Photo Calendar with a Twist

This year for David’s birthday, he gave practically no ideas for what he wanted for his birthday, aside from a $600 tablet that wasn’t even available for sale.  So I had to get creative.  David takes a lot of really great photos, but hardly ever prints them out.  We also don’t have a lot of wall space, so I thought it would be fun to make him a page a day calendar.  Last year we had a great page a day calendar, but struggled to find one equally exciting for this year.  When I initially had this idea, I thought it would be really simple — find the pictures, load them on shutterfly (or a similar program), and print.  To my surprise, I couldn’t find a photo company who makes 365 day-calendars.  For a while I abandoned the project. Then I started thinking about how easy it would be to make it myself.  Here’s the result:

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While I hope that shutterfly or some similar photo program eventually starts to do this.  In case you wanted to do it at home yourself, here’s what I did.

1. Found pictures.  I began at David’s birthday (June 15) and then went to the end of the year, so I only needed around 200 pictures.  It was nice to have a few more pictures than I actually needed so that I didn’t get to the end of the year and have all my least favorite photos left.

2. Create a template.  I used Microsoft Word.  I created a box to the dimensions I wanted, then right-clicked on the box, chose ‘format shape’ then ‘fill’ then ‘picture or texture’ and then chose the picture I wanted.  These directions are for a Mac, but its probably similar on another operating system.  Here’s a sample photo to explain:

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I then created a second box that was the same height, but only 1.25 inches wide that was a semi-transparent so the date would be clearly visibile.

3. Insert photos.  This was a long process. To help it along, as I used a picture I would then change the background color of it to help me remember what pictures I used. On a Mac that is done by right clicking on the file name and then going down to label and choosing a color. Here’s another image to explain:

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I also created a different document for each month because the files get really large, which makes the program work more slowly.  I also tried to match season with photo.  This didn’t entirely work, but a snowy photo in August might have felt odd.

4. Print.  Make sure to find a high quality color printer.  Here’s one place I wish I had done something differently.  I didn’t have time to try printing on different types of paper and wish I had used a slightly thicker paper.  Cardstock would be too thick, but normal paper is a little thin.

5. Cut the calendar pages.  I used the paper cutter from my department’s office.  This was boring, but made better by watching Downton Abbey.

I used a leftover calendar stand from an old crafting calendar I had to display the calendar.  Someone who is more resourceful or creative could probably find a way to make it stand on its own or perhaps bind it together.  I think this can be done at Staples, but I’m not certain.  Here’s the final product.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful.

Third Times a Charm

Last week I received an e-mail from wordpress.  My blog subscription was about to expire.  This e-mail gave me pause.  I liked knowing I had the blog around in case I ever wanted to post, but did I really want to keep paying money to have it look exactly how I want…the answer is yes.  But if I’m going to pay for something, I should probably actually use it, so here goes.  I’m hoping the third time will be the charm and that I will actually blog during the school year. So to make up for the last nine months of no posting I thought I would highlight one thing from each month.  Here goes:

September: What, me, a runner?

David and I with our pie after the pie race in November.

My school has this really old tradition, called the Pie Race.  It’s actually the oldest, continuous road race in America. The race is a 4.3 mile loop around campus.  If you can run the race in under a certain time (40 minutes for women), then you win an apple pie.  The race takes place in November between the fall and winter sports seasons, so a lot of students, faculty, and staff participate.  A couple of David and my friends put together a training group for faculty and staff wanting to do the race.  David decided to participate and I gave into the peer pressure.  Now we have run two races – the Pie Race and Old Sandwich Road Race (in case you were wondering – this race did not end with an old sandwich for the best times – unless freshly grilled hotdogs and hamburgers count…).

October: Snow Days

David’s snowman.

A blizzard, in October.  It was crazy.  We lost power, sent as many students home as we could, and had two days off from school.  Sunday, David and I took and incredible snow walk and then built snowmen with a few students.  Monday, we went down to Hartford to go shopping because somehow the mall had power even though the rest of Hartford was without power – people were literally charging phones and computers in the lounges. It was also hilarious because my students had a big project due Monday and I had given a long speech about how there were no excuses for turning it in late, so then when power went out Saturday night they all were really worried that I still expected a typed, printed paper on Monday morning (I didn’t).

