Coffee Pots, Cameras and Other Words That Start With “C” Like Capital and Capitol

10 01 2012

Washing up the coffee pot this morning, I mused about a good friend complimenting a couple of pots we shared over the holidays.

She returned to a grueling work schedule last week as most folks no doubt did, and had stopped in at a Starbucks for fortification during the latest cold snap. Expecting a little bit of holiday magic I suppose, she ordered up the same brand I’d served her — Cafe Verona. It disappointed her.

She later called to complain it had “tasted like ass!”

Why?

Same beans, same label, bigger and better equipment although I do have a built-in grinder that sounds like a jet engine revving for takeoff, plus Starbucks bean baristas are pros unlike moi, with training at making coffee that I’ve never sought or even thought about trying to match. I don’t take any particular pride of identity in my coffee — to me it’s a caffeine delivery medium, period. I take it hot and black and serve it that way too, unless lobbied by a special guest for special frills.

Aha! It hit me as I carefully washed out not just the pot but all the coffeemaker’s disassembled parts . . .

Could it be a question of “clean optics?”

Like camera lenses! Scrupulously clean optics are the secret to photography, or so I was taught by several fine photographers who tried to help me get the most from some fancy lenses I enthusiastically swapped out on my Nikkormat back in the 70s.

Good light and a good eye count, too. But even the best of both can’t compensate for the lack of squeaky-clean optics so that good light can pour through pure and true, where a good eye can make the most of it.

Coffeemaker cleaning is the same deal, I’ve learned (the hard way.) When oils from the coffee beans smear across even a little part of the mechanism and carry over into future production, the end product may indeed taste like ass.

Oh, it’s all very well to tout the beans and the roasting, the cost and the care with which the mechanism was created and is manipulated in the creative process. But clean optics are the key even though no one can see the difference. You can taste it.

I finished washing the pot and all the little parts, probably with even more care than usual.

Then I sat down with the last cup of coffee I’d saved from the pot before washing up, to watch the oiliest and most rancid governor in my personal half-century of Florida experience, giving his “state of the state” address to the oiliest and most rancid Legislative congregation of rich and selfish Capitol Capitalists assembled in my painfully experienced memory.

This is a fine state with good light and good mechanisms full of hardworking, vigorous and creative people.

That tastes more and more like ass.





Favorite Daughter’s Extra Virginity Redux

20 11 2011

It’s not just olive oil -– women, too, now, are expected to come with a label that reads Extra Extra Virgin.

Remember Favorite Daughter’s Ruminations on Olive Oil and later — a seeming lifetime of growing up later — Let’s Talk About Sex?

Looks to me like these girls don’t know what the authority figures around them expect them to do –- or not do –- to remain “pure”. I’m eerily reminded of the 1950s, in which . . . people figured, I don’t know, if they didn’t mention it, the kids wouldn’t find out about it.

Now there’s a brand-new book all about the first. 😉

Sublime and Scandalous -- yep, that fits!

And in confluence sufficient to make ripening our conversation at this moment seem almost cosmically ordained, I opened this morning’s NYT to see their magazine cover story, “Good Sex” that illuminates her second sense in which we can understand extra virginity’s sublimity and scandal:

“Teaching Good Sex”
By LAURIE ABRAHAM

Introducing pleasure to the peril of sex education.

It starts with a whole other metaphor for how teens think and learn about sex — baseball — which it’s unlikely FavD will be writing about for you, because she’s not a big fan. So I guess we need homeschool-parent diehard Red Sox fans, like JJ (“what does it mean to girls, not just guys, to “throw like a girl?”) and Crimson Wife and Chris O’Donnell, to ahem, get this ball rolling Read the rest of this entry »





“Derailing for Dummies” — How to Sabotage Civility and Ruin Conversation!

30 01 2011

Derailing for Dummies is a major collection, not one article. Here are the section headings:

Just follow this step-by-step guide to Conversing with Marginalised People™ and in no time at all you will have a fool-proof method of derailing every challenging conversation you may get into, thus reaping the full benefits of every privilege that you have. . .

