Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An American Plague

Victims from the Influenza Epidemic of 1918

A few years ago, I got on a plague/epidemic kick. At that time, I read half-a-dozen books all about diseases. Some of these books included:
This week I was assigned to read An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy for my adolescent literature class. Like the other titles, this book was terrifying.

Jim Murphy described, in detail, the symptoms of Yellow Fever and the panic that gripped the city of Philadelphia during the 1793 epidemic. Murphy wrote, "The skin and eyeballs turned yellow, as red blood cells were destroyed, causing the bile pigment bilirubin to accumulate in the body; nose, gums, and intestines began bleeding; and the patient vomited stale, black blood" (pages 13-14). How could I not recommend this book?

I also have to recommend Fever, 1973 by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book is historic fiction. It follows the lives of fictional and historical people during Philadelphia's Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1973.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Ultimate Fruit Loop

Because I have not been around many young children (at least since I was one), I may not have the best perspective, but I think Zack is one of the funniest kids around. Here are a few reasons why:

  • I like to call him Fruit Loop, but he's not too fond of it. In fact, he's not to fond of any nicknames. Whenever I call him something beside his actual name, he replies, "I not _______, I'm Zack." This made for an interesting Halloween. To read more about that incident, click HERE.

  • Me and the Fruit Loop

  • About a month ago I was given the task of setting up a train track that my mom had bought for Zack. This track had a lot of pieces and it was a bear (another replacement curse word - it will make more sense if you keep reading) to put together. After 30 minutes of fighting with this track, I was close to finishing it, with the exception of a few pieces. I could not figure out what to do with these pieces so I said, "What the hell?" Zack looked at me and repeated, "Yea, what the hell?" I love that he wants to be like me.

    Victory: The completed train track.
  • Because of situations like the previous one, I've started to use the word "yikes" as a replacement for curse words. While we were in Disneyland something happened and I said, "Yikes." About 20 minutes later, when something similar happened, Zack looked up to me and said, "Mandy, say yikes." He's very perceptive.
  • Because we were out of town on my birthday, Jeanine told Zack that we would go out to dinner at a place that had cake. When we went to the restaurant, Zack walked up to our hostess and asked, "Do you have cake?" The hostess laughed and said, "Yes, we have cake. Tell them it's your birthday and they'll give it to you for free." Zack replied, "But it's Mandy's birthday."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why I Support Barack Obama

This will be my last political post (at least for awhile). I have recently had a lot of conversations with friends and family members about the 2008 election. I voted for Barack Obama on Super Tuesday. Now don't get me wrong, I don't agree with everything Obama supports, but he seems like the best option out there. Here are a few reasons why I support Barack Obama (most of these statements are taken directly from Obama's website):
  • Obama will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve a million more children. Obama will include measures to maximize performance and effectiveness across grantees nationwide.
  • Obama will reform NCLB, which starts by funding the law. Obama believes teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. He will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner. Obama will also improve NCLB's accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.
  • Obama will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. Districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. Districts can reward teachers who work in underserved places like rural areas and inner cities. And if teachers consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.
  • Obama believes that we can do more to help autistic Americans and their families understand and live with autism. He has been a strong supporter of more than $1 billion in federal funding for autism research on the root causes and treatments, and he believes that we should increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to truly ensure that no child is left behind.
  • Obama will give first-time, non-violent drug offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
  • Obama will launch the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent American history to reach a new compact on the stability of Iraq and the Middle East. This effort will include all of Iraq's neighbors – including Iran and Syria. This compact will aim to secure Iraq's borders; keep neighboring countries from meddling inside Iraq; isolate al Qaeda; support reconciliation among Iraq's sectarian groups; and provide financial support for Iraq's reconstruction.
  • Obama will embrace the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty around the world in half by 2015, and he will double our foreign assistance to $50 billion to achieve that goal. He will help the world's weakest states to build healthy and educated communities, reduce poverty, develop markets, and generate wealth.
  • Obama will make available a new national health plan to all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress.
  • Obama will invest $1 billion over five years in transitional jobs and career pathway programs that implement proven methods of helping low-income Americans succeed in the workforce.
  • Obama will set a goal that all middle and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year. He will develop national guidelines for service- learning and will give schools better tools both to develop programs and to document student experience. Green Job Corps: Obama will create an energy-focused youth jobs program to provide disadvantaged youth with service opportunities weatherizing buildings and getting practical experience in fast-growing career fields.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"The Francis Scott Key" Key

