zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Feb. 6th, 2013 10:15 pm)
 I was really broke in January. I finished a freelance project before the holidays, and invoiced for it, and had to wait for the cheque. The course I teach was cancelled. Then I was asked to teach a second section of the online version of the same course, but I had to wait to get paid. 

It was all a bit stressful. 

Then, of course, the freelance cheque came in, and another cheque came in, and I got paid, and everything was fine, just in time for me to go in-house for three months, during which time I will produce six publications for a local film festival. 

Also, just in time to go in-house, I got a cold which may have turned into a sinus infection. 

I am still teaching the online course. In fact, I am teaching both sections of the online course, as the other instructor has become ill and can't continue, and they needed a pinch-hitter, and I didn't want to leave the other instructor (who is a lovely person), my program coordinator (who has been very patient with me), or the students (none of whose fault this is) in the lurch. 

Plus I'm presenting two seminars for the Editors' Association this month.

So, if you don't hear much from me in the near future, it's probably because I am either teaching, grading, making books, or possibly my head has exploded.

Just FYI.  

 Something I have observed: Conservatives often like to call people like me—social democrats, communitarians, people who believe that the job of society is to help us better take care of each other—"naive," as though over my entire life, I hadn't had ample opportunities to watch people treating each other pretty badly, hadn't had ample opportunities to see how the world works.


Cut for politics )

 So I'm proofreading an anthology of First Nations literature. Super cool. But I've once again come up against a linguistic snag I encounter inevery work on Aboriginal or First Nations or Native anything that crosses my desk: the term "people."

In contemporary English, the noun "people" has a couple of different meanings: it can mean (singular) an ethnicity or group (e.g., the Mik'maqpeople; the Saalish people). Let's call this Sense A. It can also mean the plural of "person" (e.g., several people ate sandwiches). When youwant to say several persons of Aboriginal heritage, you should, technically, say "First Nations people." Let's call this Sense B. 

However, we use "First Nations peoples"  (Sense A, plural) when discussing political or social issues that affect all groups of First Nationspersons (people): "We need to see greater representation from First Nations peoples in discussing environmental issues."

Many people don't seem to get the distinction between Sense A and Sense B, and seem to think that "peoples" is a plural that means "lots ofpersons of different First Nations ethnicities." So I get sentences like  "This was far from the case in Canada, where it would take anothertwenty-five years for Native peoples to begin graduating from universities and colleges in substantial numbers."

This makes no sense! Ethnicities cannot graduate from universities. 

So I queried it, and got the following response:

I checked with the editor and I think “native peoples” as used in the preface is okay as it suggests that there is a diversity of nativepeople (i.e. from different bands or nations). So, the Mik'maq are a Native people, as are Inuit but together they are “native peoples”. They used “native peoples” in the previous edition and even Library and Archives Canada categorized the previous editionas “Native peoples--Literary collections”.


Which is fine, but I still don't think ethnicities can go to university. 

Below the cut: A Usage Note I prepared for a style sheet eight years ago about the SAME ISSUE.

Old usage wankery )

From a history of a local high school that I am editing:

During the war, the Girls' Club had become the War Services Club; the Girls’ Club was not reinstated after the war. However, a "Baby Bawl” was organized during the First Form initiation party in 1945. During the day, the girls went to class with their clothes on inside-out, wearing one long black stocking and odd shoes and sporting signs around their necks stating they were Baby Bags. At night, they returned, dressed as babies, to an auditorium bedecked with lines of baby clothes; the stage resembled a nursery. The poor Firsts were put through the horrors of a witches’ den, made to walk the plank and forced to endure other pranks.

I kind of love the matter-of-fact way that this is reported. The author maintains the same tone in discussing
  • the school's football victories,
  • the fact that while before WWII, the cheerleading squad consisted entirely of male cheerleaders, while the post-war cheerleading squad was co-educational, and
  • the arrival of a new music teacher and the growth of the school's music program.
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Mar. 31st, 2011 12:28 pm)
I have created a new test question! Please test it for me! 

Here's the deal: I'll give you the information you need in order to figure out the answer for yourself. Then you tell me what you think the answer is.


