6/29/2011

My Little Summer Job

Well, I got a little summer job for the next few weeks. I am leading a kids' summer reading book group (second and third graders) run by an independent bookstore. I co-led it on short notice last week with a store employee who was filling in if the store could not find any one to lead it. A good group, all girls, worked out pretty well. It's a drive from where I live, but it's not bad. I pay tolls, but at least I get paid in cash. So that's where I'll be on Thursdays through the end of July.

The reading list was already set--one of the perks is that I got the books for free, yay--and I gotta say, I was not fond of this week's selection. (Maybe it's because I'm not a nine year old boy.) It's a seemingly lame attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Captain Underpants series. It has all of the gross elements but none of the cleverness.

But that's just the story--I thought the illustrations were great. Here's the illustrator's blog post about it. Check out the rest of his stuff; he's a little twisted. I enjoyed all the little details and personality he puts into his art, though.

My group is composed entirely of girls, so I guess I'll find out whether they loved it or were just as grossed out as I was.


6/27/2011

It's an Audio/Video Kind of Day

I never should have looked at the Target ad tacked up on the bulletin board before I went inside.

No, sir, I should've just walked in, gone straight back to the storage bins (needed just one more to stash my winter clothes away), then on to the cleaning products aisle for Lysol, dinky marketplace for The Cat's beloved turkey slices, and finally checkout and straight back out the door.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World for $5.99?

Despicable Me for $9.99?

Resistance was futile. Those are the two movies that made me laugh the hardest in the past several months. It's like buying medicine. For my soul.

Oh, and there was a Spin Magazine must-hear special-edition mag/CD sampler thingy for $4.99. Not thrilled that one CD has Mumford & Sons (sorry, Lindsay, but--blehhhhh); however, Matt & Kim cancels that out. Kind of ridiculous that I got it, considering the CD tray on my stereo died, but I actually have two CD players in the bedroom--one is on my clock/radio/CD player (obviously) and one is the "boombox" I later acquired when my mom found still in its packaging while cleaning out a closet. So at least I can listen to something cool while I'm packing away my sweaters. And the sooner I clean this place up, the sooner I move that new stereo in. That's the deal I've made with myself.

Finally, for your enjoyment (I hope), Yellowcard Covers Katy Perry. I have always liked Yellowcard--"Ocean Avenue" is one of my faves--and besides that, I am a sucker for strings.


6/22/2011

The Heat's Making Me Cranky

For the record, I am against censorship with the understanding that with the freedom to say what one wants comes the responsibility to watch what one says--in other words, be appropriate for your audience, and think before you speak. (I guess the word in a nutshell is "self-censorship.")

I have a compilation CD that came from a Mountain Dew tour giveaway in the late '90s. (The one nice attorney in the firm where I worked had a winning cap on his soda bottle and gave it to me.) On the track listing, there's a word missing from the title of an Old 97's song. It's just blank. "_________ (or a Heart Attack)". Good thing there's a subtitle there.

You know what it's about?

The speaker's CAT has run away, so he's going to leave the back door open so the cat can walk back in anytime.

Hence, it's open to anything or anybody else who wants to walk in the door and do God knows what. The missing word is "Murder," but nooooo, you can't use that word. Seems a little weird.

The reason I bring this up is that I watched with great amusement as Foster the People visited VH1 yesterday morning, and their video for the song I blogged about recently was shown. I was excited--it's my jam! Wait a minute--why are the vocals dropping out?

I really don't understand the reasoning behind music censorship, for the radio and TV. Someone can sing about having had too much to drink even though underage kids are listening, but the words "murder," "gun," and the like get "erased" for videos.

Heck, they used to drop out the phrase "G*d-d**n you
" in Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta" years ago, but I noticed that stopped in the past year or so. Yet, Panic! At the Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" radio version is missing the "God" but not the "d**n." Huh?

I am sure that part of the "gun/bullet" bleeping is Columbine fallout. Remember "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus? There's a line where the speaker describes (derides) the boyfriend of the girl he likes: "Her boyfriend's a d**k/And he. . ." You don't hear the end of the song on the radio or on this compilation (which I own; never watched the show), but it's "And he brings a gun to school." Nope, can't say that. Never mind that the speaker already has established that the guy is a JERK and everybody thinks this girl shouldn't go out with him. Context is nothing.

