Sunday, December 28, 2008

Atheists in Heaven?

Here is follow up on a study I posted about earlier that said that the majority of Christians believe you don't have to be Christian to attain eternal life. They have now done a repeat study with more specific questions, and found that most Christians even believe Atheists can go to heaven.

This is intriguing, especially in light of Carlton Pearson, an evangelical preacher who stopped believing in hell because of a conversation he had with God, and now preaches the Gospel of Inclusion. His story was broadcast on This American Life and can be heard on their website.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jesus and the Buddha

Here's a really interesting article from the Boston Globe about Asian Christians during the Dark Ages.  There's a lot in there I never knew about, and it's worth reading all the way to the end.  I am surprised again and again at how what we take for the true Christian message has been distorted and re-interpreted and re-packaged and forgotten so many times.  That shouldn't surprise me, but it really does.  And it reminds me again how incredibly solipsistic we are to think that our interpretation of the holy scriptures is the "right" one.  I am not a relativist when it comes to religion.  I do not believe all interpretations are equal, and there are some that are downright silly, and others that are evil (Jim Jones comes to mind).  But it is equally wrong to assume that we have a corner on God.  

Here is an image of the lotus-cross mentioned in the article.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Augmented Reality

I have a program on my phone called Wikitude. It's hard to describe, but what it does is take advantage of the compass and camera in the G1 (the phone with Google's Android software). It allows you to point the camera in a certain direction, and it will identify wikipedia articles about what you see through the camera. So, for instance, if you are standing on the Empire State Building and want to see what the name of that other big building is (the Chrysler building, say), it will tell you the name of the building, and link you to a wikipedia article about it.

Here is a video that will show you what I mean.



Their website has more information about it.

The educational possibilities of something like this are mind- boggling. When I was in New Orleans, I used it, and it works really well. You point it in the direction you are looking, and get all the information you want about what you see. I imagine this will soon be combined with Sky Map, which is the app that will show you what constellations are in the sky in the direction that your camera is pointing. Here's a video of that one. Not sure why the person didn't demo it outside. (!)



These things are so easy to use, I am certain they will become a regular part of our lives in the very near future.

We are living in such a different world than we did just a decade ago.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jon Stewart & Mike Huckabee on Gay Marriage

I appreciate how respectful Jon Stewart is - he provides a good model for how intelligent discussion of tense issues can be achieved.  The questions he raises here about gay marriage are precisely the ones I would like answered.




Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pirates

I've been confused about the whole pirate situation in Somalia. I didn't know what was going on or how in the world modern day pirates could even exist. This story cleared it up for me a bit, or at least made it clear enough to make me want to learn more. Apparently, it is a protest against the lack of government in Somalia, and they seem to be treating the hostages really well. This story is also interesting because the breakthrough came when a reporter let her 12 year old daughter call the pirates on her cell phone. Lessons everywhere in this...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Angulimal & the Buddha

I have been following this blog for a while now, and have enjoyed its unique perspective. This entry in particular is worth passing along not only for the insights given in the post, but for the wonderful telling of the story of Angulimal and the Buddha.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Expectations & Punishment

Here is a terrific article on parenting that applies equally well to teaching, and also to how to deal with our expectations of ourselves. 

I particularly appreciate the U shaped curve for expectations - that too much chaos and too much rigor have similar negative results; and also the process of shaping - allowing time for development by lowering the expectation and building it slowly over time. And I deeply appreciate the idea that when our expectations are not met, we feel it as a stress on ourselves, which causes a loop in which under-performance on the part of the child fuels negative behaviors on our part, which causes resentment and further under-performance. I have never been a real believer in punishments, because they merely serve to correct the behavior while you are present, and diminish the bond you have that could ultimately foster the shaping of behavior in a healthy and productive way. 

I have said this before and been perceived as weak or naive, but there is an emormous difference between punishing and correcting. My experience in every leadership position I have had has been that a punishment is ultimately a sign of our inability to deal with our own failures, and if we want a real success, we must always think creatively and clearly about how to build confidence and character through the inner resources that already exist within the child and within every child. Every person wants to do right at his or her core, and simply needs to be reminded of this and empowered and inspired to do this. Punishment has the paradoxical effect of exacerbating the problem rather than correcting it. 

It is nice to see the research supporting what is counter-intuitive to some. But all we have to do is ask when in our own lives a punishment (as distinct from a correction) ever produced a significant change for the better; and if we think of one, we have to ask ourselves if it was not accompanied or followed by an empowerment that would have worked just as well on its own.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Morning Dawns

This article from the NY Times expresses what is for me the most urgent outcome of this election. Here is an excerpt:
From far away, this is how it looks. There is a country out there where tens of millions of white Christians, voting freely, select as their leader a black man of modest origin, the son of a Muslim. There is a place on Earth - call it America - where such a thing happens.

Even where the United States is held in special contempt, like here in this benighted Palestinian coastal strip, the "glorious epic of Barack Obama," as the leftist editor Jean Daniel calls it, makes America - the idea as much as the actual place - stand again, perhaps only fleetingly, for limitless possibility. ...

But wonder is almost overwhelmed by relief.  Mr. Obama's election offers most non-Americans a sense that the imperial power capable of doing such good and such harm - a country that, they complain, preached justice but tortured its captives, launched a disastrous war in Iraq, turned its back on the environment and greedily dragged the world into economic chaos - saw the errors of its ways over the past eight years and shifted course.

They say the country that weakened democratic forces abroad through a tireless but often ineffective campaign for democracy - dismissing results it found unsavory, cutting deals with dictators it needed as allies in its other battles - was now shining a transformative beacon with its own democratic exercise.

It would be hard to overstate how fervently vast stretches of the globe wanted the election to turn out as it did to repudiate the Bush administration and its policies.

Yes, I voted for Obama because I believe in him. And yes, I voted for him because I value his judgement and principles. And yes - damn it - I voted for him because he is an amazingly eloquently and inspiring speaker.  That matters to me as an English teacher, it matters to me as a human being, it matters to me when I choose a leader that I want to represent me to the rest of the world.  I heard again the other day that line from an early speech that rings in my ears every day now.
If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child.  If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother.  If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.  It's that fundamental believe - I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper - that makes this country work.  It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as an American family.

