Category Archives: 7 Quick Takes Friday

7 Quick Takes on Books, el Oso, and Assumptions

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Yesterday, I went to the first evening of the Jane Austen Festival here in Louisville. (I have to fight the urge to spell it “Austin” because I lived in that city for so long!) I am not a huge Jane Austen fan, and she has no particular ties to Louisville, but some friends highly encouraged me to check it out, so I did. It was smaller than other festivals I’ve attended; I was spoiled by the massive Maryland Renaissance Festival, which is the second-largest in the country. The hat game was strong.

The main reason I attended was to see a staged reading of the latest adaptation of Persuasion. The playwright performed as Anne Elliot; she and several of the other actors sang original songs; and all the actors were delightful despite completely lacking costumes, props, and sets. They were losing the light very quickly as the play headed towards the end, but they persisted. I enjoyed it immensely.

I only knew a little about the story, but I found it pretty easy to follow. I did wonder why the main “villain” was supposed to be such a scoundrel. According to my companions, that storyline was cut for the adaptation. I guess that’s the risk of adapting a story to a different form: you have to decide what to leave out without affecting the story too much. That part probably should have stayed in.

— 2 —

Duolingo has been making some big changes in its language teaching pedagogy. The biggest one, for me, was adding a ton of new lower-level content to the Spanish course. I went from having covered everything except the last dozen skills to getting almost 60 new skills below the point I’d reached. So I went from reviewing future-tense conjugations (everything is review for me because I have a minor in Spanish) to things like “ballpoint pen” and “I have a blue shirt.”

The bright spot is that all of the new, low-level skills come with a way to test out quickly. I’ve been easily finishing a skill a day for the last several days. I’m not a fan of the new developments (especially Crowns), but I do like testing out of so many things.

— 3 —

I also still like Duolingo because of the crazy sentences, such as the ones in the video I shared a few weeks ago. One random sentence in Spanish is “el oso no cabe por la puerta,” which means, “the bear doesn’t fit through the door.” Whenever I get a weird sentence, I head to the discussion forums to see everyone else’s reactions.

When would I possibly need to say that the bear doesn’t fit through the door? My favorite was the scenario in which that sentence is followed by, “No, wait, the bear does fit through the door! Run!”

My second favorite was this gem of an illustration:

Winnie-the-Pooh can't get out of Rabbit's hole. Aww.

Silly old bear.

— 4 —

I worked as a teacher before I moved to Austin, and I’ve been working as a teacher since I left Austin. In the middle, I barely even thought about the mechanics of teaching. When I got back into it last summer, I wanted to go back to the style of lesson and unit planning I’d learned in grad school, but there was a catch. All my templates were Excel files, and after those interim years, I didn’t have access to Excel anymore. My solution was to semi-successfully convert the file to LibreOffice‘s spreadsheet file format and go from there.

That worked well since I used my personal laptop at school. I never wanted to have to bring my own computer to work, though, and I don’t have to anymore. My new school issued me a sweet Chromebook about five minutes after I showed up for my first faculty meeting. (The place is on point.)

This past week, I spent several distraught hours trying to figure out how to get my course plans from Excel or even LibreOffice into Google Sheets. There are a lot of really useful sheet-to-sheet links I didn’t want to give up. I patched together a plan that I thought might work… and it finally dawned on me: I can’t be the first person with this problem; I should just Google it. Lo and behold, sometime since I graduated, the files were made available in Google Sheets format. Crisis averted.

— 5 —

I checked out The Power and the Glory from the library since I almost never buy books anymore. (Then again, I did go on a mini-spree in the spring, but that was a fluke.) It was compelling, and I was excited to finish it when this happened (possible spoilers):

From page 164 to page 149? Oops.

I was very worried until I flipped through the duplicate pages and found that the story continued on just fine after the second instance of page 164:

This is how it’s supposed to go. This is how *numbers* go.

