how I clicked 'yes' for a tutor and ended up meeting a poet

I've been using Duolingo to learn/practice Spanish for more than three years now, and Portuguese for about a year, and while it's got its flaws, I basically enjoy and appreciate it a lot, so I decided to get a paid membership to help support its mission. Doing so got me some ancillary benefits that for the most part I was uninterested in, but one thing that came over the dash was an offer of a Duolingo tutor. "Would you like a tutor?" the app innocently asked. I pressed yes, thinking I'd get the chance to investigate a little before actually committing, but instead got a cheery message back: Your tutor will contact you shortly! Aaaahhhhh, I went into paroxysms of shyness. No no no! Undo undo undo! But that wasn't an option.

And then nothing happened for a couple of days, so I breathed a sigh of relief ... and then a message did come.

I don't know how other Duolingo tutee-tutor relationships went, but ours was a very pleasant, very minimal-but-not-disappointly-minimal interaction about every 27 hours or so, with each of us sending the other about three text's worth of communication. If I made an error, there was a special correction screen he could send me, so I could see the right way to say the thing.

We talked about this and that, and eventually got to what things his 12-year-old son likes watching and reading, which turned out to be Steven Universe and Harry Potter, which got me responding enthusiastically. When I mentioned that we'd read the last Harry Potter aloud in a readathon, cover-to-cover, he said he enjoyed reading out stuff ... and liked writing stuff even more, and I laughed inwardly, because in my experience, I cannot venture online in any form anywhere, ever, without encountering a writer--not that I'm complaining! I like being with writers and I am one too--it's just funny.

So I told him I liked to write too and asked him if any of his stuff was online and said I'd like to read it.

... And then Duolingo sent me a message saying that the tutor program wasn't working out and they were going to discontinue it on November 20! This was just about a month after I'd gotten the initial invitation.

So I sent my tutor my email address, and he sent me his. Six days after the tutor program was shuttered, he sent me his poems, plus a Soundcloud link where I could hear them--they were great! If we continue corresponding, and if he doesn't mind me linking, I'll share the links here (I can't imagine he'd mind, but I want to ask.)

Friends--you can make them anywhere!

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"Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" (Matthew 7:9)

.... I think you might be forgiven for giving your kid a stone if you came across these loaf-like specimens. I altered the color (crudely; I blame my tech like the TOOL I AM like the tool it is?) so they approached bread color--but it's more the shape, the texture...

breadrock 3

breadrock 2

breadrock 4

breadrock 1

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feathers on the line

The Boy on the Roof--live for free reading/listening

I said I'd mention when "The Boy on the Roof" was available for free reading at Fireside Fiction, and it's up now, along with *amazing* narration by CSE Cooney. She got everything about the mood just right; she really brings the story alive.

The Boy on the Roof

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walking the rails

Walking the rails is better when the weather isn't quite so bitingly cold, but it's always good. It's a way through the landscape that you don't usually see.

The rails were shining blue from the blue sky overhead:

walk the line 2

I saw cows--these cows--eating old butternut squash, just like they were this time last year, but this time I was seeing them from behind.

cows eating old squashes

And I saw a hidden vehicle graveyard:

tiny junkyard

And milkweed, glowing whiter than milk

milkweed and white pine

And a chilly November wetland

cold november wetlands

It was only a mini-ramble, but it was good. It's been so long since I've wandered Between like this.

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Hot Chocolate Run 2019

Last year I fundraised here for the Hot Chocolate Run, which raises money for Safe Passage, an organization that helps people recover/escape from domestic violence. This year, I wasn't going to fundraise; I don't know why not really--just a kind of psychic tiredness, maybe.

But I remembered stories that two women in my classes told me about what they had suffered at the hands of their boyfriends/husbands. Collapse )

And so I thought, y'know. I can get over my psychic tiredness. So--if you are in a financial spot where you're able to donate, I--and many others--will be very grateful. Fundraising page is here.

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White Kitten

For [profile] wakanomori's third-year Japanese class, he's having students read something from a different decade each week, starting with the present and working back over the course of the semester until 1900. A couple of weeks ago, they read a portion of a children's story from 1942, 白い子猫 (White Kitten), written and illustrated by Nakajima Kikuo.

In the story, the next-door neighbors have moved away, leaving behind two white cats, whom protagonist Ichiro and his little sister Hanako adopt. There are ups and downs--which mainly seem to consist of threats to the cats (the original pair are male and female, and soon there are kittens), plus deaths and seeming deaths--so maybe not the most fun reading, but the illustrations are wonderful slice-of-life brush drawings, full of personality:

Here Shiro ("White"), the dad cat, has learned to recognize Ichiro's footsteps and comes running to greet him when he comes home from school.

from Shiroi koneko by Nakajima Kikuo

And here Shiro plays with Ichiro while Ichiro is bathing--look at the old-style bath!

from Shiroi koneko by Nakajima Kikuo

Shiro's son Kojiro ("Little Shiro") sits on Father's shoulder while Father reads.

from Shiroi koneko by Nakajima Kikuo

And the set behind the cut are the best: Kojiro sees a spider on the shōji, jumps at it, poking a hole in the shōji, and then peeks through and sees Yuki, his mother, in the other room, and leaps through to join her.

