Americans v. Europeans, and a rant on mileage

Mrs. du Toit is a homeschooling mom who uses a bit more profanity than I do. She also writes complete essays. (My excuse is I'm too busy grading.) But I found a great essay she wrote on the differences between Americans and Europeans.

She did have a statement I have to disagree with. (It's a theme, I think.)

“Like most Europeans, many Americans never travel farther than 100 miles from their home towns?ever. Packing a suitcase and a picnic basket for the 120 mile journey from New York to Connecticut is not that unusual. We knew quite a number of people (most in fact) who lived in New Jersey, who had only been to New York City a dozen or so times in their lives. They were really uncomfortable traveling THAT far (all of 30 miles). As a tourist, I?d been to Manhattan more than they had. They just weren?t interested in leaving the comforts of known territory.”

I did go to a comedy club and one person admitted never having left the state of Texas. But Texas is a big state. Drive for fourteen hours most places and you'll go through a couple of states. It was less than ten hours from NW Indiana to Pennsylvania, and that was when the speed limit was lower. In fourteen hours from Houston, TX I can get to my aunt's house in a miniature town not too far from Lubbock, TX. It's only four to get to Dallas. Three and a half to get to Austin. Six solid hours to get to Abilene. Nine to get to Midland. About fourteen to get to El Paso. Four to get to San Antonio.

I made the trip to San Antonio four times this summer. That's 186 miles from where I live to the first sign about it. I actually drove almost 250, because first I had to drop the kids off at my parents. According to them that is 62 miles from my house. But the straighter way is about 48.

I went to Austin twice this summer. Once to take a girlfriend out to lunch for her birthday. That was fun.

I'm older and I don't like to drive as much, but back in 86 I made a seven hour one way trip every weekend for eight months. I drove about 16 hours one way two or three weekends one school year.

I may not be typical, but I don't think I am that unusual.

The tutoring program I am in has students coming from up to 60 miles away. That's for school twice a week.

One of the heads of the homeschooling program's extracurricular classes is from New Jersey. She and her family make the trek up there at least twice a year.

When my boys were first born, my folks lived in New Jersey. The folks came every month to see us. Dad would fly into Houston for work and then he and mom would drive from Houston up to see me. Every month. For two years.

I obviously come from a traveling family. My grandmother went to California in a wagon. (She's much older than I am.) My mom was born in CA, raised in AZ, married a Texan and followed him all over the country. They retired from New Jersey to south of Houston.

My best friends… My best friend from college grew up in Andrews, moved to Midland, then on to Abilene, and now lives in Houston. I know she's been more than 120 miles from home because it is way more than that to get home to see her folks every holiday.

My best friend from grad school grew up outside of Abilene and that's where she lives now. But between then and now we were in grad school in Indiana together and she and her husband moved between Austin and Hawaii after that. Way more than 120 miles there.

My best friend from NC is from Kentucky. A bit longer than 120 miles to where she lives now. Plus they vacation in Florida twice a year, also more than 120 miles.

My two best friends from Austin… One was a military brat and she's been to Japan several times. So she's probably done more than most people. The other was an immigrant's daughter. She was the first in her family to go to college. When I met her in Austin she was nine hours drive from home. (540 miles.) Now she lives in NC. Another 20 or so hours from here.

My friend Deb who I met here is from Iowa. Iowa is way more than 120 miles from here.

My husband is from where we now live. And about six other places, all farther than 120 miles away. His best friend is also from here and back again. He went to college 14 hours from home and then 6 hours from home. Then he went to California, two solid days of driving. Then to Ohio for his residency. His wife is from Ohio, but they met in Texas. At least 12 hours drive from her home.

My husband and I dated while he lived in New Mexico and I lived in Texas and while he lived in Ohio and I lived in Indiana. Definitely not a close relationship there.

I do have one friend who lives here, grew up here, went to school here, etc. But I am fairly sure she has been outside the state at least.

So what do you think? Are you one of the people who stays close to home? Or do you travel? I really want to know. I'm wondering if “like attracts like” and I just know the only people in America who still travel.

How Smart Are You?

