fledge capable of flying, from Middle English flegge, from Old English -flycge; akin to Old High German flucki capable of flying,
Old English flEogan to fly -- more at FLY
intransitive verb, of a young bird : to acquire the feathers necessary for flight or independent activity

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Okay, so I sent it.

Thank you for your long and thoughtful responses to my last post. They really encouraged me and I mailed the letter to the local paper.

I like schools and I like the concept of learning with other children and being taught by professionals. I am also to this day very, very, very grateful to that handful of teachers that really taught me something, I especially want to thank my American lit teacher for teaching me symbolism and finding the story within a story and my driver's ed teacher, who drilled into us a full turn of the head for that blind spot check before turning, because "there might just be a bicycle back there. Always think that there's going to be a bicycle back there that appeared out of nowhere." Twice now, in fact, bicycles have appeared in my blind spot from out of nowhere. And thanks to my driver's ed instructor and that "full turn of the head", those cyclists are not paralyzed from the neck down.

I greatly admire those whom I know who homeschool. I am so very impressed by their children, their intellect, curiosity and abilities. I applaud those moms and dads, who in addition to all their other responsibilities, find new ways to foster learning at home. I am truly amazed. And thankful for their efforts to make great citizens.

I don't think I could homeschool. This is likely because of a lack of will on my part. And a lack of patience. And also a deep aversion to all forms of math beyond geometry. I like geometry. Me no likey calculus. Me hatey calculus.

I don't think our schools here are preparing our kids for the global, knowledge-based economy. I just don't.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This close. I'm this close to sending this to the local newspaper.

I really want to mail this in as a letter to the editor. Here's the thing: My mother was a member of my hometown's School Board for, well, most of my school years. She was president of the School Board for many of those years. As it so happened, during contract negotiations or if she took an unpopular stand, well, my grades dropped. I should say my grades were dropped a notch. "Impossible!" the teachers in the crowd will say. But I remember. Anyway, this is what I want to point out:

Every afternoon, when I pick my children up from school, I ask them. “So, what did you learn today?” Most often, they respond, “Nothing.”

I attribute this to a bit of afternoon lethargy and not real despondency. Today, however, my First-Grade daughter said, “Nothing, because we had to clean up the campus.” This week, my six-year-old and her classmates are required to clean up the school grounds after recess. You’re kidding me, right? No, in fact, because of cost cutting, certain custodial activities are being redistributed to the children.

Are the clients of public facilities now performing the janitorial work? Are the attorneys sweeping under the tables and chairs between hearings at the Superior Court? Are library card holders given gloves and a bag to clean up around the main library?

The state budget shortfalls are a result of overgenerous benefits to School District employees. The burden of meeting salary, defined pension and healthcare obligations, calculated with an assumption that the stock market returns of Internet boom of the 1990s could be expected for 50 years, has come at the expense of classroom facilities and materials. We parents are asked again and again to open our wallets for things like folding chairs, office couches, building improvements, copy paper, classroom supplies, physical education instruction and arts education. Every year, our Elementary School asks its parents to come in one weekend to clean and paint bathrooms, clear weeds and perform all manner of maintenance work. This Friday, instead of instruction, the children will be running circles in a fund-raising “Fun Run” during school hours. And now it is expected to have the children absorb janitorial responsibilities?

As such, I started thinking a bit myself about numbers and statistics, namely the salaries of teachers and how that correlates to our children’s education. The numbers I found are worth picking up. In addition to trash, we may be throwing our money and our children’s education away.

Let’s start with our money:

Teacher salaries in California jockey with Connecticut, the District of Colombia and New Jersey year for year for the highest in the nation. The average teacher salary in California was around $57,000 in 2004 (http://dcjobsource.com/2004teachersalaries.html).
Internationally, it is a little more difficult to analyze teacher salaries. In 1992, the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics made an attempt to reveal the cost of teachers in an absolute sense, irrespective of a nation’s wealth. By calculating teacher salaries respective to GDP per capita, this statistic showed what a nation paid a teacher respective to what it is able to pay for other services. For example, although a poorer nation may pay its teachers less, it may actually be devoting more of its available resources to teachers. At any rate--literally any rate--U.S. teachers do not fare badly compared to the rest of the world: The United States ranked fourth and third among nations in absolute terms. Only Japan, Austria and Portugal paid their primary school teachers more, and only Germany and Spain paid their secondary teachers more. Unfortunately, I could not find a more recent statistic, but I cannot imagine that salaries have gone down much.

