Friday, November 30, 2007

this reminds me of the day we went to the island. who can resist a good jigsaw puzzle?

Click to Mix and Solve

Monday, November 26, 2007

ok, so i put the questions in a much more copyable form, on my professional weblog, and answered them there too, although i have a lot of ruminating to do about the answers, which i will put on a little blog that has always been dedicated entirely to blogging itself. you have to remember, i do blogging with hundreds of students, and it's only on the side, at night (in this case 12:03 am) that i do my own, and speak to my own audience.

my wife reads hundreds of blogs, and comments on many of them, yet remains surprisingly aloof- a lurker only. or, if she writes one, i don't know about it. but she's an avid reader- of this one too, and many others. through her i have found many who really make an art of it- turn it into a daily, productive, communicative, community- people who jump right in, get hundreds of visitors, get comments on a single post that turn into large discussions involving many people who know each other, in some cases, too well. in comparison, my blogs have always been thoroughly sleepy- virtually conversations with myself. some people who know me enjoyed it when i told of hitchhiking from guatemala to alaska, and getting stuck in various places between- and i'll do that some more, i'm sure, but even then, i was lucky to get a comment here, or there, and for a long stretch i lost even those comments. what a lazy oaf i can be.

so, i'm thinking of changing my style a little- and this is mostly because much of my creative writing has formalized, and moved over to its own weblog. it's just a thought. as yet undeveloped.

recently heard from an old iowa city friend, trying to find information about one of many lost souls we knew at that time- this one, a woman who had two daughters, and who had trouble managing. finding people who knew anything might be interesting. gathering people together for a stone soup reunion might also be interesting. i'd need help. seems maybe i've mentioned it before, but maybe not. there was a lot going on back then. maybe people can jog my memory. it's all grist for the mill. some people i knew, i still have some sense of where they are, what happened. a whole lot more of them, i have no idea. and i'd really like to find out. far more than i would, say, if they went to one of my many schools.

yet the schools are much better at putting on the reunions. more later...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

for any nablopomo writers who happen to come across this post, and i can think of only one who would be remotely likely to, i'm sure you are getting a little dry, scraping the bottom of the barrel for topics, the triptophane and the football getting to you, maybe not much else happening except television. well, this is your lucky day, because i've brought you questions, questions for all bloggers, which i would honestly like to know the answers to.

1. do you find that blogging tends to make you frame your life experiences in the same way that carrying a camera tends to make you frame the things you see- it makes you look at everything, and say, i wonder if i could blog about that?

2. do you engineer your posts in any way to attract more audience? if so, how? do you include words that will attract search engines? do you write posts about hot, frequently-searched public persona?

3. do you check who has come to visit you? do you notice what words they used to search and find you? do you notice how long they actually spent on your site? do you take the words they used, and use them again, or keep using them?

4. you know how important pictures are when you open up a site. do you choose your pictures in order to hold visitors, or do you just put in there whatever you can? do you look for free pictures, take them yourself, or shamelessly steal them from google images like everyone else?

5. do you feel bad about bumping people from your blogroll? how important is a template to you when you visit blogs? do you really admire people who list thousands of blogs over there, or would you rather see someone who just has maybe ten or twelve best friends and relatives?

6. do you really visit all those blogs you list under "daily reads" or "blogs i visit?" do you read them? this seems like a herculean task. how much time can a person invest in being in the citizen's media, a regular?

7. has blogging changed your writing? your perspective? your alliances? your likes/dislikes? your politics? how has it affected the way you see things?

feel free to answer any or all. let me know when you do!