Trade magazine—a magazine that exists for the members of a specific profession or trade, for example Bar Code Quarterly or Canadian Family Physician.

Consumer magazine—a magazine that consumers buy out of interest, for example Model Train Quarterly, Chatelaine, or Cottage Life

Which of the following articles is MOST likely to appear in a trade magazine? 

    1. Sanding Secrets: Getting the Most Out of Sandpaper
    2. Ten Bicycle Helmets That Don’t Make Us Want to Barf
    3. The Silk Weavers of Exurban Anatanarivo: Documenting a Dynamic Tradition
    4. Collaborating With Parents to Implement Behavioral Interventions for Children With Challenging Behaviors

Most of my multiple choice questions test simple recall, so I don't really need to field-test them; this one tests higher-order evaluation and application skills: students need to know the background information in order to answer correctly (which is why I gave it to you), but then they need to think about each of the titles an evaluate which is most likely to fit the mandate of a trade magazine. So it's a bit trickier to know whether it will work as a differentiator.

So on Thanksgiving weekend, I wrote the LSAT. I'm not going to say much about it, because it's a long test and kind of boring. I have no idea how I fared.

But yes, I'm considering applying to law school.

In case you're wondering, no, it is not a good idea to start a small business while you're applying to law school. Starting a new business takes a lot of time and focus. So does applying for law school.

One of the difficulties with applying to law school as a mature student, especially when one is as mature as I appear to have become, is that academic recommendations are difficult to come by. I was last enrolled in a class at a university 15 years ago. Most of my professors have retired, or gone elsewhere. I could ask my dean at CityCollege, but all she knows about me is that I generally get my grades in late. I don't think she'd write me a very flattering recommendation.

So I'm asking one of my business partners, and thinking hard about who else to ask. In the meanwhile, I'm going to take [livejournal.com profile] torontoteacher 's advice, and ask my Friendslists to write me a letter of recommendation.

Why do you think the august institutions of legal learning should accept me into their hallowed halls?


I realize that this may come as news to you, so I shall break it gently.

There are volumes other than floor-shakingly loud.


Look at the volume control on your music player. It has options for louder and for softer. You can play your awful music at a volume that I can't hear through the shared wall.

Now turn your attention to the television, and examine the volume control on it. You will notice the same options. I recommend trying the less-loud versions. You will still find yourself able to hear the dialogue, honest. But I won't.

And when you speak—when, for example, you tell your yappy dog to STFU, or when you express your anger and displeasure as you so often do at 10h00 while I am getting down to work—you can do it without raising your voice, and sharing the details of your discussions with me, through the aforementioned shared wall.

Amazingly enough, this also applies to closing doors–it is possible to go into and out of rooms without informing your neighbours that you are doing so. And to walking!

I am sharing this information with you, because it seems clear to me that nobody ever has before. It cannot possibly be that you really have failed to consider that your neighbours might not appreciate your taste in music, television, movies, and that we might prefer not to hear your discussions. I believe that you must feel deeply torn, every time you want to listen to music or watch a movie, knowing that you are inflicting your taste on your neighbours. It is entirely likely that you fervently hope that we are not home, so that you can indulge in your preferred entertainment without disturbing us.

I know that if I had not known about this marvelous ability of modern technology to replay music at less than wall-shaking volume, it would be much more difficult for me to enjoy my love of fine opera.

But now, with this new information that I am sharing with you, you no longer need to worry about us! You can simply turn the volume down, lower your voices, and close the doors instead of slamming them.

I do hope this makes it possible for you to get through your days in a more pleasant, less stressful fashion.

Best regards,
Your neighbour, who works from home.

Here's the backstory:

For a unit on Energy, my client requested like a feature that is an interview between a nominal grade 1 student and a nutritionist about what foods provide energy for school, sports etc.

I e-mailed my client and sad "I'm really, really leery of this. I think it borders on prescriptivism at the time when most kids are moving from being very intuitive eaters, to allowing external factors influence what they choose to eat. Scientifically, I think it poses a lot of challenges too, since pretty much all food will provide energy—energy and nutrients and a bit of water is pretty much what food is for. Can we maybe, instead, have an interview between a nominal six year old and an elite athlete, about how that person eats in order to have enough energy to train, compete, etc.? That way, we're being descriptive, rather than prescriptive, and we can still make the connection between food and energy. Also, it's kind of cool."

