Sunday, April 30, 2006

End in Sight

It's getting to that point in my work year where I can see a clear end in sight. A huge milestone is that point (which happened last Wednesday) where no more testing happens for the current school year due to timeline restrictions. Other things happen around that time to make me realize that I have a lot to do in a short amount of time - standardized testing, transition meetings to ease preschool families in to elementary and elementary students to middle school, and a TON of meetings with parents and teachers to discuss various things. The bottom line is that it's a downhill slide until the last day of school and I have a wide range of feelings - apprehensive about those being transferred into my care, nervousness that I might forget to tie up ALL loose ends, relief that I will have the summer to relax and spend with my son, and sadness because of my students who are either moving away or moving on.

An end is also in sight for my time at my current job. I have promised to stay on one more year, then I will be partnering with my psychologist friend to start our business in psychoeducational testing and services. I had explored going back to college, but decided against it because of a few things. Let's face it, I'm not getting any younger and I'd be approaching 40 by the time I got my Ph.D.. Also, do I really need to get myself into yet more debt by taking out another student loan? At this point, I am happy that my friend and I are moving on with plans - she has been looking at office space to rent, we both are in the process of getting our professional licenses and liability insurance activated, and coming up with a detailed business plan so that we have a clear idea of what is needed to get started. Of course, it will be imperative that we use this year to make contacts and connections to start our networking. There is so much to think about, and I was afraid to start, but like H pointed out - what have I got to lose?

There has been a lot of things happen lately to cement what I already knew - that public education is a sinking ship. I won't be stuck on that boat. My frustration level has increased proportionately with the increasing number of pushy parents who are demanding far more than what is reasonable. It is also disheartening to see public opinion polls showing such a high disapproval rating for education, but such a low number of them willing to increase taxes in order to improve the system (because, I guess to them, money for educational improvements is supposed to fall from the sky). I realize why this happens - the public has no idea how much it costs to educate just one child. I don't think they realize where their current taxes are going and see wastefulness in the public school system. Another trend that is happening in our district, which I'm sure is not unusual in California, is that while our overall enrollment is decreasing, our special eduation numbers are increasing, which means that the costs go up because of special programming. Additionally, in states like California and Texas (border states), there is a high Hispanic population. Whether or not they are here legally, just as much money is spent on educating students of families who are here illegally (families that are not paying taxes to help the system from which they are receiving benefits). Add to that the fact that any kind of rational measures to curb the "high profile" parents' demands of a "Cadillac Education" costs way more in legal expenses than just giving in to their demands. With all of these factors, I don't see how the public school system can even maintain their current level of functioning - quality of education will decrease (not just because of higher caseloads, but because good educators will leave), funds will decrease, and these special cases and money spent on lawyers will continue to rise.

It's hard for me to leave a system like this in search for something better. Part of me feels guilty - that I didn't do enough to help instigate change. Then again, I am one person and I've always done the best job that I could for my students with the limited resources I've been given. But, that's not enough anymore. What it comes down to is that I need to be in a position where I feel like there is a real chance to impact people's lives. I'm looking forward to the chance to do just that.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Absence of Logic

