Thursday, October 30, 2008

Notes from 10/30/2008

-Melungeon is a term traditionally applied to one of a number of "tri-racial isolate" groups of the Southeastern United States, mainly in the Cumberland Gap area of central Appalachia: east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and east Kentucky. Tri-racial describes populations thought to be of mixed (1) European, (2) sub-Saharan African, and (3) Native American ancestry.
-The Chestnut Ridge people (CRP) are a Melungeon (or "tri-racial isolate") community residing just northeast of Philippi, Barbour County in north-central West Virginia.
-The Dominickers were a small biracial or triracial ethnic group that was once centered in the Florida Panhandle county of Holmes, in a corner of the southern part of the county west of the Choctawhatchee River, near the town of Ponce de Leon. The group was classified as one of the "reputed Indian-White-Negro racial isolates of the Eastern United States" by the United States Census Bureau in 1950.
-The Carmel Indians are a group of Melungeons who have lived in Highland County in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Ohio.
-Wesorts is a name for people of "mixed-race" origins who currently claim descent from the Piscataway Native American population in Charles County, Maryland.
-Cafuzo, Marabou, Garinagu, Garifuna, Haliwa-Saponi, Zambo (Hugo Chavez), Cambujo, Miskitos
-The Pencil Test, South Africa, pencil in the hair, will it stay or will it fall?
-The Paper Bag Test
-One Drop Rule
-Hypodescent is the practice of determining the lineage of a child of mixed-race ancestry by assigning the child the race of his or her more socially subordinate parent. Hyperdescent is the opposite.
-Philosophical notion of the Absurd, from Albert Camus The Plague

-Is it in any way cannibalistic to fill portabello mushroom caps with the cooked and chopped stems thereof? What about dipping with red bell peppers into roasted red pepper hummus?

-Cuba's Egg Room studios

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Notes from 10/29/2008

-Antonio Gramsci's Organic Intellectual from The Prison Notebooks
-Partido Socialista Del Valle, Brownsville
-The Socialist Party of Texas,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Notes from 10/27/2008

-rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic...AKA a fruitless act
-Chicanos por la Causa, Inc.
-Institute of Education Sciences website with full reports
-Education Equality Project-McCain, Sharpton, Klien
-Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton M. Christensen
-Science Debate 2008 (website)
-Neil Postman's Article - Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detecting
-Teacher's College at Columbia podcast stuff...tons...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Open Education Movement

I went to a talk on Monday at FAC 21 on the University of Texas campus. It was entitled "The Open Education Movement: Transforming the Economics and Ecology of Education." The talk was given by Richard Baraniuk, who gave a similar talk, albeit one that now is 2 years dated - a two years in which the technology has undoubtedly grown in leaps and bounds - at the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference in 2006. The TED talk can be found here

Anyway, the talk was interesting, especially given Mr. Baraniuk's background, which is as a professor of electrical engineering. He spoke of the sharing of academic material on the internet. Shedding light on Collective Commons and Open Licensure, Mr. Baraniuk presented academic material and its relation to Apple's idea of "create, rip, mix, burn." Basically, the idea is that academic information can be manipulated in the same ways so as to make texts specific to the class level, focus, profundity of inquiry, order of content, length of course, etc...

Mr. Baraniuk highlighted on the relatively low cost of working with online learning webs, citing the example of a 600-page statistics book which, when purchased from a university book store would cost an estimated $131.00. Through Connexions, Baraniuk's online learning community, the same book costs a mere $31.00. They accomplish this by taking book orders one book at a time, and allowing various textbook publishers, whose business is waning in the recent years, a chance to compete for the lowest bid for the printing of the book.

While the talk was interesting, I was somewhat disappointed. Not so much in what he said, but what he didn't say. This was largely due to my misinterpretation of his intentional message, and my assumptions about what he would be conveying. I was hoping to hear a more abstract discussion of the sociological, cultural, and institutional ramifications of the proliferation of online learning communities. I have a million questions.

