Saturday, April 30, 2011


Learning I will be hosting Kelly Gallagher in my new job to guest speak to Connecticut teachers, I ordered his book, Readicide, which arrived yesterday in the mail. I took a night off from writing and read the text. I have nothing but praise for it. He is a sharp cookie, that one.

As I went chapter to chapter, i kept thinking, "This is just common sense." I reflect on my teaching in Kentucky, and the promotion of good reading, writing, thinking and doing habits instilled into students I knew. It was, for the most part, a whole-school culture. I've not felt that since leaving, and when I read Gallagher's account and think about what I've seen in schools, I'm horrified at what American youth are going through. As ugly as my teaching could be, at least it was an environment where we were in an ongoing debate of ideas through our reading, writing, thinking and doing. Our minds were alive.

That notion of having minds that are alive is exactly what has plagued me since leaving my classroom. Not only are the minds of youth numbed by schools, but the minds of teachers are also frozen and paralyzed. It seems so obvious what best practices in schools should be and that promoting every individual should be the top priority. BUT, as Gallagher points out, the numbers are a top priority and in the hectic race to meet No Child Left Behind, more students and more teachers have been left behind. Programs have come to save the day, but they can't do it because they are robotic and stale.

I am looking forward to meeting Kelly Gallagher in two months. It was nice to take an evening off to read a book.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Things could be worse

Although I feel (and often look like) Jerry Lewis in this clip, I must say I'm thankful I do NOT have to use a typewriter to go through this dissertation process. I can't imagine the arthritis that would set in having to punch keys and the MIGRAINES that would come from editing and revision.

THANK YOU Microsoft Word and APPLE for making editing a little less painless than it might be if I was still using a typewriter. I would kill someone (with the typewriter).

Of course, there will be a time when people will say, "You used a laptop? That's funny. How hard was that?'

Thursday, April 28, 2011

even more timely

Actually, this clock is moving too slow to frame yesterday. I got up, lost myself in work, took a break at 4 to run and walked the dog, then went back to work. Before I knew it it was pitch black and I didn't get nearly as far as I thought I would. Instead, I looked up at the clock and said, "Are you kidding me? How'd that happen? Zoom. Good bye Wednesday. Hello. Thursday."

I'm committed though. I plan on another four days of such activity.

As I've noted before, there will be a time when I reflect on this part of my life and think, WTF?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

seems timely

With the outbreak of weather, even near Utica, New York, I thought I'd post the Wizard of Oz scene (but they disabled it by request). So, I found this instrumental, media clip set to scenes from the Oz movie. It suffices. My point is - man, these storms are fierce and, if you hear sirens, head to the basement.

Today looks like it will be another outbreak. It makes me miss Kentucky.

We shall see.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On this day in 1990

Over twenty years ago, I was a senior at CNS and about to graduate. I'm sure I was at work selling women's shoes at Kaufman's, but also preparing for my last round of state assessments before I had a summer of adolescents preceding my arrival to Binghamton University.

I wanted to know what song I was probably loving during this time and, lo and behold, it turns out to be Sinead O'Conner's irish melody. I remember the first time I heard the song and looked at her eyes. She later created controversy on David Letterman, but nothing compares to the beauty of her voice as it entered the American charts.

I will be humming this song on Tuesday. What about you? I wonder if Kirsten and I listened to it, (her trying to harmonize) on our way to our Senior Ball. Seems like yesterday.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I'm sour that it's Monday, again.

I'm still not sure what is going on with the extra black footage on my postings, but you're smart enough to stop the video when the images stop.

This video is dedicated with anyone who has ever had a swollen saliva gland, like my mom.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Dylan Debut

Note: the video ends with a minute of darkness. Don't know what that's about.

It's been many years since Nkki had to make a video for her middle school music video project and, several days and thoughts later, Dylan requested my help on creating a music video for his 5th grade music class. He filled out a template in comic book-frame style, but he requested an "end of the world video" where he depicted aliens attacking the earth and where desperate folks (e.g., his sister and father) needed to be saved by American soldiers. He went after the toils of misery, the oppressed (his sister and father) as they were attacked by aliens of another planet.

I think he captured his story well, letting his military might bring salvation to the people of earth needing to be saved from the wrath of an alien force.

I am hoping his depiction allows for a decent grade in his music rendition of an such an invasion. The video was shot the night before easter Sunday, resonating with the Biblical time when Moses provided emancipation of the ten commandments and the ill-treatment of enslaved individuals.

Such is the mind of youth and so goes another generation of musical creation.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Middle Aging and Revisiting the Middle Ages

Mustapha has been assigned a history paper on the middle ages and came to my house last night to learn about the time period. He brought his materials and I helped him to establish an outline for the essay and strategies for taking massive amounts of history and plugging it into a six page assignment. We looked through his books and deciphered important details.

