Something God can't do

I heard a wonderful sermon this last Sunday. It may be just because of where I am in life, but I am often lonely. We've lived in a new town for three years and I have no friends here. I'm working on it, but I don't yet.

The sermon was on community. The speaker talked about how we have often heard that there is a God-shaped vaccuum in the human heart, that only God can fill. Then he said that there is also a human-shaped vaccuum in the heart and God can't fill that.

Before you get too het up, his reasoning came from the story of creation in Genesis. God made light and said it was good. He separated the waters from the land and said it was good. He made birds and fish and said it was good. He put the animals on the land and said it was good. He made man, “Let us make man in our own image” and said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God intended for us to have other people around us who cared about us. That's the reason for “forsake not the assembling of the saints together.” God made us to need company.

I was amazed. I knew I needed friends, but I didn't realize it is all part of the plan. God didn't want us to be alone.

How Teaching Went

Do you remember that a noun is a person, place, or thing? Or that a pronoun is a generic thing which replaces a noun? I thought my students would. I mean they're in school every year. They have grammar every year. I figured the basic parts of speech would be a cinch. They weren't. They had to identify nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. If they did that at a 90% rate, we would skip that chapter in grammar. No such luck.

I teach two 10/11 grade English classes and one 8/9 grade English class. They were fun classes to teach today. I enjoyed them. But they were a lot of work. We hurried through a diagnostic test of grammar, an intro on how to do their vocabulary homework, and an intro to their lit. In the older class they got a 200 year overview of Early American Literature. In the younger class, we read the first chapter of The Red Badge of Courage. In my older classes I got through everything I planned on my syllabus. Without a second to spare. In the younger class I completely missed covering the handouts. This was supposed to take us half an hour. I am not sure how I will squeeze it in on Wednesday, but I need to.

Since I subbed for these classes last year and often got groans from students about different sorts of problems, I have tried to avoid them in class this year. I hope that I am successful.

One of the problems was that they had too much in class time to work on their schoolwork. They certainly don't have that this year. We're going through four English subjects (lit, writing, grammar, vocabulary) every day in an hour and a half. And we are covering a bunch of stuff. I don't have a second to spare in these classes for anything.

Another of the problems is that the writing program had become too formulaic. It was considered a good paper if it had two of these, three of those, and four of the other, in each paragraph. That's not what the program is intended to do or how it is intended to work, but it is very easy to fall into that. I am trying to cover the information that most of the kids have had so many times they could do it in their sleep because some of the kids are new to the program. But I need to have the program be interesting too. It's been a challenge. I spent fourteen hours watching videos and then about that amount going through the exercises and books trying to figure out what I needed to do.

I am still not convinced that I hit the right mix for new and old students, but I've done the best I know how. We're all going to have to work with that.

I have one student who catches any and all mistakes. I cut and paste something out of one class for another class and then added work to it without reading through the whole paste. So I ended up saying that nice (which is an adjective) was a verb. K- called me on it.

I have another student who is paranoid about everything. Does the diagnostic count against us? Do we have to do all the exercises? What book is most important? When are we supposed to answer the questions for chapter one, because you didn't give it to us for homework?

While those students will probably not be my favorites (even though I had the second in a creative writing course and she was a joy), I am excited about the classes and what I am teaching. I enjoy teaching.

Throwing a Fit

I was teaching today when the head came to my class. “May I speak with you for a minute?” I wanted to say no. I have way too much stuff to do to talk, but I know that she's interrupting class, so it must be important.

It turns out my sixth grade son has become frustrated in his new history class and is walking around crying and refusing to listen to either the teacher or the head of the school. There are 15 minutes left of my class and I am trying to at least finish chapter one of The Red Badge of Courage. M- is not interested in talking to me either.

I tell him to sit down in the waiting area chair, to be quiet, and to wait for me.

As soon as class is over, I go to find him.

He is in the history room. His teacher is attempting to give him one-on-one instruction for the work which he walked out on. He's still not listening. He's muttering under his breath. He's making faces.

