Friday, May 20, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Day-Time

I'm not usually one to get on a soapbox but here goes.

So this happened a little over an hour and a half ago, and it pissed me off. 

I park in the same spot at school every day because I’m a creature of habit.  Today was no different.  However, I remembered there were nursing practicals so those students had rolled in very early.  Naturally, my spot was taken.  But that wasn’t why I was pissed off.

I found a nice spot—two rows back.  For those of you who don’t know, parking where I work is limited.  Even if you arrive before 8:30, it’s possible to find all spots in all lots taken.  I’m usually there by 7:00 so I can read the paper, then do my crossword and Sudoku.  I walk into work around 8. 

Some background on today, though. I have a tall schedule to fill.  I’m helping out with student assessments and had seven, 8-page papers to read and grade based.  I have meetings at the Stanton campus later, and then have to come back to Wilmington.  Rather than do the crossword and Sudoku, I decided to save them as something to do after work tonight.  I thought I’d get an early start on the assessments, so I walked in a half-hour earlier than I usually do.

I crossed the street, walked in, and greeted our public safety officer.  He immediately got up and walked over to me.

Officer: Jack, I’ve been trying to call your office for the past twenty minutes. Why’d you do that?

Me: Do what?

Officer: You have a dog, right?  In your car?

Me: No.  Why?

Officer: You have a brown Nissan Pathfinder, right?  And I know you park in that same spot every day because we’ve talked about it.

Me: Well, actually today someone was in that spot so I parked in a different one.

Officer (walking out the door with me, pointing to the car in my usual spot): That’s your car, right?

Me: Looks like it, but like I I had to park in a different one because that person was already there.

Officer: And you don’t have a dog with you on campus?

Me: No.

Officer: Well, someone does and it’s in that car in your spot. 

Me: Oh my God. Are the windows open?

Officer (looking): No. [Calls for backup].  Uh, yeah, we need to find the owner of that car ASAP and if we can't...Jack, thanks.  I'll talk to you later.

I then went on my way once I determined they were going to either find the owner or break the car window. 

So what really pissed me off was that someone who had their practical exam (exams that run from like 7-10 or maybe later) had locked a dog in their car with no windows down.  The car was in the sun.  Even though it felt a little chilly outside, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the car’s internal temperature with no windows down is going to rise pretty quickly.  I read once that even on like a 60 degree day (like today) a car's internal temperature in the sun can reach 100 degrees.  

So, my question is, who the hell does that? Seriously, what is wrong with you?  I understand if you couldn’t get someone to watch your dog that early, but a) at least leave the windows down so the dog doesn’t get heat stroke and b) why not mention it to public safety? 

Ask them to check on your dog periodically?  Obviously any pet owners can insert suggestions--just thinking off the top of my head.

Instead, you selfishly took your exams without giving any thought to this poor dog.  That pisses me off.

And you who did this wants to be a nurse?  Really?   Working with humans?   You can't even take care of your pet properly.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Rural Juror

Arguably one of the best episodes of "30 Rock," this episode was funny because of the difficult pronunciation. Try to say it three times fast. Rural Juror.  Do you remember the episode?  It was the one where everyone roundly praised Jenna Maroney's acting chops, except Liz.

The movie Jenna starred in was about, well, a woman named Constance Justice who was on a jury. This past Thursday, I got the opportunity to actually be a juror.  And that's, really cool.

First off, I'll tell you about the time leading up to my jury selection.  I parked at school, and decided to walk to the courthouse.  However, before I even embarked on my walk, I messed up the Sudoku.  I hate it when I do that.  Secondly, some dumb girl opened her car door directly into mine, mumbled an apology, and ran off giggling with her friend.  I threw up my hands and let out a loud "What the f."  She kept walking. What a bitch.

I shook it off and walked to the courthouse.  I had called the jury number the night before, and I knew to take off my belt since it needed to go through security as well.  What I forgot to do was to take the small swiss army knife off my key chain.  I was confronted by a Capitol police officer.  That knife was from my grandfather, and now it would be confiscated.  I'm so gonna get picked today, I thought.  I shuffled into the jury services room.