I am not a patient person under normal circumstances - I have patience when it's required (like at work), but it's not my natural tendency. I have even less patience when I deal with people who appear to have abandoned logic. A little background info - I am applying for my SLP license in California so that I can either work for a private clinic or start my own business. The website for the SLP and Audiology Board has been helpful in outlining the requirements for this: a completed application, a LiveScan/Fingerprints so that my criminal history can be determined, a passport photograph, a "Verification of Required Professional Experience", Verification of Certification letter from ASHA (the American Speech Language and Hearing Association), my Praxis scores sent, $60 dollars, and my left kidney (just joking!). A few of the things make sense - like the application and the fee. However, I have my Certificate of Clinical Competence from ASHA, which requires me to have passed the Praxis exam, and complete CFY with a certain amount of supervisions by my lead SLP (and various other items which I won't bore you with). Now, a smart person would deduce that, if an SLP has her C's and has been practicing for 7 years, that my professional experience, my criminal history, and my CFY documentation of certification have already been established. However, after a whole morning on the phone with both the California SLP Board and ASHA proves otherwise. I am informed by the "powers that be" in Sacramento that they have "much higher standards" than ASHA and that, if I don't have the required 8 hours per month of CFY supervision documented, that I will have to make that up. She also says that it's never been brought up as an issue before. That means a couple of things might be happening - that all the SLP's who apply for their state licensure have had the required amount of supervision from their CFY experience (even those who completed this 20+ years ago when standards might have been different) OR that CFY supervisors are simply signing off on these "verification" forms in order to jump through the proverbial hoops. When I question both organizations, I am spoken to rudely - ASHA says that they won't advocate for California based SLP's who are trying to get their licensure, and the California SLP board will not budge on their "higher standards". Now, normally I'm not a proponent of "lower standards", but I have to wonder in this instance, how 6 more hours (which is what I might be short because of following the National SLP standards) of supervision is going to help to make sure that I truly am qualified to hold a California license. In my seven years, I've never received a sub-par evaluation - in fact they have been at or above average in all areas. I've never committed any crimes, which can be verified through the gazillion FBI and fingerprinting that I've paid for several times over the past several years. I even passed the exams in order to be deemed worthy by the National Board to provide speech therapy. So I am left to wonder - just exactly where is the logic in determining the "higher standards" that California has in the SLP licensure requirements. Grrr!!!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Who Doesn't Love Pooh?

These are some pictures from my newest quilt that I just finished - it's called "drag-a-rag" and it's a lot of fun. It's also a lot of work - not only do you do a TON of cutting of 5 inch squares (there are 11 rows of 11 squares of three fabric thickness - for the front, filling, and back), but it takes quite a while to make all the uniform 1/4 inch cuts along the seams that are on the front of the blanket. Luckily, I actually listened to my mom's advice and invested in some spring loaded "snippers", which is probably the only reason my hand hasn't fallen off by now. I was proud of myself because I had to do a couple of things with my sewing machine that I haven't done before - install the second thread holder, install and use the double needle, and thread the double needle correctly in order to finish the border. I did all of this without breaking my machine or any related parts and without ripping my hair out or cursing too horribly. My advice to anyone who is going to try this type of quilt is to pay close attention to the fabric you're buying. If it says "flannel", don't substitute fleece because it doesn't "rag" as well. Don't make the cuts too close to the seams, lest it fall apart in the washing and drying process. Also, for your focus fabric that goes down the center, don't pick too big of a pattern, otherwise it will not look quite right (please refer to the picture of Piglet's head with the rest of his body cut off). Other than that, have a blast picking out material and don't worry about what it will look like in the end - it will turn out cuter than you think it will (I wasn't sure about how mine would look when I was in the process of laying out the squares).

Sunday, April 16, 2006

More Scorpions

This is the umpteenth time I've had a dream involving scorpions, but I've not had that many lately. Scorpions scare the crap out of me, even though I've never lived in places where I've had to worry about them. I've never been stung by one or in any other way traumatized by them. In my dream last night, I was living in the house I grew up in from fourth grade until graduation, but there were slight modifications to the house. The dream started with me waking up in bed to see a scorpion crawl across my hardwood floor (in reality, it was a carpet floor) towards my bed. Rather, I didn't see it at first, I heard the very distinct clicking sounds that it made as it crawled, then I saw it. Someone I didn't know was at my door coaching me on how to get out of the room without being stung and without being detected by the scorpion. However, once I was able to get out of my room, the living room was crawling with them. Finally, a piece of chicken was thrown on the floor to attract them to a central area. I was able to sneak downstairs and found my brothers playing happily with toys amidst the commotion and almost certain death that was awaiting us upstairs. Slowly, I crept back up the stairs and made a pot of coffee for the man who would come and get rid of these nasty creatures. The coffee turned out very weak, so I had to pour it down the drain and try again. The man finally approached our house up the walkway (which, in actuality, was the walkway of my grandparent's house) and came in the house to take care of our scorpion problem. But before he would begin, he sat down on our couch and had a leisurely cup of joe first. Just as he began to crush the scorpions, one managed to sneak away from the chicken and came up and was about to bite me on my ankle. Then, I woke up.

