Monday, September 28, 2009

People are still going hungry so I am still fasting this year

I am reposting the comments I had last year around Yom Kippur. The only thing I am adding this year is that in addition to fasting, I also decided to take the day off. It is really hard to function in a job especially when you are chasing little kids when you have not eaten all day. Also, the day seems to normal if I go to work, I am trying to add some kind of difference to this day in addition to the fasting.


As many of you know, tonight is the first night of Yom Kippur, so I will be fasting for the next 24 or so hours. (It might not be 24 hours exactly depending on when GG and I eat tomorrow and I ate kind of late tonight, but still...) I was talking to a co-worker who is taking tomorrow off since it is Yom Kippur and she is fasting. I have no idea if she is going to a synagogue tomorrow, but I would not be surprised if she was. So I started to think about why I am fasting this year. I have not been to a synagogue in at least 2 or 3 years and not regularly since I graduated from undergrad seven years ago. So why am I fasting? It is not related to the idea of fasting to concentrate more on prayers, which never made sense to me in many ways as it was harder to focus having not eaten. It is not because I am especially religious. It is not even because I think that this is God's commandment, so I must follow it. I am a cultural Jew, someone who does the routines and rituals like fasting for Yom Kippur, lighting the menorah and eating latkes for Chanukah and not eating bread for Passover. I don't even light the candles for Shabbat or do any of the rituals like I used to do. But the fasting is the only one of the rituals for a holiday (I am not including the Shabbat rituals here) that I really follow for reasons outside of this is just part of my identity and Jewishness.

I fast because it is a reminder to me that I am lucky to have food on my table. I am lucky that I can eat three meals a day and snacks in between if I want. I am lucky that I do not have to decide between food or bills or gas. I am lucky that I have never truly experienced food insecurity. I went through some rough times, where I had to watch my food budget, but I was always able to eat. I work in public schools now where the snack that we feed to kids may be their breakfast or their lunch depending on whether they are in the AM or PM session. Where the fact that they get milk or juice and some cookies or crackers means that they will have eaten at least once that day. This may not apply to all of the kids that I work with, but I suspect that at least some of them do not eat at home before they come to school or at least not three meals at home. I think about the fact that I have the luxury to make a choice to not eat for a day and that many people for whom this is not a choice. There are days at the end of the month where there is nothing to eat for some, something I have not had to experience. I think about the fact that when tomorrow night comes, I will be able to eat again, not always an option for everyone. Fasting is hard, it is difficult and I seem to think more about food and drink when I am fasting than usual, but I know that this is only temporary. I know that I have people who care for me and that will help me if I ever truly do have issues where I cannot afford to pay for groceries. This year I also think about those families who are now struggling more than ever. Those families who got stuck in sub-prime mortgages or other tricks by shady lenders and are experiencing economic distress that they are not used to. I think about how some of these families are still trying to live the same way they had, while others are now just trying to now put food on the table and keep the electricity turned on. I am lucky to not have these struggles and so I fast for those who do, so that I may be more empathetic.

I also think about how this is supposed to be a Day of Atonement. There are many things I am sorry for, but I really think that our national leaders need to atone for what they have done to us as a nation. They need to atone for sending people to fight a war over oil. They need to atone for the lives they have cost us as a nation. They need to atone for the economic crisis that is now dragging our country down. And they need to atone for the hatred and bigotry that they have allowed to flourish i.e.-homophobia, racism and sexism. My actions probably affected one or two people, probably no more than ten, but when you send people to war to die you are affecting many more than my ten. I think there is a passage during the Yom Kippur prayers where we ask God for their forgiveness of our national leaders, I cannot do that. Our leaders need to ask forgiveness from first the peoples of this nation and then if their are so religiously motivated, their God.

To those of you who are fasting like me, I wish you good luck in your you fast. It is hard and by tomorrow night I will be ready to eat whatever we have for dinner, but I also like to try and make this fast meaningful to me and so I hope that if you are fasting you do it with meaning.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Because a pirate without treasure is like a monkey without a spatula

It be talk like a pirate day so here is my favorite pirate song.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The death penalty should be illegal

This is why I oppose the death penalty. I oppose it because it is inhumane and cruel. When it takes two hours to find a vein to execute an individual that is cruel and inhumane. Most doctors will not administer lethal injections, so this job is left to those who do not know what to do. We are supposed to be a civilized country, we are supposed to have a ban on cruel and unusual punishment and yet we allow the death penalty. Allowing the death penalty and being a civilized country do not mesh. Either we ban the death penalty or we admit that we are a barbaric, vindictive country who is only out of blood. Life in jail with no parole is punishment enough, especially if this time is spent in solitary confinement, we do not need the death penalty.

The death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent and yet, who does it deter? There are still over a million people a day that are victims of violent crimes. So obviously the death penalty is not working. How we deter individuals from committing violent crime, I do not know. But we need another solution other than the death penalty.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is organic farming a crazy idea?

I have had this article for about two weeks and it has been percolating in my brain for that amount of time. I keep thinking of blogging it and yet I have not. For a while I wanted time to think about it, but then I just didn't blog it and now it is time for me to blog about it.

This article takes on the "agri-intellectuals" and what the author, Blake Hurst, sees as their misunderstanding of farming and especially industrial farming. He points to all of these books that he says are not telling the whole truth to those who read them, that "[f]arming has always been messy and painful, and bloody and dirty. It still is." Well, no shit that farming is messy. But really is this a revelation and I am not sure that most writers would disagree with you on this point. Anyway, he begins with a story about an airplane ride in which a business man was sitting in front of him and spouting off about the whole farming industry and how as a farmer he saw this guy as talking out of his ass, but yet the businessman was able to hold sway over a group around him. Blake finally gets fed up with the guy making his points and Blake says that he is a farmer, but that he is not an organic farmer. Blake is not an organic farmer because he sees organic farming as unrealistic and idealistic As he says, "I deal in the real world, not superstitions, and unless the consumer absolutely forces my hand, I am about as likely to adopt organic methods as the Wall Street Journal is to publish their next edition by setting the type by hand.

Blake then goes on to elaborate about the person on the plane,

He was a businessman, and I’m sure spends his days with spreadsheets, projections, and marketing studies. He hasn’t used a slide rule in his career and wouldn’t make projections with tea leaves or soothsayers. He does not blame witchcraft for a bad quarter, or expect the factory that makes his product to use steam power instead of electricity, or horses and wagons to deliver his products instead of trucks and trains. But he expects me to farm like my grandfather, and not incidentally, I suppose, to live like him as well. He thinks farmers are too stupid to farm sustainably, too cruel to treat their animals well, and too careless to worry about their communities, their health, and their families.

