Category Archives: groupthink

Pause, Review, Resume

One of the many wonderful things that academic life gives you is a seasonal invitation to pause, and review, and then resume. It’s an overlooked blessing that I’ve come to appreciate in the past few years.

I’ve been in the habit of keeping a text file in each class folder on my laptop, and as things go well or poorly during the semester, as ideas occur to me on how to approach a lecture differently, or how to modify an assignment, I jot down the note, and then give myself the freedom to forget about it for the rest of the semester. Mid-course corrections seem to usually end in disaster for me, so I wait until summer.

Then, at about this time every summer, we go up to the cabin in Santa Cruz, and I sit out on the redwood deck with a cup of coffee in the morning, or a glass of wine as the sun drops behind the hills, and I rewrite my courses. I rewrite all of my syllabi, I rewrite my assignments, I remake my slides and my semester lecture outlines. As I do this, I pull out that file of notes I made during the year, and think back through how I succeeded and failed at different points, with an eye toward making things better this time.

It’s an exercise in optimism, and the sense of renewal is cathartic. By the time I’m done, I can’t wait to get back into the classroom, and do it again, do it better.

Do you have pause points in your professional life, or in your personal life, where you get to review how and why you do things, and then plan changes?

The Winningest Photo

I don’t know much about this photo. I don’t know anything about it, actually. I just know that, from the moment I saw it, I knew it was a winner. Maybe it’s the jaunty angle of the machine gun. Maybe the fiercely gripped tomahawk in his mouth. The leg-apart stance for maximum on-stage rock-and-roll stability. Or the pimpin’ gold chalice that’s keepin’ in real! Personally, I think it’s the fact that he left his boots on.

So, we all know that this picture is awesome, and is undoubtedly the winner of some obscure online photo contest. My challenge to you, roadkateers, is this:

Give me that name of a photo contest where this would be the winning picture:


(clicky make biggy)

sing, sing a song

I’ve had this notion for awhile now and this summer’s road trips and music weeks have me deciding to finally put feet on it. The idea: an ongoing conversation made up solely of song lyrics. Road trips and the silly car games one plays in order to pass the time (specifically, through California’s central valley! Ergh.) have me inspired to finally post my lil’ idea. (Not that me and mine actually play many car trip games yet, but it’s the thought that counts.) Music weeks are a little somethin’ I’m doing with my boys this summer to grow their musicality…we focus on a different genre each week (meaning, I burn a cd of songs and they listen to it for a week) and I’m sure that the fact that this is folk week is part of what has me dwelling ‘pon lyrics right now. So I’ll start us off and please, please someone play with me! Feel free to link your lyric source or not… but remember, whatever you say has to be a lyric!

In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple, Near the relief office – I see my people. And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’

recent, random thoughts on leading musicians

This week I have been thinking about leading musicians. This is because
-I am leading a jazz band, which I’ve never done, and really want to do a good job
and
-Jason and I are watching a thought-provoking episode of PBS’ “Great Performances” that features brilliant Russian conductor Valery Gergiev.

Here are thoughts.

1) A good jazz leader doesn’t conduct. I’ve seen ones that do. It’s a little embarrassing, and yet I resist the urge to do it. Our (Jason and I) best jazz educators are the ones that would count off a tune and walk off the stage. They prepared us and trusted us. There are only about 6 places in the 11-tune rep I’m leading where the musicians actually need something from me visually.

2) Do those 6 things well.

3) The strength of a jazz leader is knowing what parts and how to rehearse. That’s the “prepare” part, which leads to the “trust” part.

4) Another strength of a jazz leader is picking good tunes. I, personally, would rather play slightly easier music well than difficult music poorly. (I should mention that this band has not been formed for educational purposes, which changes my goals.) So, know your musicians. Also, know your audience. What will leave them having had a good time?

5) Gergiev had great quotes. At one point he was talking about learning how to play an orchestral score on the piano – going from reading two staves (a grand staff) to reading 30. He said something to the effect of (and referencing Bernstein): “I have to take what’s on this massive page and turn it into ______.”
Jason thought he was going to say SOUND.
I thought he was going to say ART.
What he actually said was “something SPIRITUAL”.

No reflection; I’m still digesting that one.

6) A good leader is PRESENT at rehearsal. Let’s say I want the trumpets to articulate something a certain way at measure 44. If we get there, and they play it just as I imagined, I don’t need to tell them how I wanted it, even though I’ve imagined telling them how to play it. I can LET IT GO and use our time more effectively.

