No more than 3 points in your presentation!

February 28, 2013

Interesting video from Ethos3, a company that works on presentations and helping others make better presentations.

Um, no, I don’t think they aim at teachers and educators — it’s a for-profit group, not a charity.

That’s also one of my concerns.  Here’s one of a series of short videos Ethos3 prepared, to help you with your next presentation or, you hope, the woman or man who will be making that presentation you have to watch next Wednesday morning at Rotary Club, or at Scout leader training next Saturday, or kicking off the budget planning exercise next Monday (at 7:00 — coffee provided so don’t be late!):

98 views

Generally, I’d agree.

But what about teachers, who have to slog through 150 specific items for the state test?

Observations:

365 Project - Day 29 - I *hate* Powerpoint

Borrowed caption: “365 Project – Day 29 – I *hate* Powerpoint (Photo credit: mike_zellers)”

  1. Teachers could benefit greatly from learning presentation secrets, and making their in-class presentations much more effective.
  2. No school district in America, public, charter, parochial, or homeschool, will give you time to put together such an effective presentation.
  3. Most teachers get no coaching on presentation effectiveness, and their students lose out.
  4. Just because the administrators won’t cut you slack to do it, doesn’t mean a teacher shouldn’t learn about effective presentation techniques, and use them.

In a world of bad bosses, it’s almost impossible to get a really great principal at a school.  Teachers gotta slog on anyway.

You won’t have the time to do the presentation your students deserve, but you should try, anyway.

Dreaming for a minute:  I wish I could get a team like this to help out with designing a curriculum, figuring out where presentation work, how to give them real punch, and where not to use them at all.

What do you think?  Can you tell your story in just three points?  Can you reduce a lecture to three key points that would be memorable, and that spurs students to learn what they need to learn?

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Other side of the mountain: Timpanogos

February 26, 2013

East side of Timpanogos, by the Heber Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau:

Mt. Timpanogos, east side. Heber Valley CVB photo

Mt. Timpanogos, east side. Heber Valley CVB photo. Click image for larger view.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Susan Reeve Lewis.


Yosemite’s Horsetail Falls at its fiery best

February 26, 2013

Photo Tweeted from the National Park Service:

Bethany Gediman photo of Horsetail Falls, Yosemite NP, glowing orange

Horsetail Fall flows over the eastern edge of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. It’s a small waterfall that many people don’t notice, but it has gained popularity as more and more people have noticed it can glow orange during sunset in mid to late February. The most popular place to see Horsetail Fall seemingly afire is El Capitan picnic area, west of Yosemite Lodge and east of El Capitan (see map below). The “firefall” effect generally happens during the second half of February. A clear sky is necessary for the waterfall to glow orange. Photo: Bethany Gediman, NPS

People living close to National Parks are lucky to do so; people who work in them luckier still, in the lifetime sweepstakes for seeing breathtaking sites.  NPS employee (Ranger?) Bethany Gediman caught this image of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.

Be sure to see the video of Yosemite Nature Notes No. 14, posted here earlier. It shows Horsetail at sunset in full glory.  Great photography.

How to get there:

Map to Horsetail Falls, Yosemite NP

Map of Yosemite National Park, showing Horsetail Falls and hiking trail to get to viewpoint in the photograph.

More:


Gun nuts at Fox pull a bait and switch; Obama already outflanks them

February 26, 2013

President Obama visits with survivors of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. July 22, 2012

President Obama visits with survivors of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. July 22, 2012 – White House photo. Click image to go to White House site, with more information on reducing gun violence.

Yeah, I know: Someone has sent you a post on Facebook claiming there are more murders from hammers than guns, and they quote Fox.

If they’re not complete nuts, they were careful and noted it was rifles being compared, and not all guns.

Here’s the Fox headline:

January 03, 2013

FBI: More People Killed with Hammers, Clubs Each Year Than Rifles

Then, just to rub it in, that person who sent you the link said something like, ‘so you propose hammer control, too?’

The best debaters in college learn to listen to what their opponents say, and not what they think their opponents should have said.  Good lawyers listen like that, too, in court, and in depositions.

