Monday, March 2, 2015


Nothing says Springtime quite as strongly as daffodils.  On Sunday, my parents showed me a jug full straight from their garden; these, admittedly, are probably from Gelsons (I have a few daffodil bulbs in place - no flowers, as yet).  The streets are full of pink blossoming trees that I've been meaning to look up for ages - it turns out that they're pink trumpet trees, second cousin to the regular gold/yellow trumpet trees.  And they're relatives of the jacaranda - two months to go before they're back!  Who says there are no seasons in LA?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

another bug picture

I'm sorry.  You really didn't want that, did you?  But what you were meant to be seeing - morning faint sun on the snowcapped peaks visible from the living room window - beautiful beyond belief - just didn't translate well into an image.  I don't know why not, but here, instead, is the Thing that Alice found the cats playing with in the middle of the night, and despatched.  My morning task was to identify the corpse.  Not, thankfully, a cockroach.  Not, even more thankfully, a scorpion.  No - it's a Dark Jerusalem Cricket - a critter that has the distinction of being light, rather than dark; never having been found in Jerusalem, and not being a member of the cricket family.  It can bite, if provoked - but is otherwise harmless.  So now, if you find one, you know.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

pantry moths [trigger warning: probably only suitable for small children with an interest in bugs]

We've been plagued for over a year by pantry moths.  Every time we think that we've got them under control - indeed, that we've won - there's a new breakout.  So we have to find out where they're nesting and hatching this time (by now, not easy, since everything's in bottles and bags) - and start over.  I thought that I'd scored a major triumph a few months back when I located a jar of very tasty smoked paprika that was wriggling around.  The last few days - there have been a few flutterings in the kitchen, so Alice went in on the war path and found, oh horrors, this entire jar of sesame seeds that had been turned into a pantry moth breeding unit.  It reminds me of the educational exercise in junior school that involved putting earth and earthworms into a jam jar, and then putting that into a dark space for a while, and then taking it out and admiring all the little wormy pathways that they'd dug.  But really, aerated soil is a whole lot more preferable than all the larvae cocoons that had been spun in this particular container.

Friday, February 27, 2015

one more educational maxim. And graffiti.

Here's the final segment of idealism - with graffiti.  UCLA is, maybe, understandable graffiti when in UCLA blue and on the USC campus (if regrettable).  Coffee - less so (unless there's some street drug reference that I'm just too old for).  But then - something incomprehensible in something that looks much more like gang lettering, and UCLA - again - in lettering that's a cross between gang script and the product of a calligraphy course.  So: today's first question - if people took education more seriously, would there be less mindless graffiti like this?  And today's second question: if they took education to heart, would they discover that this quotation, albeit often misattributed to Yeats (and occasionally to Socrates), actually seems to come more or less from Plutarch in On Listening to Lectures: "The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting — no more — and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth." And then, third, why does it matter if we attribute quotations correctly?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

a dancing robot

A dancing robot!  Truly, I love a dancing robot at lunchtime.  And some other strange critters, like a sort of Superman/woman, and ... One never quite knows what one's going to find on campus.  (And yes, for those of you who don't know, that warrior on a pillar on the left is Tommy Trojan, our campus's iconic statue ...).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

what does education mean to you?

... or: USC EdMonth Part 2.  I'm so proud of our students and their idealism - and for asking these questions.  And for coming up with some answers (answers for everyone - not just "making me well qualified to get a really, really good job," which is what one sometimes fears is their answer.  "Collective liberation"!  I love it.  Truly, if only a handful of students in each class that one teaches were to think that's why they're there, I'd be a happy woman.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

USC EdMonth

It's hard to pass by large placards with writing on them without stopping to see what they say ... and here, propped up in the courtyard outside my office, is an announcement for USC EdMonth.  I don't know if this is a new concept entirely, or whether this March sees a recurrence of something already established - all I can say is that it sounds as though it's a terrific exercise in discussion and consciousness raising and action.

USC EdMonth is a month-long program devoted to raising awareness about the state of education in our country. This student-led campaign aims to encourage exploration of education as a critical issue and empower students to take action.
reads their website, and there's a great program of events - I'm much looking forward to being aware of its presence on campus ...  Goodness knows, the state of education needs addressing ... (though that's far from true of the scholarship candidates whom we interviewed this morning - potential Trojans whom one couldn't work out how they'd managed to become so energetic, thoughtful, sophisticated and enterprising in only 17 years ...