Sunday, July 30, 2006

Leave It To Mamacita To Open A Can Of Worms...

... and for me to happily dig in!

I am referring to her post that mentioned unschooling and unleashed a multitude of responses. (Including, of course, mine.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I will be the first to admit that I am prejudiced and closed-minded. There is also a certain feature of my mentality that makes me ask questions.

I have been a programmer (more or less) since '89. I am an in-house programmer, which means I support whatever I write. Which in turn means that, if there is a bug in my code, then I will get a call from my users about it, usually in the dead of night. If I install a change at twenty plants and screw it up at one of them, that's only five per cent. It's no big deal - I got ninety-five per cent right, didn't I? It will, however, sound like a very big deal to me when plant number 20 calls me at three-thirty in the morning, wakes up my whole family including the dog, and keeps me up until I fix whatever I had done wrong.

Is there any wonder that, when I look at a system, any system, the first thing I notice are places where it can potentially break?

By the time my children are 18, I expect them to be able to continue their education in whatever subject they happen to be leaning toward, even if I myself know next to nothing about this subject. I'd rather have them continue their education instead of entering the workforce at 18 and getting it over with, because I've seen what happened to careers of my friends who didn't have a college degree, and how difficult it was for them to find a job they enjoyed. By 18, I also expect my children to have certain basic knowledge in a certain number of areas, not necessarily because they will need it for their college or work, but because lack of it will make them come across as ignorant. Sure, they may never need history and geography to earn a living, but wouldn't it be nice to know there are actually other countries in the world besides America? I have seen too many people who seem to lack that knowledge.

How do I get my children there is of course my family's personal choice, as long as in the end I do get them there. Should I enroll them in a public school? Why not. Should I enroll them in a public school where less than 50% of the students pass proficiency tests? Probably not a good idea. For that reason, as soon as LilProgrammer turned five, we packed our bags and moved to a different neighborhood. It costs more, but it pays off.

Likewise, should I educate them at home? I don't see why not. But I also don't see why I shouldn't ask myself the question, Can I do it? And this is where it gets all confusing to me. I am referring to a nice discussion that I and a few other people had in the comments of Mamacita's post.

An anonymous commenter poses a question:

"Or, to cut to the chase, to homeschoolers it seems just as weird to talk about whether parents are *qualified* to help children learn during their school-age years as it might be to talk to non-homeschoolers about whether they are qualified to help their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers learn to walk and talk and eat and use the toilet, etc. Frankly, I'm not sure any intellectual leaps occur that are any greater than those. I mean, wow - TALKING! Now that is SOMEthing. Are your child's parents QUALIFIED to be in charge of this stage of life? Are they really weird wanting to direct the learning of speech personally, rather than turning it over to government certified experts?"

I am confused.

Let me give you an example.

English is my second language. I studied it for nine years in school, starting from 2nd grade (we had grades 1 through 10 in our school when I was growing up.) I had four teachers over the years, three of them very good. All of them had degrees in English AND education, and two of them had lived in England for a year or two as part of their college education. The last teacher that I had taught us English lit as well as the grammar. I remember the time when we studied one of Shakespeare's sonnets in 9th grade. Our teacher showed us two different translations and asked the class to analyze and compare them. She also had us do our own translations, and analyzed those. In short, I got a more than decent English education, and I dare say the results are good.

Now are you telling me that my Mom, who didn't know a word of English until she came to America, and is having major trouble with it now, could have given me an education just as good, on account that she had taught me to walk and talk and use the toilet? Please help me out, I am confused here. I also have trouble understanding why, when we had an AWESOME English teacher available, it was somehow a bad idea for me to take advantage of that. Why cannot I learn from the best?

Back to the bugs, though. Remember what I said earlier about seeing the spots where a system can go haywire? The problem that I see with unschooling is lack of accountability. I know I will burn in homeschool hell for saying that, but allow me to illustrate.

Here's what Mamacita got in the email:

"This next one is for the woman who emailed me and told me that her sons NEVER needed to learn to read or write, and if she wants them to know something, she will just tell them. Literacy was but one of Satan's tools for leading the unwary into the abyss. I think she meant abyss. Phonetically, "abis" sounds the same. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt."

Who's going to stop this woman from never teaching her sons to read and write?


What's going to happen in twenty years?

Their lives will be screwed up beyond all recognition.

What else will happen?

My children and your children will work double shifts so this woman's children can get their welfare checks on time.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that there is a plan B in place over at the schools in case a student is doing terribly badly, and large chunks of what he absolutely needs to know are missing.

With unschooling? I don't know if there's a plan B, or it's just business as usual like nothing happened.

In the comment section of Mamacita's post, Jeanne said:

"As for late readers, pegging that one on unschooling is sort of funny, considering the rate of illiteracy among high school students and our population in general, considering the vast majority of our citizens are products of public schooling rather than homeschooling. I would say if a homeschool student learns to read at 17, he is doing quite a bit better than public school students who do not learn to read EVER. Would I be worried? I'm sure I would. But the truth is, that is so hugely the exception among the hundreds of unschooling families I know that I can't say I'd be any more worried than if it were a student in government schools who can't read at 17.