Conversely, a bad leader would say “this is how I conduct Rite of Spring” regardless of what the musicians around him are actually doing.

More later… if this is of any interest…

House Hunting

Gretchen and I are going on our first official “Realtor Tour Guide” day tomorrow, where our real estate agent will walk us through a half-dozen or so properties in the area we’re looking to move into. The process of buying a home is starting to feel both real and, for the first time in 5 years or so, realistic.

Those of you who have been through this process, any words of wisdom? What questions do you wish you had asked before you bought your first home? What things caught you by surprise? Are there things that, after you had owned the home for a few years, turned out to be a bigger deal than you had expected, either positively or negatively?

Share the knowledge, Roadies.

How to Ask For Money

A mom at our church asked me recently if I would talk to her daughter. She is a graduating musician, heading out into the world, and is running into the same problem that many young musicians run into: she doesn’t know how to get paid.

I don’t mean getting work; she’s very talented, was placed in a great internship, and is already getting asked to do freelance work. I mean, once you have the gig, how do you go about handling the money side of things? So, here’s a smattering of poorly organized things I’ve learned over the years to help with the money side of things:

  1. Talk about money early, before you commit to an open date. This is true of everyone but my closest friends. I will never acknowledge that I have a date open until I know what they want from me, and what they are offering to pay. The conversation goes something like this: “Are you free on Thursday at 9PM?” Me, “I’m not sure what I have going on, my calendar isn’t in front of me right now. Why, what’s the gig?”
  2. Ways to say “How much are you going to pay me” without saying “How much are you going to pay me”. Do you have a budget in mind? Is this gig paying union scale? What does the financial side look like? and my personal favorite, How much are you going to pay me?
  3. If they ask you what your rate is for this kind of work, have a good answer ready. Do some research before you get the actual call, and know what people generally charge for weddings ($350, no rehearsal), club dates ($200 with one rehearsal, +$50 an hour for keyboard programming), arranging and orchestration (union scale), recording sessions ($750 for a 12-hour lockout day if they have money, $75 and a 12-pack of Corona if they don’t), remote song sessions ($250/song for up to 4 keyboard parts and one revision, $75/hour for additional revisions), and the like.
  4. If you need to come up with a rate, and you don’t know what the standard rates are for someone at your skill level, the formula goes something like this: $$ = (my hourly rate X estimated hours) + distasteful surcharge for bad music + travel expenses. If someone wants you to build a karaoke track for the song “Billy Jean”, figure out what you think your time is worth (say $30/hour if you’re just getting started), the approximate number of hours it will take (say 15), and you end up with $600. Note that there is no distasteful surcharge for Billy Jean, because that song is awesome.
  5. If I don’t know off the top of my head how much I charge for something, I prefer to wait (I’ll have to check my calendar, can I get back to you?) and then email them a rate later. That way, I have a little time to do the math.
  6. If you’re being paid after the fact, you need some way to track who has paid you yet, and who has not. I use a task-organizing site called www.RememberTheMilk.com. I enter all of my gigs, tag them as “unpaid”, and then remove them once I get the check. That way, I can tell at a glance if the gig I did back in January actually sent me my money. If you do a lot of church gigs, this is doubly important. Sorry. It’s just true. Even our church.
  7. Get setup with a paypal account that accepts credit cards. If someone wants to string out payments to you, or says “I’ll pay you once the album comes out,” you can tell them to pay you through paypal on their credit card. You’re their hired musician, not their project financier. Make them manage their own credit.
  8. Once you’ve started to get established, you can add a new tax called the “Would I Rather Be At Bodega Winebar” surcharge. Also known as the “How Much Is An Evening At Home With My Wife And Kids Worth” surcharge. This will price you out of some gigs. Make your peace with that.
  9. I never get too vexed if I price myself out of a gig. If someone can’t afford you, they mentally file you in a category called “People Higher Than Me on the Food Chain.” These same people will call you back in a year or so when they’re playing bigger clubs, or when they go to make their record.
  10. Finally, remember that you’re offering a valuable service. What you do has the ability to evoke and shape people’s emotional responses. You’ve spent a lot of time and money on training, and you do it skillfully. When you ask for money, you’re saying “I value this set of skills I’ve developed. Do you value them too?” If someone doesn’t understand that value, you don’t want to work for that person.

