Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Difficulty of Satire

difficile est saturam non scribere
Juvenal said, "It is difficult not to write satire."  The Romans were a tolerant bunch, and even though they viewed their Emperors as divine, a clever satirist could poke fun, remind them that they were not fully divine until after they died, and (depending on which emperor he chose to poke fun at) most likely live to a ripe old age.  But I'm finding it difficult, this Political Tuesday.  There is a depression that sets in when you are facing the decline and fall of your civilization that blunts the satirical edge.

The jury is deliberating in the Kermit Gosnell murder trial.  Some of the original charges have been thrown out.  Maybe there wasn't enough evidence that the babies he killed were born alive.  If they were dead when born, then Gosnell was just doing what abortionists do, what is perfectly legal, severed heads, baby feet in jars, and all.  The outrage, as far as the media can tell anyway, is that he was not a very good abortionist.  He killed a woman, after all, and let unqualified people practice medicine and administer drugs.  His clinic was filthy, the emergency exit was blocked, and he preyed on the poor and disadvantaged.

Meanwhile, the uptown celebrity abortionists at Planned Parenthood got a visit from their biggest booster: President Obama, marking another dubious first for the chief executive.  Obama praised the largest abortion provider in the world, told them "God bless you," and criticized abortion opponents for wanting to return to the 1950's.  He made no mention of the Gosnell trial; that just isn't done at the country club.

I remember, back in the 1970's and 80's, evangelical churches used to do slide show presentations to educate their congregations about the abortion debate.  Before The Silent Scream, long before the internet, parents would turn to their children and say, "Cover your eyes now.  Don't look at this part."  I wonder, well-intentioned as our instinct to protect children is, whether it is also the explanation for our society's unwillingness to confront evil things head-on.  To call them evil and demand justice.

In other news, The Wall Street Journal has come out with an analysis of the costs of Obamacare to the average individual, and Washington Post reporter Dana Millbank wrote a piece depicting the President as not on top of the real business of governance, despite his well-delivered comedy routine at the White House Correspondents Dinner.  The Boston Marathon bombers and their family knew how to get the most bang out of their welfare buck -- I wonder if you can use food stamps to buy pressure cookers?  15-year-olds will shortly be able to purchase morning-after abortion pills over the counter.  Oh yes, and forgive me, I have only a very hazy awareness of sports news, so I do not quite understand why Tim Tebow is somehow in disgrace and his career is over, while an athlete who came out as gay is somehow so heroic for doing so that President Obama made special mention of how proud he is of him.

As the Roman Empire slid slowly from moral decline into full-on financial and social collapse, and the barbarians came on, the presence of satirists declined, although nobody was looking for them at the time.  People were too busy trying to survive.

Commodus, Roman Emperor in 190 A.D., portraying himself as Hercules.  This portrait was perhaps the 2nd century equivalent of the White House Correspondents' dinner.  So... what happens when the Emperor sides with the barbarians?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Finished Auction Quilt - The Forest of Rhetoric

A finished quilt, donated to the Cedar Tree auction "Belt-Buckle Ball" coming up in a few weeks.  It's called "Silva Rhetoricae - the Forest of Rhetoric," and it has the signature of every single student in the school, K-12.  It's about 66"x78", has a hanging sleeve if you want to display it on the wall, and it's made from scraps and crumbs and backed with a vintage sheet.  I made a similar quilt last year too.  The crumbs technique has made me a much more liberated quilter, and I love the "nothing goes to waste" philosophy behind it.
At midrange you can see some of the variety of blocks, and how completely improvisational they were.  Leftovers from Orca Bay and Easy street, leftovers from Jack's chain, leftovers from a 9-patch and log cabins, and experiments that I didn't want to take further.  That floral green Thimbleberries print I used for the border and binding? It came from an old maternity dress that I deconstructed.
Closeup of the Tardis block I made for the Senior class.  They like Dr. Who.
I made several blocks with trees, either 6" square or 6x12" tall.  They were my uniting theme in the quilt.  Let the bidding war begin!
Grandma keeps cleaning out her crumbs and sending them along to us.  Slowly, I've been sorting them and cutting some of them into squares:
At this rate I have enough for several dozen more crumbs quilts, but not time to make them!
And on the design wall, there's one more scrappy trip-around-the-world block.  I'm not making these very fast, and I'm not sure whether I want to make a full quilt out of them, but they're fun for their own sake.

Time for another weekly Stash Report;

Fabric used this week: .5 yard for binding for auction quilt
Fabric used year to date: 29.5 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 17 yards
Net used for 2013: 12.5 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 5900 yards.
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 1300 yards
Net used for 2013: 4600 yards

Saturday, April 27, 2013


We continue to be plagued with raccoons.  Smudge has gone into deep hiding and didn't show up for his food today.

Secundus had his friends over for an all-night Chuck-fest.  7 pizzas, Mexican bean dip, a veggie tray, a pan of brownies, copious amounts of carbonated beverages, 3 pounds of bacon and 30 eggs were consumed.

