Saint O’the Day: St. Sebastian (20 Jan)

This is a special saint for me as his memorial day is my birthday.

Please download and share this presentation – PDF

I’ve included a special prayer on the final slide. This is an excerpt from the USCCB “Prayer for Migrant Children” which I found linked through the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s  “Prayers of Light” which were offered on the eve of the US Inauguration. 

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Sun(Fun)day Night – U.S. Presidential Candidates as Shakespeare Characters

Happy May! I hope that it has been a fun day for you on this Sunday.

Just a quick post tonight as I still have much to do before bedtime.

With the recent celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death  , I thought it would be fun to share this clever article observing a connection between each of the U.S. presidential candidates (current and withdrawn) and familiar characters from Shakespeare’s great works.

I won’t spoil the fun for you by listing any of the connections here. I will say that discovering which character Donald Trump connects to is well worth the read!

Have a great week!

Friday FunLink – “On This Day” Podcast

Happy Friday! I hope your day is as bright and warming as mine is here in Central Ohio.

I’ve written a number of times about how much I enjoy listening to podcasts. And I’ve shared a number of ones that I particularly enjoy.

I’m walking at least 13,000 steps a day for health and enjoyment and a good podcast or two to stream on my smartphone makes all the difference. As I mentioned previously, I really, really, REALLY like streaming via Pocket Cast on my Android device. I paid a few bucks for it, but it has been well worth it!

The podcast I recently found that I listen to daily is “On This Day.” Each day of the week, Dave Schultz posts a 10 minute or so look at the major historical events which happened on this day. The podcast is no frills – respectable production, decent music and reliable posting. So far, I’ve heard only Dave – no dramatic involvement by others.

And this is fine, because Dave can certainly pick interesting, relevant and clever events to highlight each day. He’s an engaging storyteller who shares details and an occasional audio clip to supplement the historical stories of the day. For example, on April 4th, as he told of the final hours of MLK, he played tape of a sermon Dr. King preached about a year before. In this clip, which I’d not heard before, King speaks of how he hoped he’d be memorialized. This sermon has historical relevance as it was played at MLK’s funeral in early April of 1968.

While I enjoy this podcast on my own, I could easily see how a middle or high school history teacher might assign his or her students to listen to it. All of the content that I’ve heard (since I started listening a few weeks ago) is appropriate for teens and the subject matter seems non-controversial.

Enjoy the weekend and this day on which Jackie Robinson became the first African-American Major League Baseball player.

 

Sun(Fun)day Post: Two Funny Podcasts to Check Out

This post is a bit later than usual on a Sunday evening. I went for my early evening constitutional (aka walk) and then it was dinnertime. A primary New Year’s resolution of mine was to walk every day. Not to brag or anything, but since I got my Fitbit for Christmas, I’ve walked at least 10,000 steps every day (that’s 71 days – but who’s counting?)

Two things have helped me to do this – a rather warm and dry winter and great, free audio books and podcasts to listen to on my Android smartphone. As the weather warms and the sun sets later (Daylight Savings Time begins next Sunday), perhaps you’d like to walk or exercise outside more frequently?

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The first place to check for audio books is OverDrive. Many libraries have contracted with this ever-growing ebook and audio book provider to be the conduit for content checked out via a typical library card. Both of our local library branches provide materials through this site – albeit with slightly different collections. The Android app for it works pretty well and it gives the option of either streaming or downloading the content via WiFi. I do find some aspects of its functionality to not be completely intuitive, so you might have to play around with it a bit.

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Another good source for free audio books is LibriVox. The collection here is mainly classic works that are in the public domain. So, if you’re seeking to listen to works that you skimmed in high school, but as an adult you’re now curious about, this is your source.

I started my walking routine with audio books, but now I listen almost exclusively to podcasts. In case you’ve not been paying attention, there’s a remarkable renaissance happening in the audio programming world. I find this ironic. We’re now in such a visually-oriented streaming world as television supplanted the radio more than sixty years ago. Yet, those same devices you can use to watch Netflix, can also be used to stream a ridiculous amount of audio content as well. And on the supply side of the equation, the equipment needed to create a podcast is so minimal that anyone with a computer and a $20 plug-in-mic can become a podcaster. Sure, there’s a lot of amateurs out there, but a growing number of podcasters are gaining wide notoriety and significant earnings. A good example is Mark Maron’s WTF Podcast and his interview with President Obama last June.