I know many of the people on this site swim these same waters, both in music and in other creative fields. Anybody have any words of wisdom to pass along on how to manage money, how to get paid, how to become fabulously wealthy while maintaining complete artistic integrity in your approach to Billy Jean Karaoke tracks?

’tis a gift to be simple

I have noticed a refreshing trend among me and my peers lately: Living On Less. Money, that is.

I first noticed this when a friend and her husband made the agonizing decision to put their house on the market. With three pre-schoolers and a job change for him, they just couldn’t make ends meet without going into debt. While some would diagnosis this a failure, I grew in respect for their actualization that they are not invincible. They made the true heroic decision for their family to live within its means.By the way, they are not upside-down, rather they are walking away with some nice equity that will ease the financial pressure they’ve been feeling for a few years. Thumbs up to them!

This sure beats the lifestyle of another girlfriend, whose marriage is littered with fights about money.A large, remodeled house was purchased that escalated financial tensions.

Articles about saving are making the covers of magazines. Recently I saw a travel segment on TV that had me cracking up regarding traveling on a dime. Go to Argentina, it said. It has the look Paris and the feel of Italy! “Don’t cry for me, Europe,” the broadcaster announced, thumbs pointing at herself, “I’m in Argentina!”

I predict I will be soon attending backyard birthday parties once again, instead of making trips here or here.

This trend has me asking “What do I value?” and “Do my finances reflect those values?” Twice this month I gave up two entertainment events that I still can’t believe I skipped. I am a fan of both of the performers. However, we are taking two trips this month. Instead of going to one of the events, I was at my daughter’s pre-school carnival. Sure, we could have made it work to do everything – but should we? It would have been excessive.  Sigh.

A few years ago banks were telling people they could take loans they really couldn’t afford. And people believed them, because they were the bankers. I feel grown-up financially, because (as opposed to the thinking of my 20s) one thing that’s hitting home this month is that just because you can do something with your money doesn’t mean you should.

Rote or Wrong?

My philosophy of music is changing, slightly.

I used to give little credibility to musicians who couldn’t read. What would be the use of a great poet, I thought, if she could never write down her words to share, and couldn’t partake in the words of others? The same must be true of music.

Furthermore, when I became a music major, it was somewhat shocking to me that some of my peers didn’t know their key signatures. I took annual theory tests since first grade, and in hindsight had some inner-snobbiness about that. There was even one classmate in college who was learning to read music, and while I heard people praising him, it caused me to struggle inwardly with the legitimacy of my education.

This past Christmastime, a family friend named Marc* asked me to show him some things on the piano. Marc is 17. I used to babysit him. He is a kid you can often see in his family room or on the front porch playing his guitar. Marc has had some guitar lessons and is also self-taught. While I can’t praise his techniques in detail to someone like Corey, I do know that it is pleasing to listen to Marc’s guitar playing. I think he has whatever it is that you sometimes can’t teach.

With this in mind, I looked forward to meeting with him weekly to mess around on the piano.

A few months ago, Marc enlisted in the Marines, and he reports for boot camp in August. (His 19 year-old brother is already in Iraq.) These conditions turned my ideas of education upside-down. At first, I did what I knew how to teach – intervals, basic symbols from the Adult Piano Method, etc. Then one day, he asked, “Will you teach me Claire de Lune?”

I’ve played this Debussy piece on some occasions, but had never taught it – let alone to some who isn’t a proficient reader of music. It contains five flats, complex rhythms, arpeggios that encompass several octaves… and the boy asking me is about to risk his life to protect mine. “Sure,” I said, having no idea what to expect.

And so it was that he began to learn Claire de Lune by rote. I teach him 4-8 measures each week, and he comes back playing them well. He is my hardest-practicing student. I don’t know, maybe he uses it to woo young women. And just maybe it works!

I tease him that he brings the sheet music for my sake, but it’s true, he does. Perhaps he would not survive a piano jury of judges, but it doesn’t sound half bad. If I tell him to linger on this note or create more tension in that measure, he does it. But usually I don’t have to tell him.

This week I sent him home with a Grieg lyric piece. We’ll see what happens.

So what would I say today, to a poet who couldn’t write? Maybe, “Tell me a story.”

