Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Complete Baby Block Set

This is the set, well two blocks short actually, but I was so excited I couldn't wait any longer to post it. I'll have the last two ready for tomorrow as well.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Reward for My Class

I've found that positive reinforcement, aka bribery, is often very effective when it comes to classroom management, especially when food is involved. Even more so when it's done in the form of a competition. So I put forth a challenge to my 5 different classes, which ever class could spell "CAKE!" first got one. My fourth period was the first class to do so. I love this class, by the way. So I made them a cake of the choice, with homemade butter cream icing too. Since the holiday started today, I made it a Christmas cake.

I got a surprising cake-related request today. One of my co-workers, that I could have sworn hated my guts, said she had been meaning to talk to me about making a cake for her daughter's birthday. I am very excited and happy, also a little nervous. I'm not sure what to charge, I'll have to think about it.

2008 Christmas Ornaments

I made this for my secret Santa at school. For those of you not familiar with the tradition, everyone at work that wants to participate fills out a form of things they like, collect, etc. Then everyone draws a name, you give the person you drew small gifts all week, then a slightly larger gift on Friday and reveal who you are. I think this is fun, and a great way to get to know your co-workers. I like shopping for someone that is practically a stranger, and on a very small budget, it's challenging.

Another holiday tradition we have at work is the Ornament Exchange, where people get an ornament and bring it in. Everyone draws a number, and you get to pick out an ornament. The people that come after you can take your ornament, it's fun and silly. I wanted to participate, so I made an ornament rather than buy one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

For Grandma

This Christmas will be our first Christmas without my grandpa. He is the first of my grandparents to pass away. My grandmother and he were together over 60 years. Tomorrow she closes on the house they shared for over 40 years, and her new house in the same town as her surviving daughter, grandkids, and great-grandkids.

I will spend tomorrow watching the movers remove everything from the house I have spent almost every holiday of my life in. If you looked at the photo album of my childhood, that house is the backdrop for almost every picture. It will be a hard day, sitting in that place all alone as it becomes a hollow shell.

Most of the familiar items will be moving to the new house, but it's still hard to let go of a place that has been such a part of your life. I can't imagine how hard this is for my grandmother, though it would be harder for her to stay there alone. Surrounded by everything that was theirs for so long.

I did not intend this to be about the loss of my grandfather, and the house that was my second home during my childhood, but I guess I needed to express those feelings.

My grandmother is a greet lover of old-fashioned correspondence: hand-written letters, Christmas and birthday cards. Even though many of her family and friends have passed on she gets quite a few Christmas cards. Previously in my blog, I had documented the progress on the cross-stitch portion of this gift. I had hoped to finish it last year, but now I'm glad that I didn't. I plan on hanging it up in her new house tomorrow as a house-warming/Christmas gift. I'm hoping that having one thing up for Christmas that is just her's will help the year be a little easier.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Wow, all I can say is WOW! I actually finished this book over a week ago, but I had to take a step back from it. This was one of the most raw and intense stories I have ever read. It's the story of a father and son after a horrible world-wide disaster. We never learn exactly what it was, but the description of the day suggests a nuclear event. We travel with this family, who we only ever know as "the man" and "the boy". We witness their day-to-day struggle just to continue to exist. The man has set a goal of going south, to the sea. The weather is getting colder and colder, and they will not be able to survive another winter in the north.

The book is written in the third person, but I couldn't help to feel like the man was speaking to us directly in the story. The center focus of the book is the relationship between the father and son, when we do run into other people they pose a danger to the main characters. There is a starkness about the descriptions and even the conversations between the two. McCarthy chooses to not use punctuation most of the time. I think that this really emphasizes the lack of society, and contributes to the harried feeling of the story. McCarthy's writing in this story invokes lots of emotion from the readers, but also requires the readers to draw their own conclusions.

There are so many scenes in this book that struck me, and that I'd like to share. However, I feel that doing so out of context would steal something from your experience of the book. There are parts of it that were so overwhelming, that I still tear up or feel jittery thinking about them.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Steps to Block Assembly

Putting the individual 1 1/2 inch squares of interfacing, on the back side of the blocks using steam heat.

The first three pieces of interfacing after they are ironed on, can you see the difference?

The guts of the blocks. OH, the HUMANITY! The CARNAGE!! Save the blocks.

A mostly completed reconstructive surgery. The block is reborn.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The "U" and "P" Block, The Final Chapter

An umbrella for the letter "U". Completed November 28, 2008.

A pear for the letter "P". The final block in the set, now I just have to put them together. Completed November 29, 2008.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Inkdeath A Review

How many times have you wished that you could actually enter the story you are reading? How many have wished that you could read a character out of a book and into your living room? Has a string of words ever immersed so deeply in tale that you have to be startled back into this world by a loved one?

