Flame throwers

The largest college of engineering in the state has, for obvious reasons, lots of rules about what the students can and can't do with the materials.  On the other hand, the engineering school at...

...I don't want this to come up in Google searches - so let's just say at the university at Altamont...

hasn't been there quite as long.  They don't have all the same rules covering everything that engineering students might conceive of doing.

Which led to road clearing last year.  The main campus road was cleared of snow, but the side roads, including the one that led to daughter's dorm, weren't.  It didn't matter to her because she doesn't have a car.  Some of the engineering students decided to clear them with a flamethrower - totally against the rules at the larger school, but apparently not mentioned yet at the smaller school. 

Younger son, who is enamored of pyrotechnics right now, wants to go there. 

Linkfest: December 21, 2008

PC030290 I never made it to church this morning.  I've been lightheaded all day, and I've had to keep my leg elevated because of swelling.  The good news is that my foot is now a normal color, and my ankles are a more normal size. 

I missed Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month since that was my surgery day.  I haven't been outside since surgery so here's my floral view:  the wonderful azalea dear husband got me for our anniversary last February.  It's in our bedroom, on my side of the bed, and it's what I wake up to in the morning (along with WCPE).

Here are some fun and/or interesting things I've run across lately:

...3.  Finnish is elegant and economic. You can say so much more with just one word. For example “epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkään”. Ok, so that isn’t a word anybody would really ever use, but technically it’s still correct. It means something like, “even with his or her (notice how awkwardly I need to express that) ability to not make others more disorganized”. The downside to this is that if you want to participate in NaNoWriMo in Finnish, you have to produce quite a lot more content.

[Hat tip to 3quarksdaily]
  • The rise of the late baby boomers:  Barack Obama and many of the people he's bringing to Washington came of age after the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggles. Their shared experiences offer insights into how they may govern -  Interesting contrast between the attitudes of the regular baby boomers (not me) and the late baby boomers (me). 
  • The Popdose 100:  Our Favorite Singles of the last 50 years:  Some of my favorites:  "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder, "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding, "Wouldn't it Be Nice" by the Beach Boys, "Sister Golden Hair" by America, "What a Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers, and "Rock the Boat" by The Hughes Corporation.  Actually, those are all of my favorites that they list.  I liked some of the others before they were overplayed (:::cough "Bohemian Rhapsody" cough:::).  Any favorites of yours on the list?
...We're not teaching literature, we're teaching the professional study of literature: What we do is its own subject. Nowadays the academic study of literature has almost nothing to do with the living, breathing world outside. The further along you go in the degree ladder, and the more rarified a college you attend, the less literary studies relates to the world of the reader. The academic study of literature nowadays isn't, by and large, about how literature can help students come to terms with love, and life, and death, and mistakes, and victories, and pettiness, and nobility of spirit, and the million other things that make us human and fill our lives. It's, well, academic, about syllabi and hiring decisions, how works relate to each other, and how the author is oppressing whomever through the work. The literary critic Gerald Graff famously told us to "teach the conflicts": We and our squabbles are what it's all about. That's how we made a discipline, after all...  

Link Roundup: December 15, 2007

We've been working on the Christmas letter, and we have dinner guests this evening.  Here are some interesting links I've found lately:

I learned all I needed to know about how a community succeeds by living, tumbled down and broke, right alongside people who were careful of me, then accepting of me, and then my friends. Community meant that Ashanti could go to the corner store and the couple who ran the store, who had lived in a flat above that store for 30 years, knew her name and her favorite candy. Community meant that when Kat was wild and running the streets, the prostitutes working the avenue would look out for her and make sure she got home safe. Community meant that if Yolanda next door was cooking rice and beans or making sandwiches or a pitcher of koolaid, she shared with my kids. It meant that when my electricity got cut off I knew I could run an extension cord between my house and Eddie’s house so that I could at least have a lamp on and watch television...

I figure I should out myself before it is revealed in a press conference.

