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Friday, April 28, 2006

Let's hear it for year-round school

Looks like we're finally moving back the calendar so kids will start school later in the month of August. I don't think it's a good idea. I would prefer year-round school, so students aren't out of the classroom for so many weeks at one time. Vacation time would be spread around the calendar. I bet that would help them retain information a lot more. Not to mention that it would reflect 21st Century lifestyles.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Border Patrol is coming, the Border Patrol is coming...

Anyone with any connection to Miami's Hispanic community has been enthralled and spooked with the so-called news that immigration officials were raiding workplaces to round up and deport illegal immigrants. Problem is, as reported in today's story, the raids are only rumors. I first heard about these phantom raids a couple of days ago from an Honduran woman who has been here legally for years but has several relatives who don't have "los papeles." Those relatives work cleaning houses and in construction. None of them has shown up for work this week for fear of being arrested. They're also convinced that it's a way of silencing their political voice in time for the May 1 marches on immigration issues.
Conspiracy theory or truth? Hmmm.
The timing is certainly strange. I also wonder how many suburban houses will go undusted, how many fruits and vegetables will go unpicked, and how many building sites will see construction halted or delayed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What took them so long?!?!?!

Finally, someone has launched a grassroots campaign that can really change our health system. A story today talks about how people are going to walk into doctor's offices with stickers demanding legible writing on prescriptions. Experts believe it'll reduce medical mistakes -- getting the wrong drugs when a pharmacist misreads the physician's handwriting.
Doctors are notorious for their bad penmanship. Apparently they never practiced it in grade school. While we're at it, I think they should send some old-school nuns to the medical schools. (By the way, are there enough nuns left?) Not only would doctors'penmanship improve, but so would their spelling. I know because I'm a product of Catholic schools and if there was something the nuns hammered into our thick skulls, it was certainly that.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Grading the graders

My kids call the omnipotent FCAT, taken in March by most public school students, the F-that -- this despite the fact that they do well and their schools are always in the top three countywide. They think the test is a farce. I wouldn't go so far but do believe that too much emphasis is being placed on one single assessment tool.
So I read with interest The Miami Herald story about legislators who are suing to find out who the test graders are. Good question! I'm especially curious about those reading the essays. Writing is fairly subjective and we should have top-notch educators doing the reading. I have a sneaky suspicion, though, that like everything else we're probably cutting corners and getting discount graders. I bet, too, somebody is making a lot of money off the grading.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sex, alcohol and the college student

Our fascination with the Duke lacrosse scandal continues as we in the media put out daily -- sometimes hourly -- bulletins on the latest she said/they said. The updates seem to confuse (and titillate) most of us, who suspect that the real story of what happened on that night may never be known. I'm not sure the truth will out if and when the case goes to court.
Meanwhile, as a mother of college-aged sons I worry about the culture that is described in many of the stories I read. (Newsweek has an excellent cover story on this.) Drinking is big sport on campus, and it happens more often than we care to admit. At a prestigious state school my eldest son attended, shuttle buses picked up students around the school to ferry them downtown to watering holes. Some were drunk before a night of partying even started. Binge drinking was not uncommon.
Maybe we need to check campus drinking policy at the same time we check tuition costs and median SAT scores.

Friday, April 21, 2006

What's that driver doing?

Just heard a news story that reports at least 80 percent of car crashes are due to distracted drivers trying to eat, change radio stations, pop a CD, apply make-up, etc. etc., The rest can be blamed on cell phones.
I've long suspected this, of course, but I continue to multitask behind the wheel. Most of the people I see on the road do, too. I've even watched people reading during traffic jams.
What will get us to stop?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dieting by any other name

Two friends have started the South Beach Diet. Or maybe it's the Atkins. I get all confused with diets. Besides, whatever the name, it seems to me like the same thing: they're doing without.
I don't think I could do that. Not being allowed to have something would just make me want to crave it more. A reverse psychology of sorts. I know I couldn't give up ice cream, for instance. Or dark chocolate. So instead I try moderation. But that doesn't work. One scoop leads to two, to three. I've also tried "hiding" the good stuff, like putting it on the top shelf of the pantry or behind a row of cans. That doesn't stop me, either.
Solution: I just don't buy temptation.
Which works only until my son's girlfriend sends me a box of Godiva chocolates for Easter!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A lesson for our children

It's no secret that Cuba's government is a repressive totalitarian dictatorship, but we shouldn't imitate it. That's why I'm glad the Miami-Dade School Board decided not to ban -- for now -- a children's book about Cuban life. A more appropriate action would be to actually buy more books about the subject, books offering a variety of viewpoints. That's what democracy and freedom are about -- true lessons for our kids.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Who's lining their pockets with my gas money?

