Saturday, June 30, 2007

Well...THAT Was a Mistake

So, loyal readers will know that I've been drooling over an iPhone since the commercials and videos started that last marketing push a couple of weeks ago.;div>
I told myself, "You don't need a 'Smart Phone' -- you barely text and never use the internet on your phone."

I told myself, "The keyboard can't be that easy to use; if for no other reason than you've got great big blunt fingertips that the average iPhone user doesn't."

I told myself, "You already have a shuffle for small playlists, and you have a 5 gen iPod that plays video.  You don't need to have pretty, full-screen landscape video."

I told myself, "You have lousy eyesight.  Surely reading a web page would be difficult, and the text would blur if you zoom in."

I told myself, "That finger-flicking scroll thing would be annoying; you'd be overshooting things all the time.  Ditto the 'pinch' zooming."

I was at the Northridge mall tonight, and after five minutes of playing with the thing, the only thing that saved my bank account (which I'm supposed to be bulking up for Disney World) a huge hit was the fact that they were sold out.

The thing is gorgeous.

I had no trouble typing.  When you zoom in on a web page, the text is crystal clear -- and that was in portrait mode; the phone was nearly out of batteries and needed to be docked to work.  You can control the amount of zoom by holding your fingers on the screen.

I don't think I can convey how pretty it is.

Scrolling through your music library is painless.  Flicking is very intuitive, and you can tap in the middle of a flicked scroll to stop it from scrolling.  Cover flow for the playlists...meh.  But the fact that you can click and see other songs on the same album, without backing out of your playlist and into one of the music browsing modes?  So cool.

I was so enthralled, I forgot to check out google maps, but youtube loaded nicely.  The video was...meh -- but it turned out that I'd been using EDGE the whole time, so the video was very highly compressed.

How did I discover that?  I went into setting to turn off wifi (all Apple stores have wifi) to see how bad EDGE really is -- and it turned out I'd been using it the whole time!

This is going to be a very hard to resist toy, especially because of Google maps.  I can't tell you the number of times I've been driving somewhere and trying to figure out where the nearest X was.  I remember actually trying to do that two phones ago, when I didn't have a data plan at all but was desperate, knowing that I'd pay through the roof for looking up whatever it was, and I gave up in frustration.

On an ironic note, however, people are sheep.

When you go to Disneyland a lot, you'll notice things like: people line up in waits 5 or 6 trams long when often at closing, they are loading at both stops -- but people see the huge mass of people and assume that's where they should be.

At the Apple store, the table that normally held, I think, was given over to the iPhones.  There was a huge crowd of people all gathered around the table, clearly waiting impatiently for their turn to play with the iPhone.

If they'd looked two feet behind them, they'd have seen that every iMac on display had an iPhone next to it.  So I stood over there and played for a good 5 minutes, and didn't feel the least bit pressured.

By the way -- the simple, classicly Apple layout makes this device very good for tech novices -- but it occurred to me right away that there's another population this phone would be good for: folks with intellectual disabilities.

Everything is so visual and obvious -- click the picture of a phone to make a call.  You can attach pictures to address book entries.  If you get confused, click the one physical button on the bottom to go back to the main screen.  Nifty.

Say What?

When you surf the Internet a lot, you tend to see some pretty...err...interesting...grammatical mistakes.  While they still irk me, I more or less expect them.

This, however, was a new one:

"To spite what some people are saying."

This is one of two things.  It could be someone using voice recognition software and not catching a transcription error.

Or, more worryingly, it's someone who doesn't know the word "despite."

Friday, June 29, 2007


Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars 3 1/2 years ago.  They were supposed to last 90 days.

NASA decided to send Opportunity into a deep impact crater.  Like NEAR Shoemaker, a probe that was landed on Eros after a successful mission -- thus becoming the first man-made object to land on an asteroid -- NASA basically decided that since Opportunity has long-since outlived its original mission, the risk that it won't have the power or maneuvering capability to get back out of the crater is worth the risk.

So here's to little Opportunity, the rover that could.  If this proves to be the end of your mission, we'll miss you...but something tells me it won't be.

In other news -- we had our first APE lesson today.  It started out promisingly enough.  They paired us with the two classes that have potential future classmates for A., and although we started with rhythm sticks (bleh) it was at least to a contemporary country song.

