May 31, 2008

Bee on TV

Well, the 2008 Scripps National Bee is over, and it's time to comment on the TV coverage. I would guess it's only been about 15 years since the Bee was first televised, and we used to have to track it down on ESPN 2, in the afternoon. In the last three to five years, they started televising the early rounds on regular ol' ESPN, and the finals in primetime on ABC. This has resulted in some interesting changes to the coverage of the Bee. Outtakes show up on SportsCenter, sports guys interview the spellers during breaks, and this year, Tom Bergeron of Dancing with the Stars and America's Funniest Videos was on hand to anchor the broadcast. I'm not entirely sure how all this coverage affects the kids, but I did a little TV photography to help share my impressions of the Bee.This is Justin Song. He sounded, I kid you not, just exactly like Keanu Reeves, circa Bill & Ted's. It was driving the judges nuts, because one of their duties is to ascertain whether or not the spellers are correctly hearing/pronouncing the words. He was a bit hard to understand, but he sounded just like a normal kid from San Diego. I was pretty sad when he was eliminated.
I was fond of this girl, as she bears a slight resemblance to me in my youth. She did not have a poker face, and would look this thrilled whenever she knew how to correctly spell a word. Here we see an excellent example of ESPN's coverage. They do a nice job of providing the correct spelling, along with the part of speech and definition. I only wish they'd add the language of origin, and put the word up a little slower. They used to give Sista Cool and I enough time to try to spell the word before it flashed up on the screen.Perhaps one of the better examples of why 5th-8th grade students really shouldn't be on national television. Jahnavi had to do something wacky whenever she was featured.
You'll be glad to know the ESPN's graphic folks work hard to keep us on top of the results. I'm not entirely sure the gender breakdown is entirely necessary. For your ethnic breakdown, it was one WASP and two Indian-Americans.And here we have our winner, Sameer. An excellent speller, competing in his 4th Bee, he participated in the funniest moment of the Bee, when he misheard the word "numnah" as "numbnut," and repeated it as such with much surprise and shock. He seemed like a great kid.
So, that's my wrap-up of the Bee. I love it. Watch it next year!

May 30, 2008

Happy Things

It just took me about three hours to get online, so hopefully I can finish and post this. I don't want to whine about how painful that "timed out" screen was, or how sadly addicted I must be to spend that much time trying to get on the Internet. No, I want to talk about two things making me happy this Friday.

#1: The Scripps National Spelling Bee
I loved competing in spelling bees when I was young (you already knew I was a nerd), and I have loved watching the national bee ever since ESPN started televising it. Sista Cool and I have especially fond memories of watching and trying to spell the word before it popped up on the screen. I'm watching the semis right now, and enjoying this year's nerdy kids, and Dr. Bailey's smooth pronunciation. The finals are on ABC tonight, so if you don't have plans, tune in. The spelling bee is riveting television. If you can't watch it tonight, rent Spellbound, a fantastic documentary about the world of spelling bee champs. Tomorrow, I'll have a longer post dedicated to the Bee on TV.

#2: My Sanctuary
This spring Mr. Cool helped me create a desk/crafting area in the closet of our guest room. I spray-painted an old black file cabinet purple this week, and the space is making me happy. I love its organizational features, and most of all, the fact that it is mine. I highly recommend peg board.

May 27, 2008

My Plans for Tomorrow

I have just learned to crochet. I have just bought a new craft book. By the end of today, all my household chores will be done. Tomorrow, I plan to create something from this fabulous book:
Inside are patterns for knights, spartans, trojans, amazons, and a Medusa. I only hope my limited crochet skills are up to the task. I think I'm starting with the knight.

In between, I need to catch up on the election--apparently, Obama has made some more gaffes. Maybe I should throw on some CSPAN while I crochet.

May 26, 2008

I Can't Help Myself--Movie Quote Contest!

I’ve seen this on many a blog, and as I enjoy the start of my break, I thought I’d share a few quotes from my comfort movies. Leave your answers in the comments! Do I need to offer prizes?

1. “You know what I would do if I had a million dollars? I would invest half of it in low risk mutual funds and then take the other half over to my friend Asadulah who works in securities...”

2. “Shaun! I read your story. You used a lot of big words. Great! Good for you! It was a little long, so I didn't read the whole thing, but who cares 'cause I gave you an A!”

3. “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly...”

4. “I like Mass better in Latin. It's nicer when you don't know what they're saying.”

