The Genius of PJ Harvey, John Donne and Daniel Bassill

I dedicate this post to John Donne, PJ Harvey and Daniel Bassill.

I posted yesterday in a fit of confusion. I think that was my point. I wanted to share how fine the line is between noise and signal. Once the balance has been tipped toward noise it can be overwhelming to pull back from that event horizon. Similar to finding a signal on a crystal radio with a cat’s whisker.  Unfortunately, I forgot to make clear to my audience that this was a purposeful step into the madness and that I had Ariadne’s thread attached to me as I descended into the Labyrinth to meet the bull. My safety line was poetry. It has always been a powerful connecting force for me in the struggle to fine tune the noise into a signal. Daniel’s response was so honest, so true, so generous.

Well, you’ve certainly made my Friday afternoon pretty depressing.

I am sorry to have done so. What follows, however,  in his continuing comment is an object lesson in filtering the chaos and standing up straight in the face of the approaching storm.

I met with a man in Chicago yesterday, who has been successful in business, and has started one successful mentoring program and is launching a new one. As we talked and I described how we can show program design on web sites and educate potential donors and partners, he tuned me out saying “CEOs won’t take time to look at that. It’s one-on-one relationships and salesmanship that will generate their support.” Previous to that meeting I’d tuned into this conversation on Linked in, talking about how “conversation” with donors needs to replace the “Pitch, or elevator speech”. You can see my comments.

Then yesterday afternoon 3o-40 people were gathered at a meeting talking about building a “STEM program ecosystem” in Chicago. The person paid to facilitate the project spoke about goals and vision for about 30 minutes, and pointed to work being done to build similar ecosystems in other cities. She ended that part of her presentation, saying, “None of us has the time to dig into that web site, but it’s pretty informative” .

Instead of encouraging people to find time to dig through the information she pretty much said “don’t try”.

Thus, your illustrations of how much noise is flooding our on-line lives, just reinforces how difficult it is to build an on-line community of learners focused on solving difficult problems.

Thanks. Just to add to your clutter, here’s a blog article I posted earlier today focusing on building on-line communities.

It pretty much says, “I know it’s difficult, but if we don’t try we’ll never find a way.”

I’m overwhelmed that you can look at so much, and find time to create your videos and share them on your blog. I think you have a full time job, a farm, a family.

We still only have 24 hours in each day.

Keep adding your drops of observation into this ocean of ideas and distractions.

Indeed, none of us is or can be alone.  Which brings me to one of my favorite metaphysical writers, John Donne, and favorite performer, PJ Harvey.  In the video below we see her coming to terms with the British exit from the European Union just like I did with my own chaos–with poetry

And here is my small ‘response’ to what I viewed as a ‘call’ from her:



pablo (74)

If you want to follow the lyrics and annotate them try here on Genius. It is fun to be a part of the main.

And just to give props to PJ Harvey I think she addresses the issue of immigration, of striving to join the “main” here in her song “The Wheel”


And again, the lyrics on Genius embedded below:

An Insurrection of Noise

Today’s post strays into a briar patch where only rabbits feel comfortable: the sense that the noise of the net is drowning the inner signal that is trying to get out of ourselves, our voice.

Here are five short screencasts that don’t even begin to scratch the high pressure stream of data that is my Internet life.


Chrome Address Bars

Happy Friends



And what about mobile apps and YouTube channels and Roku and Chromecast and…my question to you dear readers, “Is there any controlling this giant game of “Crack the Whip” or the feeling of being a wee child tethered on the end and losing his grip?

I hope you don’t listen and watch all of the vids above. Just scrub through them and let us think about what our tech hath wrought and what we might do about it if anything.

When I get confused I write poems.  They help settle the silt in the muddy glass of water. Here is one. It helped me find the signal.

Dragonfly in a Bucket

A dragonfly


in the sheep’s

water bucket.



It’s not dead.

I lift it

from the water

and hold it


to the sun.

I see.

