Teacher’s Corner: Failure (or the limits of what school can do)

Today we expelled a student. Now, in other countries this might be a mundane occurrence, but here lots of things must have happened, and lots of things must have failed. As they did. Kid started at our school with “behavioural issues”. First thing I read about the boy was a paediatric review in which they recommend in patient treatment. But he didn’t want to, so his parents said “well, that’s it then”*. He was 10 years old, and he was already the boss. Over the years, that was the result of whatever measure was proposed. A rather desperate mother would agree that something must be done, an indifferent father wanted to be left alone, the boy said “no”, end of story. That’s how he grew from a difficult kid into a bully and a tyrant. Racist? Check! Sexist? Check. Basically no female teacher  stood any chance of teaching in  that class. Trans- and homophobic? You would believe it. Violent? Of course.

The two chaotic Covid years saved him from being expelled earlier, but with this school year being in person again, things quickly came to an end. Unfortunately this made him believe that he could do whatever he wanted without any consequences. And right until the end, the same drama played out. He was offered an internship as opposed to temporary expulsion, he thought it was too far away, he refused. He was offered to switch schools without the stigma of being expelled, the mum said “That’s a good idea!”, he said “I don’t want to”, so it didn’t happen, because obviously at 14 he’s the one to make the decision.

Now finally we expelled him. What is noticeable is that now his family, who never gave a fuck about rules and procedures, tried to play the system. they were invited for the school meeting today with two weeks in advance, as required by law. On Friday the mother wrote a letter saying that “due to the high number of infections she and her son were unable to attend the meeting, because that would be too many people in a room and her husband was not vaccinated”. Now, I personally don’t see any reason why we should care about anybody wilfully unvaccinated and also for the past 18 months one of the reasons that made teaching the kid unbearable was that he wouldn’t wear a mask properly and yell “Covid is fake!” whenever you reminded him to wear the mask properly, so for all we personally cared, they could kick rocks. But the tactic was clear: get the verdict dismissed on technical grounds. Claim that you had no opportunity to say your part, that the school refused to accommodate your health and safety concerns (and you can bet that the ministry that doesn’t give a fuck about health and safety when it comes to kids and teachers will totally side with the parents). Unfortunately we’re not quite that easily fooled, so we scheduled a video conference on the secure ministry approved school platform, informed them and gave them the opportunity to ask for tech support. Of course they didn’t show up, I could bet a muffin that they will complain, but I can’t see how we can be faulted for them not participating. And thus the lesson from all of this will not be learned. the kid will go on in the next school as he did in ours and he will cost all of us a lot of money, and all because his parents couldn’t tell a child’s wants from a child’s needs and let their 10 years old kid run the circus.

While I’m personally not sad that I won’t have to see him again (I don’t actually fancy being called names three times a week), I’m sad in a more general way. He was a small child once, and he needed help, and he didn’t get help, because his parents refused to see where the problem started. And they think they and their precious son are the victims here.

*There’s a point to be made about how in patient treatment isn’t the best idea if the patient is unwilling, but that’s a different discussion and also we’re not talking about an adult here.

Corona Crisis Crafting: Just Bead It

As you probably have noticed by now, crafting is my stress relief #1. I craft so I don’t kill. And right now, stress is getting high. Omicron is raging and our governments have abandoned us. I regularly get messages from the ministry of education that resemble WW 2 perseverance commands: complete bullshit and dangerous to follow (did you know, schools are safe because we wear masks. Nobody who says that has ever tried to make a kid wear a mask correctly for 6 hours and Covid doesn’t are if you mostly follow the rules).

Well, all in all I needed some pretty escape, I saw a tutorial on youtube and thought “I still have all those seed beads from Uli, for once I wouldn’t have to buy supplies”. Well, let’s put it like this: the cheap plastic seed beads were enough to let me try it out and conclude that I like it, so off to Etsy I went. Charly clearly lives in the land where glass sparkles, because no matter what type of beads one might need, you can’t do better than Czech glass beads.

