Sunday, September 30, 2007


Yes, this is a "knitting" blog and to prove it ...Child's First Sock from Vintage Socks. Modeled by the owner, the lovely and growing-too-fast Squidette. The yarn is something she picked out in Lancaster last year. A locally dyed product obtained at Labadie Looms.

Now on the needles, a plain sock for Little Squid -- also growing far too fast.

Our recent visit with every piece of clothing that we own revealed that most of their handknit socks were too small and so ... mama is knitting for them. Little Squid is getting Cabin Cove socks from yarn intended for ... someone else. Knitting it for larger feet, however, would require my digging through the still buried stash on the balcony for my heel and toe yarn and so, Little Squid is getting the good stuff. I'll just have to order more. Aww shucks. (Also, the Cabin Cove was readily at hand while the rest of my stash is buried under bags and bags of stuffed animals.)

For those of you concerned about the trauma of tossing half my stash, please note that I am not upset about it nor am I looking to replace it. I am still sticking to my goal of more yarn out then in each month and am not counting the tossed ones against the total. Nope. Not doing it. September is ending net negative 5.5 balls of yarn and I hope to knit up another one or two before Rhinebeck. I also hope to put Dave's wonderful roving on the wheel later today if I can gather up the energy to spin.

I did finish plying my alpaca yesterday and hope to skein and wash it today -- and then figure out which issue of Interweave Knits has the Flower Basket Shawl as that is what I think the alpaca wants to become.

And there you have it, knitting and spinning here at Squid Knits. What a surprise!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

An Early Autumn Ride

After the exterminator stopped by and drenched our home in bug-killing pesticides, we fled the fumes in a very Squidly manner -- on our bicycles.Yes, yes she has grown. In all dimensions. It is enough to truly freak out a mother. Almost more then the bugs. Almost. O.k., more so. Really!
When we stopped for a "natural" break on the Upper West Side (after fighting our way through a fund-raising race in Riverside Park), I noticed this building in my rearview mirror. Given that my mirror usually just shows me my shoulder, I turned around and took notice.

It's tall. And seriously contrasts with the surrounding neighborhood. Change is not always good, in my opinion.

Then we headed in to Central Park, where the leaves are still very green.
Little Squid and I enjoyed a leisurely ride while Squidette and Papa Squid raced on ahead.We met up at 6th Avenue and carefully pedaled our way to 5th Avenue.
Once on Fifth we had much of the road to ourselves, despite the buses that seemed to think that we were really in their way.
Too bad 5th does not have a bike lane on the left. On a day like today we could have saved the buses a lot of aggravation.
And on down 5th we continued.

5th is changing. Many of the old, unique stores that gave it it's character have gone, to be replaced by shopping mall standards like this.
Outside of Lord and Taylor we were stopped by a police car and a black suburban with DC plates. There were too few agents for it to be the First Lady but someone "important" was doing some shopping. Yes, 5 bicyclists (there was another lady-on-bike who came up along side us at this juncture) were a threat to whoever was shopping. Yup. This is where my tax money is going. No, I didn't take a picture -- figured I'd lose my camera if I did.

Notice the Flatiron Building at the end of the street. Always one of my favorite buildings.

Less then a mile after that rather annoying stop, we got to the greenmarket to purchase some fresh, local veggies for this week's dinners. Mushrooms, stringbeans, apples ... yum!
Yes, yes Little Squid did get a hair cut this morning. Why do you ask? And yes, that is a rather odd expression on his face. No, I do not know why.
Later, Squidette started unpacking some of the bags that have been hanging out on the balcony. So far she has liberated 3 bags of stuffed animals mixed with clothing. Woo hoo! I found my jeans!

Our balcony is still covered with bags that look like this.
Slowly, we will restore the contents to their rightful places. For now, however, it is time to remake all the beds.

Good night, sleep tight and ... well you know the rest.

Buggy! Ick!

Remember last week when I mentioned that I had tossed half of my yarn and fabric stash? And then said no more? Well, I am willing to come clean, in a manner of speaking. No, it is not moths. At least not yarn moths. We do have some grain moths that we are trying to get rid of but they are not the bugs that made me trash my stash.

Promise not to cringe?

B e d b u g s. There, I said it. Ick! I am not writing it out properly because I do not want to become a part of the obsessive b.bug blogging crowd. Yup, there is one. You can really freak yourself out if you spend too much time researching this subject via google. And so I have stopped.

We found them on the morning of Rosh Hashanah and spent all of what should have been a lovely 4 day weekend preparing our home for exterminating. This involved taking EVERY piece of clothing and linen to be washed or dry cleaned and putting all other fabric based objects in the dryer for 45 minutes. This is where the yarn wipeout began. Much got tossed before the drying step, much got tossed after being ruined in the dryer. Dave, your stuff survived pretty well -- just a bit of pilling on the outside of the skeins. Two balls of angora ruined everything else that was with them. I haven't tossed that batch yet but it will probably go once I find it again. Lots of belongings got tossed as well. Think of a frentic three day fall cleaning. Frankly, it would have only taken us another 8 hours or so to be ready to move house. Yup, that is how thoroughly we went through and packed up our stuff. Much of it is still on the balcony.

