Monday, August 31, 2009

365 Project: August

"August rushes by like desert rainfall,
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a match flame
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away."
- Elizabeth Maua Taylor, August

The month of August offered a satisfying blend of classic culture and pop culture, going places and just hanging out at home.

As in the past, the pictures which seem to attract the most views are those which feature my husband's artwork

A labeled display of his reloading accessories also proved popular. I'm lucky to have a spouse with such exceptional skills and interests!

It's very difficult for me to select favorites, since each photograph has its own special significance. For August, I choose "Plaid Memories" for nostalgia

and "The Mighty Hudson," a nature shot

This year, I won't be returning to my position as a school teacher/librarian. And, although I'm thoroughly enjoying retirement, I will greatly miss my colleagues and, most of all, my students.

When we visited the Washington County Fair last week, my relatives were astonished by the number of students who greeting me with a smile and a hug. So I close this month with one of their happy faces

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." -Annie (Film)

You can see a slideshow of the 31 August photos here or view all of my 2009 photos to date here.

The two groups to which I contribute are 365/2009 and 2009/365.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Most Beautiful Deception of All

"Ballet d'Edgar Degas (Musee d'Orsay) by dalbera

On Saturday evening, my husband was one of the participants at an event hosted by the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, presented in support of the Hyde Collection's "Degas & Music" exhibition.

Local artists were invited to paint "en plein air" before the "Evening with Degas" concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra. The program featured music that inspired French Impressionist Edgar Degas, with compositions by Bizet, Chabrier, Debussy, Gounod, Sarasate, Massenet, Saint-Saens, and Offenbach.

In their works of art, music, dance, and literature, the Impressionists celebrated light, movement, and sensation. "Reality" was viewed subjectively; "truth" was a matter of personal interpretation.

I decided to do a bit of research about both Edgar Degas, and Claude Debussy, a composer whose work I deeply enjoy (both my daughter and I walked down the aisle to Debussy's music: "Clair de Lune" for me, "The Girl With the Flaxen Hair" for her). Some of what I discovered surprised me.

For example, Degas and Debussy both disliked being labeled Impressionists. Degas was not an "en plein air" advocate, but preferred working in his studio. "No art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and of the study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament, I know nothing."

Both men talked about about the importance of infusing art with imagination:

"A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people." -Edgar Degas

"Art is the most beautiful deception of all. And although people try to incorporate the everyday events of life in it, we must hope that it will remain a deception lest it become a utilitarian thing, sad as a factory." -Claude Debussy

Degas felt that "Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see." Debussy described music as "the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes" and "the silence between the notes."

In the late 1880s, Degas developed a passion for photography. He took pictures of some of his friends and occasionally referred to photographs for reference in his artwork. He never stopped creating and learning. It is said that on his deathbed, Edgar Degas muttered "Damn, and just when I was starting to get it!"

Hearing the music that entertained and inspired a great artist helped me to put his works in context. I'm looking forward to seeing Degas' works at the Hyde; hopefully, something like Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun will be playing as I wander through the galleries.

"Some people wish above all to conform to the rules, I wish only to render what I can hear. There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law." -Claude Debussy

"People call me the painter of dancers, but I really wish to capture movement itself." -Edgar Degas

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Knowing Where To Find Out

My photo of the day today is "Quaker Bonnets."

When I snapped the picture, I had no idea what variety of flower I was seeing: forget-me-nots, maybe?

I discovered that the bright little blooms, "Houstonia caerulea," are commonly known as Quaker Bonnets, Nuns, Bluets, Little Innocents, Star Violets, or Bright Eyes. Native wildflowers, they prefer open meadows, where they are pollinated by butterflies. Some people successfully cultivate them in rock gardens.

In a journal entry dated May 5, 1860, Henry David Thoreau noted: "Bluets have spotted the fields for two or three days...They fill the air with a sweet and innocent fragrance..."

Andrew Wyeth called them "Quaker Ladies" in his delicate dry brush rendering.

In The Bluet, poet James Schuyler describes the fragile flower as "So small, a drop of sky that splashed and held..."

I located all of this information, and more, via an online search from the comfort of my own home. Had I cared to, I could have used my iPhone to track down facts right then and there, outdoors in a grassy field.

Our excellent local public library might have provided the wildflower identification that I initially sought, but the tangential learning, the interesting little sidelights, probably wouldn't have come to my attention if I had only used print resources for research.

I find that I increasingly use the physical library to browse for recreational reading material. When I need factual information, I turn to the "library without walls."

I want books and I want digital connectedness. The literate life requires both.

"Knowledge is knowing... or knowing where to find out." -Alvin Toffler

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Some Measure of Protection

Today, I received my first monthly retirement benefit from the federal OASDI program.

It wasn't a huge amount, but combined with a teacher's pension and my husband's Social Security check, we'll have enough to maintain our modest life style.

Tim was born in 1946, part of the first wave of Baby Boomers. I'm 10 months younger. We've been employed for most of our adult lives, although I took a "break" when our two children were born.

Even though we've officially "retired," both of us continue to work part-time, when opportunity offers.

The original Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935, by President Franklin Roosevelt. It was designed to be funded by payroll taxes, and, since 1982, income has exceeded payouts.

