Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Judging by the Test Scores...

I just want to point out this seemingly irrelevant detail in the Sotomayor confirmation saga. Political "conservatives" keep pointing to her ruling against (some of) the New Haven firefighters who sued for reverse discrimination because the city threw out a promotion exam they took and passed. The results showed significant racial disparities.

The Title VII federal civil rights law on which the case is based REQUIRES employers to consider "disparate racial impact" in hiring procedures, not to mitigate low test scores, but to make sure the test isn't discriminatory in nature. In this case, Sotomayor ruled CONSERVATIVELY - not "legislating from the bench," but rather deferring to the law itself.

By the way, Frank Ricci, the lead plaintiff, paid $1,000 in tutoring costs and took SIX MONTHS leave to study for the test. That sure deserves a "nice effort," but it doesn't exactly scream "public safety is my #1 concern." Whether the city is paying for his six-month cram session or he's got enough savings to go without pay, THAT's certainly an advantage not all the test-takers have. I don't know whether anyone else took such extreme measures, but this guy wants to be a fire captain or lieutenant. From this far away, taking six months off seems purely selfish.

Then again, perhaps the city is at fault for, according to the article on the case, basing promotions primarily on the result of a written exam. If that was designed to provide objectivity and move away from favoritism (perhaps historically race-based), then reverse discrimination is a spurious charge, isn't it? One would hope that other factors, like dedication and leadership, would count at least as high.

Sen. McConnell's question is typical double-speak: "Is she allowing her personal or political agenda to cloud her judgment in favor of one group of individuals over another?" If she'd ruled the other way, it's just as easy a question to ask. The case requires (as lawsuits, duh, do) her to favor one group over another. Even if the answer is a 100% resounding "no," merely asking the question implies that some people are saying "Why, yes!" It's akin saying, "What we have to ask here, is 'Does two plus two really equal four?" It casts doubt and steers political lemmings away from the facts of the case, and boils it down to "She doesn't like white people, right?"

McConnell and Co. seem to have wanted the white guys to win a discrimination case. Wouldn't that be a sexy twist in the so-called Obama Era of race relations? "See, we finally elected a black president, racism is over--hey, wait a minute, racism ISN'T over, you colored folks are racist against US!!" It cleverly establishes an early precedent for white victimhood, as the population demographic marches toward a white-minority country.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Yo-Yo Constant

The entire day was a scheduling nightmare, rendering me virtually non-existent. Earlier, anticipated rain and swine flu cancelled our field trip, and in its place, my co-teachers compensated differently for the unexpected extra time with the kids. One team ran on the regular schedule, but the others shortened their classes, so when I finished with my third class, I arrived late to what would have been my ninth class, but was actually my fourth class, and was then released to what should have been my third class, but which actually wouldn't happen until after lunch. Nobody I was supposed to be with was actually anywhere, so I had lunch. Then headed to lunch duty, where all expected attendees actually appeared. Let no one doubt the constant power of lunch.

Today, like many days, we waited for the gym teacher to show up late and rather unenthused, so I was telling my professional life story to a kid who had, in fact, asked.

"Did you go to college?"
"Which college?"
"Ohhh, really, Northwestern? Oooh, well, what classes?"
"Comparative Politics, really?"

Why I didn't say, "Seventeenth Century Slavic Sodomy Techniques," I can't say. With each answer I increased both the honest and bitter tones, hoping he'd leave me alone, but it continued until one kid finally asked,

"So if you went to such a good school, um, why are you, like, here?"

He’ll learn. It's not where you go, it's where YOU go.

Why was I here? At least it was a nice day, and one of the kids had brought a Yo-Yo to gym class. I watched him flounder a bit, trying to sleep it, and immediately traveled back in memory-time to sophomore year in high school. For us cool theater kids, the thing to do was play with a Yo-Yo. Man, did I practice. So I asked the kid if I could play his yo-yo, flung it around a few times, and untangled the string. I told them about my sensory memory moment and our glory days. The Yo-Yo's owner decides to impress me with his knowledge.

"Did you know the yo-yo, in ancient times, was used as a hunting implement?" He asked.

I made it sleep again, and I did an around-the-world, when a kid asked if I could do the Eiffel Tower.

"You mean, the triangle thing, like this?" I replied.

After I walked away, another kid, trying to do the around-the-world, said, "Mr. Bilsky is the coolest."

How tightly I clung to that a few minutes later when the frisbee-tossing kids counted up for a game of Ultimate, but left me out.

After lunch, and gym class, my shortened-class colleagues had previously decided to wrap-up our day (and our Holocaust unit) with a screening of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Talk about finding yourself in the ultimate wrong place... One of our students, who in particular has issues with racism and behavior, didn't have his permission slip to see the film, claiming he'd already seen (and hated) it, and expressed the strong desire (supported by one of his teachers earlier in the week) to work on his genocide awareness project, about which he finally cared.

