Tuesday, June 21, 2022

How much time are you willing to give?

From the Curmudgucation blog:
I see this thread from time to time, this insistence on denying that students are bad at something. "No, you just weren't taught that well" or "Your teacher lacked the right tools" or "You are the victim of too-low expectations" or "You just needed more opportunities to master the material and concepts." Sometimes these ideas make it all the way into policy: if you are a teacher of a Certain Age, you may well remember sitting in a PD session in which you were told earnestly that "All can learn all."

No. Some students are bad at some things. This should not come as a surprise; all human beings are bad at something.

We have a finite number of hours to invest, and we all make choices about how to invest them. It's a weird brand of age-ism to imagine that students do not make similar choices. I don't believe in lazy students, but I absolutely believe in students who will sit in your class and make a rational decision that they do not want to invest the kind of time in your subject that judge would be necessary.

Go read the rest for the full scope of what he is saying. It's worth your time.

<idle musing>
Yep. Time and energy, as well as innate capabilities. In graduate school, with two kids, I had to budget my time, so at the beginning of each term, I decided which class I would settle for a B in. If I had the extra time after assuring an A in the other ones, then I would attempt for an A in that one too. I rarely did, and sometimes I didn’t get an A in some of the ones I was aiming for an A in.

And when it comes to Akkadian, I suck at the signs. Never could wrap my head around the multivalency of them. I enjoyed Hittite because the multivalency was much more limited and the sign list was manageable. I did fine in the grammar and reading of Akkadian once it was transliterated, but the signs? Yuck.

And when I was in engineering, before seeing the light and becoming a humanities major, I hit a brick wall in linear algebra. I just couldn't wrap my head around the concept of six, seven, or nine space. Matrices just blew my 20-year-old mind. Now, I understand the concept, but I'm forty-six years older…
</idle musing>

Saturday, June 18, 2022

So, what's the answer?

Maybe you want to know the question first? What's the best way out of the current high degree of wealth inequality? The Atlantic takes a look at how we got where we are. Hint, it started back in the late 1970s, but the real problem was our response in the 1980s and beyond. Read the whole article for context. Please! Read the article. Here's the penultimate paragraph, but please read the whole article for context.
The answer to our unequal age lies not in better monetary policy. It lies in better fiscal and regulatory policy. The central bank has enormous influence, but primarily over borrowing costs and the pace of economic growth. The power to alter the distribution of wealth and earnings—as well as expand the supply of child care, housing, energy, and everything else—lies with Congress. It could spend huge sums of money to hasten the country’s energy transition and make it less vulnerable to gas-price shocks. It could overhaul the country’s system of student-loan debt, helping Black families build wealth. It could break up monopolies and force companies to compete for workers and market share again. It could task states and cities with increasing their housing supplies, so that regular families could afford apartments in Queens and houses in Oakland and condo units in Washington, D.C. It could implement labor standards that would mean the middle class could afford to buy into the stock market too. Yet it remains hamstrung by the filibuster, and by a minority party dedicated to upward redistribution.

Friday, June 17, 2022


OK, one strawberry, but it is the promise of more to come. I picked our first strawberry of the season yesterday, and it reminded me of why fresh strawberries, not even an hour from the plant, are the best. We'll get another one today and for the next few days until the main bunch starts ripening. Meanwhile, we savor that one strawberry each day.

I also picked the first peas of the season yesterday. A handful of them and more will be ready each day. The second crop, from a slightly later variety will come in when the first plants are done. And the snow peas will be starting soon, too.

Meanwhile, I've been chomping down on fresh chard and radishes for a couple of weeks now. The kale is pickable, but I'm trying to use up the stuff I have frozen from last year, so I'm letting it get bigger.

And the raspberries are blooming and the bumblebees and honey bees are thoroughly enjoying them. You walk by the patch and you can hear their contented buzzing.

And, something I forgot in the initial posting, I've been enjoying summer pita sandwiches, consisting of broccoli raab, chard, chive blossoms, and Mustard Girl garlic mustard. Delicious and the sure sign that summer is here!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

About those celebrity bookshelves

Via Publishers Weekly, an article on books by the yard, from The Millions: "Is It So Wrong to Accessorize with Books?"

I had read about it a few years back, but it seems to be a real thing now.

Not sure what I think, but I lean toward this sentiment: “But this kerfuffle is not about the use—or misuse—of books as fashion accessories, home décor, or branding tools. Call me Pollyanna, but I don’t think that Ashley Tisdale and Dior and Gigi Hadid are trivializing books. They’re doing precisely the opposite: they’re reminding us of books’ outsize power to shape our perceptions of their owners. You want to understand someone? Peruse the contents of her medicine chest, her garbage can, and her bookshelf. One’s literary tastes can reveal not just aesthetic preferences but aspects of character. This is because of the investment books require—not only of money, but of time and psychic energy.”

