Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Unemployment Data: Household Survey

Unemployment figures today at the Organic Baby Farm rose to 50%, as Sonshine couldn't find a job he could do for money. Recently released figures show strong job growth in the high-paying dishwasher-emptying sector, but that's Princess' job. Sonshine tends to take more seasonal jobs such as dusting, but has recently been restricted from dusting after breaking the duster by jumping on it.

Monday, May 30, 2005


Is it just me, or does anyone else think it's ironic that the announcer on the Miss Universe pageant pronounced the contestants' gowns "some of the most astonishing evening gowns known to man... or woman"? I mean, if you're already at a beauty pageant where only women compete, isn't it a little late to be worried about avoiding sexism?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Selling The Van

We're going to have to sell our van to get into a house. My mom, of all people, is upset at me about this. She is of the opinion that I will be unable to live without the van. Believe me, I would love to not have to live without the van. In fact if I had to pick one of our vehicles to get rid of, it would be FH's old car. But unfortunately I don't get to pick. The van is the one that we still owe money on, and we have to get rid of the debt or we won't even qualify for a loan, not to mention being able to afford the higher house payment in Salt Lake City without a cost-of-living pay raise. If we could sell FH's car and pay off the van with that, it would be better; but unfortunately we'd have to sell not only the car but our furniture and my grandmother's piano to pay it off. The only way we can raise that kind of money (other than selling everything else) is to sell the van, which blue-books for slightly more than we owe on it, or to somehow come up with $4000 in a budget already stretched razor-thin. I'm teaching a class this summer for $3200, but we need that money for the down payment. And we have to buy-- we can't afford to rent, because even a thousand-square-foot apartment in gang-land costs double what we're paying here and more than the mortgage on a house in gang-land.

If we could have put this move off for nine months or a year, it would be better, but that would put us moving in the middle of the school year, and I'm really concerned about Sonshine. He's starting Kindergarten and he's so worried about making friends and being able to handle the workload. Having the move on top of that is a lot for him and some days he's overwhelmed. I don't know how much harm it would do to him emotionally and educationally to yank him out of school after a couple of months and put him in a new school. We could do it, and that would put us in a position to keep our van because I could teach in Fall semester as I had planned. But my son is more important to me than a van, so we're moving in August.

It seems like only deus ex machina could save our van now. A second class to teach would enable us to sell the car instead, but there are currently no available classes. A dollar-down VA loan would have the same effect because it would free up the down-payment money. I don't really have any very old and wealthy relatives who might die and leave me something, with the possible exception of my grandpa (but it wouldn't surprise me if he left his entire estate to the Republican Party). Even Summerfest, grand as it is, could not possibly produce enough revenue to save the van. So we're just going to have to do without, no matter how hard it is. But if you have any creative ideas how I might come up with the money, please put them in the comments.

Memorial Day Sales

Sales this Memorial Day at the Gardeners' Market are up 27% from last year. Unfortunately, I still won't be able to get all the merchandise I wanted to get for Summerfest. But that's all right; I just have to figure out what to get with the money I have.

The trouble is, I don't know what to get. The scarves and ponchos haven't been selling well at all. They only sell when they're on sale for 20% off. So I don't think I would have a very good show at Summerfest selling only the scarves and ponchos. The crocheted oven mitt and dishcloth sets sell well, but there's no way in hell I could make enough of those to do Summerfest. So it's gotta be dyed stuff, because that's all I can produce fast enough and cost-effectively enough.

So, what do I get to dye? T-shirts? hats? different scarves? baby onesies? more baby blankets? The onesies seem to be popular. What else might be popular? I have no idea.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Today's Gripe

Here's my picky little gripe for the day. Every night I watch the weather report on the news, and they give the day's temperatures for a list of cities in Utah. What I don't get is why they have a separate list item for each little community in the Salt Lake City area. Is West Jordan so far from South Jordan that its weather is actually different???

Viagra and Blindness

OK, I'm sure we've all heard by now that Viagra has been associated with blindness in some men, and we've all heard the jokes. But what I want to know is why nobody's noticed that there is one Viagra-related activity that men could engage in that is reputed to make one blind. Maybe it's all those commercials showing a man and a woman together that have made us ignore the possibility that some of these men were, ahem, flying solo?

I'm just sayin'...

No Time To Blog

Last year Memorial Day weekend was one of our biggest sales days at the Gardeners' Market, so I've spent all week preparing extra merchandise. Also, the last of the "laundry bulge" created by cleaning out the Augean Stables kids' room is just now going through the washer. I had to re-round up the dirty sheets, which they had claimed to make tents with, and the dirty pillows, one of which Princess attempted to take to a sleepover even though it still had blood stains from her nosebleed on it.

And of course there are the arrangements for the move. We're still in negotiations with the loan officer, but it looks like we might be able to get into a house, albeit a very very modest one. The bad side of that is that it looks like there's a rather large error on our credit report-- an extra $16,000 in debt that isn't ours is showing up there. The loan officer is sending us a copy of the report and we'll of course have to dispute it.

But I think I've had a productive week. I made a list of things I wanted to get done this week, and I've pretty much got them done. I did the front disc brakes on my van. I made some new ponchos with the new yarn, even if I didn't get but one plus-size one done. And although I haven't gotten to washing down the bathroom walls, I have done most of the laundry that was on my list.

Sonshine's World

"Mom, can you make me a pair of rocket boots?"

"No, sweetie, I don't know how to make rocket boots."

"Well, all you have to do is put some candles in the bottom to make fire come out the bottom, and then the fire makes the boots go up and FLY!!! And those engines are on the boots and they're JUST LIKE ROCKETS!!! Like on airplanes!"

"No, sweetie, you can't make rocket boots like that."

"How do you make rocket boots?"

"I don't know, sweetie."

