Friday, June 16, 2017

Thoughts on teaching

I'm teaching two classes this summer, and both finish next week: one with a final exam, and the other, potentially, with a performance.
The mathematics class, of course, is the one with the exam (and homework, tests, etc).  Lots of evaluation along the way to see how students are doing, and to help them assess their progress themselves.
The other class, teaching the Tai Chi 24 form is going very nicely: it's a ten class session, once a week for 90 minutes, and I'm finally, I think, getting the hang of how to teach it.  In previous sessions I'd stuck with a traditional "teach the moves sequentially" style: this time, I started on the first day with practicing the end of the form too --- trying not to give it short shrift in the last couple of classes.
We have a continuing group of former students in the class who meet weekly, so there have been plenty of opportunities for them to continue to learn the end of the form --- but not everybody chooses to continue to practice with us.  So, I'm happy with this group's progress, and with my developing insights into how to teach.
As for assessment, and the potential performance, I'm thinking of inviting my old instructor to come view the final class of the session.  I'd love him to see the progress these folks  have made!

Yours, proud of my students in both classes,

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bringing things into the 20th century

 Both Boo and Skibo are in the middle school now (which here in our little town is where 7th and 8th grade go to get lessons, if not necessarily to be educated).
Last year, we struggled with issues of dress codes: Boo wanted a blue streak in her hair, so we got her one, only to discover that the school didn't allow it.  Then she got called out a few times for wearing "inappropriate" clothing (this, I should add, was ridiculous --- and Boo is most definitely not one to want to break these sorts of rules, or to dress to shock, or worse yet, to "distract the boys").
At one point, a counselor at the school asked her if she were a "bad girl", and did she "regularly get in trouble?"  Just a couple of weeks into school, she was being labeled a "bad girl".
She's not.  Far from it: she knows her own mind, and as her T-shirt puts it, she's at "Sarcasm Level: Expert".
But she's not a bad girl at all.

Today they had a drill.  An "intruder" drill --- they were to pretend that there was a bad guy roaming the school, and act appropriately.  But before the drill, they had an assembly, at which the principal called up the male teachers, and all the boys, and informed them that they "had to care of the women, to keep them safe".
My god, but what an unreconstructed attitude.

Now we have to decide how to approach this.  Something must be said, but how best to actually effect real change, and not just piss off the basket of deplorables.....

Yours, protected as much as protecting,

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bringing things into the 21st century

Boo, being in 8th grade, has been told that she should buy a calculator.  An expensive calculator.  A piece of equipment which was pretty radical in the late 80's, and costs just as much now as it did then.  The reason being, of course, that they can't figure out how to get the students to use their chromebooks (which cost about the same as the calculators, and are almost infinitely more powerful) to work without letting the students have access to files, the net, etc.
The reason for the calculators is not pedagogical.  It's a reflection of a lack of understanding of how to use technology appropriately.

When I complained to the principal, he proudly told me that his son, a freshman at university, had had to return home to pick up his calculator because he needed it for his freshman calculus course.  This told me two things.  One is that his son is taking business calculus, where the instructors haven't been given the time and encouragement to figure out how to do things better.  The other is that the principal is not willing to think hard about this issue.

Yours, unhappy at being decades ahead of the educational system,

Monday, September 5, 2016

Moroccan recipes

Promised these four years ago: went to print them out to use today, and the printer is out of paper.
Couldn't find them on the blog, so perhaps I never fulfilled the promise.  So, here I am blogging, so
I can see the recipes on my phone in the store.  All because the printer is out of paper.

Chicken Tagine
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil
1 (3-lb) chicken, cut into 6 pieces, wings and backbone discarded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, halved, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 fresh cilantro
5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, separated into halves
1/3 cup whole blanched almonds

I add a tablespoon or two of ras el hanout as well as
the spices called for.

Stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper,
1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl.
Add chicken and turn to coat well.  Heat butter and 1 tablespoon
oil in base of tagine (or in skillet), uncovered, over moderate
heat until hot but not smoking, then brown half of chicken, skin
sides down, turning over once, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a
plate. Brown remaining chicken in same manner, adding any spice
mixture left in bowl.
Add onion and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to tagine and cook,
uncovered, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add
garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Tie cilantro
and parsley into a bundle with kitchen string and add to tagine
along with 1/2 cup water, chicken, and any juices accumulated on
plate. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.
While chicken cooks, bring honey, remaining cup water, cinnamon
stick, and apricots to a boil in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan,
then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are very
tender (add more water if necessary). Once apricots are tender,
simmer until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes.
While apricots cook, heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in a small
skillet over moderate heat and cook almonds, stirring occasionally,
until just golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon
to paper towels to drain.
Ten minutes before chicken is done, add apricot mixture to tagine.
Discard herbs and cinnamon stick, then serve chicken sprinkled with
almonds on top.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad
eggous or cucumbers offer crispy contrast to tomatoes in this Moroccan salad (shlada) with vinaigrette and fresh mint. Sometimes referred to as shlada 'arobiya (country salad) or shlada nationale (national salad), it can be served as-is or used to make Salade Marocaine.

Mixing the salad at least 10 minutes before serving will allow the flavors to blend. A spoon can be offered, but the salad may also be eaten as a dip with Moroccan bread (khobz) for scooping it up.

Also see Feggous Salad with Orange Flower Water.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.


1 lb. (about 1/2 kg) feggous or cucumber
1 lb. fresh, ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or mint
2 to 3 teaspoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

Lightly peel the feggous so that some dark green skin remains, and finely chop it. (If using regular cucumbers, you'll want to remove the seeds before chopping.)

Peel the tomatoes, seed them, and chop them into small pieces. Mix the tomatoes with the feggous, parsley or mint, onion, lemon juice or vinegar, oil and salt and pepper to taste.

If time allows, leave the vegetables to marinate at room temperature or in the fridge for up to an hour. Serve in small bowls or on individual salad plates.

Red Lentil Soup
Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 heaped teaspoons ground coriander
2 heaped teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt (to begin with), then to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
7 cups vegetable broth
1 24-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
juice of 1 lemon
a small splash of red wine vinegar (about 1/2 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and cook until tender, about 6 minutes.
Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, and allspice.
Cook for another minute or two, stirring to coat the onions.
Add the broth, tomatoes and salt, and bring to a boil.
Pour into a slow cooker, and stir in the lentils.
Cook for 4 to 5 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low, or until the lentils are tender.

Stir in the lemon juice, a small splash of red wine vinegar,
red pepper flakes, cilantro, and parsley.  Season to taste again with kosher salt.
Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Yours, paper free!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Calling

Yesterday, Boo came home from school, and while we were working with her on her homework, she mentioned that she had written a poem: she'd been walking the track at recess, and rather than listening to music or texting on her phone, she was watching the woods in the distance, imagining.....

The Calling

There are things out there
that you may never know.
Creatures far wiser than you.
 Faster! Stronger!
The Dark! The Light!
Through the day
and night.
But yet we still hear the howling call.
Through the night the loud cry wakes many afraid.
 As night grows longer the fear grows stronger.
But do not fear
For not all is this way.
The creatures of the bright.
Creatures of the light.
 Creatures who protect.
All through the night
And through the day.
Saving the poor souls.
But wait!
Careful now!
Do you hear the quiet howl?
 Slowly it grows louder!
The wild ones come!
Kind, evil, wild, free.
Join them!
Join me!
Hear the Calling!
Follow me!
Be free!
Run to the wood to hide in the mist.
Go with the Calling!
Let it protect you.
With the Calling you will be OK.
Come now!
Hear the Calling!

c 2015-11-17 Boo.

I love this!

Yours, in admiration!


Monday, November 9, 2015

Happy Birthday, Boo!

Welcome to the teenage years, Boo!