November: The Loss of Wisdom…teeth

Resting post-surgery with Calvin.

I was actually dreading this for almost the entire month of November, mostly because I couldn’t eat or drink anything before the surgery.  As soon as someone tells me I can’t have water I get thirsty.  In the end, it was kind of a fun experience.  It was only mildly painful and David and I used the recovery time to watch the first season of Battlestar Galactica (we finished the series last month).

December: Christmas with the family

Warren Christmas tree

The end of the semester was actually slightly sad for me because I really loved the group of students I was teaching.  The spring was also the beginning of teaching two brand new courses, which was daunting to say the least.  In the middle of all this, it was wonderful to head back to Kansas and spend some quality time with my and David’s family.

January-February: Coaching an Undefeated Basketball Team

Rather than pouring gatorade on my and head coach’s head, the girls gave us cupcakes in the face after our final win.

The highlight of the season was the seventh game, when we played another undefeated team.  At halftime, we were losing by over 12 points (which is a lot in JV girls’ basketball where the average score is like 30 points).  In the second half we opened a can and came back to win by 5 points. It was incredible.  Beyond the actual wins, the girls on the team were (and are) just wonderful.  They were a real team and cared a lot for each other.

March: Spring Break in Chile

Hiking Villarrica Volcano in Pucon, Chile.

Its hard to summarize this trip in a few words. The highlights were getting to be out in nature.  We went on a couple really wonderful hikes, visited the dessert (my first trip to a dessert, and bought some wonderful Chilean yarn.  Sadly the trip ended with David and I both coming down with some sort of traveler’s sickness.  Thankfully it was the last night.

April: Leading a class trip to Turkey

Sunset over the Galata Bridge in Istanbul.

The travel was awesome.  We got to see really amazing sites around western Turkey.  I loved visiting centuries old mosques, churches, an underground city, shopping in the market, and walking through the cities. Traveling with students was wonderful and challenging. I had the opportunity to get to know students in more personal ways and see them get excited about the various sites around the country.  Yet it was also challenging keeping track of the students and caring for their mental and physical health (only one trip to the Turkish hospital…).

May: Finishing a Sweater (pic to come)

With graduation and end of year happening, school was pretty much all consuming during the month of May.  I felt like this year I was more prepared for the end of the year and planned my curriculum better so that my year didn’t end with a lot of long papers to grade, but it was also my first semester teaching seniors and I have a lot to learn about how to energize students (and myself) during the last months of the year.  Oh wait, but the highlight was this sweater.  When I first finished it I thought it looked terrible, but this just proves the power of blocking (washing the sweater and laying it out to dry).  After this process I fell in love with the sweater. Sadly its been too hot for much of the summer to wear it, but come fall…   My mom also came by for a long weekend, we had a wonderful time of fabric shopping and eating out together.

June: Family Trip to Friday Harbor and Seattle

Celebrating Daniel’s graduation from his residency program with the whole family.

At the end of June, David and I joined the rest of the Warren clan on the San Juan Islands. The Islands were incredible with a lot of fun adventures in the outdoors – like kayaking with orcas, walking the beach as sunset, and hiking.  But the real highlight was spending quality time with David’s family.   Christmas is often incredibly hectic, so having time to share with the family was a real gift.  We also had the pleasure of running into three friends from divinity school – all unexpectedly.  While I generally think the check-in feature on facebook is slightly creepy – in this instance it helped us reconnect with two friends, not bad facebook. Hopefully my next post won’t take 9 months.

return of the summer quilt

Thanks for the kind words friends.  Today was a better day.  I gave a colorful lecture on the beginning of the Sunni-Shiite split.  But that’s not what this post is about.  Last week I got an unexpected call from the machine quilter that my quilt was finished.  So David and I went to pick it up on Friday.  Here are two shots:

Front:

Back:

Teaching and Self-Doubt

Friday was a difficult class day for many reasons.  In one class, I had a student refuse to take a quiz because he said he didn’t know any answers, despite the fact that it was a simple reading review quiz (and he did know some of the answers).  But it was the other class that proved more challenging.  At present I am teaching about Islam and the topic for discussion was jihad.  This day is always a loaded given the way the media throws around the word, often incorrectly.  My approach is often to have them read about the concept in their textbook, then I hand out Osama Bin Ladin’s 1998 Fatwa calling for jihad, as well as a part of a brochure from the Islamic Society of North America.  My goal is for the students to see the contrast between the two different views and also to recognize the degree to which Osama Bin Ladin’s fatwa doesn’t stand up to the standards of set by much of the Muslim world.  I’m hoping they walk away understand the complexity of the concept. That’s the goal.  Here’s what happened…

We started with Bin Ladin’s fatwa. In it he opens with a very controversial passage from the Quran, which calls Muslims to slay the pagans wherever ye find them, which he doesn’t cite.  For some reason, a very precocious and intellectual student focused in on this section, asking where it came from and wanting to know the context, etc.  While my general memory is that this passage references a very specific instant of tribal warfare where pagan didn’t just mean of a different religion, but spoke to tribal loyalty and implied that the person was opposing Muhammad’s tribe, I didn’t know the specific passage and couldn’t cite my reading/interpretation.  Of course, this was the one thing I have not come prepared to answer.  I have taken notes on Qutb, Wahhabism, Salafists, Ibn Taymiyya, etc.  I was ready to talk about the development of political jihadism.  But I wasn’t ready for this and I felt so idoitic.  Especially because this student then tried to make the argument that Bin Ladin’s fatwa really did represent Islam better than the other, despite my arguments to the contrary.   I walked away from the class feeling like this sophomore had steam-rolled over me somehow.  I mean, I have studied Islam in at least four college and graduate level courses; I went to a conference focused on the Quran; and I spent most mornings of my summer reading about modern-day Islam, one book being Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam.  I know I know more about this than this student, but rather than acting like a confident, intelligent teacher, I walked away feeling like an idiot.

While I haven’t dwelled on it all weekend, as I reflect back on the experience, I think there are a few valuable lessons to be learned.

  1. I need to have more confidence in myself as a teacher and intellectual.  It seems like the more I learn about any given subject, the more I realize I still need to learn.  I walked away from my hours of reading this summer overwhelmed by what I hadn’t gotten to read.  While I do still have an incredible amount to learn, I need to also be confident in my knowledge and work to this point.
  2. I shouldn’t let a over-confident speech make me doubt myself.  I have always had a problem of assuming that just because someone talks like they know something it means the actually do.  Then I get nervous that my own knowledge is incorrect and I begin to doubt myself.  I remember one time during graduate school taking a course at Yale College on Eastern Philosophy.  I was sitting around a table with the group talking about the Dao De Ching and putting forth my opinion and this undergrad told me I was wrong and went on to explain how I should correctly view it.  I so I shut up.  Then we returned to large group discussion, only to have the professor explain what was going on in terms very similar to my own.  t(This is not to say I was always right, but it is to say that I didn’t say much after that because I let some girl make me feel stupid).
  3. I also need to find a way to make what happend Friday into a teaching moment that includes the entire class.  As the one student and I debated jihad and Quranic interpretation, I realized that no one else really cared.  While I do want to intellectually challenge this student, I also need to make sure its a challenge that can bring the other students along.  It’s a class of 14, not 1.  Moreover, it can be a good opportunity to teach students how to debate intellectually or how to humbly admit that I don’t know everything.
On to next week.  On Tuesday, we are talking about Women in Islam (equally controversial), you better believe that I’m going to know the citations of my Quranic passages – veil, polygamy, divorce – here I come.

hurricane at a boarding school

So this past week has been like living through a hurricane in more ways than one.  Monday started off with meetings from 9 am until around 10 pm.  Thankfully, it allowed for 10 inches of knitting, but even with that it was a long and boring day.  Whenever we have days like that I think, this must be what my students feel like when they sit and listen to me all day.  Tuesday was more meetings, but thankfully they were more interactive.  International students arrived Wednesday as did my first official night back on duty.  Thursday was the eye of the hurricane, with the day off for class planning.  Then the eye passed and the remaining new students and all sophomores returned.  This began the true craziness with a day full of orientation on Saturday.  At least I had a fun station at canoeing.

