Another matter

Aurora Borealis; the Northern Lights.
Aurora Borealis

When is a substance not a liquid, solid, or gas? Give up? When it’s plasma, the fourth state of matter. (Not blood plasma, which is something different.)  Alas, my elementary school science failed me. And now…literally, decades later, I have become re-enchanted with this fact.

So, for those of us who are a bit out of touch with plasma, I’ll paraphrase a bit about this state. To begin with, what exactly is plasma?

Plasma is a super-heated gas that becomes so hot its electrons leave the atom’s orbit and roam free. A gas becomes a plasma when extreme heat causes its atoms to shed their electrons.

Okay, that’s cool, but where is it? We recognize the other states of matter, but what about this mysterious thing? Plasma is the most abundant form of visible matter in the universe and believed to compose up to 99 percent of what we see in the night sky; populating the infinite regions of interstellar and interplanetary space. Like the sun, stars are enormous balls of plasma. The fusion fueled by plasma creates the energy that gives us sunlight, which as we know, is essential for life on Earth.

Hmmm, so if this plasma is another state of matter, where else is it found?  Lightning, neon signs, fluorescent light bulbs, a candle flame, some television and computer displays are all examples of plasma. Like a gas, plasma has no shape or a definite volume unless it is enclosed in a container. However, distinctive from gas, when under the influence of a magnetic field, it may form structures such as filaments, beams and double layers.

Can we see it? Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is nature’s way of showing it to us. This occurs because plasma particles hurled from the sun interact with Earth’s magnetosphere, (the magnetic field that surrounds us).

Today’s esteemed thinker is English chemist and physicist, Sir William Crookes (1832-1919). He discovered the element thallium and invented the radiometer, the spinthariscope (a device for studying alpha particles), and the Crookes tube. Not a household name, Crookes discovered the electron when he was reconstructing the Cathode Ray. By placing black vanes on one side and silver on the other, it caused the vacuum tube to spin when it hit the light. Since the Cathode Ray had previously been built, he needed to call it something else. Today it is known as the Crookes’ Tube.

In 1879, while playing with an experimental electrical discharge tube (in which air is ionized by the introduction of a high voltage through a coil), he discovered “Plasma”.  Originally Sir William Crookes called it radiant matter. However, in 1928 Irving Langmuir, an American chemist and physicist, renamed it because he was reminded of blood plasma… go figure! 

Esteemed thinkers: teachers

It’s a job which I held for over two decades… this thing we call teaching. It is a profession that requires the participant to hold a higher degree, take state exams, continue to update credentials, and hold a license; often more than one. You are fingerprinted, tested, observed, evaluated, and assigned. It is perhaps the most underpaid and the most under celebrated jobs, but frequently the most rewarding. It is difficult to convey to those in other fields commanding many more incentives and a higher salary why a person wishes and continues to be a teacher.

So for today’s post I present a parable that may speak for all of us educators and retired educators; here is the tale of just what it is like to be a teacher.

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

 “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” he asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

Animal crusader: Henry Bergh

llama small signed

We are all too familiar with the quotes “Dog is Man’s Best Friend”; however, despite these bits of sentimentality we also must acknowledge that not all people agree with these statements. In the underlayer of humanity, there exists a cruelty to animals. Hoofed, pawed, web footed, and winged; animals regardless of their species are often mistreated.  They are the voiceless creatures whose barks and meows, neighs, and brays are often not ever heard. Only when they are physically abused do their human counterpart sense their despair. Fortunately, there is an organization that hears their voices, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is their mission to “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” So, when you hear the idiom, “Crying crocodile tears”, it just might mean something different than you think to the crocodile.

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Henry Bergh (1813-1888) aka “Angel with at Top Hat”. Philanthropist, animal crusader, founder of the ASPCA, he was born in New York into a wealthy family. His father, a highly successful shipbuilder, died when he was young leaving his son to inherit a fortune. Bergh’s notoriety grew in social circles that included the political elite of his time as well.  He supported abolitionist positions and gained appointment to Lincoln’s cabinet as an American Delegate to Russia. As a result, he traveled extensively. It was during his travels that he became greatly impacted by what he saw, cruelty to animals. In Russia he witnessed peasants beating horses and was shocked by the violence of Spanish bullfighting.

Henry bergh

Driven by this suffering and injustice of the treatment to animals around the world and in the United States he decided to devote himself to these “mute servants of mankind”. In 1866 he drafted a Declaration of the Rights of Animals, proposed a society to protect animals. these creatures and offered his proposal at Clinton Hall. On April 10, 1866, a charter incorporating the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was signed and the following week, an anti-cruelty law was passed granting ASPCA the power to enforce such laws. The ASPCA agents were often referred to as “Berghsmen”.

