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The Hills of Los Angeles Are Burning August 28, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Home Front.
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4 comments

For the most recent information on the Station Fire, click on Los Angeles County Fire Department.

I woke up at 6 a.m. when orange light filtered through the blinds.  It’s fire season in Southern California.  Four big fires are raging at the moment, several nearby.  With the intense heat and all that dry brush, the fires came early this year.  During the school year, we keep the students indoors when there’s a fire as many have asthma.

My heart goes out to all of those who’ve had to evacuate their homes.  We have friends who lived in Topanga Canyon for many years, and it seemed like packing up the car with the kids, pets, and photos was an annual event.  But it’s never easy.

It’s been over 100 degrees for three days now and I can’t imagine what it’s like for those fire fighters who are wearing all that heavy gear and fighting Mother Nature with a hose and a pick ax.  I have to say that after living in NYC for 11 years, I have the utmost respect (bordering on awe) for firefighters.

When I first moved to California in the 70s, I remember standing on the roof of our garage and watching the hills in the distance burn.  We were having a big party and ash fell on the guests like snow.  I remember saying, “This is like the last days of Pompeii.”  Two days ago, I woke up and walked out into the dining room. My house smelled like a campfire.  Fire.  It goes with living in Southern California.  But it’s never easy.

Lyrics for Los Angeles is Burning by Bad Religion

Somewhere high in the desert near a curtain of blue
A sane man skirts under the wind
But down here in the city of limelights
The fans of Santa Ana are withering
And you can’t deny the living is easy
If you never look behind the scenery
It’s Showtime for dry climes
And bedlam is dreaming of rain

When the hills of Los Angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the MURDER wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And Los Angeles is burning

This is not a test
of the emergency broadcast system
When Malibu fires and radio towers
Conspire to dance again
And I cannot believe the Media Mecca
They’re only trying to peddle reality
Catch it on Prime Time
Story at nine
The whole world is going insane

When the hills of Los Angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the MURDER wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And Los Angeles is Burning

A placard reads “the end of days”
Jacaranda boughs are bending in the haze
More a question than a curse
How could hell be any worse?
The flames are stunning
The cameras running
So take warning!

When the hills of Los Angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the MURDER wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And Los Angeles is burning

Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titantic aka Classroom Seating August 25, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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6 comments

100_0416

Over the summer, I’ve spent a good five minutes thinking about how I want to rearrange my classroom.  I would have spent more time, but when I walk into my classroom after summer vacation, it looks like a scene from the Titanic – after it hit the iceberg.

To refinish the hardwood floors, the custodians move all the furniture to one side of the room, then shift it back to the other, to refinish the other side. It’s a wonder the school isn’t listing.  The only thing that never moves is the monolithic black metal storage cabinet in the corner.

By the time I’ve unstacked all the chairs and tables, and dragged the double wide file cabinet back across the room where it’s supposed to go (putting fresh scuff marks on the refinished floor), my creative energy is spent.  I’m tempted to arrange everything the way it was “before.” Unfortunately, if I’ve had a relaxing vacation it’s hard to remember what “before” looked like. That’s why I take lots of pictures at Open House.  That’s as good as it gets. When I look at the pictures it all comes back to me.  Then I start dragging those bookcases.  If only the wheel had been invented when they designed all that heavy school furniture.

For the first two years, I had my students sit in two inverted F formations ideal for direct instruction.  “One, two, three – All eyes on me!”  Because some idiot bolted the overhead screen to the far right side of the whiteboard, all of the students need to be seated to one side of the room so they can see it. Grrr…

Last year I had students sit at tables.  I’d resisted tables for years as I don’t trust kids when I can’t see their faces.  That’s probably because whenever I go to professional developments and find my back to the presenter, I immediately start doodling or holding up funny signs to see if I can make the people across the table laugh.

That said, the table arrangement worked out pretty well.  I had two tables of six at the back of the room and two tables of four at the front.  I haven’t quite figured out how it’s going to work with increased class sizes this year. I await divine inspiration (and additional desks and tables).

On the first day of school I always let students sit wherever they want.  I can quickly see who shouldn’t be sitting next to who. By the second day, the seats they are a changin’.  As Chinese military strategist Sun-tzu said in 400 B.C., “You’ve got to keep your friends close and your enemies problem students closer.

