Friday, August 21, 2009
The biggest problem I've noticed has been the sizable rifts that can exist between administration and teachers, or between teachers and "the system" et al. There is often this distrust that exists, as if they were not all striving to achieve what is best for the students. I just don't get it. I understand that some administrators, like those in any workplace, are just not good people nor effective managers. But ultimately, professional goals should be shared. Teachers, administration, and politicians are striving to educate children and support their competitiveness in a global economy.
There are lots of problems, but this is a microcosm of the problems that exist in society as a whole. And as I've argued on my blog in the past that no matter what one thinks of "the system", it is much more productive to attempt to work within existing structures to retrofit and enhance them, rather than simply rail against them and seek methods of undermining them. I simply don't find it productive, as a teacher, to complain endlessly about the iniquities of my administrators and about the school system. I want to change it, starting with my classroom, extending to my school, and eventually, to the school system and to the nation as a whole. And the most effective way to change that is by embodying the change that I want to see.
On a different tack, I think that many educators--and administrators--get too caught up in these fluffy ideals of supporting, loving, and nurturing children. That's all very important, of course, in a child's development. But what is more important in an educational system is that we are actually giving children the tools and capabilities to succeed in the real world, not just pats on the back. And running an educational system closer to a business, with strong accountability, high expectations, and no excuses for failure--rather than like a big, messy, muddled bureaucratic public service--will be better for children. Students want to be challenged. They want structure. They want to succeed. We need to give them what they need to excel, not just what they need to get by.
Anyway, I really just wanted to get this off my chest, because it's been frustrating me. I think many people that go into education have this rosy view of the way things should be, and forget the human reality of any workplace. Things are never perfect. You have to earn your stripes. You have to work hard and make networks and establish your integrity and reputation, and then you can start to talk about changing the system. In the meantime, the important thing is being the best teacher you can be, despite the system, despite the school, despite the students, and despite yourself.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Some of the things we've been doing this summer include swimming lessons (Thanks Lisa), the Ventura Aquatic Center, weekly movies with the Regal Cinemas' Family Film Festival, brushing up on our video game skills, going to the library, reading and going to the beach.
Of these, I think our favorite has been going to the beach. It just doesn't get any better than packing a lunch, stretching out on the beach and playing in the sand and the surf.
We pack up the beach blanket, sand toys, towels, beach chairs, a good book and the backpack cooler with food and drinks and head out for the day. It doesn't matter how long we've been there, we're never quite ready to pack up and go home.
Sometimes we go with friends, sometimes it's just me and the boys, but we never have a bad time. Gabe has started playing in the waves more and is showing an interest in bodyboarding. Morgan is content in digging big holes and jumping in and out of them. When it comes to the water, he mostly likes to chase the waves.
For me, I just like walking on the sand and watching my kids and the waves. No matter my worries or concerns, they all seem to melt away knowing that there are much bigger things in life than my problems. It helps me put life in perspective. For me, going to the beach is a healing experience.
Everyone is happy to be there. Everyone is having fun. It's a joy to see my children discover crabs, starfish and sea anemones; seek sand dollars; and create sculptures with sand and seaweed.
The entire experience feeds their imaginations. Mogan likes to play Godzilla climbing out of the water and smashing the sand city he's built.
It gives them a sense of discovery, and wears them out. They come home calm and collected, a little tired, but very content.
I count my blessing that I live close to the beach. That I have the opportunity to wash away my trouble in the sand and sea, and that I can spend this golden summer with my two beautiful sunshine boys!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I know this is on the somber side but I felt like sharing, thanks for reading.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
We wanted to give you an update on the activities of the Alliance for Legal Education on behalf of law students who are preparing for the bar examination.
Our legislative initiative, to allow bar exam expenses to be eligible for the federal student loan programs, was under consideration for inclusion in HR 1777, the Higher Education Technical Corrections Bill. Although the measure was not included in the final version of the bill that was signed into law by President Obama, there was no known opposition to the initiative and we are researching opportunities to move this issue forward in future legislation.