His work for animals did not stop with the ASPCA, he soon earned the moniker of “meddler” when he installed drinking fountains for working horses and fought to put an end to dog fighting and cock fights. He also invented the clay pigeon, to spare live birds from sport shooters and carried on a high-profile dispute with P.T. Barnum over the treatment of the animals in his menagerie.  However, Bergh’s persistence and integrity eventually turned Barnum into a friend.

Second image: photomechanical print : halftone

Taking control

Like all readers, not all reading problems are alike. That means by defining which area(s) a reader needs “a boost in” can significantly improve reading understanding as well as self-esteem.

FirstAidCover_small

First Aid for Readers is a self-help guide for those who are having difficulty when they read. It can be followed at home, in school, in the library, during teacher instruction, or in any activity involving reading. It is a first aid kit for readers presented in an easy to follow format.

So, if you know a reader…share the link!

AmazonNookKindleGoogle Play

Esteemed thinker: Clas Oldenburg

pizza restaurant
We have memories that are both positive and negative and they come and go throughout our day often without any warning. The method they use to interrupt our thoughts is often initiated by a random trigger; all fitting very neatly under the umbrella of our senses. A song may bring back romance or regrets while an aroma recreates a holiday.

Pizza is a food that that carries and omits memories; ordering through an open window where the smells waft into the street and greasy wax paper barely big enough to hold the triangular slice. The best way to eat a piece was to fold it lengthwise with the full advantage of biting off the end. Ultimately you had to stretch your arm out in front of you before reeling in a thin string of mozzarella cheese.

However, what was once the norm of pizza has now become almost extinct since its culinary metamorphosis. Its evolution through the years has been transformed into what I call “boutique pizza.” Not only has the size of the average pie been dramatically reduced, but the crust is not longer made with the soft dough that bubbled up on the edges like a dune on the beach. Presently it is more like a fancy cracker. The toppings range from artichoke hearts, to pineapple, to chicken and rosemary. Mozzarella is no longer the cheese of choice but rather feta and goat drizzled with olive oil. Served on small tapas dishes the order comes with knives and forks.

Alas, the evolution of the pizza has made quite a change; and though the “boutique pizza” is delicious, there was once something special about watching the pizza baker twirl the dough above his head while you waited… and just maybe this would be the time it would go splat!!

Museum Ludwig - Pressekonferenz - Claes Oldenburg Today’s post brings to you the esteemed thinker: Clas Oldenburg (Stolkholm, 1929), a Swedish born artist who moved to the United States and eventually became a citizen of his adopted counntry. Educated at Yale, Oldenburg later attended the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, opened a studio and did freelance illustrating for magazines. Using commercial and ordinary objects as subject matter, he brought to the art world a new meaning of expression. He became known for public art and instilations of grand scales, utilizing materials that deemed his work “soft sculpture”. In the 1960s he participated in what was called the Pop Movement, also related to “happenings” a kind of performance art work.

I now bring you his 1964 lithograph titled Flying Pizza from New York Ten a work of art that clearly, from the title and subject, reminds many of us of the “good-old-days” of the plain cheese pizza!

Pizza Oldenburg

Esteemed thinker: Nikola Tesla

futureIt is astounding to think that only a hundred and fifteen years ago, which is not a very long ago in the realm of time, the world was in the throes of a new millennium. This was the Edwardian era, the very beginning of the 20th century, and the future seemed as unrealistic as one could imagine. Airplanes, radios, and wireless transmission were at its infancy. And if only the predictions had come true, what a different world it would be. Andrew Carnegie hoped warfare would “become the most dishonorable” profession and Secretary of the Navy John D. Long held the common belief that war would be abolished.”

Forward to the 21st century, where we began with such inventions as segways, ipods, braile gloves and hybrid cars. Sadly we cannot celebrate the predictions of Carnegie and Long for they did not hold up to the test of time. Which leads us to today’s esteemed thinker: Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) a world renowned scientist who made some of his own predictions seventy or so years before the millennium.

nikola tesla Nikola Tesla, born in Smiljan, Lika, which was then part of the Austo-Hungarian Empire, the region of modern day Croatia. In 1873 he began his studies in mathematics and physics at the University in Prague, however became fascinated with electricity. In 1881 he started his career in electrical engineering in Budapst and privately built a reduction motor, a radical idea that was not received well in Europe. As a result he moved to the United States and worked with Thomas Edison. For the next 59 years he established himself as a great inventor, which included constructing his theory of alternating current, in direct conflict with Edison’s theory of direct current. In 1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, a fundamental principle in physics and the basis of nearly all devices that use alternating current. Alternating current became standard power in the 20th Century, an accomplishment that ultimately changed the world.

I now bring to you a snippet from an article in the 1935 issue of Liberty magazine. Here is one of many predictions made by the inventor, Nikola Tesla, a man who probably did not predict his own beneficial contribution to everyday life.

