25 April 2007


A few weeks ago I received a gift certificate from Crate & Barrel for $25 to be used however I wished at DonorsChoose.org. DonorsChoose is an organization designed to help provide resources for students who often do not receive the funding they need from public schools for special projects, field trips, etc. Teachers are able to submit ideas for materials or experiences their students need to learn, and then individual donors can choose which projects they would like to help fund. As a donor, you can browse the proposals based on region, the type of subject (such as science or art), the type of resource (such as technology or books), the type of school or even by the level of poverty. After you help to fund a specific project, you can log back into the site to check the status of the proposal to which you've donated. In addition, if you help to complete a project, you will receive student photos and thank-you notes showing how you impacted the classroom.

Two things: first, I think this is a creative and innovative way to help teachers and students achieve quality education. I have many family members and friends who are teachers or involved in the school system. They are dedicated to their students and I know they are always struggling to attain the funding they need. Second, kudos to Crate & Barrel for their benevolence. The gift certificate allowed me to give to a worthy cause and for them to foot the bill. I have been impressed with C&B's customer service and this only reinforces my positive image of the company.

One great thing about my job at Covenant Trust Company is that I am always learning about new ways to give. There are so many avenues for charitable giving. And with the Internet, these avenues are constantly changing, expanding, and becoming more creative and innovative. DonorsChoose is a great example of that.

19 April 2007

Spelling Bee Be Gone?

I heard on the radio yesterday that the Simplified Spelling Society is celebrating its 99th anniversary. I didn't even know that the Society existed, but apparently, its goal is to simplify the spelling of the English language in an attempt to improve literacy among English-speaking people.

According to the Society, "Like all languages with phonetic writing systems, a reform would do away with those wasteful spelling classes for children learning English. The effects of dyslexia are made worse by the chaotic English spelling. The Spelling Bee is unknown in countries with phonetic (or should that not be "fonetic"?) spelling. The updating of English spelling would be of benefit to many more than just the Anglo-Saxon world, but also the world of TEFL where other languages are spoken in addition to English.

"Phonetics is seen as the key to improving literacy and spelling. Learning a phonetic system is easier and allows the children of today to be more productive than we could ever be, releasing them to learn other essential skills in a fast moving world. There would be no more difficult words."

Hmmm... I'm not sure what to think about this. I understand that this is
definitely not a new idea. After all, the Society is almost 100 years old. And after further research, I learned that Benjamin Franklin proposed a phonetic spelling system in 1779. So, given the duration and attention this topic has achieved, I suppose we cannot disregard it as irrelevant. But to me it sounds a lot like, "If the test is too hard, make it easier!" Isn't the path to improving literacy one of education? I find it hard to believe that no child ever benefited from all those "wasteful spelling classes". I know that some things will and have changed (i.e.: colour to color), but it's hard to fathom a completely phonetic English language system. I think I'd miss our ph's and nonsensical ough's. Admittedly, I am a native English speaker to whom many of these subtleties have come naturally.

Anyone have any thoughts?

Until we get this all sorted out, here's a comical piece by Mark Twain entitled "A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling":

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

17 April 2007

Miss Personality

Here are the latest pictures of our niece, Charlotte. I couldn't resist. Don't you just want to get inside her head and know what she's thinking? The last time we talked to her, we heard a beautiful rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and the "ABCs". Watch out American Idol! It's really too bad she's not a happy little girl...

16 April 2007


We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, 1953

It’s easy for me to think about times I’ve been bothered, but usually it’s about trivial things—things I need to get over. But I find myself thinking about the times I’ve been bothered by something important. And I guess as I think about it more, being bothered really isn’t enough. I can easily be bothered by injustice, racism, the failing role of the Church in society, environmental indifference, etc., but it seems to me that what really counts is what we do with our bothered selves. I think I’m pretty quick to make a critical remark, but very slow to act. Admittedly, it’s hard to get to that next stage of action; there are so many distractions, hesitations, fears. How do we strike that balance between becoming an effective, constructive critic of society versus becoming a bitter, career complainer? I think it has to do with recognizing that we can (and should) take some responsibility. But I agree that becoming bothered is the first step. After all, it's hard to know what action to take if we cannot perceive that which is bothersome. But no worries, there should be no shortage of bothersome things anytime soon. I still have some time...

10 April 2007

Third Annual Johnson Easter

We were fortunate enough to be invited back to TK's home for Easter this year. It is always a wonderful time to relax, be with good friends and celebrate Easter. Many thanks to Kent and Joyce for their indescribable hospitality and graciousness. We always feel at home with them. From our Easter basket hunt to a rousing game of Catch Phrase, we had many laughs. Here are some pictures from the weekend:

05 April 2007

Maundy Thursday

Holy Thursday

Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
Came children walking two and two, in red and blue and green,
Grey-headed beadles walk'd before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul's they like Thames' waters flow.

Oh what a multitude they seem'd, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of Heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged man, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

-William Blake, Songs of Innocence (1789)

03 April 2007


Perhaps it is rather symbolic that around our 6 month anniversary of being married, and our 6 year anniversary of being together, we would discover that we are hosting another little family just starting out. When I first heard the noisy birds flying to and from the ledge above our living room window, my instinctive thought was "Great, pigeons." I hate pigeons. For 2 years, in my former apartment, I witnessed several mating, laying, hatching and growing cycles of these birds. They had a nest on a ledge outside my bedroom window, about 2 feet away from my pillow. I'm not exaggerating. Between their obnoxious squawking and 4-inch pile of poop, it was difficult to develop a healthy relationship. I don't miss them at all. So, it would only seem natural that my first reaction to our new inhabitants would be one of dread. But both Andrew and I have been pleasantly surprised to learn otherwise. Instead, we are hosting an American Kestrel family, also known as the American Sparrow-Hawk. The Audubon Society has some great information about these birds:

When spring returns to enliven the earth each male bird seeks for its mate, whose coyness is not less innocent than that of the gentle dove. Pursued from place to place, the female at length yields to the importunity of her dear tormentor, when side by side they sail, screaming aloud their love notes, which, if not musical, are doubtless at least delightful to the parties concerned. With tremulous wings they search for a place in which to deposit their eggs secure from danger, and now they have found it.

They've found it alright. And while I might debate the idea that their love notes are always "delightful", they beat any noise a pigeon makes, hands down. So we welcome our little family and look forward to the life it will bring.