Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Pixie Sorta Day

When I was very young, one of my teachers stressed reading word groupings rather than one word at a time. I took that to heart, and it significantly improved my comprehension. At one point I read well over a thousand words a minute. I haven’t maintained that speed. I’d be surprised if I read at half that rate now. … And now I’m unlearning the skill.

It’s a great skill if your focus is on comprehension. It’s ruined my editing ability. I’m slowly learning to read one … word … at … a time again. It’s awkward, stultifyingly boring, and it has improved my edits wonderfully. I see the whole word. So having put this bad habit into practice, I find many more typos, dropped end letters and such than I used to. This is good. Right? It also gives me a royal headache.

This is a mixed-work day for me. I don’t work tonight. I have a huge amount of house cleaning, desk cleaning, edits to do, and suff piled up. I’m on my second load of wash, all smelly-man clothes. I’ve cleaned the coffee pot, then made some. I’ve washed the pots and pans. I read three nonsense emails from school staff. No, I don’t know where your missing Legos are! I don’t care that students can’t use Conference Room N. Mine never do. Your reminder to file my class syllabi was a group email. I already did that, thanks. Don’t send me silly emails again or I’ll send a middle school student to the office to talk to you. I have several who do not know how to shut up!

So … I’m back … and I’m now on page 37 of the edits. I’d rather be eating ice cream.

I’m going to stop at this point and wash Knobby Knee’s underwear. Oh the things Pixies must suffer to be nice to their mates!

I had this long post planned, all about writing history, and the challenges of living in a world that in its reality is not very like what people imagine it to be. I thought it out sentence by sentence last night. I can’t remember any of it today. Never try to think when you’re half asleep. It doesn’t work!

My writing partner asked me to start planning an Essay on Sources. We won’t include a bibliography. Doing so would add unnecessarily to an already long book, and we’ve exhaustively footnoted our work. I’m not certain an essay on sources will contribute much. Most of the sources used now are wrong. There is no really polite way to say it. They’re wrong. Some are wrong in some details; others are totally off the wall wrong. We already cover that in footnotes. But dutiful writing partner that I am (You’re allowed to snicker here), I’m outlining it, and I’ve written a few paragraphs.

Our local Goodwill Store lost its Federal funding and is trying to make up for the deficit by raising prices. Excuse me! I’m not buying a book for 3.50, or 6.50 when I can go down to the really nice – and organized – used book store and pay the same amount for the same book in much better condition. This is a major fail. My visits have dropped from about once a day to maybe once a week. They managed to peeve a pixie who also donates books to them. I’ve switched to donating to another charity store.

Back … again, after having put the third load of wash in the machine. Next on the list, after taking a break to research an evangelist named John Foore, change the sheets on the pixie beds. Now John Foore is an interesting person. He was a partisan of “Fair Chance” doctrine. (Never mind what that was. The explanation would bore you silly.) My task, should I care to accept it, is to connect him to a guy named Russell … and voilĂ  … there’s this article in The Restitution of May 11, 1881, that does just that! Tada! And umm Yipee!

This kind of research is a tiring process. The old papers have been digitalized, but they’re digitalized off of poor microfilm copies. Reading this stuff is to invite an instant head ache! But the returns are often very satisfactory. For instance, I found a really fun description of John Foore’s personality. We’ll use this bit. It’s too good not to use. History, as usually written, lacks a sense of humor. Anytime we can stuff something into our text that makes me giggle, it’s a good thing. I’m not sure many of our readers will see these things as humorous. But I do.

I got WHAT on that test?!

Daughter 1 is home from school. She grumbling under her breath, so I know something did not go as she wished. She’ll eventually tell me what it is. For now, she’s on her Kindle seeking relief in a movie. Best I can tell she is disappointed in a test score. Getting a B is one of life’s tragedies, as far as she’s concerned.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

So ... this semester ...

I have two small classes, both longer than usual. They're an hour and a half each, meeting once a week to discuss and critique a major project. I have one eleventh grader doing college level work. I have a bunch of brilliant middle schoolers, two of whom I know well .... and then ... and then I have a third grader.