Monday, November 19, 2007

a busy day at work, and over at my professional weblog, as i have so much stuff backlogged it will take me a while to tell it all, put it down somewhere, whether it be in order, as i would like my tesol presentations, or just out on the desk where i won't forget it, which is, really, that weblog. for this one, a similar experience- something that happened in early october, that i couldn't forget, and wanted to write an account of, before it passed by completely.

it so happened one saturday in early october, the weather was clear and warm, and my wife encouraged me and my fifteen-year-old to get out of the house so that the baby could have a better nap. we had bicycles, so i suggested the peace protest downtowh, which is every saturday from twelve to one, on a main street where cars are going west through downtown, passing the big northbound highway. at this spot they've come to expect these peace protesters, who have been on this corner every week for years, yet some weeks it becomes very lively as either more protesters show up, or anti-protesters show up. and the traffic itself is a little volatile.

my son was willing to go, and watch, but was a little uncomfortable actually protesting, so we didn't stay long. protesters invited us to pick up signs, of which there were many, and we did, and stood among them for about five minutes. I felt the painful self-awareness of a high-schooler in a small town, who probably knew more of the drivers than i did, and didn't make him suffer any longer after that. but in that time, many things happened. many drivers, perhaps a third, were clearly on our side, and let that be known. many others, possibly about a fifth or a sixth, were clearly opposed, and similarly let that be known. one lady put her thumb clearly downward. my son said he saw a man pressure his daughter into giving us the finger while he himself did the same; i didn't see this. occasionally people yelled support, or yelled the opposite.

the marchers, much more used to it than i was, often talked to each other, or ignored them altogether for minutes at a time. they occasionally waved back, especially at those who were friendly; many of the drivers wanted to say hello, whether or not that was committing to one side or the other. now, here are my questions:

you can clearly see that almost half of the drivers are unaccounted for in terms of their political position on the war. how do they feel? how many of them are averting their eyes because traffic is dangerous at that point? how many are averting their eyes because they are in favor of the war? how many do not even really know or care either way?

am i right about the general percentages, pro, con, unaccounted for, etc.? five minutes isn't really enough to tell, and i wasn't paying total attention, even all of that time.

to what degree is carbondale, and this particular corner (which has much of southern illinois passing through, though irregularly) representative of the nation? how would our reception be different at other spots in town? in the area? in the state? in the nation?

this particular protest, it was pointed out, tends to bring out strong feelings in people driving by, feelings disproportionate really to the mild degree of protest that it offered. stop the war, is really all the signs said. yet some people are surprised there aren't more accidents at that corner, just from people expressing their emotions with such passion. what's up with that?

what took us so long? really, with kids dying every day, it seemed to me like everyone should have been down there, and i, at least, should have more than five minutes to show for the last what, seven years of this war? but i don't. five minutes is all i've got. five minutes, and this blog. stop the war! truth: bring it on! that's what my sign said. to the protesters: thanks for the sign, and for being there, all those weeks when i'm not. to the soldiers: don't think we don't support you, or that we've forgotten you. we support you with all our hearts and souls. it is not your fault that someone put you where you are. it's because we support you, that we need to get you out of a place where you can't win. speaking just for myself here, i find it agonizing to think about this horrible tragedy day in, day out, no exit. life is too short. i wish you a safe return. please know that at a time when the politicians are all about, look at me, i'm all against immigration, pro-whatever, and i feel like saying, where were you when the president was making bold-faced lies, selling out our future and our kids' lives, and you were in the senate going, terrorism, take the money, take the soldiers, do what you want. we were supposed to have checks and balances to watch out for that kind of destructive foollishness, if my high school education served me right. best i can tell, it's mostly checks, and rubber ones at that. maybe the balance is still on its way.

Friday, November 16, 2007

due to an unfortunate confluence of book review, stack of papers, and insomniac 2-year-old, i spent the early part of the week terribly out of sleep, and the weather became unseasonably warm and foggy. at the same time we noticed that the colors were all of a sudden stunning- yellows, oranges, reds, much of what had been missing in mid-october. my singing partner claims that it's global warming- that, having a birthday near halloween, she's noticed that early in her life the peak was always before her birthday, but now it's moved after. i pointed out that it could just have been the withering drought, that left us without a drop of moisture and near-hundred degree temperatures for weeks in august- leaving the trees so dry that they had to get a gasp of water before they could go through their change-color routine, and so got a late start. but that drought could have been global warming too, for all we know.

