#it depends.

My new favorite hashtag once again applies today. On the surface, we might think 100% is always a go0d thing. It depends on the context. In baseball, for example, a 100% batting average is not only impossible, but suspect. In computer gaming, it’s not always required to achieve 100% to complete a game or a level. In fact, the game mechanic is intentionally short of 100% in order to feed the gamer’s addiction. Or a game may humorously record OVER 100% completion for any number of reasons. For example, achieving 100% may  be a consequence of a Fractional Winning Condition, where the game tells you you’ve obtained 100% of the necessary stuff when there is, in fact, more of it to collect.

Perfection is overrated. Striving for perfection usually isn’t, except when it’s actually damaging. Failure is essential for learning. “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.” I’ve blogged about this before.

The relevance to today is that I’ve “failed” to blog 100% of the days since I resumed. I missed yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving. Weirdly, I thought I had blogged, but I’d just fooled myself by posting so many pictures to Instagram and Facebook. I didn’t realize this until the morning after.

On the one hand, I was disappointed that, if my goal was to blog EVERY day, I’d have to start my count over again. On the other, I wouldn’t have chosen to do anything differently that day — we had such a fantastic family time at the Lakers game. So … *shrug* things happen.

Rather than characterize missing a day as a failure, I’m moving my goal posts. I now resolve to blog at least five, not seven, days a week, and to give myself some grace to make other choices for my time, such as enjoying my family or getting ahead in work or sleeping in for a change. To that end, I’ve also decided to stop numbering my posts. They’ll happen when they happen, and my calendar will record what days I’ve posted or not.

Gratitude in Action

Typical Thanksgiving Meal

What a lovely Thanksgiving Day! Despite some apprehension that the media focus on consumerism would overshadow the sentiment of Thanksgiving for me, I had a wonderful day with family after all. We actually cooked our traditional dinner for the four of us on Wednesday, then traveled on Thursday to grandfather’s house for a huge family buffet, board games, and lots of conversation and catching up. No parades or football, though, but they weren’t missed. Between the two meals, we hit all the standards in the photo above, including the Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Yum!

The day confirmed the wisdom of my intentionally living out the notion of “choice.” I’m striving to make the best choices possible in the moment based on the information available to me, then to move forward without regrets. And today’s choice was to limit screen time and focus on family. The result was all that annoying noise about Black Friday bargains faded away. I was really happy with my choice NOT to allow influences outside of myself to diminish my celebration of Thanksgiving.

Gratitude Journal: numerous studies confirm that the daily habit of “listing” what we’re grateful for can boost our immune systems and promote happiness and serenity. However, it seems that actively “practicing” gratitude yields even better results. So this is my commitment to do just that — gratitude in action. I’ll keep you posted….

Fibonacci Day

Fibonacci in nature

Fibonacci Day is 11/23. And any of us who are still around may experience 11/23/58. I’m a word nerd, but I love numbers, too. I wish I’d known about this commemoration earlier in my life. It’s so much cooler than May the Fourth.

The Fibonacci Sequence is the series of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, … in which the next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it. Making squares with these widths creates a lovely spiral that recurs throughout nature, from the center of a sunflower to the swirl of stars in a galaxy. One of my favorites is romanesco broccoli — looks beautiful and tastes yummy.

The Fibonacci Spiral is named after the 12th century Italian mathematician credited, perhaps wrongly, with “discovering” it when it had been documented much earlier. The sequence is closely tied to the Golden Ratio, another amazing pattern that appears in nature and in the most pleasing of human creations.

In my own life I have used the Fibonacci sequence when selecting and designing knitting patterns. I love the idea of connecting my interest to a concept so universal and long-lasting in our universe. https://mistrzwitold.com/how-nature-created-the-fibonacci-sequence-math-in-nature/ The sequence even manifests in literature. Which brings it full circle to this word nerd.

