Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 is history. I believe you're looking for 2014. If so, how can I help you?

I am, after all, me because of who we are together.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm proud to say that Community Crandall - Ubuntu reached a record number of viewers: nearly 27,000 page views in 2013. The goal, I suppose, must be 30,000 visitors in 2014.

Ah. But where do you go?

It's easy, actually. Simply click on the image below and you will be redirected to 365 days of creative contemplations. The 2013 blog was my favorite thus far...we shall see how we do this year.

 Keep on keeping on!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Day of 2013! Crandall's Annual Video Montage to Capture The Year in Review. Ubuntu!

Yesterday, I set out to teach myself the IMovie upgrades. Where I failed, however, was in exporting it into a sizable file to post onto this site for the last hooray of 2013!

After a few hours of perseverance, I believe I finally managed to figure it out.

The trouble? It took almost an hour to create the file and afterwards I realized I used the same photo with Ishmael Beah twice. That's okay, because I can claim that I did one for both Abu and Lossine- they're twins after all.

Fingers crossed this will work.

And 3....2....1.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Praying to the Great Whatever That Today was Not as Eventful as it Could have Been.

My father warned me not to take 17 home today, but I didn't listen. I needed to stop in the Bricks of Syracuse to play Santa Clause, and the Thruway was on the other side of town. It began to rain as I left, and then it turned into a downpour from Tully on. 17 was rough. The temperature hovered between 36 to 32 degrees and once I was past Binghamton, the rain turned into thick wetness...almost a snow. The roads, too, were thickening like an ICEE. It was gross, and on one curve, I counted 7 cars off the road. Because the temperature was fluctuating, the roads didn't know what they wanted to be. For the vehicles who slid off the slickness, my guess is they timed it when Mother Nature chose to be freezing rain.

I only lost control of the car on one curve. I was thankful that (a) I wasn't too close to the edge (and cliffs) and (b) there were no other cars around. I did, however, pull off at the next exit to reestablish my sanity. I also had to pee.

When I stepped out of the car, it was sludge and rain. I heard something drop and worried, "Was that my cellphone?"

Nope. It was my keys. I checked my pockets, my jeans, and underneath the car. I parked right next to a sewer and I was sure they fell down the drain. I was in Hancock, New York, and I thought, "Damn. I just screwed up BIG time."

Here's where luck stepped in. I ate a chicken sandwich for lunch and had my Burger King bag in my hand to throw away. The keys slid out of my hands into the bag! I was so relieved. That would not have been good. I did not have had an extra set at my parents and it would be a quick second before Weijing could get my spare to me.

I looked up to the sky and said, "Thank you."

I also said, "Thank you," when I finally made it to my driveway. Although I drove into warmer weather, the rain was a torrential downpour. Wet. Yuck. But I have been spared once again.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

And with 9 days off, I need to begin thinking about heading home...sigh...never a good feeling

Syracuse win over Villanova - check

Louisville loss to UK - check, although frustrating

Louisville win over Miami - check

Cynderball's 44th birthday - check

Lasagna and Gargonzola Cheese Salad - check

iPhone Upgrade - check

New Samsung Galaxy for dad - check

Mom's wigs discovered - check (wait, Mimi, is that your real hair? pull. Oh, I guess it is)

Bottle of Cabernet finished by the sister - check

My crap all over 5388 Amalfi Drive - check

The temptation of Buckeyes and Magic Layer Bars finally wins - check

A week of mindless meandering in the direction life took me - check

Time to pack for a return - check

Still a few items on my agenda - uncheck (will hopefully get to it on Sunday.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

In Celebration of Cynderballs, 2013, and her Prancing Pony - Bella the Wonderdog!

In the holiday traditions of December we, the Crandall/Isgar/Barnwell posse, celebrate the 3rd day after Christmas, in celebration of Cynde's 44th birthday.

Above, Bella the Wonder Dog demonstrates one of many fruitful talents - this one is the "watch me use my lower jaw to capture my collar routine." Notice her horse-like prancing abilities. This display of brilliant talent usually follows the "I can catch the light that glimmers on the wall" bonanza and the "If I run fast enough in a circle, I can catch my tail" cyclone.

