Saturday, November 03, 2007

end of october-fest

what's happening now... (well, what was happening a month ago).

i am grading (as usual) and trying to plan unique lessons (more than usual). students were working on the scarlet letter and i had them do a marketing project connected to the text. i told them to imagine that sales of the book were at all all-time low and that they were charged with the task of inventing products to sell that were connected with the text in some way that would boost interest in the book (much like is done with new movies, especially when children are involved. i used harry potter as an example). so the girls were to consider who their target demographic would be: who is/should be reading this novel and to whom would they sell their products? i put them into groups and they decided upon this together and then each of them was to invent her own product and tell me all about it: size, materials, cost, use. then they designed mock-ups or tangible prototypes and designed a tri-fold presentation board which they used in pitching their products to the class (an imaginary board of investors deciding whether or not to fund the production of their products). they had some very clever presentations. i did notice, however, that there was a distinctly sexist quality in just about all of their products and presentations.
i instructed them to rehearse their speeches as they were not to read them from cards or a page and they did EXCEPTIONALLY well with this. this was really the ultimate goal in this project; we do not require public speaking in our general curriculum and this is something that i think they sorely need. i will continue to require a presentation of some sort on each of our works of literature this year, each time adding a requirement (eliminating "like" and "um", being persuasive, etc). it is fairly easy for me to do this since i have a class of only twelve (i know, i'm a lucky bastard). this class followed hawthorne with poe's "the fall of the house of usher" and i had them imagine that they were the music director for a new film version of the story and i asked them to make a short playlist that would be used for the soundtrack. they wrote brief explanations of their selections and then we played one of each students' songs. we talked about where each song might best fit, which scene they envisioned it working best with, and we unpacked the mood of the song and how it did or did not reflect the story. this took a full 85 minute block, but i think that a day like this (a bit lighter seeming but still encouraging critical thought about the work) is sometimes necessary. i'm learning to release the reins a bit as i fancy myself a bit of a task master.

finally, i've been reading around some new blogs and they are rife with poor grammar and spelling. egad, people. you are writing in a public forum - SPELLCHECK, for the love of pete!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

one more (this is the look i give impudent students)

funny cat picture - ur insolence  displeases meh

never been more tired

dearest faithful reader (singular),

i know i have been a bad blogger. the end of the first quarter finds me up to my neck in quizzes and student writing, flitting to and fro sporting events and various extra curriculars and trying to keep up with friends. i will have smart thoughts again soon and promise to write them here. in the mean time, enjoy the funny cat posts and see some more for yourself at this is hands down the funniest website i've ever seen and definitely the one website i visit most often.

this is me

sup cat

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Day Six, August 9th

This was perhaps our fullest day yet. We booked a canopy tour, a horseback ride, and spa appointments without much down time between. Jorge had already completed the canopy tour during his previous visit, but he kindly repeated the Tarzan-style tree hopping for my entertainment. The guides encouraged us to be a bit daring. As if zipping through the treetops clipped to a pulley high above the rain forest floor isn't enough, we both did so upside down and super bird style (see videos below).

Jorge = Super Bird

amy zipping away into the trees

This experience didn't afford for much wildlife viewing, but it was a thrill and a half.
Immediately after the canopy tour we met Roy, our stable guide who took us on a horseback tour around the volcano. Breathtaking views but ouch. We payed for this two hour excursion for the next two days.

