Saturday, May 03, 2008


I can once again claim my grammar nerd status by saying I got 'em all right.

Should I be scared?

Save Those Wrists

About a month in, Data and I are getting along perfectly, and, for the most part, Lore has been behaving himself.

However, I have been having trouble with my wrists using the bundled keyboard that came with Data.  I have been typing on a Microsoft Natural keyboard for years, after I started having tell-tale wrist pains -- in high school.  Being a touch-typist, the split design was never a problem for me, and it dramatically increased the amount of time I could type before fatigue and/or pain started in.

I have been eyeing the Kinesis keyboard for about the last nine months, as even typing on the MS Natural started to hurt, as the next step up from the MS Natural keyboard, figuring that if a $100 keyboard kept me away from the carpal tunnel doctors for 15 years or so, then hopefully a $300 keyboard would do the same.

(The step up from that would be the Maltron, which is even more, and approaches the price point of, "Oh, forget it, just go see the scary carpal tunnel doctor."  Unless my chicken tendencies kicked in and went for the -- apparently at least temporarily out of business -- DataHand keyboard.)

Anyhow, the problem is that I actually like typing on the Apple keyboard.  Many don't.  Many panned its design when it was essentially introduced on the MacBook.  Having played around with a MacBook and tried typing on it, I agree -- it's not comfortable on a laptop.  But as a desktop keyboard, I've really liked it -- the tactile feedback of the keys is very nice, and I like the clicking.  Call me old school.

But my poor wrists....  While working to get Data set up the way I wanted, I even had to start wearing a wrist brace again, it hurt so much.

So I had a dilemma.  I have this keyboard that I really genuinely like -- and, what's more, doesn't take up two-thirds of my desk.

But as all this is going on, I began to notice something -- even moreso than when I was typing, it hurt to use the mouse.  I mean, as in, I probably could have shown you exactly which nerves attached to which muscles on the back of my arm.

So I did some research, and it turns out that for many, the mouse is a bigger problem than the keyboard, because not only are you turning your hand in an unnatural way, you're moving it around and such.

With some trepidation, then, I decided to take an $80 gamble that may save me $300 on the Kinesis keyboard (or, at the very least, postpone the leap for a while).  I found the Evoluent Vertical Mouse while browsing, ironically enough, the Kinesis website, and the documentation on their own website about the problems with mouse usage seemed somewhat convincing.

So far, I can say that, while it looks...well...weird, it is very comfortable.  It's taken some training to use the middle finger (there are three buttons on one side) to right click and to remember that the pinkie button is the switch-applications button (equivalent to Alt-Tab on a Windows computer) but that makes sense because the muscles in the pinkie are weaker and you'd use that one less.

My only problem is that the tracking speed is way, way too fast for my poor eye-hand coordination.  I have it set to the slowest it can go, and I still seem to have to expend additional mental effort to get the mouse where I want it to be.

Will this save my wrists?  I doubt it -- but like my original investment in the MS Natural keyboard, hopefully it'll delay more expensive dilemmas.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Shocker of the Century

This is a can of peanuts. Apparently, it contains peanuts.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Good Versus BADD

I missed "Blogging Against Disablism" Day last year, but here goes...

I kept going back and forth as to whether this would be a "sister" post or a "teacher" post, and it's kind of become both.  It's also something I've briefly ranted about before, so pardon that.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was the first or second assembly of the year, during my second year of teaching.  I had a student who could be severely self-injurious (he would hit his head and chin until he bled), but he would be much less likely to injure himself if he had a string of beads to fidget with.

So, I take my motley crew to the assembly.  This particular student squeaked a few times and flicked his beads.  Scissor Girl probably vocalized some.  I wouldn't be surprised if Millionare Boy (the Who Wants to be a Millionaire fan) hadn't, at the least, laughed loudly at the wrong time once or twice.

Meanwhile, the two fourth grade classes (one of whom would become Sixth Grade Teacher JT's nightmare class of last year) were chattering with each other and needing redirections.  Ditto the fifth and sixth graders.

Who knows what the assembly was about?

That has been erased from my mind by what happened next:  Former Principal SW and Sixth Grade Teacher JT both approached me about the student and his beads, saying that they were disruptive and that maybe he shouldn't go to assemblies anymore.

His beads.  His string of costume jewelry beads.

The other kids were loud.

The other kids needed to be shushed.

The other kids were inattentive and difficult.

S did not hit himself.  S did not start crying/moaning as he would do during a panic attack.

S held a string of freaking beads and flicked them up by his right eye.

There's this ridiculous, horrible double standard when it comes to kids with disabilities.  If other kids misbehave at an assembly, they get a talking to -- perhaps even detention or something -- but no one says, "Well, no more assemblies for you."