Lesli and I have been watching The West Wing, Season 1 on DVD. Lesli has never seen any of the episodes, but I have been a big fan from the beginning. Although Season 1 was not my favorite season, it's been fun to watch them again. I love Season 4. It is my favorite season. Here is a clip from Season 4's episode "Privateers." It is my all-time favorite scene from any episode of the The West Wing.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Republicans vs. Democrats

Those who know me, know I almost always vote Democrat. Not always, put almost always. Why? I don't agree with every position on the Democratic Platform, but I do agree with most of the issues that are important to me. Here are just some of these issues:
  • Role of Government: Although NGOs (non-governmental organizations) contribute a lot to poverty relief, government is also needed. Government should ensure helath care, affordable housing, & social security to those in need.
  • Health Care: "Democrats are committed to making sure every single American has access to affordable, effective health care coverage. We believe in investing in life saving stem cell and other medical research that offers real hope for cures and treatment for millions of Americans." (taken from the National Democratic Party Agenda)
  • Retirement: "We will ensure that a retirement with dignity is the right and expectation of every single American, starting with pension reform, expanding saving incentives and preventing the privatization of social security." (taken from the National Democratic Party Agenda)
  • Foriegn Policy/Diplomacy: "Our National Security must be built on International cooperation and on our leaders telling the truth to the American People before committing American troops to combat." (taken from the Utah State Democratic Party Platform)
  • Protection of Civil Liberties: "Fairness requires that all citizens enjoy the full benefits of citizenship regardless of their race, gender, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or economic status. Because constitutions are created to grant freedoms, preserve liberties, and limit government, Utah Democrats oppose any effort to amend either the state or federal constitution to restrict civil liberties. Utah Democrats encourage our government to protect against discrimination and victimization based on status." (taken from the Utah State Democratic Party Platform)
  • Immigration: "Democrats are fighting for laws that will secure our borders, protect all U.S. workers and their wages & prevent exploitation of immigrant workers, reunite families, and allow immigrants who pay taxes and don't have trouble with the law a path to earn the opportunities and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship." (taken from the National Democratic Party Agenda)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pirate Birthday Party - Arrrr

How does one best celebrate turning 30? Why, with a pirate themed birthday party, of course. On Friday I had one of the best birthday parties ever. Here are a few pictures.

Pirate Feast

Delicious birthday cupcakes

Katrina helping with the feast.

Team Honest: Me, Mike, & Larissa

Team Cheat: Tim, Alina, & Matt

Pirate Mike - sporting his eye patch.

Pirate Alina - sporting her jewels

Happy Tim - or maybe he's mad

Me with the pirate chest
(there's treasure in there, I promise)

Monday, February 18, 2008

More Politics - Mitt Romney

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been reading Jim Wallis's book The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. On page 40, Wallis quotes Pastor Rich Nathan of the Vineyard Church of Columbus who said, "There are lots of us evangelicals who have found ourselves increasingly uncomfortable with the media's selection of a few people of decidedly conservative politics who are regularly called our spokespeople. Whenever I hear this handful of people talk, I think: This person doesn't speak for me."

That's exactly how I feel about Mitt Romney. Because Romney and I have the same religious beliefs (we both belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), people assume that we have the same political beliefs. When I've mentioned that I dislike Romney and would never vote for him, people have responded, "But you're a Mormon too, right?" Yes. Yes I am, but I dislike Romney immensely. Here's just one of the many reasons why:

When asked about detaining terrorism suspects, Mitt Romney stated, "I want them in Guantanamo where they don't have the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil." He went on to say, "Some people have said we should close Guantanamo. I think we should double Guantanamo."

The moment I heard this statement was the moment I began disliking Mitt Romney. What does this statement even mean? It sounds like nationalistic, I'm-better-than-you rhetoric that's only purpose is to gain the support of right-wing nuts. In 2007 FBI documents reported that Guantanamo detainees were chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor for 18 hours or more, urinating and defecating on themselves and subjected to extreme temperature with temperatures close to freezing. Who does things like that? Americans? That's not the America I want to live in, nor do I want an American leader who wants to "double" a place that uses those type of tactics. I don't care what the cost.

