Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Adventure of the Lock

Last Tuesday, just a mere week ago, it was over 60 degrees F in Salt Lake City.  I took a nice, long walk in the late autumn leaves.  I didn't need a jacket; a sweatshirt was fine.
Today, however, after two small-ish snowstorms, we have near-hurricane force winds in some parts of the state.  In the Salt Lake Valley, the gusts are reaching up to 60 MPH.  With the windchill factor, the temperature is -8 F.  (That was a MINUS sign, folks.  It's negative 8 out there.)
Yup.  Winter is here.
(I recall one Sunday in January of 2005 when it reached exactly 32 F or 0 C in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I was living at the time.  An older lady at church shook me by the shoulders and said, "It's zero degrees out there!  It's literally freezing!"  I blinked a couple of times, then smiled and said, "In Utah, when it gets UP to freezing in January, we call it a good day.")

So, last night, the deadbolt on my back door was stiff.  I decided to "take care of it in the morning."
I should've known better, as I do not have a good history with locks.  (There was the time when the doorknob on the spare bedroom ceased to function and I accidentally locked myself in.  I had to dismantle the doorknob with a pair of scissors, as there were no tools in the room.  And all the while I was wearing only a towel, as I was fresh out of the bath.  Then there was the time that my key snapped off in the lock, and the only spare key was in my parents' car -- and they were out of town.  I called Max, and he and I spent 45 minutes breaking into my own house.  And, while I was -- fortunately -- thoroughly dressed for that occasion, I had a horrid migraine at the time, so pounding hammers were NOT what I wanted to hear.)
So, at 8:00 this morning, I heard the wind blow some object against the side of the house, so I got up (Yeah, I know; I was still in bed at 8:00.  It's winter break!  I don't have to get up at 4:30 this week.) to have a look -- and the deadbolt froze in the open position.
Once I'd thrown on some clothes, I tramped across the frozen wasteland (ankle-deep drifts of snow) of the back porch to get to the garage.  The WD40 was exactly where it was supposed to be, but it was a mighty cold metal can.
Once I got the WD40 back into the house, I let it warm up.  Only then did I notice that, when I had last used it and removed the tiny red straw which allows the user to direct the spray into a small area, the little blue plastic adapter circle which is supposed to fit into the push-nozzle had stayed on the straw instead of in the notch on the nozzle.  This meant it would be harder to reattach everything.
I grabbed a rag and took everything over the kitchen sink for better light.  I wrestled with the nozzle and blue circle/ straw combo, trying to snap things back together, when suddenly, PSSSSTTT!!
It took me a second or two to find what I'd hit; two full cabinet doors were dripping with WD40.
I sighed heavily and found the 409 under the kitchen sink.  (Normally I clean with vinegar, but I keep 409 on hand for nasty greasiness that needs a hefty dose of chemicals.)  As I hadn't used in in many a month, it was dusty and had to be cleaned off before I could use it to clean the doors and now the counter top where the oil was dripping.  Fun.
Once I finally got the *&&%% pieces of the spray can put together, fixing the lock was a snap.  Two shots of WD40, and the whole piece was as good as new.  I didn't even have to dismantle the lock to oil it.  :D
(Shout out to Dad, here, for teaching me to fix stuff and for never thinking that a girl didn't need tools or knowledge like this.)

Now I'm all set to wait out the wind.  Here's to hoping the power stays on, as I'd prefer to have heat in the house today. :)

Friday, December 26, 2014

What I'm Anxious To Read In 2015

I love Terry Deary's Horrible Histories, and I love Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I.  Now Deary has a book for adults that covers that time period!  Yes, please!

I'm addicted to Flavia DeLuce!  And in the first week of the new year, Alan Bradley is releasing the 7th book in the series!  I can't wait to devour it.

First Carriger gave us the Parasol Protectorate series.  Then she gave us the Etiquette and Espionage series.  Now, Alexia's daughter Prudence has grown up, and Carriger is giving us a new series this spring!  Steampunk plus vampires and werewolves.  It's a win!

Yes, Robert Kirby's latest is out.  If anyone could replace Erma Bombeck as a comic columnist, it's Kirby.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Random Acts Of Kindness