We have 3 captain's beds -- with drawers and in my case cabinets, too -- built in. It is the Mama and Papa bed that got hit by the little buggers -- the squidlings seem to be o.k. for now.

Every drawer, every crack, every crevice of every bed and dresser and bookcase had to be vacuumed. And then they came and sprayed. Everything. And now we are waiting for a second visit. The drawers have been reemptied (but not rewashed) and the beds stripped. The little laundry service down the block has all of our bedding -- and the week's laundry to date while we were at it. You realized that we probably paid their rent last month.

May I repeat myself -- ICK! Oh, and I was storing much of my yarn in the bed cabinets. Double ick. The yarn will now live on the balcony in rubbermaid type boxes. I figure they will be protected from b.bugs and moths -- at least during the really cold part of the winter and the really hot part of the summer.

Nope, have no idea how we got them. No idea how long it will take to be totally rid of them. Lost lots of sleep over this and wound up getting a nasty headcold on top of it all. Hopefully the exterminator will arrive soon and we can all go for a bike ride.

There, I said it. Promise to still like me?

Friday, September 28, 2007

William Tell Overture for Moms

Time for a smile! Thanks to my sister who, while still a relatively new mom, realized just how funny this was and sent it on to me!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Teens Knitting: Starting Fresh

Kids have been asking about the knitting club for a couple of weeks but, as always, I was a little slow getting things going. Still, all said, getting it rolling before the end of September is pretty good and is probably the earliest I have ever managed to start it.

This afternoon found four young ladies wielding yarn and needles for the first time. All caught on pretty quickly and three of the four were purling by the end of the afternoon. Two "older" knitters came by for a refresher course and immediately remembered what to do. They quickly knocked out a couple of inches on the first blanket blocks of the year and promised to bring in the finished blocks by the end of the week.

For those of you new to this feature of Squid Knits, a quick summary of the "Teens Knitting" subplot. Everyone else can tune out now as I have nothing interesting to say on my own life other then I managed to get my Treo sync'd with my new computer with absolutely no trouble! And Audible is working too!


Teens Knitting is a heading I started back in the days when I actively participated in the Socknitters Yahoo group. Back then, I posted looking for sources of inexpensive suppliers in NYC and found, instead, a wealth of wonderful people who wanted to support my students' newly acquired knitting habit. For a few years I would post the "adventures" of my teens on the mail list and received encouragement and supplies from the interested readers.

For a few years the club was in hiatus while life got in the way but it was resurrected last year to great acclaim. In fact, the club was so popular that we rapidly ran out of supplies with needles going first. In return for learning how to knit and getting to use the school supplies, the kids knit block for Warm Up America blankets, last year completing two full blankets and most of a third.

The kids who knit span ethnic lines with Banglas learning how to purl from Dominicans and native Harlemites showing recent immigrants from China how to bind off. Seniors interact with Freshmen and Sophomores and Juniors are tolerated with a grin. For the most part, they do not span gender lines though one or two boys do learn how to knit each year. It is my girls, however, who keep things going. They take it home, show mom and grandma and get the older generations knitting again. Sometimes I wonder if I am responsible for a knitting renaissance among the families of my students.

As for me, what do I get out of it? I get the nicest hour of my week. I get a chance to eavesdrop on their conversations and learn about their likes and dislikes and crushes and ... oh, all sorts of stuff. I get the trust of a group of kids who might only know me as "the lady in the hallway." I get so much, all of it intangible, all of it so very fulfilling.

That said ... if you have some orphan needles (preferably in sizes 6 - 9) looking for a good home, let me know. The school address is here -- just don't address the packages to "Mama Squid." They think I'm weird enough already.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My New Toy

I admit it, it is a toy, pure and simple. My new baby is an HP Pavilion tx1000 series "entertainment pc." 4.1 lbs and tiny enough to easily sit on the arm of my chair without being in imminent danger of toppling over. It is fast, light and has lots and lots of memory. And a really cool screen that pivots.

I still have to finish setting up all of my programs and the am busy transferring all of my work and personal documents from my "old" machine. Picassa is now set up and the iRiver software is downloading as I type. I think I got my new Palm software last night but need to double check that. Security software is just waiting for the iRiver download to finish so I can restart the machine. Lots to do and it is already late ...