That's right. Context is nothing, and that might be why Foster the People ended up with a music video of people surfing and the band playing their instruments. With the words "gun" and bullet" dropped out of every chorus.

What a waste.

And I guess I just find the whole editing inconsistency annoying.


6/20/2011

"Buy a Lottery Ticket? Bet on Horses?"

That was Younger Sister's response after I sent her a text message reporting on today's (belated) Father's Day trip to the local casino:

Me: Not only did I get CARDED but I also am 50 bucks up!

YS: That's a good day!

Me: Yeah, I don't know what to do next...

Hence her response. The weird thing is, I had the number 2203 come up twice last Sunday--once at the bookstore where I got my autographed copies of Maureen Johnson's books (ooh, I didn't tell that story yet, either) and then right next door at the pet food place. So maybe I will try a lottery ticket with those numbers. (For fun! "Benefits Older Pennsylvanians," ya know.) However, I searched and found that the following day it came up boxed (3220) on the midday drawing, so maybe the moment passed already! Oh well.

My real finale for the day was to go to Book Club. I'll be reporting on that in the next day or so over at my other blog, but as a teaser: I wound up having to return to the hostess's house a few minutes after getting back to my parents' for post-club coffee and analysis.

Strange days for me lately.


6/17/2011

Kitty Status

I wasn't trying to freak anybody out with the way I ended the previous post; my real intention was to keep the cat posting separate--I know there are people who, nice as they are, just don't care to read about cats or pets or whatever. (I hope they're not here to read about my dating life.)

So, on to the cat update:

Tuesday night, I got home and smelled the sick everywhere. She got what I call "scary sick" for the first time in about a month and a half. Worse than that, she was lying in one of her "I don't feel well" spots, a new one pictured below. Basically, I had sealed off the air conditioner for the winter, and come Spring the chintzy frame had come off with the tarp I'd taped to it. The Cat thinks it's her hideout because I have a towel on the floor over a trash bag to soak up the leaks when it rains.
(Yeah, I have got to clean this place up so I can demand that whole mess can get fixed.)


I know. She looks so sad.


Anyway, there she was, lying on the towel, drooling and whimpering. Yeah, I was terrified. I started to clean up the mess (bedspread, living room rug) and tried to get her to take a little water off my fingertip (which usually works). She refused, so I went back to cleaning up. She moved over to the other "I don't feel well" spot, which is a purr pad I have on the floor in the adjacent corner of the living room near her perch by the patio door. She looked miserable.


I figured there was no point in rushing her to the animal hospital; that would just upset her even more. So I settled in on the sofa and watched the repeat of the night's White Collar (because the usual time is during trivia). I fell asleep for a few minutes towards the end, so when I woke up I decided I just had to get ready for bed. She was still in the same spot and still did not look good. Well, actually, she looked just fine, beautiful and fluffy, except for the fact that she was flat as a pancake. She didn't come in the bathroom and sit on the toilet while I got ready as per our usual routine. She did not come to bed--neither in the bed nor in her bed on top of my dresser--when I started to settle in. That made me cry like crazy.

So after going through a ton of tissues, I made a deal with myself that if I didn't fall asleep after an hour, I would go sleep in the living room. An hour later, I put a pillow and a blanket on the living room floor, talked to The Cat, and put my head down with my hand near her. She responded by moving to the far end of the purr pad, so I took the hint to let her be and got up. But I just couldn't leave her, so I slept on the sofa. After a few fitful hours of sleep, I woke up and saw she was still there, so I convinced myself it was O.K. to go to bed and sleep a little more.

Wednesday morning, I woke up and realized The Cat did not get me up for breakfast. I'm having a hard time recalling exactly where she was, but I think she had moved back to her hideout by the AC. It was 8:45 and I was convinced the vet wasn't open yet, but I figured I'd call anyway to get the hours from the recorded greeting on answering machine. To my surprise, the receptionist answered, so I told her the situation. The doctor was in an appointment; did I want to bring The Cat in or wait for a return call. I said I'd rather see what he thinks before hauling her in--if it was even worth hauling her in. So I waited around and picked at my breakfast for a few hours. I called Mom and cried a bit.