This got my dander up and it continued to stay up as I continued to read this article. Blake continues to belittle and criticize anyone who is not a farmer in the same way he is. He picks and chooses certain sentences and ideas out of several different books and then stomps on them as being totally wrong and stupid. I can honestly say I have not read most of the books/authors he mentions, but I have read Michael Pollan who he seems to fault as the biggest of these agri-intellectuals. Now do I think that Pollan is perfect or has all of the answers, no. But Blake picks out Pollan's discussion on the increased use of cover crops such as soy and alfalfa to do more nitrogen fixing in the soil, so that we can rely less on chemical fertilizers to add nitrogen to the soil. Blake then suggests that Pollan talk to farmers before making this suggestion, but the problem is that Pollan did talk to farmers about this. He talked to farmers who are using this system and using it very efficiently both in his books and in the film Food, Inc. Blake also discusses how he is corn farmer and how corn farmers are family farmers and jump at the chance to use biotechnology as much as they can. I agree they do jump at the chance because corn is a subsidized crop here in the US and so the more they grow the more money they can make to help support their farms and their families. There is also the little matter that most corn grown in the US is not actually used to feed people, it is feed corn for animals. It is feeding cows that do not naturally feed on and digest corn, so that they are fatter and can go to slaughter faster along with chickens and pigs for the same reasons.

This is where my real issues with the article develop. He skips over some major issues. He talks about how turkeys are not smart enough to get out of the rain and turn their heads skyward and then drown, so now farmers have to keep poultry in chicken houses for their own safety. In theory this sounds good, in fact I have an ex-girlfriend whose family had chicken that they kept in a chicken house, but they did not have hundreds of chickens who were living in their own filth, whose beaks had to be cut off to keep them from injuring each other and in situations where it was so overcrowded that antibiotics had to be administered so that the chickens would not die because they were living in too close of contact. These all happen on these large industrial chicken farms. And yes I understand that the chicken houses are owned by family farmers, but these farmers are controlled by contracts from the large chicken producers. They sign a contract and the corporation can dictate how many chickens you have, what kind of houses they live in and what they are fed or the corporation will retract the contract leaving these families in debt and with no way to sell the chickens. Blake also ignores the issues with cattle farming, conveniently in my opinion as he knows there is no way to defend the ways cattle are raised, being fed corn they can't digest fully, pumped fully of hormones and antibiotics, kept in unsanitary conditions, being fed the remains of other animals and finally the ways in which they are slaughtered that leads to outbreaks of mad cow disease and e.coli in consumers.

Blake also leaves out the whole local foods movement and only attacks organic farming. The local foods movement may be more important that the organic foods movement. I and many others would take a locally grown food over an organically grown food that is shipped from thousands of miles away from our homes and stores. And don't tell me that local farms can't feed us and that local farms are not sustainable. I have seen many times over huge farmers markets that bring produce to the consumers that is locally grown and harvested. And the whole idea that farmers markets are only for the middle class is being debunked as increasingly farmers markets will accept WIC and food stamps.

I have run out of steam about this topic, but I have talked about food consciousness here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Yeah I have talked about this in one way or another many times on this blog and I will continue too, hopefully. As a side note, I wish I had written about this article when I first got it as I was less brain dead at that point, I think my points were more well developed and most importantly it might have jump started my blogging again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

YouTube Fridays

There was an article about Muppet diplomacy and so I decided that today's YouTube Friday should be in honor of Sesame Street. Then I found these great spoofs done by Sesame Street and I knew that was what I wanted to post.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

People need to learn history already

I saw this video and commented over at Konagod, but I had to do a bit more over at my own place as I kept stewing about this women's ignorance.



First, my comment over at Konagod:

I agree with Katy here, lets go back to the way the Founding Fathers viewed this country. Women, including Katy, should not be allowed to speak, we should re-institute slavery with minorities considered lower class citizens and only white male landowners should be able to vote and be involved in politics. Ya know, when people show off their ignorance, it just amazes me. How do you get through high school let alone college with this much ignorance? I have no idea if she went to college, but I am going to hope she graduated from high school. People need to realize that the Constitution and the country as a whole has changed and has evolved and maybe we as an electorate need to change with it.

Also, did anyone else notice at the end how her whole ideas of people helping the less fortunate kind of sounds like socialism. Plus who wants to have a $5000 deductible if they don't have to. I don't understand how choice is bad, but then again I am a pinko commie so what do I know.


I really don't understand how you can go through life with such a naive view of the founding father. They were slave holders, they were racist, they were misogynistic and they were rapists/adulterers (adulterers if you are being nice about the illegitimate black children they fathered, rapists if the truth is told about those same illegitimate children). How the fuck are we supposed to view that as the good old days? And what the fuck is this women talking about, "the founding fathers didn't want some of these programs". How the fuck does she know the the founding fathers did not want the populous to be taken care of as they get older, Medicare? When asked if she has told her parents not to go on Medicare, she responds that they don't talk about politics. That is not the fucking question, do you do you not want your parents to have health insurance as they get older? This is a fucking question of what you want for your parents. You have the means that you will never need government health care or even Medicare as you get older, that is great for you and I say fuck off then. There are many of us, myself included, that will need Medicare. I will want and need health care when I get older. Yes, I have health care now, but as I get older and then retire, I will not have the means to pay all of my medical bills without some kind of health care. I sure as hell won't be able to afford to pay the private companies for their version of health care that probably wouldn't even cover half of the issues I will have.

Furthermore, she says she heard President Obama says he wants single payer healthcare, but when pressed, she heard it on TV, but she does not know when, "in maybe like 2002 or 2003." So you believe everything you hear on TV, huh, and where did you hear this wonderful clip? I would put my life on that fact that you either never heard it and are bullshitting or you heard it on Fox News which lies constantly. You want to debate national health care, then fine, but lets debate it based upon facts not half truths and lies. And lets debate it in a civilized fashion, not by yelling your opponent down and threatening violence against those that are on the other side of the issue. I am all for a civilized debate on a national health care plan and how to implement it, but not the way it is being debated now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chuck Norris knows what is best for our kids

I know I have been away from this blog for a while and I had every intention of coming back and so here I am. I have sort of a backlog of ideas in my head of things to blog about and yet, when i see an article in which Chuck Norris expresses his "thoughts" on the Obama Healthcare plan and on child development, well... ya knew I had to comment on it. I originally found the article in an online post from the Chicago Tribune and then went to the original post by Chuckie, welcome to wingnuttia. Not only does he talk about things that have nothing to do with healthcare, but he is an uninformed, ignorant rambling idiot. I know this is no surprise and it is what I expected to find when I looked at the article, but really... Apparently, there is a provision in the new healthcare plan that gives monies to states to allow for "home visitation programs for families with young children and families expecting children."According tot he bill this would be accomplished by "well-trained and competent staff," who would "provide parents with knowledge of age-appropriate child development in cognitive, language, social, emotional, and motor domains ... modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices," and "skills to interact with their child to enhance age-appropriate development." Norris's response is your basic wingnut response about how dare the government interfere in me raising my child. Whose idea of child raising would be used, "would they teach some secular-progressive and religiously neutered version of parental values and wisdom?" He also wants to know what field and theory of childhood development would be used by these government agents? Now this may be a valid question if you knew what you were talking about, but Chuck doesn't know what he is talking about. He is saying that there is either no child development field or it is just government telling us how to raise our children. I hate to tell him but there is a large and expansive child development field with many opinions about raising children. Many of which are, yes, non-religious so that those with and without religion can still use the same theories and philosophies. The field of child development is not focused on how to raise your child, but on how children tend to develop with the understanding that every child and family is different and each child will develop differently. I also hate to inform Chuck and his ilk, but programs like these exist everywhere and are used with a lot of success. These programs allow for an expert or an outside individual to come into a home and help the parents to learn how to best work with their child. These experts would say things like, children need to be read to and need books in the house, they need to not watch TV 24-7, they need to be fed regularly and bathed. I can guess they would help parents to not beat their children and learn other methods of discipline other than physical violence. I know these are radical ideas, but you may notice that none of them would contradict any religion. If the only book you wish to read to your child is the bible, than go for it. You are still reading to your child and they still see the value of reading and books. If you want to have your child home schooled, no child development expert is going to disagree with you as long as you teach them the ABCs, 123s and other basic skills. Ya see, Chuck, child development does not care about how you raise your child as long as you are doing what is in the best interest of the children.

