18 December 2006

Portrait of a Lady

Thou hast committed—
Fornication: but that was in another country,
And besides, the wench is dead.
-The Jew of Malta.

AMONG the smoke and fog of a December afternoon
You have the scene arrange itself—as it will seem to do—
With "I have saved this afternoon for you";
And four wax candles in the darkened room,
Four rings of light upon the ceiling overhead,         5
An atmosphere of Juliet’s tomb
Prepared for all the things to be said, or left unsaid.
We have been, let us say, to hear the latest Pole
Transmit the Preludes, through his hair and fingertips.
"So intimate, this Chopin, that I think his soul         10
Should be resurrected only among friends
Some two or three, who will not touch the bloom
That is rubbed and questioned in the concert room."
—And so the conversation slips
Among velleities and carefully caught regrets         15
Through attenuated tones of violins
Mingled with remote cornets
And begins.

"You do not know how much they mean to me, my friends,
And how, how rare and strange it is, to find         20
In a life composed so much, so much of odds and ends,
[For indeed I do not love it...you knew? you are not blind!
How keen you are!]
To find a friend who has these qualities,
Who has, and gives         25
Those qualities upon which friendship lives.
How much it means that I say this to you—
Without these friendships—life, what cauchemar!"

Among the windings of the violins
And the ariettes         30
Of cracked cornets
Inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins
Absurdly hammering a prelude of its own,
Capricious monotone
That is at least one definite "false note."         35
—Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance,
Admire the monuments,
Discuss the late events,
Correct our watches by the public clocks.
Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks.         40

Now that lilacs are in bloom
She has a bowl of lilacs in her room
And twists one in his fingers while she talks.
"Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know
What life is, you who hold it in your hands";         45
(Slowly twisting the lilac stalks)
"You let it flow from you, you let it flow,
And youth is cruel, and has no remorse
And smiles at situations which it cannot see."
I smile, of course,         50
And go on drinking tea.
"Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall
My buried life, and Paris in the Spring,
I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world
To be wonderful and youthful, after all."         55

The voice returns like the insistent out-of-tune
Of a broken violin on an August afternoon:
"I am always sure that you understand
My feelings, always sure that you feel,
Sure that across the gulf you reach your hand.         60

You are invulnerable, you have no Achilles’ heel.
You will go on, and when you have prevailed
You can say: at this point many a one has failed.

But what have I, but what have I, my friend,
To give you, what can you receive from me?         65
Only the friendship and the sympathy
Of one about to reach her journey’s end.

I shall sit here, serving tea to friends..."

I take my hat: how can I make a cowardly amends
For what she has said to me?         70
You will see me any morning in the park
Reading the comics and the sporting page.
Particularly I remark
An English countess goes upon the stage.
A Greek was murdered at a Polish dance,         75
Another bank defaulter has confessed.
I keep my countenance,
I remain self-possessed
Except when a street piano, mechanical and tired
Reiterates some worn-out common song         80
With the smell of hyacinths across the garden
Recalling things that other people have desired.
Are these ideas right or wrong?

The October night comes down; returning as before
Except for a slight sensation of being ill at ease         85
I mount the stairs and turn the handle of the door
And feel as if I had mounted on my hands and knees.
"And so you are going abroad; and when do you return?
But that’s a useless question.
You hardly know when you are coming back,         90
You will find so much to learn."
My smile falls heavily among the bric-a-brac.

"Perhaps you can write to me."
My self-possession flares up for a second;
This is as I had reckoned.         95
"I have been wondering frequently of late
(But our beginnings never know our ends!)
Why we have not developed into friends."
I feel like one who smiles, and turning shall remark
Suddenly, his expression in a glass.         100
My self-possession gutters; we are really in the dark.

"For everybody said so, all our friends,
They all were sure our feelings would relate
So closely! I myself can hardly understand.
We must leave it now to fate.        105
You will write, at any rate.
Perhaps it is not too late.
I shall sit here, serving tea to friends."

And I must borrow every changing shape
To find expression...dance, dance         110
Like a dancing bear,
Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape.
Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance—

Well! and what if she should die some afternoon,
Afternoon grey and smoky, evening yellow and rose;         115
Should die and leave me sitting pen in hand
With the smoke coming down above the housetops;
Doubtful, for a while
Not knowing what to feel or if I understand
Or whether wise or foolish, tardy or too soon…         120
Would she not have the advantage, after all?
This music is successful with a "dying fall"
Now that we talk of dying—
And should I have the right to smile?

T.S. Eliot  (1888–1965). Prufrock and Other Observations, 1917.

Eyes of the World

Eyes of the World
by Robert Hunter
(and the Grateful Dead)

Right outside this lazy summer home
you don't have time to call your soul a critic, no
Right outside the lazy gate of winter's summer home
wondering where the nut-thatch winters
Wings a mile long just carried the bird away

Wake up to find out
that you are the eyes of the world
but the heart has its beaches
its homeland and thoughts of its own

Wake now, discover that you
are the song that the morning brings
but the heart has its seasons
its evenings and songs of its own

There comes a redeemer
and he slowly too fades away
There follows a wagon behind him
that's loaded with clay
and the seeds that were silent
all burst into bloom and decay
The night comes so quiet
and it's close on the heels of the day

Wake up to find out
that you are the eyes of the world
but the heart has its beaches
its homeland and thoughts of its own

Wake now, discover that you
are the song that the morning brings
but the heart has its seasons
its evenings and songs of its own

Sometimes we live no
particular way but our own
Sometimes we visit your country
and live in your home
Sometimes we ride on your horses
Sometimes we walk alone
Sometimes the songs that we hear
are just songs of our own

Wake up to find out
that you are the eyes of the world
but the heart has its beaches
its homeland and thoughts of its own
Wake now, discover that you
are the song that the morning brings
but the heart has its seasons
its evenings and songs of its own

29 November 2006

17. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Not a bad little book. It was a fast read and I enjoyed most of it. The ending was "sweet" in a warm, nice way and not a sugary, sticky way.

The book is about David, a young English boy whose mother is dying at the start of the book. Soon after she dies he begins to have attacks, where he blacks out but remembers the fluttering of flags and images of castles. He hears books murmuring to him. His dad moves him out to the country to avoid the dangers of the German bombing attacks on London. Things get really weird after his dad remarries and a new baby brother joins the family.

One night he runs off into the garden and makes his way through a crack in the wall and finds himself in a dangerous new world: Bleeding, murmuring trees; a caring Woodsman who escorts him to the King's castle; vicious half wolf/half human creatures who want to eat him whole; and an errant knight on a quest to find out what happened to his love. And David is being pursued by the Crooked Man who wants to use David to replace the old King with David.

What I enjoyed the most was the way Connolly weaved the elements of other fairy tales into his story. Little Red Riding Hood is there, though a little bit more worldly than we recall, and so too is the Gingerbread House of Hansel and Gretel, also not quite the same way.

The atmosphere of the book was cool, but ultimately not as captivating as the setting of The Golden Compass novels. I liked the book a lot and it was just short enough at 339 pages, or fast enough, that I didn't get sick of it.

16 November 2006

16. "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller (not Henry)

First of all, Marilyn Monroe didn't marry Henry Miller.

Second, this was a damn fine play. There's some subtlety that is over looked, I think, because of our familiarity with the theme and plot of the play, but Miller has a nice touch, especially with the character of Hale. John Proctor is a little over the top, and that takes away from some of the other characterizations. But don't we all know an Abigail Williams? And don't we all try to escape her clutches? And don' t we, sometimes, run from Abigail right into the arms of another Abigail? Blameth not the John Proctor.

And certainly we are a Nation of Mary Warrens. In fact, from now on, whenever I refer to these United States, I shall also call upon the spirit of Mary Warren. I hope you enjoy it, you MaryWarrenlanders (and Canadians).

15. The Scarlet Letter by Nate Hawthorne

It's damn difficult to read books outside the curriculum I teach these days, but I am slowly working my way through a few fiction books right now: The System of the World, the final book in the Baroque Cycle; The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. And a few non-fiction ones: Instant Weather Forecasting by not the Zen-Master Alan Watts; and the Boatowner's Electrical Handbook by Charlie Wing.

But I have asked you here to tell you about the glorious writing that is Nate's. I had not read The Scarlet Letter before reading it to teach it. Nothing better to clarify your concentration than having to get in front of 25 16 year olds and lead a book discussion. The AP Language class read the book, and we looked at it both as a piece of fiction, and as an argument. That Hawthorne was critiquing the Puritans in the plight of Hester, Chillingsworth, and Dimmesdale, and even criticizing his own ancestors (his grandfather of some great-kind, was one of the judges in the Salem Witch Trials, a fact that shames Nate so much that he adds the W to his last name to put some distance between the two of them. Old Judge Hathorne is a character in "The Crucible."). We looked at the monologues as editorials and Nate's language - his syntax and diction.

