(no subject)

I'm heading out today and tomorrow to learn about the changes in Section 508 at a conference in Washington, DC. I knew just about all there was to know about web accessibility shortly before and after June 2001 when the law was enacted, but after leaving the full-time workforce, didn't continue my education in that area. While I've done a few accessibility evaluations in the past few years, I sorely need a refresher and update. I've tried to keep up with changes by reading articles and being on email lists devoted to accessibility, but it is sometimes good to go somewhere in person to see what's new.

I am hoping, also to learn a little about the non-web aspect of the law. I recently had to turn down a job that involved telecommunications - making sure a government entity's phone and voice mail system was accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. It seemed straightforward, until the folks making he product were challenged to create a product that integrated TTY (or a similar accessible mode of communication) into the system instead of providing a way for it to be added when necessary. I know so little about that aspect of section 508 that it would have been unfair to tell them I could do it. Needless to say, the consulting company that referred me has not contacted me since.

A while back Vox had a qotd about dream jobs. I didn't answer it because I really didn't know what my dream job is. It changes based on my mood. I'd love to get back into teaching, but not special education this time. I'd like to do what I trained to do at the end of the last century - educational technology. I fear, however, that by not having taught in that field, set myself up for ending up at McDonalds.

I still think I have a lot to offer a school system. I know a lot about teaching with technology, and I've kept up-to-date with emerging technologies. I also know a lot about web accessibility, and because schools are now embracing the fact that their online presences must be accessible to all, I'd make a decent candidate to work both with online access and teaching teachers how to use technology in their classrooms and in their online interactions with parents.

With my youngest going into high school next year, I think it is time to think about full time, away from home, work again. I'll need to see what's out there and see if I can work my way back into the education field. I'd love to work for the school district my kids are in for several reasons but location being a major factor.

I applied and even interviewed in this district many years ago, but the interview was the worst ever. I was applying for a special education position but the woman interviewing me never asked about my special education background. She was taking over for the special education administrator who was out of he building on an emergency or something. The woman interviewing me was the head of technology and media. Because I'd been using technology in my special ed classroom I, at first, thought this was a good thing, especially when she asked how I used technology in the classroom.

I explained how I connected the computers to the televisions and used the Internet for various lessons (This was 1997, mind you). When our entire school had made pin-hole viewers to see the solar eclipse and the day of the eclipse turned out rainy and cloudy, my students got to see it online from a sunny location (and the other teachers in the school begged me to hook up their televisions to their computers after that day). When my kids learned about butterflies and wrote essays on the life cycle of the painted lady butterfly, they were able to read essays other students wrote in different parts of the country.

She then said, "Uh-ha what other technologies have you used?"

I explained how I used television and video discs (we had a program called Windows on Science) to illustrate science lessons seamlessly because I had a bar-code reader that played clips from video-discs even if I was across the room. I'd litter my lesson plans with the bar-codes for the particular clips and when it was time, swipe the bar-codes and the clips would play.

I explained how I used the word processing program on our Macs to teach the students with eye-hand coordination problems to type and how their creative writing improved when they didn't have the burden of writing by long-hand as a barrier.

I told her how I'd used a spreadsheet program to teach percentages and graphs.

After I was finished, she looked at me and said. "But don't you use an overhead projector?"

Needless to say, I didn't get the job.

So, today is my first step in getting back into the world of work.

Very Petty and Nasty Post

I received an email today that made me want to scream, cry, tear my hair out and send poisonous emails to several people. So I'm blogging it instead.

One of the hats I wear as a school volunteer is to administer a PTA database that stores information for the school directory among other things. I've spent several weeks of full days entering/deleting/changing information in addition to fielding email requests in response to a number of emails I have sent encouraging parents to check their information in the database. The folder I set up for the database comment emails holds over 200 emails, and shows that I responded to more than half of them. It is hard to explain in writing how much work and time and energy I have put into this project.

