Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My Bourbon Pumpkin Pie

Yes it is the holiday season and since I've found it difficult to get to writing anything real for a long time I'm using my recently refined recipe as a cheap excuse to fill cyberpages. I attempted several incarnations of this recipe until I think that this version is just about right. If you try it and disagree, offer your suggestions.


Cut the fresh pumpkin in half. Clean out the seeds and stringy material attached to the seeds. Lightly oil the cut surfaces and place them cut surfaces down on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees until the pumpkin is tender. There will be some slumping of the half-pumpkin domes to indicate that the cellulose is breaking down and the cells are losing turgidity due to dehydration. Use a spoon to scrape the soft pumpkin out of the skin in chunks and puree them in a blender. Leave the pumpkin puree in a strainer or sieve to allow excess moisture to drain off.

2 cups pumpkin puree
½ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
⅛ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp bourbon
3 eggs
1½ cup of heavy whipping cream

Put two cups of sieved pumpkin puree in a sauce pan with ½ cup of brown sugar, ⅓ cup of white sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp nutmeg, ⅛ tsp ground cloves, and ¼ tsp ground allspice. Stir until entire mixture is dark brown and cook at medium heat for about five minutes allowing a little moisture to boil off and the spice oils to infuse the pumpkin.

After allowing the mixture to cool for a couple minutes add 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract and 3 Tbsp of bourbon. Mix these in well. You can leave this mixture refrigerated over night in an airtight container.
Blend the pumpkin mixture together with 3 beaten eggs and 1½ cups of heavy whipping cream. Pour mixture into an unbaked pie shell and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and continue baking for about an hour until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the pie comes out clean. Allow the pie to cool enough to set before serving.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bye Brown Betty. Hello Insanity.

So recently I finally gave up my car. It was something that I’d been hoping to do for some time for various reasons but a sort of final excuse came and I sent my loyal vehicle to great diabetes research funding junkyard in the sky. The car, originally a gift from my grandmother carried me back and forth across the country and all over the desert. It had endured three hit-and-run accidents while being parked in perfectly legitimate spaces. Upon coming to New England the moisture wreaked havoc with the electrical system and induced more rust than I ever thought to expect. One of the doors which had a nice big dent in it started bending at the hinge so that it wouldn’t close properly. One of the rear windows started not working because of ice and a well-intended but foolish passenger in trying to fix it broke one of the gears in the internal mechanism. The ultimate and final offence the car suffered was a burst front brake line. Anyway, the car served me well and far and I’m very grateful to have had it. All the same, considering the cost of insurance and the intensely strict safety inspections in Massachusetts, the rising cost of gas, the insane traffic of Boston, and the desire to improve my fitness a bit, I was glad to see it go.

Since being without a car and having joined the pedestrian class I’ve attained a new perspective on Boston traffic. It is still insane but in a different way. After spending a couple of years in Seoul and it’s suburbs, I became very acquainted with the way the sidewalks can be crowded with people in a big city. Things in Boston have proven comparable for degree of crowdedness. What I wasn’t prepared for was how slowly the crowd moves. It may be an artifact of my memory but, it always seemed that in Seoul people had a place to go, and they were trying to move from point to point in as efficient a manner as possible. But here, it seems like I’m always running into groups of people who fill the sidewalk and move as if they really have no place to go. It has proven rather annoying on occasion to be rushing to an appointment or something and to find myself trapped behind a mob of meandering moseyers.

There has been another effect of not having a car any longer. I have generally long commute times when going to work, it being about an hour and a half drive away. Between this and every other trip I take by public trans my reading time has increased substantially which has allowed me to complete two books of particular interest recently: The Mismeasure of Man by Steven J. Gould and An Elusive Science by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann. Now I wont try and explain too much about the details of these books now. Nor will I evaluate them for quality of content. What they have in common is they deal with the way we assess learning in educational contexts. Between the two of them I’ve been forced to severely reconsider a great deal about the way I see both my job and my research aspirations. It has left me in a new state of confusion regarding my own theoretical perspectives on education and I’ve desired greatly to be able to articulate some kind of coherency out of them. So far it has been to no avail and instead I’ve started cramming more on the issue into my head.

One thing that has come to impress (or should I say appall) me is the way in which educators and folks who study education come up with theories which are largely based in other theories, or the common-sense of experienced teachers rather than any kind of empirical understanding of natural phenomena. Ultimately the tendency is to claim scientific authority while violating it’s basic principles and jumping straight into producing practices that are then “demonstrated” as effective in overly controlled, unrealistic school settings. Applications of these “theories” are then attempted in real schools to be met largely with a system too inert to allow any kind of meaningful adaptation that would allow one to see if it was in fact a good idea or not.