We strongly believe that this issue remains important and timely. Financial markets remain in flux, making this measure a vitally important one for many students.
The Alliance will continue to update you on our progress in the coming weeks as needed. In the meantime, we appreciate your support and interest in this legislative initiative.
Pondering this. You can have a reduced sentence if you're in politics? ... ? ... We just ... sentence our politicians less? Because they're ... ?
I don't understand.
Then this morning I get e-mails from our public interest law counselor and my good friend, Emily. Another scholarship contest. A bigger prize. For graduates only, which means I don't have to stress the application until next year.
Thanks for helping me keep my chin up, Ems. Little actions like these -- it's just beautiful having friends. You guys keep me going, and have no idea how much I appreciate it.
NOTE: If you know any Penn grads in public interest law now who might want to apply, let me know & I'll forward you the info.
Monday, July 13, 2009
You can say anything about a person who's far away, can't you?
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
RT @romenesko: Is cryptomnesia to blame for journalism's ultimate sin of plagiarism? asks Russ Juskalian. http://is.gd/1roUE
RT @whatspider: i eats yur pie. http://bit.ly/fN1KH
RT @EqualityAmerica: Gay marriage foes reach signature goal in Maine http://tinyurl.com/nex3eb #LGBT #GLBT
and finally, RT @BoredInLA: RT @jenbjorklund At exactly 12:34:56, the time and date will be 12:34:56 7/08/09.
I am about ready to faceplant on the keyboard, zzz. Am listening to Glassworks, which was playing on iTunes when I left home at 7 a.m. and is a great album to revisit at the end of the day. I mean, nothing like Glass for a little symmetry, right?
Am loving it so much, I wanted to leave a note: Things that made me happy today. Like talking to Ashley on the phone. Or throwing a wedding party for one of my co-interns. Or sitting in perfect, peaceful solitude, listening to PRI's segment on Hotel Obama. Or Ozzie wanting to snuggle so badly I can barely write this post.
What made you happy?
Friday, July 3, 2009
Reality consists of trivialities, things so transient and diminished that you wouldn't think to write them down and retain them, unless you were a writer or a poet and you made your living out of consciously observing such things and reconstructing them into significance. I'll admit that I don't take note of much in my daily life; it will take me months to notice a restaurant on a street that I've been walking down every day. As quickly as things come between my narrow blinders of vision, they slip from short-term memory. During my college years, so long ago, I made a conscious philosophical decision to not remember anything, because I had determined that history was of no importance, that the only thing important was the here and now—you know—like wannabe zen or beatnik stuff with an existential edge. So I would never remember peoples' names when they introduced themselves (nor the second, third, fourth time that I would see them), and I wouldn't remember the subsequent conversations that I had with them (even when they were deep and meaningful), and I sometimes wouldn't even remember meeting them. This obviously made it difficult to build friendships, because when I would see people, they would call me by my name, and I would say, “Hey dude!” or “Hey, how's it going?”
I later came to a realization (when I was less angry and bitter at the world for being what it is) that memory and history were important, and that the here and now can only most fully exist in its relation to the past and the future. And I try much harder to remember things, such as peoples' names, but I still have difficulty remembering some stuff. I sometimes wonder if not exercising and training that aspect of my mind had a longer term effect than I realized, or if my brain has just been riddled with toxicity, or if perhaps I've always been that way to some degree---someone who looks at generalities and remembers the big picture but could never tell you the specific details of anything. Which is why I blog, by the way. So that I can remember how I've arrived at my current way of thinking.
My lack of memory gets brought back to me everyday when I start telling my fiancee a realization that I've just had, and she'll cut me off, exasperated, and tell me that I've told her that 5 times already. I'm always amazed—and disappointed—because the insight seems completely fresh and brand new to me. I warned her when we started 'dating' that I had a bad memory, but she thought I was just exaggerating. Now she knows. I'm somewhat like the guy in 'Memento', except I do remember my name and my basic life history.
