Saturday, May 31, 2008

Globalization, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Everyone talks about how how small the world is becoming; I have electronics that were made in China, for crying out loud.

So why, oh why, is so much of American stuff still so regional?

Allow me to 'splain.

This may be the best soda ever.  However, you can't find it in a single grocery store here.  Thank goodness for Galco's.

I keep hoping that since Ralphs merged with Kroger, at least Kroger's house brand birch beer might make it to the west coast.  The slow appearance of other house brand items gave me brief hope but -- still, no birch beer.

Now, mind you, I didn't even know that the stuff existed until my early 20s, on a trip back to Pennsylvania (I think it was one that was just for a visit).  I knew of root beer, of course, but my mom remembered birch beer fondly and found some in a store.

Oh.  My.  God.

And it's not just beverages.

So, a couple of summers ago, I went over to the Wegmans (aaah, Wegmans, you wonderful, amazing, Costco-sized Whole Foods/Trader Joe's...why can't you migrate to the west coast?) for a few staples (Patrick never eats well on trips, so a stop somewhere for bread and peanut butter is par for the course) and fell so immediately in love.

If you like to's like heaven.  It's like walking into a Gelsons or a Whole Foods, with stuff of similar quality to either of them or a Trader Joe's, but it's the size of a Costco, and carries at least the variety of stuff you'd find at a grocery store.  It has...oh, it's beyond description.

Let's just say that I was terribly, terribly sorry that I had nothing really to cook with or on.

Plus, they had actual, real, red, non-molded strawberries.  From California.  In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Of better quality than the ones in Gelsons in California.

And Friendly's.

Half Baskin Robbins, half...what?...Denny's, maybe, but with good food.  I have never in my life enjoyed fish, but their fish and chips was yummy.  And that's saying nothing of their absolutely wonderful blended Oreo...thing.  Thicker than, say, milk, but thinner than a's....

Pardon me, but I'm channeling my inner Homer....

(As it's made it as far as Arizona, we won't count Perkins -- a half-Denny's, half-Millie's clone with good food.)

This rant inspired by yet another Sonic commercial tormenting me with Sour Apple Slushes to numb my itchy throat that are at least an hour away.

Not cool, cable.  So not cool.

(Also?  What the heck is Ruby Tuesday, and why are you advertising their yummy-looking food on my cable right after the Sonic commercials?)

ETA:  Googling has told me that Ruby Tuesday exists in California only near Sacramento.  What the heck, cable?  Sonic is...if not local, at least...well, kinda local, if you're the drive-to-Disneyland types.  But...Sacramento?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beyond the Rim of Starlight

RIP, Alexander Courage.

(How many of you actually knew the Star Trek theme song had lyrics -- from which I conveniently snitched the title?)

While not the subtlest of music, nor even the best (IMHO, Deep Space Nine's theme music is the prettiest), the original Trek theme song is iconic.  It's one of those things that, if you're a sci-fi fan, is just woven into your subconscious.

It's like the "Imperial March," or the Star Wars theme, or the swell of music as "The Lord of the Rings" (at 29 seconds into the linked video) showed on the screen.

It just is.  Throughout the series, there are better and more subtle pieces of music, but....


ETA:  Seriously, what is it with composers lately?  (I know Alexander Courage passed a few days ago, but it just appeared on Sci-Fi Wire today.)

A Bit Behind

So, summer school isn't all that far away, and I've been pondering what to do with the kids.

Oh, sure, there's the usual: we are far enough behind on News-2-You that between what's not done and the two that will be published during the summer in time for summer school, that'll all be taken care of.

Plus, I make journals really long during summer school -- the better to keep them busy. :-)

And, of course, there's the daily...ahem..."social skills" stuff that involves playing Memory, Zoofari (which is really Candy Land but has a neat jungle theme that doesn't look like it was made for very small children), Tic Tac Toe and dice games.

But at this point last year, I was working on journals, had News-2-You printed as far ahead as I could, and had already bought the book of poems we used for our second whole group activity each day.

(I like to do my whole group stuff after each major transition -- come to school, everyone does journals, come in from recess, everyone does our book, come in from PE, etc., everyone does News-2-You.  Helps me pull 'em back in.)

In any event, I've been pondering what to do this summer.  Ever since they cut summer school from five weeks to four, my go-to series for adapted novels (Edcon's, for what it's worth) is just not feasible.  They are cut into ten chapters, yes, but with nineteen days of summer school, you have to count in: one day for about the author and pre-reading activities, one day for a preview of the story, one day for a closing activity/book report, and one day for a movie.  That leaves 15 days to read a 10 chapter book, which means less than two days per chapter.