So where the process should be: have a cool idea, test it out scientifically, demonstrate the idea is correct, and then finally implement the idea in a school; the actual procedure is: have an idea that a hundred people have published on before you, test it out in the semblance of science, market the idea like crazy to teachers and administrators, stand by and watch all of it go nowhere. I kind of wish my son were reading this because he might appreciate it when I say, sometimes these folks talk about the idea in such a way that makes you think they are more interested in people believing it will work than actually demonstrating whether or not it does. My recent reading from Howard Gardner suggests that he wants you to believe in his theory enough that you’ll persist with it in the face of recurrent inadequate results. Even though there are some aspects of his theory that I think are probably correct his work seems especially guilty of trying to coerce findings to comply with the results he wants to achieve in the process of pushing for people to apply it even though he confesses his classification system is arbitrary in its designations and is as much a victim of cultural value systems as it is based in any kind of natural biology. In other words he’s saying, “Here are my multiple intelligences. I just made them up and can’t really prove they exist in any natural form except that I’ve defined them in such and such a way. Teach to them. They’re not real, but if you believe in them your students will learn more.” Blah!

Curiously I think Jesus gave an apt description of the failure of our attempts at education reform. “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. And no one puts new wine into old bottles. For the new wine would burst the bottles spilling the wine and ruining the bottles. New wine must be put into new bottles.” I have yet to discover a time when reform was attempted in some way other than taking some new theory and ripping off pieces try and force them in as patches on the old system. And without fail each time the bottles couldn’t hold it and spilt both good and bad alike leaving a system loaded with diverse theory but completely lacking in clarity of function. If it is desirable to change the system to make it more beneficial to those we educate in some meaningful way, the need to redefine the concept of “school” or abolish the concept altogether seems inescapable.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Variations on the Beginning Zen Exercise

After you have practiced the Beginning Exercise and can successfully achieve Step 5 you can then start to modify the technique slightly to achieve various goals. These initial variations are pretty simple and though I’m writing about them all together here they can be taken as three separate meditative skills to practice. The applications I will cover are mind training, metacognition, and centering or re-centering.

Mind Training

This is the meditative skill of practicing in your mind something you want to be able to do in real life. This is the main type of meditation practiced by martial artists. The idea is that once you’ve gotten to Step 5 in the exercise you’ve attained a degree of clarity of mind that will allow you to focus your mental energy on training yourself to act. In the void you create a mental picture of yourself doing the thing you want to do. In the case of martial artists they imagine themselves doing forms. I heard some years ago of an experiment where three groups of people made basketball free throws and the researchers counted the number of baskets everyone made. They then had one group practice making foul shots for a certain number of weeks. They had another group imagine shooting baskets in their minds. The third group did not practice at all. Upon having all of them return and make their shots the group that physically practiced made the greatest improvement. However, the group that practiced only in their minds made more progress than those who did not practice at all. This meditation is a similar idea. You can practice anything you like in this meditative state, it could be any sport, musical instrument, or even something like talking to another person in a positive way. I will start the steps for this exercise as if you followed the Beginning Exercise through Step 5.

6. If you want you can close your eyes at this point. It might be interesting to try this sometimes with your eyes open and sometimes with them closed. Choose the activity you want to practice and begin imagining yourself doing it in the emptiness you’ve created in your mind.

7. Many things will distract you from this concentration. If random thoughts or other distractions come to you treat them like you did in Step 4 by acknowledging their existence and returning to concentrating on the thing you are trying to practice. Just let it happen and don’t be too judgmental of letting yourself get distracted because then this will become another distraction.

8. As you practice don’t do it idly. Take the opportunity you have given yourself to sit and focus on perfecting your technique. If you were practicing karate in your head you might concentrate on imagining yourself not only kicking but pulling your knee up properly to snap the kick forward to hit a precise target at a specific height. If you were practicing a wind instrument you would not only pay attention to getting the right fingering but keeping a precise timing and having the correct embouchure.

9. There is no specific time when you should end this meditation. I suggest possibly setting yourself an amount of time you desire to give yourself before starting at step 1 and then working yourself to meet your own time goals. One option you have is to try and teach yourself to be able to meditate in mind training for longer and longer amounts of time by increasing how long you sit for a little every so often.


