Friday, June 21, 2019

Solstice graduation

"The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was."



Except in June.

Just about every day this week I grabbed a few small, dark cherries from the small trees lining Liberty Street--just the right bitterness to counter the almost too rich fruitiness. The sun seems to have frozen in the north, teetering a week or two before starting our slow plunge back to darkness.

Life brims mid-June, feeding on the energy that bathes the Earth this time of year. The energy starts to dwindle tomorrow. Tonight I put my shoes away for the summer,unless, of course, there'a a wake. I took them off as I left our graduation ceremony. The ice returns in just a few months, as inevitable as the wakes that keep my shoes busy.

If you pay attention to these things, the dwindling light, the mad dancing of organisms in the June dusk, the aroma of honeysuckle drifting through your skull, the incessant buzzing of hundreds, thousands of critters aware of you, you'd go mad, of course, a Mid-Summer's Night Dream kind of insanity,

And many of us do--pay attention and go mad--mid-June, midsummer, when living requires little, as fine a time as any to toss a class of young adults out into the world.

And how many are "college and career-ready"? Not sure what that even means.

But I am sure of this--several hundred children from many different cultures, from many different lands, from many different circumstance, left our building tonight having an idea of what is possible, of what democracy can look like. A lot of them left our building "college ready" for schools they cannot afford, and "career ready" for jobs that left north Jersey a generation ago.

They are kind, they are brave, they are bright, and they are now adults entering a world the ruling class does not (or will not) recognize. As we turn inexorably to November, to darkness, to fear, I hope that a child's new-found knowledge of how the natural world gives her pause before she plunges into cynicism, or to self-loathing.

It's a beautiful world out there, but a world defined by limits imposed by our sun, our soil, or water. Our children are of this world, so long as they live. This matters more than any games imposed by wealthy gentlemen governing from hundreds of miles away.

Congratulations to our Class of 2019. This is your world, get to know it beyond the boundaries imposed by human words and limited ideas. Embrace it like you own it.

Because you do.




Teaching matters.
The print is Titania, by Joseph Noel Patton, 1850.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Peeling garlic

I read an article on how to save time peeling garlic.

There are many--just Google it and you will find almost 75 million entries. All to "save" time.


Why not enjoy the act itself? This intimate unwrapping of a clove unlike any other clove on an evening unlike any other evening with two hands unlike any other hands in the universe is a gift, given to us.

Here. Now.

Why rush? You are not starving if you are peeling garlic.

Your guests can wait, or they can help you peel, under the fading sun as the lightning bugs emerge from the shadows.

The garlic will keep.

Watch the peels drift back to earth, fluttering, shivering in silent flight, drawing out memories. The one you peeled the first time you cooked together. The one you peeled for the repast. The one you peeled last night.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Horseshoe crab love

They come up from the depths every spring, dancing with the rising tide under a rising moon, a deadly jaunt for many of them.

If I ever think I am starting to get a handle on this life thing, I stand at the edge of the bay and remember what I do not know.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Dear White Men of America


Dear White Men of America,

I’ve broken noses, both mine and others, shoveled shit off ships in Port Newark, and worked in the projects; I know the thrill of flying off a bike then feeling the heat of asphalt build up under the leather as you tumble next to your bike down the road; I’ve been knocked out several times, smoked cigars while pissing into the Atlantic, had a man die under my hands after being shot, and yes, I play fantasy football, too.

I drink too much beer, take too few vitamins, have plenty of physical scars with too little faith in the metaphorical ones, stick by my teams, love my whiskey, and slaughtered animals. I’m a white man in America.

We know each other. Or at least I thought we did.

Mr. Trump has done none of these things, has never worked a day in his life, and I doubt he could fix anything more complicated than a burned out light bulb, and even then he’d likely injure himself.


He’s the smarmy kid in class with too much money and too little sense with his crew of buddies ready to beat up the weaker among us. I know a few of you ran with that kind of crew, but I always believed most of us stood our ground when his henchmen came round.

And I was wrong.

What the fuck is wrong with you?

Yours,
Your fellow white American male




"'Dock stevedore at the Fulton Fish Market holding giant lobster claws.'
Photo by Gordon Parks for the Office of War Information" via Shorpy







Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Beltaine, again

Liked it 7 years ago.
Still do.


“It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.” 
Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle

The increasing light, the returning horseshoe crabs, the bay rising, falling, and rising again, remind me what I'll forget again in a moment. If I were not mortal, the forgetting would not be sin.

But I am, and it is.



Bealtaine again.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Staying ahead of the curve....

SatChat question, April 13, 2019

Staying ahead of the curve is adspeak used by an industry that needs you to keep turning over tools. The ed tech business runs on perceived obsolescence--if you are not on the curve, you are an inadequate teacher.

There is no need for you to get ahead of the curve (whatever that means) if one has the tools to do what is needed doing here and now.

