Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back to work (I love my job!)

Back to work this week. I really enjoy being able to return to a workplace where…

  • we start every day with praise, music and prayer;
  • my work colleagues are my friends;
  • all the staff are committed, practising Christians;
  • I get spiritual, emotional and professional support from both fellow staff and management.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Life of Pi

Yann Martel's story started quite slowly. It took me quite a while to get into it. I nearly gave up on it! But the story gradually grew on me. And a very strange story it was, indeed! I still don't quite know what to believe, having got to the end of it. It's difficult to tell where the lines are between fiction, fictional fact and fact. I suppose that was Martel's intention.

This book was suggested to me as a possible book for my recommended reading list for my students, and I had heard of it before, though I'd never read it. I'm not sure I can recommend it to my students, except possibly some of my more mature older students. But it was worth reading myself.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Vegetarian Pasties

With a little extra time to think and prepare, I've been more creative than usual with the meals I've been making this week. Today for lunch I made sweet potato pasties with home-made pastry. They were a great success, although next time I may just use frozen pastry. (I couldn't today because we had none, after throwing away the last lot due to mould.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hot and sticky in Brisbane? Try Mackay!

To all our friends in Brisbane who are wanting it to rain because it is muggy, I invite you to read Laetitia's blog post about the humidity here in Mackay.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The long drive home, and a surprise at the end of the journey

Back home in Mackay.

In order to bring our old couch to Mackay, we had arranged to collect a brand new trailer from a factory in Brisbane and deliver it to Mackay Trailers, run by a friend of ours here in Mackay. So on Thursday we went over to Brendale to pick up the trailer, then spent the rest of the afternoon finding things to put in it: our couch (which we'd lent to our previous church, Fairfield Christian Family), our push-mower (which we'd left with our friend Audrey since we house-sat for her in mid-2004), and a few other bits and pieces. My father and I put quite some effort into wrapping the couch matress thoroughly in in builder's plastic to keep the rain out—which was reasonably successful, but not perfect, as we discovered when we finally unwrapped it again this evening.

On Friday morning we took everything out to the car and packed it from floor to roof. With the back seats folded down, our Corolla has a large and almost rectangular cargo bay with no lip at the back, which was most convenient for loading in the cupboard inserts (which we'd hoped to be able to bring back with us, since my poor mother has been putting up with them lying sideways on the floor of my old bedroom in Browns Plains since early 2003).

Finally we left. It rained or drizzled almost the whole way, finally stopping around Miriamvale. We made it to Rockhampton around 7:15pm before stopping for the night. Hotels are not cheap in Rocky! (We paid $95 for the night, which included breakfast.) We considered ordering pizza for dinner, but changed our minds when we found out it would take an hour and a half to arrive! So we asked our hosts, who suggested a short drive to a nearby pub. But near the pub we found an Indian restaurant called Sitara, from which we got delicious (and quite spicy!) take-away food which we took back to eat in our room.

On Saturday after breakfast and filling up the fuel tank (isn't petrol getting expensive!) we drove on to Mackay, arriving around 1:30pm… to discover that our dodgy circuit breaker had flipped off while we were away, turning what little food we had left in the fridge and freezer into stinking mould! *Sigh* Laetitia gallantly cleaned the fridge out while I went off to buy groceries for restocking.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Reading Bug … and how you can help your child to catch it

This book by Paul Jennings is beautiful. The illustrations (ok, comics) by Andrew Weldon are gorgeous.

The book is basically about how parents (and teachers, but mainly parents) can help their children learn to enjoy reading. But it is also, particularly in a couple of the later chapters, about how authors (and editors, illustrators and publishers, but mainly authors) of children's books can create books that children want to read, that children will enjoy reading—hopefully, again and again and again.

It also talks a little about the relationship between teaching children to read and teaching children to talk, a subject close to my heart as a Suzuki music student and teacher. Now a maths teacher, I feel further challenged by this. If maths is a language (and I believe it is), then I seriously need to think about the relationships between first-language learning and how I teach maths.

CMS Summer School 2007

Summer School this year was wet, wet, wet.

Friday evening there was a big rainstorm, lots of mud everywhere. Still haven't managed to get the mudstains off my long pants! But that's okay, they're old pants, and I haven't tried the nappy treatment yet. It rained on and off every day we were there, including a hailstorm during lunchtime on Sunday.

Don Carson did the Bible talks this year. Ironically, after being billed as a major draw-card for this year's Summer School, he himself humbly noted that we shouldn't look to “gurus” for spiritual instruction, but rather to God alone. Nonetheless, he spoke very well, helping us to see and understand more from Nehemiah than we had expected (Laetitia and I having already studied Nehemiah in 2007).

However, the food was a poor cousin of the usual rich Summer School fare, especially for Laetitia and I with our special diets. First of all, although we were supposed to be eating our meals at CMS, the same site we were sleeping at, in fact (due apparently to an uncorrected database error by CMS) the caterers were providing all special diet meals at WEC! (For those who don't know, the WEC site is basically diametrically opposite the CMS site at the conference centre.) Second, CMS had evidently failed to pass on to the caterers our special diet instructions which we have carefully prepared specifically for the benefit of people who are trying to cook for us. Third, the portions they prepared were pathetically small, especially for me, trying to put on weight! (The plate shown at right was supposed to be my lunch on Sunday. When I commented to the cook that it wasn't enough to feed me, I was told, “well, there's salad too.” Grr!)

Fortunately, after correcting the cook's incomplete description of our dietary needs, the meals did gradually improve. On the last couple of days we were eating delicious and very creative meals. *Sigh*

Friday, January 4, 2008

For men only: A straightforward guide to the inner lives of women

This is the companion book to For women only, by the same authors, Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. We (my wife and I) both enjoyed the previous book, so when we discovered For men only on the shelf in Word we quickly grabbed it.

This book was as good as the first. Fun to read, very useful, full of insightful comments, started interesting discussions. Highly recommended for any man involved in a serious intimate relationship. (Okay, yes, many women would enjoy it too.)

Boys and Books

James Moloney's Boys and Books: Building a culture of reading around our boys is an excellent book about boys who are reluctant to read (such as I frequently encounter in my classroom). It encourages parents, teachers and other adults in such boys' lives, and is full of useful strategies and suggestions. It finishes with several substantial lists of recommendations.

For me, the other helpful thing I got from Moloney, in the context of me trying to build my own recommended reading lists for my students, was an emphatic don't criticise—which I knew, but it was worth my considering this instruction in the particular arena of boys' reading. As in, if a student (boy or girl) chooses to read something with which I disagree, or of which I disapprove, I still need to be positive and encouraging about the simple fact that they are reading. A discussion about the (style or substance of the) reading material is preferable; better yet to ask the young person in question to explain what they're reading and/or to defend their opinions with reference to what they've read.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

I like holidays. I finally get to do some real reading for pleasure. So: on with the reviews.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is an interesting (but quite heavy) tome. Every page has a review of one or two books, by people who loved the book. The thick volume is divided into sections, roughly: pre-1800, 19th century, 20th century.

I preferred browsing: flipping pages at random, reading a review or two, flipping on. My wife started with the title and author index, hunting for her favourites.

I'm not sure I'll ever read all 1001, but I did add quite a few titles to my to-read list. It's the kind of reference book I'd like to have if I'm ever stuck in a situation where I have a lot of free time and a library nearby. I'd work through it systematically, broadening my horizons and hopefully discovering some new favourites.