Do these threaten the institution of schooling, as Ivan Illich predicted in Deschooling Society, some forty years ago? Will the idea of certification that has been so closely tied to employment, education, knowledge, and intelligence be challenged? How will various groups - i.e., neoliberals, neoconservatives - attempt to use online learning webs as a way of altering the public school system, and will these effects be seen trickling down into the lower grades? Who will end up benefiting from said online communities? How will publishers react to losing their grip on the minds and pocketbooks of our youth? Is the everyday, run-of-the-mill professor willing to spend the time creating a textbook which is tailored to their specific class and semester? Will their be a closing of the gap between the haves and the have-nots in terms of achievement, economic success, and political agency?

My word. Vamos a ver. Note-See in either The End of Education by Neil Postman, or I Won't Learn From You by Herbert Kohl for a reference to technology in education and its harm.

Holler, Holler

I was driving to work this morning. There was traffic on the highway. I was reading in the traffic. We were all puttering along. An old man puttered beside me. The old man's window was down. Atop his head was a bucket hat. He yelled, "Hey." I stopped reading. My head turned to see the old man. He was grinning. Or scowling. His mouth was full of corn kernels. They were playing teeth.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Posing Naked - A Story of Firsts

Basically, I posed naked with my brother for an artist who is a friend of his. He is indeed a very talented dude, and I am flattered to be, hopefully, a figure in one of his upcoming creations. His website is nice, and has a bit of work. The pieces are quite large, as one can imagine as he provides the dimensions of each particular piece. He was also very nice as well.

We did about 8 poses, most of which played on some sort of interaction between the two of us, be that in a competitive or collaborative way. I was amazed at how physically taxing it turned out to be, especially since our poses, at first glance, didn't require an exhorbitant amount of strength or flexibility. I found my legs trembling like a chihuahua after a few minutes of statuehood.

Here's the fella's website. Maybe I'll be on there someday soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Basic Thoughts about Reagan HS Meeting

There was another Reagan High School meeting last night. We chatted about action plans, witnessed the Reagan band and ROTC perform, and had a breakout session with our groups. There was one thing in particular I found of interest. Here it is.

A pamphlet was printed for the meeting. The pamphlet broke down the general action plan strategies that we hope to take over the coming months in order to ameliorate the large issues at Reagan. These include supporting ELLs, African Americans, the school community, etc...

In what is akin to a KWL chart activity, we discussed a page in the pamphlet that listed Reagan's "Strengths, Challenges, and Resources." I was struck by this page more than any other thing at the meeting. Well, the end was quite cool, but we'll get to that. I'll recreate the SCR sheet, then subsequently add my thoughts.

-Proud History -After School Programs
-Loyal alumni -New Principal Garza
-Dedicated teachers -SLCs
-JROTC -Great Band Program
-Cultural Diversity -Wonderful Students
-Art Program -Community Support

-Attendance -More teachers for ELLs
-Inexperienced teachers-Transfer policy
-Weak Organization -Lack of support for families
-Uniform Discipline -Poor presentation in media
-Transient Population

-Political Support -Alumni Association
-Solid Church Support -Large pool of volunteers
-Business Partners

This is a truncated list, although it does contain the majority of things present on the original sheet. I noticed a few things; trends, you might say. First, I thought about the locale of conception for the first two sets, STRENGTHS and CHALLENGES. For many of the strengths, you might notice that the point of origin of programs and efforts to create said strengths are, for the most part, within the school. That is to say that Reagan is being quite successful within its four walls at creating and appreciating "cultural diversity, wonderful students, [an] art program," and the other extracurriculars. These things cannot have their origin outside of the school, such as from district mandates or support.

On the other hand, when looking at CHALLENGES, one can see that the problems facing Reagan High School are largely those that begin and are assumed to be dealt with at the administrative level, including at the district level. Think, for example, of who has a bigger hand in "services for families, transfer policy, more teachers [and therefore, funding], and poor presentation in media?" Clearly, although one could legitimately argue that schools must be partially responsible for said elements, there exists a substantial burden on the administrative organization of AISD to ensure that goals in these areas are met.

