Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Me and my manatee

Happy Holidays from Florida! What better way to celebrate than by communing with nature. While others rushed to find the blue light special, we drove up to Blue Springs State Park to search for manatees. This endangered species is Florida's official state marine mammal. There are about 2800 manatees left in the wild... and we were excited to see about 10 of them on Saturday! When the weather gets chilly, the manatees swim inland to the springs, where the water is a constant 72 degrees. After several unsuccessful visits to this park in years past, I was thrilled to see manatees that weren't behind glass at Sea World or Epcot. While a mommy and her baby floated slowly along together, another group of manatees wrestled in the water, twirling and flipping and splashing their enormous paddle-like tails. Mesmerizing!

Canoeing along the St. Johns River, we also glimpsed many birds and many gators. Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let GM burn

General Motors has been in the news a lot, so I was surprised to find them mentioned in the book I'm reading (A Green History of the World).

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

One down

I'm done with exams! First semester is officially over - and I don't feel like I've failed anything too miserably.

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

It's snowing in Texas!

When I left school this afternoon, it was 37 degrees and snowing!

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

Co-ed Christmas

It's the perfect holiday gift: a perfume or cologne that evokes college memories (for better or worse). The fragrance company Masik has already created scents for UNC and Penn State, leaving us wondering, "What Cambridge scents would a Harvard fragrance capture?"
  • 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
  • Whiteness
  • Burdick's Hot Chocolate Mist
  • Natalie Portman's Been Here

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Matthew Effect

So I just started reading Malcolm Gladwell's new book, "Outliers," at the airport yesterday. I love this guy. If you haven't read "The Tipping Point" or "Blink," I suggest you put them on your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa list. Anyways, his new book is about success: What makes a person successful? or, more specifically, what makes a person wildly successful? Yes, one must possess a certain degree of innate intelligence or creativity, but what about one's background or circumstances gives one the extra edge? This is something we like to ponder (in a masochistic kind of way) in the Kitchen/Grolemund household: Why are some of our former Harvard classmates getting their books published or making their first million while we are not? Because that's just not fair.

The first chapter of the book is about, of all things, Canadian hockey. Canadian hockey players are the best of the best. The teenagers who play in the Major Junior A League are those who go onto the NHL. So what makes them the best? Turns out a Canadian statistician (and his observant wife) happened upon the answer: their birthdays. Nearly all of the players who make it to the Major Junior A have birthdays between the months of January and April. The hockey cut-off date in Canada is January 1st. So, when they are just starting out as hockey munchkins, these kids with early birthdates miss the cut-off and end up playing on teams alongside kids who are many months younger. And this makes a big difference. By the time coaches start picking which players get to enter elite leagues (at the ripe age of 9 or 10), they inevitably end up choosing the bigger, faster, and stronger kids -- that is, the older children -- on each team. From there, these selected few get to play with other top-notch players, practicing many more hours and playing in many more games per season than their "typical" peers. The "best" get even "better." This pattern holds true across many fields (from soccer to education), and across many countries (from the US to the Czech Republic). Relative age leads to relative success!

As I read/devoured this chapter, my mind went to my planner, where I have listed the birthdates of my friends from Harvard. I quickly scribbled down on a piece of scrap paper what I could recall of who had a birthday in which months. Check out this data (and feel free to add to it):

January: 8 (KL, SR, SS, KS, EH, AM, GG, LB)

February: 1 (KD)

March: 0

April: 6 (KI, SR, SB, BL, PS, HC)

May: 1 (BS)

June: 1 (TM)

July: 1 (KK)

August: 1 (MM)

September: 1 (KC)

October: 2 (LR, DT)

November: 0

December: 1 (JK)

Crazy! The pattern holds true for Harvard! Out of 23 people, 15 have birthdays in the first third of the year. That's 65%! Makes me want to look at the data for a larger set of Harvard students.

So being a few months older than your peers when you enter kindergarten gives you a big advantage... an advantage that can take you all the way to Harvard. As an early childhood teacher, I can say with some degree of authority that when you're 4 or 5, a few months translates to a big gap in maturity. Gladwell touches on this a little in this chapter: Teachers of young children often confuse ability and maturity. The children who are a bit older, and therefore a bit more mature, end up in the "higher group" (in reading, math, etc.) and are pushed more than the average/lower students. This advantage doesn't disappear as the years go on and people are given a chance to "catch up" -- it persists!

I'd have to do more research, but I propose that some of my fall-birthday friends were ALSO older than their classmates. These kids probably just missed the September 1 (or thereabouts) cut-off date in kindergarten, so they probably did 2 years of preschool -- then entered kindergarten at 5 -- and then quickly turned 6 right after the school year began. An even greater advantage than those with a January birthday? Hm.

I also know that one of my January friends skipped a year of school when she was little, and therefore became one of the youngest kids in her new class. But I think that the foundation was laid when she was in her early childhood years, as one of the oldest and brightest in her class.

Gladwell suggests that schools could arrange classrooms according to birth month: January-April in Room 1, May-August in Room 2, September-December in Room 3. That way, children are able to learn alongside children who are (most likely) developing at the same rate. There's also the Danish way of doing it (gotta love those Scandinavians!): Allow no ability grouping in school until the age of 10.

