The ecosystems perspective on learning offers a new way of thinking about how learning through life — work, play, home, family, and community — relates to formal education and its many informal counterparts in libraries, clubs, churches, online, etc. It conceives education broadly as the central process of democratic life. For the educator in formal or informal settings, it provides a theoretical framework for what the best educators are already doing. For the researcher or evaluator, it offers tools for analysis. For anyone it suggests ways to reflect on our own learning through life.
Sandy Hook is a beautiful, peaceful respite. There are interesting walks and cycle routes all over. The big activities are in other-than-human nature, since the principal human activity was the now dilapidated Fort Hancock.
Beach plums bloom wildly in the spring, promising unlimited jams and jellies. Menhadens litter the beach. Perhaps a school was attacked by bluefish, or seabirds? Ospreys circle overhead, in flocks of four or more, a pattern that I’d never seen before. The tides move inexorably, but the whitecaps come and go as the wind keeps changing. The Raritan bay side and the Atlantic ocean side each have their distinctive character.
The isolation and calm aren’t for everyone. Sarah Patterson was appointed Assistant Keeper of the Lighthouse in 1867. She assisted her brother, Charles Patterson, who was Head Keeper and tended the lighthouse from 1861 to 1885. She complained about what seemed monotonous to her:
…I get homesick…I can only look at sand and water [here]. We can’t hardly tell whether its spring or not… [because] it is always one thing here; the sand and cedars never change.
Sarah Patterson Johnson in a letter to her father at the family farm in Howell Township, NJ
Sarah never knew that the beach season would disrupt the calm of Sandy Hook starting each June. I imagine that it’s quite different then. Huge parking lots, A through M, imply hundreds of cars, beach parties, loud music, frisbees, dogs, and raucous times.
The summer could offer a fun adventure, but I’ll settle for quiet interrupted only occasionally by the warning horn of the ferry approaching the nearby dock, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises over the water, and sand and cedars that actually change all the time.
We met Stephen on Tuesday and saw his new apartment in Central Park West.
Afterwards, we picked up a half dozen baguettinis at Perfect Picnic, a sandwich place across from the Park. While there, I learned that the owner wasn’t around because she was in Provincetown setting up a branch there.
It’s not authentic old Cape Cod cuisine but is a welcome addition, especially for a good, easy lunch. We ate sitting on a bench along the Hudson River around 100th St.
There are beach plums aplenty, cedars more than pitch pines, shipwrecks, ospreys, seals, and inviting sandy beaches. There’s even an old military base (Fort Hancock) and an old lighthouse like those on the Cape.
I’ve received the good news that my new book, Thinking with Maps, is now out. I asked to have a copy mailed to Austin so I can pick it up there.
As you may know, a major barrier delaying international distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is intellectual property restrictions. Biden could remove that barrier by supporting a TRIPS Waiver.
Such a move is supported by many organizations such as Oxfam, Medicins san Frontieres, and Human Rights Watch. Without it, the pandemic will continue, quite likely increasing, and new lethal variants are certain to arise.
A TRIPS waiver is important to save perhaps millions of lives worldwide, but also for bringing the pandemic under control in the US.
Here’s a summary: Artificial intelligence has been imagined as powerful, intelligent, and autonomous (independent of human prejudices, power relations, etc.). While it is definitely powerful, it is neither intelligent nor autonomous. Benevolent use of AI calls for critical, socially engaged intelligence on the part of both technologists and ordinary citizens.
In 1986, Vladimir Horowitz, came out of depression and semi-retirement. He re-entered Moscow after 61 years to deliver one of the best piano concerts ever.
A PBS special includes much of the actual performance and fascinating background on the politics, his personal life, and the music. I enjoyed it on many levels.
My Dad would have loved it, too. He had died 17 years earlier, but he was a big fan of Horowitz’s, and of course Steinways, which he sold in his piano store. He also hated and feared the USSR. He would have totally understood the requirement to have Horowitz’s personal Steinway shipped to Moscow under Marine Corps guard.
I like the fact that Horowitz, especially this late Horowitz, chose mostly intermediate level pieces, especially the Chopin and the Mozart. I can at least play at many of them, but he shows how they can really be played. I’ve been working on the Schumann Träumerai (near the end) for 67 years. Listening to this concert just made it better.