You notice, I might add, that under the heading of RESOURCES does not exist anything on a district level. This is a clear enough indication that there is a disconnect. I fear that this may be a situation wherein two entities are not adequately communicating their strengths, challenges, resources, and even goals and strategies.

Additionally, I pondered the effects of the STRENGTHS Reagan students, teachers, and employees identified. Unfortunately, the state has decided that these positives are not worthy of assessment under their high-stakes, "blame-shame" system of accountability. I wonder, would we be happy with a school devoid of extracurriculars, arts, alumni loyalty, after school programs, and a positive, diverse community? The answer is clearly and resoundingly, "Yes. As long as the scores are up to par."

Speaking of accountability, and I hate speaking of accountability, I think the government fails to see that it is a two-way street. They may embed this language into their weightless rhetoric, though action clearly follows not. I ask that we make the government accountable just as they have requested/required of us. Just as they approach each classroom with mistrust as to the ability of the students and the teachers, I suggest we approach them as if they have absolutely no idea what they're doing at the capital. Not only that, but I suggest that we demand an explanation of what these test scores and school closings mean, on a practical level. Beyond the statistics.

I see that there are few options for them, assuming they had the integrity to speak candidly. Truth Number 1-Poor students and non-white students, many times inaccurately dubbed "urban students" regardless of geography, are just down-right dumb. Not only are they dumb, or at least more so than upper class, whites students, but they are also lazy because of their culture, angry because of their "barrio," and violent because of a cultural deficiency. According to Truth Number 1, there are remedies. We can keep "these" kiddos in school longer, on weekends, and focus on teaching "skills," in the most basic and disconnected sense. Doing so, and even worse, praising the results, is doing nothing but validating the testing paradigm as fair, equal, and unflawed. That's our option 1; see KIPP academies for a real-life example of this.

Truth Number 2-The high-stakes accountability system, a system historically based in racism and classism, is still wrought with said racism and classism. The teachers in predominantly poor and non-white schools are torn between keeping their jobs while running the race in which they start a mile behind, and teaching what they know the kiddos need - an realization of the institutional inequities that exist in our society as well as the ways, means, and support to fight them. Of course, many great teachers, dealing with an internal struggle between what they know is right in the long run - social justice - and what will earn their students jobs, albeit menial in nature, end up fluctuating between the two approaches, and a clear goal is lost on the students and parents. The result - schools whose identities have been stripped, as the internal struggle becomes projected on the students, parents, school, community, as a whole. The state calls these failed schools.

To use a metaphor. Picture a straight line. On one end is a student of any age. On the other is some administrators, media, tutors, testing materials, good luck pencils, menial jobs, and most importantly, parents. All these folks and things are enticing students to get from one side to the other. Easy enough. However, off to the left exists a teacher. Is the teacher alone? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, the benefits offered by the teacher are not as shiny or quantifiable as those offered at destination 1. She or he only offers self-esteem, cultural pride, self-actualization, critical analytical skills, and a future of learning and fighting for what one truly believes in.

Take a guess at where the student might focus her or his effort. If you guessed both, you're right. Students, depending on day, time of year, attitude, hell, even the weather, fluctuate between concentrating their effort towards quantifiable benefits coupled with parent praise versus the future of their intellectual, social, and cultural lives. The result - students don't achieve either goal. They end up somewhere in between, without the basic skills to earn employment or attend college, and also without the level of self-actualization that helps them see the beauty in the struggle for happiness, equality, and empathy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Notes 10/14/2008

-Dirty Dozen-most contaminated produce products

Observation en route to work

Deer walking along road that's been leveled for highway. Looking confused, lost, sad.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Obsession with Collecting, Aggregating

I've realized that I have a raging and unconscious obsession with gathering, aggregating, and collecting things. It is more complicated than this, however. Unlike some collectors, my affinity is not in an effort to complete or create a final collection, such as with sports cards or state quarters.