“Remembrance of Things Past”

Proust – AZ Quotes

As we approach Thanksgiving, a time in which family groups (including “Friendsgiving”) traditionally gather and often reminisce about former holidays and old times, I consider this quote from Proust particularly apt.

Through familiar tastes and smells, many families contentedly recreate beloved traditions; probably just as many can’t help but recreate painful experiences. Which is truly better: to selectively recall the past as rosier than the present or to un-sentimentally shed the old ways in favor of healthier practices?

On the concept of memory, one writer reflected,

“[Proust’s] novels were hugely influential on writers all over the world, in that they introduced the idea of writing about ‘streams of consciousness.’ Through Proust’s ubiquitous narrator, they relay in great detail not just what is perceived, but also what is remembered, and the repeated and constant links between perception and memory. Even those who have not read the novels are aware of the journey of memory on which the narrator goes when he tastes a madeleine dipped in tea; it has become ‘the Proustian moment’.”

I have many lovely memories of Thanksgiving, triggered poignantly by the smell of roast turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, and the tastes of rice-and-gravy and dark turkey meat. Because we’re Filipino, my mom also made Shrimp Pancit part of our tradition. I also remember rolling hundreds of Lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) when we hosted the extended family. We never had sweet potatoes with marshmallows (still sounds disgusting to me), and we had more Bibingka and Biko for dessert than any kind of pie.

I’m so looking forward to this coming week. Yum!

Note: Researching this quote took me down a wonderful rabbit hole. Proust’s original title in French, “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu,” translates more accurately to “In Search of Lost Time.” Those who care about nerdly accuracy should read this book review of a biography of C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Moncrieff translated Proust’s seven novels in the series almost as a “simultaneous translated, [and] …. inserted Proust into the English-speaking reader’s consciousness with a force that Proust’s contemporaries in continental languages never really got” (from “Why an imperfect version of Proust is a classic in English.“).

Rec Season

From Letters of Recommendation: School Counselor Edition

Letters of rec season seems endless. My early-action letters were due as early as October 1. Another batch was due November 15. A few are due December 1, and the majority are due January 1. In my district the first 15 are on the teacher. But at 30 we get a comp day. That’s only ever happened to me once when I had 31. 26 is close, but no cigar.

I understand that such letters are important and necessary. However, I wonder how helpful they really are in a world of expanding online footprints and identities revealed (or concealed) by social media. We hear of the occasional college admission withdrawn because of a compromising social media post. But most people are savvy enough now to delete them in advance or never post to begin with. On the other hand, how realistic is it for a teen today to have NO social media presence. Possible red flags there.

Wouldn’t it be more revealing to see a digital portfolio of a student’s work throughout high school? Why not provide as an option the submission of a personal website link? I know. Naysayers will point out how easy it is for a third-party to make the site. Isn’t that already true of “Personal Statements”? Witness the deep and broad Rick Singer scandal where fake credentials, including SAT test results and entire athletic careers, fooled the system.

But in an ideal world, the applicant should desire to present himself (sorry, I can’t say “themself”) as authentically as possible in order to find the best fit college, not necessarily the most prestigious. Why should we assume that must happen at age 18? Many students are opting to attend way more economical general ed community colleges before committing tens of thousands of dollars to “find themselves.” In my view, the happy trend to take a gap year between high school and college is growing, as is the notion of foregoing a college degree altogether.

As always, my point is that student choices about where and whether to go to college should be honored and not judged. And the choices should be their own. I recently met a banker and young mother who told of her childhood in rural China. Because of her “tiger mom,” she studied constantly, gained entry into the most rigorous schools, earned a scholarship to an American university, married an American, and now has a promising career. HOWEVER, she is quite bitter about her miserable, lost childhood. She was adamant that she would never subject her own children to similar stresses in the present for the sake of possible better future.

I’ll write my letters of rec cheerfully and hope they help my students widen their opportunities. But ultimately, I hope they make decisions that make them happy.