Students in schools who do not learn to read at 13, 15 or 17 are highly stigmatized and unable to learn other material that is presented by text, which is the vast majority of all material beginning in about 4th grade, but certainly thru middle and high school. Homeschooled students who are late readers continue to learn in other ways and receive support for their "personhood," while still receiving encouragement to learn to read and the information they need as they are ready for it. If I were going to have a late reading child, who perhaps has challenges that make reading difficult, I'd a lot rather have him home with me than in school!"

This is in response to my story of an unschooling Mom whose children could not learn to read, but she smiled and bravely plowed on. Eventually the children learned to read, at 15, 17, and 13, respectively.

Why is it so wild to assume that the problem was with the mom? I tried to teach my children to read, but I couldn't. There, I said it. LilProgrammer learned to read in school, when he was seven. ChinchillaBoy taught himself how to read a few months before he started kindergarten. When I explained it to them, they just didn't get it. I have no problem admitting that maybe there was something wrong with my delivery! Who knows, if I kept trying to teach LilProgrammer to read all by myself, maybe he wouldn't be reading now.

I don't know of any students older than 8 in our school district who are unable to read. Our district is just better than that. They do a great job. They came through for LilProgrammer. Just like they came through for him when he was in sixth grade and his grades suddenly dropped from almost all As to Cs and Ds. There was no stigmatizing involved at any time. They were extremely supportive, helped him bring his grades up, and helped me have him diagnosed with Aspergers. They continue to support him. It takes a lot of work on my part, but I believe we'll get to where we want to get. My point is, whenever my son started having problems academically, the school was all over it. I cannot imagine a high school student not being able to read and the school completely ignoring this fact.

I will repeat the horrible, horrible thing that I said before, I'd like to know if there's a plan in place for unschooled kids to verify if they have the academic basics for their age, or they are falling terribly behind. And, if they indeed are falling terribly behind, I would like to know what measures will be taken. Pardon my curiosity, but this kind of impacts this country's future and my children's future as well.

Do I see bugs in the public school system? You bet your ass I do! I have written about it many times on this blog, please feel free to search. And I will most likely be writing more about it in the future. However, I don't see those bugs as fatal flaws that mean I need to pull my children out of the system immediately. I see them as opportunities for improvement.

Bring it on. I just might submit this to the Carnival, and then the fun in the comments will start. I'm hoping for a few emails, too. Hey, why should Mamacita have all the fun?

The Goldie has spoken at 11:05 AM

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Importance Of Storing Junk In Your Car

Yesterday, I worked from home because I had to take LilProgrammer to a 1PM doctor's appointment. I love working from home because I get so much done and no one bothers me.

The morning started very nicely, I sent ChinchillaBoy off to day camp, walked the dog (this doesn't happen in the dog's life very often so he was thrilled), started a loaf of bread in the breadmaker, and set off to work with the dog dozing off at my feet. Life was perfect. Three hours later, the perfection was suddenly interrupted by pouring rain, thunderstorm, and intermittent power outages. Each time we lost power, it knocked out our wireless router and therefore I lost my VPN connection to work, and had to reconnect again. It was annoying as heck. The breadmaker promptly went out, too; luckily the bread was practically done. It was around noon. How am I going to drive LilProgrammer to the doctor in this weather, I wondered as I hit Reconnect for the twelfth time while munching on fresh bread.

That's when the phone rang.

My "Hello?" was greeted with silence, so I hung up and went to wake LilProgrammer. We were supposed to leave in thirty minutes.

The phone rang again.

"Arrrgh, I don't have time for your games, perv", and I reluctantly picked up the phone.


"Moooom, why'd you hang up on me? You need to pick me up, right now."


"We were in the park, but then the rain started. We're at the school now."

"Okay, I'll be right over. But I may have to take you to LilProgrammer's doctor. We won't have time to drop you off at home."

"Okay." ChinchillaBoy was in an agreeable mood, as usual.

It was 12:35 when we pulled into the school's parking lot. The kids were in the gym. Upon entering the gym, I realized that ChinchillaBoy had omitted an important detail in his story.

The kids were all wearing bathing suits or swimming trunks and nothing else.

As it turned out, the (incredibly heavy) rain had caught them in the park. The counselors didn't know what to do, and told the kids to walk to the nearby school in the rain. The kindergarteners cried all the way. Poor ChinchillaBoy had to bring his bike with him. (We both conveniently forgot to get the bike when I picked him up, but it was still there when we came back in the evening.) By the time they got to the school, everybody's clothes and shoes were soaked, as was the spare change of clothes that we had strategically placed in ChinchillaBoy's backpack.

We were running late. There was no time to drop ChinchillaBoy off at home or get him dry clothes. There was also no way he could walk into a doctor's office barefoot, wearing nothing but his swimming trunks.

This is where the junk in my car comes in.

I am a pack rat. My car is full of stuff that may one day come in handy - books, paper, pens, maps, scissors, printed directions to houses of people that I have not seen for six years. I am afraid to get rid of it because, what if I need it tomorrow and it's not there?

Believe it or not, I even have a plastic container that they gave ChinchillaBoy at the hospital back in 2000, so he could pee in it while he was in bed with an IV. I come across the thing each time I clean my car, and never have the courage to throw it away. What if we're on the road tomorrow, with the next rest area being sixty miles away, and one of the kids has to go REAL BAD? Even if this never happened in six years, I still feel that I should hold on to the pee jar.