I was in a rush yesterday so I didn't have any time to gas my car. Figured I would do just as well to get it this morning.
Big mistake. My friendly neighborhood gas station just pumped up their prices six cents. Overnight! How can that happen?
Worse part: I can't think of any other ready alternatives. I already drive a small, gas-efficient car. I only use it when necessary (usually work) and I combine my errands. Still, I'm spending more and more of my paycheck on getting around.
Meanwhile, I'm constantly regaled by this piece of news: Exxon-Mobil surpassed Wal-mart as the biggest company in the world. It has also made record-breaking profits. And when Congress had its hearing into the matter, nothing happened.
What gives?

Monday, April 17, 2006

I didn't win the lottery so...

...I'm back at work after a week-long vacation. A vacation, by the way, that I spent running the kind of errands I can't do the other weeks of the year: going to the doctor, shopping for appliances, visiting accountants etc. etc.
In a way, I'm happy to return to the routine of the 9 to 5, but I'll miss the luxury of taking my time, of not rushing, of not worrying about picking up or dropping off children in their activities.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Why you have to get away from home for vacation

I'm on spring break with my kids and by 8:30 a.m. I've already dealt with three minor household crises. Our accountant calls at 8 a.m. He's missing something or other. Five minutes later the guys remodeling our bathroom arrive with another problem to solve. At 8:30 my sister-in-law calls about a Passover question.
This is proof again that it's not really vacation unless you go away. Stay home and you're sucked into the routine of everyday life -- which is precisely what vacation is supposed to take you away from.
To be on a deserted island, reading a book and relaxing in a hammock...

Friday, April 07, 2006

The gospel according to....

There's a really interesting story about the "discovery" of a gospel according to Judas. Makes me wonder what other documents are out there and what else religious leaders have not told us. It seems that modern Christianity beliefs about what happened to Jesus may be based on who had the best spinmeisters in the first and second centuries.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Rejoice, women of the world!

....cellulite is genetic. You can exercise to tone your muscles, you can eat healthier, but, alas, if you've got THAT propensity, you'll still have cottage-cheese thighs. Now, doesn't that make you feel better?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A change in my morning routine

Katie Couric, the bubbly co-host of NBC's Today Show, is leaving her morning slot to do CBS's evening news and earn a bijillion bucks. Can't blame her for taking the money, but she's become part of my morning routine. (She and Rhonda Victor of WLRN/Herald news.) In the mad rush to exercise, eat breakfast, get the kids off to school and kiss my husband goodbye, Couric has become a familiar face and voice. Her laugh is contagious.
I'm not sure, though, that I'll follow her to the evenings.It'll upset my body clock, already sensitive to time changes. Besides, I don't see her as an evening newscast journalist. Maybe I'm sexist -- men seemed to be groomed for that role -- or too set in my ways.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Loved the piece by colleague Fred Grimm on the results of the Broward Spelling Bee.

As he pointed out, all the finishers were children of immigrants. The same can mostly be said about the winners of the Dade Spelling Bee, which I've emceed for years and years. Wanting to prove something is a great motivator.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Body clocks out of whack

I hate Daylight Savings Time. It takes my body several days to get back into a regular routine. Last night I couldn't get to sleep and, of course, this morning cracking open my eyelids in the pitch dark was just as hard. I wish the powers that be would just settle on one time -- forward or backward or in between -- and let the rest of us light-sensitive folks get on with our lives.
The silver lining, though: We can all putter outside in the yard when we come home from work.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Heart healthy pork rinds

I wrote today about bioengineered pork that could be good for us if it's ever taken to market.
I'm wondering if this is the beginning of a whole new generation of converted "bad" food. And if it is, will it take away some of our guilty pleasure?
Check it out: The story