I've always been a fanatic about taking every test that came down the pike. I can tell you my IQ according to tests at 5 year intervals probably, since I was 16. I know where I am on the Stanford-Binet test and how many others like me there are in the US.

Today I found Emode's IQ test. I didn't really expect much from it, but it matches within a point the numbers I got from others, including the ones psych grad students give people to practice.

The test is fairly long but as far as I could tell wasn't timed. (I failed one IQ test on the net for timeliness.)

This site will tell you how like others you are in terms of your score. I have a cousin who is in the top .5%. It was always a pain trying to beat that. I never managed it.

I like IQ tests and other tests that tell us things about ourselves. Also the place has some report (I didn't order that) and tells what kind of intellect you are based on your test. Mine said I was a writer. (What a shock.)

Fall foliage and NY state of mind

First, I love NY. Lived in Pleasantville, which is up from the city, when I was in high school. I spent the weekends, as many as my dad had to work, in the city and loved it.

'Bad things happen when you leave the city' is Manhattan Mini-Storage's inspired new ad slogan”– This is off Amy's blog. I just had to comment for a few reasons.

One is that I grew up moving around. And my younger years were spent moving around Texas. (A lot of my later years were spent doing that too.) In Texas the idea of staying in one place is a bit unusual. Of course, driving here is pretty standard. Most folks have cars and use them. So not leaving your town seems a bit odd to me. Especially as a cousin of kids who lived in a town where the post office, grocery store, and gas station were in the same two hundred square foot building.

Second, it confused people down here when the NY set were so overwhelmed by 9/11 and didn't know where to go. Because they've never been there or lived there, they had trouble conceiving of a place where people live a few blocks from where they were born, don't know anyone outside of their area, and have no desire to leave. When those people in NY had to deal with leaving their homes because of 9/11 it was horrifying. None of their friends or family could take them in because they were all being evacuated too. And they couldn't drive anywhere because they don't own cars.

Also, I do wonder what bad things happen when you leave the city. Do people take your apartment? I guess they mean when you leave the city permanently. So you should use their storage to keep your stuff and stay in your teeny tiny place. Saw a Sell this House where a 976 sqft apartment sold for $650,000. I could buy a lot of house in Westchester County for that. Certainly more than 976 sqft. But then you wouldn't be “in the city.” I liked being in the city for the weekends, but not being a city girl myself, I just don't see the need for that.

Anyway, Amy also has a link guide for fall foliage. You know, that stuff where the leaves turn scarlet, crimson, gold, bright orange… I miss that. One of these years I want to be back in the Northeast for the fall. Send me any leaf pictures you find.

What's the weekend for?

Read a paper today from a student that said, “Unlike other people, I have a life.” Then he proceeded to explain what he does on the weekends. Now I know that he left out some things he does on the weekend, because he didn't include going to class and he is sometimes in class when it meets on Sat. morning. His idea of having a life is “relaxing, partying, and racing.”

Now I don't think anyone, whether they have a “life” or not, would have any trouble saying they relax. It might not be on the weekends. I work Sat morning, for example. But relaxing is not a fascinating thing nor is it that difficult to do.

I wouldn't consider partying to be having a life. Get drunk, meet people, dance with them, don't remember what you did in the morning. That's not my idea of having a life.

Racing, maybe. He says he gets away from the “rejection of society.” He does not say how or why he is rejected by society, so I don't know whether he succeeds or really needs to.

I would consider I “have a life.” Although I am sure a lot of younger people would disagree. I have a home, a husband, two kids, two jobs, and I homeschool. I go to church. I attend a “Bible study.” (We've only studied one week. All the rest of the time it's been prayer requests, but I still enjoy it.) I have a life. Or at least I think I do.

But I don't get much relaxing. And I don't party. And aside from going to a motorcycle race a couple of weeks ago, I don't get any of that either.

I've told my students they need to consider their audience, but I think that many of them, especially the younger ones, have trouble understanding that people might disagree with them.

The Do Not Call List

This article on plastic is great. It talks about DNC list and the 25 million people who have so far opted out.

Then in the comments you get the info that American Telemarketers Association is going to sue. Someone says, hey, let's call and complain. The 800 number is given. I like that idea. Someone else says, let's call them ourselves. Someone gets the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the board members and posts them.

