Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thinking, Reading and Ranting (not necessarily in that order)

July 27, 2008 in Vicksburg
4:11 pm
Temp: 102
Heat Index: 107

It's supposed to be hotter, tomorrow. School begins in 8 days. The youngsters involved in athletics and many other activities will be obligated to practice outdoors, mostly in the afternoon (the hottest part of the day). The local school-district officials are have mentioned the possibility of going to a 4-day school week to conserve bus fuel. Nobody has apparently proposed returning to the old school calendar -- in which the hottest month of the year was a part of summer vacation. In fact, this year we are going to year-round schooling, which gives rise to alternate concerns (at least for the parents of older children) about earning money for college via summer jobs or attendance at university educational camps -- both of which will become impossible. No mention is ever made of heat stroke, at least until the kids drop (and I don't recall ever hearing a word about skin cancer). Last year they had to call two of these in one day, for a single band practice:

Shortly after, parents received a letter threatening those who skipped practice or wore too much clothing with an unexcused absence.

Is it just me, or are there some folks in charge of our school system who are seriously lacking common sense?

Bookishly speaking:

It's been a slow reading week, but not because of the quality of reading material. I'm reading three excellent books:

Travels in Alaska - John Muir
Down to a Sunless Sea - Mathias B. Freese
The Words of War - Donagh Bracken

and I've begun to read:

The Best of Robert Service (he was Canadian, eh?!)

I'm unable to update my sidebar, even using Explorer, unless I do so remotely. Weird. But, I'll try to get it updated, soon.

I thought this was an interesting article. Thank you to Bookish Kitty Wendy for pointing that out. It's relevant, given past debates about whether bloggers are costing paid reviewers their jobs and given the quantity of time involved in blogging, especially if good blogging etiquette is in play (e.g., responding to comments and visiting other bloggers). Not long ago, one of my favorite bloggers decided blogging was just a giant time suck; she wanted her life back. She posted a final message and hasn't turned back. Would pay for reviews prevent burnout by making bloggers feel as if their time is valued? Worth thinking about.

You can tell the heat is still getting me down. I'm going to go read. I need to find my happy place.


  1. I've read that article. I think they do have a point. I love free books but at times I feel overwhelmed. Being paid would be nice, (hubby keeps asking when I'm going to get paid) but I'm not holding my breath. They know they can get us bookfools with free books.

    I miss Kookiejar :(

  2. Is it already time for school to start again? That means I should enjoy the slow days while I can. Even though I don't work by the school schedule or in the education field, the amount of business we get when schools are in session increases exponentially.

    It's interesting that your schools are considering going year round. Many schools here in California were on a year round schedule for years and they are now beginning to go back to a more traditional schedule. There are still quite a few year round schools though. It's always interesting to see how things come around again if you wait long enough. My mom's school has always been year around and they never begin until after the Labor Day weekend, which is how it was when I was growing up.

    Wasn't that article interesting, about the future of blogs? Although I am still "new" to blogging, I have been long enough to notice the shifting of trends since I started. I know I have been thinking a lot about my own reading and blogging habits lately, wondering if I like the direction I am going or if I want to shift tracks. It is time consuming though, isn't it? Keeping up a blog and making the rounds to visit others, fitting in book reading and writing time amidst all the other activities in our lives.

    I hope you were able to find your happy place. :-) My husband is getting ready to go on a raid (World of War Craft and so I'll probably putter around the computer for a little while longer and then curl up with my book and read.

  3. Chris,

    Yeah, I'm fine with the free books, at the moment. But, it can get overwhelming. I think you have to actually work at maintaining a balance -- not saying "yes" to every book that's offered for review is just a part of it. My biggest problem is that I'm compulsive about checking to see if anyone has commented. I love chatting with my blog friends and I want them to talk to me! Plus, I'm such a chatterbox that I post way too often. I have far too much to babble about. LOL


    We start earlier every year, so I don't know about everyone else but . . . yep. 'Bout time.

