On my sudden “fame”…

Lloyd Dobler, the anti-hero of all teenage girls in the 90's.  Photo: IMDB

Lloyd Dobler, the anti-hero of all teenage girls in the 90’s. Photo: IMDB

I was totally humbled and honored when my friend and fellow blogger, K.C. Wise, nominated my post on #HowIMetYourRacism for Freshly Pressed…and yesterday it appeared in a jumble of posts and comments and follows that instantly derailed my productivity and introduce me to the larger WordPress community.

Wow.  Thank you.  Thank you!  and you!  and you!

Now, for those who know me personally, I am one who gets star-struck when I see celebrities among us.  Like the time Mark Wahlberg was working out at my gym, and he walked down the stairs, and I thought, “hey, that looks an awful lot like—” and then he said, “Hello”, and all I could say in response was “uh-huh-huh-huh.”  It’s like that.

I realize that being Freshly Pressed does not make me THAT kind of a celebrity, but I am so grateful to have thoughtful comments on my blog, to interact with new people, and to discover and follow more voices in the people who have followed my blog.  Thank you to all who stopped by to read and I hope that you’ll stay to learn more about me or tell me something about yourself.

I hope that my future posts are valuable to discussion as well, but I can’t promise pithy-ness at every turn, since I am fairly entertained by the mundane and shallow that is out there as well.  (There is a Taylor Swift post somewhere in the works, and it’s probably not going to be what you think.)  All this attention on my words makes me think of my favorite movie of all time, Say Anything, starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a GREAT one to Netflix on this snowy day.

I don’t know, I can’t figure it all out tonight sir, I’m going to hang with your daughter. 

Not gonna figure it all out tonight.  Just gonna hang with…you guys.  

Standards-Based Grading: Beyond the Common Core

There’s more of a post here someday about how teaching is project management and how all these teaching skills are transferable and overlooked, but for now, here’s a little about what I USED to do, via Gradeable.

Higher Order Teaching

sbg beyond the core

For most of the month, we’ve been talking about standards-based grading in terms of the Common Core’s set of standards. But the Common Core State Standards are only one set of standards to be graded to. To illustrate another take on standards-based grading, I talked to our customer success manager Sheri. Sheri taught science at a Boston-area charter school and used both Massachusetts standards and school-specific standards.

Below is what Sheri calls a curriculum alignment template (CAT). This is a chart she developed as a roadmap in August before the school year started. Since Sheri’s school used both Massachusetts and school-specific standards, her plan used state standards to orient the lesson and school-specific standards to fine tune her approach. So if the Massachusetts standard was “grocery shopping,” Sheri’s standards would be like buying “milk, eggs, bread” that define grocery shopping.

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 10.37.23 AM

If you turn your attention to the CAT, you can…

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#HowIMetYourRacism and the disappointing reality of ignorance

Apparently this passes as OK for primetime TV.  Photo: CBS.

Apparently this passes as OK for primetime TV. Photo: CBS.

What happened, and how I feel about what happened

For those who don’t do entertainment news, or watch TV, here’s the summary.  The sitcom, How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM), starring some of my fave actors (including Neil Patrick Harris and Allyson Hannigan), produced an episode as an “homage” to kung-fu movies.  In “yellowface.” With white actors and kimonos and fans and fu manchus.

When I saw the news on this piece, I felt my stomach drop, because I knew, KNEW, that I was going to be disappointed by ignorant people.  I was not disappointed about being disappointed.

Here are my thoughts on this in a jumble:

  • You know, I DO do race jokes.  I do think that they come up in settings that are not offensive.  Jokes can be insight into cultural truths.  And let’s face it, Asian culture can be so funny.  (See this Asian dad.  My own dad is NOT like this at all, but I still think the caricature is accurate and funny.)
  • Yellowface and kung-fu parody is NOT an homage to Asian culture, and it does not inform any real cultural truths.  It’s not humor to write in bit parts about uninformed stereotypes of black/African-American people (yes, both terms, some prefer one or the other) in blackface, and it’s not humor to be just shy of taping some slanty eyes and using a heavy Asian accent when white actors lampoon Asians.  There is definitely more to be said about the Asian portrayal in media in general, but that’s for a different post.
  • The writers of the show did apologize, and I accept that apology on behalf of myself.  No, it’s not possible to always know what you’re doing will be horribly offensive.  It should not ruin you forever.  (Unless you are the former CEO of Lululemon.  As Colbert puts it, “hirarious.“)
  • The media is equally disappointing with their headlines of “racism claims” (thanks CBS News and Entertainment Weekly), and “people up in arms” (thanks CNN). This backlash is not imagined and it’s not overreaction, but thank you for your amazing journalism that is perpetuating this problem.  I’m sorry you’re not sorry.
  • The most disappointing part is that the episode had to be implicitly approved by MANY MANY people before it got made and aired.  This means large numbers of people were aware that this could possibly be really offensive…and still okayed it.  Neil Patrick Harris had to OK it.  Allyson Hannigan had to OK it.  The writers and producers and all other actors thought it was OK.
  • This is most disappointing because it really highlights the pervasiveness of this sentiment that it’s “just a joke.”  Oh hey, btw, my life and my experience has not all been A+ and piano competitions, and my experiences are not “just” a joke.  OK, maybe it has been a bunch of A+’s and piano competitions.  And that’s funny.  But the joke is definitely so much more complex.

