Tuesday, July 31, 2012

End of July

July is a good month for me, because it contains my birthday, Keith's birthday, by dad's birthday, and Kirby's. Today's the last day of July.

Because I put a post on About Unschooling the site, I looked at the site stats, so I can see if there's a bump. It's not important, but what I found was this:

I told Holly a lot of people came to the site on Learn Nothing Day. She said, "Nearly three thousand? That sounds like three thousand people who didn't even try to learn nothing."
So it goes.

July was a good month. Today, Holly and I visited with my cousin, Nada. Last night we played games here, first with Keith, Marty, Will and Holly. Then Holly's friend Peter came. Later Steven, Yarrow, Austin, Lydia and Melody showed up. Keith and Marty went to bed, and the rest of us played Writey-Drawey.

Friday, Keith and I got to spend many hours in a car with Holly hearing tales of her trip up to Yellowstone. Learn Nothing Day was pretty good this year (my birthday was quiet). Earlier in the month I was in The Netherlands, and England, and those were both great experiences I intend to repeat next summer, with Joyce.

August starts tomorrow! Holly is sitting next to me singing and playing a video game. Keith is going tomorrow to visit his dad in Alamogordo. Marty will take me to the airport early Thursday morning so I can go to the HSC conference in Sacramento. Holly is going to Denver for a little concert, with some of the people who were here playing games. They're taking our van, and camping (current plan is, anyway). Marty will have a quiet house.

The rest of August is unscheduled, for me, and that feels wonderful. I'm going to work on my website. Marta Borges Pires is helping me with the site and the chats, by reminding me and check listing me. Marta is also the organizer of next year's Simpósio "Sandra Dodd e amigos em Lisboa" (Sandra Dodd and friends in Lisbon" Symposium)

Here are Holly and Will the morning after she got home. She and I didn't see each other (except through Skype) for nearly two months.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rippy's family in Leiden

At the end of June, I stayed for a week with Rippy Dusseldorp's family, in Leiden, in the Netherlands. I had a really wonderful time, and would've been willing to live there (you know, if all the rest of the world had some sort of power outage or other problem, and I had to stay where I was for a while, in some sci-fi/fantasy way, you know).

Today, Rippy sent me an e-mail. It was too nice not to share so I sent it back rudely and told her to put it on a blogpost. Well not exactly. But she'll tell the story. And before she does, I'm going to show you a photo, so you won't need to click one of her links.

You can read her post here: http://seekingnectar.blogspot.nl/2012/07/the-olympics-in-leiden.html and if you read through that blog (its three whole posts), you will come to a link to an older blog, where you can see her husband Graham, and her dad who died not so long ago, and her children without tiger and butterfly disguises.

Here's what the family looked like one day when I was there:

Rippy organized the day in Leiden, and my notes from the day are here, with photos and a sound file and a picture of the tile I was given as a gift. It's kind of a big deal.

When Rippy sent me that first e-mail, I was working on a new web page to house something she wrote. That is here: Responding to questions and it's not finished yet (but for people who read this after July 29, it might be).

Julie Daniel and Adam were in Leiden, too, for four of the days, and I think their families will be friends for many years, as the kids hit it off wonderfully. There's a photo of them here: Live in joy (at Just Add Light and Stir).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Learn Nothing Day, year 5

Five years and people STILL can't succeed.

Well, hell. (That rhymes aurally and visually both, though well mell would be prettier visual; bummer it doesn't mean anything. Maybe in Wales they could do something with well llew...)

It's still morning in the U.S. and people are giving up already left and right. I will add to this reportage as the day goes on, which should be fine, because unschoolers should be staying away from the internet if they don't want to learn something today anyway.

Sarah Dickinson made a cake while attempting not to learn:

Kelly Haldorson made a graphic image that was shared around Facebook. I looked at some of those.

Someone (whose name I didn't save and who should remain anonymous) wrote
Is that like smoke-a-cigar day or cut-yourself-on-purpose day? Why chose to damage yourself? Thanks alot Google, we have one more evidence that you are NOT looking out for our interests, rather herding us like sheep being stolen from the shepherd.
In order to blame Google, she would have to NOT READ that I made it up and Holly did the art.