"Well I know how to make rocket boots! I could tell you and you could make them."

"If you already know how to make rocket boots, why don't you make them yourself?"

"Can't you make them for me, Mom?"

"No, sweetie, I can't make rocket boots. I don't know enough science to make rocket boots. But I do know that candles won't make them fly."

"Why not?"

"Because it's not enough to just have fire coming out the bottom. It has to make thrust."

"Well, I want a pair of rocket boots."

"Good for you. But I can't help you with them."

Isn't the world a great place when you're five?

Sunday, May 22, 2005


I just spent the afternoon cross-referencing school reports with MLS listings on Realtor.com that match our criteria for a home. We are so spoiled here in Cache Valley. For all its failings, Cache District is actually a very good district, especially in contrast with Granite district and, even worse, Salt Lake district. I'm looking at some of these UPASS results and I'm just shocked. Some of these schools have fewer than half of their students in every subject demonstrating mastery. One has to wonder what they do there all day long, because they're obviously not educating the majority of their students. Even at my mom's elementary school (which is being run into the ground from mismanagement), they can break the 50% mark on the UPASS! I realize that there are many factors that play into UPASS scores (some of which I commented on below in the post about the charter school's UPASS scores) but even the charter school wasn't that low. If a bunch of inexperienced people with low morale who don't know what they're doing can do that much better than an established school district, something is rotten in Denmark.

I'm compiling a list of halfway-decent schools in areas with cheap houses. It's a rather short list, I'm afraid. I did find one house that I'd really like to take a look at; it has a workshop, garage, covered parking, and pretty much everything else we'd like in a home. But with my luck, it'll be really crappy and out of our price range (it's at the high end of our estimated price range; we don't have financing yet), or it'll be really nice but someone will have bought it by the time we can get down there.

If we can't find a home we can afford near a school that we like, I guess we could always homeschool. It's not an option I'd look forward to, but I'd sure like it better than sending my kids to a school whose idea of education is making sure a whopping 30% of their students master their math and language arts.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Craft Fair In Preston

Yesterday was the first day of a two-day craft fair in Preston, Idaho. (Even though Idaho doesn't really exist, there nevertheless was a craft fair there.) I had been planning on going both days, but my husband's company had their relocation open house that day, so we drove down to Salt Lake instead. That's too bad, because of the two days, the Saturday would have been the most lucrative.

Preston is a very small town. Logan is the Big City by comparison, the kind of place where teenagers drive to go out on a really special date and where matrons drive for a day's shopping. The senior center where the fair was consisted of a small, plain building with a kitchen, office, restrooms, and a small meeting room. I was anxious about doing a show in such a small town, since people who live in towns like that tend to make their own crafts rather than buy ones made by others, and I expected attendance to be low. But despite the low attendance, I still made decent sales. Half the people in Logan have seen my work, but none of these people had. Many of them were impressed with the creativity of design and quality of workmanship, and knowing that they probably would not have the chance to see it again, bought.

The organizer of the craft fair was a genial, bewhiskered old man named Carl. As it turned out, most of the other vendors were related to him in one way or another. He was very kind to me, and understanding when I explained to him that I couldn't be there on Saturday. When business was slow, I sat and talked to him, or rather, listened to him tell stories about his life. He told me all about a place called Quartzite, Arizona where people come once a year for a gem and mineral show, and told an interesting story about how difficult it is to get a post office box there. He told me about how he quit his job as a furniture builder to prospect, buy, and sell gems and minerals. He told me about his work as a forest ranger and how he met his wife. This guy has had an amazing life, just chock-full of exploring and discovery.

I made a lot of trades with the other vendors-- I think I traded with all but a couple of them. I got some knives, some massage oil and ointment, a sparkly bracelet and a decorative hanging shelf.

A couple of notes about what sold: the china silk scarves did not do very well. In fact they've not sold well at all, although they are great trade goods because everybody wants to trade for them and the materials cost me so little that I can make some truly excellent trades. (I hope they sell well at Summerfest.) The price points on the ponchos need to be lower, I think, maybe $30 instead of $40. And I discovered that people are willing to pay a premium to have turtle scrubbers in their oven mitt and dishcloth sets, instead of rectangular scrubbers. This is a good thing since the turtle scrubbers take less time to make and can be worked on in phases and easily popped into my purse and worked on while waiting, while the rectangular scrubbers have to be done while sitting still so as not to entangle the two yarns. Mim's felted bags are a big, big hit and are fought over by teenagers. I guess that means they're pretty cool. The other big seller was onesies at $7 each. I only had size small because I wanted to see how they did before investing in a variety of sizes, but I've had so many requests for larger sizes that I think I ought to stock them. I also got the idea to dye camouflage onesies for the little boys. I think I'll do a couple and see how they sell.

People love the oven mitts and dishcloths, but unfortunately I cannot make them in large enough quantities to be profitable. That's why I wanted to get away from them and make more ponchos and scarves. But if the ponchos and scarves aren't going to sell that well, I'll have to think of something else. I think baby things might sell well, not only the onesies but also little gift sets, like a onesie and bib or onesie and hat or onesie and blanket (or hat and blanket, or...) I've already bought some flannel to make some blankets; all I have to do is hem them with the cotton thread and pre-shrink them, and they'll be ready to dye. I have some ideas for cute tying designs for the blankets and matching onesies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


According to Daniel Pipes, the Saudis have their finger on the trigger of something that could be just as bad as a nuclear weapon, if not worse. It explains a lot of our foreign policy toward them.

Stuff like this is why I like to live close enough to walk to places like work and school.

Link via Michael Williams.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

New Blog for Relocation

Relocation posts are taking over my blog, so I created a new blog just for the Spillman relocation information. Over the next couple of days I'll be cross-posting all the relocation posts to the new blog.