Read on, and learn, and remember… you don’t have to use these in any particular order! In fact, mixing them up can really keep those Marginalised People™ on their toes! After all, they are pretty much used to hearing this stuff, so you don’t want to get too predictable or they’ll get lazy!

If You Won’t Educate Me How Can I Learn
If You Cared About These Matters You’d Be Willing To Educate Me
You’re Being Hostile
But That Happens To Me Too!
You’re Being Overemotional
You’re Just Oversensitive
You Just Enjoy Being Offended Read the rest of this entry »





New and Improved Obama! Brought to You By Corporate America

29 01 2011

as epitomized at rise-worldwide dot com

“[G]overnment is now said to be the problem. . .
The favor shown to charter schools by the president and his secretary of education Arne Duncan, in their endorsement of the testing regime of Race to the Top, draws on that ideology without much skepticism; and as Diane Ravitch has shown, it has encouraged a broad disdain for the supposed lack of ‘results’ in public education that is not supported by facts.”

I’ve been wanting to write about “venture philanthropy” too, but it’s so big, so important in how it pulls together the impact of what’s really been going on in the corporatization of education — for my parentthood if not my lifetime — that so far I have been daunted:

A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels.





Does Michelle RHEE-ly Put Students First?

10 12 2010

Michelle Malkin’s Siamese twin Michelle Rhee (can’t separate them looking or listening) is being interviewed on my small screen this morning, called a “hero” and a “revolutionary” by conservative non-educator white guys on Morning Joe’s set, for what she’s supposedly doing as the real deal children’s advocate, the only one “fighting” for students against their bad old public schools.

She defends her Wicked Witch of the East treatment of DC parents and schoolfolk (see Time article quotes below) saying the one thing she regrets is seeming so mean and angry and imperious.

She claims she wasn’t all that angry, not all the time at everyone at least, and SHE’s the one on the kids’ side against everyone else in education and in their communities, so she will continue mocking and undermining and firing and fighting for unilateral control — except she wants to sound less bitchy, and therefore more bankable, as she does it.

This belated image adjustment apparently is meant to befit and benefit her new personal-public-private Rule the Schools front, dubbed “Students First” because as I hear her, our nation’s students aren’t first in public policy priority so they’re not first competitively, but she can put them first in both senses if we let her run things:

December 08, 2010 posted by Michelle Rhee
International study finds U.S. students far behind those in other countries [read ASIAN students]

Shanghai is first; the U.S. is not. One reason I started Students First is because I know that we can only compete with China and other leading countries if we transform our schools. If we were to grade the academic performance of the world’s industrialized economies, Singapore, South Korea, and now Shanghai would get an A — the United States would get a C, at best, and in math we’d get an F.

But how exactly will she accomplish all this winning? Her education-school reform ideal sounds like little more than inflicting her own poorly-understood dramas and traumas from Korean and American schooling on us all:

Her parents immigrated from South Korea several years before she was born so that her father could study medicine at the University of Michigan.

. . .After Rhee finished sixth grade, her parents sent her to South Korea to live with an aunt and attend a Korean school, a harrowing experience for a child in a strange land with limited skills in its language. When she returned a year later, her parents sent her to a private school because they found the public schools lacking.

And she never explains, or even acknowledges the question of, how the chaotically individualized and nearly ungovernable USA, by emulating Asian schooling for homeogeneous Asian children in ancient Asian cultures, will magically out-Asian them and jump to first again. (What would true original Western education reform look like, hmmm? Radical unschooling?)

I wrote pretty kindly about Colin Powell and his wife, coming at school reform from their own subculture’s education power of story. I can’t and won’t do that with Rhee’s Read the rest of this entry »





The Season After Summer? Back-to-School, of Course

16 08 2010

“The keeper of my time is my keeper.”

“If love of money is the root of all evil, the taming of time must surely be its minion. . .”

There were always five natural seasons, not four, immutable as day to night to day again:
Spring
Summer
Back to School
Autumn
Winter

So was it written, so shall it be done, amen?
That’s why it seems to me now that this time of year is the most natural time for a Culture Kitchen classic: We the Clockkeepers and Our Tyranny of Time:

Have you noticed Big Government and Big Business have effectively taken over all our time, one way or another? — colluding to Read the rest of this entry »





What America Needs to Be Free and Fit, Is Diverging and Then CON-verging:

16 07 2010

Cognitive science that says creativity is diverging and then CONverging:

“There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result). . .