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Japan's been at war for seven years when this book comes out, but you'd never know it from the story or illustrations. There is NO sign of war--no soldiers, no rising-sun flags, nothing. Ichiro and Hanako are having a tranquil childhood in a big house, without a care in the world (except for cat deaths and threatened cat deaths).

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Beautiful wise one

A puddle of gold beneath a golden tree: it's gingko, the ancient of ancients, gingko, who watched indulgently as the dinosaurs rose and fell; gingko, who, a mere kilometer's distance from ground zero in Hiroshima, survived and flourished when all else died. That's how you survive for 270 million years.

Gingko, at some point along in your evolutionary journey, you chose to turn to brilliant gold before shedding your leaves in the cold. You were the first of all the deciduous trees to do so (... you were first of all the deciduous trees), and we, lately come to planet Earth, thank you. Your choice brightens our species' mayfly lives, we stand in your golden glow and feel blessed.


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flu immunizations

Look at this; two entries in one day--what is this, 2008? But it's because I had two very disparate thoughts that didn't sit nicely in the same post, so here you go.

When I did a unit on vaccines with my students, almost all of them were pro-vaccine ... with the exception of the flu vaccine. Many more people were on the fence about that or were actively opposed to it. The flu vaccine has the problem of being a best guess as opposed to a sure thing in terms of how relevant and effective it'll be against whatever strains of flu happen to go around, and I bet that contributes to people's feelings. With polio or measles or whooping cough, you're talking about just one illness, and the immunization is very effective; with the flu, you're talking about lots of different types of flu, and the vaccine may or may not be that effective.

Relatedly, we've been watching (against my mild objections; I guess I can tolerate the show) Arrow on Netflix, and in one episode, a drug dealer had a plan to create a citywide market of addicts by lacing a flu vaccine with the drug, so everyone who got a flu shot became addicted. "Thanks, show; great way to play to people's fears of the flu vaccine!" I shouted at the screen--and then started thinking about how this particular flavor of suspicion feels equivalent to the fears that people in Pakistan have with regard to the polio vaccine--that a purported good thing (immunization against a harmful illness) is being used by shady actors to accomplish a nefarious purpose.

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Is it a Chekov's gun or just a wall ornament?

I was recently thinking about when a detail is a Chekov's gun and when it's just, y'know, part of scene setting or world building. I was thinking this because my mind was pinging on things that I was sure were being placed in the story to be picked up later (the story was Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and the details in question *were* picked up again, but not in the way I expected), and yet not all details are there to be used later. To take an example that pops into my head, in Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch series, it's culturally significant that people in the Radch cover their hands and think uncovered hands are rude/indecent, and that fact is used to show differences in people's attitudes and statuses, but the fact of gloves and wearing them or not never gets used in a plot-defining moment. I don't know; maybe that's too general a plot detail to be a potential Chekov's gun. But even an actual gun on the wall might not be a Chekov's gun, it seems to me. It could be there just to establish the atmosphere of a hunting lodge, say. Or maybe it's a treasured memento of a grandfather who was a great hunter, and the storyteller is using it as a way to show how the protagonist feels about the grandfather, etc. etc.

Do you think you like it better if the Chekov's guns are unobtrusive and only reveal their Chekov-gunniness when they're picked up, or do you prefer to have an aura of menace around them from the start, so you wonder how and when they'll be picked up? Or does it depend? I was about to say that I think it shows more craft if you can't distinguish the Chekov's guns from the general scene setting until the moment comes, but now I'm not so sure.

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Late October--leaf maze season

I'm happy to report that both a squirrel and our cat, on separate occasions, more or less honored the walls of the maze and walked along the path. The squirrel was stopping periodically to check the leaf pile and a couple of times used its little squirrel hands to pat the leaves back in place, like squirrels do with the ground after they've buried a nut.

Making the maze
Steve photo Oct 19-1

The sacred marshmallow-roasting altar
Steve photo Oct 19-6

Francesca leaf maze 1

Completely unrelated, the song I'm listening to right now, "Mira," has the line

La vida es un pañuelo y que se abre lento

I didn't know "pañuelo," so I looked it up, and it means "handkerchief." How beautiful: "Life is a handkerchief and it opens up slowly." A handkerchief world, a handkerchief life.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/920511.html. Comments are welcome at either location.