NaBloPoMo 29:

Even for me, I have gotten an impressive amount of nothing done for the past few days. That 900-item to-do list I jotted down on Tuesday night didn't even get looked at once. I did pay bills today (which wasn't on the list, ha) and got all freaked out and worried about money since they're muttering that our likely strike that will likely happen sometime after February 10 will likely go on for a month. I just don't see how my life can handle that and still have enough money to get through the summer (which is of course unpaid time off, just like Wednesday was an unpaid day off).

Inside the harbor

I didn't even do my usual Sunday lunch food cooking! I'm going to eat out of the freezer this week. ;)

posted by Duff on November 29, 2015 | Comments (1)

NaBloPoMo 27: took a real camera out with me today and took the long way home

Must be kinda warm in there.


Definitely a future crime scene

Lots of closed signs round about these days

Saw "Brooklyn" this afternoon. Still pondering it. Not so much a story as in a plot but more a story of a moment of a time and a place. All the old people around me were muttering things about the "immigrant experience" as the credits rolled past. I saw "Spotlight" a few days ago. That was wonderful although very upsetting. A bit in the same vein as "Truth". Movies based on real events that lay out in excruciating detail how crap our world is and how crappily humans treat each other are always going to be pretty upsetting though, aren't they. And "Spectre" which I sadly did not think much of. Could've been my mood going in but it was a real downer.

posted by Duff on November 27, 2015 | Comments (0)

NaBloPoMo 8: tunage

Enjoy this lovely Beatles-esque ditty by a band called Quilt. Hello.

Or how about this lovely sepia-toned video of Adele's new single. I probably like the visuals more than the song--her hair blowing in the wind, OMG yes--but, hey.

You may know I am a huge fan of covers. I have this ongoing theory about why covers are always awesome whereas movie remakes often suck: a good song is a good song. It's harder to ruin a good song even with bad singing than it is to ruin a good story with bad acting, bad directing, etc. Do ya see what I'm sayin'? No? Here's this James Blake cover of Sounds of Silence for you. Not wildly different than the original. Loooooove the rustling sound underneath. Rain? Leaves? Dunno, but it's lovely.

I bought it a little while ago but I finally spent some serious time listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. It's just gorgeous. SO many different styles, so many awesome lyrics, beats, melodies. It's magical.

And this, this song, Low's "What Part of Me", I have been OBSESSED with this song since the first time I heard it, sometime this summer. Here they sound awesome playing it and here is a more visually pleasing video (yet slightly less awesome sounding). I canNOT stop with this one. The lyrics! The beat! The yearning! Oh my.

In other news, 1) tonight I'm going to see David Mitchell read and apparently he and Lana Wachowski (formerly a Wachowski brother, I think?) are doing a Q&A afterward and 2) I get to introduce my students to the mystery of Roanoke on Wednesday. Busy finding spooky videos to show them. Heh.

Sorry I have no photo for you today. Smooches.

posted by Duff on November 08, 2015 | Comments (0)

NaBloPoMo 7:

Sleeping in on Saturday mornings is pretty blissful even when sleeping in means waking up at 7:30. Such is the ridiculousness of an early morning weekly schedule, I couldn't sleep any longer even though I tried! Now I'm indulging myself in some Oregon Chai and catching up on some of my weekly TV shows, especially the ones I don't care too much about so I can play candy crush while I watch them, HA!

How about a review of what I'm watching on TV this fall, albeit I haven't had cable in four, maybe five? years now, no wait SIX, so I am watching everything a day later on Hulu or CBS All Access or whatever site… or I am watching everything sometime during the week, maybe in a big chunk on Friday night heh.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine : this show is SO on this year. One of my absolute favorites. And I don't care much for Andy Samberg in other formats but I love him here.
Quantico : I like it. Nice eye candy among the real male/female leads. Silly, sure, but…
The Good Wife : Still solid but I'm finding myself less interested this season.

I need to maybe pay for Showtime so I can get back to Homeland which I do really love. But I can't decide if I should do it via Hulu or via Showtime on my Roku. Not sure why I can't make the decision but hello I don't seem to be able to commit.