I wanted to step in and resolve the issue, take him to the lab and set him to work, saving everyone the headache, but because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be in my now third period class, watching their genocide awareness presentations, I didn't press the matter. I went to my other class, where students didn’t notice I attended, while he was forced to stay and watch. I rejoined them all for the latter hour of the film. During the last five minutes, while half the room watched the end in stunned, teary silence; he yawned, grunted, and commented overtly about how stupid it was. If only I’d had the power to go back in time and speak up, I could have saved my colleagues the forty-five minutes of their lives that they wasted bemoaning his reaction.

All in all, I didn't know who or where I was supposed to be at any given part of the day. Except in gym, where I was completely unneeded. I'm never really needed in gym; in fact, on the days the one student I shadow is absent, the teacher waves me off entirely. As if I were insane to actually want to stay.

So I’m home, after the kids are in bed, exploring beer-TV pairings. I’ve watched two consecutive episodes of LOST exploring time travel. This week's episode, “Follow the Leader,” shifted back-and-forth in time while Jack and Kate debate about where/when they belong and whether they can and should change their lives. Then, last season's "The Constant," wherein Desmond jumps back-and-forth in time desperately seeking his "constant" - a familiar person in an unfamiliar future. Fits the day’s displacement nicely.

Afterward, I surf cable, landing on Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Brendan Fraser. I arrived into the movie about 37 minutes in, when to win over his skeptical, newly-arrived nephew, he opens a box of his (dead?) brother's possessions, and pulls out a Yo-Yo. Trying to impress the kid, Uncle Yo-yo does some tricks, talks about physics, centrifugal force, and potential energy and says,

"Did you know, in ancient times, hunters used the yo-yo as a hunting implement?"

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Belligerence: New And Improved!

How did the testing group decide the fate of "Standard Aggression"? Did the original look more like Joey Fatone? Did someone point and say "sissy?" Does the crew-cut, shaved-chest look really make it look that much meaner? "Deluxe" ought to at least have razor-cuts in its forehead, and brass knuckles as an accessory. At least it comes with a metal folding chair. We should anticipate the release of the limited edition "Stranglepunching Deathdealers" boxed set by about 2012, if not sooner.

Seriously, though. There are angrier toys out there, to be sure. But for some reason, "Deluxe Aggression" feels a part of the same lexicon as "Mission Accomplished." Scary, and wrong.

As the first few months of the post-Bush foreign policy era get underway, I am re-reading James W. Loewen's Lies My Teachers Told Me, which I love. I hardly needed to revisit Chapter 8 to dissect the "international good-guy" US foreign policy model propagated in our high school history texts. I need only visit the toy section at Target. Even as we gain a few "international slightly less arrogant guy" points, can we finally blink our eyes and come down from this old hallucination? This is the phrase we've been attaching to our kids' toys: "Deluxe Aggression." It was only half, but even Cold Warrior G.I. Joe put money down on knowing.

You may chuckle and cleverly point out the irony suffocating inside the packaging. Our hero was likely manufactured in China and mimics Japanese kabuki, but still embodies American hubris at its most egregious. Neither truly sport nor truly theater, his cohort of steroid-puffed, mob-worshipped idols jaw clench and finger point with all the pre-packaged pathos of the multi-platinum one-hit bubble-gum boy bands. Yes, there are heroes and villains, but each have their fans - and while the "villains" tend more to cheating and fighting dirty, none are really above it when necessary. If a chair, ironing board or waterboard is handy, get busy.

Of course, it's all a lot of power and a lot of bluster, his strings surreptitiously pulled from afar. And all for a brief flash of glory: the used-up, wrung-out carcass portrayed by Mickey Rourke has no use to the string-pullers in the end. His physical makeup is designed to withstand a few months of a child's violent pantomiming and then spend a millennium in a landfill, a permanent plastic embodiment of American nothingness.

I'll feel less gloomy about all this if they bring back The Singing Bee for another season.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bumper Crop Yield

This Jeep was parked on 89th near 1st Avenue while I visited Manhattan last month. With such decor, I thought at first that it should, by rights, have been a Volvo. But the Jeep brand--the name of which originated with the US military abbreviation GP, for "General Purpose"--fits and plays with each of the other symbols in a visual essay on the sublimity of process. Each tag serves to teach the same lesson to a different audience - the nation emerging from the shadows of its past, the community organizing for the future, the eternal species (or all species), and the ever-present, ever-traveling individual.

The license plate. Connecticut, the Constitution State. John Atlee Kouwenhoven's 1954 lecture "What's American About America?" connected a set of distinctly American artifacts, the common thread binding each to each the celebration of process - and the strength of structures that allow for self-creation. Examples included the city grid and skyscraper, the assembly line, the mutating repetitions of the jazz riff, and the elastic taste of chewing gum. Even the US Interstate Highway System celebrates the innumerable possibilities open to the American car and driver. The quintessential American trait is the desire and ability to reinvent one's very identity. The very law on which the nation rests boasts the genius of unfinishedness, and places tremendous faith in future wisdom.