Yours, with our love, and perhaps a tiny bit of apprehension,

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

And so the (pre)-teenage years begin

LOML and I have tried very hard to say, almost every day, almost every morning and evening, to Boo and to Skibo, "I love you".  We say it in the morning when we leave, or when we drop them at school, or in the evenings at bed time: and they say it back, and kiss us. 
And tonight, telling Boo to turn out the light and stop watching youtube at 10:15, the response was a (pre)-teenage sullen stare. I know tomorrow she will be back (temporarily?) to her usually lovely self, but for me, temporarily, I am

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


LOML and I went visiting some local organic farms with friends this weekend.  We had a lovely time, cut short by having to pick up Skibo from the movies.  One of the things that we scored was a zucchini, of a type we've never seen before.  I think that I am going to stuff it and cook it for dinner tonight.

To give an impression of the size of it, that's a full sized lazy Susan that it is sitting upon.  And yes, it's much more spherical than it is cylindrical!
Yours, also more spherical than cylindrical these days,

Boo's Blog (private for now)

Boo has decided to start a writing blog!  For now, it will have to remain hidden and private, but I'm enjoying seeing her develop as a writer, and as a skilled computer user.
In addition, I bought a book in our local craft store this weekend: a book to teach children to code, and both she and Skibo have been working through it.    It uses Python, and incorporates the Turtle language: they've both drawn octahedral flowers constructed from 8 octagons rotated about a single vertex, and Boo has written simple code to ask a user to input their name, and their favourite food, and then have the program output " likes ", and then report what the first and last letter of the name are.  
This latter task involved her understanding that in Python, name[-1] will return the last element of  a string or list, and understanding that it indexes from 0.  The name[-1] fact made her squeal with delight!

Yours, terribly proud of both of them!

Friday, May 1, 2015


Making this tonight: quite delicious!

Carnitas, my adaptation of several recipes

6 lb pork shoulder, boneless (I had a few bones I removed)
1 quart chicken stock
Orange juice
Zest of an orange
1 small can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 stick cinnamon
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Cut the pork into 1-2 inch cubes.
Put in a heavy pot, add the chicken stock, and enough orange juice
to cover the meat.  Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil,
stir and reduce the heat to simmer.  Simmer uncovered for 3 hours,
and add more salt to taste.  The pork should be very tender.

At this point, I still had a lot of liquid left, and the recipe I
was using suggested that it should mostly have reduced away by now.
So, instead of slavishly following the recipe, I heated the oven
to 450, removed the pork from the liquid, placing it in a roasting
dish, and turned the heat on the liquid up to high.
I put the pork into the oven, turning it occasionally, until it
crispened up nicely.  When the sauce was reduced to about a cup or
two of thick liquid, I added it to the pork, and stirred it to
distribute it well.

Served with small corn tortillas.

Yours, in anticipation,

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Posting this so that I can find it on my phone....  This is a rather good recipe for
squash casserole.

Squash Casserole

4 lbs yellow squash, sliced lengthwise, then cut into 1/8 inch slices
2 medium onions, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
Olive oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Half cup heavy cream
2 cups grated cheese (e.g. Italian blend, cheddar, parmesan....)
2 cups crushed buttery crackers (I used Town House Wheat crackers)
3 tablespoons melted butter.

Preheat the oven to 475 F.  Working in three batches, toss the squash
in olive oil and salt and pepper, spread out on a foil lined baking sheet,
and cook on a high rack in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until lightly colored
and beginning to caramelize.  Set aside and allow to cool while cooking
the other batches of squash.

Set the oven to 350.

Spread the onions and bell pepper on the baking sheet, and bake 8-10 minute
until the onions are just beginning to turn color.
Mix together all the vegetables, 1 cup of the grated cheese,
stir in the 3 lightly beaten eggs, the cream and one cup of the
crushed crackers.

Pour the mixute into a buttered 13x9 baking dish. Stir the crackers in the
butter, and stir in the remaining cheese. Top the casserole with the mixture.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or so (checking to make sure that the topping
doesn't burn --- I ended up turning the temperature down after 20 minutes).

Yours, done chopping, now to mix and bake,