Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Blog 2013

Christmas tree
I am preparing to spend my 60th Christmas on this planet and hoping that you and yours are happy, healthy and content. I celebrated the BIG 60 by making an appointment with a local audiologist to have my hearing checked. Let’s just say that all that “aural abuse” from my past is starting to catch up with me. Not ready for hearing aids quite yet, but you’ll understand if I ask you to repeat yourself. Huh?

2013 was a year of ups and downs. I was one of the few who managed to successfully navigate It helped to be in the web design business as I knew a few tricks that allowed me to get through the site relatively unscathed. Oh, and my health insurance costs should be half of what I am paying now. Thank you, President Obama and the American taxpayers!

The other good news was a certain baseball team in Boston managed to go from last place last year to winning the World Series this year. They were no doubt aided in this by my continuous wearing of my Red Sox cap. Sorry, Mets fans.

But we had two significant losses this year. In August, we learned Uncle Dick Astles had made his final voyage and was now sailing with the angels. At a wonderful memorial a few weeks later I was able to re-connect with family as we had a grand time toasting the Good Captain. Making Uncle Dick laugh was one of my favorite activities. He will be missed.

A few weeks ago we lost Kathy Cogger who died from complications following an automobile accident. Kathy was the principal of the Jackson Elementary School in NH when I first met her in 1979. She, our close friend Bob Kautz, and I became a threesome on numerous adventures to Maritime Canada, including a memorable jaunt to Newfoundland. Kathy was also part of our regular golf threesome, known famously for hitting the ball short and straight while Bob and I spent our time searching for errant shots in the woods. Her funeral Mass in North Conway was filled with many a familiar face, all be they a bit more wrinkled now.

These sad events were balanced by glorious news that my first cousin, once-removed, Will and his lovely wife, Christine are expecting twins in February. God has an interesting way of providing symmetry.

I close by wishing you a Merry Christmas and a safe, happy and healthy New Year. May you and yours be filled with the Spirit of the Season!

Ho Ho


Sorry I've not posted...

I hate reading that statement in blogs. I'm inclined to respond with something snarky like, "You were not missed..."

[Lame excuse] Google wouldn't let me in with the old username (e-mail address) and password. Really. Seems they switched over to all Gmail/Google Accounts. This Blogger blog existed before Gmail.[/Lame Excuse]

If you can think of a better, or worse comeback than "You were not missed..." feel free to add to the comments. I sure it will be deserved.
Question marks

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Google Glasses?

Over the years numerous articles have been written showing how technologies envisioned by the sci-fi writers of the various Star Trek movies and TV shows have become everyday parts of our daily lives. The flip-cellphone that was once the "Communicator," the tablet computer that was show as various pieces of colorful plastic and of course most recently our own "speaking computer," Siri. There has been a lot of buzz about Google's latest invention, officially called Google Glass, that is basically a special set of eyeglasses that can communicate to the internet.

So was this one already invented on Star Trek?

I'll let you be the judge:

Wesley Crusher

Other star trek characters

Or was it really invented by Steve Martin in "The Jerk"?
Steve Martin in The Jerk

Friday, May 10, 2013

The News from Lake Woebegone

Welcome to Maine road sign
I think most Mainers are fairly familiar with Garrison Keeler’s mythical hometown from his weekly Prairie Home Companion radio show on Maine Public Radio. In the closing of each Lake Woebegone story he notes that it is the place where the “...women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are above average.”

Many Maine folks, like many rural folks around our country, think that Lake Woebegone could be their town, instantly recognizing people from their own communities who resemble the qualities of the cast of strange characters who inhabiting the small Minnesota town. It is a comforting feeling because the Lake Woebegone folks, despite their eccentricities, always seem to finally find a way to get along.

This pastoral image of Maine was rocked recently when the Governor of the State, Paul LePage and his Commissioner of Education, Steven Bowen published a State Report Card showing that indeed the children in many of Maine’s communities are...well, NOT “above average.”

Much has been written about the Maine School Performance Grading System in the press and elsewhere in recent days. Most of the comments I've read are pretty damming and many people have been rallying to support the teachers and schools in their communities particularly those in the communities that were, well let’s just say more below average than they would like.

Many years ago I used to reach Educational Tests and Measurements to pre-service teachers in several colleges in Maine and Pennsylvania. I also taught Educational Psychology in those same institutions and in all those courses we examined the problem with normative assessments and, in particular,  the use of grades based upon comparisons between or within groups. All of my hundreds of future teachers knew by the end of the semester of the fallacy of that old fashioned grading methodology. Indeed, I suspect just about everyone who has studied to become a teacher in the last 50 years has learned the same lesson which is: attempting to reduce human behavior to a simple five letter grading scale is just... well, plain stupid.

Clearly the governor and his commissioner of education never took my course.

The alternative to a normative, letter-grading system calls for the use of criterion-based assessment and the educational derivative of this is most commonly referred to as Standards-Based or Outcomes-Based Education. The movement to this methodology began in earnest in the US in the early 90s and Maine was one of the national leaders establishing a universal set of standards called The Maine Learning Results. In this method individuals are measures against a set of criterion. Basically you either meet or exceed the criterion or don’t meet the criterion. And if you don’t meet the criterion, you keep working at it until you do. Outcomes-based methods are designed to focus on continually teaching to master the criterion and not dwelling on comparing individuals with other individuals.