Some may argue that those tactics are necessary to prevent terrorism. Really? Those are the tactics used by terrorists!! What does that say about America? It reminds me of Benjamin Franklin's quote, "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

This is just one of the reasons I would not vote for Romney. There are many others. Our political beliefs are pretty much opposites.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More from the Land of Disney

I know I said I was going to do more political posts (and I will), but here are some more pics from Disneyland.

Zack & Dougie

I love this face.

Me & Mitch

Doug, Zack, & Jeanine

Zack & his pirate friend

Me, Zack, & my mom waiting in line for Pirates.

Mitch having a ball in New Orleans.

Time to go home.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Great Awakening

I've been reading Jim Wallis's newest book, The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. As always, I love to hear what Wallis has to say. Every time I read something he has written or hear him speak, I connect with it. He has an uncanny way of expressing almost exactly what I think, feel, and believe in regards to politics. Although our religious backgrounds are not the same, our beliefs about how religion and politics are connected are similar. Because of this, I have decided to write my next few posts all about those thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in regards to politics.

Wallis has argued that as Christians our concerns should be "the slavery of poverty, the sexual trafficking of God's children, environmental 'creation care,' human rights and the image of God in genocidal places such as Darfur, and how the Prince of Peace might view or endless wars and conflicts" (page 25). I agree. Here is another excerpt from The Great Awakening (pages 26-27) that I agree and connected with:

The two greatest hungers of our time are the hunger for spirituality and the hunger for social justice - and the connection between the two has great power to motivate people to action. The world is especially waiting for a new social and political agenda drawn not from bickering partisan loyalties, blatant ideological bias, or corrupting special interests, but rather from our deepest moral values.

The issues that pose the most fundamental threats to our moral integrity and social survival [are] the world's dangerous levels of inequality, the perils of climate change and environmental degradation, the worst assaults against human life and dignity, the forces that undermine family and community, and the escalation of violent global conflicts of culture, religion, and power.

I strongly believe that faith matters and that it can make a difference, not only in our personal lives but also in our world.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth

For my birthday I went to Disneyland with my family. Here are a few pictures:

Zack, Me, & my dad in our nasty hotel room.

My grandpa with his favorite grandchild.

Me & my mom
(my grandma took the picture - she's not the best with a camera).

My mom, pretending to be scared (or maybe angry).

A couple of cool kids (me & Zack).

A better picture of me & my mom.

Precious picture of my parents.

Doug, Zack, & Jeanine.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Congressman Tom Lantos

Nicholas recently wrote about the death of Congressman Tom Lantos on his blog. Although I had heard that the congressman had been diagnosed with cancer, I had not heard of his death until today. I met Congressman Lantos while I was interning in Washington D.C. during 2000. I was very impressed with him at the time, and have continued to be as he's served in the House of Representatives.

Congressman Lantos, a Hungarian native, was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress. Because of the atrocities he witnessed during the Holocaust, he became a champion for human rights and civil liberties. When Congressman Lantos announced he would not seek another term (because of his cancer diagnosis), he stated, "It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a Member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country."

One of my most memorable moments in D.C. involved Congressman Lantos. I had gone to his office to meet up with a fellow intern. We had planned to go to dinner and to a free Millennium Stage concert at the Kennedy Center. We changed our mind when Congressman Lantos asked if the two of us wanted to join him and his wife for a performance from the Capitol Steps on Capitol Hill. Of course we said yes. We walked with him to the Capitol (even using the "Members Only" elevator) and sat with him at his table. It was awesome!!

Although I have become jaded by a lot of politicians, it was refreshing to meet a member of Congress who had overcome the odds and dedicated years to help change the world for the better.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Snow, Snow, Snow

It's my birthday so I'm leaving all this snow behind for sunny California. Stay tuned for upcoming pictures of my birthday celebration in Disneyland. Until then, here are some pictures of what I'm leaving behind.

So it's been snowing in the Salt Lake Valley a lot!! Seriously, a lot!! Our landscape company is really good about plowing, but the problem is they can only stack it so high. Here are a few pics.

The view from my driveway.

The snow's as high as a van!!

Another pile.