It was 1:00 and I was half-dressed when the vet called me. I explained what happened, and we reopened the case for the steroid shot option I had panned on Monday's visit, where I'd brought her in because she wasn't eating and refused to take her meds. (After a shot of fluids and a shot to calm her stomach, she did eat when she got home Monday--and then went right back to baseline Tuesday morning.) He pretty much confirmed my thought that the steroids were what had been keeping her "plumbing" stabilized, and added that she might have been having a reaction to going off them so abruptly.

So I brought her in--she complained really loudly the whole way there, so she definitely did not feel well--and she got the steroid shot and another shot of fluids, after which the vet tech brought her back to me in the carrier with the advisement, "She's a little grumpy." O rly? I did find that putting the Oldies station on the radio in the car seemed to make her calmer on the ride home.
The vet also recommended that I try a higher protein brand of cat food like Evo that might be easier on her digestion. Failing that, if she's really not eating, then I might need to give her the appetite stimulant again, even though it made her absolutely bonkers last time (see #1 here). I didn't talk about it, but she did get whacked out, like, very meow-y and restless.

Thursday, she woke me for breakfast. What a relief. Which was short-lived, because she took a couple licks and walked away from the plate. And let me tell you, it really depressed me when she had absolutely no response to the bacon I made yesterday afternoon. She did not move at all from her AC fort, not when I had raw bacon out (which usually gets her up on the counter and all insulted when I shove her right off). I crumbled a little into a saucer and left it in her usual eating place in the kitchen, but when I got home from a last-minute haircut appointment, I found the plate untouched.
Still, she snuggled with me on the sofa last night, and she got ready for bed with me in the bathroom, and slept on "her side" of the bed. That made me feel a little better. She was purring and nuzzling me, a bit restlessly, though, so I read aloud to her from the book I've been reading to distract myself, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. Coincidentally, I was at a point where the main character sees a lady in Rome feed all these cats at the Coliseum! I think The Cat enjoyed it.

Today, The Cat did not get me up for breakfast. Bummer. (Also a little scary because I'm a little worried I'm going to find her somewhere. . . you know.) However, she greeted me with a "Chirrup" when I walked into the living room. The weird thing is, she asks for food, but she licks a tiny bit and walks away. I convince myself that it counts as eating nonetheless. Even weirder was that at one point as I'm getting more coffee, she followed me into the kitchen, and I'm thinking, How can you beg me for food when your breakfast is right there? I'm out of cat food flavors you want to eat!
Don't ask me how the brainstorm hit, but I thought I would try the turkey lunchmeat again. She got up on the counter and devoured pieces. I noticed she was a little unsteady on her feet and I don't like that, but at least she was eating.

She proceeded to eat the bacon crumbles off the saucer on the counter. I had forgotten to toss them last night before I went to bed! I'm sure my mouth was hanging open in shock.

Obviously, I'm not crazy about giving her high-sodium people food, but at least she ate something. And she did take a few licks of turkey flavor cat food later, so maybe that evened things out.

That said, she's had another unsteady-on-her-feet moment when she tried to jump up on the counter again, and her back legs seemed to go out from under her and she fell. She was so embarrassed she crawled inside an empty box I had on the floor. Now she's sleeping in her safe spot, the cabinet with the pots and pans, so maybe that will make her forget all about that.

This was yesterday, but you get the idea. Also: GRUMPY.

I just got off the phone with the vet, and they are thinking the unsteadiness could be the steroids kicking in again, and advised me to keep an eye on her. The doctor who usually treats her will not be in until Monday, so I am figuring on just continuing to monitor her this weekend.

This afternoon, I am going to see about the food and also get her a non-glass water dish for the bathroom. The vet said that cats usually do not like having water near their food, and that I should have another water bowl somewhere else in any event. (Not an easy feat when I have wall-to-wall carpet everywhere and not by choice. Some days I really hate where I live.)