I also bring workout clothes to work with me, in case I decide to work out during lunch. (In the end, I always decide against it, and in favor of good warm food.)

I told ChinchillaBoy to dig through my workout clothes. Lo and behold, he found an Old Navy tank top. It was a nice lavender color.

"Put it on, ChinchillaBoy."

"No!! I won't. It’s a girl's top. It will be embarrassing."

"Dude, it will be more embarrassing if you don't wear it. Now, put it on."

Luckily, there was also a jacket lying in the back, a memory of a cold day sometime weeks ago. ChinchillaBoy put the jacket over the tank and zipped it up all the way to the top.

"Now, the shoes."

"Do I have to wear shoes?"

"Yes, nobody's allowed in the doctor's office without shoes."

"Do you have extra shoes?"

"I have something under the seat. A pair of flip-flops or something."

"Are they girly?" - ChinchillaBoy asked me in an alarmed voice.

I thought about it. The flip-flops did have a flower design.

"Yeah... I guess so. But do you have a choice? Oh, wait" - I remembered.

"My sandals are in the car. Check them out. They're pretty manly."

ChinchillaBoy dug into my workout bag and pulled out a pair of Rockports.

"Okay, I guess", he managed in a feeble voice.

Five minutes later, the three of us walked into the doctor's office. ChinchillaBoy led the way, in a warm jacket that was zipped up to the top in the ninety-degree heat, a pair of swimming trunks, and his Mom's sandals. Amazingly, everything matched. LilProgrammer and I followed, trying hard not to chuckle.

For some reason, ChinchillaBoy kept saying,

"You owe me, Mom. You owe me."

ChinchillaBoy spent an hour in the waiting room. He met a number of people and had conversations with them. No one called CPS or whipped out a camera. So I guess we got off easy. Not counting, of course, ChinchillaBoy's future therapy bills, but I figure he'll have a job by that time and will pay for them himself.

He should consider himself lucky that his Mom favors unisex clothes.

I am, however, planning to increase my car storage to include a full change of clothes and shoes for each one of my children.

I need a bigger car.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:39 PM

Thursday, July 27, 2006


The discussion over at Blogging Baby reminded me.

One of the games ChinchillaBoy and I like to play is the Andrea Yates game.

LilProgrammer and I prefer taking showers, but ChinchillaBoy likes to lie in the nice, warm tub. So, after I fill the tub with nice, warm water to his liking, I holler at him that the tub is ready.

He comes into the bathroom.

I tell him in a very serious voice, "GET IN THE TUB!"

"Sure, Andrea," replies ChinchillaBoy happily and gets in.

For some reason, we get a huge kick out of it.

Sick, sick people.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:34 AM

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

That Girl Emily – Answer To Yesterday's Riddle

Thanks to Paula and Kerri, who decided to play.

Paula was fairly close. That Girl Emily is a blog about a woman who found out her husband had been cheating on her with her best friend. But, there's more to it.

Kerri was closer (in fact, I was thinking the same thing) when she said that this blog is fake and could be someone's attempt at a novel, or a sociological experiment.

The truth, as usual, is stranger than fiction. It is a promotional action by Court TV (which, by the way, I have no clue what the heck Court TV is. My TV viewing is very limited.)

Apparently (as I learned from my Russian joke site), the billboard is for real, and a poster reported seeing it in downtown Manhattan (I think) on his way from work. Another poster replied with, "Bullshit, the billboard is in a completely different part of town."

Turned out there were several billboards. That's how Court TV got busted - they had tried too hard.

"First clue that this open letter from a woman scorned was 100 percent pure baloney came when bloggers spotted the same billboard in other parts of the city and in Los Angeles. That's odd, seeing as how poor, pilates-obsessed "Emily" wrote on her blog that she placed the ad strategically outside the office of "Steven," her supposed no-good philandering spouse."

Apparently this is called "viral marketing", which is the professional-sounding business term for "you've been had".

What cracks me up the most is that the discussion is still going on over at the Russian site. Despite two warnings (one from your humble servant) that the whole thing is fake, Russian guys are lamenting (in very strong language) the stupidity and meanness of Emily and state that "now she will never get her husband back". Get him back? Come on, nobody's that desperate. Not even a fictitious character from Court TV, whatever that is.

The Goldie has spoken at 4:32 PM

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Can You Tell What This Is?

I came across this link yesterday on a Russian joke site, of all places.

Read the whole blog. Don't worry; it's short. Then tell me what you think it means. No peeking. That means no googling, TTLB'ing or Technorati'ing.

I will post the answer tomorrow.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:08 AM

An Open Letter

To two people (so far) who have read my blog. You know who you are.

Where do I begin? We live in a very diverse society. Here, you have people of all sorts of different cultural and sociological backgrounds, past experiences, and personal tastes. That should explain why different people enjoy different things. We also live in a free society (or so we like to think). And, in this free society, our literary, musical and artistic tastes are what we most freely express. There's no law about liking or disliking certain kinds of music. There's no hate crime legislation for liking or disliking certain styles of art. Which means that people have no problem forming their opinions about other people’s artwork, and expressing those opinions profusely to their friends, coworkers, or teh Intraweb.