Some things I have collected or become obsessed with over time:
-Clothing, specifically t-shirts. Many of these didn't even fit me, although I bought them anyway, hoping 'to avoid them getting away.' You see, I really only bought said clothing at thrift stores, resale shops, garage sales, etc...I hope that makes sense.
-Books, a fairly productive obsession. I feel very similarly with regards to used books as with used clothing, in that, when I see a book that might somewhat approximate an interest, I have a hard time 'letting it get away.'
-Beer tabs. Inspired by Konky's mom about three years ago. Originally, the purpose was to donate said tabs to a cancer society. I just put them in a pitcher til we gave them to Kyle.
-Dryer lint. A strange one, I know. But this brings another interesting aspect of my obsession into light. This is a prime example of a 'collection' that will never be complete, nor does it provide any aesthetic or emotional pleasure - unless dutifully arranged, I guess. There is a sense that each load of laundry, which provides a hunk of lint, is itself trapped in the time in which it was created. That is to say, each load not only has historical implications which are attached to my life, but also that said load is likely the only one that is made up of those exact clothes. The things that I wore over the course of this week or that says something about the events of that week (or, more accurately, the preceding weeks). The lint tells the story of my life, one stain and scent at a time.
-Digital Media. I hate deleting photographs.

What's the takeaway? I feel as though my need to collect things has a more profound, although generally subconscious and unintentional, driving force. The act of collecting things, be they resale t-shirts or old concert tickets, ensures that one amasses a wealth of artifacts. These artifacts are not only linked with the time in which they were important, but they also tell the story of a three-dimensioned life; a life complete with activities, emotions, thoughts, weather, food, sleep, etc...

Even artifacts such as dryer lint fill in the holes of our past with the details generally forgotten over months and years. Consider the possibilities that exist. Given the ease of digital media, such as videos, audio clips, text documents, online photo storage, online communications, internet communities, blogs, etc...these things act very much like the lint from the dryer, providing an insight into the 'trivialities' of our lives, lest they be forgotten over time. Consider the beauty of having said artifact aggregation for one of your heroes. Kurt Vonnegut, maybe. Or Malcolm X. What about grandparents? We have the ability to hold on to so much, and in doing so, we can effectively slow down our days. For it is upon sight of that one picture, or upon reading those two sentences, that we relive days, months, years; and not in a detached, severed, inchoate way. But rather in a holistic, complete manner, stuffed with details provided by buckets and buckets full of dryer lint.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Notes from 10/10/08

-25 Safe Non-Toxic Homemade Cleaning Supplies
-Zero Sum Games vs. Non-Zero Sum Games, Robert Wright, get rid of junk mail, aggregation of morality quizzes
-Battleground God Quiz, a quaint little quiz designed to expoxe holes in one's logic about a (G/g)od,

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Notes 10/9/08

-Intelligence Squared Debates-Oxford-style debates on many topics (Affirmative Action, Universal Healthcare, Islamic Radicalism, etc...) to be found on YouTube

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Notes from 10/8/08

-The Paulo and Nita Freire Project for Critical Pedagogy
-member: conscientizacao
-8 Ball and MJG, 1995, On Top of the World
-Critical Pedagogy on the Web


-Culture and Power in the Classroom: A Critical Foundation for Bicultural Education(Critical Studies in Education and Culture) by Antonia Darder
-Practice Makes Practice: A Critical Study of Learning to Teach (Suny Series, Teacher Empowerment and School Reform) by Deborah P. Britzman
- Channel Surfing: Race Talk and the Destruction of Today's Youth by Henry A. Giroux
-Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life by bell hooks; Cornel West

Vegan Worcestershire

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir thoroughly. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer 1 minute. Cool.
Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 3/4 cup.

found at

Subtractive vs Additive Changes

I've thought about making big changes. I've specifically thought about changes in my own life. There are two changes that I've pondered lately: veganism and sustainable living.

