Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Bureaucrap, MCAS Edition
The MCAS doesn't really bother Miss B: she does reasonably well in English and very well in math and science (this year she is being tested in history for the first time), and during MCAS week she has no homework, which of course floats her boat on a sea of bliss. And, although preparing for it takes a certain amount of joy and spontaneity out of the learning process, the MCAS does test for knowledge that a well-educated person should have, and it gives all of us a good idea of Miss B's relative strengths and weaknesses.
Taz is a whole different story. If you gave him a test booklet he would demonstrate a core skill by flinging it as far as possible, so he is tested instead by the so-called alternate MCAS, for which his teacher prepares a "portfolio" of his work. As best I can make out, this is supposed to show what progress he has made in the curriculum on his particular learning curve. The rub lies in the word curriculum. His teacher, aides and therapists (his classroom has five students, one teacher and two aides who are there all the time, and assorted therapists coming and going) work very hard with him and his classmates on things like eating, answering simple social questions (how are you? would you like an apple or a banana?), behaving appropriately in public, identifying basic colors, and sorting simple objects. This last is Taz's vocational training, and he does quite well with it until he gets bored and starts flinging again. None of this, however, is what the state considers to be curriculum, even though all of it is in his education plan (IEP), and we've all signed off on it. Instead his teacher must map whatever she can to the traditional subject areas of English (or, as the state insists on calling it, language arts), math, science and history. If she doesn't use their precise format, forgets to dot a single i or cross a single t, he gets an "incomplete," and she gets a black mark.
I do appreciate that if the state doesn't subject absolutely everyone to MCAS requirements, schools will try to game the system by letting anyone who might flunk it skip it instead. I'm also informed that the alternate MCAS was devised in response to complaints from parents of special-needs students who felt that their kids were being left out of the process. But in Taz's case the whole routine is, to use a highly technical term, silly. Cognitively Taz is two years old and always will be, and we are kept minutely informed of his progress by quarterly reports from the special-ed office as well as by his daily notebook. Having his teacher spend 15 hours (that she is therefore not spending in the classroom) demonstrating his progress in a one-size-fits-all "curriculum" that is entirely unrelated to his educational needs, so that some pencil-pusher can evaluate his portfolio and flunk him anyway, is a vapid exercise in bureaucratic hoop-jumping.
I write some variant of the previous sentence every year in the "parent comment" space of the MCAS acknowledgement I am required to sign. So far the state education commissioner doesn't seem to have taken any notice.
Any bets on what will happen this year?
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Melanie, I Love You
So I sent the fax, but I wasn't too hopeful. Imagine my shock, therefore, when I got a call this morning from Melanie, who told me that she had given my fax to the insurance coordinator, who had spoken with someone at Peter's, and I was all set. Although I thanked her, I fear I was too stunned to sound properly grateful. So, Melanie, if you're reading this — unlikely, I know, but stranger things have happened — you rock. This eye candy is for you.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
For the past year I've been under treatment for what I refer to as a plumbing problem. (I decline to bore you with the gory details, but if you want them, click here.) I've suffered from it for about 20 years. I'm lucky, sort of, in that it doesn't threaten my life, livelihood or mobility; it just hurts. A lot.
Or rather, it did. The treatment involves a highly restricted diet (no chocolate, coffee, cheese or tomatoes; no fruits except blueberries and pears; no pork; no vinegar -- do you have any idea how many condiments contain vinegar? -- and those are just the high points), a rigid schedule of fluid intake and outgo, four different medications, and biweekly visits to the doctor's office for additional treatment (it was one of these that kicked off the saga of Peter and Paul with which I regaled you the other day). All of which is an extremely royal pain in the neck, except for one thing: it's working.
At my first appointment a year ago I was asked how much pain I was in on a scale of 1 to 10, and I think I said about 3. Now that it's gone? It was at least a 5. I don't know how I lived with it all those years. I should say it's mostly gone: I'm down to 1, maybe 1/2 on good days, of which there are many. It's a minor nuisance, not a ball and chain.
