Lamps in a cafe in San Juan Islands

Chickens: Day 2


In our case, the chickens came before the eggs. However, now we have saved up three eggs, and by the end of the week, I’ll have a dozen! I let the hens out to peck around in the grass. I just put up a fake fence with chicken wire to keep them in one place. They love scratching around in the dirt and eating some fresh grass. I can’t believe in essentially two days how torn up the once-lovely, luscious grass has gotten. I really am tempted to move their coop someplace where we want to keep the weeds down rather than where they are now.

In predatory news, the neighbor cats three are trying to be like the Fantastic Mr. Fox, scoping out the coop and pen for a tasty hen snack. I shooed them away, gave the chickens some fresh water and food, and added more straw to the laying boxes and under the roost. Here are some pictures of our Sisters of Perpetual Pecking (and scratching, clucking, etc.)
Eggs: day 2 on Twitpic

Chickens: Day 1


Christmas in Pocatello


J and A at "Tacky Christmas Outfit" Party

We’re spending Christmas in Idaho this year with J’s family. It’s ridiculously cold here, so my plans of running and frequent exercise have been reduced to mini-walks around the neighborhood. I’m hoping to get some schoolwork done while I’m here, although it has been nice to sleep in and relax–to wind down and slow down–during our vacation. It’s difficult when I have spare time because I feel like I should be “doing something productive” 24-7. This may be why I don’t post often to my blog–Twitter has met my mini-posting needs. Perhaps I shall produce another Christmas update before the year is over. For now–more coffee and Anne Lamott.

I’m On a (Ferry) Boat!


I’m On a (Ferry) Boat!, uploaded by amybaeder.

While on our way to New Jersey and in our spare 12 hours, we ventured to Manhattan. We rented a car, drove into “the city,” and stood in several lines to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I could have spent more time at Ellis Island, but we had to catch the last ferry back to Manhattan. We took the subway up to Times Square, bought tickets for (500) Days of Summer, and then dined at Trattoria Tre Colori, a delicious Italian restaurant a few blocks away. After watching the movie, we took a cab (not a cash cab) back down to where we parked our car, all the while lamenting the honk-happy drivers and the expense of having a car in New York City. We had quite an adventure, and packed quite a bit into such a short time frame. I can’t wait to go back, but next time, we will spend more time there, and we’ll leave the car behind.

Green Beans


Green Beans, uploaded by amybaeder.

Here’s a coffee roaster from Rozark, a roasterie in Rose Bud, AR, just a few minutes outside of my hometown. You can see the beans inside are still greenish before they experience several minutes of 400F+ temps. We got a private tour, so I felt quite educated before going into the Burke Museum’s coffee exhibit. More pics from the roasterie are on my flickr page.

Mill in Clinton, NJ and Other Pics


P8090845, uploaded by amybaeder.

In case I didn’t mention this before, I posted new pics to my Flickr account after we got back from Arkansas, New Jersey, and New York. This is one of my favorites from a quaint town called Clinton, NJ where we spent a weekend for Justin’s grandmother’s memorial service.

In other news, we’ve had a cool, rainy labor day weekend. I’ve gotten lots of cooking and planning done, but less hiking and fewer outdoor activities than I would like. School starts Wednesday–my 8th year of teaching!

Perceptions of Others


I have just realized this very morning how my feelings of or perceptions of someone rely on my last encounter. Other people I know can remember stories, details, and events regarding the people in their lives and view these people as a sum of all of these parts. For whatever reason, I remember very few details about people and see them holistically, but based almost solely on our last encounter. My feelings toward you will hinge upon our last meeting, which will likely override prior experiences. (The exception to this would be someone with a history of exceptionally horrific or exceptionally positive behavior.) This has its benefits and detriments. As a teacher, it allows me to give students a clean slate each day, but as a person, well, let’s just say it makes me feel like I have a long term memory problem.

Perhaps, in reference to my previous post, I need to be more present in conversations and make an effort to really listen rather than just hear.