Then, in a room full of mostly 5th and 6th graders with learning disabilities, they started a song called "Texas Lonestar," which included -- among other things -- howling at the sky.  Miss T. tried her best to get me in trouble with (amusing and appropriate) snarky comments; the other kids looked either bored or astounded, and poor A. looked at everyone like they were crazy.

Miss C., on the other hand, cheerfully sang along ('cause, you know, supposed to be doing circle time and "Itsy Bitsy Spider").  Afterwards, I jokingly told Miss T. that she was going to get me in trouble, and that if she thought that was bad, she should have seen (now 7th grade) C. and/or (now 8th grade) RL when the OTs would come in and make the kids sing "Tap, Tap, Tap" (a Handwriting Without Tears song).

Miss C., confused, says, "Our OTs sing that here...."

"I told our not to," I said.  "These guys are mostly 10 and's just not appropriate."

If looks could kill, I would now be 12 feet under.  Sigh.  It's been a few years since I had to fight that battle with Miss K., who thought that letting a 6th grader take a nap cuddled in her lap was appropriate.

But I got the best bookend for the story.  After cooking today, I told the kids it was time to clean up.  M (I think) started singing the Barney (blech!) clean up song, so R. (sixth grade) started singing along.  Before I could say anything (I usually just say, "you guys are too big for that song"), A. pipes up with, "You aren't a baby, M!  That song is for babies.  You're too old for that song."

You go, girl.  :-)

Meanwhile, both little A. (the one who is the size of a 7-year-old) and little J. (ditto) have raging crushes on Patrick....

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More Randomness

Randomness Number 1:  R. story for the day.

We are reading a poetry book this summer; after Little House, I just didn't have the wherewithal to adapt another book from scratch (despite some very good suggestions from both (!!) fourth grade teachers -- the weekly Starbucks runs, while they sucked for me as I don't drink coffee or tea, certainly paid off in the camaraderie department).  Add to that the fact that my program specialist wanted me to attend a training the first two days of summer school (I ended up not going because she couldn't guarantee I'd have any of my aides), and 17 days just wasn't worth it.

Anyhow, before each poem, we're reading a (very) abridged and abbreviated summary of that historical time period (I chose a poem about the Pilgrims, "Paul Revere's Ride," The Gettysburg Address (which was in our poetry book, so there :-p), We Shall Overcome, one other one, and "Hope Eyrie," in honor of the anniversary of the moon landing being the last day of summer school).

So we started the section on the Revolutionary War today.  In the text I gave the kids, I wrote, "The English were not nice to the colonies."  Most of the kids have very simple multiple choice questions, but R, J, and A have harder short answer questions.

One was, "How did the English treat the colonies."

A. got it right away.  (She would.  Hence the move to a more challenging class next year.)

J. got it after I showed her the paragraph the answer was in, with a little verbal prompting.  (She promptly burst into PMS tears, by the way.)

R...not so much.  We eventually got to the point where I was saying, "R., it says the English were not nice.  If someone is not nice, they are mmmmm...?"

Back and forth we went.  Right through snack time.  I will abbreviate the whole thing here to a simple: "YEEEAAARRRGGGHHH!!"

Later today, he had to finish that one question before he got a break.

I say, "Now, R., remember, it says the English were not nice.  Someone who is not nice is -- "

"Mean!" he says, immediately and cheerfully.

Le sigh.

Randomness Number 2:  Frivolous Purchases

Every year for (everybody's) birthdays, my grandfather gives people money.  Always $60.

This year, he must have forgotten to get cash, because my card was full of 10s, 5s, 1s, and even a $2 bill.

I used that money to buy season 1 of BBC's Robin Hood...which is in no way historically accurate, but oh well.  It's funny and I like it.  I didn't like it enough to buy it myself, but with birthday money, it's okay.  (I know, I know, it's all in the same account, but whatever.)

Randomness Number 3: The Disappearing Dock

The shuffle dock is nowhere to be found.  I have been eyeing this travel dock for the trip to Disney World, 'cause it doesn't have a wire to break, snap, get tripped over, etc.) and decided to take the plunge.

Therefore, because my life works this way, I will be shortly locating my shuffle dock.

Randomness #4: Gadget Love

I really want an iPhone.  Especially now that there's a rumor that AT&T is upgrading their EDGE network (apparently, download speeds improved significantly this evening, the day before the launch of a product whose main drawback in reviews has been the slow connectivity of AT&T's network).

