Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Depressing Awesome-ness!

A quick suggestion:  Listen to France's Deathspell Omega and check out this thread on Slashdot.  It will be awesome.  Maybe a little depressing, but mostly awesome.  I've thoroughly enjoyed the last 45 minutes of my life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Readicide by Kelly Gallagher

Books written about research in education tend to follow the pattern of describing a major issue that everyone is already talking about, presenting some statistics that make the problem seem worse, and then describing ways that teachers can, in the classroom, deal with said problem.  Gallagher does not stray from this pattern in even the slightest way.

I like that he presents clear classroom practices that promise to increase students' frequency and quality of independent reading.  I also like that these methods are all things that used to be more common in public schools and that he explains why we have gotten away from them and why we need to go back to them.  I've been talking to teachers in my school about the research Gallagher presents, and will be trying many of his suggestions in the coming school year.

Unfortunately the world needs more than that.

I do not like that this book is written for an audience of only teachers.  If we believe that there are problems in education in America that we can effectively address, we have to also recognize that teachers are no longer the decision makers in education.  We failed to hold on to that power decades ago.  Gallagher briefly describes some ways of talking administrators into supporting more pro-reading policies on a classroom level, but no place does he adress those administrators directly.  We do not need more books written to help teachers manage the shitty reality of our profession.  We need books written to empower teachers to improve the state of education outside of the confines of our classrooms and help policy makers (who are not teachers and do not read education research) and politicians understand what they are doing that is hurting the learning of our children in this country.  Your governor, your local legislature, and probably even your school board does not understand why the policies that they mandate do nothing to improve anything, and this book will not help them in any way.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cheatin' on y'all

So I play in this band called Wormrider, and this band called Wormrider has a blog.  I just posted to it earlier today.  The post is about a fan re-edit of the Dune movie.  I curse a lot in it.  Also I say mean things about George Lucas.  It's funny.  You should read it.  Then you should start listening to my band.  That's all the advice that I have for today.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Preach it, cousin!

My awesome wife just found a blog called Adulting that gets at what I'm trying to get at, only better.  I am now a fan of the words that this person types!

In particular, I recommend this post, which sums up everything of substance that I have ever uttered in front of any student of mine. It is also the lesson that I may never fully learn myself, no matter how hard I try.  I'm getting there, though.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

I spent the entirety of this book waffling back and forth between hating it for being a clumsy wad of misogyny and loving it for being a well-crafted picture of a misogynist society.  The jerks who wrote it lured me through the whole thing.  Damn them!

I love the hell out of some classic sci-fi, but I am fully tired of books where every male character is a bro who struts around flexing and winning at big-dick competitions and every female character swoons, cries, and makes silly woman-decisions.  For frig's sake, the book was written in the mid-seventies.  That crap was well-out of style by that point.

I'll give Niven and Pounelle some credit for neat aliens, though.  I liked the aliens.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mmmmm . . . Tasty death metal

For some reason this makes lesson planning go so much more smoothly.  I think it's the blast beats.  I'm a sucker for fast drums.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

I remember this PBS series from when I was a kid. The shots of space and interviews with well spoken scientists stuck with me as I grew up and had a continued casual interest in physics and astronomy. While neither of these academic disciplines were ever my strong suit I still like to read up on the Hubble Space Telescope and whatever NASA is up to these days.

Sagan's companion to the TV series goes much further than what I remember. I did not expect the spiritual direction in which he takes the big ideas in science that he presents. The book presents the love of science that has driven humanity to continue to ask questions of the universe around us. I found this book to be as informative in its exploration of learning and inquiry as it is about the actual findings concerning the universe. It presents a truly awesome view of the universe that even delves into the way that we can use our knowledge of the physical world to live better social and spiritual lives. Good freakin' stuff!

I'm strongly considering pulling some excerpts from Cosmos to teach next year as part of a non-fiction unit.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach

It is a well-known fact that I love the hell out of books by and about people who are bat-poop crazy.

Rokeach's account of his 1959-1961 social-psychology research using three paranoid schizophrenics all with Messianic delusions stands out, though.  Much of the text is copy of letters written by the patients to people who don't actually exist, and the rest is Rokeach's commentary that, towards the end of the book, begins to have serious second thoughts about the ethics and validity of what he is doing with these three men.  Throughout he does an amazing job of keeping his subjects human and not caricatures of mental illness presented only for our entertainment.  On the occasions when I laughed, it was at the humor and insight that the men showed, and not at their unfortunate situations.

Nice morally heavy stuff that includes serious discussion of how Madam Yeti Woman may actually be a hermaphroditic Great God Morpho married to a man named Doktor Dung.  Wonderful stuff!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

Meh.  The easiest way to retain a reader is to set your story in an already rich, beloved, and iconic world.  Maguire's Wicked Years books are most interesting in that they re-imagine Oz from the perspective of an adult who understands politics.  I enjoy going back to a world that I loved as child and being reminded that there must have been some nastiness going on below the surface, so I read this and Wicked.  I think I'm done now.

Plot-wise and character-wise Son of a Witch does absolutely nothing of real value.  All the characters feel stock, even though only a small handfull appeared in L. Frank Baum's novels.  The plot was meandering and largely pointless, each event acting to drive a dull protagonist with an overly fractured personality.  It feels like Liir is the center of the universe, though the universe can't seem to flow around him in any one direction for long.  The sequence in the Emerald City prison would have made a hell of a short story, but the rest is largely fluff.  I get that teenagers feel buffeted about and without direction, but Maguire overdoes it by miles.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut rejects suspense.  I'm okay with that.  His books are good practice for being an old man resigned to the insignificance of one human life on a grand scale and the insignificance of all else on a local scale.  I'm okay with that, too.

Monday, January 9, 2012

In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw

What a twisted little book! DeLeeuw starts out with the tried and true practice of horrifying his readers with innocent children experiencing deeply disturbing events (something very common in most of our experiences) and moves on from there. I expected very few of the plot twists (except for the big reveal at the end, but it didn't lose much of the impact just because I saw it coming) and thoroughly enjoyed the unsettling mood. Good stuff!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I Guess I'm Supposed to Do This Yearly

I'm now sitting on a small backlog of books that I'd like to review and some topics I'd like to discuss on this here blog thing.  Today will probably not be the day that I get to them.  I have many times resolved to pay more attention to my blog (not because I believe that I have many avid readers, but just as a journalling exercise) and it, like most New Year's resolutions, has never quite panned out.

This year I'm not resolving to blog more.  I'll work on that gradually and create better habits as I go.  With sustained effort and intrinsic motivation I'll make better writing practices a more constant part of my life.

Back to resolutions, this year I'm resolving to let the water run while I brush my teeth and leave the lights on when I leave the room.  When the resolution practice fails to encourage me to do these things, I will have kicked two bad habits and made the world a slightly more energy-efficient place to be.

Happy living, folks.