Yes, Bella's antics are the greatest gifts for anyone who visits my sister on Pine Grove Road. The brightest, most beautiful, effervescent puppy dog in the universe is a ball of spastic energy that never ceases to amaze.

Here's to you, Sis. You do so much for so many and, once again, you will do it for us today! You even canceled your Dome Dog look (hot stuff) so you can be with your wonderful family for one more event this season so we can sing Happy Birthday to you.

So, Happy Birthday, Cynde! Best you bring a bottle of wine for your party. I'm sure you'll (well, we'll) need it! Cheers!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sleepover with the Barnwell Boys: Monster University, Popcorn, and afew beers

There's not much more to write. I learned something new, however, about Jake. He likes to narrate exactly what will happen next in a movie about ten seconds before Sean, so Uncle B knows exactly what will happen next. 

We have other roads to walk: Nelson Mandela, education, and global inequities. A post-Christmas thought

Yesterday, Christmas day, the twins, Mustapha and I went to see Long Walk to Freedom, the Nelson Mandela story. Although impossible to capture a life in 2+ hours, we decided that celebrating Mandela's last year of life through viewing a film about him on the largest holiday of the year might be the best way to spend December 25th: three Muslim young men from Liberia and me. When Mustapha planted the idea, I knew it was meant to be so we made it happen. We are in the United States - the land of power - and I would be dishonest if I ignored the parallels between southern Africa and the United States. The few enjoy a lifestyle of excess that the majority will never know - we in America are guilty of this. The great divide of opportunity is not only overseas; my experience in Connecticut schools (and New York/Louisville) demonstrates that what we view elsewhere with disdain we somehow tolerate in our own nation.

For the boys, the movie was a celebration of what is possible for humanity, for African retribution, and with hope for the enormous continent where they once resided. For me, I wondered about pacifying a Western world's interpretation of the Mandela narrative as simply a story line with little regard to colonialism, imperialism, and global history. After all, here were four men enjoying a Hollywood version of the Mandela story in Destiny - a robust mall built to bring customers to Syracuse, New York, to shop - on a day where all the grandiose, extravagant spending of American people is celebrated in a bonanza of commercialism covered up by a Christian story (at this time of the year, I can't help but realize I live with President's Snow's people in the Capitol). It is surreal to watch a film that is meant to capture one man's entire life existence. It can't be done, unless it is created to depict the stories we continue to tell ourselves: a larger narrative.

I can't speak for how the boys interpreted the film, although they were inspired. It's hard to grasp the vastness of Nelson Mandela's leadership because His accomplishments and what he stood for are larger than the life/lives I have known. Still, I can't help but think that his belief system is one I'd like to see carried forward in my own worlds, especially when it comes to equity in education in the United States.
  • As long as there are achievement gaps of any kind in America, we should be fighting to close them.
  • American educators should be politicizing their work through contacting local officials with the direct intention of educating them on the realities of classroom practices and what it will take to achieve with diverse student bodies. We should continue advocating the counter-narrative currently forced on teachers that they don't matter and they aren't effective. We need to carry the voice of Diane Ravitch into our environments with poise and intelligence.
  • We should find inspiration in the achievements of young men like Mustapha, Abu, and Lossine - three individuals that went to the film with me today and who arrived from extreme circumstances, war, poverty, and violence and who found themselves as college-enrolled achievers with eyes set on living the American Dream. How can our schools better support students like them? How do we fight against the institutional decisions made by non-educators about classroom policies that hinder helping young people to learn? 
  • When we see wrong, we need to call it out for what it is - WRONG. When we are reprimanded through heavy hands and stubborn minds, we should counter the bureaucracies with kindness, questioning, and intellect - that I learned from Nelson Mandela's example (although he, too, saw the need for violence when no one was paying attention). Learning from Mandela, we cannot be passive but should fight with integrity.
  • We should not be settled by the pampered nature of American luxury, especially if it comes at a cost of ignoring the vast inequities across our nation and around the globe. 1% of the world is college educated (31% of the nation) - this, in itself, speaks volumes about power and the access to opportunity. We need to fight harder to bring a better life to more people.
No, a blog post is not the appropriate space to fully articulate thoughts invoked by any story about Nelson Mandela, but it is a good location to start some thinking. I wrote about 46664 on this site before and made connections that other men, like Mandela, are doing international peace work like Emmanuel Jal (currently promoting Peace for Southern Sudan). As I transition out of 2013 and begin thinking about 2014, I'm looking to collect more energy to do the good work of these individuals. We have one life - and we should live it so it has meaning. There are still many roads we must walk.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