Across professions, California teachers’ salaries compare favorably with other white-collar professionals. An emergency room nurse in our area earns about $60K, a warehouse manager around $59K, an accountant around $47K, an office supervisor around $45K and your news assistants only around $29K, according to salaryexpert.com. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2005 calculated that public school teachers earn on an hourly basis 36% more than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than technical and specialty workers. The BLS statistic went so far as to capture total hours worked, yes, even included that paper grading time, and came up with these numbers. Still, let’s not forget, teachers work nine of twelve months and from 9 am to 3 pm. Then there’s those school vacations. And talk about health and pension benefits! Plus tenure after 3 years. It matters not, if a teacher is especially good or bad, he’s there until he’s 55. Or 50, if he got an early start. Not to mention all those little hidden perks, such as getting paid for untaken sick days, which, in principle and practice is getting paid twice for the same day of work.

California teachers rank near the top in pay of all teachers in the world and keep pace in salary with all manner of professionals who work twelve months a year and eight hours a day. Therefore, by all accounts--national and international, real, absolute and relative--California teachers are well compensated. And thusly compensated for life. As well they should be. As well they should be if--that is, if--that is what is required for our children to achieve educational excellence.

So, now, let’s just see about that educational excellence:

In 2007, California ranked 36th in SAT scores among the 50 States. Iowa achieved the number one spot in SAT scores. Coincidentally, this is almost an inverse of teacher pay relative to SAT scores: California ranks near 1st in teacher salaries and 36th in SAT scores; Iowa ranks 37th in teacher salaries and 1st in SAT scoring. So, while a teacher in Los Angeles County brings home around $57K annually, his colleague in Cedar Rapids gets by with about $39K. A retail store manager in our area can expect to take home around $49K; In Iowa City, he can expect around $47K. Looking at it that way, a teacher in California makes considerably more than his middle management professional neighbor; that teacher in Iowa earns considerably less than the white-collar professionals on his block. How do those Iowans do it? I don’t know, but they do.

And internationally? Even with those especially bright youngsters in the Midwest, in 2003, UNICEF determined that the United States ranks only 18th of 24 nations in terms of educational effectiveness. Twenty years ago, the United States ranked number one among industrialized nations of its adults 25 to 34 holding high school degrees and college degrees. Today, the United States ranks ninth and seventh respectively. One should note that this ranking just indicates that these adults have a piece of paper. In terms of applying math skills and solving real world problems, no matter what sheepskin is hanging on the wall, Finland, Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada and Belgium are leaving the United States in the dust. In other words, a First-Grader in Finland is learning the scientific method while a First-Grader here is, well, picking up trash. And I mean “picking up trash” not figuratively.

The UNICEF report also did not find a correlation between educational achievement and funding. Furthermore, classroom size did not seem to be a determining factor. Other countries have greater student-to-teacher ratios and achieve much better test results. By all standards, the U.S. spends a lot on education and yet the educational quality is slipping. USC Rossier School of Education professor David Marsh attributed the lackluster education in the United States to how children are taught. 

“The United States focuses more on procedure, and we try to teach many topics fast. Other countries tend to break topics up and go much more in-depth. They work on the concept, not just the procedure,” Marsh said in a U-Wire interview. “Countries that did well in rankings focused on teaching the ideas and taught a few topics a year. Kids will learn what a fraction really is, not just how to add or subtract them.”

Anecdotally, because I lived overseas for a number of years and have many friends with school-aged children in other countries, I observe that those children are, in fact, learning more and doing more than my children. And these are countries and schools with similar immigrant numbers and comparable assimilation, language and social challenges that immigrant populations can bring.

Now here is an interesting idea, almost an inverse of current thinking. Prof. Marsh’s observation that neither funding, nor classroom size are determining factors in an educational system’s success may point to something, perhaps a simple way to lower cost and improve education. Or rather, lower cost to improve education. Teach less, but teach with more depth. That would cut down considerably on instructional materials, instructors, audio/visual equipment and the like. Achieve more with less. Achieve more because of less. Try teaching how to learn in depth and likely the breadth of knowledge will follow. As such, the budget shortfalls could be viewed as a good thing. So, Mr. Schwarzenegger, cut 10 per cent across the board. It might actually help the kids achieve. So far, we have seen rising teacher salaries as being incommensurate with children’s achievement.

