A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Monday, July 29, 2013

Two days before the interview

On Wednesday, I will meet with Dr. P, after which, he will decide whether to move me along to the next stage of the hiring process. On Sunday, I dropped by my mom and dad's house in Arlington partly to get away from any distractions at home, but mainly because had I not done so, Mom would have badgered me on the phone, leaving message after message about what I was doing to prepare, since I probably would not have answered the phone. As a result, Dad would have called until I finally relented and decided to pick up the phone. I don't like talking on the phone. Talking on the phone is something I avoid. The lack of visual cues and lack of proximity of telephone calls lead to misunderstandings and unwanted drama. Plus, so many of my questions remain unanswered, and I don't like speaking unless I have something worthwhile to say. When I want to communicate, I prefer being there in the flesh. Blogging is something I typically do after the fact, after things I have been wrestling with become clear to me.

By being there in the flesh, I was able to clear up the doubts I was expressing about my mom's claim that she was finding specific schools job openings posted online, which had only seemed to enrage her. I had been unable to find postings of specific schools, and been dismissive about their availability. It turns out that I was wrong, Mom was right. She drilled down further into the search than I did in my typically impatient approach to job hunting.

In preparation for Wednesday, I went down into my parent's basement to fine tune my philosophy, body language, and overall level of confidence about going before a panel with my entire future on the line. Before getting on my computer to craft specific responses, I reflected on two things that I thought might help guide my thinking.

Having listened on Thursday and Friday to David McCullough's 1776, and pondered while trimming a holly on qualities of George Washington which contributed to his destiny altering victories at Dorchester Heights and the crossing of the Delaware, resourcefulness and principled leadership, Sunday in my parent's basement I continued to read and take notes on Jim Rohn's The Five Major Pieces To the Life Puzzle.
The lines which had originally hooked me as I listened to The Art of Exceptional Living while working out at the gym were Rohn's observations about success and failure.
"The secret of failure: a few errors in judgment repeated every day. 
Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day."
That's why I bought the book. After a 10 years journey in education, I reflected, the major reason for my surprising results at Dr. P's school was an increase in my level of self-discipline.

Next, I reviewed a document entitled, "What an MYP Classroom Should Look Like." With that, I was able to focus on what the panel evaluators at Dr. P's school might ask. Then, I began using NovaMind to map my responses to the 10 Standards of a Middle Years Program (MYP), by which my class would be evaluated, and Dr. P's school will be evaluated next year for International Baccalaureate (IB) certification. Here's an example of a NovaMind mindmap for one of the 10 standards that I made today. Fun!

Tomorrow, I will shine shoes, iron a few shirts, and lift weights. Then, I will get to work on MYP Standard 10, which relates to the IB Learner Profile. So that I am not "putting all my eggs in one basket," I will also invest some time using what I learned from my mom about specific openings at specific schools and send out resumes.

As I continue to prepare to honor my 100 year old Obachan in San Francisco, and reflect with a chuckle on a the telephone call she made long ago, immediately after Joe Montana and her beloved 49ers dismantled the Washington Redskins in the playoffs, how she crowed, "Revenge is sweet," as I prepare for sleep, the last thing I will read will be one of Rohn's conclusions:
In the final analysis, it is not what happens that determines the quality of our lives, but what we choose to do when we have struggled to set the sail and then discover, after all of our efforts, that the wind has changed direction.
So much for increased self-discipline. 12:02 in the morning and still not in bed. Much to work on.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bluetooth USB dongle Windows 8 Compatibility Issue

My wife Karen wants to stream music from her new $300 Windows 8 laptop, purchased from Walmart, to a $50 Soundfreaq bluetooth speaker she purchased from Radio Shack. Today, I have been on the hunt for a bluetooth USB dongle that will allow a Windows 8 laptop to connect to a bluetooth speaker. Before today, I thought it would be easy to use bluetooth to connect a speaker wirelessly to a laptop. No such luck!

First, the ASUS BT211 bluetooth USB dongles that I ordered from Walmart two weeks ago were delayed. No problem, I thought, I could simply drive over to Micro Center on Nutley Street in Fairfax and cancel the ones on order from Walmart. Problem solved, or so I thought.