I was spending a ton of energy keeping the pain at bay. Now that it's (mostly) gone, I feel like a leaf unfurling on a warm spring day. I'm not sure what I'll do with my newfound freedom yet; at the moment I'm just enjoying the sunshine.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Saving the Day
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The tale of woe I have to tell you, however, deals with an entirely different part of the donkey. When I went to the doctor last October, the provider, hereinafter Paul, duly billed amount A, and the PPO, hereinafter Peter, duly paid amount B, the contracted rate — but in this strange case amount B was more than twice amount A. You would think that Paul would chuckle happily to himself and I would hear no more about it, and in a rational world that could happen. To keep things balanced Paul books B minus A, which we will call C, as a charge from Peter. On one side of the ledger we have Peter's payment of the contracted rate, B, and on the other side we have A, the original billed amount, plus C, the additional amount paid by Peter. A plus C equals B, we have the same amount on both sides, everybody's happy, right?
Wrong. Somehow or other C got double-booked, and Paul is firmly convinced that I owe him that amount, no matter what I tell him. When I got the first bill I called Peter to verify that I in fact owed Paul amount C, and Peter of course told me no, I didn't, Peter had already paid Paul and I had no further responsibility. So I ignored the bill, on the theory that (as had happened in the past) Paul would eventually figure this out.
When I got a second bill I called Peter again, and he said he would send a letter to Paul, with a copy to me, asking him to stop billing me for amount C. Which indeed Peter did do, but, sadly, he listed the patient not as me but as my husband (who is the actual subscriber to the health plan). There are a bunch of numbers on the letter, all of which are Peter's internal numbers that he uses to keep track of me and my, or rather our family's, transactions. Paul of course uses a completely different set of numbers, so he had no way of knowing that this letter had anything to do with me.
So Paul sent me another bill, and I called Peter again. Peter is going to have someone call Paul. Naturally Peter and Paul each have one set of people who talk to patients and a whole different set of people who talk to each other, so it's not as simple as having the lovely woman I spoke with yesterday at Peter's turn around and call someone at Paul's: she has to file a request for a supervisor to do it instead. When and if Peter's and Paul's respective people actually speak and resolve the issue, we have to hope that they turn around and pass that news along to their respective people who can talk to me, or at least to the computer that sends out the bills.
Meanwhile, I have another appointment with Paul tomorrow, and I will take the letter with me and see if Paul's billing department has heard from Peter, and if not, whether I can convince someone there that since the amount, date of service, and subscriber number all match, the letter is in fact talking about me and the amount C that we have all come to know and love, even though it has my husband's name on it. (This plan of course assumes that Paul's billing department is located on the premises and not in some boiler room in East Oshkosh, which frankly wouldn't surprise me.)
Wish me luck.
UPDATE: It turns out that Paul's billing office is located off the hospital premises but just a couple of doors down. It also turns out that the billing people "don't see patients." Now that I've thought about it I wouldn't either, in their shoes, since if I did I'd have irate customers in my face from morning to night. So, since the person I spoke with in Peter's claims department on Monday told me that it could take up to 72 business hours for the supervisor to call Paul's billing people, I will call them tomorrow and see if anything has changed. I'm not holding my breath.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I think I would. I see a very bright line between what I may be called upon to do to meet others' expectations and who I am inside my own head — again, assuming that the expectation-meeting doesn't involve any behavior that I think is wrong, other than the minor sin of telling lies that don't hurt anyone. I can't decide if this makes me a bad person.
(I originally framed the question as having to profess a religion you don't believe, but that would be a very different question for anyone who, unlike me, already has a strong religious faith. So I'm going with Britney and bad hair.)
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
F is for Friends
How times have changed. I now belong to four knitting groups, not counting the one I never go to or the fact that knitting appears whenever two or more of us meet. So it wasn't much of a surprise that when Ruth announced that she was expecting, a plan for a baby blanket was soon afoot.
Since I volunteered to crochet the blanket together, I collected the squares: some were handed to me furtively, "quick, before she shows up," some appeared in my mailbox, and of course there were the two I made myself. It was awe-inspiring to watch it all come together.
At the top left is Jen's square, a mitered seed-stitch pattern. I think she held two yarns together to create the depth of color.
Anne makes the most gorgeous felted bags you've ever seen, complete with whimsical touches outside and satin lining inside, but, go figure, she was a bit nervous about trying lace. Not surprisingly, her feather and fan is splendid.
On the top right is my crocheted square. I don't think it's ever too early to start diversity training. The pattern is a very simple one, just a series of crochet stitches of different heights (height being the main distinguishing mark of the various basic crochet stitches) from the Ultimate Sourcebook of Knit and Crochet Stitches.
