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.