There are different techniques for beading, so let’s start with the first one: The wheels on the bus go round and round:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

These are Miyuki delica beads, they are cylindrical. I found these flat patterns easier than the 3D ones we’ll see later. It’s a bit like crocheting doilies: skip here, add x there, repeat for the round, next round do this.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Same technique, different pattern. These combine seed beads (roundish) with Bohemian crystals and white wax beads. If you wanted to try your hand at beading, I’d recommend something like this, they’re fairly straightforward and don’t take to much time. Unlike the next project…

Beaded necklace and earrings. The necklace consists of 9 beads that are individually made up of seed beads. The larger bead in the middle has rainbow colours, then symmetrically a blue, a red, a yellow and a green bead. They are strung with faceted black glass beads. The earrings are in the same style, multicolor. The other images show the same jewelry from different angles.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

These are all glass seed beads, except for the black ones, which are Bohemian crystals. After a while you get the hang of the 3D shapes, but until that a lot of cursing was involved. The last tecnique I want to try is block weaving, but for that I’ll have to wait for some supplies to arrive…


A Studio Ghibli Appreciation Bottle Garden

Well, it’s probably no secret that I love Studio Ghibli animes and their magical worlds and being. And I wanted to do a bottle garden for a while, the jar has been standing in the cellar for ages. A bottle garden is a close eco system, where the plants produce oxygen and carbohydrates that then gets consumed by the microorganisms that feed on the decaying plant matter. They’re an invention of 19th century botanists that needed to transport their precious plant samples by boat. The closed boxes don’t need water or fertilizer and there are some that are decades old.

I finally decided what I wanted to do with it and got some supplies, only to be foiled by transport damage. I love the kodama, the little tree spirits from Princess Mononoke  and happily ordered some on Etsy, only this is how they arrived:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The seller promised quick replacement, but I didn’t want to wait because who could tell if I had time then, so I glued them back together. They’re extremely detailed gypsum casts, so I covered them with clear nail polish because I was afraid that otherwise they’d melt inside the bottle garden. Then I wanted a small dead twig from our old apple tree and ended up tearing off a big branch…

Next: assembling the garden. First layer: pebbles for drainage.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I actually wanted to add a layer of clay substrate, but I couldn’t find it anymore. I won’t claim to have a photographic memory, but I have a very good memory for “where did I see this last”, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to deal with my chaos. Mr, not so much, and while I don’t blame him, it’s endlessly frustrating to know that he put something somewhere and him not even remembering that the thing exists. Well, the pebbles do the job anyway.  You could now add some charcoal, which I’m probably going to do retroactively.

Next: potting soil and plants.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is pretty moist and probably a thriving ecosystem already. I planted an offspring of one of my succulents and a semper vivum (next pic). those are not ideal plants for a bottle garden. We will see how they do. If they don’t thrive I need to remove the lid and keep watering them like ordinary plants (I only keep orchids and succulents indoors because I suck at watering them).


©Giliell, all rights reserved

Next step: Moss and decoration

I collected the moss from a tree stump in the garden. Did you know that by now you can by “moss for decorating” in the garden centre? Like, what?

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Sadly, taking the pics through the glass is, well. The light just refracts too much.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I added some fairy lights by drilling through the lid and then sealing the hole with hot glue. Pics are even worse like this.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

They do look happy in their new home, don’t they? Now I got to balance the water and hope that they like it in there.


Karen Should Not be Used as an Insult

It is not racist, It is not ableist, yet I still think that it should not be used as an insult, not by people who care about doing just by others.

In my opinion, there are several reasons that make ableist and racist insults not OK. One of them is obviously the long and painful history behind these words. This connects with the punching down when a dominant group uses words describing members of a group that is subjugated or discriminated against as insults, thus perpetuating negative stereotypes. These two of course do not apply to the word Karen. There is no long history of discriminatory/derogatory use and there is no punching down against a persecuted minority.

But there are more reasons that do apply, and to me, they are enough for me to conclude the statement in the title.

The first of those is the broad brush that paints people with certain characteristics as being all the same. You might see it as me arguing “not all white women are Karens” but that is not the case. I am arguing that not all Karens are Karens.

That continues on to the second argument – associating completely irrelevant, innocuous characteristics of a group of people with negative characteristics of some members of that group. Like connecting skin color with low intelligence or propensity to criminal behavior. Or like associating an ordinary, everyday name of some people of a certain group with being an obnoxious, self-righteous, and entitled asshole. Not the same thing, but in my opinion similar enough.

