Friday, April 30, 2010

My New Addiction: Spices

Several months ago, I had come across a recipe for Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Butter Cups. It looked fairly easy, so I bookmarked it as a recipe I wanted to try. In looking over the recipe a few months ago, I realized I needed salt. Not just any salt, but something called Fleur de Sel - sea salt from the coast of Brittany, France. To be fair, the recipe added "or another flaky sea salt," but I know nothing about sea salt, flaky or otherwise, so I hopped online and discovered the wonderful site that is My Spice Sage. I ordered the Fleur de Sel, and was happily noticed that as a special promotion, they threw in 10 free Madagascar vanilla beans. They're free samples are insane, in that they give you a lot of them; with each order one gets to choose a free ounce of nearly any spice, and often they throw in a large quantity of another spice.

In the four orders I've placed since February, this is what I've paid for:
And this is what I've gotten for free (none of these numbers are typos):
If this teaching thing doesn't work out, I really want a job working for this company, developing recipes and holding classes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

End of Semester Reflections - ENG 100

Actually, the end of my first semester as a Real Teacher (I feel like Pinnochio - "I'm finally a real boy!") is next week, but I'm winding up my classes and I've begun to get nervous about the administrative part of my job. I've taught at the college level before, but I wasn't expected to know a heck of a lot about how the administrative aspects of the job went, so it was easier to get away with being stupid. Of course, this being my first semester at LCCC means I still have a license to be stupid about how LCCC does things, but I feel more responsibility in finding out information; it's on my shoulders this time, and there's less of an excuse for not getting the info. If I don't know what I need to know, I have to track it down; I can't presume that it'll be shared. Fortunately, I have an inkling of what I don't know. (It's better than not knowing what you don't know.)

This is getting way too meta.

I've gotten reflective about how I've taught this semester, and I have Dr. Lindblom and Harry to thank (blame?) for teaching me that skill. It was painful while I was learning it, but I'm really grateful for knowing how to  be reflective as a teacher now.

ENG 100 (Fundamentals of Writing) is making me more nervous than ENG 105 (College English I) - I've taught a comparable course to ENG 105 before, so I have an idea of what I'm doing. And ENG 105 doesn't have portfolios, unlike the ENG 16 (Freshmen Comp) class I taught over at LIU. ENG 100 requires portfolios, which are to include a certain number of drafts (with revisions) in the portfolios, as well as their exit exam (a response to a writing prompt developed by the English department). I'm anxious that I'll have given my students incorrect information about what to include in their portfolio. The adminsitrative aspects make me nervous because I haven't been observed yet; I'm teaching at satellite campuses this semester and am not interacting with other adjuncts or English department facult too much.

I should have required of my students: I should have used the departmental  rubric; I should have made them write more of the different types of essays; I should have relied less on the textbook to teach grammar. (The one grammar exercise I came up with myself, using op-eds, went over really well; the students were involved and talkative in a way they aren't normally.) In my defense, I don't think anything was an abject failure, but it took this first semester teaching this level of writing to get a sense of how to teach this level of writing.

Half the ENG 100 students failed beacuse of exceeding the number of absences I allow - not by one or two, mind you, but by missing more than half the semester. Several might not pass because their writing simply isn't up to a basic standard.

Monday, April 26, 2010

History Geeks

Ed's been in town for the past week; I dropped him off at the airport this morning. I've been trying to figure out how the week went by so quickly, since we didn't actually do a whole lot. We did see How To Train Your Dragon in 3D, which was pretty cool; I wouldn't have gone to see it on my own. Quite a few people I know have seen it and raved about it; I'm not that over the moon about it (I'm not too much into animation), but I did enjoy it.

Late Wednesday night we decided we wanted to got to New York City overnight, so on Friday morning we hopped a bus, checked into our hotel, and ran over to Grand Central Station to have lunch (world's best food court; plus, Ed had never been to Grand Central before, and it's such a beautiful building, it really is something everyone should see at least once) before heading to the King Tut Exhibit, which had opened that day. It was an amazing exhibit, full of artifacts from his family, his life, and his tomb.

