Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I rediscovered this book when I recovered a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance from the trash. This was one of the books of my youth, a time when I took things apart like bicycles, 36 horsepower VW engines, front steps not only to know how they worked but to fix them. I was a tinkerer, I still am a tinkerer and this book by Robert Pirsig was a crucial book for me to remind me I wasn't crazy, like some folks told me. I followed the edict "If it ain't broke, take it apart to see how it works," drove my father crazy and some others, too. I loved this book because it spoke to me. At first it was the romantic Huck Finn notion of lightin' out for the territory and then became the classic view of essence. Now as I read it some 35 years later, I'm in awe of this tome.

Alan Watts introduced me to Zen, my experience in Veitnam was more about Zen than any domino theory. When I came home I studied Phaedrus and owned a motorcycle. Pirsig's book was a welcome college graduation gift. It was read on a simpler romantic level then. Now it is more of a classical read. I'm still tinkering but now with computers. My first computer was a keyboard I hooked up to a B&W tv and had to write BASIC to see "Hi Ted" on the screen. Exciting, but nothing compared to 1984 when I had a weekly "ahha" moment as I was learning to teach with computers in my 16 Tandy 1000 computer room with those 5 1/4 inch startup disks. Today I have 16 Imacs and 16 Dells in a room with smartboards and a console that can not only control the computers in my room but those in other rooms. My tinkering is in VETY (I'm still enamoured with the Greeks and Romans as well as exploring the parts) and having my students write in HTML. I have given up my Facebook and Twitter accounts as they aren't ZEN. As I reread this tome, I'm reminded about how unZen we are with our ignorance of how it works let alone any care about how it works as witnessed in the horrendous year Columbia University has had from plagairism in a valedictorian speech (C'mon man), to drug dealing to pay for college, to sex between a prof and his daughter. How lazy and stupid have we become? We can't write our own valedictorian speeches anymore? We can't find legal ways to make money? We can't find sex outside our homes? I think Columbia needs a little bit of Zen. And on the west coast and in Ohio an adequate lesson plan is a journal entry and NOT an essay. “Write a journal entry in which you imagine how life or work will change after the smart grid is ready to go.” Yikes, a journal entry?? What have we become a nation of tweets? Governor Rendell may have said it well too. I'm worried when we limit ourselves to 128 characters and to journal entries as lesson plans instead of creative projects and essay writing. Even the famed NYState English Language Arts Regents exam has been dumbed down again in my teaching career to one essay and too much Multiple Choice. Pirsig is correct and needs to be reread over and over again, we are not only afraid of technology we are not sure how to use it correctly. Technology has taken control and made us wusses, stupid wusses who are limited to so many characters and so little to say that we use copy and paste to the point we think it is ours.

Don't be confused by the title, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This book should be on everyone's reading list. Make 2011 the year you take back your life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Like a tourist

We haven't spent many holidays here recently, so we have spent our time with family and acting like tourists. During the snow storm many walks to the river and to Times Square. The day after the storm we went to Central Park and frolicked. In the past two days I have been amazed at the traffic in the city. As I sit in the living room watching English Premier games on the computers I watch the traffic crawl across 50th Street. When we leave in the mid morning, the traffic is bumper to bumper. When we get to the avenues it is packed like a getaway Friday. Today the walk from 10th Avenue and 50th to the New York Public Library at 42nd and Fifth was packed with people and traffic. Snow removal is still poor and I'm glad I have my bright yellow boots for sloshing through a sloppy New York City grid.

These boots fit over my sneakers.

At the library time was spent in the Three Faiths Scriptorium which was mind blowing and so informative. It is definitely worth another visit or two, especially after the holidays and when we have fewer tourists, if that ever happens. After exploring the faiths of the western world, I made my way up to the third floor for the photographic exhibition called Recollection that represented thirty years of photography at the NYPL. Some famous and familiar images and some new images that lined the walls of the glorious corridor. A visit to the reading rooms is always humbling and necessary.

From the library, a walk east to Madison and south to 38th finds us at the Morgan.Just in time for the very informative 15 minute video about the museum. It is here you get a good overview and plan for visiting the museum. The Morgan Library is very European and is loaded with very familiar authors and titles. Of course they are first editions. In the cases there are great examples of author's notes and drafts in their hand. The collection includes original drafts from musicians, authors, and poets. The fireplaces are grand and one can only wonder what it must have been like with a roaring fire and time to spend time enjoying selections from this fine collection or entertaining guests. The next stop was the collection of Roy Lichenstein black and white drawings and cartoons. Finally the reason for going to the Morgan was the Twain collection of drafts, first editions, and photographs. I had no idea what the seals were until I stepped into the room of ancient Near East seals. The final must see object is the trigraph that claims to contain wood in the shape of a cross from the cross used to crucify Jesus.