Okay, I would not like my number posted where anyone and everyone would call it, but I tell you, the internet levels people out.

Counting blessings

I'm circling round the stuff I've done wrong in my brain so much it's about to go on overload. I can't live like that. So I am going to write down some good stuff in the hopes that this will encourage my brain to go in other circles.

Good things that have happened to me today:

I got to see my husband naked.

I woke up being held by my husband.

My hair is no longer pink. Two more shampoos removed the spray color.

I weighed in at less than 165 for the first time in weeks.

My knee is better. Meaning I can walk on it without pain.

Good things that happened to me yesterday:

My kids were angels at school.

They didn't complain about having their hair sprayed green or gelled.

I ate a bean burrito and had a Dr. Pepper to drink.

My knee let me walk around and stand up without too much problem.

I had sex. (No, not at school.)

We ate dinner as a family together. Tacos, turkey for the omnivores, beans for the vegetarians.

My husband kissed me in the kitchen.

He also pinched my behind.

I talked to him on the phone during my lunch time.

I got to watch some new segments of HGTV shows. (Room by Room and Decorating Cents)

We got our money to agree with us. (Straightened out Quicken.)

I was on time for school.

I came in second for the weirdest hair in school.

I talked to two friends by phone. One I haven't talked to in a year. One in two weeks.

Good things from Tuesday:

Got to teach my college class.

Had all my grading done.

We got out early.

The boys were good while waiting for me.

Got to see the chiropractor/applied kinesiologist for my knee.

Got to see my sister from NC during lunch.

Wished my mom happy birthday personally.

Got to eat out at Chili's and eat something I didn't pay for.

Mom bought bars for M-.

Went shopping as a family. Party City for hair spray and WalMart for groceries.

Is Love Blind?

Apparently not. According to I Steve love very carefully picks height, muscularity, skin tones, and hair length. According to him it's the explanation for the disparity between men and women marrying out of their races, depending on which race it is.

Weird Hair Day

I went to school today with a blue afro. It was kind of an aqua blue. When I took it off, the hair underneath was a bright pink, thanks to a spray can.

You know, the color spray says that it shampoos out. What they don't tell you is that it stays on your scalp. I've washed my hair three times and my head is still bright flourescent pink. How can I teach college with hot pink head?

High heels: Where did they come from? What do they mean?

“High Heels are a paradox, ” wrote Rona Berg in Vogue. “They can make a woman appear more — or less — powerful”. When worn over long periods of time, they can be a prescription for pain, responsible for hammertoes and fallen arches. But when worn for the look they can work magic and seduce the right male.

Women may wear slippers, put on sneakers and slip into loafers, but they dress in high heels. Psychologically, high heels give permission to lead than to follow. A woman might become a towering seductress or she can choose to become the subject of the object of a male.

It is impossible for women to cover high heels. She is forced to take a stand and to strike a pose. Because her center of gravity becomes displaced forward when wearing high heel shoes. Her lower back arches, her spine and legs lengthen and her chest thrust out. Her calves and ankles seem to have more shape.

Design critic Stephen Bayley referred to the effect as one of “twanging sinew, of tension needing to be released. 'High heels face a woman's foot into the vertical posture described by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey as typical during female sexual arousal, when “the whole foot may be extended until it falls in line with the rest of the leg.” So says Fashion brokers.

“The origin of the high heel goes back many centuries in history. The first precursors of stiletto heels were discovered in a tomb of Tebas in Old Egypt, and date from 1000 BC. These heels possibly provided a high social status to those who wore them.

The idea prevailed in Old Greece, where Esquilo, the first great Greek theatrical author mounted his actors on platform shoes of differing heights to indicate each character's social status. The same idea existed in the East. The Japanese emperor Hirohito was crowned in 1926 on platform shoes with a height of 30 cm.

High heels are also associated with sex. Japanese courtiers had clogs of 15 to 30 cm, Chinese concubines and Turkish odalisques had high sandals possibly to prevent them from escaping from the harem, and prostitutes of Old Rome were identified by their high heels.”