Second, when I tried to pair the speaker with the laptop, I found that the ASUS BT211 bluetooth dongle did not work, even though the device seemed to be recognized as a device in Windows 8. Then, Karen handed me the installation mini CD -- I hung my head, since I had never read the directions. After waiting forever while the cd drive made an unhappy sound, nothing seemed to be loading so I gave up. When I searched on the net, there were no Windows 8 drivers available for the device. I could not find a single example of the ASUS BT211 bluetooth dongle working with Windows 8. Every review I found indicated that the ASUS BT211 is incompatible with Windows 8. Apparently, Windows 8 is not supported -- it is not listed on the package, nor is it listed anywhere on the website. Micro Center, please take it back!

What to do?

After considerable searching for a bluetooth dongle that is Windows 8 compatible, I came across Kinivo BTD-400 Bluetooth 4.0 USB Adapter - For Windows 8 / Windows 7 / Vista - Compatible with Bluetooth stereo headphones and other Bluetooth peripherals. I purchased directly from Kinovo and ordered two dongles to arrive Standard Shipping. If the Kinovo BTD-400 4.0 USB Adapter works with a Windows 8 laptop -- on sale, 2 for $30 with no shipping / handling fee.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A few corrections from a primary source


When you're free I'll suggest corrections to your piece on my civil rights work, e.g., the night sheriff of Ruleville, MS was one of the two Milam brothers who killed Emmit Till, a major event in civil rights history.  And it was Julius Hopson (not Julian Bond, the head of Washington CORE who I got to picket the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for suppressing our report on Mississippi, which is in the attack.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Job Hunting Reflection

Initial considerations for preparing a response:

In preparing to go before a hiring squad, the most frustrating thing is not knowing -- not knowing which positions are available, not knowing any interview dates, not even knowing which schools are hiring. Not knowing can lead to doubt and worry, feelings of dread which can easily spiral out of control, but I have neither time nor resources to waste. My time is coming.

Dr. P explained that schools are required to consider "early hires" first and that he would not be able to schedule me to go before the panel hire until every early hire candidate has been processed. He said that his secretary would be calling me around July 15th, which has not happened. Existing in a state of limbo can drive a man crazy. Worse, it can drive everyone around him crazy too. What to do?

In The Art of Exceptional Living, Jim Rohn declares, "it's not what happens, it's what what you do." He also adds pointedly, "affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion." Proceeding in an undisciplined fashion would be like trying to cut with a dull blade, an exercise in futility, so exercise discipline I will do.

Rohn includes the ability to reflect in his summary of five critical abilities that a person needs to cultivate in order to be effective. I am not by nature a reflective person. Rather, I am disposed to action, a pragmatist. Given the nature of my present task, however, reflecting in a step-by-step, matter-of-fact  fashion is probably my most responsible and opportunistic course of action. T'is the season for reflection.

Just as Socrates, who was spared a few precious sunrises by the serendipitous occurrence of a festival, used his unexpected gift of time in a relaxed, courageous, and purposive way, finding some consolation in philosophy, perhaps I should find the good in the delay, as opposed to viewing the delay as a burden. I need to untangle a gordian knot to sort out what differentiates me from other candidates, a process that requires patience as well as time, neither of which I possess in great supply, as I prepare myself for the blood sport of fighting abstractly for a few coveted positions.

In analyzing the ability to reflect, Rohn recommends,  "sometimes you need to go into a closet and shut the door." I have endeavored to follow his recommendation that I close the door to the best of my ability, a daunting task for somebody culturally, genetically, and by personal preference inclined to ADD, for somebody who gravitates to the give and take of conversations, for someone who thrives on the pluroma of sensory experience, for whom the drip, drip, drip of stillness is like water torture.

To align my responses with the needs of a panel, since any panel will need for me to differentiate myself from all other candidates, I am preparing by responding to a few key differentiators:

  • First, my mom posed a series of questions to help me clarify my role in teaching classes that produced data that, in Dr. P's words "speaks for itself." Typically, I chafe at reducing characters to simple abstractions. Moreover, having witnessed a lifelong parade of salespeople take credit for themselves, often unfairly, to gain a competitive advantage, I have developed a bitter distaste for "selling" myself, but if qualitative analysis and taking credit where credit is due is the price I must pay in order to get paid, so be it. Shikata ga nai.
  • Second, I reviewed a copy of Dr. P's School Improvement Plan (SIP), which offers a window into the culture of accountability and collaboration he has shepherded over the past two decades. If ever there were a national model for "data-driven instruction," an example for how one school has been able to consistently demonstrate conclusively its ability to "close the gap" between whites and students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs), Dr. P has the numbers to back it up, which is why, he explained in a staff meeting, at our school we are left alone. My ability to produce numbers that "speak for themselves" was crash-tested in an environment in which hormones, high stakes testing, and high rates of poverty create a volatile mix. Universally accepted research indicates that an effective teacher is the number one differentiator between classes that achieve academic success and those that do not. Bottom line: despite an unorthodox, unpredictable style, which has in the past sometimes invited unwanted scrutiny, in a high stakes, high profile scenario, my numbers measured up.
  • Third, I reviewed a list of International Baccalaureate (IB) Learner Profiles, which remained prominently displayed in the classroom that I took over. Since Dr. P's school will undergo IB recertification in the coming school year, having recently experienced, first-hand, the process of school accreditation during my internship, I can share some of that experience with the panel. To prepare students and staff at the high school that was undergoing re-accreditation, I came up with the idea of giving everybody cue cards, which was adopted school-wide.

My sister Dawn wisely suggested that I go before a quasi-panel in suit and tie, so that I can simulate the panel experience, with my sister, my mom, my dad, and Michael Greaney, serving as Inquisitors. To experience what Dennis Waitley, in The Psychology of Winning, calls "the preinforcement of success," when I officially "come out of the closet," submit to the Inquisition I will do. Thus, I will get additional crash-test data which I can use to make needed adjustments.

Here are a few things I came up with in response to mom's list:

6. What specifically did you do differently during this long-term sub assignment that improved your performance, aside from support from a good team?

  • Fully Embraced Formality. I adopted an all-business demeanor. Formality clarified roles. I was the teacher. Students were students. A side benefit of greater formality was that playing the straight man only enhanced the comedic affect whenever I said or did unpredictable things.
  • Deescalated drama. Unwanted drama had been my undoing during my other long-term assignment with a 6th grade class six years ago in my final stage of clinically supervised experience as I was completing ODU's Career Switcher program. My mentor at the time advised me to "go under the wave," suggesting that sometimes it's better to be indirect when attempting to correct problem behaviors. This Spring, when a student openly suggested that I had been unfair in not disciplining a certain girl because maybe there was something inappropriate going on between us, rather than allowing me to be drawn in, I looked the student in the eye, smiled, explained that we would talk about this later, waited for an appropriate transition, quietly asked him to come with me to talk about it out in the hall, then in a flat tone explained to him that he needed to explain what had had happened to his parents before I called home, otherwise I would write him up.
  • Implemented behavior management strategies from  IRIS Resources, developed at Vanderbuilt University. I had learned about these in Dr. Eacho's Behavior Management class at Marymount.
    Although as recently as last Fall, in a prior long-term experience, I had tried without success to apply these same strategies in an attempt to help a certain non-category 4th grade student working within a self-contained setting, I wisely realized that it would be foolish to generalize from that experience. In Dr. P's school, given the confidence that my team and administration "had my back," I was able to act decisively nip problem behaviors early in the Acting Out Cycle.
  • Disrupted the disruption cycle. During the first week of my recent takeover, at the very moment when I began to transition into direct teaching mode, students would interrupt me, destroying any sense of flow. I wondered aloud how anybody could learn in such an environment. In response, I immediately implemented a Parking Lot system"Don't interrupt when I am starting a lesson unless you are "bleeding, barfing, or dying," I quipped. I then handed out sticky notes. Thus, I was able to let students know that their questions were very important to me and deserved a thoughtful response, but that I would only respond to their questions at a more appropriate time.
  • Maximized the frequency of student response. One of my primary initiatives was to introduce call and response procedures inspired by Chris Biffle's Whole Brain Teaching approaches, which Shannon Melideo introduced me to in her lesson planning course.
  • Accelerated the feedback cycle. I made a commitment to get graded papers back to students quicker than I had ever done before. Students needed to know more immediately about their misconceptions. They needed to know I was serious about my offer to make myself available for help after school. In reducing my turn-around time for grading and handing back student work, I sent a clear message that I understood their misconceptions and that their grades were valid.
  • Maximized responsiveness to parents. One afternoon, I had a surprising conversation with a mother when I called home to inform her about my disappointment that her son had not showed for my special review session for a make up of the state test to be held the next morning. She threatened to go to administration the next morning to complain that nobody had called to tell her that her son would be taking the state test the next morning. Afterwards I found Mr. C, one of the after school administrators to discuss what had happened. Mr.C observed wryly that the student had "called my bluff," and added that I needed to make my calls to reach the parents of at-risk students sooner. As I was leaving the building at 9:30 that evening, having connected with as many parents of students on my D and F list as I could, I knew what I had done would make a difference.