The binding has been stitched down and the Cedar Tree auction signature quilt is now officially finished!  Photos need to be taken still.

I watched about 3 hours of Project Runway while stitching.  Last night the girls watched The Rescuers on my computer but I kept falling asleep with the needle in my hand.

Is it my imagination, or did Patricia, the Native American designer on Project Runway, shrug off criticism from Nina Garcia with, "Nina is so right-wing conservative sometimes" when what she really meant was "Nina is so racist/insensitive to my ethnic group sometimes"?  This strikes me as problematic on a number of fronts.  First of all, I'm pretty sure Nina is not a conservative right-winger, so she would probably take offense at that.  But my problem is with the equivalency drawn between the disparaging "right-wing conservative" and what she really meant, which was almost certainly "racist" or "bigoted."  It should have been edited out of the final program, but the producers apparently felt it made good TV so they left it in, further deepening the divide in whatever is left of our common culture.  Anyway, I still loved watching the Project Runway season finale and {{SPOILER ALERT}} was thrilled to see the local girl win.

Backyard update: Smudge has resurfaced.  After Steve chased off the raccoon he must have returned to his usual hangout under the back deck.  A black cat in a dark recess is visible primarily by his eyes, as you may be able to see in this photo from years back when he was an inside kitty and liked to crawl into my yarn cupboard:
You can also see why he's called Smudge.  I had to doctor the backlighting on this severely even to get that much visible.  Poor Smudge.  He's never been what you might consider smart.  Now he has to live in the wild and compete with the raccoons.

I did a tiny bit of gardening today and swept a bunch of debris off the driveway.  I've been feeling depressed about the state of our yard and garage lately, not to mention the basement.  I did my Caesar's Gallic Wars translation and my Bede's Ecclesiastical History translation, and as has been the case for the last several weeks, I looked at Lucretius' de Rerum Natura and flinched.  After supper (leftover pizza) Steve and I will need to tackle Greek.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

WIP Wednesday and Yarn-Along

I just took the Cedar Tree auction quilt off of the Megaquilter.  Now to get it bound and signed over to the auction folks.
I should probably put a hanging sleeve on too.  I don't know what quilting or sewing project I want to do next.  It's kind of a nice place to be.
Reading Real Education by Charles Murray, and not making a lot of progress on the Farmer McGregor socks.  I haven't really felt like knitting lately.  More precisely, I haven't felt very motivated to knit socks lately.

Real Education makes four arguments that are rather controversial in today's educational climate:
  1. Ability varies.
  2. Half of the children are below average.
  3. Too many people are going to college.
  4. America's future depends on how we educate the academically gifted.
Plenty of challenging stuff in there.  As a teacher and as a mom of a special needs child, I can really sympathize with the argument that we can't realistically demand "no child left behind."  And I can certainly sympathize with the despair of trying to educate someone who doesn't have the ability to understand the subject.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In Search of a Common Culture

It's Political Tuesday, and I'm looking for the Common American Culture.  Do we have one?  Did we ever?  Should there be one?  What should the role of a hypothetical American Culture be in bringing terrorists to justice?  Why are people more concerned about the Miranda rights of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev than finding and stopping anyone who might be backing him?  And why, of all people, do I find myself agreeing with Bill Maher (it will almost certainly be the only time)?

When I want to bang my head against a brick wall, there's one place I usually go, and I went there this morning, and engaged in a few posts back and forth with people exploring the frightening question put forward by the original poster about this typical college kid, "How do we get from 0 to &%$ crazy in such a short time?"  There then followed a fairly predictable exchange.  Key points made by various members of the group (and I'm paraphrasing freely here):

They acted alone; they weren't smart enough to do a really expert terrorism job.  He's surely having a despairing moment now as he comes to the realization of what he's done. The anti-Muslim hate coming from the conservatives is just terrible. But wait, Bill Maher has a point... it's getting harder to ignore that all the terrorists come from one group.  Oh, but you're forgetting all the abortion clinic bombers from the Christian right, and the attacks on gays... here's a link to all the Christian terrorist incidents. But not many in the last several years; abortion clinics don't count because Christians aren't targeting civilians/ innocent bystanders... well neither one of those is quite the right word, but they weren't targeting the general public.  But Timothy McVeigh, and Anders Breivik in Norway.  These were Christian right guys.  No, they were political fanatics. It's just wrong to be offensive.  Well, only one group is killing people who offend them.  Should people be killed because they drew cartoons of Mohammed?  Well, I find South Park incredibly offensive.  Well, should the creators of South Park be killed? Really? Well, I find the people who want to end abortion incredibly offensive. Muslim terrorists, IF there are any, act out because they are disenfranchised by the wealthy and powerful capitalists of the world.  Anyone who disagrees with me is obviously a capitalist pig and therefore not to be trusted.  Abortion is not nearly as taboo as drawing a cartoon of Mohammed.  Well, actually it is, if you believe it's murder. But only anti-women extremists believe that.