Or, as I read many years ago, our bookshelf tells people what we want them to think we are. I hope my bookshelves do more than that, though. I hope they are an actual reflection of who I am—or am trying to become anyway. I certainly don’t read Ethiopic or Coptic, and my Syriac is terrible, but maybe someday… that’s what those books on my shelf are for. They beckon me and someday, someday, yes someday I will answer the call. Or at least, I hope I do.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Train up a conscience…

OK, an intentional misquote of the proverb.

Not sure where I ran across this link, so if you’ve seen it, apologies, but it is well-worth your time. The title of the post doesn't do it justice: Secret Tentative Intimation

For me, these two paragraphs/lines were the heart of it:

What I learned from my time at Guantanamo is that the time to deliberate, seek advice, and reflect for long periods of time in prayer so that we have a conscience that can stand on solid footing “just when it matters” exists only ahead of time, when one can’t foresee the curveballs. Conscience is, after all, not a rabbit one can suddenly pull out of a magic hat. It is something that must be cultivated and developed over time so that it is available and ready to go when one of those “just when it matters” moments comes our way.
Textbooks are important, but we cannot expect them to do the long, hard work of awakening and forming the consciences of the young (and the not-so-young as well). Our Catholic [and not just Catholic!] institutions need to prepare students for real life, not just for careers. There will always be curveballs.
I’ve run across a few curveballs in my life, and only by God’s grace gotten through them. And I firmly believe it was because of intentional cultivation of an internal spiritual life training me to depend on God. I’ve still got a long way to go on that, but God is patient, even when I’m not!

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Plant a garden!

This excerpt from Braiding Sweetgrass stands on its own and is too good not to post:
People often ask me what one thing I would recommend to restore relationship between land and people. My answer is almost always, “Plant a garden.” It’s good for the health of the earth and it’s good for the health of people. A garden is a nursery for nurturing connection, the soil for cultivation of practical reverence. And its power goes far beyond the garden gate—once you develop a relationship with a little patch of earth, it becomes a seed itself.

Something essential happens in a vegetable garden. It’s a place where if you can’t say “I love you” out loud, you can say it in seeds. And the land‘ will reciprocate, in beans.—Braiding Sweetgrass, 126–27

<idle musing>
Indeed! That's been true in my own life. Do yourself a favor, plant a garden. Start small, though or you will be overwhelmed.
</idle musing>

Monday, June 06, 2022

What's happening here?

I've been silent here for a few days, and it's likely to continue. Right now I'm in the process of reading Braiding Sweetgrass, a fascinating book. It's a collection of short essays by a Native American biologist trying to integrate her ancestry with the scientific approach. Well, actually, it's much more than that. Fascinating book and challenging at the same time. It appeals to my gardening instincts and my mystical bent in Christianity (she's not Christian, but some of her insights are very easily adapted).

The essays are short; the storytelling is great. But, it doesn't lend itself to extracts because that would destroy the narrative that makes them so powerful.

All that to say, this blog will be relatively quiet for a while until I pick up the next book that lends itself to extracts, which could be as soon as today or as late as a month from now.

Meanwhile, we have a pileated woodpecker attacking a stump outside my study window. It's doing a great job of scattering wood chips all over and grabbing grubs. But, it kind of wreaked havoc with the marigolds I had planted there, so I transplanted them : )

Here's a picture that Debbie took yesterday. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 01, 2022


Suppose Abraham had not been silent. Suppose he had been so sure of the mercy of God that he could wrestle with God, arguing back, challenging God—interceding for his son. Or suppose Abraham wasn’t sure of God’s mercy but took the risk to lament anyway. He might have come to know the compassion of this God, who hosted (and affirmed) Job’s complaint——which brought job comfort in the end.

Yet despite Abraham’s failure to lament, God was gracious and kept faith with Abraham, continuing to work through this fractured family——ultimately to bring redemption to the world.

And the God of Abraham continues to welcome lament even today.—Abraham's Silence, 240 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Well, that wraps up this book. It's been an interesting ride, hasn't it? I found lots to mull over. And I'm sure I'll be thinking about some of this for a long time.

Not sure what's up next. Right now, the book I'm reading doesn't lend itself to excerpts, but I said that a while back and ended up pulling stuff from it.

We'll see what happens. Meanwhile, I might write an excursus on a section of Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age that I found troublingly inaccurate. Again, we'll see...
</idle musing>