Rodent Roads

Snow melts and mouseways appear. 18 March, Ogle County. I’m not really sure which small mammals made these paths, but they look to me like little highways.

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Rodent roads, closer up.

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A Grand Detour in the flow of mice.

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Experimental writing: Following my cellphone’s suggestions

Here is a text co-written by my smartphone and me. I provided the starting word, and then I repeatedly chose one of the 3 words my keyboard program suggested to me. Here’s one starting with the “rhinos”:

I am going out with you and Jessica Simpson. the other day I was wondering how much of it is not an intended recipient of the book, but I didn’t know that you have any questions about your business and look forward to hearing from a single person who’s both polished and good luck. I’m sure that you have a lot more than happy to help me with the same thing as well as other hand.

Here’s another one that my phone wrote with my editing assistance, starting with the word “constables”:

the same time as a result of this product is not a problem with the help of my favorite part. it was the first time in the world of difference between the ages of my own mind. I don’t want to hear that you can also be used for a few years. this was a great deal with the new year to the title of your choice. the only thing that I have received this communication in error. please immediately notify me immediately by return false alert.

And here’s another text, made by my wife’s repeatedly selecting only the middle of three suggestions her phone offered:

Ok! See you manana, and then I will be able to set up a few weeks or months, but it is not a parent or something. I’m not sure if you are free to contact me. I have to go to the doctor. I am a beautiful person. I am a beautiful person. I am a beautiful person.

A median strip

Dead cigarette lighter in a median strip in Spring Brook Road at Perryville, Rockford, Ill., Friday, 27 March 2015, about 2 p.m.

Dead cigarette lighter in a median strip in Spring Brook Road at Perryville, Rockford, Ill., Friday, 27 March 2015, about 2 p.m.

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A cell phone’s selfie

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Education: A process rather than a product

My colleague David Perrin has published an op-ed in EdWeek where he points out the value of thinking of education as a process, rather than thinking of education as the creation of a product.

Process is what education fundamentally (and etymologically) is, an “educing” or drawing forth of intellectual potential through the cultivation of habits of mind. Habits of mind can be fostered in a variety of ways, such as writing, researching, using project-based learning and cooperative learning, connecting new learning to personal interests, generating multiple solutions to problems, playing devil’s advocate, finding joy in discovery, and recognizing the integral roles of metacognition, and even failure, in the learning process. This list is nowhere near exhaustive, as all of these processes, and many others, are vital to education. Yet few of them register well, if at all, on a standardized multiple-choice test.

The processes of teaching and learning can be messy and nebulous—if not impossible—to quantify. They are also unglamorous; they will never grab headlines the way that national sports championships, or even educational test results, do. As long as politicians and society insist on reducing “success” in education to the product of test scores, dedicated teachers, like Coach John Wooden, will have to block out the noise of “winning,” so that they can focus on the quiet yet vital processes of teaching and learning, regardless of what the scoreboard reads.

 

‘Beowulf at Breakfast': A poem

This famous poem-story, written in about 850 A.D. in the Old English/Anglo-Saxon language (and translated into modern English below by Seamus Heaney), is about a Nordic warrior tribe’s battle against the monster Grendel. This poem uses a solid, stolid language – lots of one-syllable words, concrete words (rather than abstract), and consonant-prominent words often repeated within the line.  For example, in translation:

Lines 442 to 455:

If Grendel wins, it will be a gruesome day;

he will glut himself on the Geats in the war-hall,

swoop without fear on that flower of manhood

as on others before. Then my face won’t be there

to be covered in death: he will carry me away

as he goes to ground, gorged and bloodied;

he will run gloating with my raw corpse

and feed on it alone, in a cruel frenzy

fouling his moor-nest. No need then

to lament for long or lay out my body:

if the battle takes me, send back

this breast-webbing that Weland fashioned

and Hrethel gave me, to Lord Hygelac.

Fate goes ever as fate must.

The assignment I gave myself (and, later, my students) was to write in the word-style of “Beowulf,” but in an everyday (not military) situation. I wanted to use Beowulf’s forceful language but not his subject matter. Here, then, is my poem “Beowulf At Breakfast”:

Back at my house-lair, I go to food-room

and gather eat-stuffs to break my night-fast.

Steel pot clangs hard on steel stove grate.

Flames cast blue light ‘neath flat pan-side.

Still-water soon leaps with boil-chaos; a song

of water-splash and fire-sputter dances away.

Whence I hear this ear-noise, I click knob

to off and pour steam-stuff into tea cups

and pour more soak-stuff onto flat oat-grains

in clay bowl. Also, there is syrup of maple

(or black-strap molasses) and raisin of grape

and butter of cow-milk and dust of red-bark

to boost my tongue’s taste-lust for else-dry oat parts.

Two Mute Girls: TV shows better without the sound

Dateline: A few minutes ago this evening.

Am currently watching “Two Broke Girls” with my TV’s sound on mute. Am enjoying this show far more as a series of absurd mime-tableaux than I ever liked it as dialogued sitcom. My wife said she’d like to know what’s going on, but there’s no way that knowing what these clichéd characters are doing would be more fun than my guesses of what they’re doing.

“It’s worse than being naked; I’m wearing polyester,” said the tall actress. My wife has turned on the sound and now the weirdest thing is the fake laffing at the nonjoke jokes.