Why I am sharing this? I'm not really sure. I just like talking about myself, I guess. I think my point was to attempt to explore the idea of reality as a sequence of trivial events and details, but that we selectively edit a narrative out of what we consider important. What it is that we allow to become imprinted into our long-term vision, what we carry with us. I'd like to conclude all of this with some kind of satisfactory moral that makes it seem like I've written this with purpose, but unfortunately, it is only what seems: a sequence of trivialities.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
here are some pictures :)
After attending a few of these readings it got so that I would read any text broken into lines as if it were Yenseresque. The habit has stuck. And now that I am on Twitter, the habit is reinforced. I mean, what is a poem anyway, if not a swath of impassioned prose with a specific set of boundaries? And Twitter? It is often impassioned prose with a fixed limit of 140 characters.
I'll prove my point.
Today, my friend Heather wrote about her near collision. I found myself reading it, from the bottom of the page to the top, in that old, familiar rhythm:
Well, I guess no 3-day weekend is complete without a call to 911, eh? A huge tire on it's side rolling at high speed directly at...
...freeway traffic. I didn't see it until the car in front of me suddenly swerved around it. I smoked my own tires big-time and had to......
serve hard not to get hit. I've now left a lively tire skid mark on the westbound I-10. :-P Scary stuff! Called 911.
The tire will probably fall over before the highway patrol gets there, but flat on the ground it's a danger too!
Er, swerve hard, not serve hard, but you follow me. That tires was going FAST! Must have fallen off the back of a truck or something.
I hate issues like that where I don't know if they are technically 911 issues.
A tire going head-on into oncoming traffic isn't as dangerous as a car doing the same, but everyone was swerving hard and smoking tires...
...to avoid it. Close-calls everywhere as people dodged the tired. It was a horrible accident waiting to happen. And even when it finally
falls over it'll still be a road hazard. When 911 answered, I immediately told them I was calling for highway patrol to report...
...dangerous debris, and they immediately took my info, didn't tell me to call a non-emergency number, so hopefully I did the right thing.
Dear Heather, I am sure you did the right thing. What a terrifying situation! The I-10 is bad enough without extra rubber careening through the lanes, and that could have been a multi-car pileup waiting to happen.
And at the same time I think this, I have the frivolous sensation that I am back at the Armand Hammer watching some poet wearing mostly black (but distinguished black broken by scarves or wood beads strung by Aborigines) give the pre-martini show. Don't get me wrong. I loved these readings. But I always thought that perhaps we were a little bit silly. And Twitter, in its nascence, has proven me a little bit right.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
"What shall we do with them?" Her Majesty asked me. "The Emporer has already made arrangements for copying the 'Records of the Historian'."
"Let me make them into a pillow," I said.
"Very well," said Her Majesty. "You may have them."
I now had a vast quantity of paper at my disposal, and I sat about filling the notebooks with odd facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial material ...
- From The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon,
translated and edited by Ivan Morris
We seem to be off to a good start. I'm thrilled to see so many people I admire dabbling in this thought project with me. Am torn on whether to launch into dialectics of reasoning and snippets of play, or just hush up and let other people talk around me. The last thing I want to do is make this my blog, with a few other people commenting from time to time. At the same time, I started it, so theoretically I'm the only person obligated to spend time here. I'm just glad some of you have said "hello," and that Ashley is posting pictures.
You do know I adore you guys, right?
Anyway, I've been thinking about what to write. Last summer was all about my experiences in a new country, and it was easy to ramble for hours because I scribbled down whatever was happening to me. This summer is more familiar, so to me my experiences seem less striking.
Then again, there's always some new facet of life flashing you its hindquarters.
How did Kafka put it? "The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." Something like that. So I suppose as long as I give 30 minutes to my keyboard, something will drop off of my fingers.
Shonagon would start out with a metaphor.
In childhood it was the stories that were the most wonderful. Mother's voice danced into my ears, her words formed worlds more moving than life. Fairies and peaches and witches and beanstalks, and every tale had a meaning, no matter how terrible the ending seemed ...