No matter how astoundingly perfect your work is, you can count on someone not liking it. Look at all the people that hate War and Peace. Or at all the people who come out of the woodwork every year, announcing that the new Miss Universe is butt-ugly. Or Peter Griffin, who never got *gasp* The Godfather.

I’m pretty positive that a lot of people don't like what I write. I even have the numbers to back it up - 20 to 30 hits a day and 19 incoming links. That's puny. That means hundreds of people have visited this blog and chosen not to read it ever again, because, in their opinion, what's written here is crap and is not worthy of their time.

And that is fine with me.

They are entitled to their own opinions.

It would never occur to me to take their opinions as a personal offense.

With that in mind, allow me to proceed to the next part of my speech.

I like to read. I read a lot. Some of what I read, I like. And some of what I read, I don't like. Sometimes I like or dislike a book so much, I will write about it on my blog.

This should in no way be taken as personal offense to the author. These are my personal tastes and nothing more. For all I know, I could be the only person in the universe not liking this book. For all I know, people might decide that the book is good for the sole reason of Goldie not liking it. Don't get me wrong; I still don't like it. But it's not the end of the world.

If I ever manage to write something AND get published, I'll be in heaven. However, that's highly unlikely. If you are a writer and your book has been published, good on you. If your book sells in large numbers and has hundreds of positive reviews on Amazon, you're doing great. If your book is taught in schools, then, my man (or woman), you are a classic.

Don't let someone with 20 to 30 hits a day and 19 incoming links convince you otherwise.

The Goldie has spoken.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:06 AM

Sunday, July 23, 2006

ChinchillaBoy Sings

ChinchillaBoy wrote this song about Michael Jackson. Sing to the tune of... oh, you can figure it out.

Michael loves the little children,
And his skin is white as snow.
Michael loves the little children,
'Cause he could not afford a ho.

Like his second-grade teacher once said, "what in the world has this child been exposed to???"

The Goldie has spoken at 8:26 PM

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Monstrosity Of A Book

LilProgrammer's required summer reading this year is a book called "Monster", by Walter Dean Myers. I didn't even try the library, after I figured the ratio of the number of the students required to read "Monster" to the number of "Monster"s available at the library. I got a used copy on Amazon for five bucks. It came in this week, and I finished reading it yesterday.

I should probably start with what I liked about the book. The book is short. I finished it in two evenings, and I didn't even have to miss my Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air reruns. This pretty much sums up what I liked about the book. The eighth-graders should stop reading this post now, as it contains spoilers.

A list of what I didn't like is slightly longer, so I will get to it later. Let me tell you a little about the book, so you don't have to ever open it. It takes place in a NYC jail and courtroom, with occasional flashbacks to Harlem. The main character is Steve Harmon, he is 16 years old and he lives in Harlem. Steve is a basically good kid who got involved with the tough guys, because he felt he had to be cool. The tough guys robbed a drug store and the owner was killed in the process. The tough guys named Steve as their accomplice in exchange for shorter sentences. Steve is on trial for murder.

That said, here's what I did not like about the book:

- I was bored out of my skull reading it. I've read programming manuals that were more exciting.
- The book wants to be a mystery/suspense, but fails miserably. At the end we are left wondering what really happened in that drugstore. Was Steve there or wasn't he? No one can tell.
- Likewise, we are left wondering why the jury decided to acquit Steve in the end. It surely wasn't because the evidence clearly pointed to his innocence - the evidence is as muddy as Lake Erie on a bright summer day. Was it because the jury was moved by the closing speech delivered by Steve's lawyer? I will never know, because I could not finish reading this long speech about nothing. It was like sitting in a corporate meeting, except worse.

But the thing that PO'd me the most about the book is that it clearly has an agenda.

I do not heart books that have an agenda.

The book is geared at teenage boys, and can really be summed up in two sentences: "Dear teenage boys, don't hang around with criminals, or you will end up in jail. People get ass-raped in jail and you don't want to go there". That's all there is to the book. Really.

You do not have to write a book if you feel the need to preach at 13-year-olds. There are many other ways to preach. A book is supposed to be a work of literature. Literature is one of the arts, along with music, drama, painting and so on. When literature is used primarily for preaching purposes, this, in my opinion, corrupts the fine literary genre. It is, to me, the same as giving birth to children and raising them with the sole purpose of having someone to support you financially in your old age.

It is selling out. It's bad. Don't do that, kids.

Last year's required reading, for the record, was The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy. LilProgrammer did not like it, but at least it was pure literature, no strings attached. The required reading in 6th grade was The Rag And Bone Shop, by an author whose name escapes me at the moment, but feel free to google. The book was creepy as heck. It had a very scary ending. I could not sleep for a week after I finished it. But, at least, it was very well written.

What changed in 8th grade? Why are our children required to read this?

I have a bad feeling about it. I will keep you posted as the year progresses.

The Goldie has spoken at 1:27 PM

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Damien Eats Out

Check Waiter Rant for a story (touching, as always) about unruly kids in his restaurant.

I have already shared my opinion on the subject far and wide on the Internet (and have received my share of irate responses). My thoughts on this are that ninety-nine percent of young children enjoy a quiet meal in a nice restaurant about as much as you enjoy a four-hour-long staff meeting. Unless your little ones have an unusual propensity for sitting quietly in one place for hours while daintily digesting gourmet foods, do them a favor and stay at home for a few years. We did; worked great for us! We saved a lot of money by not eating out, and extra weight was never a problem for me back in the day.