The echoes from John Donne and Jesus are unmistakable.   It is too long since we have had leaders who have understood that the true essence of Darwinism is cooperation, not dominance.   A species does not survive through self-aggrandizement, but through compassion.

But most of all, I voted for Obama because America must now come out of its dark ages. The past eight years have been the most horrifying of my life - hearing grown, intelligent men and women try to say that water boarding is not torture, that we must spy on librarians to protect ourselves from terrorism, that the world is defined in black and white, and you are either with us or against us. We Americans have trampled on every sentence of our constitution, we have destoyed our  credibility (and credit!) with the rest of the world, and we have actively squandered every opportunity we had to be stewards of the world rather than bullies. For me, these years have felt like Lord of the Flies, except for the unbelievable blindness we exhibited until just the last year. I do not believe Obama is perfect. I don't believe he can save us. I don't even expect him to keep most of his promises.  But today, the real pride I feel is the sense that America is reawakening from its slumber.

The nightmare is ending, and we have much work to do, but - finally - that work can begin.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Friends on a Raft

Here is a link to Friends on a Raft - something I wrote for our current production of Big River, the story of Huckleberry Finn, which opens on Wednesday.  I am really proud of the production, and wrote this note at the request of the administration to take advantage of a teachable moment with our students on the issues of race and diversity.  I'll be posting pictures when we have them.

Would love to hear any comments you may have.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why Literature is Bad for you

Here is a terrific article about why books - especially the classics - should come with warnings from the Surgeon General.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My town's smaller than yours is.

As someone who grew up in an even smaller town America than Sarah Palin did, in a town that had an even smaller Main Street (2 stoplights), with a population less than 1/7 the size of doggone-it-you-betcha-ain't-we-cutesy-and-wink-folksy-by-God-wink Wasilla, Alaska, I was glad to read this article about how overrun Washington has been with 'heartlanders' for the last twenty years. There are so many virtues of a small town, as John Mellancamp wasn't the first to say, and I loved growing up there for so many reasons. But as charming as the mentality is, it has consistently proved itself to be severely limited and circular, pre-occupied with the smallest of concerns, narrowly focused on only what has a direct effect on its own citizens. But even that is too broad. The politicians in most small towns even parse up their tiny populations, making government serve their family and friends, disenfranchising those who are new to the area or whose families aren't from the 'right' side of the tracks. I would trust my life to many of the people I grew up with, but not for a second would I presume they would make the right decision for anyone but themselves. Small town politicians are the kings of earmarking and bigotry and xenophobia - truly dedicated to those they know and love and deeply viscous towards those they don't. Enough of Main Street in Washington. Let's get someone with a broader sense of perspective, who doesn't put country first (which really just means city last), but seeks to do what is right by the greatest number of citizens, both here and in the rest of the world. It is this universal thinking that Jesus taught us, and is the ultimate small town value, even though it is rarely practiced there.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Biblical Definition of Marriage

In the debate the other night, both VP candidates agreed that they do not support gay marriage in terms of legal definitions, but both agreed (or seemed to) that the government should not limit any civil rights of gay couples. This is a step forward, since our government (in theory, at least) is based on the separation of church and state. I was really surprised and encouraged to hear Sarah Palin say that she does not advocate limiting any civil rights for gay couples, particularly considering how she supported a bill to deny hospital visitations (which she later was advised was unconstitutional). Palin said clearly at the debate that she would not prevent visitation rights to gay couples, but of course, she also did not say she would do anything to guarantee them, which is the government's most important job.

However, both candidates said they believe (not as a matter of public policy, but personally) that marriage should be between one man and one woman. Biden said that it was a matter for each individual religion to decide and did not identify where his personal convictions come from. We can deduce from the activities of her church, however, that Palin bases her belief on the Bible.

Since I am currently teaching the Bible, I can't help but bring up what is meant by a biblical definition of marriage. This article offers some important points that anyone seeking a biblical definition of marriage would need to address. (Numbers 3, 5 and 6 are particularly instructive.)

If one were to construct an amendment to the Constitution based on a literal reading of the Bible it might well contain the following stipulations:

1. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

2. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines, in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

3. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

4. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

5. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

6. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe, and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

7. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)

Obviously, the question of marriage has changed drastically over the years, and the bible is no better at guiding us in this issue than in the issue of slavery, which it clearly condones. It is much better to look at the spirit of the bible here than take these laws literally. In replacing ten (and hundreds more) commandments with two, Jesus meant to offer not laws but guiding principles, which would help us to work out complex issues for ourselves rather than relying on laws that were written for people who needed them but which no longer apply. The prohibitions on shell fish and mixed fabrics, for instance, hold little sway for us today, and the word used for them (translated in KJV as 'abomination') is the same word used for homosexuality. The spirit of all the laws - Hebrew and Christian - is summed up in the two Jesus chooses: place your ego second in order to discover the ultimate reality, and let non-judgmental compassion be the guiding principle in all your dealings with other humans.

In this light, I have such a hard time denying any right or name or responsibility or legal status or religious blessing to any loving couple. It is so difficult to find love in this world. Why would we not celebrate that every time it happens? Granted, the text does say in Genesis 2:24 (and again quoted or paraphrased at Matthew 19:3-9 and Mark 10:2-12, for example) that "a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and they will become one flesh." Ironically, each time Jesus referenced the Genesis passage, he was not talking about gay marriage. He was condemning divorce. If we really want to protect the biblical definition of marriage legally, we should demand that the Supreme Court outlaw divorce, not gay marriage.

Love is the great miracle, regardless of to whom it happens or how. Common sense and experience (though clearly not the Bible) dictate that monogamy is the most stable relationship in modern society because it is the only type that can last (unless you have been raised with a ploygamous consciousness, like certain sects of the Mormon or Islamic communities). But again, this is not a Biblical law, but a practical application of a spiritual principle - putting the ego second and actively caring for those around us. Surely Jesus, who hung out with thieves and prostitutes, would see that love is a miracle worth celebrating no matter where it may occur.

Palin’s Alternate Universe

Here's an article that examines the real issues underlying the VP debate. We have had 8 years of "charm" instead of leadership (though I still don't get what makes Bush charming). A few quotations:

For Ms. Palin, such things as context, syntax and the proximity of answers to questions have no meaning.