And yet, if a child with autism, severe developmental disabilities, and an anxiety disorder WHO WOULD HAVE OTHERWISE BEEN BUSY GIVING HIMSELF A CONCUSSION flicks some beads to calm himself, he shouldn't come to assemblies anymore.

It's ridiculous and it's unfair.

And it points to something even more fundamental: people with disabilities are still expected to earn the right to be with others.  S had to earn the right to be at an assembly, and the only way he could do that was to sit at the assembly without any support or accommodations.

The thing is, S had the right to attend the assemblies.  S had the right to sit there with his beads and flick them to his heart's content (to be fair, in the interests of full disclosure, if he'd have had a panic attack, I'd have escorted him outside because that would have been too loud -- and, more to the point, his anxiety would have just increased until he was somewhere with less stimulation).

Let me say that again:  S had the right to be there at that assembly, even if he needed a 99% inconspicuous comfort object to maintain his composure during the assembly.  Would I have let him take something truly loud?  No, but that's my job as a teacher -- to find ways to help him cope that are as quiet and inconspicuous as possible.

For the record, our new principal, Principal SDF, has commented on how much she likes the fidgets bag I bring to assemblies.  And, yes, sometimes someone will put one of our vibrating thingies on the floor and make a little noise (at that point, it's replaced with a different fidget), but no one says anything about it.

But this is an attitude that is still way too prevalent.  It's not expected that kids (or adults) with disabilities are entitled to experiences like that.  It's still something they have to earn -- something others are given as a matter of course.

Disability is often an "accident of birth" -- and as Americans, we should be beyond assigning social categories because of accidents of birth.

See y'all at the next assembly.

Remakes, Reboots, and Re-Imaginings, Oh My!

I wasn't going to watch Battlestar Galactica (the miniseries) when it first aired.  I had a nostalgic affection for the original (not the abysmal Galactica 1980, mind) and it take it in a new direction.

I remember all the hullabaloo -- OMG!  Starbuck is a girl!  OMG!  Apollo isn't really his name!  OMG!  Tigh isn't black!  And so on and so forth.  Original series star Richard Hatch was adamantly opposed to it (likely due in large measure to him working on a continuation/sequel of his own).

Eventually, I decided to TiVo it and see what I thought.

And, of course, was riveted, from the very beginning when Six walks into the space station with the poor ol' Colonial guy and asks him if he's alive, with the red strobe lights of the Centurions looking on.

But, you know, whether it's because of Ron Moore at the helm (I don't think it's a coincidence that Deep Space Nine was my favorite Star Trek series and the one that he co-executive produced), the cast (Edward James Olmos is awesome, as is -- especially in the first season's "Act of Contrition" -- Katee Sackhoff), the writing, the camera work, the additional drama of the human-form Cylons hiding amidst the fleet (witness the early destruction of that ship)...I don't know.

For every BSG, though, there's a Bionic Woman, Knight Rider...I could go on.

I don't know if it's because BSG dared to veer so far from the original canon (though the only thing Bionic Woman shared with the original, from the one episode I saw, was a lead character named Jaime Summers who was hurt in an accident and whose boyfriend talked people into bionicifying her) -- which allowed it to tell its own story -- or that it retained enough of the original to be interesting, or just that the stories it tells are so human- and character-driven that they can be in a similar universe and exploring totally different territory.

I am very, very, very leery of the forthcoming Star Trek movie, for a variety of reasons.

1.  It'd be Star Trek 11.  An odd number.

2.  The people involved in Enterprise did not give me much faith in the current crop of Star Trek's folks to do a prequel well (I mean, bumpy-headed Klingons?  C'mon.), at least until the fourth season when the Reeves-Stevenses came on board to help out.

(Ironically, I've never much liked their Trek novels.)

3.  No one -- and I mean no one -- will ever, ever be able to play Spock like Leonard Nimoy.

4.  (Not to mention, the current crop of Trek writers don't write Vulcans well at all -- at least, not in the form of Tuvok or T'Pol.)

5.  Seeing Eomer (actually, I never got past "Caesar, Julius Caesar") on the Enterprise is just....weird.

I might see it in theaters; I might not. But I'm not at all convinced this will be the second coming of The Wrath of Khan.

So, now, I read that Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards are going to have cameos in the re-imagining (reboot?  remake?) of Escape to Witch Mountain (one of my favorite movies as a child).

Most people don't remember this, but they already tried this once, in 1995, with a TV movie called (get this) Escape to Witch Mountain.

Now, neither movie bears much resemblance to the eponymous book (gee, a Disney movie stretched the canon it was based on...I'm shocked....) but the latter was....  Hm....  Let's just was weird.