Then he rails how in the bill it says that this assistance will be targeted toward lower income families. He makes a comment how that then means lower income families must not make good parents like middle and upper class families according to the government. Well, again that is bullshit, there is research that shows that lower income families do not always have the resources or expertise that is helpful in raising a child. Middle and upper class families tend to have the money to send their children to good schools and good childcare centers, this is not usually the case with lower income families. They are struggling just to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, they do not always know if their child is developing typically or not. I have worked in schools for low income families for three of my four years in early childhood education and I have seen first hand these parents struggling and many of them are glad when someone, a teacher, suggests other ways of doing things or gives them help in how to work with their children. So no, lower income parents are not bad parents, sometimes they just need help. Plus these programs are voluntary, as Chuck notes. He does not believe this though, he thinks that there will be jackbooted government officials breaking into houses and telling parents what to do with their children. In reality, there are already similar programs where at the hospital, parents are offered assistance if they want it and if they refuse, than they are left alone.

Yet again, the right wing nuts are trying to scare people and spreading lies and half truths. I wish, though, on this topic maybe someone would have done some research and realize that this is not a scary idea and that it in no way infringes on their own beliefs and decisions about how to raise their children.

UPDATE: I forgot to write some names that are influential in child development just in case someone does not actually think that there is such a field, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Urie Bronfenbrenner, who happens to also be the founder of Head Start here in the US.

Friday, July 10, 2009

YouTube Fridays

Two songs off of the new Regina Spektor CD, Far. I really like this new album.


Eet- Regina Spektor


Blue Lips- Regina Spektor

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In memory- Oscar Meyer

Oscar Meyer died today at 95. This is just another of the tragic deaths we have had to endure, Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and now the father of grocery store bologna. When will the madness end? Ok, so maybe Fawcett and Jackson's death were more tragic as they were younger, but still...neither of them has a ditty that sticks in my head like Oscar Meyer.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where are all of the gay princesses?

I have had this article for a while about the fact that Disney movies elevate love to great heights, it can change laws, wake people from sleeping, and stop wars, but it has to be heterosexual love. All of the Disney stories and many other movies show the princess or others falling in love, but it is always in a opposite-sex relationship. The article discusses two different studies that show the power and influence that these repeated images have on children, how they are subtly and sometimes not so subtly taught that only heterosexuals can love. I had forgotten that I had bookmarked this article and when I found it again, yesterday, I started to think about a post about this exact topic. Then I started to think about all of the other issues with the Disney Princesses, they are all white or white looking, they are helpless, they need men to save them, in Snow White's case she did the dishes and cleaned up after seven men while they went to work, the Little Mermaid gave up her life and identity for a man, there are so many issues with the Princesses and then of course how does this affect the children especially the little girls who watch these movies over and over again. It cannot have a positive influence on their self-esteem and their views of love and what is expected of women in our society. But then I started to think, but what are the alternatives? Many of these stories are based upon fairy tales that are 200-300 years old and so as our society has advanced, it may not have gone far, but still there are some changes, our fairy tales have not changed. In fact the only princess I can think of that would be a positive role model for little girls is Princess Fiona from Shrek and really only in the first movie. It seems to be that after the first Shrek movie, Fiona becomes more of a domestic housewife and we lose the asskicking strong female that is presented in the first movie.

This also leaves us with no positive role models of non-heterosexual life and parenting. I really was going to write about how we need more stories about gay families, which may lead to more movies about gay families and this will lead to young children growing up understanding that gay families are like any other family and love their children. This also teaches children that if they grow up to be gay, it is Ok and they can still hope, dream and have a family when they are adults. But I thought I better look for books with gay families before I started to spout off. I knew there were books for gay teenagers, but were there any books that would appeal to the preschool crowd that I work with? Well, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that are many really good books out there that highlight gay families. I even learned that Barnes & Noble online has a whole section that is titled:Children of gay parents->Children's fiction, so you can find books for or about children of gay parents. I also found two other resources about books that highlight gay families or gay individuals here and here. So instead of being annoyed and depressed that there are no really good books out there to teach children about gay families, I found several resources. I know there is so much more that needs to be done so that children can begin to realize that heterosexual love is not the only type of love.

But thinking about these books and the fact that I want to get some of them to add to my children's book collection that I am constantly working on, I began to wonder if I could actually read any of these books in my classroom. If I brought them in, would the parent's freak out? Hell, would the administration freak out? Would I be asked to not read those types of books in school? There are a few teachers who may not agree with me on reading these books, but since they are not my supervisor, I do not worry about them. As much as I like to push my boundaries and even be a bit of a rebel at times, I need my job and if reading books that feature gay families threatens my job, I have to decide whether it is worth it. I am not saying I wouldn't read books with gay families, but I need to find ways of incorporating all types of families in my classroom including gay families.

Friday, June 26, 2009

YouTube Fridays

Because when all else fails and I can't think of anything to post on YouTube Fridays, I can always post Eddie Izzard.



Eddie Izzard, Harry Enfield, Alan Rickman and the legendary Vic Reeves perform the famous 'four yorkshire men' sketch from Monty Python.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In Memory- Michael Jackson

It is amazing to think that two pop icons have died today, Farrah Fawcet and Michael Jackson. I am too young to remember Fawcett, but I grew up with and on Michael Jackson. I think Thriller was the first cassette (remember those things) that I have had or that I listened to a lot. Although, he had some issues he was an amazing artist and influenced a generation of musicians. I could not get the Thriller video, so I had to use this one which is the Thriller video using Legos.

Reza Aslan and Iran

Iran is in the news constantly these days as we all know and yet I feel like there are gaps in the understanding of Iranian politics and what this revolution really is about. It is no longer about an election it is about much more than that. I have now seen two different interviews with Reza Aslan, a commentator for The Daily Beast, which really helps me to understand what is going on in Iran and some of the realities of the lack of influence the U.S can and does have in Iran. I know several Republicans including McCain have called for more action from President Obama and yet that seems counterproductive in a country and region where there is so much hostility toward us. These interviews are also with two of my favorite interviewers and news people, Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow. I am choosing to show both interviews in case you have not seen one or both of them. Also, I think that each interviews adds to and expands Aslan's thoughts and ideas on Iran.

First, Rachel Maddow's piece about Iran including the interview with Aslan.