*his real name

A Short Survey of Interesting Topics

I have 7 students in my Music and Ethics class this semester. They’re just about cresting the first difficult climb in writing their thesis papers. They’ve done the bulk of the research, and had to turn in a full footnoted outline of their argument. All that’s left for most of them is to spill the actual ink, and turn it into something readable. And then, of course, the editing.

They’ve picked some pretty interesting topics, so I thought I’d throw them out here for you folks to peruse. These are their thesis statements, roughly, along with some background.

  1. Sacredness is an ascribed quality, not an objective quality, therefore music that is sacred is always sacred to some person, or group of people. It is sacred because it serves the function of producing desired internal states, considered spiritually significant by people who call the music sacred. This means that 1) people outside of that group have no obligation to the “sacredness” of the music, and 2) it is inappropriately limiting to the creative process to force composers to work within a certain genre of music because of its “sacredness”.
  2. The emphasis on competition within High School music programs is detrimental to the education process. A music educator has an obligation to select repertoire for their ensemble based on artistic merit and educational value, and not competitive value.
  3. A film composer’s evaluation of a potential project should be based on the over-arching primary theme of the film, rather than content that serves that theme. She may choose to work on a film with a strong positive primary message, even if the film also contains graphic sexuality and violence. If the strength of the primary theme outweighs the presence of objectionable content, the project as a whole can be considered good, and worthwhile.
  4. There are three categories of repertoire that are frequently controversial in music education: music with sexual themes (sensual and explicit operatic works), music with overt religious themes (everything written between 600 and 1600 C.E. in Western Music), and music by controversial composers (Wagner’s pro-genocide stance, for example). A music educator has an obligation to perform these works, in spite of the controversy. To avoid them both limits that artistic experience of the students, and presents a skewed perspective on the scope and history of musical literature.
  5. A composer’s original intent is the fundamental guiding principle for the interpretation of a work. Contemporary performers and conductors have an obligation not to deviate from the best understanding of the composer’s intent in their interpretation and execution of a work.
  6. A musician has an obligation to only create works that best express their aesthetic judgment. It is a violation of the purpose of music, and the nature of the musician, to make choices based on values of broad appeal or commercial viability. There are strong parallels between a musician using their craft for less-than-art purposes, and prostitution, in that both treat the person as a means to an end, in violation of the second formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative. (This is going to be a helluva paper – this student is incredibly bright, and is making some very, very strong arguments in support of this thesis. Once he’s finished, I’ll give more of my thoughts on this topic).
  7. The lyrical content of music is capable of making moral claims, even in poetic and non-propositional formats. Songwriters have an obligation to produce works whose moral claims contribute to social unity. Songwriters may not plead ignorance in their understanding of these moral claims, and must take responsibility for their social impact as contributing factors to social change. To claim that songs are not sufficient causes for any particular social change is not an argument against their contributory power to those changes. The two primary case studies will be the identification by Klebold and Harris with the music of Marilyn Manson prior to the Columbine High School shootings, and the release of the song F*ck Tha Police by NWA prior to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. (I think this student is going to argue that the moral claims of F*ck Tha Police actually fulfill the obligation toward social unity, by exposing an underlying reality that then prompted broader attention and calls for change.)

It’s fun to sit in conferences with these students and read through their arguments, to see the evidence of their critical thinking. I love the fact that I don’t have to prod any of them to find the value in this process – they all seem to understand that spending time thinking deeply about these themes will be beneficial to their development as musicians, and as people.

Lunch with Nicholas Wolterstorff

Nicholas Wolterstorff is coming to APU. He’s a very distinguished Professor of Philosophy, most recently teaching at Yale. He’s written extensively on religion and reason, on the rationality of Christian faith, and on the possibility of aesthetics in art. He’ll be giving two lectures, tonight and tomorrow night, both in Munson Chapel, starting at 7PM. Tonight’s lecture is titled “Speaking up for the Wronged”, and tomorrow night is “Love and Justice.” Come if you’re interested.

But the thing I’m really excited about is happening tomorrow at noon. I’m having lunch with Wolterstorff. Well, me and the rest of the music faculty, but I’m still gonna pretend that the two of us are on a date. He’ll see by my eager smile and witty repartee that the rest of these people are mere distractions, and the two of us will escape away together to a pine-covered hillside, where we’ll talk for hours about realism in art, epistemology and religious experience, universals and their implications for ethical norms, just the two of us …

… did it just get awkward? Why the uncomfortable silence, everyone?

