Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Schools as prisons. Not such a bad idea.

Published here:

Dear Governor Snyder,

In these tough economic times, schools are hurting. And yes, everyone in Michigan is hurting right now financially, but why aren’t we protecting schools? Schools are the one place on Earth that people look to to “fix” what is wrong with society by educating our youth and preparing them to take on the issues that society has created.

One solution I believe we must do is take a look at our corrections system in Michigan. We rank nationally at the top in the number of people we incarcerate. We also spend the most money per prisoner annually than any other state in the union. Now, I like to be at the top of lists, but this is one ranking that I don’t believe Michigan wants to be on top of.

Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.

This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!

Please provide for my students in my school district the same way we provide for a prisoner. It’s the least we can do to prepare our students for the future...by giving our schools the resources necessary to keep our students OUT of prison.

Respectfully submitted,

Nathan Bootz
Ithaca Public Schools

Monday, May 30, 2011


You know what?

 I actually don't like the word tolerance very much at all.  Intolerance works for me, it is honest and straightforward.  Something is unsupportable, you cannot stand it, you cannot tolerate it.

Tolerance though?  You still think it is stupid, wrong minded and useless, but you're going to put up, shut up and get on with your day.

Know what?  That's kind of sneaky and unpleasant, a sort of lying to yourself and everyone else.

Acceptance, that's warmer and more honest.

Curiosity, I love that.  What the heck is that all about?  Like kids.  One of the women where I work is undergoing chemo.  The kids are great.  Why are you wearing that scarf?  Are you sick? Do you feel bad? Will your hair grow back?  Will you get better?

Genuine concern and a genuine desire to understand.

But tolerance?


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Another reason I like it here!!!

B A R Ç A !!!!!!!!

why I like it here.

Thankfully, after all the bureaucracy of late, and the kids that JUST WANT TO GO and not learn, a day that reminds me why I love it here.

Why it is worth the hassles.

Sea, mountains, a long walk, two peaks, all in good company, good coffee, good snacks, back to a friend's place for a huge long lunch (4 hours) and tonight BARÇA!!!!

Go go go go go go go go!!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

11:29 pm

Plaça Catalunya


There were hundreds in Plaça Catalunya this morning

Now there's thousands, and builing.  Plus in Girona, LLeida, Tarragona, Terrasa, Bilboa,  etc etc etc etc etc.

Got the photo here.

Twitter is MILES ahead of the newspapers, who are still talking about this morning.

To sign a petition agains what has happened, protest with Avaaz.

Live stream here.

Know whose out there?  Young people and their grandparents.

At 10:30 pm...I don't think they can get more in there.


I imagine what some of you have heard about Barcelona, and the police going in, batons crashing, they even fired rubber bullets into the crowd.  Feels just like Toronto!

What the hell, eh?

Went to an event this evening, and was all indignat all over again.  It was an event promoting the use of Catalan by Catalans when talking to non-Catalans.  Fine fine fine, estic completament d'accord.  I agree.  They got my back WAY up though, WAY up,  though it took me a moment to figure out why I was so annoyed.

They were looking to talk to 'nouvinguts'.  New comers.  I mentioned that it was five years later, that I wrote better Catalans than most Catalans over the age of 30 and that it just didn't seem like a newcomer after all that time and effort.

Didn't seem to change their mind though.

They mentioned their friends who were immigrants.

Ho hum.

Hmmm was it this boring 30 odd years ago

Maybe I am not as used to being bored, now I'm out of highschool, maybe the Spanish book is achingly more boring (it is EASILY 6 times as long).....

but OMG,

the hardest part about studying for this test is the sheer boredom of the read.

I translate:

" The drivers of vehicles that are travelling in the normal direction of an continuing street when near vehicles travelling in the opposite directon:
  Cannot move into oncoming lanes and

I can't take it, that's all it is TOO boring to translate.


Thursday, May 26, 2011


There is truly nothing as wonderful as getting into bed at the end of a long day and sliding between the cool sheets and stretching out.


That's where I'm headed now.

More later.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Learning to drive again!

I've been driving for a long long time, and now I am taking the test here.  I have learned to drive in English (surprise surprise!)  I am studying from a book in Catalan and all the online tests (for the theoretical section) are in Spanish.

I am sooooo messed up.