She's in with the big boys and girls, and she's not at all intimidated. She, dear hearts, is doing trig for math. Now she's going to tackle the literary world. ... Occasional Reader should have my job. Just sayin ... Or Anthony. Anthony could handle a cute little third grader who plays with dolls, chats up other third graders in language they understand, and can back an adult into a corner in an intellectual argument.

I foresee a very interesting semester.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Be patient ...

I've been writing like a crazy woman. Oh, that means more or less as usual, doesn't it ...

I've been very sick. Nuthin new there, but a bit more intense.

End of semester junk. New classroom, review (best employee review I ever got though), New lessons plans, and stuff.

Besides ... what's the matter with some cute pink sock covered toes?

Be back on the blog in a few days.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to addle a Pixie.

It’s a plot. Damn it! … and what is it with guys and keyboards?!

So here I am up early. I’m frowning at my monitor, trying to puzzle through conflicting and hard to read digitalized microfilms. I’m tapping the “H” key with some irritation, not hard enough to make it “type” something. Just hard enough to make a noise. … I’m working, trying to write. It’s not happening, but I’m focused. A slight head ache is forming. It’s me or abject confusion. I’m determined it will be me. Pixies can be determined … when we’re not distracted.

Got all that? Good …. In walks Knobby Knees. He’s straightening his tie. A sly, slightly silly, grin is on his face. Remember that famous painting? The one where they guy has swept up the cute piano player and they kiss. She has one finger on the keyboard? Knobby Knees does his version of that … live at six am … except the keyboard belongs to my computer and not a piano. We no longer own a piano, and daughter 1’s electronic keyboard is upstairs. It’s a very nice kiss. Lovely.

At the Keyboard

If he said something, I didn’t hear it. My ears were buzzing. He walks out of the room, and I stare at the monitor trying to remember why Ship’s Lists from the 1840s were important. I am not succeeding.

Daughter two walks in. “Hi, Mom,” she says. “You’re red in the face. You okay, Mom?”

“Huh? Oh, yes. I’m fine,” I say

“Did you look at my essay?” she asks.

“Huh?” I say.

“My essay. … You were going to proof read it.”

“Yes … Yes, it’s on the table. It’s good. Read it over.” My ears still buzz and I’m a bit dizzy and out of focus.

Dau 2 says her thanks and zips upstairs. Someone thumps down the stairs. I hear commotion in the kitchen. I smell coffee. Dau 1 brings me a cup.

Now Dau 1 is a very perceptive lass. … “Lose your focus, Mom?” she asks. “Dad looks nice this morning, doesn’t he?”

Sudden Buzzing in my Ears.

I nod. I thank her for the coffee. I take a sip. “Good,” I say. That’s a truncation of “this is good.” But she knows what I mean. “Kiss you, did he?”

I blush and say, “Shoo. You’ll be late if you don’t get dressed.”

She laughs on her way out.

A few minutes pass. Daughters 4 and 5 enter. Does the phrase “hem and haw” mean anything to you? Well … that’s what they do. Finally daughter 4 elects herself as spokes person.

“We want to camp out in the back yard,” she says. “Tonight.”

“It was 14 degrees last night (That’s -10 c for the forgetful). There is no way that you can camp out when it’s that cold.”

“We can use the arctic sleeping bags. They’re good down to -50,” she says. I can tell they’ve though this out … sort of. Maybe.

“No. Not a good idea.”
“Dad could put up the big tent.”

I shake my head. “I’m sure he would love to put up a tent in the back yard when it’s freezing out.”

Irony is lost on Daughter 5. “I’ll go ask him!” she shouts enthusiastically. She’s off like a no-see-em in June. (That’s a very small, nearly invisible, fast flying bug. Just so you know.)

Dau 4 persists. “We could have a fire.”

“You’re not making a fire on our back lawn. …”

“Dad could do it …”

Knobby Knees walks in. “What’s this about a camp out? In this weather??”

“I’ve said ‘no’ in a dozen ways,” I say. The dizziness is returning, and I find my thoughts jumbling up … So it’s a good thing he takes over.

“You can camp out in the front room if you just want to sleep in a sleeping bad. Bed time is the same. It’s too cold for anything else.”

He shoos them off to finish dressing for school.