This is a use for meditation that goes well beyond the meditation itself. To give it a simple definition “metacognition” means thinking about thinking. It is a meditation where you can observe your own mind and learn something about where your unconscious decision making processes come from. This is something that can be critically important if you feel that you are prone to making decisions that have consequences you would prefer to avoid. In order to do this meditation, use the Beginning Exercise and after you get to Step 5 continue here.

6. You may at this point decide to close your eyes or you may try to continue open eyed. Random thoughts will still come to your mind as they did in Step 4. However now, instead of merely acknowledging them and returning to your concentration to your focus make note of what the thought is first. If you want you may even write the thought down so you can remember it to analyze it later.

7. Again don’t spend too much time thinking about it. Merely identify what the thought was then return your concentration to your focus.

8. After you have engaged in this meditation for some time you may then reflect on what kinds of things your mind wanted to do while you were meditating. This may involve reading through a list of thoughts you made while meditating.

This metacognitive meditation is the springboard for other meditative techniques that will actually help you to change your behaviors and actions by changing your thoughts. This is in part because it would be difficult to change your thoughts without first being aware of what your thoughts are.

Centering (Re-centering)

This meditative technique can be helpful to you as you go about your day at work or in school or wherever you happen to be. It is not infrequent that we find ourselves in situations where there is a lot to do, a lot of information to absorb, or just a lot going on. This technique is useful for helping us to avoid feeling overwhelmed and focus on the task we are trying to accomplish. When you are starting to feel like too much is happening and you’re feeling distracted or stressed you can start the Beginning Exercise. If you are well practiced the gray vision of Step 5 may come quickly. Even if it doesn’t come quickly, trying Steps 1 through 4 for just a few seconds (maybe even 1 or 2 seconds!) can help you sort of disengage from the source of stress. This can help you do what you need to do now. Your detachment will give you the space and time you might need to sort through all the “stuff” that is going on. It can give your brain a chance to evaluate all the stimuli for relevance and give you a chance to make "space" in your mind for the objective of the moment. This is a principle many Buddhist teachers refer to as "living moment by moment."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Zen (Meditation) Introduction

“Zen” is a Japanese word, which simply means meditation. However, it is usually used in reference to a technique, style, or intent of meditation derived from Buddhist religious thinking. The idea is that a person achieves enlightenment by meditating until the mind has achieved a certain quality of emptiness. A story as I was originally taught it by my martial arts teacher, Shelby Hooper, years ago tells of Buddha attaining enlightenment when he sat in meditation for an extended period of time leaning against a tree. As his meditation progressed and he put more and more of his thinking aside to attain total emptiness, his awareness of the minutia around him increased until it was said he could “hear the ants on the tree scream.”

The purpose of this project is not to teach you about Buddhist religion nor is it calculated to help you achieve the sort of enlightenment possessed by the Buddha. However, by applying Zen teachings it is hoped that you will be enlightened about the workings of your mind. The ultimate goal is that you will develop cognitive skills that will empower you to overcome your habits, make beneficial decisions in spite of unconscious desires, cope with stress and the problems of life, and in the end take more control of your life by getting more control over your own mind. Whether or not you realize it, much of what you experience is a product of your own mind. Although you will not always be able to control everything in the world around you, it is usually possible to control the way that you deal with it.

From certain spiritual traditions and what I call “pop Zen” it is possible to read a lot of different ideas about what it means to “be Zen.” I tend to either ignore or disagree with most of these and so if you have some previous education in Buddhism or meditation you may find that my definition of Zen contradicts what you’ve already learned. If you dislike or disagree with my definition in a sort of universal way, that’s fine because it doesn’t really matter. My definition is simply for the sake of this program and doesn’t really need to be applied to the meaning of Zen in any other context.

Frequently people refer to “Zen meditation.” Even though I’ve referred to it that way myself it is kind of redundant because Zen just means meditation. So what we need to explore is what meditation is. Meditation is the exercise of clearing your mind of all thinking to focus on just one thing. Or more accurately it is the exercise of focusing on just one thing in order to clear your mind of all thinking. A lot of people make a big deal of meditative sitting postures, objects of focus, breathing techniques, etc. The bottom line is that none of it matters. The only thing that matters is what you do with your mind. Whatever foci, postures, or other practices you come up with, they should help you attain a meditative state. Whatever you do it should facilitate clearing your mind of all thinking. There are many schools of meditation outside of Buddhism and I think this principle applies equally well to all of them. For example, in his “Exercises” St. Ignatius of Loyola recommends that the meditator choose a kneeling, sitting, or prostrate position for prayer, whichever helps the individual to attain a state of forsaking every thought in favor of obtaining God’s will.