The Mindy Project : SO good. This show has been solidly laugh out loud funny every episode this season.
Castle : Still mediocre. But watchable. [Candy crush time!]
Jane the Virgin : This show is very uneven for me. Intentionally soap-y but still unbearably stupid at times. Yet I keep watching. [Often while grading.]
Life in Pieces : A great companion piece to Mindy, lots of funny stuff about parenting. But suddenly no new episodes showing up. Did it already get cancelled?
Supergirl : I watched ep 1 and liked it but haven't made it through ep 2 yet. Calista Flockhart was a nice surprise!

I do want to start watching Fargo but I need to watch season 1 first. I just listened to Kirsten Dunst on Nerdist and season 2 sounds SO fab.

NCIS : can't stop, won't stop.
NCIS New Orleans : pretty bad but, again, a good backdrop for candy crush and grading, oh the never-ending grading.
Chicago Fire : LOVE IT although this season has been pretty heavy so far, not many light moments.
The Grinder : Pretty funny. Rob Lowe's character is not really as much Chris Trager (sp?) as it seemed at first, perhaps even less self aware HA!
The Flash : silly, fun.

Nashville : I watch it ONLY for the music, not even kidding. The story lines have gotten BEYOND REPETITIVE. How many times can Will regret being gay? SERIOUSLY. How many times can Scarlet or Deacon completely fall apart. How many times can Maddy be annoying. I mean, good grief. But I still love the arrangements.
Empire : I am about to stop watching this despite the music. Less seasons in and it's already got all the same problems as Nashville, soapy stupid story lines, I just can't even stand some of them.
Black-ish : HILARIOUS. Love it. Diane may be my favorite television character OF ALL TIME. She's so on the money. And Junior's so unconsciously dopey.
Rosewood : Kinda dumb, but watchable as background. Heh.
Arrow : Better than it was last season. I love Felicity and I'm obsessed with Thea's hair. Everyone on this show is damn good-lookin'. Still wish this was more like The Flash which it really suffers in comparison with.

Haven : SO dark this season. Mmmmmm, Nathan.
Sleepy Hollow : I really like this show. I love their partnership. I think it's really well filmed with the right mood / tone. Even though it's silly, it seems better produced than many other silly shows (particularly when watched in contrast say with Bones that it recently did crossover eps with. The Sleepy Hollow one seemed SO much smarter than the Bones one).
Vampire Diaries : Kinda boring without Elena frankly and this season has gotten so dark and sad. But, AGAIN, background (ha, how boring this post must be for you to read!).
The Player : Kinda stupid.

Things I watch occasionally on my iPad in bed as I fall asleep:
Trevor Noah on the Daily Show

Things I tried but could not even watch:
Stephen Colbert : (I know) and
Blood & Oil : seriously unwatchable.

Things I gave up:

Yup, I have no spare time at all but SOMEHOW I still watch a lot of TV. Sometimes I do have to rewatch episodes because I watched one while grading and then when I try to watch the next one I can't figure out what's going on HA. But you know I don't feel bad about spending time on TV when it doesn't mean I'm losing reading time now that I have my transit reading time back (last year, I drove to work with someone which eliminated all my reading time). I've been burning through books and SO HAPPY ABOUT IT. Heh.

Coming, going

posted by Duff on November 07, 2015 | Comments (2)

NaBloPoMo 5:

My day was too crappy to talk about.

But I read this lovely post on my bus ride home. Wow. What a beautiful eulogy.

posted by Duff on November 05, 2015 | Comments (1)

NaBloPoMo 4: things I am hoping to do sometime soon

Knit with this yarn!!

Lovely new stash

posted by Duff on November 04, 2015 | Comments (1)

NaBloPoMo 3: oh boy oh boy

Never take a class while you are also full-time teaching (or full-time anything probably!). For a while I had a great system going on, Friday afternoon into evening finish lesson plans for the next week, Saturday morning do all my reading and writing for my Wednesday night class, then move on to grading, blah blah blah etc.