I sat down once I got to the room, and we all waited for everything to get started. We were to arrive no later than 8:30 a.m., but people were late.  They finally got started, and the orientation head said "Welcome to the Hunger Games.  May the odds be ever in your favor," spoofing Effie Trinket's quote during the lottery that takes place each year to select the tributes for the games.

Effie Trinket

Next, they named the people who did not fill out the initial survey correctly.  What idiots, I thought, until they called my name last. I rolled my eyes and walked up.  I had forgotten to fill in my occupation.  Could this day get any worse?

Next we waited.  And waited. Finally, a bailiff came down and the names were called.  The odds were not in my favor.  I was the second one called.  Jesus Christ, I thought.  I walked up and out into the hallway, where they herded the 120 of us who were selected, leaving the other 80 or so people back in the jury room.

We took the elevator to the courtroom. On the long ride up, someone said, "Is this the magic elevator?" and someone replied, "Yeah, it's the Wonkavator.  We're going to get shot out of the building and back to our cars."  Everyone laughed nervously.

We were ushered into the courtroom.  There were lawyers and a judge and everything.  We sat on the benches in the back.  The judge then read the charges and the process of voir dire was explained to us.  When the woman who was facilitating this part, where potential jurors meet with lawyers to express any conflicts of interest during the case, asked if anyone was a "retree."  We stared at her blankly.  The judge then hopped on the mic and said "The word is retiree."  The dumb blonde who mispronounced the word twice giggled.  

After all initial voir dire questions were asked, about 2/3 of the people raised their hands and met with the lawyers.  Individually.  It took forever,  and most of them were dismissed and sent back to jury services.  They then began to call names to sit in the jury box.  There were 25 or so of us, and 14 names needed to make the twelve person jury plus two alternates.

The lawyers would then object.  Someone would be sent out, and someone else would be called to take their place.  I was the last name called and sat in the chair, and I became Juror #2.    No one objected, and the judge said "We have a jury.  This trial is expected to last two days."  After swearing us in, she then explained the facts of the case (alleged possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia).  All charges were felonies.  

We were told there would be a five minute recess, and we followed the bailiff to the deliberation room. Our jury was comprised of 3 men, and 11 women.  The defendant was black, and only one person in our jury pool was.  No one talked.  We were getting restless as we sat there.  Someone said "I thought there'd only be a five minute recess.  What the hell?"

People began chatting a little, and suddenly there was silence after what seemed like two hours.  It almost was.  Someone then asked, "Are we supposed to be making a decision or something?"  

I piped up.  "Yeah, the bailiff's going to come back and be like 'Hey, what did you guys decide?  I know the trial hasn't started yet, but come on!  Why is it taking you so long to get back to the courtroom?  We've been waiting for you for almost two hours.'"  Everyone laughed.  I thought it was funny.

Finally, after another half-hour, the bailiff and judge came back, telling us that the defendant had plead guilty.  We were free!

We walked back to the elevators following the bailiff, whom we somehow lost midway and arrived at a set of elevators with a sign that said "Jurors should not use these elevators."  We doubled back, found the bailiff, and went downstairs.  We needed to get our certificates to show we served, but everyone save three other women and a young guy went back with me to jury services.

We got our certificates, and the guy who gave them to us was pissed.  He asked where they went.  We said we didn't know, and as I got my certificates I asked Mr. Hunger Games referencer, "When can we expect to go on our victory tour of Panem?"  He shook his head and smiled. 

I walked out, visited my grandmother, went to University of Delaware to get my class paid for, went to the grocery store, and went home.

Jury duty was interesting, and I guess in the end I was glad I was picked because I learned a lot.  When I left, there were still people waiting in the jury services room to be picked for a case.  I smiled about the fact that I was done.  Phew.  What a day. 

The lesson is, though, don't be nervous.  It seems scary but you're all mostly doing it for the first time, and the chances of the trial going forward are small.  No worries.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

For Better or For Worse

Like so many have before you, meet the Pattersons.  They're your typical middle class Canadian family.  Except they're part of a comic strip that ran for thirty years.  Surely you've seen them somewhere in your newspaper over the years.

Creator Lynn Johnston chronicles the lives of Elly and John Patterson, parents to Michael, Elizabeth, and April.  Unlike most comic strips, "For Better of For Worse" has characters who age in real time--even the family's English sheepdog, Farley.