See that last word in the headline?  “Rifles.”

Yeah, it’s a limited part of the total population of guns.

Total gun deaths in 2011 were 8,583 — continuing a five-year trend downward, thanks for small blessings.  Homicides only, not counting suicides — according to figures compiled by the FBI.

Did more than 8,500 people die from hammer assaults in 2011?

No, the same tally shows 496 people were murdered by use of  “Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.).”

496 is 8,087 fewer than the 8,583 gun deaths.  But rifles?  Oh, yeah.

323 people died from rifle fire.  356 died from shotgun wounds.  6,220 died from handguns, 97 from “other guns,” and 1,587 died from gunshots where the type of gun was not recorded on the report to the FBI.  Add them up, you get 8,583 dead, murdered by gunfire.

Now, the gun advocates nuts say that it’s fair to compare rifle deaths only, since only the AR-15 is being questioned, and is the target for “taking guns away.”

That’s inaccurate.  President Obama laid out a plan of more than a score of actions, but only two refer to assault rifles, and only one refers to assault rifles directly:

Reinstate and strengthen the ban on assault weapons:  The shooters in Aurora and Newtown used the type of semiautomatic rifles that were the target of the assault weapons ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004. That ban was an important step, but manufacturers were able to circumvent the prohibition with cosmetic modifications to their weapons. Congress must reinstate and strengthen the prohibition on assault weapons.

And:

Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds:  The case for prohibiting high-capacity magazines has been proven over and over; the shooters at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, and Newtown all used magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which would have been prohibited under the 1994 law. These magazines enable any semiautomatic weapon to be used as an instrument of mass violence, yet they are once again legal and now come standard with many handguns and rifles. Congress needs to reinstate the prohibition on magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

President Obama laid out a plan that will make it substantially more difficult for people who shouldn’t have guns suitable for mass killings, to have them.  More important, however, the President’s plan steps up the non-gun means available to stop mass shootings before a shooter gets to a campus armed and ready to kill.

The “discussion” will get more ugly, I predict, before it gets better.

More:


History resources: Rosa Parks’s arrest records

February 25, 2013

Maria Popova at Exp.lore.com suggested some tools for teachers, about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott:

The arrest records of Rosa Parks. Pair with Susan Sontag on courage and resistance. 

Fingerprint sheet from the arrest of Rosa L. Parks, in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955.

The arrest records of Rosa Parks. Pair with Susan Sontag on courage and resistance.

Popova’s suggestion of Sontag’s piece — which is available at Popova’s site — lends depth to this assignment frequently lacking in high schools. The other link Popova offers takes us to the National Archives and their great bank of classroom materials, including a few more documents from the incident:  “Teaching from Documents:  An Act of Courage, The Arrest Records of Rosa Parks.

I like to use these materials around the anniversary of Parks’s arrest on December 1, which is out of sequence for the civil rights movement and a couple of months before Black History Month.  I find it useful to talk about events on the anniversary of the events, especially to give students more than one pass at the material in class, and also to link whatever is being studied in sequence at that moment (often the Civil War in Texas classrooms) with later events, and current events, as a view in to the web of interlinked occurrences that really make up history.  (Yes, I’m an advocate of dropping the name “Black History Month” and teaching it throughout the year; though a Black Heritage Appreciation Month is a help.)

Modern students seem to me to be particularly ill-informed on current events.  Far too many of them do not read newspapers, not even the comics.  This makes more important the classroom linking of past events with current events that students don’t know about, or fail to recognize the significance.

More, and other resources:

1955 Highlander Center workshop, showing Rosa Parks

Summer 1955: Desegregation workshop at Highlander Research and Education Center. Highlander Center caption:  Rosa Parks is at the end of the table. Six months later, her actions sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. [Who are the other people pictured?]


Hog wild in Texas: Ranchers, guns, and science working against environmental disaster

February 25, 2013

Unusual?  No, this is really a typical marriage of agriculture, government agencies, science and hunters, working on problems of wildlife management, feral hogs in this case.