Several months back I had pneumonia. The doctor put me on steroids. Not only did the steroids clear up the pneumonia, they also caused me to gain thirty pounds of solid muscle, regrow hair on my head, enabled me to hit a 96 MPH fastball, throw a no-hitter, make love to my wife for thirty seven hours straight, and lift a Buick over my head. They also increased the speed of my computer, added Showtime on Demand to my cable package for no extra money...

...To those of you who think religion is a self-delusion based on wish-fulfillment, all I can remark is that this religion does not fulfill my wishes. My wishes, if we are being honest, would run to polygamy, self-righteousness, vengeance and violence: a Viking religion would suit me better, or maybe something along Aztec lines. The Hall of Valhalla, where you feast all night and battle all day, or the paradise of the Mohammedans, where you have seventy-two dark-eyed virgins to abuse, fulfills more wishes of base creatures like me than any place where they neither marry nor are given in marriage. This turn-the-other cheek jazz might be based any number of psychological appeals or spiritual insights, but one thing it is not based on is wish-fulfillment....

[Hat tip to Claw of the Conciliator]

[Hat tip to Everything I Know I Learned from Musicals]

Mark Proffitt still remembers the thrill of being sprung from school for class outings to Old Sturbridge Village or the state Capitol. "You couldn't wait to go on field trips," recalled Proffitt, now an elementary school principal in Middletown.

For today's students, such experiences are increasingly elusive. Tight budgets and rising gas prices, concerns about safety and the sheer hassle of taking kids out into the world are leading some schools to reduce or eliminate field trips.

And now there's a powerful new force keeping students in their seats during the school day: the drive to boost performance on standardized tests. That has led principals to jettison "extras" such as field trips in their quest to wring every minute of instructional time from an already crammed school day.

In other words, an afternoon spent gazing at masterpieces in an art museum is getting harder to justify.

"We have a limited amount of time for instruction," said Karen List, an assistant superintendent in West Hartford. "Given all the demands that are placed upon us these days, we want to make sure everMarceau_2y single moment is a valuable moment."...

[Hat tip to Consent of the Governed]

[Hat tip to The Corner (which is now on my blog roll)]

Various unusual and/or interesting links

Dear husband and the older two are driving back from NY today.  I won't be able to go to sleep until they get here so I'm going to spend some of this time posting interesting and unusual links I've come across.  I'm already too tired to do anything useful around the house. 

So, here goes...

Walk This Way (an interesting Charleston, SC photo/writing blog) has a link to the Stand By Your Statue blog - photos of people posing (usually appropriately) with statues.

History and Education:  Past and Present has a post on Debt and the Intellectual Life:  A Host of Unintended Consequences:

...Debt affects the fundamental act of reading, by both the debtor student and scholar, due to efficiency. Because of the need to balance a hectic schedule, the debtor scholar finds him or herself impatiently analyzing a text for defects, its thesis, and strengths, rather than absorbing a work's full aesthetic effect. In non-fiction reading, you might also neglect a full exploration of a book's notes (an especially acute problem for historians). If reading quality can be imagined as existing on a 5 point scale, with 5 being the best, most of your pressurized academic reading hovers around a 3. And of course I've completely neglected the loss of joy caused by the haste one must employ to keep up - or make up ground. This loss is especially depressing when books comprise a vast majority of one's intellectual life. The need for speed eats away at what - for many - is the core reason for seeking an academic career...

Second Terrace has a Production Memo for the Hobbit - very well thought out and worth reading if you're at all interested in Tolkein and movies.  Here's a taste:

But there is more to Middle Earth than a few good guys trying to survive a Black Sabbath Jacksonian monster-bash. There is an easy-going, affable friendship forged in pipeweed, over a pint at the tavern, and lyricized on long walks in Shire woods and greens. There is the tempo of Yule and Midsummer, and the occasional eleventieth birthday party. There are the habits of regifting Mathom-worthy objets-d’art to the Sackville-Baggins. There is laughter – not that forced, arbitrary “someone must pay” stuff that tramps as laughter today, but real men-with-chests laughter that resonate from diaphragms that know how to sing songs with more than one verse, and certainly more than a Song of Myself, and lungs that breathe in mountain air freshened by snows and springs that pool in blue-silver meres.