Now here’s something that will certainly get me some shit.  I don’t watch HIMYM.  I was going to start, because I got the DVD set as a gift.  I’ve seen a few episodes, and they were funny.  And you know what, since I didn’t find those episodes particularly offensive, I acknowledge that I too am part of the broken system.

I am not perfect, and I say offensive ignorant things.  Usually, they stay with me for years, and I can’t get over how offensive they are and why they ever left my mouth.  I once tried to join a conversation with a Peruvian girl from my MBA class by talking about these great pupusas I had recently eaten.  Which are Salvadorian.  And she looked at me like I was the dumbest piece of crap ever.  What I meant to say was that the restaurant I went to also had Peruvian dishes.  It was way too late to recover from that, so instead I just shut up and melted into the ground.  I remember the incident every single time that she is tagged in friends’ Facebook posts.

But I learn.  And this takes me to the examples of people who are NOT LEARNING.  As a teacher, this infuriates me.

What “non-other” people said

As you may have seen, the website Public Shaming does a lot to highlight the terrible things that are said on Twitter. I’m a little surprised and disappointed that this topic has not hit their radar.  There are positive tweets, and there are people learning from this.  There is much discussion that wasn’t there before (even as of last night at 7PM).

Why am I sharing these negative tweets and opening myself up to flaming attacks?  Because they hurt me.  Personally.  Because people are not learning, they are just accepting that Santa Claus is white.  (Because he just is.  And because I feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean that things have to change.)

A few ground rules that would really help me out:

  1. Please do not flame or engage with these people on Twitter.  It’s not going to help them learn.  They will learn when they’re ready to learn.
  2. Don’t flame me for being personally hurt.  Engage me in conversation to help me learn.

I don’t understand how I am a racist for not thinking that kimonos and kung fu even start to describe my entire culture.  Or, as I tweeted yesterday, culture-S.  We are not one culture.  We are many cultures.  Also…I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Why yes, I cried at home over how mean CBS was.  Mean mean mean!  I’m going to tell my mommy!  Then kung-fu everyone!

Let me grow some balls now, because balls will make me more relevant.

OK, we’re not the MOST oppressed people.  Hey Asians, let’s go out and pick on those who are more oppressed than us!  (Also, jealous much of our “success?”) UPDATED to add:  He’s a burgeoning “comedian”, according to his Twitter profile.  I hope he doesn’t use these jokes.


Actually this is 100% why I don’t watch Big Bang Theory.  Because it’s not smart, and it doesn’t actually say anything about smart people that pushes the envelope of cultural truth.

Nope, not offended by Kill Bill.  Now THAT was an homage.

Um, YES.  We are ALREADY saying that.  Which didn’t stop me from being shocked when I drove up to the drive-thru window of the Dunkin’ Donuts on Thanksgiving day to see all the girls serving coffee with paper feathers and headbands with the Dunkin Donuts logo.  Oh…my…god…justdriveawaywiththecoffee…

That’s the LAST STRAW.  Now you’re making fun of us because we’re short?!?!

Thanks for listening, and hopefully learning.  You don’t need to tiptoe around me with race jokes.  Race jokes and racist jokes are different. Above all things, know your audience.  (And that is definitely a different post for a different day.)

Tracy, I don’t know how to say this…

Well, now we know what we’re dealing with.