After I came home, I continued doing research and came across the above video. Helpful? Probably not.

What was most interesting with working with a Liberian youth is how, in his eyes, he was first coming to understand the European traditions of teaching history and how, in his words, he never learned anything about this in Africa or his public school education in the United States. I wonder at times what it must be like to suddenly be plopped in 21st century America and told, "you must show you know as much as everyone else." This must be hard when his traditions have not delivered him to the same traditions passed from generation to generation in Western worlds.

I suppose the important part is to help him make a connection with European history (including Medieval times) and what is known about Mandingo people in Africa. Working with him helped me to see how Euro-centric our traditions are. Of course, the fact that a Liberian youth migrated to the USA in 2005 is also evidence of that European history....colonization of the United States and then the U.S's colonization of Liberia.

It is all connected.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Go, Hawk, Go

I had a brief moment of distraction yesterday, besides having to pay for my truck wiring to be redone because (apparently) there's a leak where water is fusing out the wires to my electric doors. That's a financial stress.

This was a natural stress that involved me, but didn't affect me.

Outside my house there's a dead tree where a Northern Flicker made a whole a few years back. Inside the hole, starlings like to build their nest. While I was writing, I looked out my window and saw what I thought was a raccoon trying to get its head into one of the holes. But then it spread its wings and I realized it was a hawk going after the rat-birds. Its head was bobbing in and out of the hole while it tried to keep its balance. I looked for my camera and by the time I got it, he was atop the dead tree cocking its head wondering why its big noggin couldn't get at the starlings in the hole. When it saw me, it flew off.

I thought it was cool. I wish he was more successful. The starlings often poop on my truck. Oh well, it can join the leak that is shorting out wires.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Whistling While I Work

This from the New York Times yesterday. I thought, now there's a sound that is usually pleasant to hear. The happy whistler who annoys, but hums, through the day through pursed lips and a jolly tune.

I post this and hope you, too, will find a tune to tweet like a bird today. There are much worse things you could be doing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Isgar vs. Barnwell

I remember one of our neighbors while growing up wouldn't let their children watch Family Feud because Richard Dawson kissed strangers. They thought it was inappropriate.

I think it would be funny, though, to see the Crandall, Isgar, Barnwell clan fly out west to compete on Family Feud. I imagine we'd do as well as these people.

Actually, I was thinking about the music and "survey says," as a ubiquitous background noise while growing up. KC was obsessed with the show. Sort of like Super Mario Brothers without a control panel.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thinking back in time

A student and I were talking last night about the volume of information available to everyone at all times and how, at times, it is overwhelming. I used an example of the days where there were few channels to choose from and where you knew what you wanted to watch and when. I thought about THE WONDER YEARS and the episode where the gym teacher has to teach sex education.

I post that scene today. It still cracks me up. It captured a moment in time. Now, if I wanted to, I could google it and find all types of free material that I'd rather not know about.

Ah, times have changed.

I guess I'm getting old. I want Little House on the Prairie and the Waltons. I don't need Jersey Shore or any of the channels past 10 (okay, maybe I will one day...I've always said, when I retire, I'm going to watch everything I missed in the theaters and on television throughout my life).

Have a good Tuesday.

Monday, April 18, 2011

um, hair day

When I came back from running today, my hair was doing a marvelous Alfalfa. It didn't stay up forever, though, and I wondered what kind of gel the kid used.

Sorry I'm not wearing a bow tie, but I can tell you I've been singing this song all day long.

I post it so you can sing along with me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I tell you what. It's not easy sticking to my 2011 blogging resolution, but I have to admit that it gives me something else to preoccupy my brain for a couple of seconds. It is my custom to post right before going to bed and I use Cacophony to reflect on the noise of my life, but also to say, "Yo, you did something other than work on your dissertation today."

I had a fire going last night and began to think about how I've been glued into this seat more than I've ever sat before. I'm usually much more active, but I seriously sit for more than ten hours day. It's just not healthy. There's an indent in my cushion!

I told my sister's husband, Dave, I wouldn't mind getting rid of my furniture because after this experience, I don't think I'll ever enjoy sitting on it. I don't view it as a space for chilling out at home anymore. It is office furniture provided to the prison cell from which I write.

This isn't about my rambling, however. This is because the chair has something to say.

PS: "Cough Dop" is chair-lingo for "Cough Drop." It's not a typo (yeah, right).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

There and Back

This is what it looked like (and sounded like) in the way back of a mini-van on a Friday night. God only knows how thankful I was to look ahead without a laptop screen in front of my eyes. It was a great change of scenery.