While I’m throwing ideas out there: Why does the School District need to have full time painters and groundskeepers on staff? A day does not go by when I open my door and am greeted with a flurry of business cards from companies offering to paint my house or trim my trees. This area does not seem to lack for painters and groundskeepers. Maybe some of these businesses could do the painting and trimming for the District. Or if that seems a bit too novel, how about if the School District picks up the telephone and asks the City to perhaps radio the City maintenance staff, who are sleeping in their trucks at park around the corner, to come over and do some of the clean up work the School District needs.

Marsh added this,
“In fourth grade, American kids do above average internationally. By eighth grade, they slip a bit, and by 12th-grade, they’ve slipped a lot,” Marsh said. “We’re the only country that slides down that much from fourth to 12th grade.” 

I see the slipping occurring earlier. Today, instead of being given instruction on how to learn, the kids are cleaning up the school grounds. And being supervised for their custodial work by some of the highest paid white-collar mid-level professionals in the world. And this, while City maintenance staff are catching zz’s under the trees in the Best Buy parking lot. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. (For those recent graduates from the California education system, Denmark is doing just fine. This is an allusion to Hamlet and the rotten political hierarchy around the tragic prince … written by William Shakespeare … 16th Century English poet and playwright…Ringing any bells?).

For the record, the “Campus Clean-Up” skills my daughter is learning may bring her a $20K annual income as a janitor.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Day 30 +1

Well, what did I learn from this exercise? I know I didn't learn how to fix the white balance on the new camera. I think Sarah is and will remain a better photographer than me (she makes a leak in the roof look good. If I can have big juicy golden drops rolling down my walls, I want a leaky roof, too). I know that I'm not much of a stylist. I think, for me, there is so much grace and humor in the world that it's really superfluous for me to take the time to pose blueberries. Not to say that I'm not a poser. But then I feel like such a poser. I think I have a journalist's mind's eye. Or eye's mind. Or whatever the anatomy should be.  I want a story. I look across my photos and ask, "Is that 1000 words?" Pretty isn't enough: I want a story. I don't think I have a photo that I really like in these 30 days. I think my best came right on Day 1 with Jesus Van Man or these two sisters. But I didn't capture much eye candy this past month, did I? I forewent plenty of pretty sunsets, rocky cliffs plunging into blue waters and bright, bright blooms in January, your basic SoCal fare, in favor of men with garment bags and little dogs. When I shoot my girl, I think I do get eye candy. Must be the love. Must be something to that. And the minutia of me? I can't think of a single good reason to ever photograph my feet, so I won't. Pinky swear. You got three photos at my kitchen sink, so get excited.

Confession: I know my stuff. Correction: I used to know my stuff. I have the stop bath stains on my prom dress to prove it (and I went into the dark room during prom to develop film and not to, uh, ... that's how serious I was about my craft). I have a journalism degree from Indiana University and I was a hot-shot shooter on campus. No lie. And I had every intention of becoming a journalist/photojournalist. I had every intention and maybe some talent, but not the ambition or cajones. I see the work of those I knew, lesser shooters, all over the place. They have made careers and far surpassed my ability, because they had more ambition and more guts. 

When I had to pay the rent with income from something other than writing and shooting, I left my equipment at my folk's house. Photography could no more be a hobby for me than I could "be friends" with an old love. So, I probably did not put a SLR camera in my hands for 15 years.
Now, however, I think I've grown up, maybe. I think I can be friends with photography. I can enjoy it without thinking "what might have been". Not to say I don't get really giddy when I get a good shot. And when my old boyfriend calls me on my birthday, I still giggle a lot. But it's okay. We're friends.

(Oh, and Sarah, no, this 30 days wasn't work. You should see that in some of the quality. But I think this was a good exercise in mindfulness. I think it's a good mindset to be in when you look around and ask, Where's the beauty? Where's the humor? Is there symmetry? Is there a story? Is there irony? Where is joy? Where's the light? What's that? A whale! Cool.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Day 30

Day 30 was going to be easy: Down to the beach and anything/body silhouetted in front of the setting sun. So very SoCal. But today is grey and damp. "Schmuddelwetter," we'd say in Germany. Nonetheless, the beach had a visitor: A whale, probably a grey whale. You can only see a bit of her back and her small blow. A Whale is rather appropriate, because I'm in a Herman Melville state of mind.

