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Yup, I decided to change my username--since my old one was the same as a couple of my email addresses, it was getting just a little too easy to find me, and I'd like to keep this journal primarily for fannish pursuits and personal stuff.

Also, I thought that a new username might be a nice symbol for a new beginning with this LJ. I haven't posted in a really long time (last November to be exact), due to a combination of crappy computer (7 years old and running Win98), crappy Internet access at home, and a situation where I wouldn't dare check LJ or post at work. Also, sometimes when I'm under a lot of stress I just don't have the energy to write stuff that other people are going to read.

But now (at least for awhile) I have great Internet access and a lot of free time, and I'd like to start talking to people again.

I'm also thinking of starting another LJ for book reviews and discussion about librarianship, education, and urban life. I'll let everybody know (though possibly under friendslock) if/when I do that. I just saw that LJ is bringing Basic Accounts back, so I'm debating about whether I should wait until that happens. I have an account on Blogger that I've really never done anything with, and I thought about using that, but I've decided that I really like the threaded discussions that LJ does--I haven't seen another site that I like that does that.

So, hello everyone. I hope to be around these parts a little more often.
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Dear Yuletide Santa,

Odds are that I don't know you, given that [livejournal.com profile] yuletide has now reached over 1200 participants (I think that's vaguely frightening--don't you?) but I do know that you are going to write a story for me, in one of four really obscure fandoms that I love, and thus you rock :)

The first thing I want to say is this--if the details I provided feel confining rather than inspiring, please don't hesitate to go in a direction that _does_ inspire you. Like the Pirates' Code from Pirates of the Caribbean, they're really more like guidelines. Sometimes the best story is one that you never could have expected.

For example, when I did [livejournal.com profile] yuletide last year, I threw out a pairing idea for Homicide: Life on the Street that was just sort of random ("Oh, there should totally be femslash with this pairing, why isn't there any?"), among a bunch of other loose suggestions. My Yuletide writer took that pairing and ran with it in a direction I wouldn't have thought of, and it was awesome. Give me a good story in any of these fandoms, and I'm going to love it.

I think I included about the right amount of specificity in my details this year, so at first I wasn't quite sure what to put in my Dear Santa letter. So I looked around at what other people were doing, and decided that I'd talk a little bit about what I love in fic in general and what I love about each of the specific fandoms I listed.

Read more... )
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So, yea...I haven't posted in eons. Eleven weeks, my LJ home page informs me, to be precise. I moved apartments over the summer, and couldn't get internet service right away. I was off for the summer (since I work in education) and even though I had net access, I don't work in a place where checking or posting from LJ would be a good idea.

My awesome friends Mike and Tina came over about a month ago and helped me set up my Internet (well, to be strictly accurate Mike did all the work while Tina and I took a walk and got pizza from the carryout window at Papa John's) but it's really only in the past couple of weeks that I've had the time or the energy to start extensively keeping up with LJ and commenting again. Of course I read some over the summer and whenever I could get internet access elsewhere, but I didn't really have time to post and only occasionally commented. I'm glad to be back with Internet in my very own home, even if it is a bit slow for DSL (I'm sure that partly has to do with the fact that my computer is 6 years old and still runs Windows 98)

It seems like some of my flisters have been having a difficult time of it lately. You know who you are, and I'm sending good thoughts in your direction. Others of you have been having adventures--[livejournal.com profile] ellen_kushner, I really want to go back and read your and [livejournal.com profile] deliasherman's Japan travelogues properly, as it's a place that sounds fascinating and one that I know very little about.

If you're my [livejournal.com profile] yuletide writer-Santa and you're stalking my journal to try to find out more about this strange person who never posts (hey, it's what I'd do), I promise I will have a real letter for you soonish.
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I went to Borders at 9 a.m. on Saturday (strategically picking the Borders at 14th and F, which I thought was the DC Borders least likely to be mobbed), got my book in less than 5 minutes, and immediately headed down to a nearby Caribou coffee. I inhaled the book for about 3 hours, then decided that I needed to take a break because I had some errands that I needed to run, and I wasn't quite ready for it to end. So I ran errands all afternoon, then packed for my camping trip and headed out to meet my friend Maranda in Alexandria. Had dinner with her and her husband Ken and their little boy Kieran, (and their cockatiel, Zeke, who spent a significant amount of time perched on my head. Once they went to put Kieran down, I picked up the book again, and I'm really surprised that they weren't woken by my audible squeaks, sniffles, and occasional curses (mostly at Harry!) After I'd finished, I spent a couple of hours reading and responding to the posts of other fast readers on Maranda's borrowed laptop, because the experience of reading Harry Potter just isn't complete until you've shared it with friends on LJ, IMHO. So, even though it was awhile ago, here are my initial reactions--I've tried to keep it to stuff I actually thought of intially, rather than stuff I thought of later when I was reading other people's posts, but probably a little bit of that has leaked in.
Spoilery thoughts behind the cut )