It was a fascinating way to read a book with teenagers, to really take a close look at the words in the text. For example, in the 200 pages of the novel NH uses the word ignomony 21 times. So we examine why that word, and why in those places. I really enjoy close reading and my best classes in college where the ones where we took a critical eye to word choice and the multiple meanings of words. (I realize that that close reading lead many a folk to the evils of the post-modern, but I found it intellectually satisfying right to that threshold.) I also learned that the kids, or at least these kids, will get as nerdy about language as you make it safe to be so.

A section I especially loved, and it will come as no surprise to my fellow Wordsworthians, was when little Pearl was in the forest, and the woods seemed to welcome her: the melancholy brook, the birds, the wildflowers that called out to her - I never knew Hawthorne to have such a delicate eye for nature and the sympathetic, in-tune feelings of his fellow transcendentalists. There are sentences, paragraphs even, where Hawthorne uses all of the descriptive finesse of Hank Thoreau.

19 October 2006

Welcome Julia Claire

Lucas and Selena had their baby! Julia Claire was born this morning around 9.30. Seven pounds and four ounces, and about 19 inches. Tall and thin and cute as can be. She is a giant compared to her big brother on his birthday.

I visited her this evening and then went to see Jacob. He's a holy terror, running around, throwing anything he can get his hands on, and generally getting into stuff no matter how secure it looks. He's just big enough to start wrestling and rough-housing with. Fun.

18 October 2006

what am I doing wrong?

I have a rice cooker that I use often to cook all kinds of different rice. But no matter what kind of rice I am cooking, I find I have the same problem - a lot of rice sticking to the bottom of the rice cooker. It really cuts down on my yield and is a waste of food. Am I doing something wrong? I am following the rules that came with the rice cooker for the rice/water ratio.

07 October 2006

two more poems

If I ever have a funeral, or even a memorial service of some kind, I'd like this poem to be read:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!

-Mary Frye (1932)

and "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" by John Donne

04 October 2006

Meeting at Night, by Robert Browning - 1845

Meeting at Night

THE gray sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i' the slushy sand. 

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro' its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

02 September 2006

14. The Confusion by Neal Stephenson

Book two of the Baroque Cycle, The Confusion, was my favorite of the two I've read. This one was a lot of swashbuckling naval adventure. Most of the 800ish page long book deals with Jack Shaftoe and his efforts to get rich and get back to England. And the main action takes place far from Europe, though we do check in on Eliza, married now and having babies, and the Natural Philosophers. This book deals more with economics and money than Quicksilver and less with the fine details of European politics.

More so in this book than the other I found myself asking, "why are we spending so much time on this piece of the adventure?" But as I said earlier, Stephenson is a mad genius and I found myself apologizing. I actually like the length of the books, rich detail and lots of characters and interplay. No action happens in Stephenson's world that doesn't have a corresponding reaction/s.

I look forward to reading the third installment, the final 900 pages or so, and I know I will feel a loss when the story comes to an end. There's still Cryptonomicon, though, which takes place in more modern times, with descendants of the Baroque characters.

I recommend, it's the better of Book 1 and 2.

13. Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson

I loved Snow Crash so much I decided to get some more Stephenson. Quicksilver is book one of the Baroque Cycle.

The book is divided into three sections - the first deals with England's Natural Philosophers of the Royal Society like the fictional Daniel Waterhouse and his room mate the real Isaac Newton and their pals. The second section introduces two other main characters Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe a Vagabond and crusading mercenary soldier who is suffering from the French Pox (syphilis), and Eliza who is from the fictional island of Qwghlm and has found herself in the harem of the Sultan.

Clocking in at just over 900 pages, Quicksilver would be difficult for me to summarize. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the last two sections of the book. I really had to wonder why Stephenson included the first section dealing with some obscure topics and people. But as I read on I realized that the Baroque Era, which just preceded the Enlightenment, was dominated by the investigation of the natural world. The conclusions of these philosopher scientists rocked the world of religion, politics, and science.

One other interesting technique Stephenson uses is that he starts the story in the middle, we see Waterhouse living in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1713. He is asked to come back to England to help settle a long-simmering conflict between Leibniz and Newton over who discovered the calculus. So the frame is set that most of the tale is trying to catch up with the first few chapters (and in fact, after I finished the second novel I reread the first section of the first book again, and now I'm convinced Stephenson is a genius writer).

The second and third drops the Natural Philosophers altogether and picks up with Jack outside the siege of Vienna, about to invade the city with some army he has hired on to fight for. After he goes chasing after an ostrich (figuring the feathers are the best plunder he stands to gain as a lowly foot-soldier), he stumbles across one of the Sultan's men killing all of the girls in the harem. He puts a stop to that and rescues Eliza. She turns out to be from Qwghlm, an island off the north west coast of England. When Eliza was little she and her mother were captured and made the servants of a French noble. She was then traded for some horses and found herself in the harem. So Jack and Eliza escape on Turk, this great war horse that Jack steals. They go on some amazing misadventures, but it turns out that Eliza is a genius for making deals. She wheels and deals and makes a small fortune. Unfortunately Jack, in order to gain her love, decided to engage in a bit of trading for himself and invests in a slave ship. Eliza, a former slave, gets mad at Jack for perpetuating the slave trade and harpoons Jack before he can make it off the ship and make it up to her. He comes to in the middle of the ocean just as their ship is coming under attack from Barbary Corsairs. Jack is rowing a slave galley as Quicksilver ends.

I'm leaving out so much: cryptography, machinations of the French court, letters between Natural philosophers, machinations of the Natural Philosophers, James II, Louis XIV, Catholics, Protestants, Germans, and the Dutch (including of course, William of Orange).

I recommend.

03 August 2006

Dear Persuasion

NOW finale to the shore!
Now, land and life, finale, and farewell!
Now Voyager depart! (much, much for thee is yet in store;)
Often enough hast thou adventur’d o’er the seas,
Cautiously cruising, studying the charts, 5
Duly again to port, and hawser’s tie, returning:
—But now obey, thy cherish’d, secret wish,
Embrace thy friends—leave all in order;
To port, and hawser’s tie, no more returning,
Depart upon thy endless cruise, old Sailor! 10

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

27 July 2006

I'm in the frickin White House, man!

I was able to go to the White House today and watch the Press Conference with Tony Snow. He is a handsome man.

We went in through the West Gate, on the corner of 17th and Pennsylvania and were able to walk around the driveway to the Press room. Entering the room, the podium is on your right, the seats right in front of you, and the cameras to the left. My impression of the room from TV (televised press conferences, movies, West Wing) was that it was very big. It is not. In fact, it's quite cozy.

We headed to the back of the room, where the tv cameras are, and went downstairs. Here are the offices where the newspaper writers write and the radio reporters report. These offices are very very small. The C-SPAN office is the size of a bath tub. The AP office is the size of your average office cubicle, but four reporters have to use it. Fox Radio has an office big enough for a chair and a desk just big enough for a computer. The radio gear itself is shelved/stacked high along the walls. Each newspaper there has a desk just big enough for their computers. Amazing.

We took seats in the back. The seats in the last row, all of them broken in some way, are for guests. In come all the regulars – Helen Thomas was the highlight, of course, but so was the other AP guy Thomas Mann, I think his name was. Lot of folks you see on TV. Pretty cool.

I wanted to go eat at the White House Mess (hall), but didn't want to get introuble, or C-SPAN in trouble and dash any hopes of a return trip, no matter how unlikely. What a trip, though, to be in the White House.

I had many, many moments where I was thinking, "I'm in the frickin White House, man!" Or, "I'm on the driveway of the frickin White House, man!" Or, "That's one of the door-opening Marines. Of the frickin White House, man!"

24 July 2006

sold! to the gentleman from Sayville

I sold Persuasion. JMcG came out and took a look at the boat on Sunday and to my great surprise, after a little bit of a look around and walkabout, bought it. I am very happy for him. He got a great little boat that will serve him, and his family, very well. He and I are going to go out sailing in the beginning of August, just to give him a little more info about the process of sailing on Persuasion.

I was surprised because I expect all buyers to be hesitant to actually fork over the cash. And sometimes the idea of buying a boat is better than actually buying a boat. I guess that could be true of any large item.

The sale is bittersweet - I have had so many good times on Persuasion, so of course I am sad to see it go. On the other hand I am excited for my new life, and series of projects, on/with Redwing.

21 July 2006

DC's National Portrait Gallery response

I want to live in a Albert Pinkham Ryder painting.

Like the Hudson River School painters, who I like the most, especially the ones at the NY Historical Society, the Ryder paintings seem to capture the mood of real nature the best. The viewer is in the weather.

I also strongly recommend you read the short story All Gold Canyon by Jack London. A short story in my top three.

12. Sea Change by Peter Nichols

A short book about this guy who plans to sail from England to Maine.

He wants to sail to Maine because he has this old wooden boat to sell and the market in Maine is better than anywhere else for old wooden boats. He also goes for the adventure, and to conquer a bad experience he had on his first blue-water experience.