7. Dr. P gave you credit for improvement in overall test scores of your 6th grade class, as compared to their 5th grade scores. (As he said, "Numbers speak for themselves.") You credit the team and the system. What was your unique input?

  • Individualized feedback. The class I took over at the end of March already did a tremendous job showing their work. Representational thinking is a terribly difficult habit in math to teach. Students, as a rule, already were doing this. When I introduced new material, however, I quickly noticed certain misconceptions proliferating. Since I was grading homework so quickly, I immediately realized that many students were not actually doing their own thinking, but had been copying the work of others. Knowing that in many cases students did not know what they were doing, I made it a point to get quiz grades back to students quickly, using my grade book and lists of missed assignments to communicate to students that I knew they did not know what they were doing.
  • Balanced the collaborative co-teaching load. Bill Specter, my collaborative co-teacher in two of my five classes, is an ESOL teacher who "pushes in" in various grade levels. I encouraged Bill to take on more of a lead role than ever before. I frequently praised Bill for his unique ability to break down processes in a step-by-step way. Consistent with the idea of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), I knew that everybody would benefit from how Bill broke things down, and made a conscious decision to transfer Bill's contributions to other classes. Although, except for a few brief moments between classes, we rarely planned together and I typically set the agenda, Bill and I seamlessly switched off between taking the lead or taking on a support role with egos never getting in the way.
  • Focused on a few critical assignments. As a result of analyzing how the state tests had been constructed, I got a strong indication of which concepts and procedures that students were likely to encounter when taking their state tests. Based on what I was seeing on homework and quizzes, students, I became highly concerned that the majority of the students had not mastered critical concepts underlying procedures for working with coordinate points, circle graphs, and probability. Large percentages were not completing certain key assignments. Operating under the assumption that the underlying reason why the majority of students had stopped turning in their homework consistently was a fundamental lack of understanding, I asked students what I could do to help and asked students what they could do to help themselves. My decision to focus on a few critical assignments resulted in a sharp increase in the number of students who began consistently showing up for help after school.
  • Guaranteed a fresh start to disengaged learners. By April, a noticeable cluster of students, particularly boys, evidently had lost hope. Recalling the words John Thompson, a former Georgetown University basket ball coach, "it's not where you start, it's where you finish," I repeated a promise I made to the class, that everyone in the class still had an opportunity to earn an A for the quarter, simply by earning an A on the final exam. By personally guaranteeing that every student still had a chance to win, despite how bleak the gradebook looked, I was able to help a number of students make remarkable turnarounds. One student, who failed the state test by a single question, who had probably turned in less than 30% of the homework throughout the year, responded to my expressions of disappointment in his underperformance by earning an A on his cumulative final exam.
8. How would you balance improving the performance of the class as a whole vs. helping an underachieving but talented individual?

  • Everybody benefits from responsive teaching. Just as curb cuts have made buildings and sidewalks more accessible for everyone, the premise of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is that when you incorporate differentiation strategies into lesson plans to accommodate special needs, everybody in the classroom benefits. In Conscious Classroom Management, Rick Smith recommends that teachers "speak slower, and repeat more often." When a language specialist is teamed with a general education teacher, everybody can benefit.
9. Has your thinking on the use of test data changed? Are you using it more effectively now.

  • Slaughterhouse of accountability. I maintain a deep-rooted skepticism about the reliability and validity of much of the student performance data collected and disseminated, both locally and nationwide. I continue to harbor major doubts about how data is being interpreted. I worry about the extent to which our picture of what is happening with individual students is clouded by overly broad conclusions drawn from unreliably small sample sizes, generated by individuals with their own agendas, in schools generally lacking in common formative assessments. I worry that short-sighted efforts to boost student performance have led to an abandonment of soft disciplines such as the arts, a movement away from educating the whole child, a marginalization of teachers as professionals, and an overemphasis on the teaching of procedural knowledge, leading to a proliferation of disengaged learners.
  • Prestidigitation? The public has been sold by educational leaders on the idea that schools have been on a smooth upward track since 2001, both locally and nationally. Reports of steady growth have often been generated, under threat of sanctions, or opportunity for secondary gain. If performance has risen so steady, how is it possible that the same persistent 30% failure rate in our schools remains more than 30 years after the Nation at Risk?