Go here for the whole article.

So high heels mean status and sex. How do you know when they mean what? Am I saying I have status when I wear them to church or that I enjoy good sex? Or am I saying that I want good sex in church?

I've been wearing high heels four days a week for the last month, because of my new teaching schedule. I managed to hurt my knee and foot. I am attributing the heel and leg problems to the heels. So for a while at least I am going to back off wearing them.

Dead bodies loitering

This article on Wired is about a place in Tennessee where they stuff bodies into bags, tie them to trees, and bury them in shallow graves. Then they wait to test decomposition. They say it stinks and nearby parking places always have spots to park.

Gruesome, but useful.

Mom's birthday: a minor rant

Yesterday was my mom's birthday. My youngest sister and I had agreed to take my parents out to dinner Sunday night for Mom's birthday. At 3:40 I called my mom. Just to make sure everything was still on. We were getting ready to leave.

Mom says she doesn't know anything about it. Even though I had talked to her about it on Saturday and my dad on Friday. I guess “doesn't know anything about it” translates to “your sister didn't mention it.”

I call my sister. Most of the time she doesn't answer her phone and she waits 3 days to return those messages left on her machine. She actually answered.

“Oh, I don't think we're going. We went out with Mom and Dad for lunch.” You know, we talked about this. We agreed on dinner so that my family and I could go to our church. Had I known we weren't going to do this, I would have skipped church. I would not have been happy, but I would have skipped church.

Turns out my sister's husband has to work and the baby's acting up and “since we already went out” we're not going out.

Then I find out my middle sister, who lives in NC, has been in town for two days. She'll leave on Tuesday and I will see her at Chili's for lunch and a ten sentence conversation, if it's like the last time she came to visit.

You know, I do live across a huge city from my parents and my sister. But we almost live in the same city. For all the contact, my parents might as well be back in New Jersey. At least then they came to visit one weekend every month.

I'm glad I took my mom flowers on Saturday. She's 58 now.

Response to Marital upheaval

My husband read my blog entry and said, “You're perfect and I'm a scumbag.”

Let me say here that neither one of those is true. I'm not perfect. My husband is sexy, intelligent, thoughtful, sweet, and an all around good guy. No where near my definition of a scumbag.

We had different views of money and while they are getting closer, they are still very different. I was just giving my side of what was going on.

–BTW I'm not a dork either. I didn't impact my leg at all by doing upper body work out.

#1 cause of divorce

According to this article the only study that showed money as the number one cause of divorce was done in 1948. Guys coming back from WWII apparently decided it was too stressful to live at home with the wife or send money.

Google something else

I put in “research study problems marriage money” and got some different sites. Closer to what I was looking for.

ABC News discussed a study published in May in The Journal of Socio-Economics. It uses all that data from the government studies started in the 60s. According to ABC it shows:

“Husbands typically think the family income and wealth are greater than their wives think they are. And wives think the family debt is greater than their husbands think it is. And both husbands and wives tend to think their spouses earn less than they say they do.”

Supposedly money is becoming less of an issue. “Questions about disagreements were asked during surveys conducted in only four years, 1988, 1992, 1994 and 1996. Interestingly, fights over money have declined over that period, from 1988, when 17 percent of the couples said they often argued about money, to less than 10 percent in 1996.”

“In fact, the only years that money failed to lead the list of disagreements were 1994 and 1996. In both those years, the top dog was chores.

Once they made more money, some folks seemed to have a problem in redistributing the workload.”

Money and Housework

“In fact, the only years that money failed to lead the list of disagreements were 1994 and 1996. In both those years, the top dog was chores.

Once they made more money, some folks seemed to have a problem in redistributing the workload.” So says a study quoted in ABC News.

That reminds me of an article we're reading in my college classes called “The Politics of Housework.” You can read the essay. It is very well written, articulate, amusing, with just a bit of cutting wit. I don't agree with everything she says, but there is a lot in there that I think in general is very true about families today.

The husband argues about having to do chores, says wolves and dogs have one head honcho, and says housework is trivial. The wife says chores should be shared, spiders bite their mates heads off, and housework is not fulfilling, but not trivial. It's definitely written from the wife's point of view. But funny.

