Tuesday, February 09, 2016

It is Not Adding Up

When I began to volunteer with the county Adult Basic Education program it was a very slow start.  I took a three hour training/meeting that involved more in the way of forms and cautions about privacy, legal issues, etc. than it did about learning theories or learning styles. While initially they had told me they really needed someone living at my very rural end of the county, months passed before I was contacted with a student.  During that time I was certainly romanticizing this project and envisioned hours of success and happiness and goal completion!

As I wrote in a prior post, it was to teach math...not reading, which was a bummer for me.  I only volunteered for math because I felt guilty not trying to help students.  It was high school math, not Algebra or Geometry, etc. thank goodness.  I was told not to contact the student until I got my "packet."  Someone spent a good part of a day pulling together all kinds of exercises from various curriculum books, included the answers, and put them all in an inch thick notebook which I picked up at the local high school.

I looked over the exercises.  I slowly became terrified over my research hours because I honestly do not remember the details of combining fractions and the rules for decimals, I mostly just used a calculator in my daily life these days.  Word problems are another challenge and can be easy or difficult.  Anyway, I studied and prepared and then called my "student," a 50 something black woman who had dropped out of high school at 17 due to pregnancy.  This is such a tragic and common story.  You can go here to read about our very first meeting.

We have now had over 12 sessions together.  Our meetings have been erratic to put it generously.  She cancels about 20% of the time due to a granddaughter in the hospital, her flu, a grandson she has to get ready for coast guard deployment, her moving to a new location, a migraine, and this last cancellation was due to a fall on hard concrete while doing her job.  I myself had to cancel over the Thanksgiving holidays for travel and we did have a "snow" day.  She cannot afford voice mail and when I call I just have to wait for her to call me back to touch base.  She does not seem to have email either.  That is another challenge.

The program lets her take her test early if she has enough formal class hours plus hours with me.  I sent in the paperwork and while I discouraged her from taking the test in January she went ahead and took it anyway.  She did pass her reading but did only slightly better on the math side and thus failed.  I have not seen the tests and while I have asked her and the county offices to let me know her areas of weakness, I do not seem to get much help. 

She still seems enthusiastic to meet this challenge, but also shows up and then cannot read the problems because she forgets her glasses.  I have been around the world a few times and know exactly what is going on here.  She does not want to quit and yet she does not want to continue.

I have scheduled the library study room for 6 more weeks and will continue with her into late spring and about 12 more classes, but realize at that time if she is not ready, she may need to find a new volunteer teacher.  I think she is not allowed to take the test again until September, but I am not even sure about that scheduling.  I will give it my all through these next months, but feel a little disheartened that I am failing her and she is failing herself.

Saturday, February 06, 2016


Regarding movie/video preservation it is the 16mm and 8mm home movies that turn  to acid.  They do not like dramatic temperature changes or  being stored in very warm places.  Once these films start their "vinegar" transformation they can  no longer be saved.  We had converted all of our reel-to-reel type movies years ago because some were almost 100 years old from my husbands family!

But at the time we converted them we converted them to VHS as that was all that was available.  Now those  VHS are getting old and must be converted to digital.  The DVD's are not recommended as long term archival  medium any more, so we may have to put them on flash  drives,  or  hard drives and as back up  store them some safe place "in the cloud."  This process is actually a scary and expensive nightmare.

My wedding photo album is fading because I did not  have money for a professional photographer and it is snapshots taken by friends, so that is something I need to also  send away for professional restoration  soon!  It is sad that we are not going to live forever, even virtually, it seems.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

What is that smell?

Is it a bouquet or a stench?

I lived in an apartment for two years before my retirement.  It was a change I had to make because we sold our house and had no where to live.  We were retiring in a few years and had not decided WHERE we wanted to live, and felt the housing market was too squirrely to wait for another few years when we might find it more difficult to sell the big old house.

The big positives in this new lifestyle were that it took an hour to clean the whole place.  I lived across the street from my workplace.  Everything I needed including shopping, hardware, restaurants, cultural activities and mass transportation were just blocks away.  It was a new lazy way to live without the yard work and the low utility expenses.

The negatives were that I rarely got to know my neighbors.  We may meet at the mailbox but many tenants came for just a year and then left.  My view from the apartment was of a parking lot and the rooftops of business buildings.  I missed my gardening.  There was little room to entertain company unless you went to the lobby with human traffic and stale air, and the kitchen was not exactly set up for cooking.  Our first Thanksgiving I actually bought a large box Thanksgiving dinner from the local supermarket.

