First Summer Post 2009

First post since school officially ended and I hope that you are all enjoying your summer. Of course it would be better with some good weather, but that’s what we get for living in New England. We can’t complain about the 4th of July weekend though because those days were absolutely fabulous and, yet here we are, just days after that and we are contending with hail storms and intermittent rain accompanied by dark and foreboding clouds. Well, while I hope the weather improves soon, it has given a reason for staying indoors, and with that time I have been reading reviews as I prepare a book order for next year.


As always, I would love to get feedback from everyone (teachers, students and parents). I am ordering from Perma-bound and Follet books, and while both companies make their catalogs available online, you must login to Follet before you can peruse their selection (sorry). The partial list that I have already prepared includes most of the titles from the current reading lists and some books that have been recommended by students and teachers. I can e-mail you a copy of my current list if you leave me your e-mail in the comments section below.


Besides reading reviews and ordering books, I have had some time to spare and of course, that means surfing on the web. One of the sites I keep returning to is TED Talks because I love listening to smart people talk, even when I don’t agree with (or sometimes understand) what they are saying. Here is a list of talks that I really enjoyed from their ever-expanding treasure trove. This is the third time that I have mentioned TED Talks on this site, but I don’t think I have repeated any recommendations. The descriptions are lifted from the TED Talks site, with my occasional commentary in red italics.


  • How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history: While news from Iran streams to the world, Clay Shirky shows how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics. An ongoing story that actually makes me think positively about the impact of real time, instant communication. Most times at HHS we are telling kids to put away their phones, when half a world away, they are using them to empower themselves.
  •  The world’s English mania: Jay Walker explains why two billion people around the world are trying to learn English. He shares photos and spine-tingling audio of Chinese students rehearsing English — “the world’s second language” — by the thousands. Another fascinating, and somewhat creepy, video that also made me think about the speech above. When news and video of the protests in Iran broke on television after the elections, I remember thinking that it was really interesting how many of the signs were written in English. The protesters knew that their audience would be world wide and they chose to express their message not in their native Farsi, nor in the most widely spoken language, Mandarin, but in English.
  •  Cultures at the far edge of the world: With stunning photos and stories, National Geographic Explorer Wade Davis celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the world’s indigenous cultures, which are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate. I recommend this video just because this guy would be great to travel with. Quite against the trend of the former video, this is the story of disappearing languages and “ways of being”. One of my favorite lines is, “Every language is an old growth forest of the mind.” I also found the notion of an ethno-sphere pretty interesting. Ethnosphere (n.) the sum total of all the thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations, intuitions, brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. Davis argues that the ethno-sphere is being degraded by the success of Western culture.
  • The fragile Earth in wide-angle: In this image-filled talk, Yann Arthus-Bertrand displays his three most recent projects on humanity and our habitat — stunning aerial photographs in his series “The Earth From Above,” personal interviews from around the globe featured in his web project “6 billion Others,” and his soon-to-be-released movie, “Home,” which documents human impact on the environment through breathtaking video. Beautiful pictures with a simple and devastating message, “We do not want to believe what we know.”
  • Are we in control of our decisions?: Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we’re not as rational as we think when we make decisions.
  • Why we think it’s OK to cheat and steal (sometimes): Behavioral economist Dan Ariely studies the bugs in our moral code: the hidden reasons we think it’s OK to cheat or steal (sometimes). Clever studies help make his point that we’re predictably irrational — and can be influenced in ways we can’t grasp.
  • Formula for changing math education: Someone always asks the math teacher, “Am I going to use calculus in real life?” And for most of us, says Arthur Benjamin, the answer is no. He offers a bold proposal on how to make math education relevant in the digital age. This is a short talk that I think our statistics teachers will certainly appreciate.
  • Mathemagic: In a lively show, mathemagician Arthur Benjamin races a team of calculators to figure out 3-digit squares, solves another massive mental equation and guesses a few birthdays. How does he do it? He’ll tell you. I thought I liked the first Arthur Benjamin video and his message for reforming math education, and then I saw this video which convinced me that this guy is an absolute freak. He is obviously a savant of some kind …. ridiculously amazing. What does he know about how the rest of us think?
  • Becoming Buddha — on the Web: In our hyperlinked world, we can know anything, anytime. And this mass enlightenment, says Buddhist scholar Bob Thurman, is our first step toward Buddha nature. Interesting conversation that has more to do with philosophy than with technology. A conversion of modern living and ancient enlightenment.

 Hope you find something interesting and thank you for stopping by.

 Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

About htwilson

born in brooklyn, raised in queens, massachusetts, that's where I be.
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