Before I had my credential, I worked as a substitute, which to my mind is the best possible training for any aspiring teacher.  I remember walking into a middle school classroom and seeing a table full of boys at the back of the class. No teacher in her right mind would put all those boys together.   So I did what any cracker jack sub would do – I lied.

I announced that the teacher had left me a seating chart. (I would have settled for lesson plans!) “I’m going to turn around and count to 30. When I’m done, you better be back in your seat, or I’m going to start writing referrals,” I said.  I turned my back and began counting.  As I heard the frantic game of musical chairs underway, I couldn’t help but smile.

When I turned back around I was greeted by a sea of smiling faces.  My bag of tricks is bottomless. That’s why I’m the teacher.

Barack Obama is a Narcissist and Other Urban Legends August 23, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Politics.
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8 comments

Obama narcissus

Several friends and relatives forwarded me the email Obama is a Narcissist purportedly written by Sam Vaknin, “a world authority on narcissism.” It goes on to say, “He (Vaknin) understands the inner mind of a narcissist like no other person. When he talks about narcissism, everyone listens.” Whoa, let’s take a deep breath.

What the email fails to mention is that Sam Vaknin was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in 1984. And that title of Dr. before his name? Shmuel (Sam) Vaknin’s resume reports that he completed nine semesters at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. His doctorate is not in psychology, but philosophy, and was received from Pacific Western University, an unaccredited on-line diploma mill based in California. (Operators are standing by, if you too would like add Dr. to your name) Vaknin, an Israeli citizen, was incarcerated in Israel for white collar fraud and currently resides in Macedonia.

Although the Obama is a Narcissist email references some of Vaknin’s writing and includes a header suggesting he is the author, the article was actually published Sept. 8, 2008 by Ali Sina on the FaithFreedom.org (FFI) site as Understanding Obama: The Making of a Fuehrer. How do I know this? I credit Snopes.com. Since 1981, Snopes founders Barbara and David Mikkelson have made it their job to investigate information flying around out there on the internet and provide a much needed reality check.

FFI identifies itself as “a grassroots worldwide movement of ex-Muslims and all those who are concerned about the rise of the Islamic threat.” Its publisher, an Iranian who lives in Canada, uses the pseudonym “Ali Sina.”

If you’ve received the above email (there are numerous versions flying through cyberspace), you know it quickly goes off the deep end. Obama is likened to Jim Jones, the charismatic cult leader of the the People’s Temple who led over 900 of his followers to commit mass suicide. The email says they did so “cheerfully.” Sina’s ugly diatribe refers to Obama’s supporters as “worshippers” and wastes no time in comparing Obama to Stalin and Hitler. Sina has said on the website that he hopes Obama will be executed by electrocution – he subscribes to the conspiracy about Barack Obama’s birth. Wingnuts unite!

My outrage about the above circulating email is two-fold. First, it’s a lie and a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. I only worked briefly as a journalist, but the journalistic mantra is “a reliable source.”

Secondly, as someone who’s written quite a bit on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I know those with NPD are pathological liars. So to my mind that negates Vaknin’s observations made from half-way around the world. Vaknin has provided incredible insights into his own narcissism for which I’m grateful. It’s important to note that those with NPD crave attention, but will settle for notoriety. The email circulating provides this to Vaknin in abundance.

I’m most disappointed with how quick people are to use and abuse the term “narcissist.” I realize many don’t know any better. That’s why I write what I do. For the record. narcissism runs on a continuum from healthy narcissism (Healthy Ego) to Destructive Narcissistic Patterns (Me is getting in the way of Us) to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or as Vaknin refers to his NPD, Malignant Narcissism.

I can’t imagine how any politician or leader could rise to power without a healthy/hefty dose of narcissistic traits. Think alpha male. But this doesn’t mean they have NPD? One tell-tale sign of those with NPD is they’re unable to maintain a healthy emotional relationship with significant others. Someone better tell Michelle and the girls.

I highly recommend that when an email is forwarded to you, you run it by Snopes.com. I recently was forwarded Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins University. When it started talking about how ingesting dairy products creates mucus and how some forms of cancer thrive in mucus, it got me to wondering. I went to Snopes and sure enough they’d already done the research. John Hopkins issued a rebuttal stating that the circulating email is a total fabrication.

If you have trouble remembering the name Snopes, you can do like I do. It rhymes with Scopes, as in the Scopes Monkey Trial. There’s a cure for ignorance – it’s called education.

