It’s cloudy outside.
The cat
Is purring in my ear.

[She’s very cute. Earlier she was following a bug intently. Finally it flew away. It was a lady bug. Now she is following the cursor. What a clever girl!]

[Earlier, I went to Costco. I bought lots of carrots. How virtuous! All that remains is to actually eat them. Also 5 pumalos, which are actually a bit more interesting purely because they’re so odd.]

[M and K are both out, and the house is very very quiet.]””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

[That was Lucy!]

Okay. Going to go eat a carrot and then do some other virtuous act. Fold the laundry, I suppose. I should weed, since it isn’t actually raining yet.

A tiny bit more

and then I’ll stop.

Here’s an article about our dean, and his new job “fixing the educational pipeline.” He’s absolutely right. The pipeline is broken. And he’s probably correct in laying it at the feet of Prop 13.

Actually, reading about what he’s up to always makes me feel more hopeful.

I had lunch in SF with an old friend. It was spooky. We ate at the ferry building, outside on the bay, and watched a tall ship setting its sails and tacking around. It was lovely. But she’s just barely escaped a huge layoff, and things are not really okay. Somehow in the city, things seem a bit more urgent. It’s not fun.

Back to school night — read at your own peril.

In re: the caffeination experiment. I’m definitely feeling better, stomachwise. Headache and sleepiness, somewhat less than yesterday.

At this point, I would advise anyone who isn’t passionately interested in the more horrifying aspects of American public education with respect to my kid in particular to look elsewhere. Go back — there was a far more entertaining post just before this one. Thanks.

It was back to school night last night. I admit I was not in the best of moods to begin with, but it wasn’t helped by the fact that apparently four of M’s six classes are now amalgamations of 2 classes — half the kids are in “Ac@demic ChoIce” and half are in LUPS International School. This is insane. The school has limited resources, and now (in addition to four other “schools” within the school, a confusion I won’t even go in to) they have to split those resources to meet two different standards — the IB standard and the AP standard. That means that next year in M’s latin class, the teacher will have to teach two different curricula in one class period. One group has to read a lot of Vergil. The other has to read some Vergil and then a bunch of Ovid. There is money for one senior latin class. It’s like the little red school house, I guess, where you just sit there until it’s your turn. In M’s art class, she’s essentially just sitting around while the IB students get ready for the IB exam. No one is bothering about the AP exam, which M should be taking this year. The new chemistry teacher (the old one left because there was no support and the kids were too unruly) has instituted some bizarre point system where you gain and lose points based on whether you’re in your seat when the bell rings and whether you copy the agenda from the board. No discussion at all of the chemistry they’re supposed to be learning. Math used to be fairly safe, but now there’s IB math, too. (Apparently math is done differently internationally. Who knew?) So the whole discussion there was what math the IB kids should take next year.

As K said, it was all about process, and nothing, except in M’s English class, about what they were doing.

It made me really glad that I will never have to go to high school again.

I have really given up. She’s got 1.5 more years there. Latin and English and math will probably be okay. Science is bound to suck — it has every year she’s been there. If they haven’t moved the one good econ/gov’t teacher over to the IB school, that will be good, but there’s no guarantee, and given that he’s a good teacher, they probably will, which will leave her with some moron, of whom there are not a few. Art will be bad. Then she’ll be out of there.

I’m sorry to have such a bad attitude. I got a fairly decent education at my public school. I don’t really understand what has gone so badly wrong at LUPS. They’re very concerned about the achievement gap, and I think we should all be concerned about the achievement gap. What I have questions about are the ways they’ve gone about fixing it. M’s English teacher is going to offer a class on epic novels next year. She said she was really sad that they couldn’t read much in the regular classes, and she remembered reading lots in her high school English classes. “But some of my students really could not keep up if we read Moby Dick.” The idea is to have English and History be for all levels of kids mixed together, and that this will close the achievement gap. I have no idea how it’s working for the non-middle class kids. M’s English class is actually going really well, though. They are not reading very much, but they are writing a ton, and M is learning a lot.