Relocation: Private Schools

FH sends this link to a listing of public school districts and, more to the point, private schools in the Salt Lake area (for those who want to send their kids to private schools). For us, private school will probably not be an affordable option, but I thought I'd post it anyway.

Relocation: Crime Statistics

FH sends this link to check out crime statistics in your prospective neighborhood.

Today's Reading

An excellent, if lengthy, article on the role of fantasy ideology in terrorism. Must read!

Link via a comment on Q and O.

Monday, May 16, 2005

SLC School Info

Favorite Husband has some friends at work who, of course, will also be relocating to Salt Lake City along with us. As a service to everyone, I've offered to post the information I collect on my blog so that we don't all have to do duplicate research on schools. So here's what I have so far:

There are four school districts in Salt Lake county (map): Granite, Salt Lake, Murray, and Jordan. Granite and Jordan are geographically the largest. In the larger metro area, there are Tooele district to the west, Alpine district to the south, and Davis to the north. Some people may be interested in commuting far enough to live in those districts; we're not, so if you research any of those three districts, if you send the info to me I will post it. Otherwise there will be no information on those districts here. Also, my focus is on elementary school education, because that's where my kids are. If you would like me to post info you've collected on middle school or high school, you can send it to me too, but otherwise there will be none.

Granite district is the one we're always hearing about on the news that has problems. It is the district that serves West Valley City, which we've been assured is a gang stronghold. While it's probably not as bad as the Los Angeles-area environment in which FH grew up, we'd still prefer to live somewhere else. It's bad enough we're going to have to live where we must lock our car doors outside of zucchini season; let's not go live in the very worst part of town too.

Granite and Salt Lake districts don't have any elementary-level charter schools (except for the charter school for the deaf). They do, however, have charter high schools, so if you have high school students you might want to look into those. Granite has schools starting at grade 7, and Salt Lake at grade 5. Murray district has none at all. You can find a directory of charter schools here.

That pretty much leaves Jordan district, which covers (among other places) Sandy, Midvale, Riverton, West Jordan, South Jordan, and it looks like parts of Draper and Salt Lake City as well. Jordan has four elementary-level charters. American Preparatory Academy has two campuses, one in Draper and a brand spanking new one in West Jordan. I e-mailed the West campus and they told me their waiting list was over a thousand students long. North Star Academy in Riverton also has an extra-long waiting list. And I haven't yet e-mailed Summit Academy, but I suspect I'll get the same results. All four of these are using Core Knowledge and Saxon Math, like Thomas Edison Charter School does. If you're wanting to get your child into a charter school, you can pretty much forget it.

However, Jordan district also has school choice, which means that you can (with certain restrictions) put your child in a school other than your neighborhood school if you want; details here. School choice does allow for some limited school-shopping, but more importantly it puts "economic" pressure on all the schools to be the best they can be, making all the schools better than they would be otherwise. (I use quotes around "economic" because it's not so much about financial pressure as it is about how people use the limited school resources they have, which ultimately is what economics is all about.)

Another thing to consider about Jordan district is that some of its schools are on year-round schedules. If you're house-hunting in Jordan district, you might want to look into whether the local school is on the traditional or year-round schedule. This list gives contact information and tells whether a school is year-round or not. Year-round scheduling is sometimes done to alleviate overcrowding (since only 3/4 of the students are in session at any given time), but it may also be done due to parent demand for year-round child care.

So we are going house-hunting pretty much only in Jordan district. I'm sending for their information packet; you can do the same here.


Suppose, then, that you find a house you like but you want to know what the school is like. Then you want to go here and look up that school's report card. (All schools, not just elementary schools or Jordan district, are featured here.) There you can find information about each school, such as how large it is and what the average education level of teachers there is. You can also find test scores broken down by grade level and subject and by gender, socioeconomic status and disability status. You'll want to compare them to the district scores which are also on the report card right next to the school's scores. A school that regularly scores above the district average is one of the better schools in the district. However, you should also consider how good the district is also-- the worst school in a good district could be better than the best school in a bad district, so being "below average" is not necessarily a bad thing.

I'll post more when I get the chance, but I am so far behind on my laundry that I fear I may never get out...

UPDATE: Favorite Husband sends me this link to another charter school, Wasatch Peak Academy in North Salt Lake. This is in Davis district. In looking to find out more about it, I came across this map which shows not only the districts, but lists the charter schools in each district.

How Not To Respond To Spam

Favorite Husband has been inundated with spam lately. Apparently he's not the only one. Unfortunately, he's decided that the best way to deal with the spam is to individually contact each and every postmaster at all the addresses that are being spoofed and alert them to the situation, especially when he gets phishing e-mails and Nigerian scams. Unfortunately, he doesn't listen to me when I tell him this will do no good and only takes his time away from more important things, like his family, fixing the car, and helping around the house. Not only that, but he's actually clicking on the links to see what comes up. Occasionally he's found one that will lock up our computer. I think he's playing with fire there.

So please, if you get spam, don't do what Favorite Husband does. And if I quit posting for more than a few days at a time, it's probably because FH has had to wipe the hard drive and reinstall everything.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

It Isn't All Bad

One of the bad things about moving to Salt Lake City is that I would have to leave my job at the University. I suppose I could always seek a job at Salt Lake Community College, but it would take me a while before I can get that ball rolling. I wouldn't, for example, be able to handle coordinating the move AND applying for a Fall Semester job. My family needs money, though, whether or not I can teach math. So all I've got is the craft business.

An advantage of being in SLC, though, would be my newfound proximity to many, many more craft shows with many, many more attendees with much, much more money than were ever available to me in Logan. I could, for example, do a show in Park City. It's too far of a drive for me to do from Logan, with the baby and all, but it would not be too far from Salt Lake City.