Last year, we did American-themed poetry.  Each week, I took an era of American history and chose two poems to read -- they were adapted with picture support, and the kids had to do things like classifying (circle all the people), writing convention (highlight all the capital letters) and sight word identification (circle each "the" on the page).

This summer, after pondering it for some time (should I adapt my own book and smush it into seven chapters; should we do more poetry; should we work more in our social studies book), I decided to do Greek myths.

For one thing, this is tangentially related enough that I can let 'em watch the Disney version of Hercules.  For another, I can adapt the myths to as long (a week each?) or as short (two days each?) as I want.

Plus, they're a sixth grade standard.  Yay me.  :-)

However, I just now got around to ordering the book I'll be modifying.

(Not to mention, I'm still typing tomorrow's Matilda chapter, and I'm breaking my rule by almost three hours.)

Eenie Meenie Miney Moe

Some days are boring.

June 2, apparently, was very interesting.

Do I do the first president to get married in the White House?  Fun, interesting, will appeal to the girls.

Do I do US citizenship for Native Americans?  Ties into all the kids' social studies texts that we've been working on.

Do I do Lou Gehrig dying of ALS?  We've had journals about Lou Gehrig before, and several of the kids play baseball on weekends.

Do I do Queen Elizabeth II being crowned?  We've had other journals about her before, as well, plus, she's the current queen.  And, queens will appeal to the girls.

Or do I do the Mars Express probe?  With Phoenix in the news, they're all kind of into space, and we've been working on where you live: city, state, country, planet.  Yes, I'm teaching them that they live on Earth.

Dilemmas, dilemmas.

ETA:  Obviously, June 2's whole plan was to make June 3 so incredibly boring.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Phoenix Again

For the most part, I left my Babylon 5 days when the series ended (though my online moniker hearkens back to those days), but I have to say, this (closeup from a screen grab below) does my geeky heart good:

Not only was "Messages from Earth" one of my favorite episodes (the best of the series, IMHO, was the run between "Messages From Earth" through "War Without End"), but it boasted some of the best scoring in the series.

The DVD is a nifty idea, though I think the idea that future aliens could play one best.

Totally unrelated except that my quote brain got engaged thinking about "War Without End," but I must share two of the best quotes from that episode:
  • Cannot run out of time.  There is infinite time.  You...are finite. finite. wrong tool.
  • Why do your people always ask if someone is ready right before you're going to do something massively unwise?
Meanwhile, another filk.  Someone, at some point, will probably ask me to take these down.  If so, so be it. Until then, "The Phoenix" from "Walkabout", because -- who knows?  Maybe Fred, Roger, or Gus is on Mars right now:
In a tower of flame in capsule twelve, I was there
I know not where they laid my bones; it could be anywhere
But when fire and smoke had faded, the darkness left my sight
And I found my soul in a spaceship's soul riding home on a trail of light

And my wings are made of tungsten
My flesh of glass and steel
I am the joy of Terra for the power that I wield
Once upon a lifetime, I died a pioneer
Now I sing within a spaceship's heart
Does anybody hear?

Before each morning's launch, they know that I am there
To the soul that warms this vessel's hull, they say a silent prayer
I am father ship and spirit of the dream for which they strive
For I am man at the hands of man, see us rocket for the sky


My thunder rends the morning sky; yes, I am here
Though lost to flame when I was man, now I ride her without fear
For I am more than man now, and man built me with pride
I led the way, and I lead the way, of man's future in the sky


Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Phoenix Has Landed

Without getting into a huge debate over the practicality of the space program (I, personally, think that we're soon going to have several billion folks who need to go somewhere), I just have to say kudos to NASA as Phoenix joins her sisters Spirit and Opportunity.

It hasn't always been easy, but it's been a nifty string of successes y'all have had lately.

As for the debate I don't want to get into:
Say to me, "No more Apollo"
Say to me, "The job is done"
And I say, "Your words are hollow
And our work has just begun"

Say to me, "We need the money
Just to feed the poor"
And I say, "Gee, that's funny
It's for them that we explore."

Say to me, "We should be fighting"
Say to me, "The world's at war"
And I say, "We are uniting
People tired of war and more"

Say to me, "There's too much danger
Say, "We could be lost"
And I say, "I am no stranger to danger
That's the cost"

Say to me, "The world is dying,
Ready for its last hurrah"
And I cry, "Keep on trying,
We must find our Shangri-La."

Say to me, "No more Apollo"
Say to me, "The job is done"
And I say, "Your words are hollow
And our work has just begun
And our work has just begun"
 -- "Apollo Lost," Cynthia McQuillin