Sunday, January 31, 2016

Telling Time

All day my fifth graders ask me what time it is. Besides recess, music, library time and that sort of thing that the whole class does together, many of them leave for tutoring and counseling. I think they have already learned to tell time but asking me is easier than reading the analog clock. So, I made little worksheet slips to hand out when I get that question. Four of them fit on one page. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My First Road Rage

In Oakland you can't just pull into any gas station, unless you are comfortable tuning out the tragic life story of a passing panhandler. I pretend to, but later I will be thinking, "Did her daughter really get kicked out of the homeless shelter for turning 13? No, right? But did she?" That is why I always go to a particular gas station near my house that is panhandler free and just normal.

For the past few days it has had a long line, so I thought today would be a good day to go since I was getting home after commute hours. There was a line six cars into traffic. There were people filling gas cans on the ground. The price was $1.99, less than I have ever paid. I wasn't in a hurry but as I waited and waited, I felt sort of panicked because traffic is dangerous and I would never normally go into a traffic jam like that and then get out of my car. I needed gas very badly because this station has been busy for days.

 Actually pumping gas was fine, even though there was a lot on the ground. It only took $25 so I almost topped it off before I remembered the reason. But on my way out, someone in a big green truck started backing into the spot I was in, and someone had already pulled in behind me so I honked to let both know what was happening. The driver of the green truck signaled for me to go around so I put my signal on to show I understood, and then he kept reversing at me! I leaned on the horn, reversed, and drove away. I was already angry that I had to go to the gas station when I could see it would make me uncomfortable, and then that guy was too eager to line jump to even drive safely. I was furious.

 On my way home I asked myself rhetorically why anyone would do that and realized he might be very desperate, and I swung the car around and drove back to give him whatever was in my wallet, like, go to hell if you need money. (Those are not my real feelings, just the feelings I was having right then.) Anyway he was still there when I got back (see also: big truck) but after I parked and watched traffic for a second to make sure nothing weird was happening he started to pull out. I was still so mad that I walked out onto the meridian and waited for him. I said, really forcefully, "Excuse me sir, can I talk to you?" and he said, "No, I ain't got nothing." and left. So that was satisfying.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Why We Learn Spanish

I thought I would spend my substitute teaching year trying all different subjects and grades. However, when I was asked to stay at a school which needs someone until March, I accepted. The teachers I have met have a hard line against having their free time exploited, refusing to take on uncompensated or minimally compensated extra duties, and insisting on taking their duty free lunch breaks. I am new enough and inexperienced enough that I am spending hours every day trying to get myself up to speed.

I supervise the kids at most of their electives, but one is designated prep time for me. It is at the end of the day on Friday, so I don't need the time to photocopy things or review my lesson plan. However, because the other teachers consider prep sacrosanct, I was taking it anyway.

 Last week my charges terrorized each other during my prep period so I offered to supervise them this week. While I was there I looked around and realized how lucky I was to get to sit in on a Spanish lesson. Prior to yesterday, if someone asked me to teach Spanish at a 65% English Language Learner school I would cry. (Not that I would sign up for it, but sometimes the listing is wrong. I have been put into a PE class before.) But now I know the secret to teaching 32 children with probably 10 different levels of fluency and 10 reading levels is to have them make duolingo accounts and take assessments.

In addition to attending Spanish to help the students settle in, I prepped them right before class. I vaguely planned all day to discuss Why We Learn Spanish but I made it all the way to the portable before I actually did it. Getting them to make a circle on the playground is hard and some were running and playing instead of listening to their classmates, so I asked the boys for a ball to use as a talking tool. They came up with a full size football. I had my purse and binder under my arm- the ground was wet so I couldn't set anything down- so I needed it lobbed to me. The children had to retrieve it when it fell through my hands, but it attracted the attention of the wayward ones. We answered two questions, "Why do we learn Spanish?" and "Where do people speak Spanish?" And honestly it was so sweet.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kurbitsing a Hemnes Bookcase

 Comparing NYE plans with a coworker, I explained that I would be building a bookcase. She encouraged me to go out, even though it is cold, expensive, and crowded. At this point in my life, my favorite part of New Year's is getting everything in order. As it turns out, I couldn't save the project for New Year's Eve. I was too excited about building the bookcase to sleep, so I got out of bed and took a stab at putting it together. This morning, I had to reconfigure it a little bit and I painted it and now I am delicately putting my favorite things in it and my not favorite things in piles upon piles of paperwork.