We wandered down to Brooklyn Heights for dinner (Montague Street has a trove of restaurants); I'd wanted to show Ed this neighborhood last time, but it was raining and cold and it would have been unpleasant. Friday night, however, was warm and spring-y, and it was a great night for a walk. We stopped for dinner, after which we hung out at the Promenade, which has a great view of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge, especially at night - and which I'd wanted to show Ed. Very all romantic and stuff.

On Saturday we got a late start, but we had planned on going to the Met, and so we did. We really need to go back; it's been years since I've been there, and I'd forgotten how cool it is. I'd wanted to see the Mourners, a special exhibit of medieval tomb sculptures from the Court of Burgundy; we also traipsed through the Arms and Armor exhibit. (We also did a very quick walk through of the Egypt exhibit, but after Friday's Egyptology geeking out, I was ready to look at other things.) I've always wanted to see the Cloisters, and it was a good day for it: sunny and warm, but we would have enjoyed the walking more had we not been suffering from Very Sore Feet Syndrome. (Protip: Don't wear sandals in NYC if you're doing a lot of walking.) We didn't get to see the gardens, but we did see the entirety of the Cloisters, staying until we were kicked out. I took lots of pictures and made a little video, too:

Before we headed back to Allentown on Saturday, we had a really, really excellent dinner at Olde Homestead, which bills itself as the oldest steakhouse in the country. We got back late and were exhausted, so we spent most of yesterday recovering. One of my students had helped organize a film festival, and although we missed most of it, we went to the last movie - The Good Thief. There weren't too many other folks in attendance, but the director was there and was able to provide a running commentary, which we thoroughly enjoyed. It felt like a private screening.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Starting about a week ago, I've been taking a walk nearly every day. I've been using an online service called MapMyRun, and I like it pretty well; an acquaintance is using it herself, so I looked into it and was happy that not only was this a free service that would allow one to map routes and put together individual training logs, but there's a free iPhone app as well. (Of course, there's also premium content on the website that one can utilize if willing to pay for it, and a related iPhone app that one can buy, which has more features than the free app.) The app tracks the distance I walk in miles, how long it takes me, my average and current pace, and average and current speed. One can change the distance units between miles and kilometers, turn on (or leave off) the voice feedback, and what they call Social Update Settings: In other words, I can post any aspect of my progress to Twitter and FaceBook. (Yes, it's dorky, but I have the app set up such that when I'm done with my walk, it publishes all that data to Twitter.)

The app tracks the route I walk with my iPhone's GPS, which doesn't always work; on a few workouts my GPS took a nap and cut out about half my workout, so it's not perfect, so I've been fiddling settings like turning off my iPhone's Auto-Lock. In both previous cases when the GPS stopped being able to read my signal, it was at about the same point in the walk, so today I was very aware of keeping my Auto-Lock off (although the app locks itself regardless).

And of course, I know this entire blog post sounds like an ad, but I'm so pleased that I'm out walking. Ed's been taking daily walks for the past six months, and he's worked his way to (and is maintaining) 3 1/2 miles. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm working on it. There have been one or two days I haven't been able to - yesterday was particularly busy, for example, because of extra planning I needed to take care of for class; the only time I would have been able to take a walk was after I got home from class, at about 10:30 p.m., by which time it was raining pretty heavily. I started out at nearly a mile but soon mapped a route that takes me around the neighborhood and is just over a mile. Since the neighborhood is hilly (nothing like San Francisco, but hilly nonetheless), I wind up with a pretty good workout, with my heart rate up. I put techno or dance music on my iPhone, and off I go. I'm going to try walking a mile and a half - I've planned the route, mainly because I don't have a good sense of distance and if I hadn't planned the route, I wouldn't know how far to walk - but if I wind up being too tired, or if it looks like I can't maintain motivation, I'll slow down.