The last time I remember something that crazy happening in a book was when a bunch of copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix were missing the last fifty pages. I think I also remember some copies of Deathly Hallows repeating pages just like that copy of The Power and the Glory, but I can’t find anything online about that right now.

For me personally, there was a big bug smashed into my copy of Half-Blood Prince. I was so into the book that I just scraped it out with a tissue really quickly so I could keep reading!

Since this misprint didn’t involve any missing pages or non-missing bugs, I guess I lucked out.

— 6 —

This week, I found a bunch of iBooks on my phone that I’d forgotten I own. This is not as exciting as getting new books, though, since they only live on my phone. #21stcenturyproblems

— 7 —

I read a lot about managing relationships of all kinds. I was particularly struck by an article about how to ask questions to figure out someone’s perspective. It’s so easy to assume that someone is being intentionally rude or is totally satisfied with a situation. It’s much more awkward to ask, but in my book, that beats assuming the wrong thing.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

7 Quick Takes on Books, Computers, and Criticism

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Just a few weeks ago, I posted about finishing my 2017 Goodreads Challenge in October. Well, I’ve set a new record now:

I finished my 2018 challenge by reading 23 books!

I’m already done for 2018, and the year is only half over! Although I’m tempted to set my goal higher now, I think I’ll just call it a win and keep going. I’m aiming for a lifelong reading marathon, not a sprint.

— 2 —

I was saddened to read this NPR article about the rise in AI grading for standardized writing tests. The system can be gamed, of course, but it goes deeper than that.

On the one hand, I’ve been a human grader. It stinks. When I taught in Birmingham, I had to read hand-written standardized essays once. It was just me, a bunch of other English teachers, and a bunch of terrible handwriting. I’m pretty good at reading bad writing (both bad penmanship and poor skills, unfortunately), but one sample was so sloppy that I struggled mightily. I remember reaching the end of a sentence and realizing that I’d decoded all the words but had no idea what the sentence meant. I’m glad that was the closest I’ve come to experiencing any part of what it’s like to have a learning disability. I was working much too slowly for the volume of work set before us. So I get that human-grading of essays isn’t sustainable.

On the other hand, standardized writing doesn’t allow for much nuance anyway. I also understand the complaints of real graders who claim that computers can’t judge strong voice and elegant turns of phrase… but standardized scoring doesn’t give you very much credit for those things, anyway.

Overall, I’m just not ready to trust computers with interpreting writing. They’re phenomenal at transcribing speech, but those are just groups of sounds that need to be coded into letters. Dictation software still struggles with punctuation! Google might have an AI that can make me a hair appointment, but I’m not going to let it write my blog posts—or tell me how good they are.

— 3 —

Speaking of spooky computers, I came across this beautiful short film last year. It sent a chill down my spine.

— 4 —

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about criticism. The term “constructive criticism” has never sat well with me. After all, if there is a kind you can call “constructive,” then the default must be destructive, right? And it is. Putting “destructive” right next to “criticism” is a double whammy. I was never able to unpack my unease about so-called “constructive criticism” until today.

My first resource was the Gottman Institute. It’s been my best source for secular relationship advice for years. They identify criticism as one of the Four Horsemen of the relationship apocalypse. As one of the Gottman bloggers explains, criticism attacks a person’s character rather than actions and puts all the blame on the other. Instead of saying “you did a bad thing,” criticism says “you are a bad person.” The solution is to make a complaint about the way an action or statement makes you feel, as well as expressing what you need that’s different from what you’re getting. Those things are all about you, not about the other person.

So I was settled about what makes criticism feel so destructive sometimes (or a lot of the time), but something was missing. I didn’t see how criticism could ever be “constructive.”

— 5 —

I was listening to podcasts while doing my hair this morning, and I think I finally found the missing link to reconciling my dislike for “constructive criticism” with its alleged goal. It’s not just the feeling of destruction; it’s the total lack of construction.

