Well, crap.

The lovely water endstone that I finally got around to making on Monday?

Too much water? Not enough water?  I need advice.

More disturbingly, my back yard neighbor took down the pecan tree.  He had alerted us that he was going to do so, but it was still a surprise to realize on Tuesday that there was a crew on the other side of the fence — my new fence — removing the giant. I had left stuff out, so I quickly moved everything breakable away from the fence. Good thing, because Thursday morning there was a chunk of limb where the Dancing Faun sculpture stands.

It also left a huge mess of smaller limbs and sawdust everywhere.  On Thursday afternoon, two of the workers rang my doorbell to offer to clean up the back yard; we went back to double-check for damage, but I told them I’d pick up the sticks and use them in the firepit. (I’m assuming they couldn’t vacuum the sawdust up.)

All of that is just niggly little stuff, of course. The sawdust will incorporate into the landscape, and that will be that.

What I’m having a very hard time with is the loss of the vast green-ness that was once part of the labyrinth’s “outer wall.”

I am also now missing a great deal of shade:

::sigh::

The good news is that I won’t have to put up with pecans all over the place any more — and maybe fewer squirrels digging holes? — and perhaps I will finally be able to get grass to grow.

More work is required.

 

More Labyrinth…

I had a completely free day this Monday, and so I was able to get out into the labyrinth and get Things done.

I did a general cleanup of ivy, bamboo, and other growth.

I planted a couple of macho ferns on either side of the nook…

These are European macho ferns and should grow to about 5 feet tall, but without spreading aggressively as some cultivars do.

I planted some echinacea in the upper area…

And I finally got around to re-making the water endstone for the labyrinth…

(You can read about the original project and its purpose here.)

I had enough concrete left over to pour a little base next to one of the macho ferns to put a candle stand on. (For years I’ve just been jamming it into the ivy to make it stand.)

I had help, of course, from the Assistive Feline™.

This is her glamour shot. She sat there for about thirty minutes waiting for the chipmunk to make a move.

And I had time to write a letter.

A good day.  Of course, yesterday my neighbor had the big pecan tree taken down, so I have a little clean-up to do today before I can move on to the next project: cables across the top of the fence, for art thingies.

FREEDUMB!

So this popped up on the Facetubes recently:

Honey, please.

This entire attitude that taxation is theft and regulation is totalitarian is bizarre. The tough guy stance that this meme represents is a pose held by people who nevertheless continue to drink their uncontaminated water and eat their safe food.  Yes, Flint, MI, still has unsafe water, but that rather proves the point, doesn’t it? Regulations are necessary for an actual society.

My response to this silliness is to take a page from these people’s playbook — who for some reason are rabid jingoists too (and no, I don’t know how that works) — and say, “Hey, if you don’t like it here…” I hear that life in Somalia is free from all kinds of government interference.

By the way, the DavidAvocadoWolfe at the bottom — he has his own category on Snopes. I can imagine why he thinks government regulation is oppressive.

 

Adventures in the labyrinth, Part 2

When last we left our hero, I was working on leveling the granite circle in the center of the labyrinth. I was also excavating the drainage system beneath the bowl, and creating a seal between the bowl and the other components so that leakage of dirt into the bowl would not be as big a problem for the next ten years.

So…

I leveled the quarters with paving bricks, and replaced the river stones in the drainage pipe.

I placed the bowl back in place and began fitting the rubber pipe insulation around the rim.

I tested for the gap.  On the east side, the rubber gasket idea was perfect.  On the west side, though, the gap was bigger.  I considered leveling the bowl, but there’s a second, tiny drain hole on that side so I left the bowl tilted.  I adjusted the gasket level instead.

 

Also, the L-brackets showed when the granite was reinstalled, so I cut those in half. I ended up cutting the long pieces in half as well, and using the built-in adhesive strip to hold it in place. (Hold that thought.)

Finally I was done.

Or was I?

As I walked away from it, I realized that rather than use the L-brackets and have a mishmash of unconnected pieces, I could just run a single piece of the long insulation all the way around.  Hm. After the hurricane gets done, I’ll re-explore.

