Sunday, January 31, 2016

Learn How to Read!

Call the number on your TV.

USA Today article about teachers being taught outdated methods for teaching students how to read. These obsolete methods include memorizing and learning how a word or sentence relates to the context of the the whole text.

USA Today says that out of 75 colleges, "Monday's study finds that only 11 colleges currently teach teachers about all five so-called scientific components of reading, which dictate that students should learn reading through phonics, vocabulary and similar means. "

Phonics is wonderful for vocalizing parts of written text that correspond to common pronunciation patterns, but I'm not sure what exactly that has to do with learning what the written text is trying to state. My belief is that when learning a language it is best to treat the written part of the language as being separate from the spoken language. Of course, there are similarities, but often the two may not have much in common. Don't sweat the odd words that get mispronounced, what is more important is what it means.

A linguistic professor once showed how most people are unaware of how their spoken patterns differ from what they they write down. In fact many people get upset or mad when they find out how they pronounce or construct sentence has little bearing on how they write. - Teachers learn dated methods: "Teachers learn dated methods"

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Arthur Lane 1916-2015

Arthur Lane, 1916-2015. Fencing Teacher of the Highest Order

Only recently learned that Arthur died last July peacefully in his sleep at home in Berkeley, Ca. A graduate of UC Berkeley, US Army officer in WWII, and lifelong practitioner of the fencing arts, Arthur was a living institution and a link to a golden era of fencing. Arthur studied under Eric Funke in Berkeley and San Francisco, fenced competitions at Eduardo Visconti's club in North Beach, helped Han Halberstadt move into his salle, and sparred with Helene Mayer. After the war Arthur moved down to Los Angeles and studied under Aldo Nadi and Ralph Faulkner. (If you look closely, you can see Arthur as a stunt double in Scaramouche.) Back in the Bay Area, Arthur established his own fencing school, the Fencing Guild, in the 50s, coached at UC Berkeley, and turned out many notable students, including Ursula K. Le Guin and Tommy Angell. Arthur took time off from fencing to raise a family and worked as a researcher in an institute that studied on  China. After retirement, he returned to teaching fencing at the Pacific Fencing Club, Oakland Daggers, and was a beloved coach at College Prepatory School in Oakland, where he retired nine years ago, making him the oldest PE teacher in California. Arthur stressed fencing excellence and versatility and was masterful in his patient guidance. He will be missed by all who knew him, and his family, son Bruce and daughter Maya, and seven nieces and nephews.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Distant Politicans

A Facebook post pointed out that our political leaders were distant figures. The truth is politicians are surprisingly easy to meet since they need not only votes, but the volunteers and monetary contributions to get them. Many of the politicians are people persons, energized and delighted to be in crowds, and the more successful ones have no small sense of charisma and charm. The gateway to getting to know them are the civic groups and more mainstream activist leagues. I went to an Italian-American gala in San Jose and met a county leader, who was one of the sponsors. He and I were not Italian-American, and I did not live in Santa Clara county, but I still got postcards and invitations for years from both him and the group. I worked a phone bank for a state legislator, who later became Berkeley mayor, and I had some interesting conversations at receptions with other politicians, including the congressional representative and a superior court judge. These days, though, I am very careful not to leave my contact information at gatherings and caucuses.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Dannie Martin 1939-2013

Obit for for former Chronicle columnist and bank robber Dannie "Red Hog" Martin at . Mr. Martin penned wry and emotionally honest descriptions about life in the federal prison system. His experience in federal facilities spanned the past era of relatively few, but violent prisoners, and the present reality of record breaking incarcerations, Mr. Martin observed that after an extended absence from the penitentiary that there had been three major changes:
1) Prisoners who would've gone to psychiatric hospital were now part of the general population.
2) There was more interaction between prisoners and custodial officers, unthinkable before.
3) Perhaps even the most shocking, Mr. Martin was dismayed to find that younger prisoners did not mind working in the prison. Mr. Martin firmly believed that the whole point of being a criminal was not to engage in honest labor.