In December, my nurse practitioner told me I was required to attend this “wellness” series on diabetes management—and so they signed me up for 4 two-hour classes on Wednesdays in January.  Since I’m such a perennial rule-follower, I put them into my calendar and grouchily prepared to attend the class without really thinking, “how can they REQUIRE me to attend?  Are they going to stop treating me if I refuse to attend these classes? Are there even consequences to disobedience?”  Nope.  None of those questions really popped into my head.  What a dumb goody-goody I am.

Truthfully, I haven’t really come to terms with my diabetes “diagnosis”, which has morphed over the last 8+ years from “you’re pre-diabetic, and we should monitor this” to full-blown Type II diabetes at some unknown point.  It’s like an addiction cliché of not taking that first step and admitting that I have a problem. I faithfully take medication, sporadically go through exercise phases…and do very little to nothing about my diet.  I don’t monitor my blood glucose partially because I hate finger sticks and the sight of my own blood, and partially because blood glucose monitoring is for people who have diabetes, and nope nope nope, that’s definitely not me.

Well, since one of the class rules was “Vegas rules” (what is discussed in class stays in class), I assume that blogging about this violates the rules. Clearly, I won’t be divulging anyone else’s medical history here on my blog.  I am going to declare that all other ridiculousness is fair game, though.  Here goes me, taking that first step on the road to recovery.

So last night I went to my first class, and I’d been dreading it this entire week.  I had been making sales calls all day at work, which is pretty much my worst nightmare, yet I would have rather stayed and made more cold sales calls rather than attending this class.

When I got there, it was immediately worse than I thought. Instead of the “wellness management” that was advertised to me, there was a large handwritten sign saying: LIVING WITH DIABETES.  All caps. No pretense, just spelled out in half-dried-out EXPO marker on chart paper. Even more appalling when I entered the room—there were only TWO OF US in the class, and TWO instructors, meaning that my plan to refuse to participate and knit quietly in the back of the classroom was completely thrown out the window.  At that point, I really just wanted to die(abetes).

Before I go on with my critique of the diabetes management curriculum, I will say that the two instructors and my classmate were extremely lovely and encouraging and positive, which was good, because it meant that I wanted to cry less than that first moment that I walked into the room.

"Oh, they think, 'this is candy, we're having fun!'"

“Oh, they think, ‘this is candy, we’re having fun!'”

The entire lesson plan of the two-hour class basically centered around a map taped to the table, with a title something like “Diabetes: A Conversation Map”, probably with the hopes of transforming the learning into an interactive and exciting game-like experience.  The worst part of this were the number of “Myth vs. Fact” cards which I got incorrect.  This irked both the Asian and the teacher parts of my persona.  Wrong answers?  Inconcieveable!  AND, the cards were totally leading and ambiguously worded at best, with gems similar to the following:

  • Diabetes is caused by problems with blood glucose.  (Answer: myth – it’s a problem with insulin.  That is semantics, people!  Insanity!)
  • Insulin causes complications (Answer: myth – apparently it’s the blood glucose that causes the complications.  MORE SEMANTICS!)
  • People with diabetes can eat whatever they want, especially carbs (Answer: fact.  Haha, just kidding.  I wish.)

There was even a place on the map for a brief discussion about “unpacking” the feelings surrounding our diabetes diagnoses, complete with little drawings of baggage labeled guilt, anger, frustration, sadness, hopelessness…really? REALLY??  (I guess my feelings include…anger…and frustration.)

I don’t know what to make of the whole experience.  By the end of class, I made a “goal” (a promise??  who’s checking?? consequences??  Ackk, I’m still going to do it.  G-D rule-follower…)  to check my blood sugar 3x/week for the next two weeks and report back.  They asked me to consider whether I’m terrified of the needle or terrified of the actual number for my blood glucose result.  I don’t really have an answer to that right now.  I guess I’ll have to puzzle that out as I stare at the teeny-tiny needle in the lancet thing as I psych myself out to push the button over the next two weeks.

I’m not really ready to be a diabetic.  I had a fat load of McDonald’s hypocrisy for dinner last night in a fit of rebellion.  (Oooh, such a baaad girl. A true rebel to be feared.  Fear my Double Quarter Pounder.)

Well, that was a difficult first step.  Deciding to actually blog about it is also part of that first step, and thanks to Bon for telling me that this shit is hilarious and that I should definitely write about it.

Because, now we know what we’re dealing with.

2014: Non-resolutions

My original plan was to make 2014 the year of personal metrics and analytics.  It seemed a good way to get more into the analytics that I claim to love, but rarely practice in real life — apparently I’m a fly by my gut kinda person.  But I asked about metrics for my 2013 resolution, and didn’t manage to make myself accountable for my big goal, which was to be nicer to myself, and therefore I was not particularly successful.

