Monday, December 31, 2007

Various New Years Past

1990: I was living in Sedgwick, Maine, and I spend the evening with with my mom and my best friend from middle school, Jocelyn. We stayed up until midnight and then my friend and I gave each other a New Year hug. We joked that it was an "old lady" hug. I don't know why.

1999: Crashed a debutante ball in Nashville. I wore black leather pants and a gray cashmere sweater. Then we went to some club afterwards. The next day, we went over to a friend's house to watch football. At the time, I didn't understand that New Year's Day is a football day. I became very frustrated and bored when I realized that I was going to have to sit around and watch football all day with people I barely knew. I ended up walking to a donut shop down the road just to have something to do.

2000: I was with my Dad in an apartment in Gaithersburg, MD. We'd just returned from Ireland--I'd gone to take care of my sisters while Dad and Mary attended a funeral. Dad and I came home early for reasons I don't remember, and Mary and my sisters stayed through the New Year. I was very, very sick, and spent a feverish night sleeping in my sisters' huge crib. I think that the both of us were too sick to properly celebrate my Dad's 50th birthday on New Year's Day.

2001-2005: Many happy New Year's Eves with Mark

2006: New Year's Eve bash at Dan's house in DC. Most of my friends were there, all in one place, and we toasted to everything, including several obscure colors.

2007: At the Shangri La hotel in Oman.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Various Chicken Fried

At the time I thought these two birds were hawks--I didn't have my binoculars. In flight, they looked like hawks, in this picture, they look like they could be turkey vultures.

Today we drove to Roanoke, a town of less than 5000 people just west and south of Flower Mound (on the other side of Grapevine Lake) to eat fried chicken at Babe's Chicken Dinner House. Although Babe's is a bit of a Texas chain, the Roanoke location was the first. Roanoke was a nice little place. I liked the fact that it is right on the Missouri Pacific rail line. Trains are soothing.

Babe's in Roanoke only serves fried chicken and chicken-fried steak. My sister Sarah was disappointed that they didn't have chicken-fried chicken.

Chicken-fried steak is like a Texas version of wiener schnitzel, except that it's made with a fairly cheap cut of steak instead of veal. It's usually pan fried, where as fried chicken is frequently deep-fried (but it can also be pan fried). Chicken fried chicken has the same preparation as chicken-fried steak but with chicken.

I don't really understand the differences between chicken-fried chicken and fried chicken. It's very confusing. Can anyone offer insight?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

But of course, I don't want to live here

We went for a walk/hike around a nearby lake. Looking at the map, I don't know if it was Lake Dallas or Grapevine Lake. The last time I was here was July, several years ago, when it was hot, humid, and thunderstorming. It was actually quite nice to drive past the exurban housing developments to where the horsefarms and trailer parks begin. Of course, most of the farms are forsale, and I'm sure the city has plans for the trailer parks. I'm only saying that I'm feeling kinder about the towns north of Dallas.

Tomorrow we are going to go to a resturant just east of here that only serves chicken, chicken-fried steak, and sides. I remember I once got into an argument with an ex from Nashville about whether or not it was "chicken-fried steak" or "chicken fried steak." The argument wasn't about the dash, but about the emphasis. I argued that the name refered to the technique--i.e. the steak in chicken-fried steak is fried in the same way that fried chicken is fried. My ex failed to understand why I felt the need to think about such distinctions. I've never had chicken-fried steak.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I have fixed the internet, I think.

Noemi press rejected my manuscript, but I'm not suprised. I am just doing my duty, submiting poems to presses that have published some work I like and don't charge a reading fee.

I like the day after Christmas better than Christmas. In Maine, the 26th was often a day for visiting close friends, playing with new gifts or reading new books.

One of my sisters is mad about Nancy Drew, which makes me very happy. In fact, as usual, all of my nervousness about "will they like me" and "will I be able to talk with them" was unwarented. We spent nearly two hours during the late afternoon making collage stories with lines and phrases from two or three Nancy Drew books, Hanna Montana Lyrics, the Spiderwick Chronicles book 4, and Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel. The collaboration is something of a continuation from a story we started last year about a peanut man on the Great Wall of China.

My father gave me his old Cannon camera that he bought in San Jose in 1983! I don't have it in front of me now so I can't talk about the specifics, but I'll be soliciting advice from my photographer friends about it. The base is solid, but some of the lenses will need to be replaced or repaired.