The campaign sticker. Personal ideology aside, the election turned on the desire for change, as difficult to define or promulgate as it may prove. Obama's political philosophy played out thus far hinges on charting a difficult course with honesty and integrity to bear the ship into calmer waters - on placing faith in the process to achieve the desired outcome, rather than its Machiavellian opposite. Perhaps naively, I hope we can stanch the torrent of impatient vitriol, clot the vindictive cries of "Yet?" and embrace the regenerative power of the communitarian "Now." What and how we do now will get us what we say we want from "them."

The walking fish. The propagation of a political posture such as "Intelligent Design," by focusing on the wondrous outcome of Creation, misses Darwin's point entirely - that God's incredible achievement was not the result of biological diversity, but the process by which it arose - from a single, infinitely mutable strand of DNA. We observe conflict in the natural kingdom and erroneously presume all life to be in a constant state war for survival and triumph of the innate strengths of each organism. In doing so, we miss the irony that death created all that is presently living.

The Tolkien poem. From Lord of the Rings, the poem begins,
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.

While Tolkien referred specifically to Strider/Aragorn, the "true king" masquerading as a tracker, the sentiment reverberates with those who traverse a meandering, circular, or spiral path: we remind ourselves not that "life is a journey, not a destination," but rather that every point along the journey is the destination. As Buckaroo Bonzai affirmed, "Wherever you go, there you are." The point, again, is the process of wandering.

The wrap-up. The weekend I spent in New York was short - about 36 hours - and I had intended not to get caught in the general sloth of my best friends and hosts. I wanted tangible experiences to boast about when I returned home, so I spouted plenty rhetoric about going to the Met, or "Gugging" it, as I hadn't yet visited either. Ultimately, the cost in dollars and time proved too steep to sacrifice the time with friends. As I crossed the northern end of Central Park and walked down Museum Row on 5th Avenue, I mused into my dictaphone:

In the end, the art was in the moment,
Not the MOMA, nor the Met,
But with friends and laughter
And my funny line or two
That now I forget;
We weren't lost in abstraction
Or found in complexity
Or in any plans
For next time's visit
To New York City.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Other Sides of the Bubble

On his Leno visit to the Tonight Show last Friday, President Obama recounted how funny it is that the Secret Service won't let him walk 750 yards over an open field. Was he amused by their paranoia or ambivalent to the possibility that someone, somewhere, might be aiming at least a shoe in his direction?

Understanding life on the other side of the bubble is clearly a work in progress. To us, on the convex side, he is gigantic in all things, and so is our like and our dislike of him. He, on the other side, risks seeing his reflection as smaller than it truly is.

We must strive to see him as a regular man: energized by his accomplishment and the goodwill it has largely inspired and almost brazen in his confidence at turning right (or rather, left) angles from his predecessor's style and substance; yet, a man, at times so comfortable in his own skin that he forgets the suit that covers it.

Last week he temporarily forgot himself when he referred to his lame bowling attempt as "something like the Special Olympics," in response to Jay's derision. Many of us have or would have made that or a similar joke. One thing I hope he learns quicker than President Bush is what things the President can and cannot say (one can only hope he need not learn the same hard way what he can and cannot pronounce).

He must not forget that he is the President, even as he temporarily unwraps the bubble from his comfortable ego. He is no longer the hip Senator.

At the same time, we must not forget that he is a man, and that we will hold him accountable as a man because he asked us to do so.

On the plus side, he has potentially created the greatest fundraising opportunity the Special Olympics has ever seen. They need only ask him to appear and bowl at their next national event.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordrobe Malfunction

[a word of caution: this post is meant for the Twitter-literate (#twitterate?]

Is there a #tcot equivalent to #therestofus, I asked. #trou?

Would #trousers fit properly? Or would #tcot brand us as #slacks?

Personally I'm a little tired of being treated like a #blouse [Bleeding Libs & Other Sissy Equivalents] when I feel more like a #shirt [Still Hopeful In Real Time].

My brain is struggling to adapt to #blogtime: the perceived compression of time in proportion to discussion of a particular person, event, or trend. In the right stream, a news item, insult, or other meme explodes in popularity in a matter of minutes, and saturation (or passe-ity) may set in long before many otherwise astute folks even set ears on it.

How to carry oneself in the same tunnel as such a fast-moving train? Hard to judge the speed with which events should actually occur relative to the volume of discussion anticipating, marking, or postmarking their occurrence.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Accommodating or Incorporating?

There is an ongoing debate in a corner of one of the classrooms in which I teach, as to whether ADD and ADHD really exist, or whether they serve as "excuses" for lazy students. The debate is all student led, and today -- humorously -- was juxtaposed with another debate between students debating whether ghosts and other supernatural phenomena exist.