In doing so, I've thought about the idea of a subtractive change versus an additive change. First, let me describe what I mean by these terms. It's really in the way you look at it. By subtractive change, I mean a change that generally doesn't constitute a shift in ideology. For example, let's say you want to start reading more non-fiction. Thinking subractively, you would dwell on all the fiction books that you'll have to eliminate from your literary diet. You would hesitantly put aside that Vonnegut or Murakami that you had grown so used to providing you a specific type of comfort. Here's the interesting part - and the problem that I see with subractive changes. You haven't done anything to change your taste for fiction (assume with me that for some moral, economic, physical, or emotional reason, fiction books are not healthy for you, hence the impetus for change). You begin to think of all the things you'll have to take away - subtract - and replace, hoping for the same sensation that fiction provides. Of course, the fault here is that non-fiction provides an equally profound, yet altogether different sensation than does Mark Twain or Toni Morrison. Basically, to strive for the exact pleasure derived from fiction in non-fiction would be silly.

This brings me to what I call additive changes. With an additive change, one makes a shift in one's ideology. That shift is often catalyzed by the problem inherent in the enjoyment of the problematic agent, which in our case is fictional literature. This problem could be manifested in many ways, and in our example could be that one is unable to keep up with current affairs becuase fiction has been the focus. The ideology shift comes when one says, in our example, "I need and I want to keep abreast of current events. Therefore, I'll read non-fiction." With an additive mindset, one decides that the sensation achieved during the enjoyment of non-fiction, although very different than that of fiction, is in its own way meaningful, wonderful, interesting, exciting, and most importantly, stands up to the criterion and the goals of the ideology shift.

In this way, we are focusing on what we've gained, rather than all we will miss. Indeed, when we embrace that the change we're making is more profound than simply a day-to-day habit alteration, we are able to live out the purpose of the desire to change in the first place. I realize that my example above was a bit confusing, so let's look to the following two for clarification.

First, veganism. I've been a vegetarian for over 8 years now. It has never been a problem changing my diet, for at the time of the change, the ideology was something that I was emotionally, intellectually, and physically invested in. My change from a meat-eater to a veggie was easy, because it manifested itself as an additive change. Rather than attempting to replace the meats that I was used to eating, I dove in to the world of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, etc...Of course, in my eight years, I have eaten my fair share of veggie burgers and other meat substitutes. However, my initial vegetarianism didn't demand that these replacements be present. Adhering to what I deem as the true to the ideals of vegetarianism, I simply ate vegetables. The "meat substitutes" served not as substitutes of something I was missing, but rather as a new and interesting part of a diet that threatens the lives and wellbeings of no one. It was like a bonus, rather than a backup.

I recently have thought a great deal about becoming vegan. In fact, I've been eating mostly vegan now for a couple of months. The interesting thing is that I've found myself going throught the metamorphosis in an entirely new way; a way that is the embodiment of what I've characterized as the "subtractive change." Instead of really actualizing and internalizing the ideology shift from vegetarian to vegan, I've rather approached the situation cutting back on things that I was used to eating, and searching madly for subsitutes for my...quesadillas, nachos, breakfast tacos, etc...

What's the takeaway? Well, in the case of the shift from vegetarian to vegan, I think it's clear - as long as it's done. The residual effects of a vegan diet is on so many levels more sound than a vegetarian diet, especially when it comes to net suffering. I would support most anybody who decided that they were going to even eat a little less meat, poultry, eggs, or dairy products. Ideally, even if a subtractive change is enacted, the ideology shift is sure to follow, and I can stop worrying about how to replace my old stuff with new stuff. Rather, start off with new stuff an ADD from there.

There is another example here. The second example might provide a more pressing issue (although the two are related), and one whose approach might be integral to its implementation. This is the change to a more sustainable life, speaking in terms of the evironment as a whole.

I've recently been involved in discussions and presentations which revolve around the issue of discovering, maintaining, and dissemination means of reducing our footprint on the planet and elsewhere.

In listening to said conversations, I've discovered that there seems to be, for good reason, a push for people to make a subtractive change. That is, we're asked what kinds of light bulbs we can start using, and how we can save gas in our vehicles. We're told to recycle, and to use tote bags at the grocery stores and markets. I love all of these suggestions. But I see them as the proverbial bandaid on the bullet wound, so to speak. Let me explain.