Sociologist Robert Merton labeled this phenomenon the Matthew Effect, after a verse in the Bible: "For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." A somber insight, but apparently a true one.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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

Something old, something nutria

This weekend we went for a walk in Hermann Park, a huge public park near our house. It's a great place: walking paths, bike paths, ponds, a Zen garden, an open-air theater, a tiny train on a tiny track. The Houston Zoo and the Museum of Natural Science are there, too. It's really the Central Park of Houston. On Sunday it was teeming with families and with wildlife. We spotted babies and birds, dogs and ducks, tots and turtles. Then we came across this:

It's a nutria! I had never seen one before -- I'd only heard of them and even then doubted that they actually existed. It reminds me of a guinea pig. And an otter. Kind of a beaver with a long rat tail. There were at least five of them, just hanging out next to the path, by the water. "Wait," I thought. "We're not IN the zoo, are we? We're just next to it, right?"

Here's what some quick Internet research reveals about the nutria:
  • 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

November Rain

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

Another reason, besides the election, that we can relax

Look, we have furniture now!

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

What's in a name?

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

We wish you a Merry Halloween!

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

Just when you thought it was safe to put away your hurricane stash of bottled water

Tonight during dinner, between the appetizer and the main course, the water stopped running. I think maybe the stock market fell... right onto our water main. Either that or the city of Houston is ripping up our street like the "liberal elite media" is ripping on Sarah Palin -- viciously and sadistically with comical results. So tonight we forego such leisuretime activities as washing the dishes, bathing, and frolicking through the fire hydrants in favor of laborious tasks such as studying for midterms and blogging. Shutting off the water... It's the mavericky thing to do!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

'Tis the season... for pie

I recently got the urge to bake something tasty from scratch, so I e-mailed my dad to ask for his input on how exactly one turns a pumpkin into a pumpkin pie. He wrote:

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.

Alternate recipe:
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.

Thanks, Pops!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Houston, we have some smog

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

The truth stings

We recently asked university maintenance services to examine the air conditioning unit in our bedroom. It has been smelling a bit odd, and when we looked closely at the inside we saw dark spots that we suspected might be mold. Today a couple guys came by for an inspection and a cleaning. While they did not find mold in the unit, guess what surprising item they DID find?
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

Clap your hands say yeah

The state of Texas has a preschool curriculum, which makes for great pondering. One language arts task that children (4 year-olds, mind you) are expected to master by year's end is clapping out syllables. Maybe I just missed that day at Teachers College, but I am perplexed as to why this is important in life -- for any person, let alone a preschooler.

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.

Long time no post

I put the stupid rotating globe thing there to prove that, yes, I really have fallen off the face of the Earth. I apologize.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The power is back... and so is Garrett

I've got the power! After 10 days without electricity, we got power on Monday afternoon. Hooray! We've spent this week readjusting, returning to pre-Ike routines and responsibilities.

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

A song

"Somewhere Out There," a duet by Kristin Kitchen and James Ingram

Somewhere out there beneath the pale flashlight
Someone's thinking of me, and sweating like me tonight

Somewhere out there someone's saying a prayer
That we'll have electricity in that big somewhere out there

And even though I know how very far apart we are
It helps to think we might be sweltering under the same bright star

And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we're sleeping on our air mattresses to feel the breeze go by

Somewhere out there if Centerpoint can see us through
Then we'll have Internet somewhere out there
Out where dreams come true

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hell is a laundromat

Day 8 with no power at our apartment.

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

I Don't Like Ike

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

Uh oh...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Under the bridge downtown is where I rode my bike

Garrett and I have been itching to buy ourselves some bikes, for transportation and fitness and hipness reasons. This weekend it finally came to pass. We made many trips to assorted bike shops, where we were forced to ponder the racket that is the bicycle business. (A used bike for $400? No thanks!) At last, at of all places Toys 'R Us, we found our happy Huffy bikes -- which didn't cost an arm and a leg -- more like a mere pinky toe.

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

A snapshot of Houston

I recently found time to get my latest photos "developed." Enjoy!

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

Back to school

Yesterday Garrett and I both went back to school -- one of us to preschool, and one of us on the way to a PhD. (Figure out who is who, and Gryffindor gets 10 points!). Needless to say, we're both feeling a bit overwhelmed. (Is "a bit overwhelmed" an oxymoron? I find myself saying it a lot as a teacher and then I laugh at myself. And then cry.)

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 Apartment

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 made it to Texas!

I have missed you!!! The "real" you's and the "e-mail" you's!!! I am checking my e-mail at the public library right now. It feels so good to be connected to the world, even it is brief!!! I will write in stream of consciousness, as time is precious. ;) The trip to Texas went well, and for the most part, was quite dull. There isn't too much to see on I-10 between Tallahassee and Houston! We stayed on night in Louisiana, in a town where Garrett lived in 1994. We drove by a park to see if a mural he painted was still there, but alas, it wasn't.

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

On the road

It was a rainy day when we left Florida. Texas or Bust. Wish us luck.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Testing 1212


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Electric Ark of the Covenant?

I learned about this by watching obscure google videos as I packed. In Exodus 25:10-28 God tells Moses how to build the Ark: make a wooden box and cover it on the inside and outside by separate sheets of gold. Gold is an excellent electrical conductor. Dry wood is an insulator. This setup would create a capacitor that could be charged by surrounding static electricity.

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.

Packing and Pondering

Things we will miss about Orlando:
  • Our families
  • Our friends
  • Alligators

Things we will not miss about Orlando:

  • Heat
  • Humidity
  • Traffic
  • 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:

  • Heat
  • Humidity
  • Traffic
  • Urban sprawl
  • George Bush
  • Speaking with a drawl
  • Rice University!

The winner: Houston!