Oh except for how I'm trying to catch up on grades so I COMPLETELY FORGOT that I have this class I have to do homework for and now uh oh my class is tomorrow night and I have 50 pages of reading to do (and a response to write afterward). Oh and I have to interview someone in the BIL program at my school for the paper I have due next week and actually I was supposed to interview her this morning AND I FORGOT because OMG I cannot keep anything together in my personal life right now!

I never know the date, I just know "tomorrow is X day on this set of lesson plans, do I have everything I need? Yup, OK" and move on. So I missed a concert I had tickets to (couldn't have spared the time to go anyway), I just paid three bills late (OMG WHUT) not because I didn't have the money but because I just put them in a pile and then FORGOT THEY EXISTED, and now I've just gotten my apartment tidied up and I must go do all my own homework before *hopefully* getting more of my students' work graded although let's be serious, that's extremely unlikely to happen tonight.

Where is the personal assistant to keep my own life on track? All I can keep track of is my school stuff (and given that I'm so far behind on grading, how much track am I keeping of that anyway!), everything else is just falling to the wayside. (Does this happen every year? Maybe. But I do think changing to a new grade level has knocked some of my fourth-year teacher stability off its rack.)


posted by Duff on November 03, 2015 | Comments (1)

NaBloPoMo 2: Some recommendations

I watched a very fun movie while I cooked, washed dishes, and graded last night: Life Partners (streaming on Netflix). It wasn't an amazingly great movie or an award-winner or a blow your mind movie--but it was a sweet lovely movie about friendships and how to nurture and maintain them and how to repair them when they blow up. It reminded me mood-wise a lot of Imagine Me & You, a dearly loved flick in this house.

I started a great book today: "The Glass Sentence" by S.E. Grove, which so far is pretty spectacular. It all takes place in a different version of our world, a version where there was some sort of disruption that ripped time out of balance and now different parts of the world are in different times. For example, the time the heroine lives in 1891 and has 20-hour days/clocks. Another area is stuck in 1700. There are all kinds of super cool images and ideas in here (the mental maps are SO COOL!). It's very much about map making and adventure while at the same time it's about rejecting the "other" and jingoism and immigration and all kinds of issues I've been trying to talk with my kiddos (aka students) this year.

I had a rootbeer float tonight with a hastily gulped down Chicken Betty (sandwich) at the world's tiniest M. Burger when I tried to go to my acupuncture appointment but it turned out my acupuncturist had left early with a family emergency. Sigh. So I'm no less stressed than I was earlier but my float was delicious.

So there you, go: a movie, a book, and go get yourself a root beer float and I feel I've added a lot of possibilities to your life this evening. What more could you want? :) #heh

Also, here, this picture:

Lovely evening in Chitown.

Good night!

posted by Duff on November 02, 2015 | Comments (0)

NaBloPoMo 1: 'Ello there.

So I'll probably fall off the wagon on day 2 or 3 but right now I'm claiming I'm going to blog every day in November. What do I have to tell you, my pretties? Well, let's see. I'm teaching 7th grade and MAN ALIVE it is a tough grade, maybe even moreso after having been teaching 5th graders for two years. I'm used to having one or two students in the room whose goal it is to out sass, out speak, and out anything me, not ALL OF THEM. I'm teaching social studies and writing which has also involved some adjustments as I actually need them to learn specific social studies content (esp as 7th graders in Illinois have to take the constitution test and they cannot graduate from 8th grade unless they've passed it) versus just learning to become better readers, although surely they should ALSO be learning to be better readers in my room, not just with their reading teacher. I spent too many weekends getting not enough done and now we are entering week 9 of the 10-week quarter and I'm SO behind on grading so instead of getting to have a single weekend day for my own solitary self as I usually try to do, this is the second weekend in a row that I have spent the entire day Saturday grading, as well as my usual Sunday of doing at least 75% school stuff like preparing all my materials for the week and gathering up all my loose "Oh this might be a fun supplement for that" ideas. I was at work until 6 pm every night this (past) week except Wednesday…when I was at school and didn't get home until 9 anyway. I'm tired, people. Very very tired.

