Monday, October 31, 2016

Wake Me Up When Sep-tober Ends

Recording video isn't something I'm a natural here's September's & October's "One Second Everyday" mashed into one late summer/early fall supercut (yes, I bike a lot):

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Birth of Love

The Birth of LoveThe Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Highly conceptual, but lacking in follow through, The Birth of Love takes you through stories of childbirth in the past, present, and future.

First thoughts: I love the parallel narratives across different times - it keeps me from getting bored with one story line.

Recommended for: I think this book ended up being "Not For Me," which isn't to say it's not for anyone else - maybe mothers (or parents) who have actually gone through childbirth? Those (more) interested in the social and historical implications of childbirth?

Final thoughts: A fast read, thanks to the different stories, but a disappointing finish. I felt cheated out of complete endings. I didn't feel like I had enough context with Michael Stone's story to understand his motives and the drama of his actions. I wanted to know more about Prisoner 73004's feelings. I needed some further backstory.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Play Ball?

It's hard not to think about baseball right now. In Chicago (more specifically, in my apartment & in an elementary school on the North Side, the two places I spend most of my time), water cooler talk is all about the Cubs. Almost everyone has an opinion on them, either highly positive (This is their year!) or historically negative (They're gonna choke!)...except me.

Would I like the Cubs to win the World Series? Sure, why not. Will I lose any sleep if they don't? Nope. I'm not a good baseball fan in general - I only start following it in October, and watch only the World Series itself, if that. On top of that, when I am a fan at all, I'm a fan of the White Sox (who were World Series Champs as recently as 2005, not that ESPN remembers). For me to enthusiastically cheer on the Cubs now feels like more than jumping on the bandwagon. It's inauthentic - traitorous, even.

Instead, I'll watch quietly from my couch, cheering on a good game in general. I'll ask Cubs fans how they're feeling about upcoming games 3 & 4 (and likely 5) here in Chicago. I'll enjoy the playing of "Go Cubs Go" over the PA system at school. And I'll most definitely stay far away from Wrigleyville this weekend, where a combo of Halloween weekend and the games that could decide the winner of the World Series will probably incite a drunk zombie riot.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Night in Sleepy Hollow 2016

Last year Jesus and I "discovered" the interactive Sleepy Hollow performance in Bourbonnais and this year we brought our families. The basics remained the same, with some additions (like an actual "White Horse Tavern" to drink cider in) and the chase through the Hollow still didn't disappoint.

Ah, the magic of small town Illinois. (And we all kept our heads!) :)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Little Prince

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A classic children's story that will delight adults as well. A great reminder to enjoy life and life's small pleasures.

First thoughts: Beautiful. Sweet, touching, perfect.

Favorite quote: "Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again." -p2

Recommended for: children and grown-ups who've forgotten what it's like to be a child.

Final thoughts: Reminds me of Life of Pi or Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The Netflix movie adaptation is great as well!

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Night Links 35

A few fun things:

Three episodes in, Jesus and I are HOOKED on Westworld.

Are you a Bad Hombre or a Nasty Woman? (Either way....VOTE.)

What would you trade for a cubs ticket?

Nice sweater, Aaron.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Scary Movies 2016

We're deep in spooky season and it shows in my Netflix queue and Redbox rental history. Here are a few of my favorite scares from this season (some new releases, some just new to me!):

Spielberg's classic shark tale is a movie everyone should watch at some point in their lives. The understated humor, the subtle glances, and the modest effects allow the story and the suspense to take the lead. It's hard not to be amazed at 1975 movie magic. And this trailer - perfect!

Don't Look Under the Bed
This 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie is way ahead of its time, dealing with themes like childhood cancer, different ways of grieving, the use of logic versus emotions, and teen angst. Frances has to convince not only her parents, but also herself that not everything can be explained using reason - and that imaginary friends are lost to growing up too soon.