He is also escaping the melt down of his marriage. At the start of the book, say, in the first two chapters I found myself wanting to know more about why the marriage failed. Unfortunately we spend a lot of time in the rest of the book poring over details of his ex-wife's diaries (found in the boat during the trip).

I shouldn't complain too much, because ultimately I thought the book had some value as a crossing the ocean adventure and I learned a little bit more about trade winds and boat maintenance.

18 July 2006

11. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

A good little story about the Cultural Revolution. I'll admit that I know next to nothing about Chinese history. I have a little bit of stuff rattling around about the dynasties and the Revolution and establishment of Taiwan.

This story is about two young men who are relocated to a remote mountain village for re-education. As part of the Cultural Revolution city slickers were sent into the country to work alongside the peasants. The peasants decided how long the re-education would last, and in the case of the two main characters there is almost no hope that the re-education will end because each of the boys' parents are considered radicals.

Conditions on the mountain are harsh. Rains cause so much flooding that their little, drafty house is on stilts. Because they have been to the movies, and because of the natural story-telling gifts of Luo, the boys get special treatment (fewer work details and opportunities to go to the city to watch new movies).

During their travels they meet, and Luo falls in love with the Little Seamstress, the daughter of the tailor who works on the mountain. Luo teaches her how to read, and takes her to the movies in the city. Eventually she catches up with Luo's skills and wants to go to the city all the time. And she starts dressing a little more cosmopolitan (she can make her own clothes, you see).

Luo, who has to stay on the mountain, can only watch helplessly as she is pulled out of her old self.

Another section of the story deals with Four Eyes, a fellow city-slicker sent to the mountain who smuggles in a suitcase full of books. In exchange for some help, Four Eyes lends Luo a copy of Balzac. Luo uses the novel his story-telling and wooing of the Little Seamstress.

To say anymore would be to reveal too much. This is a short book, and the story is well told, in a spare style that leaves us as isolated as the two protagonists.

17 July 2006

so far so good

So I have been down here in our nation's capitol for a whole week and I am loving every minute of it. I haven't had many more star sightings, but I have seen some very cool sites.

First, a description of what I have been doing. For the past week we have been working on the CSPAN website, working on creating a list of keywords, working on putting some more videos onto the CSPAN Classroom website. We also had a reunion of most of the former Fellows. That proved to be fun and valuable. A lot of smart, motivated people and it was quite refreshing. I had partly dreaded it as another run of boring meetings. Not so.

Second, I have done some serious sight-seeing. After a grueling bike ride (hills, humidity, I'm a wuss) I spent the day visitng some museums. The first stop was the Holocaust Memorial. That was chilling, gripping, and sobering. It was packed. Next was the Smithsonian American History Museum. I went here mostly to see the Foucault's Pendulum only to find out it has't been here for ten years. I had an old guide book. But I did see the flag that flew over Ft William Henry, that FS Key wrote the poem for. (When I was in the Navy I was stationed on the Francis Scott Key (SSBN 657).)

On Sunday I went to the Native American Museum, probably the best museum I have been to. I spent six hours there after vowing no more than three. Next was the National Archives where I saw the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Billof Rights. There was plenty more there, but those, obviously where the highlights.

I felt like I was seeing some ancient artifact, I mean, I have large parts of all three documents memorized, so why would I feel compelled to go see the real, actual copies? It didn't make any rational sense to me at any part of the visit, but I am glad tohave done it. Another interesting thing about the visit was the people who I was in line with, both in front and behind me parents were making their kids look at the documents (and in some cases reading to them) and telling them how they would be studying these in school. I had two reactions. First that teachers have an extraordinary responsibility to teach citizenship and civics, and that parents, or at least these parents (and in my experience, most parents) are abdicating, or giving over a shared responsibility to the Social Studies/Civics teachers. And not even many teachers, but the 7th and 11th grade teachers who, in NY, are tasked with teaching US history.

Anyway. Washington is great. People keep bracing me for disappointment, knowing I am from NYC, that DC isn't going to be so great. So far I am fully loving it.

12 July 2006

DC, baby. Lovin' it.

After less than a week in DC I am absolutely loving the city.

I am here working with CSPAN, working in/with their education department. The other Fellows and I are creating the clip of the week for the CSPAN Classroom website, and we are working on some other web projects, combining the video of the Congress and the education programs. So far so good.

There are many differences between living in NYC and living in DC, and I may get to listing them later when I have more experience here in DC. But one cool thing, so far, is that there are many star sightings for a political junkie like me. For example, on the first day of work, at Monday's lunch I crossed paths with the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa and his retinue (and Secret Service folks). He was coming in to talk on either CSPAN or MSNBC (we are in the same building). Later that day, as my fellow Fellow and I were leaving work, she yelled across the lobby, "Hello Charles." Turns out she knows conservative writer Charles Krauthammer.

Yesterday at happy hour, Howard Dean walked by. This morning, I met Ben Cohen from Ben and Jerry's. Right after that I met Brian Lamb, the CEO and brain behind CSPAN – he started CSPAN, and controls its direction.

The work day is long enough to prevent much museum-hopping, but I am going to hit some up this weekend, starting with the Smithsonian.

I also brought my bike and will be having some bike rides this weekend.

27 June 2006


Thanks for switching over from the old place.

All of the old posts are here, with none of the comments. I'll move those over when and as I can.

22 June 2006

Most of the reactions from fellow teachers have focused on the pay increase I will experience.

21 June 2006

Steinhardt update

I'm baffled and frustrated.

After receiving a letter from the Admissions Director explaining that the Steinhardt admissions process is rigorous, and that my credentials don't warrant my admission, and that because of the number of appplicants there is no way for them to explain on a case by case basis why an applicant was rejected I appealed to the Dean one more time. I asked for a meeting so we could discuss the logic of the admissions department's decision. I see it as a failure on their part of some kind that I am allowed to TEACH STEINHARDT'S STUDENTS but CAN'T BE ONE.

She promptly replied, "Dear Mr F, I have reviewed your application and see no reason to change it. I do not think it would serve a purpose for us to meet. I wish you the best in all your pursuits.

Mary M. B, Ph.D.
New York University
Steinhardt School of Education

So now I am wondering what to do next.

I have 18 credits or so from College of St Rose, which is upstate. They offer discounted correspondence classes to UFT members. Very soon I will no longer be a UFT member (thankfully).

And I have three credits from Brooklyn College.

I have nine credits from NYU completed and have another nine credits coming because of the last three student teachers (Cooperating teachers earn three credits as compensation for hosting).

Because of the 18 credits I will have completed at NYU I want to get an NYU English Ed Masters - transfer all my credits in to NYU and finish the degree requirements there. NYU has a great reputation. And I'm so nearly done anyway. (In fact, by the time I am accepted I may be able to petition for graduation right away. Weird.)

Possible options I have considered:

Writing to the President of the University

Writing to the NYU school newspaper

Shutting up and writing an overwhelming application next time (letters of recommendation from all six of my former student teachers (seven if you count the one from Hofstra), my principals, assistant principals, the guys I worked with at NYU coordinating the student teaching, Gallatin and School of Ed professors I have taken class with, C-SPAN, Ralph Nader, parents of my students, etc.

Saying fuggit and skipping over the Eng Ed Masters and getting a PhD in something.

19 June 2006

10. Victory: An Island Tale by Joseph Conrad

First let me quote about what Jack London said about the book: "I am glad I am alive, if, for no other reason, because of the joy of reading this book."

And in my estimation, this is an understatement. This is a fine fine book and will be read again.

The book, finished in 1914 and is set in the 1890s, is divided into four parts.

In the first we see our hero Axel Heyst, a Swedish baron and drifter-gentleman drifting through the South Pacific. Soon he meets up with an English trader (remember we are in the era of imperialism) who was come on hard times. Morrison's brig has been impounded in Delli, a city in East Timor, by some shady Portuguese customs officials and unless he can pay the fines, Morrison is going to lose his ship. The fine is ridiculously small, and the Portuguese are just trying to get his boat for cheap. Everyone knows Morrison is broke because he trades with the natives for credit, always vowing to squeeze the native villages "next time." Morrison, all hang-dog, meets up with Heyst and Heyst, in a decision he doesn't even reflect on, offers to loan Morrison the money. Heyst realizes that he isn't going to see any money back, and Morrison is so thankful for Heyst's miracle act of salvation that he acts with super/hyper gratefulness to Heyst. They have quite a scene on board the ship and in order to get Morrison to stop crying, and to get the relationship a little more balanced, Heyst and Morrison decide to team up on a coal mining operation on the island of Samburan. They find backers, set up operations, and even manage to get a little coal out of the island. Morrison goes home to England to get some more backers, but while he is there catches a bad cold and dies. The news gets back to Sourabaya, the headquarters for the white traders in the book, and the hotel manager, this German named Schomberg, begins gossiping about Heyst and how he managed to get Morrison's money and send him back to England to die. All he does all day is work on Heyst and how the Swede manipulated Morrison, etc. He's a bully.

