Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Human Calculator

(from Stan Lee's Superhuman Bios at

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I picked up the paper today and found an article on what I posted about earlier this week - based on the texting woman falling into a fountain. The newspaper article, by David Bauer of the Associated Press is titled:
SMART PHONES, DUMB HABITS: New Yorker says talkers have replaced tourists as sidewalks' biggest headache.
Here are some quotes:

"It was a miserable morning in New York, rain falling heavily and a 30 mph wind that made holding an umbrella difficult. Yet a man walked briskly up Fifth Avenue, balancing his umbrella and dodging pedestrians as he texted from his smart phone.

As a sheer physical act, it was almost Olympian in the strength, dexterity and concentration required.

It was also completely ridiculous.

It was RAINING. And cold. The man was, let's presume, minutes from some destination. At any moment, he could spear a fellow pedestrian with his umbrella because he was only marginally paying attention to where he was going. What message could possibly be so important that it couldn't wait?

While smart phones and other electronic devices changed popular culture by offering an ability to always stay connected, they have so swiftly turned into such a compelling need that a simple walk down the street is considered wasted time.


Smart phones have replaced tourists as New York pedestrians' biggest headache. We used to disdain people from out of town when they wandered slowly on the sidewalks, looking skyward at tall buildings and muttering as we walked by with purpose.

Now we're the menace.

We also used to walk with a certain amount of hyperawareness. Remember muggers creeping from dark corners? Pickpockets who worked the crowds? Now many people walk down the street oblivious to their surroundings, fiddling with an electronic device worth hundreds of dollars.


I've been to parties where clumps of people stared into devices, or texted, instead of actually conversing with humans around them. I always marvel upon landing on a redeye flight from the West Coast at how many people immediately take out their phones and begin dialing. It's 5:30 a.m. — 2:30 in the city they've left. Who are they calling?

William Powers once saw two women in New York crashing baby strollers into one another because they were both concentrating on phones. Powers, a former Washington Post reporter, wrote the book "Hamlet's BlackBerry," about how an addiction to technology prevents people from doing their best work or forging healthy relationships.


Powers believes things will calm down as people become more accustomed to the technology.


So there's hope. In the meantime, look out for yourself on the street. No one else is."
The full article can be found at:*/Article_2011-01-20-Lifestyles%20Distracted%20Pedestrians/id-774ae6054d8d47488740d1dd7d16ca67

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Glorious Day

We've had so many gloriously foggy days this winter. I don't remember fog this thick nor this frequent since my childhood. It's so cool how it sets things apart.

Here is our house this morning:

And, don't ya know, this is California, so here's our house this afternoon. Yeah, I'm lovin' it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Time Has Come

WAY BACK in October, long before the above video went viral this week, I was thinking of writing a post on this topic, but I hadn't fully formulated my thoughts yet. I basically just put up an introductory video. I'm still not sure my thoughts are fully formulated, but this video has convinced me that the time has come to express them anyway.

I have been trying to decide if I am justified in my frustration with society's addiction to texting or if I'm just getting old and crotchety. I try to temper my opinions by trying to keep an open mind. For instance, as I have this internal debate I think about the advent of writing. I love reading, and I find books to be valuable beyond words (no pun initially intended), and yet the wise philosopher Plato wrote this about the invention of writing:
"The fact is that this invention will produce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it. They will not need to exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written, calling things to mind no longer from within themselves by their own unaided powers, but under the stimulus of external marks that are alien to themselves."
Honestly, I don't think writing has harmed us but rather has been of great benefit (though writing can be used to incite war or to spread garbage as well). The instant communication we have today can be used to good purpose and bad also. So, I wonder, am I reacting to texting like Plato reacted to writing. Is texting really something more good than bad that will some day be taken entirely for granted and as a genuine boon to the good of society?

In my experience I've seen it to be convenient but certainly not necessary - in fact generally quite unnecessary to the point of being worse than frivolous and sometimes actually dangerous.

I think there is at least a two-fold problem. In part, people aren't wise about using this technology. Additionally it has become an addiction. The first thing MOST of my students do as they are dismissed from class - every class - every day - is check their messages, even if they've only been in class 45 minutes - and were outside class as I walked up texting right up until the time class started. Although I require cell phones to be put away during class, many students have them sitting out visibly on the desk anyway, in case a message comes through. Last year I had a student who absolutely freaked out in class because it was too quiet, and it made her feel disoriented and as if she didn't know what was going on. I think she was just so used to having the constant stimulation of ceaseless connection that it was like sensory deprivation for her.

I've gotten a number of emails recently to my work inbox from prospective students, whom I'd never met, wanting to be added to my class, and many of these messages have come to me in "text speech" combined with such poor structure that they are nearly indecipherable (and I'm pretty good at deciphering!). Do people think this is appropriate for official or professional communication? Do they know that it is extremely casual communication? Do they even know that other forms of writing exist? Are they able to write in other forms?

That's where I see and deal with it mostly, but, of course, I see drivers who are talking on phones or texting and weaving all over the road. The statistics are sobering:
Talking on a cell phone causes nearly 25% of car accidents.

For every 6 seconds of drive time, a driver sending or receiving a text message spends 4.6 of those seconds with their eyes off the road. This makes texting the most distracting of all cell phone related tasks.

In 2008 almost 6,000 people were killed and a half-million were injured in crashes related to driver distraction.

Talking on a cell phone while driving can make a young driver's reaction time as slow as that of a 70-year-old.

Texting while driving is about 6 times more likely to result in an accident than driving while intoxicated.

52% of 16- and 17-year-old teen drivers confess to making and answering cell phone calls on the road. 34% admit to text messaging while driving.

