First, a heads up that things are going to change around here. I read in a book that because of Earth’s wobbling Polaris will cease to be the North Star in a few thousand years.
Saying hyperbole so that it rhymed with wiper-bowl. Not realizing – until fairly recently – that it’s exorbitant, not exorbinant. I now add to My List of Lexical Embarrassments assuming bodacious was a made-up Bill & Ted word.
It was startling to come across it in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. Apparently bodacious is most non-non-legit.
You know the Bechdel Test? This doesn’t really have anything to do with that, but I’ve come up with the Barry Gibb Test.
In 1970 he wrote and recorded an album that was never released. I listened to it and it’s not bad at all. I thereby propose to all bands in the studio: if your album isn’t better than the one Barry Gibb did not release, back to work, amateurs.
Occasionally I will pause my lessons to remind students that the cosmos is not easy to comprehend.
The other day I had kids take out sheets of loose leaf and turn them sideways. I instructed them to draw a (small) Sun at one end, and, a thumb-width away, a (smaller) Earth. Then I asked them to estimate where the nearest star lay in relation.
I offered a candy bar as a prize for the most accurate estimation.
I collected the sheets and, laughing between mouthfuls of chocolate, told the students they’d need paper that extends from their desks to the Cambridgeside Galleria.
Yea, for as they shall know our galaxy’s enormity, so too shall they rue my cheap trickery!
Then I showed them this short video, about going to the desert to construct a properly scaled map of the Solar System. The guys who did this really are ingenious.
The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.
What keeps this teacher awake at night isn’t Common Core State Standards or 21st Century Skills or Educating the Whole Child or Social and Emotional Wellness or etc, it’s this: what am I doing to help the next Johnny Marr?
Here’s what Marr had to say about his teachers in his autobiography, Set the Boy Free:
He was an eccentric man who brought a big green parrot called Major to school with him every day. Major was a big talker and had a cage in the classroom, and every hour Mr. Quinlan would let him fly around the room, causing mayhem and landing on pupils’ heads.
Eccentric man? Check. But I don’t have a parrot, dammit.
The other week my friend Ben sent me the obituary of Y.A. Tittle, remarking he was surprised to learn the man was not long dead. This naturally made me think of Algeria’s first president, Ben Bella.
You see, just that morning I’d read the following passage about the coup that deposed him:
Ben Bella is said to have been killed. To have been wounded. To be alive. To have been not wounded, but ill. Everything is reported, since nothing is known. One version has him on a ship anchored off Algiers. That version is confuted by a report that they are holding Ben Bella in the Sahara, at an army base. According to another view, he is still staying at the Villa Joly…
Everything is possible, since nothing is known.
The most common version is the official one: that Ben Bella is in Algeria and being well treated. It might even be true.
That’s from “Algeria Hides Its Face,” by Ryszard Kapuściński. Seeing as he’d written it in the mid-1960s, I decided to find out what finally happened to Ben Bella.
I must add that my hopes were not high; mortality in 20th century Algeria was not overly characterized by natural causes.
So I was pleased to learn that the official version was more or less true. Ben Bella died in 2012.
Occasionally you learn something astonishing. The other day I was in the midst of Mathematics for the Nonmathemetician* and read this:
There are people who campaign for the adoption of base twelve, because it offers special advantages.
I mean, this is America. There’s a lot you can say about the place, but it does not lack for heterogeneity of the mind. Yet I have never heard – or even heard of – anyone saying “You know what? We need to get rid of our base ten numerical system and replace it with base twelve.”
Turns out I’ve led a sheltered life.
Dozenalists aren’t cranks or crotchety anti-metric grouches. We just find the dozenal system easier, more efficient, and otherwise better than the decimal. This is a reasonable opinion well founded in the facts.
Because this record did not actually promise any sales, there was little incentive for any corporate entity, particularly a recording company, to accelerate the approval process. I asked Jon Lomberg if there was anything missing from the Voyager record for this kind of reason. “The Beatles,” he responded instantly. All four members of the band wanted “Here Comes the Sun” included – but their publisher wouldn’t grant the rights.
-Jim Bell, The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission
I watched some of the Ken Burns Vietnam documentary and what’s been indelible is the Marine saying, regarding a most unhappy matter, that he did not know how to explain it so that it made sense.
That sentiment less unhappily came to mind reading the above excerpt. Imagine trying to explain to the Heptapods or Kanamits such a situation. On the bright side, said situation does illuminate various aspects of human ingenuity.
Personally, my incomprehension regards the quadrofabs. I’d have been all “Uh, guys… You know you have a song called ‘Across the Universe,’ right?”
There is so much crap in this world, and then, suddenly, there is honesty and humanity.
-Ryszard Kapuściński, The Soccer War
If you were to recommend a band to me, and describe them as a Thai funk/surf soul trio, my central nervous system would probably execute some sort of armadillo maneuver.
And if you were to utter the dread words “jam band,” it would then summon the officer with the football.
Mercifully Professor Missionjmk used none of the above to recommend Khruangbin. I attended their show Saturday night and holy moly they were good. Easily the best Thai funk/surf soul jam band trio I’ve seen from Houston.
Seriously, they are the real deal, and they are on tour now.
Factually, if you had told any of us who worked with President Clinton as he prepared for his first summit with Boris Yeltsin in 1993 where the Russian economy, Russia’s government, and Russian relations with the United States were going to be in 2017, we would have been appalled.
I had my students write about the most fun thing they did over the summer. One, from South Korea, wrote about playing video games, and mentioned the slowness of the Internet here. This struck me because the night before I’d watched a PBS documentary on the Battle of Chosin. Imagine the bewilderment of those Marines if you’d told them that in a couple of generations South Korea would have a superior technological infrastructure to America’s.
Twenty-one years ago I was in Rwanda. Had you told me that today there’d be a national fiber optic network and universal health care, I’d have told you to lay off the waragi.