There were two of us working with this, but I am certain I did most of the work so far. The other volunteer had a family crisis and was unable to help for a week. She also works full time and could only help evenings and weekends. Unfortunately the database is not set up so the parents can actually change their own info. They need to suggest changes in a form field and the directory volunteers do the data entry. I don't know why it was set up this way, but cannot change it.

A bug was found in the database and we lost several parent comments and changes that were made. Normally I would have let the directory volunteers do the majority of the work, but because of the problems that were encountering I somehow felt responsible. There are two directory volunteers (not counting me) and one of them chose to do the ads instead of the database entry. She also seems to be taking the lead.

So, I've put in more than 100 hours in the past month and I think that is a low estimate. I've put everything else, including making money, on hold. The house is a mess, I've given up work from my real job that I could have done and I've not done things for or with the family because I've been working on the database instead.

So, the email. The directory volunteer that is taking the lead sent the following email out today:

Hi all-

Wendy and I wanted to update you on where the directory stands:

(1) The database has been completely worked over by Wendy four times (at
last count!) Data has been entered, reentered, checked, rechecked, and
still we don't feel confident that this list is complete or accurate. Every
time we go into the database, there are problems to address.
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Here is my question. Where am I mentioned in that paragraph? Did I do nothing? Were my over 100 hours of work unimportant?

Later I got another email, this time from one of the PTSA co-presidents who was cced on the above email:

Hi all-

Our directory co-chairs, Wendy and Adrienne have had a rough go of things lately -- our
database has failed several times -- and are in need of
assistance. If you are able to lend a hand, please contact
Adrienne directly at email deleted for privacy.
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Again, where is my name? Where is it written that I've put in a lot of time?

Another email just came in from the other co-president:

Hi Adrienne -- Many thanks to you and Wendy for tackling what has become a very big and difficult job. I am happy to help do whatever editing of data is necessary in the next few days, or the cross checking against the student list. Karen and I will talk and answer your other questions in more detail later today. We'll also work on getting the student list and the staff info from the administration.

Um. No thanks for me?

I'm not volunteering for any more of this crap. I'm giving up the email list and the database at the end of the year.

Last year at the first PTSA meeting that I was required to attend the two co-presidents thanked the directory people and even though I had put in a lot of work helping out, got no thanks at all. Nor have I ever heard or seen a thank you, for doing the email list from the powers that be.

I know I should just swallow my pride and get on with life. I know I am being petty.

All I want is some recognition for the work I have put in. Is that too much to ask?
  • Current Mood
    pissed off

Neil Gaiman, again

Living in the DC area, I was lucky in that Neil Gaiman had two scheduled events nearby on his book tour for Anansi Boys. Saturday September 24th he was at the previously mentioned National Book Festival and on Sunday, September 25 he was at a Borders Books in Northern Virginia.

I arrived at the Bailey's Crossroads Borders Books sometime around 7 pm for Gaiman's 7:30 reading and bought a copy of Anansi Boys with part of the birthday money I got from my mother-in-law. I doubt she would be pleased. From the looks of the crowd, it was obvious Gaiman was a science fiction writer. Lots of black clothes, pony-tailed men and a smattering of individuals who looked like their last event that day had been the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Either that or they were dressed as characters in Gaiman's graphic novels.

puzzledance and I planned to meet at the the event so I walked around the store for a while looking for someone wearing what she said she would wear. After a while I came to the conclusion that she had been one of the lucky few who got a seat and didn't want to risk giving it up to find me and we would meet up after the reading or had not gotten back from her dance camp event yet and would either be late or be not able to come. I finally found a spot behind the other Gaiman fans, but in front of a low table against which I could lean.

