• Category Archives MOOCS
  • The next few months

    Lughnasa                                                                        Monsoon Moon

    20180315_080213Now that I’m back from Minnesota and September 5th is less than a month away it’s time to focus on lesson plans. Again. Still. Alan Rubin sent me a template with examples of his lesson plans and I’ve finished three in an idiosyncratic format which I will, today, transfer to the CBE lesson plan model. Still several more to create and then weave together with the B’nai Mitzvah curriculum. 22 sessions altogether, though not all will require lesson plans. This work is a priority until Alan and I feel comfortable with what we have.

    On October 7th I will start the first of 8 First Sunday Jewish Studies Samplers. On Wednesday night when we went in for the MVP group we saw the new that day bookshelves and fire place that will frame a large screen, internet connected TV. With chairs and couches arrayed around it, this will be a spot in the synagogue for group use of online courses, lectures from companies like the Teaching Company, webinars or films. I’ll get a chance to use this new space for the exact purpose for which it’s intended. Each Sunday I’ll have discussion questions ready so attendees can sample not only the lectures, but the group learning possible through their use.

    2010 01 19_3454Meanwhile I’ll keep working on submissions, a hump I’ve gotten over, and writing itself. Jennie’s Dead still has a ways to go, maybe 30,000 words,  and other manuscripts, both novels and short stories that need further editing/revision.

    The next project after Jennie’s Dead, a novel retelling the story of Medea, keeps pushing its way forward and I look forward to a chance to get to work on it. Maybe in 2019. Lot of reading to do before then. I want to read as many variations on her story as I can find. Part of the story is the search for the golden fleece, with Jason, her lover, and his Argonauts.

    20180716_075524This constitutes the work portion of my schedule through May of 2019 and, with Medea, beyond.

    Here at home I still have trees to buck, logs to split and stack, a few smaller trees to fell and another round of stump grinding to organize. There are inside projects of various sorts, too. Cooking and laundry as well. Workouts. Sumi-e. Probably a return to Latin translation, too, since I’ve not completed translating Medea’s story in Ovid.





  • A Lunar Month of Significance

    Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

    Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.
    Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

    As the Woolly Mammoth Moon phases away toward a new moon, its month, the same lunar month we always have, yet also a different lunar month from any we’ve ever had, all spiraling through space as we follow the sun while orbiting it, I just wanna say thanks for what happened under its gentle influence.

    It rose as a new moon, invisible but watching us, on June 13th, the day Mark, Paul, Tom and I headed out to Durango and the 416 fire. It was a trip both across southwestern Colorado and back into 30 years of friendship. Not to mention back to the days of the Pueblo dwellers of Mesa Verde. It was, in a sense, a way to say to each other that, yes, these friendships are for a lifetime. That this lifetime, whatever it may mean individually includes each other–and Bill. When you think about it, affirming the power of our past and honoring the reality of our future, is pretty damned cool.

    Ode lays out the trip
    Ode lays out the trip

    It was also on this same trip that I read the essays about ground projects by Bernard Williams and about setting a rejection goal. The first one affirmed my existential sense that life gets meaning from our intentions and our labor to fulfill them; the second has transformed my writing life. A big, huge, amazing, wonderful thing.

    Also under the Woolly Mammoth Moon, Alan Rubin and I began digging in to developing a curriculum for 6th and 7th graders in the Religious School at CBE. This work has affirmed the depth of my immersion into the Jewish world of CBE and reconstructionist thought. It also underscores my continuing fascination, see posts below, with the supernatural, or at least the fruits of humanity’s speculation about the supernatural.

    Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, ballet at CBE

    Also under the WMM, I’ve been putting together the Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler series for the 2018/2019 adult education year. This will feature both courses from the Great Courses company and courses from the MOOC aggregator, Coursera plus the odd film or two.

