Deval PatrickIt was a long first, full week of the semester. Some highlights included seeing Deval Patrick at a press conference in Springfield, going to the mat at ADTC for declining to provide feel-good services for a committee, and being compared with Dick Cheney.

It was really cool to see Deval Patrick give a stump speech. There was a huge crowd at his office in Springfield -- a couple of hundred at least -- including Ellen Story, Peter Kocot, Peter Vickery, Claire Higgins, and other notables. It was an extremely diverse crowd -- something you don't see in Amherst everyday (outside of my children's elementary school classses). And it was a very impassioned speech that called on people to reclaim their civic duty of being engaged with politics, a topic that is near-and-dear to my heart. I really hope he wins the Democratic primary; I think he has a good shot at becoming governor of Massachusetts.

The Republican, Kerry Healey, has been advertising that she supports education which, if you look at the last 4 years while she's been lieutenant governor, just seems patently false. I don't see how she's going to make that case at all.

The ADTC thing is stupid: a subcommittee wanted to send email to other Democratic committees using the ADTC SMTP server so that it would be more convenient for the people on the subcommittee to set the From: header, because that's inconvenient with the mail software they're using now. Yes, I'm the secretary. Yes, I set up the web site. But I don't want to build POP accounts and try to support people making SMTP work. If someone actually needed it -- if they didn't have SMTP service -- I would be a lot more persuaded. But when the answer is "I think you should do extra work because don't want to learn how to use different mail software," I'm unpersuaded. And it's the sort of thing that could easily become a *lot* of work if there are problems with the SMTP service or the hosting service ends up in the RBL (which has happened). I don't want to get in the middle of that. As I have explained, to various people, at length, repeatedly. But, as I knew they would, the subcommittee brought it up as a motion in the general committee meeting to force me to do it. I spoke against it. No one actually understood the issues at all, as far as I could tell; they didn't understand why this guy wanted it, and they didn't understand why I was saying no. So, eventually (over both of our objections) they tabled the discussion. I was actually ready to resign: I was going to finish the Minutes and then immediately submit my resignation. Oh, well. There's always October. Did I mention the fellow proceeded to come up and ask me again, after the meeting adjourned?

Then there's the Esperantist who compares me with Cheney, claiming that I'm wedded to a particular idea and won't consider changing it. It's the same argument I would use again him (although I'd like to think I wouldn't stoop to ad hominem attacks to try to make the point.) It's an interesting problem. He wants to advertise to try to increase the membership of ELNA. I agree that there's no question but that we need to increase the membership. I think its a mistake, however, to try to recruit members from among non-Esperanto-speakers. I think the goal should be to convince people to learn Esperanto and then try to get Esperanto-speakers to join ELNA to support Esperanto activity.

Partly this is just a "clarity of message" issue. If we always say "learn Esperanto" in English and "Membrigxu je ELNA" in Esperanto, I think it's absolutely clear what our goals are. If we try to convince non-Esperanto-speakers to join ELNA, we will have to make a case that (I think) is unconvincing.

I think we can make a better case to convince someone to learn Esperanto than we can to convince them they should join an Esperanto organization when they don't know the language. ELNA membership confers little or no benefit to someone who's just thinking about learning Esperanto. OK, there's a discount on books, but most people who are still thinking about learning Esperanto are probably going to try out learning online, without books and stuff anyway. Personally, I think most people join ELNA for no reason other than that they want to support Esperanto activity. I think that can be persuasive to Esperanto-speakers, but I think it will fall on its face when trying to attract non-Esperanto-speakers.

At the root, however, is the fact that ELNA still hasn't addressed what its mission is in the age of the internet. I don't think the services we offer provide enough value to persuade people to join. If ELNA can become successful at a new mission of, say, "growing the Esperanto community," I think ELNA will pick up more members, both because Esperanto-speakers do want the services ELNA offers, and because Esperantists will support the mission of growing the Esperanto community. As long as we continue to pretend that people join ELNA only because of the services we offer to members, I think we're doomed.

But, it's Friday... Tomorrow is a Lucky Day, when I will get to stay home with my wonderful children and try to recover my sanity because there's another week looming on the horizon. And it promises to be a doozy.


I've always been a morning person. Once the sun is up, I want to be up (until it's time to take a nap in the afternoon). During the fall, however, when mornings get later and later, it gets harder and harder for me to get up early until at some point when I wake up before sunrise anyway. We're close to that time, when waking up in the mornings is hard.

It used to be that our morning schedule was very simple: Dad had to go to work and the children had to go to school. Now, however, one boy has to leave to go to the middle school at 7:15 (unless it's a "late start day"), another goes at 8:15 or so, and, if its Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, Mom goes to work (unless she's rearranged her schedule). My brain hurts.