Liminal Thinking and Ziggurats of Understanding

pablo (71)

Caulfield’s argument in favor of Jim Gray’s “liminal thinking” is very appealing but emotionally and cognitively a big leap.  Why should we spend our time and our social capital clamboring up somebody else’s ziggurat of understanding?  Personally, I am aware of how little my own model is the smallest of strange attractors.  I am OK with it, but small scale, part-time farming, the idea of usufruct, sustainable, minimum viable footprint, maximum return of fertility, ad infinitum…to call this “conservatism” is to radicalize that term.  It is a radically conservative idea that the land is the commons.  Or at least some of it.  We only are allowed the fruits.  It is even hard to say this without knowing the larger hypocrisies I am guilty (car, tractor, commute, growing meat animals for slaughter).

What conceivable value does this have for anyone other than my wife and me?  And the answer to that is “no one”. That harsh truth is borne out amongst most of my readership.  It is borne out in my own family.  No one wants at this point to carry on this model of thought by pushing it into the future another couple of generations. And we don’t have grandkids to proselytize.  Most people are not interested in climbing my model of understanding or even using the tools I have developed in applying my model into other areas of my life like teaching and learning.

I know I sound like a whinger here and have for awhile, but I have been advocating for slow consideration of others “farms” by taking walks in their “fields” for a number of years now, but I think I have come up with an personal insight into why this hasn’t worked: I am still viewing my colleagues’ model through my own filters. I have not considered throwing off my own personal blinders and become a liminal thinker.

Here is a very small way to begin to do that.  I have put Jim Gray’s video introducing “liminal thinking” on Vialogues and below where we can have at it. I am not sure what “having at it” means, but I think figuring out a way to shuck off as best we can enough of our personal biases, assumptions, and personal models of thought, that is the source of our way to adopt someone else’s model of thought at least temporarily. I don’t think Gray addresses what happens after we do that or as we do that, but that is probably something he is saving for his book, Liminal Thinking, which is not yet published. That’s ok, there is plenty on his website.

How to Be a Lovely Odd Duck 101

pablo (69)

pablo (70)

Heather Havrilesky   &  Mike Caulfield

I know there is a “fit” here somewhere.  Between these two posts. Between these seemingly disconnected pieces.  I want to jam them together. I want to, I want to, I want to.  Why?  My gut says that for me they need to go together and damn the rest of the puzzle. A good carpenter can always fudge the join, a great carpenter can do it so know one will ever know. But I want more than craft here.  I want truth and honor. Make it ugly if that is what it is.

The first post, an advice column in the Atlantic, “Ask Polly” by Heather Havrilevsky (I spelled it wrong above, damn), tries to help a writer through the rough patch, the perennial question, “Should I just give up on writing?”

I think this rings especially true for me as a blogger. I have written a series of posts for my local writing project.  They live inside the closed silo of Schoology, a platform I never would have chosen.  I have posted a dozen or so blog entries about tech pedagogy tools and strategies. Perhaps there are lots of lurkers?  That is a charitable view, but I doubt a single post has been read.  Schoology doesn’t allow analytics at that level so I have no way of knowing unless someone tweets or otherwise connects with me.

Part of me says it’s their loss, but another part argues, “What the hell! It’s my loss. My time, my attention, my work with no audience or attention.” Hence, the happy coincidence of this post.


pablo (66) pablo (65)

Good juju, yes?  Kind of like when you are pouring concrete and you are worried about bubble in the mix so you have a tool for vibrating out those bubbles so that the mix is strong.  I am revived.

Then I read Mike Caulfield’s geeky post about his promising new tool Wikity.  I tried to “get” this tool in a previous iteration, the Federated Wiki. Created by Ward Cunningham as the next logical step for his previous genius invention, the wiki, the federated wiki was an even more connected way to share.  Intellectually, I got it.  Technically? I didn’t get much past the trained monkey stage.

This post helped me finally get it.  Not all of it, but enough of it.  The key for me is this idea:

Tool for thinking, not expression. Wikity is meant as a way to make you smarter, more empathetic, more aware of complexity and connection. You put stuff on your site not to express something, but because it’s “useful to think with”.  By getting away from expression you also get away from the blinders (and occasional ugliness) being in persuasive mode comes with.

I am thinking that Mike and Heather are speaking the same truth but on different wavelengths.  Perhaps I can move them about so that they reinforce each other. To sum up: I think Heather suggests a ‘why’ to write and Mike suggests a ‘way’ to write.

