For K12 teachers in the US, this is more like half time, a break between the real learning of the fall semester and the test preparation of the spring. Ok, maybe a little cynical but certainly a reality for many kids in the past ten to fifteen years.
This is also a point at which many people offer up resolutions, not unlike sacrifices to the gods of winter, to change something about their lives. Exercise more, eat better, spend time on more worthy pursuits. But one thing I’ve learned over my many new years is, that approach doesn’t work for me. And, I suspect, many others as well, based on the many of those resolutions that are abandoned before the Ides of March.
I think most people rarely submit to substantial internal change without some kind of major outside force demanding that it happen. Something other than an artificial social convention like the beginning of a new calendar.
The most recent instance for me was leaving Fairfax County schools (aka the overly-large school district)1last August after many years in their bureaucracy. In addition to continuing personal projects over the past few months, I’ve also thought a lot about other things I want to do. Getting into a regular routine has been harder than I expected and something that will require more effort.
One goal I set for myself was to do more writing in this space. I thought that would be easy with the extra time available but the process appears to require more than time. I finally decided to make an effort to post something every day in December. Most of the entries probably would have been better if they sat in the draft folder a while longer (and at least a few should have been deleted before hitting publish), but it’s a small start to getting into a new rhythm.
Anyway, enough rambling for now. Whether you view January 1 as the beginning of a new year or just another check-in point on a longer road, I hope the coming 12 months are good ones. Full of new opportunities to take advantage of, not resolutions to be abandoned.
Being a small collection of linksÂ from my tweets of the pastÂ weekÂ that deserve a fewÂ more than 140 characters.
The Bootstrap Myth, an episode of the always interesting DecodeDC podcast. It’s all about the fact that “as compelling as the story is, the data show it’s not nearly as common as we’d like to believe”. Or that lazy Â and/or deceitful politicians want us to believe. Go listen.
The Post headline beginsÂ The U.S. has more jails than colleges. Unfortunately, the article is mostly statistics and an infographic about where those prisoners live, not about the much largerÂ issues of why we have so many Americans in jail. Another bigÂ issue, however, is why the Post spends so much of its energy on trivia instead of covering issues.
Air travel is not a fun experience any more and has become much worse in just the past five or so years. A writer in The New Yorker says that change is no accident. Airlines want basic passengers to pay additional fees (which is largely pure profit) for a better experience, and are willing to make the basic one crappy to do it.
To go with that downer about air travel, an essay explainingÂ Why Americans Are Terrible at Vacation. For one thing, “America is the only advanced economy in the world that does not have government-mandated, paid time off”. But there’s also the fact thatÂ 41% of us who have paid time off don’t even use it all.
And finally, for many decadesÂ we’ve heard all kinds of predictions ofÂ howÂ artificial intelligence (AI) is coming.Â Now some big thinkers (like Elon Musk and Steven Hawking)Â are afraid it’s here and we aren’t ready. What kind of ethics can be built into self-driving cars and stock trading algorithms? And who decides?
I’ve decided I like the word “kerfuffle”. WiktionaryÂ defines it as “A disorderly outburst, disturbance, commotion or tumult.”, but I have a better use.
It has a very silly sound, almost Seussian,Â so I think it should be narrowlyÂ appliedÂ to any kind of pointless orÂ artifically contrived controversy.
The kind of stuff that fills most of the day on cable news.
Over the past few years I’veÂ written quite a few posts around the topic of change, specifically thoseÂ institutions and organizations (like our overly-large school district) need to make. But I’ve also been thinking that I need to make a few changes as well, starting with this site.
I’m pretty sure that most of youÂ who read this blog do so through an RSS feed and never visit the actual page. Which is fine but it means you haven’t seen the new minimalistic theme, which makes things easier to read as well as manage. I wish the process of finding it was simpler.
In addition to simplifying the appearance, I also needed a more streamlined approach to writing, starting with the understanding that I don’t need to post fully formed essays every single time (or maybe at all). I realize that tossing out some ideas and questions, and then working through them over time is probably a better approach to the writing process,2 even if the ideas are sometimes off base and the questions stupid.
Along with working through changes to my blogging process, I’ve also been looking for a simpler tool for making it happen, which is a recently released Mac app called Desk. The interface is pretty much as simple as you can get, with a small, basic set of tools that appear when you need them.
I had been using Mars Edit (for almost seven years), and it’s still a very capable classic Mac program, although with possibly too many features. Plus the developer hasn’t updated it in many years, other than bug fixes.
Finally, I am way over due with cleaning out my RSS feed, which I think is approaching 300 pages. Apologies to anyone I’ve cut.