SL 707

It’s Demo Day here in Apt. 11D. I have an autistic kid who is freaking out about the mess and the change. “IT’S RUINED! MY HOUSE IS RUINED!” And there are waves of dust slipping around the useless sheets of plastic barriers. My head cold is two steps away from a sinus infection. How come my Demo Day isn’t the joyful event that happens on “Fixer Upper?”

The #MeToo movement reaches its hand back in time to get Clarence Thomas.

Really interesting commentary on assault weapons from an army veteran.

I saw Black Panther this weekend and was a little disappointed. It was boring. I fell asleep.

I’m all about black and natural accents in this new kitchen.


Is Florida’s School Shooting a Failure of Schools?

Today we’re going to hear a lot of punditry responding to the latest horrific school shooting in Florida. Some may have even had their articles written even before this happened and are just plugging in the new details. The school shooting happened because there were too many guns. The school shooting happened because there are crazy people out there who should be locked up.  The school shooting happened because of cell phones.

I have to admit that I checked to see if the shooter displayed any autistic symptoms, bracing myself for the inevitable witch hunt against autistic people.

There is nothing wrong with those sentiments, except maybe the cellphone explanation and the criminalization of mental illness. Let me add another wrinkle. Let’s talk about how schools handle kids with behavior problems.

Schools handle behavior problems by either expelling the students, placing them in horrible private programs with other kids with behavior problems, or ignoring the issue all together. Students with behavior problems are supposed to be handled with the same care and support that schools offer kids like my son who has autism.

Yes, I’ve complained about special education many times on this blog and in IRL. They could be doing much better in that regard, but if you know the system, special ed students can get what they need. Kids with behavioral issues do not have those same legal protections.

It’s obvious what kids like that need. They need therapy, medication, follow through at home, and a structured school environment.

All that costs money. And like special education, schools try to get the private insurance companies to cover those costs. Private insurance companies want schools to pick up the tab. Unless there is a parent who devotes their life to demanding help from both of those entities, nothing happens.

We can get rid of guns, but we also need to support students with behavior and/or mental health issues.

SL 706

I’m in between articles. I have one article that is still sitting on an editor’s desk waiting for edits, but I haven’t heard anything about it. I have a long term project that needs some attention. But nothing urgent. So, I’m surfing around this week and getting my ducks in line at home and with the kids.

Ian is kicking ass in his engineering class at school, so I’m signing him for computer camps this summer. The computer industry is reaching out to the autistic community more and more, because of their coding mad skillz. I think that is a realistic career plan for Ian in the future.

To get him there, we really need to bring up his reading skills. So, I’ve been reading up on the research and hiring tutors. Did you know that 2/3rds of American kids are not on grade level for reading? Ian has hyperlexia, so he’s great at phonics. His trouble is with reading comprehension, because his language skills are low. So, every day, we read with Ian and break down the text paragraph by paragraph, pull out the idiomatic expressions, discuss the passage, help paint the picture in his head of the story, and then discuss the emotions of the characters. Wish this happened at school, but it doesn’t.

This guy writes this same article every year. FWIW, the Atlantic does a lot of articles about community college. I made a point of discussing the pros and cons of textbooks and technology for the community college student just last month. Eye roll.

Funny review of “Fifty Shades Freed”.

Lots of chatter about Andrew Sullivan’s article this week.


Last night, as we were driving back from an exercise class for special needs kids at the Y, I noticed that Ian looked very serious and was tugging on his hair.

“What’s up, Ian? Why do you look so serious? What’s the matter?”

“I have some concerneries.”

“Concerneries? What’s that? Oh, you mean that you have concerns or worries. Okay, what are you worried about?”

“When is the world going to end?”

“Oh, not for a very long time. The scientists keep an eye on these sorts of things and they tell us that we’re safe.”

“Is North Korea going to nuke us?”

“No. Their bombs kind of suck. They blast off and then plop in the water.”

“You mean they’re bootleg?”

“Fake, you mean? No, they’re real, just not very good. And if they do get good at making bombs, then China, Russia, and the US will march in and take them away from them.”

“Are the terrorists going to invade?”

“No. There aren’t very many of them, and they’re mostly just crazy. They do random stuff instead. The CIA is keeping an eye on them and putting them all in jail.”

“Are the aliens going to invade?”

“No. There are no such things as aliens.”

“Yes there are. They in New Mexico.”

[Note to self: tell Steve to stop watching X Files with Ian.]

“That’s just a myth.”

“Is Earth going to get hit by a meteor?”

IMG_4833.jpgNo, because the scientists are keeping a very close on the skies with powerful telescopes, and they tell us that the coast is clear. And if one does get close, then they’ll shoot it with a nuclear weapon, so it explodes before it hits the earth.”

“You mean it will explode in the sky like fireworks on the Fourth of July? Hey, that rhymes!”

By then we had pulled in the driveway, and he was racing into the house to go back to editing his computer games. (What does that mean? I don’t know. He watched some videos on YouTube about it and he messes around with the code. It’s pretty cool.)

So, I have some concerneries. I’m concerned that South Africa is running out of drinking water. I’m worried about the impact of online porn on teenagers. It freaks me out that we’re growing immune to Donald Trump’s insanity. I’m worried that there won’t be job opportunities for my kid, who is disabled and super smart at the same time.

But the mixture of truth, white lies, and outright falsehoods that calmed Ian from his concerneries won’t work with me. Good thing there’s wine.