At some point in the jumble, I jumped in.  I'm not sure why. I've been thinking about the lack of a common American culture and how it's contributing to the disintegration of our civilization.  I had intended to blog about that today.  I have also been reading Real Education by Charles Murray, and it's referencing Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch.  So today, instead of a completely coherent blog post, I'm going to share my own words, written out this morning at various points in a rambling conversation in a group that likes to think of itself as a kind of Fight Club.  I feel like I wasted my eloquence, but there it is... there's no energy left over to tie it all together for you.

Everybody’s scared of a random madman. But the Boston terrorists were not obviously madmen. They had a family, they were part of a normally happy, multi-ethnic American immigrant culture that has always in the past been a positive part of the Boston community. They were athletes themselves, and they attacked a sporting event. I think this has a lot of people questioning, “what holds us together as a society, anyway?”

***(Fair question, I think what holds us together is mutual respect.  Terrorists and madmen are the same thing).

I think madness and acts of terrorism are two different things that often overlap. (Ideologues become madmen when they act out their hatred; madmen are recruited by ideologues to do their dirty work). We may not ever know, but I sure hope they investigate thoroughly whether outside groups recruited the two brothers. It seems more likely, given the fact that they were not obviously unstable in the eyes of people who knew them.
As to what holds us together as a society, I don’t think mutual respect is enough to cope with terrorists and madmen. At least in part, I think we have lost the common culture that once held us together, so that we could all agree on how to respond to acts like this. How to identify and stop the madmen/terrorists before they act is even harder, especially how to do it without infringing the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

***Giving offense is okay if it's art.  What if it's just to make money? I'm sure South Park is just in it to make money.  Then it's not okay. And the Bible never says abortion is murder.  Do you think the US ever really had a common culture?

Oh yes, I do think there was a common culture up through at least the Baby Boomer generation. This isn’t to say there was political unanimity, of course. But when a national threat arose, there was always a unified response to it, regardless of politics. Individualism has been trumping community though, ever since the 1960’s.
Now, if I mention Cultural Literacy and E.D. Hirsch, for example, and talk about the need for schools to emphasize our common cultural heritage when they teach history, the kindest reaction I’m likely to get is, “how quaint!”
I don’t even want to think about what the reaction might be to a suggestion that we should look more closely at immigration law and whom we allow to enter the country, to make sure that they are in agreement with our common American culture… since even we Americans can’t agree on what it is. And that’s without bringing up religion at all.

***It was never the common culture, it was just imposed on everyone else by the media and the power group.

No, I don’t think it was just the media. In fact, we’re much more a media-centered society now than then. Actually, the proliferation of different forms of media has allowed us to pursue our individual interests to the point that we don’t feel we have to have something in common with our neighbors.

***But slavery! The Civil War! McCarthyism! The Scopes monkey trial! Japanese internment in WWII!

All of those things are part of our common history and therefore of our common culture, whether we agree on them or not. i.e., slavery happened, Northern states opposed it, Southern states practiced it, the Civil War resulted. We can all agree on that, but ask a Southerner and a Northerner about it, even today, and you’ll get very different perspectives on the details. That’s probably the best argument against a common culture, but in the end, we did hold together as a nation and we didn’t fragment. I’m not talking about who wins politically. I’m not even talking necessarily about what was right and wrong. I do think it’s important to say so when we see an injustice in history; but I believe focusing only on the wrongs will lead to a fragmented society. So that now we tend to focus on small, disenfranchised groups, and yes, we’re sorry for what has happened to them. But we’ve lost the big picture of what it means to be Americans.
The current generation knows only a fraction of the basic facts of history that are part of cultural literacy. I knew them, and I would say that they are the examples that are most frequently used to divide, rather than unite. But I know them, even if I probably would have a different political reaction to many of them than you. I don’t think even the more basic facts of American history (13 colonies, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, War for Independence, War of 1812, Lewis and Clark, Westward expansion, Civil War, Industrialism, the World Wars, etc.) are that familiar to modern schoolkids. And what they know of them, they have often seen through the lens of the disenfranchised groups: the oppressed Native Americans, the oppressed African-Americans, the oppressed women, the oppressed Japanese. I think they are tuning the rest out and coming away with the message that Americans must be bad because they oppressed all these people. In the Boston case, I question whether these young men ever Americanized at all. Both of these results are things that I believe we should all work together to fix, going beyond party lines and even religious lines.
So I guess my question is, do you believe the government (i.e., those with power) has a responsibility to promote a common culture for a nation? (I do). To what extent, and how much should it do to promote that common culture amongst the citizens? Is it offensive to teach the facts of history, and to say that there are still hotly debated opinions about those facts even today? (I support teaching the facts, mentioning the debates, but not preaching at students that they should all have one certain opinion, because I know that’s not effective or professional, and will turn students off faster than anything else). And probably most relevant to events like Boston, how far should the government and citizens be willing to go to stop young people from getting sucked into the kind of extremism that we saw there? That’s the hardest question, with no black and white answers, and one that all Americans should agree is an important one.