    I also met Harv Teitelbaum. He’s the Sierra Club’s lead for their anti-fracking initiative, a big deal here in Colorado. I believe he and I share a similar attitude toward our current political reality and a similar focus on local races while maintaining an emphasis on the Great Work.

    My flaxen haired Nordic goddess
    My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

    It’s been a big, big month for me and I want to say out loud how grateful I am to all of you who’ve made it possible. Yes, Kate, especially you. It’s been a very difficult month for you nausea wise, I know, but you picked up a board membership at CBE and guided the food committee for the Patchworkers. All the time you’ve been supportive, though understandably surprised, at my new commitment to finally, finally, finally submitting my work. You’re the gyroscope in all this, keeping us stable and focused. Thanks, Kate.

  • Night on Bald Mountain

    Beltane                                                             Sumi-e Moon

    Rocky Mountain National Park
    Rocky Mountain National Park

    On Sunday night we had a thunder storm. While growing up and living in the Midwest, close to sea level and in the humid east, we didn’t think about cloud heights much. Clouds are way up there; we’re down here. Straightforward.

    But look at this definition: Cumulus clouds are low-level clouds, generally less than 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Well. Here on Shadow Mountain we are at 8,800 feet. Over the last week we’ve been within many cumulus clouds, dense fog advisories being common, not because of an ocean, but because of our elevation.

    That thunder storm Sunday night was relentless. Lightning strikes, bright flashes, big thunder. And a lot of the time it felt like it was happening right where we were. It probably was. This was being in a thunderstorm, not under it.

    Quite the experience. Naps the next day all round.

  • It’s All Real Stuff

    Imbolc                              Black Mountain Moon

    Prep days. Yesterday reorienting my workouts, today moving back into Ovid with the Latin. Prep is important but I find I want to hurry through it, press on, get to the real stuff. But, it’s all real stuff, isn’t it?

    When doing the Latin, for example, I want to work fast, translate easily, get it. But, most often I have to work slowly, translate with difficulty, struggle to understand.

    In the MOOC I’m taking from McGill University the current section is on physical literacy. An amazing insight for me. Literacy in the alphabetic, language based world, yes. Numeracy in the numbers based, mathematical world, yes. But physical literacy? That is, learning basic moves and physical actions that can later be strung together to play a sport, keep one fit, teach us how to fall, no. The idea never occurred to me.

    It apparently surfaced in the 1930’s in America whereas numeracy only emerged as an idea in the 1960’s. It’s not surprising, I guess, since the move from the farm to the town and city was weighted against the old, physical ways that had existed since hunting and gathering gave way to the neolithic revolution.

    Perhaps, come to think of it, becoming native to this place is a component of physical literacy, a tactile spirituality. As we move less and less, we interact with the natural less affectively, less often, less well. Perhaps play is a big component of becoming native to this place, wandering aimlessly in the woods or by a pond, in the mountains, on lakes.

    Anyhow, I’m excited about this idea, a human trilogy necessary for a satisfying life: literacy, numeracy and physicality.

  • College on the cheap

    Lughnasa                                                                  College Moon

    If you read articles about higher education, you will have noticed an ongoing debate about its future. Will there be brick and mortar campuses? This is the same debate that retailers have as online sellers, especially Amazon, but many others, too, among them Walmart, batter the solid walls of American shopkeepers. Will there be brick and mortar businesses at all?

    In both cases a process called disintermediation is at work, that is, removing the intermediary between the deliverer of goods and the end customer. In the case of retail businesses economies of scale, snappy delivery and vastly increased inventory (or at least access to inventory) tilt the momentum right now toward the online seller.

    In higher education the internet seems to provide the same threat. The MOOC, the massive open online course, threatens to broadcast the best teachers to a wide audience, free. Even inversion, a variation on online education where professors lecture online and then classes meet to discuss assignments and raise questions, could, in theory be used to teach massive numbers of students at the same time.