The strip also leaves the one-line gags to strips like "Garfield" and "Family Circus" in favor of more in depth story lines that can span months or even a year.  References are made to events that occur in other story lines, and the reader, once interested, begins to care about the characters.  It's been published and I've been reading it every day (it's now over, however) ever since I can remember.

Another unique aspect of the strip is that it dealt with very topical and sometimes controversial issues, trying to relate them to its readers.  The strip's title is taken from a line in the Anglican Book of Prayer regarding marriage and service.  The strip has been controversial at times, and has dealt with issues affecting many families and people.

Some major story lines are as follows:

                                                                   Farley's Death

This story line was by far the most memorable because it was so sad and unexpected.  Johnston said she noticed the strip had run for thirteen years, and since the Pattersons had Farley from when he was a puppy.  She knew something had to be done or else the strip wouldn't be true to itself.  Johnston floated the idea by "Peanuts" creator Charles Schultz.

If you kill that poor dog, he told her, Snoopy will be killed off by me first, and no one will read your silly strip.  She told him she'd rethink the issue and he was glad.  However, she had decided to go through with it, so she didn't tell Schultz about her decision.  Comics are due 6-8 weeks in advance, so she sent in the manuscripts and forgot about it.

That is, until she received an outpouring of mail and correspondences from some of the millions of Americans and Canadians who read the strip with great sadness.  April had fallen into a swollen stream, and Farley jumped in to rescue her as his last act of bravery.

Charles Schultz immediately called Johnston and asked her why she did it.  He also blamed "that stupid little girl" for getting Farley killed.  The poor dog's heart gave out, and there was nothing anyone could do, unfortunately.  However, the strip did him justice later and allowed his spirit to live on, literally, every now and again.

Elizabeth's Assault

Elizabeth was being sexually harassed at work.  It started off harmless enough, and she tried to shrug it off.  But it escalated, culminating in her getting assaulted.  However, she is saved by her brother's gay best friend (another story line Johnston did, which attracted her both hate mail and death threats).  Elizabeth presses charges and Howard is put on trial and convicted.  

The Patterson's bully even got his own story line.  Chasing after April on his bicycle, he closes in as she tries to navigate away from him...and pow!  

However, April does the right thing and calls 911, and he is taken to the hospital badly bruised and with broken bones.  Other story lines include Elly trying to go back into the workforce despite the objections of her friends, Farley and another dog producing a litter, and the biggest story line it ever did, which was the coming out story of Michael's best friend, Lawrence.  This story line earned Johnston hate mail and death threats.

This comic strip is excellent as it was very realistic and did not put on airs.  It dealt with issues normal people face every day, and it was both funny, tragic, heartwarming, and cathartic.  I strongly encourage you to check it out.  It has reset and we now are following the story line of Michael flying on an airplane by himself for the first time to see his grandparents in Vancouver.  I hope if you do check it out, you enjoy it as much as I do.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Student Success and Design for All

For the class I am taking, entitled "Instructional Design," we have to write a weekly blog on the readings.  This is my last blog from the class, and it generated the most interest among the faculty I'm taking the class with across our three campuses.  I didn't write in all the comments, but enjoy it!

Thanks also to my parents for naming me John with the nickname Jack, as it continues to baffle and be hit or miss in terms of what people call me.

Posted by John Bradley at Friday, July 19, 2013 11:04:05 AM EDT

I've chosen to focus on universal design through the lens of A.D.A. accommodations and a true story.
The following conversation took place last semester when I was working in the Testing Center at the Wilmington campus.

Me: "Well, S, I know you scheduled to take your test right now, but I don't see anything from your instructor."

S: "Well, today's really the only day I can take it. I told B a couple of times. I thought B would have sent it by now."

Me: "Hey, it's not a problem. Let me call B and see if I can get B to send or bring up a copy. It's only 8:20, so your instructor might not be in class yet."

Me: "Yes, hello? Instructor B? This is the testing center. I have a student here who is scheduled to take an exam for you, but I don't have a copy. Could you please bring one up or email it to us?"