Rebecca Pacheco put out a post on Friday about non-resolutions that really made me re-think resolutions in general – she reminds us that we know what we want our year to look like, and to write it down.  This is a departure from my plans, because what this entails is describing general feelings rather than measureable actions.  But after mulling it over for a few days, I am thinking, why can’t I be accountable for the way I feel?

All these inspirational quotes of making yourself be happy and challenges of #100happydays…my thoughts on this waver between “this is totally doable” and this comic about treating physical illness like we treat mental illness.  (I’m not saying I do or do not have mental illness…just…if it’s so easy, and one could just BE happy, well…that’s what this comic says.)

I guess for metrics, I could just look at my list and say, yes, I feel like this, this, and this today, and no, I didn’t manage to feel like that today, but we’ll try again tomorrow.

I doubt that Rebecca really intended for this list to be a measurable way to keep yourself accountable for the 2014 that you want to have, but it forces me to think of the new year as new intentions rather than new actions.  I never know when a new action is going to stick, but if I set intentions for the year, then I can adjust actions in accordance with keeping to those intentions.

So, here’s 2014.  Definitely borrowed a few words from Rebecca’s intentions, but I need them for myself, so thanks for sharing, Rebecca.  I’m sharing them with those who are reading my blog so that you have a vision of my 2014 and can be a part of that vision.

My non-resolutions for 2014.  I didn't include "happy".  Maybe I should have, or maybe I am assuming that it will be a given.  Hm.

My non-resolutions for 2014. I didn’t include “happy”. Maybe I should have, or maybe I am assuming that it will be a given. Hm.

I was interrupted about 5 times while trying to finish this post that I have been tossing around for a few days…and was very frustrated and angry…so I guess I can’t tick that off for today…but every second is a new second…so reset and try again.  Also my first two days of being “professional” included an ice storm, and cold cold temps, so I PJ’d it for 2 days.  #likeaboss.

I will also be attempting the #100happydays challenge on Twitter anyways.  Seems like a fun challenge.  Look for me there and engage with me!

Looking forward to a PRODUCTIVE 2014 (among other things)!  Happy new year, guys.

Yes, I did: the turducken of cheese balls

I think I am going to start a new trend of “Yes, I did:” posts on this blog, since I am one of those people who say “I saw that on the internets” and then actually try a few crazy things.  Here is my first.

I was going to add these photos into my “Kitchen Adventures” album on Facebook, but this feat was so gargantuan that it pretty much deserved its own post.  And since “wallowing in excess things that are bad for you” seems to have been the theme of my 2013, what better way to close it than with an excess of cheese?

I came across this on Chow.com somehow, and it beckoned with its majestic title — the turducken of cheese balls.  Since I am headed to a NYE gathering where the theme is “Southern Comfort Food” (of all southern regions, not just the USA), I figured what could get more southern than a turducken cheese ball?  (Disclaimer:  I am from New England and have mostly always been from New England.  I can’t imagine my life anywhere else other than New England.  So I probably do not have any real idea what it means to be Southern.)

Voila, the final result. What you see on the exterior is a mix of goat cheeses and a coating of sliced almonds and bacon bits:

The Turducken of Cheese Balls, top view

The Turducken of Cheese Balls, top view

Now for a layer-by-layer picture breakdown of its construction.  First layer was the core of Grace’s Choice from Plymouth Artisan Cheeses surrounded by pepper and bits of salami.  The recipe called for chorizo, but the salami in the fridge was calling louder than the recipe.

Grace's Choice & Salami

Grace’s Choice & Salami

Second layer, to surround the core, was a layer of Manchego, covered in chopped figs.  Today I learned that chopping figs is sticky and a PITA.

Manchego & Dried Figs

Manchego & Dried Figs

Layer #3: Emmenthaler, coated with parsley and scallions.  If you don’t currently use the scissors and drinking glass method for mincing herbs, I highly recommend it.  I learned the trick from Chef Paule Caillat when I escaped to Paris for one whole month in 2003.

Emmentaler and Herbs

Emmentaler and Herbs

Layer #4 – wait, but you say a turducken is only THREE layers?  Yes, there’s more!  Now for the good ol’ American Sharp Cheddar Cheese, covered with diced pears.  AMERICA!!