Jorge and Roy

Volcano View during horse ride

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Day Five, August 8th

The drive from Manuel Antonio to Arenal started well. On the highway from Quepos to Jaco, I got pulled over for speeding by a state policia. A close retelling of this conversation, translated from spanish, follows (the part of the state trooper is played by an older, more distinguished Eric Estrada)
"Can I see your license and passport?" (a stern question, posed by a portly dark skinned man with pink cheeks)
"Of course!" (uncharacteristically cheery, the copper is suspicious)
"Where are you headed?"
(unnecessarily detailed description of our trip)
"I'm stopping you because you were going 92 in a 60 zone" (this was true, although KPH, not MPH, which is less exciting)
"Oh, well I was trying to pass that bus back there, I apologize for that" (this is a lie)
"Well, it's going to result in a fine. A ticket."
(nodding) "Of course. Well, just write it up for me and I'll take care of it."
(long stare) "Well, you're going to have to go to either the bank or the car rental place to pay for this, and the rental place will charge you extra to do it."
"That's fine, we're going to be here a while longer. I'm studying here for a few months at the University near San Jose." (another lie)
"Well, let me tell you something. I want to help you out."
(long pause)
"I won't write you a ticket, but you need to slow down. This is the number one road for fatal car crashes."
"Oh I know, I've been reading about them in the newspapers." (this is true)
Then we sped away, I kissed my girl, I put my pilot's goggles back on and put the top down (none of this is true). Amy thinks he wanted me to bribe him, and that might have made for a better story. How does one even do that? Do I do the handshake thing like you would a host when you're trying to get a table at a restaurant? And how much would I offer? I'm not fit for a life of crime.

After not creating an international incident, we drove north back to Orotina. On the map below, you can see a purple line where we should have gone, were it not for road construction that sent us on a detour to the right. This little setback set us back around 2 hours, as we found roads that went from paved, to potholed, to trails, to a pile of mud in someone's backyard. Lather, rinse, repeat. This happened to us over and over as we were stuck in these little mountain towns south of San Ramon. A closer look at the inset map gives a better idea of what transpired, without including all of the dead ends or cursing that was going on.

today's route

highway through hell

Eventually, we made it through and arrived at Los Lagos, really only by luck. The hotel was at the base of Volcano Arenal, which means we have learned absolutely nothing from the tragedy of Pompeii. This part is actually not funny; they used to have a cabin or two much closer to the volcano itself, until an avalanche of lava a few years ago ended up killing a guide and some other people. So they no longer rent that room. The only tragedy connected to our room was that some kind of critter kept running across the roof at night and it gave me nightmares. Other than that, the swim-up bar made it totally worth the risk.

Volcano Arenal

Upon arriving in Arenal, we dumped our belongings in the room and headed to the swim up bar (!) which borders the heated pool. We alternated between this pool and another which was a bit chilly but boasted a long water slide. This night satisfied my recent (and foolish) desire to visit Raging Waters.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Day Four, August 7th

I will leave much of the narration of this wildlife filled day to the colorful photos and video clips. We visited Manuel Antonio National Park where visitors pay to wander a nature reserve full of birds, butterflies, iguanas, sloths, and monkeys. These animals are not penned in cages or fed by humans but instead they roam free in their natural habitat while posing (and often acting) for the lenses of visitors' cameras. The beach is almost always in view while wandering the trails which makes for a really picturesque experience. We were not wise enough to wear/bring our suits and thus we suffered through the warm, humid day with the ocean persistently taunting us.

view of Manuel Antonio national park from the hotel

It was here that I shot this excellent video of a Capuchin monkey who boldly wandered within two feet of my digi cam. Perhaps I was the bold (or foolish) one - that monkey wielded battle scars from a recent monkey brawl and could have easily lashed out at me, too. Thankfully he didn't.

capuchin monkey

surprised monkey

lazy lizard

amy holding a hermit crab

Monday, August 06, 2007

Day Three, August 6th

Today’s trek was 225 km and less cement-friendly. Once we got past Puriscal, the road to Orotina was very rough and remote. We would drive as far as 30 minutes at a time without seeing any signs or homes, unsure if we’d gone the right way. It was along this windy mountain path that we came across this questionably constructed bridge.

narrower than it looks, i think

mapping the road south

Once we hit the coastline, it was a speedy burst past Jaco to Quepos/Manuel Antonio. This was a two-lane highway and the only excitement was trying to pass slow moving trucks and big-rigs in the Terios. At one point, we were getting passed on the left by charter buses, which was emasculating. We arrived without incident.