***What do you mean by culture? I don't understand you at all.

Culture.  Definition 1: the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.
And definition 6: Anthropology . the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.

What would be the non-negotiable aspects of the American way of life that we absolutely want passed on to the next generation?

So that was it, CarpeLanam banging her head against a brick wall.  That was enough for one day, and I left off and went to teach ancient language and history to middle-schoolers, who seemed so very reasonable by comparison.  Sorry I didn't have the time to organize it all for the blog, but it is what it is.  Some days are more random than others.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Design Wall Monday and Stash Report

This is where the action is going on in the sewing room right now... I'm approximately 1/3 into quilting the Cedar Tree signature auction quilt.  It's easy-peasy to quilt, just squiggles and loops, circles around names, and outlines of the trees.  And maybe I'll get it done this week, because it's ERB testing week and I have a delayed schedule with a little more flexibility in the mornings.
On the design wall: I've been playing with a few 3.5" string blocks, with some of the crumbs that Grandma has been bringing over.  Not much actual piecing has been going on though.  I keep wanting to change that.  Still haven't finished organizing the sewing room and stash.
Stash Report

Fabric used this week: I gave away about 3 yards of fabric to a little girl who likes to sew (one of Quarta's friends).
Fabric used year to date: 29 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 17 yards
Net used for 2013: 12 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 5900 yards.
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 1300 yards
Net used for 2013: 4600 yards

On the front porch:
Tulips, my Christmas gift from the Peterson girls!  Aren't they pretty with the morning sunlight? 

Saturday, April 20, 2013


We have a pest raccoon that has twice shown up in broad daylight now, to gobble Smudge's food on the back porch.  Steve has chased it off with a 2x4 both times, but it's probably living in our tall cedar trees.  We've been bringing in the cat food at night for awhile now, because there used to be three raccoons that would roam the yard after dark... but it's almost worse to have one who comes out in daylight.  Poor Smudge!  He's a total coward to begin with.

National Latin Exam results were announced yesterday!  At Cedar Tree we give the Intro version in 5th and 6th grades, the Latin 1 exam to 7th grade, and the Latin 2 exam to 8th grade.  It's a big deal, and the kids do well with it.  We had 2 perfect Intro papers in 6th grade, and over 80% of those Intro kids got some kind of certificate.  In 7th and 8th grade the tests are a little harder, but we still had 3 gold medals and 2 silver medals and a selection of magna cum laude and cum laude papers.  My hands couldn't keep up with handing out all the purple ribbons and certificates yesterday at the Grandparents Day assembly.  School-wide, 2/3 of all our students beat the national average on this test, and that's significant when you realize that probably a majority of students taking the test are in High School.
Quarta's class recited The New Colossus and did a skit about Ellis Island.
Latin Jeopardy was lively in 6th grade.
Chaunticleer crowed over the egg that Pertelote laid.  They are graduates of the Kindergarten chick-hatching project of 2012, (this year's 1st graders.)

The Auction signature quilt is on the machine and being quilted, at long last.  Maybe I can finish it in a week or so.

I made a grape pie for tomorrow.  A batch of granola is also toasting in the oven; I am trying some agave nectar in it instead of honey.

Quarta is away at a birthday party at a friend's house; Secundus is working down in Tigard again today; Daniel is nearing the end of an intensive production of Seussical far away in Pennsylvania, and so the only child at home right now is Tertia, who is quiet as a mouse, reading Harry Potter 5 or Star Wars graphic novels.  It gives me a taste of empty-nesting, and I don't like it!  By the way, Tertia finished reading Harry Potter 4 this last week, and was rewarded with watching the movie, mostly from behind her pillow.  Makes my blood boil when I hear about the academic papers proposing infanticide for children with Down syndrome.  And the bioethicists who think the general public is just too unsophisticated to appreciate their argument.

Speaking of well-educated fools... I was glued to the television along with everyone else in the country watching the great Boston manhunt yesterday.  (I don't know how I survived the 2000 election without cable news... Steve laughs at me, but I'm never going back!)  So glad they caught the guy.  I hear that he may have been an alumnus of the prestigious Cambridge Latin School, and a currently enrolled student at U. Mass Dartmouth.  Which begs a whole bunch of questions.  For example: why can't we take the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free... and teach them something other than how to become murderous, America-hating narcissists?

