30.12.06

Neither/nor

I scored 33. What about you?

Do You Believe?

Believers tend to do awful things. Non-believers tend to allow awful things to continue to happen.
I read that over at Done with Mirrors and thought, "amen."

It's part of an on-going argument/discussion I have with Thing Two. He's adament in his belief that Faith - firm faith in a God, that is - is bad. It leads to Ugly Things (like Crusades, jihad, Inquisitions, genocide). The world, he claims, will be better off when Faith dies out.

I disagree.

Yes, some people of faith do bad things. Awful things. But it's not the faith that's bad or awful. It's interpretation, it's fear of "otherness", it's the "stuff" that gets tacked on. And, as is pointed out here, it's not just religious faith that's "bad", it's anything that provokes strong feelings and emotions.

Let's not blame faith in any of its varieties. And let's not decide that passionate faith is bad and wrong. Moderation can be just as bad as too much... or nothing at all.

29.12.06

Oh please

City to Ford: Drop Dead
"In honor of former President Gerald Ford, federal offices, courts, and post offices will be CLOSED on Tuesday, January 2. The NY Stock Exchange and NASDAQ will also be closed. However, City and state government offices, courts, and schools will be OPEN on Tuesday."--New York City Web site, Dec. 29
(þ: OpinionJournal)

For 2007



In the year 2007 I resolve to:
Bring back disco.



Get your resolution here.


(þ: Oached Pish - and if you knew my class in prep school, you'd know how a propos this one is!)

28.12.06

Just couldn't resist

The problem with socks

I got this great pair of socks for Christmas. They're soft, and thick, and warm. I can't feel the cold tiling in my cottage through them when I forget to put my slippers on as I run to the bathroom. If I knew where to get them, I'd buy pairs for my mother and other friends! Simply wonderful, right?

Almost. I have Raynaud's. So now I have these wonderfully warm, incredible socks over my still-freezing toes. At least The Boys (and Things One and Two) won't have to feel the ice cubes at the ends of my feet.

Anyone got a nosewarmer and gloves?

27.12.06

I'm Gerald Ford... and you're not.

My favorite memory of President Ford? His total take-down of Chevy Chase:
May I say to Cary that I really enjoyed his performance as master of ceremonies. I liked his style, I liked the way he did it, but let me contrast it to a master of ceremonies of a program that I attended last night. It was the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Broadcasters Association in Washington, D.C., and I was one of the guests. And they had as their master of ceremonies a young star on television called Chevy Chase. I don't know how many of you know him, but he has moved up very, very rapidly in the television business. He has a show on Saturday nights at 11:30, and the principal theme of his performance is mimicking me. [Laughter]

And he struck on a responsive chord a few months ago when there were some comments concerning my alleged clumsiness, and he has made a pretty good profession out of it. [Laughter] But, anyhow, last night, when he was introduced, there was a big audience in Washington, D.C., and he makes his entry down a center aisle and he stumbles all over as he finally gets up to the rostrum here, and he falls and, well, it goes on for about 5 minutes or more--it seemed like an hour. [Laughter]

But we were prepared for him. And if I may take a minute, we had some suspicion that he might do just this. So, we had a false tablecloth sitting where I Was sitting, and he was on the other side during the evening meal, and we had two of those big coffee urns filled with silver--knives, forks, and spoons--and as I got up following his very complimentary introduction, I pulled the tablecloth and all this fell down and made a lot of clatter and made a big hullabaloo.

And then I came to the podium and I had my speech book, and I had it on top with about 40 or 50 pages, and I put my speech book down like this, and I put the other things up like this, and then they all went down like that. [Laughter] I hope I did not throw away your notes.

And then I turned to Chevy Chase and said, "Chevy, you are a very, very, very funny suburb." And I concluded with saying, "I'm Gerald Ford and you're not." [Laughter]
R.I.P, Mr. President

(ps - if anyone can find video of this... I've tried, but it just ain't around!)

What I got...

I'm so lucky this year! My gifts are nearly perfect. So, what'd I get?

Not a bad haul... and no real strain on Mt. Bookpile. So, what'd you get?

ETA: Wooden cooking utensils - how could I forget?!

