Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's like playing a Scorcese movie

So I may or may not have waited on line at midnight to buy Grand Theft Auto 4.

And I may or may not have played it until 3AM, leaving around 4 hours for sleep.

And if I didn't have a meeting tomorrow, I might have called in sick.

But make no mistake about this, it's the most beautiful and awesome game experience I've had. Wow.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I think there's something in my eye

So my step-mother passed along this incredible article about a woman teaching a terminally ill deaf child with Downs in Pittsburgh. And that woman happens to be married to my brother in Pittsburgh.

Nice job sister. Love you and incredibly proud of you.

There's some great photos of her with Sarah, the little girl here.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Back to headlines
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On the Job: Student's illness changes teacher's lessons

By Allison M. Heinrichs
Monday, April 28, 2008

Buzz up!
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Malkah Bird has taught mentally challenged children to tell time, use sign language and count money.

But when one of her students developed a deadly cancer, Bird began teaching her most difficult lesson.

"I never would have guessed at the beginning of the year that the big umbrella concept we're going to work on is what happens when your friend gets sick," said Bird, who teaches special education at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. "I've never taught this lesson before, so we're all learning together."

Bird, 29, is in her second year with the Edgewood school. It's a career path she never imagined she'd take

Shortly after graduating with a degree in geology from Smith College in western Massachusetts, Bird was accepted to Teach for America, a program that recruits high-scoring recent college graduates to teach in underprivileged areas.

She was sent to the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico and, for two years, taught a class of mentally challenged teen boys whom other teachers had labeled "impossible."

Many of the children couldn't speak and would get frustrated because Bird didn't understand what they wanted. So she taught them -- and herself -- some sign language.

"A whole new world opened up," she said. "Suddenly they had this ability to communicate."

Inspired, Bird went to the University of Pittsburgh to earn a master's degree in deaf education and started teaching middle school at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.

Although most children at the school are as intelligent as any hearing child, Bird decided to continue teaching mentally challenged students.

"Everyone has a calling in life, and this is Malkah's," said Donald Mazreku, assistant principal in the middle school. "The students she works with have multiple disabilities and, where some may view that as a challenge, Malkah is a person who perceives it as an opportunity."

Bird's goal is to help the children become functioning members of society, teaching them to count money, tell time, make food and do laundry.

"Who's to say that what they have to contribute to society isn't just as important as what I contribute?" Bird said. "Every human deserves the opportunity to feel successful."

Sarah Richardson, 15, of Wilkins is one of Bird's students. A strong-willed girl who loves candy and the Disney princesses, Sarah was born with Down syndrome and diagnosed with autism four years ago.

"She's brilliant with any kind of matching or shapes," Bird said.

In February, Sarah was diagnosed with a rare cancer that caused her left thigh to swell to three times its normal size. She was admitted to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in Oakland.

"That day, when I told Malkah that Sarah had cancer, she came down here and was waiting for me in the emergency room," said Sarah's mother, Denise Richardson. "We call her Malkah-mom."

Because the cancer has spread to Sarah's lungs, doctors consider her terminally ill. Denise Richardson isn't sure her daughter will be alive for her 16th birthday May 29.

The school rearranged class schedules for Bird and fellow teacher Sally Wellman so they could spend a few hours every week tutoring Sarah. Even on days she isn't scheduled to teach, Bird visits Sarah, who is in hospice care at The Children's Institute in Squirrel Hill.

On a recent visit, Sarah tried to match shapes through a morphine haze and the distracting tickle of her strawberry-blond hair falling out when she suddenly scrunched up her face and started to cry.

Tears sprang to Denise Richardson's eyes as Bird stopped the lesson to cup Sarah's face in her hands and kiss her forehead.

"That is what's hardest for me," Denise Richardson said. "How do you watch your little girl in so much pain?"

To prepare Sarah's classmates for their friend's death, Bird and the other teachers explain daily that Sarah is very sick. Bird created a fundraiser called "Steps for Sarah" and her students have walked 100 miles and raised $2,000 to help Sarah's family.

"Just as with every other teacher that I have seen in that school, Malkah has a love for her students," said John Irwin, who is the father of Nathan, 15, one of Sarah's classmates. "It's exemplified in how she, and everyone at the school, has rallied around Sarah Richardson and her family."

Bird said there is value in teaching any child, even one with terminal cancer.