ALA!!

Jun. 22nd, 2007 01:00 am
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ALA is finally here!! I don't have to be at work! Come find me, people of my flist who are also partaking of the librarian-y goodness. If you have not actually met me, I am Caucasian, have shoulder-length brown hair, and all throughout the conference will be carrying a bag that I got at BEA last year, advertising a picture book called _Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?_. Shortly my dear [livejournal.com profile] gwynraven will be flying in, and then we will rock the house!
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I'm using LJ as a message board---I got your email and sent you the info you needed. Call me--I'm sorry for being such a flake and forgetting to email you earlier.
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I know I'm being very posty tonight, but the computer lab in my building is pretty empty (a rare event) and I'm taking advantage of it while I can. Anyway, I've had thoughts brewing on the topic of education that I've wanted to post for awhile, but I just haven't found the right moment.

Anyway, the state of our education system is a perennial topic in all sorts of circles, and although there are people, notably Gerald Bracey, who writes for the very good education magazine Phi Delta Kappan who have pointed out that a lot of the constant claims of "crisis" are overblown (for instance, part of the reason that SAT scores have declined is that a much larger number of students take the test than used to, but do you ever hear about that?). But nobody can deny that there are some major problems--I get up close and personal with some of them every day. I mean--I work in a building that's not that much younger than my grandfather, and my grandfather is 89. But I don't think that the problems are limited to relatively poor, urban schools--they're just more visible there.

And I believe that at least some of the problems are built into our system of education at a level deeper than most people seem to consider: the level of our assumptions about what "education" means. For a long time, it seems like we've been working with what somebody dubbed "the factory model of education". That is, the idea that schools should be large, organized by an efficient system of periods and bells dividing everything into little bits of knowledge. Teaching is telling, learning is listening and memorizing. Kids should be in a largish group of only students their own age, learning pretty much the same thing at the same time in the same way. If they don't learn well that way, something is wrong with them and they need remediation. If they learn much more quickly, all they need for stimulation is to do more homework and move through the courses faster. I was talking with a friend who teaches first grade, and she pointed out that education isn't all like that today, that there is a greater emphasis on tailoring lessons to a variety of student learning styles and skill levels (this is called "differentiated instruction" in educationese). I said that that was true, but that the factory model is so often the background assumption, the water that we swim in.

I don't think that every feature of the factory model is always terrible, but at it's worse, it does violence to teachers and to students, and I do think that alternatives need to be available. Lots of alternatives. And some are, but on a very limited scale within the public system. And charter schools, which could really be a viable alternative, are too often "more of the same, but different".

Women Rock!

Mar. 8th, 2007 10:30 am
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I didn't even realize it was International Women's Day, until I saw it on LJ! What would I do without my flist? I ask you. Anyhow, I gakked this from [livejournal.com profile] inlovewithnight--a favorite women characters meme!

So, some of [livejournal.com profile] erinpoetchica's favorite women characters, in no particular order:

1.) All the women of Firefly rock! But if absolutely pressed, I'd have to pick Zoe and River--and yet, Inara and Kaylee are almost as awesome!
2.) Vesper Holly, from Lloyd Alexander's The Illyria Adventure, etc. One of the kick-ass girl heroines of my childhood, whom I still adore.
3.) C.J. Cregg. Because she's tall and glamorous (but not too pretty) and funny and thoughtful and passionate and sad.
4.) Kay Howard. Because she's sensible without being dull, and compassionate without being soft, and more competitive than she usually admits. The hair doesn't hurt either.
5.) Vicky Austin, from Madeleine L'Engle's books. Because she's one of the female characters I identify with most deeply, along with
6.) Julia Redfern, from Eleanor Cameron book A Room Made of Windows and sequels. She has a journal called The Book of Strangenesses--how cool is that? Yes, it's a sensitive-yet-rebellious-young-girl-wants-to-be-a-writer book, but it's a really good one.
7.) Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, from Lois McMaster Bujold's books. Because I want to be her when she grows up. She kicks all kinds of ass.
8.) Death from the Sandman comics. Because she is perky, and wise, and uniquely fabulous.
8.) Laura Roslin. Because she cares deeply for the welfare of humanity, and is willing to make hard choices to that end--she's not always right, but I almost always understand why she does what she does. Because she starts out uncertain, but she's resolute, a quick learner, and doesn't allow herself to be intimidated by anyone. Because she seemed to genuinely love teaching.
9.) Jenna Boller from Joan Bauer's novels, Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward for her wry and funny voice, for her responsibility and courage in following an unusual passion.
10.) Katharine, Duchess of Tremontaine from Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint series. I can't explain this one in a coherent way--just go read The Privilege of the Sword.

Of course there are plenty of other female characters that I adore--these are just the ones that popped into my head right at the moment. :)
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So after all that computer squee of a month or so ago, I now bring you a post of computer woe. Starting a couple of weeks ago, every time I tried to turn on my computer, this hideous beeping sound would start coming from inside the CPU, and it wouldn't turn on at all (i.e., nothing showing on the monitor at all). And I would finally have to turn it off with the switch on the back of the CPU. I talked to my computer guru in RL, [livejournal.com profile] kchoseng, and he suggested that I unhook everything that wasn't absolutely essential (speakers, zip drive, etc) from the back of the CPU, and see if the problem was still happening. So, I tried that recently, and yes, the problem is still happening, and I really don't want to bother [livejournal.com profile] kchoseng about it since he is in the middle of a work project that is pwning his soul. So, I was telling [livejournal.com profile] likeadeuce about the whole situation on Gmail chat, and she suggested that I appeal to the collective wisdom of my flist. So, since I have historically gotten good answers with this method, I'm trying it. Oh flist of mine, what do you think could be causing this, and what should I do about it? Bearing in mind that I am not a computer expert by any stretch of the imagination.
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Avoidance is not a useful all-purpose coping strategy.
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If I put some chicken breasts in the freezer in November, is it safe to thaw them out now and cook them?

Also, whoever came up with the idea of wrapping scallops in bacon was pure genius.

Recent culinary discovery: I've always thought of Cream of Wheat as a breakfast food, something to be covered with strawberries and maple syrup.

But just recently, I realized that if you season it with salt and pepper, and cover it with say, bacon-wrapped scallops, it tastes not unlike a poor man's shrimp and grits. I will be remembering this for future reference.
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I'm on day two of being out of school, and it is MADE OF AWESOME. Although I probably won't think so in June, when these days are added onto our already long schedule.

But right now, I'm floating on a cloud, and nothing can dampen my squee. Being snowed in for Valentine's Day was perfect, even if my Valentine is, well, me. :) But I suspect that there were a lot of happy couples enjoying themselves around the greater DC metro area. ;)

And, tomorrow is Parent-Teacher Conference Day, which is almost like a vacation day for me, because there are no kids, and of course librarians don't have to see parents, so I can work in peace and quiet, at my own pace, and get caught up with a bunch of stuff. Also, we don't have to be in until 9:45. Then we're into President's Day weekend, and the only dark spot is Saturday test prep, but frankly, since the kids have been off since Tuesday afternoon, I'll be very surprised if more than a couple of them show up.

My roommate [livejournal.com profile] vigee_le_brun is traveling for the long weekend, and I hope she makes it without too much difficulty. She's a great roommate (and probably far more tolerant of my foibles than I deserve), but sometimes it's fun to have the place to myself, so that I can do stuff that I would never subject other people to, like playing The Best of Sheryl Crow really loud and dancing in the living room, or making messy collages and watercolors in the kitchen.

It's been a while since I've felt so free, so contented and relaxed. I really needed this downtime, more than I realized.
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I made fic! This is an episode tag for the most recent episode of BSG. Basically, it grew out of a dissatisfication with the episode resolution, combined with a desire to indulge in a little of my personal fanon.