There was a little discussion on Facebook where I said it was like a game, and you join in by showing you know how it works. In response to a question, then, about whether it's a holiday or a game, I wrote:

Well... it's a holiday when people demonstrate what they've learned about learning by attempting not to learn, which is kind of a science experiment and kind of a festival and sort of a game.

It's like a set of Thinking Sticks. It's a game, it's a tool, it's a toy. :-) More than one thing is happening.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A very merry early-birthday to me!

Holly left a wrapped gift on my desk, and I had planned to wait until my birthday, but questions from Keith, Marty and Ashlee eventually persuaded me to open it. "Did you open that yet?" would be followed by a sad or puzzled look.

My favorite knife ever had had its handle dry up. Keith had oiled it, I had soaked it another time in almond oil, but it was old and I kept putting it in the dishwasher, and it just didn't last as long as steel.

But I have not found another knife I liked as much, ever. And now I have it usable again! Because Holly Dodd is thoughtful, resourceful and wonderful.


And thank you to a couple of people at the Apple Store in Albuquerque who didn't think the applecare policy was fair to me, and figured out how to just give me a new computer and take the one I got July 8, which had a cascading logic failure on July 18 and 19, and get it returned somehow even though it came from Europe and not north America. I don't know the manager's name (sorry, but Nicole was the one who spearheaded it, and Drew did the transfer of my AppleCare account to the new computer. The other option was for them to send it in for repair, but "repair" would mean replacing all its innards. So it's all done and transferred and looks just like the old one (as to screens and overloaded desktop and all that) but has an American keyboard rather than European. Slightly sad for me because the old one was cool and I was used to it, but friendlier because now I can share it more easily with other people.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Too late in England, too early in New Mexico

It's not yet 5:00 a.m and I've been awake for over four hours. At first I tried to trick myself to sleep, but then I read through missed-magazines by dim light, hoping not to wake Keith up, who has been working long hours, and who picked me up at the airport at 1:45 the night before.

The seven-hour time difference will be forgotten in a few more days, but I've always been a sometimes-four-hour, sometimes-nine kind of sleeper anyway, so the stability still won't look like eight hours at a regular time.

I'm nearly finished with the long summary below, and I see it's going to be way too boring for most people. I'm writing for my future self, but if you aren't busy and want to see a glimpse of my summer thusfar, here it is. And there are photos of quite a bit of it if you'd prefer photos. Some are in older blog posts here, and the links to collections are here: http://sandraeurope2012.blogspot.com/p/schedule.html. There aren't photos of the sad and bad parts near the end, which is probably best.

Many things have gone badly in the past two weeks, but more things went well, so there was a notable list of failure and mishap, but I was able to be hopeful and grateful through almost all of it, and when I failed I recovered fairly quickly.

In early June, I was hanging out with unschooling families and other home-ed folk in France (mostly at Claire's in Prévessin-Moëns and camping in Haute Savoie). I was in the eastern part of France near Switzerland and Italy. We could see Mont Blanc in the distance when the sky was clear, and we passed by several times the entrance to the CERN particle what's-it, so maybe part of the accelerator is under the home of my hostess, Claire Darbaud.

Claire took me to Lyon to meet her mom and sisters. Another day we went by ferry across the lake from Nyon to Yvoire. The border of Switzerland meanders and the road was sometimes in one and sometimes in another. I got to see two good medieval towns, too, and a cliffside fort, and lots of buildings in Lyon.

Even though it rained like crazy during the camping event, we had a covered area with tables and chairs for speaking in the afternoons and games at night. Because I took the little PA system I bought from DAK with me, and it has two microphones, and someone was willing to drive to town to buy batteries (we would have needed a transformer, not just an adapter, to plug it in and have it work), both Claire and I could be heard over the rain pounding on the tarp roof.

