flightless hag

A chronicle of the adventures of birdwoman: a lonely, talentless freak who wanders the internet in search of entertainment.

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Location: Philly

I'm a 40-something married white female, survivor of weight watchers, avid reader of pulp. Dogs (not cats), extreme right (handed, not politics), ENTJ, alto, wanna-be knitter.

September 26, 2012

pay it forward...

This week, Father Kevin's message was about thinking about who the greatest person you've ever met was. In the end, it came down to the little innocent ones being the greatest among us in God's eyes. A side note was, of course, that modern society exalts exactly the opposite of what Christianity tells us to honor. Self-aggrandizing power-mongers need not apply. Even if they had a perfect season or got elected with a vast majority.


Fast forward a couple of days. I was talking with another teacher about this course I'm teaching this year: contemporary issues in science. No book. No curriculum. 90 minutes a day. Nightmare.

But I'm having fun, when I'm not planning my butt off. All those stories I read in the New Scientist have a place now. Every science question a kid asks is fair game (can't really do that in the classes that are taught to a timeline). And issues of ethics are the biggest points here.

So J and I were talking about ethics. I had just done a lesson on The Immortal Life of HEnrietta LAcks, so we were talking about ethics in medicine and ethics in general. He mentioned that there have been studies about the whole concept of "pay it forward." Like, back in the day when phone booths were really phone booths and cell phones didn't exist, researchers put a shill carrying a bunch of papers outside a phone booth. As the caller would come out, the shill would drop all his papers and look frantic, panicked and just sad.  The question was, would the caller help the shill? After putting a quarter in the return change slot of a certain percentage of the  booths, researchers noticed that those who "got lucky" i.e. found a quarter were WAAAAY more likely to be altruistic to the shill. In fact, just saying "good morning" and "how are you today?" to people, especially strangers!, puts them in the mood to be more altruistic.

So the common man has good in him that can be reached. And we all know he has evil that can be reached. Even in the name of good. Which is how this came up - we were talking about unethical cancer research done with HeLa cells (doctors were injecting these massively aggressive cancer cells into ALL gyn patients, just to see if they would grow: they did), and how this research was stopped by three young Jewish doctors... doctors who had followed the Nuremberg trials a few years before, and would not participate in the studies on their own people.

They would not do to their own what Hitler, arguably the most evil man of recent times (though, sadly, he has stiff competition), had perpetuated on millions: uninformed, forced research that was almost certainly harmful. But they were careful not to castigate the researchers who did the work. They just stated they would not.

It's a powerful point of view, the one that won't allow you to be negative. J. went on to explain about an interview of a person he had read. This person was asked who or what they hated. They said they hated nothing. The interviewer was disbelieving: (and I'm paraphrasing 3rd hand here!)
Don't you hate that people are starving?
No, I feel only love for the people who are starving.
Don't you hate abortion?
No, I love life.
OK, we got you here, don't you hate Hitler?
No, I feel only love and compassion for those hurt by the war. I don't hate anything. I love. I choose only to love. Because if I choose to hate, I find my own inner Hitler.

Choosing to hate finds your own inner Hitler. That's a powerful statement. That's a statement, I think, from a great person.

That person was Mother Theresa, and even our society counts her as great.

So, I guess that society isn't all bad, Father Kevin. Don't give up on us!


September 25, 2012

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

That was a familiar phrase in the Harvey household when I was a kid. (Another was, "you won second prize in a beauty contest... the only other contestant was a Doberman Pincer. We were all sore losers except Mary, cause she's perfect.)

This phrase came to mind today when I was reading the New Scientist:  "Lowest US carbon emissions won't slow climate change."

The gist of it is, the US has beaten their Kyoto protocols, even though we never ratified the thing. Why? Because of fracking! We're burning methane instead of coal, and it's leading to a ton of lower emissions. Yeah, us, right?


It seems, with our evil capitalist ways, that we've taken to SELLING (gasp!) the coal that we don't use, allowing OTHER (dirty?) countries to BURN EVIL COAL and HAVE RELIABLE ELECTRICITY! How dare we?

So, we're still the great Satan. Better than being the "chosen people" that Israel is, I suppose. They've been getting crap for 4000 years or so. We've only been getting crap for about 50. I guess that's not so bad, in the scheme.


Meanwhile, in the land of bird, we've been having a good back to school. The standardized test results finally came, and Stinky, contrary to the second to lowest track he's been placed in at school, scored high proficient in math and exceeds in reading.  He's now, after seeing this, excited about school again. I think I underestimate how a good report will encourage someone.

Moth on the other hand scored very well in math, but can't see the forest for the trees in English. So we are trying to figure out how to get meaning out of big words. Stinks was the opposite - he always got the meaning, but the details escape him.

