Tuesday, 28 March 2006

images of the teacher

Here are two very different pictures of me, drawn by my students. This one is by a year seven girl.

This one is by a year eight girl. I found it inside a paper airplane she threw. Note my prominent teeth and mole! Heehee.

Teaching is an odd profession. Teachers are highly trained and have a lot of pride in their work, yet they are not always treated with respect, neither by their employers nor their students at times.

Sunday, 26 March 2006

time change!

British Summer Time started last night without my knowledge. Oops. I was in the dark until I arrived at church ready to practice half an hour before the service and found instead that it was almost time for the sermon! I felt quite silly. It turns out the pastor himself made a mistake--he arrived exactly at the time when the service was about to start. So things were a bit off this morning.

As a result we are an extra hour away from Atlantic Standard Time until their time changes as well (next weekend or the weekend after?).

Saturday, 25 March 2006

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent (on display at the Tate Britain)

The Lady of Shallot by John William Waterhouse (on display at the Tate Britain)

Norham Castle, Sunrise by JMW Turner (on display at the Tate Britain)

Tate Britain

I went to the Tate Britain today for a visit. They have British art there from the 1500s onwards and a large modern collection as well. In the first room I visited I saw several beautiful items. One was a painting I have seen (a print of) before: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent. The light in the painting is so incredible. Sargent painted out of doors during dusk repeatedly to get the effect he wanted.

In the same room is a painting by John William Waterhouse called The Lady of Shallot. When we lived in Scotland my dad took a research trip to London and sent me a postcard of this picture. I had read the whole Anne of Green Gables series, and Anne quotes from a poem called "The Lady of Shallot" by Tennyson. Because of Anne, I was memorising the poem and I loved the postcard my dad sent me. The painting is huge: 153 x 200 cm.

The museum has a large collection of works by JMW Turner. I especially liked his watercolours, such as the painting of Norham Castle at sunrise.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

arranging classroom furniture

My colleague next door and I rearranged my desks tonight. I'm gong to try out a horseshoe arrangement for a while. The room is a little bit tight to have everyone in a U-shape, but I've made a few concessions and now the entire middle of the room empty. My assistant principal reckons this will help with classroom management as well. Everyone can focus on the centre of the U, and there's space that I can stand there and move around. We'll see if it works. Before the students get in on Monday (tomorrow is an in-service day) I need to make all new seating plans for the new arrangement.

NewScientist reported recently on a different classroom arrangement that helps kids burn more calories: no chairs at all. I don't think this would work for me since it sounds like a behavior management nightmare. I have enough problems keeping students focused without having to think about them moving around the whole lesson. Of course this would use more energy and perhaps keep them more fit; it would drive me insane trying to contain the energy and talk. I guess maths is not the place for a chairless classroom. At least not for me and not right now.

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

date night

I left work early today and explained to a colleague that it was date night. He looked a little shocked and said, "But you're married." We try to keep one night a week free to spend together, no working late allowed. Recently we have been going to a few movies on date night: Syriana and The Matador were both excellent. Tonight we had a quiet night in: a nice meal (chicken korma), a special drink (fizzy cranberry and blackberry), and a nice dessert (raspberry panacota--a la Sainsbury's). We've been relaxing and watching a bit of football (Ant) and reading a novel (me). It's lovely just to be together. And, as I told my colleague, it's good to keep things focused and it keeps us from getting bored with each other.

Another bonus of date night is the rest from work it brings. It forces me to leave my desk before it's clean or half the work is done. I have to spend more time at home one night a week and I get to relax more. I'll be in bed on time tonight.

Monday, 20 March 2006

the maths and faith roadshow

Some scratch paper thinking for Matt about our summer roadshow (heehee):
Hany's illustration about the numbers 10, 100, 1000: Jesus is our number 1.
Statistical inquiries into the efficacy of prayer by Francis Galton.
The equation e^{pi.i} = 1.
Something about the Klein bottle--I don't remember what.

the good life

With my new iPod, my walks to school have become really enjoyable. (Actually, I like walking anyway. So itÂ’s now enjoyable with an extra bonus of music.) In the mornings IÂ’ve been listening to Audio Adrenaline because it gets my mind ready for the day ahead and thinking with a good perspective.

A catchy song I've been listening to has some unexpected lyrics.

The Good Life

I've watched my dreams all fade away
And blister in the sun
Everything I've ever had is unravelled and undone
I've set upon a worthless stack
Of my ambitious plans
And the people that I've loved the most
Have turned their backs and ran

This is the good life
I've lost everything
I could ever want
And ever dream of
This is the good life
I found everything
I could ever need
Here in Your arms

Loneliness has left me searching
For someone to love
Poverty has changed my view
Of what true riches are
Sorrow's opened up my eyes
To see what real joy is
Pain has been the catalyst
To my heart's happiness


What good would it be
If you had everything
But you wouldn't have
The only thing you need


Comments coming soon...