As an English teacher, this is one of the aspects of her candidacy (and Bush's presidency) that bothers me most. The emphasis on charm somehow manages to negate totally any focus on substance, and the most inane answers or non-answers or deliberate dodges are forgiven because she is "folksy," which in another context, with another politician, would just come across as plain ignorant.

But the real issue here is this one.

John McCain has spent most of his adult life speaking of his love for his country. Maybe he sees something in Sarah Palin that most Americans do not. Maybe he is aware of qualities that lead him to believe she’d be as steady as Franklin Roosevelt in guiding the U.S. through a prolonged economic downturn. Maybe she’d be as wise and prudent in a national emergency as John Kennedy was during the Cuban missile crisis.

The hardest part of this for me personally is that I used to admire John McCain. I bought his storyline of being independently driven by morals and common sense. But that McCain has utterly disappeared. This total annihilation of the John McCain I once admired was complete long before he found Dick-Cheney-in-Annie-Oakley's-clothing, but choosing her is the most mind boggling and irresponsible insult to Americans I have seen in a long time.

Here's another article. In particular, this quotation strikes me as important:

The people boosting Palin’s triumph were not celebrating because she demonstrated that she is qualified to be president if something ever happened to John McCain. They were cheering her success in covering up her lack of knowledge about the things she would have to deal with if she wound up running the country.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Can you tell which is which?




Chris Rock on David Letterman



Click here for more.

Henry Kissinger

I was more than a little surprised to hear Henry Kissinger's name praised so often at the debate and during the past few days. Have we forgotten his role in Watergate? In supporting nearly every fascist and communist dictator of the last century? In his disastrous involvement in the Vietnam War? It's amazing to me how everything in America can eventually be forgotten, even if our leaders continue the same path. It's like giving Elliot Spitzer his old job back as the Harvey Dent of New York corruption.

Here is an article that gives some perspective on this issue, concluding that Kissinger is neither hawk nor dove, but vulture, which I would agree with if of weren't such an insult to the vulture.

And here are a couple more editorials that do a pretty good job of summing up my feelings about the debate. Watching the backflips, cartwheels and handsprings that McCain has been doing over the past couple of weeks is entertaining, and would just be funny if it didn't remind me so much of Karl Rove.

Sound but No Fury

McCain's Suspension Bridge to Nowhere


Sunday, September 21, 2008

The West Wing

A terrific article that is a collaboration between Maureen Dowd of the NY Times and Aaron Sorkin, who created and wrote The West Wing. The article imagines a meeting between Barack Obama and The West Wing's president, Jed Bartlett.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Front Fell Off

Church of England Apologizes to Darwin

Here's a great article in which the Church of England apologizes to Darwin, having written an essay called "Good Religion Needs Good Science." Amen to that. Of course, good science may need good religion too (in my opinion), but I doubt if that realization will come any time soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How we got in this mess.

If you are wondering why the US is in such a huge financial mess right now, what happened with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, AIG, and what will be happening with other banks and companies that are going to be closing soon, and why America, which has traditionally been seen as a beacon of stability in the financial markets now no longer holds that reputation, then you might want to listen to this radio show, which examines the origins of this financial whirlpool we seem to be caught in. It's an entertaining and often shocking story of greed gone wild.

Here's the original version from This American Life, and here's a shorter version that aired on All Things Considered.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain’s Health Plan

This article examines some elements of McCain's health plan that have gone unnoticed by most people because of all the attention being paid to Sarah Palin. The health plan treats employer paid health plans as income that employees would pay taxes on. In addition, 20 million Americans would no longer have employer paid health insurance. McCain would also offer a tax credit to help pay for health insurance, but it doesn't look like enough to me considering how much insurance is now. Regardless of how you feel about the proposals, I think this deserves more attention and debate since it is such a sea change in terms of how we handle this important issue.


BBC NEWS | UK | Education | 'Creationism' biologist quits job

I find this whole debate so mind boggling. Here is a science teacher castigated for saying that teachers should address the issue of creationism if it is brought up by a student. Sure, creationism doesn't hold up as science (Jesus taught by parables - why do we insist on trying to apply scientific principles to a series of metaphors?), but not addressing a student's curiosity on a genuine and considerate level is just rotten teaching. I also don't understand the conflict. Metaphors and parables are not less true than science - they are just less factual. Metaphors and parables can actually point to much deeper truths than fact, and science really can't prove truth anyway. They are two different domains. But what surprises me is the vehemence with which scientists attack the creationism argument. What is there to be so afraid of when the facts are on your side?


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Electoral Map

Here's a great resource if you're wondering how to cut through all the fogginess about this election.  It's an electoral map that will let you enter projections.  For instance, if you click on "2008 Swing States" under Select a Starting View, then you can see which states seem undecided.  You can then click once to turn them Republican and twice to turn it Democrat.  When fewer than 12 states remain, it will give probabilities below the map - such as the probability of whether in that scenario, either candidate can win, and the different scenarios needed to win by each candidate.

The problem with most polls coming out now is that they are general opinion polls.  Since we have an electoral college, those opinion polls really don't mean anything.  It's actually much more difficult for McCain to beat Obama than it appears in the press, especially considering that the latest poll puts Obama ahead in Pennsylvania and Ohio, while putting McCain ahead in Florida.  If they win those 3 states in that way, then the likelihood that McCain can win shrinks to 7%.

I keep looking everywhere I can to find tools that help cut through the fog...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Our Amazing Congress

"Suppose you were an idiot. Now suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
-Mark Twain

The best Daily Show ever

They really outdid themselves on this episode. Their use of juxtaposition is nothing short of breathtaking. Each of the segments is worth watching. Truly amazing.

John McCain's Acceptance Speech



The Reformed Maverick



Small Town Values

The Top 10 Mad Scientists

I love mad scientists. This brief Top 10 does a good job of
highlighting how diverse the curiosity of a true mad scientist can be.
Translating Mayan hieroglyphics, sailing with no wind, learning
Sanskrit, inventing helicopters 500 years before the technology was
available - their imaginations are on fire.

http://www.livescience.com/history/top-10-mad-scientists.html

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Daily Show Response to the Republican Convention

Jon Stewart on the reactions to Sarah Palin.



Some pretty great stuff on the rest of the show, which you can find here.