Cornelia Funke weaves a tale that does just that in her Inkheart series. I just finished the third and final book in the trilogy, Inkdeath. This series is the story of Mo, a bookbinder, and Meggie, his daughter. Meggie loves books as much as her father. Two things in Meggie's life bother her, the fact that she has never known her mother and that her father never reads aloud to her. What she does not know is that the two things are related. You may be curious as to how they could be related. Mo has the ability to read characters out of books, and people into them. Once his wife disappears, he refuses to read aloud ever again, afraid that his daughter will disappear too.

The language is beautiful in these stories. The quotes used to open each chapter encompass the feel of it very well, and add to your reading list. This is young adult literature at its finest. And the richness of the text is inspiring to all ages. She does a masterful job of capturing the power of words and the imagination. The books became more enthralling and intense as the series progressed.

If you are a fantasy fan, I consider them a must read. I am a huge fan of Harry Potter, but this series is much deeper and more fulfilling in many ways. Definitely has a wider range of appeal, as anyone that loves the written word can identify with the sentiments found within the story.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The "L" and "K" Block

Did a lock for the letter "L". Completed November 16, 2008.

A key for the letter "K", goes well with the lock I think. Completed November 28, 2008.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Firestarter by Stephen King Review

I read Firestarter by Stephen King for the first time many years ago. My husband, a great lover of horror novels, wanted me to love them as well, but I was a scaredy-cat. So, his solution was to start me out with this early work of King's. He picked Firestarter because it isn't a horror novel, but more of a thriller/suspense/intrigue.

We begin by meeting Andy McGee, a poor college student, in need of money. His friend in the psychology department tells him about a drug experiment in which he can earn $200. It is suppose to be a test of a mild hallucinogen and a placebo. During the process of doing the paperwork, he meets a stunning blonde, Vicky Tomlinson. However, the drug they are testing isn't a mild, harmless hallucinogen; it is a strong hallucinogen and activates any latent telepathic abilities within the subjects. During their experience, Andy and Vicky fall in love and acquire some extra talents. The experiment doesn't work out so well for the rest of the participants. Andy can "push" people, give their brain a little nudge to go his way, mental domination. Vicky can occasionally move things with her mind, telekinesis. They marry and have a beautiful daughter, Charlie.

I fell in love with this adorable, intelligent, blonde seven year old that is the hero of the novel. She's really impossible to resist. She is such a sweet mixture of childhood wonder and adult concern. The true adventure for the McGee family starts when the Shop, the people that ran the experiment, think that Charlie has been relocated without their knowledge when she goes to spend a couple of days at a friend's house. They attack and kill Vicky and kidnap Charlie. This leads to the father and daughter being on the run. In the end, the Shop only really wants Charlie who is capable of pyrokinesis and telekinesis.

Much of the story revolves around the relationship between the father and daughter. It also looks at the loss of loved ones, coping with stress, and betrayal.

I have enjoyed this book both times I've read it, and the movie during multiple viewings. It is an easy and quick read, with characters that are very believable. This book started me on my journey of years with Stephen King and opened me to a whole new genre. Thank you, my husband and Mr. King. (I've been reading his books for so long, it actually feels weird calling him that.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The "G" and "Z" Block

The international symbol for girl for the letter "G". What could be more classic? Completed October 21, 2008.

I used a zig-zag for the letter Z. It makes me think of Charlie Brown too. Completed October 30, 2008.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

This is my second read through of Snow Crash, this year. This time I chose to listen to the audio book, due to my very busy schedule. It was read by Jonathan Davis, who did an excellent job. Expressive tones, unique voices for all the characters (even Y.T.), etc. I originally read this on a recommendation of a friend, and shortly after I began playing around on Second Life, which I discovered was inspired by the novel. In fact, I read it a second time so soon, because of my book talk group on Second Life. I admit it, I love the idea that the entire internet could be an entirely visual world.

The main character in our tale is Hero Protagonist(I've always been curious about this choice of name, but feel it's a bit too obvious to get analytical about.). He is a computer hacker/pizza delivery boy. Freelance hacking is an unstable income, and he got into debt with the mob, so now he delivers pizzas for them(all pizza places are owned by the mob). He meets our other main character, Y.T. is a courier. She delivers packages, messages, etc. on her skate board. All deliveries are made this way, the poon (harpoon) cars to help them get the delivery made faster. In fact, this is how Hero and Y.T. meet, she poons his pizza delivery car, and then delivers the pizza on time after he crashes the car into a pool.

We also meet Mr. Enzo, the head of the Mafia, and Mr. Lee, the head of the Chinese nation. Nations are more like corporations than the nations we are familiar with these days, they recruit people from all backgrounds and are not in a centralized location. David is also introduced to us, one of the lead hackers, an inventor of the Metaverse, and a good friend of Hero's. Juanita is another of our group of heroes, she is a hacker as well and programmed all the facial expressions in the Metaverse (which are now considered crucial to any business dealing there).

