Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stories of a Stranger Track 2, by OAR #hashtag

I particularly enjoy coming up with cryptic titles. I wonder if anyone will figure this title out.

I read this article about memory. There were a few things that seemed worth writing about. The first was that memories are still malleable. Every time that we remember something, it changes just a little bit. That is why it helps to keep a journal or perhaps a blog. It reminds us of what really was, rather than how we see things from a distance. It is a bit sad to think that the way we remember things isn't exactly how they really happened. Perhaps the happiest moments in my life weren't all that great. Hopefully some of my happy memories are real.

The other point, was a description of the someone with a 'superior autobiographical memory' (a really good memory). The authors describes the subject: "As Healy got older, he realized that painful events that happened 20 or 30 years ago would come back to him with the same emotional intensity, as if he were reliving those moments again, like when he pledged a fraternity in college but did not get in because he was heavyset and shy. Or when he was let go from his first job out of college after just two months."

Although I am far from having a superior autobiographical memory, I find that my above average memory is still a pain as often as a benefit. Whereas people with below average memories tend to forget the things that they would rather remember, I have the tendency to remember the things that I would rather forget. With spaced repetition, it becomes much easier to remember things. If only there were an effective strategy for forgetting.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wish list #hashtag

Christmas is coming...

Ok. I wonder if I could make one of these for less than what Steelcase sells them.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Analogies #hashtag

Christmas : Thanksgiving :: Nazi Germany : Czechoslovakia

This post makes me feel sad. It's really funny, but no one will ever read it. The great thing about the internet is that there is a low barrier to entry. At least in the developed work, almost anyone can get online and publish something. The downside is there is so much noise. Most of what I write is just noise, too. It's my venting of frustration, repeating something that someone has already said more clearly and concisely than I have, a hastily scribbled assignment or just me reposting cartoons. Still, today I felt like I had something really funny that I could share with the world, but it will be lost among the millions of blog posts, tweets and status updates that are being uploaded at this very nanosecond. So, yet again, the internet makes it easier for us to speak, but harder for us to hear.

Aside: Originally, the end of the analogy was Poland instead of Czechoslovakia. I thought that the analogy was a better fit with Czechoslovakia. With Poland, the invasion was quick and dramatic whereas Czechoslovakia was slowly annexed (first with the Sudetenland and then with the rest of the country). That better describes the slowly devouring growth that Christmas has become.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Violet Update #hashtag

I've been using to record the flower on my desk; I wrote about creating a Capzles page earlier in the blog. You can check out my flower using this link. Scanning through the slideshow, you can watch my flower go from mostly-dead to its current happy state. It makes me wonder how my violet's twin is doing.

I'm really happy that I've been able to make good use of Capzles.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kings of the Wergs (ED504) #hashtag

For our Webinar Tool, we decided to go with However, one of the other contestants was Storybird. Storybird is a publishing site that provides students with a set of images and then asked them to create a story about them. It allows for students to quickly create aesthetically pleasing stories. If you make it easier for kids to excel, I think you are more likely to get students to buy-in. The stock set of images was very pretty and I think having that in the background would encourage students to create something that they could really be proud of.

One of the books I liked most was 26 Homegrown Words. I really hate it when I am reading an article and the writer makes up a new word (the type that they put in quotation marks). The English language is full of words; why do we need more? Then I read an alphabet book and realized that sometimes I feel jwift (You'll have to read the book to find out what the word means). So, perhaps it's ok to make up new words. It got me thinking about how cool it would be if one of my students created a new word. Think about it: if you were middle-schooler and you took some feeling, object, action or thought and picked a combination of letters to describe it. Then, later, you found that someone you had never met was using the word that you had created. . .  well . . . wow. . . wouldn't that be empowering?

In my mind, creative writing is disrespected. Consider Jules Verne. Some people consider Verne to possess a prophet-like status because of the way his novels describe technology that wasn't invented until decades later. Verne didn't have visions of the future, he created it. Generations of engineers and scientists grew up reading his books and then went forward and built the world that he had inspired. It takes creativity to find solutions to the world's problems. We need more people who are able to see a world, a better world, that does not yet exist. Math can solve a lot of the world's problems, but mathematicians need something to inspire us. That inspiration is likely to come from language and, in particular, from creative writing.

Related reading: Neil Gaiman and reading fiction.

Completely unrelated aside: You can't write poems about 'poetry' in iambic pentameter. Poetry is dactyl; that means it has one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. The consecutive unstressed syllables will never fit into an iambic line. At least that is what I think, given my limited knowledge of the English language. My goal for the next week is to use the phrase "They go together like dactyl words and iambic pentameter" and see the confused look on people's face.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Moustaches #hashtag

In previous classes, we have talked about trying to make a more just world. I'm not sure that I want to spend my time trying to make a more just world. It's not that I have anything against justice. It is only that I am not sure what justice is. If justice is people getting what they deserve, what are the chances that I know what they ought to get? So, justice becomes something that I can talk about, write about and think about, but something that I am completely incapable of identifying in the real world. I can create scenarios where I ponder the implications of what justice is, but I will never have the kind of detailed information in real life that I would have in a scenario.

