Saturday, January 26, 2008

One Day

  1. Awakened by a sweet little four-year old asking for a banana and an episode of "Little Einsteins"
  2. Got up, made coffee for me; made scrambled eggs, biscuits, and bacon for The Wife and Things 1 and 2 (no solid food for me yet, since I'm recovering from Round 3 of Oral Surgery Hell)
  3. Took Thing 1 to his trumpet lesson, with Thing 2 in tow, to let The Wife get some rest
  4. Took the boys to a nearby park to fly kites, ride bikes, and swing on the swings
  5. Lunch at Coco's, my boys' all-time favorite place (for reasons that elude me)
  6. Took the boys to a nursery to buy a tree for Thing 1, who wanted to plant one in honor of Tu B'Shevat, and a flowering plant for Thing 2, who just wanted something of his own to plant.
  7. Naptime (whew)
  8. Planted trees and flowers with the boys
  9. Set up the garage so the boys could cut up old cardboard boxes and make spaceships
  10. Watched half an hour of an old Steve McQueen movie with the wife
  11. Dinner, courtesy of my mother-in-law
  12. Gave the boys a bath, read them stories, sang them songs, put them to bed
  13. Crappy TV with The Wife, and a little ice cream to soothe my sore gums

Repeat as necessary.

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

Here's an interesting article on why we need the arts. Sad that such defenses seem to be necessary, but there you are. When high school or college graduates cry out with relief, "I never have to read another book!" (and yes, I have heard them do so), and when politicians bray that public monies should not have to support any artists or works of art that cannot survive in the marketplace, I guess someone does have to come to the defense of art as something besides, or beyond, immediate stimulation of one's nerve-endings.

Here's a quote to inspire to you read further:
The arts build the sets for that interior theatre and fill the stage with vivid, memorable characters who mingle in memory with the people of our lives. Even if we are otherwise lonely, we go through life in the company of this ever-expanding society of artists, characters and images, each of them chosen by us.

You could easily say in rebuttal, "Why lock yourself up in a dark room with imaginary characters? Why not go out into the real world and be sociable--meet some real characters?" And there is certainly a stereotype of readers and art-lovers as introverts who shy away from human interaction. But it doesn't apply to everyone, and it doesn't have to. One does not preclude the other.

And there's a difference. Be as sociable as you like--schmooze, party, mingle to your heart's delight--there is still a role for those imaginary characters and images the author describes. They provide an alternate narrative--a different world. Sometimes it's a long-dead world; sometimes it's a never-was world; sometimes it's a what-if world. But if we cannot see different ways of being in the world, if we cannot say, "it doesn't have to be like this--life could be like this, instead," we cannot work towards change.

And that's not a liberal versus conservative issue. I'm sure there are plenty of conservatives out there who read Jane Austen and say, "why can't the world be like this again?" There may even be some cold-hearted Scrooges who read Dickens and say, "quite right--lock up the orphans and put them to work." They'd be missing Dickens' point, but it wouldn't be the first time that a reader used an author against his own work.

Entertainers throw meat to the ravenous hordes and keep them happy. Artists are supposed to blaze a trail into unexplored territory and say, "follow if you dare." And we get to choose which pioneers we feel like following, into which dark wood. And, of course, the truly great ones--the Shakespeares, the Mozarts, the Picassos, show us worlds we've never imagined before and entertain us.

This trail-blazing function is why autocrats have always persecuted artists--and the more public the art, the easier it is for people to mingle and discuss and share ideas, the faster the tyrants shut it down. In a democracy, which is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, we are not supposed to fear art, or the ideas that spring from it. We are supposed to be strong enough and capable enough to counter any noxious idea with a better one--to compete for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens with a more compelling alternate world to inspire us.

But, of course, we don't do that. It's hard work. And anyway, as we all know, the twin Sodoms of Hollywood and New York have access to media all sewed up, and won't allow any voices to be heard that aren't pre-approved by the gay, Jewish, communist cabal that controls All Media In The World. So instead we just rant and rave on talk radio, or issue threats and boycotts, and argue about which Reality we should allow to be portrayed.

Perhaps things will change as the Internet generation grows into adulthood. Because these days, it simply can't be argued that access to media is controlled. Anyone can make and distribute a movie now; anyone can publish articles, editorials, or books. Obviously, I can't distribute a book ro a movie the way Big Companies can. But it's getting easier every year. Distinctions between entertainers and the entertained are rapidly dissolving. We are all, now, both providers of content and consumers of content. It could make things very interesting in the future.