After arriving in Manuel Antonio, we ate and later went night swimming in an unpopulated and unlit pool which sat perched above the Pacific which we could hear but not see. As we paddle raced the perimeter of the pool, lighting periodically illuminated the sky above which was a unique thrill. We briefly discussed the possibility of being zapped while being immersed in the water and then quickly dismissed the fear. We also spied bats flitting about overhead (not a unique sight given the fruit bat population at LMU) and a raccoon sneaking around our pile of towels, sandals, and our rain jackets containing the key to the room. I jumped out of the pool and stomped loudly to scare him off, conveniently forgetting how nasty the little suckers can be. He darted away jauntily never to return again. Soon after, we retired for the night.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Day Two, August 5th

Sunday morning we ventured north to see La Paz Waterfall and Gardens. This is just south of Poas Volcano in the midst of coffee plantations and cattle grazing on the mountainsides. The park has an impressive aviary where we saw a scarlet macaw, a feisty African grey chasing a blue macaw, amazon parrots, and friendly toucans, among other avian varieties. The frog house boasted an open terrarium which we walked through hunting for native frogs. A kind park employee showed us how to take sharp close-ups, the result of which is the scarlet frog below and my blurry attempt at demonstrating how diminutive that little green guy is. We marched onward toward the falls (5 in all), where we snapped the following self-portrait while standing under the second waterfall.

amy and jorge getting mildly drenched by a waterfall

a mini-frog, finger for scale and to annoy the mini-frog

a very poisonous dart frog, which is why i let amy take this picture up close.

a big morpho butterfly

amy pets a toucan. between this and the parrot she has at home, she has officially become the "bird lady."

the big version of amy's parrot from home.

a monkey of some sort

a crotch butterfly

I rented a Daihatsu Terios (pictured below) which is an SUV so small, I am taller than it. I rented it from a German guy in San Jose named Thorsten. Hearing a German guy describe to his partner (Morten) what he wanted from KFC in Spanish with a German accent was unnerving. I thought the USA got into WW2 to prevent these guys from coming across the Pacific. In any case, he gave me a free map and highlighted some preferred roads. The map has red lines for paved roads, broken red lines for dicey paving, and yellow lines for unpaved. He told me to try to avoid the yellow lines, as this is the rainy season and a lot of the unpaved roads can get swamped over when it starts to rain in the afternoon. Amy and I resolved to leave early every morning so that we wouldn’t get caught in the p.m. rainstorms. This resolution was never dutifully kept.

the tiny car i rented. it has four wheel drive and I didn't have to replace the AA batteries even once!

before leaving for our long trek, we stopped at the big mall to get a compass and an itrip. i am not amused by this picture.

On the map below, you can see the 238 km trek from Colon to La Paz Waterfalls (purple), La Paz to Sarchi (light blue), and Sarchi back to Colon (orange). It was on this orange leg that we got lost in Alajuela, a town that is less politically neutral jungle paradise and more East Berlin before the wall came down. It was an ugly, crowded, industrial shanty town where streets would just end for unannounced construction and a maze of one-way streets had us stuck in a vortex. Leave it to a McDonalds sighting to let us know that we had finally returned to civilization on the fringes of San Jose. The tricky part about driving in a country of unnamed streets is that you can follow the signs that point towards the waterfalls and volcanoes to get to your particular attraction, but getting home, you’re on your own. This is why we got lost in Alajuela, and this is why we will get lost again.

waterfalls and home map. click on the map to zoom.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Day One, August 4th

Jorge finally finished his coursework, and the real adventure begins. What follows is an unorganized, but true retelling of our ten days driving up and down Costa Rica in a car we rented. Each paragraph's author identified in parenthesis. Enjoy.

I arrived in San Jose at 12 noon on Saturday after catching a red eye from LA (thanks to Josh, Jen, and David for feeding me and dropping me at the airport). I slept most of the way so I arrived fairly refreshed and ready for a partial day. Hitch: The airline lost one of my suitcases (the big one with all of my clothes, my toiletries, and our gifts for Jorge’s host family) so I spent the first night feeling airplane icky, but the bag arrived later that night so I was a relatively happy camper. I met Jorge at the hotel and after checking in, we immediately went out for local fare. After dinner with Jorge’s host family, we met up with some of the other students in his program for a casual farewell at a new bar run by the Chinese Mafia. (Jorge) The wiseguy at the bar was trying to shoot a Girls Gone Wild video of the drunk American girls dancing with each other, but probably didn’t get enough footage to fetch 10,000 colones (roughly $19.99).