August-ness and Earnestness


It’s mid August already. Where has this year gone? Where has the summer gone? Well, at least some of it is still here. It’s 84F in my kitchen. I’m trying to sneak in a few more fun summer activities before the break is over. Granted, I don’t have students for another 3 weeks, but I will be working every day in some education-related capacity until school begins.

Today I made blackberry cobbler with the berries Dawn and I picked, and I shared it with a grad school colleague of mine this afternoon. We had an in-depth conversation, and I learned that most of my important insights about life and myself come through conversations with others. I’m a terrible journal-keeper, but through talking to people, I come to realize what’s true about myself. Last week, I articulated my perception that my priorities are, in order, my relationship with Justin, our careers, and then household duties. This week I realized through talking to Terese that moving to Seattle has helped me live out (or has at least given me more immediate opportunities to live out) much of what Jesus commands us to do in the New Testament. All of this means that I find the art of conversation important, not just for the sake of trading stories or sharing facts, but also for the purpose of self-discovery. Granted, there is the primary purpose of getting to know someone, and it takes a special person to listen and ask the questions that will get you thinking about your beliefs and values. However, this experience has helped nudge me into taking the time to converse rather than just talk.

In the Market near St. Georges Mall


In the Market near St. Georges Mall, uploaded by amybaeder.

Well….here I am in South Africa! When I first arrived, I thought I could be anywhere. The main difference I noticed when I got here were that people drove on the left, but other than that, there were ads for Nikon, Audis, and other familiar brands. We’re staying in a Holiday Inn and there are KFCs and Haagen Daas stands around. I felt like I was being cheated out of a true South Africa at first. As time has gone on, I have felt less like this, and our professor says that when we get to Port Elizabeth, it will feel even more like we’re in a different city in a different country on a different continent.

One fantastic aspect about Capetown is its diversity. We had dinner at a cozy Indian restaurant, toured a 200-year old English and Muslim Malay neighborhood (Bo-Kaap), and heard Xhosa being spoken behind us at a stoplight. Today we’re touring the District 6 museum, which chronicles the history of District 6. Here’s an excerpt from their website, which explains it better than I can:
“District Six was named the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town in 1867. Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants, District Six was a vibrant centre with close links to the city and the port. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, the history of removals and marginalisation had begun.

The first to be ‘resettled’ were black South Africans, forcibly displaced from the District in 1901. As the more prosperous moved away to the suburbs, the area became the neglected ward of Cape Town.
In 1966, it was declared a white area under the Group areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over. 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers.

The District Six Museum, established in December 1994, works with the memories of these experiences and with the history of forced removals more generally.”

For more photos, visit my Flickr page :) .

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers


2 weekends ago I read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. He’s basically describing the situations surrounding those who experience success, arguing that you cannot be successful through your own genius without having other conditions in place to support that success. Because I borrowed this book from my principal, I wanted to blog about it so I remember the main points, as there are a few educational implications.

The first educational implication is that older students seem to have the maturity advantage. Most elementary teachers know this, and that’s why parents of August- and September-born kids sometimes choose to wait a year before sending them to kindergarten. Gladwell advocates sorting students by birth month (Jan-Apr., May-August, Sept-December) to let kids have a fair advantage. Some skills, especially early on, are biologically determined, and often more mature students have fewer behavior problems compared to their peers, lending them an advantage over younger students.

Next, Gladwell discusses the 10,000 hour rule–10,000 hours is deemed to be enough to make one an expert in a field or skill. He argues this is what made Mozart a renowned composer and Bill Gates (as well as Bill Joy) a superb programmer. This made me think, “What do I want my 10,000 hours in?” and “What have I spent 10,000 hours doing?”. More importantly, though, I wonder what this means for my students. Gladwell states, “….ten thousand hours is an enormous amount of time. It’s all but impossible to reach that number all by yourself by the time you’re a young adult. You have to have parents who encourage and support you. You can’t be poor, because if you have to hold down a part time job on the side to help make ends met, there won’t be time left in the day to practice enough. In fact, most people can reach that number only if they get into some kind of special program….or if they get some kind of extraordinary opportunity that gives them a chance to put in those hours” (Gladwell 42). This makes me excited for after school programs and grant-funded arts programs that allow students to use their talents, yet angry at the inequity that exists that allows some parents to afford dance classes, private music lessons, and linguistic tutors when other students are not afforded such luxuries.