Well, whaddya know. The Cat just came out from the cabinet, yawned, and then got up on the counter to get to her sleeping spot on the fridge.

I haven't seen her up there in days.

I think it's because I put the Oldies station on the stereo.

(If you are still reading this long post, you must really love cats. Or like me. Thank you.)

6/16/2011

The Good News First

The good news from Tuesday was that only one team's worth of people showed up, so I didn't have to choose which team to join, which was the problem from last week.

Also, proving once again that I am a font of useless knowledge, I got a bit pushy during the theme round: Cartoon Characters and their Voices. There we were with ten pictures of cartoon characters and a bank of names (no celebrity cameos here), so it was a matching challenge.

Another team member and I put our heads together and in no time we had eight of them settled. (My Mtv fave Daria was there, so I felt useful.) I suspect our friend Nightfly will get a kick out of the next part.

It all came down to Yogi--the old school bear--and Bender.

There were two unused names in the bank. We asked if anyone had any thoughts on the matter, but everyone else pretty much said they'd go with our judgment. My teammate, who had the pen, wrote the names in one way, and it just didn't sit right with me.

Now, I usually don't speak up if something looks wrong and I can't provide a reason I think it's wrong. There have been quite a few times where I just felt something was a different answer and it turned out to be right, but I couldn't have argued for it. In this case, though, I thought I just might have a reason.

You don't get a lot of time during each round, and sometimes the longer you take, the more likely (1) you'll talk yourself out of the right answer, and (2) another team could pick up on what you're talking about. So I had to make the argument quickly.

"Daws Butler is a name I've seen around for a long time. I really think he's Yogi," I ventured, albeit a little timidly.

A couple other teammates also joined in the discussion, and I just added that I'd seen the name in a lot of places, and I just thought the answers should be the other way around. We're always hesitant to change things once they're written down; usually, it's best to go with your first answer.

Then I got bold. "It'll be my head if it's wrong." So everyone else shrugged and the names got changed. It was a risky move, but I really felt strongly about it.

And it paid off. The host came over to the bar to refresh his drink, and we handed him our answer sheet. "Are these right?"

He scanned it and said, "Yeah, it looks right. Granted, I'm saying this without my answer key in front of me, but I think they're all right." Yogi Bear is voiced by Daws Butler and Bender is voiced by John DiMaggio. (Warning: Bender clip contains vulgarity.)

Perfect round--which means we get a little prize like a t-shirt. I think we might have tied with another team, but we picked the number closer to the one the host was thinking.


The team handed the shirt to me.



We got just one wrong in the next and final round (what, all those Creed songs sound alike in snippet form), so we wound up winning the whole game.

I didn't have to get up early the following morning, so I stayed after a bit to talk to my teammates. Two of them are a couple who just put in an offer on a house. I'm excited for them.

When I got home, though, the second I opened the door I knew something was wrong.




6/15/2011

And Again, More Later

But first I think I need another short nap. One wasn't enough after last night, when I arrived home from trivia and thought it was The End.

It wasn't.

But I hardly slept last night and had the joy of taking a second trip to the vet in a week this afternoon.


At the moment, I think The Cat has the right idea--she is sleeping atop the kitchen cabinets (sans glowering) for the first time in days (so hooray for normal-ness)--and I am going to have a lie-down on the sofa.

More later when I can keep my eyes open.

6/14/2011

Arrrgh.

Cat doesn't want to eat or take her meds.

I might or might not have to choose what team to be on at trivia tonight.

I have something like a hundred phone calls to make about jobs and household stuff.

School's over but I keep having bad dreams about it. (I'm hoping that's the cough medicine for the cold I can't seem to shake.)

I'm going to go for a walk in the park. More later.


6/03/2011

The End of Classes

Had my last class of the 2010-11 school year today. All my grades are in, save the one class that has a student with a grade below 75--the I.T. person is checking the cutoff settings on the program, so as long as that's resolved by noon on Monday, we are good to go.

