Saturday, November 3, 2018

Abrogation of the Big K

"It follows from the new definition of the SI described above that, effective from 20 May 2019...the definition of the kilogram in force since 1889 (1st meeting of the CGPM, 1889, 3rd meeting of the CGPM, 1901) based upon the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram is abrogated."

 A last link to a world still small enough to be known by humans
A reminder from 1889 that the world was once real.

A small cylinder of  metal, mostly platinum with some iridium, sits inside a bell jar, which sits inside another, which sits inside a third, like some illustration from a Dr. Seuss book.

To get to it, you need three keys, each key carried by a gnome--well, no, people,not gnomes.

Le Grand K (the Big K), the kilogram, the operational definition of the kilogram, a hunk of metal crafted by human hands in 1889, sitting in a basement just outside Paris.

Electrons had yet to be discovered. the current model of the atom inconceivable.

In less than two weeks the General Conference on Weights and Measures, the Olympics of metrology (and like the Olympics, meet only every 4 years) will gather together and change the standard for the kilogram.

The new standards will be based on "the present theoretical description of nature at the highest level," and the last vestiges of measurement still tied to our direct relationships with the natural world will be severed.

And the Big K? It will be "abrogated," a perfect word for our imperfect behavior, eliminating by decree of something real for something perfect, perhaps the tragic flaw of humanism.

This Luddite prefers imperfect reality to the world we've created.

I get why redefining the kilogram matters, and feeling sad about it borders on the sentimental.
The human world has long drifted away from the natural world.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Samhain, again

I have spent, in the basest sense of that word, hours
of my God-given life working on a document required of teachers here in Jersey.
That I do these things speaks to a cultural insanity, and mine as well.

And here it is a year later, and I'm doing it again.

Do ghosts exist?

I've lived  long enough to know that they don't.
I've lived long enough to know that they do.

That odd, inexplicable events happen, and happen daily, is evident to anyone paying attention. The shame is that so few of us are paying attention to the natural world, we miss the rhythms and the mysteries that  envelop our modern minds every moment.

Today is All Saints Day, to celebrate the sanctified among us, as though following some moral order could save us from the coming dark, a world in which wasp larvae eat hornworms alive, from the inside out, and humans die monstrous deaths lying in ICUs with multiple tubes pierced into the body, hoping that like St. Sebastian, we will miraculously recover.

If you need a video to be convinced ghosts exist, you don't truly know what it means to know that the dead are among us.

The question of ghosts is not an idle one. We follow spirits of our own making all the time. We follow rules and rhythms of our own making now, wrapping ourselves in a sad cocoon of  hubris, wiling away our hours fulfilling nothing more than deadlines upon deadlines without a hint of irony.

I'm headed out to a mudflat tomorrow, under a wet and wild early winter sky, to rake up a few clams, alive as I am, and as alive as I am, I will be as dead as those clams will be tonight in less than a lifetime.

Until you believe in the ghost you will be, you cannot truly live.
Originally posted 4 years ago. I like rhythms.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Late October and the ghosts are here

It does not take much for a human to involved in an internal  universe. Our imaginations served us well before we had written words.

The Delaware Bay in the dying light

Our stories existed in a larger, wild world.

The world is still wild and unimaginably vast; our stories no longer recognize this.And it's destroying our kids.

The world through a horseshoe crab's eyes.

Mind control works best in an environment removed from the natural world.

Look at your classroom.
Are you teaching?
Are you brainwashing?
Are you helping a child become a reasonably happy adult?

It's late October now, the shadows are lengthening, the nights are longer, death is winning again.

How many of us notice anymore?

I killed them, I ate them, I prayed for them.

Certainly not the kids. Possibly not even you.

You will die someday.
Sooner than you expect.

October reminds us, we ignore it.

Wheat from my classroom window.

So I walk, I sow, I rake clams, I brew, I breathe, I live.

I need to remember why I teach.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Ghost crab in October

A different fish, a different day, the same look.
October creeps forward.

The shadows, lengthening in their ominous beauty, remind those paying attention that we are of the dust, and the dust will take us back.

For a few hours each year, the world of those already taken (human and otherwise) opens to the world we know. Samhain approaches, again.

I took a walk on the edge of the bay--a stiff breeze was blowing in from the northwest, the waves a controlled fury, stark grays and whites on the water, flashes of pink on the underbelly of clouds. No one else was on the beach.