Directly below the crocheted square is Lauren's square. She adapted the heart pattern from another blanket she had made. Lauren is amazing: more about her in a minute.
Lynne's square is to the left of Lauren's, simple stockinette in soft and extremely pink Ultra Alpaca. It lights up the blanket the way Lynne lights up a room.
Next to Lynne's square and right below Jen's is Manise's, done in beautiful reversible knit and purl oblongs.
Amy's square is right below Manise's. I wish I'd taken a picture from a different angle so you could see this row better, because they're all great. Amy's is done in a knit-purl diamond pattern.
Dale's square also features hearts; she and Lauren managed to do two different and gorgeous heart patterns without ever talking about it. Serendipity is a wonderful thing.
Chris used another knit-purl diamond pattern, but her square is in variegated yarn with lots of pinks and purples in it. She managed to find a yarn that included pretty much every color in the blanket; this too was quite unplanned.
On the lower right is Kathleen's square, which I think might be Malabrigo. (Kathleen loooves Malabrigo. Well, don't we all?) It's very soft, anyway. The pattern is a knit-purl basketweave.
Liz designed a gorgeous cabled square. This is the back of it. Poor planning on my part, I know, but you can always scroll down.
And finally, my double-knit initial square. (In real life the blank space has an initial in it, but the WoolyBabe prefers to travel incognita.) We will not speak of how long it took me to realize that if you do an initial square in your basic reversible double knitting, the initials will be backwards on one side, unless you're doing something like MWM in block letters. Alas, the WoolyBabe was not considerate enough to have symmetrical initials, so I learned how to do nonreversible double knitting, that is different color patterns on the two faces. (It's really not that hard. Should you be desperately interested, check out the Ravelry double-knitting group, or ask and I'll try to explain it without sounding like a mistranslation from the Japanese.)
I mentioned that Lauren is amazing. She actually learned to crochet because she didn't want me to get stuck doing all of the edging and assembly. And a good thing, too, because, due to my gross underestimate of the time needed to put everything together, we were late for the baby shower as it was. Thanks, Lauren! I owe you one.
In fact, all of these women are pretty amazing, Ruth included, and I'm honored to share a blanket and a knitting group (or two or three) with them.
See you on the flip side, ladies.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
|FLUFFY '08PROTECT OUR CHILDREN|
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The Measure of Man
Since I, as a sensible way-out-of-shape person, was engaged in the former activity, I noticed that this conversion tool had a ton of different measurements to choose from. In addition to your basic statute mile, for example, you can convert to or from the ancient British mile (.9997 statute mile), Irish mile (1.273), international nautical mile (1.15), ancient Roman mile (.944), and so on. At that point I began to wonder about the smoot, and, sure enough, it's in the list.
If you live in the Boston area, especially if you work with engineers, I probably don't have to tell you what a smoot is. For the benefit of the rest of the world, in October 1958 an MIT freshman named Oliver Smoot was used by his fraternity brothers to measure the Mass. Ave. Bridge spanning the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston. The smoot marks, repainted each year by MIT students, have become enshrined in local lore and in the hearts of the Cambridge police, who use them to specify the location of accidents.
More fun smoot facts:
- The official length of a smoot is 5 feet, 7 inches. (That's US/international feet and inches. It turns out that there are various flavors of feet as well as miles.)
- I once worked on a project whose British-American chief engineer was so taken with the smoot that he made the software use it as the standard internal measurement to and from which all more commonplace measurements such as centimeters and inches were converted.
- The Robert B. Parker novel Early Autumn sets a confrontation on the bridge, so that Spenser, the first-person protagonist, can briefly explain the smoot and then say, a few paragraphs later, "There was another gunshot from five smoots away."
- Oliver Smoot is a former Chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and President of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Spring watch: still nothing.
But I live in hope.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Conan's Corner: Just Between We
I think the mistake comes from memories we all have of being corrected from saying "Me and Susan are going to the LYS." There's an easy way to tell which pronoun to use: take all the names out. Remove Susan from both sentences, and you have "
You will make Conan very happy.
And, speaking of happy people, Taz thanks you all for the kind birthday wishes.
He celebrated in style with ice cream with chocolate sauce and a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday."