Anyway, I’m throwing this out to our wide reading audience, those of you who troll by the RSS feed and keep tabs on us from afar. I know many of you have read Wolterstorff’s writing. In fact, it was a reader here who first introduced me to his writing. If you were sitting down to lunch with him, what would you ask? Any burning questions about ethics, art, religious knowledge, any of those kinds of things?

I promise to dutifully report back to you every sparkling gem of wisdom that falls from his hand. And to leave out the awkward intellectual man-crush stuff.

Reticent Technology Learners

I teach a course at Azusa Pacific University called Introduction to Music Technology. It’s a required course for all music majors; at some point, all of our students have to come sit in front of me for 15 weeks and struggle with the content of the course.

reticent technology learnersSome struggle more than others. With any subject matter, there are some students who, by virtue of intelligence, experience, or motivation, are better able to navigate the ideas and make them a useful part of their body of knowledge. There are others who struggle through the same content, and frequently either abandon the field of study, or scrape together just enough competence to pass, and then never use that knowledge again.

Reticent Technology Learners

With technology, there is a particular kind of student who struggles. I’ll call them “Reticent Technology Learners”. They might excel in other areas, be intelligent and curious students, but when it comes to the field of technology, they have real and persistent barriers to learning that prevent them from mastering the tools.

I’ve noticed some common characteristics that these students share. I’m listing them here for comment, for you to consider and refine. Reticent learners aren’t just in school, they’re all over the place – some of you probably work with them, or live with them, or you might be one (hey Bobby!). I’d love your feedback on this list, and your help in expanding it where appropriate.

Here are some common characteristics of Reticent Technology Learners (RTLs):

1. A belief that technology behaves differently based on the user.

“I already tried that! It works for you, it just won’t work for me.”

The RTL believes that the same steps will produce different results based on the person doing them. If they encounter a problem, and someone else is able to fix it, they identify the solution with the person, and not the steps taken. This might manifest in phrases like “I’m just not a computer person”, or “Technology doesn’t like me.”

2. Low tolerance for risk and experimentation

“I didn’t try it, because I didn’t know if it was ‘right’ or not.”

Suppose you are using a slide presentation program (like powerpoint, or keynote), and you want to insert a new slide. In the menu bar, you see an icon with an image of a slide and a large plus sign. Most users would try clicking the icon, on the assumption that it is probably going to do what they intend for it to do, add a slide. The RTL will not take that risk – if they aren’t sure that something is “right”, they will not experiment with it. This low tolerance for risk and experimentation means that all new learning for an RTL must be the direct result of specific training.

3. Task/Step organization of ideas

“To attach a file to an email, I do these 6 steps.”

An RTL approaches technology as a set of tasks, and each task consists of a set of steps which must be perfectly executed in order. The result is a lack of conceptual learning. They may learn to follow 6 specific steps for attaching a file to an email, but this doesn’t translate into understanding the concepts of file location or reference.

The obvious problem, then, is that each new task requires a total relearning of all the steps. The concept of file location and reference doesn’t carry over into the new task of adding a photo to a flickr uploading program, they have to relearn it as 4 new steps that are unrelated to the steps in the task of “attaching a file to an email.”

4. An exaggerated presumption of malicious or faulty technology

“Well, my computer must have a virus.”

The paucity of conceptual understanding for the RTL means that most of technology is a mystery to them. They have an exaggerated tendency to fill this gap in with malicious or faulty technology. They tend to see viruses, online security fraud, and malicious code everywhere. Any recurring problem with their computer is a “virus” or a “bug in the software.”

Any encounter with actual malicious or faulty code reinforces this perception, while any solution to a problem that does not rely on fixing bugs or removing malicious code is seen as the exception.

5. A perceived fragility to technology

“I didn’t install the updates because I didn’t want to crash my computer.”

Many RTLs have reached a kind of antagonistic truce with the technology they’re forced to work with – they reach a point where they can be minimally functional with it, and they perceive this state of functionality as tenuous and fragile. They are unwilling to risk upsetting this delicate balance by installing security updates, upgrading software, or removing unneeded accessories.

6. A generally pessimistic expectation toward technology

This is no surprise, given the other 5 characteristics, but many RTLs have developed a pessimistic expectation toward technology; they don’t expect it to work, and when it does work they don’t expect it to be useful. As a result, they will usually choose the non-technical solution to a problem, even in situations where there is a clear advantage to the technical solution.