And here's one more clip about the other Republicans, just for good measure. The best part starts at 3 minutes.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Palin Start in Alaska - Not Politics as Usual - NYTimes.com

All the hoopla about Sarah Palin is sort of tough to sort through. The media has gone into a tail spin over it, either looking to dig up controversy or fall over themselves fawning on her. It's a bit
ridiculous.

This article from the NY Times is the first sort of clear headed analysis I've seen. Some intriguing insights both positive and negative about her actual record.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Quantum Cello

Radiolab is my favorite show. They do 5 episodes per year, but in the off-time, they do shorter interest pieces, including this one, about a musician who plays the cello by looping and layering through a computer. It's really beautiful and creative stuff, and interesting to hear her talk about her stage fright as part of the reason she does this.

And the music is gorgeous. You can download the episode by clicking here, or find more information at Radiolab's website.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Top Ten Psychology Videos

I haven't watched these yet, but they look really great. I especially recommend no. 1. I read Jamison's book, and while I have read many books on psychology, I have never read one more beautifully and powerfully written.

Top Ten Psychology Videos

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Cosmological Kick in the Head

Here is a link to an interview that Robert Krulwich did with Brian Greene, a professor of physics and author of The Elegant Universe, among other books on physics. If you listen to this and don't feel your head has been expanded 3-4 times by the rapidity of the neuron firing in order to keep up, I'll be honestly surprised. Greene talks about the different explanations of the cosmological data that has been collected, and the implications, which range everywhere from the idea of the "Multiverse" - a collection of universes all of which are infinite (!) to the place of determination and free will in modern-day physics. Honestly, since I'm gearing up to teach courses in the bible and world mythology, this seems like a conversation I've heard many times before, just with vastly different data. In some ways, it's the oldest conversation there is - where did we come from, are we alone, are we in control of what we do? - with just a different vocabulary, substituting words like scientific words for literary or religious ones.

It's fascinating, but will require your attention. Download it and play it in your car or while you run. I love the way these two talk about science. Pretty awe-inspiring stuff.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Plastic Bags

A powerful slideshow that offers some important information about plastic bags. It's sort of annoying how they have formatted the slideshow, but please do read it. And if you're interested in a solution, my wife and I have some awesome reusable bags that are so tiny when folded up that I can fit them in a pocket, and she can fit several in her purse. Here's a video of them.

Solar Revolution

This is awesome. A professor at MIT has discovered a way to mimic the way that plants store food, which could make it possible to power your house all day and all night, plus charge your electric car, just with the light that hits your roof. Check out the video here. Very cool!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fallen Idol Worship

I still haven't seen The Dark Knight (I'm dying to), so I can't comment on the film, but I really did think Heath Ledger was enormously talented (particularly in Brokeback Mountain), but this article brings up some really important and interesting issues about how we make excuses for those who are talented, and thus enable celebrities in their addictions. Worth a read.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bohemian Astrophysics

Gotta love this. Queen's guitarist, Brian May, has just finished his doctoral thesis in Astrophysics after taking 30 years off to "play some guitar.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wordle

This is cool. You just paste a bunch of words or a website in, and it creates a Wordle. I made these from Mumon's Comments. Mumon was a Zen Master who commented on each of the koans in The Gateless Gate, one of my favorite books of all time. They are easy and fun to do.



More Ecology

Here's an interesting article about how we may eat in the future. The article has some fascinating points in it, including the fact that the average American eats 1200 calories more than recommended each day, and that a single hamburger takes 1300 gallons of water to create. There are lots more good facts on this, in case you're interested. Some of the ones I have collected are here.

And in case you didn't see the full version, here are the highlights of Al Gore's Challenge. It's just 5 minutes long, so give it a quick watch - time to get on board and sign up with the We campaign!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Ecological Benefits of Vegetarianism

I have played with being a vegetarian several times in my life, and have usually gone back because I just haven't taken the time to eat healthily enough and end up losing weight or getting deficiencies. But after watching a 30 Days episode about animal rights, I decided to go back, and have been consistent now for a while. I do feel healthier, and have discovered quite a few good vegetarian options.

Animal rights aside (since, as Joseph Campbell says, life lives on lives, and vegetarians are just eating something that can't run away), there are powerful ecological reasons to be a vegetarian. This article from The Green Lantern at Slate Magazine mentions a study that determined that the switch from carnivore to vegetarian is the equivalent in terms of environmental impact of trading in a Chevy Suburban for a Toyota Camry. Being a vegan is a bit more ecologically friendly, but I still haven't done that, because protein is more difficult to find without cheese, etc., and soy ice cream just doesn't taste as good. But here's another article about the ecological difference between dairy milk and soy milk, and I've definitely made that switch, since in some ways I like soy milk better.

I've never been a missionary, since I don't believe in converting others, but I do think the information is fairly compelling and worth spreading.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Our Brilliant Government

Amazing. This story is about how supplies intended for Katrina and
Rita victims
were estimated at $85 million actually just cost $18.5
million and many of the supplies arrived at all, since they just sat
in a big warehouse in Texas. Yay Government competence.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Climate Change Challenge

In case you didn't see it, here's Al Gore's speech challenging us to go to non-carbon-based, renewable energy sources in the next ten years, equivalent to Kennedy's challenge to get to the moon within a decade, which of course America accomplished ahead of schedule. All of the technology is available now, but the political willpower is not. I think this is one of the most urgent (and blatantly obvious) issues of our day. If you agree, you can sign the petition and find out how to do more at the We Can Solve It website.

No matter what your political persuasion, and no matter whether you actually believe in global warming or not, these proposals make absolute sense. Getting rid of carbon-based fuel will also restore clean air and water, and cut the funding off from terrorists who get their money from oil-rich countries. Other than economics, I can't see any reason not to do this. And as Gore points out, it also makes economic sense.

As a teacher in a new home, I can't afford this right now, but if anyone else who lives in Virginia is interested, you can opt to get your power from renewable sources through Dominion. It costs about 5 cents per kilowatt hour more right now, and your power can come from a combination of wind and solar, or from methane recollection over landfills. Here's the site for changing over if you think you can afford it. It doesn't actually change where you get your electricity, but Dominion then purchases the amount of power you use each month from a renewable resource supplier, so it effectively works out though not actually. I'll certainly be doing that as soon as we can afford it. And for those of you in NC, here is there FAQ for Green Power down there.

