Saturday, January 26, 2008

Found in Your Local Megamart...

I present the Cara Cara orange (a.k.a. pink navel or red navel).  It is grapefruit-colored but very sweet.  I sense a new favorite.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Psychology of Language

I don't often comment on politics here, for a variety of reasons, but I have been growing increasingly distracted while listening to political commentary lately.


Because people always refer to Senator Obama as "Obama" and to Senator Clinton as "Hillary."

As in, "I'm a Hillary supporter," and "I'm an Obama supporter."

It just strikes me as odd, and it makes the nascent linguist in me wonder: is this laziness (saying "Obama" and "Clinton" would make people want to clarify which Clinton) or is it inherent, deeply-disguised gender bias (it's permissible to be more informal with a woman)?

Or is it something else entirely?

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Or, in fandom slang: my indignant, spluttering outrage, let me show you it.

All me to set the scene.

It's mid-December, and Speech Person DFT is asking me about Elastigirl's communication.  The conversation, at one point, veers off into the difference between "modeling," "prompting," and "cueing."

DFT:  So, you're saying that Elastigirl only communicates verbally after you model something for her?

Me:  I wouldn't call it modeling, in the sense that she has no idea what to say until I model it for her with the expectation that she repeats it, no.

DFT:  But she doesn't come up with the words on her own?

Me:  Very rarely, but generally not.  She doesn't respond well to outright requests, like "Elastigirl, say 'more.'"  But if you say, "Elastigirl, do you want more?" she'll say "more."

DFT:  So you're saying she's echolalic?

Me:  Not in the usual sense of the term, no.  To me, it looks like she has a word-retrieval problem.  Like, the word is there, but for whatever reason, she can't access it without the auditory cue first.

DFT:  Oooh, I don't think so.  I think it's just because her developmental level is so low.

Me:  (skeptically)  Okay....

Today, during Elastigirl's IEP meeting (in which she transcribed several of Elastigirl's most common phrases incorrectly, and did not know the name of Elastigirl's communication device -- which is not a surprise, given that I'm the one that located it and used PTA funds to buy it, because she wanted to give Elastigirl a Big Mack (a.k.a. the giant flying projectile that will bash someone's brain in) rather than her TalkTrac (a.k.a. the small and light device that can be attached to things)) the following exchange occurred:

DFT:  Elastigirl almost never verbalizes spontaneously but she will inconsistently repeat a verbal prompt.  Though (looks at me) I don't know that 'prompt' is the right word.

Me:  No, I don't think so.  Like I said when we were speaking before, it's not a prompt in the sense of "Here, Elastigirl, let me tell you how to do this thing you've never done before."

DFT:  Right.  In fact, (pause, then look of dawning realization, then direct eye contact with mom) you know, it looks almost like she has a word-retrieval problem, and she needs that auditory cue in order to retrieve the word.

Me:  *($R#(#$($*#*$(#*($ WHAT???????

(Okay, not really, but I did gape at her and mutter very quietly under my breath to Principal SDF, "That's what I told her and she told me no!")

I very rarely have actual issues with DFT -- she annoys me, and I see very little value in what she does with any kids who have any issues beyond just articulation -- but between what she did in December and first dismissing my opinion (while telling me Elastigirl does not need speech services because I know her best) and then using my hard-won observation to sound good is just wrong.

Don't get me wrong -- I know that the ultimate goal here is to help Elastigirl become a better communicator.  So in the end, it doesn't really matter whose idea it was.

But that's the thing -- it doesn't matter whose idea it was, so why pass that idea off as your own brilliant on-the-spot brainstorm?

But it was an IEP meeting, and I'd have hated it if she'd openly questioned me during one, so I let it go.

My diplomacy, let me show you it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


So I'm using the online version of our IEP program to write Elastigirl's IEP (I find myself in the unique position of wanting to write too many goals...saying "hi," following natural cues...argh). Only problem is -- it only runs in Internet Explorer, 'cause it's an ActiveX thing.

If I get a virus from the darned thing, I'll be very upset.

For the record, Elastigirl's goals include: demonstrating 1:1 correspondence to 5 using Touch Math, sequencing the first two letters of her name (spelling the whole thing in one year is askinga lot), urinating in the toilet at least once a day (this is a huge new development!), identifying 2 pictures per week from a field of three (up from one a week from a field of two), retaining a total of 30 pictures over the school year, getting her signature stamp in a box (right now, we're happy if it's on the paper), and requesting attention appropriately from all people in her environment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Familiarity Breeds...?