Oh, and on top is a new sock for Squidette. Started last Wednesday before her blessings class and finished tonight while waiting for her to get out of Hebrew School. Lots of knitting time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this year. Little Squid and I had a lovely dinner at the diner and played some Scrabble on my Treo while Squidette was in class (he goes from 4-6, she goes from 5:30 - 7:30). This will be an interesting year.

Tomorrow I restart the knitting club at school.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New Computer!

Yea! I have a brand new computer!!! Nothing was wrong with my old one but it was a loaner and it was time to finally get my very first brand new computer. Yea!!! I figured out what I needed in a machine -- lots of memory for audiobooks and photos and a very small footprint -- and with some help from Mike, finally bought it. Woo and Hoo!!!

I have pictures from Sunday's bike ride but they are still on my old machine. I'll retrieve them, probably, tomorrow after I remember to bring home my thumb drive from work (so that I can move all my files over). Tonight is for downloading my software and playing a bit with my built-in web cam. Cool, huh?!

Friday, September 21, 2007

More Distraction

I was tagged by Mary for the newest incarnation of the seven things meme.

The rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

The things --

1. Mike and I were in the same homeroom in high school but did not even know the other person existed until the end of our senior year.
2. I have taken classes at a total of 6 colleges / universities.
3. I held a degree from one of these colleges before ever having taken a class at it.
4. I am the only one in this apartment with a middle name.
5. We honeymooned in New Orleans.
6. I just threw out about half my yarn and fabric stash. (Yes, threw out.)
7. I am the only one of my siblings who cannot dive.

Due to severe brain fog I am not tagging anyone. Consider yourself tagged if you want to do this.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

One Year ...

Earlier this week I received an email from a friend / colleague who had just become a father. He stated that he now understood what we meant when we talked about our kids being the best things in our lives. He finally "got" the light that comes into our eyes when we kvell about them and the worry that overtakes us when something goes wrong. My answer was simply "welcome to parenthood."

One year from today the lovely, intelligent, sensitive, and constantly growing Squidette will stand up before our family, friends and semi-random congregants and go through the rites of our religion. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

A year from today will be a big day for my amazing daughter but it will be only one day in a lifetime of big days and just one more joy in a lifetime of joys.

Now ... go hug someone or something that you love.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Talk Like a Pirate!

Oh! I almost missed it! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Avast ye mateys, I have a unique opportunity to show just how adept I am at talking like a Pirate as I make the morning announcements. Or not. Arrr! Some dignity must be preserved. Maybe I'll just clear the halls like a Pirate and tell them salty seadogs to get to class.

No matter what, I do pledge to finish reading Peter the Pirate Squid tonight. No t.v. for the Squidlings this evening, just good clean Pirate Squid fun! (We'll forget the fact that Squidette and I won't get home until 7:30 so t.v. is out anyway.)

Wishing you all a swashbuckling day!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Seventh Avenue

In an effort to distract you all from the realities of my life this week I will provide a short treatise on Seventh Avenue.
Seventh Avenue from roughly 42nd Street until roughly 34th Street, is nicknamed "Fashion Avenue" and is at the heart of the Garment District. This is where the center of the United State's fashion trade has been housed since ... well, for a really long time. (You can tell that this is a well researched article. Not.)

In my own life, the Garment District means button stores and fabric stores and the sense that my Zedda (grandfather) walked these streets during his time as a furrier. By the time I knew Zedda, he owned a candy store but my dad tells great stories about how strong my Zedda was, all from handling the furs day in and day out. One of these days I'll snap a photo of the Garment Center Synagogue (they do not seem to have a website), it is still an active, Orthodox congregation. No, I do not know if my Zedda worshiped there but I'd like to think so. (Yes, I could ask my dad but the phone is so far away, and I am so very tired ...)

When I started sewing, many, many years ago, I haunted the remnant stores in the high 30's guided by my mother-in-law. She forced me to get over my shyness and dive right in to the bolts and patterns -- though she never understood keeping a "stash."

During the day, one must dodge the couriers, dashing about with their carts hanging with ready-to-wear or piled high with bolts of fabric. Walking Seventh Avenue is definitely an "only in New York" experience.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Same Difference

As we approached this, um thing, on the walk way yesterday, Squidette referred to it as an anvil. When I gently corrected her, she responded: "yea, well if if falls on your foot you get the same result as with an anvil. A flat foot."

And then when viewing this picture, she noticed the people beneath the, um thing you tie boats up to, and said "see, it is an anvil."

Hope your day is full of three-dimensional people.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Blue Cards

A quick google shows that the term "blue card" is used for many, many different reasons, including immigration. If immigration is why you came to my blog -- sorry for the disappointment. My blue card is endemic to the New York City public schools.This "little" card is the most important repository of emergency information in our school system. On to it goes everything school staff needs to know about a student in the event that they need to contact an adult. On the back is a place to tell the school what to do if none of the people listed on the card cannot be contacted. (I always write "use your best judgment.")