Erik Fisher of Beyond the To-Do List (the podcast I’ve followed the longest) interviewed Jon Kolko about creativity and critique. Jon reiterated the Gottman principle that criticism can only be good when it focuses on someone’s work or actions instead of their character, but he also pointed out that, when giving a critique, you should offer advice for construction. That’s it! Don’t just tell someone what’s wrong with their work; tell them how to improve it. Then your criticism is constructive.

I think I get it now. And it works with work as well as in relationships.

— 6 —

For Independence Day, I went to visit a family I’ve befriended and a bunch of their friends. It was a little strange to walk into a house full of strangers, but how else will they become friends? We played some trivia games, the garlic butter green beans I’d brought seemed to be well received, and I got to watch some neighborhood fireworks.

Louisville is the first city I’ve lived in where fireworks are legal. We viewers stayed way back, I was only afraid for my hair a little bit (long hair and fire do not mix), and I was only a little distracted by the sight of continuing fireworks lighting up the night as I drove home.

— 7 —

The garlic butter green beans recipe I used was one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever followed. It was more complicated than just tossing some frozen cut green beans in the microwave, but they also tasted better. I might remember this one the next time I’m cooking for other people and want an easy side dish that’s as homemade and tasty as the entree.


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7 Quick Takes on HQ Trivia, Multi-tasking, and Talking Apps

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Winner!

I won HQ trivia! Not only did I win, I won it twice, and the first time, I didn’t even use an extra life!

If you missed the buzz late last year, HQ Trivia is a live, app-based trivia game. What makes it unique (besides being live and in an app) is that you have to get each question right to keep playing, and if you get all the questions right, you split the prize money with everyone else who got all the questions right. Thus, if the prize is $5000, and 5000 people get all the questions right, each person gets $1. But that, dear readers, is more than zero dollars, and for me, that’s what makes HQ fun.

I only started playing a few weeks ago, when my beloved Jeopardy! had a category called “HQ Trivia.” I took that as a sign and Alex’s blessing.

I had never won until, last Monday, the usual 3 p.m., twelve-question weekday game changed to an 8 p.m., eight-question game. In that game, I finally won… and so did 90,000 other people. Yes, that’s ninety thousand. For my victory, I received twelve cents.

You won, lndsyloves! $0.12 Congratulations!

Why were there so many winners? My guess is that the show’s question-writers and producers didn’t perfect how to balance the easy and hard questions (they start out ridiculously easy to weed out bots), so they wound up with way more winners than usual. They fixed that problem by Tuesday.

I finally figured out the (totally legit) trick to getting a free extra life without a referral on Tuesday, and then I won the 12-question game on Wednesday night, so I got another 99 cents.

I will probably use my winnings to buy a Dollar Tree lint roller. They are great quality for the price.

— 2 —

On Saturday night, I went to an event hosted by my local library. They showed The Breakfast Club and followed it up with a discussion by the author of a book about 80’s teen movies (Brat Pack America) and by John Hughes’s son, James. It was not as enriching as I’d hoped, but I appreciated the opportuty to get out of the house, see a new area of Louisville, and watch a great movie.

After I accidentally re-watched High School Musical 3 last week (it wasn’t very good either time), I needed a better movie to cleanse my palate. That did the trick.

— 3 —

One particular day during this past school year, the wi-fi was spotty, so I tried to load a page in Chrome while my computer wasn’t detecting any Internet at all. I got the default “no connection” page and accidentally pressed the space bar instead of my usual Ctrl+W keystrokes to close the tab.

Imagine my shock when I started playing a side-scrolling video game! I’d seen my students playing that game before, but I’d had no idea how they got to it. (Middle schoolers are smarter than we think.)

I only played it for a minute before I reset my Internet connection, but it was fun to stumble across an Easter egg the old-fashioned way for once.

— 4 —

I use Duolingo to practice and refresh my Spanish vocabulary and grammar. It uses computer-generated sentences, though, so some of them get a little ridiculous. I appreciated this video dramatizing some of the most ludicrous sentences Duo comes up with.