In Book 2 Heyst appears at Schomberg's hotel. Since Morrison died the coal mining operation has been liquidated and Heyst has been living on Samburan by himself, which everyone in Sourabaya thinks is weird, especially Schomberg, of course. Schomberg hates Heyst for some reason, and has got himself into the habit of turning every tidbit about Heyst into something terrible and revealing Heyst as a devil/user/manipulator/etc. Most of the traders staying at the hotel are content to leave the business in the past, but Schomberg keeps the Heyst/Morrison scandal in everyone's ear.

As entertainment, Schomberg has hired the Zangiacomo Ladies Orchestra. Heyst comes in and is basically swept away by one of the girls, Alma. Of course the girl is also Schomberg's favorite, too. She is a lost soul, and grew up poor in England. When her father was put in the invalid home she shipped off with the music tour. She has no idea where on the globe she is and has basically died inside. Until she meets Heyst, who decides to "steal" her from the orchestra. Unfortunately for Heyst, the girl is Schomberg's new toy - he hasn't tried anything yet, but the pressure has been building, and the time for Schomberg to make his move is nigh. And, unfortunately for Schomberg, he is married to a woman who Conrad's narrator describes as, "the most unattractive object in existence - miserable, insignificant, faded, crushed, old." And this is one of the flattering descriptions of her. So when Heyst steals her, Schomberg doesn't even have a good case for being usurped. Heyst and Alma get away to Samburan, Heyst's old coal mining headquarters.

In Book 3, two strangers show up at Schomberg's hotel. Almost immediately they get hold of Schomberg and set up a illegal gambling operation in the dance hall where the Ladies Orchestra used to play. Schomberg is beside himself with misery: a terrible wife, would-be girlfriend stolen (by the abominable Heyst no less!), and these two hooligans bullying him and running his hotel. And no end in sight to any of his misery.

Book 4 is set up when Schomberg gets the ear of one of the bandits and describes the riches that Heyst must have hidden on his island hideaway. I'm not even going to speak about the conclusion. Even the back cover gives too much away.

Critics, or so says the editor's introduction, consider Victory to be Conrad's worst book. It was the first book he wrote after his first big commercial success, the novel Chance, and they feel like it was a bit too commercial for an artist like Conrad. But even the editor confesses that the major critics admit that Victory has "great aesthetic and intellectual value."

Bob Dylan so loved the book he put a picture of Joseph Conrad on the back of the album cover for Desire and wrote a song titled Black Diamond Bay which is the name of the bay on Samburan where Morrison and Heyst planned to have their coal operation. The lyrics have nothing to do with the book, so don't try to glean anything from the song.

The book was awesome! The scene when Heyst saves Morrison is described so well and so cleanly I feel lucky to be alive to have read it. The scene when Heyst and Alma meet is described so well and so cleanly I feel lucky to be alive to have read it. The ruffians who take over Schomberg's hotel are described so well and so cleanly I feel lucky to be alive to have read about them (it's a study in creating NPCs). And the conclusion of the novel is plotted and described so well and so cleanly I feel lucky to be alive to have read it. I'm not kidding.

new boat + new job = new apt

I got a new apartment!

It's a 1BR in West Babylon, which is a hair closer to where the boat will be than where the job will be, but it's all so close it doesn't really matter. The whole trip from school to the boat is 12 miles, so we aren't talking about a big difference.

Right by the apartment I have two giant LI-sized supermarkets, an IHOP, and a 7-11. Behind the back yard (yes!) is a parking lot for what has to be one of the last independent music stores in the Northeast. Across the street is a 7-11 (handy for beer runs).

The bedroom is the same size as the living room, about 20x20. The living room is slightly bigger because it also shares the kitchen. Overall the place is excellent for what I need - enough space and a god price. I'll include some pictures here, but the dude who is living there now doesn't have much of his stuff packed up.

14 June 2006

I can host and teach Steinhardt's students but I am not allowed to be one...

John M and Dean B,

I am writing to appeal my rejection to the Steinhardt School of Education for the Fall 2006 semester.

On May 16th I received the rejection letter from the admissions department. On May 24th I wrote Mr. M to ask why I was rejected. Two weeks later, on June 7th, he returned my email, saying that he was looking into it and would respond shortly. I write now because I fear the summer slipping away without response or resolution.

I feel that I have a very strong case for admission to the School of Education and I would ask that you consider my appeal.

Before I present that evidence, I feel that I must address an issue that may have prevented my application from receiving a full and fair examination. On my resume I inadvertently cited that I was pursuing my Masters in English Ed at NYU since 2003. When Associate Dean VB called to fact-check that citation, I realized what I had done and corrected the entry with her and on my resume. What I meant was that I had been pursuing my Masters since 2003 (I have about 18 credits from College of St Rose, three from Brooklyn College and now nine from NYU). I was not trying to "put one over," nor was I trying to claim something that was wholly unfounded, but anticipating my admission to Steinhardt and eventual graduation.

I have been teaching in my own classroom for the past six years. I was able to get my teaching position with a Temporary License. Jumping from one type of temporary license to another I was able to take enough classes, workshops, and exams to obtain my Provisional License.

I have a strong desire to be and remain an educator. This desire was first born while I was a student at Gallatin and worked in the School of Education (as DW's assistant at the Newsletter). I was also an America Reads tutor. In fact, I was included in one of the articles featuring the program in the School of Education Newsletter (around Spring of 1999).

More compelling, I feel, is the fact that I have invited six Steinhardt student teachers into my classroom - four of them have since been hired. Two of them just graduated. Please look up their evaluations of me, or ask Lana McG, who was an advisor for five of them. She continues to urge her advisees to come to my classroom for Student Teaching and observing. If you would like to contact them, please let me know and I will pass along their information.

Am I to believe that I can host and teach Steinhardt's students but I am not allowed to be one?

One of my responsibilities at my school, the ICE, is the Student Teacher Coordinator. Our school, in the past year alone, has placed eight student teachers in the English and Social Studies departments. And we have placed nearly that many in the Math and Science departments. Not to mention the countless observers who have made progress toward their own licensing requirements at ICE. And because our school is small (380 kids, 28 teachers), this represents a large percentage of our faculty. I feel that student teachers benefit from the small setting because they have such a huge presence in the school and impact on the learning environment. Please contact Mr. L or Mr. H for a review of my professionalism and attention to detail.

Recently ICE was notified by Associate Dean LW that we were awarded a grant/stipend from the Teaching and Learning program because of our continued support of the Steinhardt SOE and our placement of your students as observers.

I am sure I will be able to maintain excellent academic progress because of my prior teaching experience and because, in the three NYU Steinhardt classes that I have taken already, I have earned three As.

Finally, I must mention that I have been awarded a Teaching Fellowship at C-SPAN for the upcoming summer. I will be working in their education department creating lesson plans and materials for their C-SPAN Classroom website. The site is used by teachers across the country to create lessons and units for their classrooms. I was just about to send the C-SPAN press release to Debra for the Steinhardt Newsletter and to Gallatin for their Alumni Newlsetter.

Considering my qualifications, and my relationship with Steinhardt, you can imagine my profound disappointment about not being invited back to Steinhardt community. I would ask that you please reconsider my rejection and allow me to finish my Master's degree at NYU.

Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you very soon.


12 June 2006

9. The Hound of the Baskervilles by A.C. Doyle

Great book!

I hadn't read any of the Sherlock Holmes books yet, so when I stumbled upon this one in my classroom bookshelf I thought I'd give it a try.

A brief summary of the plot, first: After his uncle dies (under mysterious circumstances) Sir Henry Baskerville returns from North America to assume leadership/control of his family's ancestral estate. As soon as he gets to town he is given repeated warnings to go leave as soon as possible lest he succumb to the same fate as his uncle. Seems the family is cursed by a great hound, a big dog that lives on the moor near the house. Enter Sherlock Holmes and his pal Watson. They are called upon by Uncle Baskerville's friend Dr. Mortimer, who feels the uncle's death was suspicious and want some of the loose strings to be gathered up.

I found the style of writing to be very compelling, each chapter pushing me into the next. I was reminded of episodic Tale of Two Cities/Dickens. I was also pleased that the clues to the mystery were given to us as they were revealed, as in, the investigators shared what they knew with the reader right away. None of this Murder She Wrote surprise reveals at the end when all the information, motive, alibi, evidence is dropped in on us so we can see how diabolical the crime and how savvy the detectives. Here you had a fighting chance to make connections and riddle things out for yourself. Not to say there weren't a few surprises - maybe I'm a bit if a dunce, but I had no idea who the Man on the Tor was...

Definitely read this book - it's well-written and entertaining. I'm definitely going to read more Sherlock Holmes (I read the first page of Study in Scarlet in the bookshop the other day and I was simply shocked to find Holmes abusing cocaine!)