When I was a kid, and up to about two years ago in my own school, a parent had to complete 3 cards for every kid. One set of cards went in the main office, one to the school nurse and one to the deans. Basic contact information was easy to obtain. These days our school just collects one and photocopies it. (We actually make our own blue "form" with all the information and then some on one side of a letter size sheet of paper.) Why? Because getting all three of them back is difficult.

But, I hear you thinking, why can't you just look it up in the school computer? Well, we could but half the time the parent/guardian phone number is incorrect because the student has moved and failed to update the school on the situation. So, we depend on blue cards and pray that the information on them is correct. Sometimes it isn't. Wiley high school students will fill them out with false information leaving us grasping at straws when we have to find their parents or another responsible adult. Others, just fail to return them, usually intentionally, leaving the end result the same is in the preceding instance.

I had to fill out one of these for each of my kids this year, something I don't always have to do for some strange reason. Despite the blue card, however, I also had to correct or enter my address on three other documents for Little Squid's school -- for some reason they still had an old address despite my changing it two years ago and my kid being fully registered for a metrocard, something that would not happen if the Department of education computer system had the wrong address.

Basically, my take on these administrative forms? Blue Cards good, no blue cards bad.

Squid On Water

While Little Squid was in hebrew school this morning, Squidette and I got a little exercise. First, we walked to 57th Street and the Hudson River only to discover that the place we were going was closed due to a lack of volunteers. Then we continued walking uptown to 72nd Street where we found these:yup, kayaks! This little outpost was adequately staffed (there were two volunteers on duty) and so we went out on the water. No pictures since I had to keep my hands on the paddle.

We paddled around for a bit and then walked back home via the West Side County Fair, which was just setting up.
Squidette got to see a wooden cow up close and personal.
And then there were the cute animals.
Continuing our journey home, we did a spot of geocaching and found one that had evaded the entire Squid clan a few weeks back. When we sat down to log it, this is what we left:
Yes, our tush prints. You see, kayaking is a wet business.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Twist on Worship

For years I have attended High Holy day services in an attempt to actually worship. The reality of it is that I was always too distracted by those around me to get in more then a few minutes of what I consider to be authentic worship and reflection. This year I found the solution, I ushered.

Our congregation is HUGE. Over a thousand families, most who come out during the High Holy days and try to squeeze into the limited space that is our synagogue. The building is not small by any means but there are just that many members.

Years ago, well before I hooked up with Mike and started going there, our congregation had to start holding two sets of High Holy day services -- early and late. For the first many years of our relationship we went to the late services (11:45 for morning, 8:30 for evening). This allowed us to eat dinner at a reasonable hour and to sleep in if we desired. The only drawback was that we still rushed dinner because Mike's mom had to get on line early to "get a good seat." She needed to sit in the sanctuary, preferably close up so she "could see." Personally, I never got that. I don't need to see the action on the beemah to know what I need to know. Listening does just fine for me.

Eventually we persuaded her that by leaving a little early, but not hours early, we could get decent (by her) seats in the balcony. The auditorium was never an option. This worked for a few years and then we switched to early services to accommodate the kids. K-6 student programs ran only during the early service which solved the childcare issues (we'd switch off which parent went to services to take care of the kids). That was about the point that Mike stopped attending services all together. I was happy to go to keep his mom company and he could contemplate in his own way, outside of the chaos that is our synagogue.

Mom and I were free to leave as early as we wanted, which was not a big deal because people do not line up obsessively early for early services. We quickly discovered that we could get one of the two-fer pews in the back of the sanctuary which worked well for my getting out and up to the kids quickly and thrilled mom. Fast forward a couple of years.

Mom is gone and I am now attending services on my own. I will not make Mike come just to keep me company, after all, worship is a personal thing.

The first year, I sat alone in the sanctuary and quickly realized why Mom always wanted company. I missed the little exchanges we would have before services started and during a "break" in the action. We were always respectful but one can communicate a lot with a look and jab at a particular passage in the prayer book. After mentioning this to friends, they suggested I join them in the auditorium.

This is where I discovered the most social of congregants to be gathering. There was almost non-stop movement and whispering here. Still, it did not really bother me, I had friends to make my silly asides to and to laugh or groan with during the Rabbi's sermon (he sometimes makes bad jokes). When I asked Mike why Mom would never let us sit there, as I could see just fine, even from the very back, he said she hated the more social aspect of it. Fair enough.

This year I was asked to usher. Ushers, it turns out, are vital in our huge congregation. Not so much at the start of the service when those who are on time show up, but rather when the vast numbers of latecomers arrive. And I mean vast. All wanting seats together. Even when they are over an hour late. No kidding.

Squidette joined me, as the youngest usher ever, in the balcony. We handed out prayer books and found seats for people. We collected the Annual Appeal (formerly known as the Yom Kippor appeal) envelopes and were generally busy for the entire service.