Finally, I escort him from the room and take him to a small nearby room. I tell him what I “feel like” doing, since he says he doesn't “feel like listening” and doesn't “feel like” being helped. I don't do those things. Then I go into the history classroom and get the instructions for the work he missed.

I do not know what to do. When he's with me he's never stuck his fingers in his ears, not listened, made faces, and been rude. Okay, maybe one of those things. But never all of them at the same time. I just don't know what to do to keep him from going off again.

He's on no electronics of any kind for the day.

He's having to do his homework with me next to him.

So far that and a lecture is it.

Kung-Log New

I have a premium blog, but I am not a geek. However, I am married to one of the best. Since he likes to improve his skills and tools, he thinks I should as well. I'm willing. So now I am using Kung-Log to write my blog. It supports Blogger API.

I am trying it out tonight. Kung-Log just got our donation to his life. Thanks, Kung-Log.

My husband loves Kung-Log. While I am of the “tried and true” personality, I am occassionally willing to learn new tricks. So, a new trick.

Right now, however, I don't have post enabled because Kung-Log isn't retrieving the blog. I am not sure if this is a product of my notoriously hideous cable connection or possibly an indication that blog-city has been attacked again.

Being a Mac fanatic I find some minor humor in Microsoft's present situation. Where it impinges on my life, it sucks.

HUSBAND UPDATE: Suz went to make sure the kids were in bed and left me with Kung-Log to see if I can get it working. According to the Kung-Log FAQ it has problems with Microsoft's IIS server. We run into the problem that Kung-Log connects to the server and actually gets a response, but then won't go on to the next step. I think it thinks it didn't get a response, or it isn't done getting the response. The work around seems to be chaning “personalities” – which is Kung-Log's name for your saved blogs. So it tries to hit another site. Succeeds. Then when you switch back to blog-city personality it will go get your recent entries find and let you post.

Hey blog-city, add the Metaweblog API. Its a better API. (Suzi has no idea what this means).

I'm Ready for school

Woo-hoo. I have finished all my preparations and I am ready for school. It's only taken me eight days with a minimum of ten hours a day to get done, but I am now prepared to start.

Some of my classes start Monday. One doesn't start until 9/6. But I have finished my syllabi. Major revisions on my college freshman English class. Two new syllabi for 8/9 and 10/11 grade English.

I have a few thoughts on English education. They involve grammar and classroom hours.

Why does a high school English teacher still need to teach grammar? I am teaching grammar, literature, writing, and vocabulary in three hours a week. The courses are supposed to be modeled on college, moving the students in that direction. If we are going to model it on college, couldn't I at least drop grammar? The book weighs a ton. (Teacher books are twice the size of student books.)

Also, I am teaching “like college,” but my class has twice or four times the subjects of a college English class. First semester freshman English is only writing. Second semester freshman English is writing and literature. There are no classes at the college level in which all four subjects are taught at the same time. Granted I have had a college grammar course, but the only other component of the class besides grammar was one paper. I've expected my students to know vocabulary or given them a list of vocabulary words they might not know, but I've never had it as a regular integral part of an English class on the college level. In fact, only at the community college have I ever done anything with vocabulary.

So I am teaching a class of four different subjects and I am teaching it in three hours. I can't even give separate grades. I've just had to weight them differently. Grammar is about 10% of the class. Vocab 20%. Literature and writing are about 70% of the time in class, but only 50% of the final grade. However, the other 20% is the midterm and the final, both of which are essays over the literature. (Sneaky, aren't I?)

I still have a few pages to photocopy, but I would have finished those instead of writing this, but the school is closed and lowly teachers don't have keys.

Heat Waves

The French funeral directors say 10,000 people died in a two week summer heat wave. The government's reports are anything from 1600-5000. The highest makes France's death rate 1/100th of a percent of the population.
Spain, 1000
Portugal 1300 and Portugal instituted heat wave emergency measures after 1900 people died in 1981.
Italy 2000

Chicago, IL 1995, 5 day heat wave, brought 700 heat-related deaths in the city.

Been reading lots about the heat wave on the net. People here (US) are saying, get A/C. But when Texas had a heatwave (80 or 81), the social services were giving away a/c's and fans and people were not taking them, for whatever reason. The Europeans tend to have a thing against a/c because to them it equals recirculated air, which means recirculated germs. So it probably wouldn't work there either.

