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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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Monday
Aug262019

Junk food for the body and the brain

 

Junk food
1food that is high in calories but low in nutritional content
2something that is appealing or enjoyable but of little or no real value
Each time I visit the grocery store I am astounded by the percentage of space given to items that I would define as "junk food." Candy, chips, soda, doughnuts, etc. take up what looks ten times the space that is allocated to the produce section at my local Cubs. I suppose walking to get to eggs, frozen veggies, and whole wheat bread down past the Fritos and Twinkies and Coca Cola is healthy in its own way, but the empty calorie food sirens seem to call from every aisle. And adding to their voices are now the devious "processed food" spirits with their promises of easy preparation with a hidden high fat/salt content.

I am certainly not immune to the temptations of junk food. The occasional bag of Chex Mix or Drumsticks ice cream bars or Archway molasses cookies winds up in my cart. As do pot pies, frozen pizzas, and "healthy" frozen dinners. Unless I have company, the microwave and Marie Callendar cook my meals.

The consequence of my dietary laziness is an extra 15-20 pounds on my aging body. And I am not the only one: there is an appalling obesity rate of nearly 40% of us living in the US.

What worries me even more is living in a society that indulges in "junk" information. Just as nutritionally lacking foods displace floor space in the supermarket, so it seems social media and cable television have pushed newspapers and magazines into a small dusty corner of our reading lives. Slick, formulaic thrillers instead of thoughtful novels and well-researched non-fiction crowd the storefront tables of Barnes & Noble.

As I look at my newspapers and newsfeeds, I try to identify stories as "junk" or "nutritious." A lot of junk info is easy to spot - anything that has Kardashian or weight loss or best vacation destination or tweet in the title is garbage with little need to read. I personally catalog stories about the environment, the economy, history, or social justice as worth further study.

Just as there is are processed foods, there is also increasingly "processed" information. While every secondary source has some inherent bias, politicized mass and social media is increasing the slant, left and right. And just as I am lured into eating those HealthyChoice dinners, so am I drawn into Huffington Post interpretations of current events.
 
The chart below comes from Teaching in the Age of Trump by Andrea Rinard (Medium July 13, 2018)*. The article is a must read for all educators and the chart should be discussed by all students.
 

Do we give enough attention to our brains' nutritional needs? Have even the more educated among us come to simply rely on processed information? And do we teach information discrimination to our students?

*Via Larry Cuban's blog

Saturday
Aug242019

BFTP: Old fart story: Be nice to everyone

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Aesop

I've noticed lately that I've been telling old fart stories (OFS). You know the kind I mean. Stuff that happened when most of the listeners were in diapers - if not just a twinkle in their fathers' eye. (That's an old fart expression, BTW.) Often told in extreme detail by a person in authority, OFS are meant to impart wisdom, but more often than not, evoke polite yawns.

Having been the victim of old fart stories all my life, I now claim the right in my near dotage to tell a few myself. Since this a digital medium, asynchronous, you lucky whipper-snappers don't even have to pretend to be polite. You can just go on to the next blog post, tweet, Facebook post, or porn site immediately. Lucky you. 

Anyway, here's an OFS. 

25 years ago I was the high school librarian in St. Peter, MN. The town was, and still is, the home to a regional treatment center for sex offenders. At the time, its juvenile wing was staffed by two lovely young women, Ann and Theresa. Despite the fact I had no formal responsibility at the treatment center at all, I would still on occasion drive over and help these two teachers with their computer problems - being the guru of all things Apple IIe that I was. And admirer of lovely young women.

Fast forward to 2014. I give my annual technology department report to the school board. It was well received, and the school board president, Ann, reminded me that we've worked together for about 25 years. Yes, the same Ann that I helped format a floppy disk and navigate AppleWorks in 1989, was now my district's school board chair.

Here's the thing. Be nice to everyone. It's the right thing to do.

But it's also the practical thing to do since you never know who might eventually become your boss. 

Thus endeth the OFS.

Original post 4/8/14

Friday
Aug232019

Empathetic Skills and School Libraries - Teacher-Librarian

My latest (last?) professional article on school librarianship in June issue.

Thanks Teacher-Librarian for a long and wonderful relationship. Proud to be associated with you.


Full article here.