Saturday, 18 March 2006

summer plans

My summer flights are now booked. I'm coming to Halifax for Micah and Anna's wedding. I arrive on August 3 and return to England on August 23. Hopefully, with a 20 day window, I will also get to see Sonya's baby, which is due in mid-August.

home improvement

We're having a DIY day! Here's the filing cabinet we put together. We bought it from Argos and it came with every part separate. The instructions start off by saying that it takes 50-60 minutes to assemble! The pain of it all made IKEA's assembly items seem like licking an envelope.

Leftover from Valentine's day: a Ferrero Rocher box now void of chocolates. I used it to sort out my necklaces. Ha!

Isn't life so mundane sometimes? I remember a line from an Alice Munro short story I read once, that "people's lives... were dull, simple, amazing and unfathomable--deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum." The extraordinary and the unremarkable are mixed up together.

no html genius

I have been playing with the template for this page, as you can see. However, since my HTML skills are limited, it doesn't look quite right at the moment. In Mozilla it's decent and in IE it's not that bad. The boxes are not aligned perfectly. But for now I'll leave it as is and enjoy. I really like the new background, and it's more red now than pink, which is a bonus.

Since meeting Ant many people have said that I have embraced pink and all things feminine in a new way. That is probably true! I am much more girly than ever before (except perhaps for my princess stage as a young child). However, I had to draw the line at the bright pink blog. My iPod is pink, my trainers are pink, my bag is pink, and my scarf is pink. But now my blog is maroon!

Friday, 17 March 2006

hook and loop fastener

Velcro was invented 50 years ago by a Swiss man named Georges de Mestral. He was out walking his dog when he noticed burrs on its fur that were so securely attached that they were exceedingly difficult to remove. Their design was a highly effective way of dispersing seeds. Mestral invented Velcro based on this masterpiece and named it after the velours (or fuzzy) part and the crochet (or hooked) part.

This week NewScientist reports that Velcro has been noted as a key element in widespread seed dispersal. Australian officials are disconcerted to learn that scientific expeditions to remote areas such as the sub-Antartic islands are bringing back hundreds of seeds from non-native species, "some of them invasive and a serious risk to the local flora." The vast majority came attached to Velcro strips that are part of the team's clothing or gear.

How ironic. It seems that Velcro does exactly the same job of the natural thing it was modelled after. The Australian scientists are hugely concerned since the "spread of alien species to foreign lands is second only to habitat loss as a cause of disappearing biodiversity."

Thursday, 16 March 2006


With two accountants now in our circle of friends, and Matt and April talking about buying a house, I have been thinking about our finances. Ant and I are blessed to be saving a bit each month, mostly because we have flatmates. Reading online today makes me wonder if we would be wise to take out an ISA, a tax-exempt savings plan that the government protects and promotes. I have yet to really understand the British tax system, and since Ant has been a student for so long he has never had to pay taxes.

I have been filing Canadian taxes for seven or eight years now, and really enjoyed it! So I know that the financial duties will fall to me in our marriage as well. We have both been keeping close tabs on our money, though, and we feel a partnership about our financial planning. Right now the purpose of our savings account is to put money aside for things like flights and a new computer. Matt and April are in the enviable dual-income position of possibly being able to buy a house soon, which is by far the best financial step in the UK at the moment. Perhaps next year we'll be their housemates instead of they being ours. I guess that we are probably a year away from being able to start looking for a house. Since Ant will have been recently graduated, we can get up to a whopping 100% mortgage as first time buyers. But at least we would be on the property ladder! My mum used to say that renting is like throwing money in a hole. How true.

comforts of the sick person:

a cuddly duvet
hot lemon medicated drink
a chick flick (Pride and Prejudice)
a laptop with wireless internet
tissues with lotion
a bit of sun through my window
someone else coming home later to cook
low productivity expectations
time to think
cereal as much as I like

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

sick again

It seems that I come down with every bug going around at school. I am not yet immune to any UK cold and so I have got sick again. I was off school today and slept for most of the day. I ate some toast, drank some orange juice, and did laundry. Sigh.

Tomorrow is day 11--our enrichment day. We are off the normal timetable and the students are with us all day for five of these days elevens. One of my colleagues and I have a group of 35 students for our Maths, Games, and Magic days this term. We have booked a magician to come in tomorrow to perform and teach the students some tricks. Hopefully this will provide hours of fun! And hopefully we will both be well enough to attend, since my colleague is also off sick today.

Saturday, 11 March 2006


Ant and I headed to the two DIY shops near us today to pick up some supplies. We bought six boards and twelve brackets--we want to put up lots of shelves. We are seriously lacking in storage space since we live in one room. So I am taking a page out of my mother's book: when in doubt, build shelves. We borrowed Matt's laser level and got to work. But becuase we live in such an old building, made of brick, putting things on the wall here can be an ordeal. The drill bit overheated trying to push through some old masonry. We finally got one of our six shelves up, but the others may have to wait. It's my intention to take some pictures of our flat soon and post them, so you should get to see our shelves in due course.

shiny floors and steaming food

Our dinner at Wagamama was fantastic! The restaurant is sleek with long, substantial, dark wooden tables and shiny floors. The service was the fastest at any restaurant I've been to. About 5 minutes after our orders were taken, steaming plates of food arrived in front of us. The portions were very large and the price was not. In the bathroom, everything was gleaming. There's also a Wagamama in Putney, which is much nearer to us than the restaurant we were at on Thursday. We will surely be going to eat there again.