This is a story about a computer virus/drug that is called Snow Crash. Hero is offered a hypercard, a representation of a file in the Metaverse, with Snow Crash on it. He turns it down, as he does not know the person offering it and accepting it would be opening his computer to possible viral infection. David, on the other hand, takes the card. He opens it with Hero there, at first nothing happens, then his system crashes. Hero doesn't really think anything of it, other than that David should have known better. Turns out that it not only crashed David's computer, but his brain too. He is in the hospital, thanks to Juanita's actions, but unresponsive, only occasionally talking in tongues. The plot continues to gain complexity as the various threads tie together. It this intrigues you, I encourage you to read the novel for yourself.

Snow Crash touches on such themes as linguistics, religion, programming, psychology, and viral information. Stephenson shows a fairly good grasp of religious history, though he embellishes as well. The characters are engaging, the story is fast paced. Stephenson even gives you a few laughs along the way without disrupting the intense feeling of the book, a very difficult thing to do. This book is an excellent example of well written science fiction and cyberpunk.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

This book is not my typical genre, it was recommended/requested by one of the members of my book talk. It is a series of detective stories. It feels like the old detective movies and pulp fiction, especially the second story, which uses last names like Blue, White, and Black.

The first story, "City of Glass", is about a man named Daniel Quinn. He is a writer that takes on a case when he is mistaken for a P.I. named Paul Auster. It was when I reached that point of the story, I realized that this wasn't a typical mystery.

"Ghost" is the second story, it is about a P.I. named Blue that is hired to investigate a man named Black by a man named White (who he never sees). This story also has an unusual twist, which I will not spoil here.

The final story is "The Locked Room", about a freelance writer that would like to write fiction. He gets a letter from a very old friend's wife, a friend he hasn't talked to in a very long time. His friend has disappeared, she wants him to help deal with the writings he left behind.

In the end, all the stories are tied together. At times, the reader is left to wonder how much of these stories are auto-biographical. I really enjoyed the stories, although I have to admit that catching all the subtleties in these stories will take more than one read. Happy reading everyone.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Baby Shower Cake

I made this for a baby shower we are holding tomorrow for one of my fellow teachers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

10 Years

Yesterday was a momentous occasion, if a somewhat subdued one. My husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. He cooked a wonderful dinner of pineapple-glazed chicken, rice with pineapple chucks, and steamed carrots. We will have an actual date some other time in the next couple of weeks. This is where we go out on the town and take a break from being parents, and just take time for each other (though that happened last night as well).

We have now been married for longer than the national average, about 7.8 years. We are among the 65% of couples that reach their 10th anniversary. This is one case, where I don't mind following the crowd a bit. I hope, that like my grandparent's that this is truly a "til death do us part" situation.

Marriage is challenging, it takes work. It doesn't matter how much you love someone, you will not always agree about everything and you will not always find them pleasant to be around. They will do things that annoy you, and you will annoy them too. You will also help each other to laugh, and cry. They will tickle you and tell you horrible jokes, even when you don't want them to, because you need it. They will back you up with other people, even if they think you are wrong. They bring home a silly present or make you a treat to give your mood a boost, or just because. They will also call you on mistakes and bad choices when necessary, too. They'll be honest with you about how you look in an outfit, yet also tell you that you look great when you are 9 months pregnant. They'll know just the right gift to get for birthdays and Christmas, or they'll choose exactly the wrong thing and do it with love.

I can't claim to be an expert on marriage, I've only done it once. But I can tell you that for me, the most important thing in our relationship is our friendship. We are friends, partners, and lovers. The friend aspect benefits the partner portion because we share things in common, though there are differences. We enjoy many of the same past times, which means we don't necessarily need a "Ladies" Night or "Boys" Night Out to have fun. The friendship enables us to communicate better, I think, than those that aren't friends with their spouses. The differences keep us in balance when it comes to budgeting, child-rearing, etc. Yet we also need time away from each other, time to ourselves. Giving that to your spouse can be one of the most challenging parts of marriage, knowing when to be there and when to back off.

Thank you, Honey. Thank you for helping me to learn that I could be someone besides who my parents wanted me to be. Thank you for helping me to realize exactly how strong I can be. Thank you for giving up a job you loved, so I could fulfill my dreams. Thank you for our beautiful daughter, and for taking care of the homework stuff to allow me to rest after teaching all day. Thank you for all the delicious meals. Thank you for putting up with all my faults and moods, and much much more. I love you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Just Needed a Laugh

Thought I share a laugh with you all.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Update on the Bad Day

It turns out that the heart attack was three times worse than they thought at first. Dad has to stay in the hospital until Friday. He is doing well considering. He has been told that he MUST stop smoking. They are probably going to prescribe him the anti-smoking pills, sadly my mom can't take them. I will be going to see him tonight again, now that he's in a regular room. My daughter will be going with me, since she couldn't go while he was in CCU. I really dislike hospitals.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Yesterday was Not a Good Day

Yesterday morning started out normal for any work day, but as I am collecting together my things to go to work I look at my phone. There is a voice mail and a text message, very unusual for so early in the morning. (I didn't hear the phone because it was still on vibrate from work on Monday.) It was my sister, my dad was on his way to the hospital in an ambulance with chest pains.

