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|Saturday, March 8th, 2008|
I went to the Alley's production of Othello last night and quite enjoyed it. The set was basically what "backstage" looks like, and the costumes were a mix of period and leather. The first two-thirds of the first act was the best, with the dynamics of the voices of the actors quite good and well varied for the different emotions and intensities they were portraying. After that, as the plot got more intense, the actors got shriller. It's hard to convey emotional intensity on a large stage without getting loud and shrill, and by about 9 - 9:15 last night, these people were no longer up to the challenge. Which is odd, because they did a better job earlier on in the show and they were all miked. Anyway, the lighting and set were good, and if I were reading Othello with an English class now, I'd take them to see the production. I also got some good ideas for Hamlet
for next fall, since it looks like I will be teaching English again after all in spite of having many new projects to have to do as curriculum director next year with the school's new strategic plan.
This afternoon is a friend's 70th birthday party (he was a teacher of mine when I was a student at SJS and later a colleague there, now retired). Speaking of retirements, a number of stalwarts are retiring this year. There are times I can sympathize ;-).
Tonight is Crazy For You
at sjs (sold out, so I'm not quite sure where I will sit--maybe in the booth or with one of my students up in a spot booth, or maybe just in the aisle til I can get to a seat that was sold but not occupado). Tomorrow, I'm speaking in a Unitarian church on the subject of how religion, science, and the humanities are starting to converge some after literally a millennium or more apart. My first "sermon" outside of Chapel at sjs since I was 15 and spoke in a youth service in a Baptist church in southern california. Where, btw, I was well received and told by several people afterward that I had "the calling." Hah.
After storms associated with the cold front, it's now clear and mid-40's here today. No going to the country this weekend because of all the social functions going on, but spring break starts after school next friday, so that will be good.
|Monday, November 5th, 2007|
Haven't written here for a long time for several reasons. A number of things in life have been and some still continue to be problematic--and I figured no-one wants to read constant whining. Some are too personal to share in an open journal like this one is, but some of the folks who read this to keep up with me don't have lj accounts, so I have decided to leave this open and just censor things more than I otherwise would. Anyway...
However, today I have something really cool: I got letters from MIT today at school, and I was named by three
students there as, and I quote,
"a teacher who has been especially influential in his or her development. "
While I've gotten recognition like this before, I can't recall ever having gotten it from three students at the same university at the same time before. Yee hah, as the president would say! LOL!
And yes, I realize that this recognition and $5 will get me a drink at Starbucks, but still it was kinda cool...
|Tuesday, September 11th, 2007|
These thoughts were written down at the end of the last school year, but I sent them to a number of people here and got a cool response from one person, so I thought I'd publish them and see if anyone else had any comments. They're more notes to myself than anything else, so some aren'tas clear as they perhaps should be and I noticed at least one has an ironic tone that might be missed (which, if it is, totally screws its point). Meh. (Which reminds me that I wrote "Meh" beside some of my math students' work a week or so ago and got some interesting looks. One person even asked, "Did you write "Meh" by my answer?" LOL )
OK, so for some reason I’m doing more end of the year thinking than usual—I mean, on-task, potentially productive thinking. And what I’m thinking about now is teaching. Here’s what’s been my basic thinking for the last few/many years on the subject, informed by a few postulates, all of which come from my own teaching and learning experience, and some of the broader applicability of which are borne out by research:( Read more...Collapse )
|Monday, September 10th, 2007|
|Houston premiere tonight
of "The Last Confederate," a film that SJS alum Josh Lindsey ('90) cowrote and in which he has a leading role, at The River Oaks theatre at 7:30 pm
|Thursday, August 30th, 2007|
|philosophy, then segue-ing into religion...
As part of an email discussion with someone, I came up with the following lines. There may be some inaccuracy in what I say, but I think it's generally true. The second of the three points may reflect personal insecurity somewhat, but the other two are more fundamental, I think:
Yeah, not only am I skeptical of people's claims to know absolute truth (one strike against me as a potential philosopher); I am further skeptical of my ability to persuade too many others of my version of truth (a second strike); I am even more skeptical of the appropriateness of my trying to persuade them (assuming I could). That would be three strikes. Even though the ancient greeks didn't have baseball, I'm sure they would have gotten the metaphor ;-).
