Saturday, March 17


Over on Language Log, a couple of
interesting pieces - Learning to Read in


and one largely on the politicization of reading


Interesting because I haven't really given this stuff a lot of thought
beyond noticing the American not-so-crypto-fascist right's obsession
with the idea that Phonics is Ordained from On High. I hang out with
teachers, so I've heard the conversation often enough, but I've been
operating under the impression that for most people who actually teach
reading there's a false dichotomy at work in all the ideological

Liberman et al. say that there's something real at stake, that
"whole language" instruction is a big factor in the way American
schools presently teach reading, and generally a Real Bad Idea,
despite what the politics of the debate would lead decent observers to
guess. (Say what you will about logical fallacies; there's a pretty
fair precedent for assuming that James Dobson is on the wrong(est
available) side of a given discussion.)

And then again, I hang out with folks in democratic ed.
The working free school teachers I've spent time with seem to have a
fairly pragmatic, do-what-works approach to the actual teaching of
reading, but they're also deliberately laid-back about the timing of
the thing. "They'll read when they're ready, why force it?" seems to
be the defining attitude.

a short list of things badly or not at all understood by yours truly

Basic biology. Chemistry. Physics. Linguistics. The work of Friedrich
Nietzsche. The general history of technology & science. JavaScript.
Bookbinding. Woodworking. Statistics. Brewing, distilling, winemaking, and
the cultivation of cannabis. Basic automechanics. Functional programming.
Classical Greek. Stringed instruments. Electricity. Cameras. Sewing. SQL.
James Joyce. Meter. Architecture. Engineering. Typography.

other notes collected from paper

Self-deception is a higher order function.

I've been reading The Evolution of Useful Things, by one Henry
Petroski. The thesis seems to center on incremental change, context,
and (most importantly) failure. He had a ~500 page history of the
pencil on the shelf next to this one. I'm tempted. Judging by
Petroski's cites, it looks like there's a larger body of work on the
history of technology than I'd suspected.

Via David, Jos{e'} Ortega y Gasset: Humans have not a nature but a

Note taken at work, watching a presentation to publishing industry
executives: Fuck Howard Gardner.

Resignation Song: enjoy your illusion of freedom while you still
have got it, you poor son of a bitch.

On a bathroom wall in a Boulder coffee house:

The Laughing Goat:

real? no, just fancy.

more graffiti, please.

2 girls with interesting hair in Environment Colorado shirts
iterate over the passing crowd, take passing abuse. Two dudes
busk by the door - guitar and bongos. The guys a table over
are talking poker.

Too much state, too many systems.

The lazy susan in the corner cupboard is, like so many things, a good
idea on paper. It's like hierarchy in wiki software. In theory there
are practical benefits; in practice, it's just bad. Bad bad bad. Fuck
the lazy susan. We should migrate to a tiered spice rack.