Notes from Texas Parks & Wildlife:

Feral hogs are running wild across Texas, at great cost to farmers, ranchers, and native wildlife. Hunters are helping, but science may prove critical to controlling the invasion on a broader scale. For more information on feral hogs and feral hog control, visit: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/…

When it comes to feral hogs, every Texan turns environmentalist.

More:    

English: Sign for Texas Parks and Wildlife Dep...

Sign for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department headquarters – Wikipedia image


Quote of the moment: Should we reconsider Millard Fillmore?

February 23, 2013

For an accidental president, a man who no one expected to take the office; for a guy whose term was marked by his party’s rejection of his policies so much that they did not even entertain the idea he might be the nominee in the next election; for the last Whig president, an obvious dinosaur of a dying political view; for a guy so obscure that a hoax more than a half-century later remains his greatest acknowledged point of reference, Millard Fillmore left the U.S. in good shape.

Should that be his real legacy?

Millard Fillmore for President, campaign poster from 1856 (American Party)

Campaign poster for Millard Fillmore, running for president in 1856 on the American Party ticket. He carried Maryland, which is probably ironic, considering Maryland’s Catholic roots, and the American Party’s anti-Catholic views, views probably not entirely shared by Fillmore; the American Party is more often known as the “Know-Nothings.”  Image from the Library of Congress American Memory files.

These are the last two paragraphs of his final State of the Union message, delivered on paper on December 6, 1852.  Perhaps establishing a tradition, he made the message a listing of current zeitgeist, starting out mourning the recent passing of Daniel Webster, and the abatement of epidemics of mosquito-borne plagues in several cities.  He recited activities of the government, including the abolishment of corporal punishment in the Navy and improvements in the Naval Academy; he mentioned U.S. exploration around the world, in the Pacific, in the Amazon River, in Africa, and especially his project to send a fleet to Japan to open trade there.  He noted great opportunities for trade, domestically across an expanded, Atlantic-to-Pacific United States, and in foreign markets reachable through both oceans.

The last two paragraphs would be considered greatly exaggerated had any president in the 20th century delivered them; but from Millard Fillmore, they were not.  He gave credit for these achievements to others, not himself.

In closing this my last annual communication, permit me, fellow-citizens, to congratulate you on the prosperous condition of our beloved country. Abroad its relations with all foreign powers are friendly, its rights are respected, and its high place in the family of nations cheerfully recognized. At home we enjoy an amount of happiness, public and private, which has probably never fallen to the lot of any other people. Besides affording to our own citizens a degree of prosperity of which on so large a scale I know of no other instance, our country is annually affording a refuge and a home to multitudes, altogether without example, from the Old World.

We owe these blessings, under Heaven, to the happy Constitution and Government which were bequeathed to us by our fathers, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit in all their integrity to our children. We must all consider it a great distinction and privilege to have been chosen by the people to bear a part in the administration of such a Government. Called by an unexpected dispensation to its highest trust at a season of embarrassment and alarm, I entered upon its arduous duties with extreme diffidence. I claim only to have discharged them to the best of an humble ability, with a single eye to the public good, and it is with devout gratitude in retiring from office that I leave the country in a state of peace and prosperity.

What president would not have been happy to have been able to claim as much?  Historians often offer back-handed criticism to Fillmore for the Compromise of 1850; in retrospect it did not prevent the Civil War.  In the circumstances of 1850, in the circumstances of Fillmore’s presidential career, should we expect more?  Compared to Buchanan’s presidency and the events accelerating toward war, did Fillmore do so badly?

Have we underestimated Millard Fillmore?  Discuss.

More:


Post-Valentine’s Day olla podrida

February 22, 2013

How’s the NRA going to spin this one?

Psy got more than 7 billion views on one video.  Can you help Sesame Street get to one billion, total?  It’s a better cause.  And it may frost the heck out of Sal Khan, too.

Sesame Street actually has a lot of video up for YouTube use — that is, for your use.  This is one of the most important educational sites on the entire internet. 992,469,603 total views at this moment.