"I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth."
 --Martin Luther

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WIP Wednesday - The Smell of Wool

Today's feature combines my love of knitting and quilting, along with my blog identity, quite well!
I'm making a lovely wool blanket.
Down in Arizona, my Aunt Carol gave me four bags of machine-knit wool/nylon fabric, including ribbed bands, that she had bought intending to make sweaters.  For several reasons (I don't have a serger, I don't particularly like cut-and-sew sweaters because I'd rather handknit them, the color was not what I wanted for a sweater, etc...) these were not going to become sweaters.  But taken as raw material, I thought they would make excellent blankets or throws.  So I threw them in the front-loader for a few cycles.  Two of the packages felted, two did not.  I decided to plunge in and make a blanket with the wool that felted.  (I will still make a blanket with the wool that didn't felt, but will use different techniques and probably line it with a sheet... stay tuned).
I wish I could share with you over the internet the exquisite smell of this wool.  The cats like it.  I love it.  It's next best thing to having a pet sheep.  I will just bury my nose in the felted fabric as I'm sewing and sniff.  So now the blanket is almost complete.  It's hard to see above, but I cut off the ribbing bands, cut the edges straight, butted them up against each other, and used what I think is called a faggoting stitch to join them.  There were two extra long (originally circular knit) lengths, and two not quite half that length, and I made up the difference by putting a bit of the ribbing in the middle of the center panel. 
Then I am working on using almost every scrap by adding the other lengths of ribbing along the top and bottom, and one side.  Then I'll probably use a machine overlock stitch to go all the way around the border, whether in gray or in contrasting color I haven't decided yet.  It's about 72x78", good for an extra blanket on a cold night or just sniffing the lovely wool while watching TV on the couch.
I have made very little progress on either the socks or the auction quilt since posting these pictures.  Yikes.  I am reading a lovely book called Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  Set in ancient Egypt, it's a blend of romance, historical fiction, and spy adventure.  Wish I had had this to read when I was in the young adult market.  However, I need to finish reading it quickly because it is wanted back at the library, as of Monday.  Yikes again.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Political Tuesdays: April Horrors

On Political Tuesdays I let myself get more philosophical than most days on my blog, and range freely over the political and cultural landscape.  It's not my intent to give offense in such posts, just to record my interaction with current events.  But I reserve the right to think freely here, and if you are one who is easily offended by differing opinions you may be happier in a different corner of the internet, at least on Tuesdays.

I first learned to wonder, "What is it about April, anyway?" in 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing.  Waco, two years earlier, was just another mishandled aspect of the Clinton administration I tried not to pay attention to.  Then there were the school shootings; at Columbine, just down the street a few miles.  I remember pulling the little boys back inside for safety as helicopters circled until late in the night.  Little Elian Gonzales, stolen from his family at gunpoint, again a Clintonian blunder.  Then as a teacher myself, I became more aware of the rhythm of the school year, the "spring fever" phenomenon.  Yeah, kids do crazy and unpredictable things in the spring, just when you'd think they would see the light at the end of the school year tunnel.  The ancients called it "Naufragium in portu facere" - to make a shipwreck in harbor.  Why is that?  Why do kids drop out, run away from home, pick a fight with their families, or make a disastrously bad choice that will ruin their lives right before they reach a positive milestone?  I don't know more than anyone else.  But I've learned to cringe through April, both on the personal and the national scale.  Maybe national leaders are just overgrown children, making bad choices and doing random things in the spring just like so many schoolchildren.  And then there are the obvious bad guys.  They take random to a whole new level.

The carnage in Boston is clearly the work of a psychopath, and a very anti-American psychopath at that.  I would think an anti-government kook would target a federal building or an IRS convention; a deranged madman would stick with schools and movie theaters; but this attack on athletes and civic celebration has the feel of our terrorist enemies from the Middle East, and the methodology was designed to maim and terrorize more than kill.  Whether the criminals will be caught and brought to justice is uncertain.  Whether our current leadership is even competent to prosecute a campaign for justice, rather than a political campaign, is even more doubtful.  We know that the left is utterly opposed to using American military force to wage war on terrorist states, and the American public is at best flaky about supporting such efforts.  John Kerry would be the hard-headed negotiator in charge of any diplomatic solutions; I can just see him now, riding his swift boat to narcissism.  No, I don't have a lot of confidence in political solutions for the Boston attacks, any more than there are political solutions for school massacres.  I hope for justice nonetheless.

I do see a certain chilling parallelism in the terrorism of yesterday and the moral and cultural decline of the last 40 years. And before I am charged with saying that God is judging America for gay marriage and abortion, credit me with being a little more nuanced than that.  America is judging herself.  There is a retributive principle of justice here, one that has been ignored in this country for my whole generation.  We are simply reaping what we have sown.  For forty years the lives of millions of our youngest children have been snuffed out in the privacy of clinics and doctors' offices, if they were somehow inconvenient to us: the emanations and penumbras of the Constitution told us this was permissible.  Now we are surprised that we have enemies who want to kill our athletes in the flower of their youth and strength.  Kermit Gosnell collected severed baby feet in jars in his Philadelphia abortion clinic for years, never inspected by health authorities or questioned by journalists, who said they were too squeamish to deal properly with the subject.  "I am someone who cringes when I hear a description of a sprained ankle."  Now the severed limbs of adult victims scroll across our Facebook feeds for all of us to see.  C.S. Lewis had a profound observation about the moral bankruptcy of the 20th century: "We castrate, and bid the gelding be fruitful."  In the 21st century, we kill our children, and bid their surviving siblings build a just and enlightened society.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Auction quilt, to be quilted; and state of the stash

