Monday, May 2, 2016

Short Story #383: The Nameless City by H. P. Lovecraft

Title:  The Nameless City 

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft

Summary:

Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The narrator explains that he was deep in the Araby desert, looking for the nameless city.  He finally stumbles upon it and begins to explore it.  The first day, he only gets a bit into the city before darkness comes and decides to exit the city for the night.  But the next day, he manages to explore the ruins and examines two temples.  These temples are strangely crafted with curious ornaments and features--often with short corridors to which he has to move hunched over in.  He finds another place that he can feel a wind emerging from, even though there are no winds elsewhere.  He decides to enter it and it descends and shifts for long distances.  Long after his torch has expired, he continues in darkness until he comes to one hallway where he is intrigued by the use of wood and glass in a city that is supposed to be ancient and before such craftsmanship.  He begins to see a glow in the far darkness and as he approaches he finds the walls covered with art of where humanoid bodies that look nothing like humans.  There are also bodies strewn about but nothing that seem human They have body parts resembling all sorts of animals and are bedecked inn beautiful clothing and jewels.  The paintings tell an epic tale of the civilization and the narrator convinces himself that these are not the real creatures but just representations of the real humans.  He continues to marvel at a civilization with such a rich history and even written language though they seem to predate Egypt by millennia.  But after long triumph, the story tells of decline and increasing disdain for the external world.  They begin to look internally and inwardly, moving into the earth rather than deal with the outside world.  All of this ends at door and he realizes something big lies beyond.  He sits and contemplates what his next step is to be.  He is once again struck with the fear he had of the city at night and this is followed by a moaning sound.  He relaxes when he begins to realize it is the strange wind that had attracted him into this space initially. but the wind is strong and causes him to feel like he is being pushed past the door into the strange abyss.  His fear is so strong that he cries out in fear.  The wind seems something beyond mere wind and he fears for his life.  He somehow survives but recognizes in the moments he was besieged by the wind there was something more demonic going on than just mere wind; something deep; something evil; something ancient.  As the wind hits its peak, he looks into the darkness beyond the doorway and sees a horde of the creatures to which he saw along the murals and before anything more can happen, the door shuts between him and the demon army.  


Reflection

What I really like about this tale is how Lovecraft brings us along with the narrator.  Overall, we believe him and feel like we get a court-side view of his exploits in this strange and unknown place.  His cautions seem legitimate--who wouldn't be at least a little uncomfortable in an ancient city in the middle of nowhere at night.  We distance ourselves a bit when he begins to describe some features and elements of the city--he attributes them to just strange worship practices but we know that doesn't seem likely, given this is Lovecraft.  But when the moment of true fear strikes, we feel like we are there with the (nameless) narrator trying to reconcile our logic with our instinct.  I also appreciate the Lovecraft doesn't allow us to see the actual monsters until the very end of the tale.  I also appreciate the idea of a nameless city.  A city so old and lost to history that its name is no longer known.

Rating:  4 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  I read this version  of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too).  However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Image of the Week #18: Will You? Won't You?

The Wellesley News (01-17-1918) Article 1

What Is It

An article from the Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, from the late 1910s. 


Why I Find It Interesting

I don't even know where to begin with this article.  I'm curious to know what "making too free with the sailors--just the edge of immoral conduct or just the road to it" means according to the author.  And exactly how has Hale House "coralled them"?  What kind of "legitimate wholesome form of amusement" do they plan to dispense with on Wednesday night for the ladies?  I enjoy pieces like these that hint at so much but tell you so little.  They can lead one to research the answer or become the cornerstones of interesting stories to be written.

This submission is part of the Image of the Week series.  For access to all photos, which are open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The PhD Chronicles #1: Acceptance...and acceptance.

By the time you read this, I'll have been in a PhD program for a year--so my "Acceptance" into a program isn't new by anyone's reckoning.  I'm publishing this a year later as I feel it will be an interesting experience to be reminded of my initial experiences well after they have been formed.  I think also as I begin to reflect on finishing my first year, it will give me some thoughts to see what my initial experience was.  

So, here is my letter of acceptance:


Acceptance letter

I am glad that I have been accepted into University of Massachusetts, Boston, PhD in Higher Education program.  I feel like it is the next step in my own development and understanding about higher education.  After all, I have spent 17 of the last 18 years in higher education either as a student, an instructor, or a professional staff member (or some form of up-to all 3 at times).  

However, I found this start a bit bumpy and problematic for a program that is supposed to be about "Higher Education."  

The Process
The initial application process appeared straightforward.  Yet I still encountered a few small issues that entailed me to contact the email that was listed on this page.  Sometimes, they were answered and sometimes they weren't.  Of the six emails I sent over six months from beginning of the application until the finish, I got two replies.  

I got my ducks in a row and applied.  The deadline was February 1st but I made sure to have all my documents in by early January.  I received a Doodle poll email on February 23rd for an interview in early March.  

I interviewed on Friday, March 6 and was told that I would be informed in early April about a decision.  They explained that things were delayed because of the snow storms that hit New England that February.  Early April came and I began checking the mailbox every day.  We passed April 10, which to me means it is no longer "early April."