My daughter had already left for the bus stop, thank goodness. I try calling work, get the machine; so I call my department head. She says she'll get everything together for me and I get my Principal and Vice-Principal's cellphone numbers. I get a hold of my VP, and she says they'll cover my classes for the day. All while I get together some things to take with me to the hospital. Tell my husband what is going on and he tells me, "Go, go, go. Get out of here."

On the way to the hospital I am trying desperately not to get too upset, if I start crying too hard I'll crash the car. I get to the hospital. He's in the heart center, a brand new facility. He did indeed have a heart attack. I have to say they took good care of him, by the time I got there he was already out of the emergency room and in a room in the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit). He had one artery that was completely blocked, luckily they only needed to put in a stint. Though apparently, if he had waiting much longer they would have had to open his chest up again. They said if he follows the rules and "behaves" he could be going home today. So the outlook is good, but somehow I am still worried.

Now my dad had open heart surgery just two years ago, the blockage that time was in a place that they couldn't put a stint in without killing him. After his open heart surgery, he gave up smoking for a little while. He and my mom, another heart attack survivor, began smoking again when my aunt died and they had to cope with her estate. The doctor said, of course, that my dad must stop smoking. I also think he needs to change his diet, he still eats lots of fatty foods.

This scared me pretty badly, my dad and I don't always get along these days. We have very different points-of-view on most things, but all I could think about was my Daddy. The big question in all of this is whether my mom will quit smoking too, or at least take her smoking outside.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hurricane Ike, Things are Beginning to Return to Normal

Today was the first day back to class for both students and teachers since Hurricane Ike struck the area two weeks ago, at least in our town. Some places started a few days ago, while others still can not return to the routine of school. There were mixed feelings about being back, on both the teacher and the student side of things. Glad because it's a sign that things are getting back to normal, sad because the break was kind of nice (once the terror was over anyway). The unexpected time off is much harder to return from because of all the uncertainty involved. There is no way to get yourself mentally ready for the return, because you aren't sure when that will be. Not to mention, many of the teachers have many repairs waiting for them at home and young children to worry about. A number of daycares don't have power and are not open yet, so parents are having difficulty returning to their jobs since they have no one to watch their children.

The older school buildings fared better overall. Our building had some water leak in from the internal courtyard areas, causing minor flooding in some of the hallways. The worst spot was the library, since it is right by the large courtyard next to the cafeteria. The carpet had to be ripped out, but none of the books were truly ruined. A few minor cases of mildew. The bookcases, which have been there for at least 20 years, got some water damage on the bottom. They are plywood and will probably have to be replaced, as they are trying to split now. Any roof damage that we sustained is so minor that it won't be visible until the next good rain (except on the new gym). One of the brand new junior highs lost enough of its roof to lose the use of 21 classrooms, these classes are going to be meeting in the halls, etc. until the rooms can be fixed.

Today and tomorrow, while teaching content, we are letting the students vent about their experiences during Ike. Today was mostly talk about what they went through. Tomorrow, in my class at least, we will be trying to come up with solutions to the problems caused by hurricanes.

In our town, 25% still do not have power. They are saying, as of this morning, that it will be November before 100% of the area has power back. In Galveston, it may be even longer. They are getting debris from Galveston in Corpus Christi, they know it's from Galveston because it's things like personal computers and such that can be traced back to the owners. For those of you not familiar with the area, I'm including this map to show the distance between the two cities. Sadly, I couldn't find one with a scale on it, but the latitude and longitude should help give an idea of the distance. Some of the houses on Galveston island were so completely destroyed, not even the foundation remains.

I'd like to thank, on behalf of our whole community, all the police men, electrical workers, phone men, tree cutters, and everyone else from other states and countries that have come down here to help us. It is really appreciated, even if we do not say thank you to your face. I truly hope that you never need us to return the favor.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The "I" and "N" Block

I used the noble scarab for the insect block. Completed September 23, 2008.

This is the block for the letter "N", I went with the number nine out of the necessity for simplicity.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Neuromancer Review

Neuromancer was written in 1984 by William Gibson, his first novel and the beginning of the Sprawl trilogy. His prior projects were short stories, including one co-authored with Bruce Sterling. It is known as the most famous early cyberpunk novel and for winning the three top sci-fi awards.