When the kids were seven and 4.5, very slowly we started introducing them to the world of fine dining.

Our first dining trip was to a nice Chinese restaurant, where both Mr. Goldie and I had used to be regular customers, back when we both worked in that area. Contrary to most Chinese restaurants I've seen, this one is very quiet, with a lot of ambience, background music, and excellent service. Mr. Goldie and I ordered some finger foods for the kids, and decided that he and I would split an appetizer. We chose the pu-pu platter.

Big mistake.

The rest of the lunch was spent hissing and cussing at our kids to PLEASE STOP IT about the "poo-poo" platter already, no it's not funny, even if it was funny before, it isn't anymore, so would you please just SHUT UP! Nothing worked. The kids were in stitches about the name, to the point where they were rolling off their seats and were unable to eat their finger foods. They found it hilarious.

Our next restaurant of choice was the neighborhood Damon's, where I used to take the kids on occasion. They loved sitting there like grown-ups, working away at their hamburgers with knives and forks and making small talk. Until one day LilProgrammer, who was nine years old at the time, had to use the bathroom. He excused himself and left the table.

Five minutes later, LilProgrammer very quickly returned with a shocked look on his pale face. He asked if we could leave right away and never, ever come back to this restaurant again. He was scared out of his mind, but he refused to tell us why.

Three years passed before he could even talk to us about this. As it turned out, upon entering the bathroom, he saw, and I quote, "a cut-off penis" floating in a urinal. Even though I was able to convince him that it was, in fact, a used condom, he still won't eat at a Damon's again.

A year later, our church had a Godparent Or Special Friend Day. The way it works is, your kids' godparents come to church, and instead of the Sunday School lesson, they do a craft together. Then everybody goes out for a nice lunch, and the godparents supposedly take off with the craft, which they supposedly cherish for years to come. All my kids' godparents live in Russia, so I invited an old coworker of mine. This way, I figured, my kids wouldn't feel left out, and the coworker and I would catch up on the old times.

We went to TGI Friday's. The lunch was decent. The kids were quite well-mannered as far as the public and the waitstaff went. As for my poor friend, he didn't know where to look as he was fielding question after question:

"Are you Mom's boyfriend?"
"No, we are friends."
"But this is a date, right?"
"Just stop it, guys," I cut in, "You know very well this is not a date."
Five minutes later, the conversation would start over. My friend has never offered to meet again.

Next time LilProgrammer went out to eat, it was on his 11th birthday. A new restaurant had just opened in our area, and my friends were raving about it. So, as a very special present to my firstborn, I snuck him out of the house when his brother was out with grandparents, and we went to the new restaurant for dinner. It was a forty-minute wait, but it was totally worth it. The food was great, the prices reasonable. LilProgrammer was on his best behavior and carried an entertaining conversation with me. All was wonderful until the next day, when the poor LilProgrammer came down with the worst case of diarrhea. He spent three days on the toilet, and swore restaurants off forever.

I still eat out occasionally with ChinchillaBoy. He loves it. He does tend to always order pizza, but I figure he'll grow out of it. One day, I keep telling myself, we will all go out to a nice restaurant, as a family, and we will have a great time, and everyone will enjoy the good food.

And my children will pick up the tab.

The Goldie has spoken at 4:07 PM

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It's Ezzo Week At

I realize I am jumping on the bandwagon here, but I cannot miss a chance to say a heartfelt word or two about Gary Ezzo. In the wide world of parenting literature, this man definitely stands out. Read about my past, semi-personal experiences with Ezzo's parenting techniques in this post.

As my humble contribution to the Ezzo week over at TulipGirl's, I'd like to make a confession. My thoughts after my first, second, etc. encounters with Babywise and other related books used to be, What a load of hooey! However, in the last few months, I have been actively rethinking my position on this issue. I am starting to think that Ezzo's techniques, actually, do make a lot of sense. You just need to apply them correctly and in correct circumstances.

I am referring, of course, to my dog Sparky. Ever since we got him, Sparky has been sleeping in his own little cage and no amount of whining and rattling will get him out of it until morning. Under no circumstances will we ever share our beds with Sparky! He has a very strict feeding schedule and is expected to eat anything he's given, and not beg for more (yeah, riiight!) He understands the words "NO!" and "BAD DOG!" and would do anything to avoid them being said. He is most definitely NOT allowed to explore, especially in the master bedroom, my office, dresser drawers, and, last but not least, the garbage containers! He has cage time, outdoor time, walk time and room time, and happily adheres to the schedule. Heck, he even poops at scheduled times! He is a very well-behaved little doggy who respects his owners. I am embarrassed to admit, the Babywise technique actually works very well! On dogs, that is.

I confess, though, that I still have not fully embraced Ezzo's techniques. I don't spank my dog. Embarrassing but true.

There are, however, valid reasons why Ezzo's teachings apply so well to a dog.

A dog has a pack mentality. He's not comfortable until he knows who's the leader in the family, and where his own place is. He is perfectly content to know that he is at the bottom of the pack, as long as it is an established hierarchy. He is perfectly happy to remain at the bottom of the pack for the entire duration of his life.