B (grumbling): "Is it S by any chance? Never mind, of course it is. Who else would it be taking a test up there for me? Ugh. I'll be right up." Slam went the phone on the other end.

Me: "B will be up soon, S."
Five minutes later, as I saw B approach the door, I walked out to greet B so B didn't have to come to the back office and S could get the test started right away.

B (shoves the test at me; two other students had walked in behind B, presumably scheduled to take tests at 8:30): "Here."

Me: "Thanks, I appreciate it."

B: "Just so we're clear, this is really inconvenient for me."

Me: "What is?"

B (slightly more agitated): "Having to do this for S every time we have a test. I mean, c'mon. There's nothing wrong with S taking it in class. I swear S does it just to be difficult."

Me (calmly smiling despite my red-hot ears): "You know that S needs a distraction free environment. Thank you for the test."

B (very annoyed at this point): "Distraction free? Oh, why? Because S has a disability? Right. S looks perfectly fine to me."

Me: "Why? Because it's the law, Instructor B. You know that, right?"

B (rolling eyes): "Right. Whatever." B left.

I couldn't believe my ears. B had outed a student with a disability in front of two fellow students. I doubt they cared about anything other than the tests they had to take, but I felt really bad for S, who looked shaken. I apologized, S took the test from me in silence, and sat down.
When I was doing the readings this week, I thought about this interaction I had last year with an instructor who clearly thought that all aspects of their course were easily completed by everyone in the same environment regardless of any other external factors. This instructor was not designing universally.

All courses (parts and design) should be accessible for students at Delaware Tech to take. That includes not only accessibility to the material but also the physical space of the classroom. Can wheelchairs be accommodated safely? Is there a seat for the scribe or interpreter next to a student who requires one, and is it in a reasonable location?

One of the design considerations we have discussed in this course is what type and how many assessments to have. The course in my vignette required several summative assessments. As you all know, via the emails and ADA accommodations for students we receive every semester, not everyone can take summative assessments in class. We need to abide by their accommodations and make sure that we do what we can to enforce both school policy and the law.
In my experience here, there are students who have different types of disabilities, and as teachers we need to make sure our students have the tools to take and ideally succeed in the course that we have.

We are fortunate to have Victoria Chang to help us meet special needs of students, but it is still our responsibility to make sure we do what we can on our end to help these students succeed.
This includes not only honoring their accommodations but also educating our students about the services the school offers. To get accommodations, students need to advocate for themselves.

 I referred two students the services of Victoria Chang because these students (in different classes) told me they had test anxiety. I explained that we had an office to help students with disabilities, provided they could advocate for themselves. In both cases I was emailed ADA accommodations after they met with Victoria. The students had no idea we had an office to help them in this way.
That being said, the other thing I think we need to take into account with regard to universal design of classes is that within the course ("The First Sixty Minutes" from CCIT is something that should be incorporated) students should be made aware of such services, including the DVR tutoring we have that is free for students with special needs.

Often times as instructors we get caught up trying to teach everything we need to in our course but we fail to build in any time the first day or the first couple of classes to educate students in terms of what student services that are here to help those who need it. But most importantly, we need to build our courses so that anyone, student or not, can understand them and access what they need to complete the course.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Neighbors

Waking up every morning, I always marvel at where I live.  I live in a nice suburban street in a cozy neighborhood (cue "Little Boxes" from the "Weeds" soundtrack).  I am surrounded by nice people from a similar background.  We are all normal Americans.  However, what if you lived in a neighborhood and you were somehow different from all of the people who live near you?  Would you fit in?

This is the question that my new favorite comedy (aside from "Modern Family") tackles, ABC's "The Neighbors." At first, I'd seen bits and pieces of this show on Wednesday nights when I came home from a long day at school.  The promo picture for this show, as seen above, seemed weird to me. I wasn't sure what it was about, and the creepy guy with the British accent to the right seemed, well, weird.

But I decided to give it a shot when I was flipping through the channels and saw that it starred Jami Gertz ("Twister," "Entourage"), whom I've been watching since she starred as the uber-chipper Muffy Tepperman (top right) on the short-lived series "Square Pegs" with Sarah Jessica Parker years ago.