Now for the slightly longer interview with Aslan from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Reza Aslan
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baking with Boxer- white sandwich bread

Todays item is white sandwich bread that I made yesterday. I know what you are thinking, white sandwich bread, like that white bread crap that you can get at the grocery store that has no nutritional value, well yes and no. It is white bread, but there are no preservatives and chemicals and other crap in it. Also, I intend to use a mix of white whole wheat flour and all purpose flour next time, this time I just wanted to make it following the recipe and see how it turned out. I turned out with really good texture and a slight bit of sourness at times. As to the sourness, I think I may have over rose the dough. Those of you who saw my facebook page yesterday saw that the dough was rising incredibly fast, it must really like the heat and humidity, well that might have been the problem. I might have over fermented the yeast and thus had some lactic acid in the dough, but I am not sure. I even try to slow down the second rise since GG and I were going out for a bit to get a new car. (We got the new Honda hybrid, Insight.) Well, even in the fridge it still tripled in volume, now I know and I will be more careful next time. I am not going to give the recipe this time as it is kind of a long recipe and I want to encourage you to buy, get from the library, or steal from a friend a copy of the Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It is a great book and many of the bread recipes I have started to use are from this book. So, I will just leave you with a picture of the finished product. It may not look pretty, but it is good. Oh and the ridges on the top of the bread are not supposed to be there, I had the oven racks too close together and as the bread rose in the oven while it was cooking it pressed against one of the racks.

Doggy Park etiquette

I have started to take Bodhi to the doggy park almost everyday. It gives him the opportunity to play and run off leash, to burn up some of the energy that puppies (and kids) seem to have in abundance and it allows him to socialize and get used to being around a lot of different dogs that are older and younger than him and bigger and smaller than him. He really loves going to the dog park and gets really excited to go in the car. There are even some regular dogs that we tend to see there more often, there is Odin the younger beagle, Max the older Beagle, and Bailey the fully intact, really pretty grey and white speckled dog (I am not sure what kind of dog he is). He also gets to play with any number of other random dogs that we see there that do not seem to be regulars, but whoever it is Bodhi chases them and they chase him and he loves it. And I love taking him, except... I get frustrated some times with the owners. There are these owners who show up at the dog park and stay for like 15 minutes and then tell their dog, "I hope you got all of your energy out because mommy/daddy needs to do chores around the house." "Or daddy/mommy needs to leave you at home for a long time today so I hope you are done playing for the day." Now I am no dog behaviorist or dog trainer, but letting a dog play for 15 minutes does not seem sufficient to me especially when the dog is still running and chasing other dogs and is not panting or seem to be tired in the least. It seems that 15 minutes is just when the dog is starting to get warmed up. It also seems to always be the owners with the bigger dogs, the Rottweilers, Huskies, or Labs that think 15 minutes is sufficient. Also, cleaning up after your dog is not optional, if they shit you need to clean it up. Now I understand if you are new to the park and do not realize that you may need to supply your own bags. There are supposed to be bags there for doo doo clean-up, but they run out sometimes and so having a back up set of bags with you is a good idea. But especially when there are bags at the doggy park, there is no excuse for why you cannot clean up after you dog. No one wants to step in your dog's shit that you didn't want to clean-up. That is part of going to a dog park, taking responsibility for your dog.

Today, Bodhi and I went to the park, but I didn't want to stay too long, it is really hot here and I did not want Bodhi to over heat. Also, he is afraid of the water fountain and wouldn't drink from it and I forgot to get a bowl to take with us for him to drink out of. (He also does not like hoses or really any water device other than his bowl of water.) So I intended to stay for about 30 minutes. There was no one else there for about 20 minutes and so Bodhi ran and frolicked in the grass and had fun by himself although he definitely prefers there to be other dogs there for him to play with. So then a van pulled up and this guy and his husky came into the park. The man seemed annoyed that there was anyone else at the park and was annoyed at Bodhi for coming over and saying hi to him and his dog. I kept telling Bodhi, "no" as he can be a bit exuberant when he ways hi to people and other dogs. But really he was fun and was just happy that there was another dog to play with. The Husky did not seem too interested in playing, but that didn't stop Bodhi and they kind of played chase for a bit. Then the Husky had to go to the bathroom. The man just ignored this fact. The dog shit in one spot than another and than another, he just kept moving and shitting. Finally, it was time for me and Bodhi to go home and as I went to get Bodhi, I heard the man say, "Finish up it is time to go home." He then took his dog back to the car and left. I was so annoyed, how dare you treat the dog park which is for everyone like your backyard. You bring your dog, he does nothing, but shit and then you leave and not clean it up. what an asshole. So if you take you dog to the doggie park and if you have a dog it is great fun for both human and dog, then please clean up after your dog and realize that 15 minutes may seem sufficient to you, but really your dog may need like 30 to 60 minutes of real playtime to be a calm and happy dog.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Baking with Boxer

I am hoping to make this a regular feature on this blog. I like to bake and I have been doing it a lot more lately, so I figured I would share with y'all the fruits of my labor. Well, at least pictures and recipes and the ideas of the fruits of my labor, to get the actual fruits you have to be here.

This post will be written as I work on this recipe. I am experimenting today as I try to make a bread that is sprinkled with chocolate. I have a chocolate bread recipe and I really like it, but there was this Swiss bakery in NC which made a sweet, white bread that had chocolate in it. It was awesome on its own, but with some peanut butter it was even better. I am attempting to recreate this bread. As I was thinking about this, I remembered a blog post from the now not active blog Harp and Sword. I went there and found the chocolate bread recipe except it was written to be made in a bread machine, I do not have a bread machine, so I am attempting to adjust on the fly and make this recipe.

Ingredients straight from Harp and Sword:
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1/3 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (about 12 squares of a Trader Joe's Pound Plus® 70% cocoa mass Bittersweet Chocolate) (I could not find this so I got the 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's- BR)

How I made the bread:
Mix the sugar, buttermilk and yeast together and let the yeast bloom for at least 10-15 minutes. Place the bread flour and salt in the Kitchen Aid. Turn the mixer on low for approximately 30 seconds to mix up the flour and salt so that the salt does not come in direct contact with the yeast and kill it. Add the eggs, butter and yeast mixture to the flour and salt. Mix on low for a minute or so to get the flour moist, turn the mixer up to #4 and mix for seven minutes. At this point, the dough was still too sticky for me so I added another 1/4 cup of bread flour and let the mixer go for another 2 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl to rise for at least 1.5 hours. Cut up the chocolate into chunks. Knead the chocolate into the bread dough a little bit at a time till all of the chocolate is mixed in with the dough. Let the bread rise again, for another hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees at least 45 minutes before you plan on baking the bread. I did this with my pizza stone in the oven already. I then placed the bread onto a silpat covered jelly roll sheet pan, but you could spray the sheet pan with oil to keep the bread from sticking to the pan. Place the bread into the oven. I also boiled some water and put it into a small cast iron pan and put that into the oven as well right below the sheet pan with the bread. I do this to help add some moisture to the oven and so that the bread will have a nicer crust, or so I have read. Bake for 45 minutes. Let it cool completely on a cooling rack and eat.

