Sunday, December 26, 2010


My dad retired to spend his time keeping honeybees. He was absolutely intrigued by them, and loved working with them.

In honor of dad, I bring you a link to Talk of the Nation Science Friday's video showing the activity in a beehive.


Unless you are mortally afraid of honeybees, you are going to love watching the man poke his finger into the mass of bees. HE IS NOT STUNG. Bees are basically all about the love.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's a Good Time of Year to Read Something

Pat Conroy is a really good writer.

That kind of generic praise will not win me a job as book reviewer, but it's true.

I'm listening to his South of Broad in audio book form and it's really, really good. It's the librarian in me that compels me to give you some advice. Although I'm not an actual librarian, I can parlay my love of books into a bossy post for this website.

Does his name sound familiar? He is the author of "Prince of Tides" which was made into a movie. Barbra Streisand starred, for those of you who know who Barbra Streisand is.

I should say I really enjoyed the first half of the book when it told the story of the protagonist's childhood. The next section is allright, but now it's dragging.

Anyway. It's dark and wintry out there, so why not cuddle up with a good mystery? Agatha Christie is the old standby, and for good reason. You could branch out with a new author, like Dorothy Sayers. She's not new, but an English author from early in the past century who wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. My mother-in-law told me about Mary Roberts Rinehart, an American who published her first book, The Circular Staircase, in 1908. Back to English people with Arthur Conan Doyle. Who doesn't love Sherlock Holmes and his funny little hat?

I love the phrase "hard-boiled detective stories". I finished The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler earlier this year. All I could think about as I read were hard-boiled eggs.

The library abounds with lists of mysteries, and book stores have staff recommendations so you are sure to enjoy a good read without having to spend too much time searching it out. Don't forget about the internets! It is full of websites with more than enough information to get you on the path to a good whodunnit.

There's always the classic The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, credited with starting the thriller genre. (Mom, you're totally going to love this story! I hope you find the box it's in this year!)

What is it about England that is synonymous with murder mysteries? Is it the fog on the moors? The tea? Crumpets? The notoriety for bad teeth? I don't know the answer to this, but to say that plenty of great stories come from the isle. Even if you're not into mysteries, you have to be intrigued by the foggy moors in Wuthering Heights.

Turn off the tv, build up the fire, brew some tea, send the kids to bed early (with a good book of their own to read before turning out the lights), and get down with litrahtyur. Off you go.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Pedagogical Over Digital Surprisingly Liberating Idea

The article below asks, what do the best classrooms in the world look like? First, we must ask what is meant by best. Second, what DO they look like?

Brilliance in the Classroom, by Amanda Ripley from

"Classrooms in countries with the highest-performing students contain very little tech wizardry, generally speaking. They look, in fact, a lot like American ones—circa 1989 or 1959. Children sit at rows of desks, staring up at a teacher who stands in front of a well-worn chalkboard.

'In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms,' says Andreas Schleicher, a veteran education analyst for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development who spends much of his time visiting schools around the world to find out what they are doing right (or wrong). 'I have no explanation why that is the case, but it does seem that those systems place their efforts primarily on pedagogical practice rather than digital gadgets.'

And yet, when politicians and bureaucrats imagine the classroom of the future, they often talk about a schoolhouse that looks like an Apple store, a utopia studded with computers, bathed in Wi-Fi, and wallpapered with interactive whiteboards (essentially giant touch screens used in place of chalkboards in more and more classrooms nationwide)."

It's a fascinating question although who wouldn't be disappointed in Mr. Schleicher's lack for an answer for why it is the case when it is stated that he spends his time visiting classrooms all over the world. He should have some idea, or at least be able to speak more assuredly about hypotheses, as to why this might be the case.

But anyhoo.

The article looks at Singapore, Korea, Finland, and the United States in order to compare what they find insights into what works and what doesn't.

This is the coolest idea: "In Southeast D.C., Lisa Suben teaches fifth-grade math at KIPP DC: AIM Academy, one of 99 Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools around the country. When her students come into her classroom, they perform about two years behind, on average. By the time Suben has had nine months with them, they are mastering grade-level work."

I want to be that kind of teacher. That's the kind of outcome I want to see more of in this country. There is NO REASON why American kids should be behind grade level. There are more than enough people with knowledge and skills to share who can be in the classroom as volunteer tutors, available during the day and afterschool to every child who needs extra help. NO REASON! Not poverty, not lack of gadgetry, not due to chalkboards vs. whiteboards. It's a ridiculous notion to think that education is better when the classroom contains more electronics than a Best Buy. It doesn't take money to get a book from the library and read it, but it does take time and effort to teach a child to read, to encourage them to do so. Could it be that our education system ranks so poorly not for lack of money, but lack of effort? This is a multilayered cake without a single answer, but one of those layers might be easily changed. If it is the case, the good news is that there is something we can do about it at no cost.

Read the article and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


A flash mob surprised a food court one day last month. I forget where, but it's great. The crowd is smiling, whipping out their cameras to get it on video.