But we Americans, with our penchant for competitiveness don’t like to just PASS something, we NEED to be BETTER than everyone else; we NEED to BEAT the opposition. We NEED to all be “above average.” We NEED to be from Lake Woebegone.

But alas, we are only from Maine where, just like everyone else, about half of us are above average and half of us are not.

“And that’s the news from Lake Woebegone….”

Read about the Lake Woebegone Effect...

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by Web Fryer.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What Patriot's Day is really all about

We learned this poem when I was in elementary school. Not sure if we memorized the whole thing, but I remember significant chunks these 50 plus years later, so perhaps we did.

I just finished watching the proceeding at the Prayer Service in Boston this morning and moved by the sentiment. Please take a few moments and give this a read. Written April 19, 1860 by Portland Maine native Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882); first published in 1863 as part of "Tales of a Wayside Inn."

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

Paul Revere statue Boston
Paul Revere statue and Old North Church, Boston.
Image licensed through Creative Commons
by madprime.
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Retrieved from
Image licensed through Creative Commons
by madprime.

Friday, March 15, 2013


I never got Jean Shepherd's QSL card, although I asked for one...I got this instead which is probably better...

Autograph from Shep

'I Became a Catholic and Found Happiness'

This text was written by my father, Arnold Brandt in 1959 at the time he converted to Catholicism and just before he received the sacrament of Confirmation at the Church of St. Joseph on Pacific St.. It was published in The Tablet, the Catholic faith newspaper of Brooklyn. This article was transcribed from a yellowing proof version that I found among his possessions after his death in 1996. 

In one of his last acts as pope, Benedict XVI designated the Pacific Street church as co-cathedral of the Brooklyn Diocese – sharing responsibilities with the smaller St. James Cathedral Basilica in Downtown Brooklyn. The churches will house the chair of the bishop, and split duties hosting major diocesan events. Read more about this church in the NY Times...


Arnold E. Brandt

This coming Sunday, May 25 (1959), I will be one of the converts to be confirmed at St. Joseph's Church, Brooklyn. Last Saturday I received my first Holy Communion when my six-year-old daughter (Sigrid) received hers. Anyone who has received these Sacraments knows what a happy week this has been for my family and myself.

Both my parents were born in Sweden, but they were brought to this Country when they are quite young. Living in a small Connecticut city (Hartford), they first met when they joined with other young people of Scandinavian background in a program of building a new church. The church, of course, was Lutheran, because the Swedes have been Lutherans for many centuries.

My father (Eric Brandt) at one time had though of entering the Lutheran ministry. In preparation for entering a seminary, he finished two years of college. But then he decided not to go on for the ministry.

Worked for Government

The home in which I grew up with my brothers and sisters was a religious one, which mirrored the deep faith and devotion of both my parents. Sundays in my family mean attendance at church service. And among my earliest recollections are the small cookies, tasting vaguely perfume, which my thoughtful mother would slip from her purse, to quiet a small boy who sometimes squirmed in the pew when is concentration on the services began to waver.

My mother died the day after I graduated from high school (Hartford Public HS). With her death and my preoccupation with finding a career, I gradually drifted from any steady religious practice.

After moving from job to job, finally I was accepted for a government post in Washington, D.C. Anxious to improve myself, I applied for admission to Georgetown University while working in the capital. Previously my attempts to enter other schools had been frustrated by lack of money. The Jesuit Fathers at Georgetown raised no such barrier.

This new effort to continue my education was applauded in many quarters and, in particular, by one of my fellow workers (name?) who himself resigned to take "a better job." He entered the seminary and is now a priest.

War interrupted the cycle of work and education for me. After the war, however, I was back in the same pattern. As I continued At Georgetown, I learned a great deal about Catholicism.

Upon graduation, I received a very fine promotion on my job, which brought me from Washington to New York. My first date in New York was with a beautiful girl (Marcella) who worked in the same office. This wonderful girl was a graduate of a Catholic college. We continued to date. We often discussed religion. And I talked and talked over again about the Catholic Church.

Well, we were married by the priest (Rev. Philip Shannon). We have been blessed with three wonderful children.

Early in our married life we attended Mass together. But with the arrival of babies it seemed a pleasant arrangement for me to stay home and take care of the family while my wife went to church.

Our oldest girl entered a Catholic school. I was impressed with the training she is receiving. I knew that soon she would be receiving her first Holy Communion. I decided that I must receive mine along with her.

Accordingly, I made the special effort required to get to early Mass on Sundays, so that I still would be able to take care of the little ones when my wife would go later. I learned to follow the beautiful action of the Mass by use of a missal which my wife had given me. I read the Latin. A language which I first had been able to decipher almost forty years earlier when I stumbled across a Latin grammar among my father's old books.

Thought I already knew quite a bit about the Catholic religion, I realized that I still needed some systematic instruction. And so, I attended one of the instruction centers of the Diocesan Apostolate. Happily I became a Catholic in time to make my First Communion the same day my little girl received hers.

I have many friends who have been Catholics all their lives. I had to find my way in the Church for myself. With my heartfelt thanks to those many friends, who prayed for me, I now can tell them that at last I have found way into the Catholic Church. I have been helped to this complete conversion by the grace of God, the good example of my wife and the blessing of my children.