It's particularly rough this week with Lucy gone. We forgot to take out the trash, the dog is feeling left alone (and has started chewing up shoes again), the kitchen is stacked up with dirty dishes, and I didn't get any breakfast this morning.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I have it awfully good -- its the American Dream. And actually, the craziness seems a bit less when the boys head off to school individually: when both boys were running around, with the dog barking, and the mom yelling "don't forget to brush your teeth!" I think it was even crazier.


PlaqueToday I received the College Faculty Outstanding Service Award at work. It's nice to have my contributions recognized, although it was more intimidating than I would have imagined to actually walk up in front of all the faculty to receive the award.

The beginning of the semester is an insanely busy time, where I'm constantly being bombarded with questions and requests for help. I love it -- it's the part of my job that I love the most.

When I first got involved with the MTA, it was interesting to me that teachers and faculty see issues completely differently. The most important issue to teachers is building a firewall between their personal and professional lives so that their career doesn't consume their life. Faculty, tenure-system faculty anyway, decided early on that they weren't going to have a life other than their profession. These are people who talk about choosing whether to read a second story to their children at bedtime or finishing a grant review.

I appreciate that my position gives me the flexibility to participate in a wide variety of activities, from technology, to science, to education, to governance, to actually spending time with my children.

Macbook Pro

Photo BoothI recently was able to convince the department to get a macbook pro so that I could start getting up-to-speed with the new Intel architecture. People have been getting them in the department for a couple of months and soon I'm going to be setting up labs with the new platform and it will be useful to get my feet wet in using the new processor to see what works and what doesn't.

One thing that comes with the new macbook is a built-in "isight" camera and an application called "Photo Booth". You can use Photobooth to take pictures, much like a photo booth, but you can also apply a variety of effects, several of which are jaw-droppingly funny -- especially for kids. Above you can see a picture we put together with the "mirror" filter.

So far, I haven't found anything that doesn't just work. I'm impressed.


I haven't gotten in much bicycling this summer -- my seat had worn out last year and I had a flat front tire, which I had tried a couple of times to fix. Last year, I had wanted some new tires in the spring, but the bike shop had put on the wrong ones and I decided not to fight them about it because I just wanted to get out and ride. But the tires were crap and didn't last even the one season. So I hadn't gotten around to getting my bike out this spring. Then, I received a surprise gift: for the work I did on the ASM website, the organizers gave me a generous gift certificate to the other bike shop in town.

A brief aside about the Pioneer Valley... People sometimes talk about 'high pressure' sales environments -- the Happy Valley is more like a 'hard vacuum' sales environment. You have to chase the sales people around to get them to sell you anything. It took multiple visits and calls before I managed to get them to order what I wanted and get it installed, but on Thursday, I got my bike back ready to go.

First, I bought a Brooks Champion Flyer saddle. I had gotten a Brooks saddle once before and really loved it. People say that you need to break them in (which is true), but my experience before, and again this time, has been that a Brooks saddle is better new than whatever saddle I was using before. The website goes to some length to convince readers that they'll be happier if they get a sprung saddle. "Really" they say. "Take our word for it. You'll be happier." So that's what I got this time -- I think they're right. It's a very comfortable saddle already.

I also got some Continental TravelContact tires. It was actually this review that caused me to buy the tires. They're remarkably good -- it's amazing what a difference good tires can make.

I rode the bike home the first day, to work and back the second day, and to Pete's (one of our usual rides) on the third day. I think I'll have to let my rump have a day off tomorrow, but next week I'll be back in the saddle again.

Emerging Leaders Program

The program I'm in is supposed to help people take a leadership role in the organization. I've been disappointed with the central activity of the program, which I believe is misguided. Whenever, I create an activity for students, I try to compromise on aspects that are less important and preserve the authenticity of aspects that are central to the experience. The central activity of the emerging leaders program is to conduct a campaign in support of a candidate for office, but the only factors that have been preserved are the surface features: the need to create flyers and try to get people to vote for you. The ideas that might underlie a campaign, a careful match between ends and means, are entirely absent. It's about trying to get people to vote for someone based on, well, nothing. One of the worst effects has been that, instantly, there was a strong sense of competitiveness among the teams trying to get "their" candidate elected (the candidates being selected more-or-less randomly and the teams assigned to candidates more-or-less randomly). This competitiveness undermines any potential collaboration that might have otherwise existed among teams -- this was brought out immediately when the leaders tried to get teams to share ideas about how they might accomplish some task and there was no-one -- NO-ONE -- willing to speak. Pathetic, but absolutely predictable.

I've thought for a couple of days about how I might have organized things differently in order to preserve collaboration across teams. I decided that I would set the task of the committee to develop and publicize a resolution with the goal of getting the maximum number of people at the conference to sign-on. Many of the tasks end up being the same, but it would be a great experience to try to get the emerging leaders to reach concensus about a resolution and then to get the rest of the attendees to sign it. And everyone would be able to work together. Moreover, at the end of the conference, there would be a statement or two, signed by a large number of members, that crystalized the current thinking of the organization -- it would be *real*.

