Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for August, 2007

Blast from the Past

Two weeks ago today was the 25th anniversary of the CD – August 17, 1982 (http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/ptech/08/17/cd.anniversary.ap/index.html).

Strangely, I remember first seeing a Walkman cassette player that same year – and it was a pretty hot, new item at the time. The one I listened to had Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” playing. Cassettes were only about 19 years old at the time. Odd to think that the technology that would replace the cassette was already in production at the time.

But CD’s weren’t going to last long as the standard. According to Wikipedia, MP3 became an ISO standard in 1991, only 9 years later. Since it’s been about 16 years, it’s probably reasonable to assume the next next generation technology has already been invented.

The longest lasting technology of the last century? The record album. Early 1900’s to late 1970’s!

Life Lists

Even though my personal life list of things to do before I die has been around since the mid-1980’s, apparently the trend of creating such a list is catching on nation-wide! There was an entire story on NPR’s Talk of the Nation this past Tuesday about life lists and there is even a movie coming out about life lists called “The Bucket List” (things to do before you kick the bucket!) starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

It was interesting to hear people’s opinions in the story (one person called the entire idea of a life list “pathetic and sad”) and to read the blog comments on this story. Some people truly find the idea of a life list appalling, though I really don’t understand why. Perhaps these are the people – and I have known some – what think that if you never have expectations, then you can never be disappointed. But I believe they are also missing out on some of life’s highs trying to avoid the lows.

Some were puzzled by the fact that there are actually professional life coaches to help people accomplish their goals. But really, EVERYONE needs someone to be a cheerleader and support person in his or her life. I am blessed to have a spouse who serves that role for me and saddened for my friends whose spouses treat their dreams as unimportant.

Some people were like me and had been maintaining a list like this for years. Personally, making a life list helped me identify and clarify my heart desires, the things I really wanted to do with my life. Having had an 8 year old sibling die suddenly when I was just 12, I certainly understood sooner than most that life is fleeting. I wanted to be sure to focus in on the activities I truly wanted to accomplish. As I became a parent and my focus shifted away from myself, the list helped to keep me grounded in my own desires so that my personal identify wasn’t subsumed in my children.

In general, I believe goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. (Read more about that here).   In contrast, my life list items are more like dreams than goals: they may or may not be attainable and definitely are NOT bound by realism – the point is to dream and dream big! Many of my items aren’t time bound, either, although some are time-related (like earning enough money for John to retire at age 52).

Do you have a life list? What is the most wild, far out thing on it? Do you believe in your heart that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to? That kind of belief in myself is perhaps one of the greatest gifts given to me by my parents – and one of the greatest gifts I hope to pass on to my children.

An Interesting Morning

Yesterday was the second day of school, and Megan walked.

You see, last year, the girls had some problems getting up and moving in the morning, even though Megan, the 6 year old, goes to bed at 7:00 and Emily, the 8 year old, at 8:00. So this year, I told the kids that whoever missed the bus would have to walk to school. It seemed to impress them – school is, after all, 1.4 miles away! I figured I’d have at least a good week before the “back to school” euphoria ebbed away and the routine feeling started setting in, at which point I’d have to remind them again to get moving.

But on Day 2, Meg decided not to get up and I decided 45 minutes of nagging was enough. So Megan walked and I accompanied her in the car. She ran the first quarter mile without stopping, I got out and personally walked her across every road, and the first part of the journey was uneventful. Just across from the school, however, I got pulled over by a police car!

Although he sympathized with my attempt to teach a lesson, he told me I was a traffic hazard. Plus, the police department had received 10 calls about a van following a child, so I would have to find another solution. Meg got wide eyes when I told her that a policeman asked why she was walking to school instead of riding the bus! I decided to milk it and told her the policeman said she would have to go to jail if she kept missing the bus (yeah – that one will probably come back and bite me, but I was mad!).

Truth be told, even though the depth of her stubbornness amazes me, I was proud that she did actually walk the entire way to school without complaint – and proud of myself for following through and doing what I said I would do. That said, I sure was glad when she got up without incident this morning! We even had enough time to read a book before she set out for the bus stop. Maybe the lesson sunk in after all. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

It Just Doesn’t Make Sense

Two years. It’s been two years since Katrina wiped out New Orleans. The news outlets are searching for nuggets of hope, but the overwhelming news is not good. Major parts of the city still look like they did the day after the disaster. Violent crime happens 10 times more frequently in New Orleans today than in New York City (details here). Over 80% of the allotted federal funds have already been distributed (details here).