then had a gig tonight, so went out into the country, to a small town way out there, in a small cafe. my partner is singing at an anti-coal-company rally tomorrow and actually sprung a song on me, a song she wrote for the occasion, a song i'd never heard. now i'm used to surprises- you have to be, I guess, but performing a song you've never heard, anywhere, is a bit of a challenge. there were a lot of coal songs, and a lot of train songs, l & n, paradise, city of new orleans, and long way to centralia, just to name a few, and to put mine in there with a few big ones. Anyway, by now, tonight, school had let out for thanksgiving, the train had got extra cars on its way out of town, and it had turned cold fast, after the fog and rain, and in spite of the blazing color all over. And my partner's husband said, look out for the deer, this time of year they get real disoriented, because it's hunting season. hunting season? now? i guess it started today, in spite of the octoberish colors, the unseasonably warm spell, the fact that in some ways it feels like before halloween. no, it's winter coming around again. lots of stars out, orion, the clear crisp air on the way back from the place. and, sure enough, beside the highway, a dead deer. they're fairly common all year round, actually, but this one seemed like an omen, in a way, especially since i almost hit him, but for swerving at the last minute.

the break- we get a little more than a week off- actually gives me a little time- to sleep off a cough and a cold, to get some work done, maybe finish a play i've been working on. the quakers, it seems, need a lift in their child education program; we've been slacking, and not contributing much, and maybe i can change that, in this little window of time. another possibility would be to actually get started on a novel i've been thinking about, or, at the very least, to print a collection of stories that now numbers twelve, and probably won't go much higher. and one more possibility would be to do a calendar, a kind of traditional activity for this time of year, that i probably should have finished by now, but of course haven't started. but, to start with the first, it's off to bed. enough for the moment. coal songs- i'll probably wake up in the morning, with coal songs running in my head.

8:00 PM Friday November 16
Parsley & Sagebrush Band
Yellow Moon Cafe
Cobden IL

Go south on 51 about 12 miles
Turn right at sign (follow Cobden sign)
Upon arriving in town, find main street near the park and railroad tracks
It's right there!

See you there!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

Corey with his friend Constantine

Thursday, November 08, 2007

noah is prince!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

nice wedding! hope to see some photos...

kind of a tribute to an old friend, i guess you could say. vaya con dios!

Monday, November 05, 2007

in a stunning holiday season, led off by devil's night and hallowe'en, followed by all saints' day and all souls day, also known as dios de los muertos in mexico- i left work on thursday having heard about the death of a colleague's grandfather, who had jumped off a tractor while it was still running- an upsetting story. on this weekend, i sold my truck to a young couple, and also attended the wedding of my stepdaughter, in crystal clear, cool fall weather, out in a glade in the heart of southern illinois, south of marion, where the countryside blends almost imperceptibly into shawnee national forest, you can hardly tell where one starts and the other ends. the weather being what it was, i could see every leaf, the bright, the orange, the red, the brown and crinkly, already dead, free-floating ever so slowly to the ground; even with the euphoric hope of a young couple, the season's brown colors stood silent in the background. earlier, i'd worried about a late hallowe'en party on saturday, at the house of friends who put two salukis (egyptian hunting dogs, symbol of siuc) on their porch; many years back, i'd made an elaborate costume, was a refrigerator, complete with condiments in my door, but didn't win any prize for the costume, and was mildly hurt by that, and remembered it, even this year, so many years later. actually making any kind of costume is a chore for me, since i have virtually no repressed sides of my personality, nothing dying to come out; dressing for work is already a costume, a daily hallowe'en, as i'm somewhat of a charlatan, though i'm a good teacher, and it's all i can do to keep a straight face, and keep up my act in a routine week.

