Saturday, February 28, 2009


Photo of me, taken by (I believe) Rob Cornfeld, a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia. The photo is a high-resolution digital scan from a black and white negative taken in 1998.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Photo of a fellow teacher, Nangula, at a workshop in Namibia, where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1998 to 2000. Photo was taken in 1998 and is a high-resolution scan of a black and white negative.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Brukkaros, an extinct volano (actually, according to this site, the remains of a gigantic explosion 84 million years ago), viewed at sunset from just outside my house in Tses, Namibia in 1999.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Once again, three versions of the same photo. The first photo is a high-resolution scan of a color print I took in Namibia in 1998. The second is in black and white. The third is adjusted slightly. The subject is a random student (not one of mine) in Engela, a village in northern Namibia.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Going along with yesterday's post, here are three versions of the same photo. The first photo is a high-resolution scan of a color print I took in Namibia in 1998. The second is adjusted with higher exposure and sharpness. The third is in black and white. My favorite is the second. The subject is Tangeni (I think, some of the names have faded from my memory). He was my neighbor in Engela, which is a tiny village in northern Namibia.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Photography has been a hobby of mine since high school when I took a course in the developing and printing of black and white photos. One of the amazing things about the "digital age" is how quickly you can adjust photos. What used to take an hour or two in the darkroom can now be done in, literally, one or two minutes. I use iPhoto which, from what I understand, is an entry-level photo program. Yet, I am continually amazed at how easy it is to adjust photos and, in this case (I think) change a mediocre photo into a good one. Here are three versions of the same photo. The third (they uploaded in reverse order) is a high-resolution digital scan of a color print from a photo I took in Namibia in 1998. The second is the first adjustment I made, keeping the color. It took about 60 seconds. The first is the second adjustment I made, changing the original from color to black and white and changing the exposure and contrast levels. This took less than 60 seconds. The second one is my favorite. The photo is of Cameah, one of my favorite students from Engela, where I taught during my first year in the Peace Corps.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009


A recent photo I took while visiting teachers. This is an 8th grade student named Semeka.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


A recent photo I took while visiting teachers. This is an 8th grader named Precious.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Anders Ericsson is the basis of this article. Ericsson's research is on deliberate practice and how, with some narrow exceptions, there is no such thing as natural talent:

Ericsson's theories confound the beliefs of thousands of years. Now as Conradi eminent scholar at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he has been based since 1992, his basic argument is that there's probably no such thing as innate talent or, if there is, it's overrated. The only thing he will allow is that very occasionally certain physical gifts, such as height in a basketballer, will help. But in every other case, what's at work in such massive successes as golfer Woods is a complex cognitive process that pushes the body and mind to extraordinary heights.

And almost anyone can do it. He says with the careful syntax of a true boffin: "With the exception of the influence of height and body size in some sports, no characteristic of the brain or body has yet been shown to constrain an individual from reaching an expert level."

Deliberate practice, whether it's applied to sport or business or the arts, begins in the brain. This isn't a child doing an hour of piano scales every day while imagining the fun they will have afterwards. Instead, what makes someone spectacular in their field - and keeps them there - is training via a kind of focused, repetitive practice in which the subject is always monitoring his or her performance, correcting, experimenting, listening to immediate and constant feedback, and always pushing beyond what has already been achieved.

Ericsson's theory has enormous ramifications for parents, students, teachers and managers. It also puts the kybosh on the idea that critical feedback is damaging.

"If you're in an accepting world, then people don't develop or get better," he states. "They're in a kind of time warp." Of the way star performances often look so easy, he says: "For expert performers, there's always effort. Improvement is never effortless."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Gallup poll finds Mississippi the most religious state (second article here) in the nation. In general, the poll demonstrates a strong correlation between a high standard of living and and a lack of religion:

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 10 least religious countries studied include several with the world's highest living standards, including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Hong Kong, and Japan. (Several other countries on this list are former Soviet republics, places where the state suppressed religious expression for decades.)

Social scientists have noted that one thing that makes Americans distinctive is our high level of religiosity relative to other rich-world populations. Among 27 countries commonly seen as part of the developed world, the median proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is just 38%. From this perspective, the fact two-thirds of Americans respond this way makes us look extremely devout.

What's more, as Gallup's Frank Newport recently pointed out, there is wide regional variation in religiosity across the 50 American states. The proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is highest in Mississippi, at 85% -- a figure that is slightly higher than the worldwide median (among all countries, rich and poor). Two others, Alabama (82%) and South Carolina (80%) are on par with the worldwide median.

Why the OFF Matters

Nice blog post, "Why the Oxford Film Festival Mattes," by Eric Snider, one of the film critics who attended the festival:

Oxford just wrapped up its sixth edition, with 29 features and more than 50 shorts unspooling over the course of a long weekend at the local cineplex, and festival organizers say attendance has been steadily increasing with each passing year. It's easy for outsiders to assume that a festival in a small town -- especially, let's not beat around the bush here, one in Mississippi -- would be of little interest to average moviegoers, but that hasn't been the case. The screenings tend to be full, with students from Oxford's University of Mississippi comprising part of the audience, along with plenty of regular ol' local residents.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Film Fest Recap

Write-up of the Oxford Film Fest, courtesy of the Oxford Film Freak. Here are the winners:

Best Narrative Feature: Make-Out with Violence
Best Documentary Feature: Crude Independence
Best Narrative Short: The Wednesdays
Best Documentary Short: Mississippi Drug War Blues, the Cory Maye Story
Best Music Video: Crystal
Best Animated Short: Symphony
Best Experimental Film: Grand Wheel
Audience Award: Prom Night in Mississippi

More write-ups here and here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Everybody Be Cool, This is a Robbery...

Had a great time at the Oxford Film Fest this weekend ("Neshoba" was my favorite). At the awards ceremony, some recreations of famous movie scenes were shown. Here is the best:

Monday, February 02, 2009


Teaching 8th Grade English in Tses, Namibia, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1999.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Fiina Shimeneni, the Science teacher at St. Therese Junior Secondary School in Tses, Nambia. I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia from 1997 to 1999.