But in that world, will there be any common language anymore? Will we be able to assume that everyone knows who Hamlet is, or who Holden Caulfield is...or what Beethoven's Fifth sounds like...or what the Guernica is? Or will the future of "narrowcasting" lead us to a world of a million mini-republics, the inhabitants of each speaking a hermetic language of imagery and association that no one outside will understand, care about...or trust?

And if that's where we're heading, what will the words "public education" mean? Will there be a body of knowledge that we, as a culture (if we are, indeed, a culture anymore), can agree to pass on to our children? Or are the education wars we're seeing today just a foretaste of an even nastier battle to come?

Or--here's another possibility--will the homeschooling movement (aided by online education) grow even larger, allowing people to avoid the public education fight and just walk away, to do things the way they want to do things--either individually or in small, like-minded groups? If the idea of public education just shatters at some point, will anything hold us together as a culture besides television?

It's an intruguing question, and it's hard to know where things are heading or what things will look like fifty years from now. All I know is, there's no reason to assume that the shape of things to come has to be the shape of things today. The way we learn, the way we communicate, the way we access entertainment--all of it is changing so rapidly, it's impossible to know, and difficult to imagine, what things will be like.

Ah, well. Maybe someone will write a story about it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And Here's One of Me in Front of...Well, Everything.

(in case you can't tell what this is, it's a self-portrait of an astronaut, taking his own picture while looking down at the earth. The earth--and the camera--are reflected in his spacesuit helmet)

One of the most interesting things about being a parent, or a teacher (or, really, just a moderately aware and sensitive human), is bumping up against the fact, from time to time, that your perception and understanding of reality may be radically different from someone else's. My elder son was born in 2000. He has never known a world without cell phones, email, the Internet, DVDs, TiVo, and so forth. And okay, yes, that's just a bunch of gadgets. But the way they affect and inform his dealings with the world around him, especially as a given, a from-birth assumption, make him somehow different from me--maybe a little bit; maybe a lot. And if I talk to him from inside my own assumptions, without taking his into I know that we're actually communicating? I know what I'm saying, but do I know for sure what he's hearing?

It's not a new issue. After all, how do I know for sure that what he sees as the color red is what I see? How can I ever get outside my own perception to see things really-truly through another pair of eyes? I can't. So I assume. And we both talk about "red." And until or unless a conflict of definition comes up in conversation, I may never know that we're not seeing the same thing.

I remember being awakened by my parents to join them and all their friends in the living room to watch, on a tiny black and white TV, the fuzzy and amazing footage of the very first moon landing in 1969. I remember everyone crowded in the room (it was summer, and we were off in the woods where not everyone had a TV); I remember the looks of awe and amazement. I remember blinking away my sleepiness and sitting on the floor, watching Neil Armstrong step down onto the surface of the moon--something no human had ever done.

But this is a nice picture, too. I'll download it and email it over to Thing 1. Maybe he'll print it out and hang it up. Maybe he'll just look at it and say, "cool." Maybe he'll even realize that it's not a computer animation--that's it really, truly, real.

Whatever that means.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Oh, gosh, I guess so, if you really want it to be, I mean, and if you can relate it to something else in the world that's not, you know, an actual, literal traffic jam...of automobile traffic, I mean. Go ahead, give it a try.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On Sticking Your Neck Out

I am in Hawaii for most of this week, doing teacher training at a small middle and high school on the west side of Oahu--a school that needs serious help in raising student performance. The school is nestled at the bottom of a bowl of beautiful, lush mountains, with a view from the football field of the Pacific. God knows, I wouldn't have done any school work in such a place.

But distracting beauty isn't really one of their problems. Poverty is. There are ragged tents lined up and down the beach on the west coast--makeshift homes for homeless families. It has to be hard to convince your children to do their homework when you have no electricity. And island culture isn't exactly conducive to academic striving. The weather is beautiful, the surf is up, and there's no one else around for thousands of miles to compare yourself to or compete against. How hard do you really have to work just to get along?

The state superintendent is trying to change that, and many school administrators are working hard to help. They are bringing speakers and consultants over from the mainland to try to break the sense of isolation. Last year, they brought hundreds of Hawaii teachers to Washington, DC, for a conference on where teaching and learning are, and where they need to be heading. They are trying to get their teachers to feel like a part of the larger--and shrinking--world, so that their students don't have to merely "get along" if they don't want to--so that they can be competitive and successful wherever they want to go.