There is also an appreciation for long songs warbled by good guys and bad. You don’t hear much of the latter sort warbling away in the trilogy, but you do hear goblins choiring rather grim foot-stompers in The Hobbit. The songs of the Elves are playful in the Hobbit, but poignant and mythical (almost terrible) in the trilogy. In both, the songs do what real poetry always does: it captures the light of the stars and leaves, and sets thought like a gem in foil and chain. The familiar traveling companion who snores, picks his nose, takes the best spots and tells the same gorblimey stories is recognized, by the clarion dulcet of poetry, as a Friend. Sartre is wiped away by song, and Aristotle and Plato are renewed. In one world, there are songs of playful creation wisdom, making and dancing, and recalling the original unity of poetry, which bound in a single word, once upon a time, the meanings of maker, singer and shepherd (Tom Bombadil). There are epics and elegies of lost ages, fallen cities, and dimming glories (Elrond). There are romances of love wrought over the centuries, and the sacrifice of death and self for love (which is ever the unavoidable price), even the possibility of the sexlessness of love (Aragorn). There are songs of the Journey, of there and back again (Bilbo and Frodo). There are celebrations of pipeweed, dinner (of course), copper bathtubs, fireworks, good beer, gardens and gaffers (Sam, Merry and Pippin – who, it should be said, was not forced by Tolkien to sing wretchedly about suicide missions and demonic filiocide).

Laughter and singing, and that Chestertonian ideal of the glorious-mundane-and-discernment-of-eternity sort of poetry are what Tolkien understood and well.

Jackson and New Line did not, and will not.


Miss Cellania has an Introduction to Mars and Venus which (though I don't fit large parts of it) is very interesting:

   Women: A woman makes a list of things she needs, then goes out to the store and buys those things.
Men: A man waits till the only items left in his fridge are half a lime and a beer. Then he goes grocery shopping. He buys everything that looks good. By the time a man reaches the checkout counter, his cart is packed tighter than the Clampett's car on Beverly Hillbillies. Of course, this will not stop him from going to the express lane.


   Women: They mature much faster than men. Most 17-year old females can function as adults.
Men: Most 17-year old males are still trading baseball cards and giving each other wedgies after gym class. This is why high school romances rarely work out. [Me:  I guess we beat the odds!]


[Hat tip to Neatorama]

Problems and the Role of Chance in College Admissions

History News Network had a very interesting link to an L.A. Times article on college admissions by Swarthmore professor, Barry Schwartz.  Here are some excerpts outlining his argument [bold emphasis mine][and my responses in brackets and italics]:

To today's high-achieving high school students, the future seems to ride on getting into selective institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford or my own institution, Swarthmore, where almost every one of the applicants is good enough to succeed but only one in 10 will be given the chance. And so the competition trickles down: The road to Harvard goes through the "right" high school, the "right" elementary school, the "right" preschool. Thus the anguished "admissions essays" from the parents of kids still in diapers.

... And I'm not just talking about the stress on students. It's what the competition itself is stealing from our most talented youth.

Students choose classes that play to their strengths, to get easy A's, rather than classes that might correct their weaknesses or nurture new interests. They sacrifice risk-taking and intellectual curiosity on the altar of demonstrable success. Moreover (as documented by a great deal of research), because students are doing the work they do in and out of school for the wrong reasons — not because they are interested in learning — the intense competition undermines their motivation to continue to learn for the sake of gaining understanding.  [This is part of why I would not encourage any of my children to apply to these universities] -  As a result, even those who excel enough to get into Harvard, Stanford or UCLA are likely to be less inspired students once that goal has been achieved. By making themselves so competitive, our selective institutions are subverting their aims.