Oh, and a pass?  93%

Gonna be studying quite a bit!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Why is it that if I get too hot at night I cannot just wake up all sweaty and throw off the covers.

Why do I have to have a nightmare, wake up filled with horror and then gradually realise that I am far too hot, throw off the covers, lie there trying to be rational in the middle of the night so my adreneline levels will diminish enough to go back to sleep, eventually give up and listen to a peaceful podcast on the iPod, and wake up tangled in the cables, wondering if I am being choked in my sleep.

Why is that?

Monday, May 23, 2011


From Eldest:

The opposite of logic is not faith.  The opposite of logic is bureaucracy.

Clever girl.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I have discovered that I have no voice.

We tried to vote in the Canadian elections, but we've been out of the country for more than 5 years, and weren't allowed to.  An archane rule from pre-internet days.  Most likely, if I am going to make the effort to go to my embassy/consulate TWICE to vote, I have some idea of what's going on.

I received a letter a year or two ago asking me if I wanted to renounce my (nonexistent) right to vote in the UK so I could vote in Spain.  I said yes.

Spain has said no.

I will have to look into it for the federal level, as possibly maybe I might be able to vote.

Today was municipal elections.  I have a NIE (registered number for foreigners allowed to work), I am registered both nationally (some bit of paper) and locally (empadronat), I have a job, a house, a mortgage, I pay my freaking taxes, I have two kids in the local school, and they said I couldn't vote.

I should have filled in a FORM TWO MONTHS before election day.  For you Americans out there?  They have TWO WEEKS of electioneering.  I however have to ask to vote before every. single. election .

Two months in advance.

I was really very (surprisingly) angry.

I felt most unwelcome.  Honestly.  Unwelcome.

You'll take my money, but not my opinion.

Then I went down to Plaça Catalunya.  Shoulda set up my own tent.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

love the beach!

Beach day today!

Gotta love it.....

and a little shopping too, how girly can you get?

Friday, May 20, 2011

And about time too.

I was on the metro today, coming back from todays driver's license hassle, I have an appointment to do the test, and I am a good deal poorer, though my eyesight still seems to be wicked.....


I was on the metro, and this kid came on with a roll of paper under his arm and I looked at him, and thought that maybe I'm not an artist, that maybe it's gone, that maybe there isn't much left.

Then I got home, Youngest unwrapped her new bedsheets I'd bought her and came down with an armload of cardboard squares.

Seems there's still something in the old girl!

Thanks goodness.

Immigration series, acrylic on canvas, smallish

Oil pastel and watercolour on cardboard, smallish.

Acrylic and oil stick on paper.  bigger.

Ahhhh, I feel so much better.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Driving book.....

To try and keep track of the horror, maybe more for me than you all.....the payment for Eldest's passport continues to be lost, the post office is launching an investigation, in the meantime we have paid it again through the bank, and scanned the document to the lovely lady at the embassy....honestly, she's a delight.

My letter to the driver's license people in Canada went off, high speed, cross your fingers and light your candles for me on that one...that temp license would be a very very good thing.

Work suddenly needed photocopies of all my degrees and academic papers, and they have the originals for a day which is kind of giving me kittens, but whatever.....found them all, photocopied them all...etc.

We are part way through updating our empadronament - registering with the gov't where we live, I kid you not.

I went and got the info for the Spanish driving test....I will need, for tomorrow when I go back again:

  1. a photo
  2. a medical exam (which I have to pay for, 40 odd €)
  3. my NIE (and I am sure a photocopy)
  4. 86.60€ for the test (this does not include the practical)
I bought the book, in Catalan.  It is possible to do the test in English, but it is 30 questions and you can only make 3 errors, and if the English in the test is badly done, I could screw it up because I can't understand what they want, and they LOVE a trick question here.  I'd rather fail cause I don't understand Catalan than cause they can't write it, wouldn't be so frustrating somehow - though for 87€ I don't want to be failing (ridiculous overcharge for something that costs them almost nothing, how is it possible that the gov't is broke?)

Tomorrow I have to go in and stand in two seperate lines...you know, those ones where you take a number, and you are about 65 away from who they are currently serving, and the lighting is bad, and the AC isn't working and there are only 8 chairs for the 200 people in the room and you wonder what freaking rock some of these people crawled out from under??? Yeah, those ones.  Today, only 1 line (45 min), and the lady when I got there DID NOT SPEAK CATALAN!!!!  Thought there was a rule about that, no?  Don't they have to have that famous nivell C in Catalan????