Next project on my list: make a new endpoint for water.  Translation: the labyrinth is basically four long lines that wrap around each other, and at the end of those a couple of years ago I created little concrete markers with the alchemical symbols for the four classical elements. Unfortunately — and ironically — I used too much water in the endpoint for water, and so it immediately crumbled.

Even more embarrassingly, this is the second time I’ve done that. So I’ll redo it again, and finally water will look more like earth:

To be continued…

Adventures in the labyrinth

For a while now I’ve noticed that the granite circle at the center of the labyrinth was not level and for some reason that bothered me.  I would show you a photo, but for some reason I do not have a good shot of the center.

Here it is ten years ago before I build the bowl for the center:

And here it is last fall, all cluttered and dirty:

For those of you just joining us, the center is four pieces of black granite with a ceramic bowl set into the ground. The bricks are aligned with the points of the compass.

Anyway, I have a short list of improvement projects that I’ve been waiting on warm weather to do, and on Friday I decided to knuckle down and start with this one.  As we go through the process here you will understand why I was reticent about starting.

First, we remove the granite pieces and give all the ants time to find new homes.

I thought I had marked them on the back as to their location (NE, SW, etc.) but I couldn’t see any such markings.  Perhaps they’ve faded.

I placed them so that I could remember which one went where.  (They are not quite equal.)

Let’s pause for a second.  The levelness of the center was not the only problem I wanted to solve.  Beneath the bowl was a drainage system: a 6″ PVC pipe extending down three feet, with river rocks both inside it and around it.  After ten years, it had finally filled up, and I was going to have to excavate it.

Also, there was a gap between the bowl and the granite, which allowed dirt to wash into the bowl (and fill up the drainage system).  In fact, the bricks don’t actually rest on the bowl; I used four little scarabs to prop them up. (One disappeared at some point.)

So: 1. level, 2. drainage, 3. gap.

The first problem I faced was getting the bowl out.  I was terrified of breaking it.  I loosened the soil around it with the weeding tool.

Then, using other garden implements, I dug out around the bowl…

…and removed it.

A closer look:

The pipe had to be cleared out; I decided to leave the outer rocks alone.  Ick!  I may regret that, but if it becomes a problem, I’ll go back in.  Some day. Cras melior est, as they say.

The bowl, freed:

Slow work, digging out the muck and removing the river stones that filled the pipe.  I had put the stones in there with the idea that when water collected at the bottom of the pipe, mosquitoes would be too lazy to work their way down to it.  I think it worked.

River rocks, collecting:

Done. I didn’t dig all the way down to the bottom of the pipe, because my arms wouldn’t reach much further.  Also, my plan was to create seals between the bowl, the pipe, and the granite, so that there wasn’t as much leakage of dirt into the bowl.

The bowl, all clean.  There is a message on the bowl, on the bottom, I think, that I wrote when I installed it, something about finding your path.  I chose not to look for it.

I had no clue what I was going to use to create the aforementioned seals.  These notches seemed problematic.

I headed to Home Depot and lo! there were these pipe insulators, rubber…

…and these!

Turn turn kick turn — yes, it would work!  (Hold that thought.)

I also decided to use some landscaping bricks to help level the granite.

And here’s where I left it Friday afternoon.

To be continued…

Talk me out of it.

So today I got an email:

Hello

I come to announce the good news about my TRUNK BOX, I finally found a friend who paid for my Air ticket that allowed me to arrived in this country to get my trunk box personally.  God so kind, I was able to recover it successfully, but I’m afraid to cross the two airport with the big luggage, however, I need you to join me here to find solution together to get everything DONE in order that we get this 14.5 MILLION USD out of this country to your country for investment. 

I have another solution, if I open the trunk box, I will send you 10,000 usd so you can use it to open a special account so that all 14.5 MILLION USD will be transferred to the account. Is this solution good??

Please answer me immediately.
Hope to hear from you
Sincerely,
Nora.