In Conclusion

In developing this list, with some input from Gretchen, Stick, and June, some additional questions kept popping up.

Do RTLs have these same characteristics in other learning environments (learning to drive, learning a new language, etc.)?

There is a perception that age might be an indicator of RTL tendencies, but I’m wondering if it’s really age, or if it’s better to think of it in terms of familiarity with technology?

And finally, and I think most importantly, are there concrete training tools that can transform an RTL into an avid learner, willing to take risks and able to learn conceptually about technology? I think there are, and if that’s true, it has significance for how I structure my class.

Encounters with Scripture

Are you discovering (or rediscovering) anything about the Bible?

I have had a few bold encounters with Scripture in my life, but mostly they are little ones that add up.  Sometimes those little encounters get lost in daily life, so I thought it’d be cool if we wrote some down.

On Wednesday nights I am going through a study called The Patriarchs with some women.  This week we studied Genesis 29/30.  I am thinking of Rachel and Leah after they are both married to Jacob.  One’s prettier, one bears more sons, and neither one can let go of the competition.  Sisters – women – human beings are nauseatingly competitive.

Leah has three sons and hopes it will cause Jacob to love her.  Here are the things she said after they were born:

First son: “It is because the Lord has seen my misery.  Surely my husband will love me now.

Second son: “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one, too.”

Third son: “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Then she birthed a fourth son and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.”  After a lifetime of being known for ugliness and betrothal to someone who was in love with her sister, she made her peace , like Lieutenant Dan after the storm on Forrest Gump’s boat.  This baby’s name was Judah.  Of Jacob’s twelve sons, this is the one whose descendant would be Christ.  I thought it was cool that perhaps this small trace of Jesus was bringing peace, even long before he was born.

How about you?  Have you been learning anything from the Bible lately?

Gravatar Site Images

So, what’s with all the ghost images wandering around the site? You’ve probably noticed them in the comments. They look like this:

avatar.jpeg

They’re called gravatars, and you can set one up here. Here’s how it works: you plug in your email, and you upload a picture, and then every time you make a comment, the site will automagically insert your gravatar next to your comment.

Now, people can tell at a glance that the 18 paragraph thesis relating Cézanne’s conception of the human form in art to Foucault’s sign-object deconstruction was written by Stick, and not by Leoskeo. (Well, aside from the fact that Leoskeo thinks Cézanne’s work is symptomatic of the larger changes in representational art, and tooootally overblown in terms of its real significance, so he would never write that comment, obviously).

So, dear reader, what does this mean to you? If you’re a commenter, and you want your picture (or a picture) to show up next to your comments, just go to the Gravatar site and sign up. It’s run by the same people who write WordPress – good people, good company, no privacy concerns about giving them your email.

Then, every time you leave a comment using that same email address that you signed up with, your photo gets dropped in.

If you are an author for this site, please go sign up for a Gravatar. The next incarnation of our site design will be using Gravatars as author images next to the posts, so if you don’t want the anonymous ghost image showing up, you’ll need to setup a Gravatar image. Please make sure you sign up for it using the same email address that you used when you registered here at Addison Road.

Pictures! Color! Happiness and Joy! Mmmmm, delicious!

Planned Downtime

Addison Road will be down this weekend. I’m switching over to a new server, with significantly faster load times, and less crappy downtime.

Please get all of your snarky comments posted here by tonight at 10pm, or risk getting that shakes until the site comes back online.

In my cart so far…

So, it snowed last night…just enough to be pretty (which now, a few hours later, means it’s one giant, sloppy, unpretty mess). The snow reminded me that winter has in fact, just begun. Given that I’m a poster-child for SAD, I’m planning ahead and doing some book shopping so that if (hahahahahah!) or rather, WHEN the dysfunction rears it’s ugly head on day #4 of rain (who am I kidding…I mean day #2!) I will at least have some good reads lying about. Better to bury one’s head in a book than just, ya know, bury it. So here’s what’s in my cart so far:
Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
I’ve read zero Rob so far…I’m curious…and anything with “repainting” in the title is bound to resonate with me…I repaint often. (Which is another way of saying I paint badly quite often.)

Sadly, that’s the only mommy book I’ve added so far. (Thus, this post.) The only other things in my cart are three children’s books about Thanksgiving. (Thanks Aly…I finally checked out the Squanto book you recommended.) Like I said, I’m planning ahead.

