Sunday, January 31, 2016

Prague's Astronomical Clock

To the modern eye this may not be so thrilling, but I need you now to take a step back about, oh, 600 years or so and appreciate this industrial marvel.

The year is 1410. Sigismund I, King of Hungary and the Romans sits on the throne. The astronomical clock is commissioned to showcase Prague's prowess and superiority.

Mikulas of Kadan, clockmaker, and mathematician Jan Sindel were the people responsible for the medieval planetarium on view today. However, their work would not be fully functional were it not for master crafstman, Hanus Carolinum, who was responsible for repairs and upkeep of the clock, working some 80 years after the original construction, and was the only man living then who knew the intricacies and the mechanical workings of the piece.

Rather than risk his expertise being spread all over Europe, legend has it that Prague's old town councilors blinded Hanus with a hot poker and cut out his tongue so that he would not be able to recreate or impart knowledge about the clock for or to any one else.

Understandably irked by this show of gratitude for upkeeping what is arguably the greatest mechanical mechanism of its day, Hanus asked his buddy to take him to the clock where he tinkered with some pieces and effectively shut down the clock for 200 years.

Obviously someone was eventually able to get the clock working again, and every hour on the hour the clock does its thing for the delight (or sometimes 21st century disappointment) of tourists.

What exactly are you looking at?

Well, originally the clock was the sphere and clock dial showing the major astronomical movements of the time. Of course, as everybody knew, everything revolved around the earth, which is why the clock has both the sun and the moon revolving around the earth as well as the ecliptic revolutions, each part an independent mechanism.

In the clockwork there are three co-axial wheels. The first shows the position of the zodiac and rotates roughly every 24 hours. The second indicates the sun and rotates also once everyday, depending on the length of the sun in the sky for that particular time of year. The third rotates with the rotation of the moon and the ball, half-silvered and half black, displays lunar phases and rotates every month.

Below the clock is a combination 365-day Christian calendar and Czech zodiac complete with 365 days of Saints, in case you were short on holidays.

In the early-mid 17th century the wooden statues were added to reflect typical 17th century fears. From left to right we have Vanity, Greed, Death, and Infidel Turk (a.k.a. "The Piper). Because, you know, in 1657, if thinking yourself too pretty, coveting money, and the Grim Reaper didn't get you, you could be pretty certain the Turks would.

The figures of the Apostles were added at the tail end of the 18th century. In order of appearance, the saints come as follows. From the left window: St. Paul, St. Thomas, St. Juda Thaddeus (patron saint of hope and impossible causes), St. Simon (the patron saint of lumberjacks), St. Bartholomew (patron saint against nervous diseases and twitching), and St. Barnabas (patron saint against hailstorms). From the right window: St. Peter, St. Matthew  (patron saint of tax collectors and accountants), St. John  (patron saint of booksellers), St. Andrew  (patron saint of fisherman), St. Phillip  (patron saint of hatters), and St. Jacob  (patron saint of teachers).

About 60 years after that came the golden crowing - or ceremoniously tooting - rooster at the top of the clock.

All in all, the whole ordeal take about a minute and I find it really spectacular, kind of in the way one appreciates Hitchcock's terror in an era of Tarantino.

Nowadays, there are legends associated with the clock that, when it stops working - if it stops working - bad times will befall Prague. So, let's just hope that time keeps ticking. Literally.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cultural Identity

Whether they embody it or not, Americans tend to be very keen on national . If you're a "red-blooded American," this generally entails flag-waving, gun-waving, and a surge of pride when someone utters the word "freedom," which makes you consider yourself the best kind of patriot. If you're from MA, "red-blooded Americans" probably make you cringe, so you wave your words and your democracy, which makes you consider yourself the best kind of patriot. If you're lucky enough to identify as an American abroad, you begin to understand how America is perceived in the world, which makes you practical.

Good or bad - an admittedly, I claim to be Canadian whenever possible - Americans have a strong sense of identity, as do the Chinese and Turks, both of whom are proud of the revolutionary leaders who brought the countries out of empires and into republics.

Imagine having to change the nationality on your passport every few years. Imagine a world whose borders have been more or less arbitrarily carved with your your government's (never mind your) input. And imagine this world is smack dab in the middle of a politically important area. Welcome to the Czech Republic.