I was summoned into the debate and shared what I know of the medical consensus, and of my own struggles. They seemed surprised, but didn't ask much. A few hours later, I got a call from a good friend who described her brainstorming weekend with two other social media marketers. She said that all three experienced many moments the conventional world labels as "ADD," but that they accomplished a good deal. If we're not overselling our productivity, what else are we claiming with our "multi-tasking" but the non-linear productivity pioneered by "ADD" brains?

Many ADD consultants talk about ADD as non-linear processing. And many educators talk about "meeting the needs" of ADD students, but are educators planning lessons for the WHOLE class based on the non-linear learner? Are we helping these students merely brace for the NON-nonlinear world, or are we training them to harness their nonlinearity to its fullest potential?

Afterthought: Can non-ADD "linear" learners benefit from such an approach?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Eat Pray Love: the Four Brothers

The Four Brothers Meditation included in Ria's post deserves some explanation. According to Ketut, the Indonesian medicine man (p. 251),

"The Balinese believe we are each accompanied at birth by four invisible brothers, who come into the world with us and protect us throughout our lives. When the child is in the womb, her four siblings are even there with her--they are represented by the placenta, the amniotic fluid, the umbilical cord, and the yellow waxy substance [vernix] protecting the baby's skin. When the baby is born the parents collect as much of these extraneous birthing materials as possible, placing them in a coconut shell and burying it by the front door of the family's house...the holy resting place of the four brothers, and that spot is tended to forever, like a shrine."

"The child is taught from earliest consciousness that she has these four brothers with her in the world wherever she goes, and that they will always look after her. The brothers inhabit the four virtures a person needs in order to be safe and happy in life: intelligence, friendship, strength, and (I [Liz] love this one) poetry. The brothers can be called upon in any critical situation for rescue and assistance. When you die, your four spirit brothers collect your soul and bring you to heaven."

These parallels between the bodily organs and spiritual virtues echo the Yogic tradition of the "gross body/subtle body" dichotomy (p. 144). I also love that poetry -- not just truth/beauty, or even the recognition thereof, but the expression of it -- is required for wholeness. I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eat Pray Love: Ria's Bali

The third part of Eat Pray Love is... Love!!! Ooooh, I get to write about Love?!!!

If I recall correctly, Liz selects her three destinations based on her quest for balance between physical experiences (Italy) and spiritual experiences (India). Early in the book, her Balinese medicine man tells her how this balance is achieved by way of a picture; of a man with his head in his heart, and two feet planted on the ground. It goes without saying at this point that the whole book resonated with me but the idea of balance or continuous tension between two seemingly opposing forces is especially topical for me, especially when it comes to love!

I've always been an assertive person. I go after what I want. I make things happen. This has been my pattern, in my professional and personal life. In my recent past, I've come to the realization that I know how to be assertive. My lesson is in being receptive... instead of making/forcing events or relationships, I am learning to allow events or relationships to unfold. At some point in India, was a quote "Life's metaphors are God's instructions." For me, in 2009, the metaphor for the lesson I must master is The Dance.

It began with the poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer that I found by accident at the library. And then (mom's of preteens will laugh), I took my kids to HSM3 and started crying (yes, crying) when Gabriella sings with Troy, "Can I have this dance?" And by a string of strange coincidences, I found myself enrolled in an Argentinian Tango class.

Let me tell you about tango... it is the best metaphor for the perfect, functional relationship ever! Both the leader and the follower are strong, in different ways. As the follower, my focus is on my partner's chest. I'm responding to the energy and the intention he projects with that part of his body. His focus is behind me, steering me safely around traffic in the line of dance. I have to surrender to him and trust that he is making the right choices, because he can see what I cannot. My job is just to take the next step.

Quite literally, I put my head in his heart.

People think that tango is so sexual. But the alignment isn't in the root chakra. The whole dance is built on "the embrace," the perfect alignment between the two dancers' heart chakras.

But honestly, it has taken a few months for me to be ready for this. I felt like Liz, very tenuous about "showing up for the dance." Allowing... following... requires vulnerability. It requires the lowering of the armor that a close friend of mine pointed out to me was my "blind spot!" But again, Liz showed me how. The secret was in the opening of the heart, just like Liz does on Gili Meno, to accept EVERYTHING about ourselves.

In Bali, Liz learns about the four brothers. I'm a little fuzzy on the details but I think I recall that these four spiritual brothers are there to protect you from doing stupid things like... condemning and judging yourself. Nonproductive thoughts, as it were.

During this tumultuous period in my life, I had a difficult time allowing myself to be angry or bitter or resentful. I just didn't think that was productive. But I had to learn to accept where I was and not beat myself up for those feelings too. Yes, the part that was cruel and hurtful... I had to open my heart to those aspects of myself. The me that was capable of betraying a trust... that was part of me too. Acknowledging those parts in me allowed me to stand in the shoes of every other person who has acted out of anger and hurt. Or anyone who has betrayed another... and forgive them!