I decided to be a trouble-maker this morning. I knew the MTA president was going to preside over a mock meeting for our workshop, so I got a copy of a motion that was made at the last MTA meeting about the public relations and organizing committee and made the motion during the mock meeting. It produced a big reaction and a lot of excitement at the meeting. It can't have any direct effect, of course, but it did keep the pressure on, at some level, and continues to inform the newcomers about one of the important contentious issues in the organization.

Williamstown for MTA Workshop

I'm in Williamstown this week for the MTA emerging leaders workshop. I've found myself being increasingly recruited to take leadership rols in the organizations I'm involved in and find that I could use some aditional training in being an effective leader. I'm not sure this class is it, but it was available, so I took it. The focus of the workshop is to divide into campaign teams and run a campaign for someone to be a president and vice-president of the workshop. If I were going to run a workshop on leadership, I'm not sure what the focus would be, but I don't think thiss would be it. That said, I'm trying to be flexible and to learn what I can. My shoulder is still killing me, though.


I'm back from Brazil. It was an intense trip that got off to a rough start: from the tickets on a bankrupt airline, the visa that never came, and the last-minute frantic drive through Boston due to the collapsed big-dig tunnel, it looked for a while like I might not make it. But I did and I had a tremendous experience.

I spent several days in São Paulo. Its a huge, incredibly polluted city absolutely wracked with fear over a criminal insurgency that conducted around 150 attacks during the week I was there. More than a dozen buses were burned, a fact I was painfully aware of everytime I rode a bus. Many houses and buildings had two, three, or four layers of security to prevent attacks: One house I visited had a huge barred fence, topped with razor wire, topped with an electric fence -- you had to be buzzed through one gate, enter a small barred space and, only after closing the first gate would the second be opened. It is a different sort of place than the Happy Valley.

The congress was fantastic -- Esperanto in the US is often treated as a joke, but people in Brazil really love Esperanto and it really shows. I met scores of people and had very interesting conversations with everyone regarding everything from US foreign policy to showerheads to pets. Next year's congress is in Rio. It would be worth learning Esperanto just to attend a Brazilian conference -- it was a wonderful atmosphere and a tremendous experience. You can read more about the trip in Esperanto.

Coming home has been rough, though. Plato, my beloved dog, was diagnosed with canine lymphoma just before I left and succumbed yesterday. He collapsed in the early morning and we rushed him to the animal hospital unconcious. They got some fluids into and brought him around, but we decided it was better to let him go. We got a few good minutes with him to pet him and say goodbye and then we had them come in and help him go. It was hard, but I feel better knowing that he won't have to go through something like that again.

On the way home, I also strained my shoulder -- the rotator cuff is inflamed and extremely painful. I got a shot of cortisone (with the longest needle I've ever seen) and some painkillers to take the edge off. It's very distracting, however, and hard to get work done.

Daniel's Birthday Present

Sciur-mana Orel-ringoHere's a picture of Daniel wearing his new 'squirrel arm' earring. We had to just get a squirrel hand because an arm would have been too long. Daniel is very happy. We got it from Custom Creature Taxidermy Studios run by Sarina Brewer (no relation). She does great work and the service was fabulous. No squirrels were harmed to make the earring

Vacation coming up

I've been so focused on getting ready for Brazil that I haven't been thinking much about our upcoming family vacation. I've wanted to have my presentations ready to go, so I've been completely focused on that. I'm nearly there.

I've got two presentations roughed out: one about using reasoning problems in class and another about using technology to support local group activity. I'm relatively pleased with both of them. I'm about half way done with the last one, which will be a summary about local groups in the US. I've been struggling with how to deal with the meat of it, but I think I've got it figured out.

I've also been working on getting an old laptop set up to take with me to do the presentations. I've got an old G3 Lombard set up with OS X and OpenOffice. Unfortunately, it's a bit memory starved, so I've been trying to minimize the memory footprint of the system. I set up X11 to run rootless and used Tinkertool to let me turn off the finder. It's slow, but it appears to be competent to run the presentations. My contact said that I should be prepared to connect to the projector using S-VHS, which I think means S-Video. The Lombard has an S-Video port and I tested it last night to make sure I could get the whole thing to work. Charlie was impressed I could make my presentation show up on the TV. I could have left it set up with OS 9, but then I couldn't use OpenOffice or a modern web-browser.

Not everything is going perfectly, however. My visa to go to Brazil still hasn't arrived. I would feel a lot better if it arrived before I have to go on vacation. Furthermore, it turns out that the airline I bought my tickets from is operating under bankruptcy protection and is having terrible problems. I hope there will be a plane there when I go to New York, but it's not at all a sure thing. I'm just looking at it as an adventure and will try to be ready to roll with whatever happens.


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