The tragedy of all this selectivity and competition is that it is almost completely pointless. Students trying to get into the best college, and colleges trying to admit the best students, are both on a fool's errand. They are assuming a level of precision of assessment that is unattainable. Social scientists Detlof von Winterfeldt and Ward Edwards made this case 30 years ago when they articulated what they called the "principle of the flat maximum." What the principle argues is that when comparing the qualifications of people who are bunched up at the very top of the curve, the amount of inherent uncertainty in evaluating their credentials is larger than the measurable differences among candidates. Applied to college admissions, this principle implies that it is impossible to know which excellent student (or school) will be better than which other excellent student (or school). Uncertainty of evaluation makes the hair-splitting to distinguish among excellent students a waste of time; the degree of precision required exceeds the inherent reliability of the data. It also makes the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of colleges silly for assuming a precision of measurement that is unattainable.

Now, it is no doubt true that, on average, students at the very top of the heap of outstanding applicants will be more likely to succeed than students near the bottom. But plenty of high school superstars turn out to be supernovas who burn out while at college. In my 35 years at Swarthmore, I've seen more than my share of "can't miss" freshmen miss (not for intellectual reasons but for psychological ones including all those pre-college years spent becoming "can't miss"). Surprisingly, there are no good studies on how ranking at the time of admission predicts college achievement, not to mention achievement in life after college. [As both a statistician and research assistant, this lack of research surprises me!]


There is a simple way to dramatically reduce the pressure and competition that our most talented students now experience. When selective institutions get the students' applications, the schools can scrutinize them using the same high standards they currently use and decide which of the applicants is good enough to be admitted. Then the names of all the "good enough" students could be placed in a metaphorical hat, with the "winners" drawn at random for admission. Though a high school student will still have to work hard to be "good enough" for Yale, she won't have to distort her life in the way she would if she had to be the "best." The only reason left for participating in all those enrichment programs would be interest, not competitive advantage.

This modest proposal may seem outrageous. Nobody likes the idea of important life events being determined by a roll of the dice. But college admission is already a crapshoot, and our failure to acknowledge this is a collective exercise in self-deception. Admissions people like to believe that they have the diagnostic acumen to look at, say, 8,000 wonderful applicants and pluck from them, with high accuracy, the 1,600 "super-wonderful" ones. But there is little evidence to support this claim. So picking a fifth of the 8,000 "good enough" applicants at random might be just as good a way of producing a great class as today's tortured scrutiny of folders.


At the very least, colleges and universities should consider doing the following experiment: Put a random half of the applicants through the normal admissions process and the other half through a "good enough/luck of the draw" admissions process. Then track the performance of the students admitted from these two sets of applicants over the course of their college careers.

If there are no major differences in performance between these two groups, then by publicly adopting the "good enough" practice, schools can take a lot of the pressure off high school students so that they can be curious, interested kids again. The desperate efforts of high school students to climb to the top on the backs of their classmates could stop. Adolescents could once again devote at least some of their time to figuring out what kinds of people they are and want to be. Parents could relax a little about high school, middle school and even preschool placements. And the result, I'm convinced, would not be worse students at our top institutions but more interesting, more curious and better motivated ones...

There is another potential benefit that extends far beyond the confines of the college admissions game. We like to believe, in our least cynical moments, that the U.S. is a meritocracy. Success is about talent and hard work. Luck has nothing to do with it. This attitude may well contribute to a lack of sympathy, sometimes even bordering on disdain, for life's losers. I believe that this attitude is profoundly false. It is not the case that people always get what they deserve. There just aren't enough top rungs on the Ivy League's (or life's) ladders for everyone to fit. If talented and hardworking people are forced to confront the element of chance in life's outcomes when they (or their kids) fail to get into the "best" college, they may be more inclined to acknowledge the role of luck in shaping the lives of the people around them. And this may make them more empathic toward others — and a good deal more committed to creating more room at the top.