I love kurbits painting. I kept this pretty delicate and clean... it barely coordinates with the bolder version on my bed.  

Jonas really wanted me to get a white bookcase to use as a fresh base for painting. I appreciate the impulse- translucent layers on white look great. But, since white furniture isn't my thing I would have to cover it completely. This is a formerly white particle board chest that I painted with a faux wood grain. It was fun to do, and looks great, but doing the same for a full size piece of furniture is daunting. 




Monday, November 30, 2015

Ornament Repairs

Unpacking ornaments, my Mom was giving me all the ones that need repairs. There was a large glass ornament with a small circular hole in one side. I started imagining how I would line the hole with clay, and as she handed it to me it shattered. Even though it was already broken, we both felt kind of sad. Ornaments are so sentimental and now another one was gone. But, as I swept up the pieces I found the very bottom, and put it with the top to try and salvage. I thought I would make sort of a smooth bulb shape but as I was pushing more and more air dry clay over the broken edges I saw that that would take two sessions. I wanted to get my ornament hospital picked up and put away! So I did more of a snowbank effect.

The Santa at bottom right is the same air dry clay. It's inspired by one of Nick's wooden ornaments. Black sticks were all that remained of his feet, but I think the shape looks nicer without anything sticking off so I took it back out of the repair pile.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How to Buy Paint

I went to Blick this week for some blue water based ink for my Christmas card, and since I had to sit in traffic for an hour to travel 10 miles it felt like I should stock up on whatever I need. I picked up a canvas for a series of aquatic dinosaur skeleton paintings I have been working on, researching, and sketching. I visualized the 3'x4' field of black and thought I probably needed more black paint. I took my new things home and put them away and found I already had two full tubes of black. That always seems to happen to me; I have a poor memory for which colors are running low.


I have an old painting I started a year ago that doesn't really fit into the series. It is a plesiosaur as discovered on site, before restoration, so it is twisted up and dead rather than animated. I don't really remember why but I thought it was a neat way to follow the boxy shape of the canvas and I had taken a million photos of interesting rocks thinking I would explore those in oil paintings, so maybe I intended to render the rock bed in an interesting way. I want to get this painting cleaned up and done because it has been languishing so long. I took stock of my remaining oil paints and chose a cool red for the background, but it wouldn't open for anything so I used warm orangey red (cadmium red light). It was smoother and easier than I remember and I had a nice time defining the shapes of the bones for a session.

Then I put away my paints and made an inventory list so I would stop buying duplicates Artist's grade paint is sold in tiers called series, which are determined by cost and concentration of the pigment. Series 1 will be white, black and brown, and might be $25 for 6 ounces while blue and red from the same brand in the same brand and grade can cost $100. The cost, and in the case of acrylics the lack of longevity, is why I don't just keep a lot of everything on hand. Also, you can't really layer or mix different sorts of paints freely and I have never settled on one. Oil paints make better paintings because they are luminous and have a long working time but if you want to paint any little sculpture like a brooch or an ornament or a little figurine acrylic is nice because it doesn't leach oil into the thing or need a base coat. You don't have to baby it. So I need both sorts for different projects, and then when I travel or sketch on location I use watercolors because they don't ruin anything and you can leave clean up for never with no harm done.


Since it has been so long since I worked on this painting I don't recall all the little decisions I made about placement and color, and outlining it has been a nice way to rediscover them. Even if it is very rough it is sort of charming. I am planning to leave the background layer as translucent as possible without losing the vibrancy in order to display the different planning stages that are still there, in pencil and what I think is watercolor but might be watered down acrylic. You can see in the top photo at bottom right I started to paint a shoulder or a wrist and then decided to move it so just crossed it out with paint. I thought it would be covered by a thick, detailed layer of paint but I am learning not to control things so much. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ueno Station

This was taken on a pedestrian footbridge above Ueno Station. The art in glass cases here was the only contemporary art I saw, because I didn't know where to go and ran out of time.

Here is the Museum of Western Art. The building at both ends was billed everywhere as a potential world heritage site because Le Corbusier designed it. But, if you read its pamphlet it has been turned down as a world heritage site twice.

These panoramas were taken with photosynth. They have a lot of artifacts. The app automatically takes shots even in manual mode so it catches my shoes or pedestrians. On the photosynth website you can look at the version of this that you can pan around. You can see The Gates of Hell more clearly. That sculpture is what caught my eye and brought me over to the museum, because there are other casts of it all over, like in Palo Alto.