Photo Credit:  Google Images

Why I Love Dogs August 17, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Pets.
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6 comments
Spaghetti041

Mario's dog Spaghetti belts out a tune

My dogs keep me sane. Just when I’m taking myself or the world way too seriously, our two mutts Petey and Reese engage in their nightly wrestling match that is every bit as entertaining as Lucha Libre. Same thing every night, and every night I laugh hysterically. Every morning Reese sits just inside the dog door so our pig Maisie can’t come in the house. Then later in the day, Maisie lounges in front of the dog door so the dogs can’t go out. It’s like having toddlers again.

The pig thinks she is a dog and lines up with them for a treat. We refer to them as The Three Amigos. Petey, who we believe is half coyote, is the hunter. His prize catch is a sock, which he carries proudly around the house. Thank god dogs threw their lot in with humans, or Petey would have starved to death in the wild.

I recently read two interesting articles on dogs. MSNBC featured an article Dogs are Smarter Than ToddlersNeither of my dogs would qualify for Mensa as they’re blissfully happy to be canine underachievers.

Pet Dogs Rival Humans for Emotional Satisfaction in New Scientist is also a good read. Researchers found that after playing with their dogs, people showed an increase in oxytocin, known as the “cuddle chemical.”  I could have saved those researchers a big wad of cash and told them that up front. Nothing helps put the problems of the world in perspective like a good game of fetch.

My father-in-law’s dog, Penny, recently died after a long happy dog life. He so misses her company that he’s taken to walking his neighbor’s dog every night. Our friend Mario, who’s an opera singer, took the picture of his dog Spaghetti who loved to sit alongside him at the piano and play and sing.Spaghetti has since gone to doggie heaven. Spaghetti’s successor Linguini is no musical prodigy, but more importantly, he’s a dog.

Best Friends Forever August 14, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Personal.
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4 comments

Cathy - Have a great yea039

Someone needed to talk me off the ledge, and Cathy’s card arrived just in time.  A card for me?  Was it my birthday?  I actually had to think about this. Since I’ve been in my masters program and knee-deep in data, I’m not even sure what day of the week it is.  Wait a minute – my birthday is in April.  Now curious, I tore open the envelope.

Cathy’s a fabulous photographer, who’s usually stalking butterflies and other six-legged creatures with her camera.  While I visited her in Kansas City in July, she took pictures at the one-room school house at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farm, which she used for the card above.  You can find Cathy’s cards at It’s a Beautiful World.  I ordered several and they were top quality and arrived quickly.  But here’s what I didn’t know.  You can personalize the cards at no extra cost and and even change the message and the font, which is what Cathy did to the card above.

So here’s the personalized message that kept me from jumping off the ledge. I’m sure Cathy won’t mind me sharing it, and I won’t mind if you steal it, though I’m crossing out the stuff that might not apply to you.  For the record, I actually cried when I read it.

Dearest Jan,
I’ve really enjoyed our friendship through the years.
You’re so much fun and have a delightful, brilliant and hilarious
take on the world.  I’ve loved all of your tales of school and of your other adventures.
I definitely wish that I’d had a teacher like you!
It’s been great blogging along side you in cyberspace.
Your visit here was fabulous!
Hopefully, I’ll see more of you.
I’m so grateful I have you as my best friend forever!
Love, Cathy

FYI:  I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming that you are also delightful, brilliant and hilarious.  If your name is not Cathy, you might want to change that too.  First day of school, this will be sitting on my desk. Thanks Cathy!

You can find more of Cathy’s photos on Catherinesherman, which is on my blogroll.

Swine Flu in a Classroom Near You August 9, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Health, Teaching.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
6 comments

vomit

I’ve read three articles in as many days advising schools how to handle an outbreak of the swine flu.  I had my pig Maisie do some research, and she’s reported back with her findings:  Although it might not be on your initial class roster, it seems the swine flu is set to enter your classroom this fall.

Federal officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are recommending that schools be closed as a last resort.  The New York Times has all the news that’s fit to print, so if you want to check out more stats, acronyms, and some recommendations, click on that link.  You can also check out flu.gov.

Fortunately, the initial panic about the swine flue as a pandemic that could potentially kill millions has subsided.  But the swine flu is still no laughing matter. Over one million Americans have been infected so far.  If you’re a teacher, you’re already accustomed to being on the front lines.  Or should I say the first in line to get “what’s going round.”  Children have an uncanny ability to sneeze, cough, hack, spew, vomit…  Okay, I could go on, but you get the picture.  To date, the flu aka H1N1 has been mild and has not mutated – yet.  (Cue scary music.)