Whose educational video works best, Sal Khan’s or Cookie Monsters?

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, said she doesn’t think we need an increase in the minimum wage, especially not to the $9 level President Obama asked.  She said her $2.15 minimum wage was enough . . .

Oops:

At that time, the minimum wage was $1.60, equivalent to $10.56 in today’s terms. Today’s minimum wage is equivalent to just $1.10 an hour in 1968 dollars, meaning the teenage Blackburn managed to enter the workforce making almost double the wage she now says is keeping teenagers out of the workforce.

Do Republicans ever learn history, or make the minor mathematical calculations to adjust for historic inflation?  Pretty tough to flunk history, math and economics in such a short statement.

Is there a rational reason that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s  solutions to U.S. problems always involve economic pain to others?  Will cuts in food and health care make these 600,000 children smarter, too?

Here you go, Mittens in winter:

The Mittens in winter, by Howard Noel, via National Wildlife Federation

Caption from the National Wildlife Federation: Howard Noel’s photo of Monument Valley captures the East and West Mitten Buttes, as well as Merrick’s Butte on the right. These natural sandstone and shale structures are just a few of the world-famous geological features in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, located along the Arizona-Utah state line within the Navajo Nation Reservation. The Utah resident used a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera and a 24-105mm lens.

Where in Utah does Howard Noel hail from?  While I’ve been by these formations in winter, it was never with a camera to catch the snow.  This park is an ideal place to spend a couple of days learning landscape photography, if you’re looking for a place to try out your new camera.  Great place to be anytime, for me.

Hey, if you’re planning drive to see the Mittens, you should be aware that part of Highway 89 is out of commission due to a slump off the roadway between Flagstaff and Page, Arizona — the Navajo Reservation being as large as it is, and as unroaded as it is, when a main road goes out, detours can be spectacularly long.   Earthly Musings carries geological explanations, history and great photos.  How much detour?  This one requires a job to the east, through Tuba City, probably adding about an hour to the trip between those two cities.

The Arizona Department of Transportation says traffic will detour around the closure by using U.S. 160 and State Route 98, adding 45 miles of driving. (emphasis added here)

Meanwhile, in the rest of America? This is okay.  America is ashamed of Rush Limbaugh’s ranting, too.  Fair, no?

Why was the death toll so high in season 3 of “Downton Abbey?”  Writer Julian Fellowes explained it’s a kind of contract issue — anti-regulation types will no doubt crawl out of the woodwork to complain about government interference in the right of contract in English theatre.


Maine Boy Scout gets hero’s award; saved two from drowning in hotel pool

February 22, 2013

A feel good story, reprinted from the website of the Bangor (Maine) Daily News:

Portland Boy Scout earns rare award after saving two from drowning

By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff
Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter Find on Facebook Find on Facebook

Posted Feb. 18, 2013, at 4:44 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 19, 2013, at 8:48 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Parker Montano, 15, was in a hotel pool surrounded by about 20 other swimming and splashing youths when one, weighing almost 200 pounds, grabbed onto him and pulled him under in a panic.

Lifesaving Boy Scout Parker Montano of Portland, Maine

Boy Scout Parker Montano of Portland, Maine; photo by Peter Montano

Now, seven months later, the Portland Boy Scout will receive one of the organization’s most rarely given honors after saving that boy and another girl moments later at the same pool.

Montano, a Cheverus High School sophomore from South Portland, will receive the Boy Scouts of America’s Heroism Award during a ceremony in Portland on Feb. 28. Montano belongs to Troop 1 in Portland.

“This is a big deal,” Troop 1 scoutmaster John Hume told the BDN Monday. “The kids are always taught first aid and rescue techniques. Most of us take CPR, and most of us never use it. Parker was able to put his training to use when people needed it most. You need to make a conscious choice to act [in a situation like the one Montano faced], when realizing full well that everybody’s going to be watching you. … Parker took action, and that takes a level of courage that’s not common.”