Actually, if I think about what’s wrong with LUPS it would be:

  1. No reasonable curriculum. No one is really in charge. No one can make the science dept. offer reasonable classes. Good students should take bio, chem and physics, and then an AP science. Iffier students should have something else, but it should be a progression of classes designed to teach scientific literacy. Or maybe you should have honors and nonhonors. I don’t know — I’m not a science educator, but what I can tell you is that what they’ve got now doesn’t work.
  2. Too many bad teachers.
  3. Too many teacher allowed to just get by showing movies, or discussing Oprah, or refusing to return homework or grade tests.
  4. Too many insane parents with nutty ideas. (But not me.)
  5. A very very diverse population, with some very bright and well directed kids, and some kids who are totally lost. Actually, I think a lot of the problem is the kids in the middle — kids who are just kids, some quite bright, but probably not directed enough to grab an education out of chaos. These are the kids who no one worries about except their parents, who then become insane with worry and demand 46 science AP classes because then at least their kids will be separated from the nogoodniks, and will get, they hope, a decent teacher. The school needs to establish a reasonable curriculum and then tell these parents — your child is okay in regular biology. There is a curriculum and we will teach it. The teacher is not a moron. And it has to be true.
  6. A significant urban population that is not being educated.
  7. Maybe this is too much for any school to deal with —
  8. And now this crazy attempt to make 8 schools in one, when they don’t have the resources to make one school in one.

I don’t think I would repeat this experiment if I had another child, but really, what option is there? Several high pressure private high schools that cost $35,000 per year that my kids would never get in to. A mediocre catholic high school. A very small idiosyncratic, cheaper private school. I don’t know why it should be this way.

Further vacation considerations

Another message from N. In answer to the question, should we think about Mexico, I have this response.

How hot would it be? The thing about short term here is that it’s not actually warm, but it feels warm to us, so everyone goes swimming. I don’t want to be too acclimatized to the warm.

Baffin Island? The Gobi desert? Those aren’t exactly cheap though.

Experiment in caffeination

Okay, in an attempt to see if coffee is what’s causing my stomach to feel, well, bad, I have not had any coffee in three days. I like tea. I’m drinking tea. Nonetheless, I am wondering if this could be the reason I feel so very very very tired.

And perhaps a small headache.

I think my stomach does feel better, though.

Also, I am glad the Obamas have chosen a dog, but I think Mrs. Obama is being sort of unreasonable about the name. She doesn’t like “Frank” or “Moose.” Those seem like fine names to me, but then I have a cat named Jim. (A name selected by a 6 year old — also where the names Frank and Moose came from, I think.)

I have been distracted in the middle of this post. (It must be the coffee. Or else a brain tumor.) N sent me a message:

GAH I just wrote you a really long e-mail and then my internet ate it.
I’ll to to re-create in a somewhat shorter form
1. I got up and was at breakfast at 9 this morning, and I don’t have
class till 2:40

This is good — she had been staying up till 4 or 4 and then sleeping till 11.

2. Should I write on my application that I would work for 10.07, or
should i ask for more? (So I can afford to go to finland and sweden)

3. If I get this job, can I use the car?
-should I get a moped?
-would I try to bring that moped to maine(probably more
expensive than the moped itself is)
-are mopeds only for the summer?

4. Which parks should I say I would work at, and how should I rank
them? Which parks are too far away?

5. I think there was more, it was all written in paragraph form with
my subtle wit cleverly woven in, that is all lost.

6. I miss you, but I don;t want to waste my break doing nothing in
Berkeley. Let’s go see something interesting and camp so it’s cheap.
somewhere near a cheap airport maybe (Although I don’t think national
parks usually are….) I kind of want to see animals, or cool
geological features, not just normal nature with normal trees and
normal birds. Death Valley would be fine. I could fly into LA and you
could pick me up. (Or oakland, I don’t really care)

By all means no normal birds!

What a nut — I miss her.


The Children Who Lived in a Barn

I’ve just finished reading The children who lived in a barn by Eleanor Graham. What a book. The plot is very much like that of the more familiar Boxcar Children, which I remember loving as a kid. How romantic to go off and live in a railway car. How wonderful to still be a kid, and to be completely in charge of yourself. Amazing. I still remember the cracked pink cup one of them found at the dump to use.