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To stream or download a podcast, you’ll need an app for that. Stitcher and Soundcloud are two popular, free ones that I’ve used on my Android phone. I don’t particularly like either of these since a paid app I now use is so much better – Pocket Casts

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The visual design of Pocket Casts is far superior to any other podcasting app that I’ve used. More importantly, it is extremely easy to download via WiFi and then stream on-the-go. The user interface is highly intuitive. So, whether you’re brand new to listening to podcasts or a veteran, pay the $3.99 for this great app and you won’t regret it.

So, how do you find good podcasts?  Before I tell you about the aforementioned two favorites of mine, let me give you two sites to visit to find virtually any type of podcast you can imagine.

A pretty amazing one, which I stumbled across just last night is Podcast Chart (pictured above). A glance at the (partial) sidebar listing categories gives just a taste of the range of possibilities.

So, you found some interesting sounding podcasts and you’re surprised to discover that the number of episodes in the various archives is staggering. How can you find a particularly good episode? This is where NPR’s recommendation site (with weekly email) Earbud.fm comes in.

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Incidentally, these two sites will allow you to podcast directly through their interface. While this might be convenient, I still prefer finding them in Pocket Casts and listening there.

OK, time for a quick mention of two podcasts I’ve been enjoying lately. The first is silly, clever, sometimes bawdy, and always funny – Hello From the Magic Tavern

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You can read the premise in the screen shot above or you’ll hear it repeated at the top of each episode. I’m just enough of a Narnia fan/geek that I really appreciate the humor in this podcast as they explore and explode the many “fantasy story” tropes. The language and humor is mostly PG-13 (at least in the dozen or so early episodes I’ve heard thus far).

The second one, is in the wide “infotainment” category – No Such Thing as a Fish

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This is just one branch of a large network dedicated to information – mostly of the trivial kind. In this podcast four of their British and Scottish researchers/comedians share interesting facts they’ve recently discovered. Not only do I learn from their conversations, but I bust up at both the jokes and the connections they make.

I’ve been listening to other podcasts as well and I’ll likely devote another post to recommendations sometime. At this time, I need to do the dishes – with my wireless Bluetooth headphones (I use and recommend these, purchased via Tanga) and an interesting and funny podcast in my ears.

 

 

Stuff You Should Know: Powerful Video on U.S. Wealth Inequality

To say that the internet and devices to access it are powerful tools is a gross understatement. Not being a guy who can crunch numbers, but who is nevertheless interested in data and statistics, I am grateful that the internet offers ways to find, present and then communicate data to the world.

A favorite recent example of this threefold use of data is this “interactive heatmap” infographic displaying the most common birth date in the U.S.  (the answer to the question is below the image):

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The answer? September 16th!

Data and presentation tools can be used for much more than answering trivia questions. In the hands of skilled practitioners, data can be used to show the need for social, political and economic change. Take about six minutes to watch this video, which clearly shows how much wealth the “one percent” in America holds. Perhaps more interestingly, the video also shows how vastly different the actual wealth distribution is from either what the public thinks it is or what people surveyed think it should be.

 

So what can you and I do about this? Honestly, I don’t know.  What I do know is that this massive disparity cannot be sustainable for much longer. And that remedying it will take significant courage, sacrifice and commitment to fairness and justice. Do we the people have what it takes?

Fear or Love & My Trip to the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus

On the eve of the much anticipated (and hyped) 2016 Iowa Caucus, I’ve been thinking about how I got the once-in-a-lifetime (for a non-Iowan and non-politico) chance to witness the Iowa Caucus the last go-round in 2012.  For me, one who follows politics like some people follow sports, it felt like going to game 7 of the World Series. Just being on the ground at the political focal point for the U.S. and even international media was a thrill.

Here’s how it happened: During the 2011-2012 school year, I worked for a major educational publisher in a role which took me to Davenport, IA every week. Even though I worked closely with the technology department in that school district, it was a pleasant surprise that I struck up a warm friendship with Rudy, who was assigned to the same project as I. During one of our many conversations, I learned that he was a leader for the Republican Party in his mid-sized town Muscadine – about 45 minutes down the Mississippi from Davenport.

I don’t recall whether he outright invited me, if I strongly hinted for an invite, or just invited myself to the caucus meeting. Regardless, I met him at the school used for the meeting at about 6:30 pm on January 3, 2012. The fund-raising spaghetti dinner was wrapping up, so we went directly to the gymnasium with the other caucus-goers.

