Monthly Archives: March 2010



These toys, on the floor in the kids area of Blue Marble in Brooklyn, have seen their better days. I think that’s part of what makes them so awesome.

hail, mighty caesar!

the new york times ran an article today titled, simply enough, “caesarian births are at an all-time high in the u.s.” in it, we find out that 32% of births in the u.s. are now done via caesarian section. i’m not surprised at all.

before henry was born in 2005 (cripes! i’m so old…), every dad/partner/friend in our childbirth class — which i wasn’t a very big fan of, as i thought it was WAY too impractical and touchy-feely, not to mention the ridiculously awful natural-birth movies we had to watch — was given a card that had several questions that we were supposed to ask a doctor once the conversation veered towards a c-section. these started out with “is this procedure medically necessary?” and ended up with something like “what the hell happened to our birth plan!?” sounded perfect in class.

fast-forward about a month from that card and 14 hours into a labor that wasn’t progressing. the doctor — not alison’s doctor, but another in the practice who was notorious for performing c-sections — comes in and states that it will be a caesarian birth. “is this procedure medically necessary?” i asked, and the doctor just looked at me and said something like “it’s been 14 hours without significant progress and we can either agree to do this now or i can come back in two hours and we can agree to do it then.” we at least made her come back in two hours, but the deal was kind of done then. and it was pretty terrible — alison was flopping around like a fish out of water and so cold from the anesthesia, and it was a terrible feeling to not be able to help at all.

What we’re worried about is, the Caesarean section rate is going up, but we’re not improving the health of babies being delivered or of moms.

this is the biggest problem I have with the c-section thing. aside from cases where there is immediate danger to the baby or mother, what’s the rush to the operating room? it really doesn’t feel like it’s NOT because doctors want to stay on a schedule, get more deliveries out of the way, and impose a sense of order on the day’s docket. and then once you’ve had one caesarian birth you’re probably going to have another one. 

Risks to the mother increase with each subsequent Caesarean, because the surgery raises the odds that the uterus will rupture in the next pregnancy, an event that can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby. Caesareans also increase the risk of dangerous abnormalities in the placenta during later pregnancies, which can cause hemorrhaging and lead to a hysterectomy. Repeated Caesareans can make it risky or even impossible to have a large family.

there’s no amount of ANYTHING that i can do to convince alison that we should have a third kid. though even if we did want another, would it be worth the risk? this is just lunacy — i’m no expert, just a two-time-onlooker-with-involvement, but we aren’t doing anything that makes sure that c-sections are only done when medically necessary. we’re putting mothers at risk for the sake of babies that might look better when they’re first born or because we need to keep things on schedule. 

it doesn’t always work out like it did in knocked up.

it’s ben!

i was a little late to the chatroulette piano improv thing, but i was really convinced that merton was actually ben folds.

turns out that he wasn’t, but ben folds was a fan, too. here he is during a show in charlotte, NC. 

now i just need to find tickets to see him at town hall next month…

crock pot recipe: slow-cooked tex-mex chicken and beans

we tried a new crock pot recipe today, courtesy of martha stewart: slow-cooked tex-mex chicken and beans ( while we were off playing in the park, the slow cooker was hard at work cooking up a delicious dinner.

it was delicious, though we improvised when we couldn’t find the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. the kids probably couldn’t have handled the heat anyway, so it all worked out. our finished product didn’t look any different than martha’s either, which is always a good thing.

splintering discussions

For a while now, I’ve been really stuck on Twitter as my main way of communicating with others — email has turned work-only, my blog had been all but abandoned, and Facebook is a nice way for me to passively check in on my friends. For some reason, though, I had fallen into a trap of communicating in 140 character chunks almost exclusively. And I know that’s ridiculous, not just because of the character limit but also because not everyone tweets. 

When Google Buzz was launched, I thought it would be a great thing to link it to Twitter. A way that I could really check on Twitter without needing some clunky third-party widget in Gmail? Sign me up. The problem, though, is that I think it served only to splinter the discussions around a certain posting. While Buzz pulls tweets and allows for comments on them, it does so in a completely separate way from anything ongoing in Twitter. The upside is that you got more than 140 characters (yay!) but also a completely separate running commentary to engage in (boo!). 

I didn’t really want to write a blog post about blogging, but I’ve been pretty busy pushing Posterous over our WordPress install for some trips that have gone to Kenya and Japan over spring break — I missed the Geneva trip, or I would have tried to push it on them, too. On a very basic level, I like how easy it is to post to a Posterous blog by sending a simple email and attaching or linking to images or movies. I like the autoposting capabilities that are built-in, even though I’m having a spot of trouble getting one of the blogs to autopost to a WordPress-powered site I’m maintaining.

But what impresses me most of all is the community aspect of Posterous. Take some easy-to-use blogging, a subscription model that works, and commenting that can be tied to a central account and I think there’s the real possibility of a tool that can really be used to teach and model online participation — not just following blogs but expanded self-publishing options and the ability to engage in lengthier discussions. One of the things that we’ve struggled with in the tenth grade social media course that we’ve been teaching is that the kids pretty quickly tired of keeping track of the different sites we were pointing them to, even if they were all linked to from a central location. Posterous could help flip that on its head — instead of being the blogging platform, it could become the hub of online conversations in a classroom connected to the outside world.