The hero of the piece is Henry Case, a hustler who was once a hacker of some skill. He has been on a suicide mission since his ability to run in cyberspace was burned out of his head after his bosses discovered he had been skimming funds. He is approached by Molly, a Razor Girl (a.k.a. a bodyguard), on behalf of a man named Armitage. They offer to reverse the damage done to his neural pathways and pay him to hack into a system for them. They fix his neural pathway damage, but plant an enzyme that will restore the damage unless they are satisfied with his work. Molly and Case become close and start investigating Armitage. The group later acquires Peter Riveria, an artist/con-man, to also assist in their heist. Riveria is also a sociopath, who they find while he is in the middle of a gruesome act. They are dealing with an AI, artificial intelligence. This is very dangerous for hackers. They tend to end up brain dead, sometimes briefly, most often permanently.

Gibson starts out very strong with this novel, it has an intense feeling. It heralds back to the days of pulp fiction in pacing and mood. However, in the third quarter of the book, though it was still enjoyable, it seemed to lose some of its momentum. This is probably not unusual in a first novel when the author has previously written short stories. The ending also felt a little forced, and yet at the same time hollow. I’m sure this has to do with the fact that it is the beginning of a trilogy. I found the characters compelling and fairly complex, including the AI. Gibson employs many allusions in his work, and has an expansive imagination. I’d like to read more of his work and see how he grows as he becomes more comfortable with the novel format and length.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Further Hurricane Ike Update

It is now Thursday, four full days have passed since the last part of Ike left our area. Clean up efforts were detailed slightly by a rain storm Sunday morning.

Stores are open, but most don't have perishable goods such as bread, meat, dairy, and fresh fruits. Ice and gas still create huge lines. We got our power back, only to have the air conditioner run out of freon the next day. It has been nice and cool the last few days, but after several days of no privacy because our windows had to be open all the time we really wanted to close them and use the A/C instead. Plus the A/C also helps clear out the moisture that had started making the house smell musty due to the windows having been open. Many people are still without power, even in our town.

The night before last we had friends and their two kids stay with us. They needed to get into some electricity and cool air. They wanted one night to catch up on their tv shows that they have missed. It is very disruptive for them to be staying a different place every night, but they feel like they are putting people out and don't want to be a burden on others. Having them here wasn't a problem at all, though convincing them of that was a different story. During the day they are cleaning up the remainder of the family business.

Yesterday, just has the husband was going to bed, there was a knock on the door. "We need everyone out of the apartment, or at least out of the upstairs." They were cutting the branch that was over our roof down. They wanted to make sure that no one was upstairs just in case something went wrong. The branch was the size of a small tree, probably weighed at least a ton. It had to be cut down because another branch, from another tree, had landed in it during the storm and they couldn't guarantee the integrity of the limb. It was rather nail biting to watch them cut the limb down, but they did a great job. The only damage was a few boards were knocked out of the fence in our backyard, which I now have to sweep all the leaves out of again.

School was canceled for the whole week, the staff will have a meeting on Monday. I'm guessing that it will be about the supplies students will need, about how many of our students lost their homes, and whether we will be taking in any evacuees from the surrounding areas. My husband doesn't think so, since most people fled to Austin or Dallas, but I think that many will be returning to the area to be near their work even if their home is gone. I have a feeling we will be getting some students, and possibly even some teachers added to our various campuses. It will be interesting to see if I am right, and when we will make up the missed days or if the TEA (Texas Education Agency) will excuse us from making them up. Now I'm gong to finishing writing our first test of the year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The "T" and "C" Block

T is for tree. Completed September 16, 2008.

C is for cookie, or in this case car. Completed September 19, 2008.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike Aftermath

I thought I'd post just a few pictures now, and share the story of our family friend that was slightly injured. Most of these are from our complex. There is an addendum in our lease saying they aren't responsible for damage done to cars by the carports. Come to find out, from a home inspector that lives here, that they are not made up to code. The carports were made from fencing material, basically aluminum, as you can see by the pretzel shape of some of the pieces.

I'm also included a couple from around town. As bad as it looks, our town got off very, very lucky compared to other communities like Galveston, Baytown, and Chambers County.

As for our family friend, she was extremely lucky. A very large tree fell on her house. It fell through her attic, and into her bedroom where she was sleeping. The tree landed on her bed, somehow only knocking her out of it onto the floor. Then all the things stored in the attic started landing on her. Luckily her neighbors saw the tree fall and came over to check on her in the middle of the storm. She was able to walk downstairs and let them in. They helped her get her essentials together, clothes and medicine etc., and she stayed with them for the night. Her son went to check on the house after the storm, and he didn't even want to enter the building as it looked incredibly unstable. She will probably have to leave her home. I am hoping she will stay with my grandmother, at least until her house is habitable again. My grandmother is still in deep mourning for her husband, but is too proud and independent to stay with someone.

You can see the pieces of metal everywhere, there is a daycare next door that got a lot of this in their playground, they are going to have to clean that up completely before they reopen.