The Czech State was officially formed in the 9th century in the Great Moravian Empire as the Duchy of Bohemia. After the Moravians fell in 907, the Duchy of Bohemia was integrated into the Holy Roman Empire, becoming officially the Kingdom of Bohemia. When Charles IV (initially King Wenceslaus of Good Kin Wenceslaus fame) inherited the throne in 1347, Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Some 500 years later in 1806, the Holy Roman Empire dissolved and the Hapsburg, claimed descendants of Holy Roman Emperors, installed the Austro-Hungarian Empire, under whose wing the Czech Republic fell. Because of their access to silver and industrialism, the Czech lands became a powerhouse for the monarchy.

And then came the shots heard round the world. No, no, American readers, not that shot; arguably more important shots as Bosnian-born Gavrilo Princip fatally shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Hapsburg throne, and his wife, Sophie, the commencement of WWI, and with the death of two leaders signed the death warrants of 16 million others.

As part of the Austro-Huungarian Empire, the Czech Republic found itself allied with the Germans and on the wrong side of the war. At the end of the conflict, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was no more, Germany was meant to give back its lands (apart from Germany itself), and the Czech Republic found itself as Czechoslovakia, encouraged by the US to make one bigger nation, rather than two smaller ones.

Of course, on the heels of WWI was the Goliath of wars, WWII. After WWI, Germany was more or less a toddler in timeout. England and France had taken away German territories and fighter planes, put severe restrictions on the size and power of the German military, and had sent them to bed without supper.

Out of the turmoil of WWI rose Adolf Hitler, whose economic plans put Germans back to work and - at least slightly - regulated the out of control Deutschmark. But, as we know, Hitler was greedy for land. But he was greedy for very specific land. Hitler desired to return Germany to being the Holy Roman Empire, himself Herr Emperor.

Sadly for Hitler, part of the conditions of Germany's timeout was that they were not to invade other
countries. One might imagine a larger-than-life Churchill, pipe protruding from his lips, pointing his finger at a small, bashful Hitler, scolding, ""And no invading for you, young man."

But Hitler was savvy and a man obsessed, so he set his sights on the Sudetenland, the western part of today's Czech Republic, with borders on Austria and Germany. Inhabited primarily by German speakers anyway, Hitler rolled in the Sudetenland on September 30, 1938 and Czechoslovakia was no longer. (Prior to invading, he had issued on ultimatum to the Slovaks to create a country independent from the Czechs or to face Nazi invasion - thus not violating the conditions of Germany's punishment, as Hitler was invading a country that no one recognized. Technically no longer a country at all; a country without a country.

So, temporarily the Czech Republic was split into a sort of no-man's land, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Reich on the west. Eventually, however, all of the Czech lands were overtaken by the Reich and, until the end of WWII, the Czechs were part of Germany.

WWII came to a violent end with the Allies pushing east and the Soviets pushing west, grappling for control of Berlin. Ultimately, it was the Soviets who liberated the majority of the Czech Republic from the Nazis. Once again, the land was Czechoslovakia and, in the first elections after WWII, the Communist Party gained control. In the second election in 1948, a different Communist party successfully shanghaied the votes and "Carpathian Ruthenia" became part o the USSR.

There would be no more elections for 41 years as the Iron Curtain descended on the Czechs. In true Communist "work will set you free form," the Czechs busied themselves with agriculture, industry, and Communist indoctrination. Here is a our hero, Stalin. But not Stalin is dead, and here is our hero Khrushchev. With de-Stalinization and new-Khrushcheviation (good luck pronouncing that), the rules changed again, as did the area's identity. Though still part of the USSR, in 1960, the country became a socialist republic and, nine years later, they were the Czech Socialist Republic.

20 years after that, of course came the famous call: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Communism was dispelled, east met west, and the Czechs once again were Czechoslovakia, until, in 1993, the Slovaks broke off and the Czech Republic was formed.