22.12.06

Breathe

Dave highlighted the 10 Events of the Edublog Year and then Joyce commented (in italics)
8. Burnout This year any number of people in the edubloggosphere discovered that reading 1302 blogs everyday in your bloglines account is not going to cut your grass, read the latest Harry Potter novel or take your husband out to dinner. The sale of replacement delete keys soared as people hacked and slashed their RSS readers down to a reasonable 200 blogs.

I thought I was obsessed with keeping up with cool and effective learning ideas before this blog/2.0 thing started, now I am crazed. More than ever before, I ignore the cleaning, my beloved professional journals, the stack of books on my night table. Unlike the more advanced of my blogger pals, I have yet to abuse my own delete key. A resolution of ‘07?
Walt Crawford and I have been saying this all along. Good to know others are starting to follow suit.

Dave also warns about Google:
3. Google. This year we discovered that google is trying to take over my desktop. Trying to crush my desktop in fact. On last years list we predicted that the web based app was going to rule 2006, we didn’t expect them to all come from one company. Expect breakfast.google.com and ‘google university’ in 2007.
which Joyce doesn't quite see as significant
Dave, I am not as upset about this as you are. My desktop isn’t crushed. I am not married to Google, but as long as it gives me cool, useful tools and powers, we’ll keep dating. I am always open to other callers.
My concerns are ones of privacy, the algorithm Larry Page created for link ranking,and, well, privacy.

So, faithful Lazyreaders, the resolution for 2007? Less time on-line, and less time with Google. And more time for Mt. Bookpile. Same as last year.

Still shopping?

31 Reasons Why Books Make The Best Presents

1. Books don't need to be assembled before being given.
2. Books don't need batteries.
3. Books never come in the wrong color or size.
4. Books don't need to be serviced by a dealer.
5. Books don't need spare parts.
6. Books are easier to wrap than footballs.
7. Books that are good will hold a child's attention longer than any toy will.
8. Books look good with any decor.
9. Books can be taken to grandparents house for special times together.
10. Books don't need watering or fertilizing.
11. Books can take you back in time or into the future.
12. Books are easy and cheap to mail.
13. Books don't irritate your allergies.
14. Books don't go out of style.
15. Books don't get aphids or draw ants.
16. Books can take the reader places without paying expensive airfares.
17. Books don't bark or need to be walked in the middle of the night.
18. Books don't stretch, shrink, or fade.
19. Books don't need extension cords.
20. Books will entertain future generation as much they do the present reader.
21. Books don't cause cavities.
22. Books can make you smarter.
23. Books won't scratch the coffee table.
24. Books don't get stale before they arrive.
25. Books never need ironing.
26. Books can be taken to school without being confiscated by teachers.
27. Books don't have zippers that break.
28. Books don't hurt when you step on them in the middle of the night.
29. Books can be used over and over by many people.
30. When you are finished with a book, it is not empty.
31. A book is a gift you can open again, and again, and again.

Open the door to a lifetime of learning. Give a great book!

Bah Humbug

For those of you not in a Happy Seasonal Mood:

21.12.06

Empathetic, moi?

Sites and Soundbites mentioned this article, which claims that
  • People who frequently read narrative fiction scored higher on tests of both empathy (the ability to understand and identify with another person's feelings) and social acumen (the ability to make quick judgments of people and situations).
  • Frequent reading of non-fiction was associated with poorer empathy and social acumen.
I'm not sure I agree. Reading - looking at words on a page - is not the equilvalent of seeing a face or hearing a tone of voice. In other words, how can you tell from the writen text that someone is really angry or sad, except that the author tells you. Perhaps the researchers got the results they did because those that tend to read narrative fiction are empathetic to begin with, rather than (as they seem to claim) learning or strengthening that skill by reading.

I would also venture that the type of reading one does makes a difference. Reading purely genre fiction might lead one to read into things more than others - always seeing conspiracies, crimes or passion where it doesn't actually exist.

And what about those of us that read both?

18.12.06

Grumpy Old Men

Redstone. Murdoch.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Notable Quotes

Wesley: If what? If you achieve a moment of perfect happiness?
Angel: I turn back into Angelus, and we don't want that. . . What?
Wesley: Ninety nine point nine nine nine ad infinitum percent of the best relationships in the recorded history of the world have had to make do with acceptable happiness.