    Rather than elimination of the state university, the less prestigious private schools and community colleges the more likely result is a new paradigm altogether, one that uses the advantage of the best educators broadcast widely and cheaply and the advantage of the brick and mortar campus in delivering the moratorium years.

    Education is not, for most, a solo affair. It involves rubbing up against others, their ideas, their prejudices, their spark. And the moratorium years-that time between the teens and full adulthood (which seems to be stretching out longer now)-in our culture need to take place away from home.

    The best content offered at the most reasonable price should be a boon to all institutions of higher learning. Maybe the brick and mortar experience is shorter or taken in more discrete chunks. What’s magical about three quarters or two semesters? Why does it all have to be in the same location? Why not two years here, one there? Or two months in the city, two in the country. Or a season abroad, then a season back home. Why not mixtures of all this for the stay at home learner, the adult for whom education is, or at least can be, a solo affair?


  • Now

    Spring                                             Hare Moon

    The first of three workshops has finished.  This one, life context, positions you in the current period of your life.  It’s been, as always, a moving and insight producing time.  These workshops move below the surface and defy easy summary, but I have had one clear outcome from this one.  I’m in a golden moment.

    I’m healthy, loved and loving.  Kate and I are in a great place and the kids are living their adult lives, not without challenges, but they’re facing those.  The dogs are love in a furry form.

    The garden and the bees give Kate and me a joint work that is nourishing, enriching and sustainable. We’re doing it in a way that will make our land more healthy rather than less.

    The creative projects I’ve got underway:  Ovid, Unmaking trilogy, reimagining faith, taking MOOCs, working with the Sierra Club, and my ongoing immersion in the world of art have juice.  Still.

    I have the good fortune to have good friends in the Woollies and among the docent corps (former and current).  Deepening, intensifying, celebrating, enjoying.  That’s what’s called for right now.

  • Ending

    Imbolc                                                              Hare Moon

    In that slightly down place that completing a course produces.  Yes, it feels great to have stuck with it, finished.  And, yes, it feels very good to have the new knowledge.  But there’s now a hole where the climate change course was.  This is not the same feeling I had when ModPo and the Modern/Post-Modern courses finished.  That was more like exhilaration.

    This one mattered to me.  I’m not sure where or what I’ll do next. There are books to read, several recommended by the professors.  There’s the America Votes work and the possibility of using Great Wheel as some kind of vehicle to further mitigation and adaptation in Minnesota. But right now I feel deflated, a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task that lies ahead for all of us.  This will pass.  But it’s there.

    Since I finished earlier than I imagined, I’ll be able to work on my query letters tomorrow. I am also starting a new course focused on personal change that I don’t expect to be as demanding as this course was.  I let Whitman slide, did basically nothing and that’s the first one I’ve done that with, but I had overextended myself and something had to give.


  • Merchants of Doubt

    Imbolc                                                            Valentine Moon


    Spent yesterday doing the Climate Change course.  A fascinating series of lectures titled Merchants of Doubt.  Primary author of the book, Naomi Oreskes, is a historian of science at U. Cal. San Diego and a lecturer in this course.  This book and her lectures make a compelling and important case that climate change denial has its roots in the work of a small group of distinguished scientists, three initially:  Robert Jastrow, Frederick Seitz, and William Nierenberg.  All three were cold war physicists working on nuclear arms.  All three distinguished themselves.  Jastrow became head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Seitz was president of the National Academy of Science and Rockefeller University, Nierenberg headed the Scripps Institute for almost two decades.

    Read Great Wheel for the expanded story. The three of them worked on an advisory panel for Reagan’s Star Wars Defense Initiative.  When 6,500 scientists refused to take SDI money or work on it in any way by signing a petition stating their intentions, it caused great concern among these three cold war physicists.

    The three created the George C. Marshall Institute to challenge the scientific consensus against Star Wars.  Seitz also worked for RJ Reynolds as a consultant.  In 1989 the cold war ended. The U.S. had won the cold war.  This deflated the rationale for the Institute; but, using the strategies developed by the tobacco industry, “doubt mongering”, the Institute went on to attack the science behind acid rain, ozone holes and eventually, global warming.