And then there's the genealogy. If I ever do find the time to take up my hobby of researching my family history, my job will be made so much easier by the ready availability of microfilms at the main library next to Temple Square. If I need one microfilm to look up one record, I won't have to weigh the benefit of renting that film against the opportunity cost of not being able to spend that money on another, more productive microfilm that would contain many more records. This is exactly what I need to work on the Furtado/Simas line, because that family moved around a lot. Living up here, I found it cost-effective to hire a genealogist to find one marriage record because they were married in a large city with four parishes, and I didn't know which parish. It was actually cheaper to hire the guy and give him the narrow date range to search, than it was to rent all four microfilms of marriage records and search for them myself. But living down in SLC, I could just go to the library, pull all four off the shelf, and go through them one by one.

Of course, this presupposes that I'll have some kind of time to myself to do all this wonderful stuff... More than likely I'll be busy doing all the packing, all the unpacking, all the cleaning of the old house, all the fixing in the new one, etc. etc. etc.

Friday, May 13, 2005

On The Nightstand

This week on the nightstand is Sapphira And The Slave Girl by Willa Cather. I don't usually read fiction, but I really wanted a break from educating myself. I wasn't in the mood to wade through a gritty, sexy, cussy modern novel, so I got one from a bygone era.

It's easy to see why Sapphira isn't a well-known or widely read book. Set in antebellum Virginia, it's full of local and period color, in every sense. It's funny how in our "modern" era we think nothing of finding the f-bomb in a novel, but the n-word is enough to make us want to put a book down. And there's more plot in a soap opera than in this book.

I do like Willa Cather's characters, though, which is why I chose the book. She paints their portraits with incomparable subtlety; not one is ever a caricature. Cather does for characters what Georgia O'Keeffe does for flowers: an intimate look, without movement or action.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

We're Moving

We just got word that my Favorite Husband's company will be relocating to Salt Lake City, so we will be moving.

We're thinking about moving in August, right before the start of school. We don't have to move until November, but I'd hate to pull the kids out of school mid-year and stick them into another school, especially Sonshine who will be starting Kindergarten. I'm looking into charter schools in the area. There's one just opening up a second campus in West Jordan that seems a lot like TECS, so I wrote to them to see if they have spaces for the kids for the fall. I'd hate to find a nice house and take a gamble on its local public school being able to meet Princess' and Sonshine's educational needs.

I'm not too happy about this move. I really like Cache Valley. Everything is so close, and it's a small-town atmosphere. I don't really want to live in a city. I don't want to have to worry about whether a neighborhood is a good neighborhood. I don't want to pay fares when I get on the bus. I don't want to have to drive everywhere I go. I want to live within walking distance of the school and FH's job and the grocery store.

UPDATE: FH had first told me the move would be in a year from now, but then he told me that we would have until November. After that he told me it would be a year from now again. So he's going to go back to work and find out which it is. We may not be moving until around the first of the year; I don't know. But I definitely want to move at a natural break in the kids' education.

More on Charter School Test Scores

In a previous post I commented on Cache District's recent release of Thomas Edison Charter School's CRT test results in negative comparison to their own scores. I thought I might ask a few people what they thought of it to see if they would confirm my impressions of it and maybe add a little bit of information. So I asked a few teachers and Mr. Budge, the principal, about the scores.

Basically, they confirmed what I'd previously written, and had a few things to add. One teacher commented that one of the first grade teachers misunderstood the purpose of the tests and allowed her class to not finish. This teacher also commented that the charter school tends to attract more of the sort of "free thinkers" that would bubble in a picture on a standardized test's answer sheet.

Another teacher thought Cache District's release of the scores in this way was deliberate and that by doing so Cache had "picked a fight they can't win," and put a good portion of the responsibility for the scores on factors that caused the teacher turnover which I had noted before.

Mr. Budge added that our first year scores were actually better than our second year scores. He also released (via the Edison Express newsletter) the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) results. These are given to 3rd and 5th graders in October, so these scores are from October 2004, our third year in operation. According to these scores, in all subjects we are at least five percentiles over Cache district-- in most areas, at least 10 percentiles over.

Mr. Budge commented in the Edison Express:
Many of you are aware of the comparison data recently pointed out by the Cache County School District, showing U-PASS results for the Spring of 2004. This type of information is also available for all schools and districts at the usoe.org website. Most school people know that it takes at least three years for new charter schools to stabilize and produce intended academic results. We are already seeing the results of the stabilization in this, our third year... We expect that the results of the 2005 U-PASS tests will be in line with the [ITBS score data].
In addition, I am now beginning to question the accuracy of Cache District's data. I took Mr. Budge's suggestion and went to the USOE website, where I found our 2004 U-PASS data. I did some quick spot checks, and Cache's numbers don't match USOE's numbers. For example, according to the results released by Cache, 77.2% of first graders at TECS met either the Substantial or Sufficient levels of mastery in Language Arts. According to USOE's data, this number is 81%. I spot-checked their 3rd grade Language Arts data for TECS and for Greenville Elementary (which I chose because it is just a couple of blocks away from TECS) and it checks out with USOE's. But if some of their data doesn't agree, one has to wonder where they got it from and how much of it is accurate. If I didn't have a house to clean and a family to manage and a business to run and pizza dough to make, I would check the data more thoroughly.

At any rate, whether Cache is picking a fight or not, I don't think they can win either. The fact that TECS is opening a south campus next year speaks for itself. Clearly, demand for the charter school model is so high that people will put their kids on a waiting list a mile long to get them into one. Having higher test scores is a very viscerally satisfying slap in the districts' faces; but ultimately, as Mr. Budge pointed out, this isn't about competition, this is about serving the needs of children and parents. I'll leave you with a quote from this wise, diplomatic man from his recent interview with the Herald-Journal:
...the money follows the child. If a local district might have received that child and that child goes somewhere else and the money follows the child, they might perceive that as competition. I don't think that we look at it so much as competitive. It really depends on your point of view. We are simply trying to honor the wishes of those that desire this type of school option...
Because we are customer oriented, we don't have a mission to secure a certain percentage of the educational population. It's the customers that determine how far our existence continues. In my sense, because my main focus is the operation of the academic program, we want to accommodate as many parents as need our services.