Sharp Cheddar and Pear

Sharp Cheddar and Pear

Layer #5 is the one that nearly broke me.  I used a mixture of Roquefort and Stilton for the blue cheeses, because…that’s what I had in the fridge.  I knew that blue cheese plus neufchatel was NOT going to form a nice “dough” of cheese that I could just lay on top of these herbs.  But I had high hopes and forged ahead…ending up with a nice blue cheese mask for my hands.  Very moisturizing.  I managed to get enough onto the growing cheeseball to cover most of the layer, but my hands definitely ate up a lot of the blue layer.

Blue Cheese and Pecan

Blue Cheese and Pecan

Layer #6 was the final layer – a mix of goat cheeses from the fridge (Drunken Goat, Arina Goat, and Chevre crumbles) plus more neufchatel, which also did not combine to form a dough.  I got wiser after the last layer and made a lot of extra.  My hands are quite cheese-moisturized at this point.

Here’s a lovely pic of the bottom side of the cheese ball, in all its layery goodness.

Cheese Turducken Butt

Cheese Turducken Butt

I’m not sure this is what the host was expecting when I said I’d bring the turducken of cheese balls, but I will be sure to update this post (tomorrow) with pictures of the cheese turducken in action tonight.  Happy New Year, folks!

UPDATE (1/1/14):  Pictures of cheeseball in action – it was 6 layers of pure cheesy conversation goodness!

My friend had the perfect cheeseball presentation plate.

The perfect cheeseball presentation plate.


This cheeseball was the life of the party.

2013: Endings and New Beginnings

Well, that was a good idea, in theory.

Well, that was a good idea, in theory.  Haha’s on me, 2013.  You win.

Despite the fact that I generally cling to routine and familiarity, I have always liked the idea of a new start and resolutions.  As a student and as a teacher, semesters brought these natural endings and beginnings to my life on a regular basis:  every September, every new year, and every May/June, I got to make many promises to myself (that would soon be broken, of course.)  Now that I’m just a post-academia person, New Year’s is pretty much all I’ve got.

I am not quite ready to write the post about the new.  I’m still figuring out what to do with the old to properly close out this year.

2013 has been a really tough year of uncertainty, depression, fruitless hard work, trying times, and a general uphill battle to determine my self-worth from things other than “what I do for work.”

My idea at the end of 2012 was that I was going to be nicer to myself in 2013. Somehow, that idea completely backfired. I have hated myself more in 2013 than I have ever hated myself in my life.  (That’s saying a lot, given that graduate degree #1 was a painful joke and at least one really horrible ex-boyfriend dragged me through the wringer.)  I have hated myself for being weak, complacent, dependent, despondent, unmotivated, untalented, unsuccessful.  I hate that my life is at a stand-still, and I hate that it’s probably my fault because I don’t make any money with my big-money graduate degree #2.  I hate that I feel completely paralyzed to do anything about my life but wait, work, and hope for the best.  I hate that I hate myself, especially when my life isn’t that bad and there are really many things to be grateful for.

I also hate quoting quotes where I can’t confirm the source, or examine the context of the quote or the person behind the quote, but there is the ever-popular Immanuel Kant quote about happiness that I have been considering:

Rules for happiness: Something to do, Something to love, and Something to hope for.

I’ve been hoping for an answer to my career.  I’ve been hoping to finally go on a honeymoon, or at least an adventurous vacation, since travel-hungry me hasn’t been on a vacation in 1.5 years, or been separated from “work” for more than 2 days in 2013.  I’ve been hoping that we’d be able to get started on a family, or get moving towards “completing” our home.  In 2013, I do not feel any closer to having answers, getting a vacation, starting a family, or completing a home.

Apparently, I need all 3 things to be working in tandem with each other – that something that I do is something that I love and takes me towards the things I am hoping for.  That seems to have been a lot to ask for.  Also, I understand life is not a large checklist.  It’s a series of small to-do checklists. And checklists are meant to be deviated from.

It’s time to accept the lack of progress on my life-checklist, close out the year, and regroup in 2014.  What do I need to do between now and 2014 to close this year out?

1) Work hard.

I have more work to do for work, and while philosophizing about life was a great career for those in the Middle Ages (how did they survive??) these days, there is only work to make sure that there is more work.  I really enjoy my team, and I need to pull my weight on this team, so worky work, busy bee.

2) Clear the to-do list.

Making a final to-do list with all the things on the to-do list, just in time for new to-do lists for 2014, filled with things that will hopefully take me towards my hopes.

3) Clean the house.

