Monday, December 28, 2009

End of Sabbatical Reflections

It has been a busy few days. There was Christmas, of course. Then the day after Christmas we drove up to Seattle to the 5th Avenue theater to watch White Christmas. Yesterday was mostly down time, trying to recover.

The Sabbatical is almost over. A week from today, I believe, I must rise before the dawn, pull out of the driveway and drive to the bus stop where the bus will take me to Seattle. I will get off around Westlake and walk up Pine to the school. I will be back in my routine.

Have I accomplished what I wanted. Yes, and no? I finished the book and appendixes though I still need to focus on a concentrated rewrite. To do that I need some guidance from the editor, which I hope to get soon. I worked a lot on my own writings, though I didn't finish much of anything, and I didn't send things out for publication as I intended. I did redo my school web site and prepared the syllabi and all the assignments for Winter quarter. I have started to build my personal web site, which I hope can be a focus for my personal writings. (This blog will transition to become my personal blog and I will start a second blog devoted solely to my classes.) I got the front and back lawns planted. I have worked with Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010. I have read an enormous amount and have relaxed. The latter is perhaps the most important.

Am I ready to return? Yes, I think so. It is time to get teaching again.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Working on a poetic collage of sorts for this first day of winter:

gloom of this sunless winter morning
amaterusa, the sun has gone into a cave
& must be tricked to look out
light mirroring blinding light
the beginnings of a return
between darkness & dawn
a remembrance of the dead
(my mother died near Christmas
snowing at the funeral
then a shaft of sunlight
through clouds)
it is not the distance from the sun but the angle
maximum 23 degrees latitude
26 degrees longitude
standing still, if only for an instant
when darkness triumphs
if only for an instant
(if only in Northern latitudes)
circles of standing stone
they are for eternity
a day of reversals
“today when freeman fawns on slave—“
said Kallimachos
when the god is torn apart by his maddened followers
water into wine
a new shoot sprouts
delicate leaves
Dies natalis solis invictus
a day for Christmas shopping
only 4 shopping days left
at the birth of winter
earth turns
toward summer

With a little help from Wikipedia. Amaterusa is a Japanese festival for the solstice. Other relevant ones included are the Greel Linaea, the Roman Saturnalia and Sol invictus (the victory of the sun). Kallimachos is a poet from the 2nd century BC in Alexandria. It is from the fragments of his Aetia, a long poem in elegiac metrics about the origins of certain rites and practices. The translation is my own.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Not Much

I have finished and posted all the assignments for Winter quarter except the final Sql assignment. I intend to have it up before the weekend. I hope that will make the quarter flow smoothly.

Next I hope to work on my own website and get it up to the point that I can make a public announcement of its existence.

The rain has stopped.

My mind too has stopped. A blinking cursor on a white screen. More, and better, later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A holiday greeting

Here is a image for the season:

Though, I have often been curious why a tropical plant that really only flourishes in equatorial conditions should have become a symbol for a winter holiday in the northern hemisphere. Is it perhaps a dreaming after the tropical warmth?

Today much warmer. The rain pocks the standing water in the back yard.

I hope to work on assignments for winter quarter today. I have put rewriting the chapters on hold until I hear from the editor. I want to make sure that the final format is what they want.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


The first morning in a while when the house wasn't freezing. The sun through the windows offers a pleasant illusion of warmth.

So, I have been working mostly on getting things ready for school. I have 7 assignments done for the SQL class, and 4 for the Visual Basic class. I have uploaded the materials for the Database class. Students will have to log in to look at the chapters there.

I want to finish them and then work on the main personal web site. And so much other writing I want to do, but time, for this sabbatical at least, is running out. The holidays are full of activities that pull me from work. Today, for instance, after putting up the Christmas tree, we may go up to Bothell to Molbak's Nursery (a seasonal trip we do every year) and then down to Green lake for the illuminarium--paper lanterns lit along the walkway all around the lake. A lovely, if chilly, thing to do.

And there is still Christmas shopping to do. (A difficult thing without money.)

The thing is, I am not even that fond of "Christ--mass," though I am willing to celebrate the solstice, the brief triumph of night over day (in northern latitudes), and the day's slow return. A reason enough for gifts. And I love the smell of a tree in the house. (Still not sure what the conifers meant to the druids or why they were incorporated originally by the Church--ever green I guess means never dying, or at least free from the cycles of winter dying and spring renewal? I should look it up.)

Anyway, a busy time. A time for scattered incoherent blogs. . .

