Sunday, April 23, 2017

High tech clamming, or why it's OK to reject the latest edugadgets


I went clamming yesterday, a dreary mid-April day, wearing shorts and sandals, while bundled up above the waist in multiple layers, anchored by an Irish sweater knit on the Aran Islands, made for weather like this.

I used a simple clam rake that has worked well for years, designed to scritch the bay's muck, allowing me to get enough clams to feed a few folks for a day or two.

A bit after I started, soon after the tide had turned, another clammer showed up in a full neoprene wetsuit, sporting a commercial bull rake.
"How many you'd get," amiably asked.
"Enough."

He wasn't satisfied with that, and ambled over to my bucket to see. He let me know he got five in the short time he was there. His bull rake did work faster. It requires a bit more strength, and does a bit more damage. If "enough" is your goal, the bull will get you there faster, but since my goal is clamming, something I love to do, I have no need to save time.
"Aren't you cold?"
"No--a bit warmer than February."
He looked at me askew, looked down at his full neoprene wetsuit, then looked back at me and unzipped the top. "Come to think of it, I'm a bit too warm."

Now there have been days when I would have envied his fancy clamming clothes, but today was not one of them. My old wool sweater was made for days like this.

I wished him luck, put back the smallest and the largest clams I had  back into the mud at the edge of the bay (a practice I started years ago--that way I know there will always be clams), and walked away.

***
"i" in iPad does not stand for "infant."
Image by Steve Paine via Flickr

Before I adopt any new technology (and clam rakes and neoprene both count), I want to know if adopting it will, in any way, reduce increase overall happiness or well-being, for me, and perhaps even more importantly, everybody else.

Not my efficiency.
Not my net worth.
Not my students' test scores.
Not my attractiveness.
Not my credit score.

Not anything beyond a very basic question first:
Will this tool improve joy?

The question is a difficult one for many of us, not so much because our limited imaginations do not foresee the consequences to both us and others down the line, though that is an issue--rather, too many of us no longer allow ourselves to live for joy.

Or even know what joy means anymore.



If you know what you want, you're a lot more likely to find it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Dayeinu

13th century Seder, via Treehugger

I went to a Seder this week, my first one. I was a little bit nervous, at first--I was raised Irish (OK, Roman) Catholic culture that will not share Holy Communion with outsiders

I was welcomed by all, not unexpected, but still nice.

I read (and learned) from the Haggadah, something I did not know even existed a week ago.

Turns out Judaism (at least my brief exposure to it) values questioning (the Haggadah) over education (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine), and (dare I say) kids over priests.




I think I am now a better teacher for it...
(Oh, and one more thing--turns out I love gefilte fish and matzoh stuffing.)

Kale soup

This one is for me.


Misty March day, with an occasional tease of sun reminding us what's possible. Perfect day for clamming but for the tides, and one cannot negotiate with the tides,

The kale and Brussels sprouts have survived the winter, as they do, and have not yet bolted, as they will. They're different versions of the same plant, in the same way a dachshund and a bulldog are versions of the same animal, and both tolerate south Jersey winters.

Our parsley plants (mostly) got through, too, and the rosemary bush is now about seven years old, flowering through much of the winter when most everything else is dormant.

We also have some Simpson lettuce growing in the cold frame, planted way back in December in the basement, then moved outside late January or so, when the light was just returning.

We decided to pretty much throw everything together, and it was good.

In the iron skillet, warm up some olive oil, then toss on 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Let the rosemary sizzle in the oil a few minutes, then remove. (Yes, it's wasteful, we've been spoiled by our perpetual rosemary bush).

Add the chopped onions to the oil, let them simmer a couple of minutes, but do not let them caramelize. (I guess you could if you want--maybe I will next time)

Toss the wine into the skillet, then add the chopped kale--it looks like a mountain, but will ease itself into the wine soon enough.

Add the parsley, a dash or two of Tabasco, then salt to taste. Let this simmer for about 10-15 minutes.Add a dab of butter while simmering.

Meanwhile, heat up Leslie's veggie broth, toss in a couple of chopped potatoes, and let simmer. Once the potatoes are oft, dump the skillet goodies into the pot, and let this all simmer another 10 or 15 minutes.

Mmmm....


Happiness V: Get outside

Happiness I: Parable of the hired hand
Happiness II: Eating
Happiness III: Making Noise
Happiness IV: Keep moving
Oystering in North Cape May
That's it, enough to fix most of what ails most of us.