Here's the video of his speech - quite clear, enormously compelling, and really worth watching. One of my favorite quotations: "We should tax what we burn, not what we earn."




In case you are interested, here's an editorial from the NY Times about the speech. My favorite passage:

When exactly was it that the U.S. became a can’t-do society? It wasn’t at the very beginning when 13 ragamuffin colonies went to war against the world’s mightiest empire. It wasn’t during World War II when Japan and Nazi Germany had to be fought simultaneously. It wasn’t in the postwar period that gave us the Marshall Plan and a robust G.I. Bill and the interstate highway system and the space program and the civil rights movement and the women’s movement and the greatest society the world had ever known.

When was it?

Now we can’t even lift New Orleans off its knees.

Again, the website to join the campaign is wecansolveit.org. And here is a link of action steps you can take.

Electricity from Garbage

I thought this was an interesting article about a technology that would allow us to use garbage to create electricity - with very little byproduct. It would create about as much carbon dioxide as natural gas does, but it gets rid of many tons of garbage a day, converting it into energy and into a slag that can be used for asphalt. It looks like an intriguing technology, and one I hope more places will try. Apparently, New Orleans is looking into it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on 411

Here is a video that details 3 more free information services for cell phones (no iPhone necessary). You can get answers to anything that Google could find an answer for on Cha-Cha, get 411 information from Google (similar to the texting service, but voice activate), or send text messages on Jott. Check out the video. Pretty useful stuff.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Human Mirror

Some people from my old theater department are in charge of Improv Everywhere. They do cool and fun stunts - their latest is a Human Mirror on the subway, where they found 16 pairs of identical twins to ride all together in a subway car. Check it out here.

Their complete mission list is here - all worth watching. My favorite is Anton Chekhov.

Here's the video of the Human Mirror, but be sure to check their website too.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Anonymous

Maybe you have heard about this - I didn't know anything about it until I saw it tonight. Anonymous is a group that is organizing a series of protests against Scientology. Their PR is pretty intense - a computerized voice with pictures of clouds and cities. Here's one of the videos they released.



They have been called domestic terrorists, most notably by a KTTV Fox 11 News report, and were accused of quite a few things, from the serious (bomb threats) to the fairly serious (hacking into MySpace pages and posting gay porn) to the ludicrous (trying to spoil the ending of Harry Potter before it was published). You can see where the fear would come from in the video above, as well as the fact that many of the protesters for their mass demonstration on Feburary 10th wore the masks used in V for Vendetta. But they also released this video with the rules for their protest, which seems like a pretty excellent list, including respect for police and private property and acting sensibly so as not to taint or distort the message by doing dumb things.



That video is also done in a sort of scary way, but it did make me more interested in researching their particular grievances. I had not known anything about Lisa McPherson, or James Hester. Lisa McPherson was a Scientologist who died under unusual circumstances, though the court findings were inconclusive. Certainly, any large organization is going to have suicides or unusual deaths, and from an outside perspective, there's no way to verify whether the church had anything to do with it, or whether those who died would have died anyway. So I'm not at all sure how I feel about either group, but I do find it all pretty fascinating.

The group also made headlines for outing a sexual predator - Chris Forcand - before he was able to do any damage. They got him to proposition them, and then reported him to the police, who then arrested him. The police reported that it was the first time an "Internet vigilant group" had ever helped with the arrest of an internet predator.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Prime Minister Heathcliff!

Wow. This should interest my former students. The current prime minister of Britain is comparing himself to Heathcliff! It's now being used in Parliament as a mark of derision against him. One minister said, "It's time for Heathcliff to come down from dithering heights."

Check out the video on the website. It's why British people are such better public speakers than Americans - their parliament requires it! The video shows a relatively calm day. Here's a more typical day, where you can actually see Heathcliff in action.



Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Collegiate Play Photos

Just put this together. It's a collection of photos of plays at Collegiate since I've been here. They look pretty impressive when all put together. Check it out!

You can also feel free to poke around the rest of the site while you're there. I'm putting all my classes online, and I'm pretty happy with it so far (though it will be tested in the fall...).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hannah's Lunchbox

No doubt many people think this family is crazy. I think if more people in our culture had conversations about need vs. want, we'd live in a very different world. Click here for the CNN video and article.

Here's the video Hannah's brother made about it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Google 411

This has been around for a while, but I had no idea how versatile and easy it is. You can get the address and phone number of any business or restaurant, driving directions, sports scores, movie listings, product prices, or even flight information for a specific flight.

Watch the video below, and if you're interested, check out this website for all the different things you can do with it. It's much cheaper and more efficient than a phone call!

Kinetic Sculpture

This guy is amazing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Boston and Journey

Maybe I'm behind in hearing about this. The bands Boston and Journey both have new lead singers, and both of them were discovered through MySpace and YouTube. It's a completely new paradigm! Here are the stories.

Tommy DeCarlo with Boston



And here's Arnel Pineda with Journey



I'm not sure how I feel about the emphasis on sounding exactly like the original singers. Musically, it seems like we're labeling everything now. But these guys are pretty amazing technical singers, and it does show that we're living under an entirely different set of rules these days.

Friday, July 4, 2008

From Juba to Hoofin' and Beyond

One of the primary projects I'm working on this summer is revamping my classes. British Literature is no longer offered, and so I'm teaching semester-long courses in the Hebrew Bible, World Mythology, and Literary Nonfiction. I taught the Bible and Myth courses once 2 years ago, but the Nonfiction course is entirely new. Allen Chamberlain and I received an innovation grant to work on the course this summer, and I've been having a pretty amazing time with it. The course will deal with both written and audio nonfiction, and the preliminary ideas are on a wiki I'm developing over the summer, which will eventually become a platform for the whole class to work in.

Today, I was reading one of the essays in our textbook, and got really excited about a possible project that I may work on while the students work on their own individual projects. The essay mentioned Juba dancing, and since I didn't know what that was, I looked it up. It's a form of dance that slaves did on plantations when slave owners outlawed any musical instruments, thinking music would cause unrest and riots among the slaves. In 1848, "Master Juba" (William Henry Lane) was taken to London by P.T. Barnum to dance before Queen Victoria. While he was there, he combined Juba dancing with traditional Irish dancing to create tap dance. Reading this reminded me of one of the most astonishing Broadway shows I've ever seen - Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk - starring Savion Glover. The rest of the brainstorm - and several videos - are on the wiki, which you can check out here. It's still in rough form, but I think the videos are sufficiently amazing to justify the incompleteness of the thought process.