One of the last messages I received from a former lover said, "It's your Highest Self that I fell in love with." I realized how small that was... but it was ME who put limits on that love because I never gave him the chance to see anything other than my Highest Self. I was too afraid of being vulnerable. I was always strong, always the one saving someone else. My lesson (and Liz's) was to love my WHOLE self, the highest and lowest. I'm not always Vitamin D in human form! Now that I've accepted my flaws and share it with the world (the self that sometimes needs saving too), amazing dance partners have miraculously shown up. Is it really a miracle? Because all I did was allow it to happen. By learning how to follow, I've created space for someone to lead.

I am in love... with the dance!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I'm working through Jennifer Koretsky's ADD eWorkshop #3, "ADDjust Your Attitude."
The idea follows #2's call to stop working against the ADD. I'm making a list of 5 things I'm good at doing:
--- Playing with words: rhyme, puns, rhythm.
--- Accents
--- Spreadsheets
--- Big-picture thinking
--- Explaining through analogy

These are the first five things I extracted from my head. Are they the five best things? The five most important to securing a good job? How important is free association to an ADDer's thought process?

Next list of five: things I LIKE to do:
--- Vocal harmonies
--- Drink good red wine
--- Walk and ride through the woods
--- Write
--- Watch movies

Next, five things I've done well in the last 24 hours:
--- Written a poem I didn't particularly want to finish
--- Made useful career-related contacts
--- Saved heat by wearing two pairs of wool socks
--- Managed my temper with my kids
--- Been honest with the Jung/Keirsey temperament sorter

I'm supposed to do this every day. I'm going to run out of things to do well in a 24-hour period. Unless "drink excessive coffee" can be reused.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eat Pray Love (then Blog), Part III: Indonesia

Back, finally! And with a posting partner, no less.

My co-author told me about a strand of yoga in which one breathes in pain, and breathes out love. I read Italy is an in-breath of pain, India the stillness as oxygen enters the bloodstream, and Indonesia the out-breath of the love Liz found.

Morning Dew
"I go to rice fields in morning, before sun. I sit in rice field with mouth open and take water from air. How you call this...Dew? Yes. Dew. Only this dew I eat for six days.....same thing that is god is same thing inside me. Same-same." (Page 233)

The notion of Ketut following his dream and his self-imposed rules to the point of near starvation jumped out at me. With no food or water for six days (the length of the Judeo-Christian biblical Creation, just to transpose a tradition), finally he resorts to the simplest, most poetic nourishment I have ever heard: breathing in the morning dew, until he sees the golden color of god within himself.

Circle in the Sand
"'God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now.' I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen." (Page 280)

These are Liz' thoughts after she announces to Wayan that she has raised $18,000 (lucky number 18 - "life" in Jewish tradition, and (of course) one sixth of 108) for the purchase of a new home. This is the notion of prophecy in Greek epic literature - it is not going to happen because it was prophesied; it was prophesied because it is going to happen. We choose our way to our destinies, perhaps. I see Liz breathing out here, even though she experiences considerable anxiety before Wayan buys the house. She has given away her own home in New York out of pain and desperation, and created a home for Wayan out of love and chutzpah.

Gili Meno
"'Show me your shame,' I asked my mind. Dear God...'Show me your worst,' I said. When I tried to invite these units of shame into my heart, they each hesitated at the door, saying, 'No-you don't want ME in there...don't you know what I did?' and I would say, 'I DO want you. Even you. I DO. even you are welcome here. It's OK. You are forgiven. You are part of me. You can rest now. It's over.'"(Page 327)

This was perhaps the most personal passage of the book for me to read, because it is still the hardest thing to do - to welcome in those thoughts you hate, the ones you KNOW are just trying to hurt you, that you are sure hate you. How else, though, to walk with strength in a world where whole personas are built around such words, and can exert influence on the day-to-day, without first conquering the ones inside, that influence the minute-to-minute and the year-to-year? And what was the lesson Liz learned from Bob over in Utah (p. 274)? "When you set out in the world to help yourself, you inevitably end up helping...Tutti."

I want to stop there. I hope we can generate a comment or two before putting this one to bed, and maybe hear a suggestion or two about how to attack the next book. I didn't start with a "review," but maybe the next one could be approached more conventionally.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


The puns will start to sour, I'm sure. But this article from William Saletan at reports on a Northwestern University study that suggests ADHD might be a genetic adaptation suited to pre-agricultural settlement patterns and lifestyles.

I recently watched 10,000 BC, a stupid and wildly improbable historical nonsense. Yet I found myself, as I have at natural history museums, fascinated by pre-Bronze Age technological societies, and the primitiveness we associate with their minds solely because of their tools. While these tribes surely had some divisions of labor based on physical attributes and cerebral skills, it is reasonable to suppose that nomadic tribal life required more broad skill development of an individual than does our increasingly technologically specialized arrangement.