So alike, yet SO DIFFERENT! How did my mother handle 8? God bless.

And, as tiny tim (not mine, for sure) might say, god bless you, each and every one!


September 12, 2012

Ahhh, so THIS is karma?

So, school started. And I have great, fun classes with great, fun kids!

I love the beginning of the year.

(jfarch I could do without, but Sep-Nov kick)

Anyhow, we found out, like 2 days before school started, that our juniors are going to have to take a biology test in January. They had biology last year. The tests weren't ready last year. So they have to take it, oh, seven months AFTER they completed a course that was 10 months long. Our principal thinks (realistically) that they mightn't do well on this test.

The solution? To have me teach biology to the chemistry kids the first part of the year (sep - dec).

You'd think the VP was a newbie, but no, she's actually a really GOOD teacher who has just left the classroom. Last year, we worked together to get our juniors through PSSA math - I had to teach math 1 day a week to the chem kids. And I was ok with that. I've got a pretty good math background. I guess she figured I'd be ok with this.

So let us ponder, for just a second. First off, if I spend september - december doing biology, I lose almost 1/2 of the year for teaching chemistry. When they have to take the chemistry test next year, which you just know they're gonna do, they won't have a prayer.

Second, I have not had biology since... gosh, I want to say 1986? I mean, I took it senior year, but we did nothing in that class. Except feed the piranha. But I digress. I took bio in 85-86, when I was a sophomore. We studied, if I remember, from the top down. I remember KPCOFGS - you all know the king philip anagaram, right? I remember dinoflagellates cause red tides. But I don't remember the krebs cycle. Oh, phloem carries water and xylem carries food, right? That's a plant thing. But I don't know the difference between a carbohydrate, a lipid, a protein, and the rest. I don't know the ATP cycle. I don't know miosis vs mitosis vs halitosis. I think we all get here that I know almost no biology, or at least, not what is considered important in 2012.

So, I look at her with my head tilt, and I chortle. She did not smile back.

"Are you serious? Every class? Biology?"

She solemnly answers, yes, and that they're looking for a computer program to supplement my lessons. In biology. That might as well be latin, for all I remember of it.

I ask her, not so tongue in cheek, if she speaks English. She nods. Korean? (she's korean american) She nods again. I ask her, well, how about you teach Japanese for three months? That's about what you're asking me to do.

She just glared at me as if I would go away. I did. But I managed to put my aggression away and channel to passive aggression. I decided that I would teach chemistry until someone gave me lesson plans for biology. They haven't yet. They will... but they haven't yet.

Meanwhile, one of our science teachers is out of commission. Long story short, they need a physical science/environmental science teacher. And they can't get a full time sub because of some school district nonsense. So guess who they have teaching the environmental science, with no lesson plans? The VP. I stopped by her office to offer all my old powerpoints and activities from when I taught that class 2 years ago. She looked at me and smiled. "I understand how you felt now. Being ineffective in the classroom because you don't know the material is AWFUL."


September 05, 2012

A Naysayer, Yet Again

I teach at a fabulous school. It's "college prep" in name, but in reality, it's just a relatively small school with generally hardworking kids. And the teachers are a little up in arms, because some of the kids have decided that college might not be for them.

Truth be told, I don't know if they're looking at dropout rate (which is still terribly high), overall cost (which is horrific), unpayable debt for graduates (which should be bigger news than it is), or if they're merely being lazy bones. But the fact is, I'm behind them in the idea of either postponing or deleting college.

El Borak's blog says it better than I ever could, but it comes down to this: "There is a problem with the "education is a path out of poverty" mindset... Education is a path out of poverty, but only because work is a path out of poverty.  Education can make your work, and the products of your work, more valuable. But they only do so if the skills and knowledge you have are worth money to someone else in the first place."

In other words, a trade school cert in carpentry or an electrician's cert or a nurses' aide cert are just as valuable as a BA in anthropology, if not more so.

But that is heresy in my school. So, I quietly sit back and listen to the other teachers bemoan the lack of potential poets in our graduating class.


Meanwhile, have you ever wondered why Hawaii is there? I mean, it's a set of volcanic islands, true, but it is NOT on a plate boundary. And everything I learned about geology (which is not a whole lot) is, if not wrong, horribly incomplete.

I am not alone in this.

Plate tectonic theory is only 100 years old. Wegner proposed it to much laughter and ridicule. It wasn't majorly accepted until the 1950's. But it still misses whole scads of geologic features, like Hawaii. So, there's another theory out there which accounts for all of this extra "stuff" and it is beautiful.  It totally makes sense - plate tectonics is horizontal motion of the mantle, this new theory embraces vertical motion of matter throughout the layers of the earth. It's summed up best in this picture:

And if you're interested, this is where the article explaining it resides. Enjoy!