That said, I have gotten more positive feedback in two months at this school than in three years at my last one and gee doesn't that tell you something about the toxic environment I left behind (and not of my own choosing, but definitely of my own thanking now looking back). I am back to a public transit hour-long commute so I have been doing a TON of reading, OMG does it ever feel good to have my reading time back, even if I have lost all my gym time right now with being so overwhelmed at school and in life.

And that is all for now. More tomorrow, supposedly. We'll see. ;)


posted by Duff on November 01, 2015 | Comments (4)

It was a beautiful day out today.

I went for a hour (or so) long afternoon walk when I had used up all my patience for grading.

Frozen Harbor Is the Best Harbor
Frozen Harbor Is the Best Harbor

Give a Little Love
Give a little love

Nothin' But Blue Skies
Dang, what a gorgeous day

Glimmer Tunnel Looks Out on the Wintery World
Glimmer tunnel looks out on the wintery world

Schwoop Schwoop
Schwoop schwoop is the sound of me sinking in the snow

Back to school tomorrow. Laters.

posted by Duff on February 02, 2015 | Comments (0)

This Is Just to Say.

unless you're living under a rock, you've probably heard reference to William Carlos Williams' apology poem (or IS IT. Reread that last stanza).

So let me tell you a funny store (hang on to the end, that's where the funny is!)

Every year, I use that poem as a template with my students to write their own sorry / not-sorry poems. After we examine the poem's structure, and some previously written student examples, we usually write one together as a class to get started. My morning class wanted to write to our principal. For reference: Nobel bucks are reward dollars we give out for being respectful, responsible or safe (and students can redeem them for actual items at our school store).

Here's what we wrote:

"Dear Mr. A.,
This is just to say
We have stolen
the Nobel bucks
that were piled on your desk

you were probably
for good kids.

Forgive us,
it was worth
all the toys
that we got."

NOW HERE'S THE BEST PART: I emailed it to our administrators "Here's a poem 208 wrote for you" and in the body of the email I wrote "based on William Carlos WIlliams." Well, our principal didn't read that part, he just clicked on the image.

Our assistant principal told us that all of a sudden he was scrambling around his desk saying "WAIT A MINUTE WHERE ARE MY NOBEL BUCKS!!!!"


Best prank ever especially considering we didn't even intend to prank. The kids are going to FREAK tomorrow when they hear about his reaction! ;)

It's the little things, peeps.

posted by Duff on January 29, 2015 | Comments (2)

Peace out, 2014.

[Old photos, not from 2014.] Candles, In Memoriam

Once, when posting pictures from a trip to Europe, I sheepishly mentioned that despite avoiding religion as much as possible, I do still light candles in memoriam. And my friend Ashley said "hey, sometimes it's just about bringing a little light into the world."

I have shared part of this quote before. It's from the Christmas bulletin at my parents' church.

If you choose, you can be instruments of hope in the world.
If you choose, you can counter the voices of anxiety and despair in the world.
If you choose, you can fight against the fear that freezes the heart of many.
The choice is ours to make, how we live into the possibilities.

Hey 2015, be the possibility. Bring a little light.

The Gate at Chion-In 4


Lit Up Bamboo, Inside

Pile of Christmas Family

posted by Duff on December 31, 2014 | Comments (10)

You, in three songs.

I have been obsessed with this Fuel/Friends blog post since it went up in September. I'm home this morning thanks to a midday dr appt to check on my summer back injury (since apparently 2014 was the year my body completely fell apart. Six months healing my torn PCL followed by mystery incapacitating back injury that started July 1 followed by being sick ALL FALL--today is literally the FIRST DAY in 33 DAYS that I can fully hear out of my left ear), so I thought I'd whiz by and drop by a blog post on you. Then Safari crashed and I had to start all over so...this may not go up until tonight. ANYWHOSIT...

Here I am. This is me.