07 June 2006

8. Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

For a long time I have been a fan of the band Blues Traveler. I got into them courtesy of my brother KC who has a bunch of their albums, including some of their live stuff (there is even more in the Live Music Archive). One of my favorite songs of theirs is called "Bagheera." It's about the Black Panther from the Jungle Book who serves as one of Mowgli's tutor's.

I recently read the Jungle Book to get a sense of how true the song's lyrics were and what the context was.

The first three stories in the Jungle Book are about Mowgli, the Man-cub who is raised by a bunch of Wolves of the Free People's tribes. Because he is a Man and has fewer skills it is considered unsportsmanlike for creatures of the Jungle to kill him, though he is still at great risk of the dangers of living in the Jungle. So he gets some extra instruction from his tutor Baloo, the Bear. He is given the secret languages of the Jungle so he can claim protection no matter where he goes, and learns all the various subtleties of Jungle Law.

In the first story we see how the baby Mowgli runs from the scene of a tiger attack right into the den of Father and Mother Wolf. Hot on his trail is Shere Khan, the lame but terrible tiger who attacked Mowgli's village. Shere Khan attacks cows and humans because he has a bad foot, injured at birth, and is not capable of catching bigger game. The tiger demands the Man-cub as part of the reward for his hunt, but Mother and Father Wolf tell him that he is not to have the Man-cub and has to wait until the tribe speaks.

At the next Tribal Council the Mother Wolf asks if she can adopt Mowgli. Baloo, the teacher of Jungle Law, who is allowed at the meetings because he eats only nuts and roots and wild honey, quickly volunteers to tutor Mowgli. The leader of the tribe, Akela, agrees to let Raksha, the Mother Wolf, adopt Mowgli if a second will stand in for him.

"A black shadow dropped down into the circle. It was Bagheera the Black Panther, inky black all over, but with the panther markings showing up in certain lights like the pattern of watered silk. Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody cared to cross his path; for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had a voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and a skin softer than down.

'O Akela, and ye the Free People,' he purred, 'I have no right in your assembly, but the Law of the Jungle says that if there is a doubt which is not a killing matter in regard to a new cub, the life of that cub may be bought at a price. And the Law does not say who may or may not pay that price.

To kill a naked cub is shame. Besides, he may make better sport for you when he is grown. Baloo has spoken in his behalf. Now to Baloo’s word I will add one bull, and a fat one, newly killed, not half a mile from here, if ye will accept the man's cub according to the Law. Is it difficult?'"

The next two stories trace Mowgli's expulsions from the tribe and the consequences of that decision for the Tribe, Mowgli, and the rest of the Jungle.

There are a few more stories, all with animals- one about a mongoose, one about a white seal, and one about animals in the service of the British Empire. All of them were quite good.

06 June 2006


So, NY Harbor School called on Friday afternoon to offer me a job. We finally spoke, after a weekend of phone tag, about what they want me to do there.

In the course of the conversation the principal said, "we had a lot of great candidates for the English position, so we want you to teach SS." Ouch!

I taught Humanities, SS, and politics here at ICE, and I don't want to teach it anymore - one of the sundry reasons I am leaving the school. I want to teach literature! The Harbor School has asked that I become a lead teacher in their weak SS dept, teaching all 11th grade American History or some kind of a mix of 10th Global and 11th American. Such a bummer!

01 June 2006

7. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

A sad little tale.

I had never read it before and only did so because I had to a demo lesson on yesterday.

(The lesson went well enough that I was immediately shuttled in to talk to the Asst Supt of Personnel for the High School. And my AP just told me they called to check references already.)

I expected the play to be about a failure of the American Dream, but what I got was a lesson on the consequences of seeking yourself outside of yourself. And I was stunned to read that Willy had an affair, because this never makes it into the reviews or write-ups about the play and it seems to be a pretty important detail to leave out considering how the discovery of the act pretty much sets up the main conflcit in the story.

I recommend you read it if nothing else to fill in the blank of the American canon.

6. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

An excellent little book.

The book starts out with the Mole getting a feeling that he has to get out of his hole and get outside (a metaphorical birthing). He wanders around and meets up with Water Rat. The two of them go on a boating adventure on the River.

This is the chapter with the ever so famous passage regarding "messing about in boats."

The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up his forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. "Lean on that!" he said. "Now then, step lively!" and the Mole to his surprise and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.

"This has been a wonderful day!" said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. "Do you know, I've never been in a boat before in all my life."

"What?" cried the Rat, open-mouthed: "Never been in a—you never— well I—what have you been doing, then?"

"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

"Nice? It's the ONLY thing," said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing," he went on dreamily: "messing— about—in—boats; messing——"

"Look ahead, Rat!" cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

"—about in boats—or WITH boats," the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. "In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not. Look here! If you've really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?"

After that they meet with Toad, who is an arrogant, reckless gentleman bachelor who lives in a magnificent mansion on the hill. He is the guy who rushes headlong into the abyss, first getting deeply into all things boats. But when the Rat and Mole meet up with him he is going on a trip in a camper towed by a horse.

Rat resists going on the trip, preferring to stay home and hang out on the River. But Mole seems excited and Rat doesn't like to disappoint anyone, so down the road the three of them go.

But then they get run off the road by a motor car and Toad gets all wild-eyed and obsessed with cars and going as fast as he possibly can. This leads to a whole mess of other adventures, including Toad's arrest and trial for stealing a car.

The stories have a loose connection with each other, and about half way through the book I was wondering if they were just single-standing narrative sketches. But slowly the thread comes together with a satisfying end.

Some of the individual chapters are quite deep. In one of them a Traveling Rat bumps into Water Rat and they get into a conversation about whether it's better to stay home or go on many travels. In another Otter's son is missing and Rat and Mole go looking for him and meet Friend and Helper himself.

All of the writing is beautiful. Really vivid descriptions, and each word seems to be chosen specifically for the flavor it gives, and how it affects the taste of the entire stew. I found myself not wanting the stories to end just so I could keep reading the delicious words. It was that good.

The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. At last, over the rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and once more they began to see surfaces—meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens, and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, all washed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, but with a difference that was tremendous. Their old haunts greeted them again in other raiment, as if they had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel and come quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to see if they would be recognised again under it.

Fastening their boat to a willow, the friends landed in this silent, silver kingdom, and patiently explored the hedges, the hollow trees, the runnels and their little culverts, the ditches and dry water-ways. Embarking again and crossing over, they worked their way up the stream in this manner, while the moon, serene and detached in a cloudless sky, did what she could, though so far off, to help them in their quest; till her hour came and she sank earthwards reluctantly, and left them, and mystery once more held field and river.

Then a change began slowly to declare itself. The horizon became clearer, field and tree came more into sight, and somehow with a different look; the mystery began to drop away from them. A bird piped suddenly, and was still; and a light breeze sprang up and set the reeds and bulrushes rustling. Rat, who was in the stern of the boat, while Mole sculled, sat up suddenly and listened with a passionate intentness. Mole, who with gentle strokes was just keeping the boat moving while he scanned the banks with care, looked at him with curiosity.

'It's gone!' sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. 'So beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!' he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.

It's definitely a story I will read at bedtime to the nephews and nieces.

You can read an online copy here.

23 May 2006

thank you, VA


5. Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove

So I finally finished another book, only my fifth of 2006. It's been a slogging spring. I have been getting a lot of stuff done, just not reading.

I just finished reading Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove. HT is the master of alternative history fiction. A bunch of his books look really intriguing. When I was in HS I read Dick's Man in the High Castle, and have been a casual fan of the alternative history genre since. I mean, having an answer to the "What if..." question can be fun.

So the premise of this story is that just before things go really bad for the Confederacy, when things look their bleakest, a guy shows up offering some AK47s to the South. Because of these amazing guns, the South is able to push north, eventually capturing Washington DC. That's about half the book's worth of story. At first the Confeds are super willing to go along with the gun sellers, but then they start to get nervous – just what are these men capable of. To allay Lee's fears, the gun-sellers explain that they are from 150 years in the future, and that they have a machine that can bring them back exactly 150 years into the past. They explain to Lee that the South loses the Second American Revolution and that Lincoln lords it over them, putting them in a worse position than the slaves they are fighting to keep. Lee has trouble believing it, but eventually swallows the whole story.

The rest of the story discusses the political aftermath of the South's victory. The politicians quickly realize that they won't be able to keep all of the black people as slaves. And this question becomes the focus of the first election after the end of the War. In some areas Northern Armies gave the freed slaves lots of freedom, and to re-enslave them would be impossible. And the Union's black troops fought so well that even the most hardened slavery supporters had to admit that the slaves might be capable of learning. But even then, freedom doesn't mean equality in the eyes of the law.

Once the men from the future get wind of this, they freak out. They supported the South to ensure a place for the continuation and success of slavery. So the Confederate Government has to decide what to do about that, which brings us to the tidy close of the book and the story.

Overall it was an interesting book and you don't have to be a Civil War scholar to be able to read it.

19 May 2006

Race on!