Shortly after Thanksgiving 2006, James Kim and his family were driving in Oregon when they got lost in the wilderness.  After several days stranded in the woods in their car, with no cell service, James set off on foot to try to find help for his wife Kati and his two young girls, Sabine and Penelope.

As he was hiking in the woods, searchers spotted the car and rescued Kati, Sabine, and Penelope.  They had been living on melted snow; Kati breast fed the two girls.

Meanwhile, James Kim froze to death as he hiked in the wilderness.

Why is this important?

Because the tech community -- especially the television tech community -- is very small.  In fact, there was one lone technology channel for a few years (ZDTV, then renamed TechTV, until it was bought by G4 and wasn't a tech channel anymore).

(Southern California locals might be interested to know that Michaela Pereira of KTLA started on a tech news show on TechTV called TechLive.)

In any event, once TechTV stopped being TechTV, Leo Laporte started podcasts and a radio show that brought most of the old "family" back together, while others moved onto CNET and other places.

James Kim was one that had moved to CNET.  While on TechTV, he did reviews -- mostly of printers.  I remembered him immediately as the guy who used to show off printers with pictures of flowers...until he abruptly began to use pictures of his new baby girls.

Once at CNET, James Kim did mp3 player reviews for a video podcast that TiVo allows you to download.

I never met James Kim.  I've never met Leo Laporte, or Patrick Norton, or Kevin Rose (yes, the digg guy), or Roger Chang, or Megan Morrone, or Cat Schwartz, or...

...but years after the demise of the TV channel, I remember their names, and feel a connection with them.  A shared geekdom, if you will.  Pleasure at knowing that someone out there built a one terabyte drive and stuck it in a monster of a CPU tower just because it was cool.

And the really cool thing is that these guys were just unapologetically geeky.  See -- I had two disclaimers where this paragraph is at this moment essentially saying "I know I said it was cool, but I know it wasn't really cool."

I don't follow sports, but the nearest analogy I can think of is, for me, watching somebody demonstrate water-cooling a CPU by dunking it in...I think...rubbing alcohol was like watching Shaq play basketball in his heyday.

What brings this up now?

I'm not really sure, except that I read some really awful comments on the Yahoo! story about Heath Ledger's death about how it didn't really matter because thousands of people die every day.

You know what?  They do.  And it's awful, and it sucks, but if they're lucky, they live in a small town where everybody knows them and a few hundred people mourn their death.

You know what else?  For better or for worse, people feel a connection with TV/movie stars, often for superficial reasons, and often for very personal ones.  No, there's no reciprocity, but I still contributed $20 to the search for James Kim's family, because I cared.  People care about Heath Ledger.  Millions of people know who he was.

Do I agree with the sensationalism?  Of course not.  Whether he committed suicide or not (it looks like probably not), whether he took sleeping pills or heroine or nothing, whether he died of heart failure or pneumonia or an overdose, huge, hysterical, sensationalist headlines based on little more than rumor do nobody any good.

Do I agree that Heath Ledger's death should take precedence on Yahoo!'s main page over any number of other disasters, both foreign and domestic?  Of course not.

But to say "so what" and much, much worse is just callous.

For the record, I've only -- to my recollection -- seen Heath Ledger in one film: after it came out on DVD, I got Brokeback Mountain from Netflix just to see what all the fuss was about.  Now, I don't cry at movies...but with the possible exception of What Dreams May Come, I don't think I've ever come as close as I did during the closing scene where an aging Heath Ledger comes across the shirt in his closet.  Ouch.

So I'm not speaking as a fangirl here; but I am speaking as someone who's experienced losses in my family, and even though I know better than to wade into the on Yahoo, I had to say something.

And even though they'll never read it, my condolences to his daughter, her mother, and his family.

(Also, and please forgive the gallows humor, but I have to ask...according to, both he and his sister were named after the lead characters in Bronte's Wuthering Heights.  Hello?  Isn't that just about the definition of "asking for trouble?"  About the only thing worse would be to name your kids Romeo and Juliet, or Oedipus and Jocasta.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Note to Self

Do not make fun of people for being cold. The laws of karma dictate
that less than half an hour later, you will be freezing cold
everywhere except for your exceedingly hot right ear, which makes
huddling under several layers of blankets rather uncomfortable.


If you say you "could care less," it means that you could, in fact, care less.  Ergo, you care a little.

My guess is, you mean that you "couldn't care less;" meaning, of course, that you could not care less.  That you care so little that it's impossible for you to care even a little bit less.

Why You Never Want Patrick to Say "I Have an Idea"

This is called Patrick's "I have an idea" face.

This is why you don't want to see it.

(Long-time readers may also remember this.  Same ride; different time zone.)