Friday, August 03, 2007


perhaps i tend to underestimate my accomplishments because just when i think i have nothing to report, the following list of general busy-ness flows from my fingertips while sitting here in the glow of my computer screen.

from my list:

vitamins: my nurse practitioner said not to bother plus i’m trying to eat well. as i embark on a new diet (second attempt, same diet) i might take them just in case because there are a number of foods I can’t eat for a few weeks and i’m trying to stave off the headaches i got the first time around. that’s really something i should add to the 26 before 26 list: reach my goal wait and maintain it. more on this after vacation!

save money for car: forget saving new money, I have investments! it looks like i’ll be buying a new rav4 a the end of the month. wahoo!

save money for costa rica: done. i'm off!

book club with christin: christin and i haven’t necessarily been meeting to discuss books, but we are both part of a small informal group of writers (all fellow lmu alums). I haven’t really accomplished anything in this arena other than occasionally showing up and discussing the writing of the other members, but i’m still substituting the writing group for the book club because time is scarce and writing is related to reading and i’m trying to strike items off my list!

what I am currently digging:

girly, pretty things and clean, organized spaces.

felty, buttony hand-crafted arts and crafts. i recently shopped here: etsy ;
check out my profile

I found such great deals on truly pretty things on this site.

one of my favorite magazines is real simple

i’m continually learning that my style is simplicity, clean lines, and nearly naked surfaces.

what i’ve been reading:

(i’m sorry i don’t have time to review these right now, but i will try to do so next time)

Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver.

every time i read one of her books, i fall more deeply in love with her language and her characters. she writes about issues that matter but not in a pedantic manner.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Klosterman

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

Friday, July 27, 2007

Jolly July

This is Nugget. She is a Pacific Parrotlet that I adopted in June. I had been thinking about getting a canary because they sing so beautifully but when I went to the pet store, there were only three canaries and the only interesting looking one (she was grey with a tuft of featherish mess on the top of her head resembling a flat top) wasn't a singer. Turns out that summer is not the time for canaries, so instead of waiting until December, I picked a Parrotlet. She's a true parrot (a cousin of the the Amazon) but is about the size of a parakeet. She's not talking yet, but I'm working with her. Soon she will say "Hello, Gorgeous" every time I enter the room. :) I'm also trying to get her to say "Here kitty, kitty" because I have a slightly warped sense of humor. Her name was briefly Cat Nip, but when Jorge observed that she has just enough meat for one chicken (parrot) nugget, it was decided.

I've had birds my whole life but I had forgotten how much patience and effort they require. Parrots are a special brand of work because while they are quick learners, they can also be strong-willed. Nugget is territorial. From the beginning she let me know that her cage was her space and she nipped or hissed at me when I tried to take her out. Yesterday was a breakthrough day as she finally stopped attacking me and got right up on my finger! The trick was to spritz her with a water bottle when she nipped. She still clearly prefers to be inside the cage, but she also enjoys going "downstairs" to her playground which I have set up underneath her cage. This bird is spoiled rotten. She even eats table food. Doctor's orders. Apparently a diet of simple seed is to birds what eating McDonald's daily is to humans: strangely appetizing but fatty.

Jorge and I attended our first concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Months ago he bought tickets for the Decemberists with the LA Philharmonic as a birthday present for me. At the time they seemed pricey and I was a little hesitant. I have to say, however, that this was easily the very best concert I've ever attended. We packed a picnic and took a shuttle to the Bowl (parking is a nightmare). Andrew Bird was a delightful opening act and the Decemberists were energetic and entertaining. A few highlights: Colin Meloy deciding to unplug his guitar and pretend to play Chris Funk's solo. Brilliant. Also, Meloy asked everyone to indulge him and whip out our cell phones. He asked us to make them light up and hold them high. We obliged. The result: a sea of twinkling phosphorescent lights.

(I borrowed the photo from someone who posted it on the Decemberists's Myspace page. Thank you, Adam)

Overall, the group was playful as they interacted with one another and in the days that followed, the show became an increasingly emotional experience. With Jorge gone in Costa Rica I have been listening to The Crane Wife and Picaresque almost daily.