All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive
to the ideas of others. . .

Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process. . . .

The new view is that creativity is part of normal brain function. Some
scholars go further, arguing that lack of creativity–not having loads of it–is the real risk factor. In his research, Read the rest of this entry »





The Dismal Taste of High-Yield Corporate School: Shakespearian Tragedy

29 05 2010

What’s in a name? Substitute “kid” for “tomato” and “school” for “plant” — you get the idea. Substitute individual creativity for “sugar” and “flavor” and other nutrients given short shrift by factory farm schooling in service of corporate-backed political controls.

Sacrificing Flavor

The pressure for high-yield plants is responsible for the dismal taste of the supermarket tomato. Harry Klee, a plant biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, says it’s a simple matter of economics.

. . .”The grower is paid for size and yield — and flavor is irrelevant, unfortunately,” Klee says.

In fact, the yield is so great for some tomato varieties that the plant can’t keep up. Because the plants have been bred to produce so many fruits, they can’t produce enough sugars and other nutrients.

“And so what happens is you start to dilute out all of the good flavor compounds, and you get a fruit that you bite into it and it largely tastes like water,” Klee says.
“Because that’s mostly what it is.”

That which we still call a tomato wouldn’t smell or taste as sweet after we’ve diluted its flavors and aromas, dumbed it down and bred out all its delights. That which we still call an education suffers more yet from its name . . .

I don’t care for tomatoes myself but I love the fruit of another kind of vine. That’s another good play on the same school tragedy: Read the rest of this entry »





Read Their Lips: Some SERIOUS Mental Mistakes Out There!

25 01 2010

Here are three connected “what’s in a name?” rants from today:

Rant One
So the Dickensian SC Lt Gov has just ruined the whole freedom storyline about the GOP No-Go to any human services for anyone (Haiti too?) He let the cat out of the bag literally, when he compared people in need to stray animals that need to be left to starve — and without health care, no doubt — so they won’t breed.

“You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply,” Bauer continued. “They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

Somebody in this story doesn’t know any better all right, but to me, it sounds like him! America as Animal Farm, and some pigs are more equal than others? Maybe his pack of alpha wolves deserve credit for shrewd animalistic survival instincts at least. No wonder they need all those guns guaranteed by their piggy view of the Constitution, rather than the human services by which all living animals could be treated humanely. So many strays are starving and sick these days that they might turn on their overlords and start fighting back . . .

***************
Rant Two
I just saw a nice conservative Christian school and homeschool teacher, well-educated, longtime advocate for home education — with whom I collaborated to oppose mandatory universal preschool among other things — use a puzzling term completely new to me:TOTUS. She linked it to a news story about the President giving a speech in these dire times, followed by her comment: “The TOTUS speaks to children.”

Treasury head maybe?

I was determined to figure it out for myself, ran through various possibilities as if I were doing a crossword puzzle, but no luck. The thumbnail looked like it could be the President? — maybe among themselves they sneer at him as Teacher or Totalitarian of the US?

Sigh, finally I Googled it. Maybe I am the last person to hear this for the first time or maybe you don’t know either. If you do know, have you really thought about what this label packs in its punch?

These are people agitating to change the constitution to define all human life as fully human even before birth, even when it is just a potentiality — in the same breath they politically dehumanize this extraordinary (and certainly living, breathing) human being who represents all Americans and leads our humanitarian efforts throughout the globe.

At least when their derision insisted he wasn’t American-born and wasn’t black enough or too much like Hitler and was palling around with terrorists, he was still presumably — if barely — “human!”

And at least when Limbaugh snatched away that humanity to call him a giant alien cockroach, he was still a LIFEFORM. But this new political derision is more damning and dismissive even than that: now the President Barack Obama is not only not human, but not even animal life like the stray cats and dogs we must harden our hearts against and not feed, to prevent them from breeding more unfortunate lives to clutter up our conscience (see Rant One): now he’s not even animal or insect, not even ALIVE. Only a machine.

