Friday, February 29, 2008

Alien Baby

Here's a pic of my soon-to-be niece or nephew! Can you make it out? The round circle is the abdomen, the white line to the left is the nose, and two black spots are two eyes. They don't want to find out the sex until the baby is born. Trouble is, David's a doctor--so he has to look away when it's time to scan "down there".

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Last night my students took their first quiz. 4 out of 5 got an 80% or higher. I think that's pretty good!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Malden Mondays: Downtown Redevelopment

Today's Malden Mondays entry comes to you at the 11th hour, but for good reason. Tonight's topic is Malden's plan for the redevelopment of the downtown area, and tonight there was a meeting at city hall to discuss just that. So I come to you with news.

This is, as you can imagine, a huge topic, so you can expect me to post on it again in the future. A quick summary: Malden center used to be pretty hopping, but with urban flight in the 70s and the fact that most people don't want to leave their cars, the pedestrian shopping center model just isn't working anymore. They're having the same problem all over the place, including Downtown Crossing in Boston (don't believe the hype). So the problems, as I see them, are
  • aging infrastructure
  • unattractive streetscaping
  • not parking-friendly
  • not particularly pedestrian-friendly either
  • no "anchor" stores that will bring in shoppers
    • such as a Gap or Kohls to bring people into the area, with the idea that they'd then shop around in the other stores
  • not enough mixed-use spaces
    • stores and shops on the first floor, living spaces on the floor(s) above
      • this increases population density in the downtown area.
        • helps create nightlife as well
  • too many public service offices
    • need greater variety in the types of restaurants and stores
  • the location of City Hall is problematic
    • it cuts off Malden Center from the T stop and doesn't allow for thru-traffic
The meeting tonight was held by the mayor, the Redevelopment Authority, and the Ward 4 councillor (Malden Center is in Ward 4). They laid out the blueprint that they're using to direct the development of downtown--which importantly confirms that they do in fact have a plan (many folks have doubted this). There are 4 "pillars" to the redevlopment plan (if I remember them correctly):
  • foster the arts
  • build new residential spaces in the downtown area
  • recruit new businesses
  • streetscaping and urban planning
So the interesting thing about Malden's planning process here is that they are systematically soliciting public input. This is something that I studied in some depth in college--local understandings of place and how those can be challenged by these types of development meta-plans.

Of course, the common term for this is gentrification (a word I didn't hear anyone use tonight). Do those of us who live in Malden think of ourselves as the kind of city that has a women's clothing boutique? Are we perfectly happy not to have one? If having a women's clothing boutique goes hand-in-hand with/causes/is the result of an "upscaling" of the city, where does Joe Smith, resident of Malden for the past 25 years, fit into the "new" city? Will his property taxes go up, and will he have to move because of that? Does the needs of the economically viable city outweigh the needs and desires of its residents?

The public meetings and visioning workshops that Malden is holding are an attempt to build concensus, which is great. I'm just worried that we haven't been drawing a true representation of Malden's population. Let's just say that the folks at these meetings don't look like the people in my neighborhood. My neighbors are Hatian, Chinese and Latino. Many don't speak or understand enough English to go to one of these meetings. What about their input? Are these people envisioned in Malden's future?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Six-Word Stories

Here's something I came across on The World's Fair. The six-word story, as origninated by Hemingway: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Isn't that breathtaking?

What's my six-word story? Patrick suggests "Looked at furniture. Have no money."

As true as that is, I don't think it sums up my life experience. Hmmm. I'll have to think on this.

What about you? Can you come up with one? Not a motto or a wry observation, but a story. Six words that send the reader off to filling in the backstory and the spaces between the words.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Road Tripping

I've reserved my spot for The Yarn Harlot's April appearance at Webs. My stitch-n-bitch is making it a group road trip. I've never gone to a yarn shop with other knitters, so this should be fun. I'm a fan of Stephanie, but not as much as other people I know. Probably because I don't have any time to read her blog--plus, she must have some strange settings on it because I can't see the whole entry in Google Reader. I'm just too lazy to open up her posts in another window.

Dangerously Cool

As many of you know, I live in an old-ass house. It was built in the 1920s, and needs lots of cosmetic fixes. As this is totally overwhelming, I sometimes dream about starting over with a new house. Not just a new one, but a modern one.

This house makes me jealous. It is not only clean, modern and sleek, it is green in what I think is the most useful of ways--it reuses materials. In this case, shipping containers! The whole house is made of giant shipping containers connected together. Isn't that cool? Some of them were refrigerated shipping containers, so they come pre-insulated. And I love all of the windows--though I don't see that they provide much protection from zombies.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Malden Mondays: Olde Time Malden

My aunt and uncle hooked me up with this old postcard of Malden they found at a flea market in Florida. Back in the day you weren't allowed to write on the back of the card (address only), so folks squeezed their message onto the front. If you click on the picture here the image will open up bigger and you can read it for yourself.

Patrick spent the good part of an evening trying to figure out what part of Malden this card depicts. If you look at the lower-right corner of the picture, it looks like a sliver of rock, so the vantage point seems to be on top of a hill. Of course, it is a drawing/painting, so it could be a real mish-mash of views.

