Monday, August 22, 2005

Seconds, please?

The last week I spent on the island one of our students was putting together all the last minute stuff he needed for his graduation. One of the requirements is something we refer to as "master chef." A student complete's his master chef by planning and preparing an entire meal one night. Our soon-to-be-graduate planned to prepare a meal of meatballs and pasta.

Now this kid is kind of shy in an odd sort of way. He doesn't like being the center of attention. He also has a self-efficacy kind of issue. The self-efficacy issue has a real impact on his math performance. Despite his capabilities he insists that he can't do anything and consequently refuses to try. This is a pretty common disease among math student's. In the case of his cooking, he is unwilling to eat his own work. So when he was planning his master chef he was determined that he would not eat his own food. At the same time he was really not excited about being around to get any attention for what he'd done; fear of failure/success etc. So as soon as his dinner was done he ran up the hill to take care of the chickens and hang out, waiting for dinner to be over.

Well, we ate his food and it was of course pretty good and some people wanted seconds. Our rule on the island is that no one gets seconds without getting permission from the person who prepared the meal. The students started asking what to do about the fact that the chef was up the hill. Someone came up with the suggestion that we would have to go out and ask him. The idea was further refined that we should do it all together.

When most of the boys had nearly finished their food in preparation for more, the lot of us walked out the door and lined up. From the rear of the line it looked like a hundred boys each with his plate in his right hand. Arriving in the presence of our esteemed cook someone called "Present Arms!" In near unison the boys standing in a line all extended their plates in a sort of salute. In similar military fashion the request "Permission to have seconds, sir," was made. The cook clearly a little embarrassed and yet smiling assented, and the lot returned.

I tell this story because to my mind it's a little bit funny. More importantly, it was one of the few truly nice things I've seen the boys do for each other that was also positively received. It's a credit to the kind of kids we have out there now.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Has anyone ever heard of anything like this?

What a church can do with their money.

The implications of this sort of thing are kind of amazing. I hope to hear what you think.

P.S. Let me know if this link breaks. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

E-mail - Links

Greetings. This is the pseudoquarterly call for e-mail listing or web site linking.

If you are interested in getting an e-mail whenever I post, or if you have a website or blog of your own that you would like me to link to just respond here or e-mail me at



We recently had a student graduate from our program. It was the first real graduation of any kid who I actually worked with and had a relationship with. This particular kid had a bet with one of our staff that he could go a whole day "as a Mormon" as they say. According to the bet this meant that he couldn't swear or drink coffee on that day. The loser of said bet would wear a skirt for a day.

Well let it be said we had a really polite student that day who obligated a staff member to don cross-gender attire. The staff member however repeatedly "forgot" to bring a skirt to the island. So, as a last ditch guarantee of seeing my student receive satisfaction my graduation gift to him was the skirt you see in the picture. I wanted to get a worse one but it was kind of hard to find exotic skirts in men's sizes for three dollars or less. Ungrateful that I didn't pick out a miniskirt, he still threatens vengeance for my foul deed.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A Rousing Game of Basekeekball

When you isolate a small group of organisms from the larger population in such a way that genes do not transfer back and forth between the small group and the parent group the smaller group tends to evolve relatively quickly due to amplified effects of genetic drift. Random chance has a greater over-all effect on a smaller isolated group than a larger. This causes small variants, sometimes rare in the larger population, to become popular and dominate the smaller group.

This is analogous to what can happen on an island where are group of boys are unable to exchange materials and ideas with the larger population. Little oddities find expression where they might not have normally. In the sporting world of the island a recent example is the game of basekeekball. As you might have guessed basekeekball is a mutant version of baseball. The mutation results in swapping out the baseball for a foursquare or kick ball. Consequent trait differences include getting out on the first strike and being hit by the ball while running bases. The pitcher is to bounce the ball once before it goes over the plate. If the ball hits the plate after one bounce then the batter is out.

It is a game that the staff members have come to plague. First there was the guy who seemed to have a thing against the island fowl. First he hit the ball into a goose then into a Guinea hen. Then he tried to kill one of the chickens. Later on another staff hit the ball such that it burst open and we had to find a replacement. Then there was me and yet another staff member who collided on third base when I moved to tag him out. His occipital and my patella were a bit tender for the next couple of days. I spent the rest of the game limping around trying to field and run bases. This proved to be a little bit of a problem because of the menace the boys could be to the game as well.

The typical island sporting event involves a lot of superficial and yet intense taunting and insulting of other people regardless of team affiliation. During one game our current beta and one of the other students got into it quite a bit. The beta was taking much greater offence than warranted by the comments especially since they weren’t directed at him. He screamed out calling one of the offenders a b-word that gives everyone an itch. (Sorry, I deserve to be shot for that one.) The so caninized and feminized individual walked out into the field to do something about it when I grabbed him to restrain him but due to my painful leg couldn’t hold him. So… he got in a shot or two before other staff members could get across the field and break it up.

This assaulting student doesn’t seem to deal very well with failure in the basekeekball arena. In previous games when his team wasn’t doing so well he would run off on long walks and then eventually come back to get pissed and leave again. In one particular game he was tagged out at second base in a fashion that landed him on his back on the ground. His ego being more injured than his body he faked a severe joint dislocation rendering his arm paralyzed. Periodically he would point to his collarbone on the so wounded side of his body and claim that it was bulging out more than normal. It of course was quite symmetrical with the other side. With his fake injury he left the game but came back when it was his turn, wanting to bat. My colleague playing on his team forbade him on account of his paralysis. “If you can’t move your arm, you can’t bat.” The boy threw a bit of a fit about it but wasn’t yet prepared to come clean on what was up.

After the game, in the staff office the wounded youngling asked to receive medical attention for his arm. He said he still couldn’t move it. We told him to try to move it anyway. As he did, he discovered magically there was no pain. And lo and behold, he could move his hand freely too. It was great.

One of the things that keeps me going: if the kids aren’t making much progress, they’re always doing something hilarious.