New Phone Battery!

Hooray! It is a day for celebration!

Our house phone battery has been weaker than a mewling kitten for some time now. That means that all coversations have to be fifteen minutes or shorter, and the phone has to go right back on the base to recharge. E is not instinctive about re-basing the phone, and so sometimes we have no phone at all other than my cell. As I am one of Nature’s chatters, this has been as a greivous wound to my chatting time. I can talk on my cell, but that costs money, and besides, I have to be out of the no-phone-zone that is my house. With colder weather coming, that could be inconvenient.

But the final straw came tonight when his old friend Darren called from Manitoba, and E had to confine it to a five-minute conversation because the battery was almost dead. He said it, “I’ll get a new battery tomorrow.” That’s it! New battery for us, Hooray!

I have often thought about going and getting it myself, but I charged him with this duty some time ago, and I am now glad that I stuck to my guns. It’s the principle of the thing, you know? I didn’t nag, I didn’t whine. I just let it become woefully inconvenient to him as well.

Also, a big thanks to John from the band for being such a great conversationalist. I know our phone has died on you twice, and I apologise for the inconvenience. E loves talking with you, as do I. We’ll speak-at length- soon!

ESL and Dyslexia

Often when ESL students first start to write in English, they confuse b’s and d’s. Sometimes a u becomes an n, or vice versa. This, we are told, is nothing to worry about. It happens even with first language emergent writers. But at what point should we worry? When is it not okay anymore for a student to be transposing? And how frequent do transpositions have to be before we should look for problems in phonological awareness?

I can find no information that is of any use to me, but have found a lot of studies concluding that we need to know more about the differences in acquiring functional literacy in native and non-native students. Yes, thank you, I know that. Now tell me what I want to know.

Given that a huge chunk of the world is trying to learn English, you’d think that someone would have done some specific studies about people who have a hard time decoding written English and how this relates to ESL students. But no.

On the other hand, I would not relish trying to explain to a Korean mom that her son is not stupid at all, he simply has a different brain that cannot recognize letters the same way most people’s brains do.

Me: He is smart, he just sees things differently. Sometimes upside down. Sometimes backwards.
Typical Korean Mom: He must study. He (typical Korean mother movement indicating she hasn’t mastered the Simple Future tense) be Doctor. (Or dentist, Koreans love Dentistry as a profession as much as the Seventh Day Adventists love it.)
Me:He needs special help. Needs to know the right way to see letters.
Typical Korean Mom: He will study harder. Now, he cry. He say it too hard, uncomfortable.
Me: It is uncomfortable.
Typical Korean Mom: He lazy. He study harder. (Apologetic laugh)
Me: No. Not lazy. Different brain from other students. (Notice my own fluency level breaking down?)

Arrgh, I’m getting worried even writing about it.

Boots…or maybe Style

So I’ve been thinking a lot about style lately, and how I don’t seem to have one. Or, rather, how my ‘style’ is jeans and a t-shirt. I was on Robson with Gen today, and although many of the dresses, shirts, skirts and such we saw were fabulous, I saw nothing that caused my heart to cry out that that garment there was the core of my essence.

This was not always the case. I used to be a style freak. If the current Boho rage had happened, say, 15 years ago, I would have been right in the style zone. I had a very definite style. I was a worldbeat hippie. I could tell at 100 paces if that little cotton top was perfect, or only looked that way. I remember going to a job interview in jeans (tight to the ankle back then), red blouse and black-with-silver-stars bolero jacket. I was a masterpiece. Jingly bracelets? I wore them and still have them from last time, thanks.

So what happened? Did I stop caring about personal style, and eventually it got away from me? Or did I just get older, where the 1880’s-style puffed-sleeve riding jacket looked silly on someone over the age of 20? No idea.

Gen says she sees my style as “English”. Tweeds and floaty prints, you know. I think that’s kind of funny, because I can see it, but always thought if I dressed ‘English’, I’d look like one of those bulldog-faced headmistresses shouting in stentorian tones at a bunch of schoolgirls. It seems there might be room for something else. I really loke those floaty prinits. Also, big sweaters. Hmm.

I also wonder at the whole ‘English’ style thing because the only fashion purchase that really matters to me right now is that I get my Daytons rebuilt. Daytons are not English. Daytons are shitkicker boots. They are beyond tough. They are boots for the New World. I’ve had mine almost a decade and they finally need renewing. Daytons are the perfect boots. They can be dressed up with a bit of polish or down with a bit of dust. They don’t really go with skirts, but I don’t have many skirts, so we’re good there.