    This methodology, honed in tobacco wars and practiced against acid rain and ozone (unsuccessfully, as it turned out), has been blisteringly effective against climate change science and its policy implications.  Why?  Read the rest of the story on Great Wheel later today or early tomorrow.


  • Back on Tailte, Peering Into the Climate Future

    Winter                                                        Seed Catalog Moon

    After a frustrating morning with a balky computer, I got into Robert Klein’s work on Missing.  He’s good.  Careful, detailed.  I’ve only rejected one of his edits so far and that one I understood what he did, but chose my construction over his.  I didn’t get far, but I’ll keep at it.

    I wrote a private post earlier about my anxiety as I approached this stage.  It’s still there, but the anxiety decreased as I worked.  I hope that continues to be the case.

    As I mentioned on Great Wheel, my computer is running a climate model with its unused processing power.  This is part of an Oxford Study to determine the results in a particular model if it is run many times with slight variations.  These slight variation can be very significant (think butterfly flapping wings), but without running these complex models over and over, tweaking them in slightly different ways each time, it’s impossible to know for sure what a particular adjustment will do.

    Climate and weather modeling are big users of super computer resources and the work on my computer is part of a massively parallel processing strategy to, in effect, mimic super computers without having to buy them.  The concept is simple.  Each home computer has many times the computing power necessary for almost, if not all, the tasks it performs and, in addition to that, most of them sit idle most of the time.  By downloading parts of larger task onto many, many home computers use can be made of both the idle and under-utilized processing power.  The first one of these projects was SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestial Intelligence, and I was part of that one, too.

    They are resource intensive, however, so some of my computer frustrations might have come from it modeling global climate in the background.  I’m 95% with the task the Oxford folks assigned to me (well, my trusty Gateway is 95% done) and it may be a while before I take on another one.  This run takes approximately 350 hours of processing time.

    I can and do shut it off at times.


  • Carbon on the Go

    Winter                                                                  Seed Catalog Moon

    This am in the climate change mooc listening to lectures about the international policy dimensions.  Boy, there are very real dilemmas.  Let me mention just one.  Coal.  To get emissions down coal use has to drop and drop a lot.  But.  Energy use in a nation has a linear relationship to the country’s wealth.  So.  If country A significantly reduces its coal consumption, two things follow.  1.  It will have to use a lot more of some other kind of energy unless it wants to beggar its citizenry.  2.  Country B, perhaps with less financial resources, now discovers that a lot of coal is available, cheaper than ever since one larger user has stopped or greatly diminished its use.  Result?  Country B buys the coal and uses it to generate electricity, thus increasing both its wealth and its emissions.  Hmmm.

    There’s a knock-on here that amplifies the problem, embodied emissions.  Sounds like a horror movie premise and that’s not far off.  An embodied emission is when one country produces a product using a polluting energy source, say coal, but instead of consuming the product sells it on the global market.  Which country is responsible for the emissions?  The producer or the consumer.  That’s an embodied emission, when the product you consume sent up its production emissions in another country.

    (international movement of coal)

    Guess where that happens a lot?  Yep, China exporting to U.S.  So, while our emissions have fallen modestly thanks to first the 2008 great recession then the increasing use of natural gas, China’s been scarfing down coal reserves, many from Australia, then selling the furniture, electronics, appliances here in the U.S.

    Embodied emissions have become a big problem since 1990.  Over that time international shipping has undergone a remarkable transformation lowering, then lowering again, the price of shipping even bulk goods like coal and, then, the products created by its use.

    The solution to this happens to be simple but politically very unpalatable:  border tariffs. Tariffs are a big no-no to free market ideologues and they do raise the specter of tariffs used as weapons not just to balance the embodied emission problem.  Makes my head ache.