Censorship of books in the news again

In an article in the Chicago Tribune, a group of parents are complaining because one of the high schools that is close to where I currently live has the incoming freshman reading "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie. The parents say that this book is too mature for their children. The book apparently has some rough language and their children should not be exposed to that kind of language in school. According to one parent, "I began reading, and I started to cross out sections that I didn't want him to read," she said. "Soon I thought, 'Wait, this is not appropriate; he is not reading this.' " So first you are censoring what you child reads and now you want the schools to censor what our children read. I understand and fully agree with parents reading what their children read, just as watching TV with your children is a great idea. This way you can discuss with your children things that you might feel are questionable or beyond their maturity or comprehension, but deciding your child should not read is not a good way to go, IMHO. This school said they picked this book after much consideration and looking at a list of books that were written for Young Adults. They also did a survey the previous year and discovered that many young men were not reading (I could have told you that without a survey, but still...), so they decided to use a book that had a young man as a protagonist to encourage the boys to read. The parents also saw the language in the book as racist. According to the demographic information I was able to find for this district, the student body is 96% white, I grew up in a similarly monocultural setting and trust me these kinds are already hearing and in some cases using racist language. Maybe they need a book that uses this same type of language where an adult could then address the racist language and discuss it openly with the students.

I have read several Sherman Alexie books and I have enjoyed most of them. He is an interesting writer who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and so brings the reservation life and thoughts to his writings. His writing also tends to focus on Spokane or Coeur d'Alene Indians and this book is no exception. I have not read this book, but based upon his other writings, yes, there probably is some rough language. According to one review I read on Amazon, the "f" word is used frequently and masturbation is also discussed in the book. Most high schoolers have heard or use, frequently, words like fuck, motherfucker and fuckwad. They are also aware of masturbation and statistics show that most teenagers are probably masturbating. Is sexuality a sensitive issue in schools? Yes. Does that mean we should exclude books just because it is in the book? NO.I do not know, but I can't help but wonder when one of the major complaints is racist language would the same complaints appear if the protagonist was Caucasian. The other book that comes to mind is Catcher in the Rye, which always seems to be on the banned books lists. But in this community would the same outrage have occurred?

Finally, and my biggest issue with the whole parents who are complaining, is that there is an alternative book that you can have your child read if you are not comfortable with the Alexie book. So, if you do not want your child to read "The Absolutely True... ",then don't. Have them read the other book and go away happy that you shielded your child from a book that may open their eyes and may give you chances to talk with your child. Oh, and the other book is about a group of teens who steal rafting equipment to go rafting down the Grand Canyon. So, now according to your own logic, you're encouraging your child to be a thief.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

YouTube Fridays (late edition)

I was looking through my CDs and I found this old mix of music. Both of these songs are from this mix and they have been in my head for the past week.

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Us3- Cantaloop

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ManĂ¡- Rayando el Sol

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A quick book review- Fool

I have been a fan of Christopher Moore for a while, his books tend to be quick, easy reads for me. But he is very hit and miss for me. I loved Coyote Blue which is the first book I read by him and Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love story was also quite enjoyable. I absolutely love Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff and his two most recent novels, You Suck: A love story (the sequel to Bloodsucking fiends) and A Dirty Job were also both really good. The rest of his novels were good in most cases, nothing really great, but light and airy and that is nice to read sometimes. So when I heard he was doing a novel based upon the Shakespearean play King Lear, I was intrigued. Well, in this novel, Fool, he did not disappoint. It is loosely based upon King Lear, but Moore acknowledges that he takes from like 12 other works of The Bard and so it does not follow King Lear directly. I also do not know King Lear very well, but I was able to recognize it somewhat and elements of other Shakespearean plays in the book, Fool. I find it at least sort of helpful to be aware of Shakespeare's work if you are going to read Fool, but I am sure that is not totally necessary. The best part, IMHO, is the bawdiness of this book. There is a warning at the beginning of the novel that it is bawdy and it does not disappoint in that area. The whole book is full of double entendres, sexual behavior and other bawdiness. It reminds me a lot of the Renaissance Faire when I used to go when I was in high school. (GG and I went to the Faire last year and it is now not as entertaining or as bawdy as I recall.) There may be times in which the humor is sophomoric and infantile, but when I am laughing within the first few pages, I know I will enjoy the book. It may not follow King Lear accurately, but it is a fun romp nonetheless.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A band that has stood the test of time

As I was doing some errands today, I had a mix of music on my iPod that had a lot of '90s rock and grudge music. I was enjoying the music, but also realizing that much of this music just does not seem to speak to me that way it did when it first came out and I was in high school. And then Nirvana came on and I realized that here is a band that has music that has, possibly, stood the test of time. Maybe it is just nostalgia or maybe because Kurt Cobain died while Nirvana was still so popular and there was no real decline or dragged out process by which the band faded from view, but Nirvana still sounds as good to me now as they did when they were at the height of their popularity. I am not sure I can think of a lot of other bands from that same genre and era that I can still listen to and still think, wow this is as relevant as it was when it originally came out. I am also of the mind that the Nirvana Unplugged album is and will go down as one of the classic albums of the '90s music scene.


Nirvana- All Apologies

Are bank tellers still a necessity?

After I went to the bank today to deposit my paycheck, I started to think about how little I actually go into the bank anymore. I can only think of one time in over a year that I had to actually go into the bank and talk to someone. This thought led me to wondering what bank tellers do anymore. I am not saying that we should fire all bank tellers or that I begrudge anyone a job, but really how many people actually go to the counter at the bank to deposit money or get cash? The one time that I can think of having to go inside the bank, it was because I had my debit card number stolen and I had to go in and get a new card. This was after I had already talked to someone on the phone and so the account was already straitened out. I didn't even talk to a bank teller, I went immediately to another bank representative to handle my account. There are even people whose job it is to point the customer to who they need to talk to, thus eliminating people talking to the teller. There are plenty of people who need to be able to go in and talk to bank employees to secure loans or to add a new account or change their account or even, like I had to do, to get a new bank card if yours has been stolen or lost. But none of these actions require the services of the bank teller. It seems that myself and most people use the ATM or online banking to do most of our business with banks these days. Hell, I signed up for my current bank account online and was mailed the form I had to sign and then mailed it back to them. I never even stepped into a bank to set-up the account or to deposit any money.

This just seems to be a radical change for me and the way in which banking seems to work currently. I can remember, and I am not that old, when I set-up my very first bank account, my father and I had to go into the bank to fill out the paperwork and to deposit money. ATM cards were just becoming something that banks offered and these were used primarily to get money out of an ATM when the bank was not open or you did not want to go into the bank. Now we can and do use debit cards for everything, from getting money from an ATM machine to paying for purchase to depositing checks and cash into your account. I don't even carry cash that much anymore and I know I am not unusual in this fact. Even depositing money into ATMs has changed recently, at the bank I use there are no envelopes or deposit slips. You place the cash or check, depending, into a slot and then the ATM counts the cash or displays the amount that the check is written for. No fuss, no mess and no wasted paper. Are we moving toward a society where banks solely exist virtually either online or at ATM machines? I see a future where there are only a few large national banks, cash is all but extinct and we do all of our banking through machines.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Blogging doesn't pay



I am shamelessly stealing this cartoon from BAC. I saw this cartoon and I instantly liked it. First, as a blogger and one who reads many blogs and knows the hard work that goes into blogging and many people's blogs, mine not so much yet as I am getting restarted, but still... There is so much hard work that bloggers do and yet the rewards are not monetary. I also suspect that there are many people who get into blogging because they think that they can sit in their basement and write their thoughts and the fans, accolades and money will just roll in. It doesn't work that way. Most of us do it because we like to write, we have something to say or just it allows us to get things off of our collective chests without having to nag our significant other with every little thought, or maybe that is just me. Anyway, it just struck me right especially as I am attempting to re-start this blog and really get myself back to blogging regularly. I know there is no money in this for me, hell I don't have that many people that even read this and I lost those that I did when I stopped blogging regularly so I am doing it out of love or the need to hear my own voice.