Gaiman opened with a few words about what would take place that evening, chatted a bit and then began reading from his book after telling us the "story so far". Because the sound system was a little wonky and I was tired, I decided to sit on the floor instead of stand. I also thought I may have given Puzzledance an incorrect phone number so I tried to check one of my gmail accounts to see what number I gave her, but I could not figure out how to do that on my Sidekick. (although I know it can be done, having done it in the past). As I was giving up on my email, I noticed a pair of shoes pointing at me and not towards Gaiman. I looked up and saw that Puzzledance had arrived.

We listened to the reading, but I left before the signing as I was #287 and didn't want to stay that long. I hear the signing went smoothly though, but am not sorry that I left. I think I may have had a literary burn-out last weekend as I over-indulged in authors. Is such a thing possible? I also think I was intimidated by the crowd. After all, I've only read a sprinkling of Gaiman's works, although I am quite a fan of his journal. I never feel quite comfortable actually talking to authors in person as they sign their books. First of all, I think I am somehow putting them out by making them write their name. Secondly, if I really like the author, I usually say something stupid and feel stupid. So, I saved myself from the possibility of being embarrassed by myself.

Hair Mayonaise, Grins, Awe. Obsessions and a Sullen Teen

My trip to the national mall yesterday to see several of my favorite authors was better than I expected in some ways, but worse in others. I saw four of the authors I planned on seeing, but missed most of the talk of one of them because my daughter was boredtiredcoldandfeelingsick and wanted to leave. Since the festival was sharing the National Mall with a large peace demonstration, it was much more crowded than in previous years.

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  • Current Mood

National Book Festival

If someone gave me a choice to spend a day among authors or a day among famous actors I'd choose the day with authors without hesitation. Tomorrow is such a day. Tomorrow there will be more than 80 published authors in Washington DC between 14th and 7th Streets on about 12 acres of land.

Tomorrow is the National Book Festival on the National Mall.

This will be the third year I've attended, and the first year I didn't volunteer. The first year - 2003 - I got to see several of my favorite authors who write for children and young adults. It was a cold damp day but I was prepared with sweaters, gloves and raingear. I was lucky enough to be working with the signing tables, so saw these men and women up close. I also heard a few during their talks. I was not brave enough to talk to any of them - most were preoccupied with signing hundreds of books. I wished I had talked to Nancy Farmer whose The Ear, the Eye and the Arm was a favorite of mine when I was a teacher. Her line was the shortest and she was free for a few moments before the end of her designated signing period. I also got to hear Avi, Jane Yolen, Sharon Creech and R. L. Stine. I was surprised that Stine was the most outgoing, but maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised.

The second year, last year, was a beautiful day, however I had a less interesting job of picking up debris and straightening chairs between authors in the Children and Children and Teen tents. I was able to hear a few interesting speakers including Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi who co-wrote the Spiderwick Chronicles. Another interesting author was Richard Peck. He happened to be reading from his book The Teacher's Funeral. During his talk he claimed to have thought up the best opening line in the world for the book he was writing: Here Lies the Librarian which comes out in January 2006.

So tomorrow I will get to hear some of my favorite authors but not have to work. Here is my schedule for tomorrow:

I'll try to get there by 10 so I can go to the pavilions and maybe pick up one of the coveted Book TV(?) bags that usually run out by noon.

I'll head over to the Fiction pavilion close to 11:30 to get in line to get a seat for John Irving's interview at 11:50. Getting a good seat for him will be great since Neil Gaiman follows him at 12:40.

I will probably try to find a bite to eat, or eat a bag lunch I brought and then head over to see Sharon Creech in the Teens tent and then Phyllis Reynolds Naylor in the Children's tent. Finally, if I still feel up to it I want to see Jon Kabat-Zin.

Sunday night I plan on going to Virginia to see Neil Gaiman once more. So I guess this will be a literary kinda weekend for me.

Pileated Woodpeckers

Went to bed late last night and didn't sleep well and got up early due to some volunteer work issues.