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cold Morning

10 degrees Fahrenheit this cold December morning. Mount Rainier beautiful blue white in the rising sun. In the house it was only 62 degrees. Our poor furnace is over powered by the weather. Despite the clarity of the morning views, I look forward to the return of rain and warmer temperatures.

As for work, I have been working on school stuff primarily. I finished the first assignment for the visual basic class and started the second. I would like to have all the assignments ready before school starts. As for rewriting the book, I decided to hold off a bit until I have talked to the editor. I want to be sure what they want in the final manuscript. Once I know, I will begin an intensive rewrite.

I also had an idea for a another book. I have always had more ideas than I could handle at any one time. One of my problems has always been focus. I scatter my energies among many projects, rather than focusing on one of them and bring it to completion before I move on to the next.

One thing at a tme.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I have solved some of my CSS problems. I just turned the second column white so it looks as long as the first even when it isn't. I still needed to add an extra div to provide background color for the heading.

Today I have been mostly working on Assignments for ITC 222 SQL. I have finished the database and finished the first seven assignments. Now I think I will try to get the first several assignments for ITC 172 Visual Basic.

Otherwise the main interest of the day has been the cold. Our poor furnace struggles to keep up and we can only heat the house with a mix of space heaters and the fireplace.

Brisk mornings can shock the mind alive. Maybe I will get some work done the next couple of days.

I have decided that when I return to school, this blog will become my personal blog associated with the web site I am designing. I will start a second blog that will focus only on materials for my students and classes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

CSS Frustrations

A gibbous moon 95% full bright over the western horizon, while the sun rise paints the mountain the color of salmon in the east. Lovely, but cold.

CSS can be frustrating, sometimes. I spent way too much time yesterday trying to get my columns to be of equal length with variable content. By default columns are only as long as the content in them. There is a trick you can use, but it involves making a separate container div for each column and then offsetting the columns off screen and pushing the text back on screen over the containing divs. It is complicated and messy. It results in the appearance of equal length columns, but has some other drawbacks. For one you can no longer center the outside container in the body because of its offset.

In the end, after hours of work I resorted to cheating. I set a minimum height for each column and if I needed it larger I manually set the height in the page itself. This is bad in terms of maintainability, flexibility, and extensibility. I will revisit it again. A simple solution is not to have a background color in the second column. If the background of the container is white and everything in the container is white, it looks as if both columns are the length of the container. It is just not as pretty.

Anyway, I would rather contemplate the moon, I think, waning into December.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

a bit of Hesiod

Yesterday I got back the peer reviews for chapters 7,8 and 9. Overall they were quite positive. I also worked on preparing assignments for Winter quarter. In addition I was reviewing my "decipherment" of the first 120 or so lines of Hesiod's Theogany which forms a hymn to the Muses. Here are a couple of key passages:

they went up to Olympos glorying in sweet voices
with immortal song
the black earth echoed around them as they hymned
sweet drumming rose under their feet
as they climbed to their father ruling the sky
holding the dark thunder & bolt lightning
after defeating his father Kronos by might
distributing to each of the immortals their fair portions ad privledges
these things the Muses sing who have their home
in Olympos, the nine daughters of magnanimous Zeus
Klio & Euterpe & Thalia & Melpomene & then
Terpsichore & Erato & Polumnia & Ourania & also
Kalliope, who is the most renowned
because she attends to the exalted princes & sacred kings

--and here the end of the section:

happy he whom the Muses Love
ο δ’ όλιβιος ̀’ον τινα Μουσαι φίλωνται
sweet speech flows from his mouth
even if he is full of grief
with a mourning spirit
full of fresh sorrow
his heart parched dry
yet a singer, a servant of the Muses,
singing news of past men & the Olympian gods
causes anxieties to be forgotten
the memory of them prepared for burial
the gifts of the goddesses turn away sorrow

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Frost

The first frost of the season. The new grass glistening white in the morning sunlight. I had to scrape my car window to take my daughter to school. A line of crows sits sentinel on the neighbor's roof.

With all there is to do today, my main impulse is to do nothing. Still, I will bow to my better impulses and at least work on assignments for next quarter.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Taking Stock

The first of December. The last month of my sabbatical. The time is going fast, and December, with all its holiday activities, will go by even more quickly. Time for a quick update. What have I done so far? I have finished the appendixes and have begun rewriting with chapter one. I have also done the syllabi for winter quarter and redesigned my school web site. Currently I am developing the database I intend to use for ITC 222 and possibly for ITC 172.

My goals for the remaining time:
Finish the database
Create the assignments for ITC 222
Create the assignments for ITC 172
Rewrite as many chapters as I can

also continue to work on poems and my new web site