    Our school isn't considering year-round; they're actually starting this year. And, the really odd thing about that is that they initially said they were going to phase their way into it but not begin a true year-round schedule till 2010. So, we thought we were safe. Now, we're all kind of upset because it means our youngest won't be able to attend a summer university program to earn some early credits, like his big brother did. And, being a lifeguard, he's worried that his summer job won't be available, next year. So, nobody in this family is happy about it.

    I've found that our school district is really, really bad about jumping into new things and then backing off in a few years, but they always word it in a way that absolves them of responsibility. For example, they built three new super elementary schools to replace the smaller neighborhood elementary schools. That worked well for us because our neighborhood school performed the worst, but most people didn't like it. So, they've slowly reopened the smaller schools. Because, "The teachers prefer a smaller, more personal environment."

    Oh, yes, that article was great! Thanks for posting a link! I think it's a good reminder that it's important to keep a sense of balance between blogging, job, family life, etc. I get my nonfiction writing fix through blogging, but I've already decided I'll have to say no to reviewing in November because of NaNoWriMo. I need my fiction-writing time, too. Yes, blogging can be way too time-consuming.

    I realized I had no place to sit, after I posted. Ha! We've been cleaning and I'm using the futon to sort. The living room is too high-traffic. The bed has a big husband lying across it. So, I'm going to finish my housework and then I'm going to my happy place! Have fun reading! :)

  4. Two things, doll:

    First, what the school is doing with mandatory practices is borderline criminal. I am not simply overreacting here. Practicing outdoors in heat like you have is endangering the health of the kids involved. Even the military doesn't drill outside in extreme heat. I'd suggest getting together with several other parents and mounting a counter-offensive. Gather statistics about heat related health problems (including sun stroke and death) and demand that they stop endangering your children.

    Second - blogging is still something I enjoy doing. I don't talk about books because I have to. I do it because I want to and I'm not at all worried about reading the books I want to read instead of ones I feel I'm obligated to read. And, if I may say so, that's the way it should be. Even in the case of ARC's or preview copies. If you're doing the publisher/author a favor and reviewing for free, it should be done on your time.

    And I cannot believe you start school in August! Here, there's a state law that states classes cannot begin until after Labor Day...


  5. I had a slow reading week too. Not absolutley sure why. Partly too much TV. I spent more time with family (always a good thing). I am going on vacation to the beach on Friday so hopefully I will catch up on some of my reading then. No internet, no laptop, no blogging. I have decided it will be good for me to have an internet break. :)

  6. It's always amazing to me how little regard people in charge of things have for heat and humidity. Last week, our a/c wasn't operating at work, and we are in a building where the windows don't open. Our director thought we were "crybabies" for asking to go home ... so what if it was 82 degrees inside?!

  7. CJ,

    I love it when people call me "doll".

    I agree with you 100%. It's dangerous and criminal putting our kids in that kind of a situation. Quite a number of parents protested, last year, to no avail. We personally spoke to the band director and principal, both of whom were adamant that it would be impossible to switch extra band practice to morning because there are too many poor parents who would be inconvenienced. I should have done my research, but I didn't and we were blown off -- as were all the other concerned parents. Kiddo has dropped band, partly for that reason. His only remaining outdoor activity is swimming.

    Oh, yeah, I love writing reviews. I got into blogging because I wanted a place to just babble about how I felt about my reads. I still love it. It is a bit of a balancing act, though. In my case, it's been a learning process. I joined numerous challenges (and, of course, hosted one) when I was fairly new to blogging and discovered that one challenge at a time is about my limit. Two is a stretch and I'll only join two if they both involve books I really want to read anyway -- and that I never stick to a list, so there's no point making a stack. ARCs are an exciting way to find new authors, so I don't actually mind a deadline -- but I do have to be careful not to try juggling too many. I've done okay, so far.

    Labor Day would be perfect! Really? Is that a state law? I remember we started much later in Michigan, but it's been a while. Eldest had such fun at school in Ann Arbor -- they had a big hill and sleds for the kids to use at recess. He was only 5 years old but still remembers that year as the best school year of his life.