Difficult Day, Part 1 of 2

Yesterday was a really difficult day. It started off with Favorite Husband's car battery going up in smoke right as he was trying to leave for work. I got the kids herded into the van and we got him to work on time, then dropped Princess at the bus stop. Then I went home and got dressed. Thankfully I'd fallen asleep in my clothes the other night, so I was wearing non-pajamas.

FH required lunch to be brought to him at 11, which from my point of view was the worst possible time-- right in the middle of the baby's morning nap, too early to do Storytime at the library back-to-back with lunch. Noon would have been better, but he had an appointment at noon (which, naturally, was cancelled, but he didn't tell me that until I actually got there with the picnic basket, huffing and puffing, at 11:05). Of course, I had to bring the children with me. I don't think FH had thought much about the logistics of feeding a 10-month-old in an office lunchroom, or he wouldn't have asked us to eat lunch with him at the office. Sonshine ate his sandwich and then ran in circles around all the tables in the room.

We went back home for maybe half an hour after the lunch with Daddy, and then on to Storytime at the library. After that we did some shopping. We went to Sam's Club to get a second 4'x2' table for my booth. When we got there, my jaw just dropped, because they now had a folding 4'x2' table. For months I had been shopping for tables. I'd been to every store in town, pricing their folding tables, watching to see if they ever went on sale. I found plenty of 4'x2' tables, but the cheaper ones didn't have adjustable height. I found plenty of folding tables, but they were all 6' tables and most were too heavy for me to carry. But I could find no table that had each and every one of the features I wanted (small size, adjustable height, light weight, and folding capacity)... until today, after I'd already bought the first table and used it, and the folding table was a few bucks cheaper to boot! The cashier at Sam's Club said she thought I could still bring the first table back and exchange it. I think I'll do that. I really want two folding tables.

While in the line at Sam's Club, Sonshine was just a little ball of energy. Squealing with excitement, he ran in circles around the checkstand. Every time around, he'd stop to tell me how exciting it was that we were standing next to a display of patriotic paper plates. Once he stopped long enough to ask me what the word "choke" meant. I don't have any idea where that came from (but at that particular moment I would have loved to give him an object lesson in it a la Bart Simpson). I answered him that it meant to squeeze somebody's neck until they couldn't breathe, and choking was why we didn't allow him to play "doggy" or "horsey" with a rope around the neck. Then the lady behind me pipes up "Yeah, except in Abu Ghraib!!" I just gave her one of those "eh-heh" smiles and ignored her, but when I continued talking to Sonshine about safe play techniques she interjected with yet another mention of Abu Ghraib. I don't know why this lady was trying to start up a conversation with me about Abu Ghraib, except that maybe the patriotic paper plates set her off or something. I was so glad when it was our turn to check out. At least we didn't leave with her following us shrieking "Abu Ghraib! Abu Ghraib!"

After Sam's Club we had a little time to kill-- not enough to justify going back home, since we were already halfway to our next destination. So I decided I'd do what I'd been dreaming about for a while, and walk into Pier 1 Imports to get some ideas. I soon discovered, though, that with Sonshine this was more like a nightmare. The very first thing he did upon entering the store was to pick up something made of glass with only two fingers, and wave it around frantically. We didn't spend long in there. I took him to Ross instead, figuring that he wouldn't be able to break clothing. He wanted to go into Best Buy, but I just shuddered as I pictured him knocking over a 52" TV into a display of DVD players.

After that it was up to the school to take care of some business while Princess did her homework. Business taken care of, homework finished early. Sonshine was to meet his Aunt L---- to get a ride to his rehearsal, which started at the same time as Princess' Girl Scout Meeting. All that went well and ahead of schedule. Princess got to her meeting. I would have just skipped the meeting this week, but we were scheduled to bring treats. There have been way too many sugary treats given out at those meetings, and I figured I'd set a good example by bringing cherry tomatoes for the treat instead. The oranges I brought last time were a big hit.

From the Girl Scout Meeting in North Logan it was over to the rehearsal on the USU campus. After the rehearsal it was down to the southernmost part of Logan to pick up FH from work, then back up to North Logan to get Princess. Thankfully, FH had just that very day received a gift card to a restaurant for a bonus, saving me from having to cook dinner after all this craziness. Unfortunately, the gift card was to Panda Express.

Longtime followers of the Wacky Hermit Saga know that I absolutely hate Panda Express. It's not the food; it's the service. They have a very different system for selecting your food than any other restaurant I've ever seen; you have to get in line and you pretty much have to know how it's done before you actually do it, or you'll miss something and the employee serving you will roll her eyes. When the Panda Express opened in Logan, I went there with my little coupon from the paper to get my family some dinner. Fortunately FH had been to Panda Express before and showed me how to navigate it. The cashier didn't enter in the coupon I'd given her. When I pointed this out to her, she told me that the coupon was only good on the family meal deal. When I pointed out to her the fine print that said "or $20 purchase", she pretended to enter it in and then gave me the total. When I pointed out to her that I could tell she had just pretended to enter it in, she rolled her eyes at me. After that, I vowed I'd never again eat at Panda Express, especially since a couple of blocks down the street is a locally-owned place where not only can you get cheap Chinese food but you can get it delivered too. But I broke that vow last night, because I was so desperate to not have to cook.