So, I intend to spend my time trying to make a more merciful world. It is a world where we give everyone our best, whether or not they deserve it. It is a world where there is more fun and more laughter and perhaps a little bit more whimsy. I'll leave matters of justice to people who are wiser than I. Today, I am just going to try to make a world where other people smile a little bit more often.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Webinar Reminder #hashtag

Greetings Citizens of the Internet.
This is a friendly reminder that our Webinar is tonight. Mr. Lemoyne, Miss Strait and I will be hosting the webinar today at 5:30pm. Just click on the link sometime after 5:00pm on tonight and be prepared to learn.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Webinar #hashtag

Greetings Citizens of the Internet.
This is a friendly inviation to our Webinar. Mr. Lemoyne, Miss Strait and I will be hosting the webinar on November 14 at 5:30pm. Just click on the link sometime after 5:00pm on Thursday night and be prepared to learn.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Quicktime #hashtag

Sometimes I feel like being asked to turn in a video in the Quicktime format is like being asked to retype my paper into Portuguese.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Being a Teacher is #hashtag

A large portion of the time we spend is dedicated to learning how to teach. There are methods and strategies and practices to be deployed. I took a few minutes today to think about how to be a teacher. Being a teacher is being a professional optimist. It is seeing the best in people. It is seeing the potential in our students. No matter how difficult they make it, we always want to be looking toward what they could do. Being a professional optimist means seeing the best out of every bad situation. Every failure is a learning experience. Every wrong answer has a bit of truth that we can build around. Every time we get knocked down is an opportunity to practice picking ourselves back up. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Poetry #hashtag

Classic Folk Verse:

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.

Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England's overthrow.
But, by God's providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!

A stick and a stake
For King James's sake!
If you won't give me one,
I'll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.

A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn'orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.

Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

4:05pm is 1605 in 24-hour/military time. It was interesting to read how Guy Fawkes Day transformed from an Anti-Catholic Holiday [Fawkes was a Catholic trying to overthrow the Protestant monarchy] to something more patriotic. I am trying to think of something similar among American Holidays, but I have yet to find one. Perhaps Halloween is as close as we've come from completely repurposing a holiday.

Other poetic posts: Poetry 1Poetry 2Poetry 3

Monday, November 4, 2013

Remember to Vote #hashtag

This Tuesday remember to vote. . . . for Michigan's Mr. Football.
I'm not going to tell you who to vote for. However, if you are going to vote, remember that this is the Mr. "Football" Award. So, you might want to consider a player who excels in many facets of the game: running, passing, kicking and punting, perhaps.

On a completely unrelated note, here is an article about high school football players.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Beyond digital footprints #hashtag

In a previous posting I wrote about my digital footprint. This XKCD: What if post got me thinking about digital tombstones. Think about it, given the ever shrinking cost of data storage the things we post on the internet will likely be there forever. FOR-EV-ER. My friends grandkids will be able to read this. It got me thinking about the stuff we leave behind.

I am going to write a story, to my friends' grandchildren. Your dad was born on March 21. I always found it easy to remember because it was the same day of the month as my birthday. I remember getting an early morning text the day of your dad's birthday. I had moved into you grandma and grandpa's house to look after the dogs when your grandma went into the hospital. They were great dogs. You may have seen them in pictures. Max was a bit neurotic, but he and I were friends. Cleo was dumb as rocks, but so sweet. We had a tradition of lighting up numerical candles for birthdays. I had a zero in my car waiting for the day your was born (technically his zero-th birthday), but it melted so we never used it.

Thirty-some years from now, when I am dead and gone, you'll be able to read this post in some Google/NSA archive and get a glimpse of what the past was like for your family. I hope this blog-posting was more interesting than anything written by Samuel Pepys, if they still make you read that terrible diary in your French-Chinese class [I'm assuming that the French-Chinese have taken over most of the world by now, and we are all forced to learn to read and write in French-Chinese. So, in the same way that we might read Tolstoy in 'English' class, you'll reading literature in 'French-Chinese'].

Also, if time travel exists when you are reading this. Please come back and tell me about sports outcomes so that I can win lots of money gambling [insert a description to the rest of the plot from 'Back to the Future: Part II" here].

All joking aside, the persistent nature of information on the internet is something that our generation will be the first to live with and learn from. What we do today matters, not just because it affects the people around us, but because there will be a digital record of it for (potentially) the rest of human history. John Donne wrote about how each of us are just one chapter in a big long book. Now that book is available for everyone to read. So, this weekend, when you are playing games at the U-M/MSU tailgate, remember this: your grandkids might read whatever you post on Facebook this weekend. Stay classy, Ann Arbor.