The third argument that I wish to mention is the association of characteristics that any given person has little to no power of changing with negative character flaws. Associating black skin with thuggery does not differ from associating someone’s name with assholery in principle, it only differs in degree and some context.

And lastly, I cannot of course speak for everyone, but my name and its derivative nickname that my close friends use, are very personal things to me. I could not and would not change it. I know people who changed names (trans people), but they never felt the connection with their given name that I feel with mine for reasons that are well beyond the scope of this short article. I would not take it well if my name – which by sheer coincidence differs from Karen in one single letter despite coming from entirely different etymological roots – became a meme and subsequently an insult. Even if there is only one white woman named Karen who is not a selfish, entitled, and racist asshole, I think it is still too unjust to her to use her personal name as an insult. And statistically speaking, it is unlikely there is only one.

I might not be right in this, but you won’t hear or read me using Karen as a go-to term for white asshole women. I will use the longer descriptive terms on an individual basis where and when they are relevant unless and until I am convinced that my reasoning here is ronk.

3 Meters of Misunderstanding

I wanted to buy some food-safe wood glue because, with the overabundance of jatoba, I want to try to make some end-grain cutting boards to go with my knives. I wish I could also make those cutting boards from the very beautiful black locust but that wood is poisonous so probably not the best choice for cutting boards that come into direct contact with food even though the toxicity can allegedly be negated by heating it up to 70°C and holding it there for a few minutes. Best not to risk it, at least until I can find a reliable source confirming this.

Anyhoo, local shops did not have the glue that I desired, so I had to order it online.

And when I was ordering it, I have also decided to order some other materials. Including 3 m of 6 mm aluminium tubing for hidden pins in my knives. Aluminium is cheaper than brass, it should be more than enough strong for these pins, and I reckoned that 3 m will last me probably forever – I can cut about 250 10 mm pins out of 3 m. Enough for roughly 120 knives, so probably until I have to get employed or die of starvation. And when I was at it, I have ordered some brass and stainless steel pipes too.

However, I have assumed that I will get one delivery containing all of these assorted pipes. Which was not the case. They split it into three deliveries, each with one-two tubes in a package hundred times their volume. Already extremely wasteful – and that was not all. I have also assumed that the tubes will be delivered as 1 m pieces since that is the form in which they are being sold in the b&m stores of this company. So you can only imagine my surprise when I received this package.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

That is a huge, 3 m long hard cardboard tubing of ca 100 mm diameter. It was used to deliver a single 6 mm aluminium tube.

I will probably cut it into shorter segments and use it to ship my knives if someone buys them. I am at a loss to think what else to do with it. Simply tossing it into trash seems wasteful. I totally fail to wrap my head around this – if they were going to send this humungous package, why did they deliver all the other tubes in separate packages? They would fit handsomely in this, with room to spare. I do understand why they sent the glue separately.


Virusflakes – Part 3

The final part of kestrel’s viral art project. Enjoy.

Hepatitis B Virus can actually be prevented with a vaccine:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Hepatitis C Virus is a major cause of viral hepatitis. It was interesting to me that it looks nothing like Hepatitis B, it just seems to cause similar symptoms;

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Apparently, most people are infected with Rotavirus at least once by the age of 5 years:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Herpes Simplex Virus was rated as “hard” and boy they were not kidding. This one I found the hardest to do and took the longest amount of time:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Virusflakes – Part 2

Some more pictures from kestrel.

This is the Heartland Virus. It was named after the Heartland Regional Medical Center, and not for the shape:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This is Adenovirus, which can actually be genetically modified and used is gene therapy and in vaccines for viruses, including SARS-CoV-2:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Lassa Virus can cause a severe illness and can be caught from rodents in parts of West Africa:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Bluetongue virus causes disease in cattle, sheep, and goats. I think the inner shapes are particularly beautiful:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Leftists Gone Bad

I am a subscriber of a number of leftist YouTube channels, but over time I have also unsubscribed from one rather quickly. Because I have realized that the author very carefully curates an untrue vision of history, and his audience is all for it.

I am not going to link to the channel in question because I do not wish to direct any traffic to it. They might have changed their tune and the way they run their channel and its comment sections since. I do not know. I do not care. I am not one of those who hold a grudge and hate-watch/hate-read (more on that later too). So I am only going to give you the gist of the situation. You are free to not believe any of it if you are inclined to distrust my word.

