Thoughts on education

I've been on lj over 12 years now, and I've had lots of thoughts on education [also, I was posting stuff on marypat.org in longer form from 1996 - 2002; I've also written a lot at the Actuarial Outpost on this subject]

So this post is simply to amass posts as I find them, and categorize them. I am defining "education" very broadly here. I may be linking to some friends-locked posts, and will note that when I link. Some of these posts may need to be moved around for better organization.

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New year, same old meep

I have been foolish in the past. [let's not talk about now]

Ten years ago, I made the mistake of saying this:

I'm an old fart. Also, Happy New Years to all y'all. This has been the most action-packed decade of my life. I hope the next ten years are more sedate.... I can't handle the excitement.

So. I was only 35 years old at the time. I'm even older & fartier now. The action-packed aspect of the 2000-2009 decade was dropping out of grad school, having three kids, becoming an actuary, and that sort of shit. In 2009, we realized D was autistic. That was just the beginning with D.

The 2010-2019 decade ... well. It's been extremely rough.

Let's see — no, let me not detail it.  I will say that it's been rough and even worse than the 2000-2009 situation. 

I'm very tired.

Last year, I made a resolution to sleep more.

That didn't happen.

In a way, I give up, but not really. What I'm giving up about are the resolutions.  

So no, I'm not trying to improve. 

I'm just trying to survive at this point.


Sleep on it

I can always tell when I'm ill.

I sleep more than 6 hours.

Last night, I went to sleep around 8pm.  I did wake up several times over the night (I usually do — I need to pee, if nothing else.) But after noodling around online (mainly doing sudoku), I'd sleep a bit again. I didn't get my butt out of bed til after 8am.

Sometimes you really gotta just stay in bed for longer and enjoy yourself.


Why not let content decay?

I came across this page is designed to last:

For a professor, the end of the year is an opportunity to clean up and reset for the upcoming new semester. I found myself clearing out old bookmarks—yes, bookmarks: that formerly beloved browser feature that seems to have lost the battle to 'address bar autocomplete'. But this nostalgic act of tidying led me to despair.
Bookmark after bookmark led to dead link after dead link. Vanished are amazing pieces of writing on kuro5hin about tech culture, and a collection of mathematical puzzles and their associated discussion by academics that my father introduced me to; gone are Woodman's Reverse Engineering tutorials from my high school years, where I first tasted the god-like feeling of dominance over software; even my most recent bookmark, a series of posts on Google+ exposing usb-c chargers' non-compliance with the specification, disappeared.
This is more than just link rot, it's the increasing complexity of keeping alive indie content on the web, leading to a reliance on platforms and time-sorted publication formats (blogs, feeds, tweets).
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Dipping My Toes

I had a steroid shot in my spine a couple weeks ago.

And.... while I still have chronic pain, it's so much less than before.

So, I decided to try knitting again. After so much time. I had knitted Stu a hat and a cowl after his cancer diagnosis... but I had to do that soooooo slowly. I knit a really thick yarn on huge needles. That made it a lot easier. 

I used to knit and crochet so much.

Anyway, I made a washcloth today. A small washcloth, but still. This is the pattern: https://www.simplynotable.com/2014/mini-almost-lost-washcloths/

I hope I can get back into making stuff. It has been a long time.


What I believe

Actuarially, I believe in truth. This may seem an odd thing to say, given we actuaries work with outcomes that are, by nature, uncertain. However, uncertainty is the truth of reality, and quantifying that is our work.

This belief in truth manifests in my work two ways. The first way is via error-prevention and error-detection. Early on, I realized spreadsheets were key to my work, and many that I inherited were a mess.

How could I rely on the results? I became very good at detecting errors within spreadsheets and structuring them so that they would be easy to update and, most importantly, easy to check if they were calculating correctly. Around this time, I came across the article “How do you know your spreadsheet is right?” written by Phil Bewig in 2005, which taught me new techniques and introduced me to the European Spreadsheet Risk Interest Group, which I joined soon after. Soon after, I shared this article on the Actuarial Outpost.

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Some Diarmuid Developments

Recently, I got last school year's standardized test results back for Siobhan and Diarmuid, and neither result was all that surprising. I have no objection to having D do the regular state tests, but I'm not quite sure what the point is. 

For those not in the know, D is autistic, and no, he's not "high functioning". He's got an IEP, and he has been in special education since he was 3. The state test results for D were single-digit percentile. I mean — somebody has to be at first percentile, and it may as well be him. But it doesn't tell anybody much, because a lot of this is mediated by D's limited communication skills. It's difficult to know what he does and does not understand, when he can barely tell people basic things. He does seem to have a lot of receptive language, but his productive language is limited.

That said, D has been remarking more on the world and conversations.

Most of D's communication is scripted — that is, most is of the variety "May I have X, please?", "Press play", "Thank you", "Where is X?", "Yes/no/I don't know", and sometimes, if he answers, it really isn't a "true" answer (especially the "I don't know" response).

Then he produces a lot of words that are really scripted in that he's reciting lines from movies or TV shows. Sometimes it's a game to try to figure out what show he is quoting. 

But every so often, he says something that is relevant to what's going on and isn't from a show.

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Here's Hoping...

....I believe I mentioned this earlier this year, but I decided to try once more to get my pain situation on a more bearable basis.  I've been going to a chiropractor for years, as well as getting massage & acupuncture, but these have all been temporary respites (or, to be more precise, they help for a few hours, but it still is nice to get -some- relief when you feel pain all the time.)

So this year, I've added a pain medicine doc & neurologist to the mix. The pain medicine doc confirmed that yes, I have problems with a cervical disc (C5/6) that has herniated worse than the last time it was imaged. Woo.

On Thursday, I am trying an epidural steroid injection (as per recommendation of the pain doc), and I hope this will give me relief... for months? I really really hope so. I know it has worked for some, and not others in the past, and yeah, inject whatever into my spine, I want relief. Temporary relief as in months would be FABULOUS.

We will see how it goes.

If you're the praying kind, please pray for me. If another kind, please keep me in your thoughts.

I will let y'all know how it goes.... 


Doing Better, but Still Limited

The last 3 days or so, I think the various medication mix has been helping re: my chronic pain situation.  I'm taking all sorts of things, and one thing in particular, gabapentin/neurontin can be taken at a variety of dosage. The pain doc gave me a taper schedule to gradually increase the dosage, so I can figure out the effective dose without making me useless brain-wise. Within the past few days, I've actually felt my pain dulled, and I could tell it was different from previous.

However, I'm currently splayed on Stu's couch/bed (he has to sleep downstairs because of the trouble with stairs given his cancer treatment), as about 1pm the pain kicked in big time today. But it's better than it had been!

While feeling semi-good, I took advantage of the situation the past couple days by taking Bon with me to Lasdon Park & Arboretum. If you're in Northern Westchester, I highly recommend this park. This morning, Bon & I visited the veterans' memorials and the "famous people" arboretum. On Sunday, we checked out the dinosaur walk (that one is kinda silly, but it's shaded) and the Chinese Friendship Pavilion. All the walks are free, and the only thing charged for is the Conservatory. It's open almost every day of the year (excepting: Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving).

I also washed some dishes. And made the following video:

But I'm chilling right now. Woo.  

I do what I can while I can.