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For the past six weeks or so, I’ve been taking a course to further my journey toward becoming a certified English teacher. “Methods of Teaching Secondary English” is a required course for teachers in Maine. For the class final project, we were assigned to design a lesson plan that is “original, inspired (or inspiring) and presented using some type of technology, which might be out of the comfort zone of the author.” I am not accustomed to making videos or movies of myself using iMovie or Youtube, other than the occasional cat video that I make in my living room. (Note: I never subject others to these little movies about whatever funny thing my cat did. I think the Internet has plenty of these gems without my contribution.)

First, I had to learn how to use iMovie. I started by calling my best friend, who seems to know all things related to whatever issue I’m having on my Mac. Then, I watched tutorials on Youtube, started practice filming for a different assignment earlier on in the course. I made the dorkiest iMovie, trust me, including action shot of me, weeding my garden as a metaphor for how English teachers have to cultivate the “constant gardener,” or “constant writer,” in their classrooms. Then I set up a Vimeo account, which was fairly easy. I may be the last person to do this (have you done this yet?) Next, I had to edit my iMovie, patching together many, many pieces of footage, or “clips,” and record voice-overs for certain parts, attempting to sound professional without sounding like the authoritative Catholic school nun from the 1980 “Blues Brothers,” scolding my audience, well, without the ruler.

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I made a video for my final project. I designed an original lesson plan called, “The Writers Cafe.” Also, I had to do a rain-dance in my dining room, wait patiently for 22 hours while the video uploaded to Vimeo and “converted,” whatever that meant. It was such a long wait that I thought I had done something wrong. And I had selected the “high” quality resolution but not the best quality/professional resolution. I made it with the recent-most version of iMovie on my MacBook Pro. So far I have received some great feedback from my instructor and classmates on my lesson plan. The video is no longer available for viewing.

Grampa

Bob Chaplin

I grew up visiting my maternal grandparents in rural New Gloucester, Maine.  Their yellow farmhouse, barn and a hilly pastoral land, rich with streams, wetlands, meadows, fields and forest, was a wonderful place to play and explore.  As the eldest grandchild, I got to spend a lot of time there in (late ’70s-’90s). My grandfather tinkered in his barn and workshop, and when I was lucky, he built things I designed as a little girl, like a wooden key and lock for an imaginary mansion, a mossy ledge hidden in the woods beyond the upper field and vegetable gardens. (I still have this wooden lock and key.) He took my hand-drawn designs on scrap paper and made the wooden key and lock with his skill-saw, taking this sort of request seriously. Then I took this colorfully painted lock and key, and used it to enter magical worlds of moss and meadow. A perennial stream meandered between fields, along with vernal pools and a freshwater marsh, near land he later gave to his son (my favorite uncle) a little ways down the road. The 30+ acres beheld a wellspring for inspiration. (I’ll have to hunt for some photos of their land and add those later.)

A tall, athletic Scorpio, Grampa was a multi-talented Navy man and 32nd degree Mason. As an engineer, he wrote the book on metal removal technology. He was interviewed in Cutting Tool Engineering Magazine in 2005 about his book, Metal Removal Technology, which has since been integrated as a text book in mechanical engineering programs. I remember when I was in grade school, and my Grampa was drafting early versions of his book. He let me play with copies of his draft, thinking I’d be interested in drawing pictures on the blank side. To his surprise, I was far more interested in the side with charts, diagrams and formulas—all that he had devised for teaching employees at General Electric and engineering students in universities. I liked to take these “metal removal technology” spreadsheets on a clipboard with me to elementary school, where I told my classmates I was “working for my grandfather’s company,” and used a highlighter to “go over the numbers.” A few of my third-grade classmates asked me if he was hiring.  I shrugged and told them, “it depends on your qualifications.”