Clean house, clean mind.  This first floor is a disaster, with too much stuff, and not enough places to put them.  And there are half-painted walls, and much construction still to be done.  In the words of Stephen Stills:

If you can’t be with the one you love (completed upstairs new house), then love the one you’re with.

And with that (confirmed) quote, it’s time to be productive.  See you in 2014 with some gratitude and some resolutions!


batmeme holidiys

Around the holidays, I have the intention of DIYing all of the things, because 1) I love DIY gifts, 2) I love making DIY gifts, and 3) I want my gifts to express the thought and care that I feel about my friends who receive them.  Last year, I knitted for all the kiddos in my life, and although they have long outgrown the gifts, it was really cathartic for me to make some kid-sized gifts and craft productively in a period of underemployment.

Clockwise from top left:  Aviator sweater/hat set for Olivia, Dino-rawr sweater for Landon, Monster mittens for Kai, Zebra suit for Alden

Clockwise from top left: Aviator sweater/hat set for Olivia, Dino-rawr sweater for Landon, Zebra suit for Alden, Monster mittens for Kai.  Not pictured:  Killer Bunny Rabbit mitts for Julia.

But as the age of Pinterest grows, I become less interested in DIYing for the holidays, partially because I have a fear that everyone is reading the same Buzzfeed or Brit + Co. or MAKE magazine, and that the ultimate “I made you the same gift!” faux-pas is just on the horizon.

I haven’t even been able to get started this year.  I think about DIY, and then my creative paralysis sets in, and I end up doing nothing but surfing more Buzzfeed or Brit + Co. and feeling more bad about the DIY that I am not doing. The vicious circle of DIY shame.

This is not how DIY is supposed to feel, people. I am overwhelmed by DIY, and I’m not even doing anything! All these cute “edibles in jars”.  Too cute.  Jars.  Too much.  They give me DIY anxiety.

Buzzfeed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/spicy-pepper-vodka-and-sriracha-salt

http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/spicy-pepper-vodka-and-sriracha-salt.  Hey, your label spells sriracha incorrectly.  Maybe sricacha is more appropriate for pepper-infused cachaça.


http://www.buzzfeed.com/emofly/diy-food-gifts-in-jar.  In case you didn’t have enough to do this holiday season, look at these DIY gifts with envy and regret and self-doubt.  YOU DIDN’T PICK OUT ALL THE MARSHMALLOWS IN THE LUCKY CHARMS?  How can you call yourself a true friend??

I made resin jewelry, but they came out badly…and then I gifted them anyways…and I felt bad about it, so I will have to re-do them and regift them. Embarrassing. (There aren’t even pictures, it was that bad.  Maybe when I re-do them I will take pics.)

Yesterday, to cope with the DIY drought, I made 3 flavors of nutella macarons (cinnamon, mint, and lemon) in cute boxes.  They don’t have the hefty pieds that make macarons awesome because I had too many mimosas while making them, and didn’t figure out why they were slightly defective.  Still delicious.  I may get around to giving them out to people I had intended to give them out to.  Or maybe I will just invite them over to eat them and have more mimosas.

Mimosa...I mean, macaron ingredients up top; cookies right out of the oven; and filling the mim—macarons and boxing them.

Mimosa…I mean, macaron ingredients up top; cookies right out of the oven; and filling the mim—macarons and boxing them.

My knitting needles have been sitting untouched.  My sewing machine and sewing bin have been in my car for 2 weeks.  My craft room is peppered with the remnants of badly poured resin jewelry. We haven’t even sent our DIY Christmas Cards out yet, and they are just sitting in a pile on the floor of my living room, screaming to be stamped and addressed.

Somehow, my DIY failures are making me feel like I am lacking in holiday spirit this year.  How very Grinchy of me.

I hope to rekindle my holiday spirit and my DIY spirit in the next couple of weeks, before the end of 2013.  I am looking forward to settling down with a nice book, some tea, and a great mindless knitting pattern.  And just maybe, I’ll gift it to someone.  For their birthday.  Or for no reason at all.

Happy holi-DIYs, everyone.

BUZZ: Pearson Foundation Pays $7.7M in Common Core Settlement

photo credit: sam howzit // Flickr

This week, Pearson Charitable Foundation and educational publisher Pearson, Inc. has agreed to pay a $7.7M settlement on an investigation in New York State.