Have I made a good start? Do I sound like an Empress's lady-in-waiting, a thousand years old and wise beyond all expectations?
Probably not. Still, it seemed a good way to impose purpose on this beginning. Incidentally, if you ever want some rainy-day reading, I highly recommend The Pillow Book. I talk about it all the time because it's one of those great finds. Not action, not so much by way of a plot. Just pages and pages of life as it was during the Heian Period in Japan. It's just like reading a blog, but meticulously executed, full of etiquette and subterfuge and grace.
If I wrote to you about my life right now, all you'd imagine is a cramped little bedroom, bare hangers skewered to the cluttered ironing board, clothes wrinkling on the office chair, junk food on my desk, and a tubby little beagle squeaking from the center of the mattress hoping for a bite of my chicken breast sandwich. Oh please mother, I will speak to you like a human, just give me a bit of the juicy deliciousness before I die here starving! The chihuahua I live with (until August, at least) has been pooped and walked and fed and petted, and she is back in her crate safe (for the moment) from the temptation of edible extension cords. The house is so quiet my whirring computer fan seems loud. And I am glad to have this indulgent solitude all to myself -- my messy room, my little corner of the world.
Tomorrow I will go to work, and life will be utter chaos. My desk will be immaculate. My files are alphabetized and numbered, and sorted into sections of notes, research, filings, correspondance. My desktop calendar shouts reminders at me in 30 minute intervals so I know to call J. Doe about item X delivered on MM/DD/YYYY. But the work is ultimately as productive as a hamster in a wheel. No matter how many people I meet, no matter how artful my interviews or successful my arguments (and 99% of the time I have no idea what I'm doing), I am still working with a system that creates almost as much meaningless suffering as it solves. And so while I try to use the law to make life better for people (or at least less destructive), I still look back to stories to give my life more meaning.
I still think of the sofa in my parent's house.
Hear my mother's voice.
This is home.
We were introduced by a staff attorney this morning, and Wanja did a very African thing -- shook my hand, then held it as if we were old friends. I have to say, I love that gesture. It reminds me of Uganda and makes me want to be best friends, forever. And she knows my name. "Oh, Maisha, that means you must be full of life!" Wanja absolutely glows. I'll have to find her again later this afternoon. Maybe I can show her parts of Philadelphia after work.
Na penda, rafiki!
Anyway, just a passing note. This blog doesn't have to be all serious after all, does it?
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
My participation in this blog will have to be somewhat minimal until the bar exam is over, but I do hope to open my big mouth (and insert my big foot) at least a few times. On the subject of creativity - does creativity and imaginative activity really have to be purposeless and disconnected from the working world? Is all art "quite useless" by definition? Is it possible to be creative in a typical white-collar office job? To be creative as a lawyer? As an engineer? As a janitor?
We scribe our differing perspectives, for example, onto this communal blog. And it begs the question of how one could ever rightfully be lonely. We listen to ourselves through each other, hearing ourselves echoing deeply through the chamber of multiple existences. Nothing that anyone could write could ever be wholly alien to our understanding of ourselves. And that's beautiful.
My name is Mark, and I am at a kind of transitional moment in my life in many ways, which makes it difficult for me to articulate simply what and who I am without seeming overly self-absorbed, which I've probably already succeeded in doing. But I live in NYC and I am recently become a NYC Teaching Fellow, and it is certainly a pleasure to have yet another venue to share deeply with others in a cyberspatial sort of way with mostly complete and total strangers. I have a blog that I have been updating less and less frequently, and I hope that this opportunity to jumpstart the creative juices will assist not only myself but others in the good cause of creative thought generation. At the very least, it's fun. Cheers! And hello Maisha and thanks for the invite.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
What happens to our imaginations as we get older?
My oldest son, Gabriel, went to a camp this week. Camp Invention. It was pretty cool. They learned all about science and physics and inventing during the week. Today, they had a little expo where their family members came to view their inventions and creations.