I really, really want one.  I have no reason to...I'm, at best, an occasional cell phone user.  But it's so pretty....

Randomness #5:  People Drama

On the aide front, the instant ambivalence is shifting into pretty intense dislike...on both sides.  Apparently, I am included in the other aide's animosity.  This does not surprise me in the least; the last time she worked with me, I was fried, burned out, and stressed over that summer's IEP drama with yet another R.  My heart was not in it, and I was constantly freaked that if I pushed A. just a little too far, he'd flip out and have a major meltdown like the one he did on the second day of school.

(Typing this now, I remember that she Really Didn't Like Being Spit On then...too bad that's R's favorite new thing...'cause, you know, now that we stopped screeching "Pee pee!" we have to replace that fun behavior.)

I was pretty motivated coming into summer school this summer.  I'd had a good year, I was in a good we're working -- we're doing journals, adapted books, News-2-You, etc.  In other words, lots of things she thinks are a waste of time, because we should be having circle time and singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

Ah well.  One week down, almost, and R's mom never did yell at me (though apparently she ranted to a lady T. is taking a class with, but oh well).  Tomorrow's an easy day, with APE, cooking (snow cones, this week) and scheduled games time (SpiderMan memory, Cariboo, and Trouble).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Karma Redux

Well, that's better -- I didn't have to pay a thing to get my car fixed again, because it was a faulty part to begin with.  This is why I love my mechanic: he's trustworthy, for one, and for another, if he messes up, he fixes it.  I didn't even have to pay for labor.  :-)

Which means that I can afford to replace my wireless router.  I'm thinking of going with an Airport Extreme, in the hopes that someday I'll be able to afford an HD TV with which to use an Apple TV.


I apparently earned a bit of bad karma lately.

Either that, or I'm earning some good karma for some future date.

My car is back in the shop about six weeks after I spent $700 fixing it.  Same warning lights this time.

And now, my wireless router is randomly turning off.  Apparently, something is wrong with the wire, because if I jiggle it and prop it up around the antenna, it stays on, but if the wire moves at all, it turns off.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Those Darned Neutrinos

So, just as I finished typing out my rant about the misadventures of today, I was getting ready to go to a fundraiser for the condition that the kid I do home teaching for has...

...okay, that sentence went all kinds of grammatically bad places.

Anyhow, just as I finished, I went to turn on my car, only to see the battery light and brake light on again.


On the plus side, my new fan came.  Yay.  I've had one like this before -- it blows lots more air, but it's way quieter than my old one (which was an emergency WalMart purchase when the other one I had like my new one got knocked over) and the dual blades eliminate that annoying dead air syndrome in the center, which, 'cause I've got my bed on risers, was at just the wrong height.

And considering that I'm incapable of forming real sentences...night.

I Am Evil

(But before that -- it's only $20 a month more to have an iPhone data plan.  Grr.  It's getting really hard not to want to buy one.)

Anyhow, yeah...evil.

By the way, I deliberately wrote this in a sort of funny tone (to convince myself it was funny, I think), but it's not exaggerated.

At all.

Well, okay, my head didn't actually explode....

I have always been very leery of prompt dependence.  After all, when you've seen a kid who'd been programmed right into not eating unless you tapped her elbow before every bite, that kinda thing becomes important to you.

(And, the fact that her aide saw nothing wrong with that? Frightening.)

Anyhow, I have a student.  We'll call him R.

R. has been known to dither around all morning with his journal (I kid you not -- he might leave it for a novel study, but he's always asked to go back to it) because he doesn't know how to spell a certain word.

"Just try," I'll say.  "Do the best you can.  Try to sound it out."

Because (1) he can, and (2) I don't want him just sitting around passively waiting for help, and (3) he's notorious for asking for help he does not need.

Much time later, my molars have been ground into dust, and I'm left begging, "Just write something.  Anything, as long as it's a letter."

Then, the others stop to get their snacks, and I say, "You need to finish your journal before you can have your snack."

Twenty second later, an attempt has been made.  Often, it's a fairly good attempt.  Sometimes, it's perfect.

But he would rather sit and wait you out for hours because he's convinced that sooner or later you'll feel bad for poor wittle R. and do it for him.