"Methinks my shadow on this earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest air."

So, that was 30 days! Thanks for looking in!

Tag 30 hätte sehr einfach sein sollen: Am Strand irgendwas beim Sonnenuntergang knipsen. Aber heute ist grau, richtiges Schmuddelwetter. Nichtsdestotrotz gab's Besuch am Beach. Ein Wal, Grauwal wahrscheinlich. Man sieht nur etwas vom Rücken und etwas vom "Blow". Passend, denn ich habe eine leichte Herman Melville Stimmung heute.

Also, das waren 30 Tage! Vielen Dank für das Vorbeischauen!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Day 29

Citizens of the Kit(s)ch-en. And the little devil ducks do jump in the dish water when I'm not looking. My kitchen is kitschy. I used to try and think, "Oh, it's vintage". But no, it's just old.

Mitbürger im Kit(s)chen. Und alle meine Teufelentchen schwimmen in dem Schaum, schwimmen in dem Schaum ... Meine Küche ist kitschig. Früher versuchte ich mir einzureden, "Ach, ist doch ulkig...". Doch nicht: Die Küche ist einfach alt.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day 28

O.I.C. (Only In California): A personal trainer for your overweight dog.

N.I.K. (Nur in Kalifornien): Privater Trainer für übergewichtige Hunde.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Day 27

Barney's New York Warehouse Sale, Barker Hanger, Santa Monica. 

Note to Posh Beckham's personal assistant: This Georgio Armani is still there. And another 40% off.

Note to all fashion-forward men: Dachshund. Big men carry small dogs (further example from Rodeo Drive).

What did I get? Oh, shoes. Of course. Four pairs. Because it's not what I spent, it's what I saved! Right?

Barney's New York Winterschlussverkauf in Santa Monica. Edelmarken auf Wuhltischen und Boy George und Depeche Mode aus den Lautsprechern. 

Memorandum an die Assistentin von Posh Beckham: Dieses Armani ist noch da. Und einen weiteren 40%-Rabatt.

Memorandum an modischen Männern: Dachshund. Grösse Männer tragen kleine Hunde (weiteres Beispiel auf Rodeo Drive).

Und ich? Ja, doch Schuhe. Denn solche habe ich nicht. Ausserdem, es zählt nicht, was ich ausgegeben habe, sondern was ich gespart habe! Oder?

Day 26

Que hermosa, Hermosa.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Day 25

Sup, brah? Nothing you?
Und hang loose meine Damen ;-)

Day 24.5

Perhaps the other reason I occasionally go a little overboard with the lace and the pink and the hearts. Here my little love bug is reading her Valentine to me: "Roses are red. And you are my Mom. And that's the best."

The transfer on her shirt is from the talented and indefatigueable Nic.

Thank you for your warm wishes. They made me very happy.

Vielleicht der andere Grund warum ich ab und zu mal mit der Spitze und Rosarot und Herzchen etc. übertreibe, dieses Käferchen. Hier mit dem schönen Veloursmotiv von Nic.

Vielen Dank für die lieben Grüsse! Ich habe mich sehr gefreut.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day 24

My dad called me today and explained how I came into the world this day all shiny and red. That's how I came in and that's how I'll go out. So if I go a little overboard with the lace and the pink and the red hearts, I'll have you know it is my birthright
And as they go, I do like this holiday. It is a chance to say "I love you" and that's not so bad.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Day 23

This is just a really cool animal. Simply beautiful to watch.
A photo from a day at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Day 22

Public art on recycled billboards. That's a good thing.
Above a psychic center with old couches rotting on the curb. Now that's almost an art installation.

This just in:

I just knew it would happen. 
But I hoped it wouldn't.

(Lindsey photos not mine, but snatched from here.)

Day 21

Jack was gone with his buddy for an adventure in the desert, so we played hooky and went (window) shopping. Can Prada do no wrong? The flagship on Rodeo is one of my favorite destinations. It's like a museum to me. No, a temple. Muy muy Mui Mui.
I'll put together a flickr something-or-other of the images from Sunday. My town. I'm not a total local, not really, but I am falling in love with this quirky, extreme, concrete-and-sunshine place. But first paperwork. Lots of paperwork. Because of said hooky-playing.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Day 20

Skating with occasional dandelion wishes. And then this: A roving confessional booth? O.I.A. (Only In America).