5. “Then you should know now at KNOW things are a lot like they are at NOW, we have to interview every applicant for every job, and so do you or you'd be going against NOW's definition of discrimination and you wouldn't want the readers of NOW or KNOW to know that, now would you?”

6. “I got a question. If you guys know so much about women, how come you're here at like the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?”

7. “Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn't say that. That Polonius guy did.”

8. “See, now's the time of the meal when you start getting the McStomach ache. You start getting the McTummy. You get the McGurgles in there. You get the McBrick, then you get the McStomach ache. Right now I've got some McGas that's rockin'. My arms... I feel like I've got some McSweats goin'. My arms got the McTwitches going in here from all the sugar that's going in my body right now. I'm feeling a little McCrazy.”

9. “That's ludicrous - The great state of Vermont will not apologize for its cheese!”

10. “ He helped Joshua fight the battle of Jericho, he helped Daniel get out the lion's den, he helped Gilligan get off the island.”

Baby Name Newsflash

I'm finally done with school, so expect a blizzard of posts today. (Well, this will probably be #2. I guess two snowflakes wouldn't count as a blizzard. Sue me.)

So, a few weeks ago, I saw the top 2007 baby names--I am, perhaps not surprisingly, related to three guys who bear Top 10 names--Jacob (#1 since 1999), Michael (still #2), and Matthew. Way to be popular, guys! Shockingly, I only know one girl with a Top 10 name (Hannah is, I think, #7), but Elizabeth is rounding out the Top 10, and I know multiple ladies with that lovely name for a middle name.

I have always thought about names a lot, in the stories I write, and as I prepare for having the great responsibility of naming my children (great power=great responsibility). When I was younger, I planned to name a daughter Caledonia or Rhiannon (yes, I liked Fleetwood Mac), and a son James Matthew (Anne of Green Gables named her first son that in Anne's House of Dreams). I've moved past those names, and many have been permanently ruined for me by students. (So long Josh, Justin, Jeremy, Shelby, Cala, Paul, Tyler . . .) Next year I'll apparently have a girl named Diamond and a girl named Magic. I just hope they are in the same class.

Mr. Cool and I have agreed on a set of four names--two for girls, two for boys. We're not planning to have four kids, we just like to be prepared for any possible set of two. As our second string boy's name is Strider Alexander, I felt this was written for me.

Any name thoughts, readers? Names ruined for you, wacky names you'd love to give your kids, etcetera, etcetera?


A while ago I asked for some positive knitting vibes, and if you sent any, they worked! (If you didn't, that's cool.) I managed to knit a prayer shawl for Sista Cool, to help her with her IV Chapter Camp. Amazingly, i finished it in a week, and I think she likes it. (You can never tell.)
Also, I had to share a great branding tradition picture--we always cook a giant roast for the main dish in the branding feast, and here we see Mama Cool demonstrating how short people get it done! (Yes, she's kneeling on the counter to have correct roast carving leverage.)

May 25, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Cool!

Six wonderful years! Pictures of the Cools together are hard to find, but as Mr. Cool once again mowed the lawn on our anniversary, I offer his handiwork from last year. I Heart U too!

May 23, 2008

The Last Day of School

I am sitting here at my desk, facing an empty classroom. Blank desks, blank walls, empty bulletin boards, counters, and neatly shelved bookcases combine with the omnipresent sound of humming computers to inform me that this is the end. This is my sixth May, believe it or not, of staring at a silent room while I finish up all that teacher stuff before summer.

I've worked hard this year to be ahead, so at 8:40 on our last workday, I have my grades done, my equipment and textbook inventory turned in, everything off the walls, with only two meetings, turning in my keys, and checking out with my principal remaining.

I will be back--next Thursday to interview others for our new position in Language Arts, two weeks after that to help finally organize our storage room, and then on August 15 to start a new year. Once again, I have all English I classes, being the only teacher brave enough to face the freshmen. But that's a long way off. I have a whole summer in front of me.

I am taking two classes for professional development this summer, one at UNC on teaching with primary sources that will immerse me back in my favorite library, and one on strategies for students in poverty that will hopefully be helpful. Other than that, my summer looks to be full of knitting, reading, sorting through and cleaning out teacher stuff, fixing up the house, and hanging out.

I guess this is just a nice, long update post to make up for my longest vow of blogger silence yet, but I also write this with melancholia. Every May is a time of ending for most teachers, of saying good-bye to students you've formed relationships with. Teaching is an odd duck of professions--you remain trapped in time, while your clients move on and progress. Next year, my froshies of this year will be sophs, taller, stronger, older, and wiser. I will still be in Room 108, with the same books, posters, and desks, teaching a new round of newbies Romeo and Juliet and The Odyssey. I do have new literature to teach next year--my honors curricula is expanded to include Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm, while we'll be trying The House on Mango Street with my regular kids. It should be fun. And I'll have all summer to get ready.