I haven't traveled broadly to visit many schools in the islands, but at the one school where my company is working, it's been a hard sell. The principal certainly feels pressure to raise test scores, but the teachers don't seem to (though they claim that they do). They say that they don't have instructional materials to help them remediate where they see profound skill gaps (one math teacher told me that she had an 8th grader who didn't know what a half was. "Half of what?" I asked. "No," she said, "the concept of half."), but when we bring them an online lesson bank that gives them instant access to thousands of lessons from grades 3 through 11, none of them use it. Not one of them. In five months. Have used it even once. When we offered two math teachers the chance to pilot an intervention program for free, they said yes but then never used it, or contacted us for help, or accepted our offers of training.

Now we're back to talk about the challenges of standardized tests--how students need to understand the ways in which these tests are different from what they get in the classroom; how students need clear, step-by-step methods for tackling different kinds of challenges (in life as well as in school), and useful problem-solving strategies to keep them from throwing up their hands and saying, "I can't do it." This is my company's core business, and something we've done well across the country for decades. It works. It helps. Whatever you think about the wisdom or usefulness of standardized tests, learning how to take them (if you have to take them) is empowering. And God knows, these students need to feel more empowered, more capable.

And the teachers were...polite. I would say "receptive," but I don't think they really received anything. I have no confidence that they will teach their kids these strategies--or, if they do, they'll do it with rolled eyes and exasperated sighs, and an introduction of "I guess we have to do this." They'll communicate with their tone and their body language that a) this is all crap, and b) it's not going to make any difference, anyway, because you're all stupid.

They're not evil people. In fact, many of them are quite nice. They're not mean. They're not child-haters. And they probably like most of their kids well enough. They've just given up hope, that's all. It's a little thing. Unfortunately, it's everything.

You can keep teaching without hope. If you're not in the business, you might not think it possible, but I've seen plenty of people do it. They do their job--or what they define as their job. They teach their lessons. They may even do so with some enthusiasm. But they no longer expect much. They expect to keep getting what they've always gotten, and they've made their peace with it. "There's only so much these kids can do, and I'm not going to make myself crazy demanding more of them." Their benchmark for student performance is whatever level they've always managed to get, not what they need to get from students based on state standards, or college entrance requirements, or modern workplace requirements. This is how teachers become babysitters and entertainers, instead of teachers.

But what can you do? How do you talk to people who have surrendered hope to history? How do you reach out to them and say, "I know, I know, but I need you to hope--just one more time. I need you to risk it, just one more time. I need you to stick your neck out." How do you de-turtle-ify someone who has learned through bitter experience to keep her head safely in her shell?

Because it's easy to criticize teachers for giving up, just like it's easy to criticize the Afghans who allow the Taliban to destroy any hope for building a sane nation. Just like it's easy to criticize the Iraqis for giving in to their bitterest, most sectarian impulses. But we don't live there. We haven't experienced what they have. And what right, really, do any of us have? What right do we have to say, "Come on, guys, try harder. Give it another shot. It might just work this time"?

Except we have to say those things, don't we? Because so very much is at stake. Someone has to say it--and we happen to be in a position to be able to. But words aren't enough. If we're going to say these things, then we have to stick our necks out, as well, and stand by them, and help them. We can't go into schools, sell a bunch of books, say "good luck," and go home. We have to say, "I'm right here. I'm not leaving. I'm going to help you get through this and it's going to work." We have to say, "It's not enough to have chased out the Taliban. We're going to stand by you and help you build up your nation, and we're not going to run away to fight some other, meaningless war, and we're not going to abandon you the minute it's politically inconvenient, or the minute we get bored."

And, of course, for the most part, we don't do these things. For the most part, we ask other people to stick their necks out, and we wish them luck, and we run home as fast as we can. And those who dare to hope get killed for it, and those who do not dare to hope survive, and say, "You see? I told you so." And we say...what? "Poor dumb savages. They're just not capable of democracy." "Poor dumb kids. They're just not capable of doing the work that the rich kids in the suburbs can do. They just don't have it in them."

Revolutions don't occur when things are at their worst; they occur when things have already started to improve. They occur when the people say, "Gee, maybe things can change around here." You need a little evolution--slow, gradual, painstaking--to spark the revolution. You chip away at the edifice, a little bit at a time, and at some point, in a single movement, it all comes crashing down.