The other adjustment was the closeness of living spaces with strangers.  Fortunately there was only one yelling match that took place in the stairwell off my kitchen door. 

But I also frequently smelled curry in the hallway.  Now I do love curry but not everyday and certainly not that stale smell that lingers in the morning as I ride the elevator down to work. There are those commercials that remind people the smells of their pet can be hidden to them but very off-putting to others.  You can always tell when a toddler lives in a house no matter how careful they are in changing the little one.  And there is the joke of stale cabbage odors and cigarette smoke in homes of the elderly.

Well, once my new home had off-gassed its odors of wood, sheet rock and paint, we noticed something a little off in the master bedroom closet.  Now to clarify, this closet is HUGE as The Donald would say.  It is not only walk-in but there was room enough to put the grand children's portable crib when they came to visit.  We checked out the shoes, billed sports caps, and dark corners.  I checked hubby's suits which he no longer wore and we had some of them cleaned.  We could not identify the smell and eventually we no longer smelled it...because we got used to it.

Once or twice when my son visited he commented that the closet smelled funny.  He did not make a big deal out of it, probably thinking old people shed skin and stuff, and therefore, their closets smell funny.

We never could figure it out until yesterday.

Hubby was going through all of his old photos albums, his parents albums and diaries etc. in a box on the top shelf.  He called to me and said he had figured out what was making the odor.  In his hands was an 8mm movie tape in a metal case.  I could smell the acid yards before he reached me, the vinegar syndrome where an acid is created by the decay of the ascetic base.  Fortunately we had converted this to VHS years before, but now I have been reminded that we have to digitize even that medium.  VHS gets brittle and fades, to say nothing of the fact that we have only one VHS reader in the house and it is part of a TV set.

The movie tape acid was so strong that we had to wrap it in a plastic garbage and take it out to the garage garbage bin.  Even today I can detect the smell in the garbage!

Now when son comes down to visit, I am going to take him to the closet for a sniff test.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Better Side of the Argument

The take over of the Oregon Wildlife Refuge still hangs heavy on my mind.  I guess it is because I love this earth and I do not believe the way these militiamen-terrorists took over that land was an example of how to win an argument.  They lost the support of the locals, the American Indians, and all of us environmentalists in short time.  They also, like so many radicals, claimed God was on their side. 

One of my blog readers (keeping them anonymous as they argued only with me) provided a link to support the argument regarding the promotion of environmental grazing of lands.  The person making the argument did not convince me as there was little example or science to his blog post.

But I do not like to think I am closed minded and thus I went on a bit of research and came across the link I am providing below.  It does not win me over to the side of those who make arguments with guns and breaking the law and claiming they should get a resource for free, because they needed to be more intellectual and take their case to those that can provide the rational and science arguments for them that this African does. It is an environmental argument.  Does this work on our continent?  Who knows?  It might be worth looking into though.

It is a TED talk which means it carries some validity and is worth paying attention.  I am just linking here to provide a better argument.


Oh, the photo above is a macro of my couch fabric with some photo-painting!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Just a Memory

The big storm is now melting into water and I can hear little rivulets trickling down the drain pipes when I carry bird seed outside.  The white blanket will soon be gone and a distant memory as mankind forgets the challenge. 

I actually shoveled about 1,250 pounds of wet heavy snow off of my deck.  At first it was just to make a path to the bird feeder and water bath and then when I realized how heavy each shovel was, I was fearful such a blanket of icy snow was too heavy for the deck and removed as much as I could over about 45 minutes. My lower back will remind me tomorrow, but the rest of me will be happy for the exercise.

I have monitored how everyone has coped on FB.  Most of the families with young children are sledding, shoveling and building various snowmen and snow-women.  The more dynamic types are cooking or complaining about cabin fever.  We are mostly mellow because this is the first really winter weather we have had.  With my Helleborus blooming last week I was fearful all my bulbs would be emerging.

I sit at the computer and paint my photos. 

I read books.  I follow one of my courses that I bought a while back.  I binge watch a Netflix series.  I do sometimes feel I am wasting time but I am not lost.  There is always plenty to do.  When I post this I will start the pork ribs in the slow cooker for tonight's dinner.  Not healthy, but we deserve it.