Imponderables

Over on About Last Night, Terry recommends a number of stocking-stuffer CDs. I won't tell you which ones I fancied (TTIW is clue enough) but this caught my eye:
(the original-cast album of the 2005 Broadway revival)
Hee.

16.12.06

One big happy?

Lulu's here until after Christmas. We know what that means. Right?

Imponderables

A fence-building company in Southern California agrees to pay nearly $5 million in fines for hiring illegal immigrants. Two executives from the company may also serve jail time. The Golden State Fence Company's work includes some of the border fence between San Diego and Mexico. (Emphasis mine.)
It's being reported everywhere, including on NPR. Why don't they just ask the workers to stay on the Mexican side of the fence? Wouldn't be a problem then... right?

15.12.06

Links Galore

14.12.06

"School of" writing

Paintings are often classified as "school of [great painter/city/era]", and the same applies to books. Yes, we have genre classifications, but within the genre is -- sometimes -- a school. The most popular today seems to be "School of Da Vinci Code", despite several of the books being written prior to DVC's publication.

Last night I read The Minotaur, which was "School of Jane Eyre". It even paid hommage to its mother, and older stepsister Rebecca: "Unlike Thornfield, unlike Manderley, those mansions of fiction, most of the house survived the fire." Now, I don't mind the obvious parallels in plot - or the deviations from the theme - but this? Please. Don't insult your readers with the "mansions of fiction" crap.

A better book, this time "School of The Other" (or something like that) was The Thirteenth Tale. That's not to say it was great, and the creepy factor is certainly greater in Minotaur, but I liked it more.

Off to see what's next on Mt. Bookpile.

13.12.06

It's Broke. Let's fix it.

Peter R. Kann writes about ten trends in the mass media that ought to bother us:
  • The blurring of the lines between journalism and entertainment
  • The blurring of lines between news and opinion
  • The blending of news and advertising, sponsorships or other commercial relationships
  • The problems and pitfalls inherent in pack journalism
  • The issue of conflict and context
  • The exaggerated tendency toward pessimism
  • The growing media fascination with the bizarre, the perverse and the pathological--John Mark Karr journalism
  • Social orthodoxy, or political correctness
  • The media's short attention span
  • The matter of power
We often hear that today's students do not read newspapers, do not watch "real" news - is it any wonder? How can we have an informed citizenry when the above problems exist and are getting worse? I have a difficult enough time trying to teach my students about bias on websites and in the media - let's fix this. Our country deserves better. So do future generations.

11.12.06

Google Bombing

A few posts ago I wrote about Google Bombing (based on Chris' post). Joyce had some thoughts about it as well.

Today I read EdCompBlog's post
Try entering the query:

What is the answer to life the universe and everything?

into Google. (Note - no quotation marks!)
It's a beautiful thing, isn't it?

Notable Quotes

He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it, hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart.
C S Lewis

10.12.06

Meeting Musings

Someone on one of my e-lists pointed out this blog, and this post struck me. As we Quakers say, it spoke to my condition. It's one of the reasons I've become a very sporadic attender at my local Meeting:
Now I live in a part of the country where a different conception of the ministry exists. Around here, there is little sense that Friends speak from a divine unction or inward motion of Christ Jesus. In fact, around here the idea that Jesus directs people to speak in worship is mostly considered to be a minority opinion rather than a critical element of testing a leading. There are many exceptions, to be sure.

Recently I attended a meeting in which I was very uneasy with what one person stated during the worship. I have grown accustomed to people in liberal meetings outlining their own opinions or using worship time for autobiography or trying to figure out whether there really is a divine Creator. Any of these types of messages is acceptable around here but not in Ohio. One might question: if it takes a divine leading to speak in meeting, how can one speak on the topic of why (s)he has not decided yet if God exists?
Oddly, the Quakers at my Meeting are very vocally angry about things: the current government, the red/blue state divide, anyone that doesn't believe as they do about going green, Darfur, in other words, the panoply of Current Liberal Causes. Are these messages really "led" or are they given because we are (supposedly) an accepting, agreeing audience?

