Friday, October 26, 2012

Do Not Like: It used to be that I was eager for the election season to end so that the campaign commercials would stop. Now that I do most of my TV watching on DVR, those ads don't plague me. Instead, I can't wait for the election season to end so I can watch my Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ feeds without being under constant assault. I've always believed that it's impolite to discuss politics unless you're sure that everyone in the conversation is of the same mind, and I'm rarely pulled into conversations or lectured to by friends and acquaintances in the face-to-face world, but online, oh my, anything goes, with people posting outspoken messages and graphics in favor of their candidate and hurling sarcasm and invective against the opponent. Do folks think that their Facebook friends all share the same beliefs, so it's okay to be nasty and sarcastic and in-your-face about it? To post rude things and then blast people with different opinions for doing the same? Geez, people, I don't want to see any of it. It makes my stomach hurt, and no "hide post" button or scroll through works fast enough. I'll be so relieved when everybody gets back to just posting cute pictures of cats.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Just Chillin': My aging laptop has started taking periodic mini-vacations throughout the day. It doesn't freeze solid; I've learned that if I wait a bit, three to five minutes, it pulls itself together and gets back to business. It's annoying as heck, a real roadblock to my productivity ... and also, on some level, probably good for me, a forced pause in my screen-staring, a reminder to blink, take a breath, walk around, read a book. It occurs to me that this is the kind of thing some clever life-coach type might package and sell, something that pauses your machine at set intervals to make you meditate or some such. It's not something I'd go for -- I'm so stuck on multitasking I'm writing this blog post on my phone while I wait the beach ball out -- but I can see a certain appeal.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Correct Answer Is WTF: I've been trying not to help my son so much with his college math homework, and today he did almost all the problems in his computerized lesson independently. But there was one that, hoo boy, has just about been the death of us all. It was a three-part story problem -- and right there, I want to just weep -- but my guy went through all the trouble of converting mixed numbers to fractions and multiplying and reducing and converting and LCMing and subtracting, every step right, except the computer says the answer's wrong. He does it again, I do it again, we do it again, my husband comes home from work and does it a couple times, and there's a different wrong answer each time. At this point, the kid's hysterical and the grown-ups can't let it go -- it's personal now, you know? One wrong answer's not gonna scuttle his grade, but this is a remedial class for kids who scored lowest on the entrance exam and need extra support. Is it helpful to have them do a problem that brings a whole family to its knees? Have mercy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Leaving Some Learners Out: Some kids aren't creative. Is it okay to say that? When we're thinking about all kinds of minds and all kinds of learning and varieties of educational approaches, is it possible to acknowledge that for some kids, rote learning works? I've got kids for whom plain old flash-card drills worked like a charm, for whom computer programs that do simple reinforcement are successful and computer programs that are fancy as all get-out with cool stuff atop cool stuff do not. If my kids need to read a manual to figure out how to use the educational software or app or process, if they need to listen to a lengthy demonstration, if it's not obvious immediately, they ain't gettin' it. This is how their brains work; aren't we supposed to be celebrating the way each individual's brain works? I feel the pendulum swinging away from traditional techniques and so far into creative ones that we're still not serving a chunk of kids.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Permanent Alcohol-Induced Brain Damage? Hi-larious!: I should know better than to read round-ups of lines from celebrity roasts. But I made the mistake of following a link from the blog A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago to an article on Grub Street NY that claims to list "The 22 Best Lines From Last Night’s Roast of Anthony Bourdain." The lines were pretty rough and nasty, as is apparently expected for roasts, but then I came up on this one from alleged comedian Bonnie McFarlane:
"I didn’t wanna be mean tonight, but this is like a roundup of people with fetal alcohol syndrome." 
This was a preface to a riff on how ugly the men in attendance were, which also included a har-de-har-har about people deformed by "Japan's nuclear explosion."

And this is funny ... how?

It wasn't that long ago that Wayne Brady used Down syndrome as a way to insult the appearance of a roastee. He's since apologized, but ... sheesh, is this really the best that people who supposedly get paid to be funny can do? Use individuals with disabilities as a reference point for insults? They don't even have the cover of those who claim they use the R-word in a way that has nothing to do with people with intellectual disabilities. These cracks are clearly and purposefully insulting someone by comparing them to an individual with fetal alcohol syndrome or Down syndrome. There's no gray area here. And that's no laughing matter.

Look, if you want to roast someone and insult them in the grossest, most profane, most obscene way you can think of, fine, apparently there's an audience for that, go get 'em. The people who attend these things know they're going to get it, and can afford to be good sports. But leave my kid out of it. There's nothing at all funny about fetal alcohol syndrome. It's not a joke.

And for what it's worth, my kid is friggin' adorable. The guys in that room should be so lucky as to look like him.