Soon a more normal routine will emerge. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dodging a Bullet

Spent most of Friday getting ready for the big one.  Meteorologists were in the middle of orgasmic math as they predicted the breaking of ten year and then five year records of snowfall and temperature drops on fancy graphs.  We parked the big car at the end of the driveway for an emergency exit if needed as we had no intention of trying to shovel that long driveway and we do not have a snowblower.

As you can see above toward the road, there was just a little snow left from that first dusty bit that shut down the city earlier in the week.  We filled buckets with drinkable water in the event we lost electricity.  We got out the flashlights and candles and the weather radio.  I had gone shopping two days earlier and we were well-stocked with food.  This was a good thing, because there is a ritual in this country that people go bonkers 24 to 5 hours before a storm hits and buy everything in the grocery store that they can find.  The lines get long and the people begin to lose their sense of humor.  I did not want to argue over the last can of beans!

By the afternoon big wet flakes were beginning to fall.  Mayors and Governors were giving speeches on television about how ready they were, how you must stay home, and how this could be life threatening.  This was followed by newscasters talking to people on snow-covered streets who did not stay home and who were trying to shop for last minute booze or whatever or dragging out their snow shoes or skis which never get used.  Hubby stocked up on wood...we had a week's worth next to the house.  We started a cozy fire and watched a movie.

By nightfall it was beginning to get serious as the far side of the river disappeared.

We went to bed just a little excited about what might await us on Saturday morning.

Throughout the Saturday snow fell and gusts of wind rattled the window panes.  Birdies were thankful for our water heater and the full bird feeders and the suet cakes we had left out.  I went out around the neighborhood for photos because we were supposed to have a follow-up ice storm and I knew I could miss all the good stuff.  We had not gotten more than a foot of snow by mid-day which probably makes Canadians laugh.

I made my way carefully down to the dock for photos while hubby brought firewood into the garage and blew snow off the AC/Heat fans beside the house.

Then by mid-morning we lost electricity and thus started taking things more seriously.  We moved the love seat right in front of the roaring fireplace and got our books and e-readers out and put a pot of tomato soup on the gas cook top.  While we missed the contact and hullabaloo (yes, that is an actual word) from the outside world in a very quiet house we slowly re-settled into non-technology mold.  We did use our cell phone to report the outage to the electric company and to let loved ones on FB know we had no power.  Gusts of  strong winds pushed drifts next to doorways and against trees and pushed windows until the drifts were a few feet high.  Several small dead trees went down.  Yet, we had electricity back within hours, we were so lucky!

By the time we headed to bed the snow storm had become a white out with blowing snow hiding everything around the house.  We had measured only 12 inches of snow around noon, but it will be interesting to see what this morning brings when daylight begins.  I am writing this at 3:00 A.M.  The precipitation has stopped and thus far there is no ice!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Keeping Balance

We went to our monthly master gardener meeting last night and were surprised to find almost an inch of snow as we left in the early evening.  It was still falling in soft large flakes as we headed home down the highway.

It seemed we were not the only ones surprised as people were sliding and driving much slower in the dark.  We did a little fish-tailing on the turn into the intersection and this was in my husband's large and heavy Ford Explorer, so you can imagine how difficult it was for smaller cars to keep their traction.  The snow wetness, the temperature, and whatever else made for some acrobatics you do not want to see except on TV.  The city to the north of us came to a standstill for NINE HOURS.  Some people did not get home from work until 2:00 or 300 in the morning.  Officials had been focused on this weekend's bigger storm and failed to get roads salted for this little dusting.  It only takes an inch of snow to shut down an entire metropolis.  I am sure that officials heads will roll, but at least we are not drinking lead in our water, so I am willing to give the traffic department a pass.

I am supposed to assist with a seed exchange meeting on Saturday, but am pretty sure that will be postponed to the snow date next month.  I am glad, because I have not had time to sort the few seeds I can share.

I like having an excuse to not do anything but sit in the house and waste time for the next three days!  I am in truth a bum at heart.  Maybe I will at least make an effort to write...

Except, I really feel like making chocolate chip cookies.  I have half a bag of walnuts left over and flour I need to use before it gets too old.  Then I will have to run 4 miles on the elliptical to justify eating two of the warm cookies!

Stay safe and warm inside.