I show teachers data from other schools like theirs. I read them quotes from teachers. I say, "They're no different. Their kids are no different. We really can do better." They nod--a couple of them. They think about it. Maybe one or two will give it a shot. It's too soon to know for sure.

I leave the training and say something about this to the principal. I say, "It's hard to ask people to stick their necks out when they keep getting their heads chopped off." He says, "Ha, ha--that's true. I stick my neck out and get whacked so many times, I'm three inches shorter than when I started in this job."

That's the spirit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rest in Peace

When we were very young....

Somehow, I think it would please him to know that thanks to him, and because of him, and in his honor, a variety of horribly filthy rugby songs (all of which he taught me) have been running through my head all day.

Godspeed, you crazy viking.

Identified American Citizen

I read the news story yesterday morning without thinking about it much. Another terrorist attack. Another suicide bomber. Some Norwegians killed, this time…and an unidentified American citizen.

Except the unidentified American citizen was my friend, Thor. I got the call last night, in the middle of mundane family life things like bringing my kids back from the gym and getting them ready for bed. The news reached into my cocoon and slapped me in the face.

I met Thor Hesla during my Junior year of college. His father was a religion professor, famous for taking students on walks through campus to investigate archetypal, mythic, and sexual imagery in the architecture. Thor was a rugby player and a madman and a gentle, sweet soul. He was one of my favorite people in the universe.

Somehow, I always imagined Thor to be indestructible. In college, he was capable of astonishing feats of stupidity while drunk, doing things like climbing (and falling off of) building drainpipes, or racing his BMW motorcycle along Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta at three in the morning in an attempt to reach the Majestic Diner before me (okay, granted, I was driving just as quickly and drunkenly--but at least I was in a car). For a time, he worked as a dishwasher in Yosemite National Park while trying to write the Great American Novel. He took up rock climbing, and managed to survive a sixty-foot fall and facial smash-up. I learned about this accident after he returned to Atlanta to heal. He asked me to pick him up for a party, and only when he got into my car with his swollen, Frankensteinian face did I learn what had happened to him. It didn't faze him a bit. At the party, he got drunk and tried to remove his stitches. I think he was doing it to impress a girl. That was Thor.

I was living in California during his Yosemite sojourn. I went up to visit him for the weekend once. He asked me to bring him some Walt Whitman and a Mad Magazine. When I arrived with books in hand, he offered me an old rugby shirt and a bandana-patched pair of pants in exchange. That was Thor, too.

He was loud and abrasive. He said what he thought. He was capable, at any moment, of launching himself into a ridiculous, pseudo-tai-chi stance and yelling "Kra-ka-toooo!" He once drank a glass of soy sauce on a bet (the loser--a girl, of course--was then forced to be civil to him for an entire day. Not kind--just civil). Although I saw him less and less frequently over the years, we butted heads whenever we met, and we met with absolute joy. I have never met another soul even remotely like him.

Today I'm traveling for work. At the security line at LAX, I watched a hapless father try to fold down an infant car seat for the x-ray machine, his baby in one arm, while the otherwise-unemployable TSA idiot barked at him to take off his jacket and empty out his baby's water bottle (the bottle of formula was okay; the identical bottle full of water was apparently evil). Everyone behind him began huffing and puffing. When I finally got my chance to walk through, my belt and watch band set off the alarm--even though they had made it through my home airport just fine. And suddenly I was filled with tears and anguish and rage. We are children playing without supervision in a dangerous world, poking tigers in the eye and thinking it will teach them some kind of lesson about who is boss. And our best, most dedicated, most honorable sons and daughters take our games seriously and die for it. Who is going to answer for them? Who is going to answer for my friend, Thor, who went to terrible places and tried to do some good?

Waiting my turn at security, watching our top-notch security personnel yell at grandmothers and harrass infants, I wanted to grab one of them by the shoulders and yell, "You children! You idiots! What are you doing?"

But it wouldn't have helped. Nothing will help.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why Are We Who We Are?

A variety of strange thoughts rumbling around my head coalesced this morning while driving to pick up my dry cleaning. The main theme from Schindler's List came on the radio--that haunting piece of music that always rips my heart to shreds. For some reason, everything I had been thinking about wrapped itself around the music and led to the question above: Why are we who we are...and not some other way?