A dog is not expected to go to school, or college. He may learn to sit, shake, and roll over, but he's not really expected to do any extensive amount of learning. His job is to follow, not to think for himself.

A dog is not expected to live on his own, or make his own decisions for himself. He is not expected to start a family, be a good spouse, raise his children and pass his values on to them.

A dog is not expected to hold a job, earn money, and contribute to the society.

Finally, no one expects a dog to become a scientist or a writer, to invent a cure for cancer or inspire people with his creative work.

Bottom line, all his life, a dog follows the leader, obeys commands, and has all decisions made for him by somebody else. That's what a dog's life is all about. That is why a dog will thrive on Ezzo's techniques.

A human, on the other hand, will not.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:35 PM

Sunday, July 16, 2006

An Offer Of Fun And Variety

A few weeks ago, my parents decided to buy cemetery plots. The place they selected was referred to them by a friend of a friend. I tagged along as an interpreter. Our experience with the cemetery salesman was highly entertaining, to say the least.

Since I cannot use the man's real name, I'll just go ahead and call him Morty.

On our first visit, Morty gave us a full tour of the place. What he wanted my parents to buy was a double, top-level mausoleum plot. This sounds a lot more impressive than it actually looks. It turns out that "mausoleum" means a granite wall with caskets stuck inside it, a dozen or so in a row, six rows high. It is dirt cheap, but you have to pay for everything up front, which makes the deal attractive to Morty, as opposed to when we just pay for a piece of land now and for everything else later (much later, I hope!)

The mausoleum thing did not work out. My Mom absolutely refused to be buried at twenty feet above the ground. We told Morty we'd think about the other options and come back in about a week.

Morty kept pressuring us to pay for the marker, the caskets and everything else right away.

"I'm just looking out for you guys. I want to lock you guys in while the rates are good. If you do it later, the prices will be higher and you will end up paying more."

I smiled at Morty and replied,

"Well I hope I will get a few raises by then."

My parents, however, were almost convinced. Morty had inadvertently struck a gold mine that is the parental sense of guilt.

"We want to pay the cheap price now. We don't want you to get stuck with the high prices later."

"Nonono, guys, don't you understand? When the 'later' happens, Morty may not be working here anymore! That's why he wants you to pay for everything now. He works on commission, remember."

That worked; so, a week later, my parents came into Morty's office and announced:

"We only want to buy the land now, and the rest later. And we want the cheapest piece of land that you have."

That's when the show started.

'You see," Morty took out a piece of paper and turned to me, "if they buy a more expensive piece of land, they will actually end up saving money. Here's why. In the area that they want, we only allow a certain type of marker that is more expensive. Here, let me add it all up for you" - and he pulled out his trusty calculator and started adding the numbers.

Out of a mix of boredom and curiosity, I was adding the numbers on my Blackberry as I was sitting opposite Morty. Surprisingly, his totals matched mine.

"So at the end of the day," Morty proudly announced, "you will end up saving... wait a minute." His face acquired a serious expression all of a sudden. "You will save sixty cents??"

We smiled. "Thanks Morty, it is a great deal, but we'll pass."

Morty tried from a different angle. "Listen, this is a very nice spot I'm offering you. You will be next to Friends-Of-A-Friend, someone you know."

I joined in supportively, "You can go visit with them if you want to."

Not appreciating my help, Morty continued. "And this area has trees! And benches! And variety! Whereas the one you want has no trees, no variety, and no fun!"

Gee, I hate it when there's no fun at a cemetery, don't you?

That was a deal-breaker if I ever saw one. My parents rolled with laughter. Morty gave up all his attempts to convince them, and sold them the piece of land they had wanted to begin with.

I learned a lot about sales that day. Basically, that, in the eyes of some salesmen, there is no difference between a used car, a timeshare, and a cemetery plot.

This is sad.

But it is in your power to turn it into a source of fun and, well, variety. Thanks, Morty. You made our day.

The Goldie has spoken at 3:01 PM

Friday, July 14, 2006

Leads And Feeds

I locked myself out of my Russian forum a week ago - intentionally. This was so I can get more things done. So far, it's working (I mean, is this my fourth post this week or what?) Yesterday, I did something I'd been meaning to do since a long time ago and got all of my blogroll into Bloglines. It is so awesome! It's like the Friends page in LiveJournal and it is a real timesaver. I'm loving it, go get it and see for yourselves!

Another thing about my blogroll is, it has grown a lot longer lately, because I keep finding these unbelievably good sites through Blog Laughs. Mostly it's the big-name ones that I had somehow overlooked in the 18 months I've been blogging. I am absolutely in love with Waiter Rant - the man is pure genius. He takes ordinary days from his work and turns them into amazingly well written, bittersweet stories that keep you coming back for more. That, in fact, was more or less what I intended to do here, except that I cannot blog about work, so my plan was to write about my life, kids, pets, neighbors, not necessarily in that order. I see that I still have a lot to learn.

I have also added Anonymous Coworker and Blogography. I'll let you know if I find more good ones, or just check for them over at Blog Laughs. There was one more blog that I didn't add as I'm not really comfy with it - I am especially uncomfy about pulling it up at work by accident and having someone see it! However, this is a perfect post if I ever saw one:

If I were a vagina I would never talk to my dirty neighbor to the south whose puckered mouth smells of sin and debauchery and the clenched visage of retention.

