Sunday, March 30, 2008

To Help Provide

As space permits, The Pocahontas Times often prints photographs provided by proud parents. I couldn't resist reproducing this little girl's first deer photograph. She may have on a camo jacket, but I'll bet her tee-shirt is princess pink. She's younger than most of deer-hunting girls, but she's by no means unique.

My favorite part is how she described her hunting:

This doe was harvested on Douthards Creek, Minnehaha Springs, with a 30/30 rifle by eight-year-old Sabrina K. Gravely during the "Youth Hunt" Christmas Eve 2007....Sabrina told her family, "I just wanted to do my part to help provide."

Bored of Ed

I'm about to start another month as a substitute teacher in Pocahontas County, presumably because no one with a regular West Virginia teacher's licence is available. (I have a short-term substitute license.) When I first applied for it, and took the required two-day course, I asked "How long does a short-term assignment last?" Evidently "short-term" and "long-term" have no specific duration. I'm doing my best, but my teaching experience is all with adults (defined as people over 18, not necessarily mature people), and lately, I've been hoping for a phone call from the school board office telling me my services are no longer needed. I really expected that by now another better-prepared substitute (like a retired teacher) would have become available.

Faced with declining enrollments and pending RIF's, Pocahontas County is not able to bring in new teachers midyear. Here's an example of what our school system deals with each year: Board of Education holds personnel hearings, from the Pocahontas Times, Thursday March 20, 2008.

Unfortunately, a reduction in the number of employees has become an annual feature of the work of the Board of Education, due to expected losses of revenue for the coming school year. Equally unfortunate is the fact that personnel decisions have to be made by April 1 but not all information on the actual amount of money that will be available to the school system is known by that date.

For the 2007-08 school year the Board was forced to make a total of 20 cuts in personnel before the April 1 date, but was able to rescind many of them once the funding situation was fully clarified.

The proposed personnel reductions this year are 7.5 professional employee positions and three service employee positions....

Prior to each hearing, School Superintendent Patrick Law stated that the reason for his recommendations for staff reductions are based on the continuing decline in the enrollment in the county's schools. As the state school aid formula is based on enrollment, the loss of about 50 students this year will result in less state money coming to the county for 2008-09.

He also pointed out that the state Education Department has warned the county that it continues to spend more than its revenues, to the amount of about $380,000 in the last school year and will soon have a deficit budget if corrections are not made.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Devil In the Details--March TIF Challenge

Sharon B.'s "Take It Further Challenge" for March is "details in life". In garment construction, "detail" means matters of seam finishes, bound buttonholes, pockets, and embellishments. I would imagine that nearly everything Sharon and the many other embroidery bloggers do qualifies as "detail" by my definition.

My first project idea was to sit down and practice making bound buttonholes and welt pockets. I've made a few welt pockets, but didn't do a great job, and I always used to get my mom to make my bound buttonholes for me. I have done without them since she died twelve years ago. (I am even more embarrassed to admit this than to admit that I still don't know how to set up my Linux machine as a NFS server). However, the substitute teaching job (and the upper respiratory viruses I've caught there) got in the way this month, and I haven't had time or energy for that task.

I also want to learn how to make lace insets in garments, and it occurs to me that this could qualify as "detail work" too. Because I have a dozen pairs of "underbritches" cut out from my collection of knit fabric scraps, I have a perfect practice project set up and ready to go. Surely the making of unique embellished undergarments must count as attention to life's details!

I don't expect I'll have photos of finished projects before the end of the month, but I may make some progress this weekend, and there is a school vacation coming up in a few days.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bigfoot Opens Season on BFRO

Peter, Paris and Neal Hammons

I wrote about a local visit from the Bigfoot Research Organization (BFRO) in 2006. The Bigfoot watchers were quite excited about what they considered to be a close encounter with the wily beast right here in the south end of Pocahontas County, near a much-used campground and trail. It seems they're coming back for another look: Search for Sasquatch returns to Greenbrier Valley by Drew Tanner, Pocahontas Times, Thursday March 20, 2008.

Next month, teams of people will be combing parts of the Greenbrier Valley for signs of a large, hairy ape.

It's not an escaped circus animal, and it has nothing to do with the lion that was spotted on Cold Knob last November. Members of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization are searching for what they believe to be a rare species that ranges across the continent.

The organization last visited Pocahontas County in October 2006, when 13 members had what was described as a "Class A" sighting, not far from Watoga State Park. According to BFRO founder Matt Moneymaker, two or three of the creatures tossed rocks at the people in attempt to drive the team off their turf.

"They were very aggressive," said Moneymaker. "We like that. It's better for us to confirm they're there, rather than these things running away, which is usually what they do."

