HCaldwell:On . . .


What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

On, once again, being bested by wind power

I experienced a moment of déjà vu while clearing leaves from my front yard today. It was another epic confrontation featuring "Me and My Leaf Blower" against the undefeated tag team of "A Humongous Pile of Leaves and A Strong West Wind".

As in our last encounter, the leaf blower and I were soundly trounced. Near the end of our pitched battle, the leaf blower simply quit working. Coward!

It is now official. I have proven myself to be dumber than an inanimate object.

Monday, October 23, 2006

On teaching vs. training

As I may have mentioned, I spent a number of years in the classroom.

Recently, I had reason to consider the differences between teaching and training. Although the two are often used synonymously, they really are very different processes. Those blessed with the experience of working in the irregular bowels of the fast food industry are trained to flip burgers, drop fries and faux chicken chunks into vats of hot grease, and speak unintelligibly over the drive-through speaker. There is really no teaching involved here.

One does not need to understand the flatten disks of ground up cow in order to flip them. One does not need to know where those fries originated or what they will eventually become in order to fry them to a company specified golden brown color. On does not need to appreciate syntax, style, or elocution in order to mumble the question, “Would you like fries with that?”

Don’t get me wrong; I am not against the idea of training. It is a very efficient way of creating conditioned responses. In many stressful emergency situations, for example, those that may be encountered by public safety or military personnel, it is a great way to guarantee a prompt, predictable, correct reaction. Good training can save lives in emergency situations. It is not, however, the same as good teaching.

Good teaching changes attitudes toward learning. It provides a set of mental tools that can then be applied to wide variety of new situations. It sharpens our ability to apply previously acquired information to face unexpected complications. It heightens our awareness of connections between seemingly unrelated elements: the hallmark of creative problem solving.

We do not learn responses from good teaching. Good teaching teaches us how to learn.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

On “how can you tell if a blog posting is funny?”

In some of my recent blog reading, I have encountered the interesting question of how one decides if a blog posting is funny, or not. Humor is, of course, a highly variable perception. A piece of writing that one person reads as being “falling down laughing funny”, may be viewed by another as being “stand up straight with a disdainful sniff stupid”.

Personally, I am a big fan of the “stupid” school of humor. The more juvenile, puerile, pun-ladened and ridiculous, the better the joke plays in my internal comedy club. I suspect that my sense of humor matured at about the same time that my body reached the age of nine. Then it just stayed there. I like bad knock-knock jokes, elephant jokes, light bulb jokes, and puns that make fart jokes seem overly intellectual and effete.

How can you tell if a blogger is dead? Ghost writing.

I, also, like humor that twists language and/or our perceptions of everyday events. I read in our local newspaper recently about a man who had reported to the police that a burglar had broken into his house during the night, because he woke up and “found a dark hair in his sink.” That started a chain of thought that centered on the fanciful creation of a vast criminal empire run by a pompadour wearing evil genius who leaves single dark hairs in people’s sinks. I get the sinking feeling that his crime may even brush on heresy.

Lastly, I love unintentional humor, the “found art” of the funny world. We drove through a small town recently where the large sign in front of the vet’s clinic read, “GET YOUR DOG SHOT - $5” I laughed so hard that I blew coffee through my nose. I made my wife turn around and go back so that I could take a picture.

Yes, stupid, twisted and accidental; the story of my life.
I don’t make it up. I just write it down.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

On my blog failings

How embarrassing.

It has been a very long time since I last updated my blog. To the three people who regularly read this thing, I apologize. Time has been flying by me like discarded newspapers in a windstorm. It is not that I haven’t had anything to write about, it is that I haven’t had the impetus to sit at the keyboard and punch the appropriate buttons in the correct order.

Part of it is that I really do dislike the autumn. My energy, my enthusiasm, and my ability to get out of bed in the morning is at low ebb during this time of year. I am not really a strong believer in “biorhythms”; it seems like an over simplified label that gets readily pasted onto the unpredictable vagaries of daily life. If I did believe, however, my fall chart would resemble a cross-sectional view of the Grand Canyon.

I am ashamed. I should not fall back on such a flimsy explanation. I have let down my three loyal readers. Forgive me.

I can’t offer any excuses to you, but if I look hard enough I’m sure that I could find some way to blame Congress.