I guess I've been thinking about this because of the presidential campaign, and all the assumptions and platitutes that get thrown around so casually as part of the National Discussion (such as it is). We revere and respect our political process, while mocking and criticizing it (or, for may of us, ignoring it altogether). Meanwhile, in Kenya, people are murdered during an election. We applaud ourselves for being tolerant, while attacking each other with insults and vile language. Meanwhile, in other countries, people of different religions, tribes, and groups don't bother with vile language--they just slaughter each other. We think things in our public discourse have decayed and degraded to a terrible point, with no real understanding of how bad it could really be--how bad it is, in many other places--how bad it has been through most of human history.

We are still isolated enough from the rest of the world to take what we have--and who we are--for granted. And because of that, we don't bother cherishing it, preserving it, teaching it to our children--or even acknowledging it (the good or the bad). It's a dangerous combination.

If we can't identify all the different things that have contributed to our national character, how can we guarantee that those things will exist into the next generation--the things we want to keep, that is (or vanish--the things we want to get rid of)? We just assume that things will go on as they have been, but there's no guarantee. In fact, we have no reason to think that values or ideas we cherish will survive beyond us, if we don't do anything to preserve them.

But how can we know who we are if we don't test who we are? How can we know what we believe unless we investigate ideas that, perhaps, we don't or can't believe? How can we assess whether some new idea fits into who we are--or who we want to be--if we haven't really thought through who we have been, and why we've been that way? How can we test whether our actions are living up to our ideals if we examine neither?

A lot of people seem to think they know what a word like "Un-American" means. But what does it actually mean to be "American"? Isn't that something that should be taught in our high schools? And I don't mean taught as in "lectured," as though the answer were known and set in stone and ready to be memorized. I mean taught as in investigated...explored...thought about. Why are we so afraid to let our children root around in our history and discover what's there, the good and the bad?

Here's a little quiz--really little, not even close to being exhasutive. It's just a few things off the top of my head--a few of the kinds of things that get me thinking about what it means to have inherited citizenship in this country. It seems to me that any adult living here ought to have enough information about their country to be able to answer most of these questions, even if they don't all come up with identical answers. But I wouldn't put money on it.
  1. Name three individuals, groups, or historical events that helped teach the American colonists how to govern themselves without the presence of an absolute monarch.
  2. What is one reason why the American Revolution succeeded, while many other revolutions in history have ended with a reversion back to autocracy?
  3. Why did the U.S. have to abandon its original governmental agreement, the Articles of Confederation, and write a new Constitution?
  4. List five things that the Bill of Rights prohibits the government from doing.
  5. Name one thing that authors Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, or Henry David Thoreau (your choice) contributed to American thought or the idea of a uniquely American character. Name an American historical figure or fictional character who best exemplifies this idea.
  6. In what ways did the American character change and grow as people settled the West? What kinds of things influenced or affected these changes?
  7. Other than the abolition of slavery, what was different in the United States as a result of the Civil War?
  8. Airmen in World War II often drew pictures of Bugs Bunny on their airplanes--as a mascot, of sorts. What qualities or characteristics did that cartoon character represent, that the young soldiers wanted to identify with?
  9. Which presidents are represented on Mount Rushmore? Name two things of note that each of these men did--two things that represent your idea of what the American character can and should be.
  10. Name one event of the past 50 years that has helped move us, as a country, closer to our founding ideals.
  11. Name one eventof the past 50 years that has moved us away from our founding ideals.
  12. Name three people currently in public life who represent some of the qualities you've listed in the answers above.
  13. Who said, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America." Regardless of what you think of the speaker, what, in your opinion, does that phrase mean?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Teach Them What They Know

Sigh. Another essay from a disheartened English teacher, ready to give up on the "classics" because the kids simply won't read them. You can't really fault him for saying things like this:
I believe I am better serving the present and future needs of my students by offering more accessible readings that will hopefully ignite a lifelong passion for reading. After all, isn’t it better to have read and learned, than never to have read at all?

He's absolutely right. But the end-result is to take a select group of children and on their behalf betray everything we've historically believed about education--that it is not only the honing of skills but the transmission of history, culture, and values. They don't come out of a home or a culture of reading for pleasure? They find it difficult to read about people, places, and times different from their own? Well, that's okay. Don't tax the poor dears. Just let them read what they already know, and what they already like--stories about themselves. After all, the whole point of reading literature is to stare deeply into a mirror, isn't it? It's not to transport yourself to other places--to learn how other people live, love, fight, dream. They're not solipsistic enough--let's push them even deeper into their little boxes of self. Let the white kids in the suburbs have a broadening education. They're prepped for it. The black kids in the city schools can just keep reading kids in cities. Then, maybe, if they enjoy themselves, they can go to college and read something else. Except when they get to college, they'll be forced to take remedial English classes to make up for the crappy education they got in high school--remedial English classes on which they'll have to spend what little college money they may have, and for which they will receive no college credit, of course.

