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During the day yesterday waves raced out of the southwest, and there were whitecaps on the water. By late afternoon the clouds and rain had passed, and sunlight glinted off gently swelling waves.

sunlight glinted off gently swelling waves

The late summer evening sunset was remarkable.

the sunset was remarkable

Today there is barely a breeze on the face of the deep, and a spirit verily hovers on the face of the water. A reflection of the forest on the western shore is smeared in various hues of green, pulled toward a shore of cattails and lily pads.

smeared in various hues of green

In the shallows beside the dock, a Bluegill just darted out of the shadows chased by a Bass. Beyond the drop-off, ripples just radiated from where a fish snapped at flea-flies who ventured too close. And a Great Blue Heron just launched itself out of hiding in the cluster of swamp roses near the dock, flapping its wings in prehistoric fashion, startling a fish offshore who (perhaps unwisely but in the event harmlessly) jumped.

Two nights ago tree fell in the woods. You couldn’t help but hear it. There was a snap, a creaking groan and then a clamorous crash. It was an Oak, and its trunk snapped far above the forest floor. A tree equal to its girth 30 feet up would have been a prize in any yard. Its wet dark green foliage now lies on the ground, mingled with that of Maples and Pines and Sassafras that it destroyed in its demise.

its trunk snapped far above the forest floor

The new hole in the canopy beckons to seedlings

the forest canopy beckons to seedlings

and White Pinelings

White Pinelings

and a nearby Beech that has been waiting decades for just this eventuality.

a Beech that has been waiting decades for just this eventuality

Perhaps you think I seek to taunt you with this, to stir feelings of envy. And perhaps it would just make things worse to tell you of the Robin in the trees by the lake’s edge sweetly singing to some far away partner in song. And of the Mourning Doves. And of the Peewee. And the Titmouses flitting in the branches of the White Pine trees.

But I am not trying to tease. I am just trying to tell you how it is up here on this lake in this woods on this marvelous, sunny day that I wish would never end.

Olivetti Praxis 48

It was because of poor penmanship. There were several of us who were evidently judged in need of intervention by virtue of how we wrote. Perhaps they will write more neatly if they see how neat things could be.

So several times a week, we were excused to a glass-walled room behind our fifth grade classroom where there were rows of scrumptious Olivetti Praxis 48 electric typewriters.

src: Wikipedia commons

The keys were labelled with green “frosting”. They were smooth and contoured and caressed your fingertips. And they had carriage return keys on both sides of the keyboard. I was in heaven. 

In the end my cursive did not improve, and as I recall, the experiment didn’t last very long — likely just a thesis for a graduate student at that long-since-shuttered laboratory school. Still, I did learn to touch type. 

Years later, when computers swept onto the scene, I remember remembering those twin carriage return keys. At first, I felt cheated that computer keyboards so obviously catered to the right-handed typists, and then I began to doubt my memory. Perhaps there had not been two carriage return keys after all.

This morning I finally looked for evidence. When I found the picture above, a flood of memories of using the machine instantly came back. And although the picture is tantalizing, it is ambiguous, since the keys in question are not labeled. But those are, I tell you, the two carriage return keys (as you can clearly see here), and now I know that my memory was not playing tricks.

Two carriage return keys. Imagine it. Oh the world that could have been.

Cashews and Pickles

She came into the room at the beginning of the sixth period final. It was the last exam of the year. But she was exempt, so I was surprised to see her.

“Here, Mr. Hasan,” she said. “Thank you,” her long dark hair framing a relaxed smile.

She handed me a card and then left for the cafeteria, where the exempt students were assembling. It was a long, sweet note that concluded with these words:

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m going to miss algebra. I hope your summer is full of cashews and pickles!

They know us really, really well.

The Abyss

“Remember,” I told them. “You have a week to get late homework to me. Anything later than that falls into the abyss.” 

I drew a picture. I attached it to the message. In class the next day, I taped it up in the front of the room.

don't throw your homework into the abyss

“What’s this?” I asked the students.

“The abyss,” someone said.

From this, and from the flood of late homework that arrived over the next few days, I think it’s fair to say they got the message.

Very Suspicious

It was the second day of final exams. The first period students were coming into the room. I was passing out the answer forms — half-sheets of paper with a box for each multiple choice answer.

This class never gets multiple choice tests. They didn’t know what to make of it.

“Is that all!?” one of them asked before he had even looked at the paper.

“No, it’s the answer sheet,” I said.

“How many problems?” he asked, evidently still not having looked at the paper which consisted of little more than 17 numbered boxes.

“Seventeen,” I said.

“Is that all?” someone else said in a tone of sincere surprise.

“Wait,” I said, turning toward them. “You mean you want me to put more problems on the test?”

“No, no, no!”

I looked down at my desk to take attendance.

“Very suspicious,” one of them mumbled. “Mr. Hasan giving a multiple choice test. Very suspicious.”

I don’t think so

He walked into the classroom after school. He had taken the final exam earlier in the day, and now he was here to make up a test he missed a long time ago.

“I have some news,” I said after he had walked past the students finishing overdue homework. 

He stiffened.

“You did well enough on the final that you’re passing.” 

He let out a long breath.

“Oh. That is good, good news.”

His face was covered in sweat, his eyes wide with relief.

“What do you want to do? Do you still want to take that other test?” 

He looked at me, paused a moment and then said, “I don’t think so.” 

Good decision.

Is It Ok if I…

It was the last day of algebra for him. We had been talking about his grade, and to his relief, he passed.

On his way out of the room, he stopped at the garbage can by the door. He was about to throw out the notes he had brought with him, notes about exponential functions and logarithms. Just the kind of stuff you’d throw away with glee, right?

He stopped short and looked in my direction.

“Um… is it ok if I…,” he said as he feigned tossing his handful of notes into the garbage.

I laughed.

“Yes, it’s fine. Have a good summer.”

Do Not Solve

Sometimes I give the students problems which are not problems at all. They only need to demonstrate that they know how to get started. In situations like these, their instructions will say something like, Set up a synthetic division problem for the following dividend and divisor. DO NOT SOLVE IT.

Inevitably someone will ask, “So Mr. Hasan, in problem #2, are we supposed to solve it?” Sadly, this would be the astute student who senses something is amiss. Most don’t read the instructions, and for them this kind of problem is a tricky trap.

I need to fix this. Or maybe I don’t.


On Friday I wore a sea green STS-125 short-sleeved shirt from when I worked in Houston. It’s one of my favorites, and I don’t wear it often, since I don’t want to wear it out. It dates me, but no one really knows that.

Alicia sits in the front row, and we often have mini-conversations when they are working on practice problems. 

“Mr. Hasan, you look good in green.” 

She didn’t ask about the embroidered Hubble emblem, but it made me happy, anyway.

“Thank you, Alicia.”

Victoria sits in the back row. She often has mini-conversations with Roberto when he comes back to sit with her when they are working on practice problems. She looked up when Alicia spoke.

“You have style Mr. Hasan,” she said.

I laughed. 

“But I don’t wear a tie.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” Victoria said. “You make it work.” 

And now I really laughed.

“You need to tell my wife that!” 

Sea Queen

“Do you want me to do your nails?” I heard her ask him.

They sit in the front row. I can hear the front row conversations.

“No,” he said. 

“Last year you let me,” she said.

He didn’t reply. 

“It is a nice color,” I said, looking over at the two of them.

“Sea Queen,” she said.

“No,” he said.