Plastic on the Heatwave
isteve on the heatwave Read down to August 14th right sidebar.
BBC on the heatwave

Related info sites
Morbidity and Mortality


I got an email from a girlfriend who was in a cult for many years. She tagged a site which talked about the cult she was in. I knew some about the cult from talking to her. But it was scary to read what was written in this article.

I have another friend who's still in a cult. He's in the International Church of Christ. I always thought that when the church hurt his family, he would leave. But his marriage was disentigrating under the stress of time he was put under and when he tried to step back, the church fired him. He immediately found work as a VP for a paint company, making good money, and able to spend time with his family. The church saw that he was making it without them and stepped in. “We're your family. We're your only friends. Don't lose your salvation.”

It is scary what people do in the name of Jesus. It's not what Jesus asked for, it's what the leaders want. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference when you are in the middle of the group.

UPDATE: In February 2004 the International Church of Christ’s leaders made a public confession of sin and repentence and said that they are attempting to undo the harm they have done. I have no idea what that means for my friend since he is in Brazil and I don’t know whether what the leaders (who are in the US) do will impact his congregation. I certainly hope so. I have trouble imagining it, but I pray so.

Weight Loss: Exercise

Today I exercised for the second day in a row! It's been three months since I last exercised regularly, both weight lifting and aerobics. Exercise is supposed to help you keep your weight off. It uses up the calories you are taking in and makes muscle. Muscle uses more calories a day than fat does. I'm all for that.

Supposedly just exercising, thirty minutes a day, five days a week, would help a 200 pound man take off 15 pounds in a year. That of course depends on how much fat was in that 200 pounds. And it assumes that he wasn't exercising before.

I set the alarm for 7, but I didn't get up. When I finally went for my bike ride it was 85 degrees and almost 9 o'clock. I thought I would be out on the greenbelt by myself. But I wasn't. I passed 14 grownups and 4 kids in strollers. One guy was out in work clothes looking for a woman with two beagles. I didn't see her.

I rode my “short ride” which used to take me 15 minutes round trip. It took me 25. But I did it. I rode even though it was hot. Even though I fell down. (That was humiliating. I did it in front of three people by trying to stop too fast.)

My weight today was down two pounds. I'm sure that's from dropping the sodas and their high sodium. And my caffeine withdrawal headache is less painful today.

Yesterday I was 165.4. Today I was 163 even. I don't expect to drop that much weight again in a single day, but it's a nice boost at the beginning.

Chest, waist, hip measurements were 40-31.25-40. That's two inches above and below and one and a quarter that I gained since I quit working out and dieting. My arm, thigh, and calf measurements were only a half inch different.

Weight Loss: What works for you

I did Body for Life faithfully from March 2002 till March of this year. In that time I lost 45 pounds of fat and 35 pounds of scale weight. I went from a size 14, busting at the seams, to a loose size 10.

However, I weighed in at 160 for four months. I didn't lose more even when I exercised more. I weighed 160 in November and 160 in December and 160 in January and 160 in February. I wanted to lose more. I wanted to be a size 8 and then a size 6.

I went on Physique Transformation. I did that for twelve weeks, I think. I lost inches, but I didn't lose scale weight. I knew it was good, but it didn't feel good. I wasn't making the progress I wanted to and Physique Transformation is not something I would be willing to do for the rest of my life. It's way too structured for me.

My husband followed this for a while and lost some weight.

Then I did Atkins. That was fun and easy, but it made me very sick the first two weeks. I quit for a week and then went back on it. The second time I did not get as sick. But even though eating was easier, and it was so much fun to be able to eat out all the time if you wanted to, the weight wasn't doing what I wanted it to. I did go from 160 to 154, but it was iffy. Most days the scale said something around 156. That was less than 160, but it wasn't moving as fast as I wanted it to.

My husband lost a lot of weight on Atkins. But not as much as he wanted to or as much as they said he would. I think he lost a little over a pound a week for 10 or so weeks.