If you were born in America, you might cite your heritage as part of your identity, but you label yourself as an American. This is true if you were born last year or 80 years ago. But there are Czech citizens whose country of birth no longer exists because of political turmoil and ever changing boundaries. So, what is home and how do we define it? Is it in the attitude and the flags we fly? The messages we send to the world about what is important to us? Or is it in the perseverance and adaptability, to be able to withstand time and change? As for me, I wish the Czechs from here on out, a long and boring history.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Vienna: Day 1.5

We arrived in Vienna to the beginnings of a snowstorm. The sky, grey and cloudless, slowly spit fat snowflakes that increased well into the night. The train ride from the airport was long and not terribly scenic - fields and factories - but the seats were cushioned and the heaters were comforting as we looked outside at the snow amassing on the ground. Jake studied the subway map like there would be an exam on it, while I contemplated the fact that I'm probably reading too many war novels because now, whenever I see snow, I think about dreadful it would be to be called to fight in it.

The subway left us off at Kettenbruckengasse, an extremely cute, little subway stop that opens onto the Naschmarkt where I spied some woolly socks that I will be buying. After checking in at the hostel, we embarked towards the Ringstrasse - a ring road that encircles the touristy and historic part of Vienna. Mozart played on the listening guide as numerous composers, the opera house, and other claims to culture appeared to our left and right. I sat by the window so I could take photos, but I was so dumbfounded that I didn't take any.

The train skidded when it stopped, the wet snow muddling the tracks, and, when we disembarked, our shoulders piled high with powdery snow. The light was fading in Vienna and the cold nipped at our ears and noses.

In Stadt Park are monuments to Schubert, Strauss, and numerous other composers, some of whom I've never heard of and I wondered if Vienna was maybe just making up a few names to mess with tourists a bit, kind of like how Athens puts some of their historical relics in the metro system.

The alarm went off at 6:30 this morning. It was Sunday and, unlike most other Sundays, we had to go to church. Standing room only tickets: 0 Euros. Cheese and apricot pastry: 2 Euros. Hearing the voices of the Vienna Boys Choir resound in the Hofsburg Kapelle: Priceless.

The high, vibratoless soprano, amassed in Mozart's Agnus Dei is enough to make your heart skip a beat. There is, in their voices, something holier than Catholicism and for me, much more tangible. I felt a little badly for the high priest, though, knowing that every Sunday he had to preach to a congregation of sinners who were more interested in hearing the Vienna Boys Choir than his sermon.

The snow had stopped and the day was comparably warm. It was about half ten and the Imperial Treasury was in our sights. Just a friendly suggestion: they might want to rename the Imperial Treasury to the Museum of a 1000 Crucifixes. Crucifixes in gold. Crucifixes in bronze. Crucifixes inlaid with mother-of-pearl. You get the idea.

But the crowning glory of the crowned jewels is the Imperial crown of the Holy Roman Emperors. Worn by Charlemagne on his coronation in 1517, the 8-sided crown, which pictures King Solomon, King David, the Prophet Isiah, Christ in Majesty, and featuring 144 precious stones, has been passed down from HRE to HRE, finally to land in the hands of Hapsburgs, to their claim, the crown's rightful descendants.

I, of course, couldn't stop singing Pippin.

One thing I love about Vienna is how quiet it is. Maybe it's just that it's winter or maybe it's the city's imperial nature, but everything is softer here. And the bells of St. Stephan's echo off the cobblestone and their peal is a nice change from the Turkish prayers we hear five times daily.

It is Sunday in Vienna and, good Catholics that they are, mass is everywhere. Every church we see has churchgoers and every pulpit is filled. From the Hapsburg Crypts we can hear the service happening above us. At least for the first hallway. As we descend further into the chambers, the sounds from above fade away and we're left with the posthumous extravagance of the Hapsburgs. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Channing Tatum: Take 2

I think I may have sent out the wrong message with my initial blog featuring Channing Tatum. To be clear, I am not in some sort of state of self-loathing, nor do I actually buy into the beauty standards set by our society.

The purpose of that blog - which was apparently very poorly achieved - was to state that we all have ups and downs with ourselves. Regardless of our sizes, colors, genders, nationalities, there are days when we look in the mirror and wish something were different. It's being able to move past this stage that takes us on the path to self love, however, and my Channing Tatum blog was merely to say that, "Hey, I was in this stage" and this is how I got out. Reading it over, I will concede that I did not succeed at that and it more sounded like a whining, I-hate-x,y, and z blog. So, I apologize. That was not my intention.

Let me try to voice this more eloquently.

For a long time, I had a lifetime membership to the "Hate Fat" club, which I renewed every year without fail. In order not to make people uncomfortable, I laughed a fat jokes, I only ate "healthy" things in front of people I didn't know very well, and, more importantly, I believed everything they told me. Because, you know, other people are a much better judge of you and your experience than you are yourself.