I thought briefly about adding Foucault’s Pendulum as per a recommendation on a friend’s facebook page, but this sentence from the review sent me back to the children’s section: “This complex psychological thriller chronicles the development of a literary joke that plunges its perpetrators into deadly peril.” That is soooo utterly unappealing to me. And I don’t even feel compelled to apologize for my lack of intellectualism. (Mark it down.)

So, who has some reading recommendations for me? I’m aiming for somewhere a bit beyond Squanto for children but below the psychologically thrilling Foucault…it’s a big target…surely some of you can help! Lest my brain moss over in this perpetual winter drizzle, do comment soon! Thanks. (I thought about this and this, but I dunno….I guess I kinda want something more….fun.)

Run Zane, run!

Sir Ken Robinson’s talk entitled “Do schools kill creativity?” may be old news to many, but I just discovered it today via this place. I think I love this man. Or, at least his message.

I’m almost always angsty in regard to my children’s schooling. I think, wonder, question, ponder, imagine and pray (sometimes in that order and sometimes in the reverse order) about it nine days out of 10. I’d guess that this intense preoccupation is deeply rooted in my own schooling experiences, but maybe not. Whatever the case, I think about it a lot. I desperately want my children to have a positive schooling experience. That sounds so generic and vague but it (“positive”) truly is what I mean—in the biggest, best sense of the word. Of course I want them to learn stuff, but I’m passionate (again with the overused and thusly generic sounding word) about them learning about themselves as created, creative beings and learning how to think and learning to love learning and acquiring and nurturing internal resources that will both allow and spur them on to be the best versions of themselves possible. Oh my, I feel a preachy, esoteric fight song coming on.

Presently, our six-year-old son attends first grade at a local private Christian school. It’s been fine. A bit costly and fine. It’s not perfect and I don’t expect to find a perfect school. Duh. We’re trying to “take it one year at a time” as many parents say and we are glad that in this day and age (and state) there are so many great schooling options.

This darling, beloved, love-him-so-much-I-can-hardly-stand-it son of mine talks almost all the time. If he’s thinking it, he’s saying it. I think it would drive even Jesus himself bats. We’re trying to help him with this way in which he relates to life and processes information as we don’t want the poor child to drive everyone around him bats. It occurred to me this evening, as I listened to Sir Ken’s speech, that perhaps I should be helping dear son learn how to be an amazing orator, speaking with authority since he so loves to do it. He also loves to run. He can run quite fast and for a suprisingly long time. We recently made a path around the back half of our property (1.4 acres) for him to run. He enjoys it, but still likes to go to a park or track where he can just run sraight and fast and flat out for, like I said, a fairly shocking length of time. It’s like he just comes alive when he gets to runrunrunrunrun. So what is second grade at the Christian School he attends known for? Sittin’ down and shuttin’ up. Hmmm.

So, what say you about elementary education?

Site Redesign: Reader Input

There’s a blog redesign a comin’ probably during finals week of this semester. WordPress has upgraded their software several times since the last update, and our current design no longer works. Also, creating new blog designs is the greatest means of procrastination ever, and Lord knows I’m not about to start grading thesis papers until at least 3 weeks after final grades are due.

So, blog redesign. Like all good blog dictators, I realize that it is occasionally important to appear concerned with the ill-informed and petty views of your consumers, and to that end, I’m looking for some feedback from you on what does and does not need to stay.

What do you think, addison roadies? Still like the taglines, or time to go? 3 from the archives still something you use? How often do you use the search feature? Any festive color suggestions? Let me know what you think is important to include on the public face of our little inter-web community, and what you think should be shaved off like 4-week old back hair.

Come on baby…

Hey Roadies…

So, here’s the scoop:

My beautiful wife of 8.4 years and I have spoken a couple of times on “Date Nights” for local groups. The basic gist is the importance of romancing your significant other, as well as creative ways to do so, long after the proverbial “honeymoon” is over.

I’ll post again next week, and tell a bit more of what Rona and I actually talk about, but I was hoping you guys can give us a hand for our next speaking engagement. With complete understanding of the can of worms I’m about to open (given the high average intelligence and the low average maturity of the Addison crew), I pose the following question:

How do you continue to light the fire in your significant other?

Sincerely,

Matty