Each year, 21% of fatal car crashes involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage. This result has been expected to grow as much as 4% every year.

Despite the risks, the majority of teen drivers ignore cell phone driving restrictions.
So where do we go from here?

The woman pictured in the video was interviewed on the news later. She has hired a lawyer and is seriously considering suing the mall, first because because they posted this video, and it embarrassed her and, second, because "no one came to her aid" (um, she didn't appear hurt, and she got up so fast who could have gotten there on time anyway - and someone did come after the fact, which can be seen on this video, a maintenance worker walking by checked to see if she was OK). She concludes the interview by warning people that it is dangerous to walk and text at the same time. REALLY? It took falling into a fountain to figure that out?

Again, I ask, where do we go from here?

Can we use this technology as a truly good thing that is mainly of benefit? Can we learn from the accidents that have happened - from vehicular fatalities to falls into mall fountains - and turn this around? Can we undo the addiction and USE cell phones rather than having them USE us? Or is it just too far gone? Is there hope for this situation?

Here is the video I posted earlier:

The answer here is another phone.


Somehow I just don't think so.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

First Poets

I reckon - when I count at all -
First - Poets - Then the Sun -
Then Summer - Then the Heaven of God -
And then - the List is done-

But, looking back - the First so seems
To Comprehend the Whole -
The Others look a needless Show -
So I write - Poets - All -

Their Summer - lasts a Solid Year -
They can afford a Sun
The East - would deem extravagant -
And if the Further Heaven -

Be Beautiful as they prepare
For Those who worship Them -
It is too difficult a Grace -
To justify the Dream -

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

and Thou :-)

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, A Book of verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise now.

Omar Khayyam (1048-1141)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Whew! It's been quite a ride lately!

It was so AWESOME to have Anthony home again - and so cool that it was such a natural transition back - almost as if he'd never left. It's kind of tough entering this new semester, though, as he may be gone 3 months longer this time than last time - with a one-month winter term added in and the potential for staying at the college to do mathematical research 2 months into the summer. Such mixed feelings - so happy for him to (potentially) have that opportunity, but not ready for him to be so cut loose from home yet. I was still planning on those 3-month-long summers together for a while yet.


My semester, the teaching part anyway, began yesterday. I've now met with all my classes and have had a pretty smooth start despite being sick and beginning the week feverish, achy and congested. I think I started turning the corner on that today, which is good because Tuesdays are my long days. I'm on campus for 11+ hours, six and a half of which are lecture, the grand finale being a 3-hour-long night class. With office hours in there too I haven't quite figured out how to fit meals in - grabbed a bean burrito from Taco Bell on my way home at 9:30pm.

The cool thing was that my order number was 111, and today's date is 1/11/11.

Yes, I am easily amused, but at least that shows I was still in a good mood after a very long day.

So far so good with my classes, but once I start giving and grading tests I might be singing a different tune. I have too hard a time turning students away. They do need the class - for some of them it's the last class they need before they can transfer, for others it's the first math class on their path through college, a path that is quite blocked until they get going on the math sequence. I've got over 100 students between my two sections of 101, which will be rough with grading because a lot of the problems are essay-type and not algebra-type problems. So I'll be putting in some long hours on that. I have about 200 students total. For one of the classes I grade homework every night . . . not typical in college, but that class needs the feedback.

It's just before midnight here. I should have been in bed long ago, but it's hard to wind down after teaching up to 9pm - and I had a lot of student email to respond to tonight - so it goes.

I was hoping to sleep in tomorrow, as my classes don't begin tomorrow until 11am (cool!), but Jacob's school decided to have a "late start day," (but not all that late) so I have to get up on time anyway and get him to school (not so cool). The timing sure could have been better on that!

Oh, and though I'm not as disgruntled as one of my colleagues about working in what he terms "the trailer park" (the portables we are in until construction on our classroom building is finished), and though I was reasonably able to put up with the lack of heat and an interior temperature of 43 degrees last week and early yesterday, I must say that utter lack of toilet paper in the restrooms today and the soap dispenser having fallen off the wall did make for a less than desirable work environment.

Well, and the fact that our portable has no refrigerator or microwave adds to the difficulty . . . ah well . . .

That's my life right now - and my mind has lost some of its poetry for the moment (hence my lack of posting) - between the holiday events and maxing out time with Anthony and rockin' and rollin' into a new semester. Hopefully I'll be back to my "normal" self in a week or so!

For now I'll just try to remember to carry some TP with me :-)

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Looking Back (Updated Jan. 9)

At this time of the year most of us are looking forward, but I'm a little slow on the uptake and wanting yet to hold onto the latter part of December. We've been enjoying these days and weeks so much with Anthony back home - enjoying time with just the five of us and also times with extended family and friends.
Total lunar eclipse on the winter solstice - pretty cool!

Anthony back home again . . . priceless!!

CHRISTMAS EVE (at Mom and Dad's)

A Christmas bell :-) . . . anticipation!Yea! An hourglass!Another hourglass (from time past!)Aunt Heidi and Ava Marie

CHRISTMAS DAY (at our house)

First just us . . . Then the extended fam . . .


Times with family - just because -Me and a couple of my guys :-)Grandpa is so much fun; he has pockets!

Lots of gaming needed to happen, of course!

At Anthony's request during his visit we went to one of our favorite places, Knight's Ferry:

We LOVE Knight's Ferry! It was Anthony's request to visit it while he's home - lots of good memories here.I love these pictures of Jacob.Brotherly love :-)

And family craziness (well, some of us anyway!)
Yes, it is California, no, it is not THAT warm. They just wanted to be polar bears! (Photo taken December 31, 2010)

All the best to you as you jump into the new year!!