So this is where I am.  I know it isn’t very far, but it gets me moving toward accepting my own internal motivations and voice as foundational and unassailable even by own inner critic (at least for now).  I call this the “Fuck everybody who disagrees. I am going to write if it kills me” POV.  Now how do I manifest that attitude with Wikity/federated wiki-style tools.  I think that federated wikis are the only tools that fit the ethos above.

No Title

No Description






Burnt Toast – KUNSTLER

William Howard Kunstler won’t go away and just can’t be dismissed as a total crank. Cranky, yes. Curmudgeon, yes. Wrong sometimes? Surely. Who ain’t?  But his observations below show me for the first time that the Clinton private email server is a big deal whether anything ‘bad’ happened or not.  The potential for impropriety is too grave, too likely when considering the dollar sums that Kunstler cites.


Burnt Toast – KUNSTLER

Support this blog by visiting Jim’s Patreon Page! At a most troubled moment in history, both major political parties appear set to nominate time-bomb candidates for president with a fair percentage chance of blowing up their own campaigns and the parties themselves.

The email issue won’t go away because it entails serious issues of racketeering in public office, not just niceties of security procedure. One of the Secretary of State’s duties is to approve weapons sales to foreign countries. During her three years at State, Hillary signed off on $165 billion worth of sales by private commercial arms contractors to Clinton Foundation foreign donors. On top of that was an additional $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that gave to the Clinton Foundation. It also happened that the weapons contractors themselves and companies connected financially to them made substantial donations to the Clinton foundation — and paid whopping speaking fees to Hillary’s husband ex-president Bill, during her years at State.

Have We Wasted Our Lives?

When I am considering big questions and even bigger decisions, I always call upon the unacknowledged legislators of my soul, poets.  And it is nearly accidental, but I grab an anthology of some kind and just open it up. Today I ran into my old mentor, James Wright. You can read it below or listen here.

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Poems are oracular? Are they breathy musings from eternity? Are they circuit breakers that having been tripped and flipped reconnect you to the mains power of the universe?

I think Wright turns the pathetic fallacy inside out.  If only I could get back to his country. My truth is that I did get back.

This morning I was seated on the swing with my best friend, Elaine. Drinking coffee. In much the same mood as Wright must have been.  The air was expectant and still, the deep mute of a hollar nested in the hills.  I knew what was going to happen. I knew that as the dawn sun arced across some mysterious angle that the first freshet of the morning would unstill the quiet. It did.  Except I heard it  before I saw it.  I heard the indescribable convection of the air rising and falling through the leaf cover all around me.  I have wasted my life thinking I understand.

The oracle speaks, but only to me. Go get your own damned oracle. Check out the one below.

Oblique Strategies

Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies card set reimplemented as a dynamic web page.

Good licks to all.

Eva Cassidy ~ What a Wonderful World (HQ) – YouTube

Saturday morning. Eva Cassidy sings Louis Armstrong’s already genius interpretation of “What a Wonderful World”. Makes me wanna live forever. Happy days to all.

Eva Cassidy ~ What a Wonderful World (HQ)

This song is far better known for the “louis Armstrong” version but i’m a big fan of “Eva Cassidy” and i just love her “live” version of this very nice song,and i was having a little chat last night with someone who was feeling a little down,and things are not always as bad as they at first seem and the world can sometimes be a nice place especially with people like yourself around.

Gamifying the Mess

I responded to Kevin’s post from June 3 by annotating with

Here is a screencast of my responses to his page:

Here is a screencast of the annotations and Kevin’s original post side-by-side with some play-by-play commentary:

Gamifying the Mess: A video response to Kevin Hodgson’s post

Uploaded by TERRY ELLIOTT on 2016-06-05.

I may be Captain Obvious here, but it is clear to me (as I also state in the YouTube just above here) that Kevin’s post is the ship and the annotations are the anchor. Or a better nautical term (both naval and aero) might be “trim tab”.  Buckminster Fuller brought me to a much finer understanding of this metaphor.

Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.

It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.

So I said, call me Trim Tab.

— Buckminster Fuller
Annotations are a trim tab for the larger ship of the text.  It is our way of pirating the post and hijacking the meaning.  All readers and writers are pirates.  Some of us are happily lost and some of us have equally happy destinations, but we are all pirates.  We just have to have a code, don’t we?

Pirates of The Caribbean

The Pirate Code