The Conjuring 2
There's nothing like banking on a successful horror franchise! Thanks to director/producer James Wan (director - Saw, Dead Silence, Death Sentence, Insidious, The Conjuring, Insidious: Chapter 2, Furious 7 (and upcoming Aquaman) and producer - the rest of the Saw franchise, Annabelle, Insidious: Chapter 3, Lights Out (and upcoming Annabelle 2 and Insidious: Chapter 4)), we now know what maybe happened with the case of the Enfield Poltergeist in 1977. Spoiler: it wasn't sunshine and rainbows.

The X-Files: Season 5 and Fight the Future
Jesus and I finally made it through Season 5 of The X-Files - a long one with strange dips into conspiracy and a lot of backstory, much of it leading up to the movie released between seasons 5 and 6 - The X-Files: Fight the Future. The movie was a treat, and felt like classic episodes from earlier seasons. It was part mystery/whodunit and part paranormal investigation. We're quite ready for Season 6 now.

American Horror Story: Seasons 1 & 2
We're pretty late to the party with this one, but since so many people seem to love AHS and it features new story lines each season (which means we can treat the show like 6 mini-shows), we're finally on board. We have noticed in these first two seasons a lot of build-up (episodes 1-5ish) and then a roller coaster ride to the finale. It seems as thought in each season there has been one episode that holds the key to all the mysteries laid out in previous episodes; if we can stay hooked until then, we're golden.

Extras: Scary Movies 2015, 2014, and 2013 plus our Halloween activities so far this month.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Scary Books 2016

It's halfway through Spooky Month - how are you doing on haunts? If you need to catch up on your scares, here are a few books that can do the job.

The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A group of four lives in and investigates Hill House, looking for signs of the paranormal.

First thoughts: Creepy. A slow burn creep; each page feels ominous, like something is waiting and watching over the inhabitants of Hill House.

Favorite quote: "We never know where our courage is coming from." -Theodora, p50

Recommended for: horror fans, those who can handle suspense.

Final thoughts: Shirley Jackson is one of the most efficient writers I've read.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rosemary is pregnant and her neighbors are all too eager to help her out, until it becomes clear they have ulterior motives.

First thoughts: Another slow burn, but a fast read. This book starts out a little creepy, then lulls you into a false sense of normal. I'm curious to see how the movie interprets certain scenes.

Recommended for: not mothers-to-be.

Final thoughts: Casual racist stereotypes aside, Rosemary's Baby features a strong cast of characters - some to cheer for, others to be leery of right off the bat.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A teenager possessed by a demon, a mother turning to the church for help, a priest trying to keep the past behind him, and a police investigator trying to make sense of a senseless death.

First thoughts: I love that the book fleshes out the main characters so well - we get to see the inner thoughts of the major players, especially Father Karras. A lot of the book was about his internal struggle and the mind games Regan plays with him. His backstory (along with details about Fr. Merrin, Dennings, Kinderman, Karl, and Willie) makes the whole book richer. It's less scare your pants off, more philosophical. Some parts read like a mystery novel.

Recommended for: anyone who has seen the classic movie and enjoyed it, but wants to fill in a few gaps, horror fans, churchgoers and atheists, those with a love for the macabre.

Final thoughts: I wonder what has been said/written about all the emphasis on names and personalities. Knowing someone's name gives characters power. There's Regan and her demon, the demon's different personalities, and other characters have their moments of clarifying their names, changing their names, or discussing their names. Important themes seem to be centered around what we call ourselves and what we let others call us.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Say No to Pinktober (Again)

[Editor's Note: This post first appeared on ATRD on October 3, 2011. Five years later, it's still relevant.]

If you haven't noticed, it's October. Many great things happen in October. Baseball is finally worth watching, hockey and basketball seasons start, and football is in full swing. Scary movies play on TV. Apples, squash, and pumpkin are everywhere. A lot of pink things start showing up as well. I'm not a fan of the pink initiative. Before you hate me, let me include a disclaimer: I'm against cancer. I just don't know how strong the link between "awareness" and "cure" is. If October were National We Found a Cure for Breast Cancer month, I'd be supportive.

