Archive for February 2007

Bleak House

Wednesday, 28 February 2007


Ulysses Screen

Originally uploaded by vergil66.
Well, not really, but I was ill and out of school yesterday and Colin has the flu today–two days of school be not fun (especially because the papers that are waiting for me and haven’t been touched since yesterday).

I’m finishing up on a writing gig thing for a friend (I’ll talk about it in more detail later) and I’m realizing once again my writing habits. I tend to do the “write everything in one sitting” thing even though I don’t mind the stress so much. Another thing I’m seeing is that there are a lot of creative folks out there who are doing some creative things and having fun (most of them I read about on the Twitter public timeline). Lastly (only because it’s the transition that marks the end of this thought) I’ve rediscovered Ulysses–a writing management program (or at least that’s the best way to describe it). I bought it roughly two years ago on a whim and tinkered here and there with it, and then for this current project, decided to allow the thing to manage the little writing project-thing (10,000 words). Very cool and it didn’t get in the way but allowed me to do focus on the writing and also manage all the parts.

Another thing that has helped with productivity during this project is window management. For the longest time I’ve just minimized my window (yellow light) into the Dock. But because I was dealing with a wide range of programs that I needed open (web brower, Ulysses, Text Edit, Terminal, and of course, twitterpost) to minimize was just too much. Enter: Exposé of OS X fame and for some reason didn’t think to tinker with the F9 key or F10 or F11… the more the hands can stay on the keyboard (my fellow Vimmers may say), the more the hands keep working.

Kirkpatrick Graduation Speech

Saturday, 24 February 2007

10-mile run went well:+ 22 f with a wicked 16 mph eastern wind. Listened to Wait, Wait…don’t tell me and Says You!

This last week marked the 4-year anniversary of Steve Kirkpatrick’s death (colleague, friend) and as the nation continues to prattle on about what matters in education, I think Steve’s thoughts are right on. Here’s the text of that speech:

Commencement Speech, June 2, 2002
Mr. Steve Kirkpatrick

Public speaking and its relationship to fear is an interesting phenomenon. If I were to ask you what the following people have in common–Albert Berkley, Barbara Helleen, and Arthur MacArthur–you would be hard pressed. The simple answer is that they are the only people who have died while delivering a speech. So, I feel relatively sure I will walk away from your commencement.

I would also like to point out that if Mr. Staley or Mr. Dwyer or Dr. Nelson had to lead a mule across this stage, they probably would have little trouble because the mule is calm, sedate, and not easily excited. On the other hand, if they were asked to lead a thoroughbred across the stage, they would probably have difficulty because they are known to be nervous, skittish, and all together difficult to handle. I want you all to know I am perfectly calm-not the least nervous.

Now that my state of mind has been established, I would like to thank the entire Concord community, the students, the parents, and the staff for their prayers, their hugs, and their constant concern. You have lifted me and stood by me. You have shown me the kindness that dwells in all of us. Thank you so much.

At the beginning of the 90’s, I was excited about the prospects of the future. I felt education and rapid change would play a major role in our lives and that is what I would like to discuss with you today.

The aim of the teacher is to prepare his students to do without him: to see life through their own eyes, to hear the day with their own ears, and to understand with their own minds. The good teacher recognizes the differences in his students, will seize the teachable moment and cause it to evolve. The good teacher places roadblocks in front of his children and encourages them to overcome.

Here it is important to point out that the state and national governments have mandated that language and math skills need to be improved and that tests are to be the measure of our success–the success of our children, their teachers, their schools.

I agree that academic skills are important. Our children need to read better, write better, and do math better. However, we are leveling downward and praising that as common sense. We educators spend a lot of time discussing rubrics, aligning the curriculum, and assessing student academic skills with the single goal of raising test scores for that is how our success is to be measured by our state and national government. As a result, I have seen hard working teachers and students labeled failures in much the same way that a business labels parts defective.

Our children are not flawed or inadequate. The focus has moved from the child to the subject matter because that is what is to be tested. Students and their schools work hard and for the most part do an excellent job. What is needed from Washington and Indianapolis is a change in the paradigm that student, teacher, and school success is best determined by a paper and pencil exercise. We need a new mandate that emphasizes the building blocks of our society: compassion, sacrifice, integrity, and justice. This is how the success of our society will be measured by future generations.

Many of the thoughts that I tend to dwell on and can’t shake revolve around change. Whether thinking about the fall and the leaves turning from green to red or a young child and her desire to be a paleontologist or astronaut, of one thing I am sure, change has a heart and soul of its own and yet it is part of every fiber of our being. It is powered by Aristotle, Newton, and Edison. It gains energy from our grandmothers and grandfathers as they are reflected in our hearts and smiles and laughter.