Spoilers for episode 3.13 (the most recent one) below the cut )
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So, a friend of mine from church, who blogs at www.calacirian.org, tagged me to do this meme, and I couldn't resist, even though I don't do memes very often.

What's the most fun work you've ever done and why (two sentences max)? The part of my job where I talk kids into reading books is absolutely the most fun I've ever had in a job--some of the other parts, not so much. The other most fun job was a temporary one I had right after college, when I got to be on the team that designed and put together a whole new line of promotional materials for my alma mater.

Name one thing you no longer do, but wish you did (one sentence max):

Write actual poetry. And ride bikes (oops, that's 2 things)

Name one thing you've always wanted to do but keep putting off (one sentence max) :

Going horseback riding or perhaps even taking horseback riding lessons: I got to do it one summer at day camp when I was about 9, but my parents couldn't afford anything more than that, and I've always wanted to go back and see if I'd love it now as much as I did then. (Ha! I have trickily evaded the one sentence requirement)

What 2 things would you most like to learn or be better at, and why (two sentence max? Cooking, because I get bored very easily, and find that I tend to fall into ruts making the same dishes (which means I got out to eat), and being organized, because it would make my life so much easier if I didn't have to _work_ at it so damn much all the time.

If you could take a class/apprentice with anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you hope to learn (two sentences max)?

My answer to this fluctuates a lot, but right it would be to have a course of individual life coaching with Martha Beck, because her books are about the only "self-help" literature that has ever made sense to me, and I love her wacky and slightly rebellious sense of humor. And as for what I would be learning--better life management and truth telling skills in general.

What works might your best friends or family use to describe you?

creative, thoughtful, flaky

Now list two more words you wish described you:

physically fit, activist

What are your top three passions (can be current or past, work, hobbies, or causes--three sentences max)?

reading, exploring places, education reform

What's your background, as in where do you come from?

Born in Michigan, lived in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Germany, South Carolina again (by far the longest I've lived anywhere), northern Virginia suburbs, Washington, DC. My time in Europe was extremely influential in my life, even though it was only 3 years when I was in middle school, and I consider myself a Southerner in some ways but not others.

Write and answer a question you would ask someone and what your answer would be (answer should be 3 sentences max). What was your best educational experience in k-12, and what made it so good? My answer would have to be homeschooling while we were in Europe, for the freedom it allowed, and my runnerup would be the free-writing journals and dialogue with my English teacher that I had in 8th grade, that I credit with starting me on the road to becoming a writer. Or maybe it was the farm preschool where we had horses--I can't decide.
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Well, I survived Saturday Test Prep--my first class sort of lulled me into a false sense of security because there were only 4 of them (there were supposed to be more but no one else came) and they were pretty quiet and well-behaved--my only problem was keeping them awake. But the next group was really disruptive and silly, and totally overwhelmed the quiet half of the group. I ended up having the program director come over and speak to them, and she told me afterwards that I should just send people straight to her if their behavior becomes an issue.

I did what I thought was a good exercise, where we went through the test, and I asked different people to say their answer, and explain why they chose it, whether it was right or wrong. What I wanted them to understand is that wrong answers have a logic to them just as right answers do, but it's not the kind of logic the test wants. "Learn to think like the test," I told them, and I also explained how the test makers try to deliberately distract them by providing answers that are sort of right but not completely right. We also came across some really ambiguous and downright deceptive test items, which did nothing to diminish my belief that standardized tests are a lousy way to evaluate learning.

Tonight, though I am obsessively refreshing the closings page on channel 4 and hoping for a snow day tomorrow (or a 2-hour delay at the very least). I went to a yoga workshop in Dupont Circle right after church today (and I need to remember to email my friend Israel and thank him for rushing me to the Metro so that I could get back to DC), and wandered around for a while, feeling pleased by the falling snow, browsing in bookstores, and noting sadly that the plant store on the corner where I'd planned to go get houseplants when I had some extra money had closed sometime in the last few weeks since I'd been over there. On the way back to the metro, I saw next to CVS the mound of dirty blankets that usually marks the resting place of a homeless person, and I felt the brush of worry and guilt as I thought about where that person would likely be exposed to the cold weather. A Street Sense (the newspaper produced and sold by people who are homeless) vendor solicited me with a smile, and I felt bad that I didn't have any change.