In other news, I've been jetsetting the past few weeks. I attended the annual AP Conference in Las Vegas and tacked on a few days with the family. We went boating and swimming on Lake Las Vegas which was the highlight of the trip. I never fancied myself a dive-off-the-back-of -the-boat-a-hundred-times kind of girl.

I returned home for one day after being in Vegas and then got right back on a plane to Wisconsin to visit Sandy and James. Madison is charming. When I arrived at about 10pm, the airport was deserted. How quaint it is to see an airport that closes for the night! Unfathomable. This trip was a much-needed respite from everything my ordinary life in LA has to offer. We walked (a lot) and dined out, made dinner at home, ate bratwurst and drank beer at a AAA Baseball game (photo above), watched a marathon of The Next Food Network Star, and just pretended that we were roomies again (at least I did), which was easy since they still have all the furniture that Sandy and I had while living together in college. I missed them both and enjoyed the dairy state entirely (except for those cheese curds - their squeaking was off-putting!).

Last night I made Flickr account which is for now a paltry effort on my part, but I'm hoping that having the account will encourage me to take more photos. Check it out and come back for more later!

Finally, I've been cleaning my house and my new classroom (!). Cleaning and organizing are very therapeutic for me and I'm grateful to have the time to do this.

Soon I will be reporting on Costa Rica and then I hope to start writing posts about more significant things. Till then...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

i have recently been admonished for my utter lack of posting (by one overly enthusiastic sports enthusiast who writes exclusively about being an overly enthusiastic sports enthusiast who moonlights as a law student - and yes i see the unnecessary repetition in enthusiastic enthusiast) but all snarkiness aside, i have not been a faithful writer, dear friends. i have been up to my neck in essays about helen keller and everyone's favorite foolish double suicide committers, romeo and juliet. seriously. it's not a cute romantic story. why are they the standard to which lovers everywhere compared themselves? SHE STABS HERSELF IN THE HEART, people.

in the last few weeks i have graded, slept little, celebrated being alive for a quarter of a century (holy crap i have fewer than 365 days to complete my 26 before 26 list!), attended the wedding of a dear friend, bought a ticket for costa rica, and begun researching graduate programs in education. in the next few weeks i will chaperone prom, visit my family, and continue to grade some more while anxiously counting the days until the end of the semester. i will miss my dear students but i look forward to the summer despite its scorching temperatures. at least it will only be 100% humidity in costa rica in august. lovely.

some recent fave sites: (click and enjoy)

fug, fug, fug


one smart lady

Thursday, February 22, 2007

i'm not one to quote movies... but i just finished "the last kiss" (i should be sleeping) and this stuck.

"What you feel only matters to you. It’s what you do to the people you say you love. That’s what matters."

the end.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Egad. More than a month has passed since my last post. How can I recap the damage I’ve done in that amount of time? Some list-related highlights:

-I had an impromptu massage. I will now allow the nice Mongolian lady to bring relaxation to me. No more driving to massage (worried about being late) and driving home (undoing the work of the knot-unwinding with my frustration about traffic)

-I had a pocket of time during which I finished reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and then gobbled up The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Both of these titles are excellent and I would highly recommend them to most anyone I know. A student (not one of mine, but a sweet girl who has spent time in my classroom being friendly) recently finished the latter at school and spent the day battling tears because of the moving conclusion. I, thankfully, was at home where I could bawl on my couch in peace. Further reviews are forthcoming.

-I crocheted scarves and hats for friends and family during the winter break (ok, that’s pre-January 21 but speaks to an item on my list) but have failed to send them. When I finally do, the weather will negate any need for wearing them, but hopefully my beloveds will think of me when they pull them out of the winter clothes storage next fall.

-In the past week, I have made three new recipes (links forthcoming). The night before Valentine’s Day, Jorge and I had a quiet dinner at home. I made pork chops and green beans with almonds. This past Monday I made lentil soup and last night we hosted Jorge’s cousins Vero and Eloy for a schmorgesborg – I made pasta and garlic bread and Vero and Eloy brought baked ravioli and a lovely fruit platter. I have never in memory overeaten at home - to the point of discomfort, that is - I do, however, often do this when dining out. Last night I had my fill of excellent food and had perhaps just a tad too much wine for a school night. Jorge said he's just happy to be alive after all of my recent culinary experimenting. My coworkers chide me for practicing such domestic habits.