The channel got my attention with a video about scientific racism, which was rather good. I have watched several other videos of theirs that were recommended via the algorithm, and those were about world hunger and poverty and they were good too. So I subscribed and next time when I got a video recommended, I watched it. And I was rather taken aback. It was an entirely uncritical piece about pre-WW2 USSR, singing the praises of the regime, how it gave people education and lifted people from poverty, etc. I have briefly pointed in the comment section that whilst the regime did have positive sides for some people, it also had a rather ugly underbelly. And as examples, I have pointed out the Holodomor and the Genocide of Crimean Tatars since these two examples spring most readily to my mind.

Shortly after that comment, I have unsubscribed from the YouTuber and I have disabled any notification regarding that comment section. Because I have been immediately dogpiled by people who either outright denied that the two above-mentioned atrocities happened at all, or they were blaming them on the people who were their targets. They did not even bother with whataboutism and went straight to denial and victim-blaming! This was my first experience with “Tankies“. I had several more encounters since then, and I sometimes get these vibes even in comments here on FtB, although thankfully not as explicit and overt (and maybe I am being too sensitive about this issue, having lived behind the Iron Curtain?).

That is one example of lefties gone bad – people who refuse to learn from history and are willing, nay, eager, to repeat its mistakes. They are no better than the Holocaust deniers and neo-nazis on the right. We must not forget that many of the things that today are leftist issues – like LGBTQ rights and environmentalism – were most emphatically NOT seen as leftist in that regime. And sure, USSR was not racist towards black people the way the USA was at the time, but it is easy to proclaim you are not a racist towards a minority that is all but non-existent in your country. There were more than a few cases of systemic racism within the former Eastern bloc too.

These and many others are the main reasons why many people here in CZ are reluctant to actually call themselves leftists, or vote openly leftist parties, even though when asked about specific policies they most definitively are leftist. The existence of leftist extremism is real and it serves no useful purpose to deny it and the harm it has done and keeps doing to progress.

The second example about which I wish to say just a little bit is the case of Lindsay Ellis. I have not watched her videos regularly and I was not a subscriber. But I did watch her videos about transphobia last year and they were good. So I was surprised to learn that in December last year she has given up on YouTube – which was her job – and has claimed to be canceled by the left. I have looked into it as much as my time has allowed  – which included watching her video Mask Off in several sessions (it is very long) – and I have concluded that she was indeed canceled, and unlike J. K. Rowling, it was over a triviality that was misinterpreted and totally blown out of proportions.

There seems to be a non-trivial amount of people on the internet who obsessively hate-watch and hate-read people they dislike and hoard anything that might be interpreted unfavorably by the purist left to have ready-prepared lists of transgressions to dump on the internet in case their favorite hate target gets in the spotlight by putting a foot wrong. I know for a fact that there were such people reading Affinity for example, and Slymyepiters are a rather famous example of these people with regard to Pharyngula. I must say that I find it rather creepy when someone has a ready-to-go list of someone’s years-long deleted tweets/video clips etc. I also find it disconcerting that there seems to be a non-trivial amount of people on the left who immediately jump to the least-favorable interpretation of something taken out of context and gleefully join a dogpile with the intent to hound someone off the internet without bothering to first get the facts right and/or consider that people might 1) just make mistakes and/or 2) change over time so a “transgression” from a decade ago might not be indicative or relevant to who they are today, even if not stripped of proper context and interpretation.

I really do not know what to make of it all, but today I was re-reading Terry Pratchetts’ Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum and the following quote seemed really appropriate:

The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed.

Explaining Pfizer Vaccine in a Nutshell

I was just explaining how the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 works to my parents – not that they were vaccine skeptics or some such, my mother was just curious – so I put my teacher hat on and – inspired by yesterday’s picture post by kestrel – I put it to them thusly:

A virus is an envelope that contains the instruction on how to make a said envelope with the same instructions inside. So the body starts producing said envelopes with the instructions over and over again. The vaccine is similar but it is just an envelope containing the instruction on how to make the virus envelope – but without the instructions inside. Thus when the instructions from the vaccine are used up, the production stops, unlike with the virus. In the meantime, the immune system learns from this how to recognize the envelope, and subsequently, when it encounters the real deal, it can destroy it.