*Conan cannot resist this opportunity to point out that no possessive pronoun ever contains an apostrophe.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Seven on Sunday
Bonus points for identifying which quote comes from the movie that no one got the first time around (I guess I was a little too obscure, heh, sorry about that).
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Another sky picture saved up for a rainy day, which today was: cold with a dusting of snow when I woke up, but warming up just enough to rain (fortunately) later in the day. Typical March New England weather, and the flowers will be the better for all the rain, at least so I keep telling myself.
I finished plying the BFL, and my first thought was to spin laceweight out of some gray/purple superwash merino, but it proved to be way too slippery for me to contend with. Maybe when I have something a bit easier under my belt I'll have enough laceweight mojo to try again. So I'm now working on laceweight from a Grafton Fibers batt in a purple-red mixture. The Woolee Winder has gotten very noisy all of a sudden, but the spinning is coming along nicely. Tomorrow's weather forecast is more of the same, so I'll keep myself warm with a Grafton sunset.
Friday, March 14, 2008
In Good Company
...because Taz is doing the same.
Taz loves his dad.
Wish him a good one, and pass the salt.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
That Which We Call a Shawl
It reminds me of the time my officemate and I, having received identical sets of Sharpie markers from a coworker as a Christmas gift (don't get me wrong, they were really nice pens), set about naming the colors; among our favorites were, as I recall, Pond Scum, Contusion, and Afterbirth. But again I digress.
It wasn't until I was reading today about Wendy's Diamonds With a Bunch of Crap in the Middle shawl (which is a lovely shawl that will soon have a more conventional name, unless a whole bunch of people vote for the original one) that I thought of creating a pattern-name generator. Take some adjectives like amethyst, cerulean, evening, midnight, moonlight, mistral, misty, mystic, starlit, sunrise, tidal, twilight, and mix and match at random with nouns like buttercup, interlude, lake, lilac, meadow, mountain, pansy, primrose, rose, serenade, sonata, valley, violet... you get the idea. Of course some combinations wouldn't work too well (mistral buttercup?), but you could always try again. I'm taking suggestions for adjectives and nouns; please be as creative and/or inappropriate as you wish.
Meanwhile, if it were spring, I would have things like this in my yard:
But it's not. Yet. I continue to wait, not very patiently.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The knitting equivalent of a little snack: five-inch squares for Cindy, for her ongoing Warming Grace project. Cindy and friends assemble the squares into blankets for kids with cancer, a worthy cause indeed. I can't knit just one.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I Believe I Can Ply
1. Pick 10 of your favorite movies.
2. Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie. (If you constantly quote movies at your spouse the way I do you don’t have to look them up…)
3. Post them on your blog for everyone to guess.
4. Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, and put who guessed it and the movie.
5. Looking them up is cheating, please don’t.
I've been having a lot of fun with this in my own OCD way (hence the lateness of the post, even for me). I tried to do well-known movies, but not to pick quotes so obvious that everyone would know them even if they hadn't seen the movie — although I think most of these are pretty easy. Here we go...
3. Yes, but we're divorced.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday dawned bright and chilly and blustery, and I went down the hill to the conservation land to see what the brook was doing.
The walkway that normally spans a boggy place had been rendered useless, so I walked down to the nearest bridge, wondering if it would be passable.
It was, but only just. All the little rocky islands were fully submerged.
As I stood there admiring the torrent, a flash of motion caught my eye.
There isn't a whole lot to go on here, I realize (click to embiggen), but does anyone know what kind of critter this is? Watching it move on land, I thought something weaselish. It can swim, and it doesn't seem to mind cold water.
The rocks at the end of the bridge that are normally high and dry had become a very small waterfall.
A whirlpool spun between the rocks.
This was as close as I ever got to my Thoughtful Spot. It's the biggish rock near the center of the picture; I'd never seen the path to it under more than a couple of inches of water, and I wasn't about to risk a chilly dip.
In the summer this will be a small stream meandering between forests of marsh grass. I once saw an owl in the big dead tree — and heard it, too. They can make quite a racket when they feel like it.
This tree seemed to be uninhabited. I wonder who used to live there.