(Seriously.  Purple glowing crystals weird.)

Disney has a history of cameos like this.  In Lindsay Lohan's The Parent Trap, the girls' dad's fiancee's mother is played by the fiance in the original (along with borrowing the simpering, "Hello, Pet" from the original soon-to-be-step-grandmother).

And it might suggest that the remake is...semi-decent -- but, of course, the actors haven't exactly worked a lot, and you wonder if it's just about a job.

After all, Leonard Nimoy is in Star Trek, and I'm still iffy about that.

I don't want to sound like a fandom snob -- really, I don't.  I don't want to be one of those people who gets it in their head that things should be a certain way ("I'll boycott Babylon 5 if they don't get Claudia Christian back!" or "I'll never watch Stargate if Daniel Shanks isn't in it!").

Really, I don't.

But, I do wonder this:  why remake stuff?  Why not, in Star Trek's case, introduce another ship, another bad guy, something?  If you want it to be more mainstream, isn't that a good way to do it?

Or, in Witch Mountain's case, why not skip forward a few generations, or tell the story of the original exodus from their planet?  Something?

BSG proved it can be done well -- but BSG is a good show, whether or not it draws on the original's canon.

I dunno.

(This post was sparked by reading about the Witch Mountain thing, but I've been wanting to talk about the whole re-imagining thing for a while.)

In school news, I am so not popular again, for daring to suggest that maybe leaning on top of Bulldozer and moving his foot might have been why Aide J got hit.  ("But I was just moving The Boss's chair," she said.  Uh...yeah...from on top of Bulldozer.)

Also, New Boy started today.  And you thought The Boss was stubborn....

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And So It Begins

So, I gave the first kids the CAPA today.

I started with Angel, 'cause oh-my-frelling-God is it hard, and she was my best shot at the "she got it right!" fuzzies.

Don't believe me?  Check out the level 3 and 4 sample tasks, and remember that this test is for kids on a functional skills curriculum.  Our language arts program would be happy if they learned to read fifteen words in a year...and that's the top level of participation -- others are considered successful if they can copy or match a word, or are exposed to it.

And you wonder why I have to supplement it (heavily) with News-2-You and adapted books?  They are being asked to listen to a story and answer, on their own (not even multiple choice) how and why questions.

How.  And.  Why.  Questions.

Now, I am completely, totally on board with providing access to grade level content.  We work out of the grade level social studies texts, for instance, but I supplement those with adapted texts and we do more functional things with the books like number matching (e.g. "open to page 14"), counting ("how many Native Americans are on this page?"), copying/handwriting ("copy the first red word on page 17") and so forth.

Plus, I try to supplement that with some of the books we read, like when we did Little House last year, and ended up talking a lot about westward movement, Native Americans, and so forth.

But...I am left spluttering in incoherent amazement.

Here's hoping with the introduction of the CMA for the kids who get advanced scores too much on the CAPA (Angel, Former 4th Grade Girl A who has moved on to another program, Mama's Boy R, Space Cadet J), they'll adjust CAPA back to what it was supposed to be.

However, the fun part?

I did do half of Bulldozer's test (the language arts portion), and that was an exercise in hilarity.  I spent half the time saying, "Bulldozer, hands down.  Bulldozer, wait.  Bulldozer, wait.  Bulldozer, for the love of all that's good and holy, PLEASE JUST WAIT!"  Okay, I didn't say the last, but I did think it.

(He actually scored very, very well -- but that's to be expected; his strength is by far reading and spelling...math will not go so well.)

But after the first six or seven questions, he was so done.  I kept going, "Bulldozer, hang on, just three more.  Bulldozer, come on...."

And, of course, it got to the point where it was, "Bulldozer, PLEASE hang on just for ONE MORE QUESTION!"

In honor of the post title, a quote (about midway through the page you will find a sound file) that sums up how I feel about the whole thing:  "The avalanche has already started.  It is too late for the pebbles to vote."

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Visit

So, New Boy B's dad is visiting tomorrow, and then I have to dash off to meet with Psychologist JW and Speech Person DFT (when did she invite herself?) to talk about Superhero, whose tri is coming up.

I could rant about Speech Person DFT writing another email behind my back and trying to stir up drama, but I won't.  Suffice it to say that I was...miffed.

In other news, while browsing Adobe's site to see if I could upgrade my old version of Photoshop CS to CS3 (I don't think so, because I bought an education version of it), I came upon Photoshop Express -- half web-based image editing, and half Flickr/Picasa.  Pretty nifty.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Further Proof

Of what, you might ask?

Why, that I'm a nerd, of course.

I have had this printed out and waiting for a few spare moments since Friday evening.