Dream interpretation from this website says that I need to be mindful of a situation that can inflict pain on me (that's the scorpion part). The coffee can apparently connote several different things - that I'm in need of stimulation, that I need to "wake up and smell the coffee", or simply that I seek communion or socialization. Another site says that the scorpion is a sign of destructive feelings, thoughts, or words against me and that the coffee represents a need to slow down. Yet another site says that the scorpion is a symbol of death and rebirth - out with the old and in with the new, and that the coffee represents a need to gain insight about something before making a decision.

Do I think there's anything to this? Partly, but I also checked for bedbugs in my sheets as soon as I woke up!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Like the Rest of Me, My Brain is Aging

This is what I have recently realized from playing a Nintendo DS game called "Brain Age" that a friend lent to us. It should not be much of a shock that my brain is "old", but it was because my daily work requires a lot of mental energy. It seems like I'm always thinking of how to say things the right way, doing calculations in my head to see accuracy levels at which my students perform certain tasks, and memorize names and numbers and important dates.

Let me just say that, even though some of the dialogue on this brain game is corny, I really enjoy the game itself. It has different daily activities and tips that are meant to "improve your brain age" - like doing calculations, reading passages aloud as quickly as you can, and remembering lists of words. I'm very quick with my calculations, and my word memory skills are good also. One of the things I have the most trouble with are the drawings. The doctor on the game will randomly tell me to draw three different things, and I never know what they will be.

This is my version of "the thinker". Don't ask me why, but when I draw people, the men all have hair that stick up. This is an improvement over my drawings I do for my kids at school - those are all stick figures.

This is my depiction of the Statue of Liberty. I guess I forgot to put hair on her - minor detail. Also, it looks like the torch is just a mechanical extension of her left arm, much like "The Terminator".

This is my anchor, and to date, the most accurate picture I've drawn.
Notice the sleek lines of this race car that are very similar to the Pacer of the 1970's.

Last, but not least, this is Mona Lisa. Upon further reflection, she looks more like Lucy from The Peanuts.

You can see that I still have a ways to go on my artistic skill, but thank goodness I can accurately count syllables of whimsical phrases and sentences!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Do You Know the Way to Monterey?

Since we didn't know what the weather would be like in our neck of the woods, we decided to make the almost-two-hour drive to Monterey. I'm certainly glad we did, and I can't wait to go back there this summer to look around more. They have a great beach and several shops along the water where you can enjoy the view. There is even a Ghirardelli shop where you can enjoy a root beer float while sitting on the deck watching the people play in the water!

No trip to Monterey would be complete without seeing the Aquarium. I wasn't sure what to expect, other than that friends had said that this was well worth the visit. This is the closest thing I saw to a killer whale. I liked the decorations they had and the Monterey Aquarium had more on display than the one in Seattle, but I didn't get to see any otters, which was a bit disappointing.
One of the prettiest parts was where they housed the tropical fish - I love how colorful they are and, if the place wasn't so packed with people, I'd have liked to stay longer and just look.

I wasn't sure how I felt about the penguins - they looked out of their element and I couldn't help but feel sorry for them that they were locked up for our amusement. Just like when I visit the zoo, I go between really enjoying seeing the animals and feeling guilty that they are in captivity.

The prettiest fish there were the jellyfish - they had quite a few varieties. This was the best picture that I took - it was quite difficult to get a decent shot. My favorite jellyfish were the very tiny ones that are transparent and look like little light bulbs. Maybe I think they are pretty because I've never been stung by one.