  • A recalibration in how I view test data. Dr. P's School Improvement Plan (SIP) provides the best rationale I have ever seen for using data appropriately. Dr. P's plan illuminates four key strengths in the 6th grade, #1-collaboration, #5-common assessments, #9-individual growth, and #10-consistent strategies. The key area of need: improve ESOL scores. The plan listed a number of SMART Outcomes (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) including achieve a 90% pass rate in the 6th grade, something we exceeded. The Close the Gap Outcome was to shrink the variance of white students to LEP to 5%, which we also exceed. The Individual Growth Outcome was measured using something called a Value Added Chart, where every student's test score (i.e., formative assessment data from every common assessment) was entered and color-coded as red (failing), yellow (at-risk), and green (passing). The Contextual Comparison Outcome was to reduce the overall variance in pass rates between Gen Ed, ESOL, and SPED to no more than 15% on state tests. SMART Strategies included Circular Review, Lunch and Afterschool Remediation, Frequent Feedback, Individualized Test Correction, Content Review, and greater emphasis on Open Ended Questions. An old adage states, "what gets measured gets done." In reviewing quarterly responses, and having entered my class's Value Added Data, I have a better appreciation of how the plan helped structure discussions during Collaborative Team Meetings (CLT's). Used appropriately, I have a deeper appreciation of how quality data can benefit individual students, and how central gathering and interpreting the data can be to the management of a school.
11. Were your inputs "innovative," or were they due to "hard work."

  • The difference between a sharp and a dull blade: Necessity is the mother of invention. I implemented a 3 second rule after receiving an email from a parent of a student whose grade on his interim report had dropped from an A to a B-. Viewing her son as a "bellweather student," (i.e., if a bellweather student is struggling, I need to change what I am doing), the next day, I substantially tightened up class procedures across the board. I confided to my 4th period class how much I secretly enjoyed having a class like theirs, because this class would expose my weaknesses, enabling me to correct them. I also confided that my Student of the Year might actually come from their class, since anyone who could excel in such a difficult learning environment probably deserved this award. Just as if I had been working with a dull blade, I realized that all my hard work was getting me nowhere, so I developed a plan based on everything I had been reflecting about. By the way, the child who had complained to his mom about problems in my class earned a 96 on the final exam, and was awarded my Student of the Year. 

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    A Stapler

    According to his mother, a school counselor for emotionally disturbed students, who had been so moved by my success in helping her son become an engaged math student that, unsolicited, she wrote a positive letter to Administration on my behalf, over the course of the year, Jared had been convinced by others that he would always be out of place during math. While in direct teaching mode, I would often catch Jared reading a novel, secretly noting how much I approved of his taste in reading choices. Instead of expressing faux frustration, I would direct a friendly smirk his way as I unobtrusively tapped him on his shoulders and nodded for him to put the book away.

    Jared was not a discipline problem, he simply did nothing to hide his boredom. His slumped shoulders and exasperated expression said matter-of-factly, "I really don't want to be here." Jared did not appear to consciously realize when he joined with others in their daily pencil drumbeat whack-a-mole cacophony, and in in my loudest, rudest, most at risk class, a class I dubbed my Crash Test Darlings, which enjoyed proudly broadcasting to the entire 6th grade about whatever misdeeds that they had been able to get away with the sub, my most troubled, most street smart girl would slyly poke an eraser in his ear whenever I turned my back.

    As a rule of thumb, before calling home, I wait until after I have found some evidence of talent before calling home to begin an intervention. My script usually goes something like this: "The reason I am calling is because Jared has a D in math. I am calling because I what to know what I can do to help, but I also want to find what Jared is willing to do to help himself. I have been making myself available to students every day after school every day Monday through Thursday. Generally, when a student is not performing up to their capability, they have some sort of misconception which is causing him to make errors. Jared has excellent number sense, has demonstrated a talent for solving problems in unexpected ways, and he has been very clear in explaining his thinking whenever I have challenged him. Working one-on-one or in a small group, I can help Jared with any retakes or missed assignments, which he can correct or turn in without penalty. Meanwhile, I am hoping that Jared can help me understand what I am missing. There is no reason why Jared cannot end up with an A in this class.