Taken too soon :(

Poster for Nerdtacular 2014

Yesterday a lovely and energetic woman whom I met at this event passed away from complications of surgery. She leaves behind a loving husband, young son, extended family, and a legion of friends in an online community we call the Tadpool. She touched so many lives with her humor and kindness — she will be sorely missed.

As I write this, I have in the background the streaming service called Disney+, the debut for which our little nerd community has been salivating. By weird coincidence, the hero of Aladdin has just made his third wish — to free the Genie — and I’m hearing Robin Williams’ voice declaring, “I’m free, I’m free.” Tears well up instantly, and it takes me a moment to connect the beloved actor’s struggle with depression and Dani’s very public battle with bipolar disease. Despite successfully vanquishing it at times through her writing and speaking, like all bipolar patients, she still suffered.

But now she’s free of earthly pain.

It’s too soon to process this loss. Nothing can prepare us for its suddenness. The last thing I want is to sound trite or superficial. So I’ll just stop for now. Rest in peace, sweet girl.

heart ripped out

NaNoWriMo and Community

#NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

Lots of events happen in November. Dia de los Muertos, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving, Movember. Did you know that November 12 is National Pizza with the Works Except for Anchovies Day? But, if commercial advertising is to be believed, the calendar actually jumps directly from Halloween to Christmas, skipping November entirely.

One of the best things about November, however, is NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. According to the website:

What Is NaNoWriMo?

It’s a website, a community, a wildly ambitious writing event — and so much more!

National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Now, each year on November 1, hundreds of thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand new novel. They enter the month as elementary school teachers, mechanics, or stay-at-home parents. They leave novelists.

My own experience over the years resulted in many fiction fits and starts, the first three chapters of a romance novel that earned second place in a conference in Texas, and about 80,000 words of mostly drivel that lives in my craft closet and on a floppy disk somewhere.

I’ve also relied on the the Young Writer’s Program section of NaNoWriMo to help students who are budding authors. Over the years, the Resources section for educators has grown, filled with “student workbooks, Common Core-aligned lesson plans, and a free classroom kit to help [teachers] inspire your kids before, during, and after November.” It also has content directed at parents and at students themselves.

The takeaway lesson from this and so many other November events is the power of COMMUNITY. Sure, the stereotyped starving artist labors in solitude in a cold garret. But NaNoWriMo proves how a supportive community enables anyone to produce authentic art. The website features pep talks from mentor authors, and so many blogs provide tips on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo, how to brainstorm plot and characters, how to blast through writer’s block, how to develop creative rituals and habits. I’ve met some great folks at Come Write In (see what they did there?!) events that take place at public libraries, coffee shops, hotel lounges (*cough The Grand Californian cough*), even PJ all-nighters on November 30 at huge venues like the Palace of Fine Arts in SF. Many of them are BYOJF (bring your own junk food), so there are tables of snacks and Monster drinks for any hour of the night. Having a (sort of) concrete deadline and knowing that an international group of kindred souls is cheering you on the the finish can inspire one to greatness.

Communities and friendly challenges exist online to support all kinds of creative endeavors, such as Inktober , Huevember, and #sketch50 for drawing, and NaBloPoMo back in the day for blog posting. Knitters had “Ravelympics,” a biennieal knitting “competition” whose deadlines coincide with the lighting and extinguishing of the Olympic torch, until ordered to cease-and-desist by the U.S. Olympics Committee. The event has been renamed The Ravellenic Games, but not until after the USOC angered 2 million Americans with pointy sticks. (For my lawyer friends, the legal implications are explained well in a scholarly journal and not even tongue-in-cheek by law professor Marcella David here.)

So go find YOUR community — don’t wait for November.


macbook pro turned off
Photo by Craig Dennis on Pexels.com

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is “turn it off and on again.” It applies to buggy technology, aging machinery, cranky children, weary teachers….

And dormant blogs. After over a year, I’m rebooting this one — my musings as a slightly left-leaning knitter, teacher, and geek. I began it in 2007, and restarted several times since then.