Sometimes as I think about change and my classroom, I ask my students to fill in the blank to this sentence, “I remember a time when there was no such thing as…”

When I fill in the blank, I say television. My students say,” computers, and I imagine you parents might say calculators. If my wife’s father were to have answered this question, he could have said automobiles or airplanes, almost everything that is a part of the twentieth century. Change is not happening at a leisurely pace. It has become a stampede and as a result significant problems have occurred. Drug abuse, alcoholism, stress related illnesses, and in many cases the idea that bigger and quicker is better, and that hard work is not needed, and worst of all that morality is relative. I don’t mean this to be a sermon but there are laws we have been given that cannot be broken. These are the laws that God has given to us and at no time did he mean to have a friendly discussion over whether he was right or wrong.

I think my mother’s advise is important in these times, “Keep it simple.” Say, “Self, what is important–really important to me?” Most would respond with answers relating to God, our families, or our country. But how do you spend your time? Did you pray today? Tell your family you love them? Did you vote when you had the opportunity? Everything that detracts from what we value subtracts from life–makes your life more complicated.

I want you all to understand that each day I see beauty in all its glory. I see children. I see their smiles, hear their laughter, feel their innocence. Each day I tell myself my job is easy. Each day I hold up by hand and tell those near me to save the world. It sounds incredibly difficult, like bringing peace to the Middle East or eliminating prejudice. But, the beautiful part of it is that saving the world is easy. All you have to do is place a smile where there wasn’t one, plant hope where sadness lives, instill confidence where belief has been shaken, wipe a tear, or pat someone on the back for a job well done.

We must be careful of how we walk, for the footsteps we leave behind become the path future generations tread.

Portable Apps and no weather talk

Thursday, 22 February 2007

As it was + 36 f for this morning’s run, I really can’t say a whole lot about the weather–so there’s my one reference to it. (Oh, yesterday was a 2-hour delay because of “freezing fog”). I’ve put a handy app on my flash drive called Portable Apps so I can run apps and store my docs from school onto one place. Possibly considered a way of not using the school’s storage space or me just being passive aggressive, I can not answer. I can say, though, that there is some comfort knowing that the stuff that I create is in one place and fairly accessible from any computer with a USB port. I don’t think I’m doing this out of paranoia, because I don’t have anything to hide from my employer, but perhaps I figured why should they have to keep all of my stuff when I should be a bit more responsible for storage. Anyway, they’ve extended the trimester by 5 days to account for the missed days from the past two weeks. No word yet on what to do with seniors who have participated in their graduation who now need to come back to two days of school.

Warmer weather, reading books

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

This morning’s run was the usual 3-mile loop and I listened to Bruce Hornsby. But what was unusual about this run is that it was the warmest one since last year (December 2006).

I had this little conversation with Evan this morning:

Evan: Dad, could you sign this?
[ME looks at the 1/2 sheet of paper and sees the words “WEEKLY READING LOG” across the top]
Me: Sure thing Sammy Sosa’s cat.
[EVAN pushes the paper and pencil toward ME. ME notices the “Garfield at the Movies” entry for 50 minutes on two consecutive days]
Me: Does “Garfield” count with your teacher?
Evan: Sure, I’ve done it before.
Me: Okay.
[ME thinks for a moment as he begins to make Senseo dark roast coffee and then turns back to EVAN]
Me: Are you also reading The Hobbit?
Evan: Oh, yeah.
Me: Why don’t you include that also on your list. They like that sort of thing.

Footprints in the snow

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Ran 12 miles (a 3-mile loop; then the 9-miler) in light snowfall. Most of the sidewalks were “plowed” but there was enough snow to make it a running in the sand sort of run. Listened to _Wait, wait_, _Grammar Girl_, _Lost_ podcast, and lots of Bruce on the way home. Heading back to Evan’s practice chess team tourney to tag out Lori and Colin. “They” are saying mid-30s by Monday.

We’re back to school today

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Ran 3 miles and I’m happy that most of the sidewalks were plowed (temp: + 7 F). We had the past two days off from school because of the BLIZZARD of 2007, which was a nice snow (around 8-10 inches) and some decent winds to make it safer for kiddies to stay home (and their teachers). But all that is changing today: today we’re back in school and then, off to a 4-day weekend (Happy Birthday Mr. Presidents!). It’s been a crazy past two weeks with four days missed (which will probably be tacked on to the end of the school year).

Plane Star Wars

Tuesday, 13 February 2007



Plane Star Wars

Originally uploaded by vergil66.

Colin made the seating arrangement for his Legos Plane. The Force is strong on both sides on this flight.