We had an issue like that today.  R. was doing a math page.  A simple math page.  He can add (and regroup), subtract, count by 10s and 5s (which means he can multiply the Touch Math way).

He had to do a simple word problem; the end result of which was 9 - 6.

I had written the math problem for him; all he had to do was DO it.

He'd done two other subtraction problems on that page already.

Well...after repeatedly reading the question (which I finally covered up because, hello, the problem is THERE, you don't have to read it again), and then writing 96 three times, I say to him, "R., you have already done a take away problem on this page.  I know you can subtract, so you need to do this problem yourself."

"Okay," he says.

"Yeah, right," I think.

So, the morning goes on.  We have recess.  The darned journal is still there.

I finally cave (bad me) and say, "If you don't know any other way to do this problem, go get the counters and do that."

It's now 10 minutes before the end of the school day.

He takes out 2.

(I about have a stroke.)

"Your problem is 9 take away 6.  How many do you start with?"





(I count to ten in about 5 languages.)

"What do you need to do?"

"Get 9."




(The other R. tries to lick my arm.)

(My head explodes.)

"So get 9."

"Oooooh," he says, like it's a revelation from God.

(At this point, for some reason, I heard Dory from Finding Nemo:  "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.)

"Now how many do you take away?"

"Um, nine?"

"R."  I say.  "The problem is NINE minus SIX.  You have NINE.  How many do you need to take away?"





(The other R., who is now done writing his apology letter to his mom, tries to steal R.'s journal.)

(I contemplate alcoholic beverages.  "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.")

"How many are you taking away?"





(At this point, I am praying for a nuclear apocalypse.)

"So take them away."





R's mom, who will no doubt be yelling at me approximately fourteen hours from now, walks in.  Despite the fact that school's not over yet, and our door was closed.

"Miss ____, my mom's here!"

"Finish that first, please."

"Fowwy, ______" the other R. says.

"Go put your letter to mom in your backpack," I say.

R. tries to solicit mom's help.

I drive a nail into my own coffin by saying, "R., you know how to do this.  You just told me what to do.  You need to do it on your own."

The other R. tries to go hide in the bathroom.

I follow him.  R's mom doesn't have to hear the other R. shrieking, giggling, "Pee pee!  Pee pee!  Pee pee!"

I turn back.

R's mom has told him how to finish the math problem, and has helped him do it.

(Molars?  What molars?  Who needs molars?)

R's mom chooses then to wait outside.

I add another final nail to my coffin, and go over to R.

"R," I said, "Did I ask you to do that problem on your own?"


"Did you?"


"But your mom helped you.  That's not doing it on your own."


"Did you follow my directions?"


"No, you did not.  I asked you to work on your own.  You asked mom for help.  You need to apologize for not following directions."

"Sorry, Miss _____."

Maybe I'll call in sick tomorrow.

Or go to the dentist.

Or, you know, wear a cape and carry a pitchfork.


Monday, June 25, 2007

My Neutrinos Are Spinning the Wrong Way

Once upon a time, my friend Caryn and I were very amused by the fact that a Deep Space Nine episode determined that people were having bad luck because the neutrinos were spinning the wrong way.

For months, we jokingly used that to refer to Murphy's Law.

And, yes, we were nerds.  At least, I was.

Anyhow, my neutrinos are spinning the wrong way this evening.  I really want to charge and update my shuffle, which has become my podcast repository (while my full iPod is my music and videos repository).  I found two full iPod cables, but not the little special one the shuffle uses to sync.

Le sigh.

(Ooh!  A new Order of the Phoenix preview...that I'm pretty sure showed the Department of Mysteries and the veil.  Neat.)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The One Where SpooWriter is a Nerd


I know that's how you say it...but there is no such thing as "could of," "would of," or "should of."

It's "could have" (or could've), "should have" (should've), or "would have" (would've).

Pick it apart. Take the "could," "would," or "should" out.

Do you way, "I of eaten my sandwich?"

Of course not. You can say, "I have eaten my sandwich."

Therefore, you must say, "I could have eaten my sandwich, except that I had to answer the phone." You must say, "I should have eaten my breakfast; now I'm hungry." You must say, "I would have eaten my sandwich, but the chocolate cake looked better."


Oh, and for the record, it's means "it is." Only and forever. If you write, "The cat chased it's tail," you really wrote "The cat chased it is tail." Its is possessive. There is no such thing as its'.