As a long-time musician, he encouraged all of his grandchildren to take up an instrument (or two). I fear I may have disappointed him, as I could never get the hang of the trombone, clarinet, piano or guitar. (Poetry turned out to be my instrument.) Long before I came into the picture, my grandfather led a band, the “Bob Chaplin Orchestra,” which performed throughout Massachusetts in the 1940s. He played lead clarinet. There wasn’t a musical instrument he couldn’t play, and he taught music for many years in Portland, Maine. Several of his students went onto join metropolitan philharmonic orchestras. He composed music in the jazz and Big Band Swing genres in the ’40s and later, composed chamber music for churches in Maine.

Bob Chaplin, or “Grampa,” as I called him, also served on his town’s planning board over the years (late 1960s-early 1990s).  In the 1980s and early ‘90s, he chaired the Comprehensive Plan Committee in New Gloucester, not far from where I live and work. The comprehensive plan cited the “single most important issue was the protection of brooks, streams, wetlands and groundwater,” based on surveys conducted in 1982. His committee’s emphasis on protecting water resources in the rural town only grew stronger in the decades that followed, and more of the town’s wetlands and floodplains were mapped. In this sense, he and his committee were visionaries.  As I become more involved with local projects for my town’s conservation commission, I’m realizing that this civic interest might be inherited. Aside from a passion for protecting wetlands, I also inherited my grandfather’s love for music. Earlier today I posted a piece on classical music, inspired in part by Suzanne Nance’s morning classical music program on Maine Public Radio.

As a side note, I was thrilled that Suzanne Nance mentioned my blog and ASWM this morning (Jan. 18, 2013) on her program. She dedicated this morning’s program to “Leah Stetson and her Strange Wetlands blog,” –and this morning’s theme on her radio show was “Warmer Temperatures and Wetlands.” She played several of the pieces that I wrote about in my blog post, including In the Fen Country, a symphonic impression composed by Ralph V. Williams (1935). See Strange Wetlands: Lutes & Lily Pads: Classical Music Inspired by Wetlands. 

This past weekend we had a mini ice storm in the mountains of western Maine where I live. My dog and cat snuggled by the fire as I worked on “Wetland Breaking News” and a Water Resources Protection Ordinance draft.

As ice crackled in the trees, I listened to Prairie Home Companion, broadcast from New York City, on the radio. Garrison Keillor relayed the News from Lake Wobegon, including a climate change skeptic’s love story that was really charming. I find climate change skepticism akin to astrological skepticism – as astrology is based on science, the same physics used in astronomy, according to my astronomy professor at St. Lawrence University. I try to avoid arguments with people who are skeptical of climate change…or astrology for that matter. In looking back, I found the predictions for the Chinese “Water Dam” year uncanny in their relevance to what we’ve seen for natural disasters this year in the U.S.

Last winter in a February Strange Wetlands blog post, I wrote about 2012 as the “Black Water Dragon” or “Water Dam” year in the Chinese calendar. Astrologers predicted a focus on dams, water, levees and floodplains management, under a strong stormy and dark water influence, including a storm or heavy flooding event in late 2012. Water problems, including dramatic changes in water levels, were also predicted for the “Water Dam” year. In a recent Compleat Wetlander post, my boss, Jeanne, noted that the last time the Mississippi River levels were at a record low was 1940, also a dragon year. The last time we had a “water dragon” year was 60 years ago, when my mother was born in 1952, a year when all of the named storms attained “hurricane” status. Among the six hurricanes that year, Hurricane Fox (Oct. 20-28, 1952) a Category 4, killed 40 people and wrought $10 million in damages (that’s in 1952; in 2012 that would be equivalent to $87.5 million in damages). It was one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the U.S. …until this most recent hybrid storm, Sandy, in October 2012.

At my job at ASWM, I’ve been responsible for developing content for the Climate Change resources section of the aswm.org website. In response to Hurricane Sandy, I post news, analyses and reports related to the storm and her impact on wetlands, as well as the relationship between hurricanes and wetlands on a new section of the website. See Hurricane Sandy news here.  If you’re looking for information on particular sea level rise tools, pilot studies and storm surge analysis, visit ASWM’s Sea Level Rise page that I put together.  There are some really terrific storm surge and sea level rise tools!