There's a great article here [2014 update: herehere, and here, 2016 update: here] that sums up my feelings on the month. What angers me most is how much of a lucrative business gimmick it's become. If I didn't already have issues with the gendered coloring of distinctly non-gendered items, I still wouldn't pay for a pink trinket to "raise awareness" - awareness doesn't equal action or results. I support finding a cure, providing treatment, and helping survivors and their families, but I think we're all well aware of breast cancer itself at this point.

Besides, can't we all just agree the "I (heart) boobies" bracelets (and their offshoots) are objectifying? Women are more than their chests. A woman who's had a mastectomy probably misses not just her boobs, and she's no less of a woman (or a person) without one or both of them. Plus there's the fact that breast cancer is still most common in women past the perky point in their boob life--I doubt they refer to their breasts as boobies. And let's not forget men, who can also get breast cancer but maybe don't care about "boobies," per se. [2016 update: All this to say, I do (heart) boobies. I think they are great. But breast cancer is not just about boobs, it's about a malicious disease that affects a whole person.]

What I'm saying is: wear pink if you want. Or don't. But let's not pretend that this color is doing the real work of preventing, treating, or curing breast cancer. And while we're at it, let's treat people with cancer like humans, not like body parts that happened to have people attached to them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

When you find an easier way to make a great recipe, you share it with everyone you know. This is an update on this cauliflower crust, with a few adjustments adapted from this recipe. I've tried it more than several times in the past few weeks. It passes all the tests.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza, adapted from Going Cavewoman

3 c cauliflower, riced (super timesaver - buy cauliflower pre-riced, in the refrigerated vegetable section)
1 c mozzarella cheese, grated
2 eggs
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
salt & pepper to taste
your favorite pizza sauce & toppings

  1. Preheat oven to 400 and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until fully mixed.
  3. Press mixture onto parchment paper, spreading evenly (spoons or fingers work here).
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is golden brown.
  5. Top with sauce, more cheese, and any toppings, taking care not to overload. (My recent favorite combo has been pesto sauce with more mozzarella and Parmesan, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, and fresh basil.)
  6. Bake for another 10 minutes until cheese is melted and golden. If you decide to broil at the end, pay close attention so the cheese doesn't burn!

Extra:  More pizza posts!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Other People's Children

Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the ClassroomOther People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Several essays discuss the state of education in America, especially the phenomenon of white teachers teaching minority students, and the impact that can have on schools, as well as the teachers and students themselves.

First thoughts: As a white teacher teaching minority students, this was a convicting read and made so much sense. I found myself rereading sections, reading them aloud to anyone in the room with me, and making notes on Delpit's different points.

Favorite quotes:

"A white applicant who exhibits problems is an individual with problems. A person of color who exhibits problems immediately becomes a representative of her cultural group." -p38, on teachers applying to a certain program

"...pretending that gate-keeping points don't exist is to ensure that many students will not pass through them." -p39

Culture of Power: It exists, easily recognizable in those gate-keeping points mentioned above. I would do my students a huge disservice by acting as though everything is peachy keen in the world, and pretending that what they experience in the classroom (diversity, equal opportunity, being valued for their individual contributions) will continue to happen once they leave it. Instead, they have to learn the codes to play the game, and ideally, eventually, make it far enough to change the game.

Code-switching: We talk about this a lot in our classrooms. The way Delpit describes it, non-white students have a "Heritage Language" (this can literally be another language, or just phrases and dialect used in their homes and by their families) and they must learn "Formal English" for homework, entrance exams, and admissions interviews. This isn't a new concept, but I loved how she talked about the importance of keeping a strong Heritage Language and including it in the classroom, so that kids can better understand when to use each one AND so that they don't lose their Heritage Languages.