Take It on the Run, by REO Speedwagon
My favorite song since high school (yes I'm that old, I was entering high school when it first came out!). Ah, high school relationships. "Talk is cheap when the story is good" indeed. I was involved in a long-term relationship in high school with someone possibly even more violently moody than I am, so to say I spent a lot of time wondering what was going on behind the scenes would be a massive understatement. The way the singer vacillates between (I paraphrase) I totally don't believe you cheated but you better run away if you did is such a microcosm of all young relationships isn't it. Or just ME in relationships as short-term, long-term, friends before, never friends, no matter the situation it always feel both super serious AND super precarious to me. I also love the whispered quality of the beginning and end--this isn't really being sung to the object of affection, it's being muttered to oneself, while worrying, worrying, worrying. Yup, me to a T.

Bonus: my other favorite high school songs are 1) "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC possibly the best song in the entire world and I maintain that Back in Black is one of the world's top 10 all-time albums; and 2) "Slow n' Easy" by Whitesnake. Nuff said.

(Bonus 2: check out this hilarity. COME ON the lyrics are not that confusing.)

Weather With You by Crowded House
Gee, another song from 20+ years ago, who could've even guessed. My mom has always claimed that I'm such a strongly mooded [sic] person that it always wore off on all the people around me--if I'm in a good mood, suddenly the whole room is. And, unfortunately, VICE VERSA. I don't know if I truly believe it, but I do see the effect of my mood on my classroom very strongly these days. That's part of what this song is about for me--my emotional weather is how the world feels no matter what the sky looks like. Also not just in this song but in so many Crowded House songs, clever unexpected lyrical allusions just get me: "Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire / couldn't conquer the blue sky." They probably tried though!

Bonus: If you don't know it, you MUST listen to "There Goes God." The lyrics are amazeballoons. Here, lemme give you a sample: "Hey, don't look now / but there goes God / in his sexy pants and his sausage dog / And he can't stand Beelzebub / because he looks so good in black, in black." COME ON NOW. Also: Crowded House is one of those rare groups where their fast songs and their slow songs are equally fantastic. They could do ANY style well.

Stop Draggin' My Heart Around, sung by Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty
The first single from the fabulous Belladonna album that I still listen to quite often, even though it's, you guessed it, 20+ years old. There's another duet on this album also ("Leather and Lace" with Tom Henley) but Stop Draggin' is by far the superior tune. This is also the album with the fabulous "Edge of Seventeen", the compelling beginning of which was sampled in "Bootylicious" (Destiny's Child). Basically this is the album no one should have ever stopped listening to... I mean I haven't! And clearly Beyonce hasn't either. Why is this song me? Well...I'm a bit of a typical pisces. Despite being born on the cusp, I have a completely overloaded empathy gene and man I can get my heart dragged around by so many different things. I have to work pretty hard to protect myself from falling apart at times. Just in case, say, I randomly see a commercial filled with Americana, a red pickup driving down a dusty country road past two boys tossing a baseball OMG WEEPING JUST THINKING ABOUT IT. Kidding...but it has happened. I've started crying WHILE READING ALOUD to my students (Martin's Big Words, SOB). I teared up during an interview while talking about how important literacy is. The world has dragged my heart around so many times, and that's not even thinking about relationships.

So those are definitely my all-time three, although at any given moment I could certainly come up with a "right now three" that would be entirely different.

What three songs tell YOUR story?

posted by Duff on December 02, 2014 | Comments (2)

Peace Out, 2013.

This was really a quote about Christmas, but it actually applies to all of life.

The choice is ours to make, how we live into the possibilities of Christmas.

Here's to better choices in 2014. Bring it on, possibility.

hblad 62: 'Blad Bokeh.

posted by Duff on December 31, 2013 | Comments (4)

RIP Bella Schmella Schmoo.

My friend Carrie's dog Bella died yesterday and I'm oh so so so very sad about this, I couldn't even express to you how much. I loved her very dearly.

Spotlight on Bella

Bella ponders her kingdom.

Bella streeeeeeetch.

Bella scared.

Bella Schmella Schmoo

She was super camera shy as you may have been able to tell but I'm so glad I took her picture anyway.

33/52 me & Bella, cuddlin' on the couch

I'll miss you sweet sweet girl.

posted by Duff on January 26, 2012 | Comments (7)