The walk home across 37th Street to 10th Avenue and north to 50th was an adventure weaving around the bumper to bumper traffic and poorly shoveled sidewalks and slushy streets.

Now as I watch the Chelsea-Bolton match, I'm still amazed at the traffic. And so many cars with only one occupant.

What touristy thing should we do now?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow in NYC

The snow is up to my knees in the backyard.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Publish or Perish

Just listened to a radio show about colleges.


Educators must run places of education. It isn't about tenure, it is about education. Education is not a business. Education is a place that thrives on mistakes. Mistakes are the fodder of learning, Schools are supposed to be a place where we play, practice things. If we make mistakes, no problem, we should learn from those mistakes. When we publish we are able to broadcast to the public our capabilities. Peer review, access to our work so that anyone, or specific people can read my ideas in y writings. This is what CyberEnglish is all about. My scholars publish, otherwise they will perish.

This publish thing confuses me. Get a blog, write a webpage, tweet. Anyone and everyone can publish. There lies the rub. Since everyone publishes, that requires I read all this stuff and make my own mind up. The Internet, which was an interactive tool is slowly becoming a consumer environment like television and radio. We have blogs and we have webpages, the real power. Look at Facebook and WikiLeaks. These giants are all about webpages. Yes webpages. The power of America is its ability to be producers, not consumers, not agents, but producers. The zenith of America in the Gilded Age was our ability to produce to manufacture. Manufacturing is moving from hand made to cyber producers. The new money is online, in online business and services.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The real terrorists

I just finished reading "The Doomsday Strain" by Michael Specter in the current New Yorker.


I'm not a praying man, but maybe I should reconsider.

This is the scariest sh!t I've read since....since....since.... I don't know when. Nathan Wolfe, the calm debonair hero of this tale, portends dastardly circumstances for humanity. Even when we know, we ignore the science, the facts, the data. And when we, no they, ignore Wolfe, they die. This kinda data gets my attention. Not that spew, that pablum, that comes from the NYC DOE. This is real data, data we can hang our hat on.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Israel the next Mexico?

I'm still reading the WikiLeaks pages and following by embassy now. The Vatican thread is predictable and fun. On the other hand the Tel Aviv cables are frightening and revealing. Is Cunningham just an alarmist or should I have real concern about Organized Crime in Israel? Heretofore, I was not aware of the existence of Organized Crime in Israel nor the size and power of it. Even more surprising was how ineffective the Israel government forces are against the organized crime factions. Like Mexico, the crime from Israel is spreading to America. And why hasn't the US press mentioned any of this as they do about Mexico? Sure Mexico is a neighbor, but what Cunningham writes about in Israel should cause some concern. Israel is not only subject to attack from outside, it is threatened from within by former soldiers who have the wherewithal to conduct military operations and maintain a level of sophistication as crime bosses and soldiers which makes them more of a threat than the Mexican gangs. Maybe I should reread the Old Testament as it may be coming back for a revival soon. As economies crumble crime will win out and considering the volubility of the Mid East, this information about OC in Israel is disturbing.

Fast Forward six months and "Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher visited Israel December 1-2. U/S Tauscher focused her visit on setting the stage for a successful Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon) in May 2010." Essentially as always we are told more about Iran and other states, when we should be just as concerned if not more concerned about Israel. The crime bosses are former trained soldiers with knowledge about weapons and access.

Now for some light reading. I struck upon this, "Turkmen President Berdimuhammedov is vain, fastidious, vindictive, a micro-manager, and a bit of an Ahal Teke “nationalist.” And this is just the first sentence to a fabulous cable by Curran. Turkmenistan is to the north of both Iran and Afghanistan and has access to the notorious Caspian Sea. While from the northern landlocked neighbor of Uzbekistan, we have three cables dating back to 2007 discussing the behavior of the oldest daughter, Lola, and her nightclubbing activities to a year later when we read about how she is trying to clean up her image. Back to the Sea and travel north to either Russia, just north of Georgia and to the east Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is crucial to us for flyovers and the like. As with the other neighboring countries they offer light entertainment about the families and politics as seen from the eyes of our diplomats. Most entertaining would be the lifestyles of the leadership and the fabulous cable filled with drama and potentially the basis for a funny sitcom. All this from the capital, Astana, the home of the championship cycling team.

I don't know why some people are so upset with these cables, they are absolutely delightful reading and in many cases very funny while in other cases very revealing and important for us to know.