Horowitz didn’t strive for virtuosity (the “pyrotechnics”) as many young, modern performers do. He lets the music speak. He makes more mistakes than most champion performers would do, but they’re totally immaterial. As some of the commentators point out, he never forces the notes.
The show is available through PBS online until February 20 (click on the image above). I hope you enjoy it.
These photos are from our trip taking Emily and Stephen to their homes in Minnesota and New York.
In these covid times, any travel is of course a luxury and a risk. However, we felt that van camping in remote areas was safer than travel by other means. We were uncomfortably close to bears and mosquitoes, but far from other people who might be infected by us or infect us. We essentially quarantined the whole way.
The photos below represent just the portion from our four-day expedition along the Raquette River and Stoney Creek in the Adirondacks. The first photo is the Cardinal Flower that punctuated our views along the streams and rivers.
Have you traveled there? It’s a wonderful natural resource, beautiful and diverse, larger than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Glacier National Parks combined. Or, put another way, it’s about the same size or larger than any New England state except Maine.
Here’s our base camp near where Stoney Creek enters the Raquette River.
Base camp along Stoney Creek
It was warm enough at times to swim, but often chilly. By early morning the air temperature would drop to near 40 °F.
We hired canoes from St. Regis Canoe Outfitters. We had all the needed equipment, but it would have complicated our travel considerably to transport it all for three weeks. They provided foam blocks, straps, and ropes to tie the canoes on to the roof tops of the Subaru and the Vanagain. Their guy even did the initial tie-downs. We then made use of their ropes for clotheslines and painters.
Once we were in the base camp we just turned the canoes over each night at out site. We used the paddles to make a hanging rack for the pfd’s and our hats.
The Raquette River is beautiful, with some majestic falls upstream a ways.
The photo below shows our brush with fame in 2005. It was a lovely Paris evening in her home near the Bois de Boulogne. There was too much champagne and the cocktail hour extended from 7-10.
The second photo is a closeup of Susan’s mother with Olivia. They had attended the same tiny grade school in Saratoga, CA; Rhoda was in the grade with Joan Fontaine, Olivia’s younger sister. But Olivia is the sister she maintained the most contact with.
At the cocktail party they agreed that the shade of paint used on the recent high school renovation was far too garish.
For our family, any movie starring Olivia De Havilland is special. In case you don’t know, we go way back.
In grammar school, Olivia was just a year ahead of Susan’s mother, Rhoda, who was in the same grade as Jane Eyre, aka Olivia’s sister, Joan Fontaine. They maintained a connection ever after.
On the other side, my mother felt a special connection to Olivia, because she had attended college in Milledgeville, Georgia, the home of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind. The movie version (1939) featured Olivia as Melanie.
Both the book and the movie romanticize the antebellum South, the “Lost Cause,” and the horrors of slavery. Although Olivia was acclaimed for her role and made no protest at the time, I like to think that she would have later recognized and agreed with many of the current critiques of the movie.
Olivia’s son Benjamin was my age, and in graduate school at the University of Texas when I was. He was in Mathematics while I was in Computer Science. I don’t remember him, but it’s possible that we were in some classes together.
Benjamin died at age 42. Once Olivia realized that he and I had even a tenuous connection it seemed that she and I had suddenly become close friends.
Commitment to justice
Throughout her career, Olivia exemplified both excellent acting and a commitment to helping others. She sought roles that expanded artistic limits, but also promoted social good.
Although she was acclaimed for her role as Melanie, co-starring with Errol Flynn, and her Oscars for “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949), she was critical of the social impact of filmmaking in the Hollywood star system and sought to break out of the racism and sexism in both the industry and the movies themselves.
She was successful in a lawsuit to secure greater creative freedom for performers. This led to the De Havilland law, which imposes a seven-year limit on contracts for service.
Among Olivia’s many civic contributions in Paris were her devotion to the American Library and to Les Arts George V at the American Cathedral. Later, she gave us tickets to concerts there. I especially remember a Harold Arlen retrospective.
Olivia was a good and generous person, in addition to her notable talents as actor and entertainer. I’m glad that I got to know her at least a little.