Four weeks ago I quit everything and just ate “reasonably” except on the weekends when I ate whatever I wanted.

Something else that happened once I quit Body for Life. I started losing my memory again. This was a huge problem for me two and three years ago and I don't want to go back there. So I started moving back towards the Body for Life program. But I haven't been exercising like I did on BFL for about four months now. It's August. It's hot. It's hard to get motivated to re-start an exercise program.

Weight Loss: Maintenance and Restarting

I've lost and kept off 45 pounds of fat and 35 pounds of scale weight for almost a year now. But it was 5 pounds more. Now I'm 5 pounds heavier and ten pounds fatter. That's it. That's my limit. I never want to be where I was again and I have a weight that I'm not willing to go over. It's 165. That's what I weighed this morning. I can still wear my size 10 clothes, but just barely. That is not where I want to be.

I had to make a decision. There are easy decisions and there are hard decisions in weight loss. It is an easy decision for me (because I have practiced making it for over a year) to decide to give up sodas again. There's an empty 150 calories, even if I love the caffeine jolt. It is an easy decision for me (ONLY because I have practiced it for over a year) to give up chips again. I love chips and salt, but they're out of here.

I've decided to go back on Body for Life because it is the program on which I lost my initial weight and I know that I can do it long term. I have done it long term before. (A year.) The food choices are not too hard because I re-programmed my tastes to match it before and although I've not been eating like that recently, I know that I can fairly simply.

The hardest part for me is re-starting the exercise program. It's August. It's hot. I melt. I don't like to be hot. So today I made several tiny steps forward in my weight loss program.

First, I called the woman to whom I loaned the book Body for Life and arranged to get it back from her tomorrow.

Second, I put on my work out clothes and went upstairs and lifted weights. I also jumped on the trampoline, but it was all I could do to jump for 5 minutes. I've obviously lost all my stamina. Drats.

Third, I read Thin for Life's chapter on exercise. I can always use motivation and one of the ways I get it is by reading stuff for dieters, exercisers, maintainers, etc.

I'm thinking right now that I should go for just a short bike ride. But I know that it's a 100 degrees out and I don't want to be riding my bike in a 100 degrees. So I probably won't do that. What I will do is try to get to bed early tonight and set the alarm for 7. It will be cooler in the morning. I'll let you know how it goes.

Another Comment on BlackOut

This story is a guy from New Jersey and how he got home. Read it to find out how those impacted personally by 9/11 responded to the blackout. It's very laid back.

Also, go to my blog The BlackOut in New York, probably from Sat. 16 August, and see the comment left by the woman who wrote the blog I linked to about the black out. It made me smile. “This is so cool!” I made my husband come read the email immediately. I live in Houston. She lives in New York. I'd never have thought she'd ever heard of my blog, much less read it. Blogging is wonderful.

Why have a Bob?

Fire. Our neighbor's house burnt down while she wasn't home, but not her unattached garage. We keep our BOB (bug out bag) there. If our house burns down, we all have wearable clothes for two days. Her insurance didn't pay for over six months. We'll be pretty ratty by then.

Hurricane. Scientists are predicting record numbers and we live in Hurricane Alley. (Do they really call it that?) If there's a hurricane and our area is in danger, we throw the kids in the car, grab the bag, and drive. Also, we have a supply of water and batteries. If we stay home we're better equipped. We even have small hand-held battery operated fans.

Tornado. Grew up in the plains. I've seen tornados skip houses, garages, pull down whole streets. With stuff in two places we might get lucky, even if one strikes us. There were tornadoes less than an hour's drive away just yesterday.

Blackouts. I doubt I'd really need to run if we're having blackouts. Unless it's the summer and we've got to go to get to an a/c. (115 degrees last week.) I can't really imagine needing the BOB for that. Maybe our stash of quick cash (fives, ones, quarters) which we created because of the blackouts in the NE.

Terrorism. If there are multiple attacks where we live, the BOB will let us leave quickly. We won't be like the folks in Independence Day packing their bags. We'll just grab ours and run. We have a meeting place for our family an hour up the road and away from the city. So if it comes to that, I don't have to be able to reach my husband to know where to meet him. I go. He goes. We meet there. Since cell phones didn't work during 9/11 that's a good way to keep the worry down.