Thursday, 9 March 2006

food, glorious food

Just a quick note. We're off to eat at Wagamama tonight, a noodle bar that we've hear lots about. It's April's birthday today and so we'll head into the city to meet her and Matt.

I've realised I post a lot about food. I like to cook food, to eat food, and to discuss food. I like to read about food and to watch TV about food. Is this a healthy (heehee) obsession?

Tuesday, 7 March 2006


My best friend is pregnant. She recently asked on her blog for advice about how to discover the gender of her baby since her doctor told her they wouldn't tell her this (yet?).

I was reading in The Guardian yesterday that male babies are born more often to mothers with higher levels of testosterone in their systems. Eggs with higher levels of testosterone, when fertilised, are more likely to become male babies. Scientists are speculating about why this happens, but for the moment the article writes that "tough/confident/domineering (insert value-laden adjective of your choice) women tend to have greater levels of the hormone than their normal/feminine/doormat (ditto) counterparts--ergo they give birth to more boys." This idea explains why more boys are born after a war, for example, since stress also increases testosterone levels.

So one way to get pregnant with a boy, I could conclude, is to have high levels of stress. Ant and I certainly don't intend on having kids anytime soon, and possibly not at all, but we do have elevated levels of stress at the moment. As for Sonya, she will have to wait and see; we should probably wait until she has several babies before saying anything about her testosterone levels.

Monday, 6 March 2006

grand prix is imminent

Ant and I are eagerly awaiting the first Grand Prix this coming weekend. The first race of the eighteen is in Bahrain this Sunday. It's been a long time since last season. Since meeting Ant I have become quite addicted to Formula One. I used to confuse it with Indy car racing, the silly "sport" where cars drive around in circles for hours at a time. By contrast, Formula One is a great combination of pit tactics, driver skill, engineering expertise, and track conditions. All winter the teams have been testing and building cars that can drive fast, carry light fuel, and stay on the road. There are stringent rules about the size of the engines and the weights of the cars. There are two drivers on each team with almost identical cars, so their skills determines their separate outcomes.

Detail of the brakes of a Ferrari.

Sunday, 5 March 2006


I have been a bit discouraged at work lately. One of my colleagues tried to cheer me up. He said that any time I feel like complaining, I should sit up straight, tummy in, head high, and smile. Then I should try to say, "I'm depressed." If I whine about work I should do so with a smile on my face, because it's very hard to stay frustrated when you are forcing yourself to smile. He's right!

On the other hand, it can be hard to force yourself to smile without a reason.... Ant was humming a song today and he said I should use it as a reminder of a good reason to smile: God with me. He said he didn't even know why he was humming it. He concluded it must have been God giving it to him so he could encourage me.
I lift my eyes up
to the mountains;
where does my help come from?
it comes from you, Lord,
maker of heaven,
creator of the earth.

Oh, how I need you, Lord,
you are my only hope,
you are my only prayer.
So I will wait for you
to come and rescue me,
to come and give me life.

This week I'll be trying to sing this song and complain with a smile on my face! I have a reason to keep on working at a hard job: God is with me and I show him my faithfulness by serving my students.

Saturday, 4 March 2006

Today I went out and bought my iPod nano. Ant had promised to pay for half as part of my Valentine's present. It's white with a pink skin. Isn't it beautiful? :)

Here I am with my tiny friend...

...and again!

After installing all the software on my computer, I charged it up and put some songs on to try it out. Matt and Bree were coming over to play Settlers of Catan, so we connected the iPod to the stereo and listened to my selections while playing.

Wednesday, 1 March 2006


On the coach to Liverpool, I was reading from the Guardian, my favourite British newspaper (Matt says that it caters for the knit-your-own tofu demographic!). There was an article about the profusion of tanning salons in Glasgow. In fact, all of Britain has fallen in love with tanning, the report says. Places with horrible weather have lots of tanning salons, like Glasgow. Secondary school students do a lot of tanning, they say, because short sessions are quite cheap--"a viable alternative use for lunch money." Aparently things have got to the stage that at one high school they started offering lessons on how to apply a fake tan!

Tans are cheap--but skin cancer at what cost? I have become a bit more vocal about safe sun recently. My mum had a cancerous mole removed a couple of years ago, so that makes me more at risk for skin cancer myself. I did some tanning in high school (to prepare for the prom, you know!). But it was so expensive that I didn't get much colour. It was a cosy way to spend a free period, though. Now I wear sunscreen every day and I am becoming a fake tan fan. I also just don't see the point in spending (a lot of) money to change my skin colour. With my pasty English husband I don't need much!

The article asks if there should be a minimum age for tanning, as there is for other dangerous habits like smoking and drinking. If they ever chose eighteen as the age, I would have been too young when I bought my sessions in high school. The reporter wonders if students know what they are doing when they go tanning and if they wiegh the consequences. I centainly didn't. In Britain there is no monitoring of the tanning industry, and that allows "tanorexia" among young people.