Here are the basics:

  • New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman determined in an investigation that the Foundation had helped Pearson, Inc. develop Common Core products, and had found that the foundation also paid for prospective Pearson clients to attend educational conferences featuring Pearson, Inc.
  • To settle these accusations from the State of New York, Pearson Foundation will pay $7.7 million.
  • The money from the settlement will be directed to 100Kin10, a national effort for STEM and high-needs teacher training led by the Carnegie Corporation.
  • The PDF of settlement can be found here (12 pages).

Now, the buzz:

From Attorney General Schneiderman’s statement on Thursday:

“The law on this is clear: Non-profit foundations cannot misuse charitable assets to benefit their affiliated for-profit corporations.  Moving forward,  funds for Pearson Charitable Foundation will be used exclusively for legitimate charitable purposes, beginning with millions of dollars to help ensure that every public school student has a great teacher in the classroom.”

From Pearson Foundation’s statement:

Pearson and the Foundation maintain we have always acted with the best intentions and complied with the law. However, we recognize there were times when the governance of the Foundation and its relationship with Pearson could have been clearer and more transparent. Over the past two years, the Foundation has taken several steps to strengthen its governance, beginning with the addition of independent directors to the board and the adoption of stronger operational systems. Under the settlement, these efforts will be further enhanced by the creation of a three-person audit committee.

The Foundation will also pay $7.5 million into a fund managed by the Attorney General that will support the work of 100Kin10, an organization committed to placing 100,000 science and math teachers into U.S. schools in the next ten years. The work of 100Kin10 aligns with the charitable mission of the Foundation—supporting non-profits working to expand access to great teaching and learning in the United States and around the world.”

Commenters on news sites were rabid with criticism.  On EdWeek.org’s blog, reader Cooper JC Zale had this to say:

“These connections between corporate educational foundations and their for-profit businesses come to light in this situation. The non-profits are pushing policies that will improve the market for their for-profit arm. The education-industrial complex at work!”

Huffington Post’s Jason Stanford pushes further, asking for an investigation in Texas as well, saying:

“There’s a “you get what you pay for” quality to academic research that dovetails with the corporate interests that fund it, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. If the former had anything to do with the latter, the Pearson Foundation may have broken the law and is why the Texas Attorney General needs to take a close look at Pearson…there’s ample evidence that state officials have put the lazy in laissez faire when it comes to providing effective oversight of Pearson’s massive contract.”

There is a lot of chatter on social media, with tweets such as this one from edtech leader, Gary Stager:

Mercedes Schneider’s blog post lays out the issues surrounding the funding swirl around Common Core, and the role of Pearson’s for-profit and non-profit arms, ending with this stark statement about these education initiatives:

Forget the kids. It really isn’t about them, anyway.

Erin Osborne of Salon.com sums up all the sides of the conversation with her key issue about Common Core and the funding swirl around the problem—one that is not focused on the businesses, but instead focuses on the students caught in the middle:

“Here is the key issue. These companies see success in terms of dollars and profit, not academic success and achievement. Education start-ups fail all the time, including ones backed by the giants like Pearson. Once investors start to see diminishing returns or trouble on the horizon they will pull the plug regardless of how well students may be performing with their product. Vetting new teaching methods for success takes years of research, observation and review. Plenty of businesspeople, big and small, will have profited from Common Core even if all the states move onto the next education reform in five years’ time, but at what cost to students in school today?”

Beautiful snow, ugly people

The calm during the storm.  It's after the storm that the ice-picks come out.

The calm during the storm. It’s after the storm that the ice-picks come out.

I hate snow because it brings out the very worst in people.  Snowfall makes me edgy with anger at this time of year when everyone is preaching “Good will toward men” and “peace on earth”—words that mean nothing in a blizzard.  There is barely any time to appreciate the beauty of a wintry snowfall before the ugliness of people start to reveal themselves.  Once the snow starts falling, it’s every man and woman for themselves, whether it be on the road or in the subway, and I can’t even count the number of times I said the words “you’ll probably have to punch a baby” yesterday.  (No, I don’t REALLY think that you should punch babies.  Hyperbole…yet shockingly close to reality.)

Now, I’m about to introduce a controversial BOSTON topic, and there are many of you that are NOT going to agree with me, and so be it, you think you deserve what you worked for.  But I’m here to tell you that deserve is an ugly word, and if as many people as possible worked for greater good, then maybe snow could be beautiful again.


For non-Bostonians who don’t know what parking space savers are, here’s a picture of one across the street from my house:

What a lovely green chair...in the middle...of the street.  Now my neighbor who saw me take this picture is probably thinking that I called the City on them.