I was impressed by all the creative problem-solving these elementary school students came up with. The older students created Rube Goldberg machines, complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways, that were to catapult and smash a rotten egg. Each team came up with something different. They were made out of coffee maker parts, Walkman's and other discarded appliance and recyclable items like paper towel rolls, boxes, egg cartons, etc.
Their machine designs and plans were some of the most creative drawings I've seen in a long time.
They let their imaginations run wild with nothing to stop them and all the encouragement in the world from the camp counselors.
It did get me thinking about how my imagination has been stunted by the rules, discouragement and years of working for the Man. Somewhere along the way, I lost my desire to create and be artistic. I lost my joy of simply silly and beautiful creations made for creation's sake. I began to produce.
Somewhere along the line, everything I did had to have purpose and meaning beyond being silly or beautiful.
I still dabble with scrapbooking and design and painting and crafts, but it's usually with a specific goal, such as organizing my photos for my family, making presents for various holidays, cooking a meal, etc. It's rarely for the simple purpose of expressing myself or exercising my imagination. It only happens when all the chores are done and everything is in its place, which means rarely.
I think that is one thing that being home with my kids has taught me. I need to get in touch with my inner child again and relearn how to be silly and imaginative. I'd forgotten how happy those simple pleasures make me.
My youngest, Morgan, is probably the most imaginative person I have ever known. He creates entire worlds out of nothing at all. He comes up with the most amazing and detailed stories you've ever heard. He doesn't care that sometimes they don't make much sense in the real world. They make perfect sense to him and that is all that matters. It is a beautiful thing.
I hope he never loses touch with that imaginative side of himself.
... and Gabe's invention?
He created something called an "Attractor" that attracts his little brother when Morgan is being a bit too imaginative, and annoying, for Gabriel's comfort.
If you post it, they will come.
Sweet! I hope you all write something! Even if it's just to post the date of your upcoming concert. (Hint hint nudge, Larisa.) :)
By the way, if you want to invite friends to this experiment, shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll grant you admin privileges so you can add people. I've already done this automatically for one or two of you, because you know interesting people. We can have up to 100 authors on this blog. Once we get a decent number of posts up, I'll invite more folks too.
Have you ever been driving and come to a turn in the road that looks strikingly familiar to another place you have been? I think its the Matrix running out of ideas. How many ways can you make a landscape look? if we Begin their programing with all of the basics then as the machines developed AI wouldn't the base level of information be influenced by the data we imparted to them? What about corrupted information? that might explain why EVERYTHING tastes like chicken, they where unable to recover the files on what foods should taste like. how do robots really know what Tasty Wheat REALLY tasted like? did Tasty Wheat ever really exist?
One thing I would like to know, how did the city of Zion come to be if everyone was in the matrix? it must have really been hard for the first person to be flushed to build a ship, then find a place to build a city?
like how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tossie pop, the world may never know.
That means the truth is getting bigger."
- Mia Adjali
I have been reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Basic premise: Can we ever really know someone?
How many times did I encounter that concept as an undergrad majoring in English lit? We have constructs of people in our minds, but do we know who they really are? Can we? It's like Cloud 9, by Caryl Churchill. We operate so much on presupposition, or our own imagination.
I hear it again on the radio this afternoon. I am driving home listening to NPR's membership drive, and they're playing a clip from This American Life about a woman who discovers that a band called Boy Hits Car has written a song about her father. She is shocked, because she sees him through a veil of teenage angst -- random rules, overly strict, high expectations, kind of a jerk. But the guys from Boy Hits Car, they've idolized the man as someone in tune with nature who disregards the constraints of the modern world. And through the show, you see a little bit from everyone's perspective and disagree with them all. The band has turned this old father into some sort of guru, an icon -- someone who only exists in their imagination. And to some extent, they're right that the man is larger than his daughter's understanding. But on the other hand, they are singing about their ideology, not about the person at all.