Process v. Skills: Students need to know both, but many times "process" suffers if there is no "skill" foundation. Again, Formal English is a thing many non-white students learn in class, not at home. It can literally be a new language for some - and because of that, they need to know the grammar rules that are many times left out in favor of higher-order activities like essay writing. Teachers must also recognize the difference between comprehension and pronunciation: a student who substitutes words while reading is not only comprehending what they read, they are in fact translating the reading into something more familiar.

Recommended for: white teachers and non-white teachers, parents, and anyone interested in education for all.

Final thoughts: Clearly, I had a lot of thoughts while reading. I recognized mistakes I've made, but also techniques I've seen work in classrooms to engage all students and allow them to feel empowered in their learning. This was the perfect book to read at the beginning of a new school year.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Things My Students Say 5

Student: Ms K, could a lot of ants carry you?

Me: [Name], why is your pencil all chewed up?
Student: I'm hungry.

Student A, seeing another student's open math book: You got the hot dog homework?
Student B: The what?
Student A, pointing to a picture of a hot dog on the open page: The hot dog homework!!
Student A, to the student next to him: Yo, you got the hot dog homework?

While researching zebra mussels online: Zebra, this can't be right.

Me: [Name], I need you at a zero voice level right now - we're in the library.
Student: Nope, zero does not exist in my world. Only ten and eleven.

Student: You got kids, right Ms K?
Me: Nope.
Student: But you're married?
Me: Nope.
Student, giving me side eyes: I coulda sworn you got married...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Circus Thrills, Haunted House Chills

What do circuses and haunted houses have in common? They're both theatrical, adrenaline-inducing, and interactive. Also, clowns. This weekend Jesus and I went to a circus (tradition!) and a haunted house (new tradition!). Both had me holding my breath with anticipation, though they went about it different ways.

Midnight Circus
This was our third Midnight Circus, and we're still amazed by all the feats. Well, Jesus is less amazed and more "Ah yes, I know how that is done and it requires great skill," but we're both impressed. We love the comedy throughout, and how even though the performers are all highly talented, they don't take themselves seriously. In its tenth year, Midnight Circus continues to show us the good in our city. Plus, proceeds go to our parks! #keepitlocal

Statesville Haunted Prison
For our second haunted house of spooky season, we went with a group to Statesville. The prison theme, while not exactly original, does give the walk through a cohesive narrative. Instead of random scares or unconnected scenes of gore, we're told a twisted sort of story. Most importantly, the sets, props, effects, and actors are all top notch. Very little (if anything) took me out of the moment, leaving me the freedom to jump, scream, and laugh my way through.

In a month of gray skies, ridiculous political shenanigans, and few holidays, make sure to find something that'll take you out of your typical routine. If it makes your heart beat faster, all the better.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The script of the magical return to Hogwarts, 19 years since we last saw our heroes. All of our favorites are back, and we get to meet England's next generation of wizards.

First thoughts: SO MUCH NOSTALGIA. I wanted to cry in the first few pages, reading their dialogue was like seeing old friends after a long time.

Favorite quote: "This is chaos. This is magic." -p60

Something's Different: This is a play and must be read as such - slower at first, to get used to the different characters and their voices, then quicker as the action picks up and races on. Once I got into the format it felt like I was back at Hogwarts.

Worth the Hype?: I wasn't sure what to expect from this tale, as I stayed away from all reviews before reading. I enjoyed the action and the nods to the books by way of key interactions and phrases. Yes, there were a few plot holes, but the emotion and atmosphere kept me floating along.

Ron & Hermione: Not everyone will agree with me, but I enjoyed the exploration of their relationship. Any writer would have loved to try out various iterations of a story, and Rowling does so with care for her fans, but also a curiosity of Why Not? & What If?

Recommended for: HP fans of all generations, people without the cash money to fly to London to see the play live on stage, anyone who likes to be in the know.

Final thoughts: I laughed, I cried, I said hello and goodbye to old friends, I met some new ones. I fell back in love with the wizarding world, and was approached by strangers on the train who asked me how I felt about it all.