Wednesday Required Reading

1. All human landscapes are embedded with cultural meaning. As poignant as photography gets. Critically important contribution to the historical record.

2. Why ‘Gilmore Girls’ Endures. My daughters should watch it sometime. 

3. Let’s not sugarcoat who Diego Maradona really was

4. How not to write a ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ personal statement. In case you too wanna be an egghead professor someday. 

5. Pathological consumption has become so normalised that we scarcely notice it.*

*thanks AV 


The Most Stupid Thing You’ll Read Today

From The New York Times. “Pushed by Pandemic, Amazon Goes on a Hiring Spree Without Equal”.

“To grow so much, Amazon also needs to think long term, Ms. Williams said. As a result, she said, the company was already working with preschools to establish the foundation of tech education, so that ‘as our hiring demand unfolds over the next 10 years, that pipeline is there and ready.'”

STEM hysteria never ceases to amaze.

Weekend Required Reading

1. Canadian officials warn drivers not to let moose lick their cars. Damn I love Canada.

2. When Sharks Turned Up at Their Beach, They Called in Drones. 

“The pilot monitors a video feed in real time, noting any sharks, and then sends a text to the 36 people who have signed up to get alerts — a group that includes lifeguards, surf camp instructors and beachside homeowners.”

3. Sports Technology Buyers Guide: Winter 2020-2021

4. John Gruber really doesn’t like Mark Zuckerberg

5A. Trump Had Less of an Impact on the World Than You Might Think. Well that’s good news.

5B. GM quits Trump lawsuit against California auto emissions rules. If you listen closely, you can hear Mother Earth breathe a sigh of relief.

6. Your Brain Is Not For Thinking. “Everything that it conjures, from thoughts to emotions to dreams, is in the service of body budgeting.”  

“If you feel weary from the pandemic and you’re battling a lack of motivation, consider your situation from a body-budgeting perspective. Your burden may feel lighter if you understand your discomfort as something physical. When an unpleasant thought pops into your head, like ‘I can’t take this craziness anymore,’ ask yourself body-budgeting questions. ‘Did I get enough sleep last night? Am I dehydrated? Should I take a walk? Call a friend? Because I could use a deposit or two in my body budget.'”

Coronavirus Math

What’s wrong with the third of my state that constantly criticizes the Governor’s handling of the seasonal flu global pandemic? Is it, in part, a lack of numeracy? Is math education to blame?

There are 7,615,000 people living in Washington State. There are 331,000,000 people in the (dis)United States. So we represent 2.3% of the country. As of 11/25/20, 261,636 people have died from Covid-19. If Washington State residents were dying in proportion to the country’s overall death rate, (2.3% x 261,636) 6,018 people would’ve died so far. In actuality, 2,655 people have died, 1% of the total. If twice as many people had died in Washington State, we’d still be below average.

Of course you and I know the Governor doesn’t deserve the majority of the credit for that, it’s the whole citizenry that’s rising above the Grand Canyon-like void in federal leadership, coupled with hardworking nurses, doctors, and a legion of other essential workers. Still though, the next time you feel like ripping the Guv for “taking away your freedom”, just put a mask on.

Bonus ‘rona prediction. All those ludicrous fights between the Mask Vigilantes and the Anti-Mask Nutters will continue after we return to mostly normal next summer. This is because some subset of the most cautious Covid-19ers will continue to socially distance even after the threat subsides. They’ll do it partially out of habit and partially because their anxiety will not turn off all of a sudden. Their continued “abundance of caution” will incense the “Live Free or Die” crowd which isn’t known for its empathy. Just don’t be surprised if next August you see an epic shouting match on your local bike path or at your local Costco. In the meantime, meaning the next few years prob, extend some grace to the most Covid-anxious among us.

Weekend Required Reading

1. Are We Trading Our Happiness for Modern Comforts? Yes.

2. The man who wants to help you out of debt – at any cost. My perspective on the man.

3. How Your Brain Tricks You Into Taking Risks During the Pandemic. Filled with interesting insights.

4. The Second Life of Princess Diana’s Most Notorious Sweater. What the hell has happened to me? I’ve gone from being one of the world’s leading anti-monarchists to reading about Princess Diana’s sweater. Netflix’s fault.