Sometimes this potential for freedom of meditative practice can make choosing a place to start somewhat overwhelming. You might also notice that the variability of practice means that some types of meditation might work better in some contexts than others. It is with the intent of exploring the applications that would be practical for you as an individual that this program is being made.

A Beginning Zen Exercise

The purpose of this beginning exercise is to give people who are new to meditation an opportunity to try out a very basic form, one that will provide a foundation from which all other meditations can be attempted. It is my opinion that this technique is especially appropriate for beginning meditators because it tends to minimize environmental factors that can be distracting as well as supply a coherent focus for meditation.

1. Find a comfortable place to be, probably sitting or lying down. The environment should be pretty comfortable too in terms of temperature, sounds, and any other kind of sensory experience.
2. With your head and neck in a comfortable position (if you are sitting this might mean looking slightly down) pick a spot on a surface directly, or as close to directly in the path of your vision as you can manage. The point should be something distinct that you won’t confuse it with anything else you are looking at. I’ve used the grounding prong in power outlets for this, bumps in texture spackling, pin holes, nails, knots in wood paneling, etc, etc, etc.
3. Look at the spot and focus all of your attention on it. Try to make it a part of yourself in your mind and yourself a part of the spot.
4. Many things will distract you from this concentration. You will need to blink. Try not to, but if the urge comes let yourself blink and try to resume your staring as seamlessly as possible. If random thoughts or other distractions come to you, treat them like blinks by acknowledging their existence and returning to concentrating on your dot. It has been observed that sometimes people can become very judgmental of themselves because of the many distracting thoughts they have. Realize that such thoughts are perfectly normal and that you are going to have a lot of them especially if you are new at this.
5. Continue staring at the dot until your vision starts to turn gray. To describe what this stage is like: as long as you don’t start scanning around or moving your head everything in your field of vision will turn gray except for the dot you’ve been staring at. Once you have reached this state you have attained a sort of meditative trance where you are now able to begin applied meditations.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Update on My Monasticism

It has been a while since I’ve posted. Somehow, it seems these days I always have more to do on my weeks off and the various bits of business are crowding out my opportunities to write. This is especially true whenever I’ve left home on vacation. When I go away, or pick up an extra shift, or have a conference or something there’s always a much longer period of time when I’m trying to pick up getting my grades written, my room cleaned, my lessons planned, etc, etc.

Early in May I made a trip back to Utah that was enjoyable enough. I got to see a lot of folk and bake a lot of bread. But I’ve been back for a while and quite few things have been going on since.

Almost the first thing I did upon returning was have a sword test whereat I received my brown belt. Huzzah. If all goes ideally I will test for my black belt this September. I’ve learned a new form that is kind of exciting because it involves doing a kind of dive-roll sword in hand.

Things on the island have been kind of crazy. It has been unusually emotionally exhausting. We have had a couple students with problems severe enough that for whatever reason they have had really no motivation to earn a weekend home. The opportunity to leave the island is strangely one of the biggest carrots we have to offer. So when a student doesn’t want it we have virtually no capital to get any cooperation out of him.

A few months back my Zen master complimented me as being a person with a lot of compassion. And though I try to so be, the last couple of weeks out working with one particular student seemed to be sapping all the compassion I had. It is rare that I think violent thoughts towards people, especially my students. However, I remember one particular night I had this feeling of wanting to just punch him in the face and the thought that maybe if I did he’d finally get the message.

After my last shift I went to a conference on using meditation in psychotherapy. Some presentations really annoyed me because I had the unfortunate expectation that because this was put on by Harvard Medical School that it was going to emphasize empirical research on the cognitive and neurophysiological effects of meditation and recommend ways of prescribing it for treatments of specific disorders. Many of the lectures were to this effect however, too many were the folks my buddy Jed would describe as those who say, “I’m really more spiritual than religious.” They would turn on their cheesy, new-age, “oooh I’m so deep and mystical”, Professor Trelawny, stupid voices. And then they would over-spiritualize everything. They seemed to have this assumption that everyone in the room shared their values and beliefs regarding the metaphysical. In other words, they were more likely to be fans of the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know” than psychiatric researchers.