It seemed like everywhere I turned there were messages just waiting to tell me that my body was bad, ugly, worthless, lazy, and otherwise wrong. And I believed them. I believed that horrible cliche that, inside my fat body was a thin body just waiting to emerge.

I would poke at myself, pulling at areas that irked me, frowning, and thinking to myself, "If I just do..." (fill in new trend here) "then I'll be thin."

Well, here's what happened. I did get thinner. Between ages 19-20 I lost nearly 60 pounds. I still wasn't THIN but I was much thinner. I felt a lot better, which I now realize was less a result of my weight loss and more or result of my new found love of healthy habits, predominantly dance. People treated me better - I got compliments all the time - and I thought, "I'm on my way! Just 40 more pounds to go!" Because, in my mind, I had an arbitrary weight that would equate with penultimate health and happiness.

I maintained what I was doing, the exercising, the diet, and I didn't lose any more weight. I had "plateaued" said the women at the gym.

Well, fuck.

I remained "plateaued" for about 5 years, which is the tail end of the time that people who experience significant weight loss typically experience weight gain. And I started to gain weight back for apparently no reason. And try as I might, it wouldn't go any lower.

Since then, due to different life circumstances - stress, jobs, China, whatever - my weight has gone up and down. At some points, I still engage in days where there are parts of me that I wish I could change, but I am able to remind myself all of the amazing things my body can do and that the problems I find with myself are not actually with me but with society.

And if you don't believe me, believe Channing Tatum.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Compliments of Channing Tatum

Due to the absence of iPhoto on my HP - damn you, Mac-only products! - I've been in the aborious process of organizing photos, downloading photos from Facebook, and otherwise getting photographs in order after the shift from my 7-year old MacBook to our PC. Anyway, after I organized a crap ton of photos from about five years ago, I downloaded a bunch of photos from our recent trip to Greece.

I wish I could say the first thing I noticed was the beautiful scenery, but the first thing I noticed from our Grecian adventure was the way I looked. One negative thought leaked in and then entered the flood gates of waters rushing down the path of myriad things that I deemed would be "better" if they didn't look the way they did. 

This is a stupid and useless process. It takes us nowhere except to self-loathing, which is is destructive and bad for our health. Logically, I can go through the reasons not to give into self-loathing particularly in regards to weight loss which isn't the same as health, isn't a measure of beauty, and hasn't been successfully accomplished in the long term by any more than a small fraction of people, But yet the desire remains to be part of that small fraction - to be the exception. 

And for what? While I concede that my life would probably differ if I were thin - strangers would treat me differently, I wouldn't have to work as hard for people's approval that thin people are given instantly by virtue of the fact that they don't embody someone's stereotypes, certain things (like shopping for clothes) might be easier, but would the things that REALLY matter - the people who love me, the experiences I've had, the passions I have - change? No. They wouldn't. 

Bodies change. Tides change. Moods change. Things change. And here's Channing Tatum on a never-changing loop to remind you one other thing that will never, ever, ever change: 


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What is Feminism?

In writing class we’ve been working on compare/contrast writing. We started by using Venn Diagrams – as you do – to see the similarities and differences between two things. After practicing whole group, we set off to partner work, and I collected this Venn diagram from a sixth grade pair:

This pair of sixth grade girls believed that women could be successful, but were ultimately unpowerful.

Being in Turkey has got me contemplating/hypothesizing/proliferating about gender in a way that I didn’t do in America. Not because America is the be-all-end-all of gender equality, but because my version of normal, everyday sexism is different than Turkey’s normal, everyday version of sexism. When I brought this up at work one day – I don’t remember why, perhaps something about the prevalence of covered women – the conversation went a little something like this:
Female Co-worker: “It’s so much better in America.”

Me: “I don’t necessarily agree with that.” Cue breathless sentence about cat-calling, the glass ceiling, double standards, victim blaming, language, and inherent prejudices and the jokes we make about them because that’s just the way it is.

Female Co-worker: “At least I don’t have to cover myself. And at least my husband doesn’t cheat on me because I’m not a frigid Turkish woman” and some other mansplaining that made me roll my eyes and return my attention to my computer.