I stand up, close my eyes and whisper, “I want another.”

Eyes Closed

“Another what?” he asks. “Certainly not another child …”

I bonk him on the chest. He laughs. He gives me “another.”

I’m trying to sort out life. He’s in the front hall shouting at children about the time. I hear the clump of feet. The door slams. In a minute the door opens, and daughter 3 trots in.

“Dad says to remind you he’s only working half a day.”

“Oh,” I say. “I’d forgotten. Thanks.”

She’s off, and it’s quiet, and I’ll probably not get any real writing done today.

He Works just a Half Day

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

When cowboys roamed the streets ...

Union Pacific Depot, Seattle, About 1900.

I'd call this a hyperbole, but I think they're serious ....

"A sprawling Native American metropolis which lay hidden beneath a modern city for a millennium has been uncovered.

Archaeologists digging in preparation for the Mississippi River spanning bridge - which will connect Missouri and Illinois - discovered the lost city of Cahokia beneath modern St Louis."

From the Daily Mail web site: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2082113/The-lost-city-Cahokia-Archaeologists-uncover-Native-Americans-sprawling-metropolis.html

St. Louis was founded in 1764. It hasn't been there for a millennium. .... Just sayin' ... Yo! Daily Mail People, can't you people count?

Maria and Kira ... the Russian pixies ....

Monday, January 02, 2012

Cranky Old Man, or Guest Post by my Writing Partner.

Pixies are little nags. I’m reminded of Dickensonian style, and must preface this by saying something such as: “Having been persuaded by a guest-post hungry pixie that my duty rests in assuaging her earnest desire for space-filling comments on her blog, I have assented to write what follows.” On second thought, that doesn’t resemble Dickens’ style at all. Maybe it resembles Thorstein Veblen or some such person’s style.

My introduction to pixies really precedes her birth. Her great grandmother, whom she resembles, was a pixie. Now that Rachael has so clearly defined what Pixies are, I’m convinced of it. When I first saw her, Rachael was a bright-eyed bundle wrapped in a baby-blanked and uttering short phrases. She started talking at six months. If I were unkind enough to quote her father, I would add here, “and she hasn’t shut up since.” I’m not that unkind. So I will leave that unsaid.

She is a very opinionated little thing. She settles her opinions quickly and seldom changes them. The exception is with her research. Research is a series of guesses and eureka moments. Good research is plodding work, driven by flashes of insight. I know of no one more adept than the Pixie.

She was a pest when she was little, insisting on sitting on someone’s lap and talking. It didn’t matter what the topic was. She just wanted to talk. She self-edited her speech. When she was two she would begin and then restart a story over and over until she said it to her satisfaction. I learned patience from listening to a two year old. Or, I should say, I learned as much patience as I have from a two year old.

She picks at my theology. We debate. She goes for the jugular. If age expects mercy, it is an expectation without warrant. It’s not the rarified, esoteric point she attacks, but the practical use of belief. She has little patience for the hypocrisy that seems part of the human condition. I confess to sharing her feelings, even if I see human frailties and human willingness to believe the irrational in a different light. If you decide to debate her, wear armor.

Having a Pixie for a writing partner is like eating curried chicken. Curry gives me indigestion, but I like the chicken. She challenges everything. One of the reasons our writing is as detailed as it is – aside from my own love of detail – is her demand for greater proof. She is an excellent check to any tendency to speculate. I sympathize with the approach. I’d like to think I taught it to her. If I did, I taught her well.

She has a very subtle humor system. That may come from her husband. Her childhood jokes sometimes made absolutely no sense. She mangled stories. I think the first joke she told that worked was when she asked her aunt if she believed in “pre-marital inter-digitation.” I think she was eight or nine. Her aunt, who was suitably shocked, said, “NO! … What IS that?” She’s gotten better since.

She’s inherited the family tendency to replace English sentence structure with that of another language. I think it’s an inherited defect. She accuses me of that bad practice daily, sending along some rude comment or another with edits.

I suppose one last observation is in order. She’s very bossy. She would have been the world’s absolute monarch at age seven if she could have pulled off the job. Oddly, she accuses various of her children of the same fault.