By the time the program started, the bleachers were full and people stood against the walls. I estimated at least 400 people and maybe even more. After introductions of those running the proceedings and some “housekeeping” items, the surprisingly informal presentations started. Each person running for the GOP nomination had a proxy speak on his or her behalf. I remember clearly the remarkable range of formality offered by these representatives. At one end were a few seemingly unprepared presenters who didn’t speak clearly, rambled, and generally didn’t sell their candidate effectively.

I gasped when a presenter, representing the VIP end of the spectrum, stood and spoke for Texas Governor Rick Perry. It was none other than the infamous, controversial, former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell.  He offered an impressive testimonial for Perry and surely caught the attention of the Iowans present. I imagine most of them didn’t know what I did, as an Ohioan – Blackwell was demolished in the governor’s race in 2006 during which he earned just 37% of the vote!

At the conclusion of this assembly, we filed out and headed to classrooms grouped by precincts. Rudy, the leader for the Social Studies classroom in which we met, introduced me as a guest “from the important swing-state of Ohio.” I thought to myself- although these Iowans have a huge role in the primaries, we Ohioans have a bigger role in the general election. Ballots, like the one pictured above, were handed out. After each of the 40 or so people in the standing room only gathering marked and folded the papers, these were collected and counted. Soon after Rudy announced the totals. While I don’t remember the exact numbers, I do recall that Rick Santorum won our room and the state by just a few votes over eventual nominee Mitt Romney.

After the main event of the evening was completed, the under card of participatory democracy commenced. The voters in the classroom were invited to write down issues they would like to have considered for the GOP platform discussed at a statewide meeting that spring. These slips were collected and read aloud. Some people spoke briefly on a few of the issues before the room voted by voice and hands on the most pressing ones. The suggestions chosen by the cell in our room were then passed up in the Iowan GOP body politic. After a brief closing, I headed into the dark, cool, yet dry winter night, grateful for the chance to witness and vicariously participate in one of the most important political traditions of our nation.

The 2016 caucus held on Monday, Feb 1st will be more closely watched than what I experienced four years ago. We’ve talked often in my religion classes about how much fear, anger, and hostility is being put forth this election cycle by candidates of both parties. An article posted last week by popular Catholic blogger and author of “Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life,” Elizabeth Scalia caught my eye. In it Scalia asks the provocative question: Are your decisions born of fear or love? She writes:

Why is everyone so afraid? Don’t we realize that fear is the foundation that supports so much of our sin? I’m stupid, and sometimes I will not be afraid when perhaps I should be. But I’d rather be stupid, naive and bumbling, than so afraid, all the time.

Everyday, I ponder the Sacred Heart of Jesus before me, “abode of Justice and Love … enriching all who invoke thee …” and I realize that every concern can be placed into that huge heart, and left there, in complete trust.

Nothing is safe or pure. Everyone will have a turn (or several) in the crucible. But the Sacred Heart is a self-immolation, never consumed. It is there, in the crucible with us. What is there, then, to fear?

I pray that, as the second reading of today’s mass proclaimed, faith, hope and love will win over fear and anger in Iowa, the U.S. and our broken world.

ADDITION (Monday Morning):

After publishing this post last night, I discovered this wonderful quote by Fr. Richard Rohr from the Center for Action and Contemplation. He’s dedicated this entire year of daily reflections to the them of love. Yesterday he remarked:

The passion of Pope Francis is to again make merciful love the foundation, the center, and the goal of Christianity. Love is not just the basis on which we build everything, but it’s also the energy with which we proceed, and it’s then the final goal toward which we tend. Love has two lovely daughters, twins called grace and mercy. Like identical twins, they are often indistinguishable: Grace is the inner freedom to be merciful. Mercy is grace in action. And both are the children of love.

 

Friday FunPost – Using Games and Virtual Reality to Teach Compassion

Today’s Friday FunPost is less “ha ha” funny and more of a thoughtful, potentially inspiring type of fun. I’m chaperoning our Freshman Retreat today and in a more reflective space than on most Friday afternoons.

The other morning this word and reflection arrived in my inbox from the good brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist:

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“The prevailing reason why Jesus did what he did and said what he said was his compassion for others. Compassion, which literally means “to suffer with” another person. Compassion is not just to observe suffering, but actually entering the suffering of another.” -Br. Curtis Almquist

I shared this with my students that day as another reminder of how compassion is one of the core values essential for one who follows Jesus the Christ. We’ve been talking a lot about compassion and empathy lately in class. This essential conversation, accompanied by prayer, is a clear antidote to the widespread fear, scapegoating, nativism, racism, and generalized hostility in our social and political conversations these days.