Decided to get some work for pay done early this morning when my husband called me upstairs to show me some "big red headed woodpeckers" in the neighbor yard. I assumed they were pileated, and was correct. What I didn't expect was to see four of them, three foraging on the lawn and one hammering on the nearby tree trunk.

I've seen several pileated woodpeckers in my life, and have seen up to two from my front porch (there used to be a dead tree kitty corner from our house where they may have lived). I had never seen four of them together though. I imagine it was a family, but I don't know the family dynamics of woodpeckers.

I pronounce pileated with a "long i", but most people pronounce it with a "short i". I once read in a Northern Wisconsin publication it should be pronounced with a "long i". gives says both are correct:

pi le at ed (pi-'le--a-'ti(d) pronunciation also pi le ate (-i(t) adj.

It was a nice surprise on this morning of minor worries.

Proud Parents

My husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this year. I thought we should do something special to celebrate being together two decades, but neither of us are planners, so, a few days before our anniversary we did not have reservations anywhere special.

This year we also had a lot of fixing up done on our main floor. All of the walls were painted, the powder room was redecorated and the screened porch was re-screened, painted and tiled. One afternoon, after clearing out redecorating detritus from our porch I thought a small table would look nice on the porch - that it would look like a small bistro. Then I thought how nice it would be to have a romantic meal at home on our anniversary. I asked my kids if they would be willing to help out and they immediately began planning the evening. I told my husband I had taken care of the reservations and it was going to be a surprise.

On June 22 my husband came home from work and went swimming with our son so my daughter and I could get things ready. She wanted to make a menu. I had a few things to prepare for the kids to serve us. (I mostly bought prepared food, but some things were made at home). I ran up and got dressed in one of my better dresses and when my husband came home he dressed to match me. The kids did a great job pretending to be sullen and lazy and sat watching TV, barely saying goodbye to us as we left for our big night. The plan was that they would fix up the porch (bringing a table from the back yard, putting two tablecloths on it, setting it, lighting candles, setting up chairs, turning on party lights we had just put up and setting out the first course). Then they would call me but let it only ring once.

I drove around town, stopping to get gas and when the phone rang, pretended I was confused as to how to get to the restaurant. I drove back behind our house, and up the side street and parked in the back. At this point my husband was confused and I said "we're here". He was surprised. Then we walked in the back way. The porch was transformed into a private cafe complete with candle light and jazz. The wait staff, dressed in black and white (their idea, and a surprise to me), greeted us and handed us our menus for the evening.
First course
For dinner we were served cheese and pate with imported crackers, tomato basil soup, fresh green salad, grilled, skewered chicken, beef and vegetables on rice and various pastries. We also had wine, sparkling water and champagne.

During dinner we were treated to a dictionary reading and a impersonation show.

After dinner we exchanged our gifts. I was presented a music box my husband picked up for me from the Potomac Celtic Festival. With its claddagh carving on the top and "Gallway Bay" as its tune, it held special meaning to us on our anniversary. 20 years ago we visited Ireland and stayed in Gallway. I wanted a claddagh ring as my wedding ring, but we decided to get a plain band in the States, and I would get a claddagh ring in Ireland. So the carving and tune are special.

I gave my husband a ceramic ear of corn because he is from corn country and was born on a farm. Plus the traditional 20th anniversary gift is China which is a kind of ceramic.
chocolatesI also gave him a box of chocolates from Balducci's whose signature chocolate is called Platinum (the modern 20th anniversary gift).
A bookMy husband also received a book called "Weird U.S." because he likes seeing weird things when we travel. His final gift was a pen with a red robot on the end. I cannot remember what it was, but it was the robot that was a toy in the 70's that would punch an opponent's head off.

It was a really sweet evening and probably more memorable than if we had gone to an expensive restaurant. The kids were fantastic and I think they had as much fun as we did. I am really proud of them. I smiled for days after the anniversary when I thought about how they dressed up for the dinner for us. andrew Here is Andrew after his dictionary reading, cooking, serving and eating.