"Scandals of Higher Education" - The New York Review of Books

There's a very interesting (and long) review of a number of current books on higher education in the New York Review of Books.  The whole article is worth reading, but here are some sections that jumped out at me (my commentary in [brackets]):

...Ninety percent of Harvard students come from families earning more than the median national income of $55,000, and Harvard's dean of admissions was quoted in the Crimson a few months earlier defining "middle-income" Harvard families as those earning between $110,000 and $200,000... [Wow]

...But today's students are richer on average than their predecessors. Between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s, in a sample of eleven prestigious colleges, the percentage of students from families in the bottom quartile of national family income remained roughly steady— around 10 percent. During the same period the percentage of students from the top quartile rose sharply, from a little more than one third to fully half. If the upscale shops and restaurants near campus are any indication, the trend has continued if not accelerated. And if the sample is broadened to include the top 150 colleges, the percentage of students from the bottom quartile drops to 3 percent.[2]  In short, there are very few poor students at America's top colleges, and a large and growing number of rich ones...

...While these proposals are being debated by presidents and trustees—at least one hopes they are debating them—an odor of hypocrisy has gathered in the gap between academic rhetoric and academic reality. The American university tends to be described these days by foe and friend alike as the Alamo of the left—a last fortress for liberal holdouts in a society that has pretty much routed liberals from politics and public life. But how persuasive are testimonials of devotion to equity and democracy when they come from institutions that are usually beyond the reach of anyone without lots of money?  [Good point]...

...his* main point is a fair one: campus liberals far prefer the soft issues of racial and gender diversity to such hard issues as the effect on American working families of cheap foreign labor or the gross inequities of a public school system funded by local property taxes, or, closer to home, the failure of their own institutions to recruit and support more talented students with no money. I have met very few faculty members who, even as they agitate for far-flung social causes, care to look closely at the admissions policies of their own institutions...

..For students, taking intellectual chances is risky as they compete for places in professional schools that regard grades as all-important. As Harvard's former dean Harry Lewis sums up the matter:

Universities affect horror when students attend college in the hope of becoming financially successful, but they offer students neither a coherent view of the point of college education nor any guidance on how they might discover for themselves some larger purpose in life. [Also a good point]


*  Walter Benn Michaels, author of The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality.

(Hat tip to the History News Network)

Linkfest - March 12, 2007

I finally got back to blog reading this weekend, and here are some recent favorite posts:

The Dirty Little Secret of Spring Garden Magazines at This Garden is Illegal

...The gardening magazines this time of year are no help. Much like fashion magazines prey on the self-image of young women, gardening magazines are created to do nothing but ravage the psyche of gardeners.

Here we are in early March and those darn magazines are screaming at me from the grocery checkout lane.

  • Picture Perfect Perennials in Less Than 30 Days!
  • How to Make Your Man Smile in Your Vegetable Bed
  • How to Grow a Perfect Garden with No Work
  • Why You Suck as A Gardener (and How We Can Help Fix That)

Wave upon wave of stories (with graphic photos) about wealthy women and gay couples who dedicated the entire last decade to creating a perfect garden. And I, like the sorry dope that I am, pile these magazines into my cart and gleefully head home with them like a crack whore with a rock...

Fourteen Marthas, not one Mary:  a retreat report and a long meditation on girls, pressure, parents, and people-pleasing at Hugo Schwyzer's blog.  A very thoughtful look at, and response to, the experiences of teenage girls:

...The superwomen complex is alive and well in girls so young that some were born after Bill Clinton became president! That breaks my heart.

As we wrapped up our first session Friday night, I pulled out the Bible.  I read two sections.  From Matthew, I read my beloved 10:37:

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Honestly, it’s often twice as hard to get young women, raised since birth to please and to perform, to grasp this than young men. We are so much more tolerant of male rebellion; we are more tolerant of young men who “take time to find themselves” or who “are going through a slacker phase.” And to put it more simply, more young men seem to have an easier time daring to disappoint their parents. (Of course, there are plenty of boys near collapse from trying to meet other’s expectations. But their numbers are fewer.)

What I wanted the girls to grasp from this passage is that a real relationship with Christ is one that comes unmediated by parents or peers...

I loved the photo on this post at Ten Minute Freefall because of the colors and the contrast between focus and un-focus.  If you look at the photo close-up, you realize that you've got a very unusual view down the bird's throat!

The Elusive "It" is, I think, one of the best essays I've seen on Inside Higher Ed:

...But there has always been something missing in my personality, in my presence, in my Weltanschauung, which has kept me in my place. When I look at my life and my habits, I think I can sense where I might have gone wrong.

