Sunday, May 31, 2009

In memoriam

Ronald Takaki, professor emeritus of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and a preeminent scholar of U.S. race relations who taught the University of California's first black history course, died at his home in Berkeley on Tuesday, May 26, at age 70.

Ronald Takaki was a generous soul and very much a hero to me. He has been on the front lines of ethnic studies since the beginning, he wrote the classic history textbook, A Different Mirror, and he never stopped teaching and pushing the dialogue on race in America.

Wesleyan students have been trying for years to institute a true ethnic studies major program, with little success. They did manage to snag Takaki as a speaker while I was a senior. A packed audience was hanging on his every word. I'll always remember the moment when he told us that "students have agency." I was so honored to shake his hand.

Do yourself a favor and check out his books, they're fantastic and very accessible.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


California now faces budget cuts “beyond draconian”
One of the first targets is 200 state parks, already causing a public outcry as summer approaches.

Nearly all Bay Area state parks would close

Schwarzenegger proposes closing 80 percent of California state parks
"I'm going to work hard to keep them open, but not at the expense of things like insuring 1 million children in the Healthy Families program," said state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, who chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

American pastime

Hey, Richard, I went to a Mariners game today! That is, I was physically present in the Oakland Coliseum with the As and the Mariners for about 3 innings. I think a couple runs were scored and that much fun was had, my lingering impression is vicarious illness after watching all the kids eat their weight in popcorn and candy. Sounds like a baseball game to me! Also, we met the mascot and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" 8 gazillion times.

Oh yeah, now that our spring convention season has passed I finally got around to switching up the banner for summer. Hope y'all approve.

Monday, May 25, 2009

while blessed with parental advice and affection...

Random snapshots of the last few months. Me and B at the Mahoneys, Natalia's cat in a box, the quart+ of orange juice I squeezed from the last of Ian's oranges.

Coming off a LAZY 4 day weekend (from one job anyway.) I did get to sing twice. Tonight I was joined by such illustrious companions as Inder and JR, in his sacred harp debut! Dressed for the occasion in the shapenote onesie that a friend embroidered. (In case you were wondering, apparently I CAN sight read the treble part to family bible while bouncing an infant.) New developments: JR's learning to be a fussypants. Also his eyes are lightening, he's got these giant grey-blue peepers. He's suddenly big on making eye contact and checking out what's going on around him. If you want to see for yourself, I've been informed that the place to get baby pictures is facebook. Go look up Inder. I may even have to join if I ever want to see pictures!

I've also finally gotten around to posting some new favorite from Deborah Madison on the recipe blog.

Cherries and peaches are in season. Drool.

Wednesday we're taking a field trip to an A's game.

I got my letter of "reasonable assurance" from OUSD that I will still be employed next year.

Ah yes - my summer plans are coming together. Bernie Madoff tried his best to ruin my trip, but I finally got confirmation that I'm going on the free birthright trip to Israel! Best of all, it's a special "last chance" bus so everyone will be my age. None of these bright eyes college kids spoiling my old-timer fun, unlike Katie's trip. Sucker. Then it's off to visit KT and R and sing in San Antone. I also have to fit a family reunion in Georgia, a trip up to Portland to visit MP who's interning there this summer, and a birthday trip to Boston for Grandpa Labon's centennial. Plus I should be getting some visitors. Oh, and I guess I have to work a few hours in there. But when will I make the jam????

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bye till Thursday

Off to the Great Northwest to visit these guys.* Don't have too much fun without me!

*I hope you realize you're doing yourself a grave disservice by not zooming in for a closer look at this photo. The facial expressions! The matching sweaters! The dubiously-offered candy cane bribe! You can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let's get February and March out of the way once and for all

So once upon a time in February before she got too busy to update her blog, Katie chaired a Sacred Harp convention for the first time. It all went shockingly smoothly, thanks to the excessive notes that I took when I kept Scott on the phone for an hour making him tell me every single thing I would be expected to do over the course of the entire weekend. Um, that and the fact that Texas conventions can run themselves blindfolded and with both arms tied behind their backs. Quincy found us a plush new hotel to stay at in College Station (so clean! I'm never staying at a hotel that opened more than 4 months ago again!!!) and we rang in Alexa's birthday with sashimi (does sashimi in College Station trump the sushi we got in Utah, Cita?) and our annual alcoholic night on the town. Well, except for me, since I got a silly migraine and went back to the hotel to sleep it off. While I've never said no to three shots, two bad beers, and an Irish Car Bomb in College Station before... um, I think it was a good move on my part. If my liver could have shaken my hand, I'm pretty sure it would have.