What a lovely green chair…in the middle…of the street. Now my neighbor who saw me take this picture is probably thinking that I called the City on them.

Some other questions that you may have about this strange “tradition”:

Why is there a chair in the middle of the road?  (Or a parking cone, or beach lounger, or trash can, or a tub of kitty litter?) Because the person who shoveled their car from that space seems to think that now they own that space on the street, and that they should be able to park in it when they return home from work hours and hours later.

But isn’t it a public street and a public parking space?  Yes.

What happens if you just move that marker and park there anyways?  It’s not like they own the space.  You should assume that you like your tires slashed, or poop smeared on your car, or your legs broken, or any number of these things.  From Boston.com:

The phone rang at the South Boston police station at 5:11 p.m. Sunday. An unknown suspect had just used an orange nail gun to shoot two nails into each of four tires on a gleaming, white Jeep Grand Cherokee parked on West Fourth Street.

Why do people really think they can get away with this?  Well, I have a few choice quotes, all from emails I have received in the last 24 hours.

Exhibit A, from Neighbor K.D.

In the past, I’ve spent hours shoveling out a space after large storms, being careful to make it completely clear…To have a neighbor who didn’t feel it was necessary to do the same for themselves pull in and and take that space, or one that anyone else cleared, just doesn’t seem fair.  And it sure as hell doesn’t seem “neighborly” to me, either.  And far too often, it’s been someone who uses their cars on weekends or seldom, leaving those of us who have to commute up s***s creek.  Nothing like coming home after 12-hours at the office to find there’s no place to park.  There is absolutely no way the person doing this is unaware of what he/she is doing.

K.D., what happens to the space for the 12 hours that you were at the office?  No one is allowed to park in it?  It would be ok if it were someone who worked the same 12-hour day that you work, commuting by car to do it?  That sure as hell doesn’t seem “neighborly” to me either.

Exhibit B, from Neighbor S.H.

I get out and shovel as well, and I am 76–have lived here my entire life at the end of W*** Street.  I’ve kept barrels in front of my house forever and have never had a problem.  However, I think someone in the neighborhood–someone new who doesn’t know the unwritten “rule” at the end of the street that we honor each others’ parking spaces, called the City.  I had gone out one day at 1:00 and was home at 3:45 and my barrels were GONE!!  I was not a happy camper. I had to go out and spend $30 for two new trash barrels.   My next door neighbor had his taken a week before.  I feel that I should be able to park in front of my house without having someone from down the street parking in front of my house.  I understand that I don’t “own” the parking space, but at my age, I don’t feel as though I should have to find a spot down the street or up on the hill.  I’m always considerate of others and always have been.  I shovel my spot, with the help of a neighbor, right to the curb so the area is nice and clean.  I’ve even shoveled the middle of the street.  Driving down W*** and seeing how people clean out there cars is abominable.  There’d be no problem if everyone was conscientious about shoveling.  K.D., I’m with you–you should be able to park in the spot that you labored over for hours.  It isn’t fair but in today’s world, many people are out there for themselves and to heck with anyone else.

A few points to make here, S.H.

  1. So there is an AGE at which you can be a self-righteous B?
  2. People have to shovel to your standards?
  3. Please explain how saving a spot for yourself is NOT an example of your last sentence:  people out there for themselves, and to heck with anyone else.

Our plan is to remove any spot savers from the 2 two-hour spots in front of our house.  Ben helps to shovel those spots out anyways, and they are TWO-HOUR SPOTS, meaning that saving them for the 12 hours that you are working (ooh, poor you) is a really shitty thing to do to the rest of everyone living in this neighborhood.  Also, I secretly think that Ben is itching for a broken leg.

In defense of my neighborhood, there have been a few replies that are somewhat sane, like this one from R.S., from before the storms even started:

People seem to be saving spots on the street already.  They haven’t even had to shovel yet to “claim” them.  Seems like we ought not do this.

I really want to respond to these emails but I know better than to feed email trolls.  Even if they are 76 and have lived here their entire life.  Last thing I need is for someone to tell me to go back to the country I came from (like my old neighbor did in our previous neighborhood – he took a spot we shoveled out and then PUT A SAVER IN IT and then told me that).  If that happens, I WILL have to punch a baby.

Massachusetts, and their odd “blue laws” and lawless “traditions”.  I’ve been here over 30 years myself.  Feel free to blast me about space savers and how you worked hard to shovel out your space.  We all make a space for ourselves in this world.  I’m betting that violence and threats are not what keeps your space in life.