If you look very carefully on the left hand side of the photo below, you will see that the carport is sitting on car rather than above it.

This is the Exxon next to our complex, you can see one of the lights is knocked over in the parking lot. The gentlemen you see either work for Exxon or for their insurance company.

This building use to have an entire fake stone front and said "Antique Center". The local Kroger lost some of its stone as well as had damage to the front and back of the store. They will be open today.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane Ike, Part III

We made it through the storm alive and well. None of our stuff was damaged either. All of our family is fine, though one family friend had some slight injuries (It was a very near thing). We lost power at 10:30 Friday night, my family lost power at 3am. Got it back just now at 9pm.

The night of the storm was horrifying. We were in the eye wall the entire storm. The wind literally howled, our daughter described it as a "mechanical Godzilla". We hunkered down in the living room on an air mattress and the baby girl slept in the closet under the stairs. Needless to say we didn't sleep much, though we eventually passed out from sheer exhaustion. We tried to distract ourselves with music, books, and food. The carports at our apartments were ripped apart, and many people's cars were damaged. We had a tree branch fall into our back patio and tear off part of the gutter and land on the fence. The fence leans a bit but is fine otherwise. Our friend, Steve, still has his trailer to live in, an unexpected piece of good luck. However, his family's music store lost it's roof. They are going to have to find a place to hold music lessons until it's fixed.

School will start again on Wednesday. I'm really glad I have a couple of days to get the house back in order, and clean clothes, etc. Tomorrow, I'll be going through our frig and freezer to see what is still good and what needs to be replaced. It's questionable as to what will even be available at the store. I am so looking forward to having a cooked meal.

On this blog tomorrow, I will be posting some pictures of the aftermath of Ike. Mostly at our apartment complex, a couple in town.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike, Part II

So after our plans fell through yesterday, we went and got a few more things at the store and are now in our house for the duration. Kroger is open today until 11pm, a bit of a shocker since the hurricane strength winds are suppose to reach shore at about 6pm.

Not making any full meals, just snacking. The nerves make it impossible to eat a full meal. Watch the news for a couple of hours, take a couple of hours off. Want to stay informed, but too much makes you start to panic. So we watch our recorded tv shows, play around on the internet and such to pass the time. Likely that we will lose power later, so we are saving reading as such for when we only have flashlights. I'll probably take a nap later as I probably won't sleep well tonight.

Ike is 12 hours away, and Galveston is already flooding. The flooding is as bad as with a Category 4 storm because of how wide Ike is. Waves are coming over the sea wall and depositing trash and pieces of broken piers all over the roads. Crews are clearing the debris as quickly as possible so that the rescue crews and emergency vehicles can get through. The floods came up sooner than people expected and the Coast Guard has been rescuing people all morning. There is a freighter that is broken down in the Gulf and the rescue copters can't get to them because of the high winds. (2:44 - the ship has just lost some power and can no longer steer, there was a rescue mission that failed.) The poor men and their families. Over 600,000 people in Texas have evacuated from their homes; and over 100,000 people in Louisiana.

Thankfully, Ike isn't spinning tight enough strengthen further. Now we wait to see if there are any last minute switch in directions.

4:25 - The wind is blowing steadily, though it's more like a strong breeze with gusts that feel like wind. There is a fire burning out of control on Galveston island around UTMB hospital and the court house. The flooding is preventing them from getting to it. The husband had to go lay down and rest for a while, I'll probably take a rest after him.

4:47 - The fire is in the Yacht Club, a transformer blew and set a fuel source alight. They are expecting more explosions because they can't reach the fire due to it being surrounded by water. The smoke is being pushed straight at UTMB, but the hospital is in no danger. There are still patients there, though all critical patients have been evacuated.

4:59 - Press Conference - Need to be off the road by 6:30 because hurricane force winds will be here. Too late to leave, time to get inside and wait. Looting will not be tolerated. A curfew will go into effect starting at 7pm - 6am on Saturday and Sunday in all Houston areas that had mandatory evacuations.

Damage estimates are are at $7 billion. I'm beginning to think we will be lucky enough not to lose power. People were still hanging out at coffee shops and one person was kayaking down the street.

6:00 - The state is now predicting that the damages will reach $81 billion. We've had our first power blink out, just long enough to reset the computers. Could finally hear the wind outside about 10 minutes ago. Hubby is up now, may be time to make a pallet on the floor. The wind is more audible upstairs.

6:45 - It's stalled in the Gulf temporarily, the eye has gotten much tighter and the winds are at 110 miles per hour (almost a Cat. 3). Bayous in Houston are flooding though there is no rain due to the storm surge.