There is a fireplace in the living room. It's nice to sit and read in front of the fire. I also like being surrounded by so many familiar objects--the spears from Papua New Guinea, all of Dad's old maps, the textiles that Mary has collected and framed, the small chests and cabinets, and especially the stringed insturments from Asia. I attempted to tune the Chinese harp yesterday evening, but was afraid I'd break it--it's really a task that would require more concentration than I had at the time. And I can't play it. I just know that it works on a pentatonic scale. I understand stringed insturments conceptually, but I've never gotten a good feel for them.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Madness Madness

Well, I survived the Christmas Eve slumber party with my sisters, and we've already unwrapped the huge pile of gifts and had brunch. I haven't seen my cousins and aunt and uncle in ages, so it is fun and rather overwhelming! Our internet connection is slow here in the wilds of north Dallas...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Our neighbor came over with a bucket of trout he caught today

and gave me three of the medium-sized ones. I often cook fish on Sunday, so I'll make one tomorrow and freeze the rest.

I took this picture in mid-November while riding the 302 bus from Oceanside to San Marcos. It is a very long, boring bus ride. I like the Primo Food Market, though.

It's always strange to be home without Lester. A friend from yoga kindly accompanied me to drop Lester off to be boarded this morning--I don't like driving on highways, and it was good to have company. This will be the third (or the fourth?) time Lester has boarded at the vet, so he's quite comfortable there, and the staff know him. When I walked in the door of the vet, the woman at the front desk said, "Oh! Lester's here!" Another woman asked, "Is Lester the one with the little bucket?"

Lester does have a little bucket--he sometimes gets overly attached to it and will defend it aggressively (or attack it), so I remove it from his cage sometimes. However, I thought he should have it while boarding. He likes to sit inside of it and relax.

After brunch, I had to get the front bike tire repaired again. There is some law about people wanting to smash bottles of cheap beer near water. In Maine, people smashed bottles by lakes and quarries. In Carlsbad, this means that people drink beer and smash bottles on the road by the lagoon. There are cops and lifeguard people at the beach, but none by the lagoon, so people drink and smash bottles (or sometimes throw them out the window) by the lagoon. I try to avoid all the broken glass on my bike, but it's more or less impossible.

One of my students was telling me about super tough tires, so I will look into this in the new year. That and a basic bike mechanics course.

I did go see The Golden Compass this evening. It wasn't bad, although obviously not as good as the book.

I got an email from an employer (an institution, not a person) encouraging me (and all other employees) to participate in two contests. The first contest involves interpreting the goals of the institution in an artistic way. I don't even understand what the second contest is for.

I'm nearly finished packing. I'm trying to limit myself to my carry on sized suitcase and a backpack, but this is a bit difficult because I'm carrying gifts for seven people. I was going to mail them, but it would have cost too much.

Friday, December 21, 2007

We're going to party!

Today is my last evening with Lester before he goes off to his bird hotel (with on site vet and valley view) tomorrow.

I'm continuing to read Jennifer Moxley's The Middle Room, and actually enjoying it more the more I read it. The San Diego she describes seems very different from the one I live in. Or maybe it's just that I have trouble visualizing Douglas Rothschild outside of New York.

On the way back from ice-skating my students got into a conversation about Enjo-kōsai. By the end of the ride, I'd explained the words "fetish," "pervert," and "dominatrix."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I think I will dress in an excessively festive manner.

I was going through my desk drawer at work and found a poem written on an index card. It is probably a year old, and discrete, as far as I can tell. It is very much a Lorraine poem.

Tomorrow is my last day of teaching for a few weeks. My head is a foggy balloon. Anyway, the whole school is going ice-skating. I haven't ice-skated since last year in Oman (which was great--they were playing Christmas carols, and "O Holy Night" was interrupted by the call to prayer). Before that, I hadn't been ice-skating in ages. My ice-skating skills are not up to par. I admit that I find skating in rinks weird--most of the ice-skating I've done has been on lakes and ponds.

I've been listening to lots of girly music.

I am going to see The Golden Compass this weekend and maybe I am Legend.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Forpus Pacificus Surveys his Domain

Lester has discovered that the top of my desk chair is an excellent place to perch. From there, he can survey the entire room.

My students are all writing movie reviews of I am Legend.