This also ties in to conversations I've had with two teachers at MPOW. They teach a course called Practicing History, and part of that is decoding paintings that are part of an era. Of course, you can't do that without going into religious art - it's such a huge part of Western Culture. The problem is that today, more and more children are being raised in secular homes without being exposed to "basic" concepts (like, who Mary is, or how important Abraham was). So much of their teaching is, in a sense, remedial. Usually I'm not one to agree with the whole Cultural Literacy idea, but in some cases it just seems critical.

People of faith - any faith - are not necessarily evil or weird. That seems to be the East Coast idea however, and over expressions of that faith are to be avoided (oddly enough, even in a Meeting). Perhaps more eldering, and education, is needed for everyone.

9.12.06

BlogBeta

Well, it finally happened. I got to transfer this blog to BloggerBeta, which allows (apparently) for better templates and - more important - tags.

Changed the template: not sure about the nautical motif but I like the spareness of it.

Tags will be forthcoming, slowly. I hope it doesn't mean that all the posts newly tagged then appear in people's RSS feeders as updates. I just hate it when that happens.

Culture Vulture (part 2)

My next jaunt was to Chicago, home of the SLJSummit and Chicago Shakespeare Company. Having seen Rose Rage , I was anxious to see more. Luckily, two productions were in town when I was there, Two Noble Kinsmen and Hamlet.

I'd never really heard of TNK, much less read, studied or seen it. Hamlet, of course, I'd seen several times (including the Kenneth Branagh performance for the RSC). What's interesting about both is that they have two main female characters, one of whom must choose between loves and the other who goes nuts. TNK is considered a "collaboration" between Shakespeare and Fletcher, but what that means exactly I don't know. Was this a true collaboration? Did Fletcher fill in blanks? Was it a V.C. Andrews thing? Who knows? It ultimately doesn't matter. It's a good play, albeit short (about 90 minutes). The "nutty" female role in TNK is a much larger than that of Ophelia, which makes it interesting.

As a matter of fact, the Jailer's Daughter's madness was so much easier for me to believe than Ophelia's. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I just never bought O's going nuts because Hamlet was so nasty to her. It's always felt much more like a hormonal adolescent depression than anything else, which is pretty universal and understandable but the outcome just never rang true. The only way I'd believe Ophelia's descent is if she was unstable to begin with, but that's never the way the character is portrayed.

Anyway, the space in which TNK was performed is interesting. It's a small space, with minimal wings - almost a black box. For this production, the stage was dominated by the jail structure, which slid in and out and around to great effect. I liked the minimal scenery, because you could really concentrate on the performances. And the boxer briefs that the Two Kinsmen wore throughout most of the first act.

Hamlet is a tragedy, right? Well, not all the time. There's humor in the script, and this production brought that out. No, it wasn't played for laughs and wasn't slapstick, it just acknowledged that there were moments there that helped relieve the tension. With the exception of Claudius (who managed to mumble many of his lines) the cast was wonderful. Again, there was minimal scenery, but there was lots of fog (particularly when the Ghost was around). With the exception of Ophelia (see above) this was one of the most realistic productions I've seen: less declaiming, less Drama, more "truth" to the scenario.

So, basically, if you ever get to Chicago and have time to see a CSC performance, I don't think you'll go wrong.

No real Culture for a while: next stop, Seattle Opera's Don Giovanni in January.

6.12.06

Compulsions

It's that time of the year: Best Books (in genres, in age groups, in you pick the category/criteria). Waterboro Library has a nice round up here.

This got me thinking about the Little Professor's recent post about "must keep on" authors. She then goes on to ponder the related phenomenon of "must keep on tv".
[P]eople who feel obligated to press on, dutifully or otherwise, with a television series or a film franchise--even though they announce to the world at regular (and, to be honest, aggravating) intervals that said series or franchise is relentlessly bad. Unbelievably awful. Mind-blowingly terrible. (Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, as the King of Siam likes to say.) Thus, people trooped off to see the second and third Star Wars prequels because, goshdurnit, they had invested themselves in this story; just because the execution left something to be desired (a lot to be desired...) didn't mean that they were going to act like the proverbial rats. Similarly, when television shows go off the rails, die-hard fans may rant and rave, but they'll grimly announce that they're sticking it out until the bitter end...
Bringing it back to books, she writes
To what extent does this sense of self-imposed obligation extend to the written word? Do people feel that they have a ball-and-chain connecting them to a given author--or, perhaps, to a given series? For example, do longtime fans feel that they must pick up the latest Pern or Xanth novel?
Given that the plethora of lists touting the New/Best of the year have "repeat" authors, it seemed like a good time to examine my own thoughts on the topic.