This is my auction quilt, not being quilted yet.  It has signatures on it, but I still need to mount it onto the frame.  Energy has been somewhat lacking for that this weekend.  I did select one of my vintage sheets for backing.  Now I need to cut the batting and put it on the frame.  And wind bobbins, and quilt it.  Really, it won't take long.  The auction is coming.  I can get it done.

I've been tracking my stash usage for awhile now.  I received a few things recently from Aunt Carol and Grandma that I'm not going to count towards the totals, just because I find it easier to track only what I actually buy. 
I actually bought the green yarn on the top.  I know I have no business buying yarn, but I did.  Aunt Carol gifted me the brown yarn on the bottom.
These lengths of machine-knit sweater-weight fabric were also from Aunt Carol.  I knew that I wouldn't ever be likely to make a cut-and-serge sweater from them, but I thought they would make very nice blankets.  I threw them in the wash.  The fabric on the right felted; the left fabric didn't.  So it looks like I will have two slightly different blankets.  They are both wool-nylon blends, but different lots of fiber, apparently.  Either way, I think they will be nice warm blankets.
And look at the adorable Tardis full of yarn button that Joyce gave me!  So fun!

Stash Report

Fabric used this week: 4 yards backing for auction quilt
Fabric used year to date: 26 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 17 yards
Net used for 2013: 9 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 0 yards
Yarn used year to date: 5900 yards.
Yarn added this week: 390 yards
Yarn added year to date: 1300 yards
Net used for 2013: 4600 yards

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Randomday: What Secundus did on Spring Break

While most of us were relaxing on Spring Break, Secundus went with a group of Cedar Tree students to Mexico and built a house for a deserving family.  He's on the right with crossed arms in this photo of the dedication ceremony.
What a fine group of young people.
Secundus and friends, looking cool. 
As has always been the case, most shots of Secundus are action shots.  He worked hard.  The little toddler we used to call "El Nino" in the sense of "he's a force of nature" is now all grown up.  He tells me the little kids in Mexico said he was "muy, muy guapo."
After the walls went up, he worked with the floor team.  He dug drainage ditches under the house, he made trips to the riverbed for more sand.
They took a hike at sunset on their final day.  A great experience for all of them.  His words to me after we met him at the airport: "We take so much for granted."
This week, of course, it was back to school and other activities, like the Spring Social.  I took him shopping for clothes to suit his style, and chased after him to take this picture (it was an action shot for me, that's why it's blurry, I was breathless after running up the stairs):
He's probably one of the few who can look good in a hot pink tie.
More random things:

At Bible study last night, Nancy and I were talking about her work with special ed. kids, helping them tap out syllables for long words like "amphibian" and "carbonation."  Tertia overheard us and demonstrated the technique on the kitchen table; six taps for six syllables, but over the background noise we couldn't make out any English words, so we asked her to repeat it twice more before I finally deciphered: "Expecto patronum!"  She's been reading Harry Potter.

Happy 83rd birthday today to Grandma!  Your cake is cooling as I type this.

National Latin Exam scores are in!  Steve is going to help me fix the bulky excel file and teach me how to use it to crunch the numbers.  I think it would take less time to figure out averages manually, but he tells me this will be easier.  Hoping to make a big deal about it next Friday at Grandparents' Day.

Daniel received a great grade on his English paper and raves from the professor: "Excellent defense of a significant thesis."  I'll stop before I embarrass him too much.  He's going into production week of Seussical for Children's Theater.  He's a Who.

My former co-worker, David Kuo, has passed away after a long battle with brain cancer.  He accomplished a lot in his short life; check out his obituary in the NY Times.  Although I disagreed with him in his critiques of the Bush administration's treatment of evangelicals (comparing it to the blatant ridicule of evangelicals led by President Obama himself and prevalent everywhere now, the Bush administration seems like an idyllic golden age), he was a gentlemanly fighter.  My heart goes out to his wife and four children.