The regular crowd outside of Planned Parenthood is growing. One sign read "Sex Partners Lie."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's Raining

It also rained this morning, but it was secret rain. I am awake and can clearly see it is raining, so the evening rain is not like the secret morning rain.

Today I struggled to define the word "ilk." It was a tired ESL teacher moment. I attempted to rattle off a list of "synonyms" that included eel and elk. Good job, Lorraine!

I drove to work today because of the rain and for other reasons. It was strange to drive to work. I enjoy listening to music in the car, and it was nice not to get wet, but everything else about it was weird.

My friend and I were talking about the things we like about being here (we've had plenty of conversations already about the things that we don't like). Here is my list:

  • I like the winter weather.
  • I like the birds.
  • I like the ocean and the natural living and nonliving things in the ocean.
  • I like the lagoons.
  • I like the weather in July-September.
  • I like the yoga studio.
  • I like the fact that a mountain lion has been seen recently in the parking lot at Cal State San Marcos (I also worry about the fate of the mountain lion, but this is supposed to be a positive list).
  • I like Carlsbad. It is a nice little town.
  • Even though I feel like I socialize less than I did in DC, this is not statistically true.
  • Lester has a good vet.
  • I enjoy having people over more than I used to (true, this is in part because people cannot drop by casually the way they did in DC, but still.)
  • We are close to Mexico.
  • My work life is pretty good.
  • I have become a better cook.
There are other things, too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Even though today was Monday, Lester and I are feeling calmer and more relaxed.

I made black-eyed-peas and greens today. They were good. Braised greens are always good if done correctly. Quality pancetta helps, too.

I'm more or less recovered from my deranged headstand accident of last week. I've gotten over the fear of attempting handstand (not headstand, which I actually find more difficult) in the middle of the room. I can't exactly balance for very long, but I can jump up into it with straight legs without overshooting it. And one of my teachers taught me how to fall out of it, which is, of course, very helpful.

Mark heads off to DC tomorrow, so Lester and I are on our own for this week. We'll finish up some projects and probably listen to a lot of female jazz vocalists (most of the female jazz vocalist CDs I own were gifts from Mark).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Over half the students in one of my online classes received Fs

because they just didn't do the work. This is normal, more or less, for online classes, but it is depressing. I'm done with the heavy grading for a few weeks now, until the next session starts up after New Years.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Today was a better teaching day.

In my ESL class, we read what turned out to be a stringent Christian article about Christmas (it started out as being funny and light. Oops).

I grew up everywhere, but I spent several winters and Christian holiday seasons in Maine with snow and the hippie parents of all of my friends. I sang Christmas carols at Quaker meetings. I went ice skating all day and drank hot cider afterwards. And yes, my cheeks were rosy.

My ESL students gave informal informative (not persuasive) presentations, and we ate donuts and talked. We talked about possible connections between certain kinds of German dessert pastry things and donuts and the US Midwest. Today was the last day for three of my students. Two of them were only in my class for three weeks (but that's 3.5 hours every day, five days a week for three weeks). Still, they are creative, intelligent people, and the class always suffers when people like that head on their own way. The third student didn't show up--I was rather sad about it. He'd been my student off and on for more than seven months, and I wanted to give him a proper "ra ra good luck in community college" send off. Or at least I wanted to give him a donut. Oh well.

My students take up more than 50% of my time and account for more at least 50% of my livelihood. My creative work effects my life. I shouldn't even have to note that, but I'm noting it. I get annoyed by and jealous of my fellow writers who say that teaching has no effect on their writing. I don't / can't compartmentalize my life in that way. I spend more than half of my day talking to students, and that effects my life, and so that effects my writing.

I made a lasagna this evening. Yum. Mark heads off to DC on Tuesday, so we need to get all of our holiday celebrations in this weekend.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

End of Semester Teaching Rant

Disclaimer: I'm tired. There are a lot of typos, probably. It's the end of the semester. I fell over backwards while attempting a fancy headstand in yoga class last night. I think I've given myself a minor neck and upper back strain. It's minor, I've decided, but it hurts. Ok, now on to the post:

There's a fairly substantial conversation happening on a professional listserv I'm on about Millennial Students. Technically, the Millennials are the generation after me--1982 on. According to my colleagues who have actually read about it, Millennials tend to be:
  • Relatively sheltered
  • They tend to feel positive about their economic future, because the economy has generally been positive during their high school and college years.
  • There parents are extremely involved in most aspects of their lives--through college and beyond.
  • They view themselves as tolerant, positive and upbeat.
  • They grew up in an era of fairly intense kid safety rules and public school lock downs.
  • They are technologically sophisticated.
I know these characteristics are generalizations, but I find them helpful. When I moved to Carlsbad, I started working with a ESL student body very different from the one I encountered in Washington, DC. In DC, I was working with students who were mostly my age or older: mostly generation Xers and a few Baby Boomers. Now, most of my students are my age or younger than me by about 5 to 10 years. Many of my students work hard, and many of them are intelligent and fun, but on the days that class is terrible, these are the things I complain about:
  • My students do not read directions. They become actively indignant when I tell them that the answer to their question is on the syllabus and that they need to read the syllabus.
  • They are uncomfortable with flexibility. They have intense trouble deciding on a topic for a presentation, for example. They prefer it when I tell them exactly what to do.
  • They either have no opinion, or they refuse to support and elaborate on their opinion, either verbally or in writing.
  • In fact, they appear to have a deep lack of interest in most things. If they are interested and passionate about things, they do not express it.
  • They expect me to go out of my way to accommodate their schedules. They expect me to be available constantly to answer their questions. They would rather write me long email explanations and questions than read my syllabus or talk to me during office hours or on break.
  • They have had very little personal freedom. Most of the traveling they have done, if they've done any, has been with their parents. Many of them still live with their parents, even if they are 25 or 26.
  • They have a very vexing sense of entitlement. They pay for the class, they expect to pass the class. Of course, most of them aren't paying for the class, their parents are.
Probably, many people my age could have done with a bit more parental involvement, and we probably would have gotten fewer injuries if we'd been forced to wear helmets on our bicycles and wrist guards while skateboarding. It's good that my students get financial support from their parents--also something that many people my age didn't get to quite the same degree.

Still, I can't help but feel that my students might be better off if they'd had more out of control experiences: a few more close calls, a night or two smashing mailboxes, part-time jobs they didn't want to have, drugs. They seem to understand that a lot of rules and norms are arbitrary, but they don't seem to care. Sometimes I feel like the passive-aggression I encounter in my classrooms is a way for the students to rebel against their parents. But G-d, what a lame way to rebel.

But now I'll be kinder: I have no idea what it's like to have that kind of overbearing pressure from my parents. I have no idea how I'd feel about school if it was something that I was forced to do, or if there were a specific field or business that I was expected to go into. I can only imagine how beholden I'd feel to my parents if they'd payed for everything for me my whole life. I'm sure I would be more positive about my future economic prospects if I had no debt. Etc, etc.

And, of course, there are exceptions. Right now I have several fabulous students: it's true that most of them still live with their parents and have had everything paid for their whole lives, but they seem to understand that they are lucky to not have intense economic pressure. They don't all feel that they are entitled to everything. They do have personal and intellectual interests beyond getting a job and making money and pleasing their parents. They're learning to be creative and take the initiative. Some of my students have just left their homes for the first time, and they're realizing that all the day to day decisions that their parents have been making for them are actually quite complicated...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sarah, my sister, has decided that Texas is not environmentally friendly. All three of my sisters (Sarah, Michelle, and Allison), are debating with Mary about whether or not to buy a tree. Mary suggested that they could plant a tree in the yard, but they are skeptical about that. They want a fake plastic tree like the original one they had in Australia.

There was a short rain shower and after that a rainbow this morning. It was so pretty.

I wrote a poem about light emitting diodes. They are, after all, the unsung heroes of the electronics world.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's hard for me to say these words in a way that more appropriately corresponds to my WASPy looks.

This post from Nicholas Manning's blog called "Things Never to Say to an Expat" made me laugh. I agree with him on most accounts, but I admit that I miss the clear sense of displacement that being an expat gave me. Unlike Nicholas, I've never been an expat in a place where there was even a remote possibility of me blending in.

It's quite strange now to find myself actually living in a small beach town in Southern California--a place people frequently assume I'm from. For much of my life, people have been saying obvious, stereotypical things about women, the US, and California to me, often while leering or asserting moral superiority.

I got in a debate with someone at a bookstore in La Jolla about whether or not I'd gone to high school locally and whether or not I'd been a cheerleader. I didn't and I wasn't, but the man thought I was insulting him and didn't believe me. That same man also said a variety of other stupid things, including "Spanish is a language for children." He owns a coffee plantation somewhere in Central America.