Now, for me, Burl Hammons' account of Jesse, Pete, and Paris Hammons' (pictured above) Cherry River sighting of the Yayho is completely credible. These men were born and raised in the woods in the mid-1800's, and lived by hunting. If they didn't know what some large animal was, it must have been a rare creature indeed. The area where a large primate pummelled BFRO "researchers" with rocks, in contrast, is well-traveled by tourists, hunters, and local outdoors-men and -women. If my panther-spotting, ginseng-gathering neighbors haven't spotted Bigfoot, or some sign of him, I just don't believe he's there.

You can read an excerpt from Burl Hammons' Yayho story here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Teaching Myself New Linux Tricks: NFS

Between my surprise middle school teaching job, catching and hosting four different upper respiratory viruses, and having my elderly eMac melt down, my blogging has been sorely neglected, and the home computer activities I've engaged in have not been of the most enjoyable sort.

I usually try to convince myself that reconfiguring my computers is an exciting learning opportunity, but I'm quite resistant to this project: setting up a Network File System on my new Linux machine and the Mac mini. I tried to teach myself this new trick several years ago, and finally just settled for using the old eMac as a file transfer protocol (ftp) server. Whenever I wanted to transfer files from one machine to the other, I just ftp'd from the command line, the way I learned during the Carter administration.

For some reason, the Mac mini is slow as molasses in January at connecting to the Linux box via ftp. It's just not a satisfactory system anymore, and, besides, I feel ashamed to be running a Unix network without knowing how to set up NFS. That's why I'm slowly rereading portions of Running Linux, and perusing Web resources such as these:

I still haven't got it working. It may have to wait until Spring break, when I can fret over it for several consecutive days.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Cute Computer Shopping: Mini

Recently, my eMac's power supply gave up the ghost. Since then, my non-middle school hours have been dominated by the search for a way to replace that key member of my elderly home computer network. Instead of interesting lists of links, I've been compiling collections of online retailers, comparative prices for computer components, and product reviews.

I decided I'd like to keep a proprietary operating system in the house, for those peripherals that don't have Linux drivers, so I finally bought a low-end Mac Mini. For those who are interested Mac Rumors, my buying a piece of hardware of any sort is a sign that it is about to be discontinued, as surely as the Four Horsemen foretell the Apocalypse.

I wasted quite a bit of time trying to determine whether the Mac Mini would work with the monitors I have on hand. Many people reported problems with older non-Apple monitors. Here's my own data point: I plugged my 10-year old Gateway CRT monitor into the Mini, using the VGA/DVI adapter, and it worked like a charm--I was amazed at how good the old CRT looked.

Here's my Product Review: The Mac Mini does what I need it to do, and was easy to set up. I look forward to playing with it's cute Mac features someday when I have a little more time. It is white and tiny, as advertised. However, I was surprised to find, in the little Mac Mini box (which reminds me of Barbie's Wardrobe carrying cases from the 1960's), an external power supply, also white and shiny, but similar in size and weight to a brick. If you buy the Mac Mini for its appearance, and for its small "form factor," this will throw a monkey wrench in your desktop real estate plans. No pictures of the Mini set up and running include a view of the power supply.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Consolation Sewing Projects

Today I packed up most of my sewing projects and put them away. Until this substitute teaching job ends, my sewing, knitting, and dying time will consist of short, compact projects. To ease the disappointment a bit, I sewed up these four tee shirts.

I had cut them out in November, along with a dozen small lingerie projects as part of the Scrap Fabric Compaction Project. I thought I might want to wear these before the weather turns warm.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

"Holler People," But Not In West Virginia

Oh, this is disappointing news for those of us seeking tourist-terrifying video material: "Shelter" movie's casting director fired, (AP), February 27, 2008.

A casting director for the horror thriller "Shelter" has been fired after West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin's office objected to what it termed an insensitive casting call for extras with unusual features.

Donna Belajac Casting's Web site initially advertised the scene as being set in a "West Virginia 'holler,''' but producers Emilio Diez Barroso and Darlene Caamano Loquet said the movie is not set in West Virginia and the state will not even be mentioned.

"On behalf of the entire SHELTER production we regret and are deeply sorry for the very insensitive casting call sent out without our knowledge by our casting director Donna Belajac who has been dismissed from this project as a result,'' Barroso and Loquet said in a statement issued Tuesday night.

Manchin spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg said the West Virginia Film Office contacted the producers Tuesday night on behalf of the governor.

"They weren't aware of all that had transpired," Ramsburg said today. "They quickly became aware."

Casting agency director Donna Belajac did not respond to calls seeking comment Tuesday and today.

Never mind. Movies like "The Hills Have Eyes" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre XCII" continue to frighten potential visitors to rural retreats all over the US. Many people still believe "Deliverance" is set in West Virginia. Even if "Shelter" expunges references to the Mountain State, it should still be a good selection for the Snowshoe Resort video library.

And remember, there are bib-overall-wearing old women wandering the ridges of Pocahontas County, muttering T.S. Eliot verses, photographing bugs on clotheslines and getting into who knows what-all. Be afraid....