This cartoon also "triggered" my thoughts on the big progressive feminist blog that seems to be in shambles and is moving slowly to a cult-like existence with a leader at the top, an inner circle of disciples and then the underlings who are supposed to worship at the feet of the master. The whole debacle has been done to death by bloggers who are more intelligent and better writers than I, but in case you have missed it or are interested in what the hell I am talking about or just want to see some great blogs here they are.

First, Konagod with a more serious post and thoughts on the blog who shall not be named (BWSNBN). Then a hilarious satirical look at that same blog. We also have The Apostate who again does a great job of chronicling the decline and after affects of the latest hissy fit. And finally, Litbrit who it was awesome to find again after she had left the BWSNBN, to put the final touch, well at least for this roundup, on the thoughts of some of us about the demise of a once awesome place, hell the BWSNBN is where I met GG and that has turned out wonderfully.

Quote of the Day

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

--Eleanor Roosevelt


Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The state of this blog

It has been almost a month since I have posted anything to this blog and that was a note saying I would probably not be blogging much if any in May. My blogging has really dropped off and I have on several occasions said I was done blogging. Hell, last night I told GG I was going to shut down the blog. I was doing most of my blogging on Facebook or at least I was writing and posting the videos I would have posted here to Facebook. So that was set, I was shutting down the blog. Then this morning I realized there are things that I can't or won't say on Facebook because there are many of my co-workers on Facebook too. I need to be able to keep that world and this world separate. I had thought that when my summer vacation began on Monday I would get right back into blogging. I would take the time to do it. I sort of had some ideas in my head and yet, Monday came and went and then Tuesday came and went and the Wednesday I decided I wasn't going to post so I was going to shut it down and now here it is Thursday and I have finally decided to blog. I have some posts I want to put up and some thoughts to share. Will this be another short lived return? I hope not, but maybe.

There have been major changes in my life this past year. I have given up most of my material possessions and moved half way across the country to live with someone I had met once prior to her coming to NC to help me pack and move. Do I regret this decision, hell no. But it has changed me in many ways including, but not limited to the fact that now many of the ideas I would have blogged at one point I can discuss with the person who is sitting beside me on the couch as I type this. This is incredibly awesome and does seem to lessen the need for me to blog, but it doesn't lessen the desire that I have for blogging. These changes also include us getting a cat in February and my dog, Logan, the boxer for whom this site was initially inspired, passing away in March. We then got a new boxer-mix, Bodhi, at the end of April. I have also been working for a new school district here in IL and the accompanying drama and stress that comes with working in preschool and in the public school system. I think, finally, this summer I may be able to get back to blogging, really blogging. I look back at my archives and I realize that at one point I was an OK writer and that I was kind of surprised and proud of myself. But since writing does not come naturally to me, I need to be doing it and working on it to refine my thoughts and more importantly my presentation of these thoughts. In other words, i need to be writing more often, daily preferably, to be a better blogger and writer. I realized that I do not comment as much as I used to. It is too easy with Google Reader to read a blog and then not have to comment or it seems like a pain to click the blog post and then have to comment. But I need to be commenting more, there are so many things being said by those of you who blog and I feel like I fail you as an author and me as a blogger by not being involved in the process, by not commenting. So I am rededicating myself to this blog and to blogging in general.

Friday, May 22, 2009

YouTube Fridays

This is my first post in almost a month which is kind of sad and weak and such, but as Blue Gal say



or at least that is my story and I am sticking to it, that and I am busy playing with the new puppy or I am just a bit lazy and I do not take the ideas in my head for blog posts and then put them on paper so to speak. Anywho... this weeks YouTube clips are inspired by a mix my brother and sister-in-law gave me for Christmas.


Dar Williams- Buzzer (live in studio)

I can't believe that I have not posted this song before on this site as I have been addicted to this song since I first heard it on the CD and since it is the first song, I have now heard it many times.

Michael Franti and Spearhead- Say Hey (I love you)

Since it is almost June and then I will be done with school for at least this school year and I can get back to regularly blogging like at least once a day, hopefully this will be the first of many posts.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When ya need a burger, ya need a burger

Apparently, being a non-meat eater I do not know this but, when ya need a burger, ya need a burger. And apparently our President and Vice President had a hankering for some dead cow. They took the motorcade on a short ride into Virginia to get some burgers at an independent burger joint. I just love that they took the whole motorcade to a burger joint, then paid out of their own pockets and waited for their burgers to be done. I am sure the burger joint knew they were coming and I am sure they could have just run in and gotten a burger real quick and not had to interact with the public that much, but that is not how this administration seems to operate. I am also assuming that the White House kitchen can make a burger, but instead Joe and Barack went out for a burger. It is just nice to see a President and VP who want to spend time with the public and who seem to actually try to be more down to earth, "real" people. It is a nice change from the past administration.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ahhhhhhh...the life of a puppy

I have not been able to blog that much as Bodhi has been taking up a lot of my time. I know this is to be expected with a puppy, but this one is a bit affection starved. If I spend too much time on the computer than he starts to whine and wants to play with me or more often jump into my lap. We are working on him not jumping on the furniture, but he will put his paws on you and just want affection. He has many toys like balls and ropes he likes to play with, but, of course, those require that someone throw them or that someone play tug of war with him. He is a great dog and lots of fun, but when I am trying to do something he does seem to need a lot of attention. He is whimpering at me now and wants me to pet him. So, maybe soon I will be able to type more, but not yet.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Welcome our new addition

After the loss of Logan, I really missed having a dog around the house. We have been looking around for a Boxer to adopt, we have looked at other breeds, but I keep coming back to Boxers. Well, we found one who was being fostered through a local rescue organization and we went to see him. He loved us from the minute we got there and GG and I were pretty smitten too. So, Here he is, the new addition to our family, Bodhi.



Sunday, April 19, 2009

Job Opportunity

If you are a computer hacker, the US government is looking for you. They do not want to arrest you, they want to hire you. According to the new Pentagon budget, they will be increasing the number of cyber experts from 80 to 250 by the year 2011. Which of course brings me to my favorite hacker turned FBI agent, Penelope Garcia.

Friday, April 17, 2009

YouTube Fridays- This is a public service announcement

You may be a Canadian today and not even know it. The Canadian government amended a Canadian citizenship law that allows for former Canadiens who were forced to renounce their citizenship between 1944 and 1977 to reclaim their Canadian citizenship, this applies to their children as well. And as this YouTube shows it is as simple as waking up and suddenly Mounties meet you at the door to your place, there are stuffed animal moose in your room and all kinds of other symbols of Canada just appear.



Finding this out made me think of this song from the '80s. I mean, if you can turn Canadian overnight why not other nationalities as well?