— 5 —

I completely lost my voice for five days last November. Maybe I’ll blog that story one day, but for now, I just want to recommend the app that I found to be an absolute life-saver. It’s called Talk for Me, and it’s designed for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Since I could hear just fine despite being unable to make a sound, I just needed something better than scribbled notes on a piece of paper. It was just the right thing, and it was free!

— 6 —

On about the third day of my lost voice, I started trying to consider emergency plans. I haven’t called 911 in a while, but I have done it before. If I’d suddenly needed to, how could I call for help without a voice? You can’t text emergency services; I checked.

Really, my only recourse would have been to call and leave the line open, hoping the dispatcher would approximate my location and send someone to check around. Once I found Talk for Me, I could have tried to use that, but even finding the app in the first place took a little while. I would have been left to fend for myself in an actual emergency. I couldn’t even yell for someone within earshot!

The only solution we really have for people who are permanently deaf or hard of hearing are those ancient alert buttons for the elderly or literally going to find a hearing person to call 911 for you. That doesn’t seem right.

— 7 —

Multi-tasking is a myth. The best currency in the 21st century is focus. I recently found a video to show all my haters. Seriously, try it, and see if it doesn’t change your mind about multi-tasking forever.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

7 Quick Takes on Makeup, Freaks, and Prayer

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

I have been using Mary Kay powder foundation for a few years now, and until today, I always suffered when I was almost out of product. I was stuck tapping forever on the container to try to get the last bits of powder to sift through. It’s not a cheap product, and I paid for all of it, so I want to put all of it on my face. Reasonable, right?

It didn’t occur to me to Google my problem until this morning. Thanks to YouTube, I now have easy access to that pesky last bit of powder. I just removed the sifter! (Note that I didn’t actually need pliers as shown at the end of this video; I just kept pulling gently with the tweezers until the sifter popped out.)

— 2 —

That was good news; here’s some bad news. Although I have attended more than a few Masses that include a couple’s renewing their weddings vows, that’s not technically a thing. As Fr. McNamara, liturgy Q&A columnist for Zenit, explains, the couple can receive a special blessing, or they can express their intent to renew their commitment, but the vows are only exchanged once. The vows make the sacrament what it is, and you can never redo a sacrament. The couple should be celebrated and encouraged. And who doesn’t love a blessing? But the vows are technically not renewable.

— 3 —

I just finished watching my way through the cult classic TV show Freaks and Geeks. I liked it! It suffered part of the curse Firefly by getting a terrible time slot, but I think it also aired at the wrong point in TV history.

It’s amusing to see F&G described as the anti-Dawson’s Creek since Busy Phillips moved on to that exact show. I kind of enjoyed that the story wasn’t full of wins for the characters. (I also recently saw Rogue One, so I might just be in the mood for stories with messy endings.) I also appreciated the way they moved through different characters’ point of views without the sheer weight of an ensemble show. Maybe that was unintentional, but it worked.

— 4 —

In my quest to read as much about Freaks and Geeks as possible, I discovered that there is a precedent for Marshall’s amazing short list of songs on How I Met Your Mother. Jason Segel apparently learned to play guitar in order to write a terrible, wondeful song “by” his character for another. I was delighted to dig up such a gem.

— 5 —

I was sad to read an article from Aleteia about the role men play in getting women the medical care they (often obviously) need. Sad, but not surprised. I can think of examples from my actual life when I have taken a man along somewhere simply to be present and to advocate for me. Seriously, all I needed them to say was, “Listen to her.” The article reminded me of one of the last few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, when Bailey was having serious heart trouble and wasn’t believed despite being a doctor and the chief of surgery of a large hospital. She was a woman, and everyone knows that women exaggerate. Except when we don’t. Like any human.

