Blog-o! Notes from

Mon, 01 Oct 2012

Here's a letter I wrote to Delphine's teacher about the daily reading log he has asked us to have the children fill out — the children are supposed to read for fifteen minutes a day, and the parents are expected to initial the log on a daily basis.

Mr. F——

Delphine has not been filling in her reading log. I admit I haven't been encouraging her to -- I want her to read for as long as she wants to for pleasure and knowledge, not to a clock because she's been told to. Delphine is a born reader and we have no problem getting her to read or to challenge herself.

I can assure you with a great deal of confidence that she has read for at least fifteen minutes every day this September, and indeed probably every day since she learned to read four years ago. I can also assure you, with almost the same degree of confidence, that she will read for at least fifteen minutes a day for the rest of the school year. I'm so confident of that that I would happily pre-initial a year's worth of reading logs right now. However, I expect that would defeat any other purposes of the reading log that you have in mind.

If the reading log serves to give you some idea of what students are reading, would it be acceptable for Delphine to provide you a list of what she has read? She's also willing to write a report on what she's read once a month or at some other frequency if that would be helpful.

Let me know if you'd like to discuss this in person -- I'm available before and after school most days.

Hopefully he will respond favourably. I think the only eventuality I didn't cover in the above letter is that he wants the kids to fill in the reading log because he wants them to get used to doing bullshit paperwork. This is a defense which comes up frequently when this matter is under debate. "They're going to have to do mindless busywork at some point, better get them used to it!" I don't buy it. They're all going to have to, say, wear glasses at some point (unless they die before middle age), but no-one advocates making all children wear glasses.

And it's not like doing bullshit paperwork is a sophisticated skill you have to start working on in childhood, like playing classical piano or doing gymnastics. You can pretty much pick it up in half an hour.

Anyway, Mr. F—— strikes me as an intelligent and thoughtful teacher, so I don't think he's going to go for the bullshit paperwork angle. We'll see how it turns out.

[Posted at 13:54 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 01 Apr 2010

I've been thinking I should really take some driving lessons to get over my fear of scary big city driving. Since I already have a driver's license, I don't need actual in-class lessons, I only need a few hours in one of those cars with the extra set of brakes, so I emailed a couple of driving schools to see if I could do that. Here is what I received in response from AllWheels Drivers:

were do you live and do you have ontario G1 licence.
IF YOU ONLY HAVE SASK. licence you will have to get your G1 licence inder take driviong lessons.

I shit you not, I didn't change a single letter of that email. If you're keeping track, that's three spelling errors, two missing capital letters, one missing question mark, a whole lot of pointless ALLCAPS, and one incomprehensible phrase ("inder take driviong lessons"?)

I was going to send a polite email explaining why this isn't a good way to handle customer response, but it seems I can't be bothered and would just rather blog about it here. I'm passive-aggressive like that.

Since then I've received a recommendation for another driving school from a friend. I won't be emailing them.

[Posted at 20:33 by Amy Brown] link
Tue, 07 Apr 2009

Here's a letter I sent to President's Choice Financial Mastercard.


I have a PC Financial Mastercard and I'm very happy with it. However, I just ordered a set of convenience cheques and I was dismayed to see that you included a plastic chequebook holder. The environment is a major concern of mine and I don't believe it's necessary to include a plastic checkbook holder every time a client orders ten cheques. Ironically, the cheques came with a note telling me how environmentally friendly they are.

To add insult to injury, I called the customer support number and the person I spoke to there ("Kevin") laughed at me when I expressed this concern. He said he would "put a note in my file". I asked if anyone would see it, and he replied that "someone might see it and have a chuckle". Perhaps he doesn't understand the gravity of climate change? Perhaps he doesn't care. But surely there is a better way to deal with a client's concerns than putting a note in their file so someone can stumble across it and have a chuckle.

Thanks for your attention to this matter.

Incidentally, I read the fine print on the "convenience cheques" and realized what a bum deal they are, so I'm going to go back to regular cheques anyway.

[Posted at 21:01 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 19 Mar 2009

Sometimes I write letters about stuff that isn't very important in the grand scheme of things. I sent this to the nice folks at Wellesley:


I just wanted to let you know how much I love your apple butter! I am from rural Saskatchewan and some of my neighbours made apple butter when I was a kid, so I was excited to see it on the shelf at my grocery store. I was even more excited when I tasted it - I don't remember my neighbours' apple butter being so sublime! You have definitely figured out the perfect recipe.

Wellesley Apple Butter is now my gift for people who are visiting, or for when I go away -- maple syrup is such a cliche, but apple butter is perfectly local and evocative of Southern Ontario. You make it easy to eat locally!

Congratulations! Amy Brown

[Posted at 22:19 by Amy Brown] link
Fri, 13 Mar 2009

Here's a letter I sent to Scholastic books through this petition.

Dear Mr. Robinson and Ms. Newman,

My name is Amy Brown. My daughter is in kindergarten and she loves books. I remember buying books through Scholastic when I was a kid - my copy of Charlotte's Web was a Scholastic book, and I just bought my daughter her own copy through Scholastic. I think you provide a great service.

However, I am disappointed by the amount of toys, trinkets, and electronic media in your book clubs, to say nothing of the TV-show and movie tie-in books which are of questionable value. It's really become a chore to comb through your catalogues in search of quality. (Although it's much easier now that you list the author name - thanks for that!)

The opportunity to sell directly to children in schools is a privilege, not a right. Schools grant Scholastic unique commercial access to children because of its reputation as an educational publisher. But Scholastic is abusing that privilege by flooding classrooms across the country with ads for products and brands that have little educational value and compete with books for children's attention and families' limited resources. There's no justification for marketing an M&M videogame or lip gloss in elementary schools.

Please return to selling books - and only books - through your in-school book clubs.

Sincerely, Amy Brown

[Posted at 21:12 by Amy Brown] link