Even more sobering is the media blackout of the trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell.  Utterly barbaric the crimes he committed; and beyond comprehension is the refusal of our news media to cover his trial.  I'll have more to say on this next week, but if you haven't seen the coverage, these links might give you some food for thought.  Kirsten Powers  Mollie Hemingway  Late to the party and trying to cover herself  At least World Magazine has been on this from the beginning.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

WIP Wednesday and Yarn-Along: Unveiling the new machine

Look at what came home with us from Aunt Carol!  A Bernina 707 Minimatic, for Quarta to use.  I've been enjoying figuring out how it works.  It's solid, built to last.  What a great gift for a girl who likes to sew!
It has a bunch of feet and attachments I haven't figured out yet, and a manual and extension table that go with a different model of Bernina.  I was able to find the 707 manual online, but parts of it are illegible.  So I'm going back and forth between the two manuals to figure it out.  It's been a nice distraction from grading.  The only other quilt-related thing I've been doing is collecting signatures on the Cedar Tree auction quilt.  I had a 1st grader ask me how to spell his last name yesterday.  This was after telling them to print first name and last initial.  I had another 1st grader say she didn't know what her last initial was.  We worked it out.  Kindergarten tomorrow!
Quarta (before her 24-hour bug, anyway) enjoyed making some 6" string blocks on squares cut from an old phone book.
Taking the temperature this morning.  No fever, so hopefully tomorrow she'll be back to school.  She stayed in pj's all day long.  I would like to do that sometime.
Tertia grinning to show off her teeth.  She had lots of practice holding her mouth in odd ways at the orthodontist yesterday, and she got two little expanders put in between her back teeth.  Temporary bands will go on next week, I guess.
New socks for Steve, started on the last leg of our Spring Break trip.  These are from the Knit Picks yarn that they sent to replace the sadly felted first socks of 2013.  It's Stroll tonal in Kindling.  The pattern is Farmer McGregor from Socktopus.  I am breaking with the book's instructions and making them toe-up.  I will probably have to knit them one at a time after I get past the instep, and figure out how to adjust for the twisted stitch pattern as it is carried over from back to front.

And of course, I'm celebrating having finished my argyles.  Just to sneak a gratuitous argyle photo in if you haven't seen it already:
On break in the car we listened to two audiobooks: The Man in the Iron Mask by Dumas, and The Innocence of Father Brown, part 2, by Chesterton.  I have a certain bias against Dumas (and this book did nothing to improve it), but Chesterton is always fun.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sustainability; or, the Midlife Crisis of a Worker Bee

Koyaanisqatsi is a 1982 art film on the theme of the frenetic and suicidal pace of modern Western life.  I had to watch it in Intro to Film class in College.  It's worth watching, even if you are not an environmentalist or neo-hippie... and for the record, I am not.  I often think of it on days or during weeks like this, where there is no let-up of the stress and it is hard to see any positive results for my hard work.  Those blurry images rushing by, that impending sense of doom.  The 7th grader who lost the make-up final exam.  And this was even before Quarta got sick.  People at school were telling me, "well, she was lying down on the cot for awhile... she didn't want any lunch... but she went back to class."  Not until after Tertia's first orthodontist appointment and forking over a 4-figure down-payment for that whole process, and then she got sick.  So, it looks like Steve will be staying home with her tomorrow, because I sure can't.

On the subject of hard work, I consider myself a worker bee.  Definitely not a queen bee.  I dislike queen bees and their close cousins, the bossy and domineering types.  You may not know it, because I have been well-trained to be polite to everybody, but if you are the bossy, domineering, queen bee type, I am humming "Prima Donna" inside my head when you are around.  Seriously.  Long, long years of being in the chorus at work here.  Support staff, auxiliary teaching staff, yup, been there, done that.  I don't even rank high enough to process with the important high school teachers.  It doesn't bother me... except when it does.

It's probably a mistake for worker bees like me to go on vacation, especially to places like Disneyland.  We start to get ideas above our station, and resentment starts to build.  We start to do the math.  Like how my annual salary now, after 13 years of teaching, is less than half of what I earned when I was fresh out of college, also working at one of those jobs that could be described as a ministry -- so what I'm saying is that I didn't earn a whole lot then.  And if I saved every penny of what I earn now, my entire year's salary would be enough to pay for one third of Daniel's yearly college expenses (and he's at Grove City, remember, so that's a lot less than other places).

And yet, for what I earn, I'm being asked to put in an additional 20+ unpaid hours of grading, correspondence, or conferences during some weeks.  I have to somehow bring new students up to speed with the class and keep the stragglers from straggling too far behind.  Of course, my own daughter is not smart enough to be at my school, but other kids, the ones who average less than 40% on quizzes -- somehow I have to make sure they don't get discouraged.  I have to catch the cheaters, and there have been several of them lately, and follow up.  I have to make the class appealing and fun enough so that the students like it.  And then there are the smart ones whose parents want them to take the Latin SAT or AP test -- after 8th grade Latin finishes.  I'm not sure how to break it to them -- in one way I'm flattered that they think 8th grade Latin with me is the equivalent of a Senior AP Latin course, but I'm not really a miracle worker.  Eighth grade Latin at Cedar Tree means you are translating edited passages from Caesar's de Bello Gallico in the Henle Latin 2nd year book.  That's pretty darn good, but if you want 3rd and 4th year Latin and all that goes with it you would need to expand the program into High School.  And if I were going to teach such a program, I'd want about triple what I'm getting now, and the flexibility to take time off to take care of my kids when they're sick.  Maybe I don't need to sacrifice the best interests of my own family to teach, but it sure feels like it on days like this.