Despite the money aspect, any parent can help their child pursue his or her talents. Gladwell discusses the difference in parenting styles observed by researcher Lareau between wealthy/middle class families and the working-class and poor families. Gladwell states that Lareau calls the middle class parenting style “concerned cultivation” in which parents “foster and assess a child’s talents, opinions and skills,” whereas poorer parents follow a strategy of “accomplishment of natural growth” (104). Although the wealthy or middle class strategy tends to toe the line between preparation and pushing children too hard, it definitely gave the children bureaucratic advantages and a sense of entitlement (in the best possible sense of the word). These students advocate for themselves, ask questions, and can interact comfortably with adults.

So Gladwell has shown us that class, time spent on a skill, and relative age have an impact on success. He also discusses at great length “demographic luck.” He discusses the story of Jewish NYC lawyers who were discriminated against due to their ancestry. In the early and mid-20th century, they were forced to take the cases that more “elite” lawyers were not–hostile takeovers and litigation. As they perfected their skill, the world changed, and these types of cases became more and more common, sending the income levels of these lawyers through the roof. Gladwell again discusses the myth of the “American who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps” story. He argues that sheer will, cleverness, and triumphing over adversity are not the only factors at work, but that the world that we’re born into makes a huge difference in our success.

One such factor is the year that one is born, he argues. During the Great Depression, families stopped having as many children, so if a person was born in that time, it is known as being born in a “demographic trough” (Gladwell 134). In 1925, there were 25.1 births per 1,000; in 1930 there were 21.3, in 1935 there were 18.7, in 1940 there were 19.4, and in 1945, there were 20.4. What benefits are there to being born during a demographic trough? Perhaps there are smaller class sizes, more playing time on sports teams, less crowding in university, better job market, and possibly more. Might our current economic crisis lead to another demographic trough?

Next Gladwell discusses how one’s culture, as well as the economic situation of one’s country, can play a role in success. To set up this idea, he talks about family feuds. I had NO idea that family feuds were so common in the Appalachians during the late 19th/early 20th century, but at least 1,000 people died in family feud-related duels, battles, ambushes, and the like (Gladwell 165). Gladwell argues that this stems to the Scotch-Irish descent of many of these families, and the culture of honor that accompanies this heritage (and many others). He argues that cultures of honor tend to “take root in highlands and other marginally fertile areas, such as Sicily or the mountainous Basque regions of Spain” (Gladwell 166) (thinking of Inigo Montoya and the Godfather? I hoped so). These areas are not good farmland, so inhabitants tended herds of goats or sheep. Herdsman are off by themselves and develop an aggressiveness to outsiders and anyone who threatens his sheep or his way of life. Manhood is initiated by his first quarrel, which must be public. Insults are not tolerated. All of this helps explain the pattern of criminality in the American South, Gladwell says. “Murder rates are higher than in the rest of the country. But crimes of property and “stranger” crimes–like muggings–are lower” (169). At any rate, culture makes a difference, and it could be the difference between life and death.

Who thought that plane crashes, a life- or death situation for sure, could relate to culture and other factors? Gladwell argues that several factors play into plane crashes–poor weather, being behind schedule, being awake for 12 or more hours, and having two pilots who have never flown together before. From here, generally seven human errors lead to a plane crash, and these errors could have been righted had good communication happened between the pilots. He states that in many cases, the first officer mitigates the danger–he downplays how bad a situation is in front of his or her captain–and that in some cultures, first officers or junior pilots are afraid of speaking up to their captain. Because of many crashes that happened in Korea due to this very issue, pilots are receiving special training in how to communicate more directly with those they fly with.

This post is WAAAAY too long….I will continue this in a new post later.