But just in case you don't know Savion Glover, here's a 2 minute video that ought to inspire you to look at the rest of it. But if you have time for nothing else, watch the video of him and his group (Not Your Ordinary Tappers) at the White House, which is the 2nd from last on the page.

Shifty Obama

Here's a good editorial today from the NY Times about Obama's recent shifts toward the center. I agree with the ending, where they say that a candidate's shifts toward center in an general election are expected and necessary, but I do find some of them distressing, particularly the one about gun control in DC and illegal wiretapping. I have mixed feelings about the public financing issue (he could have worked within the system and then fixed it...but his denial of lobbyist funds is encouraging...but the hunt for high rollers is dismaying), and I have no problem with the faith-based initiatives - as long as they are carefully chosen, churches are often in a good position to provide aid to those who need it, and are better organized for that than the government is. I don't agree with him about the death penalty, but I understand why he holds that position. In a presidential race, I'm not looking for a candidate who agrees with me on every topic, but for someone whose judgment I feel I can trust. In the past, I have sometimes felt shaky on that with Obama, but he has usually risen to the occasion, particularly with the Reverend Wright affair and with the issue of negative campaigning. Here's a good article where he acknowledged some missteps in a rough week of the primaries. I would never expect a candidate to be perfect all the time, but the acknowledgement of missteps goes a very long way in my estimation of him.

He is of course a masterful and crafty politician (and not at all naive, as some would paint him). The fears on the right about his Chicago politics are not entirely unbased, but he'll have to play the game to the hilt in order to win, so I don't grudge him the occasional shifting positions, but I am a bit concerned over the gun control and wiretapping issues. The pattern in the past has been that he gets bogged down in the system (which anyone would), but then manages to rise above it (most clearly in the negative campaigning issue), and I hope that will prove to be the case here too.

General Clark

I've followed General Wesley Clark for several years now, and have been impressed in many ways. He was the Supreme Commander of the NATO forces in Kosovo, and ran for president in 2004. The recent fallout over his off-hand remark about John McCain - saying very clearly that he is a hero to Clark himself and to hundred of thousands of other soldiers who fought in Vietnam, but that getting shot down in a plane and serving in a prison isn't necessarily qualification for high office - has caused a great deal of controversy. Paul Krugman has an editorial about this today which I believe puts the situation in proper perspective, but I do regret that public opinion is following the same path it did with the Swift Boat situation in '04. One of McCain's most vocal aides is Colonel Bud Day, who is outraged that Clark would "insult" McCain in this way. Colonel Day was one of the primary Swift Boaters, who actually did question and insult John Kerry's Vietnam service, though that's clearly not what Clark did. The original interview is here, and you can see for yourself how even-handed he is.

I had hoped (and still hope) that Obama would choose Clark as his vice-president. That would have been unthinkable when Karl Rove was still in charge, but Krugman seems to suggest that the days when his tactics worked automatically on an unsuspecting America are now over, and that we are now in an era where trumped up smears are outshined by real issues.

God, I hope so.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Biker Brotherhood

I know I'm opening myself up to serious charges of nerdiness here, but I've been a nerd pretty much all my life, so I'll just plow ahead.

Last year, horrified not only by global warming but by the fact that the oil crisis is the primary cause of our involvement in Iraq, I decided to get a scooter. I believe that the only way to defeat terrorism is to cut off what's important about them, and as soon as we go to electric cars, powered by wind, solar and methane collection, the entire Middle East will be just a sterile desert, and our planet can begin to heal itself. I researched different options, and bought a Genuine Buddy 125 (see photo). It gets 100 miles to the gallon, so I fill up about once a week, and the gas tank holds about 1.5 gallons, so I never spend more than $6 (usually more like $3.50). It also comes with a 2 year warranty and 1 year road-side assistance, which I've never needed, because it has run like a dream ever since I got it. People like to make fun of it, but today, I took it for my first time on the interstate, and clocked 74 miles per hour.

The added benefit I didn't expect was that I would become part of the brotherhood of bikers. If you haven't ridden a motorcycle or scooter before, you probably don't know about this brotherhood. I was surprised at first to see everyone on a bike wave at me as I passed them. The first time it happened, it was a group of Harleys, and I was sure I'd offended them in some way. I kept checking in my rear-view mirror to see if they were following me to beat me up. But it kept happening, and before long, I realized that scooters are also a part of the biker brotherhood. Every time I pass a bike, I get the trademark left-handed wave, sometimes varied as a point or a head nod, especially at stop lights. The only people I've ever passed who don't wave or nod are the people on the rocket bikes whose jackets and helmets match their cycles, usually in black and electric blue or canary yellow. But every Harley rider of every age (the old Hell's angel, the dissatisfied yuppie, the young rebel without a cause) solemnly recognizes my part in the brotherhood, as does every other bike rider out there. It's a completely different experience than you get in a car, which is so isolated. That may be connected to how different riding a bike on the highway is. You are always aware of your surroundings. Even when I listen to my iPod, I am keenly aware of the rhythm of the road, of where every car around me is, of which drivers are paying attention and which ones are not, of whether it looks like rain, or whether the wind picks up on a bridge. This hyper-awareness is something all bikers share, and the wave may be simply a tribute to that common understanding, that no matter the cool factor of the bike, we can admire each other and connect to each other through a common experience.