I am laughing to think what it must be like to have a four year old and a soon-to-be two year old as the active focus of your everyday life. They are both their own human beings, making sense of the the world in their own ways. The logic games are a trip and the incessant questioning and talking is comical, too. Casey and Dave are with it 24/7 watching the personalities unfold.

Such a joy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's like a mosquito

I turn my cell phone on vibrate so that I can concentrate on working during the day. Consequently, this is the noise that I hear all day long. It sounds like a barber shop, but no one is getting a haircut.

I know the sound annoys my mom. It annoys me, too.

What's my point of this post? Not much. Just that the vibrate noise is all I hear during the day besides the sound my fingers make tapping at the keyboard. Oh, and usually when my cellphone vibrates, ten seconds later I can a "ding" on my computer meaning someone has sent me mail. That is usually what activates the buzzing, anyway. An email. These are the few highlights of my day...bzzzzz (ding). bzzzzz (ding)

Ah, communication. Remember live dialogue? Like from the 80s?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cheesy Thursday Post

Those who know me know that I like to cook, but I never cook. Something has to go from my life and laboring in the kitchen is one way I save time. I open a box of Triscuits or magically appear at someone's house just when dinner is being served (it's convenient).

I have to admit, though, that I boiled water and had Kraft Macaroni and Cheese last night. I also sizzled a kielbasa. It was a nostalgic dinner from childhood, inspired from the fact that my father helped me to realize that garlic hummus tastes good on kielbasa.

It wasn't a healthy meal, but I did cook (my stomach is letting me know that it was an unwise meal). I did the dishes afterward, too. Go me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More six-word memoirs for Wednesday

I downloaded the audio of the six-word memoirs of the students enrolled in my Monday night class. It is too easy for me to spend time working on projects like this. I wish I could do it for a living.

Wait, I guess I kinda am.

I'm amazed that with 22 individuals there's such variation. This was an impromptu assignment. I can imagine, with time, they'd have many new memoirs to write.

Moth to the flame, I create.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In six words

My students and I watched these six-word memoirs written by teenagers last night, and I challenged them to write a few of their own. It's Tuesday and here's what I want you to do.

Think about your life story.

Condense it to six words.

Share your memoir.


Madman emptying an ocean with fork.
1 2 3 4 5 6

Monday, April 11, 2011

brain still not working

It is amazing to me that when I go to sleep, I don't dream in written text. I spend the majority of my hours awake behind a computer screen composing and editing. Then, after fourteen hours, I think, hmmmm, I need to stick with my Cacophony resolution of 2011.

So, my noise is giving my dog a biscuit. Dull. I know.

But, I'm a bit delirious, and when I look back to this online journal way down the road, I will see this post, the date, the reality of where I was as a PH.D candidate in the final stages of the academic chaos and I will say, "Yep. That was it exactly. Look at the bags under your eyes and the greasy hair that went unwashed for three days."

At least Baby gets her Scooby snack.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

right before going to sleep

Dylan might get a kick out of this noise. It is the sound of a bomb landing on my head after writing for fourteen hours, looking at the clock, and thinking, "You've got to be kidding me. I still have so much more to do."

Either way, it's another day - a holy day - and if all will be well, I will accomplish much. That's all I can hope for.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


And a stomach ache. I was loyal yesterday to writing and did around nine hours when I was easily coerced into going out for a cheeseburger. I was hoping someone would take me to Friendlys, but that somebody (who was out in this area and didn't even call) went there without me. So, feeling sorry for myself, I drank a beer, but then I was forced to go to Cheeburger! Cheeburger!

I'm paying for it. Not only is my stomach not used to 1950s style beef, fries, milkshakes, and onion rings, but I lost two hours of writing so I stayed up real late to make up for it.

Picture me moaning while tapping my fingers on the keyboard piano. That's what Friday night looked like.

Friendlys wouldn't have done that to me, especially the one out in Manlius that is so far, far, far away. If only I was kidnapped to go there. Sigh.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Japan had another earthquake. Trump is questioning Obama's legitimacy. The United Nations bombed the wrong people in Libya. The United States Government might shut down.

And I learned of this cow-riding girl in Germany (from NBC) and said, "Hmm, now that's news. I'm glad they're including this with all the other chaos in the world." We need her to leap over the moon and to teach pigs to fly.

My grandmother always said, "Cows don't say, moo. They say P.U."