Oh--I really will post pictures later. And Mr. Cool and I will be hitting some movies. Especially Indiana Jones. I can't wait.

May 18, 2008

The Hot Saw

I have an enormous amount of grading to do today, and I'm settling in with my Greek Myth & The Odyssey Reading Journals. Mr. Cool has the TV on ESPN's Timbersports. I am oddly mesmerized. The sight of quite large Aussies, Kiwis, and Americans standing astride logs while swinging axes is a bit distracting.

Pictures to Arrive Next Week of the Secret Knitting, & Branding Traditions!

May 15, 2008

Mr. Cool's Those Aren't My Pants: Penny Rant


*The one-cent coin was the first currency of any type authorized by the United States, first struck in 1787.
*The penny’s design was suggested by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. *The 1909 penny, celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Birth, was the first U.S. coin to represent an historic figure.
*The Lincoln Penny, as one-cent coins were thence known, was the first to stamp “In God We Trust” on U.S. coinage.
*There have been 11 different designs, over 288,700,000,000 pennies minted in its history, at a current rate of 1,034 pennies per second.

Why do I care – well, I really don’t. I hate the penny, I truly hate it. Outside of a few productive purposes (penny jewelry, flattening them with trains, re-stamping them yourself into a souvenir, and dropping off tall buildings); the penny has outlived its usefulness.

“Inflation has eaten into the value of the penny to such a degree that it no longer facilitates commerce,” so says the Jeff Gore of the Citizens for Retiring the Penny ( When you look at the facts, I agree. In 2006 it cost 1.3 cents to make a 1 cent coin, in 2008 that number is now 1.7 cents per penny. Now, I’m no mathemagician, but that doesn’t sound like a strong fiscal policy – sell something for less than it costs to make. Then factor in we’re producing 7 billion (billion) pennies a year for a total cost of over 100 million dollars.

Beyond the dollars and cents, is the real cost of the penny. Time is money as they say, and the penny costs America 2 to 2.5 seconds for every transaction. That adds up to 2.4 hours of wasted time per person per year to leave a penny and take a penny. That’s 140 minutes I could spend watching my soul mate knit, or cut the grass, or sleep, or chuck rocks at cars because pennies are too darn expensive! The experts say (and when I say experts I don’t mean some guy spewing hate towards coinage on his wife’s blog, I’m talking about Professor Robert M. Whaples of Wake Forrest University) this is costing the U.S. economy $10 billion in productivity.

So what keeps the penny alive? One would think that the great state of Illinois is behind this fiendish inefficiency – being the “Land of Lincoln” and what not – but while they are vocal in opposition to the retirement of the penny, they are only Illinois, not Tennessee where the real penny power is. Tennessee is home base to the zinc industry, of which 97.5% of every penny is made. It isn’t Illinois behind the “2009 Bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s Birth” series of pennies with four new backs, but the American’s for Common Cents (, which is nothing more than the cleverly disguised shill for the zinc lobby. Cool name, but bad juju. These fear mongers claim that it will cost you more in rounding up on transactions if we rid ourselves of the penny, but that same smart-sounding Demon Deacon’s (PhD from Wake Forrest) study shows that rounding will actually save consumers 1 cent for every 40 transactions (200 transactions later and you can roll that nickel into your 401k!).

Lincoln’s on the $5 bill, what more does he want--he’s worth 500 times the penny, selfish jerk. I don’t blame Lincoln though, I hear he was a good president of something, but seriously, he had his fifteen minutes of fame. Here’s the kicker, 58% of Americans hoard pennies in sock drawers, wishing wells, mall fountains, and change jars instead of actually spending them. Why spend more money to make something than it’s actually worth, and then not use it. I don’t live in crazy town, so why should I use their currency?

So, remember, next time someone says “penny for your thoughts,” punch them straight in the face, because they just said is, “Burden me with your thoughts because it costs me more emotional energy to listen than I will gain in knowledge.” Sacajawea for your internal monologue anyone?

May 14, 2008

Soothing the Savage Beast

I should be working on study guides, but hearing a song in the car today reminded me of a post I'd been meaning to do. Music is very important to me, from years studying piano and clarinet, to my love of singing loudly in the car. I have always kept a mental list of my Top Ten--the songs I always love to hear and sing along with, and immediately downloaded to my iPod. So, here's my list--mock it, or share your own.