And then the 25th of December returns. May your day be peaceful and with the joy of family.

And may you have the deliciousness of baked goods like those on my mother's famous cookie trays!

For two days, I'm saying, "the heck with it." 

While in Rome....

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas the day before Christmas, and all through my house...all I could think about was getting my sisters drunk!

Thanks to Clement Clarke Moore for his classic (as for my sisters....well, we shall see)

A Visit from St. Nicholas.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Monday, December 23, 2013

The laps I first ran as a high school student always bring me home and make me feel centered

The temperatures are a usually a little rougher at his time of year and the roads are definitely more icy. Yet, this year's CNY weather has been totally cooperative and I've been able to hit the pavement, running my old stomping grounds in Cherry Heights. Every time I do this I think of the years I began running Almalfi Drive, Caughdenoy, Spruce Hill, Fortuna, Bamm Hollow and Evesborough as a junior in high school. 25 years later, and I'm still able to keep the pace - that is a lot of miles, memories, histories, laps, perspiration, pain, and therapy. The temperature drops on Tuesday - I don't know how many more days I will be able to maintain the trek outdoors.

I was also able to get the parental units to pose for a photograph and I captured them both with only one or two shots. I think the photographs inspired me to go through photo albums, so I spent a portion of my afternoon walking down memory lane with snapshots of yesteryear: dad's perm and mustaches, mom's weight watchers years, neighborhood parties, the big hair of Casey and Cynde, elementary school  photographs and, of course, grandparents on both he Ripley and the Crandall side.

My mom often asks, "Wouldn't you like to sit for one dinner with your grandparents if you could?" and I always respond, "Yes." I would love to be able to hang out with them in the ways my sisters and I hang out with our parents today.

As I looked through holiday photos of once-upon-a-time, I couldn't help but notice the ubiquitous trees, presence, and enthusiasm of kids - these were generations before I even arrived. What we will go through in our households this week has been repeated across the U.S. in many homes for the last 100 years. I love the holidays and it is one ritual I would never want to miss.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hark! The Herald angels are singing during my father's 6 a.m. 'Butch' fest.

6 a.m. - lighter. smoke.

6:02 a.m. - coffee made.

6:10 a.m. - Bryan awakes. Groggy. Not a morning person.

6:20 a.m. - Dad greets Bryan in a talkative mood, drinking coffee. (Does he know his mouth runs like a whipperwill's ass this early in the morning?)

6:30 a.m. - Coffee kicks in. Bryan is more tolerant with listening. Butch complains about all the electronic devices 'beeping' and 'booping' - "It's like a goddamn arcade in this house." He fiddles with the iPad. Sips coffee.

6:31 a.m. - "Bryan, do you hear that? Did your mother leave her cellphone on? There's something singing?

6:32 a.m. - "I don't hear anything dad."

6:33 a.m. - "I've been hearing the songs all morning. It's singing. One of these goddamn machines is making noise. It's driving me nuts" Sips more coffee.

6:34 a.m. - "Dad, I'm not hearing it. Let me drink my coffee and read my paper."

6:35 a.m. - "What are you doing up this early, anyway? Your mother yelled at me in her sleep again last night. She didn't come to bed until 2 a.m. She's impossible....wait, there it is again. It's a phone ringing."

6:36 a.m. - "I don't hear it."

