What is your ‘road less traveled’?

2 Jun


A recent three-day trek through Manhattan – lots of good sightseeing on that one little island – got me thinking about the course my life might have taken if I would have considered moving to the East Coast after college.


I was too much of a Westerner to have even entertained such a scary prospect, I suppose. It was scary enough to move to Oregon for that first post-college job.


On the other hand, way back then I was embarking on a profession in publishing, in the broadest sense, and New York was and still is the end-all and be-all of publishing. I could have looked for jobs in entry-level writing, editing, office assisting, fact-checking, etc., at any number of publishing houses. Become a reporter for the New York Times? No, not even with my 4.0 GPA from J-school. But where‘s the pulse point of most magazines, corporate publications and book houses? The Big Apple, of course.


Would I have been happy in a 200square-foot living space, scraping by, andputting up with the crowds, the noise and the brusqueness of New Yorkers? Maybe. I think I would have liked riding the subway and getting my exercise by giving up a car and walking to most places. I would have loved the cafes, street vendors and variety of other eating establishments. I might have become an avid art gallery visitor and theatergoer. I might have begun to prefer the beauty in the vast panorama of skyscrapers to the beauty of vast Western landscapes. I might have been OK with more rain than I was used to. I might have become an expert at spotting locales for the many, many TV shows and movies shot in NY. And Central Park – gorgeous.


That’s a lot of “might have’s.” Probably it was by default that I headed down this particular fork in the road where I find myself more than 30 years later. But, but, but … should I have taken the “road less traveled’?


What was your post-college “road less traveled”? Comment below.


How I got this shot on my Nikon D3000

9 Dec

For those of you with a Nikon D3000 who are experimenting with night shots, here are a few tips. At least they worked for me the other night when I walked on the pier at Manhattan Beach, in Los Angeles, on a chilly night.

First, don’t be afraid to change the ISO. It’s one of the three easiest things to play with when you are trying for an artful shot. The other two things, by the way, are shutter speed and aperture. The ISO for this night shot is 1600, which allowed me to shoot at an f-stop of 5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second. I went tripod-less and rested the camera on my other (gloved) hand. Also, I braced my elbow against my waist. So my second tip is, don’t be afraid to try it, even if you don’t have a tripod or a solid surface to rest the camera.

Third tip: Think about your composition, and here I am using an obvious leading line — the lights and railing leading to the tree. In retrospect, I see it was helpful to have all that lighting for a decent shot at ISO 1600, without a flash.

Have fun shooting holiday lights! Comment below if you have other helpful tips for night shooting with a Nikon D3000.

Experimenting with night shooting

More on promoting reading for kids

21 Oct

In a July 2011 post, “Instilling a Love of Reading, By Whatever Means,” I commented on an article suggesting bribery to get kids to read. That’s still not a bad idea. <a href="http://wp.me/pWVCn-3V&quot; title="Instilling a Love of Reading, …"

Now I've come across even better ideas from a famous author I have newfound respect for: James Patterson who, with Hachette Book Group, took out a full-page ad in the Oct. 13, 2011, New York Times.

"We Can Get Our Kids Reading." made salient points about parent involvement, noting that to leave the development of a love for reading entirely to the schools is a tragic mistake. "Moms and Dads, it's important that your kids see you reading" was one of several statements that got my attention.

Must pass along a few great websites Patterson cited: GuysRead.com (for boys who are reluctant readers), ReadKiddoRead.com, FirstBook.org and the Kids Reading List at Oprah.com

Google me this, Batman

6 Oct

(My headline makes no sense for the following story; I’m just trying to be cute.)

The Internet is like our brain’s lackey.

That occurred to me as I read an interview with Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings in Time magazine recently. The vast “Interwebs” is like a crutch, and there’s a very real possibility that all of our brains will soon turn to mush. Except for Ken’s, of course.

He cogently pointed out that our brains have become too dependent on things like phone navigators, spellcheck and Google search. Why mine our brains to recall information? Why fold out a map or look at the sun’s position in the sky? Why open a reference book? Why ask a real live person? Why do any of these things when we can just type in the right keywords and — voila! — a page of relevant websites magically appears.

I’m trying hard not to let the Internet do all my work for me. Here are a few ways I rely on good ol’ fashioned brain power:

When I’m putting together mix CDs with a certain theme, I do not go to the iTunes store to see similar compilations that iTunes suggests. I add songs when my brain recalls the titles or I hear them on the radio.

When I’m deciding on a movie to see at home or in the theater, I rely on recommendations from friends and from reviews I happened to have read. I pretty much ignore Netflix recommendations for such things as “critically acclaimed comedies with Jewish mothers and Southwestern settings” — although the descriptors do make me chuckle.

When I go to the library to check out books — what a concept — I use the computerized catalog but memorize the call letters of the book I’m looking for.

When I’m putting together random lists for the fun of it, such as “actors with first-degree relatives who are also actors,” I don’t rush to Google and type in “brother and sister actors,” etc. I rely on my memory.

When I am contemplating what to blog about, I ignore the suggestions from WordPress.com that pop up whenever I publish. Very considerate of you, WordPress, but I think I can figure it out.

Finally, here’s a real no-no, and if I resort to this my brain might as well just release from my skull and jump into a pickling jar: I will not let the computer help me with Scrabble by scanning my letters and suggesting some obscure word. If I never had any idea that “qi” was a word, I’m certainly not going to start using it in a game I’m pretty good at anyway. Although I don’t have a “u” ….

Why We Should Cry for Change in Education, Part 5

15 Sep

Even though my day-to-day teaching duties are over, I’m enjoying the website Edutopia, founded by George Lucas and others. It seems to be a teacher-supportive mix of practical advice and progressive thinking, with thoughtful bloggers and helpful videos.