    After Jared started coming, it became immediately apparent that Jared's primary misconception was that math had zero relevance to him. Jared had a wired-in proclivity to tune out whatever details that seemed unimportant or painful to him. He had decided that he already had what he needed from this course so he might as well enjoy a good book. I shared with him about a friend who had gone through school with an undiagnosed learning disability, a rare hearing problem which made it impossible for him to distinguish distinct sounds in a large classroom, who learned the importance of mathematics in an alternative school setting, Outward Bound, while hiking the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, a friend who later grew up to become a rocket scientist. I cited numerous examples of others who had been deemed poor students such as Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, whose main problem was that they approached things differently and that others misunderstood them. I offered up the example of the mathematician Gausse, who was falsely accused of cheating after solving a problem in a few minutes that his teacher had expected to require several hours of tedious computation, hoping to implant in Jared the idea that the purpose of mathematics is to help us solve problems in the most efficient way.

    One day, when we were assembling our end of year icosahedron's (20-sided figure) reflection, Jared became fixated on fixing a broken stapler. As an adult, my calculus was that this was just a cheap stapler, not worth the effort, but to Jared, this became an engineering challenge, so I got out of the way and watched as Jared and his friends disassembled the stapler and figured out a solution. I offered too much help, too many good suggestions at a critical juncture, unfortunately,  which had the unintended affect of depreciating Jared's crowning achievement for 6th grade, fixing the stapler.

    That day, I learned that Jared regularly disassembles and reassembles electronic devices at home, a quality that my brother Mike, an engineer, had as a child. In comparing Jared to a successful engineer, my brother Mike, who has several motorcycles, I suggested that Jared also had engineering talent. I suggested that he might enjoy Homer Price, which is about a boy about Jared's age who is always getting himself in trouble with his inventions, but who always ultimately saves the day. In a nation short on engineering talent, we often forget that numbers without a purpose are not only uninspiring, but can be debilitating. Sometimes a stapler is just a stapler, but to a 12 year old boy, Jared reminded me, it is okay to see things differently and find an adventure in the unexpected.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    Honoring my 100 year old O bāchan

    The ability to connect with a wide range of students on a human level is my special talent as an educator. To get anyone to respond to you, which any coach on any level must be able to do, requires a "human touch," a quality which an editor noticed in Donald Richie, author of The Japan Journals: 1947-2004, after he wrote a human interest story about a man living under a bridge in 1947, a little story which launched a long and successful writing career. Without the "human touch," nobody will do anything for you.

    This past spring, my decision to be "real" with my school about my self-diagnosed ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), as well as the skill in which I was able to weave in my own personal experiences, often painful, but generally hilarious, enabled me to secure and hold the attention of a difficult population of middle school students as they prepared for their state testing and final exams. Instead of yelling at students whenever they went off task, simply for effect, i.e., playing to an audience of adult evaluators who might be expecting more controlling teacher behavior, playing that role for an audience of students expecting me to play that role, a role which I have never played well, I decided to follow the advice of one Principal and simply be real.

    The data shows that a population of students who had had a 48% pass rate on their 5th grade mathematics state tests in Mathematics responded to me with an over 90% pass rate on their state tests as 6th graders. Since the "numbers speak for themselves," according to Dr. P, I was willing to submit to Dr. P's suggestion that I take a vacation, and commit to attending my O bāchan's 100th birthday party in San Francisco later this summer, even without the commitment of a job offer, rather than apply for any position at Home Depot and stress myself out before I go before a panel sometime around Bastille Day.

    Since on my O bāsan's 80th birthday party I gave a speech which was well received, since I have always been somewhat of a family historian, and because of my natural flair as a story teller, my Okāsan asked me to prepare something for my O bāsan's 100th birthday party to be held in San Francisco a month fromnow. While I wish I had a copy of that speech written 20 years ago, not having what I had previously written has been somewhat liberating, as I have been forced by circumstances to begin with a clean slate.