“… At present we suffer from the derangement of our civilization because we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age. The solution of our problems does not lie in destroying but in mastering the machine. Innumerable activities still performed by human hands today will be performed by automatons. At this very moment scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a ” thinking machine.” I anticipated this development. I actually constructed “robots.”

Today the robot is an accepted fact, but the principle has not been pushed far enough. In the twenty-first century the robot will take the place which slave labor occupied in ancient civilization. There is no reason at all why most of this should not come to pass in less than a century, freeing mankind to pursue its higher aspirations…”

Esteemed thinker: Paulo Freire

teacher and classThe world of business is thought to be ever so complex however it appears to revolve around two events, the passing of time and the passing of money. Both involve good planning and good luck; for without them both working hand-in-hand, one could stymie the other. For those readers that like examples, let us take the film industry. Production on a new movie does not occur without first deciding upon time involved in production and the finances to put the idea into action. However, how often do we hear that the making of the movie is “behind schedule” and “cost productions” are over budget.

Such an occurrence is not rare but rather common practice. The identical business scenario results ever- so- often in the construction industry. Plans are created however, for whatever reason, perhaps a building permit or poor weather, construction is placed “on hold’ and as the company sorts things out, one-thing-leads to another, costs increase, and extra time is needed for the project to be completed. One can delve into a multitude of examples yet the more we look the more we not that the business world appears not to really have a hold on keeping to a schedule, even when they plan so many planning meetings that one has to wonder how they have so much time to plan.

Yet, there is one set of workers that complete their job everyday on time, regardless of money or the lack of time….teachers. Go into any classroom and one will find a diversity of clients (students) under the management of one and regardless of the weather or the lack of materials, when the bell rings and their day begins, in spite of distractions, interruptions, or disgruntled kids, work goes on according to plans.

So, perhaps the next time a business cannot seem to get the job completed according to schedule, rather than pouring more money into it…why not call in the experts of time management… the teacher.

Paulo_Freire Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Paulo Freire (b. Recife, Brazil 1921-1997) Brazilian philosopher and teacher who developed educational theories that helped transform the field of education to better literacy to the poor. His studies centered around the relationship between teaching and learning where he endorsed that the teacher should help students in developing freedom of thought that would enable them to use their knowledge to take constructive action. In 1962 the first experiments in Freire’s method of education saw extreme success when 300 farmworkers were taught to read and write in just 45 days.

Freire was a child during the Great Depression where his experiences from this time later framed his life’s work; making changes in the development of education and literacy. His book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ is considered one of the foundational texts of critical pedagogy.

I now bring you a snippet from the great Paulo Freire’s work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Take time from your busy day and afterwards, if you could read this…thank a teacher.

“A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient listening objects (the students). The contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. Education is suffering from narration sickness…Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other…”

First image early 1890s.

Sun Safely

Educating children and teens is our first defense in helping prevent skin cancer later in life!

A digitally free copy is available to upload …. teaching our our kids to be ‘sun safe’ is a smart choice!

Sun Safely Alphabet Book

By Nanette Avery in Sun Safely

12 pages, published 8/2/2011

An illustrated alphabet book promoting sun protection for kids! It’s as easy as A to Z to learn how to be sun safe and protect yourself from the harsh rays of the sun. Follow each of the 26 letters and learn how to be sun smart! Find out how animals like elephants, rhinos, meerkats, and even polar bears protect themselves from the sun. Both parents and children will be encouraged to “sun safely”!

John Burroughs and time

strata zion national park_ burroughs post There is little doubt to most of us that the things we do and the pace we live continues to accelerate, and when simple actions and events come to a stand still for reasons that we have no control over, it creates disappointment and frustration. Individually, one cannot be at blamed for having taken on these feelings, for as our everyday rate of interaction speeds up, it has become quite clear that one has to hang on or be left behind.

However, within all this acceleration and an often self-imposed race to the top, it is most interesting to observe that our planet Earth has maintained an even and steady course, while continuing to change, evolve, and exhibit stunning effects. Slowly, very slowly, very methodically she turns rocks into sand and mountains into valleys. Her time is geological and as the saying goes, “has all the time in the world.” And though humans have journeyed a parallel road, our existence is as brief as a flicker of light.

Take witness to Earth’s miraculous changes and transformations within the sights and vistas; the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Cliffs of Dover. All are a product of time which needs no calendar to interpret age, but rather the striations on rocks or the rings within a tree trunk.

And though we find that we must keep up and maintain the haste of each day, our time is akin to a footprint on the ocean’s shore…so take the advice of Mother Earth and enjoy the caress of the water, and make as deep but kindly impression as you can within the sands of our time….

John burroughs 2 Today’s blog has invited back the esteemed thinker: John Burroughs (1837-1921) best known as one of the literary caretakers of nature. And though he lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, his philosophy for everyday life has maintained its value. We are fortunate to be able to read and observe his work, a tribute to his writing that he had the foresight to document the beauty of nature and its symbiotic relationship with man, Earth, and the surroundings.