7:30 - Husband and I just blew up our air mattress so we can all sleep in the living room floor. We've set it up right next to our closet beneath the stairs so we jump in there quickly in an emergency. About 90,000 people in mandatory evacuation areas have ignored the orders to get out. There have been wind gust up to 115 miles per hour. Many communities have put curfews in place for public safety and to prevent looting. I wonder what kind of idiot goes out in a hurricane when they don't have to. The lights have just flickered a couple of times, I hope the power lasts a little longer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike, Part I

So, yesterday the city decided to cancel school for Thursday and Friday. Since then our family has been trying to decide whether to stay or evacuate. The last evacuation was a nightmare, our car almost died. We were on the road for 14 hours, A/C gave out and the baby got sick. Then the hurricane followed us to our "safe" location. The car is in no condition to make such a trip, even if we had the money there are no hotels available for hundreds of miles (They were booked on Monday.).

My mother-in-law is insisting that we go with them, so we are going. They are coming to pick us up and we have no idea what kind of space we have for the essentials such as food and water. I really dislike uncertainty in such times. So by 6pm tonight we will be headed out of town, my family split into two different cars and our cat will be at my parents' house. I think this is the right decision, especially since when I was at Walmart getting supplies there was not a single seagull to be found (they are always there looking for free food).

I'll post an update to the situation as I am able. I have no idea if I'll have access to the internet for the next few days.

Evening update: We aren't leaving after all, our ride fell through.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Review I Couldn't Resist

I wasn't going to write a review for Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, because of how busy life has been due to the start of the school year, and reading the next book for our book talk group. In the end, I couldn't resist.

This book is wonderful. It falls into the science fiction genre, under the sub-genre of steampunk. For those not familiar with the term, steampunk is mostly defined by a feel of the Victorian era and a mix of advanced technology with backwards technology or advanced technology run by steam power.

Set in New Crobuzon, this book is about a fringe scientist, Isaac Dan De Grimubulin, who is approached by a client, Yag, to restore his ability of flight after he has his wings removed as punishment for a "choice crime". We also get a view into his relationship with Lin, a kheperi. Lin is a sculpture artist, who acquires a mysterious client of her own. The story develops slowly and evolves into a complex web of events.

The most overwhelming (in a good way) aspect of this book is the masterful use of language employed by Mieville. His vocabulary is extremely rich and varied, even reading it for the second time I had to occasionally reach for a dictionary. The language lends an incredible texture to the tale. New Crobuzon is described in a way that makes you feel as if you could go there and touch the walls of Lin's apartment or the University buildings. It has the feel of an old English town, including horse-drawn (and other creature)taxis. Mieville uses words as a painters use hues and colors on a canvas, giving the reader layers and subtle details. You can tell by reading his works that he has a love of words. Even if science fiction isn't your usual genre, give this book a read, the sophistication of the writing makes it literature without question. If you are a writer, you will envy his vocabulary and weaving of words.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The "W" and "X" Block

I know it's hard to tell, but it's a wheel. Completed September 1, 2008.

A xenomorph for X, I know, I know. But you can't do a xylophone or x-ray fish is a space this small.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Very Sad Day

We lost a child in our family today, she was only six years old. My husband's adopted sister, a full-blooded Lakota Sioux. She was put into foster care upon her birth, and luckily found our family. She did not have to endure being shuffled from foster home to foster home because she needed so much special care. This little girl was one of the sweetest and happiest I have ever met. Always smiling, always playful. As my daughter said, "At least she lived long enough to learn to do a somersault."*

The pathetic female that gave birth to her was a drug addict. She did so much garbage while she was pregnant, that her child was born with her insides on the outside of her body. Her first experience in this world was a surgery to save her life. Her life has been riddled with health problems, these issues have increased dramatically in the last two years. She's had tubes coming out of her body for most of her life, has frequently needed feeding tubes. Constantly getting infections. For the last year or so she has been in and out of comas; had issues with her ammonia levels jumping and her potassium levels dropping. Seizures had also come to besiege her. Recently she got an infection that moved in and attacked her liver and kidneys, basically killing them. In desperate need of a transplant, but not clear of infection and therefore ineligible. The doctors did their best for her, but her poor little body couldn't take anymore.

The fact that the thing that did this to her is still wandering this earth having never spent a day in jail, and probably still doing drugs infuriates me. This creature robbed a child of any choices or even the ability to ever be healthy. I will not refer to her as human, because anyone that can do such a thing isn't.

All this is made harder because we are 1200 miles away, and cannot be there to say goodbye or for our family. She will be remembered and loved by us always. I am glad that in her life, she knew unconditional love; and her parents and two of her siblings were able to be with her as she departed from this world.

*My daughter is very torn up over this. We just lost my grandpa in May, and less than three months later she loses an aunt that was also a playmate and friend. I know she will be fine, she knew of her aunt's bad health. She knows that her aunt isn't in pain anymore and was surrounded by family at the end. Her pain doubles my own.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Reflections on The Beginning of the School Year

It's that time of year again, school is about to start up again. Teachers in my district officially started back to work yesterday. Most of us have been back for at least two weeks, moving everything into their rooms and getting them ready for the first day of classes.

