March 29, 2007

Made My Day

One of the students I taught last year won the local spelling bee and was interviewed by the local paper. She said that I was her "all-time favorite teacher"!!!

That has to be the nicest compliment any teacher can get.

Do you remember your favorite teacher?

Mine was called Mrs Jana. She was hard and tough and took no crap from anyone. And she pushed and prodded and cajoled me (and everyone) to really give it my all. During report card days, other teachers would simply handout the cards and release their students. Not Mrs Jana. She had us all wait (im)patiently while she cleaned up her desk, board, etc. And then after all the other students were out, and crowded around our classroom windows, she slowly started calling each of us by name - very loudly - and discussing our report card for all to hear!

I learned that important lesson from her, and when I taught last year, I did the same on report card day. Each student heard what I had to say about everyone - where they did well, and what I believed they could improve on. I also do not believe in surprises, and every week updated each students grades on my board - so everyone knew exactly where they stood and what they needed to do to improve their grades.

I believe that everyone wants to succeed, but success can mean different things to different people. And I believe that children rise to the bar you set for them. You have to set it. Show them how they can get there. Help, cajole, prod them along the way. Reward and acknowledge hard work and success.

My style certainly created waves, and "scared" kids not in my classes. But my kids and I learned from each other and were better for it.

March 28, 2007

Naked in Death

By J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)

"This is the novel that started it all-the first book in J. D. Robb's number-one New York Times-bestselling In Death series, featuring New York City homicide detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Roarke.

It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing-passion.

When a senator's daughter is killed, the secret life of prostitution she'd been leading is revealed. The high-profile case takes Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the rarefied circles of Washington politics and society. Further complicating matters is Eve's growing attraction to Roarke, who is one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet, devilishly handsome . . . and the leading suspect in the investigation."

Completed this audio book on my commute this morning. My first book by the author, and I was pleasantly surprised. There is more meat to this book than just your typical thriller. Parts of the book I found really disturbing. The main character gets nicely developed and I enjoyed the ride. I am requesting the next book in the series today.

Looks like there are 22 in the series.

March 27, 2007

World Happiness

Would you consider yourself happy?
What makes you happy?
How do you know you are happy?

Happiness is one of those intangibles. And yet we value it so much that it is a part of our constitution. We have the right to "pursue" happiness. How does one do that exactly?

I for one find that the feeling of happiness comes and goes - usually quite unexpectedly. Yesterday for example I was happy that a couple of books that I had bound turned out exactly as I had expected/hoped/envisioned. Is that how we define happiness - when something goes as we hoped/expected? Not so for me. I've found that I can wake up feeling happy for no apparent reason at all.

Here is some interesting data:

The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1 - Denmark
2 - Switzerland
3 - Austria
4 - Iceland
5 - The Bahamas
6 - Finland
7 - Sweden
8 - Bhutan
9 - Brunei
10 - Canada
11 - Ireland
12 - Luxembourg
13 - Costa Rica
14 - Malta
15 - The Netherlands
16 - Antigua and Barbuda
17 - Malaysia
18 - New Zealand
19 - Norway
20 - The Seychelles

Other notable results include:
23 - USA
35 - Germany
41 - UK
62 - France
82 - China
90 - Japan
125 - India
167 - Russia

The three least happy countries were:
176 - Democratic Republic of the Congo
177 - Zimbabwe
178 - Burundi

Source: University of Leicester

March 26, 2007

The Power (and Peril) of Praise

Here is a fascinating article about how not to talk to kids.

I have so many stories I could share that prove the point of the article - buy me a drink and I'll tell you all about it.

Here is the article.

March 23, 2007


by Richard North Patterson

"Bestseller Patterson's new thriller with its focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been overtaken by events (there's no mention of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 or the recent fighting across the Lebanese border), but the underlying political issues may be enough for most readers to put the real world aside and suspend disbelief. Harvard-trained attorney David Wolfe, a San Franciscan on the verge of a congressional campaign, has his plans derailed when his law school classmate (and one-time lover), Palestinian Hana Arif, asks him to defend her from charges that she led a conspiracy that assassinated dovish Israeli leader Amos Ben-Aron. Inspired by idealism and lingering passion, Wolfe jeopardizes his political future by taking the case. His suspicion that the suicide bombers who attacked Ben-Aron were aided by a security breach leads him to Israel and Lebanon. While Patterson (Conviction) attempts to portray the issues fairly, the introduction of a soap-operaish subplot undercuts his intended high purpose, and the resolution of the mystery is too predictable to surprise." - From Publishers Weekly

Finished this book last weekend, and though I agree with the review that the subplot was a little too trite, I did like the way he tried to address both POV in a fair way. There has been so much blood shed in this land holy to 3 religions. When/how does it all end? In my opinion, everyone is right, and has valid points. But unless people and their governments get off their positions and actively work for peace, I do not see how this "conflict" will end. How many dead would it require to elevate this from a "conflict"?