Raced last night in the first race of the first series of the season. Jack drove and did main, Mike and I did the headsail, and I did the foredeck (sort of). It was very, very windy when we went out to the course, so we started out with a reef and a little bit of the jib rolled out.

Even as we paced the start line the wind began to die down. After the start we shook out the reef and rolled out the rest of the jib. With the three of us on the boat, we balanced it out nicely.

As we got closer to 6 the wind picked up again and we had a good sprint back to the Invisible X Mark (it was on the other side of the committee boat). After we went back to 9, and decided not to put up the spinnaker, we tried to pole out the jib. Unfortunately the track came off the mast, at the very top, so using the pole was out of the question. We managed, though, and finished with some dignity, sails full and a bone in our teeth.

Went over to Lewis Circle for some beers with the fellas, checked out Hugh's new Flying Scot, and then returned to the slip.

We came in DFL (Dead F/n Last), which is what I expected. But who cares, we had an excellent time.

Next week is committee duty.

17 May 2006

the search continues

Had an interview at Syosset High School on Monday. I left feeling pretty good. Unfortunately I had to mention that I teach Macbeth to the 7th grade, which so far, on LI has met with disbelief and a general reaction that leaves an impression with me that they don't think I know what I am doing (opposite of the reaction they are supposed to have).

Macbeth is perfect for the 7th grade - not too complicated, it has blood and guts, lying and trickery, witches, and it's short.

I also had a second interview at the New York Harbor School and it went very well. I am pretty sure that by Memorial Day they will have offered me a job.

Interviews are very different on LI than the city. Both ask what your experiences have been, and what your extra-curricular interests would be. But on LI, they don't seem to put much stock in school leadership-type things, like running the tutoring program, like running the student teacher placement system, like teaching outside your license area, what curriculums you have written or co-written, what kinds of collaborations (inside or outside the school) you have created, or even inter-disciplinary connections you have exploited.

In the city they ask and emphasize all of that stuff LI leaves out. And I'm wondering if it's the difference between looking for leaders or followers, or maybe, additions to a team, or additions to a, uh, army, I guess. (Army in that the soldiers have no say over the direction or speed they march.)

Either school would be great opportunities. I could start a sailing program in Syosset, and it sure would be nice to work in a school and an area that has a lot of resources (yesterday their budget passed). NYHS would be closer to my personal interests, sailing and boats and whatnot, but the needs of the school and its programs may leave me with less time for my own personal sailing and boat rebuilding.

12 May 2006


After arranging to get coverage for first period, I rode my bike down to the North Cove on Tuesday morning to watch the Volvo Ocean Racers come in. Larry called and alerted me to the fact hat the boats were behind schedule (they were supposed to come in on the 8th) and that we'd likely see some action if we got down there in the morning.

I arrived around 6.40 and was just in time to see Paul Cayard's Pirates of the Caribbean paying the Statue of Liberty a visit. (Later in an interview PC said he knew he had enough cushion to take a leg down all the way to the statue "so the boys could see it.") This was before I was even at the North Cove (which is on the Hudson River Estuary, just above Battery Park, behind Ground Zero). I hurried my pace and made it there in time to see Pirates finish and drop the jib. There was a bigger crowd than I thought there would be. When Pirates finished the speakers on the dock began playing the theme of the movie, which was just martial enough to make you want to go apillaging and raid someone's booty.

Once I spotted Race Committee I headed over there. It was hard to believe, these three normal looking folks running the Actual VOR Committee. The time-keeper was using what looked to be her wristwatch. I mean, it was all working, and I shouldn't be saying anything at all, but I expected something a little more, I don't know, fancy, or complicated, or something.

Standing behind them I watched the next three boats come in – Brazil, Ericsson, and Movistar. Then I went back to where the boats were docking, on the north side of the basin, and waited for Larry to come by. He showed up just as Bonnie, from the Frogma Blog did. We chatted and took some more pictures. The crews wrapped the boat up, organizing the sails, and cleaning up loose lines and gear and all the while the skippers were giving interviews and chatting with the lackeys and groupies on the dock.

Then on Wednesday, I went down there again, early in the morning to watch the awards ceremony and check out new stuff. In England (New Zealand?) they call it "prize-giving" which I think sounds cooler. I had a job interview that afternoon so I took the whole day off so I could sneak some more looks at the boats and the crews. After the 3-2-1 prizes were given, all of the skippers got on stage for a plaque from the City of New York.

After that I tried to buy some gear, but they wouldn't let me on to the plaza level where the tents were set up because I had my bike. Mind you, I was walking the bike. And May is Bike Month here in NYC. But the small-minded, rules-loving idiot keeping law and order on the plaza wouldn't have it. I should have made him call the cops. I complained to the representative from Volvo and the guy who was announcing the awards, both from outside the US (so much more easy-going), and they laughed but offered little in the way of solutions.

There was some more mingling and I had an opportunity to meet up with Paul Cayard. We spoke for about 5 seconds and I managed to say good luck and congratulations about five times apiece. I was giddy like a school girl.

Overall the entire thing was very cool and I'm glad I got to see some of it.

10 May 2006

5 Boro Bike Tour

Last weekend, on Sunday, I did the 5 Boro Bike Tour with two of my dear pals. It was 40 miles through all five boroughs, and included a bridge I had not yet crossed, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Total mileage for the day was near 50 with all the to and fro.

The organization could have been better. There were long sections where we had to walk our bikes, and getting food and water at the rest stops was impossible. And I think the organizers should have stated some rules of the road - for example, some people thought they were suddenly bike messengers and sped through the crowd, weaving and darting. One guy even crashed into a runner in Central Park (who then proceeded to start beating his ass, I'm not kidding). And other folks thought they were on a sight seeing tour, not watching where they were going, cashing into people, stopping in the middle of the road to adjust the jackets they had tied to their seatposts but were now getting tangled in the spokes. A simple, "slower riders keep right" rule would saved a lot of people a lot of road rash.

I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again.

08 May 2006

field trip

Anyone down for going to see the Volvo Ocean Racers finish the race in New York Harbor? As I write this they have 15 hours and about 50 minutes to go until they finish. That puts them finishing at 6am. I am going to meet with Larry in the morning at/near North Cove where the boats will be docking.

So if any of the racers finishes before that we can see them dock, and if not, we'll hopefully see them finish. Or perhaps we'll go down to Battery Park. I think I read an article that said they are going to be finishing in the wind shadow of Manhattan, so that means a little more uptown than Battery Park. I think.

I'll guess I'll keep my eye on the Volvo website for details. I managed to get 1st period off (though that could change) so I can stick around until 8ish.

Look for me. I'll be the guy on/with the red bicycle.

01 May 2006


Right at the beginning of kindergarten I had to move schools because my parents were going to split up. It was still in September, in the beginning of the school-year, and I distinctly remembering my uneasiness about being behind the other kids - that they would already have known each other and that I would be the new kid. So, I go to class and when it comes time for snack I had nothing. My old school had given us a cart of milk and stuff (some lucky kids got to go pick it up, telling the lady how many milks we needed), but for some reason, I don't think the new school gave out snack. Or maybe they did for the kids who qualified for free lunch, (which I would once we filled out the forms). The point is, I was sitting there with no snack and the teacher asked the kids to share some of their treats with me. I wound up having a bigger pile of cake and candy than everyone else, and made lots of friends in the process.

Last week my Jeep was broken into and some tools were stolen, including my Jeep toolbox, my boat toolbox, some boat parts and some power tools. Since then I have gotten: a $100 from a donor who shall remain nameless, a main sail that fits an old Luders 24(?) and a great sailbag; a bag full of blocks, and shackles, and bits of gear; a solar panel; and the most excellent thing of all, an old 8" table saw that belonged to the sailing gear donor's father - it was built by the Atlas Manufacturing Company, of Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can learn more about the saw here. Pretty sweet, kind, beautiful donations, and I am feeling very fortunate.

28 April 2006


So while I was in Washington I read an article in the Washington Post about the Volvo Ocean Race. The boats were coming to visit to Baltimore, and were going to have some supporting events, including a regatta inside the Harbor. The boats race around the world stopping in a few choice ports (like NYC, Rio, and, uh, Baltimore). Next week (on Monday and/or Tuesday) the boats will be coming in to New York City for a break. To get ready the city had to dredge the North Cove because the boats draw too much water. The North Cove is usually host to the Manhattan Yacht Club and the Manhattan Sailing School (where I took my kids sailing, way back in 2003 - check out the video link on the left hand side of Persuasion's page). Last autumn the North Cove was host to Ellen MacArthur's boat as she waited for favorable weather for an attempt at the Atlantic crossing record. Compare the background of the boat basin with B&Q in it with the emptiness as they prep for the Volvo boats. (Thanks to Zephyr for reminding me about Volvo coming to Baltimore and NYC.)