So I wonder who I am, fashionistically. Am I wearing Gypsy scarves? Do I love bangles? (OK, I do, I know this) Am I in tweed? (I probably am not)

Am I the bag lady next to you? I might be. Yikes!

Less Jiggle, More Foam.

Also on the bus, I noticed something else.

Buses jiggle. They also wiggle, jounce, shudder and judder. Many of us with a strategically placed inseam know the joy of this.

But on my bus rides today I noticed on the women: Lots of tummy jiggle, but not a lot of boob jiggle.

Yes, men, you probably already noticed this, but you can tell who’s got a padded bra on. Nothing moves. The rest of her is all a-jiggle, belly and bum, but there’s no boob-jiggle.

I’m not saying every woman out there’s wearing a padded bra. Those of us who have been breastedly-blessed tend to avoid them (Even if Victoria’s Secret does do a 38D with padding, underwire and cookies, I’m not buying it ‘cause I’d look in the mirror and giggle at the massive lack of proportion).

But it kind of made me wonder. Why are these women wearing padded bras? Is it just that that’s what’s out there? (I mean, really. Try to find something nice that doesn’t have an extra 1/4 inch of foam where I don’t need it.) Or are women today actually saying, “I need to look like I have bigger tits. Let me at the padded stuff”?

Has the media really gotten to us that much? Come on, people! They’re functionally designed to breast feed! They don’t need to be massive! Sure, some of us could use them as weapons of asphyxiation, but that’s secondary. Biologically, women, your boobs are fine and dandy, doing the job they are meant for. They’re holding fat in case there’s a drought and there’s no food. You’ll survive to help your children! Other than that, they’re just there waiting for lactation!

Plus, how long til some horny lawyer tries to sue a strategically enhanced girl with an A-cup for misrepresentation?

Bus of Hope

Start your engines, Ladies and Gentlemen! The 2005-2006 academic year has started!

Which means my erstwhile twice-weekly summer limo ride in the express bus to UBC has been downgraded to simply a commute. That’s right. No longer will I be the only person in my section of the bendy B-line as my driver Gus (I call him that, he looks like a Gus) cruises serenely along in the sunshine, past the rolling downs of the golf course and through the flickering glades of the endowment lands. Now, I’ll hang on to a sticky overhead bar (Why is this so sticky? I kind of want to smell my fingers out of curiosity, but I also really don’t want to know) and listen to the snippets of strangers’ conversations, and observe the young academics, some of whom are travelling to UBC’s hallowed halls for the very first time.

Predictions for my fellow passengers:

Girl putting special German balm on her cracked, Teva’ed feet: You’re currently doing Women’s Studies and will go on to become a successful divorce lawyer. When you pass the bar exam, you’ll decide you have to take out your lip ring. You’ll also dig comfortable footwear all your life. See, you learn a lot in school.

Girl with three inches of tanned stomach showing: Y’know, it’s like, so cool to really be here with you! You’re taking, like, Psych and a Women’s Study course, among others. You’ll get into the sorority of your dreams! I’m SoooOooo excited for you, because you’ll meet a guy at the Phi Delt mixer, and, like, you’ll be totally in love.
He will fuck a hooker in October and you’ll break up over Christmas because he gave you crabs. Sorry, but it’s for the best. Your next boyfriend will write you bad haikus and make you spaghetti dinners. You’ll get some self-esteem and wonder why you joined the sorority, then go on and become a Katimavik leader in the summer of your third year. It will be incredibly rewarding and you’ll realize that you want to work helping underpriviledged children. You’ll eventually join the UN and throw out Christmas cards from your old sorority sisters without reading them.

Boy with the Japanese/English dictionary: Here’s my card, I can help.

Guy with the half-concealed t-shirt with the ironic slogan on it: Hey, it’s okay, University is the place for irony. No one will push you down the stairs or call you a geek for reading here, buddy. This is your place now. Sadly, when you get that secondhand black leather trench coat in third year, you won’t understand how ironic it is that you’re wearing it. You’ll just think you look hot and angsty. I know you’ll look dumb. But your roommate’s cat will spray on it sometime in April of 2009, and you’ll be mad, but that hot guy from your Physics lab will notice you’ve been working out, ( ‘cause you’re not wearng that jacket) and he’ll ask you to coffee. Excellent! You’ll live in molecular bliss all your days.