And then there was today, when the real hurricane hit.  Or really the tropical storm.  Or really just a lot of rain.  But since the school didn’t quite know what to expect, orientation came to a screeching halt Saturday, with all events postponed until Tuesday and the start of class moved back until Wednesday.  The dorm was on lock-down from Saturday night until the storm passed.  At first it was a bit stressful, getting a plan together to entertain and care for the 30 students in the dorm.  In the end it was a really relaxing day.  The students really bonded over Monopoly and Risk and then enjoyed a mixer with the girls’ dorm next door.  Since a majority of the students are new, it’s been nice for them to have the campus to themselves for a few extra days before school starts because they really seem to feel at home here and have connected with the other guys in the dorm.  It also was somehow rejuvenating for me as a faculty person.  Even though I needed to be around and available all day, it was nice to not have meetings and plans all day and just get a chance to hang out with the students over food and puzzles.  It was a nice break in the hectic-ness, especially given that the hurricane ended up going west of us and so it caused almost no damage aside from a three hour power-outage on campus and a few broken tree limbs.

now presenting the autumn cardigan

This yarn began as a giftcard my mom bought for me on groupon.  As always seems to happen when you have a giftcard, it is impossible to find what you want.  I went to the yarn store wit a couple yarns in mind for sweaters, but couldn’t find what I wanted.  I finally settled on this yarn, but they didn’t have enough of the gray or cream I wanted.  AFter deliberating with my mom, we decided this yellow would work for the pattern I had in mind, Aidez, then I got home and had second thoughts.  Problematically, they had already rewound the yarn for me so I couldn’t take it back.  Ravelry to the rescue.  After searching for a few minutes I landed on this cardigan from my favorites list.    It was a sweater I had liked for a while, but wasn’t on the top of my to do list.   Thankfully this rocky start did not continue into the project.  The knitting was quick and relatively easy and the finish project is just delightful.  Of all the sweaters I’ve knit for myself, this is the first one that actually fits the way I like.  I also love the color, it makes it seems very autumnal and warm.  I honestly can’t wait for cooler weather so I can start wearing it.

For the knitters out there, this is the twentyten cardigan.  The pattern wasn’t too expensive and it was written well.  I really appreciated that it was crafted so that it was knit all as one piece.  The sleeves in particular were structured in a really cool and interesting way with short rows.  This is definitely a knit you have to pay attention to, especially with the increasing and decreasing on the button band while also making the pocket or side shaping.  The only challenging place was the top of the fronts.  If I had followed the patterns entirely then I should have found off the button bands, but I just added an extra six stitches for the collar, but I don’t think it made a difference in the fit or look.  Here are a couple of my favorite features:

Pocket:

Collar:

This will probably be the last crafting post for a while.  I did get a LOT knit during Monday’s day of meetings on the Alameda Cowl, but now that students are starting to arrive, life is getting a little crazier and I’m trying to get ready to teach next Tuesday so that during Friday through Monday’s orientations I won’t have to also worry about class prep.  Don’t worry the crafting will still happen, but just not as quickly.

they grow up so fast

One year ago this Sunday we brought home a little bundle of joy and we named him Calvin. While it took him a little while to warm up to us, we were in love instantly.  Now he is a little like our shadow, following us from room to room and greeting us when we return home.  It’s hard to imagine life without him.  Even though he has stayed small, you can see from the below picture taken a couple days ago, he’s definitely grown into a teenage cat.  He even has the attitude to go with the age.

Happy Homecoming Calvin!  Here’s to many more years.