This was the most unique display - it housed a bunch of old signs and household items (like a hairdryer from the 60's) along with the normal seaweed and such. Here is a fish poking his head out of the bottle that I hope he's not stuck in.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day. I would say that visiting Monterey is worth while, even without a trip to the aquarium, especially if you like the ocean and window shopping. My next visit here, I plan to either do some more shopping and looking around in the historic downtown area or go on a day fishing trip to see what I can catch.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Game Review: Guitar Hero for PS2

So my son is visiting for a week because he is on his spring break. Unfortunately, it has not coincided with my spring break, so I've been working most of the time he's here. Because of this, I went and splurged on something I thought he'd enjoy, although I thought it would be lame - Guitar Hero on PS2. The game comes with one "guitar" with five buttons to represent the chords and a plastic switch to simulate "strumming". It even has a whammy bar to distort some of the sounds while you play your favorite songs. The guitar and the game are in a package and cost about $70 at Best Buy.

I like how the game starts out - there are some basic characters to choose from and some basic guitar styles to choose. You have a few songs to play until you "unlock" other songs from getting high scores on the beginning ones. As you progress, you can also unlock other cooler looking guitars and change their appearances. The game play itself reminds me of DDR because, on the screen is a band and the song starts playing and the buttons you're supposed to press on the guitar come flashing on the screen towards you. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! The only songs I can play thus far are "I Love Rock and Roll" by Joan Jett, "More Than A Feeling" by Boston, and "Ziggy Stardust" by David Bowie. Whenever I try to play "Sharp Dressed Man", I screw up about halfway through the song. Meanwhile, K has mastered much more difficult songs like "Iron Man" and "Bark at the Moon". With each new level unlocks five more songs, which are pretty good, I think. K has complained that there are no Metallica songs on there, but seems happy with the other songs. They have a good mix - from guitar legends like Jimi Hendrix and even newer bands like Incubus.

After each song you play, you get a rating - so many stars out of five - and a quick blurb in a newspaper-like background giving a review of your performance. You also get "points" for each song, which kind of gives you an indicator of whether or not you're ready to move on to the next difficulty level. Bottom line is that I thought K would lose interest in it during this week, which hasn't happened. The game is pretty well designed and fun for even me to play. If you want to have more fun, you can buy a second guitar and battle it out with friends.

My review: Nine out of ten dancing feet, even if you're not a guitar hero already.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Movie Review: V for Vendetta

This film is very interesting, to say the least. I hadn't read any information on it before seeing it, but just decided to go since there are not that many other decent movies out right now. First of all, I think Natalie Portman did a decent job portraying her character - she was much better than in the Star Wars Episode films. I don't know the person who played "V", but he was good also. The person they got to play the Chancellor was good because he had horrible teeth (think along the lines of Steve Buscemi, whose teeth always freak me out), which is the halmark of a lunatic-dictator-type person. There may have been other things about him that were disturbing (like his over-dilated pupils and wild hair), but they took a backseat to his choppers.

The basic premise is that this man, V, was an unwilling participant in a study done years ago that killed of most of the "participants". He remained strong enough to resist the disease they injected him with, and managed to escape in a fire most likely started by him. Badly disfigured and pissed off (rightly so), at the government, he launches his attack on the British Parliament with the help of Evie (Portman). At first, it was difficult to understand why Evie went along with V, but the film does a decent job of explaining about Evie's politically-inclined family who were most likely killed for expressing their views against the British government. Also, the movie does a nice job of linking the press to the government, which seems to be an obvious link in most countries around the world. I won't give away much more of the plot, but in the end, the message is that we, the people, need to have hope and feel empowered not to just "bend over and take it" from our goverments.

I'd give this film 8 out of 10 dancing feet, but please don't take the little kiddies. Like usual, I was dismayed at the number of parents bringing babies and young children to a film like this - there was a bit of blood and killing that would be enough to scare the shit out of the little ones. Bottom line: take your hunny, but get a sitter.