And, in typical Panda Express fashion, the dinner was crappy, but at least I didn't have to cook it. I had the Gristly Chicken Bits In Nondescript Sauce. We wanted to buy four egg rolls, but they only had one left, so they gave us that one and brought us out three more when they were done. I was skeptical that they would actually bring us the three egg rolls without a fight, but I was pleasantly surprised when, just as FH was getting up to see if we would ever get them, they were brought to our table.

Then it was home again for baths for the kids. I skipped Bagel's bath because he was so exhausted. He hadn't napped more than half an hour all day long, poor thing, and so I just changed him and put him to bed. I figured I can bathe him any time of day.

Today should be a bit less hectic, but since Sonshine's got his concert in the evening, Princess has her violin lesson in the morning, and FH's car battery hasn't fixed itself overnight, today may prove to be just as challenging as yesterday. But there's a bright spot in all this: FH actually cleaned the kitchen floor-- washed it with a bucket and mop and everything-- after I'd collapsed exhausted on the bed. In all our nearly 12 years of marriage, I can't recall my husband ever doing any such thing. He will occasionally do a load of laundry if I sort if first and put it away afterwards, but scrubbing? FH has never been known to scrub anything that wasn't a part of his own body in the last 12 years; but in just the past two weeks, since he got that new smoker grill and had to scrub the grease off it, I've caught him scrubbing the tub and now the kitchen floor. I hope he enjoys scrubbing and continues to do it, because heaven knows there's a ton of stuff around this house that could use a bit of scrubbing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


I'm doing some test runs with my new acid dye, Vermilion. I'm beginning to be skeptical of my ability to get crimson and gold on a silk/rayon velvet scarf, at least the way I've been doing it. I'm thinking I will have to get the Alter Ego dyes to do it, because I will need the BACKGROUND to be gold and the pile to be crimson. I've been trying to do it the other way around (gold pile, crimson background) but because the background color shows through the pile, I will have to make the pile be the color that can absorb the background color without discoloring. When I get the background to be crimson and the pile gold, the pile actually looks orange because the gold is blending with the crimson there. And orange is not a Logan High School color. But because the fiber reactive dyes overdye both pile and background, the only way it can be done with an acid/fiber reactive combination is to make the pile gold and the background crimson. So I'll have to go to a different type of dye combination, which is where the Alter Ego comes in. Alter Ego dyes are fabulously expensive and come in a minimal selection of colors, but I should be able to mix the colors I need.

Anyway, I came up with a clever way to get around the fact that my scale isn't capable of measuring the fractions of a gram of dye that I need. Rather than buy a new scale with smaller increments, I took a leaf from the Mayans' book. The Maya were terrific astronomers and were able to calculate astronomical values (such as the lengths of planetary cycles) with several-decimal-place precision, despite the fact that their number system couldn't handle fractions. They did it by expressing things as ratios-- x cycles of Venus takes y number of days-- in effect using rational numbers, without having a notation to do arithmetic with them. So I measured out dye powder until I got one gram (it turned out to take a teaspoon of dye) and then I used the appropriate proportion of it (in this case, half a teaspoon since I needed half a gram of dye). I am so smart! S-M-R-T!! No more 10% dyebaths for me, now I can do 1% dyebaths!

Oh, and just for future reference, the Jacquard brand Vermilion does produce the Logan High crimson.

Mileage Tax: A Half Baked Idea

Dale Franks at Q and O sneers at Oregon's half-baked, environmentalist-endorsed [redundancy alert] idea for making road taxes more "fair" by putting GPS receivers in every vehicle in order to tax vehicles by mileage. I consider myself an environmentalist, and I think this plan is crap. (Nevertheless, I am not insulted by Dale's painting environmentalists with that broad brush, because many of my fellow environmentalists sadly fit the stereotype.)

When I read the words "mileage tax" I thought they might just ask for an odometer reading on the annual state inspection and base the mileage on that. That would make at least some sense-- it would be easy to collect the information, and it would not require the invention of an entirely new bureaucratic division. Those who would propose that mileage measurements be done with GPS receivers are not environmentalists, they're socialists.

However, a mileage-based tax would have a lot of implementation problems even without fancy GPS receivers and intrusions into privacy. For one thing, how do you account for miles driven by tourists who drive in with their non-Oregon-registered cars? If tourists don't have to pay taxes for road maintenance, more of them may come to visit, compounding the problem. I'd venture a guess that the number of miles driven by tourists is a lot more than the number of untaxed hybrid-car miles. Even assuming the GPS receivers are a good idea, the problem of tourists' road usage makes Oregon residents' mileage a worse proxy for road usage than gallons of gasoline consumed.

States have been using gallons of gasoline purchased as a proxy for number of miles driven in order to make taxes for road usage correspond to actual road usage. The invention of hybrid cars is throwing a kink in this. But I don't think it's enough of a kink to justify kinking it up worse in some other spot.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Charter School Scores