Now what is happening to Julian Assange is criminal and dastardly. I wouldn't be surprised for one minute if America is behind this harassment. Isn't it telling when someone like Zuckerberg is named Person of the Year by Time instead of Assange? I don't care one lick for Facebook, barely use it and my life is not the better for it. And is Zuckerberg the creator of Facebook? However, Assange has made a far more important impact on my life. The cables are far more entertaining then anything I find on Facebook. Facebook isn't real, the cables are real. Is this what America has become a Facebook nation? Yikes!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What an upside down world

Our new Speaker of the House is an enigma to me.

As an English teacher I'm stumped as how to pronounce his name. Does he know Hyacinth Bucket, who insists her last name is pronounced "Bouquet" in the BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances.

He cries about schoolchildren on a playground.

He cries a lot apparently.

Hmm, crying is good, but when women in politics almost do it, look out.

Now when a stocky manly man cries and is the Speaker of the House, has someone pulled a boner?

Gail Collins has provided some clarity.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Polakow-Suransky, the new #2 should be #1

“Until we start seeing assessments that ask kids to write research papers, ask them to solve unfamiliar problems, ask them to defend their ideas, ask them to engage with both fiction and nonfiction texts; until those kinds of assessments are our state assessments, all we’re measuring are basic skills,” Mr. Shael Polakow-Suransky (shale poh-LA-coe soo-RAN-skee.) said in an interview.

I agree with this statement from The New York Times interview about assessment. This is how CyberEnglish works and assesses the scholars. What Polakow-Suransky suggests is that the scholars should be producers and not just consumers or regurgitators. He can see exactly what my scholars are doing in my classes now and from those of the past on my class webpage which will lead him to the webpages of my scholars. He will find examples exactly as he outlines of how products are created and how they are assessed.

Why wasn't this man made chancellor, he understands education, he is from the classroom, he has been a part of education at all levels, he is an educated educator, and it seems like he could manage this far better than Black. He has already said more intelligent things about our schools than Black has blundered and blurted out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

30 years ago

It was cold, very very cold. I was watching Monday Night Football with Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell. It was late when Cosell announced the shooting and death of John Lennon. I was stunned. I had become used to seeing John and Sean playing in the rustic part of the park now called Strawberry Fields near his Dakota home.

In shock, I put on a lot of clothes and my warmest coat and left my east 71st Street apartment and walked across the park to the Dakota to join the vigil already begun by others. A boom box was playing his music and a large crowd was gathering across from the Dakota. Flowers began to amass at the spot he was shot. Every evening of Dec 8, I have made my way to the Dakota to pay my respects to John and to deposit a white rose on the appropriate place for those pilgrims.

I have gone alone, I have gone with friends. I always bring a single white rose with names of people from around the world who know I do this every Dec 8.

Imagine Peace

Monday, December 6, 2010

Let's Follow the Business Model

haha, blah blah Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

DATA. It is all about the data. In all areas of our lives we are analyzing the data. Are we relying too much on data? Data or statistics is a crap shoot. Look at how statistics works (doesn't work) in sports. Bankers and numbers, now there's a nightmare scenario. Taking an accountant, business, management led team into an educational leadership position is suicide. We know this, yet, we continue to make the same mistake. That's politics, baby.

How has education that has been led by non-educational leaders fared?

Look at the numbers, but not theirs, haha. Obviously we do not learn from our mistakes nor admit them. Stay the course King Michael.

Haha, the first words from Queen Cathy have been about teachers and tenure. Let's not lose sight of the job of education, Cathy. How about the curriculum and the business of education, not union busting. It will be a waste of time and only prove your incompetence. Follow the educational plan, needs, ideas. It's not about teacher tenure it's about leadership, EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP, Cathy. Let's work on classroom size, materials, curriculum and see how the teachers respond. Teachers are of course an easy target, whereas the tough work is done in the trenches with curriculum, materials, and the classroom. This is why you were the wrong choice. The first time you open your big mouth you put your big foot into it. Now the only time you will open your mouth is to change feet. And this is day one. You already have a steep learning curve. Oh and stop talking about yourself, it's not about you, it's about the children, so please get on with your work of education.
Education requires a consistency, not a foolish consistency, but a consistency. Teachers have rituals and routines that they use each day to help the young scholars learn. When that routine is changed it "upsets the applecart." The young scholars need absolutes so that the changing world can be addressed. Business leaders just don't understand this idea about pedagogy. Education takes time like good cooking. Concentrate on the substance of education and not the teachers. How dare you walk into a new position without doing your homework and take on the teachers. It is a waste of time and effort and demonstrates your ignorance about education and running a school system. Learn education first, sweetheart.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hip Hip Horray WikiLeaks