I’ve been teaching an adult speaking class on Monday and Tuesday nights and, void of a book, we’ve been engaging in debates centered on TED talks. This past Tuesday, we focused on gender equality. I broached the subject with a t-chart that read on the left side “Men are…” and on the right, “Women are…” According to the adults in my class,

Men are:
-          Providers.
-          Able to think logically.
-          Not fans of shopping.
-          Financially responsible.
-          Good at science, engineering, math.
-          Able to do whatever they want.
-          Successful.
-          Single-minded.
-          Focused.
-          A little bit lazy.

Women are:
-          Emotionally unstable.
-          Financially irresponsible.
-          Good at caretaking.
-          Great cooks, but are rarely chefs.
-          Multi-taskers.
-          Jealous.
-          Constantly talking about their problems.

I then asked this class, “What is feminism?” Much to my surprise, as I presumed many would shield their eyes with their hands like a vampire being blinded by the harsh light of day, and hiss and scream a little bit, they generally decided that feminism was equalizing the scales. “What does that look like?” I asked.

A young man spoke up and suggested, “It looks like women having to enlist in the army, just like men do.”

Yes, I suppose all things being equal, women should have to do that.

“Does it look like women making money and men caring for children?” I asked. Many in the class laughed as if the idea were utterly preposterous. I inquired as to why.

“That won’t happen,” was the response.

The idea, however, of women having to enlist was not a laughing matter. Fair, as we know, isn’t equal.

Privilege is invisible, particularly to those who have it. It is a luxury to wake up and not have to think about your race, your gender, your ability, your size, your class, your sexual orientation, and numerous other things that are subconsciously – or consciously – on the social hierarchy.
As the adage goes: the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Having privilege is just that, a privilege. As a white women, I can go into a shop and nobody looks twice at me. Except that I’m also a fat woman, so the body checking that happens when I enter a shop that isn’t specifically geared for bigger women happens with an annoying glibness. But nobody thinks I’m going to pocket their merchandise. And when I’m getting onto an airplane, nobody thinks I’m hiding a bomb in my jacket. The privilege of being white makes many things easier. Whiteness is a master key.

The fickle thing about privilege, however, is that it’s really scary when somebody points it out to you or, heaven forbid, works hard to earn the privilege you have already been given. Now, this experience may sound familiar to some of you upon hearing that you are privileged:

Denial: I am most certainly not privileged. I’ve had to work hard for everything I’ve gotten. Nobody gave me any handouts.

Anger: Why is it my responsibility to deal with this problem? I didn’t ask to have privilege! I didn’t ask for other people not have what I have. I shouldn’t have to deal with this.
Bargaining: Why do I have to have the privilege? If I could, I’d give it up so other people could have privilege.

Depression: I’m horribly sad because I have so much privilege. Rudyard Kipling coined an apropos term: "White man's burden."

Acceptance: Yes, I have privilege. I didn’t ask for it and I wish it were different, but now I will navigate the world with the knowledge that privilege exists and I will try hard to remedy what I can.
This is the ideal, anyway. But a lot of people get stuck in anger because, instead of acknowledging that other people are fighting tooth and nail for the same opportunities awarded to a select few, this struggle is viewed as the former’s loss of privilege.

We call this “reverse gender discrimination.” Such accusations are also prevalent in issues of race with affirmative action, which leads to absolutely asinine arguments such as, “I would’ve gotten that scholarship if they didn’t have to give it to a black person/woman/immigrant/any other minority lacking privilege.” Or, “That job should’ve been mine, but because of diversity laws, I didn’t get it.” Most of the time this comes from the mouths of white men. White men – at least white men in the USA and Europe – have been granted the best affirmative action deal in the history of the world. It’s called: the history of the world.

A speaker on feminism, Michael Kimmel, said, “Feminism will make it possible for men to be free.” This means a lot of things. Firstly, on the surface, it means that men will be happier when women are happier. When men share – don’t just pitch in or “help out” (I hate that phrase) – in the housework, child-rearing, and the quotidian chores that had prior been assigned to women, men will be happier because their wives/girlfriends/mothers/sisters won’t be wasting so much energy being annoyed that she’s the only one who does something. When women earn as much as men for the same job, men can be happy that women are self-sustainable and can feel financially accomplished in their work. It can make sex better because the gender roles in sex are extremely tightly wound and can lead to both men and women engaging in actions and behaviors simply because they think they’re supposed to and not because they enjoy it. It can also open up the door for men to do what they enjoy outside of the bedroom. Patriarchy isn’t just stigmatizing for women; it also dictates that men are supposed to be “tough,” “aggressive,” and uninterested in “girly” things like design, caretaking, dance, etc. All the wins!

