Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

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

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update





You know you are a librarian in 2005 when…

You’ve probably seen some version of this popular list…
You know you’re living in 2005 when…
1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.
2. You haven’t played solitaire with real cards in years.
3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.
4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.
5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don’t have e-mail addresses…
(15 more…)

So how do you know you’re a librarian in 2005? When…
1. You have to remind kindergarteners to turn off their cell phones before the story starts.
2. You know what an IP number is but not an ISBN number.
3. You have a student who does a better job troubleshooting the circulation system than the district technician.
4. Your students think both The Little Mermaid and Hunchback of Notre Dame were written by Walt Disney.
5. You know more librarians in Texas than you do in your home state because of LM_Net.
6. The best way to remind a student about an overdue book is by e-mail.
7. You don’t talk in the teachers lounge about a project because it is not tied directly to a state test.
8. When answering a reference question, you start with Ask Jeeves.
9. You’ve used the last of your check-out cards for scratch paper.
10. Kids look at you funny when you call it the “the card catalog.”
11. You have 5th grade girls who show more skin at school than you would have ever dreamed of doing on the beach.
12. You have as more polo shirts with computer logos than you do book logos.
13. Your students show you how to get around the district Internet filter.
14. Your aid spends more time troubleshooting the network than reshelving books.
15. You never see anyone copy out of the print encyclopedia anymore.
16. Your index finger has a callous from tapping the SmartBoard.
17. You didn’t get your last grad class assignment turned in on time because the network was down.
18. You’ve Googled the new teachers in your building.
19. You don’t remember the last time you’ve had to alphabetize something.
20. You have all your passwords and PIN numbers on your PDA - and you can’t remember the password for your PDA!

Add your own!


Bullshit Literacy


(The bullshitter) does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are. Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit

Once again I’ve had a perfectly nice Saturday morning ruined by yet another set of “21st Century Literacy” skills dumped on my lap. Sent to me by my good (and I am sure well-intentioned) friend, Ian Jukes of Committed Sardine fame, this one comes from the New Media Consortium - whatever that is.

New Media Consortium Global Imperative: the Report of the 21st Century Literacy Summit joins a couple others, including NCREL (Learning Point) eGauge 21st Century Skills and Partnership for 21st Century Skills, excoriating we simple educators for not doing an adequate job of preparing this current batch of kiddies for the big bad work world of the future.

If current employment trends continue, it looks like about 90% of our students will work for Wal-Mart where the most important job skills are:
- Looking good in a day-glow vest
- Passing drug screenings
- Living on the minimum wage, not getting ill, and coping with the relatives who are wiling to take them in.

For the other 10% of the workforce, their single, salient marketable skill will be knowing how to bullshit. (See professor Frankfurt’s definition above.) When, then, are the responsible think tanks going to call summits and issue papers addressing this serious gap in our schools’ curricula?

Since this is a beautiful morning and I’ve only been thinking about this topic for about ten minutes, the core competencies in bullshitting below are somewhat sketchy. You, dear reader, need to embellish.

The Bullshit Literate Student will:
1. Show no social conscience or balance when deliberately distorting factoids, data, or expert opinion in presenting a conclusion.
2. Skillfully use any medium and all persuasive techniques in order to convince others. This includes the ability to use technology to doctor images and edit text.
3. Consistently, vociferously, and blindly hold to a single point of view, and know that volume, repetition and rhetoric trump reason. (ie: Stay the course.)
4. Convincingly fake sincerity.
5. Ably disguise personal gain as public good.
6. Take a single incident or news story or incident and follow it to an illogical conclusion. (See employment prediction above.)
7. Claim any idea as original.
8. Deny prior knowledge. (ie: Nobody expected the breach of the levees)
9. Create a website, wiki, blog, or podcast. (beginning level). Find a publisher, broadcaster or corporate sponsor for whom the bottom line is the bottom line. (advanced).
10. Never, never, never show doubt.

OK, I think I have that out of my system. I’m going on a long - hopefully cynicism-draining - bicycle ride.

Other skills the Bullshit Literate should master?


A follow-up post with a link to Art Wolensky's rubric for measuring bullshit literacy attainment.

A 2009 revision is here.

[…] Bullshit Literacy. Oh yes. This one really works for me. All those surface ideas that sound good but lack substance: 8. Deny prior knowledge. (ie: Nobody expected the breach of the levees) […]

Pingback by Tangled up in Purple » Slacker — September 10, 2005 @ 2:07 am

we have in washington, an administration that makes blatant use of these skills. they are completely in the open about it and have been since day one. and they got re-elected. conclusion: 1 through 10 above are not merely tolerated — they are rewarded.

i long ago came to the conclusion that a politician’s job is to listen to what people say, to look behind the words so you can give them what they *really* want, and then convince them that the two are the same.