It might be the perfect cure for continuing the discussion way past 140 characters.

what’s wrong with a little backchannel?

In what may be seen a a blow to laptops in classrooms, at least by people who read something in a newspaper and think, "See! There's the proof! End of discussion…," the Washington Post published an article titled "Wide Web of diversions get laptops evicted from lecture halls." Somehow, in the discussion of what is appropriate for law school students to be doing during their lessons, the article manages to bring up digital natives, ubiquitous computing, and World of Warcraft. 

But they're probably not overreacting, right?

I'm looking at this from two perspectives. 

First off, as someone teaching students about using online tools and trying to shift his entire school to live in that world, it's completely unrealistic to expect students to not be distracted by the web… wait for it… unless you're giving them something interesting to concentrate on. It seems that the folks that would be quick to eliminate laptops from classrooms (much like the faculty members I'm talking to who are interested in turning wireless access on and off in particular classrooms during the day) are the same people who think that they can ignore the internet, that it has its place and time but that place and time aren't necessarily during the hours that they're teaching because they'd rather conduct business as usual. 

Secondly, as someone who sits at a conference and pops his laptop open to take notes, Tweet, etc., I can barely imagine participating in professional discourse anymore without connecting with people online. Sure, there's a time and a place for everything, but if I'm listening to speaker with a room full of attendees, I want to know what the room is saying and participate in the discussion. A couple years ago at a NYSAIS Education and Information Technology (NEIT) conference, there was an active backchannel that ended up bashing a speaker while he was delivering his talk — and, because he was speaking with so much "business as usual," he didn't even realize it. I remember feeling bad for him but, at the same time, wondering why he didn't notice that everyone was furiously typing away and what that second projection screen was displaying during his talk.

Forgetting any talk of things like Individualized Educational Programs (IEP) or special needs accommodations, why wouldn't we want to encourage students — K-12, higher ed, postgraduate, doesn't matter — to be active participants in what they're engaging in. Why do we assume that being online has to be a bad thing, that students aren't just taking notes on a Google Doc or Etherpad? 

Why do we start with the assumption that it must be a bad thing until proven otherwise?

does the perfect TEDx exist? | trying to unpack #TEDxNYED


Like a lot of people in the Twitterverse, I'm really looking forward to when the talks from TEDxNYED are posted online. It's not because I didn't catch it, or even because I wasn't there, but rather because I was so privileged to be one of the ten organizers of the event and spent much of the morning running around trying to get things working with our video ingest machines. I missed most of Andy Carvin's, Michael Wesch's, and Henry Jenkins's talks, and I can't wait to watch them. 

Two of the criticisms (there are others) that I've been catching up on (as thrilling as it's been to watch the nice words about the day get published, I'm an eternal pessimist and gravitate towards the criticisms) is that the day may have been somewhat of an echo chamber and, as we're all left with the inevitable post-conference slide to reality, we're left with a call to action that may go unanswered. They're valid concerns, and I think they start with the fact that this was a TEDx event, not TED itself. 

We were counting on the breaks that we built into the schedule as the time for attendees to make connections, but I think that this might have been somewhat of a hard sell to some who came with colleagues or knew others in attendance. I'd imagine that if you travel 3,000 miles to TED and you're in the middle of a four-day mind-blowing excursion, you're absolutely going to connect with everyone you can. As I've been able to gather from TEDxNYED curator Dave Bill (, the whole point of TEDactive, where one watches TED in simulcast, is to make these connections. But remember what the origins of this conference were. As arvind grover ( wrote in a comment in his own Posterous posting, "We're basically a group of independent school educators who decided to put on a conference, and one of us registered to have it be a TEDx." We all work about twenty blocks from each other, and I think that we originally had in mind that NYED would really be for and speak to the New York education community — maybe even more specifically the K-12 part of NYED. As our amazing speakers agreed to travel to our shindig one by one and word of mouth took this way beyond our expectations (oh, hello, 20,000 Livestream viewers!), this all clearly became more than any of us could have hoped for. Add to that the fact that we were one of the first, if not THE first, education-specific TEDx, and, well, we've got a lot to think about if this becomes a yearly event.

Back to those concerns I mentioned earlier. What do we do to make this less of an echo chamber and really kick people into action? Borrowing some from recent NEIT ( tradition, maybe what we needed was a break from the TED talk/lecture format toward the Unconference model. What if, at the end of a day of exhilarating talks, we took some time to figure out what we wanted to do with all these ideas worth spreading next? I'm picturing a second "action day" of the conference where we essentially pitch ideas and let our interests guide the day. We all want to DO something with what we just took in, but what if we could actually sit in the same room, maintain those new connections, and work through some of our ideas, maybe getting some help in the process? What if, at the end of an amazing day, we had fifty TEDxNYED projects — real world projects that would bring some modicum of change to our institutions and communities, all under the conference umbrella? What if even ten of those were sustainable projects to work on until next year came around, when we held TEDxNYED v2.0? 

Is it too late for the TEDxNYED event that we just had? No! Continue to light up Twitter with the #TEDxNYED hashtag, add to the Facebook discussion groups, contribute to the wiki ( My hope is that at least something will get legs and we'll have a starting point for the conversation next year.