— 6 —

If you’ve ever struggled over whether to pray grace when appetizers arrive, whether soup counts as a meal, or what to do when the Mexican restaurant hits you with chips and salsa when you’ve barely sat down, I found the answers for you!

(Yes, I know it’s a joke. Just go with it.)

— 7 —

This is the story of my life.

I just want to read books and ignore all my adult problems.


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7 Quick Takes I Meant to Share a Long Time Ago

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Way, way back in the early days of this past school year, I really thought I would still be able to blog regularly even while teaching. That was not a great plan. It turned out to be an exceptionally difficult year. This week’s takes lean heavily on things that happened actual months ago that I never got around to sharing.

The moral of the story is that, even when I disappear from this space for months at a time, it’s likelier than not that I’ll be back.

— 2 —

Although I didn’t blog, I did manage to keep up with my reading. Conquering several texts for school helped me finish the Goodreads Challenge much earlier than usual: in October!

I completed my 22 book challenge.

I ended the year by reading 29 books, which made me feel like a boss. For this year, I crammed in so many books (including some short ones) that I’m 90% finished with my challenge already! Despite many defeats over the last ten months, I won when it came to reading.

— 3 —

As in previous years, reading a handful of articles in Pocket and watching YouTube videos I send there put me in the top 1% of Pocket users for the year. I still think that most of the user base must just toss things in and completely forget about them.

pockettop1percent2017

Can I count those 30 books towards my Goodreads challenge?

— 4 —

Finally, just a few weeks ago, I completed a year-long streak on Duolingo. I learned Spanish in high school and minored in it at Maryland, so I can’t attest to how well one can learn a language with Duo, but I’ve found it useful for working on vocabulary. I don’t get much of that from Evangelio del dia and El País.

oneyearofduolingo

— 5 —

That’s the end of the old news. In a new development, I have been taking private lessons in West Coast Swing, and it’s been such an enriching experience. Even before my year-long hiatus (which I saw coming), I knew I would eventually need private lessons to correct my bad habits and dig into my particular needs as a dancer. I started saving for them at one point, but other, more urgent expenses derailed that.

Now, though, I’ve only had three private lessons, and I can already appreciate the difference.

As a classroom English teacher, I know full well that many of my students can achieve more with one-on-one attention. I’ve seen it happen. That’s not how school works, though. I’m one teacher, and I have between 9 and 27 students who all deserve my attention. But they can’t get it individually and simultaneously. School is primarily a place for group instruction.

(The concept of “small groups” frustrates me to no end. Three people is barely a group, and eight is kind of a lot to be considered “small.”)

I do my best to work with students one-on-one as much as I can, but we’re all in the classroom together. I have to figure out how to teach that way, and they have to learn that way.

Now that I’m experiencing the dance version of tutoring, I understand both sides of that tension much better. (And for the record, I still also take group dance classes. They make my budget happy.)

— 6 —

Let’s close with two very different throwback videos. I was up early yesterday, so I saw Drake’s new video within hours of its premiere. That is very unlike me. The linchpin was that it features a Degrassi reunion! I’m on the fence about Drake, and I don’t always like his language choices, but Degrassi will leave me smitten any day. It’s nice to see Drake acknowledge that he didn’t really start from the bottom; he started from a Canadian teen soap opera.

— 7 —

Finally, I love the 80s, and I was so enchanted by this hit list mash-up featuring Sesame Street characters doing delightful parodies. Watch all the way to the end, check out the amazing costumes, and pay attention to the backstage banter!


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7 Quick Takes on Teacher Mode, Twitter, and Chainsaws

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Faculty orientation has begun. I’m slowly getting my teacher vocabulary back (for example, “vertical curriculum alignment”), preparing for the new perspective of younger students (I am moving down to middle school from high school), and trying to navigate my new school.

Some of that is almost literally navigating, via mental map-building; the school has a complex floor plan! I haven’t gotten lost yet, but I’m sure the time is coming. I forgot about that feeling of walking through a new door into a familiar room, feeling like I’ve slipped through a wormhole.