I've also noticed that my bike is probably the most consistent conversation starter I've ever had. It's typically middle-aged men who catch me in parking lots, to ask about what type of mileage it gets, to complain about oil prices, to reminisce about the days when gas was cheap, and to commiserate about wives who won't let them get the bike they've always dreamed of. There's a type of freedom that comes with the risks a bike entails, and that feedom is apparently quite attractive to men of a certain age. Today, I got in a conversation for about 45 minutes in a parking lot with a man who believes that oil should not cost above $65 a barrel (it passed $145 today), and that the entire gas crisis is a product of speculators - a few Ivy league graduates who have learned how to manipulate the situation. "America doesn't make anything," he fumed, "we just invent ways to get rich off of nothing. Nothing at all. Get rich off of people's fears, off of their stupidity, off of other people's work." Just the simple fact that I was riding a bike made me a confidant to this stranger, and a sort of icon of a way to stick it to the man. I didn't get into the fact that I can't really afford another car right now, and that I'd probably buy the Tesla Roadster if I were rich, rather than this scooter, because I didn't want to spoil his view of the situation. It helped him to have someone to blame, and it helped him to see a different way of approaching the situation, rather than just complaining. He asked me where I got the bike, and I told him, so maybe he'll go check it out. When I told him what part of town it was in (a pretty rough section), he laughed and asked if this is what all the drug dealers are driving now. I don't know, but I certainly am curious about the limo that is always in front of Ed's Seafood and Produce (click on street view on the link - it's even there on google maps!).

I'm rambling now, but while part of the decision to get the bike was a practical one, I'm also quite convinced that it's one minor way to start saving the planet. The number of scooters on the road has more than tripled since I bought mine last year, and I see one every time I ride now, as opposed to seeing one only every month or so when I first bought it. It's definitely tough to ride in the winter, or in the rain, but the weather here has been perfect recently, and I do love the sense of freedom it provides.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Disadavantages of an Elite Education

This was brought to my attention by our Academic Dean. It's an amazing article written by a Yale professor about the problems of an elite education, including that it is (counter-intuitively) anti-intellectual. The article is long, but really worth taking the time to read.

Meditation & Genetics

Here is a new study on how meditation can actually alter genetic responses in the body. People have known this for millenia, but it is nice that science is catching up...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mandela, the terrorist

Amazing. Today, Nelson Mandela was removed from the US terror watch list. It reminds me of when Pope John Paul II pardoned Galileo...

An invisibility cloak

Here is an article about the possibility of actual invisibility cloaks that proves that whatever you imagine will one day become a reality. Of course, they are a long way off, but the mathematical models are there, and that's the beginning. I sometimes wonder if that is how the world is created. We imagine something, give it some time and space and plenty of our attention, and eventually it materializes.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tesla's new sedan

If you haven't heard me obsess about the Tesla Roadster, you haven't been around me much recently. Here's a video.



Now Tesla has announced the new sedan - the Model S - which will cost around $60,000 (as opposed to $109,000 for the roadster). They promise a model under $30,000 within 4 years. I'll definitely be getting one as soon as I can!

Matt Dancing

The perfect example of someone following his dreams.



It seems silly at first, but watch it all the way through, and see if you aren't impressed on multiple levels. He's a bit of a modern-day Richard Halliburton.

Check out his full website here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Virginia rape law

I saw this on TV tonight, and was floored. It reminds me of the rape of Dinah in Genesis - where Dinah (one of Jacob's daughters) is raped, and the assailant offers to marry her, which was an acceptable solution at that time. Well apparently, that is currently also an acceptable solution in Virginia! - at least until tomorrow, when it will finally be removed from the books. Under the current law, if a girl aged 14-16 is raped, the man is not allowed to face criminal charges if he offers to marry her.

The law goes off the books tomorrow - nearly 4000 years after Dinah. Of course, the rapist in Dinah's day was not really protected. Dinah's brothers tricked him by saying that he could marry her as long as he and all of his extended family and servants were circumcised. On the day of circumcision, when they were still weak, they were slaughtered by Simeon and Levi - every last one of them. Jacob (God's favorite), who had been quiet about the rape, was upset with his sons because he thought it would cause trouble for them, and later, on his deathbed, he cursed the two who had done it. The curse was that their tribes would eventually be scattered, which of course did happen, though the Levites would become the tribe of the high priests, with Moses as their most distinguished member.

There are many outdated laws on the books, but this one caught me particularly off guard.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Atheists who believe in God

Now this is amazing. It's a set of statistics published by beliefnet, including these:

21% of atheists say they believe in God.

The group that answered the questions in the most similar way to Evangelicals was Muslims.

57% of Evangelicals believe that many different religions can lead to eternal life.

Check out the rest of the stats here.

Remote Control Face

Here's an interesting development in technology. It's still really rudimentary, but it seems that it will have profound consequences once they start refining it. This guy created a computer program that recognizes facial expressions and will send computer commands based on what it sees. This has to do with the possibility of robot teachers (not sure how I feel about that!), but I could see this being applied into cars, computers, etc. For instance, if a sound is too loud, perhaps a future version of the software could recognize the facial expression that says it's too loud and adjust it accordingly - the same with brightness. It will also allow better communication once the voice recognition software is more developed.

There is a video of him demonstrating and talking about the software here.

The other thing this reminds me of is the new surface computer that Microsoft is working on. They say the keyboard may be completely obsolete in the next 15 years!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

30 Days

This is one of my favorite shows. If you don't know about it, it's Morgan Spurlock, who made the film Supersize Me. For each episode, a person goes to live for 30 days with a person or family who has a completely different experience from what they have lived. Some of my favorite episodes have included living on minimum wage, spending 30 days in a prison as an inmate, working in a coal mine for 30 days, and my personal favorite from this year - an avid hunter who lives with vegan animal rights activists. There are certainly people who believe that Spurlock has a slant, but from my perspective, he's pretty even-handed. It's amusing that shoppers rated Season 1 3/5 stars in the Fox Store, but 4.5/5 on amazon.com.

It's on during the summer on FX - Tuesdays at 10. The first two seasons are also on DVD. Really worth checking out! Here's a trailer for the show, and here's the main website.

Here's the trailer for Supersize Me, which won him Best Director as Sundance.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Octopus Camoflage

Nature again - so astonishing. Check out this video of the camouflage techniques of the octopus.



And here's another, simpler, one, but which seems even a bit more amazing.



I found these while reading this article on Slate.com.

Picturing Excess

This is a pretty great talk by Chris Jordan, who does artwork to picture statistics. He'll do things like illustrate the number of teenagers who start smoking every month by putting that many cigarettes in a painting, or having one prison uniform for every prison inmate in the US today, etc. It's extremely thought-provoking stuff. Check out the video - it's short and quite moving.

Here's just one of the pictures - the number of cell phones that are retired daily in the US (426,000)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Religion in the classroom

Here's an example of rather extreme religion in the classroom - a middle school science teacher who burned a cross into a students arm. Yikes.