Preparation is a tool for terror management. If you're worried, take care of what you can. It helps.

A Personal History of BOB

Bob's a bug-out-bag (BOB). I had one when I was 10, way back in the early 70s. I kept a change of clothes and a book in it. In case of fire, I'd grab it and run. Then I wouldn't be stuck with only my pj's. I also had a will back then. I knew no one was legally required to follow it, but it seemed like a good idea.

Once I hit my teens the idea of a BOB got lost. I was too busy, too full of angst, or too sure that I couldn't stop bad things from happening. I was right, too.

However, now I am a mom. I have two boys. They would never consider a BOB. Why think about tomorrow when you can play a video game?

I've had a BOB again ever since Y2K, although as a Mac user that never threatened my personal life. Then we revised the BOB after 9/11. We made it carry clothes for the whole family, including a summer/winter exchange. I even put makeup in it. (In case we have to leave Houston but can get to a hotel somewhere else, Dallas maybe?)

It's been a while since we updated the Bob. The last update was last year about this time. 9/11 is an anniversary date. This year the blackouts in New York got my husband moving on the idea.

We needed to update though. With growing kids you have to keep up or you end up someday needing it and there aren't any clothes they can wear. This weekend we updated.

New undies for the boys. I used the ones that are really too big for them right now because their grampa didn't know their sizes.

We put in three pairs of socks apiece. If we have to get out in water, we'll want dry socks.

Everyone has one pair of long pants and one pair of shorts. Both my husband's and my pants are actually too big. I wear a size 10 and the pants are from when I wore a 14. The only remnant of that time. I'm not going back, so I got rid of all my old fat clothes.

There is no makeup. It gets ruined in the heat here anyway. We did put some soap in it and toothpaste. We get tired of smelly breath.

I'd like to have put in birthcontrol pills, because they regulate my periods, but I need all the ones I can get for regular every day life. I'll just have to hope I got a new pack and can get to a Walgreens for a refill before the time's up. If the end of the world comes, I'll have worse things to worry about than having a 10 day period twice a month.

There's no food. My kids are vegetarians. Beef jerky just won't work for them. We used to keep three dozen fruit flats, but I had the kids eat them after six months and we haven't replenished. We actually had beef jerky, but it goes bad after a year, so we threw it all away. And we didn't replace it. I hope whatever happens that Bob is necessary doesn't need food.

We have matches, first aid kits, sewing kits.

At home we have put new batteries into all our flashlights, bought extras, replaced old ones in radios, etc.

We also have about ten dollars in ones and fives in case something goes bad and we need cash. (Like the black outs in the NE.) My husband said we can't walk to the store, but there's a convenience store a block and a half from our house and a grocery store only five blocks away. We could, if we wanted to, without any trouble. It's just generally too hot in the summer to want to walk anywhere.

We have 6 gallons of water which is good till next year. We also have eighty bottles of water filled from the tap. Those will need to be replaced in a few months, but they're available. If there were a hurricane or something before I replaced them, we could always use them in the toilets.

I am firmly of the belief that whatever you prepare for won't happen. (If by some horrible chance it does, you're prepared at least.) Thus, the Bob. I've never needed it. I hope I never do. But I am keeping it updated.

What time does it start?

You go to a church and there's a sign that tells you what time it starts. But it doesn't tell the truth. Family Life says it starts at 10:30, but really it starts at 10:25. Our church says it starts at nine but really it starts at 9:09. Our church in Austin started at 10, but most people arrived at 10:15.

How can you tell? You just have to go.

Big Mouth, Insert Foot

Was at a party for my husband's work. The boss hired all his siblings. One is a CPA and is the entire HR department. One works tech support. One works at something else. He hired his nephew recently to do tech support too. One of the sibs is a single mom with three kids who doesn't always show up for work. In fact, according to the boss's wife (and the boss) the boss pays for her house, so that the kids will have a decent place to live. I know he bought her car.