R getting his money's worth at our plush hotel

Then I went back to Massachusetts, and I take back everything mean I said about WMass in March. Because even though March is Austin is pretty as can be, I forgot (sorry, maudlin alert) how much I love walking through the woods in early spring when they're still all white and icy but you can hear the snowmelt dripping and all the overfull rivers rushing in the background. Oh man. Totally worth missing all the redbuds for. And with that, I'll leave you with some photos, dear readers, so you can imagine you came to Massachusetts with me. And then let us put my last vacation behind us and focus our attentions on my NEXT vacation. That's right, the one I'm leaving for on Saturday. Which I presumably won't get around to blogging about for at least four more months.

Pictures are here. You know you wish that your vacation included, in chronological order: tiny mom-made pink-frosted birthday cakes; catching up with the gang at your favorite singing convention; snow!; excessive family Yahtzee; a trip to Mimi's house; three blissful hours at the Metropolitan Museum; adorable children of friends (I mean SERIOUSLY people, have you ever seen anything as cute as Alexandra's family on the stairs????????); and lots of quality Mom & Dad time. Not pictured: my friend Trini's Manhattan apartment with an expansive view of Ground Zero; at least 25 other beloved people I saw at WMSHC; and the other 18 pictures I took of the snow. Have I mentioned that I love snow?

And last but not least, let's conclude with Rebecca's fine rendition of 283...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Art Show

I Spy: A complete key of facial features, Rebecca's birthday, a humble offering from an artist who is long out of the second grade (but whose drawing abilities and handwriting clearly have been held back), transmogrification during "outdoor playtime," 2 misspellings (oops.)

YYZ, YYL, and RLE, 2009
medium: pencil and crayon on copy paper

Speaking of California...

These past couple weeks I've been really earning my citizenship.

I did remember to vote today. Inder and I were #s 64 and 65 to show at our polling place. At 7 pm. Hmm. I voted yes down the line except the last prop (raise freezes for state officials in bad fiscal years.) Not because I don't support it but just because I felt like counteracting the rest of em. (I know, I'm voter illogic in action.) God forbid we provide any concrete emergency funding for schools and health care, but we've got all these populist torches who don't know what to do with...

I was in an earthquake drill (awkwardly shared a doorway with a staff member I don't know while all the kids ducked and covered), watched an earthquake assembly (it was actually awesome, a science guy simulated a house falling down on this quake table hooked up to a richter scale), and noticed another earthquake! (the window made a noise, 3.0)

I also chaperoned a field trip to Tilden Park, my first time at the local favorite outdoor spot. I got schooled in avoiding poison oak and ticks, which were out in droves. We bussed up to "Inspiration Point" (I kept snickering, is that a make out spot or what?) and then "hiked" down a couple miles to the mini farm. The kids were completely oblivious to all aspects of nature except the roly polys they were obsessed with collecting. But we all had a good time feeding celery and lettuce to the animals... the cows took these big tonguey mouthfuls, the sheep made rapid fire polite nibbles, and the goats tried to take our hands off. 1 trip down, 3 to go!

I've also been enjoying all kinds of "appreciation." Which pretty much consists of people telling me to eat every time I turn around. Last week there was a teacher and staff appreciation luncheon complete with parents serving up an elaborate Mexican feast and homemade Chinese desserts. This week is classified staff week, and they've been providing great food for us every day! I'm impressed, everyone at that school works so hard to take care of each other.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Once again, local news best served from abroad...

Which blog member resides in the most questionable state? The battle rages on.