"In the beginning we continued teaching Sarah, I think, because we saw that she was bored," Bird said. "But now it's more. Just like anybody, if you have a reason to fight, you fight."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Celebrate Good Times

First, to all Knick fans, Christmas came early last week. I was so happy to see this happen, but sadly he was in for far too long. Apparently that internet petition I signed last year did some good. I'm kind of a big deal.

In other news, I went to North Adams, MA for work today. If you don't know where that is, it's here.

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I could have spat on both New York and Vermont. Yeah, its far. And the best part is getting to drive out there through all these smaller towns, like Charlemont, Florida, Peru and Savoy. Massachusetts isn't a very large state, but there are very different parts of it. While it can be a total pain in the ass to get to some of them, it's always fascinating to me to drive through it and watch it all change outside the window.

Finally, congrats to my friends Lisa, Anne and Jodi on running and completing the Boston Marathon. You ran 26.2 miles in an event that caused the original participant to die. You are very impressive.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Assorted Ramblings

Let's see....
(Photo courtesy of Michael Carter)

We start with the recently announced merger of Delta and Northwest Airlines. Ramblings doesn't really care that much about this. Delta has decent sized operations from Logan, but nowhere near as big as they promised. Though, if approved, it does mean fewer carriers which in case you've been drinking the Kool-Aid means higher ticket prices. Which is not good, but understandable considering the high oil prices. If you're dying to know more about the new airline, they made a website which is filled with unhelpful stuff that flacks wrote in a hurry.

And much more importantly, I found a pair of black dress shoes that I ordered from Kenneth Cole. They are shown here:

Now you'll notice one thing about them. They have no laces. For some I know this is no big deal, but I'm old fashioned about these things. I don't do sandals at all, I prefer shoes that lace in a straight forward no nonsense way. Hell, even my Merrells were a big deal at the time. So I know I'm joining my metrosexual brother on the dark side, so we'll see when they get there. The ones that I wanted with laces were only in sizes Gary Coleman and John Holmes, so no dice.

Finally, I found an occupational safety video from the Canadian version of OSHA. So I'm watching this video here, the first one.

And this is what goes through my head.

"Oh hello. You can make me breakfast in be...

Huh? Well that seems rather...

AAAHH What the fu$k is going on? I will never cook again!"

I call the Canadians pansies, but the people that make their PSAs have no sense of humor, unlike the wacky Germans. (Note: Wait for it....wait for it...)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Postal Service employs Dobermans to deliver mail

Dear Netflix,

A few weeks ago I was told by you that you had shipped Stalag 17. This the WW2 German prison camp thriller which I have not seen. I did not receive it. I waited and then started to accuse. I thought that perhaps my upstairs neighbor who also gets Netflix had taken it by mistake, and then thought he was a thief. I checked to see if my roommate was using it as a coaster, but no. So, I sent an e-mail saying it hadn't come, and you shipped one out. No doubt you were thinking that I had wondered down to the local Blockbuster and tried to sell them my copy.

Vindication came two weeks later when I received this in the mail.
Some of you may recognize this envelope. It's the one they send to you, when something went wrong somewhere along the postal journey. Possible things that could have gone wrong?
  • The automatic machine they use ate it.
  • A dog ate it.
  • It was used for scrap paper to take lunch orders for the midnight shift at SCF Boston.
  • A letter carrier did horrible, unspeakable things to it.
In any event, your letter or postal item got trashed and they put it in a protective plastic sheath and drop it off. I like the "We Care" part. No you don't. How do you know that wasn't a letter containing my birthday money from Grandma, or Red Sox home opener tickets? It should say "We're Sorry." Seems only fair.

So I open the sheath and find this:
Netflix, as you know, this is the front of your envelope. I blanked out my address so that my female blog fans wouldn't stalk me (or that people would order pizzas to my house.) So the question is, where is the DVD? I have this image that it went home embedded in some poor bastard's head after the sorting machine shot it out like a discus. I hope this is not the case, as that guy is probably watching Stalag 17 and drooling due to the blunt brain trauma.

So all this is to say Netflix is that I'm not a thief and I have proof.

Thank you.

P.S. I know some people that work at this facility and they're all really nice. So I'm not insulting the work of the largest employer in the country. Please don't do unspeakable things to my mail. Except the credit card offers. Make them cry.