I don’t exude star power. I don’t command the attention of the room. I’m not very self-promoting. The blue collar types on the Miller High Life commercials — (flowers in a beer bottle, spit-shined janitor shoes) remind me of me. Sort of. Such a man (or woman) knows the job at hand and gets it done. Like recently wealthy industrialists in a W.D. Howells’ novel, I am not comfortable with my station. I don’t dress well. I can’t talk about wine. I can’t imagine spending good money on bizarre flavors at Starbucks. I have an uncanny ability to sniff out fraud, elitism, and artifice.

I respect those who appear truly educated, who trust their own “genius,” who create rather than facilitate. I believe a good teacher doesn’t need a textbook. I perk up when I hear a linguist discuss allophonic variations — I try to walk away from speeches about market penetration. I am interested in developing the writing skills of my students rather than liberating their political views or promoting some hidden agenda I personally relish. Control over syntax, in my estimation, is power...

A musical version of the Grapes of Wrath?  - discussed at Romancing the Tome in Joads with Jazz Hands?

Shakespeare - from "Mental Multivitamin"

Mental Multivitamin has an excellent post, "Shakespeare.  Yes, again.  And again." on getting to know Shakespeare.    I phrased it that way deliberately - "getting to know Shakespeare" ... and hopefully get swept away... and maybe even come to love some of it.  That's why I put it that way, rather than just "study Shakespeare" or "learn Shakespeare."  [That often leads to - "I've studied it...I'm done" or "I've learned it; I'm done."]

Getting back to Mental Multivitamin.    This post would be helpful for anyone getting to know Shakespeare - homeschoolers, public schoolers, or grownups.  It recommends movies and has a long list of books along with other advice.

This is only the latest in a long line of posts at Mental Multivitamin about Shakespeare.  These posts are all collected together in "Bardolatry."

Creative Bits and Pieces - July 11, 2006

I've been reading through the archives at Christine Kane's weblog (which I mentioned yesterday).  She's got interesting ideas on creativity and life.  I particularly liked "Big Deals, Little Deals and Paying Attention" which starts:

It is cold this morning for May. There is a bird outside singing the word “procedure.” She sings it four consecutive times and stops. And then she sings it again. “Procedure procedure procedure procedure!” (Yesterday there was one singing “Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera!” My birds are so over “peep” and “tweet.” )...

(Go read it).  Okay, now that you're back - did you follow the link for Elizabeth Perry, an artist who posts something everyday?  The link to the Carnival of the Creators also was fruitful, having links to a number of interesting artistic blogs.  I particularly enjoyed two blogs having to do with the south of France (a beautiful area I hope to revisit someday), Alison Wonderland, and Postcard from Provence (notice that the URL for that one is shiftinglight.com - the light in the south of France is beautiful).

[What does URL stand for anyway? You can keep using these acronymns while totally forgetting (or never knowing) what they stand for.  Underwriters Laboratories comes to mind though it's certainly not that.  Aah - this is why the Wikipedia is one of my favorite websites.  URL is "Uniform (or Universal) Resource Identifier," and, while I'm at it, http is "Hypertext Transfer Protocol."  And, if you're interested in finding out about acronyms, you can use Acronymfinder.com.]

The next post in this part of her blog (getting back to Christine Kane)(I'm reading through the archives on "Being an Artist") is "Wrecking Your Potential (Dedicated to College Students)," a post which strikes close to my unschooling heart (for those who do not know about it, unschooling is a form of homeschooling where interests, not curricula, drive study and activities). 

I've never liked the idea of "Potential" (as in "living up to").  I see it as a box which can keep people hemmed in because only certain activities or goals are seen as worthy of this "Potential."  Normal people can do whatever they want, but people with "Potential"...they only can do what is necessary to fulfill that "Potential." 

And, if people try to use these sorts of arguments on my children, we listen politely, and then later, at the dinner table, I critique the arguments.  It's probably good that my children know that these arguments are there, but I don't want them to feel boxed in.  That's not why we homeschool.  Although, I suppose if they grow up to want to box themselves in, that's their choice.

