The Demands of Agentive Psychology

I had to laugh. Writing the title to this post, I found myself chuckling: “And you wonder why nobody reads the blog anymore…” Somehow stories of butchering pigs and flirting with soccer players in Paraguay just have more appeal than learning theory or political positing. Go figure.

A fascinating discussion with Richard Williams in our Learning Theory class finally helped solidify what is really required to embrace agentive psychology, to make the shift from an acquisitional model of learning to a participatory model–you’ve got to speak in verbs instead of nouns.

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Why I’m Not a Programmer

The wordpress codex has a little tagline at the bottom of every page that reads, “Code is Poetry.” Apparently, I am not a poet.

I know I said a couple months ago that I was repenting. I changed my mind. The reason is fairly straightforward: programming makes me feel stupid. Now there are a lot of ways to feel stupid, some of which I have of necessity embraced and even come to appreciate in my life. There’s the kind of feeling stupid that comes because you did something oafish, but usually that also comes with making someone laugh, so I’m okay with that. There’s the kind of feeling stupid that comes because you don’t know something you should know, but there are few better motivators for finding out, so I’m okay with that too. There’s the kind of feeling stupid that comes because after a long, stubborn fight, you find out you really are wrong, and that kind of feeling stupid is very, very good for me. Continue reading

I Love StoryCorps!

If today is one of those days when you just need to be reminded that laughter is good, life goes on and love is possible, take a couple minutes to hear Ben and Bernice talk about their first date back in 1946. Made my morning.

My Million Dollar Idea

Got stuck in the Mexico City airport for about 24 hours. Seems to happen to me more often than not. I crashed out pretty well on the overnight flight from Buenos Aires, and I it hit me right about as we landed that I had left.

In such a state, it truly seems like the whole airport system; from the distracted personnel who send you lugging your carry-on in circles around the crowded hallways for hours to the frigid tile floors to the fixed metal armrests breaking up every potential elevated sleeping surface, is conspiring to make one miserable. At least once during each of these experiences, I have nearly [if not actually] dissolved into tired, frustrated tears. What I wouldn’t have given for somewhere to lay down for a few hours!

The thing is, I’ve never been alone in this predicament. There always seem to be dozens, sometimes hundreds of somewhat-worse-for-wear businessmen, families, etc. resigning themselves to a very uncomfortable “delay.”

Call me crazy, but that looks for all the world like a market. Take one of the donut shops, or a couple of the little kiosks selling the exact same handicrafts right next to each other and turn them into a little oasis for stranded travelers. I’m not talking about a 5-star hotel here. Not even a 1-star. Just a cot with a foam pad, clean sheets and a blanket in a quiet corner where I don’t have to worry about keeping one arm around my bag and the other thrown over my eyes to block out the flickering fluorescent lights. The value-adds are no-brainers too: a toothbrush and washcloth, Tylenol, a clean towel and shower. Last night I would have dropped $60 for that without even flinching.
So, why hasn’t this happened yet?!
Maybe there’s some kind of hideous legal trap I missed. Maybe the profit margin would be too tight. Or maybe the thousands of exhausted, greasy, achy, frustrated travelers simply forget about it after a nice hot shower and a good nap.


As I seem to have finally convinced [most of] the students that “no” is not my version of playing hard to get, and the jugadores have been absent these two weeks, this is the only action I get around here:

[Really, Jessika, this is a delayed response to your request for more photos of me. Hope you like them!]

Was Blind, But Now I See.

I got glasses last weekend.

After weeks of leaning across aisles to whisper to classmates; “can you read that!?” months of feeling like a dolt because I couldn’t seem to figure out the street number intervals in Provo, and years of going to bed with a splitting headache any time I watched a movie, I finally went in for an eye exam.

The ophthalmologist [gotta love that silent “l”] made sure I still knew the alphabet, flicked dozens of corrections in front of my face for several minutes–changing everything from the aspect ratio to the contrast, resolution, angle and skew of my world [made me a little loopy, actually] and then, with obvious relish, led me to a big bay window overlooking the South face of Mount Timponogos. “This is what you’ve been missing.”

My prescription is a mild one–a gentle correction of a slight off-roundness of the cornea–but it has made an astonishing, and invigorating, difference.

The biggest change I’ve noticed is the heightened contrast my glasses provide. Though, logically, I know the amount of light spattering my cornea is the same as it ever was, the world seems a brighter…and a darker…place. The bark on young trees seems to split and peel one layer at a time, and the resulting creases mature to black crackled gouges in the trunks of older ones. Approaching headlights have contracted to piercing pin-points in an almost velvety blackness. My favorite red patent Mary Janes leave prints of a delicate flowering vine when I walk in new snow.

The sudden sharpening of a world I didn’t realize was blurred has left me probing other areas of life; testing my focus, squinting at distant decisions in the past and future, wondering what a little “vision” correction might change.