The scores from last year's testing are in, comparing the charter school to the surrounding Cache District. And it doesn't look good for the charter school. In just about every subject at just about every grade level, the district looks much better. However, there are certain factors that have to be taken into consideration:
  1. These scores are from the charter school's second year of operation. Cache district has been operating for a lot more than two years.
  2. During this year, the curriculum committee was in the process of deciding on core standards, so these scores do not reflect what the charter school can do given a uniform set of standards.
  3. Besides not having any standards, the charter school did not have a consistent curriculum either (they do now, though, thanks to my efforts and those of the other curriculum committee members). Many of the classes were using outdated textbooks. My sixth-grade math class didn't have any textbooks at all.
  4. Many of the students at the charter school came here because traditional public schools were failing to educate them, so they had a lot of catching up to do. In particular the third grade class last year was so far behind coming into the beginning of the school year that the teacher was hard-pressed to even get them up to grade level. In a related point, students in the Cache district have likely been in that district all their educational lives, but students at the charter school would have been there a maximum of two years, and few of them would have been there for all that time. This is particularly applicable to higher grades, where students may have languished for years before entering the charter school.
  5. Quality of teaching has been an issue. In particular the parent board has been hiring younger and less experienced teachers, believing that these will adapt to the charter school ethos better than teachers who have been seasoned in the traditional public school system. I happen to disagree with the parent board on that issue, but (a) I may be biased because my mom is a seasoned teacher who's been passed over twice now by the parent board, and (b) I don't have the time right now to get on the parent board and do something about it. At any rate, we've had a lot of turnover in the faculty. Younger teachers tend to do crazy things like get married and move away, and they also don't have the experience necessary to teach in an environment where you have to make your own way without being guided by a scripted curriculum.
  6. Cache district may not be the best population to compare to the charter school population. Not all the charter school students come from Cache district; many of them (maybe half) come from Logan district. In relation to point 4 above, Cache schools may have been doing a better job than Logan schools, and the students at the charter school were still catching up from being in Logan schools for x number of years. I couldn't find the Logan district scores on their website so I can't say this with confidence, but this is a possibility that should be considered. Logan district schools have had some problems with teacher hiring, with anecdotal evidence of racial prejudice and preference toward young teachers with high turnover.
All in all, I don't think we should take this one year of scores as representative of what the charter school can do. This year has been much better organized than last year. Some changes are being made that will make the parent board operate more smoothly. The school now has up-to-date textbooks and a curriculum that is unified across grade levels. Personally, I'd wait to see the next two years' worth of numbers before jumping to conclusions about whether the charter school model can work.

Statistics aside, though, there are a lot of less quantifiable factors besides academic excellence that would impel parents to choose the charter school for their kids. For one thing, bullying is not tolerated there. One mother I know put her daughter in the charter school because the daughter was being tied up with jump ropes on the playground of her local public school. The principal's response to this was "The next time you get tied up, come and tell me immediately," as if a girl who was tied up on the playground could march right into the office. The playground aides were chatting instead of watching; and if the aides didn't see it, the principal wouldn't take action on it. The girl hasn't been tied up once at the charter school. Another factor is the high level of participation from parents. Parents at traditional public schools are often told to butt out and parents of prospective students are not allowed to visit classrooms. At the charter school, parents are encouraged to participate and prospective parents can tour active classrooms.

The biggest intangible factor for me, though, is how the school approaches education. In the traditional public schools, Princess was just another faceless cipher. She was to learn what all other ciphers her age were to learn. If she needed more help or more books to read, no one would give her more; if she went too fast, she would be held back until the others caught up with her. I didn't think it was a good idea to put her, or any child of mine, in an environment that treated them like that. The charter school has been very different. Because the teachers are free from the bureaucratic pecadilloes of a school district, they have the time and energy to actually see to it that each child gets some attention. If a child needs more attention than they can give, they have the ability to call in whatever they need to get the child educated. Teachers in a district school don't have that flexibility, and in addition are subjected to onerous requirements for paperwork reporting their results.

So take these test scores with a grain of salt. While test scores are important, not everything can be measured by test scores. And one set of scores is hardly a trend. Still, I'll be speaking to the principal about the scores to get his opinion, and I'll ask him if I can report what he says about it on this blog.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Patriotic Thought For The Day

There's nothing on the face of this earth so craptastic that it can't be fixed with duct tape, epoxy, and/or good ol' American ingenuity.

Adventures in Metal

At the end of last year, I spent some of the proceeds from the Winter Gift Market on a 10x10 canopy. Since I had a whole list of other things I needed to buy, I got a cheap canopy on eBay instead of an EZ-UP brand. The cheap one was less than even a used EZ-UP, and I figured, "who cares as long as it's 10x10 and does the job?" A lot of crafters have EZ-UP brand canopies, but a lot have other brands too.

Well, now I'm wishing I got that used EZ-UP instead of the new cheap one, because I'm having to repair it.

I've only put it up a few times, to test it out and to try out various display ideas to see how they would fit. The last time I put it away before the Gardeners' Market, I noticed that some of the metal struts were bending at the joints. I made a note to myself to pick up some metal bars next time I was at Home Depot so I could reinforce them and keep them from bending.

Saturday came, and we spent the entire morning under the canopy. I had to put it away wet (there was no other possible state it could be in, given the weather) so when I got it home, I immediately set it up again. I figured it would be better to put it out wet in the rain than to let it molder in its zip case; after all, it couldn't get any wetter than it already was, but it sure could get a lot smellier. And when I went to set it up, two of the struts that had been bending actually broke.

As it happened I had picked up a metal bar the last time I was at Home Depot, so I immediately cut it into four pieces and duct-taped it to the struts to rejoin the pieces. However, when I was deciding where to put the other two pieces I'd cut, I noticed that ALL of the joints were starting to bend. Part of this, I'm sure, was due to the extra strain they were under while the canopy was collapsing when the two struts broke. So I went back to Home Depot and got more metal bars. I am actually one bar short of being able to reinforce every joint; I will have to wait until they get some more bars in.

So here I am, chewing away at these metal bars with a rusty old hacksaw. Suddenly it occurred to me that we have never changed the hacksaw blade and it is probably extremely dull, making my task more difficult and time-consuming. So I went to find hacksaw blades, knowing we have several open packages of them laying around the house. Unfortunately, they were all a couple of inches longer than my hacksaw blade, so I resigned myself to sawing with the dull blade. As I picked up my rusty hacksaw, though, I noticed that the length of the saw was adjustable. So I adjusted the saw and put on the longer blade, and the metal is sawing much easier now.