Montano was on vacation with his family last July when the incidents occurred. He was swimming in the deep end of a hotel pool in New Jersey when the larger boy grabbed onto him, according to a news release issued Monday by the local Boy Scouts unit.

“The pool did not have a lifeguard,” the release reads. “Both boys went underwater momentarily, and on resurfacing, the boy told Parker he couldn’t swim. Parker used rescue techniques learned in Boy Scouts to take control over the larger boy and get him to safety.”

Montano was still catching his breath at the side of the pool when he was called into action again. A woman at the scene began screaming that her daughter had gone underwater without resurfacing.

“Parker scanned the pool and located the approximately 12-year-old girl,” the Troop 1 account of the incident reads. “He swam to the girl and dove to rescue her. He pulled her to the surface and swam her to the side of the pool, to waiting adults. The girl began coughing and was able to start breathing again.”

Montano said in a statement his reaction to the two pleas for help was “like an impulse.”

“It seemed like what was right at the moment,” he said. “My mind processed it later. The fear dawned on you over what happened, and then there was a sense of relief that you were there and could help.”

The Boy Scouts of America’s Heroism Award was given to 155 of the organization’s roughly 2.7 million members in 2012. That means fewer than one out of every 17,000 scouts earned the award last year. Hume said when the Feb. 28 ceremony takes place, it will be the first time he’s seen one awarded in his 40 years involved with scouting.

“[Parker] believes there is good in the world and sometimes it needs a helping hand,” Peter Montano, Parker’s father, said in the release. “I have never been so proud of my son.”

Parker Montano is pursuing Eagle Scout status, one of the highest levels attainable in the organization. He also is an accomplished runner who is scheduled to represent Maine as part of the East Central Conference cross country team in an international meet in Australia this summer, the Troop 1 release stated.

Morals to the story:  Post a lifeguard when you swim (do not swim alone); if you have a choice, swim with Boy Scouts around who can pull you out if you get into trouble.

BSA awarded 66 honor medals and 155 other heroism medals in 2012; I know of no list of the awardees.  Does anyone keep such history?

More:


Are you tougher than a Boy Scout?

February 21, 2013

Every kid should have an opportunity to do this stuff. This promises to show Scouting in its better works.

What do you think?

Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout, On the National Geographic Channel starting March 4, 2013 at 8PM eastern time.

More: 

Ad for Tougher Than A Boy Scout, National Geographic Channel

Advertisement for Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout, Naitonal Geographic Channel


Quote of the moment repeat: Robert C. Lieberman, “Why the Rich Are Getting Richer: American Politics and the Second Gilded Age”

February 20, 2013

What? You missed this, on February 20, 2011? Well, here it is again. Please pay attention this time.

The U.S. economy appears to be coming apart at the seams.  Unemployment remains at nearly ten percent, the highest level in almost 30 years; foreclosures have forced millions of Americans out of their homes; and real incomes have fallen faster and further than at any time since the Great Depression.  Many of those laid off fear that the jobs they have lost — the secure, often unionized, industrial jobs that provided wealth, security and opportunity — will never return.  They are probably right.

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

Cover of Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson

And yet a curious thing has happened in the midst of all this misery.  The wealthiest Americans, among them presumably the very titans of global finance whose misadventures brought about the financial meltdown, got richer.  And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer.  In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else’s income went down.  This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom.  The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

This what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the “winner-take-all economy.”  It is not a picture of a healthy society.  Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class.  Income inequality in the United States is higher than in any other advanced democracy and by conventional measures comparable to that in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan.

Robert C. Lieberman, reviewing the book Winner-Take-All Politics:  How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Simon and Schuster, 2010, 368 pages.  $27.00.; review appears in Foreign Affairs, January/February 2011, pp. 154-158.

More:

Two years later, even more:


Photographs for which there are no words: Going to school in Palestine

February 20, 2013

A picture is worth a thousand words?  For some pictures, no adequate words exist.

