k_f2rqkjlbAt approximately 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 28, as I was attempting to make my way north on Interstate 5 from Santa Clarita, CA to Bakersfield, CA — where the final exam was taking place for one of the three classes I was teaching — I encountered a massive backup on Interstate 5 North in Castaic.

Apparently a tractor-trailer had broken down a few miles up the pass and the entire freeway was closed to northbound traffic. So much for progress!

How far up the pass the truck was I was unsure, just as I still can’t entirely understand how one broken down truck can completely close down a freeway. There was no way I was getting to Bakersfield on the 5 north anytime soon.

I was able to get off just in time to avoid getting stuck in it, but was amazed at how far the backup extended: basically from the Hasley Canyon overpass presumably all the way up the 5 to where the truck was actually stopped.

As you can tell by the short clip I filmed (below), the backup I passed while driving on the southbound freeway was easily three to five miles, but the entire backup was most likely closer to ten if you were able to follow it up all the way to where the traffic was first stopped.

Fortunately the final I was giving was one that did not require my immediate presence (students had been given it via PDF the week before and asked to complete various tasks in Microsoft Word and Excel — some students had even finished it before the last class).

Nevertheless I was determined to get to Bakersfield – I felt it was my duty and obligation. Plus it was the last night of class and I wanted to see my students and celebrate their achievement.

So, I continued on the 5 south, merged onto the 14 north, drove all the way to Mojave where I intersected with and merged onto Highway 58 West and drove all the way to Bakersfield. The entire effort took me roughly 2.5 hours, but I finally made it to class by roughly 7:15 p.m. that night (class began at 6:00 p.m.) and assisted my students!

According to a recent post on LifeHacker.com, Microsoft is now offering the “Ultimate Edition” of it’s Office Suite at an amazingly discounted student price of $59.95 (a 91% discount off of the $680 retail price).

The post, which is excerpted below, references an official Microsoft Press Release explaining the details of this offer and related programs also available to students at a reduced rate:

Microsoft yesterday re-introduced its “Ultimate Steal” program, offering students (but, in reality, anyone with a .edu address) its Office Ultimate 2007 package for $59.95, which goes for $680 on retail shelves. The company will also put up its Visio Professional 2007 design package and a Vista Ultimate Upgrade at the $60 price on Sept. 8. The web-only offering will be available “throughout the academic school year,” according to a press release, but if you haven’t already hit up your alma mater for an alumni .edu address, now would be a good time to get to it.

Often when software is “academically priced” it is a minimized version of the program you need, or in some cases a suite like Office is missing key programs.

However, in this case, the “Ultimate Edition” seems to have everything a student (or even a teacher!) could want.

As indicated on the Microsoft website, the following programs are included in the Office Ultimate Edition:

  • Access 2007
  • Accounting Express 2008
  • Excel 2007
  • InfoPath 2007
  • Groove 2007
  • OneNote 2007
  • Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager
  • PowerPoint 2007
  • Publisher 2007
  • Word 2007

There are various criteria you must meet in order to take advantage of this deal, but if you do, then why wait? Click here to place your order or vist http://www.microsoft.com/student/discounts/theultimatesteal-us/default.aspx.

Two years ago, on August 2, 2006, my world was forever changed.

Autism AwarenessIt was on that day when my older son, Jacob, was officially diagnosed with autism. By the time we received the official diagnosis it was clear that he was on the spectrum, but the official diagnosis really made everything “real.”

Prior to that point we had enrolled Jacob in occupational and speech therapy classes (at our own expense) to help him learn to more effectively communicate.

He had minimal language, but was more prone to pointing to things he wanted. More commonly, he would take our hands and guide us to what he wanted.

Jacob’s diagnosis allowed us to receive a vast array of services — free of charge — through our Regional Center, a quasi-governmental agency that connects children with special needs with qualified providers. The main service we receive for Jacob is a one-on-one therapy called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Jacob qualifies for 40 hours a week of services — which now are divided between his time in school and the ABA he receives at home.

After approximately a year with one vendor who we found to be highly disorganized and unprofessional, we were fortunate to change agencies. Jacob now receives his ABA therapy from the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) — a worldwide leader in the field founded by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh. We have also explored alternative biomedical treatments and experimented with a gluten and casein-free diet.

Without question the past two years have been beyond hard — I could have never imagined our family would have been confronted with so many life changing and life threatening situations. In early 2006, as it was becoming increasingly clear that Jacob was dealing with something more significant than speech delay, his younger brother, Max, was born six weeks premature with a host of life-threatening challenges of his own.

For Max, basic survival was the main issue — he nearly died three times in as many months and I even gave him CPR — on my birthday of all days — after he stopped breathing, turned grey and went limp. We spent weeks in hospitals with him, NICUs, PICUs, Children’s Hospital, you name it. All the while we knew that Jacob needed more help than we were able to give him.

The experience drained us emotionally, financially and physically. Having one special needs child is one thing, having two really tests you. We sometimes refer to Jacob and Max as our “million dollar babies,” because the direct and indirect medical care they have both received in the past two years has easily totaled $1 million or more. Fortunately we had insurance, but unfortunately, our insurer was adept at finding all sorts of clever reasons why they were not liable for paying for various treatments.

However, despite the multitude of challenges we have faced in the past two years both Max and Jacob have made tremendous improvements. By most accounts they have both beaten the odds and continue to surpass expectations.

Although he still has a ways to go, Jacob is now very talkative and interactive. He is full of joy and has an impressive ability to play with words and exhibit creative thinking. Max is a gregarious fireball who has a lust for life that is inspirational — he is the kind of person who other people want to be near. I admire them both tremendously and know that they are my strength.

I now feel that I have my sons back and am finally able to experience something close to “normal,” whatever that really is! I can now imagine what it will be like in another two years and am excited and hopeful about the potential both boys have.