
While on our road trip to Houston, we stopped for lunch somewhere in western Louisiana. Look what street Taco Bell happened to be on!
Garrett's office space!
Plus the alcohol that remains after department events usually manages to wind up in this particular office. Convenient!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I am working at an early childhood center that is part of the Houston public school system. It is a school that consists entirely of preschool classrooms (19 to be exact -- nearly 400 4-year-olds!). It is also a Title I school (as well as another title or two), so the majority of the children are from low-income families, are learning English as a second language, or both. I am a special ed co-teacher in the two classrooms that have been labeled inclusion rooms (children with disabilities in with typically developing kiddos). One of these classes is an English classroom, and the other is bilingual -- that is, Spanish for pretty much the whole day. Eep!
We had open houses last week, so we were able to meet most of the families before school started. In an interesting turn of events (or, rather, lack thereof), it was revealed to me that none of the families knew their children had been placed in inclusion rooms. One of my co-teachers wasn't planning on telling her families, while the other was openly sharing it with hers. I found it odd that some people felt it was best to "cover it up" rather than ruffle some feathers. (But perhaps I have watched a few too many "X-Files" reruns.) Aren't we supposed to be proud of this teaching philosophy/model? How to explain the presence of a special ed teacher in the class? Anyways, we ended up "spilling the beans," and most of the parents are cool with it... though you could tell some were worried -- that their kids might catch a disability?? After the first couple days, I can already tell you that the "normal" child of one particularly concerned parent is way more trouble than my kiddo with autism. :)
The Spanish classroom is an exciting and active one. I am dusting the cobwebs from my brain and trying to recall my high school Spanish. (Was that really a decade ago??) The children are very sweet and understanding. I should mention that my co-teacher is from Venezuela, so this is not the blind/blonde leading the blind/bilingual here. I can tell you that I was left alone with 19 Spanish-speaking children for 30 minutes while my co-teacher took a lunch break, and no one got hurt. I'm using a lot of "Vamos a..." This is a very handy construction. Also, when you give commands to 4-year-olds, you get to use the "tu" command, which is the same as regular 3rd person conjugation. :) Despite my general Spanish foundation, I am lacking a lot of early childhood vocabulary, like verbs that have to do with Play-Doh and playground activities like going down the slide. I'm sure I'll pick it up.
The English classroom is fun, too. However, I am able to speak more there, which means that I have to do more leading and corraling... which, I discovered today, I am a bit rusty at. In my autism classroom, there were 5 (mostly nonverbal) kids and 3-4 adults. In this class, there are 18 kids and 2 adults. Kids who can talk back!!! I had an abysmal time trying to get 9 kids to sit for a story today. They were running all over, fighting with each other, and other such nonsense. Yes, for most of them it's the first time they've been in school, but really -- don't they know I have a master's degree?! Apparently it doesn't impress them. My co-teacher came to the rescue, saying things like, "Oh, it makes me so SAD to see all of my friends behaving this way for Miss Kitchen!" This is totally not the way I've been dealing with kids with autism. I'm supposed to REASON with kids now? and appeal to their emotions? Whoa, dude. Whoa.
It's a school night, so I should be off to bed. Thanks for reading! Hope you come back!
Monday, August 25, 2008
Thank you to all of our friends in Florida. I'm very sad to be so far from you all. Each of you made my life interesting and better in a unique way. Thank you for sharing your time and your friendship with Kristin and I. If I saw you during my last few days in Orlando, see if you can spot your signature above. Best, best regards - Garrett
Our awesome new apartment building. Vintage '60's. The entire thing.
The living room and dining area. We're still a little unpacked/unfurnished. But look, there's an inflatable guest bed! We'd love to have some visitors!
The bedroom (aka, the furnished half of our apartment).