You almost can't see the street signs.
Plus, check out the mountains.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The First Official Celebration

So, I haven't blogged much about it, but my birthday is coming up. I love my birthdays, but because this one's a BIG one (30), I've been a little reluctant to write about it. It's not because I'm not looking forward to my birthday - I am. I'm still really excited, but I'm afraid that when it actually gets here, I might freak out. Regardless of the possibility that I might freak out, I have begun the celebrations. Wednesday night I went out with a bunch of my girl friends. Here are a few pics of our dinner celebration:

Christi, Aly, & Kari

Ali, Shelli (with Audra's baby), & Me

Kari & Audra

In other birthday news, this year I requested a pirate themed birthday party. Lesli (with my help) made these invitations for it. I think they are fabulous.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

American Born Chinese

I just finished reading American Born Chinese, a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang. Although I had never read a graphic novel (nor was I planning on doing so), I had to because it was assigned in my adolescent literature class. The novel contains three different stories that cleverly weave together in the end. It contained a lot of humor and had an important message about accepting who you are and overcoming the desire to fit in. I highly recommend it!!

To read more about American Born Chinese or Yang's other books, click HERE.

One of my favorite pages.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super Tuesday

Random Thoughts about Super Tuesday:
  • I am a political junkie. I switched back and forth between the major networks viewing minute by minute up-dates. I don't know what this says about me, but I don't think it's positive.
  • I received one of the funniest voicemails ever from my father after he voted. It went something like this: "Well, I did it. I voted for the first African-American who has a chance at the White House. I guess I'm officially a Democrat. I don't know how I feel about this - a little wierd . . . and tingly."
  • I voted for the same candidate as both of my parents - I don't think this has ever happened. Apparently, the Georges are a united front this year.
  • California sucks. It seems so unfair that one state has so much say and sway.
  • Obama won more states, but Clinton won bigger states. Again, bigger states suck.
  • Romney received 90% of Utah's Republican vote. I am not a Romney fan. He and I have few beliefs (political) in common. In one survey I took, Zero Percent (0%) of our beliefs (again, political) matched.
  • Super Tuesday and Fat Tuesday landed on the same day this year. Just kind of funny.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Green Monster

Three years ago I received a new room assignment at my school. I went from the nicest room in the entire school (it was large, had a sink, and was located right next to the faculty room) to the smallest room in the school. Now this room wasn't always the smallest. In fact at one time it was a large room with two doors. However, the administration wanted to better utilize the school's space so they built a large wall down the middle of the room. One large room divided by giant wall = two small rooms. I don't mind having a smaller room. In fact, it means I can't have more than 16 students in my class. My main concern, upon first moving in, was the giant wall. It was covered with carpet - puck green colored carpet. It's taken me awhile to get used to it, but now I love it!!

Let me explain. Because my room is so small, I need to come up with creative ways to arrange and organize things so everything fits. I own a lot of books and needed to come up with a creative way to display them. After brainstorming with Alina, I decided to see if I could velcro containers on my Green Monster to hold books. It worked. The velcro is very, very strong. It took me a couple of days to get it all organized. My students were very excited to see my project. They kept asking if they could read the books I had stacked in the back. I told them they'd have to wait until I had all of them up.

After a couple of days, it was done and my students were SO excited to go through all the books and see what there was. The crazy thing is that these books have been in my classroom the whole year, but because they weren't displayed very well (they were on a bookshelf with only the spines showing), my students didn't seem too interested. Anyway, I now love the giant green carpet wall and it's ability to velcro things to it.

Next project - see if velcro will restrain a 7th grader to the wall.

The new containers (cardboard boxes velcroed to walls).

A close up of two boxes.

Another box.

The entire Green Monster.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Honey Bunny

I took these pictures of Mitch last week. He was cracking me up because he was chewing on his foot.

Chewing on his foot while laying on my lap.

Trying to chew on his foot, but his pacifier is in the way.

He looks a little scared, but he's loving it!!

Rachel's Challenge

Our school has recently started the program Rachel's Challenge. This program is ran by the family of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine shootings. On January 30th, the student body at our school was introduced to the program and challenged to accept "Rachel's Challenge." By accepting the challenge, students promise to:
  1. Eliminate Prejudice by Looking for the Best in Others
  2. Dream - Set goals, Write goals, and Keep a journal
  3. Choose positive Influences
  4. Use Kind Words and Small Acts of Kindness
  5. Start a Chain Reaction with Family and Friends
These 5 challenges were described in detail during a one-hour assembly. The student body was excellent during the assembly. They were attentive and quiet. Plus, I didn't see any cell phones or I-Pods - this is miraculous. After the assembly the students had a lot of positive things to say about the challenge. I think it will be an important program to help bring the student body together.