And btw, the first point doesn't say anything about the potential existence of "absolute truth", which to the extent the phrase means anything is, I think, unknowable. It doesn't even rule out divine revelation because, as Sartre put it, even if God does reveal something to us directly, we have to decide whether to accept the revelation as true or not. If the force behind the revelation is so overwhelming as to be unrejectable, then we've effectively just had our free will nullified. Which is why I think it's perfectly compatible to believe fervently in God and yet be very skeptical of any particular claimed revelation...
|Wednesday, August 29th, 2007|
|social and catch-up
Well, it's been an interesting time. With the death of a student at school the evening of the first day, it's been rough on many, many people--including me. There was a resurgence of the friend issue recently, and I don't know how it will turn out. In other things involving people, though, this is one of my (few) social times of year. I've seen a bunch of people I enjoy before they go back to college, although rarely for as long as I'd like because of other commitments on either their or my parts.
I have made a new net acquaintance--I hesitate to call him a friend because he has high expectations of and standards for friends. And it's hard to develop the trust that (to both our minds) really distinguishes friends from friendly acquaintances over the internet. After all, if you don't know people in real life, they don't have as much opportunity to screw you (usually), so you don't know whether there's real trust or just lack of interest/opportunity. But he's a very interesting guy, a writer about ten years younger than I, so not of an age wherein I have many people with whom I correspond or visit. He is, as he puts it, "President of the Bitter and Cynical Club." And while I certainly have times I feel I could join whole-heartedly, most of the time I really don't. But I'm really enjoying our every-few-days exchanges.
Katie came over for dinner last night, and I might see Shane for lunch friday. I had lunch with JP, Pham, Vivian, and Steffen last week, and I've seen Emory, Paul B, Noah, Thomas, Kevin, and Alex A recently as well as spending several enjoyable evenings with Brantley in the past few weeks. Evan even stopped by one night to visit Andrew (and possibly me), which was fun. And Patrick even stopped by advisory the other day, which was a shock (that he was up that early) but a pleasant one. Had my first English dinner of the term last wednesday as well, which seemed to go ok. Have missed seeing some people I'd like to have seen, but that seems to be life, unfortunately. They're either not around, they/I get busy, or things happen.
Went to the alumni VB game a saturday or so ago and saw a bunch of people, including some parents, I haven't seen in awhile--some, in a very long while. Noah was a damn good player! Not that I didn't know that, but he's gotten even better at college.
The new math 3 class seems to be going well, which is nice. I think I mentioned last year's AP results were fine, so that was a bit of a relief. The math 5 classes are going a bit better this year since they're split, for scheduling reasons, into multiple sections. I bored my english class yesterday but made up for it today, so maybe that's ok. As I may have said, a *very* interesting mix of personalities. I think it may be another class (as I have periodically) that has little in common but me. There seem to be more ISPs this year than in a long time, which is probably good--and some of the projects seem really cool.
I'm sure I've not written down other things/people I've enjoyed recently, so if so I have, I hope they're not readers of this journal and hence going to be annoyed with me.
The results of a couple of sleep studies indicate that I have sleep apnea, so I've now gotten a breathing machine to help with that at night. It seems to be helping--I definitely wake up with more energy than I've had in longer than I can remember, though I'm not quite used to using it yet, so I'm (ironically) waking up several times a night still.
Revels rehearsals start in a couple of weeks, and I'm not sure how that will go for me without Darcy in the group this year, but we'll see. Time to go work on math, so I'll close now.
|Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007|
|once more into the breach...
First day of classes today, and I found it enjoyable and productive--a good combination. Interestingly, I knew the names of about half the new juniors in math 3 from having had them in study hall last year. Weird--who'd'a thought? Can't tell what they're like except quiet. Of course, it's only the first day. Have been told already that I intimidated one girl in the class. Thought about sending her an email saying, "What the hell do you mean I intimidate you?" But decided if she's already intimidated, she might not appreciate my...idiosyncratic sense of humor.
Because of schedule issues, the 20 kids in math 3 last year are doing math 5 in three separate sections--we'll see whether I can do that successfully or not. My first period class has 15 kids in math 3, 3 in math 5, and 1 in math 7--all at the same time. Never tried three courses in one period before.
English is a fascinating mix of people: more people not taking it for honors than I've ever had; some kids also in my math 5 class and then some not taking math at all, so the interdisciplinarity with math and physics is a tad tougher to pull off. Had a great start today, though, tieing a quote from "What the bleep do we know?" about assumptions and biases into a more general discussion of knowledge and certainty and ambiguity in language. I was happy with the tie-in. Took a sort-of traditional critique of the "The earth is flat" mindset and turned it on its head by asking why it's in fact generally reasonable to consider that the earth is flat and then even further in asking how the earth is in fact
flat in a particular mathematical sense.