Anyway, I also liked this comment from "Wrecking Your Potential":

I say to follow this rule of thumb — if the adult who is proselytizing to you about your future is not living a life that makes you say, “WOW! I’d love to have that life! Look how happy she is! Look how alive she is!” then question any rule, any advice, any wisdom the adult offers you. Especially question the idea of potential.

[By the way, there will be more "Bits and Pieces" posts in the future.  I've realized the reason I don't post more often is that I've been boxing myself in with my writing.  I've felt that every post needs to be organized and on one subject - so when I'm in a more let's-dance-from-this-idea-to-that-type mood, I don't write.][And, I also have felt that every post needs to have some sort of conclusion and not just end.]

Dyslexia and Creativity

So You Want to Start Blogging, But You're Shy... has an interesting archived post on dyslexia and creativity.  This part, in particular, struck a chord with me:

I was talking to a friend the other day, when it hit me what it was most like. In grad school, you're around people with something like a highly coherent crystaline structure, so they can build spires straight up into the sky, specializing in a discipline to the -nth degree, like Mount Everest, starting way up high, and poking up even higher, a sharp, jagged snaggle tooth.

But me, my brain is nowhere coherent enough to build those kind of structures. I'm too busy going around the block to get to the house next door, while my classmates were like, "Come on over here, through the gate, we're having a party!" I'm like, "I'm coming! I'll get there pretty soon!"

So I do what I've always done. I try to cram Thomas Jefferson's big-ass generalist polymath brain inside my pathetic head, try to read everything in the world that seems to pertain, and what I'm doing is starting from sea level, see? But I'm building Mount McKinley, Denali, this massively fat, wide marshmallow sitting on the horizon all socked in with clouds, piled with huge snowfields year round. I kept piling it higher and deeper until it is truly piled high and deep (that's what a Ph.D stands for, you know) all the way almost as high as those beautifully pure snaggle tooth Everests.

Now, I can do linear thought, but I don't always generally want to (which is part of why the list of blog categories to the right keeps growing.  Write a blog on only one subject?!).  I love following subjects down side trails and forgotten corridors, and, in graduate school, I felt like I was always pushing at the boundaries.  I didn't see the edges of the disciplines the way others did.  I really didn't see them at all.  I got used to professors rolling their eyes.  My favorites were the ones who didn't.

I also liked the part about how the wrestling with dyslexia encourages, or even creates, creativity:

What I mean to say is that it is the WRESTLING that creates the creativity, not the dyslexic parts of the brain. It's like blind people aren't necessarily born with acute hearing skills. Their blindness forces them to develop sophisticating hearing skills.

So I believe that being forced to repeatedly go around the block to get to the house next door shocks your brain out of all those overworn neural paths everybody else uses ad nauseum. You gotta develop different ways to get to the same spot. You learn to compensate, to visualize, to route around the areas that don't work so well (like remembering your own phone number, with all the numbers in the right order, sometimes it's just better to keep it written down on a piece of paper).

So it is great that people get help and learn to do more than just pump gas, like the guy said above. But the process of learning has to involve the wrestling with the dyslexia, because I think that juices up parts of the brain that sometimes are a tad too dormant in folks who are sometimes too comfortable being good little cogs in the wheels of this world. People who "settle" for less. Dyslexics don't have the luxury of settling, so they're often driven, but god knows where they're driving.

When I was teaching, I had two favorite kinds of students to work with: gifted and talented or honors students, and learning disabled students. I was often the MOST frustrated with the folks in the middle, the ones who were often unmotivated seat-fillers.

Sometimes I even tried to pair up the GT kids with the LD kids, because it ended up being a more rewarding experience for both, compared to the alternative of having to deal with their apathetic and conventional classmates, the ones that grade inflation forces us now to give all A's and B's. Given that, the GT and LD students are outside the limited realm of how grade scales are conceived. They actually think and produce things and question things. They're on their own roads and they're going to town, even if it's all uphill.

And, of course, I had to look into a blog with a title like that!