The message is from someone's mother, who is visiting a really annoying kid here in Malden. "I nipped the tip of Bimp' ear as you requested," she writes. "He is very bad." Ha!

Thanks Aunt and Uncle! Please send more if you find them :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Warming Up

Yesterday I slipped while going down the stairs. I pretty much saved myself, except for my foot. I have a huge bruise on my heel, which is very very painful. And, what with it being on my heel and all, it hurts everytime I walk. Hobble hobble.

I've starting doing a bit of knitting. Just one or two rows at a time, once or twice a week. I'm trying to knit differently--at a recent Stitch-n-Bitch, Owl suggested that I move more at the elbows and shoulders, instead of doing it all with my wrists. This has helped a lot, but now the results are different. I think I'm knitting looser, so I might have to go down a needle size on all of my WIPs when I take them back up. For now I'm working on The Baby Blanket, which has been an off-again-on-again project for over a year (hence the all-caps). The gauge on this is so wonky already it won't matter anyway.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Malden Mondays: Malden Public Library

This week's Monday Mondays' spotlight is on the Malden Public Library. It can be hard to find a good library, don't you think? I'm reminded of a conversation Patrick overheard in the Revere Public Library. He was using a computer near the check-out desk, when a patron approached the librarian and asked for a recommendation. The librarian's shocked response was, "Oh honey, I don't read the books!"

Thusfar, my experiences at the MPL have been very positive. The building consists of the original structure, built in 1885 (pictured here), and a new wing built in 1996. The knitting section is meager, but I have taken full advantage of the Interlibrary Loan system, as the MPL is part of the Boston Public Library system. I just order up the book through the BPL website and they send me an email when it arrives in Malden. Easy Peasy.

The librarians have been friendly and helpful. There are lots of books and newspapers in Chinese, which is cool. And in the summer they have a children's read-along-field-trip-boardgame-playing club that I totally would have joined when I was a kid (I tried to get Little Sister to sign up, but she was a no-go).

The reading collections are housed in the new building, and the old building is almost entirely an art gallery. The gallery is not always open, but I got to look around once when I was there for a meeting of the Cultural Council. The building is really beautiful, as are the paintings.

So, check it out. Or check out your own local library--show it some love. It's waiting for you.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Love My Class!

Well, I officially love teaching my class. I kinda knew I would. But I really love it. I get so excited when I can answer their most pressing question: Is it "she have" or "she has"? I actually know the answer to that! I'm a hero!

But on a serious note, I can't tell you how much I admire my students. All five of the women are housecleaners (this seems to be the trend for Brazilian women), and four of them have their own cleaning company, three with employees. How cool is that? These women are their own bosses--isn't that the American dream? Maybe they don't want to clean houses their whole lives, but if you're going to do it, do it on your own terms, you know?

I do have one man in my class. He's a carpenter. So my six students work all day, some take care of children, all take care of their own homes, and then they come to my class 5 nights a week, and do a page of homework every night. Amazing.

By the way, did you vote yesterday? I almost forgot, but had time to run to the poll after getting out of the office. How about those results? I'm a Democrat, and honestly would be happy with either Clinton or Obama.

Monday, February 04, 2008

First day!

Tonight is my first class with my new job. I'm pretty well prepared, and have an outline for the session--we'll see how well that works out.

I think the biggest challenge will be the students' schedules. Almost all of them work, and are taking these classes at night. Understandably, they don't have much time for homework or studying. The only way I know how to do well in school is studying and flashcards--but those are pretty time-consuming.

Any suggestions for time-efficient ways to learn a new language?

Malden Mondays: Immigrant Learning Center

Today's Malden Monday highlight is the Immigrant Learning Center in Malden Center. For 15 years they have provided free English lessons to immigrants from all over the world. Free--that's really incredible, if you've looked at what English lessons cost at other schools.

I'm familiar with the ILC because I volunteered there as a one-on-one tutor. Here's the situation: the ILC offers small classes in various levels of proficiency. They have a waiting list of about 700 people (that's right--seven hundred), who are all waiting to get into a class. In an effort to help out the people on the waiting list, the ILC matches them up with one-on-one tutors, who work with them until a slot opens up for them in a classroom.

I worked with two students there, both from Haiti. As you can expect, their stories were incredible. I'm still in touch with one of them, Fritz. He recently found out that he has been granted assylum here in the States, which is great news.

So, I'm highlighting the ILC because they're working to make Malden a great place, and helping people who really need a break. My experience with them was very rewarding.

Friday, February 01, 2008


Well, I got a second job. For the next 12 weeks I am a part-time ESL instructor. I'll have a class of 6-9 adults, semi-fluent. I have experience ESL tutoring 1-on-1, but this will be my first time with a class. The schedule isn't very good, or the pay, for that matter. But I think this will help me decide if ESL teaching might be something I want to continue in the future.

You know how that is? You sometimes daydream that you would like to be that person stomping on grapes in that big wooden tub at the vineyard in California. Well, you can spend your life wondering, or you can stomp around on some grapes you throw in a kiddie pool in the back yard and see if you like it. Maybe that was a stupid example. But you get me.