Ammar Awad/Reuters girl going to school in Palestine, with combat troops looking on

Photo by Ammar Awad, Reuters; caption from L’Express: De l’audace! – 17/03/2010 Afin de se rendre à l’école, une enfant traverse les lieux des affrontements entre les troupes israéliennes et les Palestiniens, dans le camp de réfugiés de Shuafat, près de Jérusalem.

L’Express caption in English:

The audacity! – 17/03/2010

To go to school, a child crosses the scene of clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the refugee camp Shuafat, near Jerusalem.

Rather puts into a different perspective the whines of students about “having to go to school,” not bringing pencils or paper, and not making it to class on time, doesn’t it?  What value does this girl and her family place on education?

To those who think the U.S. should in no case offer aid to Palestinians to build or operate schools, I ask:  Who do you want to pay for this child’s schooling, and direct the curriculum?

Teachers, is this photo useful for studying human rights?  Education?  Middle Eastern human geography (AP), geography, or other issues?  Contrast this girl’s path to school with that of Linda Brown in Topeka, Kansas, in 1951 (Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education).

Is education a civil right? Is education a basic human right?

Tip of the old scrub brush to James Kessler, who posted a slightly profanely-captioned version of this on Facebook.

Update:  Amusing Planet has this photo (with a nice shout out) and several others, showing kids risking their lives to get to school in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia – it’s awe-inspiring, scary and encouraging at the same time.

More:


Quote of the moment: Neil Gaiman, on what keeps civilization from barbarism

February 19, 2013

Found it on Facebook.

Neil Gaiman:

Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.

Looking for the citation of where Gaiman wrote that; probably here.  Gaiman is a contemporary British author of short stories and other works.

No credit line appears for the photo of the library, nor for the design of the quote on the photo.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jean Detjen.

More:


Phillis Wheatley: Poem for Presidents Day (2013)

February 18, 2013

What is a good flag flying occasion without some inspiring poetry?

Get your flag up (if it’s not up already), and read some poetry from a remarkable woman, in this encore post.

From the Poem-a-Day folks at the American Academy of Poets:

His Excellency General Washington
by Phillis Wheatley

George Washington

George Washington, as he appears on the one-dollar bill.

 

Celestial choir! enthron’d in realms of light,
Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write.
While freedom’s cause her anxious breast alarms,
She flashes dreadful in refulgent arms.
See mother earth her offspring’s fate bemoan,
And nations gaze at scenes before unknown!
See the bright beams of heaven’s revolving light
Involved in sorrows and the veil of night!

The Goddess comes, she moves divinely fair,
Olive and laurel binds Her golden hair:
Wherever shines this native of the skies,
Unnumber’d charms and recent graces rise.

Muse! Bow propitious while my pen relates
How pour her armies through a thousand gates,
As when Eolus heaven’s fair face deforms,
Enwrapp’d in tempest and a night of storms;
Astonish’d ocean feels the wild uproar,
The refluent surges beat the sounding shore;
Or think as leaves in Autumn’s golden reign,
Such, and so many, moves the warrior’s train.
In bright array they seek the work of war,
Where high unfurl’d the ensign waves in air.
Shall I to Washington their praise recite?
Enough thou know’st them in the fields of fight.
Thee, first in peace and honors—we demand
The grace and glory of thy martial band.
Fam’d for thy valour, for thy virtues more,
Hear every tongue thy guardian aid implore!

One century scarce perform’d its destined round,
When Gallic powers Columbia’s fury found;
And so may you, whoever dares disgrace
The land of freedom’s heaven-defended race!
Fix’d are the eyes of nations on the scales,
For in their hopes Columbia’s arm prevails.
Anon Britannia droops the pensive head,
While round increase the rising hills of dead.
Ah! Cruel blindness to Columbia’s state!
Lament thy thirst of boundless power too late.

Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,
Thy ev’ry action let the Goddess guide.
A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine,
With gold unfading, WASHINGTON! Be thine.

American Poet Phyllis Wheatley, detail from the Boston Women's Memorial on Commonwealth Ave.

American Poet Phillis Wheatley, detail from the Boston Women’s Memorial on Commonwealth Ave.

Who was the inspiring woman, Phillis Wheatley? Read her biography at the Academy of American Poets site.