Day 19

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Day 18.5

All the world is a stage.

And all cucumbers are microphones.

We create our realities. It's true. And not in an Oprah-says-way. In a real, quantifiable quantum physics way. Our thoughts are realities. Matter is not constant, but slipping through all possibilities. And all possibilities are equal and simultaneous, effecting both the future and the past.

They figured this all out. And those dudes at Stanford and MIT? Man, the crazy things people do at college: Those MIT people make the same thing appear in two places at once. Not two of the same thing. No, the same one thing in two different places. And there are other guys in Bonn at HERA that would do nutty things, too (but they turned that off). But Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Stern, Gerlach, et. al. figured all that out without the schmancy machines. And Einstein, too, duh.

And Lise Meitner. Poor Lise.

So, sure, through the looking glass of the kitchen window, Anna performs in a stadium full of adoring fans. And I am a renown physicist. No, probably not that much probability out there. Not for that.

Day 18

I'm on a bit of a sewing binge. And the cat's away! While my dearest is away on business, I'm enjoying a little fling with Bernie (Bernina). In the bedroom, in the kitchen, on the living room floor! Oo-la-la!

All this mess for one little skirt. A new kind of skirt. I hope.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Day 17

AnnaBook Pro (prototype). There's everything you need on the keyboard: Alphabet in alphabetical order, on, yes, no, happy face, sad face, voloom (volume), network, loader (downloader), go, ya!, and the revolutionary innovation, the "oops" key.

I could really use an oops key.

Memo to Cupertino: Oops key.
cc: S. Jobs
(bc: B. Gates)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Of growing old gracefully, like me

Scene: the bathroom with the pink (!) bathtub. Mother applies lip gloss, while 6-yr.old daughter looks on.

"What's that?"



"Because I'm old and frumpy. With make-up, I'm still old and frumpy, but shinier."

(pregnant pause for comic effect)

"Mommy, you don't have the style anymore. But you've still got the moves!"

Don't. Have. The. Style. But. Still. Got. The. Moves.

Thanks, babe. Love you. Little dickens.

Day 16

Oh yeah, sure, the John Martin's opened directly to the Heart Ship and covered the peeling varnish on the table. Just like that.

So, what is the secret of Red Velvet Cake? Pomegranate wine pressed by the feet of 95-year-old Tuscan nuns, the orphaned children of Venician pirates, and fermented in cherrywood vats harvested on a remote Adriatic island shrouded in fog and mystery? Is it the dew from the underside of the first primroses harvested by druid priestesses on third eve of the wane? Is it the juice of Finnish åkerbärs, the only medicine to heal an Arctic warrior's broken heart, stolen from a troll's apothecary?

Is it red velvet?

Um, the secret to Red Velvet Cake is, well, red food coloring. Lots of it.
Go figure. That can't be good. But just this one time.

Such a poser photo. Hate it. But I did it.

Roter-Samt-Kuchen. Das Geheimnis? Ist das Geheimnis Granatafpelwein, der nur von den zarten Füssen 95-jahre-alten tuskanischer Nonnen (die vergessenen Kindern venezianischer Seeräuber) der 40 Jahre in Kirschholzfässer gelagert wird? Ist es der von Druidenpriesterinnen beim dritten abnehmenden Mond gesammelten Morgentau der ersten Primeln? Ist es der aus der Apotheke eines Berggeistes gestohlenen Saft des finnischen åkerbärs, das einzige Heilkräuter, das das zerbrochenen Herz eines arktischen Kriegers heilt?

Ist es vielleiht roter Samt?

Ähm, das Geheimnis ist rote Lebensmittelfarbe. Und viel davon. Kann nicht besonders gesund sein. Aber das eine mal.

Day 15

One day, one day, she'll have the confidence to skate inside the skate park. One day. But not today. And not tomorrow. And not the next day.

Eines Tages. Eines Tages wird sie das Selbstvertrauen haben, auch innerhalb des Skateparks zu fahren. Eines Tages. Aber heute nicht. Auch morgen nicht. Und der Tag danach ... auch nicht.


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