Had the English class over to dinner tonight, and that went well, too. Then, afterwards, Kevin, Thomas P ("your favorite math major" as he introduced himself to me) and Alex Au came by so Kevin could get his birthday poster. He was nice and said it was sweet. I like Kevin although most people who know both of us find it really weird, sometimes even freakish, that we get along. He's taught me some valuable lessons, though.
All in all, an enjoyable and successful day. Much as I hate to press my luck, we'll see if we can go 2 for 2 tomorrow.
|Friday, August 17th, 2007|
"well you know what they say about economics. It’s just like physics, except in physics 3% of the theories apply to 97% of the cases, where as in economics 97% of the theories apply to 3% of the cases."
|Thursday, August 9th, 2007|
|with age comes...
It's interesting to me which of my attitudes toward life and other people are different now than they were when I was in college. In some ways, surprisingly few. I think I'm more nuanced in my approach toward people; I'm more compassionate about the weaknesses in others that lead to behaviors I don't like, though I'm only a bit more tolerant of the behaviors themselves. Having suffered more makes me more compassionate, but having done much more, my increased compassion toward human weakness is tempered by my awareness of the things that can often be done to help offset those weaknesses in our actual behaviors.
|Thursday, August 2nd, 2007|
|night in the park
I needed to get out tonight, so I walked down to the bank and then on the way back decided to stop by the Southside Park. Sat there swinging in the night, listening to "Drowsy Chaperone." No-one around. Can't say I felt like a kid again, exactly, because I didn't feel either care-free or energetic; but if not a step back in time, it was a ... side-slip, I guess, for a little bit.
A sorta cool thing earlier: the new air compressor I'd gotten not too long ago froze up the last time it was used, and I was really unhappy since it was expensive, new, and now useless. I really needed it for attaching trim on these new bookcases I'm building, so I finally decided to try to take it apart and see if I could fix it. Engines and such are not really my thing, but I figured that since it already didn't work, the worst that could happen is that when I was through messing with it, it still wouldn't work.
It was a pain to get the actual compressor motor undone and away from the controls and air tanks, but I finally managed that. Then, there were three screws that held the front of the motor casing onto the rest of the motor, and one of them had the slot where the screwdriver turns the screw stripped so that the driver kept slipping out. I had to get a drill and drill that out then go to the hardware store to look for a replacement screw--which fortunately they had even though it was metric.
Then, I had to go out and look for the right oil, which was really hard to find. I got something pretty close and hoped for the best. Much working with the motor, crankshaft, and piston and fittings later, and much bathing (mostly of the appropriate metal parts, somewhat of me) in oil later, I reassembled the thing and it worked. I was very pleasantly surprised. Put it all back together and it actually worked well enough to charge the air tanks to a usable pressure--twice. Without the motor freezing up again. Hope it works tomorrow when I actually use try it out on the bookcases.
|Tuesday, July 31st, 2007|
I finished study questions for Hamlet
and Heart of Darkness
last night (plot-based only: when I've done more, um, demanding ones in years past, I got told they were too hard but that plot-based ones would be helpful). Went in to school today and printed them and a cover letter and got them stuffed in envelopes to be mailed to students tomorrow. To help mitigate the shock of getting study questions in early august, I also invited them to a class dinner the evening of the first day of school, so maybe that will help.
This is a somewhat unusual class in that I know, in some capacity or other, about half the kids in the class before they walk in the door. It is an interesting mix/dynamic, so I hope it works well. One is an advisee, a handful are from math last year, three are from when I had them in Digi Apps as sophomores, one is from an ISP, one I know through her father, one I know through a sibling and parents, one has an aunt I went to school with... you can kinda get the picture, I guess. It may be another of those classes that has nothing, really, in common but me. Which sometimes works and is sometimes...fractious.
|encomium from an oh-fiver...
"You've taught me a lot. You've taught me that other people can matter in a variety of cases, you've shown me that being nice can be worthwhile. You helped me grow into myself by encouraging me to expand my view on things. You encouraged all of us to really think for ourselves, and it was an uplifting experience. Thank you."
|Sunday, July 29th, 2007|
|from "White Wolf"
"You look in a mirror and you think you see yourself. You do not. You see a body inhabited by many men. There is the happy [one] and the sorrowful. There is the proud, and the fearful. There is the child who was, and the man who is yet to be. This is an important lesson, because, when in danger, you need to know--and more importantly to control--which of these men is in charge....Understand yourself, and know how to find the right man within, for the right moment."
|Saturday, July 28th, 2007|
|sometimes nice things happen
I have had a pretty bad week (or a little more than...), but lunch with Toby yesterday was enjoyable. I can't resist quoting something he wrote back to me today after I'd thanked him for lunch:
"I'm still thinking about a couple of our conversations ... particularly the one about people solving problems in vastly different ways based on their contingent circumstances. A fascinating idea. This one really struck a chord. As always, you help me think about the world in a new and interesting way."