I am going to try and do the written test in two weeks, the book is SILLY fat, and the man when I bought it gave me two corrections, one is a change in speed limits, fair enough, the other is a change in, get this...OK.  Here it is mandatory to carry a yellow reflective jacket (read yet another way to force people to spend money on something frankly useless).  Previously it was mandatory that the jacket show the manufacturer's name on the back, now it is not necessary.

I told you they like a stupid question.

You know that will be the only thing I will remember from the whole thing, right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


OMG will it ever stop????

First, well, let's not start there, that way lies insanity.

Recently, Canadian taxes, plus some questions about last years taxes from two different departments, that's fun!

Then Eldest's passport needs renewal, but the required birth certificate is still languishing in Madrid.  Finally that got sorted and it went off.

Today, Spanish taxes, of course, we were missing a piece of paper, so we have run around to get that, and now will have to scan it and send it down to the gestor.

Then, while waiting in the office I realised that my Ontario driver's license has expired.  I have to drive the first day I get back, so a letter has to be sent off for a temporary one, with a photocopy of the license.

I will also now be getting a Spanish license before I go.

I have to drive when I get there.

THEN, the Canadian Embassy in Madrid just phoned, the payment hasn't gone through for Eldest's passport application, so the man, ever galant, hoofed it down to the post office here, as we paid through them, to see what's up.  Seems it went through, and someone at the embassy signed for it, but the problem is theirs.

When he called they were, clar, at lunch.

Deserted islands start looking better and better.

I did swim in the Med today!!!!  That was very very good.....

Ooooh, and we had steak and fresh cherries for lunch!  The sun is shining, the sea is beautiful and life, despite the hassles, is very very good.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Something to like about top-loading washers

I know, I know, I know.  The front loaders are endlessly better for the environment, they use less water, less electricity....I am totally on board.
Know what I don't like though?  (aside from their small size and endless cycle length, I mean really, do you NEED two and a half hours to get some sweat and dirt out?)

I ramble.

Today, and in general, what I don't like is that they are just a wee bit fascist.  Single-minded.  Inflexible.

You see, once you put the clothes in, shut the door and start the cycle, there's no going back.  None.

They will. not. let you have your clothes back, even if you want to go swimming, and your only suit is in the machine and the only one for sale in the village is 65€!!!

So, instead of trying out the local pool and getting a membership so that I can exercise more cause my butt isn't going to let me run up and down the mountains every day yet, I have to sit around at home.

All cause I can't lift the lid, slosh around and pull out my suit.

Not liking it at all.

Going to be buying a second suit too, me thinks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ahhhh, now THAT's a Monday.

Went for a great run, went to BCN with the man and got him new runners, then coffee outside near the beach, a nap at lunch, a whole lot of laughter in the afternoon and the beach with Youngest and a friend in the evening.

Got some reading, some sketching/life drawing and some laughing in, all good stuff.

Just for the record.  I could have more Mondays like this one.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flat, flatter, flattest.

I have been very good lately,  I have been going to bed early, before midnight or earlier every night, getting lots of sleep and doing the right thing.

I have not been painting, well, that is not strictly true, I have not been painting anything worth looking at, and I am getting frustrated.

I know, I know, down times are important too, but it is frustrating also knowing that this summer, once I get to Canada and my work there, I simply will have no time at all to paint.  Nothing, nada, res.

So a dry spell now is....ahhhh.....irritating.

I am simultaneously annoyed with myself for waiting around, for not getting inspired, for not making it happen.  I am showing up every day, but with nothing that looks interesting to work on.

Maybe a temporary resurgence of the canvas a day till things start to flow again.

I'm reading art books, looking art art on websites, listening to interviews with artists, going to try and hit a gallery tomorrow, and all I'm making is guk.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Youngest having a good day!

Youngest and I went into town today, and we had a LOVELY time.  We got her really nice sandals, we found her favourite flops in a current size, and she got surf shorts for swimming, plus we bought a beautiful tea pot for me, at youngest's urgings.  She also had a double scoop of delicious icecream and a really good pasty with fresh cheese and spinach in the middle.

Then we went to the Med and she swam at the beach,  I found a little beach glass and the water is a beautiful colour.