This post stinks. I'm ready for the world to settle down some. It's getting a little restless.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I am thinking about childhood. I am thinking about wiffleball, Duncowing Road tag-football games, hide-n-go-seek, swimming pools, barbecues, sledding, playing RISK, WWF wrestling matches, Atari, and bike riding. I am thinking about going to school, weekends, visiting grandparents, doing homework, looking forward to snow days, watching The Waltons, talking on the phone with the long, coiled chords that we'd stretch to rooms for more privacy. I am thinking about going to the mall, sleepovers, little league games, fishing, roller skating, and jumping off the diving board at camp.

I am thinking about adolescence, at age 19, when I went to London. It was 1992. While I was visiting Shakespeare's home, learning the value of English pubs, studying literature with Carole Boyce-Davies, and learning independence, many of the youth I work with now were born into war-torn countries of Africa. While I earned my teaching degree, there were finding refugee camps where they would invent schools to keep them occupied. I was sending emails and they didn't have electricity. I am thinking about seeing THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY for the first time

And I am thinking about seeing war as a child. Watching destruction in front of me. Hearing gunshots all day long. I am thinking about walking barefoot for weeks without food to find refuge in a neighboring country. I am thinking about learning family members have been shot, seeing your mother lose children, and losing sleep at night from gunfire. I am thinking about enrolling in first grade as a 13 year-old and learning that there is such a thing as school.

I am just thinking. This is the noise in my head as I try to make sense of what it must be like to be enrolled in an American High School with so many memories from another place.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

feeling stupid on a Wednesday

In my real life, I'm not a dissertating nerd who is scrambling to make sense of 1200 pages of data. I'm a ventriloquist who entertains millions of people around the world through powerful puppetry and magic. In my real life, people flock to hear my rants and vocalizations and say things to me like, "I'm so glad you've chosen to make videos of your singing hand instead of analyzing data."

The truth is that the only time I am not working on my research is when I take a minute to post something on this blog. This short video, although the real me, is only a figment of my imagination that I use to keep me somewhat sane in the chaos of my current brain.

The minute I spent making such a video was my happiest part of the day.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A noise you don't want to hear

While living in Kentucky, the threat of tornados were thrilling, but also horrifying. When the sirens went off, to the basement you go. I have vivid memories of one spring in particular where I spent a lot of evenings in the basement...just in case. I post this because I've had tornado dreams the last few nights and, while scanning the weather channel, I realized that tornado season is upon the nation once again. If you hear this sound. Take cover. It's for you own good.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Get me a mug and a pen. Let me tap.

It's another work week. Ugh.

I wouldn't mind that it was the beginning of a new week, but in my present life, the work of last week still hasn't ended. I don't know whether I'm coming or going. I just am always doing. Argh.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Middle School Humor

Dylan, my mom, and I went to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules after Dylan finished the book. I prepare my mom for the stupidity of middle school humor, but I didn't anticipate Fregley, the red-head ventriloquist who made the viewing extra special for all of us. To be honest, I could spend many hours in this world of wimpy wonder because it makes for a wonderful narrative. You can't help but love the dorkiness of misfits and how they make sense of their positions in the world. It is hysterical and I'm glad I went. If you haven't read the series, you should. They are quick, funny, and accurate to the age. It's a throwback to go into the mind of youth.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

And I thought mom's blue eyeshadow in the 80s was bad

Got milk at Walmart last night. Usually I run into Price Chopper, but I've overdosed on that store this week and needed a change of pace. Cynde needed milk, too, and Nikki and Dylan came along.

I know this is politically incorrect, but I found this Walmart song/video online. Although it hints at our experience last night, it doesn't come close to the real thing - especially the highlight of a 300 pound woman in a short raincoat, no pants, and blue raccoon makeup around her eyes. She wore bright red lipstick an inch above and below her lips, and was buying a selection of fried foods from their counter: chicken, cheese sticks, mushrooms, etc.

I'm still shaking my head in disbelief. Nikki posted it immediately on Facebook, but I needed a few more hours to process the event. I am naive, I suppose, and live in a cave. The experience of stepping into WalMart last night, as stereotypical as I'm being, is truly an event.

Yes, the head is still shaking.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I know what I want to do in life

Last night, I briefly got distracted by the show MOBBED with Howie Mandel and decided that I could easily spend the rest of my life creating sporadic, unpredicted, but monumental scenarios for the world. I know this is strange, but it is sort of like Willy Wonka - harnessing imagination and totally turning predictability on its head. I dig that.

And what is better is it traps all the corniness of dance, music, and theatrics that humors me.
Spectacle. Improvisation. Humor. Whackiness. Complete dorkiness and a larger purpose in life. To choreograph moments that are totally unexpected and beautiful.

That's how I want to live my life. Somebody hire me to do this for a living. I would be satisfied.