Sunday, January 28, 2007

Black cat tales

Not until just this moment did it occur to me to note the irony: I'm known for launching myself at difficult things with the question, "how hard can it be?" and my cat is named "Simplicity."

Yeah, well, sure, it's easy for HER...

Saturday, January 27, 2007


From Canada compensates man U.S. deported to Syria

"The Canadian government now has taken several steps to accept responsibility for its role in sending Mr. Arar to Syria, where he was tortured," Leahy said in a statement Friday. "The question remains why, even if there were reasons to consider him suspicious, the U.S. government shipped him to Syria where he was tortured, instead of to Canada for investigation or prosecution."

He said the U.S. Justice Department intended to respond to his demands next week.

U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, on Wednesday chastised Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day for continuing to press Washington on the Arar matter.

"It's a little presumptuous of him to say who the United States can and cannot allow into our country," Wilkins said.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Haha, news!

Alright, so it's probably pretty obvious now, but here's the news you've been waiting for:

I have resigned from my position at the college. Yup.

I feel terrible. It's really sad! I have such great admiration for my current boss, and I really do hate to leave her in any kind of bind, but there you go. Now turns out to be the time.

Instead, I am going to be self-employed, with my own company named Virtual CKS.

Yes, ta-daa, new company: Virtual CKS. Website to follow.

Virtual CKS offers editorial services and document design. That's one of them so-called "umbrella terms" for "anything and everything that I know a bit about." Logo design, brochure creation, newsletters, press releases, proof-reading and copy editing and typesetting and so forth and so on... heck, give me a shot at greeting cards, and I'll probably do it.

I have plenty to learn, but this is where the "how hard can it be" mantra comes in handy. In my experience, especially in this day and age, all the information I need is pretty close to being at my beck and call. I've got some stock trips up my sleeve, I've got an in-house Excel and PowerPoint expert and Business Manager to boot, and I've got some great reference materials and some friends in many usefully related trades.

It looks really good, and fun, too.

I will work from home in my home office. I make too big a deal of this, but I'll work in my jeans (or jammies), which I just consider the epitomy of "civilized." I won't have to commute, I'll save money on gas, and I'll do work that interests me and utilizes my specific skills.

Like I said, it looks really good.

The next two weeks will be the hardest, as I'm juggling my day job, where I really want to do my best to make the transition easy for Sue and Olivia; and some new contracts in my new job, which I'm certainly not about to turn down!; and the two classes I'm taking with Dr. Hopper, which may yet kill me.

After that, we can talk. I plan to make time for a regular appointment with the gym, and a serious change in diet. I expect to take over more of the housework, since Luther is now working part-time in addition to going to school full-time. But other than that, I have to say... it already looks like I'm going to be plenty busy with my new employer: ME!!!

Should be interesting. I won't say the words. They're a given.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ships and sails and sealing wax

This is a long'un, and none too fascinating, but it is time to update the far-flung friends. Otherwise I will have to read a textbook or something, and I'm not quite up to that this evening.

So... in chapter form:
1. I wrote another short-short story.
2. Luther and I started our own company.
3. I am apparently responsible for snow in Toronto and St. John's over the past week.
4. Luther started a new job today.
5. Stay tuned for Important News.

1. I wrote another short-short story.

Yes! This was great fun! Jason Evans again blessed us with a fun flash fiction contest, complete with inspirational photograph and 250-word limit. I promised myself I'd participate, then didn't have any energy and wasn't inspired, then wrote an exactly 250-word story, and then despite Wil's promising assessment (he reported that he almost cried), I decided to write a different story, something about a bike courier coming to a dead end (so to speak).

And then I didn't have any time, so I sent the original story to Jason.

I think he liked it! I placed second! Woot! Thank you, thank you, Jason, for another grand challenge and the really enormous ego boost. Your contests have been a lovely break from all the daily stupidities, and I'm truly grateful.

You can read my story here.

2. Luther and I started our own company.

Well, it is really a "sole proprietorship." I am doing more and more contract work, proof-reading and copy editing and document formatting and graphic design, and all the sundry little tasks that bind these things together. Our research suggested that it would be wise to lump the various jobs under a common heading, so that's what we've done. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Virtual CKS.

Why CKS? If you know us, you may be able to figure it out. If you don't know us... Well, get to know us!

3. I am apparently responsible for snow in Toronto and St. John's over the past week.

"Write what you know," they say. Well you know, that story that I wrote for Jason's contest was very much inspired by real events in my youth. Dad and Sarah and I lived together in a flat in downtown Toronto, on Robert Street, and the kitchen door exited on a little space between the houses. Dad hired slow Russian movers, and my move was to a tiny 3rd floor bachelorette North of High Park. I think of the Robert Street flat and remember old walls, old grime, and noisy neighbors. But I also remember family, and the memories invoked in the writing of a little story made my recent trip to Toronto a little surreal. All that history! Sometimes it is difficult to hold the emotions in check.