Fashion review

I remember a teacher in high school, one I never had, who wore different clothes to school every day of the year. I know this because the other kids kept a log of her outfits. She never even repeated a blouse, according to them. For all I know she had new shoes every day as well. There are only 180 days in the school year, so she'd have many less pairs of shoes than some I've heard of.

I didn't care what she wore. I don't care what most people wear. As long as it is clean and somewhat conservative, I'm fine. I don't really want see through tops among kids. If you're at a bar, it's appropriate. Not teaching high school.

But other people really care. This was brought home to me when I was teaching 8th grade in NC. It was the equivalent of an inner city school. Out of 140 kids I had one with two parents in his household. I didn't have a lot of money and I happen to like black and jewel tones. So I owned three emerald green long sleeved blouses. Several of the students took it upon themselves to tell me, privately at least, that I needed to purchase more clothes if I was going to wear the same blouse two days in a row. The shirts were not the same ones, just two of my green ones. And it was actually a Friday and a Monday, but that's “in a row” at school. I didn't have the money for new clothes. And I was too embarrassed to tell anyone about it.

Now, however, I am teaching again. Last year I only taught on Friday and Saturday and it was easy to remember what I wore. Because I only owned four outfits I thought were appropriate for teaching, I rotated them carefully.

This year I am teaching 3 MW classes, 1 TR class, and 1 Sat class. I can barely remember what I wore yesterday, much less what I wore last Saturday. I'm realizing that it's my third day of Saturday class and I can't remember what I wore last week. I do know I wore my brown slacks the first week. But I'm not sure if I wore my purple shirt or the brown one with it. So I am thinking that I need to wear something I am sure I haven't worn to class, which would put me into a dress. Thinking back I think I wore brown with brown the first week and a black skirt and a cream blouse the second. So I could wear my black slacks and a blouse, without repeating. If that's what I really wore. But I just don't remember.

I may have to start keeping a record of what I wore so that I know when I can repeat without being too obvious about it.

I think it's a little crazy that people think what teachers wear is important enough to keep a log about and talk to them. I mean, if it were dirty or torn or something… But they do, so I go with the insanity.

Incredible Frustration

Even though I am a teacher and have taught for years, I am feeling, for the second time in my life, incredible frustration with one of my children's school teachers. Since I have been their primary, almost their only, teacher, that's a little disconcerting.

Am I frustrated with the history teacher because she is in fact being unduly hard and misleading? Or is it my perception of her actions because my precious son is the one who is having difficulties?

I, of course, think it is the first problem. I am not in the class, so I do not know for sure, but I have seen the notes my son has taken to prepare for this exam he is supposed to take. I have to trust that he took the notes she gave. He did miss several notes, so I am not concerned about those. We had to look up the information and so his answers are much more complete on those questions. But on some of the questions he has very specific answers. Supposedly knowing everything on the review list will enable him to make a hundred on the test. But I've now looked at the test and I know that they will not.

The teacher has asked the parents not to use the test to guide the students' review. And I hadn't. We've gone over the two pages of notes plus the map time and time again. We, in fact, have notecards on everything in the review sheet and even more. But I have now opened the test and I know that one of the answers he has on his review sheet is not sufficient to answer the questions on the test. He memorized all the answers on the review sheet. In fact, he knows all the information on the review sheet. But it is not enough.

Now the question becomes did she give sufficient information and he is just such a slow writer that he missed several notes, specifically about Jamestown? That is certainly possible. He does write slowly and it is hard to take notes when you write slowly. Or did she just assume that the information he has on the sheet would be sufficient to answer the questions? It's not. She is a very strict grader and I know that she does not want the simple facts he has written down there. She wants to know more.

I do not find this frustrating simply because of the test. I have been helping him with his homework, making sure he has done it and is caught up with the work, since he is only 10. (Of course some of my high school students need their parents to help with that, too.) Yet despite the fact that I am a teacher and I was a history major, many decades past, and that I have been helping him and making sure it's all done, he still doesn't have an A average. It's a low B.