This coming Tuesday I'm supposed to vote on a bunch of special ballet measures that won't solve California's budget fiasco and aren't going to pass anyway. In a special election costing millions. I stopped asking "why" about any of this state's disfunctions a long time ago. Fortunately, The Economist perseveres.

The ungovernable state
As California ceases to function like a sensible state, a new constitution looks both necessary and likely...

My favorite moment of snark? "This makes for a state legislature full of mad-eyed extremists in a state that otherwise has surprising numbers of reasonable citizens."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Philosophical question

What does it say about me if every time I hear someone say "a turn for the worse" I automatically translate it inside my head to "a turn for the wurst"?

I blame too much time spent with The Ha Ha Bonk Book during my delicate formative years.

In karate yesterday I learned how to do a formal self-defense involving a takedown, which, as long as you ignore the fact that the success of the self-defense depends upon your opponent voluntarily taking themselves down, is actually fairly badass.

That's all I got.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"the essence of her beauty"

The ethnic studies major in me thinks I may have been a tad flippant about the idealization of white skin in the last post.

Also, in light of too many comments I've seen lately about young female victims.
When I die? Please. Sing loudly. Eat jam. Read my favorite books. Do not. Sigh about my beauty, real or imagined. Thank you.

A few links to educate and entertain on these themes.

Beauty and the Bleach - from the LA Times a few years back.
Some Asian American women spend thousands pursuing the traditional ideal of whiter skin. Others see a dark shadow of prejudice.

a thoughtful blogpost critiquing a skin whitening ad
...this was actually the first time I had seen a TV commercial for a skin whitening product.
Colorism–the preference of lighter skinned people over darker skinned–is an ugly reality in the black community, and in other communities of color as well...

And I leave you with this fantastic short from the Media That Matters Film Festival. "Slip of the Tongue" - Spoken word, straight out of Oakland. (O! That all bus stops in this town were so clean! O! That cheesy pick up lines were remotely offensive on the scale of Overheard at the Bus Stop!)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

school days

So we wrapped up 2 weeks of evil CST testing this morning. It's made particularly painful by the fact that there are ZERO special arrangements available for English learners, even for the newcomer students whose class is normally bilingual, so I have to watch my kids struggle. Literally, it could be a student's first day in the country and they would be required to test, and to test in English only. Meanwhile as a proctor the state bestows upon me the vast power to hand out extra pencils and tissue and remind kids to fill in that bubble fully. Then the rest of the day the kids are cranky and restless. Fun fun fun for all. Really it hasn't really been as bad as I expected, second graders are still chock full of optimism and claim they enjoy the testing. (Quoth one persuasive essay arguing pro on the issue: Should Children Take the CST Test? - "Because [sic] where big kids now. Where not in kindergarten anymore. We get [sic] prise after.") And the pressure in our school is not so bad, while other schools have to worry about drastic No Child Left Behind consequences, Lincoln is one of the few select schools in Oakland that regularly wins NCLB awards.

I have 7 classes every day, and in any given week, about 3-4 of them will cancel. This is fantastic because it gives me built in planning time so that I never have to stay past school hours, which makes my .8 prorated salary feel much more reasonable. Today, in another sign of the times as the school coasts towards the end of the year, I ended up with a full THREE HOURS with nothing to do in the middle of the day. Where is this, Jezreel? I had enough time to make an unusually detailed example of a drawing project for my last class (quoth another student: "I don't think you draw that! I see you draw before, just put stick arms and legs..."), take a walk by the lake, read a short book and start another. This brings me to the latest episodes of Rebecca Reads at School. Watch and learn as Rebecca is interrupted by Goofus and Gallant.

Goofus: Scenario... last week Rebecca is reading at lunch when Annoying Subcontracted ESL Teacher plops down in the seat across from her.
ASESLT: Hi! Have you ever been having a bad day and then have someone come up to you and unexpectedly give you a compliment?
Rebecca: Um, I guess so...
Rebecca wonders if ASESLT is trying to segue into giving her a compliment? That would be surprisingly... unannoying. Rather, ASESLT launches into recounting several stories in which the universe converged and people gave HER compliments over the last few days. Wouldn't you know it, strangers think she's pretty and sophisticated, old men hit on her. Her self-esteem visually plumps up as the minutes tick by. Eventually it dawns on Rebecca that she appears to be FISHING for ANOTHER compliment. Wow. Who DOES that? Good thing Rebecca already can't stand her and is starting to take secret pleasure in compiling episodes of reader persecution.