Where was I going with this?  These are my own, personal issues, born out of 13 years of very tough, very frustrating work, and triggered by a rough couple of days (that aren't over yet).  But I think Classical Christian Education has arrived at a turning point where, put very simply, it needs to grow up.  I know there's a clause somewhere in my employment contract that says I am not supposed to be critical of my employer, my students, or their parents.  And I'm not intending this to be a rant.  I like all these people, I love my work, and I think I'm good at it.  But it's not sustainable.  I would discourage my best students from considering a teaching career in Christian schools, because it simply doesn't pay enough to support even a young single in today's world.  At my stage of life, it's not really about the money... thankfully, Steve's job is stable and he is a good provider.  I taught several years for no pay other than my children's tuition.  (Yeah, I know, I'm a sap).  More positive feedback would be awfully nice.  More family-friendly flexibility would be ideal.  Health benefits, maybe even sick leave, less of the reflexive "blame the teacher" policy.  I already get a basket of flowers every June.  Realistically, though, the only concrete measure of my success is the paycheck I draw, and that will continue to be small.  Because charging more in tuition would mean fewer students.  I can do the math.

Oh well, I need to go to bed.  Maybe the space cadet will have found the missing final by tomorrow and I can get my grades in.

What I really need is the time to devote to some kind of stress-relieving hobby.  I hear knitting and quilting are really fun.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Finished Argyles!

For some reason I think of the Wicked Witch of the East when I look at this picture.  But I love these socks!  My first argyles, and they will probably not be my last.  They were finished over Spring Break during the car trip and used approximately 400 yards of yarn (Knit Picks).
Argyles are knit flat, which goes against just about every modern sensibility.  They have a seam up the inside of each sock -- the sock on the right has the seam facing the camera, but I was able to make it pretty inconspicuous.  I sewed in the ends after completing the colorwork, joined for knitting in the round, and finished the toes up that way after seaming the sides.  Now my biggest worry is that they will shrink during washing.  Other than the general fiddly-ness of the intarsia, these were not difficult socks to knit.  I enjoy colorwork in most forms, and of course they're preppy, which is more or less my style.

Today was the first day back at school after Spring Break.  Sigh.  It was nice while it lasted.  Now it's back to wrassling with contrary 7th graders and hours of extra unpaid and unacknowledged work.  Grades are due Wednesday and I still have one student who hasn't turned in the final exam yet.  Tomorrow is Tertia's first appointment with the orthodontist.  I think we have to have ready our bank statement for them to set up automatic payment withdrawal before they will treat her.

Stash Report

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 22 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 17 yards
Net used for 2013: 5 yards

Knitting yarn:
Yarn used this week: 400 yards for argyle socks
Yarn used year to date: 5900 yards.
Yarn added this week: 0 yards
Yarn added year to date: 910 yards
Net used for 2013: 4990 yards

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Randomday: Spring Break Recap

We left a week ago Thursday, and our plum tree looked like this...
... and our daffodils looked like this...
... and Smudge looked like this.  Poor kitty, he had to stay outside and fight the raccoons for his food while we were gone.  We drove until fairly late Thursday, Tertia had a bit of stomach upset at the hotel in the middle of the night, but recovered well to drive all day Friday.  Saturday we met up with the Grove City Touring Choir at their concert at the 7th Day Adventist church in Costa Mesa, CA.  Here are some shots of the beach we visited first:
Daniel was with us for the trip down; Secundus went to Mexico with a service group from the school over Spring Break.
There were dolphins!  A whole bunch of them.  Quarta freaked a bit when Daniel happened to mention the word "shark."  I  had never seen dolphins in the wild before.
It was a nice bit of beach, just enough to get barely wet feet before going to the Touring Choir concert.  Which was awesome, as Touring Choir always is.  We drove on to Scottsdale, arriving late Saturday.
No shark-infested waters in Scottsdale!
Lots of visiting with family in Arizona.  In addition to my dad and Grandma Deb, there's Grandma Deb's parents, and now my aunt Carol and uncle Chuck, and Steve's sister Kristine and her family.  The only sad thing was having to drop Daniel off at the airport Sunday evening for his red-eye flight back to Pennsylvania.
I didn't take as many pictures as I should have, probably.  I did finish almost all of my grading, but still will have make-up work to grade in a hurry come Monday.

Aunt Carol gave us lots of cool stuff which will be featured in a future post.

We left Wednesday morning and drove to Anaheim; California Adventure Wednesday evening; Disneyland all day Thursday and then a late-night drive to get out of the LA metro area; driving all day Friday to Medford; and arriving today to do laundry, feed the pets, do Latin and Greek homework (maybe), and pick up Secundus at the airport late tonight (we hope).  It's been a bit of a weird taste of empty-nesting, with both boys gone.