Staying (Aging) in Place

So. We have decided to stay. We have begun the house modifications, albeit a little sooner than anticipated. A week ago we had a pipe break in an upstairs bathroom. Just hours after a new accessible shower was installed. The pipe didn’t freeze, it just broke, snapped, while I was moving stuff in the vanity. Later that night, it did the same thing to the plumber as he was working. Fortunately the water was off when it happened to him. Another snapped a week later when bumped by a contractor laying a new a floor in the adjacent bathroom. (I think this is bad pipe.)

So, the CPVC in the house has me a bit freaked out and we have started having it replaced. Especially with a big section of living room ceiling missing, it is a lot more cost effective to do that now.

As we consider choices for replacing the living room floor (half of which has been torn out) we have to think about choices that will handle a wheelchair, if needed, without damage. This takes laminates out, and probably all of the snap and click floating floors. This leaves vinyl, tile, and hardwood (glued or nailed). If I could find our existing tile it would probably be an easy decision to use tile, but alas it is no longer made. Bamboo is probably the winner.

Meanwhile, the upstairs bathrooms have much wider doors. Wide enough to get a walker through. We are still considering quotes on the chair lift and thinking about geometry and cost. It is not a big house, although now somewhat bigger than we need, and areas like the entryway are small and the footprint of a chair lift has to be carefully considered to avoid obstructing wheelchair access.

The big project will be to slightly enlarge the small downstairs bathroom and make it wheelchair accessible. We have a plan and it is reasonable in cost and approach. We are also considering other modifications to the kitchen to help ensure she is able to easily self-manage when I am not around.

Throughout all of this I have begun to learn about the concepts of “aging in place” and “visitability.”  We also think a lot about furniture layout and how traditional homebuilding practices do not enhance accessibility.

I also learned that Virginia offers up to a $5,000 for permanent visitability adaptations for new construction and modifications to existing structures. It is the “Livable Home Tax Credit.”

I think this will all work out. I hope.

an adjunct prayer

It was four in the morning at a Motel 6 in the wilderness of the not-quite midwest. I was half-naked on my knees, holding a large chocolate bunny and nibbling at its ears. The wind was howling, at least I thought it was. In any event, my ears were full of a roaring sound I tried to ignore. I could see the snow swirling through the space between the drapes.  The college I taught my Tuesday morning class had already closed for tomorrow, but my evening class was 73 miles away and I wasn’t sure what the storm would do there, or if I could get there in time.

Living on the road my friend
Was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
Your breath’s as hard as kerosene
You weren’t your mama’s only boy
But her favorite one it seems
She began to cry when you said goodbye
And sank into your dreams

My girlfriend and I taught at two campuses in common. She has a pretty good gig in that she teaches six days week at two colleges and brings down nearly twenty-thousand dollars for the semester with less than 300 miles driving. I don’t do that well. I drive over twice that distance for six courses that don’t pay as well.

All the federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him hang around
Out of kindness I suppose

If not for income-based repayment, we would not be able to make it all. Between the two of us, we are on the hook for $290,000 in student loans. Thank God they are federal loans or else we would really be in a shitload of trouble.

The poets tell how Pancho fell
Lefty’s livin’ in a cheap hotel
The desert’s quiet and Cleveland’s cold
So the story ends we’re told
Pancho needs your prayers it’s true,
But save a few for Lefty too
He just did what he had to do
Now he’s growing old

A few gray federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him go so wrong
Out of kindness I suppose

We talk about running away to somewhere warm. Out of reach of Sallie Mae and FedLoans. Save for the lack of water and a Whole Foods store, the Chihuahuan desert seems a good choice. Except while we have fluency in French, German, and Romansh, Spanish escapes us. Still, it is tempting.

Tonight we rock, Tonight we roll
We’ll rob the Juarez liquor store for the Reposado Gold
And if we drink ourselves to death, ain’t that the cowboy way to go?

Tonight we ride, tonight we ride
Tonight we fly, we’re headin’ west
Toward the mountains and the ocean where the eagle makes his nest
If our bones bleach on the desert, we’ll consider we are blessed
Tonight we ride, Tonight we ride

Tonight though I kneel, head bowed to circumstance, lost in communion with my chocolate Jesus that happens to be shaped like a bunny.

When the weather gets rough
And it’s whiskey in the shade
It’s best to wrap your savior
Up in cellophane
He flows like the big muddy
But that’s okay
Pour him over ice cream
For a nice parfait

Well it’s got to be a chocolate Jesus
Good enough for me
Got to be a chocolate Jesus
Good enough for me

Lyric credits to:
Pancho and Lefty by Townes Van Zandt.

Tonight we Ride by Tom Russell

Chocolate Jesus by Tom Waits

Feb 13, 2025 – Government Will Change How it Rates Colleges

The federal government on Thursday announced that it was changing the way it measures colleges, essentially adjusting the curve that it uses to rate institutions to make it more difficult for them to earn coveted four- and five-star government ratings.

Under the changes, scores are likely to fall for many institutions, federal officials said, although they did not provide specific numbers. Institutions will see a preview of their new scores on Friday, but the information will not be made public until Feb. 20.

“In effect, this raises the standard for colleges to achieve a high rating,” said Thomas Hamm, the director of the survey and certification group at the Commission of Education Economics within the Executive Office of the President, which oversees the ratings system.