And not even a learning machine that can think for itself and help humankind in valued partnership, like say, Data on “Star Trek: Next Generation.” A stupid machine we should junk. (Alternately, evil enemy technology.)

They are crowing this week that it’s a triumph for American values that suddenly even CORPORATIONS are human and guaranteed individual human rights — but not the Teleprompter?
Think about it. WWJD?

See The Lucifer Effect for more.

***********
Rant Three
Sean Hannity said today on his radio program, and I quote: “I think it is wrong to plan your life.” (Really, then surely it’s wrong to plan other people’s childbearing and marriages and sexual expressions and access to human food, shelter, medicine and health care through government, much less raise armies to fight wars to reshape lives and nations and whole regions of the globe to suit YOU. And if it’s wrong for anyone to plan this life, surely it’s even wronger to spend a moment’s effort trying to plan the next one??)

Meanwhile, back on earth, in reality, among sentient beings, Hannity’s broadcast stance against the morality of human volition, of planning and pursuing life goals, surely devalues every individual’s hard work, savings, initiative, education. All missionary work and politics. All commitments such as friendship, marriage and raising a family. All these are by his simple pronouncement that planning is wrong, rendered worse than pointless — actually wrong!

These are stupid, exasperating and poorly thought out ideas, dangerous even — still I wouldn’t call him not human or not alive, for spouting them.





Who Cares About Haiti?

16 01 2010

I am pleased to have been the recipient of the Ordre d’Honneur et de Merite, Haiti, 1934 —
JJ’s great-uncle, Henry D Barker, born more than 100 years ago in America, recounting his impoverished boyhood and subsequent career

In the here and now, JJ has a mom-friend who cares enough about Haiti that she carried the Christian gospel to children there last year, and is suffering with the Haitian people in the earthquake’s aftermath.

She is the mom of Favorite Daughter’s traveling companion to Europe last summer. The November before that, this devout conservative evangelical (but also well-educated medical professional and feminist, for a southerner at least) did a little traveling of her own and took the church mission trip to Haiti.

Here is her FaceBook status update today:

Presidents Team up for Haiti.
Wow, that is the spirit that makes America the great country that it is. It makes me proud to be a naturalized American and to be part of Americans helping Haiti.

So it seems to me we surely share American values and see truth, beauty and goodness much the same way, despite not sharing the same family, politics, religion or profession.

As for me and Haiti, I’d personally still look to education rather than religion to save it. My family history is all about the transformative power of hard work and sacrifice channeled through education, not prayer. My great-uncle D went on his Haitian education mission trip of sorts after growing up dirt-poor subsistence farming in the Blue Ridge Mountains, partly homeschooling in fact, then studying agriculture and textiles at Clemson back when it was an agricultural college and Air Force academy.

From other universities he later earned his master’s of science in agronomy and his Ph.D. — first in our family! — and I was raised on stories from my mother’s mother (Uncle D’s enormously proud little sister) about him and Aunt Pauline living in Haiti for years in what sounded like a tropical paradise, helping to change the world with his education.

In 1928 he wrote a book about it: Éléments du Botanique Général par Henry D. Barker, Ph.D., Chef du Department de Bontanique Service Technique.

In French.

Published in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Stamped right on the front cover.

I am holding that book in my hand right now because by default I am now the family’s historical repository as was my father before me — both of us also academic doctors, admired throughout the extended family as continuing generational examples of the importance of education, not just to enrich the individual or contribute to the family’s collective well-being but also for all of humanity, because learning and then using it for good is what we are meant to do. . .

Inside his book, it’s inscribed in his feathery old-fashioned fountain pen script:
“To my mother from The Author.”

And I also have here beside me Uncle D’s self-published memoir of his boyhood, inscribed in that same hand, to me! —
“to Jennifer whose grandparents Alice and Ira were born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Henry D Barker”

Here is what he wrote about Haiti in the epilogue: Read the rest of this entry »





Unity Emerging: All Political Divides Boil Down to One Common Purpose

6 01 2010

Call it a pure syrup of 100% political sap?

No, hmmm, today’s power of story fits the “flying” analogy better than the “food” analogy.