my wife however was into being marilyn monroe, at this particular party, to the point that she'd had her hair done, and on saturday evening we were running behind- one batman (6-yr-old) and one lion (2-yr-old) for whom costumes weren't much of an issue, but feeding, dressing, pleasing etc. was. So in the end i threw on a saudi tunic and a palestinian head scarf, sunglasses, and grabbed a cell phone. on the good side, i felt that it was a pleasure to actually wear things that my students had given me. i felt bad, however, i was wearing them as a costume. arrived at the party, saw the salukis on the porch, decorated, and entered with much fanfare, especially for marilyn monroe, who made an impression on everyone our age. the winners, however, were chosen by 14-yr-olds, and apparently the bright colors of the saudi getup made an impression on them; i heard the word 'terrorist' several times. i won; first prize was a small hand-carved wooden box. like a jewelry box; skulls were carefully carved into it; it was painted black, wtih the skulls silver, and any sign of where it was from was gone. i was stunned, speechless, but the lion was ready for bed; we didn't hang around and glory in the victory. several people, hosts included, may have felt that marilyn was more deserving of the prize. another friend was death; she won third, and at some point young teenage girls were running around, looking for death. one asked me if i was osama bin laden. more likely his father, i said. if you were really going to blow something up, in the usa, you'd dress like everyone else, on any given airplane. you wouldn't dress like a saudi businessman, householder, citizen. you wouldn't want to stand out in the crowd.

dios de los muertos is a holiday where people actually celebrate death, bring it out, dress it up, decorate it in a way that is foreign to us northerners- i myself don't mention it much; though i'm capable of talking about it, i prefer not to. it occurs to me that powerful holidays celebrating saints, as well as people in purgatory, or hell, or wherever, would bring out a lot of different reactions in people, fears, excitement, a quickening of the pace. so it is around here, though very few have heard of all souls day, or dios de los muertos, or even bonfire night, guy fawkes day, which it is today & tonight. nary a bonfire around here, though the midwest is the home of 'you guys,' said as a kind of 'y'all' - the 'guy' that we use for random anonymous men, comes from the guy himself. not a bonfire around, as i said, though there are some leaf piles ablaze in spite of a city ordinance prohibiting that. the guy, it turns out, tried to blow up parliament as a catholic, bitterly opposed to king james; bonfires that burn effigies of the guy also burn effigies of the pope, they say. burn all of religion, all superstition too, all of this heaven-hell & purgatory stuff while you're at it- it's all right here, in front of our eyes, maybe that's the point of these holidays. i have to admit, i don't know why they burn anything, don't know from guy, wouldn't know what they're burning, but do vaguely remember a place, here in the usa somewhere, where, on a certain fall night, there were fires all throughout the countryside, as a tradition; maybe that was vermont. the person who pointed it out to me didn't know why, if i recall correctly- it was just tradition, he said. maybe a way to stay warm, after the weather has turned, when the trees are still beautiful, the air crisp and cool, the sky a deep blue turning to star-filled, and you aren't ready to go in yet, for the winter.

back at work, my colleague told about her grandfather- he'd lived out in that beautiful area, south of marion, as it turns out; his wife, her grandmother, had died but a year earlier. sudden and unexpected, yes, but it was good in a way, that it wasn't slow and painful, like some. actually we didn't talk about it much; i felt bad; there wasn't much to say; in her resolve, she was clearly moving on with her life, not dwelling on it. outside, the wind brought in clouds; the grays seemed to bring out the oranges all the more, but the wind kicked up the crackly leaves a bit as i waited for my ride. the bright colors of the season, and the browns behind them, look suddenly more distinct, different in the changing light, as daylight savings has thrown off our schedule in both morning and evening, given us an entirely different perspective, at least until we get used to it. much of the family, in bed now, has dry coughs, hacking which sounds terrible at night, which i superstitiously attribute to coming & going during violent changes in weather, when nobody can remember to carry a jacket, or put it on before they go out the door. having one's schedule thrown off by random changes of the clock, or having too much candy, causing both kids and grownups to run around just a little too much, on a cold fall day, without a jacket or a lick of sense. in this case, the grownups are actually in worse shape than the kids, but everyone will surely be allright; nevertheless, i tuck the little ones in early, and ask them, as i often do, if they have any idea how much i love them. 'infidion' is the stock answer; it was one kid's version of 'infinity,' a few kids back, and now, it's the only answer to that question. somewhere on a shelf, out of reach of the young children, is the box- waiting for me to figure out what to put in it. or for me to decide that, yes, i am superstitious, and probably shouldn't go anywhere near it, at least not for a while.