The Vapors- Turning Japanese

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My new obsessions

I have become mildly obsessed with these two new sites I was told about. First, there is Fmylife. Basically it is short twitter or text message like statements where people complain about their life. This sounds stupid and is, but really some people have interesting lives. Like the person whose house was crashed into by a person eating watermelon and texting while driving. And then there is the virtual NES, for those of you who are not children of the '80s or who just don't know, NES stands for Nintendo Entertainment System. This website has a lot of the old Nintendo games like Super Mario Bros, 1,2 and 3, Contra, Metroid, Double Dragon and actually a lot more of them. I so love those games and it is such a time suck for me. I will start playing one game and play that for a while and then if I get bored, I move onto to another game. I find this so much fun and free, which is even better.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Today at school...

it was backward day. So several of the teachers, including yours truly, and many of the kids had their shirts inside out and backwards. One kid had his Lakers jersey, his hat and his pants on backwards which reminded me of this song and the brief fad that followed of wearing your shirts and pants backwards.


Kris Kross- Jump

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In honor of Passover

If you have never seen the ten plagues done by peeps, you have to see it. It makes the plagues funny, even death of the first born.

Friday, April 10, 2009

YouTube Fridays

GG and I were talking about this song after seeing a comment on another blog that we both read, but we couldn't remember the name of it or who it was by. Well, later in the comments, someone said who the song was by, but that does not really help as GG did not think it was by E,L,P, but it was and then the name of the some is not an obvious one. I finally found the song and now, of course a few days later, I have to post the song.


Emerson, Laker and Palmer- Karn Evil 9 First Impression part 1

I had heard this song a while back on American Idol, I don't watch often but I had caught this particular show and really liked the song. I had to find out who had done it originally. After I found out that KT Tunstall had done this song, I eventually had to get the whole CD.


KT Tunstall- Black Horse and the Cherry Tree

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Happy Passover

Happy Passover to all of you who are celebrating. I will miss bread, but still, it is only 7-8 days of matzah, I will live.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Movie Review- Che Parts 1 and 2

I have an interest in Che Guevara and his life. I had seen The Motorcycle Diaries when it had come out in the theaters and then eventually bought the movie. So when I heard that Steven Soderbergh was directing a film about Che starring Benicio Del Toro, I was intrigued. I become more intrigued when I heard it was going to be a four hour long epic. I then heard that they were going to split the film into two parts, but I wanted to see it in the original four hour long epic. This was not possible for me. I could not find it playing in the full length film, but I was able to find it in Milwaukee where it was playing in two parts. I was able to schedule it where I was able to see the films back-to-back with a small break in between the two films. The first film is about the Cuban Revolution and Che's part in organizing the revolution along with Castro. Che is portrayed as a man trying to lead a peasant revolution. He insists that his men respect the peasants that they meet. At one point, some of his men leave the revolutionary's camp and they rape a farmers daughter and take all of the farmers produce. When Che and his men eventually catch up with the wayward soldiers, the wayward soldiers are killed for disgracing the revolutionary cause. So, Che is not shown as a man who is not willing to kill his own troops or the government troops, but he still has some principles that he is fighting for. He feels that the only way to overthrow the Batista government is by violence. In the second film, we follow Che in Bolivia when he again tries to create a peasant revolution, but this time he fails. We see the failed attempts to convince the rural peasants that Che is trying to help them and the influence of the Bolivian government in working against Che. We also see the beginning of several foreign Marxist groups in working with Che and the mistrust that these foreigners and even the fact that Che is not Bolivian born creates within the Bolivian people. The film ends with Che's death by government officials in the Bolivian highlands.

I really liked both films. I had read that the first part of the film was better than the second part. I would sort of agree as seeing success is usually more interesting than watching failure. Also, the facts of the Cuban revolution are better known than the attempted Bolivian revolution, so Soderbergh was able to use some base knowledge and add upon that. But as I watched the films, both of them, I kept thinking that Che is such and icon and symbol that there is no unbiased way to make a movie about him. These films are very sympathetic toward him, he is not totally nonviolent, but his violence is supposed to be directed by principles. In this way, Che is a sympathetic character in these films, but if Che were portrayed as a violent asshole with no principles again this would show a biased. It seems to me that the truth is somewhere in between these two extremes. Che was both a violent asshole and a man who was trying to lead a revolution that he thought would benefit the poorer peoples of the countries he was leading revolutions within. I would recommend the first film definitely and would only slightly less recommend the second film if you wanted to learn more about Che and his demise, but seeing them together seems to not be crucial. On a side note, I am not sure I would want to try to see another two part film like this where I was sitting in a theater for a long time unless it was a really special set of films.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Thank you

Thank you to everyone for your condolences. I know I had to make a tough choice, but it was the right choice for Logan. He was only in pain for the last hour or so or at least the was the only time that he whimpered or cried, so I knew that I could not allow him to continue in pain. Thank you again for your thoughts and good wishes.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In loving memory



Logan passed away tonight. He was having neurological issues and they finally escalated to the point where he was in a lot of pain and I had to do the only humane thing I know how to do. This blog was named for him and will continue to live on in his memory as a tribute to him.



Friday, April 3, 2009

YouTube Fridays

This week's YouTube Friday is inspired by the Queen's iPod selections.


I dreamed a dream from Les Miserables


Seasons of Love from Rent


All that Jazz- Chita Rivera

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Queen's iPod

As many of you have probably seen already Barack Obama gave the Queen an iPod when he was in London for the G20 summit. I couldn't help, but wonder what was on the iPod and then I found a list.

This was on it:

The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha

And this one:

If I were a rich man from Fiddler on the Roof

And finally this one:

Diamonds are a girl's best friend from Gentlemen prefer blondes

The full list of all of the songs is here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Deaf culture and inclusion

DISCLAIMER #1: I will try not to use too much education/special education jargon, but as I am writing this post as a means for me to think about this issue, I may slip into jargon at times, if I do please note it in comments and I will try to explain.
DISCLAIMER #2: This post is a bit long and rambling, it took two days to do and now I need to move on to other topics.

This is a follow-up to the review of Train Go Sorry I did here. In this book, the author, Leah Hager Cohen, discusses how much of the deaf community does not see the idea of having children who are deaf in a regular eduction classroom as a good idea or at least when she was writing this 15 years ago they did not. Cohen discusses how this is viewed as a threat to the deaf community and the deaf culture. That if children who are deaf are placed in regular education classrooms, they will lose parts of themselves and this will destroy the deaf culture. They are afraid that taking children from deaf only schools and placing them in inclusion or regular education classroom de-emphasizes deaf culture.

There is a valid point here. If the deaf culture is defined by the fact that its inhabitants speak another language, ASL. Also this is not a culture that your parents will necessarily pass down to you by the fact that deafness is not a hereditary trait so many children who are deaf are born to hearing parents. Deaf culture is also not like being Jewish or Muslim or African-American or Latino where your parents are in that culture so by you being their offspring you are also ensconced in that culture. Deaf culture grows out of the fact that an individual cannot hear and so being with other individuals who cannot hear provides you with a bond that may not exist otherwise. Deafness extends beyond religious and ethnic barriers, it is not defined by where you grow up or who your parents are, it is a part of you. You are deaf.