Mercy.  First of all, of course, the actual correspondent is no one named Nora Thomas. Second of all… who could possibly fall for this kind of thing?

But how tempting is this? I am this close to answering:

Dearest Nora

That is very good news about your trunk box! I would be delighted to assist you to getting the 14.5 MILLION USDto my country for investment purposes. You must be very tired waiting in the airport!

Although, I can see one problem. If you wire me 10,000 USD my bank will have to report the transfer to the government, but, we cannot allow the actual risk for then they would confiscate your trunk box!

I have the solution is to mail me two checks for 5,000 USD each.  I can safely deposit those checks separately and then we can proceed. I hope this solution is good for you too.

I look forward to your answer immediately.
Sincerely,
Mr. Dale

If you don’t stop me, I may very well do it.

UPDATE, 5/24/18: I did it.  I changed the signature to Mrs. Dale, but it’s off.  Let’s see what happens next.

Wrapped in a flag

As Sinclair Lewis did not say, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

I was strolling down the street to fetch a pizza yesterday, and for some reason this struck me:

I thought to myself, “Why is the Baptist church flying an American flag?”

Let me be clear: I was raised in that bathwater, so I know that the flag/patriotism/jingoism has long been an item of worship there.

And since I was raised in that bathwater, I also know that the origins of the Baptist faith, indeed of Christianity in this country, would teach that the church owes no allegiance to the government. Their authority does not derive from the government, nor should they seek the imprimatur of any earthly power.

But they do.  Especially since the 1970s/80s, Christianists in this country have been increasingly strident about how they and the U.S. government are one — or should be. They want laws that protect them — and only them — or that push their “morality” onto the rest of the population.

And now, with the Current Embarrassment, they find themselves in an appalling bind, tied to a man whose lack of morality is entire and whom they must continue to endorse and wink at if they want to continue to cling to power.  For that is what this is all about: they fly an American flag because they see no distinction between themselves and the government.  They want the power to dictate their rules to the rest of us.  They reject the notion that they are only one part of a diverse nation: they are America, the real America.

Then they express bafflement when the rest of us describe them as bigots and racists, cruel in ways that would appall any truly devout person of any faith, exclusive and prohibitory, unkind, ungenerous, and fascist.

If you’re a church-goer, before you object that your congregation is not like that, that your gang is Christ-like, I ask you: do you fly the American flag? Is it, like the Baptist example above, above the “Christian flag”? Why is that? Yes, it’s the official flag code that the U.S. flag flies on top, but what have you to do with the official flag code? “Render unto Caesar…”? I’m not sure that Christ meant your allegiance.

Think about that the next time you Pledge.

Governing — how does it work?

Here’s an article about the GOP infighting over bringing immigration bills to the floor for a vote.  Go read it.

Apparently, it’s just short of open rebellion for representatives to petition for discharge, i.e., override the leadership’s agenda, which apparently in this case is to let the bills die in committee so that the Republicans won’t have to be seen voting to be incredibly cruel to humans — which would please their base but outrage the average voter, here in the year of our lord Midterms.  Indeed, why bring it to a vote when the current administration is doing a bang-up job being incredibly cruel to humans all on its own?

Here’s the quote that makes me shake my head with disgust:

“It would be an approach that would rely on mostly Democratic votes and some Republicans to pass their bill,” Scalise said, “and that’s not the way to solve this problem.”

Let’s be clear about what Rep. Scalise is saying here: we shouldn’t be trying to pass legislation — or even vote on it — using votes from both parties. We shouldn’t try to pass laws using a majority of votes from the entire House of Representatives. Laws cannot be passed with the votes of the people representing all the citizens of the United States. “That’s not the way to solve this problem.”

There are other versions of this gobbledygook all the way up and down the article: “the importance of keeping control of the legislative vehicle and solving the problem on our terms where we focus on solutions, not politics” (because passing the bills is not a solution?); “I think it’s better to use the legislative process” (which apparently does not necessarily include bringing bills to the floor for a vote); “I don’t believe in discharge petitions” (from Steve King, who probably has done a lot to keep any of the bills from being voted on).