Anyway, this is as romantic — they end up in a barn which they clean up — but the details are much more satisfying. People are good and bad — the insensitive teacher who arranges for the whole class to knit socks for the poor Dunnits is also really helpful in helping them to make and learn how to use a haybox, which seems to be a primitive form of crockpot. Susan (it’s always Susan) loses her temper and tends to take offense, but then she’s only 13. The missing parents are totally odd. The father is a useless, bad-tempered man with opinions. The mother goes along with his nonsense. Alice, the baby, is often a nuisance. It’s very real, and not at all smarmy.

It’s a very odd book.

I also see that this is totally the sort of book from which I got my ideas about housekeeping — also, my side of the mountain. I like the idea of living off bread and jam off cracked plates in a cabin while it rains outside. I can’t explain it, really, but it’s true.

It’s a very good book.

Difficult morning

I wake up this morning at 4 to help M type up a paper. It evolves into a conversation, and it is all interesting, but then we both go back to sleep and wake up at 8:00 which is far too late. There is some Latin translation undone, and no time to do it. We are tired. It is a difficult morning.

Part of it may be the rain, which does kind of encourage sleeping.

Traffic is slow, and after I dropp M off I run by the house to sweep some of the trash out of K’s car, which I am taking to the shop. A picture message comes from N of a beautiful snowfall. I wish I could post it here. It’s of some trees weighed down with snow, and a building behind. As I am driving to the shop, she calls to tell me about it. It’s wet snow, good for snowballs, she says. (She’s learning about snow! It’s sweet, somehow.)

The guy who owns the shop, Daniel, who’s from Sevilla, says he saw me last Thursday out on Bear Valley Rd. It turns out that his son takes riding lessons, too.

On the train back to town, I start a new book. Miss Buncle’s Book, by DS Stevenson. It’s one of those Persephone books, and it feels nice in my hand. (I ordered four of them a week ago, which was decadent. They came right away in little white packages that I opened at dinner.) I read the introduction, and then start the book, and I think I’m going to like it. I catch the bus right away and keep reading.

I’m at work.

Just to report

It is still raining!

I am finally preparing to make these goddamned whoopie pies, which I will take in to work tomorrow. But in order to do this, I have to go out in the rain to buy butter. How can we not have butter? I think there are some serious butter eaters (K) in this house.

There is some serious moving around going on at work. I’m not sure it really makes any sense, given that we’re all moving in to a hole in the ground in two years. I think it’s actually because of it, actually. Worrying about it has made people feel that they have to do things now — just as a way of feeling like there’s something they can do.

Anyway, apparently the woman who’s moving upstairs is unhappy about it because of our lack of windows. It is a little hard for me to feel too sad for her, given that the rest of us have been suffering up there since 1998.

Somehow, though, all the moving has made me feel like sprucing up my office. I’d almost like to paint it, but I may just settle for dusting the bookshelves and putting up a new picture.

Somehow the whoopie pies are all part of this.

Off I go, out into the rain.


Not weeding

It started out sunny, but the clouds have come back in and looks like it’s about to start raining again.

Hooray! I was really not wanting to weed. I really ought to, though.

I called my mother, to find out exactly what’s going on with this apparent family reunion this summer. We’re all going to Minnesota to stay on a lake. We’ll have four cottages, instead of the one we had growing up. Somehow I doubt it will be any less complicated.

Anyway, N and her roommate are at my mom’s house in Massachusetts for this half of vacation week. (The first half they were skiing with another friend.) When I called, my brother T. answered. He was over with his two kids, one of whom was in another room somewhere with my mother, N and N’s roommate. My other brother, NB’s, wife G was in the kitchen making lasagna. T and his kids had just been rockclimbing. I spoke to N, who said that my sister B from Connecticut had been there as well. N, her roommate, and my mother had just been to the store that sells everything in bulk, stocking up on chocolate, which is evidently in short supply in Maine.


My mother said, “Oh, don’t you wish you were here?” And actually, I don’t, but I’m glad that they all are. It’s kind of enough just knowing that.