Did I actually get any personal worship in? Nope. But I got much more out of "working" the service then I ever got sitting in it. I spent quality time with my daughter and provided a necessary service. Yup, it was a good New Year. We think we'll volunteer for Yom Kippor ushering.

A Happy and Healthy New Year for those celebrating this week. L'shana Tova

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fire Drills

It at this time of the school year that I start contemplating the first fire drill of the year. Ideally, fire drills should be spur of the moment, unannounced and randomly staggered throughout the day and year. In reality, fire drills are often planned, spur of the moment, for sunny, relatively warm days, though an overcast, relatively warm (55 degrees or more) day will do. In other words, today is probably a good day for our first fire drill.

Today's drill (assuming it happens) will be semi-announced. Since 2001 we have chosen to warn the building occupants that the first one is coming just to avoid panic that might ensue so close to the 9/11 anniversary. So, during morning announcements, I will mention that a fire drill is coming and later in the day, pull the bells. The next 11 drills will be totally unannounced as is NYC protocol.

Do fire drills do any good? Absolutely! I admit to being a strong proponent of the fire drill. Knowing how to get out and away from the building is very important. When going on about a fire drill I am apt to bring up that day six years ago when Mike's school evacuated and ran for their lives. Or, our own school fire just two years ago which blackened just a single classroom. (Says something for 1941 construction techniques.) On that occasion, the reality of the even brought out the training from the drills and everyone got out and was kept safe.

Fire drills are supposed to be silent. I am not really concerned so much about that as long as everyone is getting out and staying with their teachers. Staying together is far more important. Given as these students were all brought up in the wake of the World Trade Center tragedy, they are a bit more cooperative then pre-9/11 kids. Unfortunately, it really does make a difference.

Now I think it is time to go to work and run a fire drill.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Red Pen

Another misunderstood and often maligned implement of teaching, the red pen and its counterpart, the red pencil, are a vital item in many educator's tool boxes.

Used for comments and for grading, many feel that the color evokes negative reactions in our students and may even cause them to turn off from the activity that we are encouraging in our assignments. Red, they say, is the color of anger and warning and should not be used on impressionable minds. Papers covered in red colored comments are alarming and the student will probably not read those comments.

Early in my career I bought this line of reasoning and invested heavily in turquoise, lime green and violet pens. My graded papers were a multi colored wonder -- especially when I started grading a paper at work and finished at home. In a different color pen. After a few years of this I realized why teachers have used red for generation upon generation. It is simply easier to see and distinguish from the surrounding text. When it comes to marking a test, a student is less likely to claim their paper was mismarked if you use red to point out the mistake. And frankly, the kid who wouldn't read the comments in red is unlikely to read them in purple. And does ink color really take the sting out of a failing grade? Or add to the thrill of a "100?"

These days, on the rare occasions that I mark papers, I do so in whatever pen or pencil I have handy. Except for tests. Those I grade in good, old fashioned, red. If it's nearby.


Some family input here ... Squidette feels that red is more dominant over the blue or black that she uses to write her papers. When asked if comments in red make her nervous, the answer was "yes." When asked if comments in other colors make her nervous, the answer was ... "yes." Papa Squid, when asked what color he grades papers in, responded "whatever color is in the nearest pen."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Little Squid

Once upon a time there was a little boy who loved to read and imagine. This little boy invented the world of Schmelephat and all of the towns and jobs that the inhabitants held. His favorite inhabitant made his living by grooming steel. Yes, that is where we get steel wool from.

This ever so creative kid continued to awe and amuse his parents by asking really deep questions -- late at night. His physical abilities developed in line with his mental facilities and he proved to be adept at cycling. Taking to his bike, like a squid to water, he pedaled rings around his parents. And then joined them on the trails.

Today this little kid is now a Squid of double digit years and his parents are so very proud of him.

Happy Birthday, Little Squid!