And I wonder about this. What is beautiful, what is iconic, that exists outside of our own minds? And if icons and concepts can't exist beyond an individual's conception, then who are other people? Is a person only the mental construct that individual has of themself? Our are we defined by our guts and biochemicals? Maybe we are the being that our friends and family believe that we are. Or are we an amalgam of all of these things? I believe in the latter -- guts, chemicals, skin, flesh, idea, relationship -- but how can we be an amalgam of things that aren't independently real?
Thinking like this makes me feel a little bit lonely, a little bit strange. All of the people I see as beautiful in the world, I am not sure really who they are. All of the truths that I believe in, they're only truths to me. And how much am I not listening, not perceiving? What am I missing in this universe? I feel like I can only grow by knowing others, but can I ever know others? Can I even know myself?
That has been my day, today. Full of wondering. To be honest, I also drafted a third party complaint, bleached my shower, replaced a loose toilet seat cover, hung a new shower curtain, put away the dishes -- these are the menial things that make up my existence, but I don't think about them much. Maybe I should focus on here-and-now more. My boyfriend is coming home tonight after a week away, and I think about him and what it means to be loved. And I walked the dogs before lunch, and I think about my tenant and her dog leaving in August, and what I will do to entertain my beagle when they're gone. These thoughts loom larger than the day's chores, but they are still submerged, a little, in that old loneliness.
I get lost in stupid thoughts, sometimes.
By the way, if any strangers are reading this, my name is Maisha. You can read about me on my profile. "Maisha" means "life" in Swahili. It's a derivative of an Arabic word for the same thing. I am 30 years old, almost 31, and I am a law student pursuing a career in public interest law -- international, immigration, or poverty law. I went to UCLA for undergrad and am attending the University of Pennsylvania for grad school. I used to dislike pizza and the color pink. I have reversed my position on both of those things. I am dating someone quite seriously for the first time in my life; he is nothing like what I expected and makes me wildly happy. I used to work in newspapers, but not as a writer. I'm not good at keeping friends, but luckily my best friends are good at keeping me. I used to be very unhappy most of the time, but I have recently learned that if I put my life on the line for ideology, I can be very, very happy. And I have done just that for the past year. That is a very small part of me. Nice to meet you. Would love it if you introduced yourself and invited friends to play this game of storytelling. Maybe by hearing your vision of life, my own version of the truth will grow larger. And if nothing else, I will imagine you beautiful.
I wrote a blog last summer that was a lot of fun, and now that I am back in a situation where I can go home and relax after work (as opposed to the academic year's go-home-and-work-after-work), I'd like to start writing again. I've had phrases and stories scurrying around my head like mice in the Inquirer Building. If you've never been there, it's like this: You open a drawer and find a nest of baby rodents huddled for warmth. Or out of the corner of your eye you see a shape racing along the floor, and just as you begin to think hey-what's-that-shape-moving-over-there, it's gone. But I haven't caught any of these ephemeral stories with words yet, and I think perhaps it's overdue.
Not to mention you. I want to hear more about you. I've seen a few blogs online with multiple authors, and I really like this idea. I would love nothing more than to be able to invite all those people I find most fascinating and have them writing in the same place. It could be like Twitter -- one liners about happenings and interesting finds. It could be like Live Journal, whole diaries that we share with each other. It could be reposts of our own script, or of other people's. The point is to have an intimate collection of minds and conversations with editors and activists and poets and lovers and friends and technicians and thinkers. My only request is that writers avoid gratuitous content that would force me to mark this blog "adult." (I don't mind candor or art, and I don't propose to censor anything. This is just a request.)
Well, what do you think? Do you want to play? Imagine that I am five years old, and have just knocked on your front door and asked your mother if you could come outside for a game of hide and seek, please. Imagine becoming five years old again and running around with boundless energy, eating grass, scraping knees, and making up the rules to suit ourselves.
I want to talk to you, and I want you to hear me. And I want to really listen to you.
I'll start with a story of my own on the next post ...