I hung out with Dad and Sarah quite a bit. Isn't it strange how people can change so much and yet somehow seem just the same as always?

I again stayed at the Madison Manor Boutique Hotel, which is to say, next door to the Madison Pub. I highly recommend this location for your next visit to the greatest city on the planet -but please do understand that the Madison caters to young fools on Fridays and Saturdays, and from midnight to 2:30 a.m. it is not what you'd call... peaceful. If drunkenness offends you, stay at some lame airport motel. But if you want to pretend for a sweet few days that you once again live in the city... stay at the Mad.

I also saw some friends, though not nearly enough of them. Antun Bosanac spontaneously dropped by my hotel with a tin foil packet of homemade birthday cake -his Dad's specialty is divine! I was able to share dim sum and martinis with the beautiful and amazing Cheryl Zalameda, and catch up on at least some of what my adopted sister and our brothers (such as Jesse!) have been up to. I finally got to meet Martha Heder, who is making our friend Doug so very happy. And I had a nice, long talk with my oldest friend of all, Liz Bischof, who I first met when I was 11... and living in that very same little flat on Robert Street. See how it is all connected?

Next time, I need to see the wee Max. I need to be pampered by Catherine, the most amazing hair stylist in the world. I need to see JamesJames or he's really going to finally disown me as a friend. And damn, I might even finally get to see the infamous Danny Sadder again... if he knows what's good for him. But the visit was short. I was on my way to St. John's, Newfoundland.

Here's the funny part: It snowed. Apparently, it had been a mild winter thus far, but as soon as I show up, you know what happens. Yup. The sky fell, and it was cold.

It snowed Sunday. It snowed Monday. It snowed some more on Tuesday, but the storm had gone East... which is convenient, seeing as I was flying East myself. After an hour of circling over a runway in St. John's, my plane landed for refueling in someplace named Gander. What a crazy night! But thankfully, we took off again and gave St. John's another try, and this time it was more forgiving.

You know, it has only snowed in Georgia once since I moved here, and that time... happened to be when my Mom and Paul were visiting. So I don't know, there might be something about our family and snow. I need to be a bit more careful about scheduling these trips. I could at least warn people to get out the mittens and booties before I arrive.

St. John's was beautiful. I stayed with Mom and Paul in their incredibly gorgeous Victorian home (which is not a bed & breakfast anymore!), and only on the last night did I actually feel the wind shaking its foundations. Boris is as fat as ever, and being a very generous uncle to the newcomers, Cleo and Julius. We ate lamb. And we hung out at the Duke. Life in St. John's is really, really good, I have to say.

Alas, the visit was short, and I was once again headed home. Here's how geeky I am: I am actually intensely proud of finding my own car and driving my own self out of the airport. It's like I'm all grown up!

4. Luther started a new job today.

Luther is a full-time college student at Macon State College, studying for his Bachelor of Science degree in Business & Information Technology. What this actually means is that he wears earrings, flirts with all the girls and some of the boys, and does far, far too much homework.

Well, now he is also going to be working. He landed a position through a co-op program on Robins AFB. It's not clear what he's going to be doing, but I missed him all day! It was awful!

I really need to win the lottery. This thing of having Luther working just plain sucks.

But the money will be useful, that's for sure.

Congratulations, Luther. I'm very proud of you. I hope it isn't too horribly stupid for words.

5. Stay tuned for Important News.

After many long discussions, quite a bit of research (mostly done by Luther), and probably not nearly as much hesitation as it deserves, I'm about to try something new.

Only... I gotta actually set that up officially, first.

And then I'll write about it here.

That's it for now! There's your update! You want more, you'll have to come back again sometime.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I don' wanna work in education no more

Pattern recognition is the foundation of all human learning.

You know how much formal study I've done into human learning? That'd be: squat.

But pattern recognition is the foundation of all human learning, and pattern application is the key to growth and change.

I don' wanna work in education no more because so many of the people -the professionals- who seem the most likely to "have the say" in an educational setting seem to also be the least likely people to be able to communicate patterns.

There it is, that magic word: communicate.

People don't learn in a vacuum. If you think people come ready-made with abilities and talents, and they just "happen," stop reading now. I am done with you. I am seriously done, today. That's it, I've got no more patience. People don't just "know" stuff. They learn, or they don't learn. I'm surrounded by people that haven't learned and I gotta tell you, this isn't just happenstance. Their environments did not supply them with the necessary patterns.

Well, when you go to a school -presumably an institute of learning- and the "rules" are vague to begin with, vaguely defined, vaguely conceived, vaguely applicable to everyday life (witness: dress code says how long your pants can be and exactly which students can wear earrings, but fails to require any degree of cleanliness) and then the "rules" are also only vaguely enforced, what does one learn from the rules?