I like what is happening because of WikiLeaks. It has taken the Freedom of Information Act to the next level. Bravo! With all the amendments and interpretations of this Act, we should be prepared for some interesting legal battles. It's what we like to do when the status quo is about to be rocked. I don't like that it is blocked in the NYC public schools. What great fodder for classroom lessons. Our scholars should be reading these cables and doing what history, English scholars do with such primary documents. They look at threads for patterns, places, situations. They study the prose style of different authors. Who are the authors? The scholars produce secondary resources about their research and opinions that are to be passed on. Oh did I mention it comes in five other languages, too: Portuguese, French, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic. When will we see Chinese or other Asian languages?

The typical knee jerk reaction to WikiLeaks is important to watch and to hear what is said by whom. Future actions, too, will be important to monitor. Is this another excuse for the government to take more of our liberties away? Was this leak generated from within so they could enact laws and perform other political parlor tricks to dupe the public and to steal more freedoms from us in the name of our safety. I'm sure those we really do not want to read these cables, read them on the day they were sent.

In most cases, the cables are good prose, delightfully entertaining, and most assuredly informative. Names are xxxxx out. We are being treated to in depth behind the scenes reporting by those in the front lines. We have access to the primary documents and that is crucial. Are those in power worried about becoming obsolete? Information is power and there has been a major power sharing surge that continues on a daily basis. I love it. It nourishes me. I am gorging on these cables.

For example:
"Whatever the truth about his mood, it is hard to believe that Gul, a seasoned politician and operator, would let himself be pushed into something he didn't want to do, even “for the greater good for his party.” End comment.

Reading about Robert Mugabe was great fun. It is not a great surprise what I read.


"Russia is ranked second only to the United States in arms sales to the developing world, and a sizeable portion of its arms trade is with countries of concern to us." Russian Calculus.

The cables about the German Economics ministry turmoil was interesting and more detailed about something we knew but only on a cursory level. These cables fill in the gaps. They provide more details about something we know too little.
What I find fascinating about these cables is that some of those outlandish conspiracy theories we are told not to believe might be true or possibly true. These cables date back to 1966, so strolling through the years is fun. Reading about the Shah is interesting and educational. The study done in Iran in 1985, titled, "Negotiations" is deep and well worth reading.

Chevron gets thrown out of a meeting in Kazakhstan; the lifestyle of the wealthy in Kazakhstan; from 2008: "none of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's three sons is likely to be tapped to succeed him."; Afghan money to Dubai; Life in Beijing; the work to get Bout; State's request to Ambassador in Pakistan to press Pakistan to continue to hold Dr Khan in house arrest; our troubles with Pakistan; The President's briefing before Paris visit; the under the table dealing with drones in Pakistan; Cuba and Venezuela's relationship; how Cubans get to America, the Litinenko Assassination, Paragraph three is a pisser. Reading these cables can be addicting. And to think it will be months. Reminds me of the Watergate hearings.


¶15. (C) All of the above putative versions of events are handicapped by a lack of evidence and by the existence of other motives for the killings and other potential perpetrators. Whatever the truth may ultimately be --and it may never be known-- the tendency here to almost automatically assume that someone in or close to Putin’s inner circle is the author of these deaths speaks volumes about expectations of Kremlin behavior as the high-stakes succession struggle intensifies. BURNS

I'm liking the indexing by year, embassy, tag and other methods. My fear is getting lost in these cables. This is a great service to correct history or fill in the gaps. When we finally have time to read these cables and to sort through them on our own, we will see the importance of this event. We have only seen a very small amount of the cables as it is taking time to upload them all. I love this installment process as each day brings more great reading, just as the Watergate Hearings were good television watching.

Perhaps one of the most important points about these cables is that we are looking at primary documents. This is key to our own education. We don't need to rely on reporters, who may or may not have an agenda, to tell us the news. We can read the cables and make our own determination about things and don't need the pundits to interpret for us, tell us what we need to know, to be barraged by their spew. This is just another magnificent example of the power and beauty of the internet and sites like WikiLeaks and Wikipedia. Watch who is critical of the leaks and who is not. No big surprises here.

Power to the people and keep on keepin' on WikiLeaks.

We know some people will probably be leaving their posts because of these revelations and maybe find a new profession writing novels or screen plays. I can't wait for the movie or even mini-series based on these cables. Too bad "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" has already been used.