This blog headline caught my attention the other day: “The Role of Mistakes in the Classroom,” by Alina Tugend, a New York Times columnist and author of “Better By Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong.” Tugend’s premise is that it’s OK for school kids to make mistakes in math, reading comprehension and other subjects because it’s all in the name of learning. With effort, kids might arrive at the right answers, and even if they don’t, they should be praised for embarking on that road to learning and not just shirking off an assignment because their mindset is that they can’t do it. The concept makes so much sense; the trouble is that it butts heads with our test-scores-are-everything goals right now.

I liked how Tugend called the idea “resilient learning,” and it helped me recall the times I had to coax freshmen and sophomores into writing an essay, any essay, because — I assured them — their efforts would be reflected in their grade. So many of the kids assumed that a poorly written essay would be an automatic F; thus, why put in the effort? So, sure, I graded some pretty rough patches of writing in my time — full of sentence fragments, wandering ideas, cliched openings and conclusions and, yeesh, the spelling errors. But, hey, they were writing.

I could contrast my approach to grading essays to some of my colleagues’ methods and their superciliousness when it came to catching mistakes — an attitude of “aha! I knew I’d find a noun-pronoun disagreement in there!” Should teachers fill students’ papers with critical comments in the hopes of teaching them something? That’s a whole ‘nother topic there.

I saw Francisco the other day when I was subbing. “Look, Ms. Ross, I’m still here!” The odds were so heavy against Francisco when he was in my sophomore English class. He had moved here from LA to escape the gang life, where he had survived a stabbing, only to get lured into the wannabe-gangsta life at our school. Still, he worked with all of his teachers and a magnificent ESL aide to keep up his grades. When the narrative essay assignment came up, he admitted he’d never written more than a sentence at a time. With a little encouragement, though, he handed in a long, heartfelt essay about the mistakes in his life and the quest to become a better man. Full of errors? Yes. Sophomore-level writing? No, but a triumph in narrative voice.

And in just a few months, Francisco will have a diploma.

Here’s a cogent point from the comments section of the blog, said by instructional coach and writer David Ginsburg: “You can’t win if you don’t play–and the way to get kids to ‘play’ is to stress effort more so than accuracy.”

Mighty Fine Roadside Repasts — Colorado Edition

2 Sep

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Oh, the fun of a summer road trip, especially if it involves discovering good places to get a bite to eat without driving all over creation. Here are several highlights in a slideshow of pics that I took whenever I could be bothered to release my hands from the food and get out the camera. In order, you will see:

— The Big Wrap, a downtown Aspen standby, with all kinds of meats and veggies in, yes, a big wrap.
— Baked in Telluride, a townie favorite just a block off the main drag. Enjoyed a smoked turkey Reuben and side salad. Tempting cookies, brownies and other baked goods.
— BLT in Basalt, outside of Aspen. Stands for Basalt Lunch and Takeout and looks do deceive. Squeeze into the place, order from the window, get either a barbecue chicken sandwich or tuna melt (like we enjoyed) or any other creative sandwich BLT offers, sit in the sunshine by the creek. You can’t go wrong.
— The Turquoise Room at La Posada, Winslow, Arizona (on the way into CO). Drink in the history of this architecturally significant hotel on Winslow’s otherwise quiet main drag (unless you are on the standing-on-the-corner-in-Winslow-Arizona corner). The restaurant dates from the Fred Harvey railroad era in our state and stays true to its Southwestern roots. Meals start with a yummy maple-glazed cornbread. Enjoyed a spicy posole using New Mexico-bred lamb.
— Salt in Boulder. All my years in Boulder, I never went to the venerable Tom’s Tavern on the Pearl Street Mall. This is moot, now that it’s been replaced by this heavenly establishment. Can you beat Colorado Quinoa & Chickpea Fritters? I don’t think so.
— The X bistro with mostly outdoor seating on Aspen’s pedestrian mall. Actually, I’m showing the view from our table of kids playing in the ever-popular fountain. Enjoyed trout and salad.

Places I didn’t depict but want to note for their convenience to travelers: any of the Panera Bread chain restaurants; any of the BeauJo’s Colorado-style pizza locations; the Stew Pot in Snowmass; and El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant in Grand Junction.

Now, let this be the last of our road-trip pit stops at Burger King and Subway!

10 times you can rip that phone from your kid’s hand

27 Aug

(Something I wrote a while back, while thinking about a story for a parenting site.)

Bothered by the sight of your teen’s cell phone practically hot-glued to his or her hand? Do her eyes rarely meet yours because she is waiting for a text message? Does he always have his hand in the cell phone pocket of his jeans? Do your kids contend they’re listening to you even while their thumbs are bouncing on the keypad at a furious pace?

C’mon, cast aside your sweet memories of how the whining ceased when you bought them that expensive thing. Sure, it’s a relief to know they have it in case of emergency. But we know you’re sick of how they love their phone more than they love you. So, courage, fellow parents. Here are:

10 Times You Can Put Your Foot Down and Tell Them to Put the Phone Down

1. When you are at a sit-down family dinner in a restaurant.
2. When you are discussing their grades with them.
3. When you are visibly distraught over something and need to talk to them, whether the issue directly concerns them or not.
4. When you are upset that they have exceeded their phone minutes.
5. When you are explaining why they are grounded.
6. When they are meeting someone for the first time.
7. When they are driving … yikes! Seriously, put your foot down.
8. When your family is at a funeral.
9. When they are holding something fragile … like a newborn (I really saw this once).
10. When you just can’t stand it anymore. Be the adult — take charge.

(Brought to you by Parents Against Cell Phone Addiction)

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