In addition Mr. Martin was one of the earliest heroin addicts to have been prescribed buprenorphine and found the drug enabled him to kick opiates for good. A column about his experience with buprenorphine can be found at . Mr. Martin believed that reducing bank robberies had to start by reducing the number of addicts.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Helene Mayer and Arthur "Art" Lane

Future fencing master Arthur Lane and world champion fencer Helene Mayer taking a break from fencing to pose for a photo. This photo was taken in 1946 when Art Lane came back home from the war (note his army uniform pants and shoes), and stopped by Hans Halberstadt's club in the Marina District in San Francisco. Helene Mayer, like Halberstadt, was also from Offenbach am Main, had settled in the Bay Area after Hitler had taken over and was a regular visitor to Halberstadt's place. Art maintains that Halberstadt, an officer who survived four years of trench warfare, had passed on his fighting instincts and skills to the young Mayer. Incidentally, on the wall top center is some type of Wilhelminian portrait: Halberstadt felt that his fencing space was a vestige of Imperial Germany and was nostalgic for the nation that had awarded him the Iron Cross. In Halberstadt's mind, the old era of Bismarck and the Kaiser had nothing to with the Germany that had tossed him into Dachau. For reasons never fully explained, Helene Mayer, who by the standards of the Nuremberg Laws was Jewish, fenced for the Nazis in the Berlin, 1936 Olympics and returned to the U.S. After the war, Mayer went back to Germany and died there in 1952. Halberstadt preferred to stay in San Francisco where died in 1965. Halberstadt taught fencing and ran a fencing supply business that evolved into American Fencers Supply. Although Halberstadt lived under considerably reduced, one could even say impoverished, circumstances compared to his pre-war life, Halberstadt decided that he could maintain his fencing lifestyle by staying single, living in his club, and making use of the plum tree in the back. Art Lane eventually retired from fencing in 2008 and lived in Berkeley until he died in 2015.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fencing Vs. Beach Volleyball

On Yahoo Sport, Christopher Beheler writes:

Misty-May Treaenor and Karri Walsh center. (Photo courtesy NY Daily News)
NBC and its associated networks will have limited coverage of fencing during the 2012 Olympics. MSNBC will cover women's fencing events on July 28 and Aug. 1.
To put it into perspective, fencing will have 2 1/2 hours of dedicated television time for the entirety of the Olympics. Meanwhile, beach volleyball will have four hours of dedicated programming on opening day alone.
In that 2 1/2 hours of coverage, NBC will not be focusing on a single men's event. 
Team USA Epee-2012 World Champions (Photo: Nicole Jamantas)
NBC and its associated networks will have limited coverage of fencing during the 2012 Olympics. MSNBC will cover women's fencing events on July 28 and Aug. 1.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Unsinkable Middle Class?

Finally working my way down the magazine pile. The Atlantic's September, 2011, cover article painted a grim picture of the American middle class. Essentially, Don Peck writes that the lack of good paying manufacturing and other middle skilled jobs is pushing the non-college educated American middle class into the shark infested waters of the unskilled underclass. The article tries to offer a way out, but it's a hope vaguely pinned on waiting for the next big thing and more taxes for education. (When I hear this, my question is what should one study? The article correctly points out that tech manufacturing instead of gaining 150,000 jobs as predicted by the government in the 90s actually lost 500,000. While careers in the health care field seems like a sure thing, this is only if managed health care, with its subsequent consolidation of health providers, doesn't come back.)

However, what I found very disturbing was the ad on the back cover: it seems the mighty resources of Goldman-Sachs had built a college basketball venue in Louisville, which resulted in creating a job of a most decidedly non-middle class sort, that of a waitress, one dressed more like a construction worker than a celebrity chef. So the back cover's answer to the front cover's question, "Can the Middle Class be Saved?" seems to be no.