Gallant: Scenario... later that same day Rebecca is reading outside during a break when Favorite Second Grade Teacher passes by.
FSGT: What a nice day! It must be so relaxing to read outside.
R: Yeah, finally some nice weather! I'm just soaking up a little sun.
FSGT: I should start bringing a book, that's a great idea. Enjoy!
Rebecca returns to reading, feeling like there is good in the world.

Goofus, Take 2: Scenario... Rebecca is reading during her extended break today while trying to tune out ASESLT mismanaging her class in the same room. Very Nice but Limited English Stafflady is eating lunch and kind of staring at Rebecca from a few seats over. Finally she moves over and touches R's arm. (R is wearing short sleeves for the first time in a while.)
VNLES: I just notice today, you have very white skin! So pretty! Just like Snow White!
R: (Did she just... Snow WHITE??) Oh, wow, I don't know about that, but thanks!
VNLES: In Hong Kong all the girls want white skin, you are so lucky! It is so beautiful with a nice dress... (sighs wistfully...)
Ensue awkward conversation in which R tries to gracefully accept a compliment while dismissing cultural beauty stereotypes...

Gallant, Take 2: Scenario... FSGT to the rescue again! Rebecca has fled ASESLT and VNLES and is reading in the hallway. (Life of Pi)
FSGT: Oh is that good?
R: Yeah, actually it's great! I just started it but so far it's really quirky and well written and grabbing my attention.
FSGT: People are always recommending it to me, but it never seems like my kind of book.
R: I know, me too! I mean, a boy, a tiger, meh... but it was on top of my pile today.
FSGT: Exactly... but it's worth reading?
R: Definitely, so far I approve. I'll let you know what I think when I'm done.
R wants SO to be a student in Ms. FSGT's class!

I hope you've enjoyed this very special lesson on the etiquette of interrupting readers. Coming up in the special school series... R's return to higher education in classic style, and second grade artwork.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Life, going on

When I came home today my inbox was full of emails about a fatal shooting at Wesleyan today. In cold blood, in the campus bookstore/cafe, at lunchtime. Damn. What a shock to the community, I can't imagine. I'm just so thankful that this kind of tragedy IS a huge shock there, as opposed to places like, say, Oakland where we have to make a fancy map to track all the homicides. For once, the Middletown Press seems to have the best coverage. (If you ignore the goofy exaggeration of that being in a "bad" part of town.)

Fortunately, I also came home to the other side of the circle of life! Inder and Steve are home from the hospital with newly minted Joseph Roscoe! It's so good to have the whole family here! J.R. is so much more awake and active than when I first met him, gawking at the world, making actual noises and waving around his appendages. This makes a fair bit of sense, since he was about 3 hours old back then, and he's lived a whole lifetime of 2 days by now. So far his hobbies include nursing and swinging. I know some of you (mom) have been clamoring for photos, so I sent out an email with a link to a whole gallery. It's got a password so I didn't want to post it here but just shoot me a comment/email if I missed you. I am stealing one of Steve's, though, for public consumption. Behold!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Quick stats.

To satisfy inquiring minds: Joseph R (middle name in progress) was born at 2:55 this afternoon, 7.5 pounds. Inder is recovering fabulously and wants her props for having an almost entirely natural birth. I went over to the hospital to hang out with the brand new parents and hold Mr Joseph, so I can report first hand that he is perfect and makes the TINIEST little baby noises. Steve was taking pretty pictures and they promise to send out a proper announcement tomorrowish.

It's a boy!!