Nothing. Actually, no. One learns that rules are bull shit. One learns a very clear lesson on why one should never bother to actually try to follow rules. Don't run by the pool, you say? Don't play with guns? Pfft. I've heard rules all my life, and they never amount to much. They don't mean anything.

What's worse, in my mind, is the lost opportunity. Are all kids in school ready to learn? Hell no. But this is, at the very least, their "status." They are identified as students. In the best of all possible scenarios, they actually identify themselves as students. This is their role, and when you fail to clearly define and then SUPPORT your systems, your structure -your "rules"- then you fail them. You fail these kids.

At work, I'm told on the one hand that I cannot advise. I am not an advisor. I do not advise students. I should not register students for classes. Faculty advise students. Faculty register students. On the other hand, I'm told that I should not send a student away if I can help a student. I'm told that students feel they get the runaround, and if I can help them now, rather than sending them away, I should help them.

When I send them to a faculty member, the faculty member might or might not see them. Might or might not register them. Might or might not check to see what their degree requirements are, what classes they've taken, what they need to do in order to fix that GPA, whether or not they need to take a test THIS SEMESTER or have to take and pay for otherwise unnecessary remedial classes. In the best of all possible scenarios... the faculty member picks up the phone and calls... me.

But I am not an advisor and cannot help the student except oh wait, I was supposed to help the student.

. . .

It's not just the students that are having trouble with pattern recognition in this situation.

When you change the pattern, when you "flex" your rules, ask yourself, please: What does your audience -er, student- learn from the change?

When you send your student to me for "not-advising," what does the student learn? To come back to you next time? or to see a "not-advisor"?

When your student waited until the last possible minute to register, and you let him or her into the class, what does the student learn? to register early if it's crucial? or to beg and plead?

When your student scrapes by, at the end of the semester, having ditched assignments through much of the semester, and you say, "yippee! You did it! Congratulations!" what does the student learn? to pay attention next time?

I don' wanna work in education no more. I suck at it. I haven't the heart for it. I just don't. Because I've never been a rules person, but if I had been clear on the patterns, if I'd recognized clear patterns and seen their value, I could have succeeded in a whole lot of things. And now that I can recognize patterns, I AM PISSED TO HIGH HEAVEN THAT ANYBODY WOULD FUCK WITH PATTERNS.

That is all.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The green headed monster

As long as I'm going to be jealous about other peoples' talent and adventures, I might as well share.

Here's a blog I try to keep up with. What is not to love about a gorgeous woman who takes beautiful photos, understands what's fun about Aaron Sorkin, apparently is some kind of lawyer (I'm quite mystified about this), and likes good food and good drink? I mean... okay, I'm just living vicariously, but damn, it's a good vicarious life.

She's in India right now. Quote: "So anyway. I saw a monkey masturbating today. NOW my trip to India is complete."

And if that doesn't make you feel totally lame in comparison, this will. Thinking With My Skin: What Happened to My Daughter on Friday It's by Bill Cameron's daughter. Who the hell is THAT creative? Damn. I'm such a slouch.

Bill's pretty cool, too.

That's all for now.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A six pack for brains

Alright, no Happy New Year post from me, no nothing. I've half-written half a dozen posts but finished none. Well, half a dozen is six of one, you know what I mean? And contrary to the Gumpism, stupid is as stupid is.

We've had a glorious week of adults only in the crazy blue house on the hill, and despite total insanity at work, I've been able to enjoy some quality time with my Luther. Last night was no exception, but the quality was in the viewers and not at all in the television. Ack!

Ack, I say!

We idly watched a little bit of a show called, "1 vs. 100." It's a game show. One contestant is pitted against a 100-person "mob." It's not really clear how they're actually "against" each other, since the contestant can call on the mob for assistance... But it has Bob Saget as the host, so I don't suppose we should expect it to make sense.

I am surprised I didn't actually break anything while watching this little bit of this show. Rather bizarrely animated blond contestant (she did this wild, full-of-elbows air-drumming thing when she was happy -it gave me nightmares, it really did) is asked, "how many six packs would you have to have for 99 beers on the wall?"

Now, she didn't have to provide an exact answer or anything. She just had to pick one of three:
More than 15
Less than 15
Exactly 15


Her response? She said it was a "strange question." What the hell is so strange about arithmetic?!

And then it got worse. It turned into this BIZARRE comedy of horrors. "I don't even drink beer." She asked the mob for help. And 20% or something of the stupid mob got it wrong. "I only drink wine."



In the time it took to gasp and giggle and squeal over this "strange question," she could have counted it out.

So Happy New Year, my odd little group of readers. This year, we will accept even greater stupidity than the last. We will actually pay people to go on television and react to simple arithmetic as if you cannot know the answer if you didn't "learn it" from somebody else. We will no longer build knowledge, create understanding, find or figure. Nope.

We'll ask the mob.