"Square Pegs"-----------------------^

Debbie (Gertz) and Marty Weaver (Lenny Venito, "The Sopranos," "NYPD Blue") are a normal New Jersey family who move into a gated community named "Hidden Hills."   They meet the other people living in their community on the very first day, and something seems off about them.  They speak with British accents.  They bring several cherry pies to greet the Weavers, "as is your humans' custom," they are told by the head of the community, Larry Bird.

Larry's wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, is also very welcoming and introduces their two children to the Weavers: Dick Butkus and Reggie Jackson.

As is custom, Larry and Jackie invite the Weavers over for dinner where it is shown that the Weavers are the only ones who are eating.  When they question Larry and Jackie about this, they respond that they receive nourishment by reading.  Weird? Weird.  They brush it off and continue eating their barely cooked pasta and baked potatoes.

After the children go upstairs to play, the awkward pauses and conversation continue with the adults downstairs.  The children run downstairs suddenly and out of the house.  They later tell their parents that Dick Butkus transformed into an alien, which is why they fled.  However, their parents do not believe them, and awkwardly bid the Kersee-Birds good night.

Larry and Jackie realize what has happened: "It appears our Dick has exposed himself again."  As the Weaver children cower in their parents' bedroom, Larry and Jackie appear, and reveal themselves to the Weavers, eliciting screams and freak-outs.

It seems the Weavers have moved into a community where aliens roam free, waiting for further instructions from their leaders through the use of a communications device called a Pupar.  However, after exposing themselves to the Weavers they agree that they can learn much from each other.  It's a quirky show and I didn't describe it as well as I would have liked, but if you browse, here's the skinny.

TL; DR: A normal family from New Jersey moves into a gated community where aliens with athletes' names and British accents reside.  Hilarity ensues.  Give it a shot.  You'll be glad you did.

N.B. "TL DR" means too long, didn't read.  It is a technique redditors use when they feel they have gone on at great length about something, as I may have.  It's on Wednesday nights at 9 on ABC, and serves as the lead-in to "Modern Family." Try it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

American Horror Story

I am new to this show, but I bought it on iTunes while coming back from Las Vegas for something to watch on the plane and I was not disappointed.  I knew it aired on FX, but my schedule never allowed me to watch it, and I always forgot to DVR it.  I just finished the first season and all I have to say is, what an awesome concept! I am currently watching "American Horror Story: Asylum," which is the follow-up to the first season.

Before I get into the first season, let's discuss exactly what the format of the show is.   Each season, a set 12 or 13 episode arc is created that follows converging story lines.  At the close of the season, that arc is over and a new story begins as the new seasons premiere.  The unique part? In Season 2, almost all of the actors are the same, but they play different characters.  By my count, the only actress who was not asked back was Connie Britton ("Friday Night Lights," "Nashville"), who played Vivien Harmon in the first run.

The show is produced and directed by Ryan Murphy, and season one chronicles a couple named Ben (Dylan McDermott, not to be confused with Dermott Mulrooney) and Vivien (Britton) who move into a house in Los Angeles to begin life anew after Ben had an affair.  They bring their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga, sister of Vera from "Up in the Air," "The Departed," and "Running Scared") who is entranced by the house.  The house is the cheapest by almost half of the others in the neighborhood.  Why?

It has been dubbed "The Murder House" not only by nearby residents but also by a Los Angeles tour that stops by the house daily to relate its bloody past.  Nothing good seems to come to residents who inhabit the house, and everyone seems to have met a bloody end.  Throughout the series, we get a peek into the lives of those who were killed in the house and we get to see not only their end, but also how they relate to the Harmon family.

Equally creepy is fallen starlet neighbor Constance Langdon, played by the excellent Jessica Lange ("Tootsie," "Blue Sky," "Grey Gardens") in her first regular television role.  She won an Emmy for this role in 2012. With her mentally challenged daughter Addie and her son Tate in tow, she is constantly dropping in on the Harmons to "help" them and offer biting criticism of the decor and their plans for the house.  These are not just ordinary people, as you'd imagine.

Ben (McDermott) is a psychiatrist who sees his patients at home, including Tate.  Other patient cameos for the season include Eric Stonestreet (Cam, "Modern Family"), Adina Porter (Lettie Mae Thornton, "True Blood"), and Mena Suvari ("American Pie") as Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. The Black Dahlia.  Each has their own story that integrates into the house and the lives of the Harmons.