I must say that I love my new commute, though. It’s much shorter and easier, and it gives me just the right amount of time to switch from Teacher Mode to Regular Mode.

— 2 —

I used to listen to music when I got ready for the day. Podcasts were reserved for my exhausting commute, and I only read books. Lately, I’ve been trying audio books. It’s a very different experience, both in the sense of needing to pay attention as I do my hair and makeup and in the sense of listening to a book instead of looking at it. My most recently completed audio book was a huge letdown. It was a good lesson in being discerning about the books I choose. I can only read (and listen to) so many!

Laura Vanderkam left me mildly terrified when she pointed out that our available time to read books is as limited as our time on the planet. I am not sure I’ll be able to keep up my reading pace when school starts. (Audio books will probably help.) At best, I’ll probably only read her approximated 1250 books before I die. That includes books that I don’t wind up liking very much!

That number also makes me think about books that I recommend. Is the book I’m pushing good enough to be one of my friends’ 1250? Is it really a “must-read” when the number of “can-read” books is so few?

— 3 —

“Study: Less sex education leads to less sex.” Yeah, that caught my eye when I saw it, too! The article is worth reading (it ends at the bolded headline, “Is opposition…?”), but the main point is that, across England, when huge budget cuts came for a government program designed to prevent teen pregnancy, the rates of teen pregnancy actually went down, region by region, with the biggest declines in areas with the largest budget cuts. Even the researchers were surprised.

I’m not sure I’m surprised. Is it any wonder that providing less information and birth control to teens makes them less likely to take the risk of pregnancy? If you push information that makes it sound as if they can have sex without babies basically forever, I can see how that might open the door to risky behavior for teens who might otherwise be turned away by the risk of pregnancy.

— 4 —

I have a new level of sympathy for people who work on weekends or in retail. I frequently come to the defense of such workers when other people complain that a store is closed when they wanted to shop (do you want to work on Sundays; if not, why should someone else work, and work late, so that you can shop at 8 p.m.?) and been polite to people in less-skilled jobs. I’m no saint, but I try to keep that point of view in mind and be grateful for the opportunities I have.

But now, I’ve been there, for a little while. I’ve felt the need to cling to my identity (and job) as a teacher when people think of me as “just” a cook. I’ve worked until 9 p.m. Saturday night and then gotten up early on Sunday to go to Mass before working another full 8-hour shift. I’ve been unable to see Mr. Man as much as I had before because we worked on opposite schedules.

I always hesitate to wish or pray for greater perspective because I’ll wind up with a hard-learned lesson. I didn’t even ask for this one, and I got it anyway.

— 5 —

I started getting space warnings on my phone, so I deleted Instagram. It wasn’t a social media self-assessment, like the one that led me to delete Facebook; it was really just about the space. Then the weirdness began.

Instagram started sending me emails. It let me know how many of my friends had posted. It suggested accounts for me to follow. (I will not follow Kim Kardashian unless she’s leading me to emergency supplies or shelter.) It took a while for me to realize that was all triggered when I deleted the app! And then it got even weirder:

I still haven’t reinstalled the app, but I did log in from my browser when I got some likes. Gotta block and report those spammers! Now I think I’m permanently weirded out by how closely these computers are watching me (she says, recounting the whole thing on her blog).

— 6 —

In other Twitter news, I started some legit discussion with this tweet:

True story. That was inspired by my actual experience. Some spaces are still sacred! My desire to not have my restroom behavior transmitted via phone trumps your desire to make that call right then. What could you possibly need to talk about with someone so desperately that you must have that phone conversation while in the restroom?

— 7 —

And for a final social media moment, I shared this post from Goodreads on Facebook and got so many awesome responses! What’s yours?