The client went for it. Hooray for good sense.

Now, of course, I need to track down an elite athlete. Pronto.

So does anyone know anyone who competes at an elite level, in some sport or other. I'm e-mailing members of the Canadian Women's Hockey Team, as well as the publicist for the Canadian Paralympic Athletes, but it's often easier to get in touch with someone if you have an "in." 

So, does anyone have an "in"?

On behalf of trying not to screw up kids' eating, I thank you.
I'm at the cool part of things again--the part where I come up with ideas about what's going to go into a resource. In this particular project--a literacy resource for primary students--we're using a lot of poetry. I'm rediscovering Dennis Lee, of course. And Raffi.

I'm also encountering a lot of poets whose work I've never read before.

There's a lot of bad kids' poetry out there, I can tell you. But, it is also amazing and humbling what some people can convey, using very simple words. Here are two that hit me today:

From Thanks a Million: Poems by Nikki Grimes, Illustrations by Cozbi A. Cabrera

I wish these walls were ours,
I wish this bed were mine,
that dinnertime meant just us three,
my brother, mom, and me.

I wish I had a room
that I was forced to clean.
I'd gripe for my best friend, then say,
"Come to my house and play."

Things could be worse, I know.
At least, I'm not alone.
My mom and brother hold me tight
when I cry late at night.

Dear Author

When my father died last year,
Somebody threw a switch and turned me off.
I couldn’t breathe. Or cry.
My family wondered why.

Months passed, and they figured
I must be okay. But they were wrong.
I leaked sadness everywhere I went.
No one seemed to notice or understand.
Until Lotus, the girl in your last book.
She was also drowning deep inside.
Some nights, I’d crawl between the pages
of that novel and hide for hours.

The two of you made all the difference.
I just thought you’d want to know.


Dear Co-workers,

No, thank-you, I didn't want or need any help unloading the dishwasher and loading all the dishes from this morning into it. How nice of the five of you who came in and out of the kitchen while I was doing so to ask me. I really do enjoy putting other people's dirty away—it makes such a nice break from my day. I especially appreciated the non-assistance from the person who saw me sorting the cutlery, and put her own dirty plate in the now-empty dishwasher, apparently unaware of the mountain of other people's dirty plates and bowls and cutlery on the counter. After all, it's a shared kitchen, so we should all do our part creating a mess for someone to clean up. And I had absolutely nothing better to do—I didn't have more than 152 e-mails to deal with, or 24 features to check, and my schedules are all totally up to date. I was just emptying and reloading the dishwasher with other people's dishes in order to pass the time.

So, thanks so much for asking the way you didn't. Your concern and fellow feeling totally made my Monday.

No love,
Number of project-related e-mails I received yesterday: 102

Number of said e-mails requiring me to do more than read and file: ≅ 75

Number of said e-mails requiring me to return a moderately thoughtful response: ≅ 51

Hours spent in meetings yesterday: 2.5

Actual tasks accomplished, not pertaining to e-mails or meetings: 2

Actual tasks needing to be accomplished: lots more than 2.

The Q.H.M. magnetometer:

Pointy magnetometer

Developed for use in finding submarines under water, the magnetometer was later used to map magnetic activity in the ocean floors, providing support to the theory of continental drift.

But we can't print it in a grade 6 science book.

Some days it helps to have the mind of a 12-year-old )
Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence, and is appropriate for understanding the natural world, but it provides only a limited understanding of the supernatural, aesthetic, or other ways of knowing, such as art, philosophy, or religion.1

Here follows a very short rant. Maybe a rantlet.

This bothers me. It's a clear nod to the godbodies—we don't have apologia or disclaimers in the math standards, the history standards, or the geography standards. We don't have to say that an understanding of literary conventions in English will help you to understand and interpret texts written in English and literary traditions that share a similar cultural background, but may not be easily applied to an understanding of the narrative traditions of a non-literary culture (though perhaps we should!).

What do you all think of this?