Squid on Wheels: The New York City Century -- 2007

As a culmination to all of our training this summer, today we rode in the New York City Century, participating in the "55" mile portion. 55 is in quotes because even on the written turn sheets, they admit that it is really 57 miles. We clocked the Century part of the ride at about 58.5/59 miles and then had the additional few miles to ride home. Total mileage: 66 miles. The map of our ride, as approximated in Gmaps Pedometer can be found here. You can see how we added about a mile to the ride by missing a turn here and there.
This year's ride was as pleasant as last year's ride with the participants, marshals and other volunteers all contributing to the overall experience. In particular, we noticed that the marshals were very attentive and immediately came to the aid of a cyclist in need. Fortunately, we did not need their services but one did stop to check on me and Squidette as we pause to wait for the men at one point. Yes, that is right. 4 bikes, 66 miles and no mechanical problems. Mike got a slow leak coming off of Randall's Island but was able to reinflate the tire and ride home on the tire without any trouble.We arrived at the start point in Central Park at 6:40 and left a few minutes later, riding with the 75 and 100 milers. Yes, we "jumped" the start because we knew that we would be going slower then many, if not most, of the 55 milers and wanted to finish at a reasonable time. Unlike the 5 Boro Bike tour, the Century starts people in groups of roughly 50 or so and the groups were filling up about as fast as they were releasing them so we did not cause anyone to be held back by starting early. The strategy worked as we did not seem to meet any other 55 milers until the last rest stop at Astoria Park. There were probably some with us at the Carnarsie rest stop but the people we chatted with were all doing the 75 or 100 mile rides.In Astoria Park we met former students of Mike's and had a nice chat as we rested, relieved and refueled. Throughout the ride we chatted with other cyclists and received many comments on the new Squid-on-Wheels bike jerseys as well as tons of positive comments directed toward the kids. People were uniformly complementary in their praise which, of course, made all of us proud. We met up with another family with a 7 year old doing the 35 mile portion but that was the only other kid that we encountered this time. We do think that Little Squid was the youngest on the 55 mile portion and milked the fact that, for today, he is still 9. Tomorrow is another story. More ride photos can be found here and here. Look for some really good shots of Times Square in Mike's album.

65.6 66 Miles

And that's all I have to say. More after we rest and recover.

(Correction -- we did 4/10 of a mile riding to the subway in the morning)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Trends in Seating

Follow the links if you want to see what I am talking about.


When I was in high school many, nay most, of the classrooms in our 80 year old building still had the original desks. I always found these to be really cool and loved being in rooms with them despite the fact that the desks were made for a smaller generation. Notice the cutout for an inkwell in in upper right corner. Back in my dad's day, some of them still had the glass inkwell in them.

Fast forward many years to the start of my own teaching career. My school still had a few rooms of the original furniture but most rooms had desks that looked like this (the one on the right). The benefit of these desks is that they were separate from the chairs and larger students were more comfortable. They could also be moved around for group work or (cooperative learning as the buzz word was back in my day). The draw back was that the pocket under the table top served as a depository for all sorts of garbage. Literally. My last class of the day quickly got into the habit of "dumping" a third of the desks every Friday and all of them right before a long break. Teachers that did not do this often found themselves faced with a mouse jumping out at a kid during class. Eek!

Then the trend turned toward the tablet type of desk (scroll down) because they did not have the garbage-collecting pockets. We buy the big ones but the smaller ones allow for many more kids in a room or, conversely, more room to move around with the same number of kids. The smaller ones, however are really not practical for spreading out papers and such so we have divested our selves of the few we had. Tablet desks are movable but not great for group work. They all have a slight slant to them and are awkward to put together to make larger surfaces. The final drawback is that, like the original fixed desks, they have limited room for the larger student.

It has been part of my job over the last few years to replace the remaining pocket desks with big tablet desks. Just when I was about to complete the conversion (this is done over many years due to the cost of the desks) the trend changed again. Last spring I was asked to order two types of tables. The first is totally new to our school -- the "kidney bean." I remember sitting at a table like this in my "open classroom" in third grade. They are good for group work but I have my concerns about them for testing. The second is a standard table and is multi-functional. Put two together and you have a square with seating for 8. Line them up and make corners and you have a hollow square or a "U" or an "L." Again, not great for testing but not too bad and they have a lot of possibilities. Personally, I like these better then the tablet desks.

What will the next trend be in seating? Will we start hanging the kids from the ceiling or turning them on their sides? Who knows? Only time will tell.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

On Chalk

Chalk has become the much maligned stepchild of the teaching world. Outshone first by white boards, then overhead projectors and now Smartboards, the use of chalk in schools is decreasing with alarming rapidity.

When I first became an Assistant Principal in 1999, our stockman informed me that we had plenty of chalk and I would not have to order for quite a while. I figured that he meant that my predecessor had spent out a surplus one year and that we had a year or two worth of chalk stashed away. In the Spring, I asked again and was once again assured that we had plenty of chalk.

A case of chalk

Fast forward to 2007. I had to know. I asked for the whole, dusty, story. Apparently, when our stockman took his job, 26 years ago, the chalk was already there. Some long ago APO (my position) had likely invested the last of the closing school's budget in chalk. Maybe it was meant as a joke for the incoming school or, maybe it was meant as a present. Whatever the reason, they bought a whole lot of it.
A box of chalk -- 144 pieces are inside in 12 smaller boxes

Yesterday I asked our stockman to count the number of cases remaining in his "chalkroom." There are 12 cases and we go through about 2-3 cases a year. That means, yes, I did the math, that at current usage rates we have 4-6 years worth of chalk. I have not purchased white chalk for the school -- ever (I've purchased plenty of colored chalk). Given the decreasing rate of usage, I may never buy chalk. When I do, apparently I will have to do some chalk previews first, because I am told that modern chalk is inferior to our 26 year old chalk. On the rare occasions that some new chalk has come into the building (occasionally another AP does not believe that we have plenty of chalk) the newer stuff is found to be a poor cousin to the old "dustless" chalk.