I think I may have overstated the bad side of the conference here. For the most part I enjoyed it and even the bad annoying people were illuminating from the right perspective (i.e. how not to teach meditation to my students). Curiously enough one of the best talks was given by a guy who described himself as the “token card-carrying” Buddhist in that he was a scholar of Buddhism specifically and not psychiatry or psychology. Though his presentation was blatantly about Buddhist religion it was frequently more relevant to the issue of how to help people rewire their brains than many of the others.

The main fruit of the conference for me was that I found through many of the examples given for the utilization of meditation in treatment, a new motivation and inspiration for teaching it to my boys. I can see the need most especially with those whose brains have been so mangled that their behavior is driving me to the edge.

This last week I went to a couple of graduations, one on the island and one with a kid who lives here in the temple. I’m not going to go into too much detail but it reminded me quite pristinely how important family is to the development of not only young children but also adolescents. One of the students had a lot of family involved and the other had almost none. It was interesting to see how important and valuable it was for both of them to have friends and mentors willing to take up slack and fill in gaps.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Something about keeping it real and approval needs

Warning: This is a stream of consciousness piece. Read at risk of becoming as confused as I know I am.

I think it is a pretty basic human need to feel approved of. We obtain great strength of character when we make choices and behave in ways that allow us to truly approve of ourselves and feel approved of God. But very frequently people seek out the approval of other human beings and too frequently throw away or suppress their own identities in the attempt. Unfortunately for such people this strategy almost never works. A couple of particular examples come to mind.

A few years back I had a job in my church where I had some leadership or oversight of the Sunday Schools of a group of nine congregations. In those days I visited to observe lots of Sunday School classes with the intent of advising the teachers on ways of improving their classes. Ultimately I did not visit to say if the class was good or bad, I was just interested in making suggestions for improvement. In all but one or two of the observations I noticed the teachers behave in ways that suggested to me they were trying to get my approval or at least deflect my criticism. It was always fascinating to see what the teachers thought my expectations were for their classes. Where I was interested in content, participation, and discussion the teachers always apologized for how noisy the kids were, how fidgety they were, or in general how well behaved the kids were. Frankly, I didn’t care about these things much. There was no violence or trauma. And however talkative they were, the kids were almost always respectful enough for the teacher to give a lesson, and almost always came away demonstrating that they had listened to and gotten something from it. In other words the teachers would feel like they needed to put on a show. But the shows they would choose were things I didn’t really think were all that important.

Another example that comes to mind was the interaction I observed recently between a student and his family. In the presence of “other people” they talked, and laughed, and joked a little too much as if to show that they were a nice normal family. The reality was that in paying close attention one would notice that it was highly superficial. They would say things that demonstrated a great deal of factual knowledge of one another and an absolute obliviousness to each other’s states of mind, emotions, and inner-selves. It was much like I would imagine a high school reunion with a bunch of people talking to people they hated about old-times of misery with pasted on smiles and forced laughter, all the while people really just wanting to either leave or cut their wrists. In the case of this family it was easy to see the parents continually asserting or superimposing some fabricated identity on the student whose inner world and self-perception they hadn’t the slightest clue of. It was as if they were saying, “Oh, we know who you are.” and pointing at a caricature that was more a compilation of their demons than depiction of the student. Meanwhile the student was clearly torn between trying to be that caricature for the sake of playing along and wanting to rain down fire to assert his own existence. I shudder at the idea of being so unable to identify myself. I hope this student can discover himself soon.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Where are we going and what are we doing in this handbasket?

This may unfortunately become a stream of consciousness post. I'm getting kind of freaked out and succumbing to my pet conspiracy speculations regarding stuff in the Middle-east. Sharon and his new party were on the path to what seemed like the best hope of peace for Israel and Palestine. It was shocking to hear that Israel, so typically arrogant in their attitude towards the plight of Palestinians would send soldiers to clear their own people out of colonies in Palestinian territories. It was such a risk for Sharon to take with the high possibility of it becoming his political suicide. And now what? Sharon conveniently suffering two strokes and being incapacitated and out of the picture.

Take this and then within a couple of months the Palestinians elect Hamas into control of their parliament or whatever it is that they have. Hamas, regarded in this country as a terrorist organization, after gaining control of their legislature announced that they do not acknowledge Israel's right to exist and inferred that they would take military steps if necessary to eradicate it.

Then there's Iran. Iran determined to get nukes and making threats at the UN, EU, and US if they should interfere. Huzzah.