I wonder if this means there is a correlation to the ADD's interest in everything, and desire to master many skills, and why that seems increasingly disfavored in our niche-driven economy.

ADD 2.0?

Yesterday I had the kids home all day, and was failing miserably at multitasking. I did have about 95 minutes during naptime to read, write, and sit quietly, which I did. But by late afternoon I was behind. I'd lost the energy to get ahead of them, to proactively manage their activity. The four year-old said "no" to most of my suggestions, and the 16 month-old was purely driven by whatever I did NOT want taken out.

By the little one's bedtime, I had no patience, no creativity, and no perspective. I lost it trying to teach a basic version of checkers to my daughter, who was utzing me about holding the other pieces (the ones we weren't using). I got irrationally angry when she kept interrupting my lesson with "Daddy, daddy, daddy..." this over here that over there this thought that thought etc. All I needed was a tap on the shoulder, but I was alone, and blew my cool.

After the tears and patchwork, I realized that what had set me off was her natural, 4 year-old lack of focus and constant interruption. One of my new worries: will she have it? And when is too early to observe symptoms?

Friday, January 9, 2009

To "Be" or Not to "Be" ADD

I had a job interview today for a position assisting junior high school students with behavioral or learning disorders. In my view, I'm a terrible interview. I prepared based on a list of questions teacher candidates usually get, yet when asked different questions, I tend (as I hear it) to ramble, stammer, and tangent. Still, I'm personable and intelligent and witty, so it was a nice interview. Moreover, I consider myself more than qualified for the position, so I don't fear the interview was necessarily a make-or-break part of the selection process. When I got home, though, I e-mailed the interviewer with a follow-up piece of information and felt compelled to delete a section I'd written disclosing that I had adult ADD and that sometimes interviews are not my strong suit. My wife asked why I'd want to label myself and warned against "making an excuse." Probably the safe bet, but I wondered if this wasn't likely the most understanding group of educators, and whether acknowledging and stating a fact is truly "making an excuse."

It's part of a new dialogue we're having -- I've tried to be more forthright about dealing with ADD, and she checks whether I'm "making an excuse." What I need to convey is that before I received the diagnosis, not having had the language to describe why I always did things differently, or incompletely, or tardily, that's when I was making excuses: my car, the traffic, the rough draft, etc. If I approach the ADD as a set of facts, and make those with whom I interact aware of them (if they're not already), then I can't possibly make excuses.

Job interviews are tricky things; everyone has a different way of evaluating a candidate, and disclosing something like ADD, as widely as the term is bandied about in the mainstream, could certainly seem like a lame caveat. I avoided mentioning it, but I wonder: if I don't get the position, will that be the excuse?

How openly should one manage their ADD?

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Fine, there's a band. I didn't know that until three minutes ago. I "coined" the term in response to my friend Sandy, who bragged about writing on everyone's Facebook walls as her New Year's greeting.

I tweeted "People's Choice = Blahscars" today (1/8/09), and later discovered its been floating around for quite some time. Earliest Google reference I could find was here.

"Finanstigating" - the act of stirring the money pot with unethical schemes. See Michael Millken, Enron, Bernie Madoff. Leads inevitably to FinanstiGate.


Web 2.0 is the shiniest thing in the room, a hive of mirrors. Since the bloginning, I have been exploring my social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, good ol' Google) to find resources on living with Adult ADD. A lot of life coaches out there. The very act of searching and clicking on all the ADD-related options can be a bit dizzying. Several referrals to timers out there. I will buy a timer and limit myself to 10 minutes of resource-seeking per day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


At a meeting last night and just before class this morning, I have noticed the ADD as a part of my conscious interactive mind:

This morning, I arrived at school not tardy but later than I wanted to, and had very little time to go over the lesson plans before class began. It turned out that the teacher only needed me for about 15 minutes, and all I had to do was start the movie and take attendance (both of which I usually like to do myself but delegated to students), but I noticed that I could only digest about half of the instructions she was giving me. The combination of the written plans I glanced at while listening, the large stack of papers on the her desk to which she kept referring while she talked, the buzz of the students coming into the room and noting my presence, and the general seat-of-the-pantsness of this particular assignment swirled around my head like cream in coffee, puffing and lilting until finally I reached a tepid equilibrium of half-understanding.

Last night, I met a friend of a friend over beers for a conversation about his field (clinical psych), and although the bar was relatively quiet and mellow, and the conversation fascinating and personal, and the sensitive guitarist singing open mike tunes to a tiny audience, I had to take more than one time-out (literally - I even explained to him that I was making a more conscious effort to understand how ADD was affecting me in social settings) to still and separate various tracks of thought and attention. I wonder how experienced ADD managers do this consciously.

