Friday, August 28, 2009

who learns?

I rounded up a few quotes having to do with learning. It's my way of resetting my compass as fall approaches and I resume my work in the classroom.
He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
John Powell

Never say, "oops." Always say, "Ah, interesting."
Author Unknown

If you don't make mistakes, you're not working on hard enough problems. And that's a big mistake.
F. Wikzek

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.
Jim Ryun

To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.
Soren Kierkegaard

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. Pablo Picasso

Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking.
Tim McMahon

My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you'll be happy; if not, you'll become a philosopher.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
Wayne Gretzky

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome. Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way... you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.
Feodor Dostoevski

One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
André Gide

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every conceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing.
Thomas Huxley

The hard must become habit. The habit must become easy. The easy must become beautiful.
Doug Henning

The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue. Antisthenes

You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.
H.G. Wells

Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.
Confucius, Analects

When the student is ready, the master appears.
Buddhist Proverb

Monday, August 24, 2009

Health Care: One sick bed at a time

Update: Since originally posting this, I've come across additional sickbed posts in The Daily Dish. Here are those links first (the titles are my own inventions):
Asthma: The High Cost of Breathing
The High Cost of Breathing: Sophie's Choice

It's been awhile since I blogged about anything having to do with the world outside my own family but at a recent family get together I learned that my dad is in the process of reading the entire health care bill (he was only on page 83 last time I checked.... good luck Pop!). Then recently the topic came up at the dinner table at my in-laws. One impression that stays with me from both of those events is how concerned these people are and how familiar they are with the workings of the current system, a system which works extremely well for them and which affords them better care than they could get perhaps anywhere else in the world. For them the changes under consideration are fraught with unkown costs and ramifications. They are deeply skeptical that costs will indeed be contained, and they fear that their treatment options will be restricted.

Listening to them I have begun to wonder whether there exists any set of "facts" that could reasonably be taken as a common starting point for weighing the need for change, the objectives of reform and the values which ought to animate a reform effort. I've begun to despair that such common ground will be found by appeals to studies, projections of economic and budgetary impacts, analyses of other systems, polls of short by data-driven mechanisms. The public discourse on health care seems overrun with claims of these sorts and for the layman like myself the effect is either numbing or suspiciously partisan. Don't misunderstand me here. At some point, data needs to be given a central role in any meaningful reform process, but for the general public there needs to be a way to crystallize the issues in a way that makes it clear whether or not the status quo is an acceptable option.

All of which has made me wonder if perhaps a non-scientific though rigorously factual approach in the form of personal anecdotes might not give us the kind of information we need to perceive the outlines of the real problem and thus suggest what the targets of reform ought to be.

To that end, I am posting links to a series of blog posts on Andrew Sullivan's blog The Daily Dish. The series is entitled "The View from Your Sickbeds: A Round Up". Each post is a first person account of someone's personal experience with health care in America. These stories are both interesting and informative. I'm curious to know what conclusions readers will draw from them. My sense is that they argue collectively and singly for the position that the status quo is no longer an option. But perhaps other readers will arrive at a different view. Here are the individual titles with links:

Can You Give Me A Ride?: I Can't Afford The Ambulance
The Baby Isn't Insured
Watching My Costs Skyrocket
Seizures In Public Places: Avoiding The Ambulance
Your Newborn Son Has A Preexisting Condition
My Insurance Company Got A 96% Discount!
Working For A National Insurance Company: The Payment Process
The $10,000 Cyst
Gold-Plated Insurance: Denying Vaccination To Premature Babies

On the same site you'll find links to other posts, essays and reporting exploring a range of issues connected to health reform. Some of the essays argue opposite sides of an issue. Here again are the titles:

A Bankruptcy Lawyer: Opaque Costs Are The Worst Part Of Our Health Care System
Planning A Pregnancy: Trying To Get The Bill Up Front
Electronic Medical Billing Company: Mark Ups For The Uninsured
Authorizing Treatments: The Whole Gory Process
A $15,000 Needle
The $15,000 Needle II: No Incentive For A Surgeon To Save Money
No Incentive For An Emergency Room Physician To Save Money Either
A Small Practice: The Costs Of Getting Approval
Plumbing The Depths of Ignorance: Negotiating Health Care Fees And Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
HSAs: The Case Against
I Loved My HSA
A HSA Salesman: Separating The Healthy From The Sick
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs): Whose Bottom Line?
HSAs: Group vs. Individual Plans
Advance Health Care Directives: I Want To Go Like Mimi Did
At The VA Hospital: In And Out In 45 Minutes
The Underinsured: Between Full Employment And Medicare
Narcolepsy, Drug Costs, And Work: A Catch 22
Approving, Then Rejecting Coverage
Gastric Bypass: Waiting Ten Years
Gastric Bypass II: Don't Blame Insurance?
Bipolar Disorder And Mental Health: Section 14
Tort Reform Won't Fix Health Care: Cont...

Big issue. Lots of reading. It would be nice if we could at least agree on some factual claims. K

Friday, August 21, 2009

Staying connected

Beth took the kids to Ohio to meet up with our former next neighbors and forever good friends. It was roughly one year ago they moved back to the Midwest. That was a sorrowful parting. I can still conjure the sounds of the girls calling tearfully to each other in the night as we walked them away from one another to our own houses. The chance for the Beth and the kids to reunite with them was, therefore, to important to pass up. A year is a long time for anyone, changes occur that can alter one's perspective and even one's identity. We wondered how the kids would reconnect.

We needn't have worried. These photos give you a sense of they picked up from where they'd left off. It makes me happy for them. It seems likely that these kids will be friends for a good long time now...had we waited another year, who knows?

I reflect on my own childhood and I'm struck by the fact that not a single relationship endured the many relocations our family experienced. I remember moving my stuff up into my dorm room my senior year at college. It was my 21st birthday. As I climbed the flights of stairs to my fourth floor room I made a count of every change of address I'd had up to that point. The number was coincidentally, twenty one. Twenty one moves over the course of twenty one years. And not a single friend had survived those moves. Nobody from England or Tuscon or Vancouver or Klamath Falls or that era, when I relocated it was as if I moved away from myself as much as from a town or school. So many fresh starts, so many slates wiped clean, so few stories rehashed, revised, and recycled.

I'm rooting for these four kids to stay connected in some meaningful way. We'll see. Friendship is a product of kinship and experience over time. A lifetime is barely long enough for some of us to recognize even one such friend.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Egads! Email!

Tess has begun using email to correspond with her best friend who now lives in Ohio. Her familiarity with computers is pretty limited, she gets about an hour a week on webkinz and that's about it. Her keyboarding skills are nonexistant. The prospect of emailing Emily however prompted Tess to ask for help in how to keyboard with both hands.I showed her the home row and suprervised her first composition, poining out the proper finger positions and also explaining some basic functions like the shift key, hard return, space bar, even the auto spell check (not the auto correct)...she's slow on the keyboard right now but I know this girl; she'll be humming along soon enough.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Funny Fairies

Tess has expressive eyes...just what they're expressing is often beyond my ability to explain.

Putting a foot on the ball

Colm has really taken to soccer. He is active out on the field, pursuing the ball and then making some pretty good decisions with the ball when he gets to it. It's been fun to watch him begin to sort out the dynamics of the game,

for example he has learned to take a good defensive angle to his own goal when the ball gets behind him, and most surprising, he has begun to make runs into space instead of closing in on the ball all the time , especially when a teammate has it. Also, he has developed something of a nose for the goal, pulling the trigger off the run and in traffic.

He's curious about adding new moves to his arsenal. This week it was the sliding tackle, which is not one that I necessarily wanted him to use just yet. But I saw him attempting it on the sidelines and after three or four attempts where he planted his lead foot and nearly rolled an ankle, I decided to at least give some help with the the sliding technique. He eats up instruction, especially if he can see an example. His first season is now over. It was a good experience, and I'm sure he'll be up for another one next year.

New Kitty in the House

The name is Cinder.
The naming process took awhile and was never really settled by acclamation. Beth proposed Sooty and Stevens (setting up groaner, "Here's my cat Stevens."). Tess liked Moonshadow. My personal favorite was Rudy Begonia.