Showing posts from July, 2015

Head counts vs a few confidence-building tugs

Three years ago I had the most amazing two hours of fly fishing in my life when I landed 17 brown trout in a short section of stream in Northeast Iowa.  The fish ate everything I threw at them and I even had time to break out different rods so that each one in the collection got into the action.

It was a fluke, of course.  I just happened across a moment when everything aligned: the weather (drizzly and gray) the temperature (upper 50s) and the mood of the fish (peckish, to say the least).

As much fun as that was, I don't think I would trade it for the hour or so I spent fishing a small stream last Wednesday when very little was aligned.  The sun was mid-afternoon high and bright; and the water level low, which made the trout all too easy to spook.  About the only thing I had going for me was the tall summer grass along the stream side, and even this was a mixed blessing.  It did keep me out of sight of the fish, but it also made walking the bank like a machete hack through a jun…

Once more to the lake

Sometimes I dream about going to camp, a place with no smartphones, laptops or TVs.  Just people, a lake and long empty summer afternoons.  Such places still exist.  Last August my family and I spent a week at a camp in Northern Minnesota.  We swam, kayaked, rode horses, went on hikes and laid around the cabin reading novels on our lumpy bunks.


It was the last week the camp was open and the young kids who had been hired on as counselors were slowly closing down the place for the season. August Family Camp week marked the end of their summer of inside jokes, friendships and love affairs. 

The French have the right idea.  Nobody should work in August.  Instead, we all ought to be packed off to camp where we might sit up late having an actual conversation, a good laugh beside a bonfire or hang our feet off the dock.  There ought to be a few days each year when we could awake without any agenda other than getting some breakfast in the dining hall.

It wouldn't change a t…

Teaching Counter Intuitive Ideas

Certain subjects and ideas are just harder to teach than others. My hunch is the difficulty of teaching something is inversely related to how counter intuitive it is. 

Science, for example, is almost completely counter intuitive.   Let's face it: the Earth does not feel like it is moving and, despite what Newton said, there's nothing intuitive in the idea that a thrown ball will naturally continue in a straight line forever.  Indeed, other than Ohm's Law about resistance in electrical currents, it's hard to think of a single scientific theory that's all that intuitive.

Lucky for me I don't have to teach physics (or even Ohm's Law).  Even so, there are some ideas in my courses that students always struggle with.  In my Introduction to Humanities class, for example, I have students read Boethius, Augustine and Dante.  The aim is to get them to see how Neo-Platonism informed Augustine's analysis of sin and how the Augustinian analysis of sin informed mu…