6:37 a.m. - "Seriously. Listen." He sips more coffee. "Let me call you sweetheart" begins chiming out of his songbird coffee mug.

6:38 a.m. - "Dad, that noise is you. It's your musical coffee mug."

6:39 a.m. - "Oh, that's why I've been hearing it all morning." Another sip.

And that was my first 29 minutes after waking up in Syracuse for the holiday break.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

And Santa stopped on Nichols Avenue just as I was leaving for Syracuse

The goal was to safely hit the road for a relaxed, chilled-out return to CNY as soon as I finished at the gym.

Yet, yesterday, the temperatures were way too warm so I had to run outside. It felt great.

When I returned home, my roommate, Weijing, was getting ready to shower before her day of medical procedures. For the last year she's had issues with her stomach and this month has been worse than others. She was put on a liquid diet and was scared to death of what they would find today when they looked inside. Her friend spent the night and before I left for Syracuse, I wished them both the best.

Then I thought, "It's Christmas."

They left for the hospital  and I ran to the store to buy puddings, Jello, Ginger ale, fruit, chocolate and cookies (Weijing loves OREOS). I left a card, too, from Santa that told her that now that the procedures were over, it was time for her to snack and be merry. Weijing doesn't celebrate Christmas, but I wanted the holiday cheer to be with her nonetheless.

Before I went to sleep last night I received a text from Weijing saying that her  procedures went well and everything looked good. She also said, "We dug into the food right away. You were right. I was hungry when I got home and this all made me feel better!"

It bothered me that I wouldn't be home after her day being checked out and no one would be 'home' to greet her when she returned. Weijing lived with Lois before she lived with me and I thought to myself, WWLD - What would Lois do? And that's what I did. I brought her family love all the way from Beijing (well, Big Y, and a lot less fish and rice).

It definitely put me in the spirit and I'm glad to say I arrived to Syracuse safely. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My sleigh bells are jingling...heading out of Connecticut today for a little R&R.

I am unsure if I have had substantial time off since this time last year. As students submitted work this week and I graded, I grew more and more wary of my complete exhaustion. In fact, I felt I was becoming grumpy and miserable, which isn't my usual demeanor.

I've labored all week with one item in mind...hitting the road and embracing family for the holidays and birthdays that surround the end of December. I came home last night and wrapped presents, put away at least six baskets of laundry, and cleaned the kitchen so I can return with it clean.

My goal is to wake up, chill out over coffee, go to the gym to burn calories, pack up, and then hit the road. I'm aiming for a 4 o'clock arrival time and simply want to - as Simon and Garfunkle once sang - slow down because I've been going too fast. I want to make the morning last now.

In short, I'm ready to feel groovy without meetings, agendas, deadlines, presentations, papers, books, office hours, professional development, or grants. I want a beer with whoever will have one with me and to laugh.

I need to laugh and to be absolutely stupid for a short while.

Thinking about digital outcomes in history? 'Why history' as a culminating writing event.

While assessing final projects for my Teaching the Composing Processes course, a graduate student put together a yearlong project that he hopes to set the pace for middle school, social studies work. First, the year will begin with Powerpoint movies showcasing 7th grade geographical terms about location and, second, the end-of-the-year will require a more advanced digital essay that answers the question on "Why History?"

His first model, a Powerpoint story, is showcased above and the the other, larger, was too big to upload to the site tonight. Although we touched upon digital storytelling in class, it was not on my radar as a possible outcome of the graduate student work...for that reason I am thinking 'bonus'.

What I appreciated about this piece was that technological ways of knowing can be elicited in a history classroom, too. Simply by using Powerpoint to frame images and a voiceover tool, students can compose a digital text to extend traditional modes of communication. The graduate student addressed how technology motivates students and how the 'frames' of digital stories are a great way to get middle school students to organize essays while exploring vocabulary important to teaching geography throughout the year. 

The author, Chris, modeled what he wants from his future student early in the year and developed a plan for larger projects after a year of instruction (I wish I could upload the final model he created, too, as it demonstrates historical possibilities for middle school composers in a content area).