Amanda's Top Ten Quite Cool Songs (in no particular order)
1. Ain't Too Proud to Beg--The Temptations
2. The Old Apartment--Barenaked Ladies
3. Maybe I'm Amazed--Paul McCartney
4. In Your Eyes--Peter Gabriel
5. Baba O'Riley--The Who
6. Read My Mind--The Killers
7. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes--Paul Simon
8. Can't Always Get What You Want--The Rolling Stones
9. Cecilia--Simon & Garfunkel
10. Under Pressure--Queen & David Bowie

May 13, 2008

Bone Tired

Sigh. And it's only Tuesday! If you don't teach, and look fondly back on those last few days of school, spare a thought for us poor teachers, desperately trying to grade, write finals, and all that jazz. I know I've whined about it a lot, but it is soul-sucking. So, today, I leave you with a clip from The Colbert Report, in which Stephen Colbert reveals that he too is a NASA nerd.

May 12, 2008

A Belated Mama Shout Out

I didn't blog yesterday, because I was with my mother, having a nice, delightful time. It is especially nice to have a mom who is completely satisfied just getting to see you for Mother's Day, although it might give you an exaggerated sense of self.

My mom is the best in the world--I know you might also think that, but I'm here to say you are wrong. You cannot beat my mom--she is an amazing, talented, thoughtful woman. She also has the same career I have, of sorts--she teaches Kindergartners--so we can always rant about our jobs together. She is the best baker in the entire world. If you think I am lying, ask someone who has eaten her food. She sews--she made bridesmaids dresses for both of her daughter's weddings. She is a hardcore prayer warrior. I could go on, but lunch break is about over.

So, mom, I love you so much! (I know, I know, other people's moms are great too. Share!)

May 10, 2008

Mr. Cool's Those Aren't My Pants: Randomness


1) Have you ever watched a guy chew through a seat belt? It is an interesting experience, but I suppose after a few hours in a restraint chair (it’s as fun as it sounds) I would want to chew through something too. That particular inmate thought it was a good time, but he did ask to see the dentist later.

2) Should we invade Iran? No, not a good idea. But, if you want to get them where it hurts – stop buying caviar. Directly after oil, Iran’s second largest export is Beluga Caviar! Talk about a great way to show one’s patriotism: upper crust liberals, blue bloods, and big-business conservatives can all join together in the GWOT (global war on terror)! But you can still eat the toast points, that’s as American as white bread…

3) The American Criminal Justice system should work faster. I know this isn’t a new idea, or one that is particularly ground breaking – but let me give you a prime example. I was supposed to go to Court on Monday (May 12th) to testify in an “Introduction of Contraband – Weapon – into a Secured Facility” case. This case was continued, for the fourth time! The original act was committed in November of 2006 and was witnessed by two sworn officers, so one wonders why the swift justice of the Criminal Justice system is failing me now. (In case you’re wondering why I care so much – the defendant broke a razor apart and fashion a slashing type weapon using a pencil and dental floss. This was of course only weeks after he threatened to kill me. The threats don’t really bother me, as they are more of a daily thing but I would like this guy off the streets.) But seriously, it only takes CSI and Law and Order an hour to convict a guy and send him off to the pokey!

4) If I could live in a catalog, which would it be? Between the lovely wife and me, we get a lot of catalogs – ranging from bison down yarn to Russian military surplus ammunition to an abundance of clothing retailers. If I could choose only one to live in, it would definitely be L.L. Bean. First off, I would still get to do many of the activities I enjoy (walking, swimming, hiking, kayaking, standing by fences, stacking wood, lighting fires, and staring off into scenery) with plenty of other beautiful people to enjoy them with. Secondly, I would be extremely prepared for all seasonal weather – Gore-Tex for winter, breathable fabrics for summer, and everything else in between. Lastly, I would never have to do any laundry – think about it. If you had each different kind of shirt, in every available color and pattern, I could have a clean shirt everyday for approximately 7 years.

May 09, 2008

Good Knitting Vibes

I have joyfully committed myself to completing a good-size knitted item in one week. I have cast on, and have six rows complete, with about six bazillion to go. I really, really want to complete this project, but many other things really, really need to get done in this coming week! Please send some positive knitting thoughts my way, that I would have time to knit, and time to do everything else that pulls me away from the needles!

P.S. No, I won't say what it is. It's a surprise!

May 08, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Ha!

