Thursday, September 29, 2011

Absolutely one of the coolest videos I have ever seen . . .

A water drop falling and then bouncing as it becomes absorbed in a larger body of water.

Check out

--With thanks to Chareen on the Sonlight Curriculum Forums

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Strange sense of déjà vu at Frankfurt International Airport

As we were being bused from our plane from Greece to the terminal where I was to transfer to Amsterdam last Thursday morning, one of my fellow travelers commented on this plane. I had to agree with him: it was a strange sight.

What is Lufthansa doing? Are they engaged in some kind of nostalgic advertising campaign? None of the other planes were decked out in this retro paint job. Just this one.

Sorry I didn't think fast enough to grab my camera while I had the opportunity to see the entire plane. Even the tailfin had an old fashioned logo.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

About writing

This snippet resonated with me. I've "been there, done that."
When It's Right to 'Unwrite'

As an avid stitcher in my spare time, I often have to rip out my work to fix mistakes. My fellow stitchers jokingly call this "reverse stitching." As a writer of nonfiction for young people and adults, I often find myself doing something very similar. I call it "unwriting"—and it's no fun.

What's particularly frustrating about unwriting is how unpredictable and time consuming it is. The story will be moving along and then, out of nowhere, it will stall out. This happened about a third of the way through my book on Prohibition for young people ... I pressed on, writing a few pages one day and deleting them the next. Then I'd do it again. A week passed, and I was still stuck.

Finally, with books across my desk and articles across my lap, it hit me: I didn't need this section at all ... Thanks to unwriting, days of work became a mere 10 lines of text. Just as often, unwriting is required to overcome my irrational attachment to certain facts or stories

Karen Blumenthal
The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2011

The quote is included in a sidebar of the latest newsletter from one of my favorite commentators, Denny Hatch.

(By the way, Blumenthal offers at least one good, specific illustration of unwriting. Check it out. The story--and the principle of "angas" she describes--is one I very much need to take to heart.) Thank you, Ms. Blumenthal!


I've been away for the last 19 days. I spent 16 days just east of Athens in Greece at a permaculture course. Mind-blowing, devastating and yet exciting stuff. And a wonderful cross-cultural experience for me. My classmates were mostly Greeks, but there were also . . .
  • Two men from Switzerland--one from the German area, one from the French;
  • A man from Canada;
  • A woman from the UK (Britain);
  • A woman from Uruguay;
  • An Italian;
  • A German (from Bavaria); and (I think this is all)
  • me--from the U.S.
Our instructor is from Australia. He came with his two younger children (10- and 9-years old) and they were eventually joined by his wife and eldest daughter.

Hopefully I'll post about some of my observations and thoughts over the weeks to come. I have no doubt I will be posting about permaculture, though I think that should go on a separate blog, yet to be created.

It's nice to be home!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Necessary math education

While I'm away, I thought this little opinion piece by William Falk, editor-in-chief of my favorite magazine, The Week, deserves some close attention:
I recall nothing of trigonometry and physics, except the feeling of nausea as the teacher filled the blackboard with a mystifying jumble of numbers and letters (the infernal, elusive x!). Higher math, I assumed at the time, was created for the sole purpose of adding to teenagers’ misery and self-loathing—the academic equivalent of acne. This awful memory comes to mind because my daughter Jessica is now taking trig and physics in her junior year of high school. Jessie is a better math student than I was, but she shares the family predilection for English, history, and verbal subjects, and will not be making a career in engineering or science. So why must she break her brain on quadratic equations?

Two brave mathematicians have stepped forward to argue she need not. In a column in The New York Times, Sol Garfunkel and David Mumford say algebra, trig, and calculus are wasted on those of us with no aptitude for higher math. Students clearly not headed for science or engineering careers, they propose, should track to courses that provide “quantitative literacy”—the ability to handle our own finances, understand percentages and probability and risk, and intelligently assess what “experts” like banks and doctors and politicians tell us about the mathematics of real life. The desperate need for literacy of this sort is indisputable: The average American carries more than $6,000 in credit-card debt; about half of all retirees have saved less than a quarter of what they will need; and our elected leaders convince the gullible it’s possible to balance budgets while preserving their benefits and cutting their taxes. Why keep fiddling with x, while Rome burns?
In case you want to see the original article to which Falk refers, check out How to Fix Our Math Education.

And, if you haven't subscribed yet, may I encourage you seriously to consider The Week? Sarita and I love it!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

I head off to Greece . . .

[post removed]

Crossing from Hong Kong to Norway

I mentioned almost two months ago meeting a Kiwi couple who drove from Hong Kong to Norway. We met them while hiking in Geiranger. At the time I noted, ruefully, that I couldn't locate the link to the blog they wrote about their trip but that I'd share their URL when I found it. I finally found it. Check out Four Kiwis on the Silk Road. And their companions' blog, 25,000km in a Washing Machine.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Never too old . . .

As my high school classmates and I are turning 56 this year, I thought the following stories deserve our attention.

Let's not think of ourselves as old. Not when we've got a 61-year-old Vietnam vet playing college football and a 73-year-old playing college basketball.