This year there are many, many changes occurring within my school and district. We have a new principal and assistant principal. There is a new Superintendent. We have three new elementary schools and two new junior highs. Sixth grade has moved up to junior high with the seventh and eighth grade. On our campus half the staff is new or teaching a different subject or grade level, or both. I am personally switching from 8th grade Language Arts to 6th grade Social Studies, World Cultures. I know several teachers spent the summer getting familiar with their new subject through the curriculum and the textbook. I read the textbook and got my word wall together all summer, it took 2 ink cartridges.

I am excited about the new year, grade, subject area, and group of students. I am also a bit nervous. I like to challenges, but find it disconcerting to be heading blindly into the unknown. I know that strictly speaking, it's not the unknown. I have always been one that prefers having guidelines and rules, and they have scrapped the curriculum for my subject. I am eager for the mental stimulation of work, yet am already missing the days of lazying around (though I am suffering from slight boredom). Each summer vacation reaffirms that I am not cut out to be a housewife. Despite this, I'm having a hard time shifting my brain to work speed. I've also enjoyed the time I've had to pursue my other interests to any extent I want. I must now relearn how to balance my time between the have-tos and want-tos of life; and shift my focus to the have-tos parts of life.

I am looking forward to the look on students' eyes when they make a mental connection about what I'm teaching. I also love it when kids gets excited about something they are learning. I am not looking forward to the bureaucracy or parent phone calls. Look forward to work related conversations.

I am also making a change in my transportation to work. I will be riding a bicycle to work unless the weather is bad. I began to do so last week on a regular basis. It still takes under 20 minutes to get there. My left knee hurts a bit when I ride, but no other side effects. I still have an old knee brace, I think I'll use it next time I go riding.

This year will teach me a lot about my job and myself.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some Thoughts on Science and Human Rights

P.Z. Myer's blog, Pharyngula is one of my favorite blogs. He is reasonable, intelligent, and has a sense of humor. He even allows his university students air their ideas on his blog, it doesn't even have to be directly related to their course work. His guest blogger today is Shastra, who discusses the relationship between science and human rights. This young person has some very interesting thoughts on the topic of how science and democracy are similar.

I heartily agree with what this young person had to say. Please have a read and leave your comments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The "Y" and "M" Block

A favorite toy of youth. Completed August 13, 2008.

A mouse for the letter M, so cute. Completed August 31, 2008.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

The "V" and "Q" Block

A voluminous volcano. Completed August 10, 2008.

Queens are much too complicated to fit in a 1.1 square inch space. Asking questions is vital to life anyway. Completed August 11, 2008.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

I read another Terry Pratchett novel years ago, so long ago I can't remember the title. I have seen a couple of the movies based on his works, "Hogsfather" and "The Color of Magic", they were both hilarious.

This book is the first installment of the Discworld series. It started a bit slow for me, but first novels can drag a bit since they are setting up the rules of the universe. Towards the end I was beginning to see the humor I expect from Pratchett. Terry is very good at playing with words. He utilizes puns, as well as phonetics as a source of humor. Terry also has a talent for absurdity in situations.

We are introduced to Rincewind, a failed wizard and a featured character in the Discworld, and Twoflower, a tourist from the Counter-weight Continent. Their personalities are exact opposites. Rincewind is pessimistic and terrified of everything, this attitude isn't unfounded as bad things continually happen to him. Twoflower is an optimist, unafraid, and excited about everything around him. This contrast adds to the humor. Sometimes Twoflower's attitude saves them, often Rincewind is dragging Twoflower out of harm's way. We also meet The Luggage, an icon of the Discworld. It is made of sapient-pearwood, has teeth and hundreds of feet. It will follow its owner anywhere and will protect him and his belongings. Death also makes several appearances in this book. We even get to see him at home and his white steed. Death must collect the souls of any wizards personally and becomes quite peeved with his "near Rincewind experiences".

I look forward to the further adventures of Twoflower, Rincewind, and Death.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The "A" and "S" Block

I didn't start with the first letter of the alphabet, so here it finally is. I know, too standard of a picture. Completed August 6, 2008.

Could I have used anything besides a star for "S"? I mean really. Completed August 7, 2008.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The "O" and "R" Block

I got octagon for "O". I really wish it had been something else, oh well. Finished August 4, 2008.

I love bunny ears. I can't think of a more perfect image for "R". Finished August 5, 2008.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The "H" and "J" Block

The "H" block was completed on August 2, 2008. Once I got the letters done and found the right image, completing the blocks went very quickly. The "J" block was finished the next day.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The "E" and "F" Block

I thought I'd just post these as I finished them. I'm redoing the blog to include two on a page. The "E" block was finished on July 31 and the "F" block on August 1, 2008.