Leonard Pitts Jr’s version of this fear-of-flying story:

So polarized has our leadership become that it is incapable of seeing in any dimension beyond the political. When attempted mass murder is seen as an “opportunity” on the one side and a signal to circle the wagons on the other, one can only conclude that for some, partisanship literally matters more than life itself.

I know what you’re thinking and for the record, yes: I did indeed make this same argument — repeatedly — when Democrats tried to use 9/11 to damage George W. Bush.

I renew it now with an urgency. Too often, our leaders cannot work for the greater good because they acknowledge no good greater than politics. But if that’s truly our prime directive and highest imperative, God help us all.

I’ve written analytically about the Logic of Failure in complex institutions and systems including air travel, after 9/11 but before the Christmas Day Underwear Terrorist:

This morning I see a right answer in the news, real analysis and insight for all those of us who puzzle over public school policy (and party politics, religious wars, et cetera) and just can’t understand why we keep doing all the wrong things wronger, regressing rather than progressing:

Schooling is like flying.

The whole story is about how aggressive and insulated data analysts crunch endless numbers to create operational models that are statistically attractive but unfit for human consumption, thereby infuriating regular, responsible people just trying to participate in the system in good faith.

I’ve also written to jolly folks into a little flexibility and imagination and resilience in public policy, including dress codes and even airplane underwear! — you know, the Daniel Pink whole new mind with drive but not driven kind, power of story from which unregulated, unlegislated true human progress can spring, the kind that demands partisan politics must loosen up, wise up and grow up all at the same time:

My practical proposal doesn’t force anyone to do anything nor deprive anyone of anything, nor does it discriminate in illegitimate fashion. (Fashion – that word keeps coming up!) It doesn’t depend on demonizing either common objects or innocent people, nor must it wait to develop new science and technology. In other words, no metal detectors; lie detectors; curbside inspections; civil liberty intrusions like body cavity searches, racial profiling and personal data mining; explosive-sniffing dogs, financial or spectrum analysis.

It is at once spontaneous, light-hearted and scientifically proven as a simple and effective way to separate Islamic terrorists from the tourists and business travelers of the free world. . . let those cheerfully wearing a pair of panties on their heads pass through without even slowing down.

But our nation’s leadership has taken the Logic of Failure so far in its own systems and institutions of governance, that they now seem unable to help themselves, much less any of us. So we the people have accommodated ourselves to mindless miseries as everything just gets worse and worse:

“In other words, we’re stuck with the current system, because it isn’t really in any[one’s] interest to try to change it.”

Happy New Year? Harumph!





Religious Left Emerges, Religious Right Erodes

15 11 2009

From my hometown newspaper this morning at the heart of Gator Nation, in the South! — even though it’s something I can be proud of this time rather than apologize for, like what passes for good communal citizenship just down the road from UF, in a giant corporate enclave of relatively wealthy, morally pious old folks called the Villages.

UF study: Religious left emerging to oppose right

Research shows growing influence of liberal Christians in politics.

By Nathan Crabbe
Staff writer

A new University of Florida study finds the religious left is emerging as an alternative to the Christian right.

Gainesville can be seen as a leading indicator of the trend. Faith-based liberal activism has long been a community tradition, from advocacy for the homeless to protests of executions.

“This is a town where there is certainly a religious left,” said UF political science professor Ken Wald, who collaborated with two other researchers on the study.

The research found that Christians who value being active members of a religious community tended to vote for Democratic candidates in 2006 and 2008. The research contradicts the “God gap” theory that white religious Christians are conservative and likely to vote Republican, Wald said.

He said the religious left is becoming more influential with the election of Barack Obama and his experience in community organizing and expansion of a White House office on faith-based initiatives. At the same time, Wald said, young evangelicals are placing more emphasis on traditionally liberal issues such as addressing climate change.

“I think you’re seeing the religious right erode a bit, and at the same time the religious left gets more aggressive,” Wald said.

In case you weren’t riveted to Snook’s comments this weekend, a discussion of Catholic homeless and soup kitchen services sprang up here, debating the social effects of believing in the higher moral authority of “church doctrine” that would refuse help to those living in sin. This story adds texture to Read the rest of this entry »