When I was in Dupont, it seemed like the snow had only just begun to stick, but when I got off in my neighborhood, which is much less traveled, I saw that nearly an inch was sticking on the sidewalk, and it was starting to coat the streets as well. The streetlights gave the snowy air that fabulous orange glow, and I walked down the sidewalk toward my apartment, quietly chanting "Snow day, snow day, we're gonna have a snow day." I felt very much in touch with my inner six-year-old.
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Well, I'm about to do something, and I can't decide if it was a great idea or a not-so-great one. I volunteered to teach in the Saturday classes that our school holds to prepare students in the grade that takes the NCLB-mandated test that is supposed to cover standards. It's a way to earn extra money, which is honestly the main reason that I signed up--I'm dealing with the double whammy of having my rent go up $75 (for each of us) and at the same time trying to be responsible and save a little and put some money into my 401k and Health Savings Account. But I also kind of wanted to put a foothold back in the classroom, since it's been awhile. I'm a little nervous, but I know this stuff--I designed and taught my own SAT prep course for students with learning disabilities when I worked for a private alternative school. Whether I think standardized tests are worthwhile is another question (short answer: hell no), but they are part of society and our students will be judged by them--I might as well do my best to give them the tools they'll need to compete with rich kids from the suburbs in the future. I've been assigned the "Basic/Below Basic" group, which is actually good, because my class size is going to be half what everyone else's is. Also, I know alot of these kids from the library already, so it's not like I'll be going in cold with a group I've never met. I really should be in bed now, but I'm always nervous before any new venture like this, and the Vietnamese iced coffee I had with dinner didn't help matters. Wish me luck, y'all!

SQUEEEE!

Jan. 14th, 2007 06:10 pm
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I have Internets! In my very own apartment! With a Zip drive and speakers too! *pauses to do dance of squee around the room* All thanks to the thoughtful, knowledgeable, and generally fabulous Mike. He took 3 hours out of his Sunday afternoon to come into the city with me to install my router, and gave me a wireless card, a Zip drive, and speakers--it worked out well actually, because he and his equally fabulous wife Tina are getting ready to move, and need to get rid of stuff. He was going to install an external cd burner that I had, but couldn't get the cover off of my CPU. The guy I bought it from used (in 2001 or 2002) put it together himself (and Mike says it's quite high-end for when it was made) and the cover seems to have completely stuck together. But getting that to work would have been "gravy on the cake" (as I said before I quite realized I was mixing my metaphors). I am more than thrilled to have in-room net access, and very thankful to have kind friends like Mike, especially since it has been an incredibly busy week for him, since he and Tina are closing on a townhouse.
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Right now I have a lot of things swirling around in my head, and I'm starting to think that I ought to post some of them. Most of these thoughts have to do with politics, education, spirituality, and urban living, and the intersection between all of those things. So far, I've mostly used this blog for daily life posts, catching up with geographically distant friends, and fandom. If I do indeed manage to get some of these posts into written for (and there's no guarantee that I will, given my past record on these things) I can't decide if I should just go ahead and post them here, start a separate LJ (as I've also thought of doing for fic, but I'm not sure I actually write enough) or use the blog that I set up with blogger to chat with my church friends who mostly blog over there, but never actually use because I can never remember the password.

So, friendslist of mine, if you have any thoughts, please feel free to share them.
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My friend Schuyler reminded me on the phone today that I have some good news to share, in case people were worried: I got all my data back!!!

Yay! I can check books out to the kids again! And I just got a new book order too, so this was great timing.
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This afternoon I had a 7th grade girl, R., come into the library to do research on her science project. R. is a struggling reader, sometimes loud, and occasionally bullies other students. On the other hand, she sometimes shows a genuinely positive focus on her schoolwork. She was having trouble finding a site that would help her choose a topic, and asked for help, but was resistant to the site I suggested. Then I told her that she might want to try looking in one of the many science project idea books we have in the library--she didn't seem to think she could find anything useful by looking in a book. Then I had her go to Dogpile (which I've begun to prefer to Google, for working with this age group), but she was too impatient to sift through the multiple results on the results page. I suggested again that she try a book, and this time she was interested. I showed her the science project idea books, helped her pick a couple, and demonstrated how to use the Table of Contents--she did it!
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