    I think the heat did me in. I've never processed as well when it's really stinking hot. I don't even think to watch TV! Maybe a movie break, now and then, would be a good idea.

    Are you going to the Gulf? Have fun! I think an enforced break, now and then, is a good thing. When I was young, we used to stay at a cabin with no TV, every two years. Those were the best vacations of my life. There's much to be said for walking away from the electronic world, on occasion.

  8. Bridget,

    There's a big difference between 82 with no air circulation and 82 with the A/C going and a fan chugging away. We often turn our temp up to 80-82 during the heat of the day. But, if we do, we take a siesta during that time. 82 is too hot to concentrate on work. Shame on your employers! 100 lashes with a wet noodle for that director.

  9. Anonymous10:28 PM

    Band together with other parents. School districts fear parents more than the Devil himself. Just try to outnumber the 'inconvenienced' parents in the mornings.

    Interesting article! I was about halfway through it before I realized that the main concern was soon to be released books. I can barely read books I have on my shelves for challenges that I sign up for. I can imagine how awful I'd be at reviewing books on a schedule.

  10. The heat has been RIDICULOUS lately. We went down to the quarter today and I literally thought I had heat stroke from walking around for an hour! I was nauseated and everything. That could just have to do with the smell of the quarter though :/ It's impossible to get cool in this weather though, huh? It's horrible that they make those kids practice so much out in that heat. I remember you writing about band practice last year in the heat. It's just disgusting!

    On the book note I'm glad to hear that Down to a Sunless Sea is good! I just scored that one from bookmooch and I'm really really really looking forward to it. Sounds like my kind of short stories!

  11. I've had a slow reading week, too. Busy with summer activities! I got the kayak out on the lake for the first time this summer. Can you believe that? It's almost August!!

    Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all the ARCs I have piled up around here (I get most of them from work), but I try to find a balance and just read what I want when I want. I also have learned not to feel too pressured about blogging every single day. I'd love to have more time to spend on blogging, but winter will be here before I know it and I'll a lot more time to post and comment. (Boy, am I behind with my blog visits!!)

    Your school system is in desperate need of a reality check! I feel for those poor kids (and their parents)!

  12. School starts early where you are. Our kids still have 4 weeks of summer left. I'm sorry about the all year schooling, that sounds like a drag. For the parents and for the kids.

    Try and stay cool!

  13. I remember you complaining about band practice last year too. It's just crazy that they have to practice in the heat. If the officials were required to attend the practices I bet things would get changed pretty quick!

    The heat has been getting to me too, although spending the weekend at home with the air-conditioner did help a bit. Today I had my Japanese lesson and I learned how to say 'I feel blue'. ;)

  14. School begins in EIGHT DAYS?! That sentence alone put me in cardiac arrest, and I can hardly concentrate on the rest of your post. Please tell me your buildings are at least air-conditioned (unlike our elementary buildings here in Hell).

  15. Carrie,

    The parents here fit in the "I don't care; just keep my kid busy and out of the way" category, for the most part. We're not a very strong voice, although the band parents did give it their best.

    I can make your shelves worse. Want any help? Actually, I don't mind scheduling a few books, as long as I still have leeway to insert some from my older stacks, but I would lose my mind if I only read ARCs. Go ahead and make a wisecrack about it not being far to go. :)


    Thank you for saying that. I'm sorry the heat got to you. I got sick from just having to wait for my child at swimming and band practice, last year. Yeah, it's impossible to even think cool during the heat of July/August. Worse, it's very, very difficult to stay hydrated. I sent my son to swimming with a cooler full of drinks and then replenished it for band. He usually drank them all. The three of us decided band wasn't worth the misery, after getting the run-around from both director and principal, so kiddo is just going to be on the swim team, this year.

    Oh, good, I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts about Down to a Sunless Sea! It's hard reading -- kind of depressing stuff -- but I agree with Bellezza that the stories are powerful.


    I'm shocked. You should bring your kayak down here. We've got this neat little place called "Alligator Alley". When hubby and I were members of the Canoe & Kayak Club, one of the other members told us all about his gator experiences. On a kayak. With his feet this close to the water. Yeeks!