Later she's going to l'Esplai, which is basically packs of kids running around the village doing activities while all the parents rest....

but for now she's eating chocolate cake in the bath.

Sweet, no?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Well HELLO again!

Blogger's down, so I have to post this later, but I am writing it now cause I'm thinking about it.

One of the things I do is teach language.  English in particular.  One of the other things I do here is (try to) learn language, specifically Catalan and Spanish.

This leads me to thinking a lot about language and grammar.  Syntax and structure.  

It leads all of us to this.  Not many people can talk clearly to their grade school kids about infinitives and imperatives, phrasal verbs and subjunctives, but we are all buried in this and we talk about it.  A lot.  My kids love spelling bees and we will sit around with a Webster's after dinner sometimes and spell.  Surprisingly fun, that is.

The thing is though, sometimes I find a student, or students, that simply cannot get some aspects of language, usually, flow and form, prepositions and word order, or odd word choices.  They are spending too much time translating in their heads and WAY too much time with a thesaurus.

I believe, I truly believe, there is a limit to what any individual can learn of a language from rules.  From studying the grammar.  

Most of language has to be learned by ear and by eye, by listening to it and reading it until the rhythms and the patterns of the language become natural to them, till they sound right.  

There is some mighty powerful neurological language crunchers in our heads that figure things out that grammar rules simply try to explain.  That is what is important, if the grammar is ahead of the language, you have the cart before the horse.  

Grammar should assist in understanding parts of language that we find confusing rather than driving the investigation of language.

Am I losing you?  Probably, I've thought about this too long, and it is too late for clarity.

I guess my bottom line is that reading and listening to a language are immensely powerful tools in learning a language as it harnesses vast regions of our minds outside of our frontal cortex, outside of our conscious reasoning....and lets us get a handle on so very much more of what is going on.  Lets us learn, like kids learn.

But slower.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


That's the league!!!

B A R Ç A!!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I would love to be rich enough to apply paint without thinking about painting thinly cause of the cost.

I love acrylics.  LOVE them.

I miss painting, I am studying too much.

I got a 64% in my Spanish test today, imperatives are HARD.  I was lucky to get that.

Big Catalan writing to submit due on Thursday, I have to ask about which conjugation would be most appropriate..formality wise, Catalan has three levels, (at least) it would seem.  You, as in you singular, you as in you plural and he as in third person singular, in ascending levels of formality, I think, all refering to you, as in you singular.  Got that clearly?  I could call you:  you, y'all or he, each being more formal than the one before.

I have also figured out what complements de regime verbals are!!! I know, few of you out there are excited, and I am about to blindside you with grammar  BUT,  I AM EXCITED!!!!  Complements are kind of like phrases and kind of like objects, as in direct or indirect.

A complement de regime verbal (CRV) (or something like that) is a type of prepositional complement (we might call that a prepositional phrase).  BUT it is a specific type.  It is a prepositional complement that acts as a direct object, specifically for transitive verbs (they must take a direct object, for instance the sentence, "I give" is incomplete, cause it leaves you wondering if I give blood, presents or a damn.)

SO, a CRV is a direct object to a transitive verb that must begin with a preposition (or else it is simply a direct object and I flow another way on the flowchart of Catalan pronouns).  This means that it requires very specific pronouns when it is replaced, (in English we almost always would use that or it, though I oversimplify slightly).  It gets even rougher though, as there are 5 possible prepositions for these types of complement, one of which takes one pronoun, and the other four or which take a different one.

Imagine me, if you will.  About to say a sentence, and I am feeling wild, reckless and ridiculous and you, my dear listener are hopefully feeling patient, because as I wind into this sentence I must decide if the pronouns are to go before or after the verb (depends on the tense), then I must decide what type of complement it is, and if the verb is transitive or not, then I must analyse which preposition is in use in order to discover which pronoun to use, and then I must remember which order the pronouns go in as they generally go indirect object first, and then direct object, but some must always be first in line, and others second and still others before certain ones but after others, sort of like squabbly siblings.  Finally, I must decide which of these pronouns I can and cannot combine into new and different ones, and which ones can or cannot be abbreviated onto the verb or appostrophied onto the end of a different verb.

But what happens now?  I'm middle aged and I've forgotten what the f*ck I was going to say, so instead we go for a coffee.

Sound good?