On the way back to England, I was detained by immigration for nearly four hours (having been told by one of the officers early on that they could legally keep me for four hours). I had given awkward responses to ambiguous questions, and it was later suggested I was probably good for their stats, too, as they were under criticism for only detaining people of color and non-English speakers. So I was older, female, the boring color, and spoke only English. Good for them. Poor Julie waited for me in the lobby all that time, though she did know after an hour or so that I was in detention, because they called and asked if she was expecting someone, and her answers sprung me, eventually.

I always like being with Julie, James and Adam. After some following Adam to his cool activities, and some touristing, and some resting and laundry, Julie and Adam and I flew to the Netherlands where we were met by Rippy Dusseldorp. I had met Rippy in 2009 in London and remembered her, and we have been in correspondence. She had planned a great one-day event. Julie and Adam stayed on a permanently-moored houseboat a medium walk away, and I stayed with the Dusseldorp family. Their stairs were very steep and small, and I had gone to the gym since January preparing for that and for walking around Leiden. I did okay. Better than if I hadn't been working on my leg being stronger and less flinchy and scared. Later, Rippy and I went up the tower of Westkirk, and I only felt winded after the second spiral climb. Then I realized I was excited about what I was seeing and was forgetting to breathe. :-) So on the (many, wooden) steep straight stairs, I did fine.

But back to when we got there, Julie and Adam were beloved by the whole family, and Adam and the two Dusseldorp children, Gianluca (sounds quite a bit like "Jean-Luc" [Picard], and not so accidentally) and Giselle all liked each other lots and played hard and long.

Julie and Adam went back to their house a few days before I did. That entry into the UK was smooth. I had documents and dates and phone numbers and was way ready to slip through without any stupid answers.

And that's where the story gets lumpier. I got a message from Holly that she wanted to speak by Skype with no children around. A friend of hers had been hit by a pickup and killed, and she was in the position of informing some other friends. She wanted suggestions for how to do that tactfully and compassionately.

My computer was stolen by break-in robbers on Saturday and I got a new one on Sunday.

The week went pretty well, and the LiTTLe conference was successful, though Sunday morning Vanessa said she hadn't been able to get off the train at Ashford and had taken a taxi from Staines. I worried about our big brag that it was so close to the station, but soon another person came walking and I went out to meet her to see if she had come on the train and she had. So good!

The departure flight was delayed nearly two hours. I sent Keith an e-mail but he was so busy at work he didn't know until I called him from Philadelphia, where I had missed the connection and gotten new connecting flights (US Airways handled that part pretty efficiently, it seemed).

In Phoenix, I hurt my finger trying to throw my Burger King trash away with one hand. Instead of holding the swinging lid open with one hand and putting the trash in with the other, I put it in with one and tried to get my hand out before it closed. It skinned/cut my middle finger, and while trying to report that on Facebook, with a photo I took with Photobooth, my computer started a slowly cascading fail. I e-mailed a note to Always Learning that went through, but that's the last time I could get onto Safari.

At home I e-mailed Julie, and that's the last time I could get into e-mail. Thursday morning, it would get to the Apple, but no further.

Keith told me on the way out of the airport that Holly had called to wake him up to remind him to get me from the airport. That was going to be her task, and she and Will were to have gotten me, but not only was her trip to Yellowstone rescheduled so she was in Montana, but Will was in the hospital. "Sick" was all she knew. She has been mostly out of phone range, and didn't take the computer with her. She woke Keith up two hours too early, not knowing about the schedule change, but they talked for an hour, which made me feel better because I had been afraid to ask anything, not having heard from Keith or Holly either one for nearly three days. But they were fine.

Because Holly is on her road trip, I can use her computer (my Mac-before-last which has my info as it was three years ago, and that's fine because I mostly need websites anyway).