Here’s the double entendre explained. “Sing Surf Knit” are three verbs describing my approach to life. Their abbreviation — SSK — stands for a knitting stitch called slip-slip-knit, which combine two stitches into one that lean slightly to the left (which describes my politics as well as my favorite decrease stitch).

Sing — to give form to anything with elements of beauty and unique interpretation, spontaneously or with diligent practice, for both public and solitary enjoyment. I sing and cosplay.

Surf — to seek any optimum experience, acknowledging that every “wave” is different and that the next one can be even better than the last. I explore the internet and (used to) actually surf.

Knit — to use simple tools (needles and yarn) in a myriad of ways to create something homemade that can be practical as well as beautiful; to connect disparate elements into a new whole. I create garments and lessons.

So why resume now? There is nothing inherently remarkable about November 6,2019. But today I took to heart the message of another educator-blogger-publisher, Dave Burgess, in a post called “Why Am I Writing To You Today?” He argues for making and sticking to a commitment, such as writing every day or every week. He paraphrases Seth Godin, who “makes the essential point that once the commitment was made, it shifted his mindset from ‘Should I blog tomorrow?’ to ‘What will tomorrow’s blog say?'” 

I have so much I want to share! Some of it is easy to do — I converse with colleagues at my high school site; I present to groups of teachers at educational technology conferences; I describe what I do to friends. But the ideas with more long-term effect don’t fit easily into 280 characters on Twitter, or even 400 words in a blog post. So I expect, going forward, to use my blog to document my experiences, especially in the classroom, and to show how my ideas are developing .

I’m daily grateful for my experience almost exactly a year ago at the Google Innovation Academy in Copenhagen (aka DEN18) which gave me tools and guidance to scale up my ideas for innovation in education.

But that’s another blog post. Stay tuned!

A Libra Hits the Big Six-O


Tomorrow is my 60th birthday! And a work day. And my husband is out of town and my kids live on opposite coasts. And my siblings are in northern California while I live in southern California. In other words, my life is quite normal and good, thank you.

I’m not writing this because I feel sorry for myself for achieving another decade or being closer to the end of my life than the beginning. Quite the contrary. I feel incredibly blessed to be as happy — personally and professionally and spiritually — as I am.  To some, age 60 is a huge milestone. To me, today and tomorrow are both just normal, busy weekdays. I will commemorate my actual birthday multiple times over the next week, but I’m far from feeling the wistfulness that the media insists I should feel.

I’m a Libra — can you guess? I had to chuckle when re-reading the above because of the point-counterpoint / on the one hand and the other hand / this but that structure of it. Apparently, I’m always “balancing,” — in my diction, my thoughts, my activities, my approach to life. Right now I’m in a lovely, (probably fleeting) state of equilibrium.

In Inktober news, I have completed my Day 2 sketch on “division” only in pencil. I’ll post it when I’ve inked it in.

In the meantime, Happy October 3 today and Happy October 4 tomorrow!

“The Last Lecture” — Help People

As part of our unit on The Value of Life, my elective class called Contemporary Studies watched Randy Pausch’s lecture called “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Knowing he was dying of liver cancer, Pausch delivered a funny, moving, and inspirational talk on how to live a good life in which he described some highlights of his journey as a family man, a student and a professor. The best-selling book he published called The Last Lecture expands on the stories and lessons of his 75-minute speech. 

Pausch’s lecture contains so many meaningful lessons, but the one message that most resonated with me on this viewing was HELP PEOPLE. That’s a given in an educator’s job description, but it also describes an attitude for anyone in any profession or any role, including student. We can learn so much from connecting with others without expectation of personal gain. The beautiful irony is that, with that mindset, we often get back more than we give. Pausch calls that a “head fake” or indirect learning, where in the doing of a fun task we learn something difficult. My own beloved father Angelo Ozoa preached that lesson and lived it, as a doctor and community leader whose legacy includes an annual medical mission to needy areas in the Philippines. So go do what Randy and Angelo said — help people!