    Oh, now, see . . . we're backwards. Summer is hibernating time, down here, so I've been posting a lot and reading quite a bit (till this last week -- bad reading weeks happen). Winter is outdoor time. And, not really very wintery, of course. I'm really not overwhelmed by ARCs. I could easily have huge piles of them, but I try to pick and choose carefully, so I've done a decent job of balancing -- so far! :)

    Our school system has always been bizarre. They need some fresh thinkers from outside of the city. Unfortunately, we've always had home-grown superintendents who bury their head in the sand. Sad, really. I feel for the kids. We'll be relieved when the next two years are over and we're done with the local school system.

  16. Nikki,

    It does; it starts way too early. They've rolled it back a little, every year. I think last year we started on the 8th of August.

    I've heard that some parents enjoy year-round schooling because they don't have to deal with having kids around for an entire summer. That is soooo not me. I've always loved having my kids around. I was really disappointed when they cut Christmas break from 3 weeks to 2. On the year-round system, kiddo will have 3 weeks for Christmas. That's something, at least.

    Thanks! We're trying! My poor son has to leave for his lifeguarding job in a bit. The heat index is already at 102 and it gets hotter as the afternoon progresses. I would not want his job! :)


    I think you're onto something. We should just encourage the school officials to go out there and march or play football (in full pads, of course) or soccer with the kids. I'll be they'd move practices to morning, post haste.

    We cranked the A/C, this weekend. That's so funny about your newest Japanese phrase! I know exactly one and I'll probably spell it wrong: Kami Wa ai nari. Does that mean anything to you?


    Sorry, want me to call for some of those cute paramedics? The cool thing about paramedics is that they tend to be young. Gotta love that when your heart is siezing. LOL

    Yes, we do have all air-conditioned buildings, now. When we first moved here, there were . . . I think it was 3 buildings that didn't have A/C. We were stunned. But, by the time our kids made it to school, they had everything updated. I grew up in an un-air-conditioned elementary school and remember going to the bathroom to soak a paper towel in water, so I could wipe myself down and sit in front of the fan with wet skin. At least we didn't start till September, though, so the worst weather didn't last long.

  17. Same here. School about to begin and temperature 102 with high humidity.

  18. Jenclair,

    So, it's not just us -- that's kind of reassuring. It sure seems like schools in the Deep South have it backwards. We're much cooler in June, so it makes sense to me to start later and end later. The year-round concept just baffles me.

  19. After years of back and forth pushing with the school districts, Texas was *finally* able to pass a law about school starting later--no exceptions (my school district always found a way to be a stinkin' exception). I think the kiddos go back a little less than a month from now. Not me, I have to work year round. Poop!

    It is hotter than hell here...I'm convinced of it. Hubby said today it was 109 where he works--but really, once you get passed 100 does it make a difference? Can't wait for September--wish we could bypass August altogether!!!

  20. Trish,

    Speaking of exceptions . . . our school officials have never explained why we have an accelerated grading scale (which I personally think is a bad idea because it gives borderline students the sense that they are, in fact, kind of dim and encourages average students -- who end up in the D range -- to give up) when the universities and many other districts have continued to use the 90, 80, 70, 60 scoring method. Can you tell I'm opinionated about education? :)

    Well, there's a difference between 100 and 115 (you get a heat-induced migraine faster, for one thing) but yeah . . . not much. After 100, it's all about getting from one air-conditioned location to another. Unless, of course, you're a student and have no choice but to run around and sweat in it.

  21. Ok, I've been reading other people say that school is starting soon in other places in the south....why is that? I don't understand, why not wait? I thought MN started late - after Labor Day - but I realized it makes sense here since summer does really not even begin until Mid-June or later. I don't think I'm such a big fan of year-round schooling....I can see both sides though. And what is this about 4 day schoolweeks to save on gas - would the students stay longer? Which does not sound appealing for anyone. Hmmm.

  22. Tara,

    I can't answer the "why" as to our early starting date. But, we're also much cooler in June than we are in August, so it makes no sense to me to start school during the hottest month of the year.