I love new writing utensils. In middle school, I nerdily-enough spent my babysitting cash on new writing supplies. I made lists of lusty marbled papers, pretty stationary and colored pens. There was a wonderful little shop called Area’s, where I spent a great deal of time picking out writing utensils, note paper and Kitty Cucumber erasers.  (I included mention of Kitty Cucumber to take away the power of would-be blackmailers.) Keep in mind, this was the ’80s. Kids didn’t have cell phones or hand-held video games. We rocked those hand-held mazes with the little rolling ball.  Then I proudly displayed these prized supplies at school, complete with folders of marketing materials for my PPKO club, which had by-laws, a mission, logo, a feline theme and a board of directors. Yes, yes. Even in 6th grade. We held our club meetings on the top floor of my tower bedroom in the Victorian home where my family lived for a while. My role on the board was President and my friend, Gillian, was V.P. Her younger sister, Cammie, Secretary/Treasurer. We made buttons and brochures. I designed our logo–the word “CATS” written in the shape of a black cat, loosely inspired by Manet.  I recruited new members at school using the marketing materials I developed in the tower. That was the most fun part of it for me–creating the content at the heart of the club.

Flash forward to grad school, 2001: I got my first PC, a Dell 8100 Inspiron laptop, which lasted 8 years. It was a reliable, beautiful beast of a machine. That Dell 8100 Inspiron survived a house flood in 2004 (where an entire portfolio of art & graphic design work from 9+ years of art projects soaked up the water and disintegrated before I could rescue it) and many, many moves from apt to apt throughout grad school and after. I wrote the first few chapters of my creative nonfiction book and my master’s thesis, along with all of my graduate study work in human ecology and sustainable business on that PC. I loved that computer.

I can’t say the same for the subsequent models of Dell notebooks (several models and a decade after I got my first), including the Dell Studio 1535–what a nightmare. I’m still working out some problems caused by a Cycle-of-Stupid with a Time Warner/CA Security incident last April, so I haven’t been able to enjoy a reliable PC at home in over 6 months. For a writer, that’s like fasting. One of those weird zany fad fasting diets that just makes a person crazed for anything that remotely resembles a writing tool, other than a pad of paper & Pilot pen. (I don’t chew pens. Let’s not mix metaphors.)

I love the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1!

Then I got the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and it’s fabulous! I’m learning how to use its many applications, including the S-pen, which allows me to write, draw, design, build presentation materials, doodle, brainstorm and create. I can work in two screens using the multi-screen lay-out, supposedly bring in images and items from another screen into my S-note document. There’s Adobe Photoshop Touch, which I haven’t explored yet, as well as countless apps. This is new to me since I have not used a Smartphone or iPhone (due to the drama with the frequency of CMP’s SmartMeters, which killed the signal for customers in most of southern Maine for using smartphone types of devices in their homes–with the exception of Samsung Galaxy products, which work fine). I learned this when CMP sent a consultant, who has worked for TimeWarner and CMP, to my home to sort out the problems I was having with my WiFi thanks to the SmartMeter. He recommended a Samsung Galaxy tablet, as they had fewer problems with getting their signals jammed by CMP’s new digital meter system. Good news for me: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 works well in my home. No issues picking up my own WiFi in my house, in my backyard, or in other locations with WiFi. It’s user-friendly and the screen resolution is perfect. I’ve watched a few videos on it, though I’ve had trouble installing the latest version of Adobe Flashplayer, required by some videos (like those on ABC.com). Overall, I don’t think I would want to write an entirely new blog post on my new tablet, but I have found it to be useful for managing my social media sites, checking email, and surfing the web. As I get to learn the more advanced applications, I think this will be a fun and effective tool in my work as a communications & marketing professional, especially in meetings, on-the-go, in coffee shops (hypothetically speaking) or while traveling. Ah, to travel with a lightweight tablet instead of lugging a heavy laptop bag as a personal item. My new tablet fits in my work bag. Hurrah! It makes me feel sleek and chic. And the iPad cover fit the Samsung tablet well enough. I didn’t like the Samsung choices for tablet cases (boring, very expensive, etc.) This one looks like camouflage on my writing desk.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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