It’s all well and good to decry our system as broken and to point fingers at both sides, but at the moment there’s only one party in charge of both chambers of Congress, and this is their attitude towards governing: if we can’t get a bill passed with just our votes, then it’s not going to pass.  They even have a name for it, the Hastert Rule, and if you think “both sides do it,” click on that link and have someone read the first sentence for you.

Naked, obscene lust for power.  That’s my name for it. Your mileage may vary.

Primary Source Documents: a lesson

The other day there was a tweet that led to an article about THE MAP THAT CONVINCED LINCOLN TO FREE THE SLAVES, and even without clicking on the link I knew what map they were talking about:

— click for original in new tab, and keep it open so you can refer to it—

I had stumbled across this map in the Library of Congress’s online files several years ago, and I used it to develop a lesson for 5th graders on how to read primary source documents.

For the lesson, I came up with the following chart:

Levels of Understanding Primary Source Documents

I.Literal levelWhat is this document? What does it say? What do the words mean?
II.Connections levelWhat is the historical context of this document? What other documents/events/ideas are connected to it?
III.Meanings levelWhy did this document exist? Who created it and why? What is its meaning? What was its meaning to those who created it?
IV.Interpretations levelCan I create a product of my own that comes from the same literal/connections/meanings as the document?

I printed up enough copies of the map for every two students to have one; I had a large format printer, so they got something close to the original size.  Then we started.

I. Literal level

We read the words on the map and talked about what the map was. We looked at the date of publication (1861). We looked at the text at the top:

We looked at the scale:

We found Coweta County on the map:

We talked about the number in Coweta County: 49.4% of the county’s population was slaves.

We discussed what the Census was.

I remember asking them whether it looked as if the slave population were evenly distributed across the south, and they were quick to say no.  When I asked if they could explain the patterns of light and dark, they immediately told me that it was pretty clear that the heaviest slave populations were where cotton and rice were grown, i.e., plantations. I was impressed.

II. Connections level

Next I asked them to tell me what they knew about the U.S. in 1861: the nation was at war, the Confederacy vs. the Union.  The Union was not doing well in battle; the war was not popular. Abraham Lincoln was President. The South was largely rural/agricultural, and much of that was supported by slavery.

I showed them Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

We talked about the 3/5s Compromise and what that meant. I directed them to the computers — I ran a 21st century media center — where I had prepared a HyperCard stack for them to use the census data to calculate how many congressional representatives each southern state got based on their free populations as well as “all other Persons.” (We discovered that the southern states gained an extra 25 representatives based on a population who could not vote and who were not actually citizens.)

III. Meanings level

The crux of the matter: why did this map exist?

Part of the answer is the piece at the top about the map being sold to support the sick and wounded soldiers of the U.S. — it was an appeal to patriotism, underscored by the title of the map: this was a map of the southern states of the United States. (Confederate States of America? Pfft.)

And by linking the reminder of sick and wounded soldiers to the southern states, the map was driving home the point of the war: the southern states had seceded to protect their Peculiar Institution, an institution that had given them an unfair advantage in Congress since the drafting of the Constitution 75 years before.

Indeed, and I didn’t know this at the time of this lesson, Lincoln had used this map in his deliberations about the war and the Emancipation Proclamation, so much so that it was included in this painting of the “First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation”:

IV. Interpretations level

Students then given the following assignment:

Buy This Map!

Your task is to persuade a friend to buy one of these maps. You are a young person living in Philadelphia in 1861, and one morning in October you happen to be walking by H. Long & Brother Booksellers when you notice this map in the window. You immediately realize what the maps have to say about the reasons for the war, and you go in and buy one to support the war effort.

Now you want all your friends to buy one, too.

Write a letter to your friends to convince them of all the reasons they need to buy one of these maps. Instead of writing a letter, you may give a speech.