The final school week before Christmas break is metaphorically the second longest week in the school year (the longest being the last week of school).  The kids are hyper.  Teachers have no wish to begin new instruction with a long break looming ahead wherein the kids will forget everything.  Some parents  pull their kids out early, making them miss reviews and tests, which teachers invariably give when it's not the right time for new material.  Kids bring presents for each other and candy to school, which distracts them.  Hormones run high, as holiday expectations about their crushes mount (perhaps a poor choice of words there) into romantic and/or sexual fancies.  Disappointment and jealousy often follow, so lots of girls turn into drama divas and lots of boys make threats or start fights.
Folks, it's a loooooong old week for teachers.
But this past Friday, the final day before the break, I was surprised twice by kindness.
Once was just for me individually: I received a small gift from a student.  (It was a mug.)
This sort of thing used to happen all the time, years ago.  I'd often go home for break with a whole bag of treats, cards from appreciative parents, notes from kids, and small gifts.  But, over the past decade, with politicians and the media continually demonizing teachers, it's rare for me to receive even a candy cane anymore.
This student, however, is an immigrant from a country where teachers are traditionally shown more respect than they are here; that probably had something to do with it.  And I was touched by the gesture.  He was so proud to bring in the wrapped gift, and he wanted me to open it right then and there.  :) 
I don't need the mug, of course, but I found I really DID need the warm fuzziness of having a student -- and his parents -- give me a mug.  THAT was an awesome Christmas gift.
The other bit of kindness involved the whole school, and I do mean the whole school.
Everyone arrived Friday morning to find every single locker in the whole school and every single teacher's mail box with a hand-made, handwritten holiday card on/in it.  The cards were simple: just red or green construction paper and black magic marker with one of several non-religious greetings therein.  (Mine said, "We hope you have a winter break filled with fun!") 
There was much speculation as to who had done this (I had to assure several kids that no one from the office staff would have had time to do such a thing.), but the principal explained a bit later to the teachers.  It so happened that an 8th-grade girl had approached her in November and explained that she felt bad that there were some kids at our school who would get very little for Christmas.  She wanted to do something.  When she asked if she could put cards on every locker, the principal tried to talk her out of it because our school has over 1000 kids.  But the girl was insistent, and the principal gave in.  Apparently, the girl enlisted the help of two friends, and together, these girls made over 1000 holiday cards, then -- with the blessing of the administration and the custodians -- taped them to every locker and put them in every teacher's mailbox.
True, many kids didn't appreciate it, and there were ripped up cards all over the place in the halls.  But then other kids took pity on our over-worked custodians (two are out on long-term illness issues, and we're chronically short-handed right now), and these kids began picking up messes that other kids had made.
Still, most kids were impressed that someone had taken the time to make every person a card.  I saw at least a few students carrying those cards with them to class.  (I took mine home to save, even though I don't know the girl who made them.)  It was nice to know that some kid had put that much effort into trying to make sure that everyone had at least one bit of holiday cheer.
I've been teaching a long time, and that's the first time I've ever heard of a kid doing such a thing.  It makes me hope she'll go on to be a leader or business owner who organizes people into forces for good.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The New York Post Ranks Utah Right Up There With Saudi Arabia For Women

 A couple of days ago, the New York Post ran an article entitled "Five Places Women Shouldn't Spend Their Travel Dollars."  In the article, Utah was lumped with Turkey, El Salvador, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia for places horrible for women -- and the writer didn't even take into account our 3rd-world birthrate, polygamous groups, and patriarchal socio-religious dominating influence!

Here's what she had to say about each place a woman should avoid, due to the severe lack of rights for women there.


“You cannot bring women and men into equal positions; that is against nature because their nature is different.” So said Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking last week in Istanbul at — of all places — a women’s conference. In the speech, delivered on Nov. 24 to the Turkish Women and Democracy Association, Erdogan indicated that a woman is incapable of doing every job that a man can do because “it is against her delicate nature” — specifically citing pregnant women and nursing mothers.
“You can’t tell this to feminists, because they do not accept motherhood. They have no such concerns,” said the conservative leader, who’s advocated for women having at least three children. We wonder what BeyoncĂ© would have to say about that.

As if being a policewoman weren’t tough enough, in Indonesia, a report says the government forces female recruits to undergo “virginity tests,” which involves a doctor examining applicants to see if their hymens are intact. The reason? Policewomen in Indonesia are required to be virgins, to ensure that they are morally fit for duty.
El Salvador:
...[T]he country also has some of the world’s strictest anti-abortion laws — abortion is illegal for any reason, including rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. A side effect is that women who suffer miscarriages or stillbirths have been accused of trying to end their pregnancies — and have been sentenced to prison for aggravated homicide, a charge that carries up to 30 years. A 2012 report from the Central American Women’s Network listed 628 El Salvadoran women currently imprisoned for having abortions, and noted that “women . . . are regularly reported to the police following a miscarriage, stillbirth or premature labour.”
Saudi Arabia:
Last week, numerous restaurants posted signs banning single women from entering. Why? Because they smoke, “flirt” and speak on their cellphones — behavior that one restaurant owner called “mentally unstable.” It’s just one of a long list of things women are prohibited from doing by law in Saudi Arabia. Those include: voting, driving, and visiting a doctor without a male chaperone.

Basing its tabulation on three major categories — economy, leadership and health — 247wallst.com came to the conclusion that “Utah is the worst state for women.” Here are just a few reasons: A typical man in Utah earned more than $50,000 in 2013, while most women made 70 percent of that figure — one of the largest gender-pay gaps in the nation. Less than 31 percent of management positions were held by women in Utah (the second lowest rate in the US). Only six women occupy the 75 seats in the state’s House of Representatives, and Utah has just five female state senators — a huge underrepresentation of women in government.
For its rankings, wallethub.com took 10 key metrics into account and declared Utah 49th in gender-based disparity. Among its findings: Utah had the biggest educational attainment gap and was second to last in workplace equality. 

Well, when she puts it that way, she does have a point.