Girl with the faux-Chanel sunglasses: Even I can tell they’re fake. I bet you scraped out a Bonne Bell lip smacker and put it in that little Prada lippie case, too. That’s okay. Your shallow ways will dog your steps for all four years of University. You’ll go to the London School of Economics to do your Masters, take one good, wide-eyed look around, and realize that you look like a diehard tryhard compared to everyone around you. You’ll get some cool jeans (drainpipes will be de rigeur by then) and hang out in Camden Town with people from all over the world. You’ll marry a South African pizza shop owner in Whitechapel and your kids will have to dress from Oxfam. You all won’t mind much because you’ll become a dab hand at alterations and the kids will look like they’re wearing runway originals. See? We all want a better life for our children.

Lady with the pearlescrent lipstick on: Bad call. Here’s a tissue.

Girl with the bad hair: Why would you do that? From what I can tell, it’s lovely, healthy, long, toffee-coloured hair. So why is it all scraped mercilessly back except the precise-yet-wispy bangs that are too short for your forehead? The rest of your outfit and your demeanour tell me you are not from 1990. Why is your hair stuck there? You will major in Anthropology and by the time you graduate, will be fluent in Coast Salish. You’ll break your arm in an unfortunate Spirit Bear canoe race incident, but all will be well, and you’ll become the department head of Canadian Studies at the University of Alberta. Sadly, I predict that you’ll have that hairstyle until you are 60 years old. Sorry.

As the bus pulled up and the multitudes piled out, I exchanged amused glances about my fellow travellers with Gus. Or maybe he just had gas.

I Feel Like a Fraud.

Sometimes I just have a little moment where I look around and think, “Holy Cats, how did I land here?”

I had one of those moments this evening, tutoring my newest student. He’s going into grade three, and is much calmer about it than his father is.

The kid can recognize and say a large number of words in English. His dad has been working intensively with him and now I know why: The guy’s a visiting scholar at UBC who has a degree in the pedagogy of language. Of course, he specializes in Korean, but his English is pretty close to flawless. I can say ‘phoneme’ to him and he knows what I’m talking about. The kid can read ‘airplane’ and ‘monster’. He’s got a ton of sight words.

So while it’s really cool to have a parent understand why I’m teaching what I’m teaching, this particular parent knows more about it than me.

I’m not really a language aquisition expert in any way. Well, okay, I’m more of one than, say, most stockbrokers, lawyers, or even the raccoons outside, but I don’t have a degree in it, fer Chrissakes! I specialize in reading and writing, I never did a course about learning to speak!
Most of what I know comes from common sense and living in the trenches. Sometimes people say that it must be hard teaching when I don’t have a degree in teaching ESL. But anyone who teaches anywhere near Vancouver these days learns to teach ESL on the fly, because so many of their students have English as a second (or third or fourth) language. I never took any courses telling me how to teach ESL, and I don’t think they’d have done me any good if I had.

Teaching English to ESL learners is the same as teaching anything: Find out how big the knowledge base is and take it from there. We can call it ‘extending the lesson’ or even ‘redefining the parameters’, but what it is is getting people to see how this thing they know is related to this thing they don’t know. See how easy?

Okay, there’s more to it than that, but in the simplest form, what I do is help kids make connections. Okay, I also do it well in many cases. Kids manage not to hate my classes. And here’s what’s cool: The kids who have the most fun are the ones who learn fastest. Again, back to what I always thought: A relaxed and happy student learns faster.

I couldn’t do it as well as I wanted in the public sphere, but I’m making a big difference privately. One of my summer students went up two—two! grade levels over the summer. I have a student in Grade six whose ability to write about details surpasses mine.

Okay, I’m not a fraud, after all.

Oh, I remember now: Bush is on drugs.

And has been for more than a year. I knew I hadn’t dreamed it, and with all the posts and articles talking about how “offhand” or “zoned” or even “cheerful” he’s been appearing lately, I went and played Internet Research.

From Capitol Hill Blue:

President George W. Bush is taking powerful anti-depressant drugs to control his erratic behavior, depression and paranoia, Capitol Hill Blue has learned.