From his book, Time and Change (1912) I present to you a short but poignant piece extracted for your reading pleasure. Here are the words of Mr. Burroughs…

“… I am well aware that my own interest in geology far outruns my knowledge, but if I can in some degree kindle that interest in my reader, I shall be putting him on the road to a fuller knowledge than I possess. As with other phases of nature, I have probably loved the rocks more than I have studied them. In my youth I delighted in lingering about and beneath the ledges of my native hills, partly in the spirit of adventure and a boy’s love of the wild, and partly with an eye to their curious forms, and the evidences of immense time that looked out from their gray and crumbling fronts. I was in the presence of Geologic Time, and was impressed by the scarred and lichen-coated veteran without knowing who or what he was. But he put a spell upon me that has deepened as the years have passed, and now my boyhood ledges are more interesting to me than ever.

If one gains an interest in the history of the earth, he is quite sure to gain an interest in the history of the life on the earth…”

First image: Strata in Zion National Park, Utah, 1946: Carol Highsmith
Second image: John Burroughs in rustic chair, c1901

Esteemed thinker: George Santayana

telephone operator The utterance of sound comes in forms that are pleasing to the ear or displeasing to the psyche. We may be aroused by the mellow song of a lark coming through the window or may shudder when awakened out of a sound sleep by the ringing of a renegade alarm clock. The sounds we hear when we rise from bed may set our mood happily, such as the coffee pot starting its every day routine, or it may propel us into gloom such as by way of the newscaster giving us our daily dose of troubles.

Most all creatures in the world use their voice to convey sounds that may produce harmony or disharmony.
The dog barks in a threatening growl to warn or in a series of light snips to greet. The cat hisses when you accidentally step on its tail, (a most unpleasant cry and experience for both the stepper and steppe), or it may meow in a truly affectionate manner hoping that you will give it your attention.

But as for humans, we have been granted sounds that go beyond the ordinary; we have the gift of speech, the ability to communicate in staccato, such as with an imperative sentence… “Watch out!” or those laced in metaphor as in poetry. The sounds that flow from our lips are a powerful tool and can leave an impression deeper than one’s footprint stuck in mud. The first time a baby learns to say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, we are elated, for this sense of recognition is now a bond that goes beyond mere sounds.

And so, as we journey through the day and into the night the sounds we make, may it be a sigh, a groan, or dinner conversation, can play a most significant role. For with each utterance that we generate, there is some individual or creature that receives it… we can make music to the ears or not… but with certainty and limited effort, it is quite an extraordinary feat to create… this thing we call sound…

George_Santayana For today’s post I present to you the esteemed thinker: George Santayana (1863- 1952). Born in Madrid, Spain, he was a philosopher, critic, essayist, novelist, poet and known for being a naturalist before it became a popular subject. Rivaling Emerson in literary accomplishments, he made relationships between literature, art, religion and philosophy prominent themes throughout his writings. Santayana received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1889 and was a faculty member at Harvard University from 1889 to 1912, eventually earning a place now called Classical American Philosophy. He is notably remembered for his quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

From his book Reason in Art, I have extracted for you a small portion from the chapter titled “Speech and Signification”. Take time to ponder the words of Mr. Santayana for his thoughts and concepts are most provocative.

“Music rationalises sound, but a more momentous rationalising of sound is seen in language. Language is one of the most useful of things, yet the greater part of it still remains (what it must all have been in the beginning) useless and without ulterior significance. The musical side of language is its primary and elementary side. Man is endowed with vocal organs so plastic as to emit a great variety of delicately varied sounds; and by good fortune his ear has a parallel sensibility, so that much vocal expression can be registered and confronted by auditory feeling. It has been said that man’s pre-eminence in nature is due to his possessing hands; his modest participation in the ideal world may similarly be due to his possessing tongue and ear. For when he finds shouting and vague moaning after a while fatiguing, he can draw a new pleasure from uttering all sorts of labial, dental, and gutteral sounds. Their rhythms and oppositions can entertain him, and he can begin to use his lingual gamut to designate the whole range of his perceptions and passions…

Language had originally no obligation to subserve an end which we may sometimes measure it by now, and depute to be its proper function, namely, to stand for things and adapt itself perfectly to their structure. In language as in every other existence idealism precedes realism, since it must be a part of nature living its own life before it can become a symbol for the rest and bend to external control. The vocal and musical medium is, and must always remain, alien, to the spatial… Yet when sounds were attached to an event or emotion, the sounds became symbols for that disparate fact…”

First image: Title: TELEPHONE OPERATORS, Creator(s): Harris & Ewing, photographer, Date created/Published: [between 1914 and 1917]