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

7 Quick Takes on My GTD Anniversary, Pizza Scissors, and the African American Dream

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

My emotions these days are a bit of a throwback: I’m eager for school to start as well as anxious. I’ve been out of the classroom for a long time, but I’m glad to be getting back into it. I’m glad to have a career again, but I’ll miss the aspects of my life that I felt like I could only have because I had just a job. It’ll be an interesting ride.

— 2 —

As of June 27 (these takes have been a long time coming), I have been using GTD for three years. It’s been amazing, and I can’t stop recommending aspects of the method to everyone. It has changed my life in so many ways, and I am so thankful.

— 3 —

I don’t generally get involved in politics, but I read a feature-length political article by Anthony Walton in an old issue of Notre Dame Magazine. It spoke to me in particular in its discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement and the legacy (positive and negative, real and perceived) of President Obama. Here’s my favorite part:

There is an irony, both tragic and celebratory, at the heart of our society: young people of color grow up hearing about the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and they believe it. They want to hold the nation to its promises, they want to belong and be Americans, free and equal, as they understand those terms. And every generation understands the promises of our founding documents a little more intensely and insists a little more on the full implementation of those promises.

This is, I think, what lies behind Black Lives Matter and many of the other protests enacted around the nation. In another country, one which has not made such promises, there would not necessarily be such a sense of failure. Black Lives Matter protestors are expressing a belief in the system; framed this way, the question becomes: Can the system live up to that belief?

This is why looking at Obama as an individual, whatever one might think of him as a politician (and setting aside, for the moment, the irrationally partisan and race-driven attacks upon him, there are dissatisfactions a reasonable person may have with his performance), is worth our while. In my view, in many ways Obama is the most important black man in history, beyond Martin Luther King, beyond Nelson Mandela. This is not because of his celebrity, accomplishments or lack of them while in office, but rather because of the way he matter-of-factly mastered and rose through the tests and trials of U.S. society. To put it simply, he won the highest political prize of our nation through playing by the rules. He battled and prevailed in many different arenas: academia, law, publishing, politics. He learned how things worked, how achievement is accomplished in the secular world — an important point because so much previous outsize black accomplishment had been based in religious institutions. He showed a path.

Obama’s life and career is a model for blacks and people of color on how to progress to the highest reaches of our society: work hard, get educated, get qualified, learn how to contest the career and workplace circumstances you find yourself in and, with a little timing, a little luck, who knows what might happen? He mastered the politics of Harvard Law School, the politics of Chicago, the politics of the Democratic Party and the politics of national elections by learning the traditions and rules of each context. His was, for want of a better term, a “secular” triumph, the next step in African-American progress in society, following on black athletes and business executives, stating his case to the electorate and receiving their endorsement.

One would think that whites, whether they agreed with his politics or not, would see his career and achievement as something to be celebrated, something to be pointed at, not because of any “Kumbaya” racial fellow feeling but because it encouraged millions of young blacks and other folks of color to believe they had a chance in our society. That the way for them to advance their hopes and dreams was in the library and at the ballot box, not in the streets.

— 4 —

Duolingo understands religious life!

"La profesion" is illustrated as a religious profession of vows!

That picture is not helpful if you are (a) trying to learn Spanish just using Duolingo and (b) not familiar with Catholicism, but it made me laugh.

— 5 —

In other strange things spotted online, pizza scissors are apparently a thing. I know cutting a pizza at home can be tricky, but it should be done by grown-ups, and grown-ups ought to know how to use a cutting board and a knife.

— 6 —

Being a Marylander living outside her state for years now, I’ve gotten good at spotting Maryland license plates on cars. I saw one a few weeks ago with a totally new standard design, and it’s so pretty!

"MD PROUD" license plate

I never liked the lame War of 1812 plate, and the original (from my lifetime) was very plain. The new one is perfect.

— 7 —

I liked a lot of the items in a recent Verily post about dating in your thirties. Happily, I don’t relate to all of them, but some ring very true. (I also note with amusement the reader comment from someone who complains about how irrelevant Verily is to her. She’s reading it, isn’t she?)


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