Monday, September 26, 2005

Food shortages!

The grocery stores are starting to reopen so I set forth to replenish the larder. There was plenty of produce, bread , meat, milk and frozen foods (the stores in my part of town did not loose power for any length of time).

Some shelves were still bare, which I expected.
Canned Soup - The Campbells kids went to someone else's house to play
Water - it had rowed to another stream
Coca Cola - everyone decided to give the world (and themselves a coke)
Toilet Paper - well it is one of necessities of life
Batteries - the Energizer Bunny finally fizzled.
sausage - cooks up well on the barbie

Kitty Litter! Yes kitty litter and dry cat food were not to be found. Somehow I don't recall seeing those on any list of essential hurricane supplies.

But then we all who really runs the world don't we!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Woke up this morning to gray skies , light rain and a steady breeze. Cranked up the computer to find an e-mail from from my E-bay bookselling buddy who lives near us. They have power and there isn't any standing water in the streets. She said she's seen more rain during a summer thunderstorm. Hurricane Rita turned east and traveled up the Texas/ Louisiana state line.

My Beloved deems it safe to head home. When she makes up her mind, she is a Woman on a Mission. We load the car, corral the cats and barrel down Hwy 6. It's smooth sailing all the way to Houston. In the rear view mirror we see a constant stream of cars - it's apparent that others have the same idea. Since we were only 100 miles north of Houston we are at the forefront of the returnees.

All along the road we see abandoned cars in the north bound side, mute testament to the gasoline problems of Thursday's mass exodus north. The authorities are asking people to postpone their return but of course nobody is listening. Everyone wants to get home to their own bed. Plus, deep down we all remember what happened in New Orleans and thus feel a deep primeval urge to go home and protect our property.

We pull in and the house is just as we left it, other than some broken tree branches. Unload the cats who make a mad dash for their favorite chairs, turn on the TV and fire up our computers.

We have power, water, cats, intact windows, internet and satellite service. All is well in our little world.

And we are so very grateful.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Calm Before the Storm an apt phrase indeed. Rita is still churning in the Gulf of Mexico. It has been eerily still for the past 2 days, hot, humid, sticky, not a hint of a breeze. The kind of weather where you break out in a damp sweat just going out the door. It's been overcast and hazy, no clouds and grayish colored sky. Even the birds have been still. Not one drop rain and the plants are parched.

One of the worst parts of the hurricane is the........

Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting....
lyrics by Carly Simon

It's out there, you know it's out there and you can't do anything about it. You can't make it go away, all you can do is leave, and given the gridlock of the past 3 days that wasn't even an option for many. The TV switches to 24/7 coverage and you are drawn to it like a moth to a flame. There really isn't a great deal of news and the anchor people keep repeating the same thing over and over again. But you just can't turn away - for some reason pictures of reporters in rain slickers being blown about are so compelling. You feel like you are suspended in time, enveloped in jello, stuck in the muck. All you can do is wait for the oncoming train to come barreling down the tracks and hit you upside the head.

You can wait, watch and wait some more. It it truly an exercise in patience and a lesson that no matter what, Mother Nature always holds the trump card.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Trying to Reason...

Trying to Reason with the Hurricane Season by Jimmy Buffett

Squalls out on the gulf stream
Big storms comin soon.....
There's something about this Sunday
It's a most peculiar gray
strolling down the avenue that's known as a1a....
the wind is blowin harder now
Fifty knots or thereabouts
There's white caps on the ocean
And I'm watchin for waterspouts
It's time to close the shutters
It's time to go inside......

And a most unreasonable hurricane season it has been. Houston is about to get the "big one". Alicia was our last Strom of any consequence and she blew in (and blew out every window in downtown Houston on her way out) in 1983.

Rita looks to be big, mean and dangerous - a lady not to be trifled with. The powers that be decided that she shouldn't be and ordered and encouraged a major evacuation. 4+ million residents took to the highways, 4+ million residents came to a total stop.

My beloved started fretting about our 32 windows so we took off too. Her old boss; who lives in a small town about 100 miles north of Houston kindly offered to shelter us and our furry friends. I packed some clothes, my passport, my computer, my great grandmothers pearls ,the cats and off we we went.

The freeways were parking lots so we took the back roads out of town. Once we left the city limits we encountered pockets of gridlock but compared to many we fared very well. I used to be a long distance cyclist and spent many a mile on the north county roads during training rides. My beloved had ridden her motorcycle over them also and we had a County road atlas, which is much more detailed than a road map. We took back roads, patched roads, dirt roads and occasionally dead end roads but we reached our destination. Took us 7 hours to make what is normally a 2 hour trip. The folks on the freeways weren't moving at all so we feel fortunate to be someplace with A/C and wireless internet and confused cats.

And now all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. ET and I both have something in common - we want to go home!