Every tool has a learning curve. Every tool has limitations. Every tool used by humans is crafted by human imagination.

In anatomy, a few pieces of colored chalk are better than markers when using subtle shades to show specific structures. I no longer use chalk because I no longer have a chalk board--our administratos removed them years ago, perhaps to save themselves the embarrassment of falling behind the curve. Whatever that means.
Found in Honfleur last summer (2018)

I miss using chalk. This is not some romantic notion getting maudlin over days when I had more energy (and more hair). I can get by with more expensive Expo markers using a more expensive white board.

I clam with a fairly new (about 10 years old) rake with a wooden handle that replaced one about 50 years older. The style hasn't changed much, but to be fair, neither have clams. There are bigger rakes, there are rakes with baskets, there are rakes with Fiberglas handles, and for all I know there may be rakes with built-in GPS systems.
March clams

I could pluck clams from the mud by hand, I suppose, and some days I do just that. There is joy in clamming by hand, even if it lacks the efficiency of a commercial clam dredge.

I traded that curve years ago for the arc of the sun settling on the edge of the bay and the feeling of the arched back of a quahog in my hand.


If you’re ahead of the curve, drop a comment and let me know what I am missing 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Bad science: fruit batteries

" But, you can actually use chemical energy stored in a lemon and two metals to make a current and light up a small LED. It’s true and we’ll show you exactly how it’s done." 
Steve Spangler Science 

Et tu, Steve?

There are many ways to get to the free energy available in a fruit.

The simplest is to eat it. You have a few billions years worth of living behind you, and animals are pretty good at using the energy found in the chemical bonds of foodstuff to recombine phosphate and adenosine diphoshate, giving your cells an abundant supply of their basic energy currency, ATP.

You could dry it out until it's kindling then light it on fire.

You could mix it with yeast and let it ferment. The yeast will reward you with a wine that will warm you up. If that's not enough you could distill the wine, concentrating the ethanol enough to make a flammable liquid that can be used for heating your home or powering your car.

You cannot, however, get free energy from a fruit to power a battery. This is bad science. The fruit simply acts as a bridge for the electrons of one metal to travel to the other, different metal.

There's a reason you do not find most metals in a pure state in nature. If you want iron, you dig up iron ore, then smelt it. That, of course, requires free energy. When you connect copper and zinc together with some sort of liquid bridge. (Acids work, so does salt water--the salty vinegar dripping from your chips would work great.)

Fruits have tremendous stores of free energy, and animals, fungi, and bacteria take advantage of this--you want to eat the fruit before it rots, but rotting is just another organism beating you to the rich deliciousness of fruit.

If you want its energy, eat it, don't waste it jamming metals into it. If you want to show that fruit can serve as connection bridge in a battery, because it's cool and gets kids interested in science, go for it!

Just don't tell them that the fruit is powering the battery.



Monday, January 21, 2019

The whitewashing of Dr. King

When I die, I hope nobody mistakes my kindness for niceness. I am not a nice man.
Dr. King's life profoundly affected mine.


I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice....Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

Martin Luther King, Jr., from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
***

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was loving, and kind, and powerful. His words still resonate, should you choose to hear them.

Do not confuse non-violence with passivity.
Do not confuse kindness with niceness.

During school announcements yesterday, our students were told that Dr. King pushed "cooperation." Rania Jones, a 3rd grade winner of the Milwaukee Public Schools' "People Must Work Together" King contest wrote "That's what we must do today - demonstrate cooperation." This is the Dr. King lite version of a complex story. This is the version that gives so many of us the day off on Monday.

"Love" is a complex word, and one not easily used in public settings. "Cooperation" is much safer, more sanitary.

And it's the wrong message.
***

My Dad joined  the 1963 March on Washington, dressed in full uniform, a proud US Marine officer. He flew A4 Phantom Skyhawks off carriers, in love with a country that let poor first generation children fly.

My dad was pulled to the front of the parade, or so the story goes. If you see a full-dressed USMC officer in photos from the parade, it may well be Bill Doyle. Dr. King later went on to oppose the Viet Nam War as unjust, and my father, a die-hard leatherneck, resigned his commission for the same reason.

I grew up in an Irish Catholic home, but Dr. King held as much influence as the Pope, maybe more, years before he was assassinated. My Dad loved the man, not the cartoon he has become.

Read "Letter From a Birmingham Jail."
Take a walk outside and watch the grace and agony of life around us.

Yes, it's complicated. Life is complex,

You want to learn about Dr. King? Go read his words, listen to his speeches, learn everything you can about him. But don't "cooperate" with those who would steal his image without his words, the Mike Pences, the innumerable talking heads that will piously bow today.

Take a walk, a walk outside, away from noise. Carry a copy of King's letter and read it under the January sunlight.

Share it. Live it.
Don't let the dream die.




The photo of Dr. King (D.C., August, 1963)  is from the National Archives and is the public domain.
This is a repost.