Let me help you while away the time until Inder and Steve have their baby

So I was all set to work up to a big post about pancakes. (Sadly, I'm not joking.) Then I saw that Inder's in labor and Rebecca's about to be housemates with an infant! Since there's practically nothing I could possibly write about that would rival the excitement of, oh, you know, the miracle of creation, I figured I should just ride it out and not say anything until after all the baby updates.

But then I thought - what BETTER post to get lost forever in a flurry of baby stories than a completely unnecessary and pointless discourse on pancakes???????

So please allow me to expound upon the beauties of my second-favorite 10-minute meal (in first place, we have popping a giant pot of popcorn, covering it with salt and nutritional yeast, and then eating the entire thing without offering any to Richard unless he asks nicely). Seriously, I've started to develop a pretty unhealthy codependence on pancakes. They're fast, easy, and there's just no way not to make them delicious. And believe me, I try. I've never met a recipe that I didn't attempt to make at least one completely disastrous healthy substitution in. But after countless months of tweaking the basic Joy of Cooking pancake recipe, I think I've finally settled on my ideal proportions. I generally try to avoid wheat flour (I'm not allergic but I don't think I do very well with it), and ditto for non-cultured dairy (though if I'm out of rice milk I have been known to turn in my hour of need to R's ever-present half gallon of whole milk in the fridge... so sinfully tasty...).

I now present to you (assuming you've read this far, which is not an assumption I'm necessarily making) Katie's Pancakes That You Can Eat Until You Feel Sick And You Don't Have To Feel Too Guilty About It (easily made vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, blah blah blah...):

1/2 cup each of brown rice, oat, and barley flours (this is my favorite combo, though you can substitute in any combination of the following: millet/quinoa flour (just put your millet/quinoa in the blender or spice grinder!), cornmeal, whole wheat/spelt, etc... all you need is 1 1/2 cups total. I like to use at least 3 kinds of flour so it doesn't taste overwhelmingly like one or the other)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups rice milk (or regular milk, or Richard's whole milk from the fridge cut with some water, or whatever kind of milk you like)
1-2 eggs and/or 2-3 TBS ground flaxseed (flaxseed gets glutinous and acts as a binding agent when wet, but you can use it even if you use eggs for some extra omega-3's if you want to be one of those insufferable extra-smug people who's always adding powdered hippie things to their otherwise perfectly serviceable food just to make other people feel bad about themselves)
2-3 TBS grapeseed oil, or any kind of oil really
vanilla extract if they're going to be eaten with sweet things

Mix all ingredients. If you want to be a conscientious cook or you really like washing bowls, mix wet and dry ingredients separately and then combine. If not, mix your wet ingredients in a medium-big bowl and then add dry ones. Mix just until everything is combined, then let sit for 10 minutes or so to let everything blend. Heat and butter your pan, and have at it. Eat covered in Rebecca's jam or North Hadley maple syrup that was a wedding present from your 6th grade teacher. Or wrapped around any kind of savory food that offers at least a couple of nutritional benefits so you can feel like you've had a proper meal. Last night I caused all of Richard's relatives, living and dead, to roll in their current or future graves by wrapping my pancakes around a mixture of cooked mung/adzuki beans and gochujang. Mmmm, delicious appropriation...

And finally, lest you think I spend ALL my time eating pancakes (I would if I could), here's proof that I do make it out of the house sometimes in the form of a recent shot of me & R all gussied up and out on the town at a fundraiser. (I'm smiling funny because my mouth is full of food. And check out that death grip I have on my wine!) Okay, now back to your regularly scheduled birthing updates.

Prompt baby B on the way...

So, Inder went into labor early this morning, the day of her due date. And here she was fretting about the baby being late! Of course I started the water boiling right away. That is, I made her tea and a peanut butter sandwich (this baby is going to come out in the shape of a PB sandwich.) Henceforth my role in this thing consists mostly of dogsitting and updating the sacred harp public. And keeping my germs to myself. (Geez, between impending birth and swineflufever this is not the time to be sniffling. Do you hear me, immune system?) Let's all keep Steve and Inder in our thoughts for a safe and speedy delivery, and hopefully when I get back from work this afternoon I'll have more in the way of an update!