Phillis Wheatley was the first black poet in America to publish a book. She was born around 1753 in West Africa and brought to New England in 1761, where John Wheatley of Boston purchased her as a gift for his wife. Although they brought her into the household as a slave, the Wheatleys took a great interest in Phillis’s education. Many biographers have pointed to her precocity; Wheatley learned to read and write English by the age of nine, and she became familiar with Latin, Greek, the Bible, and selected classics at an early age. She began writing poetry at thirteen, modeling her work on the English poets of the time, particularly John Milton, Thomas Gray, and Alexander Pope. Her poem “On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield” was published as a broadside in cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia and garnered Wheatley national acclaim. This poem was also printed in London. Over the next few years, she would print a number of broadsides elegizing prominent English and colonial leaders.

More, at the AAP site.


Presidents Day 2013: Fly your flag today

February 18, 2013

Yes, I’m late — an airport run, a telephone installation, not enough coffee in the pot.

You’re already flying your flag today, right?  Let’s recapitulate from last year

Presidents Day is February 18, 2013 — fly your U.S. flag today.

National Park Service photo, Lincoln Memorial through flags at Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial, seen through flags posted at the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.; National Park Service Photo via About.com

Oddly enough, some controversy arises from time to time over how to honor President Washington and President Lincoln, and other presidents.  Sometimes the controversy simmers over how to honor great Americans — if Lincoln deserves a day, why not FDR?  Why not Jefferson? — and sometimes the controversy covers more mundane ground — should the federal government give workers a day off?  Should it be on a Monday or Friday to create a three-day weekend to boost tourism?  About.com explains the history of the controversy:

Presidents’ Day is intended (for some) to honor all the American presidents, but most significantly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. According to the Gregorian or “New Style” calendar that is most commonly used today, George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. But according to the Julian or “Old Style” calendar that was used in England until 1752, his birth date was February 11th. Back in the 1790s, Americans were split – some celebrated his birthday on February 11th and some on February 22nd.

When Abraham Lincoln became president and helped reshape our country, it was believed he, too, should have a special day of recognition. Tricky thing was that Lincoln’s birthday fell on February 12th. Prior to 1968, having two presidential birthdays so close together didn’t seem to bother anyone. February 22nd was observed as a federal public holiday to honor the birthday of George Washington and February 12th was observed as a public holiday to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

In 1968, things changed when the 90th Congress was determined to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays. They voted to shift three existing holidays (including Washington’s Birthday) to Mondays. The law took effect in 1971, and as a result, Washington’s Birthday holiday was changed to the third Monday in February. But not all Americans were happy with the new law. There was some concern that Washington’s identity would be lost since the third Monday in February would never fall on his actual birthday. There was also an attempt to rename the public holiday “Presidents’ Day”, but the idea didn’t go anywhere since some believed not all presidents deserved a special recognition.

Even though Congress had created a uniform federal holiday law, there was not a uniform holiday title agreement among the individual states. Some states, like California, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas chose not to retain the federal holiday title and renamed their state holiday “President’s Day.” From that point forward, the term “Presidents’ Day” became a marketing phenomenon, as advertisers sought to capitalize on the opportunity for three-day or week-long sales.

In 1999, bills were introduced in both the U.S. House (HR-1363) and Senate (S-978) to specify that the legal public holiday once referred to as Washington’s Birthday be “officially” called by that name once again. Both bills died in committees.

Today, President’s Day is well accepted and celebrated. Some communities still observe the original holidays of Washington and Lincoln, and many parks actually stage reenactments and pageants in their honor. The National Park Service also features a number of historic sites and memorials to honor the lives of these two presidents, as well as other important leaders.

Fly your flag, read some history, enjoy the day.

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English: Air Force One, the typical air transp...

President’s airplane, Air Force 1, flying over Mount Rushmore National Monument, in South Dakota – Image via Wikipedia; notice, contrary to Tea Party fears, the bust of Obama is not yet up on Rushmore (and also note there remains no room for another bust).


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