Ashlee is friends with Will on facebook, and went to review his case. He had gastrointestinal bleeding, had been in the hospital since late Saturday July 17, which was the day Holly had left in the early morning. Ashlee said he has had a blood transfusion. I think she said he had an infection. His e-mail and his mom's are in my other computer. The computer: I took it to the Apple store yesterday afternoon because it wouldn't go past the Apple. Even with their programmer resets and all, it wouldn't go past that. They took it back to open it up, to make sure there wasn't something obvious, and to see if there had been water damage or whatever other secret things they can know that way. Their summary was

Issue: Computer will not power up past EFI. Customer bought computer on July 8. Attempted to run ASD, SMc reset, reset pram. Still will not power on past EFI. Customer bought computer in England (422772015204). Computer needs to be swapped out for new machine. It is DOA. Advised customer to call AppleCare to help her with this process because she purchased computer in England. There is no physical or liquid damage on machine.
So I came home and called Apple Care. They said only UK Apple Care (or European, anyway) could actually replace it. I suggested they send this back there and give me an American one. Nope, they said. I need to take it back to the Apple Store and get them to send it in for repair, or I could wait for them to send me the paper and labels to send it myself. So I called to see if I could bring it right back, but no... I needed to make another Genius Bar appointment.

I'm glad (VERY glad) that I live four miles from the store, and not in some distant corner of New Mexico. So after being pretty cranky about the whole thing, I reminded myself that

  • it DID work really well for a week and a half,
  • I got to the end of my airport time in Phoenix before it began its slow cascading shut-down
  • I have exclusive use of Holly's computer until she gets home
  • I have the van to myself too
  • and that it will be in shipment before I would even have received the labels for mailing it.

Above all that, Keith's work and kindness made it possible for me to buy another one the day after it was stolen, knowing that it would be okay if Julie's insurance didn't cover it, and if our homeowner's insurance didn't cover it. Neither one did, as it turns out. Had it cost more than 1% of the insured value of our house, some would've been covered. Good news is our house is worth more than 100 MacBook Pros.

I unpacked the suitcases Julie packed for me so well. Only two losses. The frame of the grey suitcase I bought at a shady little shop in London in July 2009 (it was already failing, and Ollie and duct taped it for me), and the plastic popcorn bucket from Legoland. It protected its fragile contents, but the bucket and its lid are both broken. That's okay. I have too many plastic containers already, but none said Legoland Windsor. My packrattery is receding as I get older, which is good.

In unpacking I wasn't really surprised to see that I had a few things for Marty, a few more for Ashlee, two things for Jeff, LOTS for Holly, and none for Keith. Well... a UK bank coin bag and some Swiss coins. And I'll give him the three Malagasy bills Claire gave me, for his foreign money box.

If I could put a photo with this, it would be the one of my finger with the cool blue casing (kind of a condom for a wounded finger) that they gave me from Burger King's first-aid kit. That photo, though, will be gone forever when the computer is wiped. I bled on their stainless steel counter, but they were already closed. Two employees were in there cleaning up when I hurt myself. I had been sitting at a table reminding myself that I really, truly do NOT like Big Macs, but I didn't want to eat a fish sandwich just 24 hours after having really good fish'n'chips from Jack's in Ashford. I had chocolate milk and apple pie there, though, before I took skin off my finger. I would rather have had cherry pie and a glass of good, cold plain milk.

I went in the bathroom to clean my finger and put the bandages on, and I cried a little, out of frustration and pain and the grossness of pulling a piece of skin off me, and not having someone to help me. Then I went out to take a photo of the blue bandage to show you all, and then began the slow slide to writing this post.

I'm all better now.
I'm sorry Holly's friend who was hit by the truck will never be better.
I hope her boyfriend Will is recovering well.
I hope Holly gets home safely in a week and some when she's due.

I spent most of yesterday with Marty, and we went to a movie. I had agreed to go before asking what movie, and he had chosen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Very sweet. I got to see images of everyday England, some of India (though not the part I had seen), and have ideas about old folks figuring out what to do, and long-lost Indian boyfriends. Quite a good movie for him to choose for me.

When we went in, there were already fifteen or so people waiting, at 1:00, for the midnight showing. They were sitting in the hallway, having had their tickets, Marty figured, for many days, but now they were waiting for good seats for the midnight show.