I believe that what is needed if we have any hope of surviving even until 2100, we need to implement an additive change. Basically, we need to destroy our current paradigm and structure a new one based on the truths that we now know about the ecosystem and the earth. In other words, we need the ideological shift imperative in an additive change. We not only need to see that said ideological shift is positive, but we need to be invested in it, and we need to internalize it for ourselves.

The problem here is that this process is very uncomfortable. It asks us to step outside of ourselves and be terribly autocritical. This is especially difficult when you know that during the time you're sitting thinking, there are thousands of tons of trash being dumped, thousands of animals (who, by the way are eating millions of tons of grains, and whose production and maintenance is polluting to the far corners of the earth) are being slaughtered, and thousands of hummers drive one block to the local supermarket. However, we must all expect a little discomfort. Hell, we might as well get used to it, right?

What does this all mean pragmatically? For example, in addition to using our bicycles when possible, we need to ask why it is, structurally, that we would have ever bought a gas-powered automobile in the first place, and whether it's enough to buy a car that gets 35 mpg rather than 27. In addition to recycling our plastic bottles and aluminum cans, we must ask why it is that we're not making our own juices, growing our own food, and jarring our own condiments...a process that, if done right, uses absolutely no packaging in the first place. What are the financial implications of said packaging in the first palce? In addition to using tote bags, we must ask if most of the things we're buying at the store could be grown, built, or developed right in our homes. In addition to saving plastic forks from fast food, stop going to fast food places that give out plastic forks.

I must say that I am guilty of many of the aforementioned oversights. I cannot truly say that I have internalized the ideology of additive change, nor have I challenged my comfort in a necessary way. However, I do feel as though there is a substantial difference in the way we approach problems in our lives. I guess even in light of all this horseradish that's going on, there's a little optimism left in me somewhere.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Notes from 10/6/2008

-Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals and Reveille for Radicals
-Parlimentiary Cretinism-Marx, Engels
-E-Prime, General Semantics - Alfred Korzybski
-The Politics of TESOL Education: Writing, Knowledge, Critical Pedagogy by Vai Ramanathan

Friday, October 3, 2008

Crucially Important and Influential Dream

Walking through the produce section at a local grocery store. I'm commenting on the high cost of produce with my counterpart. I make the observation that the yellow bell peppers are very expensive. They actually resemble a poblano pepper in shape/size, but are bright yellow like a capsicum. After my comment about the exhorbitant prices, I say,
Money is no object when it comes to being healthy.
I'll be living this now.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thinking about Race and Food and Language

Think about racial jargon. Underprivileged/overprivileged? Minority/majority? My life as a there meaning here?

"What is it to be white? Part of it is the ability to focus on everybody but you."
-Tim Wise

" universalize the particular - to take that which is specific to you and make it stand in for the normal, natural, everyday, everybody, human experience."
-Molefi Kete Asante

"When we all sit down at the multicultural table, what do the white people bring?"
"The table."

"These innocent people are trapped in a history they do not understand, and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it."
-James Baldwin

Think about the power of the language of food. Chicken/chickens? Do you eat turkey/turkeys, duck/ducks? Also, think of words, beef, pork, ham, veal, mutton, etc...and how they've been separated from animal. Why have we been desensitized to fish(es), breast, leg, flank, wing, tongue, etc...

Also, think about the social implications of cooking, and the organizational structure of the kitchen. Think of this as embedded in historical, economic, cultural, social, geographical framework.

-The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Notes from 10/1/08

-Heritage Farms USA/Slow Food Movement
-Michael Pollan on Thanksgiving, sacrificing our identity in vegetarianism
-NY Times on "Lambs eats a little fennel, a little thyme, a little a postcard from the animal's hometown..."
-Tobias Schneebaum-cannibal, New Guinea/Peru
-Washington Consensus
-Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making by David Rothkopf
--'Top 1,000 rich own as much or earn as much as the bottom 2.5 billion poor.'
-Tim Wise, White Privilege