I still have two more bars to cut up (plus the one I have yet to buy), and I'm giving my wrists a break. But as soon as I can, I'll finish reinforcing the joints, wash the bird crap off the top of the canopy, let it dry out, and put it back. Hopefully all this will transpire before it starts to rain again this afternoon.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Gardeners' Market Opening

The Gardeners' Market opened for the season today. We had a rather good first day, especially considering that it was raining. We grossed $138, $45 of which was Mim's, so we've already made back our $84 booth fee for the entire 5-month season. Mim had a bunch of felted bags, but could not put out her books because I didn't get a chance to waterproof the canopy. (By the time I'd thought of waterproofing the canopy, we were at the beginning of a week of rain.) Fortunately I had thought to leave a roll of plastic in the van for emergencies, so we put the plastic around the outside of the canopy like sidewalls, using shower curtain hooks to hang it from the frame. It kept the rain from blowing in, and made our booth warmer and more hospitable than many of the surrounding booths, so people would come in for shelter from the rain. It worked out so well that I think I will make a roll of plastic part of our permanent kit. Note to self: get a 30 foot roll for a 10x10 canopy, not a 25 foot roll.

I still do need to waterproof the canopy. Most of the water rolled off it, but we did get a fine mist settling down on us through the tiny holes in the fabric. First, though, I need to dry it out. Water was pouring out of it when we put it in the van, so that we had to put a plastic sack on the end of it to keep it from pouring onto the rest of the stuff. I will also want to laminate my signs; we couldn't put any out because of the mist.

I was able to get a new table, so we had the new table and the old, warped card table. Next week we will have another new table instead of the card table, which is nice because the new tables fit perfectly flat in the van, so I can stack boxes of merchandise on top of them. The new tables also have adjustable height.

All in all, it worked out well. I sold some of everything, even a poncho! I didn't sell many scarves, though, but that was probably due to the fact that they were "displayed" folded in their plastic sleeves and stacked on top of one another in a basket in the far corner of the booth, next to my fighting kids. Next week should be better for scarves. I'll be able to put out my chain-and-dowel hanging scarf display and my paper signs.

Half a dozen teenage girls came in and fought over who would get to buy Mim's bags, because there weren't enough of the ones they liked to go around. We will make some more for next week, in hopes that their friends and imitators will be looking for a bag in that same style. The poncho I put out on the inflatable mannequin also got a lot of eye traffic. I'm glad I got the inflatable one, even though it meant I had to put up with a couple of weeks of blow-up doll jokes from Favorite Husband. I may get the plus size mannequin for Summerfest, because I've had a lot of plus-sized women staring longingly at my ponchos. There aren't many ponchos out there that are made to fit them, so I figured out a way to add short rows to the pattern for the asymmetrical poncho to make it fit larger women.

I also made some good trades. I traded two scarves for some xeriscaping perennials to replace the ones I'd traded for last year (but couldn't get in the ground before winter because of the wet autumn). I finally had something I could trade for something of Bonny's, so I got a nice pair of earrings. I want to get more earrings for myself; until today's trade, I hadn't bought myself a new pair of earrings in a couple of years. Mim traded a felted bag for a beautiful pottery bowl.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On Apportionment

The Deseret News reports that some in Washington are considering giving Utah an extra seat in the House, along with Washington D.C. Washington D.C.'s representation has been debated for a long time, but Utah missed getting an extra seat by (if I remember correctly) almost exactly the number of Utah missionaries serving abroad. While military personnel living out of the country are counted as state residents, the court ruled that the missionaries are not state residents.

Some, including Nancy Pelosi, don't think this is a good idea. Pelosi is evidently concerned about Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat. While I appreciate Pelosi's concern, Matheson is a big boy and can take care of himself without her motherly affections. He comes from a long line of Utah politicians and he knows how to get elected as a Democrat in a predominantly Republican state. We all watched as his Republican opponent in the last election scraped the bottom of the barrel, desperately trying to find some poop to sling at Matheson. While left-wingers could scarcely gather a few votes, Democrats can and do get elected in Utah. But when they do, it's because they're perceived as Utahns first, and their policies have to be in line with Utah's priorities.

Now, some might object to this because it would be heavily Republican Utah that would get a seat. To them I say, study the mathematics of apportionment. It's not difficult; I've taught it to high school graduates. The number of representatives each state has is determined by the populations of all the states, 49 of which are definitely outside of Utah's circle of influence. There is absolutely nothing Utah or any other Republican state could have done to make themselves miss the cutoff for an additional seat by less than everyone else, and thus put themselves closest to needing an extra congressional seat. Or, if there were some way they could have manipulated the numbers, they would have actually done it. That it was Utah that ended up next in line for an extra seat is a mathematical accident, not a political manipulation.

On the other hand, I have a sneaking suspicion that this proposal would get no political play if the next state in line happened to be a Democratic state. And I don't like artificially "balancing" the numbers by letting in a probable extra Republican to "neutralize" the extra Democrat that D.C. would probably elect. I agree with Rep. Pelosi that the case for getting D.C. its own seat stands on its own merits. However, I notice that neither she nor any other Democrat has proposed giving D.C. its own seat, at least not that I've heard of.

However, Washington D.C. is still left in the unenviable position of not having any voting representatives in Congress. In 200 years nobody's given them a seat because they've not been able to get enough support from both sides. So Pelosi's argument basically boils down to "Yeah they deserve a seat, and yeah we'd probably stand to gain from the seat's addition, but we're not going to do anything about it lest the Republicans gain something too."

If this is what it takes to get them a seat, so be it. If the seat happens to be a Democratic seat, so be it. It's better that they be represented by a Democrat than to not be represented at all. Besides, the increase to 437 seats would only be temporary, until the next census, which is only a few years away-- and while Utah happens to be Republican right now and would in all probability elect a Republican to fill the extra seat, there's no guarantee Utah will retain the seat at the next apportionment, or if they did retain it, that Utah would only elect a Republican to it. So I say go for it. I don't think it behooves Rep. Pelosi to block efforts to get these people representation just because she doesn't want the Republicans to get anything they want.