Elements of the swirl: menu offerings, draft options, the guitarist's setlist and "Hey! He just strummed the opening chord to John Mayer's St. Patrick's Day, I should be on Name That Tune!", my friend's friend's life's details, my life details, my friend's life details (he wasn't there, but his details were), another friend who would soon be waiting for my call...

I do know that I would recognize certain elements of the conversation or certain facts that were shared if I heard them again, but I couldn't narrate the course of the meeting without fictionalizing it. I do know that it was a good meeting, and that I will likely have another in the near future.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Baby Steps

Yes, this is definitely me. I've known this (as have you), but it offers comfort nonetheless. Living in an overdiagnosed society, I get the impression that anyone would claim the symptoms she lists, which makes as good business sense for her as the horoscope does for the astrologer. Still, the excerpt from her book Odd One Out reads well and specifically enough to the ADD mind that it might be a good tool to have.

This might also be a good tool to have. I'll put it on my birthday wish list, and by the time I get it, I'll have forgotten, so it'll be a nice surprise.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Searching for Teachers With ADD

- Searching "teachERS with ADD" yields better results than "teachING with ADD."
- Of the first 20 google hits on "teachers with ADD," all but three appear focused on the student, not the teacher.
- This article from appears to have been formatted by an ADD sufferer, but seems to offer some good advice. Worth a review.
- This Teachers.Net article, dating to 2001, sympathizes with the ADHD student because the teacher also suffers, but offers no strategies for the teacher.
- This must be a joke, but his heart (if not his head) is probably in the right place.
- Clearly a joke, and a good one. The host site is informative but lacks depth.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Eat Pray Love (then Blog), Part II: India

Note to reader: Since "intention" is a recurring theme in this post, please accept this apology if this entry isn't the usual book-club fare. In fairness, though, this book is bound to be intensely personal to many readers, and I am no exception. I would share many more thoughts and feelings on this section, but I swear I worked to keep it to just a few. That said, discuss away.

Tears and Prayers

I was full of a hot, powerful sadness and would have loved to burst into the comfort of tears, but tried hard not to, remembering something my Guru once said--that you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead. (Page 137)

So how to tell the difference between types of tears? The Inuit are said to have something like thirty different words for "snow." I wonder how many different words there are for "tears," if some can be so right and others can be, well, a mere tendency. What is cathartic and what is chronic?


Has this happened to you, that you read a particularly powerful work at just the right time in your life? Where it seemed like you were meant to encounter it exactly when you did? This was Eat Pray Love for me.

Again, I was "given" this book by a recent reconnection, and we discovered that the reconnection was mutually meant, or intended, although we had not expected it at the time. In our conversations about healing old and new wounds, I called her my "Witness to Change," a notion she reciprocated. Oddly (or not), the feeling and the statement came the night of November 4, as millions of us felt as though we were bearing witness to a long-awaited change. Less than a week later, I came to chapter 66, wherein Liz describes the fourth state of consciousness, known as turiya. The three typical states are waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleeping, but "this fourth level is the witness of all the other states, the integral awareness that links the other three levels together." On top of all that, when I spoke the word aloud I realized it is a striking pun on my witness' name, at which point I about freaked out.

I had to laugh, remembering Liz' earlier inner argument -- her "Me" versus her "Mind," that erupted while she was trying to meditate (Pages 134-137). Her overactive brain was impeding her spiritual progress. Not too many pages afterward, she describes her shocking "personal encounter with the divine," and relates St. Theresa's observation about the challenges of relating that experience to others - once the troublesome mind "begins to compose speeches and dream up arguments, especially if these are clever, it will soon imagine it is doing important work."


Ria, your thoughts on prayer in your last post remind me of this:

"Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention." (Page 177)

Jewish mystics call this intention kavanah. It is the backbone of several versions of the story of the poor, illiterate or uneducated Jew in the back of the synagogue fervently reciting the alphabet, playing the violin, or standing completely still--depending on the storyteller--and despite the ridicule of many more "sophisticated" templegoers earns the praise of the wise old rabbi for praying with the greatest sincerity.

Perhaps this is the resolution to the Me vs. Mind problem - acting on what I want to do rather than continuing to do what I know I can.

Writing Left and Right

My wife didn't like the title of this blog, and so far isn't loving the notion of organizing my own personal blogosphere into the Right and Left sides of my brain. Since I want to keep both voices active, I thought the conscious dual (duel?) journal would help provide a structure. And a strong goal - to nurture both voices and to integrate them. They might even start to speak and listen to each other, rather than shouting each other down for more of my attention.

She thinks it could be an excuse -- one day over here doing haiku, the next over there barking about education policy, and acting like the diagnosis neatly ties it together.

She may be right. But 2009 starts like any good year as a Pisces should: dually.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Eat Pray Love (then Blog), Part I: Italy

I want to start this blog with the book that focused all this effort in the first place. Eat Pray Love marked the rebeginning of friendship and honesty for me after a nearly disastrous backsliding into fear and self-loathing.