Chalk, and chalkboards -- be the black, green or brown -- are a wonderful way to communicate ideas. You can scrawl a diagram on a board, add to it, subtract from it (with the assistance of an eraser) and bring to life an abstract idea. For notes that are going up on the board, period after period, I admit that an overhead or computer is the way to go but for diagrams, chalk can't be beat. Add the colored stuff and I'm in heaven! Yes, I taught biology and loved my diagrams. I had overheads with layers that worked wonders but nothing beats seeing the strokes a teacher is using in order for a student to reliably recreate the diagram in their own note book. Why not use a hand out? Because the physical action of drawing the diagram helps the student retain it in their memory. Yes, I really believe this. It is how I learn so there are others out there who learn the same way. A static drawing is just not the same. Yes, some kids are not artists -- hey, neither am I. I was always happy to furnish a copy for them but no one ever took me up on the offer.

I understand the demise of chalk and I will miss it when it is gone. Like rexographs, mimeographs and thermofaxes, chalk in a classroom will eventually be obsolete, replaced by all sorts of technological doodads. And when they break ... how will we cope?

Delaney Card
Delaney BookDelaney book pages

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Delaney Card

This evening's conversation turned to the subject of middle school contact cards, with Squidette whining about having to fill out one for every class. At some point in her diatribe I interrupted and asked if any of her teachers used Delaney Cards. "What is a Delaney Card," she queried. At this point I waxed poetic about the magnificence of the Delaney Card.

Delaney Cards are the wonderful invention of Edward C. Delaney. They are beloved by teachers and hated by students who seem to think they can lead to impersonality on behalf of their instructors. When I called three of my siblings, one commented that "only the loser teachers who couldn't bother to learn our names used Delaney Cards." Another felt much the same way but backed off a bit when I expressed my view on learning student names. The third mentioned that he had just been thinking about them, nostalgically, as he took his son on a tour of his new middle school.

Delaney Cards can be used for a whole variety of tasks. The first and foremost role of the Delaney Card (click on the first link for a picture of said card) is for seating and attendance. The cards fit neatly into slots on pages that fit easily into either a standard Delaney Book or a plain old looseleaf binder. Personally I preferred a binder since the Delaney books tend to lose their covers after only a year or so and the binder had more room for other stuff. T

he kids fill out the cards, following either the designations on the cards or the teacher's altered instructions and the teacher places the cards in the slots according to where the kids are sitting in the room. Now I admit, this works best if the room is arranged in old fashioned rows -- something that is currently frowned upon.

For attendance purposes, the teacher glances at the room and, if a student is missing from their seat, flips the card from black side to red side and makes a notation on the date in question. Different marks mean different things. a "/" means absent. When the kid brings in a note you then cross the mark and make it an "x" for excused. No note, no "X." A circle indicates a lateness and a "C" indicates a cut -- thats for the kid you saw in the hallway later in the day. At the end of the day you glance at all the red cards and bubble in the absences on the machine scanable attendance forms. No calling of student names unless you want to (a good back up for the first few days when you really don't know the names) and attendance is quick and painless.

The front of the card can be used to note grades or participation marks or discipline marks or anything you want. A former colleague used to keep all of his grades on the Delaney Card. No messing with a grade book for him. Everything was there in tiny, very legible handwriting.

In my own case, I used them for attendance and for participation grades. After a week or two, when I had finally memorized the names of the kids -- made easier by constantly referring to the Delaney book instead of having to keep asking the kids for their names -- I would take the cards out of the book and shuffle them around for use in organizing groups or randomly calling kids for questions. It was always a test of my memory to see if I could then put them back in the book correctly.

I love Delaney Cards and always make sure that our school is well stocked with them. In my humble opinion, Delaney Cards are the glue that keeps New York City schools together. If I ever get back into the class room, the first thing I will do is grab a big ol' stack of Delaney Cards.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Stash Smackdown

Or maybe use down? In January I started keeping track of all of the yarn that came in to and left my apartment. The goal was to achieve at least a steady state in regards to numbers of yarn "units" (balls, skeins, hanks etc.) in the apartment. Unspun fiber does not count until it is spun, plied, skeined, washed and dried -- then it counts as "fiber in."

On the way home from Indiana I hit a steady state after months of the "ins" outnumbering the "outs." Then my friend came back from China and gave me three skeins of silk. Then I finished plying some yarn that had been sitting on a bobbin for far too long. All of a sudden I had a positive balance again and all I was knitting was cobweb lace. Not a huge yarn user.