    In typical ADD fashion, to prepare, I have polished off audio versions of the OdysseySaint Augustine, The trial & death of Socrates, and have in the queue The Aeneid, Guns, germs and steel, and James Madison and the struggle for the Bill of Rights. Last week, while riding the exercise bike at the Audrey Moore Rec. Center, I finally completed reading Jan Morrill's The Red Kimono, a mystery novel which characterizes the Internment of Japanese Americans and explores the concept of gaman from three different perspectives, Sachi, a 10 year old girl, Nobu, Sachi's 18 year old brother, and Terrence, Nobu's African American friend, who upon learning that his father had died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, gets caught up with a mob and beats up the first "Jap" he comes across to the point of death.

    Currently, I am reading The Japan Journals: 1947-2004, in order to get a better feel for what it must have been like for my O bāsan as she worked as a translator in postwar Japan, and to better imagine the manner in which she was forced to ply her feminine wiles in order to secure the best available food, shelter, and other essentials for her family, including the flour with worms in it, which my Ojisan made into doughnuts, without degrading herself. For similar reasons, I will be reviewing Embracing Defeat: Japan in the wake of World War II, a Pulitzer Price Winning book by John Dower, which explains the psychology occupation.

    I also plan to take another peek at Edmond Morris's Pulitzer Prize winning The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, which explains Theodore Roosevelt's role in America's rise from a time of Rough Riders to global super power status. Don't want to miss anything. Eventually, I will get around to rereading the paper I wrote for Dorothy Brown's course at Georgetown University, U.S. in the 20th Century, "Rising Son in the West," in which, largely through California newspapers read at the Library of Congress over Christmas Vacation nearly 30 years ago, I explored circumstances in California which led to the enactment of Executive Order 9066, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and wove in the factors which led my Ojīsan to swim to shore from a tall ship across San Francisco Bay in 1915. I framed Yunosuke Tsuchitani as a sort-of Horatio Alger story with a twist, as he was one of the first to be rounded up by the "men in the black suits," detained by the FBI for his contributions to Dai Nippon Butoko Kai, a service organization for widows and orphans, sent to a federal prison in Bismark, North Dakota. Reunited with his family four years later, he departed Tule Lake penniless.

    Thanks to Jan Morrill, and how she developed her characters in The Red Kimono, I have come to the realization that the character my O bāsan represents remains largely a mystery to me, a mystery I need to plumb, for she has become for me, perhaps, the more intriguing character. So many questions about gaman. So many secrets. I am hoping that my "human touch" serves me, so I can seize on what will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to get some answers, or more likely, be left with more questions, and a greater respect for all that I do not know.

    I imagine my O bāsan as a sort of Japanese Penelope, who must have had a special gift for warding off soldiers of the occupation, and rising above the envious. How to get her to talk about post-war Japan?

    Considering how tight-lipped my O bāsan has always been, as a matter of decorum, now that she has finally demanded that I pay attention by holding this 100th birthday party, a certain amount of poetic license in composing a brief narrative with her as the central character will probably be necessary, although in this case, the truth is probably stranger than fiction. In The Phaedo, after a jury of 500 had condemned Socrates to death for corrupting the youth of Athens, and Socrates had been spared a few extra sunrises by the fortuitous occasion of celebration of a Festival during which no executions were to take place, Socrates shared with his friends a dream he had in which he had been instructed to "compose fiction ... not true tales." I think Socrates realized that it is possible to be more real with fiction than with "true tales."

    How does one make it to 100? Why would somebody want to be 100? The number 100 is shrouded in mystery, and as a measure of success, the number 100 speaks for itself.

    What was it like to marry somebody 15 years her senior? Why did she refuse my Ojisan's request to sign papers to own land in her name? How did roles change after Pearl Harbor, (a question explored in The Red Kimono)? I know so little about the Otsukas. So many questions about family.

    How has somebody with so little, who has always appeared so frail, been able to attract the support of so many during the darkest of times? Even my 15 year old son, Joe, who lately has seemed so lackluster, is feeling that connection with his great grandma, "Boom, Boom Tsuchitanisan." By coming to San Francisco, he will hopefully get a better sense why I was screaming at him at 8 o'clock last night to put up his net and do 50 low swings, and 50 high swings, and why I was recommending that he read Miyamato Mushashi's Five Rings.