Monday, May 9, 2011

I had a plan

It was to post about reading to my kids, which I still do, despite their teenager-ness...and I adore reading to them, especially since the books they want to read now are generally ones I like..



you remember those old movies


set in submarines where everyone is silent


and all you can hear is the sound of the radar echos


coming back and warning of the enemy


close at hand?

I can hear that now.

For some time too.  The man and I just had a little chat about it


a bird?  maybe

we're debating a tree frog possibly.

Either that or we are about to have


a serious flooding problem!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Went into a local bar today after struggling with taxes for a few hours.  The man needed a beer, and I very nearly did too!

You know, at 4 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon in Catalunya, the only folks in the bars are freaky foreigners (us) and the village drunks (thankfully not us).

Truita de patata is so very yummy!

I love it that the books I am reading to my kids are books that I truly enjoy too.

Deadheading roses is also quite a delight.

Subjunctive in Catalan, not so much.  Should have studied more.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ho hum

Worked today,

taxes tomorrow.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Finished Friday

Along with two translations, a ton of work, preping for work tomorrow (yes, Saturday, I am a loser)  a HUGE long meeting, making chocolate souffle, gardening, reading to the kids and NOT studying Catalan today  HA!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Thinking that I'd like to take up the cello.

Also thinking that I am nuts,

though it would be lovely.

Maybe after I finish the Catalan class, no?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Finished, May 3, 2011

Immigration series, pencil, pen, marker, watercolour and acrylic on paper.  96 x 77 cm

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The book I am reading

would be better if it did not have sentences like this, "With this dichotomy between the spirits that move the body and a prophylactic 'reasoning', we come to an issue we touched on in the last chapter, the destruction of the esemplastic powers by an overvaluation of analytic cogniton and the related destruction of gift exchange by the hegemony of the market."

I mean, really, is that necessary or could you simply learn to write.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Finished on May 1st...

All three form more of the Immigration series, completed May 1, 2011

Acrylic and paint marker on paper, 95 x 110 cm

Acrylic on paper, 96 x 77 cm

Immigration series, acrylic on paper, 96 x 77 cm

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Next day

Some things were the same, walking my nephews to school, pain au chocolate, a delicious sandwich...

Some not, saying goodbye to my sister for instance.

Headed out with time to spare.  Nomad had recommended La Maison Rouge, a contemporary art gallery.  I set off walking.  (no guff)  I fortunately didn't get caught up with the National Police in Riot gear, but had a lovely long walk.  Wandered through the Luxemburg gardens, which were lovely, and into the Saint Sulpice church - escaping rain and having a break for my feet.  Past the Natural History Museum in the Jardin de Plantes, honestly it would be frustrating living in Paris, you would constantly feel that you couldn't keep up with all that was going on.  Anyway, I crossed the river on the Pont Austerlitz and went into La Maison Rouge.  They had a major exhibition on about Cannibalism that rocked Nomad's world, but left me kinda flat honestly, but they also had an exhibit by Chiharu Shiota, she had two installation pieces, the first one took my breath away, five elongated victorian nightgowns enmeshed in a mass or woven webbed strings, with tunnels for the observer to walk through....well, you can see it on the site linked above and there is an interview with the artist, and an amazing video piece that she completed was on view as well.  That was worth the walk and the 5€ alone.

Onwards!!!  I wandered over to the Hotel de Ville, just outside La Maison Rouge though, there is a canal filled with vessels, most of them motor boats but also canal boats all with people living on them.  Now if you know me at all, you know I spent a fair length of time leaning over the parapet gazing at the boats....

La Hotel de Ville had an exhibition about Paris at the time of the Impressionists.  Mostly paintings of Paris and Paris culture at that time, though it was better than I thought it might have been, partially as the Musée d'Orsay is undergoing renovation so some of their work is on loan.  I was meeting Nomad for lunch at 1:45, so I had to move on....I wandered back over to the left bank, and got a crepe sucre, something I HAD to do, then ran out of time and hopped the Metro make it on time.  We had delicious Korean and talked and talked and talked till it was time for me to go.

Trip out to the airport was fine, flight delayed an hour.  Long enough for me to miss the last bus out of BCN, so I took a train to somewhere nearby and missed the last bus from there.  45 min walk from the station and got home well after midnight.

DOG tired, but glad to be home.

Now to send the man!!!!