Today I read about two tech facilitated ways to help others grow in compassion and empathy. First, Tech Crunch offers a solid overview of how Virtual Reality is expanding classroom learning in a variety of ways. After describing how VR has been and continues to be used for mainly for simulations – especially scientific and historical ones – the author suggests this creative and constructive usage:

Perhaps the most utopian application of this technology will be seen in terms of bridging cultures and fostering understanding among young students, as it will soon be possible for a third-grade class in the U.S. to participate in a virtual trip with a third-grade class in India or Mexico.

This may sound simplistic and minor, but I think it’s only a beginning of how we will soon be able to leverage VR for a wide variety of educational outcomes. We often assume that we can only use VR from our own exclusive perspective to explore myriad locations, time periods, simulations, etc. After all, everything I see with my eye-brain connection is filtered through only my own reality. The true power of VR is that it will allow me to see what the world looks like from others’ perspectives. And if the simulation is created with thoughtful skill this could engender greater empathy in me.

For example, what if the VR headset caused me to see all writing as a dyslexic person does every day? Or maybe it could show me the hallucinations and “voices” that plague a schizophrenic in his or her daily life. At the very least, it will allow us to take on the persona of someone quite different than ourselves and see, first-hand, the world through their eyes.

Even before VR becomes widely available in our classrooms, a growing genre of video games exist which allow us to experience life from a different perspective. In an article glibly titled “Video Game Psych 101:Empathy Games” we learn how:

Biofeedback video games feed off players’ physiological responses, impacting gameplay in new and interesting ways. But what happens when developers create games designed to evoke a specific emotional or psychological response?

Empathy games attempt to answer that question. These video games aspire to enhance a player’s understanding of an outside perspective, particularly those pertaining to real-world struggles and inequalities, through interactive experiences.

This genre includes the groundbreaking game from a few years ago – Dsy4ia. While this particular simulation engenders empathy towards a specific life experience, this type of game could be created to illustrate any number of situations. And, combined with the increasing power of VR, the possibilities for tech facilitated education for compassion and empathy is limited only by our imaginations.

 

An App to Know – Curiosity.com

After hearing the announcement/ad for Curiosity.com numerous times on NPR, I finally got around to checking it out and down loading the iOS app.

I’m not going to say much about it here, because I emphatically encourage you to click the link above and check it out yourself.

As a passionate learner (which hopefully every teacher is), I like the set of five interesting links it gives me every day. An example from the last few days is above. And here’s a few more:

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When you click on the image, it takes you here:

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Here’s one more pair of examples:

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What are you waiting for? Visit Curiosity.com and get learning!

 

#amcathalm – Twitter Hashtag for Learning About American Catholics

This isn’t a post to do self-promotion of the Twitter feed that I use for school related items. But, just in case you’re wondering, it’s @hartleyrkrelig .

No, it’s to invite you to follow a hashtag on which I post interesting info each day – #amcathalm . While I can’t claim credit for the source material – that belongs to Emily Stimpson and Brian Burch – I do add images and boil it down to all of the characters that fit.

Why, here’s the post for Sunday the 8th of November:

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Oh yeah, I HIGHLY recommend you purchase it either in print or ebook.

It’s the first thing I read each morning (after my prayer materials of course)!

Friday FunLink: The Problems With Each State’s Flag

The state flag of Mississippi was in the news again this week when the leadership of Ole Miss voted to remove it from the campus. The flag of the Magnolia State features the highly-divisive Confederate battle flag in the upper left quadrant. The President of the U. Southern Mississippi system released this email explaining the decision:

“I have chosen to raise American flags on all University of Southern Mississippi flagpoles to remind the University Community of what unites us. We have all chosen to work, study and live in a country in which debates like those around the state flag of Mississippi can take place and ideas can be civilly expressed and advanced. While I love the state of Mississippi, there is passionate disagreement about the current state flag on our campuses and in our communities. I am looking forward to a time when this debate is resolved and USM raises a state flag that unites us.”

Obviously Mississippi has big problems with their flag and may well change it in the near future. What about the other 49 state flags – might they have issues also? Alexandra Petri, of the Washington Post’s ComPost offers a funny examination of each state’s flag and how it is “wrong.” Here’s a few of my favorite observations:

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