-I have yet to join a political organization, but doing so is in the works – I have a friend who is a member of a local group and has invited me to come play. Plus Jorge has been nearly nagging me on the issue. He, too, wants to take advantage of our pre-election energy and enthusiasm and hang out with blue bleeding hearts. I did join an online group for one of the 2008 candidates.

-I have NOT stuck to the for-fun budget. I recently took a trip to one of those mega-mart shoe stores and walked out with 4 pair of shoes (and about $200 fewer dollars in my bank account). People, I am going to Costa Rica (and possibly Hawaii) this summer – encourage me not to be so reckless!

-Jorge and I celebrated our seventh anniversary in Avila Beach. We went on a wine tour, ate excellent food, and took a stroll along the pier when the rainy drip drip dripping stopped. I felt heartbroken back at home, facing a full 5 days of grading and listening to myself talk while standing uncomfortably in heels. The trip truly was a much-needed getaway and it serves as a reminder that we need to budget more time for such adventures – even a short drive up the coast is a sufficient change of scenery. I felt rejuvenated and so grateful for the time well spent with the man I love.

-I haven’t been doing so well with limiting soda. I continue to buy it at the market, telling myself that when, in the rare event that I have people over, they will want something other than water and milk. So I buy the pretty red cans then I drink them.

-Ditto on the gym. I don’t go. It’s boring. And I just downloaded a rather disappointing class schedule. I was hoping to find something mildly interesting and aerobic (I must be forced to sweat because I will usually choose not to get dirty or uncomfortable and that’s why my pants don’t fit). Le sigh.

Unrelated to my list, but still a relevant tale:

-I won a parking lot standoff. I faced an entitled woman who tried to save a parking spot with her body for her friend in the car behind me. Jorge and I were both indignant and he (almost uncharacteristically) supported my usually overly-principled self in defying her demand that I find another spot. I didn’t care that the spot was steps from the mall entrance. I almost didn’t care about the line of seven cars behind me. This woman was not getting the spot because she stood in it. Nu uh. No way. People were laughing at her, telling her to get out of the way. The woman in the car behind her friend’s vehicle got out of her car to tell her she needed to move and to tell me to hold fast, that I was in the right. Jorge got out of the car in search of a security guard (none to be found – in fact, during our shopping we saw a few and I don’t have any faith that they could have accomplished much. This woman was mean and the guards were a little portly and a bit too baby-faced). The woman finally yielded the parking space, but not without crouching down to my car window and telling me that I could have the space but that I shouldn’t expect my car to be undamaged when I returned from my shopping. I sat in the space for five minutes, waiting for her to return. She didn’t and I decided that since I had already won, I would find another space and save my car.

I’m currently teaching:
-Huck Finn and Romeo and Juliet. Students think good ol’ Bill (Shakespeare) used some alien language. I tell them to suck it up. More on this later.

That’s plenty for now, friends. I am hoping to post more regularly and thus leave space for interesting topics. For now, these are the highlights.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

i have this great digital camera (a very generous graduation present from the grandfolks) and i used the hell out of it in spain and england this summer and have hardly touched it since. i feel like i should add "take more pictures" to my list of 26+ but i'd rather cut the list down to (gasp!) 26 items. the theory behind the list is that it be specific and manageable, encouraging as opposed to overwhelming.

i asked my juniors to make similar lists over the winter break. i explained the theory, i showed them a few choice examples from my own list, i instructed them to be specific.

i've been blog browsing and went from here to here to here and thus got inspired to take nice photos.

also, in my nonchalant, day-off fashion, i found these neat-o sites to share:

pretty prints and pricey pals

i'm addicted to organization. this makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

i've started a couple of posts about books i've recently read and i'll try to incorporate talk of pedagogy (as in the pragmatic, day-to-day stuff i think about nonstop) and theory (as in the paper i'm working on which tackles this concept of global citizenship in the comp classroom which i think i inadvertently stole from one of the most intelligent men i know).