In England, I had talked with Ollie about handguns in New Mexico, and said I had friends with handguns, and my dad always had several rifles.

Last night in northern Colorado, a kid younger than Kirby and older than Marty shot over dozens of people, killing 14 of them.

That, too, makes me glad to be home with a 23 year old son who knew which movie I would like and wanted to spend the day with me, and a daughter who called and left a message while we were gone saying she would be out of phone range again for 24 hours or so, but would try to call again Friday afternoon or evening. I might be off sending my computer for repair, and that is nothing to be sad about, in light of the wholeness of the week.

Friday, July 13, 2012

LiTTLe Conference Site

The conference Julie (and James and Adam) have organized starts in the morning. Preparations have been going on here at the house with increasing focus. We set up the site today, and one of the speakers was here for dinner, and Julie went to pick another up from the airport.

The building we'll be in is now St. James Independent School for Senior Boys, which is fairly new to this building but used to be elsewhere. [It's a progressive, humanist, vegetarian school that teaches Sanskrit along with Greek and Latin... but that's not about the building.]

When I asked about the tile in the hallways, how old it might be, the young man I asked said he thought before WWII, and that Canadian soldiers had been stationed there, and had bomb-proofed it, and they were said to have driven motorcycles up and down the hallways, so that's why the tile was in such bad shape.

I didn't think it was in such bad shape. Worse in the halls than in the entryway to the gym (photo below), but I also thought it was older than 100 years.

I haven't found a lot on the building. It's now St. James School for Senior Boys. Before that it was a girls school that closed in 2009. Before that and before the Canadian motorcycling military guys, there's a gap in easily-accessible information, but in 1716 it was founded as a boys' school with one teacher and ten students.

Oh! Here's a page recommending it as a filming location, I guess between St. David's school for girls and the current residents. https://location-collective.co.uk/location-of-the-month-oct-09-st-davids-school-_130.html ... and there are (used to be) some nice photos there. And people can get married there. Marriages can't take place just any old where, in the UK, as they can in the US. Churches and licensed venues. Seems the chapel isn't the site for marriages, the entrance hall is. (← the link to wedding-venue stuff was gone, in 2021; sorry)

If the building seems to be moving around, as the internet goes, it's because the part of Surrey it's in was once Middlesex. The post office still says Ashford, Middlesex. Boundaries and jurisdictions change.

The building we'll be in is a gym/theatre. The floor was once painted for basketball, without any space not part of the court. The goals are long gone, the floor is years from having been refinished, and there are now lots of expensive lights mounted on the ceiling, so a basketball would be A Bad Idea in there anyway. But we unloaded in the rain, and the subconscious parts of me didn't want to step on a basketball court with wet shoes that weren't the right kind of shoes anyway. Yikes. But there was nor border to walk on and then I figured out it had been a long time since it was a basketball court.

Across from where we'll be is a huge playing field.

The inside of the building, the parts we saw, weren't pretty or special, but the outside is nice, and seems it was at one time even nicer. There's a pretty gatehouse. I'll get more photos sometime on the weekend. These can be clicked for enlargement, but they're not super exciting, but I'd like to remember what I saw and where I was.

Note in 2021: If one of those images seems interesting, click to enlarge. If several seem interesting, it would be easier to click here for a gallery of the whole day's take.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Learn Nothing Day #5

A fortnight, two weeks, fourteen days, half a month from now (not six weeks... pick one of those two-week designations) is The Day. It is Learn Nothing Day, the day when unschoolers STOP learning just to prove they don't learn all the time.

This is the day to cite when your nosy neighbors and rude relatives ask about your "school days" or how your kids will learn. They will learn every day except this one. By golly gosh, by gum, get going. Plan your lack of learning carefully, because it's not as easy as you might think. You might want to invite them over to learn nothing with you.

Click the image above for more information on this International Holiday for Unschoolers, now in its fifth year.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Bad Guys took my Macbook!!