    I'm assuming that days would be longer if they went to a 4-day week. Honestly, it just sounds like another potential mess to me. Our school district has a tendency to jump on the latest trend and then admit defeat (but not to the public -- they always word things to make it seem as if teachers want a change) after a few years. They were still working on closing off rooms from a 70's disaster -- the "open" school concept -- when my youngest was in kindergarten. It took about 3 years to fully enclose the classrooms and they had workers there during school hours, hammering away. Because the children could hear what was going on in classes around them (when mine was in 2nd he was in an upstairs room with no walls and could hear the singing, teaching, talking from 5 other classrooms) it was like going to school in the middle of a busy shopping mall.

    That's just one example, but I think it shows the lack of planning involved in such major changes. It's easy to sit back and think of both the positives and the negatives of year-round schooling. I think the potential pitfalls outweight the advantages. And, I'm convinced that they'll go back to the traditional school year in about 3 years. That's usually the length of time it takes for administrators to figure out a new system isn't working. Then, they'll tell us that teachers want to return to a traditional school year. They never actually say, "We've screwed up; the old way was better."

  23. Ohhh! The thought of year around school makes me so upset! They do not have that here, thankfully, and I hope they never do. The poor kids have so much thrust upon them as it is and they just need time to be kids and relax. Stress comes all too soon in life! UGH!

  24. April,

    That's exactly how I feel. Usually, by May everyone is completely frazzled. I think that's the whole point of summer break -- kids need time to be kids instead of just students. Not to mention the fact that summer time is pool time, down here -- it's too hot to do anything else. I'm guessing they'll have trouble getting the kids to concentrate during the summer.

  25. Thanks for your reply. I went to an open plan middle school, and don't think it was terribly sucessful. Too much going on, as you said. The only entirely enclosed classrooms were for foreign languages. The situation in your area sounds completely frustrating.

  26. Tara,

    It's very frustrating. I think if my husband had been the one dealing with all the school frustrations, we'd have been out of here 15 years ago. He's just now reached the point of saying, "Enough!" And, wouldn't you know it . . . houses aren't selling at all. We're on a two-year plan to move, now -- fixing up the house, getting rid of things. The kiddo will just be graduating high school if things work out right. I'd like him to go to college in our home state.

  27. I can't believe they're sending kids (and teachers!) back to school in those temperatures!!! When used to teach in Utah, school's started the last week in August when the temperatures were still in the 90s (although it's "dry heat" instead of that awful humidity). Even so, my students would have nosebleeds from the heat, and there was absolutely no teaching or learning in the last few hours of the school day! What are they thinking??

  28. Robin,

    I don't think they're giving any thought at all to the students and how they'll perform in the heat. Yeah, no nosebleeds here . . . our air is more like a sauna (hence the high heat indexes). Plus, heat, in general, tends to make people kind of sleepy, so part of my thought process is, "Wait till it's cool enough to function." I don't get it. I just don't.

  29. Sounds like your administrators and our admin here need to get together and have a dumbass party!

  30. ROTFLMAO, Andi!

    Dumbass party. I love it. :)

  31. I had to ask H if he knew that phrase. He said translated literally it could mean 'God is Love'. Is that what you meant?

  32. Nat,

    That's it! The only Japanese phrase I ever learned (really a sentence, I guess) was taught to me by a woman who spent many years as a missionary in Japan. She was the counselor in charge of my cabin at a camp -- can't even remember what kind of camp it was, although I assume it had some connection to the Baptist church. She also told me "shinbun" means "newspaper", if I remember right. It's been a while. :)

  33. That's really a shame that school has been pushed up so early. The beginning of August is crazy!

    I do think that some colleges have mini-camps over winter breaks, I don't know if that would be an option?

  34. Nyssaneala,

    Yep, I'm a fierce traditionalist and think they should go back to the old post-Labor Day start time, myself. :)

    I'll check into mini camps. Our universities in MS are pretty small but maybe they'll have something. Thanks for the idea!


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