I heard this morning that MIT is running a contest to solicit ideas on how to bring about peace in Jerusalem by the year 2015 (? not sure if that is the right year). I for one really like the idea of so many minds trying to create peace. Hopefully it happens in our lifetime.

March 21, 2007

Happy Equinox!

It's that time of year again - the spring equinox.
The first day of spring.
Today is one of 2 days in the year when we have equal amounts of night and day.
As a person who grew up on the equator, I still find the entire seasons thing fascinating.

Some interesting facts.

March 20, 2007

Bleeding Hearts

By Ian Rankin

“First published in the U.K. in 1994 under the pseudonym Jack Harvey, this routine thriller from Edgar-winner Rankin tells the story of Michael Weston, a fastidious British assassin whose life gets complicated when Hoffer, an American PI, starts to close in on him. The novel opens with Weston's carefully choreographed hit on London TV journalist Eleanor Ricks, but Hoffer is chasing Weston for another assassination, in which the antihero mistakenly shot a young girl. The plot takes a convoluted journey to the United States, to a weapons dealer in Texas and on to a quasireligious cult near Seattle. The nonstop action, copious violence and arcane details about weaponry and forensics will please thriller junkies, but fans of Rankin's masterful John Rebus series (Fleshmarket Alley, etc.) may not find this pre-Rebus book to their taste.” – Publishers Weekly

My first novel by Ian Rankin, and was not overly impressed. I think the only reason I stayed with the audio book till the end, was because the British English (windscreen, rubbish, etc) brought back childhood memories. I know that’s not much of a recommendation, but then I would not really recommend the book.

March 16, 2007

Loss of Stardust

The world is a little less glitzy with the loss of the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas.

While visiting Vegas in Jan, we were driving by the hotel on the strip, and I said out loud that it made me sad that the Stardust would be destroyed. This clearly perplexed by niece, who asked why it made me sad. Then, she asked if I would cry.

Well, I did not cry. But I will miss that old hotel. I loved the hotel sign - the old style - different era feel. I know the world moves on, and progress cannot be stopped, but does the world really need another new, million dollar casino? I think not.

Here is my fave video of the event.

March 15, 2007

ESL Madness

Why is it that the English language calls groups of things different names? What a nightmare for an English learner. Anyone else remember having to memorize the madness when you were in school?

What do you call a group of

cattle - herd
fish - school
geese - gaggle
whales - pod
dogs - pack
birds - flock
sheep - flock

and so on.

Anyone know what you call a group of cats?
Check out this link.

Temperamental Weather

Talk about moody weather patterns! It’s been in the high 60s the past couple of days, and today we’ll have a high of 40. Oh, and about 13” of snow expected by tomorrow night!

I feel bad for all the little critters. The robins have been back for weeks (I do not think some ever left), and there is not much food around. We’ve had swarms of blackbirds pick every berry off the holly bushes, and we go through bird feed in amazing quantities.

I’m glad I was able to leave work early yesterday and get out and enjoy the gift of a beautiful day. Delightful.

March 13, 2007

ER – Season 2

Decided to buy a treadmill recently. Yes, I have a gym membership, but find that it’s much easier to get in a couple of miles when I can watch interesting TV shows – especially when it’s as bitterly cold as it has been here lately. It is delightful not to have to bundle up and brace myself for the cold.

My current favorite is ER. I never got to watch it while it was on, and now am working my way through the library DVD collection of Season 2. Very enjoyable. And I get the added bonus of doing something healthy while watching TV.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am really looking forward to warmer weather and long, rambling walks outside. But if I’m going to watch some TV, why not log some miles along the way?

March 12, 2007

Not A Mega Millions Winner

It’s a funny thing about the lotto. I do not buy tickets, or even notice them regularly – but how can one miss the media blitz and the hoopla about a 350 Million Dollar jackpot?

So we bought our tickets. And I must say that for sheer entertainment value, it’s a bargain. I mean, on what else can you spend $1, and get really excited about future possibilities? What a rush! I got all worked up, and tried to decide whether I would go in to work and quit, or simply call in to quit. These are the paths my mind goes down ….

I am sorry to report that I did not win, and the work dilemma resolved itself.

I would however not trade a minute of the rush of planning how one could spend all that money. Think about it – what would you do if you won $350M – see what I mean?

March 5, 2007


My Ammachi (grandmother) passed away this past week.

She was my last living grandparent, and it is strange to have lost that physical link to the past so completely. My parents were able to arrange a flight back to India to get there in time for the funeral, and I'm glad that my Mom got to have that closure. On a call to her yesterday (the funeral was just over), she said that it was strange to be in the house without my Ammachi. I cannot even begin to imagine. Her Mom has been there in that house for as long as my Mom has been alive.

The hard part of death is not that someone dies. It's how bereft the ones who loved them feel.