Always he's coming over with a cup to borrow sugar and flour to make brownie cakes and to use my toilet and always to clog it, always he sneaks out with my toilet rim full with poop and a few papers.

Read the rest of it here.

Now that I have all this free time, I wonder what else I can do to my blog to bring it closer to those amazing literary geniuses. I have already discovered that I can make cool drawings in MS Paint - what else? I'm thinking about paying ChinchillaBoy to do one guest post a week. Am I crazy or do you think it just might work?

It's Friday... have a great weekend!

The Goldie has spoken at 4:11 PM

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rate Your Teacher! It's All The Rage

Found this site through Mamacita and then again through Education Wonks.

I'm going to go against the general consensus and say that, most of the time, kids do know what they're talking about. They do not only give good ratings to those teachers that give them all As and no homework. Okay, some of them do, but you need to read between the lines. I have checked LilProgrammer's middle school teachers (ChinchillaBoy is starting this school in the fall) and most of the ratings and comments are right on. I was laughing out loud at what the students had to say about some of the teachers... but I am not naming any names.

And they definitely recognize the good ones, even if they are strict and their course is difficult. To sum it up, all LilProgrammer's teachers have the same average ratings that I would give them myself.

Then again, I am but a lowly parent!

I am not surprised. In my late teens and early 20's, I worked at a math camp for gifted teenage kids. The kids gave us all nicknames. What amazed me was how each nickname precisely conveyed the essence of the person. How did they do that? (Of course, it's easy for me to say... I didn't end up with a nickname like Hunchback or Mop!)

A fellow parent warned me, though, about one thing. Sometimes a hugely unpopular teacher will log in and leave positive feedback for himself or herself under the guise of an anonymous student. At least, that's what my friend suspects. I have seen a few suspicious ones myself. If a person has thirty negatives and one positive, you can't help but wonder, especially if this person's only positive feedback manages to contain trash about his or her fellow teachers. Big red flag. ChinchillaBoy, you've been warned.

The only thing about the site that left me wondering was that the teachers get rated on the "Easiness" of their class. WTF? Wouldn't Barney the dinosaur receive the highest rating in this category? Isn't school, like, supposed to be difficult? This way we can tell we're learning something, you know?

Other than that, nice site. Keep up the good work!

The Goldie has spoken at 5:17 PM

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Things That Make Me Go "Arrrrrgh"

7. Militant charities that call you at home and try to harass you into donating to them. Any caller that has ever in their life used a phrase: "Don't you have ten dollars?" - falls into this category.
6. Women that pee all over the seat in public restrooms.
5. Also in public restrooms - toilets that have a mind of their own and flush at random times, when you least expect it.
4. People who drive under the speed limit for no valid reason.
3. Also on the road - people who cut in front of me, immediately slow down, and proceed to drive at 10 miles per hour for the next five miles on a two-lane road.
2. Users that call at five PM saying that they've been having this issue since eight in the morning, and it needs to be fixed, NOW! Why did you wait nine hours to call me if you need it fixed so badly?

But nothing makes me go "arrrgh" as much as this…

Every time I've been checking my Yahoo email today, this freaky fungoid stares me in the face. It seriously interferes with the digestion of my humble office snacks. Dear Yahoo, please kill the fungus so I can sleep at night. I didn't say anything when you displayed a huge, cellulite-ridden ass next to my email, but this is too much.

And, if you don't, I will tell my neighbor where you live, and he will install a set of speakers next to your house.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Goldie has spoken at 5:49 PM

Monday, July 10, 2006

Meet The Neighbors

Since we moved into our house five years ago, we have gradually come to know many families on our street. (Having a dog helps greatly.) But the family right next to us still remains a mystery. We only know two things about our neighbors.

1) They could probably buy us all and still have a lot of cash left over;
2) They love placing their stuff as close to our property line as they can get.

I already wrote about how, during the 2004 election season, they put up a Bush-Cheney poster within inches of our front lawn. That one, I actually found amusing. What I don't find amusing is a pair of decent-sized speakers they have installed on their fence, inches away from our property and quite close to ChinchillaBoy's bedroom window, as illustrated by this high-quality drawing:

The first summer after we moved in, we were stunned to hear, every night, hours of really loud opera music and military marches. This lasted for a year or two; then the music went away, to be replaced by nightly parties on the patio that lasted till the crack of dawn. Needless to say, we were not getting quality sleep all those years. Then, last spring, after an especially annoying party, our neighbors' backyard activity suddenly ceased, and we enjoyed a summer of peace and quiet. This year, the music started again.

At first, it was very low and extremely mellow - show tunes, classical - and it stopped promptly at 10PM. We actually found it enjoyable. Then we noticed the volume going up by a little more every night, and the concerts ending later, again, by ten or fifteen minutes every night. Then, gradually, the mellow music was replaced by the more lively kind, and, finally, last night we came back from our camping trip to an ear-splitting rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, followed by a series of equally loud marches.

Our neighbors were back in full force. I peeked through the cracks in the 8-ft. tall solid fence - their backyard was empty. Apparently, the music was there entirely for our enjoyment. It was 9PM and we were dead tired, and hoping to turn in early after our weekend camping trip, so we could at least look alive at work (Mr. Goldie and me) and summer camp (ChinchillaBoy) the next morning. Oh well, so much for that.