Colleges are scored on a scale of one to five stars on College Compare, the widely used federal website that has become the gold standard for evaluating the nation’s more than 15,000 colleges even as it has been criticized for relying on self-reported, unverified data, that is limited in scope and function.

In August, The New York Times reported that the rating system relied so heavily on unverified information that even institutions with a documented history of quality problems were earning top ratings. Two of the three major criteria used to rate facilities — graduation rates and student input quality measures statistics — were reported by the institutions and not audited by the federal government.

In October, the federal government announced that it would start requiring colleges to report their staffing levels quarterly — using an electronic system that can be verified with payroll data. They will also report their enrollments weekly by the individual student to be verified against the National Student Loan and Tuition Tax Credit Data System. This allows to begin a nationwide auditing program aimed at checking whether an institution’s quality statistics were accurate.

The changes announced on Thursday were part of a further effort, officials said, to rebalance the ratings by raising the bar for colleges to achieve a high score in the quality measures area, which is based on information collected about every student. Colleges can increase their overall rating if they earn five stars in this area. The number of colleges with five stars in quality measures has increased significantly since the beginning of the program, to 89 percent in 2024 from 62 percent in 2015.

Representatives for colleges said on Thursday that they worried the changes could send the wrong message to consumers. “We are concerned the public won’t know what to make of these new rankings,” said Mark Parkinson, the president and chief executive of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, which represents for-profit colleges. “If colleges across the country start losing their star ratings overnight, it sends a signal to families and students that quality is on the decline when in fact it has improved in a meaningful way.”

But officials said that the changes would be explained on the consumer website, and that the public would be cautioned against drawing conclusions about a institution whose ratings recently declined. Still, Mr. Hamilton said scores would not decline across the board.“Some colleges, even when we raised the bar, continued to perform at a level much higher than the norm,” he said in a conference call Thursday with college operators. “We want to still recognize them in the five-star category.”
The updated ratings will also take into account, for the first time, a college’s use of antipsychotic drugs, which are often given inappropriately to elderly administrators with dementia.

–Thanks to John Nugent for the link to the original article and the inspiration.

Join the Common Corps!

They’ve got cookies…and you are going to be assimilated anyway.

So, what good is sitting, all alone in your room? Go on and join the data fray, become part of the collective.

Consider, if you will, the Kit Kat Club its celebration of sexual fetishes of all stripes.

Or, if a more dystopic future is your choice, maybe a visit to the Milk Bar with Alex and his droogs.

Across the net tonight data is flowing in unimaginable numbers of bytes. From simple communications like text messages and email, to the buying and bartering of 80 million Anthem records. Others are working with data, writing stories about data. Still others are creating and running organizations to encourage the collection and use of more data, while other organizations are opposing them.

With good reason on both sides.

My friend Barmak and others talk about the fetishism of data (or big data) frequently in the context of education data. Even though I am a data guy, I see his point. Once upon a time, when I was much younger, we learned about being parsimonious or frugal in our datasets for research. Today that seems completely out the window. There is a lot we can learn from big data, and a lot we can learn from much smaller datasets that are less intrusive that pose less risk to those we are trying to help by using their data. I suspect most of the time we can learn more from the smaller datasets where we sit and think about what we are doing.

Of course, while I write this, I am also working on a projection model based on more than 20 years worth of data that will produce results I am confident will be wrong in 15 years. The question is just how wrong and so I struggle to minimize the wrongness. There will be something like five million moving parts (with agency and motives of their own) affected by forces that have changed dramatically over the last two decades and others that didn’t exist.

Oh well, love is an imaginary number and the eagle arrives daily, and I remain modern and unbound…at least to the fetish of big data. I have a lot of data to work with, but it does not, I think, rise to the level of “big.”

While reading a completely unrelated blog post about Dominion and Eminent Domain, as granted to private companies (allegedly operating in the public service) I got to wondering about this. Are forces in motion to allow private companies, to declare eminent domain as it relates to data? Is it that much of leap to believe that some corporation is trying to find a way to ensure access to all the information it doesn’t have about us to better target its advertising? Perhaps Kroger or Food Lion argue that they need access to our health records to help us make healthier grocery purchases. Certainly that would be considered in the public good and if a power utility is a public service company, how is a grocery not? Food is far more necessary to the individual than power delivery.

Btw, how can one not appreciate the phrase “Dominion and Eminent Domain?”

Really random

Some of you will think less of me for this. “Joe Versus the Volcano” is one of my favorite movies. I know a lot of people didn’t like it, probably still don’t like it. I am not a movie critic like my nephew, so I won’t attempt to justify the movie’s goodness through its repetition of themes and icons, or its characters. It’s simpler than that. But how can I not like a movie that starts out under driving rhythm of “Sixteen Tons” sung by Eric Burdon?

Some things defy explanation or just don’t need it.

When I was a child in Oklahoma I remember watching Tennessee Ernie Ford sing this song and others on television. Later I rediscovered Johnny Cash and  his cover of Sixteen Tons. It is one of those songs that has always resonated with me. Perhaps because it is, in part, about the inability to catch up. There is always more to do.

Sixteen Tons is also one of the (many) reasons I love the movie “Heavy Metal” because of its thematic connection to the Devo cover of “Workin’ in a Coal Mine.” I just wish the movie held together better overall. However, it is more probably a bit more successful than “American Pop” which tries to do much and doesn’t really satisfy.

Anyhow, whatever you tomorrow, Monday (2/2), don’t drive angry.