5. After Beating Cancer, This Syracuse Point Guard Is Coming For The Record Books. Her nearly bald head makes her beautiful smile pop.

Wednesday Required Reading and Viewing

1. Colleges Have Shed a Tenth of Their Employees Since the Pandemic Began. The Great Contraction gathers steam. Yesterday, my uni announced the formation of a Joint Faculty Committee which will decide which programs and faculty to cut. When we did this four years ago, I knew we didn’t cut deeply enough. I regret being right.

2. Italian Police Use Lamborghini To Transport Donor Kidney 300 Miles In Two Hours. Should help with recruiting.

3. Have rogue orcas really been attacking boats in the Atlantic? This story has it all including a “rogue pod” and marauding “teenagers”. 

4. Jason Reynolds: Honesty, Joy, and Anti-Racism. Great book, highly recommended.

5. The Secret to Deep Cleaning. Come on over if you’d like to practice.

Pandemic Teaching

It’s resolved one of teaching’s greatest challenges—making wise choices about things like requests for extensions on assignment due dates in light of individual student’s different life challenges. Or even making educated guesses about whether absences are legit or not.

Now, when a student asks for an extension, I always respond, “That’s fine. How long do you need?” When they explain why they weren’t in class, “No problem. We missed you. Hope you feel better soon.”

I’ve morphed into an easy grader too.

My policy is best summed up thusly, “Socially isolated, uber-anxious, overwhelmed young adults get the benefit of the doubt. Every time in every way.”

Death By Lecture

I’m getting the hang of teaching on-line, but writing that is going to cost me. Bigly. Whenever I get the least bit cocky about my faux-electronic teaching skills, I almost immediately do something exceedingly stupid. My undergraduate Multicultural Education class is filled with bright eyed, smart, engaging young adults. Most of the time. On Tuesday, the proletariat staged a work stoppage. Meaning whenever I posed a question to the 22-person class, no one responded. “I’ll just wait them out,” I thought to myself. Had I not capitulated, I’d still be waiting.

It’s happened once or twice this semester. So I thought about what those class sessions had in common and formed the following hypothesis. If I start class by talking more than a few minutes, they all have the same inner dialogue, “Fine, if you like the sound of your own voice so much, just keep talking for the whole damn 90 minutes.” In medical circles, this is known as “Death By Lecture”.

It didn’t matter that my 30-minute presentation was clear, conceptual, and relevant, cross the 10-minute Rubicon on screen and Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount would’ve left his crowd mute.

So I came up with an experiment. I started Thursday’s class without talking at all. At 10:01 a.m. I wrote in our Zoom chat room, “Good morning. I have a hypothesis. When I begin class by speaking for more than a 5-10 minutes, a passive pall descends upon the land.” Sheepish smiles from those with video cameras on spread like wildfire. “So today, instead of talking, I’m going to use this chat room to begin class. I will type fast. I’d like to begin by having you think about the following questions. You successfully graduated high school and earned admission to a well-respected university. To what do you credit your academic success? Why? What constitutes ‘success in school’? It has to be more than just getting good grades doesn’t it? What else should ‘school success’ encompass? Why? All right, ready? I’m going to put you into groups now.”

Then I weaved and bobbed through uber-animated small groups. After awhile, I brought everyone back together and again turned to the chat room. They were clearly digging the fact that I still hadn’t spoken. This time I typed, “Okay, that was excellent, you’ve already confirmed my hypothesis, but let’s extend the experiment. Have your Berliner article in front of you to refer to when discussing these questions. Which outside-of-school factors most impact how well students do or don’t do in school? If outside-of-school factors impact student achievement three times more than in-school factors, how much should the public expect teachers to accomplish in any given school year?” Again, they dove into animated, energized discussions.

An hour into class I ruined everything by breaking my silence. After a mini-lecture, we were nearly out of time. I hurriedly asked a few questions, but was met with another stone-faced work stoppage. Their silence wrapped up the experiment and spoke volumes. I had resuscitated their surliness. What I heard was, “Answer your own damn questions.”