The Best Birthday Present Ever!

I had a birthday this week. Probably means I need to update my “about” blurb [something I still detest.] It also means that I got to open what might be my most anticipated gift since Kirsten my American Girl doll, Christmas morning of 1988.

Several days earlier, I was talking with some classmates at the Wednesday department “soup kitchen,” and voiced my enthusiasm for said perfect gift. Imagine my surprise when, instead of the delighted-if somewhat jealous-exclamations I anticipated, my enthusiasm was met with dumbfounded-if not pitying-stares and the awed pronouncement; “Wow, you really ARE a nerd.”

What was this perfect birthday gift which so thoroughly cemented my geekiness in the eyes of what I’d thought were kindred spirits?

A three volume, 18-pound copy of Merriam-Websters Third International Dictionary-Unabridged.

That dictionary has been the companion of my forays into the English language for as long as I can remember:

At least 70% of the questions posed to my father by a person under the age of 10 will be answered one of three ways; “I love you,” “17,” or “Go look it up.” I have vivid memories of [after the obligatory groan and my best 8-year-old attempt at rolling my eyes] dragging the volumes out one at a time [the one you needed was always on the bottom] the ends clunking to the ground because I could barely get my hands around the spine, let along hold the thing up, and singing through the alphabet several times through as I flipped page after crinkly gossamer page full of words like anachronism and polydactyl.

It would be generous to suggest I completed even half of those vocabulary quests. Some impossibly long word would catch my eye and send me skittering off after Latin roots and colloquial usages; erratic, forgetful, and utterly entranced.

Reading Evangeline in 4th grade I remember falling asleep pinned under the covers, one massive volume on each side of me and one splayed open across my chest. I also remember the first time I felt my imagination crackle and raw green paths open up like a new dimension from looking up a word I thought I already knew…[do youknow what a druid is?]

And so it’s gone.

That dictionary has provided revelation for a change of heart and the ammunition to win many an intellectual scuffle. I’ve found words I say to myself when I need a smile [try “persimmon,” it’s pretty much my favorite] and words that have defined emotions I thought might tear me apart. And though a professor recently told me definitions might be the best way to kill a reader’s interest in anything I have to say, just yesterday, I used my dictionary to start a paper and discovered that the Latin root of “application” means “a joining to” or “attaching to oneself.”

So, there it is, I am unabashedly, unequivocally, most likely irreversibly a word nerd, and my dictionary is the best birthday present ever!

“Honey, I’m Home!”

It’s the designer who creates a mark from the first icon that comes to mind for a company (needle and thread for a tailor, hammer for construction, etc.) and yet I’m forced to admit I’ve never seen anything like it–and it’s perfect.

It’s the musician whose song is so formulaic I can sing along the first time I hear it, yet when I find it on repeat in the back of my mind that afternoon, I don’t mind.

And finally, this weekend, I can say it’s me…

I had a lovely dinner party Sunday evening. I don’t know whether to be ashamed or unabashed about the fact that I entertain more for the sake of using my favorite stemware than the conversation or the company–but it was a lovely dinner. As such dinners inevitably do, this one produced a mountain of [hand-wash only] dishes which I didn’t even look at until several hours after my guests had gone home.

I’d tunneled a good distance through said mountain, up to my elbows in suds, when I suddenly caught my reflection [no joke] in the side of an overturned stock pot and realized I was washing dishes in high heels and pearls.

I–the 20-something, single, independent career woman who’s been called a feminist since she realized she was a girl and seldom spends more than 2 waking hours a day at home–was standing in the kitchen the quintessential image of a 1950’s housewife.

Dripping alone in my kitchen, I had a good laugh and on the wave of that thrill, I move forward with renewed faith that somewhere in my subconscious waits a capsizer of cliches, a refurbisher of the rhetorical, a transformer of the trite…a true creative genius.

#76… Check.

I inspired a poem! (and a pretty cool one at that!)

I think I was a buck-toothed, frizzy-haired, incurably romantic 13-year-old when I put that on the to-do list for my life. I’m still incurably romantic, but this bit of wit from Jed Platt (whom, by the way, I have never met but think I might like to) was just pure fun:

Striped syllables

Tone on tone




Like a triple scoop cone

SaraJoy and her amazing Technicolor vocabulary

Since launching this little adventure, I’ve had offers of tango lessons (in the Ukraine), personal tour guides in D.C., restaurants hiring waitstaff in Texas, and suggestions of several appropriate waterfalls (not to mention partners) for #19.

I guess it just goes to show that the power of synergy may truly be our greatest resource. In the words of Bloody Mary (whose voice in my head still carries the amplified dust signature of a half-century-old phonograph), “you got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”

Thanks, Jed.