New Orleans Councilman-at-Large Arnie Fielkow blames the federal government. He claims that the disaster was caused by “the massive failure of a flood protection system caused by the negligence of our federal government.”

But he’s wrong. Human denial and indifference was the ultimate cause of this disaster.

New Orleans lies, on average, 8 feet below sea level – and it’s sinking at a rate of 3 feet per century (details here). Global warming trends aside, the pumping system of the city itself is increasing the rate of sink. I don’t have the magazine at my fingertips, but a copy of National Geographic magazine I read recently made it pretty clear that it was just a matter of time before a disaster of this magnitude hit New Orleans – and that it WILL happen again.

Yes, it was a unique city with an interesting cultural history. But it makes no sense to try and rebuild it.

Grammar Geek

Yes, I am a Grammar Geek and proud of it! If you’ve read the introduction of Lynne Truss’s book, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves,” you understand and if you’ve read the whole book, you are probably a Grammar Geek, too!

I’m not as into podcast listening as my husband, but the Grammar Girl podcasts have me understandably hooked. I recently added an RSS feed to my personal Protopage for her podcasts, and since they are usually short (3 or 4 minutes), I can listen to them in the kitchen when I am making lunch for the girls. What’s even more fun is that the girls are now starting to ask to hear them! Since Emily tested as gifted in reading on her 2nd grade MAT’s, her interest is not a surprise. But even Megan loves hearing Grammar Girl, and she’s only 6!

If you love grammar, give a listen.

The First Day of School

Well…today is the first day of school in Stow! It wasn’t as hard this year to watch the girls get on the bus as it was last year when my “baby” went to Kindergarten. This year, after 4 weeks of relatively unscheduled summer fun (the first 6 weeks were pretty full of scheduled fun!), we were all looking forward to getting back into a routine.

We have lots of first-day-of-school traditions, including the yearly picture next to the piano (handy for seeing how tall they’re growing through the years!). But my favorite first-day-of-school tradition is one I hope my kids appreciate when they’re older. After I dropped Emily off at 4-year-old preschool for the first time, I went home (tearfully) and wrote her a letter. I recorded my feelings about taking her to school, my hopes for her for the year, and some school-related milestones she had already reached. Each year since, I’ve written a similar letter. Then I go back and read all the letters from previous years as a great reminder of how far she’s come and how much she’s grown! When Meg started school, I started the same tradition for her.

Sometime before Emily tuned one year old, someone suggested writing her a yearly birthday letter. I thought that was a great idea, but I never got around to doing it. After she turned 4 and I still hadn’t gotten around to it, I decided I could start a tradition of writing a letter on the first day of school instead!

I haven’t decided when I will give them the letters. I’ve done them all on the computer except Meg’s 4-year-old preschool letter (which I believe is somewhere in the school memorabilia box). I originally planned to re-write them by hand and compile them in an album to give them, maybe at High School graduation? But now, I can foresee using a personal handwriting font and creating a digital album to give them.

Old School Skills

Alvin Trusty’s daughter’s spanish teacher apparently requires students to look up unfamiliar words in a paper dictionary (see his blog post on the topic here). Alvin says is it ridiculous not to allow students to use an online resource, and I agree wholeheartedly, for the reasons he states in his blog.

However, he also says that, “Students must know how to use a paper-based dictionary properly.” I’m not sure I agree with that statement. If I need to look up a word, I do it online. It’s faster, easier, and probably more accurate, especially if it’s a recent word or term. Kids do need to know how to properly alphabetize items in a list, but that is a broader skill than looking words up in a dictionary.

My children’s elementary school librarian personally believes that that everyone should know the Dewey Decimal classification system. My husband, a library aide in college, thinks that knowing the 10 general classification categories are enough. I think they are both wrong! If I want to know where something is, I’ll do an online search and go right to the item I want.

The reality is that my dictionary, thesaurus, Bartlett’s quotation book, and Strunk and White grammar rules book are all gathering dust upstairs because my web resources are more convenient and up-to-date.

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