As I enter the dark time of the teaching year, with constant grading, squirrely students, awards nights, and tearing down room decorations, I decided to compile a list of recent things that made me laugh. Hopefully, you get a chuckle too.

An Open Letter to Martians
Stephen Colbert and Donna Brazile (I like spunky gals!)
Weird Al + Queen
A Christian Movie Perspective

May 06, 2008

Da-da-da, Da-da-da

Some of you might have had a tune pop into your head while reading the title of this post, and some of might be thinking this will be an article on the Dada art movement.

Nope. No such luck, my artiste pals. This is a post on the fabulous, addictive ESPN Sports Center. Yes, the iconic da-da-da signals a witty and fun whip through the previous day in sports. I watch mine between 4-6 in the morning, and my day is improved when I can catch the Top Ten Plays, in all their glory. Even better, a morning when John Anderson (my current favorite anchor) gets off a few zingers. Today's best? Steve Levy (his co-anchor), referred to him as Captain Geography. "I have a cape," replied Anderson. I laughed all the way to my toothbrush.

See, I love sports. My particular favorites are basketball and baseball, but I will watch just about anything. Mr. Cool has managed to get me mildly addicted to football in our years of marriage, and listening to Barry Melrose's deluxe Canadian accent (eh?) will make me care about hockey. To be honest, the only highlight I will avoid is anything to do with Nascar. (I'm paying $3.50/gallon, and there's a sport wasting gas?! Please tell me I'm not the only one who hates that.) Sports Center is my morning news, full of dunks, passes, drafts, jaw-dropping catches, witty hockey one-liners, and Bengals jail reports. (Sorry, cheap shot.)

Of course, if I see anything in the great side-menu that informs you what's next that concerns my favorite teams, (Colts, Celtics, Spurs, UWYO), I will postpone my shower. Nothing is more fun to watch while on the treadmill than other athletic feats. Sports Center anchors are erudite and fast-thinkers, starting off the day with a bunch of clever comments on the world of sports.

So, this morning, thanks to Sports Center, I can wish good luck to the Spurs (you can come back!), best wishes to the Celtics (only Ohio thinks the Cavs will win--show 'em who's boss!), a snide snicker to Ken Griffey, Jr. (robbed of 598, hee, hee), and a warning to John Anderson about superheroes wearing capes. See you tomorrow morning!

May 04, 2008

Sunday Picture-O-Rama

I couldn't find the camera cable for a while (Mr. Cool had helpfully put it away), so I'm behind on pictures! So, fun stuff, swaps, and finished objects abound today!

Swap: I participated in my first swap through Ravelry, and MichelleH sent me some great stuff, much of which has been eaten or put to use. I have a plan for the yarn that might involve Christmas! I loved this whole swap, and look forward to my next one!

Fun Stuff: Sophie the sheep is happy to welcome a new decoration to my knitting corner--a special gift from Hannah. It's a vinyl transfer, but instead of my wall, I've affixed it to lovely hyacinth plaque, so that it can move with me forever. Mr. Cool thinks it must have been specially designed for me!

A close-up of the way-too-perfect transfer!

Finished Object: I've finally finished my lovely stole, my first really big finished object! It's starting to get too warm to enjoy it, but I know I will as soon as it's cold.

I know this isn't the best picture, but it does give you an idea of the length. It's the same height as me, and the color looks much less stripey in real life, with a gentle color gradation.

As soon as I get really nice pictures of my work area, I'll be posting those. Posts might be few and far between this week, as I'll be grading up a storm, but I'll keep listening to NPR, watching the news, and reading blogs!

May 01, 2008

Age Before Beauty

This morning on NPR, I heard an interesting story about the generational gap in politics. Apparently, younger voters are turning into Democrats at an increasing rate, which will lead to a shift in American politics. A quote from the story stated that George W. Bush has turned young folk into Democrats in the same way that Reagan turned 'em into Republicans. I found it interesting that Republicans have the power in molding young minds, in either a negative or positive way. Apparently, this mind molding is strongest in twenty-somethings, as that is when a person's political mindset and loyalty are established.

The extension of this thought in the Democratic primaries, is that while race and gender are factors in the race between Obama and HRC, age is the biggest factor. Older voters tend to like Hilary, who is 60, while the youngsters like Obama, a youthful 46. In the mix of this is John McCain, who, if elected, would be the oldest first-term president. Is age a factor in presidential elections? I know the historical perspective (eh, kinda), but I'd like to know my loyal readers thoughts. Age before beauty?