No point in walking a mile in someone else's shoes if you never bother to while wearing your own. (Barefoot works, too.)

Walking and being outside are not synonymous, of course, but each makes the other better.

Enough said--I need to get outside.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Were humans inevitable?

Wrestling with how to tackle evolution in class this morning--Br>hard to pretend religion has no place in a public school classroom when
most of America believes God, at minimum, had a hand in our evolution.

Stumbled on this from a few years ago....open to thoughts.

Too often high school biology teachers take the soft way out when confronting challenges in the classroom.

"Science and religion answer different questions."

This is more convenient than true. How humans came to be is a religious question. It's also a science question. Trying to placate a student by insisting otherwise diminishes science, religion, and your student. If you think guiding a child's grasp of the natural world matters, then teach science.

If you think convenience matters more, get out of the classroom.
***

We have Disneyfied Darwin. (To be fair, we have a habit of sanitizing just about all the great thinkers in history.)

Darwin did not come up with the idea of evolution any more than Newton discovered gravity or Columbus proved the world is round.


Darwin's genius, the reason Darwin's ideas are so powerful and frightening, is this: once life was here (for whatever reason),  natural selection is sufficient to explain how humans (or any other organism alive today) came to be.

If natural selection is sufficient, then the Hand of God becomes superfluous. Not wrong, of course, and certainly not falsifiable--the supernaturalists will always have that edge over science--but folks get understandably peeved when the Almighty becomes a footnote.

If you're a 15 year old child with a firm belief in the omnipotence of a creator, and you get even an inkling of the repercussions of Darwin's concept of natural selection, you're going to feel like someone just ripped your world apart.

Because someone just did.
***

So, yes, science doesn't have much to say about whether God's Hand directed the traffic of evolution--it's no longer an interesting scientific question. Most of my students, like the vast majority of adults, do not get this. Heck, most people who "believe in" evolution don't get this, either.

It's easy to hide in this cloud of ignorance, to pretend science and religion serve different masters. I suspect many biology teachers (who, for the most part, are not biologists), do not themselves have a deep understanding of the repercussions of natural selection.

If Darwin was right, humans were not inevitable. That can be profoundly disturbing to a sophomore high school student.



I know it's disturbing to at least one 53 year old science teacher....
Michelangelo drew those hands, of course....


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dredge spoils

This is more for me than anything else.

We get bogged down in SGOs, PARCCs, CCSSs, PSATs, HSPAs, UbDs, SATs, NJDOEs, KWLs, SQ3Rs, QQPs, IEPs, ESLs, NAEPs, NCLBs, AYPs, IDEAs, ADHDs, ADAs, FAPEs, ODDs, PDDs, TBIs, TTYs, CSTs, OCDs, DYFSs, SLDs, and all kinds of other capitalized nonsense that define a very limited human world that catches up with most all of us.



And then I find myself on a moonscape.




From 7 years ago today.
A reminder of what matters.










Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Christian science

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7, KJV


Looking several stories down on the west coast of Ireland.
I do not have a death wish. There is no need for need for one, it's pretty much guaranteed.

I do have a "how to die" wish, and a "when to die," ideally a quick arrhythmia as the days are lengthening. I could add a "where to die," perhaps a mudflat teeming with life, but still pondering that one.

Plants spin life from air. Animals spin flesh from life, muscles that contract to pull our hard bones to do our will, tearing and ripping up earth and life. We use our flesh to destroy what we cannot comprehend. We are our own incarnations, air to plants to flesh.

No flesh, no Christianity (of the Nicene sort, anyway)--a religion based on the senseless destruction of a man incarnate. Air to dust to flesh then to dust again if you choose the ground, air if you choose the crematorium.

Still, the plants keep building things right back up, with a huge hand from bacteria, the "lowlife" grabbing nitrogen molecules from the air, ripping them apart into manageable pieces, making nitrogen available for all proteins, all DNA, all of life.


The Host is made of no more (or less) than flour and water, spun out of air by wheat and bacteria. And while the Host must be treated reverently, you will eventually lose it as tiny pieces, mostly exhaled by your breath, that same breath of life that goes back eons

God (or whatever you call this) kissed the bacteria long before we came along, or perhaps the bacteria invented god, no way to know.


But I do know this--too many biology students "know" biology without ever sensing the mystery of this life, the only one we know, because we reduce science to something more palatable to those who have more faith than sense.



The devil is in the details....
Yes, a  repeat, but needed to cleanse the palate after the last four posts.