Thinking fast, I grabbed needles, worsted weight yarn and cast on for another baby surprise. One ball down and I am back at steady state and approaching negative balance. I even went into Knitty City, bought 3 balls of yarn and promptly mailed them off to my sister-in-law. That's right, nothing for me!

My plan now is to finish the baby surprise and then return to the lace shawl until I finish plying up the lace weight alpaca and wind up in a positive balance again. Then I will cast on another worsted weight project ... and you get the idea.

What do you think? Can I end the year with a negative balance? Even with Rhinebeck looming?

Monday, September 03, 2007

600 Miles!

Yes, we did it. The kids bought the need to get to 600 and Squidette mapped out an interesting route. She was promptly vetoed by the males who felt no need to explore today in favor of a "same old" ride.

So, up to Little Red it was and back down, stopping at Fairway to pick up some provisions.
Little Red Lighthouse

Then, a small blip in the "same old" as we rode east to a street fair on Lexington Avenue in search of a birthday present for Little Squid.

Deserted 46th Street

A street fair lunch for the kids, success in the shopping and then downtown on a practically deserted Lexington Avenue. Kind of spooky, actually. Lex is usually "wall to wall" cars. Personally, I hate it. I hate to drive it. I hate to ride a bus on it. I hate to walk on it. I find it to be one of the narrowest avenues and it makes me somewhat claustrophobic.

Total ride: 19.5 miles. See the route here.

Empty Lexington Avenue

Frankly, I have to admit that much of Manhattan makes me claustrophobic these days. Yesterday, the kids and I walked up to Times Square, stopping in B & H along the way. B & H was wall to wall people. We got out of there as quickly as we could. Then we went to Toy's R Us and found a similar situation. The Swatch store was mostly empty but everything else ... phew! After Swatch I remembered about the Little Brazil street fair and, in search of Little Squid's birthday present, proposed we walk another block to get to it. Bad idea. It was so tightly packed at the intersection we came in on that we turned around and went home. Eek! Too many people! And too many drunk people!

Tomorrow, back to school.

Sorry All

I know I've been quiet this week. Readjusting to a work schedule is never easy and I come home, vent to Mike and pretty much call it a day. This week included some additional child movements in order to deal with the two days that both Mike and I were at work but where the kids were not yet in school.

Kristen asked if we have time to ride in the evenings and sadly the answer is no. Early in the school year I tend to come home on the later side as my list of tasks is longer then the school day is. By the time I can start working a "contractual day" it is already starting to get dark by the time I get home. We make up for it with longer rides on the weekends when possible.

I have to admit that Mike and I are a bit driven about numbers right now. Last weekend we did that 38 mile ride and then looked at each other and the kids and said "only a few more miles to 55o, come on" and persuded them to ride again. Last night we did the same thing "hey, only 18 more miles for 600. We can do it with a ride to Little Red and then back to chocolate ..." We'll see if they go for it. I'm hoping so since we are out of chocolate and I have packages to get in the mail.

Meanwhile, some images from Saturday.

Back to school shopping for Mama (the blazers are red linen, navy wool and a shiny bright olive silk.) The "Fashion Avenue" information kiosk.
My favorite "billboard." Notice the scaffolding just below her nose.
And some happy mailboxes we found on 5th Avenue.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Squid on Wheels -- Jamaica Bay

This morning we took off to explore the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

Not being totally sadistic parents, we drove first to Floyd Bennett Field where we parked the car and unfolded the bikes. Then, we circumnavigated Jamaica Bay and, having cycled only 22 miles, explored Floyd Bennett Field where we saw some radio-controlled airplanes and cars being guided around the wide open spaces. Floyd Bennett field was the first municipal airport in New York City and was, in its time, a very modern field.

Over the 28 miles, we crossed 8 bridges and rode in two boroughs. We rode along the waters of Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and across old airplane landing strips and helicopter landing pads. Our tires crossed paths strewn with crushed sea shells (perhaps dropped there by seagulls trying to get the meat out?) and miles and miles of asphalt. We saw the spic and span houses of Howard Beach and the more rundown ones of Rockaway Beach. All in all, a very nice ride.
Had a whale of a good time on Rockaway Beach!Yes, we surf in NYC!Reentering Brooklyn. Anyone not get the reference?
Leaving Brooklyn. Had to explain this one to both kids.
A training tower?
The Concorde at Floyd Bennett Field -- on loan from the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space MuseumJamaica Bay from Floyd Bennett Field

If you wish to see our route (approximately) go here. You will notice that part of our ride was not on road per se. It was actually on the old landing strips of the air field. Yes, it was rather cool to ride on an airstrip. Google pedometer is measuring it at 26.4 miles. Our GPS's and bike computers measured it at an even 28 miles. I probably left out some of our meanderings as I translated it into the pedometer. For more photos go here and here.