Comment by jim shirey — October 4, 2005 @ 2:10 pm


Riding and Random Thoughts

mybike.jpg My First Bicycle

Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. H.G. Wells

One of the genuine benefits of physical exercise - that goes beyond developing excellent glutes - is how walking, running, or biking stirs the thinking process. Excess oxygen to the brain or something. Somehow I always get my best ideas or solutions to problems when doing something at least semi-aerobic.

This Labor Day weekend the LWW, her daughter, her daughter’s SO, and I bicycled the beautiful Cannon River trail from Cannon Falls to Red Wing and back to Cannon Falls. An easy 20 miles in each direction. Plenty of time for a bit of musing.

Idle Thought #1
Bicycles are one of the best technologies ever invented. I remember reading once that a bicycle is the most energy efficient form of land transportation. I believe it. It’s incredible how improved the technology of bicycling has become since my earliest bike riding days as a kid, proud of his new one-speed $30 Coast King bike, to today with my 21-speed $300 Cannondale velocipede. The Cannondale, now seven-years-old, weighs half of what the Coast King did and can be geared down to the point it will nearly climb trees. I do believe it it’s no more physically demanding to ride 20 miles on it than it was to ride the mile or so to my cousin’s farm when I was a kid.

I was reminded once again that one way to look at technology is that is simply a device that amplifies and extends a natural human ability. The bicycle amplifies the leg; the telescope, the eye; the telephone, the ear. I am still trying to figure out what exactly the computer and Internet amplify.

Idle Thought #2
Can’t we pass a law that would require that any mandated state test must first be passed by the legislators who voted for it?

Idle Thought #3
I rather pride myself in that I almost never watch television. But I may have to rethink this after watching some of the footage of the impact and tragedies of Hurricane Katrina. The realization that the majority of the horrors that came after the storm have fallen mainly on the poor African-American population simply wasn’t apparent to me until watching the evening news. While I read two daily newspapers, scan Newsweek, and listen to NPR, there was something about the television images that illuminated this heartbreaking story in a way no other medium could. Maybe I better watch the TV news more regularly.

Idle Thought #4
Each year I set as goal more regular visits to the buildings in my district. Each year, it seems, my desk exerts greater magnetic pull. While that can be explained in part because I can solve more problems and communicated effectively with folks throughout the district via e-mail, I am not sure it is the complete answer. Whatever the cause, I plan this year to really demagnetize myself and get out and talk to my media specialists, teachers and principals on a regular basis.

Idle Thought #5
The Onion continues to be the funniest and smartest satire going. While LM_Net alerted everyone to the “story” about Google destroying all information it can’t catalog, their piece, Intelligent Falling, is even funnier (and more pointed).

Idle Thought #6
Increasingly, I’ve been having what I call “charmed life” moments - a sudden realization just how incredibly lucky I am to have the life I have - wonderful family, decent health for all of us, a beautiful home in a beautiful state, some financial security (working wife!), a job and profession I love, and a bit of leisure time to simply enjoy life. I once believed that the truly lucky people were those born to great wealth. I was wrong.

The most recent of these moments came while sitting outdoors eating breakfast at the St. James Hotel in Redwing yesterday morning eating delicious rye toast with strawberry preserves, watching slow traffic moving up and down the Mississippi, and enjoying the company of my lovely wife and two bright and funny 20-somethings. If I ever sound whiney or ungrateful about anything, somebody please dope-slap me. Thank you.
the computer and the Internet amplify my tendencies towards ADD…

Comment by SaraKellyJohns — September 6, 2005 @ 10:22 pm

I’ve had my own random thoughts lately, several of which parallel yours…the legislative tests, for example. But I just sent this quote to my friends and colleagues: “If I ever sound whiney or ungrateful about anything, somebody please dope-slap me. Thank you.”

Thanks for expressing it so well.

Comment by Donna — September 7, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

I’ve had reports that some folks don’t know what a “dope slap” is. I hear it regularly referred to on NPR’s Car Talk. Maybe it is a Boston expresssion. BUT it has universal applications.

From The Urban Dictionary

Dope Slap: A light “whappp” to the back of the head, done with an open palm in an upward motion. The physical equivalent of the phrase, “Whatta you, a moron?!”

Someone oughta give that damn Illinois driver a dope slap for driving like an idiot!

Comment by dougj — September 7, 2005 @ 2:16 pm