June 7th, 2014

Faculty housing for Middlesex School on Lowell Rd in Concord

Recently, my husband took a Really Long Bike Ride. I think it was 67 miles and change; perhaps he will correct me in the comments. On this ride, he noticed five new houses on a horseshoe drive on Lowell Rd near what he called the "Fenn School" but which turns out to be "The Middlesex School", a boarding school and day high school. The Fenn School is a boys' school a couple miles away, for a younger crowd -- many of them go on to attend Middlesex -- but about as many go on to Concord Academy or Lawrence Academy and, in smaller groups, many other schools.

Anyway. We attempted to find the new five houses on a variety of web sites and completely failed. I quizzed him extensively about what kind of for sale signs he saw (none). I was somewhat annoyed through the process, because he wanted to call this a 40B development, and that just seemed comprehensively impossible. For one thing, 40B developments virtually never make it all the way through the process as 40B developments. For another, they aren't ever five isolated houses on a very lightly developed road. Ever. You can do 40B for sale, but I have yet to see it ever really happen, and every development my husband or anyone else identified as 40B turned out not to be. I've taken to treating all assertions that something is a 40B development as a sign that the person saying those words needs a Big Ole Lecture about classism and bias.

[ETA: 1273 Elm Street 7 or 8 unit townhouse condo. Yes. I know. I think 2 units were designated affordable. Good luck showing how this disproves my hyperbolic statements above. Also, 3 units at Concord Commons were designated affordable, out of almost 60. So I suppose technically I _have_ seen 40B housing for sale. But not free standing houses . . .]

The five houses (which are attractive, and why R. thinks have rain gardens and so forth) turn out to be new faculty housing for The Middlesex School. Very exciting!

https://www.mxschool.edu/about-mx

"The houses you’ll see on campus belong to our faculty, who open their doors day and night to talk with students about Hemingway, Newton, Caesar, the big game, that great concert, or nothing in particular."

These particular houses are (part of?) Mary Mae Village.

https://www.mxschool.edu/news-events/article/2012/september/mary-mae-village-construction

"Enhancing the residential atmosphere of Middlesex, the “Mary Mae Village” groundbreaking occurs with ideal timing, as nine faculty babies were born in the last academic year alone!"

So Middlesex put this together to make jobs at the school more appealing, and to make it possible to do part of the job, which is to create nurturing, holistic relationships between staff and students, which is only possible in a boarding school if the staff lives there, too.

We then did a little wrangling about whether this constituted workforce housing. I assert that it does not. R. got stuck in one of those literal/logic holes that compound words and phrases can trigger: "It is housing for employees. How is it not workforce housing?" Yes, and the Obama family lives in public housing, along with most of the governors of the fifty states. Technically true, but people who say that who are not using this to add prestige to the public policy goals of public policy are often being assholes instead. Let's not be assholes if we can help ourselves.

Here is what workforce housing is:

http://www.realtor.org/programs/housing-opportunity-program/workforce-housing

or

https://www.fanniemae.com/content/fact_sheet/wpworkhouse.pdf

Occasionally, people will apply the term to faculty housing, but not in a sustained way (sort of like governor's mansions are public housing).

And honestly, if referring to this kind of development as "workforce housing" is done with the intent to enhance the prestige and societal acceptance of "workforce housing", then I'm fine with it. But make that clear.

I would further argue that Middlesex clearly intends something over and above "affordability" for its faculty. It would like to have its faculty available to its students, to serve one of the core missions of the institution, and that sort of requires them to be Right There On Campus.

Finally, what caught R.'s attention on the drive was that the houses are comparatively small (many other properties on that road are several million dollar horse properties and come with pools, tennis courts and similar) and clustered close together. I suspect they are clustered in part because they share Middlesex's sewage plant. R. had trouble making sense of this, other than as "affordable housing", and he recognized how wildly implausible affordable housing on Lowell Rd is (Concord is _very_ effective at fighting off 25% above median income families, never mind median or below median). I would like us to get to a point that when we see small and close together houses, we don't think "poor", we think "convenient" (hard to imagine anything on Lowell Rd. being convenient, but faculty housing here actually _is_) or some other flavor of "desirable". Altho even at my most idealistic, I'm starting to lose faith in that as a possibility.

ETA: Oh, yeah, worth pointing out that 40B in an ownership context the affordable units are supposed to be mixed in and indistinguishable on the exterior from the market rate units. So if you're looking at just five and they are all the same ... probably not a 40B homeownership qualifier.

Duolingo, initial review

First, I want to thank C., for mentioning Duolingo. I recently decided to give it a try, and started with Spanish, because I foolishly believed there wasn't any point in using it to review French or German and the Dutch for English speakers isn't "hatched" yet.

The first and most important thing: Duolingo does not charge the user money (at all) and is basically ad free. They have an explanation for this, that makes more sense when you realize the guy behind it all is also responsible for Recaptcha.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duolingo

Whatever.

You can use it on the web. You can use it on a portable electronic device that has apps, such as a phone or a tablet. There are a few pictures -- very few. It breaks language learning up into phrase and sentence oriented activities: translating to or from your own/the target language, repeating in the target language, multiple choice, dictation, etc. Sometimes you are asked to type in the language; sometimes you assemble the answers from little tiles. If you miss more than a certain number of times (generally 3) in a section, you have to start over at the beginning. If you don't miss any, you earn extra points/lingots. You can (I have not yet) buy stuff with lingots, including lessons in swearing in the language you are learning and similar fun things.

I've never taken any Spanish, however, I've been around Dora the Explorer in the form of the show, books, computer/electronic games, etc., and other less well-branded bilingual Spanish-English stuff. I also have two cousins-by-marriage, one who was born and raised in Mexico; the other whose parents came from there. So it's not like I've had no exposure to the language at all (do menus count?); I knew stuff like the you don't need to actually supply the "I" or other subject of a sentence rule and stuff like that. I also have some amount of awareness of French, German and Dutch as learned languages, so there's obviously a lot of cognates, and I have a basic sense of word order variation to watch out for, and the need to adjust endings on adjectives and so forth. The lack of explicit grammar lessons bothers me not at all. I could see where a lack of some or all of this background could make for one helluva confusing encounter with Duolingo otherwise.

I did not have any mystery microphone problems; if there's a problem with the speech recognition on this thing, it is that it might be uncritically accepting of terrible pronunciation on my part and I would never know.

I have definitely quite painlessly picked up a smattering of grammar and vocabulary very quickly. I'm having a little trouble with prepositions, which is really unsurprising. I have trouble with prepositions all the time.

I decided, in a manic moment, to try out the French and German courses. (This is really bad. When I do stuff like this, and then go to my Dutch lesson, I wind up completely unable to produce any speech because I get so confused. But it is fun!) I tested out of a tiny amount of each, which is unsurprising. (I couldn't remember the word for bird! Good news -- neither could R.) But going over the early stuff is a good form of review.

Today, as part of writing this review, I thought I would see what other people are doing with Duolingo. And I ran into something really, really bizarre that I'm just not sure what to do with. Why are people running this thing with google translate up in another window?

There are a million (hyperbole) more detailed, thoughtful reviews of Duolingo out there. Consider this a vote of confidence that their approach has been well-deployed across at least the few languages I have some familiarity with, it is not frustrating, and it is excellent, game entertainment. So, you know, while you're waiting for your Frozen Free Fall lives to regenerate, you could do this.