If a high school English teacher can get away with saying in the New York Times that his job is to get 18-year olds to love reading, and that they can get the rest (i.e., that whole high school education thing) later, or somewhere else, then can't we agree that the system, as a system, is a disaster? After all, this is not the teacher's fault--he's clearly doing what he can with what he's been given. There's only so much you can do with 45 minutes of class time.

If equity means anything (and right now, it doesn't), it has to mean that we, as school people, expect certain things of ALL students and are then able to provide them with whatever they need, year after year, to meet those that when they go out into the world, they can pursue their dreams as far as their talents and drive will take them. The world may knock them around, or knock them down, or simply give up on them. But schools simply can't.

Uncommon Sense

On this day in 1776, Thomas Paine published the pamphlet, "Common Sense." He published it anonymously, because to attach his name to his political ideas was to invite a hanging.

For all the screeching in our presidential campaigns, it's been a long time since ideas were that important in American politics.

In case you haven't read this work since high school--or in case you only read what a textbook allowed you to see--or in case you've never read it at all, here it is.

If you never quite got the idea of the social contract, or why we believe in government by consent of the governed, here it is, plain as day:
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer! Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others....Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz., freedom and security.

This is why the Bill of Rights outlines--and limits--what government can do to us, not what we can do. So hello, you so-called conservatives--a right to privacy (for one example) doesn't have to be in the Constitution for us to have it. As long as that document doesn't grant our government a right to limit or stop it, it's ours. You guys are allegedly supposed to know that stuff.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Chanukah Rap

Example #319 of "The Goyim Are Crazy."

From Living in Syn.

"Hey, KeShawn. It's Lenny here. You know, Lenny, your agent? Anyway, your records have been selling okay, but I've been thinking. Do you know who buys most hardcore, gangsta rap these days? White boys from the suburbs. And do you know what kind of white boys from the suburbs? Jewish kids. So I had this idea..."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Traffic Ballet

From India. And they seem to do it all without lights or signs.

Perhaps it's magic.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Scripts vs. Protocols

Nice post from NYC Educator on scripted teaching. The point he comes close to but doesn't make outright, by mentioning doctors, is that what we need in education are protocols, rather than scripts. Doctors are certainly creative, adaptive, and so on--but they work within very clear protocols that have been approved by the profession at large. That is something we are utterly lacking. As the writer mentions, by referencing Charlier Parker, you have to have a set of agreed-upon fundamentals to start with, before you learn how to "riff."

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

50 Worst People of 2007

Mean, vulgar, nasty, unfair, and really really funny. They go after pretty much everyone--on both sides of the political aisle, as well as in our so-called entertainment world.

And they don't spare the rest of us, either. Here's just a wee taste:
#9. You. Charges: You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You suddenly give a damn about border integrity, because the automated voice system at your pharmacy asked you to press 9 for Spanish. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary.... You still think Republicans favor limited government. Your knowledge of politics and government are dwarfed by your concern for Britney Spears' children....

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Middle-Aged New Year's Eve

In an earlier post, I talked about my friend Maxley and some of the New Year's Eve Parties we had in my just-barely-misspent youth. Well, that was then; this is now:

The Wife and I went out for a very nice dinner at 6:30 PM--the only time we could get a reservation on short notice. But that's okay--the food was great, and each course came with a wine pairing, including dessert--leading to much more wine than I'm used to drinking in one sitting, these days.

By 9:00 we were back at home. Thing 1 was still awake, watching shark videos on the computer. He and the Wife began a game of Clue.

By 9:30, I was passed out. I have NO idea when the Wife and Thing 1 called it a night.

And, of course, by 4:30 AM I was wide awake. I stared at the ceiling for a while, and eventually gave up, got up, and made coffee. And here I am.

So I missed seeing the ball drop in NYC, which would have been at 10:00, my time. And I missed ringing in the new year in my own time zone. And I woke up just too late for Hawaii, I suppose. Perhaps there's some deserted island in the South Pacific where it is, right now, midnight. But I don't care.

Onward and upward. Happy New Year to all.