The prescription drugs, administered by Col. Richard J. Tubb, the White House physician, can impair the President’s mental faculties and decrease both his physical capabilities and his ability to respond to a crisis, administration aides admit privately.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” says one aide. “We can’t have him flying off the handle at the slightest provocation but we also need a President who is alert mentally.”

He’s not alert mentally even unmedicated. He’s actually rather stupid. So, kids, that’s what happened.

I’m betting he’s also “drinking heavily” again. Anti-d’s and alcohol are fuelling him.

Yes. The US of A is being “led” by a drunk, medicated moron. That explains it.


I haven’t written anything about the New Orleans disaster because other people are doing just fine expressing the feelings of fury, confusion, and rising blood pressure that I feel.

In fact, I was going to get all vitriolic about how FEMA has refused a team of self sufficient emergency aid workers from Chicago. But I can’t. I’m just too soul-crushingly upset at the fuckwattage of all this. You can read about it over at Majikthise.
All they asked for was a truck. Fuckwits.

I just can’t get my head around it at all. Help is being offered, people. Help was being offered even before the situation went critical. Why not take it? Why the fuck not?

For fuck’s sake, I’m too angry for even the rudiments of eloquence.


Did I have a good time?

Sometimes being a Rock and Roll Girlfriend™ just makes me irritated, but sometimes it makes me damned near shout for joy.

Tonight, case in point. Jericho Sailing Centre for the Vancouver Lifeguards’ end-of-summer blowout. Lots of tight little young bodies, mind-numbingly loud music. The band (alt. country, btw) is playing in between a DJ spinning mostly rap tunes. Who did that ‘Boombastic’ song? I heard it tonight. Sheesh. It’s hard to imagine people whose kids were teenagers in the seventies saying, “Who is that Led Zeppelin band? Why do you like them?” Now, okay, I do adore Zeppelin, but really, I reserve the right to be an old fart and say that having my eardrums assaulted with bad rap shit really, really pisses me off. There wasn’t even any good internal rhyme, like there is in some rap. It was all just shit, purely and simply.

But in between gyrating flat tanned tummy sets, I heard some great music, particularly E’s solid bass backbone and some flying guitar solos.

I adore the guitar player. He has a sad clown’s face that blossoms into the most fantastic, slightly wry, self-deprecating smile. He can sound like he is Mark Knopfler, all wild and sweet and lonely, but more often he’s got this sound like a pack of Alabama wolves all jitterbugging in the moonlight. Damn skippy.

I like the sometime drummer as well. He should be creepy, because he has kind of greasy black hair and tends to touch people when he greets them. But he’s not, because he’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever seen in a band with E. He looks more like he should be doing Diesel Jeans ads than drumming in a country band, but he seems to relish it. Also, unlike a lot of drummers, he can focus for more than five minutes.

The band leader is a work of art. He must have thirty years of experience writing songs that express the core of his truth. They’re sometimes sad, sometimes hopeful, and, musically, they couldn’t be more Canadian. He writes songs that make me think of the high wild reaches of the Cariboo and the smell of a campfire in the Kootenays. In his music, I hear the susurrus of waves on the beach on the Sunshine Coast. Sadly, he is also insane. ADHD and conspiracy theories and way too many drugs all rolled up into one fun, unpredictable package. I mean, he’s pretty harmless in his insanty, but it still makes me want to slap him.

Also featured at tonight’s gig: Trying Unusually Hard Guy. I often dance at E’s shows. I like to dance. And I’ve never had a problem with guys who want anything other than to dance, especially when I mention that my boyfriend is the bass player, and they look wa-a-ay up at him, and then nod to themselves and continue dancing. Usually I dance with middle aged guys who also really like to dance.

I don’t know if TUHG was just too fucking high to string thoughts together, but he just seemed to glom on to me. Listen, buddy, it’s all well and good that you think I’m sympathetic to you, but when I’ve just spotted you snorting coke after seeing your asinine dance floor tactics, I just have to walk away. No offence, but your issues are way too complicated for me to try to navigate the coked-out synapses of your mind. No, I can’t really tell what you mean when you ask if I am in love. Are you trying to steal me away from all of this? Do you want me to talk about love? Are you trying to tell me you have been in love? Are in love? No, relating it to the New Orleans disaster doesn’t help either. Umm, you’re just too short and jittery. Sorry to be shallow, but buh-bye.

So, gentle readers, did I have a good time, or didn’t I? make up my mind. I’m too tired to know.

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