A good letter/speech will
• explain what the map tells you [Level I]
• explain the reasons for the war shown in the map [Level II]
• explain the connection between the Constitution’s “3⁄5 rule” and the map [Level II]
• explain what good the money will do [Level I]
• explain how the map made you feel and why you bought it [Level III]

Use the front and back of the next page to write your letter or to organize the notes for your speech.

Results were varied, as you might imagine; this is not an easy assignment, to translate all the things we learned into a personal narrative.  But it’s the kind of assignment that schools should have been doing and should be doing: it’s not just a creative writing exercise, it’s an assessment. The student demonstrates what he/she understands about the map in a rather complete way.  Yes, I had an objective test that I gave students as well, but that was just a formative assessment to double-check their knowledge/understanding before they wrote the letter. Yes, the lesson took longer and was more involved than simply standing in front of a class and telling them what the map meant. But it allowed the learners to construct knowledge, and in my charter school that will be the name of the game.


By the way, this is what my 21st century media center looked like:


UPDATE: Since there’s been some interest in this post, I thought I should circle back and include the “checbric” we gave the students.  (“Checbric” is one of those ugly coined terms from back in the day, a combination of “checklist” and “rubric.”)

Descriptions

Your letter/speech describes

____ when and where you bought the map

____ why you bought the map

____ why your friend (the reader) should buy the map

Descriptions

5 You’ve made the reader believe that this a real letter from a real person in 1861. You are utterly convincing with your reasons and personal details.
4 Your descriptions are often and sharp and complete, giving the reader details that make the letter come alive.
3 Your descriptions have enough details that the reader has no problem understanding who wrote this letter and why. Your arguments are convincing.
2 Your descriptions allow the reader to see that a person has written this letter, but there are not enough details for the reader to get an idea of who you are, and you don’t really convince the reader to buy a map.
1 Your descriptions are missing. The reader can’t tell who you are or what your reasons are for writing the letter.

Explanations

Your letter/speech contains an explanation of

____ what the map tells you

____ the reasons for the war shown on the map

____ the connection between the 3/5 rule and the map

Explanations

5 Your explanations are unusually thorough and inventive. They are fully supported and justified by evidence. They go beyond the information given in class.
4 You explanations are revealing and thorough. They are well-supported by evidence. You make subtle connections that we didn’t talk about in class.
3 Your explanations give some in-depth or personal ideas. You make the lesson your own, but you don’t use enough evidence to back up your explanations completely.
2 Your explanations were incomplete, even though you used some of what we learned. Your explanations only had limited evidence.
1 Your explanations are more descriptive than analytical. You give only a fragmentary or sketchy account of the facts.

Try this at home

Okay, Trump supporters, I need you to do this one little experiment.  No, you don’t have to give up your belief that you’re Making America Great Again; you can peddle that little tricycle all you like.  Just do this one thing.

Yesterday, the president*, speaking to reporters, railed against Robert Mueller’s investigative team, saying:

“So you have all these investigators; they’re Democrats. In all fairness, Bob Mueller worked for Obama for eight years.”

Is this true?

No.

Robert Mueller, for example, is a registered Republican. He was appointed by George W. Bush in 2001 to serve the 10-year term as head of the FBI; Barack Obama asked him to stay on, and he retired two years later in 2013.[1]

So there’s the one little thing I want you to do.  Trump lied. He is telling you something that is not even close to true and is easily checked out.

What does that information mean to you?

No need to answer.  Just file that away and remember this one simple little lie that Donald J. Trump told to you.[2]

UPDATE: (in case the above example is too slippery for you)

“As everybody is aware…”

—  —  —  —  —

[1] Math is hard: he worked for Obama for a little over four years.

[2] You could also consider the attitude so embedded in Trump’s lie that I almost missed it: the idea that because Muller “worked for Obama for eight years” he is obviously personally loyal to Obama and therefore Trump’s enemy. It does not occur to Trump that although men and women like Mueller may serve throughout the Executive branch at the pleasure of the President, they do not actually work for the President. They work for the United States and its citizens.

Trump does not understand this concept in any way.

But I only asked you to do one little thing, so we’re good here.