As my generation reaches retirement age, however, that may no longer hold true. Some projections anticipate that, within a decade, the Social Security Trust Fund will have to begin drawing on its Treasury Notes in order to cover increased expenses.

On signing the original Social Security Act, Roosevelt stated:
We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.

That's what I desire for myself and my family, "some measure of protection...against poverty-ridden old age."

I want what I worked for, all those years.

"Social Security poster" from Wikimedia Commons
"Franklin and Eleanor..." by Tony the Misfit

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Julie and Julia

Yesterday, my daughter and I went to see Julie and Julia.

While reviewers (rightly) praise Meryl Streep's stunning portrayal of American chef, author, and TV personality Julia Child, many have been less enthusiastic about the subplot highlighting the culinary adventures of writer Julie Powell.

"How did she do it?" I wondered. Not the incredibly gifted Streep or the engaging and talented Child, but Julie the blogger: how did her blog gain such recognition?

I did a bit of searching today, and located "Julie Powell's Advice for Bloggers." Her tips include:
  • develop a voice
  • build on content that keeps readers involved
  • be ethical, control emotions
  • use blogs as a tool to address issues in a public venue
  • keep [the craft of] writing at the center
All good, practical advice from a professional writer.

The tagline for "Julie and Julia" is "Passion. Ambition. Butter. Do You Have What It Takes?"

The butter. That's what adds richness, flavor, irresistible appeal. The butter keeps people returning for another taste.

So maybe the chef can also teach us a lesson about creating a desirable product.

Thanks, ladies!

"gotterdammerung" by rutabaga_love

Thursday, August 6, 2009


In Teach Naked, I shared an article which advocated abandoning technology as a classroom tool.

It seems that other "transformations" are being considered.

In Is the book closed on school librarians? we learn about a decision by the Las Virgenes Unified School District to replace six teacher/librarian jobs with three "media specialist" positions due to budget considerations.
"Dan Stepenosky, LVUSD assistant superintendent of personnel, said the positions were based upon 'a hybrid of skills and services that were previously performed by the technology teachers on special assignment and school librarians.'"

His district hopes to
  • cut costs
  • focus on technology and 21st Century skills
  • collaborate more closely with public libraries

All of the above are worthy goals. However, I wonder about the "traditional" school library services that might be lost:
  • guidance in book selection
  • time-of-need reference assistance
  • "extras" like book clubs, book fairs, story time, and other literary-themed activities
Teaching research skills is only part of a library professional's job description. For many students - and staff members - the school library remains a place to gather, read, dream. It's a literary refuge as well as a hub of information. It should be run by someone who understands all the resources required to produce literate, articulate, informed graduates: a librarian.

"The color" by Changing World Photography"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teach Naked

According to José A. Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, educators rely too much on technology, specifically PowerPoint, for instruction. Bowen suggests that classroom time should be spent in discussion and real life interaction rather than on watching "boring" slide presentations.

Power Point is one thing, but abandoning all connective and constructive technologies...

Many of the responses to The Chronicle of Education article are quick to point out that it may not be the tool that's the problem but rather the teacher, or, perhaps the teacher's lack of training in effective technology use.

Thanks to David Peter (@dpeter on Twitter) for bringing this article to my attention. David believes that ''Teach Naked' is more a commentary on quality instruction than on uses of classroom technology."

What's your opinion?

"Folded Arm Figures" by brewbooks

Saturday, August 1, 2009

365 Project: July

“Green how I want you green. Green wind. Green branches.” -Federico Garcia Lorca

Our summer came late this year. By July, I hungered for sunshine, flowers, and outdoor living. And the color green: many of my photos for this month contain a sprig, a splash, a dollop of green.

The most viewed photo was Crandall Park Pond, which showed the progress of a painting as it was created by my husband.

Surprise hits were Raindrops, which was favorited by 3 people

and Before and After, announcing the completion of my kitchen renovation.

Since I love the odd angle and unexpected capture, one of my own favorites this month would probably have to be Twist.

“If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.” -Chinese Proverb

You can see a slideshow of the 31 July photos here or view all of my 2009 photos to date here.

The two groups to which I contribute are 365/2009 and 2009/365.

Begin - Again

"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand -- and melting like a snowflake." -Marie Beyon Ray

My blogging has been sporadic recently, due to a number of factors.

I've retired from my position as a teacher/librarian and continue to evaluate my goals, prioritize my time, and try to determine what direction(s) my life should take.

It's also summer, a normally less-structured season for me, when impromptu trips and outdoor rambles tend to supercede online sessions.

The question is: do I want to continue blogging? If so, of what should my subject matter consist?

"Everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was." -Richard L. Evans

Although I'm no longer a classroom teacher, I'm still interested in education issues, both as a professional and as a citizen/taxpayer. Through my editing and facilitating duties at CyberSmart, and via numerous social networking sites (on Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk as dmcordell), I interact directly with educators. Their concerns remain my concerns: how do we best enable students to learn; how can we keep apace of technology and use it in all aspects of our lives; how do we remain active lifelong learners?

"When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die." -Eleanor Roosevelt

My daughter asked if I planned to begin a new blog, but I feel that Journeys: Adventures in Life and Learning is still relevant. If my perspective has changed, my "mission" has not. I'll still be exploring and, hopefully, growing.

You're welcome to journey with me!

"Grand Re-Opening" by Ian Muttoo