Suddenly, I could not take it any more.

I guess it was The Star-Spangled Banner that did it. I paced up and down my backyard, followed by the dog, thinking, If this is the land of the free and the home of the brave, then maybe it's time for me to act like both. For five years, by virtue of seniority, more money, and louder audio equipment, our next-door neighbors had been determining what music we listened to on our nights and weekends. It was time for us to get back in charge.

As far as I've been told, if you have a complaint against your neighbors, you don't go to their house to talk it out with them. This is an invasion of the neighbor's privacy, and besides, the neighbor may turn out to be mentally unstable and/or armed. I was told instead to either write them a nice letter, or notify the authorities. My gut feeling was strongly opposed to the nice letter. I still feel like it isn't a good idea to give my neighbors something in writing that can be used against me.

As far as notifying the authorities, it goes against the Russian culture. We don't snitch, unless of course we have no other choice.

I went back into the house and changed into nice, matching clothes. Leaving the dog at home, I marched towards the neighbors' door and rang the bell. I stepped back and turned up the cute.

I have been on tech support for the last six years. I have a reputation of being able to tame the most irate user. How much worse can a neighbor be, I figured.

The door opened. Well, one of the doors did. The patriarch of the house talked to me through his screen door.


"Hello," I replied, "wonder if you wouldn't mind to please turn the music off in your back yard?"

"In my yard?"

"Yes, just in your yard, please, if you can" - followed by my best puppy-dog eyes.

The patriarch spoke very slowly. Either he was extremely mad, or he wanted to make sure that I understood his E-n-g-l-i-s-h. I have an accent, so I get that a lot.

"And why do you have the gall to tell me to turn the music off in my yard?"

"Because," I continued in the same nice voice I'd been using, "we live next door, and your speakers are pretty much on our property."

"This is my yard. And I mind my own business. And I strongly urge you to do the same", and he slammed the door in my face.

I walked back home, thinking that the man had just given me permission to call the police if need be. I started shuffling through my address books, so I could have the police department's number handy if I needed to call them at, say, midnight.

Five minutes later, the music stopped.

We won the battle. But the war, in all likelihood, is on.

I admit to you that I am scared shitless of our next-door neighbor, though I certainly did not let him see that last night. I just pretended he was one of my users, and kept my cool.

But I don't want to listen to his patriotic music selection any more than he would want to listen to ChinchillaBoy's rap and hip-hop CDs.

What do we do now?

The Goldie has spoken at 12:27 PM

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Just Got Back From A Camping Trip!

It sure feels good to be home again, where I can relax with my friend.

The ever poetic ChinchillaBoy has made the following comment about the trip:

Woodchips, pebbles, blisters galore.
Walking in sandals can be such a whore.

Just kidding - we had a great time with our friends, as usual. The park was awesome, as usual. Well, except for the part where they had a Country/Western weekend... but, after a while, you get used to it! Yeeee haaaaw!

The Goldie has spoken at 6:35 PM

Thursday, July 06, 2006

ChinchillaBoy sez...

"Mom, stop hogging my computer! God gave you a laptop. Use it."

The Goldie has spoken at 4:49 PM

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Little Programmer That DAREd

ChinchillaBoy is now telling me I cannot post anything about him on this blog without his permission. I think this is part of a world wide tween kids' conspiracy to shut down all mommy blogs so their mothers would finally get off the Internet and pay attention to them, instead of telling the world what amazing mothers they are. Anyway, now I have no other choice but to post about LilProgrammer. I was going through my old papers one day and found a report that LilProgrammer wrote for his DARE graduation back when he was in fifth grade.

As you probably guessed, I don't really heart DARE. My biggest issue with this program, much like with Operation Keepsake, is that it forces elementary and middle school students to make unrealistic, lifetime promises. I saw a kid's DARE pledge once where he promised not to drink any beer as long as he lives. Good luck with that. But enough talk, here's the report. Notice the creative spelling, as well as the small print in the end.

My DARE Report

I have learned a lot from DARE. Inhalants can kill you the first time you use them. Marawana is only leagel in 2 states. It is going to be ileagal soon. That is just some of the stuff I have learned.

I have learned a lot of important things from DARE. The number of ninth-graders smoking or drinking is becoming less every year. Drugs effect every part of your body. Tobacco kills 400,000 people every year. Alchahol kills you faster than marawana. I learned a lot of other stuff.

The skills that I learned will help me to dicide wether to use tobbaco and alchahol or not. I wont use inhalants because they could kill me in one use. I wont die from one smoke or drink of tobbaco or alchahol but I wont use them. There are many other reasons why I won't use alchahol or tobbaco untill I'm 21 or 18.

This is my commitment to make wise dicisions about drugs. I won't drink and I won't smoke. I won't use inhalants or marawana. There are many other drugs I won't use.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:15 AM

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I Was Going To Post Something Funny...

... but then I got this phone call.
A good friend of mine has passed away yesterday. He was 42. It was completely unexpected and inexplicable.
I will take a short break and will return in a few days with the usual entertaining stuff.

The Goldie has spoken at 2:27 PM

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