A dead bunker, flesh still clinging to its partially visible skeleton, mouth agape, washed up at my feet. Through death it looked stunned. A few minutes later a lone gull struggled to get it down its gullet.

The Jersey shore shares this same theme every fall, for anyone who cares to brave the beach breeze. But the stories change.

And today's story was about a ghost crab on the edge of both worlds.

Embed from Getty Images
Ghost crabs live in burrows on the beach. Though experts tell you that they are nocturnal, ghost crabs apparently do not read (or trust) their words, and can be seen scurrying about the beach pretty much any time of day in the warmer months.

What you won't see, however, is a ghost crab crossing a street.

When I got back to my bicycle, I found it there directly below the pedals, its eye stalks retracted, perhaps dead, perhaps not, wavering between this world and the other.

I picked it up--it barely moved--and walked back across the street, down the path to the bay, set it down by the bay's edge, and a wash of foam reached up and took it.

Maybe not a story meant for anyone else.
But it was meant for me.

The other world is meant for all of us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Stealing the souls of children

"People pay for what they do,and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead."
James Baldwin 

My hand holding a creature from the bay
In the end, it's the ground that will save us, if we are, or even want, to be saved.

We're of the mud, of the air, of the water, of the sun. We diminish the folks before us on this once fine land when we "honor" these as metaphors.

We diminish our ancestors from our homelands who spoke of the spirits and the blurring of the lines between the living and the dead as autumn darkness presses on our souls.

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare (Aaron Logan via Wikimedia)
These are not simply metaphors or myths or models. They are ways to understand the world.

You cannot grasp a fistful of earth through a screen.
Augmented reality is neither.
We are stripping the souls from our children.

We become who we deserve to become.
But we should let our children decide whether a soul is worth keeping.

Winter is coming, again.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Getting certified, FRS-NJ version

Awarding schools certifications for using e-tech is like Gillette awarding young adults for reaching puberty. Everybody feels good about themselves for something that was inevitable anyway, and another corporation plays the product placement game.

I am, by nature, skeptical of clubs that require certifications (including the process of credentialing teachers). Credentialing costs time and money, and, like anything involving power and people, tend to exacerbate existing cultural schisms. (Pretty fancy talk for, among other things, racism.)

I do get, however, why credentialing of some sort can be useful at times, and have participated when necessary. I have been board certified as a pediatrician, and am currently certified as a public school teacher in the state of New Jersey. I have also been certified as a SCUBA diver, youth sports coach, in CPR, and have a license to drive both a car and a motorcycle.

I know who is doing the certifying, and more important, why.

Future Ready Schools New Jersey Logo

Future Ready Schools NJ (FRSNJ) is a branch of Future Ready Schools, a national organization funded by folks who want to sell things to schools. FRSNJ even have a "vendor-agnostic" Corporate Thought Partners Collaborative. Because, well, I never fully grasped the because....

I have been learning what I can from their online sources. I wanted to learn more, but email exchange with their program coordinator started with pablum and descended from there. It didn't end well. I was called "dishonest" publicly.

Before your district dives into a certification process that gets you a nice banner and a star on a map, consider the time and resources you are using to.earn the accolades. Consider who benefits. Consider the online behavior of its members while representing the organization.

There is no charge, but among the mortal time ain't free.

Bronze, Silver, Gold levels--chasing one's tail over and again....

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Lichen and the local economy

Lichen on one of our chairs
I saw a wasp attack a patch of lichen on our Adirondack chair.

Wasps are fascinatingly creepy as they stalk prey among the flowers, but this one got fooled. It stalked the lichen, then made its attack. After a moment or two of trying to do something with the lichen, it flew a couple of feet away and then cleaned its legs, classic displacement behavior.

(It was embarrassed.)

The chair was made by a local man, the price not cheap, but more than fair, and he was surprised we opted not to oil them. We like to see things age as much as we do, and, in the local way of acceptance that is under-rated, he nodded and went on his way.

Because we chose not to oil our chairs, they have turned grey and are covered by lichen. They are now ten years old, and will likely last another 5. With oil, they may have outlived us.

When we need new ones, we’ll seek the same man. We do not need chairs to outlive us. That's what plastic is for.

Because we chose not to oil them a decade ago, I got to see a wasp explore the lichen, which might not seem like much, but I enjoyed seeing that a wasp could be as easily fooled as a human.

We are all easily fooled--life is foolish, in the best sense of the word.