1 From the Florida Standards for Science Education, Grade 7. It is, of course, not the only standard, nor even the most important.
Dear Internets,


I need to come up with a title for a short article for a science textbook for grades 6, 7, and 8. The article is about the strange and fascinating reproductive practices of seahorses (short version: females deposit eggs in males' brood pouches. Males fertilize and carry the brood of seahorse babies, eventually going into something that resembles labour, and the brood leaves the pouch).

Here are the requirements:
  • No personification: we're not allowed to assign human characteristics to non-human entities (therefore no gender-role jokes).
  • No overt raciness: this is for middle-graders in the U.S.
  • Should be kind of fun and cool—these features are supposed to be engaging.
  • Title should not be more than five words (or it won't fit)
Ideally, for design purposes, the title will include the word "Seahorse," but this is not a requirement.

Titles that have been panned:

Seahorse Reproduction—too boring
Making Babies, Seahorse Style—too suggestive
Seahorses: Sexual Rebels of the Sea—personification; too long

So, oh internets, I turn to you for assistance, because everyone here is scratching their heads and looking puzzled. Well, to be truthful, everyone here has gone home. They've already scratched their heads and looked puzzled.

So, give me a title! Do it for the fame! Do it for the glory! Do it for the LOLs!

Mating seahorses. The male's belly is distended.
I spent some time yesterday thinking about why I was so irked by my student's blithe request for Tuesday night's lecture materials—why I felt compelled to argue my own position, why I feel defensive, why I feel so very annoyed, why I went on and bloody on about it.

My hard-nosed nature and my pushover nature were at war with each other, you see.

And on my right shoulder, my hard-nosed nature argued )
My pushover nature tells me that earning a living is a basic need. I've argued for a long time that schools need to recognize the diversity of student needs and acknowledge the reality of student experiences. If we accommodate only a specific group of people—say people who don't need to work, or people who can work from 9–5, then we're excluding other students who might otherwise benefit from what we're offering. So, If I were really committed to a diverse group of students, I'd be working harder to make sure that I was accommodating them—after all, they're the ones paying the fees that make it possible for the college to hire me. And it's not like my student was off frivolling. She was working. So maybe I need to put my time-is-money where my mouth has been all this time.

Not everyone is privileged enough to have a job they can leave in order to go to class. And it's not her fault that I'm not organized enough to have typed notes for this lesson, to have powerpoints,* to do what some other instructors do. I shouldn't penalize her for that.

On the other tentacle, the offhand tone still bugged me, and I do feel that she's not living up to her end of the bargain.

So I e-mailed her back:

And, of course, part of my anger came from feeling defensive about the one lesson per semester that I teach mostly off the cuff. I should be more organized than that.

* I really, really hate making powerpoint presentations. I hate teaching from slides—irrationally, perhaps. In part, I don't like being tied to my plan—some of my best teaching moments come from taking advantage of teachable moments. In part, because fumbling from presentation software to the big-ass full-spread pdfs I project is cumbersome. In part, because my classroom is annoyingly set up, and I don't like being tied to the desk with the pc. In part because slide presentations are inherently one directional, and my teaching style is more interactive than that. And in part because I am old-fashioned and curmudgeonly.
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Jun. 17th, 2009 11:54 am)
One of my students today apologised in e-mail for missing last night's class. She did not mention that she had also missed an extra-help session I had arranged with her for before the class. She works in retail, and had to close the store. I understand this.

She also asked whether she could hand in last week's homework next week, and whether I could send her this week's lesson.

No, and no.

In which I rant a bit )
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Jun. 4th, 2009 01:38 pm)
I am back at work today, and it's going pretty well.

I have asked all of my co-workers to think of jokes or silly stories to tell me. I think people have a difficult time knowing what to say at a time like this, so I'm hoping this will help them. Also, I tend to start to cry when people are super-kind and concerned, and I'd prefer to spare some poor co-worker the awkwardness that comes along with my turning into a watering pot.

So far, I have received only one silly story.

Alas, it's not a great one )Here it is )

Sigh. A very sweet gesture, I say.

Here: have some muppets. We opened the Celebration-thingy with this song (but without Muppets).



zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)


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