Now there's this bloody cartoon thing. After riots, people dead, and embassies burned I thought the issue might wind down. But no. Not at all. Now we have politicians in India and Pakistan offering rewards for the death of the cartoonists and more and increasing demonstrations against more and more Western countries and their embassies. There have been three days of demonstrating in London. Protests in friggin' London!

And all the while we as a nation are still engaged in two wars. The last I heard on Afghanistan was that the Taliban have taken to using the rather effective terrorist tactics of the so-called Iraqi insurgency. They in combination with tribal groups have been chipping away at the Afghan government in rural areas by bombing schools and assassinating mid-level government officials.

Okay, so I don't have much of a point. I guess I'm just observing a little thing called escalation. There doesn't seem to be anything turning the tide away from more and more senseless violence. I can only presume that we're going to see more terrorism at home as well as abroad. I fear we'll see things get much worse before they get better.

If my rambling doesn't make any sense try this article:

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Check out this article

about Penikese Island from an Irish magazine. It has some good pictures too.
Click to Launch Site, then click on "Features" and then "Penikese Island."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Gift From a Former Student

The student who made this depiction of me with a sword was last seen in a homeless shelter.

A Long Week

This last week I spent an unusually long time on the island. Though we got back to the island one day later than usual so the kids would have an extra day off island for the Christmas holiday, I covered the weekend shift for my comrade and worked a couple extra days on the end there. Now, I've found that the extra long weeks can be exhausting but otherwise I don't really mind them. The fact is I like my work enough and I'm starting to get to a point at where I don't feel as stressed about doing it. And of course, the kids we have out there these days are much easier to work with than those I started this job with.

This shift was interesting for me in two major ways. First, I experienced a little bit more bonding with my kids than I have perhaps since I started here. Second, I learned a little bit about the problem of school, or rather made observations about school that reinforced ideas I already have about it. Third, I got to break up a fight. Huzzah.

First thing that happened was in coming back from the holiday I surprised the kids with a bit of a Christmas gift. I picked them up LED book lights that they could use to read at night during our study hour. It was really a simple and not unreasonable thing but several of the kids, especially our newer ones seemed kind of surprised and at the risk of sounding sappy, touched. Later during the week one of them opened up to me about some frustration he was having with another student. Another of the new guys had the first friendlyish rather than contentious bantering with me. Some more bonding happened when at the start of the weekend one of our students who has some kind of mood disorder, likely bipolar, came to me when he got into a serious funk frustrated with some infighting in his family and a sense that he hadn't been adequately acknowledged for some real progress he's made in our program. Inasmuch as it is our goal to help students improve sometimes it's easy for our staff to focus on all the problems while we fail to praise the accomplishments and this was getting to him. The opportunity I had to do a little listening and offer some encouragement may have helped one kid avoid a disastrous day. The last main bonding opportunity I remeber with some salience was with a kid who when he started our program I had a hard time liking at all. There are a handfull of philosophies where the two of us stand in pretty harsh opposition with each other. He also used to be very rash and bullying. But this weekend, we had some good conversations and teasing. I really feel pretty hopeful for most of these guys.

One day in school, I had planned to teach about some of the intricacies of photosynthesis and I had been trying to come up with a way of teaching it that would be in the form of a game. None of the kids were having it. Distracted and even to a point despairing, the tide of "Why do we have to learn this?" was unleashed to clear some muck away for me to see what was really bugging them. For one it was anxiety over being able to get the credits he needs to progress in his regular public school and the dread of being a perfectly bright yet 17-year-old freshman. For another it was the bleak landscape of another three weeks on the island before he can go home again. For the last it was a realization that in some sense his time on the island was a punishment and he was feeling punished. This kind of stuff is how kids feel when they've been off for a while and they come back and it makes getting school work done on that week that much harder. Getting school work done this week was difficult. But it wasn't until the weekend that I got the full measure of it. Usually on the weekend the kids don't have the regular sort of academics we give them during the week. It often involves health class, art projects, videos with discussion, and the like. So, for Saturday's school I planned the easy job of watching a video about animals fighting, discussing it a bit, and having a rousing game of something. In the afternoon when it came to game time the kids could not come to consensus on what they wanted to play. I found it somewhat fascinating that the attitude when things are under the umbrella of school that the boys would revolt against doing something even if it was play a regular old card game. Somehow or other school and teachers cannot but be seen as an enemy. And it is the enemy which must be rebelled against regardless of what it wants to do, no matter how much I might normally want to go along with it.