Yes, I do occasionally explain things to my elderly parents in an oversimplified fashion as if they were children. Especially sciencey things. They do not seem to mind.

Virusflakes – Part 1

kestrel has made some lovely viral decorations and she shared with us some pictures. Enjoy!

Marcus posted a PDF (under the title, “Let’s Go Viral”) that had these wonderful images you could print out and cut up to make virusflakes. I don’t know about the rest of you but the last two years have really hampered my ability to create, so this was a wonderful tonic to help me through a tough time. Here is the link to the PDF: -click-

To start out, just choose an image you find appealing and print it. It will look something like this:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Next, you cut out the square. I actually ended up cutting around the dotted circle, after I tried a few and found out how it all worked. Once you have done that you just fold on the lines (they turn out better if you are as accurate as you can be in your folding) with the printed image on top. I printed mine out on a very tough tracing type paper, almost like parchment paper. I could see through the paper fairly well to fold it, yet it was much stronger than usual tracing paper. After that, you just start cutting out the image.

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I found that using a very small and really sharp pair of scissors worked the best. Each virus comes with an information sheet about that particular one; this can be educational as well as a fun activity. I certainly learned a lot more about viruses than I had known before.

OK, so what do they look like? Well, even the “worst” viruses are really beautiful. We will start with Coronavirus.

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This next one is not actually a virus but it acts like one. This is the RNA vaccine:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And this is what happens to the Coronavirus when it runs into the antibodies caused by the above particle:

© kestrel, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

As they say, this is what the end of a pandemic looks like.

To be continued…


USA – Ain’t Just Proto-Fascist No More?

This video by Second Thought is very interesting, and I will probably watch his advertised Nebula series on the subject.

I have said as early as 1999 that the USA is a proto-fascist state, and I have said before Trump got into office that he is an outright fascist. It is important not to forget that although he lost the election, the current that brought him into the White House in the first place is still there and still strong.

Tummy Thursday: Around the World in 5 Courses

On New Year’s Eve we held our traditional dinner where we all draw our courses and continents. With only three families left, two families had to do two courses each while one (we as the hosts) had to do one. You never know how much you can miss somebody’s bad cooking until they’re gone.

The first course takes us to Africa, to Ghana in specific:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

It’s a leek and peanut soup and damn delicious. I think this will become part of our culinary repertoire

The second course jumps across the Atlantic to México:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Pimientos con queso y beicon. Bell peppers filled with garlic cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. They were delicious.

Back across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean, straight to Italy:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Classic lasagna and never a bad choice.

Now we travel east and south to Oceania for the fourth course:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Chicken Fa Fa, a popular dish from Polynesia. This was my course and I didn’t want to do something from Australia or New Zealand, since those are very European cuisines. Of course I didn’t get taro leaves to make an authentic chicken fa fa, but several recipes said to substitute with spinach. You fry the chicken, then simmer in tock until mostly done, add spinach and coconut and thicken with a bit of starch and it’s so damn delicious. the chicken was tender as butter, the spinach creamy, and I had a lot of trouble not eating the whole thing before the guests arrived.

For the final course we didn’t have to travel quite that far, our dessert from Japan:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Macha petit fours: Small coconut cakes with red bean paste and a macha frosting, served with green tea. Those were delicious. The “cake” itself is made from “Butterkeks” a not overly sweet biscuit, coconut and butter with no added sugar, while the frosting is basically just sugar and macha. This makes for the perfect amount of sweetness with the bitter macha notes.

All in all we had a delicious and nice evening, right before the crying started at midnight. You see, January the first is Uli’s birthday. For almost 20 years we celebrated together. She’d spend Christmas with her family, but New Year’s Eve with us. I remember celebrating with her back when I was still living at home, bringing out a cake at midnight with the whole neighbourhood bursting out in “happy birthday”. Or partying in way too small student flats, sleeping on a floor so cramped it was difficult to go to the loo. We said that she would host this year. Damn, Uli, why didn’t you just say that you weren’t comfortable with hosting so many people right after moving in? Don’t you think that dying on us is a bit extreme?