One of the major themes of the show has to do with children in the house, and the potential joy they bring, so imagine when Vivien becomes pregnant. Residents past and neighbors fall all over themselves to make sure the baby gets delivered safely.  But the problem is, they each want the baby for themselves.  This idea plays out well over the course of the season and serves as one of its major plot points.  What also makes it interesting is that we get to learn the backstories of all of these residents and others who pop up throughout the story.

Throw in Frances Conroy ("The West Wing," "Six Feet Under") as a maid who "comes with the house," Zachary Quinto ("Heroes," "Star Trek") as one half of a gay couple who used to live in the house, Sarah Paulson ("Studio 60," "American Gothic") as a medium, and Denis O'Hare (Russell Edgington, "True Blood"), and you've got a bunch of fine actors telling a great story that will leave you wishing there were more episodes to see.

But wait!  You can see "American Horror Story: Asylum" should you wish to continue the journey.  Jessica Lange returns this time as Sister Jude, the administrator of an Briarcliff Asylum in Massachusetts, and you'll recognize other familiar faces from Season 1.  Additions to the cast include Lily Rabe (daughter of Jill Clayburgh) as Sister Mary Eunice, Franka Potente ("Run Lola Run," "The Bourne Identity") as Anne Frank, and James Cromwell ("Babe," Six Feet Under") as a physician with a God complex.

Lily Rabe as Sr. Mary Eunice---->

These shows do not necessarily need to be watched in order, but it's more fun if you do to see who pops up in season 2 as a different character.  However, be advised that the show is gory at times, and it is not for the squeamish.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Homeland is Where the Heart Is

At the urging of my brother, and because I don't watch that many TV shows too closely, I decided to start the new Showtime series "Homeland," starring Damian Lewis and Claire Danes. I'll be the first to admit it.  I have a short attention span these days.  Chalk it up to being super busy with family and school, or whatever other excuse I can come up with, but I usually stick to comedies and other half hour shows.

"Mad Men," "True Blood," and "Dexter" are the rare exceptions.  So I watched an episode of "Homeland" on demand one Friday night, and I wasn't hooked immediately but I definitely knew I wanted to watch the rest.  Serendipitously enough, there was a marathon on the next day because it was premiering soon, so I let it ride while I did other things.  I can't justify sitting myself in front of a television and simply doing nothing.  I have to be accomplishing something, however small.  But "Homeland" was worth it.

The show tells the story of Nicholas Brody(Lewis), a U.S. Army Sergeant who was captured and held by al Qaeda for a few years.  As the show opens, he is being rescued in Northern Iraq.  He is brought back to the United States where he is immediately hailed as a hero for his tribulations.  His partner in Iraq, Sergeant Walker, is presumed dead and the show follows the assumption that he died a traitor as he succumbed to the torture and allegedly offered his allegiance to al Qaeda.

Brody, however, is not what he seems.  Despite being back with his wife (Morena Bacccarin, "V") and family, he acts suspiciously.

He quickly piques the interest of Carrie Mathison (Danes), who is a CIA operative with a specialization in the middle East.  She speaks Arabic fluently, but she has a few secrets of here own.  Danes gets a hunch about him after meeting him and decides to wire his house to spy on him.

Her suspicions are heightened when he continues to act suspiciously, and she comes to the conclusion that he, too, has succumbed to al Qaeda and is essentially a sleeper agent inside the U.S.  The al Qaeda leader in this show is named Abu Nazir, a high profile target who has eluded capture and has terrorized U.S. interests at home and abroad.

With Brody in the spotlight and Mathison pushing her paranoid conclusions that Brody is going to help Abu Nazir launch an attach on the United States, the stage is set for a clash of morals and patriotism.  Has Mathison gone too far? Is Brody innocent? Or is he really a sleeper agent working on behalf of Abu Nazir?

My summary couldn't possibly do the show justice but I urge everyone to check it out to see the intrigue.  Mandy Patinkin also co-stars as Carrie's mentor and foil, Saul.  Who's hiding what?  Who's wrong? Who's right?  You'll have to watch to find out.