Friday, November 17, 2017


Historians are inquisitive people. We ask questions and we try to answer them. Some questions are fairly mundane. Why did Washington commit so many troops to try to keep New York City, even though it was obviously a losing cause? Sometimes the questions are harder to answer. Why did so many apparently good, upstanding people commit treason in defense of slavery? Sometimes we can find the answers. Sometimes we can only guess. But we are always driven by questions. Why? How? Why? My own research tended to be more of the how questions. How did uranium mining and the building of Interstate 40 change Western New Mexico. How did uranium miners live? How did they die? The why questions were too difficult for me. I suppose that is why I have always had a difficult relationship with religion. I am the proto-typical bad New York Jew who grew up belonging to a synagogue but attended infrequently. I did not achieve Bar Mitzvah but I did reach confirmation. I found the confirmation classes interesting, but I was more attracted to the history lessons than the doctrinal ones. I can still sing "The Golden Age of Spain" song (which for Jews is the 8th to 13th centuries). But I've always had a touch of the mystical about me. I dreamed my wife before I met her. In my dream, I did not see her, but I knew I was dating the woman who had my friend David's distinct grey Kelty frame pack with MCKEE written in large black Sharpie marker. After I met Lori, and fell for her, when she opened that fateful jar of pickles that magical summer in New Mexico, I was floored to learn that she had borrowed that same backpack for the summer. I never asked Why or How it happened that I dreamed her before meeting her. I just accepted it. The universe had plans for us. We fell in love immediately (well it took her a little longer, but not much). On our first official date, a wedding at the end of that wonderful summer, the bride asked us if we were the next wedding and we scoffed, but it must have been obvious even then. The universe had terrific plans for us. A short term move to Philadelphia turned into a permanent stay in a city that we loved deeply. I took a one-year high school teaching position and it turned into a career. We had the first of our two careflly planned children. Lori's day job as a Realtor's Assistant, became her career as she got a license. We had the second of our two carefully planned children. The universe gave us a third child despite all reasonable precautions, and we accepted him and loved him and never asked Why? Tonight, Lori left me. She left the kids. She left the earth. Because she is so young, the Medical Examiner will eventually tell us how she died. Or maybe they won't. But I will never know why she left tonight, November 17th 2017. It's not a question I can answer. I accept your thoughts and prayers. They ease my pain. The universe has been very good to me. I was lucky to born into a loving family, well cared for, my basic needs met and then some. Most people in the world, will never have what I have had. Most people in America will never have what I have. But the universe can be cruel sometimes. If the Hindus are right, I'll perhaps meet Lori again in some new incarnation. If the Buddhists are right, her energy is nourishing the world in all the good things; if the Christians are right perhaps we'll meet again in heaven. We Jews are unsure about heaven, but we are willing to entertain it, as with most things, as a possibility. I am not really concerned with the how of it all. The question I want answered is the unanswerable one: Why?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It ain't easy being green, but it's worth it.

So this happened.

Which is pretty cool.  To get the award SCH had to complete three  "pathways" including energy.  Guess who co-lead the energy pathway last year?  This guy.   Hey, I was, and still am, an energy historian!  That expertise in the history of uranium mining comes in handy now and then.   (You can learn more about the how to become an eco-school here.)  

To complete the energy pathway, we had to conduct an energy audit of the campus.  For our sprawling campus that comprises three main buildings and a number of outbuildings across the 62 acre campus.  The way eco-schools pathways are designed did not work with the way our school functions.  How much energy do we use and what kind?  Well, some buildings are duel fuel for heat and hot water, but not all of them.  We have a massive solar array (at one point, the largest in Philadelphia) that generates electricity and we also pull some from the grid (which could mean any source mixture).   Where could we find savings?  Who knows?  We couldn't count every lightbulb in the place (I'm not sure anybody knows where they all are, and the audit only asks about inside bulbs, anyway).  So to conduct the energy audit we had to get creative.  An Upper School statistics class generated a random sample of rooms using the master room list, lower schools collected information about the rooms, middle schooler math students calculated energy usage on those rooms and kicked the data back to the stats class that then generated a range of energy use and identified rooms that were "energy vampires."  To check our data, and go beyond what was asked in the audit, we also used energy monitoring devices to target areas outside of classrooms to see their energy usage.  Very few people anticipated that the beverage vending machines were the biggest energy using devices in the school.  They use more than the printers, or any of the computer network devices.