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
We arrived in Houston around 4pm on the 1st, and it was a crisp 102 degrees. Omigod! I can't believe we unloaded our cars without passing out. We thought we were tough, coming from Orlando, but the heat here is so intense! I hear it will pass... by October. :P
We spent the first few days going to Ikea (overwhelming!), and starting to unpack. A few days after we arrived, Tropical Storm Edouard came to town. What excellent timing! There was a MANDATORY EVACUATION from our building (university apartments). It's not that they thought our building (circa 1960) would collapse, but that pieces of construction from across the street (fancy new grad student apartments) would come flying at us. So we spent a night in one of the Rice undergrad dorms -- totally retro! It was like being back in college, but this time I didn't have to restrain myself whenever Garrett walked by!!! [note: edited by Garrett]. We slept in bunk beds and ate in the dining hall. We also got to meet alot of the other grad students in our building. This was nice/funny -- we bonded through disaster! The storm itself was a non-event; it rained a lot but nothing more.
I went to new teacher orientation, which was more of a disaster than Edouard. They cancelled the first day of the 3-day event (because of the storm), and then had to make up for that the following 2 days. It wasn't very productive, but what can you do. On Friday night we went to go see a free outdoor Shakespeare production of "Cymbeline," which I read at Harvard but did not remember. (Well, I only remembered that I didn't dislike it.) It was excellent! I highly recommend it -- a happy version of "Romeo & Juliet." It reminded me of all the free outdoor Shakespeare of NYC -- ah, Houston you just might be okay after all! Actually, I just read somewhere that Houston has the 2nd largest theater district in the country, after NYC. Impressive!
Our apartment is only now beginning to take shape. We only have one key to share between us at the moment. The very first night, we blew a fuse by turning on an AC unit and then were stranded in the dark (lucky I brought a flash light). Garrett fixed that problem, but we still do not have hot water! The gas company finally showed up (after Edouard!), but then there is something wrong with the water heater. It's okay to take a few cold showers when it's super hot, but now it's just getting old. Also, Garrett had been trying to get us Internet and phone through AT&T, but in the end it was so f***ed up that we just cancelled it today and are going to start fresh with another company. Which is why it took so long to get back on the blog.
Today was my first day of work at my real school, and everyone was very friendly. It's a small school, only about 35-40 staff total. The two teachers with whom I'll be co-teaching are very friendly and open-minded and flexible. That's good. However, it suddenly dawned on me today that I will be the ONLY special ed person at this school. Eeeps! I'll have to have all the answers! Currently, the social worker at school has been doing lots of paperwork and helping with kiddos, but now that will probably shift to me. I don't know. On the other hand, that makes me the Department Head. It's all up in the air, which is exciting but also nerve-wracking. We have files on a few kiddos coming in, at least one with autism, but most kids will be a surprise on the first day of school. We're going to be their first school experience, their first "intervention," so it will be up to us/me to say, "Hmm, that kid's not right! What are we going to do about it?!?" Ah. My time is running out! I must leave you! But know that I love you all!!!!! Hugs,Kiki
p.s. If this post sounds familiar to you, I'm so sorry! Kristin stole it from our blog, travelled back in time, and preemptively sent it as an email a couple of days ago.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Static electricity is common to a desert environment, and the tabernacle that housed the Ark would create even more of it. God told the Israelites to build the tabernacle out of goat's hair (i.e. wool), linen, and leather (all flapping around in the wind).
This idea explains why the Ark killed so many people who touched it. They were electrocuted! (2 Sameul 6: 6-7) (Leviticus 10:1&2). Ben Franklin was knocked unconscious by a handheld jar of similar construction. Imagine the shock from something as big as the Ark (about the size of a casket).
But here's the most interesting part: each of the two cherubim (angels) on the lid could be attached to a different gold panel. What would this do? The wings of the angels were built to sweep over the the ark and point towards each other. Whenever a large enough charge built up, a corona discharge would take place in the gap between the two wings. This discharge would look like a glowing cloud. Which is exactly how Exodus describes God's presence. Where does it say the presence dwelt? Between the outstretched wings of the cherubim.
I don't believe that this could be the source of the enduring Judeo-Christian religion, but wow! What fertile ground for imagination.
- Our families
- Our friends
Things we will not miss about Orlando:
- Urban sprawl
- Jeb Bush
- Drawing caricatures
- Living with our parents
- The lack of culture
- Theme parks
- Children who bite and scratch
- Stupid people (tourists)
- Rude people (tourists)
- Bad drivers (tourists)
Things for which Houston is known:
- Urban sprawl
- George Bush
- Speaking with a drawl
- Rice University!
The winner: Houston!