This fear by the deaf community also grows out of ignorance by those outside the deaf world. As Cohen points out, up until the mid-1960s ASL was not viewed as a valid communication tool. It may have been used in the home, but it would never have been acceptable in the educational world. ASL was viewed as proof that individuals who are deaf were inferior to their hearing brethren by the fact that ASL meant that the individual who was deaf did not have to speak. It made the individual who was deaf different than their hearing brethren. So many of the schools, including the Lexington School for the Deaf, that Cohen highlights was an oral school. They taught their students to lip read and to to speak English. Even when Cohen wrote the book in 1994, the Lexington School was just beginning to use ASL in the classroom and move to a more shared model of teaching both oral and manual communication. There has been a rise in deaf pride and the desire of many more individuals who are deaf to be able to not be treated as second class citizens and not have to be the same as the rest of the hearing world. With the Deaf President Now movement leading to the installation of the first Deaf president at Galludet University, the largest and best known liberal arts deaf university, there has also been a push by the deaf community to install more administrators who are deaf to schools around the county.

So what does this all have to do with how the practice of inclusion in the public school system affects the deaf community, a lot. In 1975 when Public Law 94-142 was enacted, it provided for the education of many individuals with disabilities to be educated in the public school system. This law has been renamed and is now known as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). PL 94-142 and now IDEA provide funding and support to state governments to provide public education for children with disabilities. At the same time over the past 20 or so years there has been a push to move away from the separate schools and separate classrooms for children with disabilities to a model of inclusion. This is where children with special needs are placed into the schools that they would attend if they did not have a disability and in many cases into the classrooms that they would attend if they did not have a disability. The idea is that the separate schools and separate classrooms were supposed to be separate but equal, but in many cases were not equal. There is also a lot of research that looks at the fact that inclusion benefits both the students with and without disabilities. (I am not going to go into specifics here, but there is a lot of evidence.) But what happens in the case of students who are deaf, where the teachers probably do not sign and these children now have no role models of successful individuals who are deaf? The deaf community argues children who are deaf need to be around other deaf people to learn ASL: and to be able to see that in a hearing world, even though you are deaf you can still be successful. The whole deaf pride movement also encourages those who are deaf to be around and involved with deaf causes and how are children who are not involved in the deaf schools to know about deaf pride.

The language acquisition of ASL and the need to be around other individuals who are fluent in ASL seems to make a lot of sense to me. I equate it to the language acquisition of other children. We know that children whose parents talk to them and interact with them and who hear a lot of different vocabulary and conversations are more likely to have better expressive and receptive language skills. So why can't the same be said for children who are deaf, why would putting them in a hearing school where they do not have the constant input of ASL language as a means of communication not hinder their language development in ASL over a child who goes to a school for the deaf and is surrounded by peers and teachers who use ASL constantly. I know there are some (many?) who would argue that by placing children who are deaf in regular education classrooms, we give the same opportunities for language development, but it is spoken language rather than manual language. But is that what is in the best interest of the children or is that just our own prejudices that everyone should communicate like us prevailing? Isn't this like the whole if you live in America you should speak English argument? Just because you live in a hearing world, should children have to be able to orally communicate?

As a teacher, I have concerns about public policy that are purported to be in the best interest of all children or all people. How can one law or policy be good for everyone? Each of us is an individual and so one mandate cannot cover every single instance. I am beginning to wonder if maybe the policy of inclusion is not as beneficial to children who are deaf as it is to children with other disabilities. But then what is the solution? It seems to be a slippery slope either way. If we allow for children who are deaf to not have to be in inclusion classrooms or even allow for them to be in their own schools for the deaf, what then stops someone from wanting separate schools for children who are blind or who have autism? Do we have to accommodate everyone and their individual needs for each separate population of individuals with a specific disability? But if we force children into inclusion classrooms, where they are not receiving the best instruction and where the needs of the hearing world are placed above the needs of the deaf community, are we being selfish and prejudiced?

I guess I am no the fence about this and many issues for children with special needs. Policies are set from government officials and school administrators that are supposed to be for the best interest of all involved, but no one policy can fit everyone.

Book Review- Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World

I have not always been a fan of nonfiction books. I find them to be boring and tedious and when I read I like to lose myself in the story and fiction does that better, IMHO. But I have recently gotten on a bit of a nonfiction binge, where I will read a nonfiction book or two and then go back to fiction for a while. And since I do not always like nonfiction, I am picky about what I read, so when I see a recommendation somewhere for a nonfiction book, I tend to like having these ideas from others. (I like fiction book recommendations as well, but nonfiction is where I struggle finding books most of the time.) I saw this recommendation, on a big blog that I read, about this nonfiction book, Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World and I knew I wanted to read it. First, it sounded like an interesting and easy read and two, I have an interest in deaf culture and I thought this might be a good book to read to get an insiders view of the world of people who are deaf. I was right on both accounts. This is a fascinating story of life inside the Lexington School for the Deaf. The author, Leah Hager Cohen, spent much of her life living in and around the Lexington School. Although she is hearing, Cohen's father was the principal and then the superintendent of the Lexington School which means she was around the deaf community for much of her growing up years.. She mentions at the beginning of the book that for some of her early years she lived on the grounds of the Lexington School and so was, at least marginally, involved in the deaf culture from birth. Cohen goes back to the school as an adult and acts as an observer to be able to tell the story of this school and by extension a part of the deaf community. She highlights two students, James and Sofia, who are both seniors at the Lexington School, each of whom has their own personal struggles. Sofia immigrated with her family from the former Soviet Union to the United States. She had been to a school for the deaf in Russia and so had learned Russian and a form of sign language, so when she was attending the Lexington School she had to learn English and American Sign Language (ASL). She also became interested in having a Bat Mitzvah, even though she was about 5 years older than the traditional age for this coming of age ceremony. Since she was going to have to read from the Torah, Sofia also had to learn Hebrew in addition to ASL and English.

James is a African-American male who lives in a rougher part of New York City and initially struggled with tardiness and absenteeism when he first entered the Lexington School. The Lexington School finally realizes that the best solution to this problem is to allow James to stay in the residential dorms on the school campus that are now rarely used. James' bother was in jail while the book was being written and James said that if he had not been deaf and gone to the Lexington School he also might have ended up in a gang. James struggles with trying to find his way as an individual surrounded by an urban culture that does not value school and learning and also as someone who needs to learn in order for him to be able to make it in a hearing world. Both Sofia and James are success stories in the book, each of them finds their way on to the next chapter of life with both of them going to an institution of higher learning.

Cohen also intercedes with chapters about her paternal grandfather and grandmother, who were both deaf. She discusses what it was like for them to have traveled from the Old Country, both of them were from the former Soviet Union, and their own struggles as individuals who are deaf. She discusses her father and how he went from living in a household parented by two deaf individuals where he learned ASL to the point at which he kind of stumbled upon the job as an administrator at the Lexington School, where his father had attended. Cohen discusses some of the current issues in the deaf community, at least they were current in 1994 when the book was published and some of them still are very much issues, such as what she refers to as mainstreaming and is now called inclusion to cochlear implants to the rise of deaf pride and how these issues affect the deaf community and deaf culture.

Cohen provides the reader an insight into deaf culture that is rarely seen, or at least I have never really seen it before. She presents the issues that currently plague the deaf culture as it struggles to define itself in a hearing world. Although, Cohen is not always unbiased in her opinions about the larger issues, she does a magnificent job presenting the individual stories with no external opinions and allows each individual to present their own thoughts, feelings and ideas for themselves.

Although I got this book from the local library (yay local libraries), this is one book that I may have to buy at some point as it seems as though it would be a valuable book to read and re-read every so often.