Wonder if he knows joe? ;-) But seriously, it's so cool to feel like someone cares about what you have to say and you can make a difference to them, even 15 years after they graduate. I suppose there are some pluses to set against the string of bad things that have crashed down recently ;-)
WOOT! Darcy's home! Yea! Wowee!
|silly but cool
A friend just brought by Katherine Center's new book for me to read, and she (the friend) was so impressed because I'm one of the people Katherine thanked for being such a significant influence (or some such phrase) on her while she was at st. john's. She said she'd never known personally someone who was acknowledged that way before. That's actually the second such acknowledgment in a book I've had, so I suppose that's kinda cool. The "silly" part comes not because the acknowledgment is silly, but it's silly that people think it says much about me. However, the sentiment that caused Katherine to write it is way cool. Not necessarily deserved, but cool. However, for some reason, she likes me. At a faculty party a couple of years ago (her husband teaches at sjs), she sat down beside me out of the blue and told me how influential I'd been on her (which I hadn't realized at the time though I certainly always enjoyed her writing and contributions to discussions). Which leads me to the further point that it's next to impossible to know how much you affect people since they're rarely forthright about it. The effects aren't necessarily all good, of course, but I'm fortunate in that when people mention being affected by me, it's usually in a positive way. Which means that when I'm bad for someone, I guess, it's rarely so bad that they bear a grudge years later or come hunt me down. Which might be damning with faint praise, but still ;-).
Switching topics, my new glasses came yesterday. Elva's annoyed because she says they make me look younger. The new prescription, though, seems to be better as now I don't have to take my glasses off to needlepoint or to read at night even when my eyes are tired. And speaking of needlepointing, my latest canvas, which has a very complex design, is about a third done now.
Oh, and Darcy comes home tomorrow,
which is way, way cool. I've really missed her.
And our phone now works again for the first time in a long time. The guy had to replace the line, not just from the pole to the house, but from our pole to the next-higher-level distribution point. Wow. But it's clearer than it's been in years.
And I had lunch with Toby today ('91), which was cool as I hadn't seen him in quite awhile. We visited an hour or so, with me doing most of the talking (because he was still getting over being pretty sick), and as it was about education and teaching and society and human nature and social vs cultural evolution and other sorts of cool subjects, not only did I enjoy it but it was extremely reinvigorating. I felt better afterwards than I have in a couple of weeks. On the other hand, it's nearly two oclock in the morning and I can't sleep, so there's apparently still a bit of trouble in paradise ;-)
|Friday, July 27th, 2007|
I found this line in a story I've been reading. I really like the way it's phrased:
"You’re only as good as the people who choose to care about you."
|Thursday, July 26th, 2007|
I have started building a corner bookcase for our bedroom where the DSL line and wireless router live. There's an old, white one there from IKEA that's seen better days, so I took it downstairs today and put it on the back porch preparatory to putting it out on the curb next week. I took measurements yesterday and cut lumber I'd gotten at Rockler. Today, I started assembling, but I'm so tired I have had to redo at least half of everything I did at least once. Most irritating. The two pieces are gluing up now in the workshop, and tomorrow or so I have to go to the hardwood lumber yard to get the walnut pieces I'm going to use for tops.
While clearing off space on the workbench to do the assembly (that was also a problem), I knocked something off one of the shelves, and as I looked up to replace it, I saw the last box I made. It's finished on the outside but needs polyurethane on the inside. I don't really have anything to do with it, although in terms of the colors of the woods of which it's made, it's one of the prettier pieces I've ever made. I tried to take some pictures, but because of poor lighting I had to use a flash, and that reflected off the finish, so I haven't posted them yet. Maybe if we ever get sun again, I'll try to take some in natural light...
For the first time in awhile, I'm in long pants for dinner since Lucy's boss is over for dinner. I thought I should, perhaps, look like an adult, so I have on slacks. Sandals, too, but still...
|Wednesday, July 25th, 2007|
I heard the following comment about John Edwards a few days ago. A reporter was asked by an anchor why Edwards supported a particular position even though it didn't seem likely to win him points in the polls: "One should never rule out the possibility that a presidential candidate supports something because he believes in it." I thought that was great, on many levels..