As we know, I have many books by the same author in The Collection (and some authors are also on Mt. Bookpile). Does that mean I automatically purchase their books without thinking? No. Particularly in the area of genre fiction (mystery, sci-fi) it depends on the series and the author. One mystery author has a series that is teetering: there was a 'bad patch' of a couple of books, then a mediocre book, then a couple of good ones. I'm sticking with this, but this is not necessarily a Must Read Author. Another few authors are Avoid The New Book authors because they've declined in quality. It's not a hard-and-fast rule for me: sometimes, the subject matter just does not appeal. Other times, well, I'd read anything they wrote.**

I feel the same about tv. Several series I'll stick with "until the bitter end" (no names, because they were truly awful series!). Many, including some real "what do you mean you didn't watch that" shows, I've dropped after the first couple of seasons because the charm of the start got lost. This is particularly true of a gimmick show (about, say, Nothing) that gets too self-aware. And there are certain movies I won't go to, unless dragged, because I just don't care about seeing the next [your favorite director/series/actor] here. I'll even fake being violently ill to avoid certain actors/directors.

You?

(** this freedom of choice does not include books that I Must Read for work reasons. Let's just say I'm very very happy that a certain series about a boy wizard with a facial scar is ending soon)

4.12.06

Notable Quotes

The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer.

Alice Wellington Rollins, Bits and Pieces

3.12.06

Good friends, good times, good tidings

Yesterday I drove 4 hours to St Michael's, Maryland for a tree-trimming party. This was at the house of a friend from high school, someone I've known for far too long! Two others joined us, and we drank lots of wine and talked and ate and enjoyed each other's company.

After dinner, we went to Midnight Madness, a St. Michael's tradition. In this very-much tourist trade oriented town, the stores generally close for the winter months. To get rid of inventory and have one last blast, they put items on sale for the last weeks of the year and on the first Saturday night in December, they stay open until close to midnight. One of the draws is that with each purchase, you can get raffle tickets (biggest prize is $1000 in "St. Michael's Money"). At 11:30p the crowd gathers and everyone waits to see who's won which gift basket.

It's such a great small town tradition. I know several small towns that could benefit from something similar. My friend has also created a great tradition: time for friends to gather and celebrate the many years we've known each other, as well as to have some fun shopping for those stocking stuffers and "oh wow, --- would love this" gifts.

Here's to many more such gatherings, for all of us.

Will I be watching?

The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines airs tonight. I know many librarians were unhappy with the first one (me included). However... the hope of watching Bob Newhart save the day, again, as a Marine (complete with "Semper Fi" quotation) may just be enough of a draw.

1.12.06

Bias vs. Personal Philosophy

A while ago, Cam challenged my biases, asking if they weren't really "critical opinions, carefully come by." In pondering that, it seemed that they formed the basis for a personal philosophy (not entirely expanded upon here. Then I read this.

So, which is it?

1,000

That's 1000 posts. Believe it or not.

That's


Page Loads Unique Visitors First Time Visitors Returning Visitors
Total 21,675 15,539 12,386 3,153
Daily Average 25 18 14 4

according to my stat counter, with the last 1000 coming from 33 countries. (I know that some of the "first time" visitors are actually returns, but they've blocked cookies: I'm more impressed with the fact that there's been 21,000+ page loads. And the fact that seven of you return and return and return.) Of course, if you're reading this on an RSS feed, you're not counted but your support is appreciated just the same. Clearly, not your average blog.

In honor of this occasion(?), I've spruced up the sidebar. And, since it's holiday Gift Giving time, The Things I Want has been updated. Not for me, you understand, but in case you need inspiration in giving to others.

Links Galore