At the time, I did not think this was a big deal, but in retrospect this was the type of interdisciplinary, real world learning that pundits and education reformers are always talking about.  Around these parts:  we just call it school.  

You can read the whole energy pathway here.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Adventures in Health Care

The significant other broke her ankle a few weeks ago.  She can't drive.  Man, she drives a lot.  Picking up that slack, that's a lot of driving.  I hate driving.  

Oh yeah, her pain and suffering and being trapped in the house all day and having to up and down stairs on her butt and all that stuff sucks too.

But, man I hate driving. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

10 Things I learned this summer

1.  If you lick a fossil, it will stick to your tongue; if you lick a regular rock, you get a mouthful of dirt.

2.  All birds are descended from dinosaurs.  And, if I understand it right, all dinosaurs are descended from one genus of dinosaur that managed to survive the great die off at the end of the Triassic.  Checking with wikipedia,  I probably don't understand this right.

3.  You, your cat, and every other mammal pretty much has the same hip structure as a dinosaur.  But you are not related to dinosaurs.  This is called a conjunction.  It's when unrelated species have similar features for the same reason. 

4.  Dinosaurs are not lizards.  Repeat, dinosaurs are not lizards.

5.  Pterodactyls were not dinosaurs.

6.  I can still sleep on the ground for weeks at a time.

7.  KQAY in Tucumcari, NM is a kick ass radio station.  Where else would you hear Elvis followed by Prince followed by Patsy Cline?

8.  There is a young cowboy in Quay county who has a BA from Harvard and an MPhil from Trinity College, Dublin.  He's starting a PhD in history as I write this.  His brother is at Hillsdale.   The latter reports that the libertarians and the fundamentalists still can't get along there.  

9.  Cooking over an open fire is more fun than cooking over a gas grill, but the clean up sucks in comparison.

10.  The 40 dollar boots I bought at K-Mart in Tucumcari have held up a lot better than my Merrils which I owned about a year.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sometimes I write things

I've been mostly off-line teaching in an unplugged program in New Mexico.  Hopefully more posts will follow.  This is a quick hit for a story I wrote during a writing workshop with kids.  I return to civilization tomorrow.  Perhaps blogging will pick-up 


[Note bits in bold should be said together by the group if being read aloud]
Once there was a boy who wanted to touch the sky.  First, he climbed on top of his house.  He reached way up but he couldn’t touch the sky.  So then he climbed the tallest hill by his house.  He reached way up but he couldn’t touch the sky.  So he went to the next town and asked around about the tallest hill was there.  He climbed it, and it took him most of the day, when he go to the top, he reached way up but he couldn’t touch the sky.  So he asked around and he heard that if he followed the river upstream there were mountains.  So he walked along the river until he saw a mountain.  He climbed the mountain for two days, and when he got to the top he reached way up but he couldn’t touch the sky.  And he looked around at the top of the mountain and saw an even bigger mountain nearby so he went down the mountain to the valley and started climbing and it took him four days.  And when he got to the top, he reached way up but he couldn’t touch the sky.  The boy was very distraught.  He was frustrated.  He was angry.  He yelled at the sky.  He shook his fist.  He climbed down the mountain; he went down the valley, he rafted down the river, he walked back to his village and found the lowest point he could because he just felt so low.  He lay on the ground and kicked his feet in anger.  He punched his fists in frustration, he cried tears of pain.  He rolled onto his back and as his tears fell down his cheeks, it started to rain.  

And he laughed and laughed because he realized, it wasn’t his place to touch the sky, but if he waited long enough, than the sky would touch him. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

This. So much this.

Ellen Stroud was part of a fabulous panel at ASEH.  Now she covers that in a concise blog post here

Basically, it's about how to integrate Environmental History into the US survey.  I'd like to think I do a reasonably good job at this, but teaching AP this year made me backslide a bit.  I'm recommitting for next year assuming I don't forget by September.

What are your June-year resolutions for September?

Friday, April 21, 2017

I'm taking credit

So once upon a time I wrote a thing about menstruation.  Now I have two former students.  One is writing something on menstruation for a semi-reputable publication.  The other is working on and writing about it.   I'd like to think that maybe I had something to do with this, but probably not.