I rode my bike down there to check out the dredging. When I got there the only thing there, literally, were two Coast Guard boats tied to a floating dock. I spoke to one of the Coasties about the race, the boat basin, and the preparations and learned that I missed the Dredger and tugs by about 15 minutes. I have a tugboat fetish so I look for them whenever I am near the water. I had spied them already from the bike path on my way down to the Cove. So I snapped a few pictures of the empty boat basin, the Coasties, and the Statue of Liberty. Then I raced back north and caught up with the dredging machines and the tugs. There was also a barge with them (probably full of poison/dredged material). They docked right by the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, at Pier 88-ish. (What's cool about the Intrepid space is the Intrepid itself of course, but also that there is a submarine from the Cold War there (smells just like the real thing!). But wait, there's more – one of the Concordes is there too. A plane on a boat! If you haven't been to the Intrepid, you should go. I went there with my dad for a class trip. When I was in college.) And while I was checking out the docking of the tugs and Dredger (while another stood off with the barge of muddy poison) the Coasties from North Cove came by. As the tugs docked, two kayakers (the two tiny dots behind the tug) came by. I mention this here for the benefit of Fraulein Frogma

There are articles in the paper every once and a while about how clean NY Harbor is and how the Hudson is making a rebound. I have no doubt it's true, but here, along the sea wall, is a parasite you can catch if you fall in.

I often think that I should have joined the Coast Guard instead of the Navy. I'd probably still be in, maybe. The Coast Guard is dope.

26 April 2006

Harbor School (cont)

My model lesson is scheduled for 10 May @ 2.40. Here is my assignment:

Rationale:  Model lessons give the hiring committee an objective assessment of the candidate’s teaching skill.  Obviously, 15 minutes is an artificially short period of time for a lesson; choose something small.  The committee is looking for rapport with students, lesson planning and assessment, general style and classroom management skills. 

Time:  15 minutes.  Candidates will be cut off if they go over time.

Content: Should be appropriate to subject area and New York State high school standards.  Bonus if connected to New York Harbor School theme. 

Teaching aids and technology:  Let us know if you have any special needs, however, materials used should be realistically available to teachers, and not over-the-top.

Audience:  About 15 NYHS students plus hiring committee.

Finally, we understand that this is a daunting task.  If you make a mistake, don't worry, just keep going!  No one expects perfection.  We thank you for your time and interest in our school.

Candidates who score high on the model lesson rubric will be asked to interview.  The final step in the hiring process is a reference check.  We hope to begin making offers in a few weeks and to have our hiring process wrapped up by the beginning of June.

Assistant Principal
New York Harbor School

25 April 2006

you are not going to believe the day I had!

Item 1, the bad: Right before Spring Break (which I will get to eventually) I took the hard top off the Jeep and stashed it in Lukeman's side yard. Very sweet of him. So to make a long story short I parked the Jeep in front of a High School on Irving Place. After school today I was going to drive over to my school and load some boxes of books to take home (the amount of stuff in my classroom that is actually mine is amazing). On the drive over to the school I noticed the back window of the soft top is flapping a little loudly, but that's not too unusual, really, and then I notice that my elbow is hitting the Mexican blanket I keep in there. I had left the Jeep with the blanket covering an assortment of boxes holding tools, boat parts, boat paints, boat waxes, varnish, thinner, brushes, and about a million other things (and I bet you can see where this is going). Some savvy thief unzipped the passenger side window and lifted out my tool box, a circular saw, and a cool old oil lantern I got as a gift for the boat. They left the extension cord, my two-man tent, and some other trinkets, but got all the good stuff. Yes, idiotic of me to leave that stuff in there with the soft top on - which is basically a very-permeable membrane.

Item 1, the good: I get to go tool shopping!

Item 2, the bad: on the way over the Queensboro Bridge some box trucking mofo dickfor sideswiped me and F'ed up the right fender of the Jeep. And kept going!

Item 2, the good: I keep a grease pencil in the visor to jot things down on the windshield in a snap and I got the license plate. I'm waiting for the cops to show up right now.

11 April 2006

Under the White Sky

Under the White Sky

Now I see the black city again,
It has always remained the same,
In it walk its sedentary, indoor dwellers,
As always, - the poor ones - so poor;
The scent of rustle-red Autumn leaves
Is not perceived by them.
But how lovely is Autumn in this
windy Winterland.

yours, Egon Schiele

Letter from ES to Arthur Roessler 17 October 1910

It's not a winter wonderland out there right now, and the Melville quote below suits the season better, but I copied this down a few months ago and never posted it. I like the imagery Schiele uses, and how the natural and the urban (not necessarily opposites) go about their business independently of each other.

05 April 2006

April & May

"When the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and May, trip home to the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the barest, ruggedest, most thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some few green sprouts, to welcome such glad-hearted visitants." - Herman Melville

04 April 2006

How sails work

A little tutorial about how sails work.

Saw it first here.

New York Harbor School

So I went on an interview last Friday at the Harbor school. The school itself is located in Bushwick, which is in central Brooklyn. I have to admit that I don’t know jackshite about Brooklyn and can count the number of times I have been there on two hands and one foot. For real.

Anyway. The school reminds me a lot of the one I am at, with a few critical differences. I’m not going to give a play by play, or any kind of checklist comparison, but I will let you know how it went.

Next year they are adding the last of the “new kids.” Right now they have 9th, 10th, and 11th graders and as these classes move up they’ll add another and be a full school. I was there on a day when the 10th graders were on a field trip, so it seemed pretty empty.

The school is designed around the idea that each NYC kids has a right to have access to the waterfront, that because they live on an island, they should have some appreciation of the water, the Harbor, and the natural resources involved, etc. And a second idea is that all kids can go to college. I’m down with both of them.

They have a campus down at the South Street Seaport where kids do boatbuilding (they have been building a whaleboat) and they've already built three sea kayaks, all of wood. They actually go overnight sailing on the Lettie G Howard, which is very cool.

You can browse in all of the websites I left for you if you want a better taste, but it’s pretty exciting that this school exists, and even more exciting that I could possibly work there.

Next up is demo lessons and a second interview in May.

31 March 2006

C-SPAN - a win!

So C-SPAN called last evening to ask me if I wanted to come down for the summer to be one of the Teaching Fellows.

I couldn't be more excited. As a politics junkie, and a C-SPAN junkie, there isn't much more exciting to me than working in the heart of darkness itself. But what is better, is that I get to be in a position where I can watch C-SPAN all day, see the speeches and press conferences, and Prime Minster's Question Hour, and the forums and intellectual gatherings as they are broadcast, as they are happening. Basically watch politics all day and listen to C-SPAN radio in the evening. It sounds ideal.

There were five finalists and three were chosen. I have no idea about who the other two Fellows are.

As for the job itself, as far as what I will actually be doing, well, I'm not entirely sure. Last time I signed up for a job with such a vague description I found myself going 4 kts to nowhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a submarine. I doubt that the C-SPAN gig is going to be as dull as that! I will be creating lesson plans out of the content that C-SPAN has in its archives, that it is collecting and broadcasting, and is planning. So there is a whole section on the C-SPAN website for teachers (look on the top right hand corner of the front page) called C-SPAN Classroom. Once you get in there you can look at video clips of all sorts of American History stuff, scholars, politicians etc discussing events and people. But the enterprising teacher can find a lot more within a few clicks of the homepage. The Fellows created a bunch of the content in there, along with C-SPAN's education department.

Better yet, C-SPAN puts me up for the summer, gives me some stuff before I leave (CDs, DVDs, books, hopefully a long-sleeved T-shirt) and provides transportation to and fro. And, if you can believe it, a stipend for $3500. A lucrative July, for old Jar.

Of course, I hope to reconnect with my old pal, Ralph Nader.

You guys should come visit!

24 March 2006

C-SPAN, round 2 success

Hello C-SPAN Teacher Fellow Finalist:

Thank you for forwarding your videos of teaching with C-SPAN. We are in the process of reviewing the videos, together with your essays and applications. This year we have five (5) finalists. That's great for us! But it's also going to be very difficult as it's obvious already that we would benefit from having every one of you here.

However, we only have three (3) C-SPAN Fellow opportunities to fill. The next step in the process is for a 20-30 minute interview by telephone. You will soon be hearing from us about setting up a time convenient for you.

You will be notified no later than next Friday, March 31st, as to the selection of our 2006 Teacher Fellows. We appreciate more than we can tell you your interest in C-SPAN and the Fellowship program.

With best regards,

23 March 2006

C-SPAN video

Here's me teaching with with C-SPAN.

The 7th grade is doing a short unit on the expansion of slavery, starting with the Missouri Compromise. To help us better understand slavery, we are reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - an American Slave, Written by Himself.

In the video of me teaching you will see me explain the crisis that is created when Missouri wants to join the Union, threatening to upset the perfect balance of 11 Free states and 11 Slave states. The kids come up with some possible solutions (including the real one - to add one of each to maintain balance) and we talk about the 36-30 line. Then we discuss what should/would happen if a slave is brought above the 36-30 line, into free states/territories.