When Work is Done

I’m done. Poke me with a fork. Finished.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I did a rush-job article for the Atlantic, which basically involved siting at my desk for 24 hours straight. Some of the time was spent writing. Other time was spent waiting for edits, responding to edits, and fact checking. But all it involved lots of seat time and screen time. And then there was dealing with the response to the article on social media and compulsively checking to see where I was on their “most popular” list. I peaked at number two. Woot.

I was just happy that I had the opportunity to use the word “wanker” in an article.

While all that was going on, I did two interviews for a possible article on Newark Public Schools. So, lots of work. I’ve decided to cool it for the rest of the week, and just do mom and house stuff.

We’re starting work on a new kitchen and family room in two weeks. It’s official now. Two weeks. So, now I’m selling off some of old stuff on Craig’s List. The old wood burning stove went for $250 to some Russians who came in from Brooklyn to pick it up. That sold pretty quickly. I was surprised. It’s from the 1980s and had a little rust on the top. But it went quickly. I want to see if I can unload our old dishwasher next.

I picked out most of the items that we need, but haven’t bought them yet. We’ll do that this Saturday. We’re doing wood-grained tile on the floor, white subway tile on the backsplash, grey quartz countertop for part of the room, butcher block on the other side of the room, and black knobs and pulls. It’s a basic farmhouse kitchen, nothing fancy or original. I just need a change from the dark, dirty, and increasingly broken kitchen that we have right now.

The family room is just getting reorganized and cleaned up. We’ll get a newer wood-burning stove, because Steve is a pyro.

I’m in super-girlie mode now, after two or three weeks of non-stop work. I’m getting a manicure tomorrow, for sure. I went out shopping and lunching with my sister this afternoon and picked up some fun things at William Sonoma — Chilewich placemats, a new meat thermometer, and some new utensils. Then we drove over to the new Wegman’s to explore. Yes, checking out a new supermarket is super weird suburban mom fun. Don’t judge.

I’m going to continue the girlie vacation tomorrow with a spin class, trips to Ann Taylor to check out this dress and Target for these purses, time with Lightroom to fiddle with my photographs, and lots of pop culture reading (check out this interview with Quincy Jones).

How Hard Do Professors Actually Work?

If there were a “10 Things That Piss Academics Off the Most” list, ranking near the top would be the perception that academic life is easy and relaxing. Professors get annoyed at having to explain to their neighbors and family members that their work extends far beyond the lecture hall—and far beyond the seven-month-or-so academic year. They might be seen walking their dog in the middle of the day, but chances are they’re going back home to grade papers or prepare a seminar discussion or conduct research.

Despite broad consensus among professors that their job isn’t for slackers, they tend to disagree, primarily among themselves, about exactly how hard they work. While some scholars say they maintain a traditional 40-hour workweek, others contend they have a superhuman workload. Take Philip Guo, an assistant cognitive-science professor at University of California, San Diego, who on his blog estimated that in 2014 he spent 15 hours per week teaching, between 18 hours and 25 hours on research, four hours at meetings with students, between three hours and six hours doing service work, and between 5 hours and 10 hours at “random-ass meetings (RAM).” That amounts to as many as 60 hours per week—which, he noted, pales in comparison to the 70 hours he worked on average weekly as an undergraduate student at MIT.

America’s higher-education system is under increased scrutiny largely because of rising tuition costs and ballooning student debt; concerns about liberal indoctrination on college campuses, which are subsidized by taxpayer dollars, have also started to bubble up. People want to know where their tuition and tax money is going—are professors working hard for that money?

More here

When To Walk Away

One of my worst character traits is that I am unable to stop persuading people that I am right about something and that they should like me. When people disagree with me, I think that I simply haven’t explained things well and if I only just explain again using better words, they will see the logic of my argument and want to be my best friend.

This sort of reasoning often leads to one’s head banging up against a brick wall.  Unpleasant, indeed. I had two instances like that yesterday. I’ll tell you about one.

So, the school district commissioned a report on the special education system in town and found it lacking. After living in this town for six years, I have 100s of anecdotes from our own experiences or others that go beyond the scope of the report. Let’s just say that there are kids in dark places in the school building who are being babysat and not taught.

Now, my kid isn’t one of those kids. He’s in a really nice school. Whatever that other school doesn’t provide, I do. I hire tutors. I drive him to activities. I connect with other parents to find the best programs for him. I would like the district to provide him with extra reading help and after school activities, but in the whole scope of things, he’s okay.

So, while my kid is fine, others aren’t. So, I keep opening my mouth and complaining at school board meetings in front of cameras. That doesn’t make me popular with local school leaders. And it doesn’t benefit my kid. I really need to stop talking, but I can’t. Incompetence and inequity drives me crazy. Like I said, it’s a character flaw.

Alright, let me hint at problem number two that led to further head banging yesterday. So, I have a good story about an urban school district. I know it’s a good story, but I’m having a hard time convincing other people that it’s a good story.

One of the issues, I think, is that it is about urban schools. So, I’ve been writing about education for six years now. If I write about middle class suburban parent issues — School sports: Good or Bad? School Report Cards Suck: A Plan to Get Rid of Them — I get lots of hits and links on Facebook. If I write about city schools, there are crickets. No love whatsoever.

Why don’t people care about city schools and the millions of children that are educated there? I suppose it’s for the same reason that it took so long for people to care about the lead in the water in Flint, Michigan. Those kids look different from the middle class people, who read the articles in the magazines that I write for. They are far away. Their problems are different. And their problems seem too monumental to change. People don’t want to read sad stuff.

But I’m really committed to telling this story about city kids, so I’m going to do a little PT Barnum on it and keep selling and selling and selling. Because that’s what I do.