We have a faculty-only day on Monday as well (meetings and grades), and the rest of the final week of school is half days for the students with activities, including some chaotic field day thing. Supposedly, the consequences for not having overdue books returned or outstanding fines is not being permitted to participate in the field day. That's a little harsh, but that said, I have a number of students who have been ignoring or avoiding dealing with their overdues, and I don't want to send the message that blowing off your responsibility has no consequences. Besides, I'd rather everyone end the year with a clean slate.

Of course, there were mistakes in the circ system (surprise!) and two eighth graders didn't get caught on their overdues before they graduated last night. Wrong due dates, wrong grade levels. . . honestly, not to blame the secretary, but that is her responsibility. Sometimes I think she cares more about crossing something off her list, and it doesn't matter whether it's done right. Like spending hours entering bar codes into inventory for things that are already counted because they're checked out to faculty. And, you know, 'cos checking your work wastes time. That's an attitude I've come across in some of my students.

But getting back to my original point--in the students' minds, they're already done. In most of their classes this week, they watched movies. They get to have fun all week this coming week, and leave at lunchtime.

I, on the other hand, have a list comprised of multiple pages for things that must be done by all faculty for the end of the year.


This disconnect makes me uncomfortable and confused. A couple days of fun, sure. But for a school that is supposed to be academically competitive and more advanced than a lot of other public and parochial schools in the area/state, and in light of the lackluster reading and writing skills I've observed this past year, I find it so. . . counterproductive. I mean, it used to be that it was so hot at the end of the year, you couldn't do anything, so you turned out the lights and tried to think cool thoughts as you sweltered under the classroom ceiling fan and watched a movie. That I understand.

This school has ice-cold air-conditioning and summer uniforms.


Would it be so horrible to, I don't know, help them get a jump start on their summer reading or something?



Oh well, classes are over, so I guess I don't have to care about it until next year.



But God help me if I don't turn in my handbook on time.

6/02/2011

It's the End of the School Year and the Teachers Are Fried

Example 1: We are tired of how amped up these kids have been since they resumed class after a four-day weekend!

After poor behavior during the beginning of class--seriously, I asked them to finish their worksheet and then sit quietly for not even five minutes while two kids bought summer reading books--my fourth grade class had to sit in silence with their hands folded for five whole minutes (listening to the ticking timer borrowed from my co-librarian) before we could proceed with the fun we had planned. They had been out of their seats and practically screaming, so it was an agonizing five minutes for them. I wrote out my errands list while they sat in miniature misery.

After that, they were pretty good--but it's weird how they jump right up in the middle of your giving instructions. No impulse control whatsoever. Some of them still didn't follow all the instructions, either. Good grief.

Example 2: We are getting a bit punchy and do strange things to relieve our stress.

I have car-riders duty at dismissal, as do many other faculty for coverage. When I started, nobody really told me where to stand out on the sidewalk with the kids, so I took up "residence" between the fifth & sixth graders and it's worked out pretty well. I'm usually hanging out with one of the sixth grade teachers, a fairly laid back 20-something dude who makes me wonder at his patience with some of these kids.

However, apparently even he had had enough by the end of the day today. Hence the impromptu outburst of the intro to Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes."

I joined in.

(What? It was my middle aunt's favorite album years ago when she was still just dating my now-uncle. We listened to it a lot.)

We serenaded some bemused fifth graders whose only exposure to African music is the soundtrack to The Lion King.

And lastly:

My head almost exploded today because the library secretary spent all morning keying into the inventory scanner all the materials checked out to teachers indefinitely because, as I found out later, "the inventory screen wouldn't let her". Uh, there's a reason for that. You can not scan materials that aren't physically present in the library. Not to mention that their whereabouts are already accounted for (they are checked out, hellooo), and inventory programs take that into consideration.

My head almost exploded again when she demanded my co-librarian call the circ software's help desk, because she didn't believe the above explanation. Which was exactly the same explanation the help desk lady gave us. I hope she didn't think we were stupid. (And it was all my co-librarian and I could do to hide our embarrassment silently on speakerphone.)

My head almost exploded a third time when she insisted that my predecessor always made her do that every year for inventory.

I'd like to sedate her and give my predecessor a good talking-to. Would anyone have a problem with that?