Made a comment about how sometimes having money (like the boss does) means that the person, even though they have a strong work ethic, enable other people to be lazy or not work. I specified the sister I was speaking about. Stupid me. “Oh, she works! She works hard. She's only absent when the kids are sick.” (They must be very sick.)

I know that being a single mom is hard work. But it's only one of two jobs people have. If this woman weren't employed by her brother, she wouldn't be able to miss a day a week. Not and keep her job.

However, I should have kept my mouth shut. I did figure it out eventually. But I didn't manage to undo the damage.

Ban Divorce? Gay Marriage

Andrew Sullivan says if we are opposed to gay-marriage we should support a constitutional amendment banning divorce. Because? What's the rationale behind that statement?

Maggie Gallagher of answers Mr. Sullivan in a cogent way in this article. She says it's a non sequitur (something to throw the discussion off track).

Her final paragraphs read:

In fact the whole push for gay marriage looks very similar to the push by legal elites for unilateral divorce. The very same arguments are used: inadequate and preliminary social-science data used to “prove” that divorce has no ill effects on children. Critics who warned that redefining divorce as a unilateral right might increase divorce were pooh-poohed. Only bad, unhappy marriages would be affected, we were reassured. After all, how can the divorce of an unhappy couple affect happily married people? Most tellingly, radical transformation of divorce laws were presented as a conservative, modest reform that would actually strengthen marriage.

Do not believe it. It wasn't true of divorce; it isn't true of gay marriage.

Reading- Why I am not doing it

I have a new book The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon which is a near-future book about autistics. Her teenage son is autistic. The book is fascinating. When I bought it I carried it around with me and when I wasn't busy (I was very busy at the time) I would read a page or two. But now I am only on page 65 and I have not read much for the last five days.

Normally a book like this would take me two to three hours to read. It is not an extremely long book, but there are new concepts which I do not know. Those always slow me down. It is like reading a nonfiction book for me. I want to make sure I understand the facts before I get lost in them.

I want to read it. The character is fascinating and I am interested.

I do not want to read it. Someone is trying to force a treatment on an autistic who does not want it. I am afraid it will be “Flowers for Algernon” all over, with the man losing his abilities. Or, even worse from the character's viewpoint, Lou will become normal and be unable to function as an autistic. He won't see the patterns which have guided his life. He'll have to learn as an adult all the things we learn as children. I think people should be able to choose whether or not they want to change. In this book the autistic has learned to live in our world as himself. Now they want him to live as someone else.

I like books to be happy-ever after. Normally Moon's are. I am not sure this one will be. Right now I do not have the emotional reserve to read a decimating story. That's why I am not reading new fiction. I don't know what will be sad, what will end happily.

Problem: Trying to Change the Colors on Blog

I went to Themes. There I can click a button which says “pick color.” Unfortunately all it does is take me to a small pop-up which shows the colors and then fades to a blank pop-up called “about blank.” When I clicked “Check if you want to change manually,” I changed the color myself, based on a color I found on the web. It changed it back.

I do not know why this does not work. Does anyone have any ideas?

Disabilities: Treatment or Not?

A child who is born with disabilities should be helped.

Deafness is a disability that can be cured, sometimes. But there are deaf parents who refuse this treatment for their children saying that then their child will not be part of their cultural group. I think this is wrong.

However, I do not think anyone should force the parents to take the treatment. I think that adults have lived their lives and should have a choice. If they do not want to change it, if they are afraid to change it, I do not think anyone should make them.

Then what happens when we have a treatment for something which a person can take but they do not tell us they don't want it? Autistics are being trained, as much as we are able, to learn the cues which allow them to fit in. If they learn these, then they will know that sometimes we don't want to know what a person thinks, even when we ask. Also, some people may not have the ability to recognize what the treatment will mean.

I have a friend with an autistic grandson. He has to be supervised constantly and he is strong. He can hurt you just by patting you because he doesn't see that his “patting” is like a hard strike hitting you. I do not think Alex would be able to say whether or not he wanted a treatment which could heal him. Also, if there were such a treatment, would the treatment include re-training? I think this is an important point.

Some of this is future thinking. But some of it is a question now for parents and children.