An important caveat is the age of these cables. The most recent is February of 2010. It news cycles , they are ancient history.

Now if WikiLeaks could explore the health industry, the pharmaceutical folks, and NYC politics to name a few, wow now that would be a real service.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Good education is good economics

I just heard what sounds like a threat from the off shore oil advocates. "If we don't drill off shore we will lose jobs." Fear. That is the message of scary ones. Beware the scary ones. I remember when Detroit began to decline and then crash. Why did this happen to Detroit? Quite simply the workers in Detroit auto industry never finished their education and when Detroit had to retool to compete with Japan, the workers were unable to read the new manuals.

We don't need to drill off shore baby, what we need to do is create new forms of energy to replace our need for oil. Instead of suggesting or even threatening, why not figure out a new way to find energy sources that are not detrimental or bad for us and the environment. Instead of doing things that are bad for us again and again, please discover a new way to do this and to make money. To do this, we all need is an education, baby. The threats suggest we are too stupid to do something better. Figure it out, idiots. It starts by going to school, staying in school, and maybe reeducating ourselves. Our economics should not be dictated by idiots who can't learn and by the scary ones who are stuck in doing it the SOSO way.

The new industries can be wind, solar, water, and other natural resources. We have to reeducate ourselves to understand we don't need those fossil fuels anymore because they are bad for us. Heck if this industry wants to stay off shore figure out how wind turbines can be erected and maintained in places you want to drill for oil. The new economy should be based on new ideas, not on the old ideas and ways of doing things as Detroit discovered and many of American manufacturers. We are getting our butts kicked by those countries who have discovered how to do things in a new and improved way. Our advertisers constantly use "NEW' and "IMPROVED" on products, but neither our thinking nor ideas about manufacturing are NEW or IMPROVED. We seem to have forgotten how to make things. Now we need to apply these words to us, the people of America, by reeducating or actually finishing school and actually learn how to do and make things.

Another by product of this lack of education in America, besides the constant belittling of American schools, is seen in the American electorate. This electorate believes the lies of such blowhards as Beck and the scary ones. "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see" means you should investigate, search out the truth of things instead of believing the blowhards, the scary ones.

It is about education and America is quite obviously not as educated as it should be and we have proven this not only on tests in schools, but also in our politics and economics. Who has been in charge of schools recently? Beware the scary ones.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why hate Congress

Politicians are the lowest form of life, they are pond scum, slime on the bottom of a shoe that stepped in dog shit. To those who aspire to public office, DON'T unless you are really there for the people and not for yourself.

Why are they using children to meet their greedy, stupid, political ends.

Pass the Child Nutrition Act you idiots. It's not about you, it's about the children, the citizens.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jazzed about Short Stories

My class is going into a short story unit. I love using short stories in my class. They are short. They are fiction. They are rich in fodder to play with figurative language, they are perfect for deconstruction, they are easy reads, they are good models of writing skills, they are good subjects for expository writing assignments, they are a perfect microcosm of life. They aren't poetry.

Short stories are a genre familiar to all my scholars whether they are good readers or not. They all know stories. They hear stories, they have read stories, they all tell stories. Stories are part of their heritage and culture. Stories are great tools for text to self, because in a short compact piece of literature, the author connects to the reader in one way or another. We learn about ourselves in a quick read. We see character development done quickly. Plot unfolds instantly. All the pieces of a short story connect to the reader because they are short. The author needs to be more concise than does the novelist. The prose style is more familiar than is verse or even drama. Short stories are entertaining while non-fiction, a similar prose style, is not necessarily entertaining or accessible. Sometimes my scholars might comment that the short story isn't that short. Other than that, I don't hear too many complaints and soon they are all involved.

Their writing assignments are fuller and more complete than other expository assignments about non-fiction, verse, or drama. Deconstructing short stories via our Fact Sheet helps them find the pieces and place them in the appropriate information cell. Short stories provide me and the scholars a platform to explore learning. I can watch and see how each of my scholars learn and they can observe their own learning styles as the fact sheet, note taking, and assessment tools, the quiz and the essay, supply the data for exploring learning. In a two hour period all of this can be done. In regular school I teach one hour classes. In after school and summer school, I teach two hour classes. I prefer the two hour class because the entire lesson can be completed without interruption.

After each scholar presents an expository essay on a short story or two, the scholars are invited to write their own short story, using the fact sheet to construct the characters, plots, and other elements of the short story. One of the major benefits of this lesson is that my scholars are more apt to be producers. Producing a product engages the scholar, excites the senses of the scholar, establishes a good context for class.

There is nothing as powerful as a good story.