Annoyingly, though, and Mr. Kimmel addresses this, his opinion is viewed by many of his audiences as “neutral.” In other words, if a woman were to get up there and give the same opinions and same information, her speech would be biased simply based on the fact that she’s a woman. Ergo, many of you will assume that my blog is biased, even if I cite all of the facts. Houston, we have a problem.
As a fat feminist, I frequently – and by frequently, I’m talking at least once a day, normally more – find myself in situations where people are saying or doing things that I feel are insulting, incorrect, or, more likely than not, said out of ignorance. Activism is tricky because 1) it’s not an obligation, 2) it often comes across as piety, and 3) it often elicits this response, “You need to learn to take a joke.”
Well, buddy, I fear you need to learn to take a serious.  Believe it or not, jokes that are based on stereotypes are one of the main reasons stereotypes still exist, because jokes normalize it. The thought process becomes, “Everybody knows that (fill in your own ridiculous stereotype here)” instead of something productive or, god forbid, something actually based on reliable information. I’m going to sound like a horrible researcher for a minute, but I read somewhere (and I can’t remember where), that, while most women in America do not believe most men are rapists, most rapists believe men are rapists. Why? Because people make jokes about rape. Because there isn’t a discussion about rape outside of small circles. Because the prevalence of the patriarchal paradigm persists in in normalizing sexism to the extent where it becomes physically and emotionally dangerous.

I know what you’re thinking: Wait a minute, she was just talking about feminism and now she’s talking about rape. She’s not just biased, she’s got terrible organizational skills! Here’s an ugly truth: Intersection. Fucked up shit – oppression against women, transphobia, homophobia, racism, you name it – all intersects. This is why, although activism is always an option not a requirement, I highly advise you taking a good look at some of the thoughts you have, actions you take, and things you say. As clichĂ© as it might sound, change starts with you. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Winter Wonderland

On New Year's Eve eve it began to snow, only intermittently at first, but enough to cause grave uproar among any student to eye it. They rushed to the window, mesmerized by the flakes as they littered the sky, melting immediately as they hit the ground. It was almost as if they'd never seen snow before, which is not to say the first snow of the year isn't magical. To be certain, it is, if not soon to grow wearisome and rather obtrusive. The show of flakes lasted only for a minute, but continued this pattern throughout the day, each time eliciting the same response.

While students were busy pressing their faces eagerly to the glass, hurrying to run outdoors upon the ring of the bell, faculty were eagerly checking the forecast. More snow - and less intermittent - it seemed was in our foreseeable future. Chatter happily turned to the possibility of a snow day. "Even an inch," we were told, "is quite a lot here." Without the capacities to clear the roads, perhaps only an inch was needed to deem travel unsafe, although that seemed to me to be an utterly catastrophic thought.

Still, I let myself get swept away in the possibility, and, when morning prayer woke me (as it tends to do), I glanced out the window perchance to see a squall of snow. Happily, I tried to get back to sleep, but my anxious nature kept me waiting for the phone to ring with tidings of great joy and school cancellation. A ring which never came. Come 7:00, the snow was no longer falling and, as if no squall had happened at all, the roads were clear.

On the way to school, however, the bluish skies turned grey and snow poured down, ceasing only once or twice in the afternoon. Classes were half full, in an optimistic sense, with the bravest and heartiest students who chanced to brave the perils of winter. Nothing that a little sand and salt wouldn't fix, to be sure, but without such appropriations, cars misguided themselves through the growing piles of snow and steadfast feet slipped as they walked.

A huge uproar followed the morning announcement that school would be closing early - at 12:30 - a fact for which I was grateful, though it did seem rather silly. If inclement weather was the cause, weren't students presently safer staying where they were? But no mind, as I, too, was excited for the early dismissal.

I, having yard duty that day, which every 40 minutes dragged me outside for 10, spent most of that time warding off snowballs that were hurled this way and that, and watching young students cast their faces up towards the sky, tongues outstretched, to catch the quick-falling, fat flakes of snow.