On some level, I'd probably feel more comfortable, or at least just as uncomfortable, spending more time in the Spanish-speaking communities here. The fact that the Spanish and English speaking communities are so segregated was something I didn't expect before moving here--I expected it to be more like LA, but what did I know. I think the conservative culture and the close proximity of the Mexico-US border make some Spanish speakers justifiably touchy about who they speak their language with and where and when they do it. In DC, I spoke Spanish in places where other people spoke Spanish. No one at the market around the corner from where we lived was offended if I asked what kind of tamales they had in Spanish. I'd never do that around here.

In some ways Spanish and the various cultures that come with it are mainstream here in San Diego--more than half of our place names are in Spanish, and most of the geographic terms for this part of the country are Spanish words. When I first arrived, I pronounced all the place names as if they were Spanish words, which they are/were, but no one understood me or people involuntarily corrected my pronunciation.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It's a survey!

Should I send a manuscript to Litmus Press? I'm skeptical, but someone I like and respect told me at a party that I should.

I slept a lot this weekend. Until 9:30 on both days, which may not sound like much but at this point in my life is significant sleeping in. I was exhausted after this past week.

I made broccoli in a new way. I roasted it. It was good.

I connected the external hard drive and put some things on it.

I'm going to do a few projects for International Arrivals in the new year--probably designing a journal and some file folders. Yay! I want more jobs like this.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

I'm wearing tons of eye makeup!

Off to dinner and festivities at Sandra & Ben's in San Diego. I debated whether or not this should be the night to debut my ridiculous silver knit dress. It is not the night. It's a rather strange and beautiful dress. Perhaps I will wear it on the plane to Dallas--I think it would fascinate my sisters and confuse the family.

It's a dress that requires heels, and I have a nasty blister on the top of my big toe, so that settled it. I need a dress I can wear with slouchy boots. So that's what I'm wearing.

The rain continues. The surf is up.

Friday, December 07, 2007


The reading was good. The rain was minimal. Not like last Friday. More party tomorrow. Quadriceps hurt. Nail polish chipped. I'm starting to associate tasty tacos eating in bare surroundings with the end of poetry evenings. I'm often nostalgic for now. Reality is so hot.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I am either high spirited or fried

But I'm ready. For. The. Semester. To. Be. Over.

I know that we need rain here in San Diego, but I hope that it doesn't rain on Friday. I want to go hear/see Nathaniel Mackey read at UCSD. I've never actually heard him before, and it's not as if San Diego is so bursting with readings that I wish to miss one.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Being a teacher is great.

After teaching and grading all day, I often wish to self-destruct. I say things like "let's party" and "pour me another," even if I'm not drinking.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday is Sunday

Mark got me a 500 GB external hard drive as a Christmas present. I am so excited! Now I can transfer all of my graphics to it! My computer will run better!


We wished Mr. James Meetze a happy birthday yesterday at his flat in Mission Valley. It was fun. I had a piece of red velvet cake and played around with a computer program that his friend had that was like Photoshop except with video. You could layer things and apply effects to layers and also change the speed. It was cool. We also called the 800 number of some slick evangelical LA church.

Jame's band, Dreamtiger, has a myspace page!

I had an aggravating exchange with a coworker I've never met--we both tutor for the same virtual writing center. I sent out a message to our discussion list noting that I was looking to pick up some extra hours this week. This is a fairly standard kind of message to send. Most people either ignored it or sent me messages with possible hours to substitute. But one woman sent me an email that began "I hope you won't take this in the wrong way, but..." The email was about how she had to work her hours, and if she didn't she couldn't pay her bills, and how she wasn't getting any support from anyone, and on and on. I believe her, but the implication was that I was some prissy house wife looking to work a few more hours this week while my servants did the cleaning or something. That's obviously not the case, but few things bore or annoy me more than two marginal yet still bourgeois people arguing about who is more working class and desperate than the other. In some contexts, I think it is perfectly OK to assume a certain level of desperation. For G-d's sake, no one who has buckets of money and time is an online writing tutor.

It's Sunday, so I'm thinking about what to do with my students tomorrow. I think I'm going to have them write music reviews, but I can't ask them to review albums, because they probably don't think of music on the level of the album, so I've rewritten the assignment to be about the song. But I don't like it. I'll see what happens.