This is not my work and I have not been doing it, simply insuring that he got it done, but oftentimes I do not think I would have done any better. I'm 41. I have a PhD. I think I would be making a low B in this class. That disturbs me.

It disturbs me for several reasons. One is that I want my son to succeed. I want him to feel that he is smart and good at school. This is his first non-home class which is for an academic subject and he is not doing great. Yet this is his favorite and best subject. Another is that if I couldn't get an A, how can she expect middle school kids to do so?

I have spoken to her about the amount of time it takes M- to do his work. We spend at least an hour every day working on it. Her answer was that her son only spends 30 minutes on it. So her son can do the work in an hour that it is taking my son 7 hours to do. Have I put my son in over his head? Is he really not old enough for this class? Is it too much for him academically?

In some ways it seems it must be. It is taking him 7 hours and he and I together aren't getting it enough to get an A.

But I don't want it to be. I don't want to take him out of this class and have him feel he wasn't good enough. I want him to enjoy the class. He enjoys the subject.

Also, if I take him out, he's going to be sitting in study hall while I work. That's not a good use of his time. He's already in study hall for three hours a week. During that time he does his science and math for the whole week. (Well, no experiments, but other than that…)

I wish I knew what to do.

what you put in a blog

The Accordion Guy says he and a buddy decided that their lives are on TV in some other universe, so they try to live in such a way that their ratings won't go down.

Know someone whose 20th High school reunion is coming up. When it asked for “profession” he seriously considered putting in “semi-professional killer.” I'm fairly sure it was a joke. But would the people who read it, if he'd done it?

Someone talked about writing a blog in which you tell what other people are thinking as you wander through your life. I told them I'd “been there, done that.” There was a time when I could hear other people around me, not all of them, but some, and I knew what they were thinking. I was never wrong, but my psychologist said I could be demon possessed. Freaked me out. Not because I thought it was true, but because they apparently thought so.

I just talk on my blog. I talk about what I am thinking about. But it doesn't have to be that way. I could tell “more than the truth” where you stretch it just 10% and it sounds so much more interesting. Sometimes all it takes is saying it in the right way. You don't even have to stretch it then.

My 20th high school reunion is long past. No one goes to their 30th, that I've ever heard of. I mean, then we're all starting to get really old. What would be the weirdest thing you could write truthfully on the biography page about yourself?

Is that what makes life more interesting?

Or is it the everyday stuff being good? I'd rather have my life, simplistic though it must sound, with my rounds of teaching and my kids and my random date with my hubby, than an “interesting” life where everything is crazy.

Have some friends whose neighbors are secret service. They don't talk much. They don't visit. They hide in their house, when they're home. They get their mail in their car and drive into their garage. They're lurking in the neighborhood more than living. It makes the street more interesting, but the folks who talk and share and hang out at Skeeter's for dinner are the ones who make it fun.

Body for Life: Day 5

Body for Life is a 12 week challenge to see how much of a change you can make in your body in 12 weeks. From past experience, I know I can't make the kind of changes some people did. I've done five challenges and in the last four lost 40 pounds. Some people have lost more than that in one challenge, while gaining muscle.

When I first started, that was very frustrating and disappointing. I was hoping for and planning on those kind of losses. When I didn't get them, I was upset. Now I just want to get into shape and get/stay healthy. So I am not as excited about it, but neither am I as upset as I was about it.

I think so far this week I've lost a pound. At the most. But I've been eating right and I've been taking my vitamins and I've been working out when I could, so I'm satisfied. I'd love to lose the weight, but it's really about health.

Studying for history

My son has a take-home history test to take sometime this weekend. We have made flashcards and have been studying. Hopefully he will get all the answers done correctly and be able to do a good job with it.

I plan to enter the questions into the computer and let him type his answers because his handwriting is so awful and he takes so long to write. He's not a fast typist, but he's way faster at that than at writing.

His writing is improving, however, because he has to take lecture notes for history class for an hour twice a week.

You know, I loved history, but I found it annoying after a while to have to remember all these dates and places that I could easily look up if I actually needed to know. Now it's even easier to look them up. But still teachers are requiring that you memorize them and are tested over them.

Oh well. At least your short term memory gets a workout.