Archive for the ‘Dabney AAR’ Category

rethinking homework

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

homeworkIt’s the first night of school and my tenth graders already have homework… lots of it. My daughter, once she got home–at 7:30–from a school volleyball game, estimated she had three hours of homework to do. Her twin brother, home at 5:00–he does debate-was just finishing up his homework at eight. Their teachers told them to expect 30 minutes to an hour a night of homework per class. Neither of them is taking any AP classes–this is the workload for the average tenth grader at their school.

I’m not going to write about the many conflicting studies about the efficacy of homework. Nor am I going to discuss the troubling tradeoffs that kids make to do well in our competitive high schools. (I will confess to having seen and being moved by Race to Nowhere, a compelling movie about the rat race that is high school for many American students.) No, today I am asking a question: Why can’t high school teachers assign homework a week at a time? (more…)

in praise of the “murse”

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

hotornot-hugh-jackmanI am, after years of indecision, a fan of the “murse” or the male purse.  It’s an idea whose time has clearly come.

I just spent a week in Northern Europe where men with bags slung over their shoulders are a common sight. I saw men with messenger bags, one strap backpacks, long strap briefcases, and some fairly purse-like satchels. I saw guys pull out their cell-phones from inner pockets, call their wives to say they were on their way home, and then tuck the phones safely away. I saw dads pulling out juice bottles, wild young men in Amsterdam pulling out lighters, well-dressed males pulling out travel guides and, once, a guy pulling out a bouquet of flowers for his girlfriend. Murses are all over Europe and I predict we will begin to see more of them here in the good old USA.

Murses make sense especially in a world where so many men carry at least one electronic device.  So many of today’s devices have fragile parts: touch screens that easily shatter, keyboards that can’t stand even the slightest contact with water. It seems quite sane to carry such objects in something less dangerous than a pants pocket. And many men are carting more than one device. I personally carry an iPhone, an iPad, a Kindle and a camera most everywhere I go. Putting all those things in my purse not only protects them, it makes it easier to tote them. I assume that ease would be equally enjoyed by the other sex.

So, whether a man is a gadget freak packing several devices, a dad armed with diapers and a juice box, or a reader loaded up with tomes (electronic or actual), the murse is the best solution out there. It needs to become, well, manly and thus acceptable to many of this country’s males.

What do you think? Can you imagine America full of murse carrying males? If not, why not? (OK, maybe they all won’t look like Hugh Jackman, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the point!)

the joys of travel photography

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
fountains of Peterhof are one of Russia's most famous tourist attractions

fountains of Peterhof are one of Russia's most famous tourist attractions

I love to travel and have been lucky enough to do so. In the past three years, my husband and I have been to Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Rome, Venice, Saint Petersburg, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Our family has traveled to Africa, Europe, Central America, Canada and throughout the United States. One of our favorite things to do is to take pictures of all that we see. And we take a lot of pictures! On our most recent trip we took over 1500 shots. (more…)

“Cool” clothing

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011


I live in the American South–in the heart of Carolina–where it is really hot and sticky in the summertime.  In past summers, I’ve dressed “coolly” in cotton tank tops and jean skirts. Cotton’s a fairly breathable fabric and, until now, I thought my cotton clothes were as “cool” as it gets. I was wrong. This summer, thanks to three new sundresses made with hi-tech wicking fabrics, I’m the coolest I’ve ever dressed! (more…)

The lines we leave behind

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

When my children were younger, whenever I dropped them off somewhere, I would always say three things: “Make good choices.” (This line is stolen from the marvelous mom played by Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday.) “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” (The reasons behind this obscure saying may be found here.)  And “Always respect your body.” I have said these lines so often to my four children the words have become part of our relationship and now imply my love, my loopy sense of humor, and my hope they might actually temper their behavior when away from me. I don’t say them all the time anymore but those lines are woven into the fabric of my relationship with my family. (more…)

Yum Yum in the summertime

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

roasted_banana_ice_cream-5It’s summertime here in the American South and that means lots of great fresh fruit. I love fruit and keep my house stocked with berries, bananas, melons, and peaches. However, some weeks, when my kids are spending more time out of the house, I end up with too much fruit, much of it on the verge of going bad. So, what do I do? I make ice-cream. There is nothing, to me, better in the taste world than freshly churned ice-cream. It’s just incredible. (more…)

a song for this “time of my life”

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

4451837798_3c2d3d5fa3Lately I have been amusing the hell out of myself by saying aloud…very slowly…very seriously…lyrics from ridiculous songs. I almost drove off the road last week while intoning the Steve Miller Band’s “You’re the cutest thing/That I ever did see/I really love your peaches/Want to shake your tree.” (Note: pompatus is not a real word.) I am completely unable to keep a straight face while quoting from MacArthur Park (a terrible song written by Jimmy Webb and turned into a disco hit by Donna Summer): ““Someone left a cake out in the rain. It took too long to bake it, and I don’t know if I can make it again.”Singing “Sammy’s so skinny” from Muskrat Love made me laugh so hard that my daughter told me stop it right now–I was embarrassing her. (She’s 15–much of what I do embarrasses her!) (more…)

How to make the iPad2 even better

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

ipad caseI’ve had my iPad2 now for a couple of months and I love it. It has completely replaced my aging laptop and I use it for everything but writing blogs and articles. (I still like my full keyboard and big screen for that task.) iPad and iPhone users love to talk about all the great apps there are and it’s true, there any many marvelous apps.

But the two things that have transformed by iPad into a tool I can’t live without are the Logitech keyboard case by Zagg and the BoxWave Capacitive iPad Stylus. The keyboard turns the iPad tablet into a laptop. I couldn’t imagine doing email and writing–when I’m not at home–on the iPad using the touch screen. The iPad connects with the keyboard through Bluetooth and uses very little power. I’ve only had to charge it once since I got it. The stylus makes using the iPad’s touch screen vastly easier… and it doesn’t smudge up the screen. Styluses are very inexpensive and I have three so that I don’t have to worry where I put the last one down. Styluses also function as a more specific pointer than my finger can so I always open just want I wanted to rather then something nearby. (more…)

Sophie, Head of Home Security

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

IMG_0695After twenty-three years of marriage, four kids, four houses, two snakes, one albino hedgehog, one guinea pig and two feral cats, my husband and I have a dog. We had always sworn we’d never get a dog-for years four kids seemed like enough work. As our children aged, they begged and cajoled, promising that they’d do all the work. We would point out they appeared to have a hard time unloading the dishwasher promptly when asked. Then, as the kids aged, I began to ask my husband to change his mind. I believed they were old enough to be responsible and, even better, than the responsibility would be good for them. My husband was not convinced. (more…)

rewatching a fracking great show

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

bsg1I don’t watch a lot of television. I can count on both hands the number of TV shows I have watched in the past ten years. But, when I watch a show, all of show, I usually become a devoted fan. Currently I am rewatching Battlestar Galactica (the 2004-2009) series. I watched it when it first came out and thought it was beyond brilliant in its portrayal of government, war, terrorism, and “the other.” It seemed to me, especially given the post 9/11 global world, to have things to teach me about incompatible alliances and conflicting creeds. I watched it with my teenage sons and, after each episode, we would talk about when war and its nastier cousins terrorism and torture are used and what it says about the society that uses them. Watching the show was exhilarating—I remember many a gasp when the plot took a staggering dramatic turn. (more…)