Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Play, bawl

Over the last week, I traded in some sleeping for watching Major League Baseball's World Series. The games proved fictional coach Jimmy Dugan wrong: There is crying in baseball.

Especially among Red Sox pitchers: Rick Porcello cried; David Price cried, twice.

Here's what Price said after the clinching game, as reported by The Ringer: “My confidence was never altered through however many seasons I’ve been to the playoffs, however many times I’ve failed in October, however many times I failed in the regular season or against the Yankees. I always had belief in myself and my abilities.”

Growth mindset? Doesn't seem so. Rather, another way to think about the ace's irrational confidence may be as his fixed mindset hardening into an irresistible force, his gritty tenacity fueling dogged repetition more-so than resilient growth. Or what if he's an exception that proves a learning rule, smashing up against failure until he broke through while others might instead grow and change?

Check out this advice his college pitching coach gave him over a decade ago: "You never need to change the way that you play this game." Compare that to the prevailing flavor these days in education... Almost makes me want to cry.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Time slips three times

I'm out for dinner Sunday with an out-of-town friend I haven't seen in years. "Hey, Mr. Rozinsky," a voice says from next to our table. It belongs to a fellow diner who also happens to be a student I taught in sixth grade, now well into his college education.

Monday morning, I'm wiping down classroom desks to remove lingering dry-erase residue. I flash back to when I was in sixth grade, and my math teacher would so obsessively disinfect her space that it forever reeked of Lysol.

After desk duty, I'm moonlighting as a doorstop outside my classroom when an eight grader I taught two years ago walks past on his way to first period. In tones of mock incredulity, he's saying to another student, "This is what happens when I care about something: I actually put something into it." Sounds about right, based on how I remember him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A tale of two parsnips

My inner word-imp wants to start today's botanical blog with: It was the best of thymes, it was the worst of thymes. Instead, let's start with a picture:
Both parsnips in this paltry still-life arrived in my possession a week apart, the fruits (??) of the last harvests from a six-month Community Supported Agriculture share -- a.k.a. CSA. The one on the top is more than eight days out of the ground; the one on the bottom, just two. Of greater importance, the bottom one had be to hustled to safety ahead of a forecast freeze, plus what totaled at least six inches of snow. I presume that meant all farmhands on deck, getting veggies from the earth before it started turning solid under the season's first white blanket. The harvesting push left less labor for getting the crop clean; hence, one parsnip dirtier than the other.

My take-away: When we inevitably face circumstances beyond our control, doing the best we can will need to be good enough.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sausage party

American poet John Godfrey Saxe -- not Otto von Bismark -- deserves credit for this observation comparing legislating with charcuterie: “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”

I thought of these well-traveled words this past weekend. On the day that the U.S Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, I stood in a friend's backyard ready to make bratwurst. (For the record, the concurrent scheduling of these events was coincidental, rather than intentional political commentary.)

After milling about and ice breaking among friends of friends who didn't all know each other, we were summoned to action by our host. My first job landed me on the mixing station where I plunged my well-washed hands -- soaped and rinsed all the way up to the elbows -- into a huge plastic tub of ground pork, eggs, dry milk, and secret spices. I squished those ingredients into a homogeneous mixture, and then I cleaned my hands again, thoroughly. (Having stashed my filigreed wedding ring in my jeans pocket before getting to work proved to be an inspired move.)

On to the manufacturing station next. I teamed with four other volunteers to form an assembly line. One of us took responsibility for gathering softballs of raw meat to thwack into a metal cylinder. (I learned that the 'thwack' was essential in knocking air pockets out of the meat since those could compromise effective loading.) Once the cylinder had been fitted into the stuffing apparatus and the casing gently twisted onto the extruder (my job), the slow methodical cranking could begin. This soon forced ground meat uniformly into the casing, which I coaxed and fed forward to the next two teammates -- one partner using a pin to prick holes in lingering bubbles, saving us from unsightly explosions once on the grill; the other partner working quickly to twirl the sausage snake into equivalent links. This process ran for about two hours, yielding a couple hundred tube-steaks.

I'm glad I got to see (and join in) this sausage being made as I actually gained more respect for the process. My feelings about our legislators, in comparison, may be for the (um) wurst.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Two reactions and a postscript

I was on an airplane last week when I noticed, just above my appropriately upright and locked tray table, a small sticker. The sticker sat below a vertical plastic slot in the seat-back in front of me where rested an in-flight magazine (one of its crossword puzzles half done), along with two pamphlets -- one pushing snacks for purchase and a credit card invitation; the other offering safety information for the aircraft in which I sat. For the record, there was also one air-sickness bag, unused. I now noticed one sticker on every seat-back within view. Each said, "Literature only."

My first reaction was to scoff: "Literature?" I thought haughtily. "Hardly."

I'm prouder of my next reflection. "Literature? Why shouldn't it be? The more avid and aspiring readers alike get comfortable with literature as the name for texts that might pull their attention for serious or frivolous reasons, emergencies or diversions, or just by being at hand, the better. Literature need not exist just in its distant, daunting capital L iteration that stultifies too many students in schools. Before the plane even reached its cruising altitude, I had chosen to welcome these connotation complications.

P.S. Apology. Again, William Carlos Williams

I have finished
the crossword
that was in
the seat-back

and which
you were probably

Forgive me
it was diverting
squares white
and now filled