I, for one, am marshaling all my resources.  All teachers are issued a first-aid kit at the start of the year.  The first year I kept looking for this “kit.”  I finally realized it’s a Ziploc bag containing a pair of latex gloves, some band-aids, and a few cotton balls thrown in for good measure.

The CDC suggested that schools might want to issue masks to personnel. Sounds good, but I’d settle for kleenex.  Last year, my students were reduced to blowing their noses on art tissue paper.  Hey, it works.  But when I tore off a piece of bright green tissue paper and handed it to my new student from Korea, I was shocked when I saw the dye had rubbed off on his upper lip.  He had a bright green Charlie Chaplin mustache that wouldn’t wash off. So, kleenex would be good.

It was also suggested that teachers could move students’ desks father apart. Now, my students don’t have individual desks.  They sit at tables for two, and now that my class size has been upped from 20 to 24, I’m still trying to figure out where to put THOSE kids.  My cup may runneth over, but the space in my classroom does not.  The CDC recommends that schools might want to offer web-based instruction for students out sick.  Can you hear me laughing hysterically?

One final note.  My pig Maisie wanted to make sure I mentioned the CDC said “People cannot become infected by eating pork or pork products. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Farenheit kills the virus as well as other bacteria.”  Maisie doesn’t actually recommend EVER cooking pork.

She also wants you to know she’s never been sick a day in her life.  Okay, there was that time she ate five pounds of butter set aside for Christmas baking.  But that would upset your tummy too.  On a more positive note, Maisie smelled like a butter cookie for a week.

Bad Guys Really Do Get the Most Girls August 2, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
10 comments

MonkeyBridge

After I’d written a recent post on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a friend commented, “I see you’re still into NPD.”  It’s not so much that I’m “into” it, as I’m “onto” it.  I have clarity now about this insidious personality disorder and want to help others.  If you’re a new reader, do not proceed without reading my 3-part series Close Encounter with a Narcissist first. It will bring you up to speed so you don’t need subtitles.

All of the narcissists I’ve seen up close and personal were cerebral, so when readers ask about somatic narcissists, it’s like asking my dog what it’s like to be a cat.  That said, I have friends who’ve been there, done that, and they’ve got stories to tell.

In my opinion, somatic narcissists are quicker to show up on the radar. They’re serial cheaters, always looking for another sexual conquest to keep them high on new Narcissistic Supply (NS). It doesn’t matter if they’re married or in a relationship. It doesn’t matter if YOU are married or in a relationship. They seek sex as validation that the False Self they’ve constructed is, in fact, real. They offer no genuine apologies when they’re caught. Their lack of remorse should be a major Red Flag.

Women have described that often after sex, they felt like they might as well have been a blow up doll. Although all male narcissists prefer autoerotic sex (masturbation and porn) to sex with a real woman, sometimes they manage to have sex with someone/something with a pulse. Pity that person. (If you’re dealing with a woman with NPD, I suggest you check out A Shrink for Men on my blogroll.)

This is in sharp contrast to cerebral narcissists, who can be extremely flirtatious, but quickly lose all interest in sex. It is through witholding sex from their partner that they maintain control. Because they’re essentially asexual, this is no problem for them. My sister-in-law was married to one for 14 years and swore she could count how many times they’d had sex by counting her children. Eight, for the record. At one point, she thought quite possibly her husband was gay because of his lack of interest in sex. Numerous other women have written and asked whether a man with NPD might actually be a latent homosexual. Maybe, but probably not. They’re just not that into women – real ones that is.

I have a married friend who had a brief affair with a man she later realized was a somatic narcissist. He pursued her relentlessly, and then… he was on to the next best thing. She referred me to an article in the New Scientist entitled Bad Guys Really Do Get the Most Girls (Since this post was written, New Scientist only offers an excerpt from the article, unless you subscribe.) It was the first time I’d ever heard of the “dark triad” of personality traits, which includes narcissism.  Machiavellianism, another one of the traits, is anti-social personality disorder by another name. Think: The Bermuda Triangle in human form. And you don’t want to go there.

UPDATE: I just checked the link and the New Scientist, which is out of the UK, now only offers a snippet of the article for free. I subscribed to the New Scientist recently and have it delivered to this antiquated thing called my mailbox. I’ll have to see if I can locate the full article for readers. Jan

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