I hope you enjoyed the nature walk, and that your feet are nice and dry. Mine got a bit damp, but it was worth it, especially as I didn't actually fall in.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Aha! In the nick (as it were) of time, I remember what Lobachevsky taught me: don't agonize, plagiarize!* I just had to answer interview questions for Miss B's "adolescence" class, so I will run this one up the flagpole and see who salutes it:
Do you think adolescence is harder now than when you went through it? Why or why not?
Maybe I'll have pix for you tomorrow.
*Props (but no yarn, sorry) to whoever can identify the cultural reference.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
I got a package from Roxie in the mail the other day. It was too hard and square to be yarn or fiber, but too light to be a book. My curiosity ran high as I slit open the wrapping.
People who don't even know each other are ganging up on me.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
To Boldly YO Where No YO Has Been Before
The first step is to figure out where the yo should have gone. Here my diamonds are nicely separated by yo's, except for the last two rows where I should have made the yellow thread a yo (a yo being merely a lifted running thread) and the green thread should have been a stitch worked into the yo.
To fix it, work to the stitch before the missing yo, then pass the right needle under the thread that should have been a yo...
and lift it up in front of the second (green) thread.
Then scoop the green thread up and through the yellow thread...
put the rescued st on the left needle, and proceed.
If the missing yo is several rows down, you will need to work it all the way back up to the current row as you would a dropped stitch.
If you're fixing just one missing yo, the work may be a bit tight at first, but it will readjust itself so that the fix won't be noticeable. If, however, you have two or more missing yo's near each other, you may need to rip back... unless you're lucky enough also to have missed a decrease, about which more later.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Monday, March 03, 2008
My folks, Miss B and I arrived at the concert in high spirits. The first thing we saw when we sat down puzzled us somewhat.
"Maybe a snack for intermission?" we speculated. But the mystery was soon cleared up.
Captain Vegetable! I didn't remember him from Sesame Street (he was after my sister's time and before my kids'), but other people did.
It is I, Captain Vegetable,
With my carrots and my celery,
Eating crunchy vegetables is good for me,
And it's good for you, so eat them too...
Grant got to work both sides of the street, in the "Shining Armor" hero category...
Sir Lancelot to the rescue!
C'est moi, c'est moi, I blush to disclose,
I'm far too noble to lie,
The man in whom these qualities bloom,
C'est moi, c'est moi, 'tis I.
...and in the "Fools, Frauds and Blowhards" villain category.
He sang his own setting of one of Mr. Toad's boasting songs from The Wind in the Willows.
The world has held great heroes
As history books have showed
But never a name to go down to fame
Compared with that of Toad!
In this reviewer's entirely unbiased opinion, the man was almost as brilliant as the lyrics proclaimed him to be.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
E is for Escape
The snow pushed us to hit the road sooner than we'd planned, so we arrived at my folks' late Friday afternoon, where we were greeted by the lovely Kitty B (and my folks, of course).
I got an Early start on things by Enabling Cece, whose new wheel wouldn't arrive until the following week, by lending her my Trad. Of course, smooth moves not being my style, I left the bobbins for it at my folks'.
This very kind vendor, whose name entirely eludes me, saved my amnesic butt. Here Cece returns the bobbin (I eventually retrieved mine for her) and shows off the gorgeous funky yarn she made.
There was spinning, and there were spinners, and there were all kinds of wheels. From left to right, Manise, Blogless Sharon, Carole, and Martha. That blue stuff on the chair in the foreground? That's the roving Cece gave me as a rental fee. You can borrow my wheel any time, Cece (should you for some reason become separated from your own newly arrived Matchless, which I got to see in action at spinning on Thursday).
A better look at Carole and her gorgeous Reeves. That's Dave's rainbow roving she's spinning.
And after the spinning... we went out to dinner.
We got to see Julia's beautiful nearly completed sweater.
Carole and Sharon toast the evening in style. Later, they all sang to me. I can't remember a better birthday, or a better Escape. I think I'll always celebrate my birthday at SPA from now on.
Even if SPA happens in July.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Saturday Sky: After the Storm
I hardly ever post a sky picture on the day I took it, but this is an exception. After a storm that left us with much less snow than forecast ended around noon, the sky got brighter as the day went on. Hardly any snow was left on the trees by sunset. Tomorrow is supposed to be much nicer, and warmer. High time, I say.
My parents came down today to accompany us to Grant's concert, in which he has two solos, one of his own composition. Excitement reigns. With luck I'll snag some pictures.