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Melting Pot has Congealed

Disclaimer- this is my opinion not that of my school nor my school district. It's not meant to be a slur on bi-lingual teachers. All bi-lingual teachers I've encountered have been caring, dedicated and go far and above the normal call of duty. One even writes a mean blog. And many are as frustrated by the system and it's results - or lack thereof as I am.

And on that note...let the rant begin......

We, like many schools have many, many students for whom English is not their first language, thus we have a bilingual program. The object is to teach the child in their native language so they can easily transistion to learning in English. Often it works, sometimes it doesn't.

When it doesn't the results are depressing to the extreme. The bulk of the students in the fifth grade bilingual classes are native born Americans. Yet, on the average their writing and reading level in English is that of a 2nd or 3rd grader and their conversational English isn't much better. They have been together since PreK, they are completely inbred and rarely make friends outside their own classroom. There are number of double retainees, meaning they are 2 years older than their peers - 12 going on 13. Many of these kids have multiple strikes against them - terribly dysfuntional home life, undiagnosed learning disabilities, families who don't value education, no motivation,no inner drive, parents who don't speak English and don't think their children need the skill either.

The result is- kids who drop out as soon as they can (if not sooner) and go forth into the world basically illiterate.

I don't know what the solution is, but the present system isn't working.

Hurrah for the Red, White and Blue

Last Saturday was Constitution Day. Bet you didn't know that did you? You would if you worked in a school receiving federal funds. We MUST observe Constitution Day. It's the law. Only school was not in session on Saturday so we were allowed to observe it on Friday. I guess it's a movable day, just like Memorial Day and Washington's Birthday.

It seems very ironic to be ordered to teach about a document stressing Freedom of Speech and the rights of the individual at a specific day, on a specific time. All schools teach "The Constitution" but we usually wait till it fits into the scope and sequence of the curriculum. This time of year, when it comes to Social Studies, Columbus is still sailing the ocean blue.

My principal delegated "The Constitution" to me, since I see all the kids and she could assure the Powers that Be that yes, we were properly observing the day, the event and most importantly the law.

Constitutional law is tricky enough to keep legions of lawyers employed. Try explaining it to Spanish speaking 5 year olds who aren't sure what country they live in , much less how it is governed. After discovering to my shock that even some of the 5th graders were none to sure of the name of their country:

I scaled the lesson back to the basics.
"Your classroom has rules, our country (and again, what is the name of our country?) has rules. We call those rules "The constitution". Then I read The Preamble, stopping to interpret every word. 200 years ago language was ever so formal.

Thus we observed the law, in letter if not in spirit. Whether the kids remember any of this is a totally immaterial question. It's another one of those sound bite government quick fixes that is supposed to solve all the education problems and only results in photo opts.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Old TV...It's Bad, It's So Very Bad....

My girls gave me a DVD set of "Dallas" for my birthday. Back in the late 70s, early 80s I was addicted to that show - right along with most of America.

But oh, it has not stood the test of time. It's more like a bottle of Ripple wine than an aged Merlot. The acting is wooden, the sets cheesy and the dialogue is contrived. And sexist, oh is it sexist - the comments the men make about "pretty girls" and "are you really a secretary" seemed normal at the time. Now they make my jaw clench.

The late 70s were not a high point when it comes to fashion or interior decoration. Plaids, prints and palms appear to have been the standard. Big hair, big purses and high heels at all times. The script supervisor appears to have been in the twilight zone - Pam, wearing a fur coat talks to Lucy who wears a bathing suit. At a formal ball some of the guests are in evening gowns and others in leisure suits (and oh were those ugly!). Artifical was the fabric of choice. Garish green gold and brown the predominant colors. .

In one episode JR sports a "beeper" and everyone marveled at the new technology. In Dallas phones have cords and secretaries type on IBM Selectrics. E-mail, laptops, cell phones, IMs, personal computers, and the internet have yet to make an appearance.

And yet, I'm going to watch it all the way through - just so I can once again find out who shot JR!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

And This is America?

Just like much of the rest of America I've been alternately depressed, astounded and ashamed at the debacle in New Orleans. Whenever I think we've reached our nadir we seem to sink a little lower. The Bush administration has egg on their face and dog doo-doo on their shoes. The head of FEMA prior claim to fame is running a horse camp. The Shrub is to busy planning future sitathons on Trent Lott's porch to worry about the citizens of New Orleans. His mother seems to have spent way to much time reading biographies of Marie Antoinette - but then they do share a similar hair color. And Houston's population has just increased by 50,000. All in just one week. What does next week have in store for us?

New Orleans has always inspired authors and this week is no different....

Don't You Know Me, I'm Your Native Son...
Notes from Inside New Orleans

I just left New Orleans a couple hours ago. I traveled from the apartment I was staying in by boat to a helicopter to a refugee camp. If anyone wants to examine the attitude of federal and state officials towards the victims of hurricane Katrina, I advise you to visit one of the refugee camps. ......

click below to read the rest.

I told My Beloved that as soon as the city is back on it's feet that we are going back. The coffee and bengits at Cafe du Mond are calling my name.