E-mail will not be happening the right way with me until tomorrow; sorry. My Macbook was stolen by a window-smashing burglar (or two) from Julie Daniel's house. Evil bad guys. The iPad was right next to it, and they left that. Adam had his iPad in the van. We had gone to see Ice Age 4. Keith looked up the serial number for me so we could report it to the very nice policeman who was already here when we got back. The house has an alarm, and the robbers went out the front door (having first thrown a big brick through the glass door into the dining room).

I don't have my cordless keyboard for the iPad, and I can hardly type without a real keyboard, so I've borrowed Julie's computer for this (and a note on Facebook).

The purpose of this post is mostly so I'll have a record of the date.

The one I had was bought after I dropped my first MacBook (the one Holly uses now) and broken the glass. So I got a 13" Macbook Pro at a computer shop in Cardiff in July 2009 (possibly early August).

So I'll get another one (not sure yet whether the insurance will cover it) and get the dealer (I hope) to back it up from my external hard drive; I had backed it up two nights ago. I'll try not to leave it visible through a window.

My photos are on photobucket, my blogs and my website are accessible from any computer, and so it's not as bad as it could have been.

Friday, July 06, 2012


I was in Philadelphia last year touring an odd little place by myself, and a young Japanese tourist wanted me to take her photo, with her camera. I did, and she offered to do the same for me. I told her I was too old to need photos of myself. She said I would never be this young again. So I let her take my picture.

Today is Keith's 56th birthday, and he was born in 1956. I remember how excited I was when I turned 53 and was born in 1953, so I told Holly she was going to be 91 because she was born in 1991. Not only was she not amused, but she figured out the whole pattern of such birthdays, and I was left in the dust of her mathematical-patterns brain, which she got from her father, who is 56 today.

For Graham, who liked this song, and Keith who is as young as he's going to get, in this direction, and for me to be able to find it easily...


I made a post on my Europe 2012 blog here: Photos, Notes and Amsterdam that was going to be about links to photos, but ended up BEING photos, so there it is.

Here are a couple of interesting boat names. Many boats are permanently moored for people to live in, but these two were fully capable of going (though not equally fast or far):

Truck Parade

This is not my video, and I wasn't there, but I sure like it. Modern trucks (mostly) parading through an old town. This is Baud, where the McNeills live now (Helena the Fortunate, for some of you).

Apparently something about American vehicles. :-)

A couple of weeks ago, Julie and I saw these (unrelated to the event above) on a Thursday afternoon, on a motorway near her house:

I don't get the chassis, so that's a mystery. If anyone knows, please leave a comment!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Connections in all directions

I loved my time in the Netherlands. Rippy and Graham were exceptional hosts and their family is sweet.

Rippy and I went up into the belltower (not as high as the carillion bells, but pretty far up) with one of their every-half-hour tours of six people. That by itself was pretty cool. A tour guide and six people go up and come down and then another group of six goes.

There's a walkway all the way around, 40 meters up. This photo was brought to mind by one that Lori Odhner had on her Marriage Moats blog today, so I've brought them onto the same page. They are, in a way, just the same. :-)

The photo Lori used is by Brita Conroy, and it accompanied Lori's writing about different cultures, and families, and houses.
Click it to get to that post, if you want to.

More photos from the day in Amsterdam may be viewed here, but don't expect them all to be as pretty as the one above. Some are coots' nests on odd things in canals. Some are sad. Some are fuzzy. There are two pipe organs, in the same church. These two photos go together:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Stamppot dinner

I had two kinds of stamppot, made by Graham Dusseldorp, the dad of my host family. He said it's more a winter dish, and the green one (with kale) is the more regular kind his mom makes. The purple one had red cabbage and apples. Both were good but I liked the purple one better. There were two kinds of sausage—one for each—but the gravy was the same for both, and was what the cooked sausages had been in.

Rippy and I had been in Amsterdam all day where we went to canal tour boats and climbed up the bell tower at the Westerkerk. There will be photos.

But back to that dinner thing:

So I had two dinners. A Stamppot Sampler! :-)