When grammar results in duels

An excellent article on the death of the semicolon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Daily Show - Good Life Crisis

This is why exactly I love this show so much.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Body Activism

Here's a really interesting article on Body Activism. It's something that researchers are working on at the University of Texas - basically, to counteract tendencies toward anorexia and bulimia, they have a workshop with teenagers in which they examine the way that body images are portrayed in the media, understand where the impulses come from, and then encourage non-violent forms of activism, like slipping notes that say "Love your body the way it is" into dieting books and writing letters to Matel about Barbies. Another was hanging a sign in a high school bathroom that said
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. DON'T BE SOMEONE THAT YOU'RE NOT. BE YOURSELF.
The article is short and fascinating - seems like it combines practical education with the teenage tendency toward rebellion in a very healthy way. I've love to see our school teach something similar. I wonder if there's a similar approach to be found regarding self-injury.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Phil Jackson's Zen Christianity

I often have talks with our school's basketball coach about the spiritual nature of basketball. His hero is John Wooden, and one of my favorite memories is hearing him talk about his lunch with Wooden and the seven spiritual principles that guide his life and guided his coaching.

I don't know a lot about Phil Jackson, but this article definitely makes me more interested in learning about him.

Jet Skiing on the Internet

This is a response to a blog on another site, where the author asked if Google was making us stupid, and cited this article, by Nicholas Carr in The Atlantic Monthly.

Here is my initial response, with a follow-up:
I find myself thinking more broadly, but I don't see myself thinking any less deeply. What I regret is not having a book in my hand that will lead me into tangents as I research an answer - those tangents are often the best place for inspiration! But the internet does the same thing in its own way. Looking up something on Google Images leads to completely unexpected places, and putting together those connections inspires a type of creativity that I find very powerful. So I don't see myself thinking less deeply as a result of the internet, but I do see myself thinking more broadly. I typically keep my internet thinking and my book thinking and my conversation thinking separate, so I believe that as long as we teach and encourage all three skills, our students will be ready for what faces them.

That said, I haven't read the article yet, and have already written my response. That's certainly a habit I've developed, because I do find myself skimming all the time when I read on the internet, which is not at all what I do when I have a book in my hand... But I'll read the article now. ;-)
And then I read the article, and replied with this:
and now that I've read it (or read/skimmed it, as I usually do with the internet)...

I agree that our brains are starting to function differently. But I'm sure they did that when mathematics was developed, when quantum physics took hold, when cars were invented, or as Carr notes, when the printing press took over from hand writing.

My brain feels more fluid now, and I agree with the jet-ski image that Carr offers, it's true the book-reading/depth capacity needs to be exercised just like the body does. When I am trying to work out something complex, I never use a keyboard - I insist on writing it out longhand first, because the brain is forced to move more slowly. I won't allow students to read assignments online, and I insist that they have pens in their hands as they read, and will often check their notes. Journals must all be written long-hand. Perhaps because I'm an English teacher, I do a bit more reading than the average person, but I think we need to value each of the methods of learning as complementary, rather than feeling that one is replacing another.

I hear all the time in the Upper School about how our students don't have long attention spans, or that they seem uninterested in complex critical thinking. That - across the board for four years now - has been the opposite of my experience. Most of the time, when a student comes to ask me what they think is a simple question, I hand them a book, tell them to digest it fully, and then come ask me again. This is separate from what I require in class. I keep a large pile of books on my desk for this very purpose. I will also typically hand similar books to their friends or to Julie Miller (the glorious Sun around which the students orbit in the Upper School), and I find that quite deep conversations result and reverberate in unexpected places. The students typically come back not only having read and fully digested the whole book, but asking for another. I've loaned out so many books now that I can't keep track of them. That part of their brains is hungry to be exercised, and I think the more we jet-ski, the more we are going to long for scuba diving.

What is key, though, is that we must rely on the curiosity of our students, and help coach it along, rather than expecting them to be automatically curious about what we find interesting. Once we have made a move toward them, I always find that they very quickly move back towards us, and then prod incessantly for more and more. I had an incredibly difficult time in my study hall this year getting any work done, because I was discussing all the parallel syllabi that had emerged in our students. The internet pulls the brain horizontally, but at some point, it reaches maximum stretch, and begins to curve back in again. In the same way, online work is so isolating that we've seen a huge rise in online social networking. Sure, it's not face to face, but there's a different type of communication that happens here that wouldn't happen in the cafeteria, and I value that function too.

I have little fear of what Google represents - we will see some temporary setbacks as our brains evolve, but what is most important in our brains will remain a longing that will demand to be filled.
I put another poll about this on the right side.

Paper is the new Prozac

I couldn't agree with this article more.

It talks about the difference between internet and print reading, and how writers need to adapt for internet reading.

It says blogs are not effective. I agree.

But it also says that paper isn't going anywhere. Like this quotation:
paper is the new Prozac. A balm for the distracted mind. It's contained, offline, tactile. William Powers writes about this elegantly in his essay "Hamlet's BlackBerry: Why Paper Is Eternal." He describes the white stuff as "a still point, an anchor for the consciousness."
I said something similar (though less eloquent) in a blog post on another site, which I'll reproduce here next.

The only thing I might add to the reasons why we read differently on the internet is that I personally find myself trying to escape my computer, so skimming lets me feel like I'm succeeding in that battle, which, given the amount that I skim, isn't true at all.

And if you make it to the end of the article (or skim there), you'll be rewarded with a nostalgic (and remarkably awkward) treat.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Romeo & Juliet

Here's a slideshow of some pictures of the last play I directed at Collegiate - Romeo & Juliet. Some of them really need to be seen big, so click here if you want to see them full size.



The wiki page we put together for the play will give you an idea of the kind of work we did on the play and where some of the ideas came from. One of the aspects I was most proud of was the Music - all written by students - and you can listen to some of it here.

And here's an early draft of the opening video that went along with it. This is not the version we used - we cut it down some, and took out a few scenes. It was much cooler on the huge screen in the theater with our brand new Line Array Sound System (the best in any school system in Virginia), but this gives you a basic idea. When we first played it on opening night, with the new sound system, it was like witnessing the power of the fully armed and operational Death Star.



I was really proud of the actors and designers on this show.

If you're interested, pictures from the other past plays are here.