This actually happened quite often obviously, but in the 1850s one slave, Dred Scott, sued for his freedom, saying that once he was brought north he was free. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In the C-SPAN video, we see Harold Holzer (who was in the NYT this week, I think, discussing how black men get a raw deal in America even while the programs that exist to help other minority groups are actually working) discussing the importance of the Dred Scott case and the results of the Supreme Court decision.

19 March 2006

4. When Androids Dream by Paul Nowell

Androids have taken over the earth, and have largely beaten down any human opposition. In between the lowly humans and the androids are the Cybers, a combination that has humans enhanced with android gear.

In the beginning, human resistance was fierce, and George's parents were among the leaders of the Humans. They were captured and killed, and eventually the resistance movement was marginalized and beaten. Now the humans live on the edges of the Android and Cyber society, seen as weaker because they rely on their natural selves to survive rather than enhancements.

The as-yet-unfinished story, set in a future California, begins with George and Xian discussing Xian's plans concerning a new drug that makes androids dream. Because they are all linked telepathically, sharing a hive mind, of sorts, making/controlling one android dream affects them all. And if Xian can give the androids (who seem to be big drug abusers) a drug that she can control their dreams with she might be able to cause of disruption in the android power structure. The drug allows the resistance (or an anti-andie group), to get behind the hive mind's barriers.

George just lost his job at the city's biggest newspaper, and is down on his luck. He meets with Xian to discuss her plans, and then has a vision that spurs him to rejoin the human resistance. After the resistance group figures out who he is, and believe that he really is who he says he is, they share that the resistance movement has changed since his parents were involved. Instead of aiming to destroy the androids, the humans have made deals with them in order to survive.

Also involved is Solis, the sun's representative on earth. The sun is a sentient being, monitoring all that happens on the nearby planets, and is in communication with other stars. Pretty cool.

And Solis's friend, Arloff, a dog is involved with George as well. Seems dogs have been enhanced to have thinking, wondering, feeling powers on the scale of humans. And they, or at least Arloff, seem to look down on humans. Arloff follows George around at the request of Solis, who hears about George from the sun.

On the other side of the story is a new android Richard Powers, who has a new brain that is split into two sections, mimicking a human model. Powers is supposed to be able to create art, but so far has been considered a failure, with too much of his work being derivative of what he had in his memory.

Richard hangs with a powerful android crowd – a Hollywood power crowd, complete with drugs, drinking, and sex, but populated entirely by android machines.

So far Paul has written 35 pages and I am very into the story. Richard riffs about art, George riffs about how the resistance has sold out (but because George worked for The Man (The Andie?) as a reporter, he doesn't have much cred), and Alex Crowley, one of the powerful Hollywood androids allows us to see the world of android excess and power. More to come as I read more of what is written.

24 February 2006

3. Viking Voyage by W. Hodding Carter

Just because you go on an adventure that doesn't mean you have to (or are able) to write about it. And no, this is not a book about the notorious Minnesota Viking boat trip.

Hodding Carter is an adventure writer for Outside magazine, and has written about all kinds of different and neat stuff he has done. I picked this book up because I had read about the Viking boat he had built in WoodenBoat Magazine and thought reading about the journey would be pretty cool. The boat is called a"knarr" and is pronounced kahh-narr.

What I liked about Carter is that he had very little experience sailing or boatbuilding before this project. He just got a wild hair to go on a Viking expedition and made it happen through sheer determination. It probably also helped that he wasn't married and didn't have kids when he started the project, though by the end he had both.

We go from idea to boat build to boat trip. They build the boat in Maine, have it brought by cargo ship to Greenland where they sail it back to Newfoundland, copying Eric the Red and Lief (Eric's son)'s voyages. It sounds like it was my kind of trip – wet, cold, and uncomfortable.

Another cool thing about the trip was that Carter had Viking clothes made up as close as possible to the real thing. He had some expert make them up based on bodies and sailing gear found in archeology digs. He opted not to have the inside of his cape smeared with seal fat, but everything else was pretty much period. And he said he stayed warm despite the constant wetness – most of his gear was wool, and though it was heavy, it seemed to do the job.

This book reminded me a lot of "North to Night" by Alvah Simon. Lots of the author's feelings about the people on the trip with him, diary-like doubts about whether they were going to be safe, whether the whole thing was daring or dumb, and how the crew was going to get along without killing each other all the way to L'Anse aux Meadows.

But what I especially liked was the fact that they did this adventure at all – I mean, nobody ever seems to think something can be done if it hasn't been done already. For example, you can't hike to X, you have never hiked that far. You can't ride your bike in the winter…and so on. At least freakin try something difficult, damn people!

But ultimately, I could have gotten the same result from the WoodenBoat article that I got from reading the whole damn book. And so, this book is not recommended even if you love them Vikings.

23 February 2006

If that's moving up...

So over the past few weeks I have been sending out resumes and looking for teaching jobs on LI, and one job in the city. I have mixed feelings about this. I do love living and working in the city. I love the kids at the school where I am, but I am a little weary of the system in which the school exists. And the systems the school has created to manage the kids' educations.

My school is small – there are 400 kids in, 7-12. Many of them apply to get in to the school in 6th grade and stay until graduation. Some opt to leave and go to other HS – including all the fancy highly-sought specialty high schools in Manhattan. My chief frustration comes from kids who come to the school and do not know how to read – these are the infamous NCLB kids. Sent from failing schools to not-failing schools to get some help. That would be great if we had a proper resource room and a special-ed program. We do have a teacher, and English teacher, who volunteered to work with kids with extra-needs, but that's not enough. At best it's a Band-Aid, and at worst it's ineffective.

And then there's the kids who come to the school but quit class and spend a lot of time in the halls. This is the equivalent of kids hanging out on the corner. Except that they are not on a corner – they are safe, at least. The thinking is that eventually they will wisen up and go to class and get their work done and graduate. And if they don't, and they quit school, well, at least we kept them from getting hurt, killed, or arrested until they did. But it's very difficult to maintain motivation in the kids who are on the line between Fing off and working hard. We rarely leave kids behind, making them repeat a grade because this increases the chances they will drop out.

And we have no dean, so that makes everything else very difficult. But even if we did, the traditional consequences, detention, ISS, and out-of-school suspension, do not exist. The joke is that if a kid screws up he gets a hug and a coke from the principal and sent back to class. In reality, the principal, the teacher, and the kid will get together and discuss why each is unhappy with the other. Sometimes this does not happen right away, but it always happens behind closed doors – so some kids will perceive that Lisa got away with telling me to go F myself. And she did, if you perceive "getting away with something" as not getting a suspension or detention.

These aren't exactly the reasons I am leaving, but they do contribute.

And I do have lots of freedom at my school. I can come in tomorrow and teach whatever I want. Literally. Last week we watched 5 full episodes of West Wing and next week in the same class we are going to play Diplomacy. I get to pick all my own books. I read Earth Abides last summer, emailed the book ordering guy/AP and the book was there for the first day of school. This is something I will miss. We do not take the Regents exams so I spend zero time doing (fake) test prep (fake because it teaches no valuable skills).

I know someone who works at a school in the city that has a boatbuilding and sailing program and I have spoken, via email, with the principal. I feel like I have a good shot at a HS English teaching position.

Though I feel myself being drawn toward LI or Westchester. I grew up in the 'burbs, so I know what I am getting into. I also desire much more order and structure. I do not want to continue to find out that I have to go to a staff development the day before the meeting, I do not want to find out about parent-teacher conferences a week before, I do not want to find out about picture make-up day on the day of the pictures, I do not want to not have books in time, I do not want to have kids get promoted if they did zero work and do not have the skills to be successful in the next grade. I want computers that work, a library, and a desk with a telephone in a quiet place to call parents. Or email them without a billion interruptions from an inefficient system.

I don't pretend to myself that a suburban school is going to be any better – just different.

I am conflicted though. I'm not looking for an affirmation from you, dear readers, that's it is OK for me to go to a suburban HS. I'm just explaining my conflict, which is this: Am I selling out by leaving NYC? Certainly there are kids who are in deep need here, but also the same in the 'burbs. Kids out there have problems – my stereotypical LI kid spends the evening listening to loud music by himself, pissed off, in his room, or is out with his friends drinking and doing Ecstasy and/or meth, wishing his wine-soaked parents would please shutthefuckup. Or they are super-duper-mega-over-achievers and they spend their evenings pissed off in their rooms working on applications for special camps and summer internships so their wine-soaked parents will finally, please shutthefuckup.

The lifestyle will be vastly different. I enjoy and want to do more outdoor activities. Should I get a job on LI I will go mt biking, hiking, camping, sailing, overnight sailing, night sailing, long and short distance sailing, and just generally messing with boats much much more often. I think I will have more fun.

And I do think teaching out there will be easier – the systems around me will be more organized (but perhaps not efficient either), my schedule will be lighter, and my extra-duties will be fewer and more manageable. So is seeking something easier selling out?