With a bit of dismay I admit I have not traveled to any of the countries Liz visited (although I have been to Israel, and as another "I" nation that might make a good starting place for a sequel someday). But I will.

What I immediately and lastingly liked about this book was her structural approach: beginning with the end (the 109th bead), dividing the book into three sets of thirty-six (108 is a great number) chapters, and her ability, amid all that structure, to allow coincidental and interconnected people and events to unfold and pour out. Freely.

Reading the book offered a numerologically cathartic experience. I'll save that for a later post, as it might be nice to get people into the room and happy to be talking before spilling everything I might think there is to think about it.

It was suggested to me by a dear friend with whom I recently reconnected. We compared notes on our marital struggles, and talked a great deal about which feeling was more powerful - the urge to go or the need to stay. Needless to say, arriving so quickly at page 10, "I don't want to be married anymore," read like a splashing bucket of cold water. It was unsettling (and coincidental, maybe...) enough to hook me (although opening with 108 already had me).

That said, let's start with Italy. I found her stay intensely pleasurable to read about, albeit less impactful than later sections. The most striking sequence for me was the Thanksgiving dinner, on pages 108-109 (naturally). Liz wants to say everything she's feeling about the weight the dinner has lifted from her life, but all she can muster is Italian: sono grata. Why is it that words in foreign languages can take on more meaning than their English equivalent? Is it the effort of translating in your head? The tacit admission that "my native words aren't good enough for my nascent emotions?"

About my friend who gave me this book: we had hurt each other in the past, and hadn't spoken in nearly fifteen years when we reconnected. How easy it was to skip past small talk into the what's important voice with which we used to speak to each other. We forgave each other, spilled stories about emotional stuggle, and thanked each other for "being here," as we'd put it. Present. In the life of the other, despite the geographical obstacles. "Sono grata" came off the page, and through me right to her.

In response, she pointed out Luca's words, "Your tears are my prayers." It reminded me of a time when I was noticing how many years it had been since I'd had a real, hard, full-bodied cry. In my head, I was calling it an "orgasm in the heart." In a sense, I was praying for my own tears. The next day, I received them - although they were someone else's. A near stranger, who'd read something I'd posted on a forum, felt she had to let me know how it made her feel. That is indeed another story, but it was an act of gratitude on the part of the shedder to let me know that my words had found a place. Liz' Thanksgiving experience bound up tears and gratitude in a way that echoed my renewed friendship. The idea that giving thanks would undoubtedly bring more for which to feel thankful.

Appropriately, I finished the book just a few days before Thanksgiving, and as the wave of New Year's reflection, resolution, and planning breaks, I'll take this opportunity to thank you for reading and posting here. Benvenuto!

Friday, January 2, 2009

What They Should Write in High School History Class

I had a conversation with my mother-in-law this evening, about Ed 2.0. I don't know if that's what educators in the field are calling it, but what I'm referring to is the coming and ongoing shift in classroom planning and pedagogy to embrace and embed technology into the curriculum. Stepping out of the role of front-of-room deliverer of information.

Anyway, my mother-in-law. She's a 20+ year vet who's trying to become part of the new. When she brought up plagiarism, I wondered how high school students can possibly NOT plagiarize when asked to write a research paper about a war, or a president? My junior year US history term paper was about Roosevelt's supposed hesitancy to get the US into WWII. But seriously, now. I could either come back with a survey of the existing literature, or some carefully reworded paragraphs stating ONE author's opinion on that subject. A literature review would have been a reasonable and useful thing to learn to write. But to ask ME to take a side seemed ridiculous. Or at least, redundant.

What are they going to have time to find that hasn't been written about one of those issues? What purpose does it serve to send students through a tiny handful of secondary (or tertiary) sources, and ask them to formulate a thesis from a stack of notecards? How can a teacher help students wade through a given event or period and bore down to a level of specificity they can handle without reaching the absolutely trivial? Shouldn't a research paper encourage students to explore something they know, until they can find an area that is yet unknown?

I propose a research paper that forces students to identify a topic on which they can conduct original research. That connects to their lives AND, nominally, at least, to the subject of the class. Why aren't students spending the bulk of their US History class time tracing their own family's history to and through America? Not only would a rich tapestry of various family histories emerge and intersect, but a) students would have a natural hook to drive their interest and supply their research with primary sources, but b) they will have the opportunity to explore those events, processes, laws, and figures that most influenced that history. It would challenge the teacher to present the subject in non-linear fashion, but isn't that becoming increasingly impossible each year anyway? In 1989, while the Berlin Wall was coming down, we were studying the Civil War. Why weren't we studying US foreign policy during the Cold War? We barely got to Vietnam. How can this year's class possibly get through it?

By the time they even sneak up on the period that had the most visible impact on the world in which they live (or lived, pre-9/11), they will be out of time to write anything decent about it. Not that they'll care, since they'll be finished with US History, done with the Constitution test, and ready for summer.