On April 15th, I receive an email from the director, who said he wanted to talk on the phone and answer any questions that I might have and discuss next steps.  Interesting, but vague.  I replied to inquire if I had been accepted into the program as I hadn't received written confirmation yet.  (One of those emails to the Contact Us was about how I had changed my address in the interim between applying and interviewing).  

He said that my application was still under review.  It sounds strange and I wasn't the only one applying to this program that felt this way.  I went ahead with the phone call two days later where he did inform me that they were recommending me for the program, but that it would be Graduate Admissions that makes the final decision and sends out the acceptance letters.  

I was happy but without the actual confirmation, it still left me leery.  I informed him of the address change and emailed him right after the phone conversation thanking him and updating the address.  He told me that I should see the letter by April 27.  It showed up on April 29th.  It was delayed because it was sent to my old address.

The Experience
Much of this has been a somewhat disappointing introduction to the program.  This is program about the very institution that creates the program--it's meta in many ways and thus far, it reminds me of my experience with my Instructional Design degree.  It doesn't demonstrate what it preaches.  

The first issue is the failure of email responses.  Missing one I can understand but four out of six seems problematic. 

The second issue is the delay.  I got actual confirmation for the program on April 29 for a program that I had to commit to for the first three weeks in June.  There's a lot of planning and work that needs to be done to prepare for the program and to prepare for the absence from work.  Added to this is that with each day that passes, my belief that I would be accepted wavered.  

The final issue was the address on my acceptance letter.  What was the point of sending the updated address to the director?  That was sent on April 17--5 days before the acceptance letter was printed.  

Reflection
In the big picture, these are small issues but they are enough to make me a bit more skeptical about the program.  I am excited about the program for lots of reasons but these small indications of a program that can't do what it's suppose to do best does set off the spidey-sense.  


Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Sweet Tooth, Vol. 6: Wild Game

Sweet Tooth, Vol. 6: Wild Game Sweet Tooth, Vol. 6: Wild Game by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The end of this series (Sweet Tooth) was a bittersweet. It was an enjoyable, quirky, and intriguing story that reminds me why I try to read everything that he contributes to. It's a post-apocalyptic story with an adoptive father and destine-born strange child, but Lemire still manages to make it engaging and curious.

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand

The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand by Lee LeFever
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many are familiar with LeFever even if they may not think they are. He is the leader of CommonCraft which produces those great videos about technology "in plain English." This book provides a breakdown of exactly how they manage to create such accessible and easy-to-understand explanations of complicated and interesting topics. It's highly useful in that he provides a good set of tools to help the reader reconsider how one would properly explain things. He shows that we often think we are great at explain but very rarely are we as successful as we like to think we are. I found that it would be quite useful not just for "idea, products and services" but also for teaching.

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Article Summary #17: Performance Gaps between Online and Face-to-Face Courses: Differences across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas

Citation: Xu, D., & Jaggars, S. S. (2014). Performance Gaps between Online and Face-to-Face Courses: Differences across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas. Journal Of Higher Education, 85(5), 633-659.
Word cloud of the article: Performance Gaps between Online and Face-to-Face Courses

Summary: This article assessed the performance gap between F2F and online courses along ethnicity, gender, age, study, and academic preparation.  The authors used a dataset of 500,000 online and F2F courses and 40,000 students from Washington State's community college system. The results showed that enrollment patterns vary according to subject area (higher in humanities and social sciences, lower in sciences, math, and engineering).  The performance gap between online and F2F courses according to subject area was also identified, though education, mass communication, and health and physical education were not significant.  The authors revealed a 3% gap in completion and .20 difference in grades of the courses.  All subgroups studied showed negative outcomes in the online environment, but the size varied; men did worse than women and African Americans did worse than Asian-American students.  Older students did slightly poorer in F2F courses but slightly better in online courses than younger (24 and below) students.  Students with more academic preparation and stronger GPAs had less of a performance gap in online courses. Overall, the research suggests that gaps in the F2F are further extended in the online realm.  They recommend three possible approaches to address the gap:  screening, early warning, and scaffolding within courses.

Keywords: online education, nontraditional student, community college, access, performance gap, f2f vs online




Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Short Story #382: The Other Gods by H. P. Lovecraft

Title:  The Other Gods 

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft

Summary:

Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The story begins by describing how the gods love to gather on mountain tops but that man has continually chased them away in an attempt to see them.  Finally, they have found the last and highest mountain, Kadath,  far removed so they can gather.  But Barzai the Wise, a prophet of Ulthar has finally determined not only where the gods gather but the best time to approach the mountain to witness the gods.  With the help of Atal, the high priest, they journey forward to the mountain and set to scale mountain.  The climb is treacherous but the elderly Barzai climbs it with energy and excitement.  Atal follows but the distance increasingly lengthens.  As they get above the cloud line, Atal can only hear Barzai and his fervor as he gets closer to the peak.  At one point, the orientation of the mountain changes and it feels almost as if they are no longer scaling up but going down.  It's at this point that Barzai proclaims he is close to seeing the gods gather and dance.  However, his hysteria turns to horror as he encounters the Other Gods, the gods of hell who protect the gods of earth in the mountain.  He cries in terror as he claims to be falling into the sky.  He is never heard from again and Atal returns.  Later, when there is no eclipse and it is a clear day, the men of Ulthar and elsewhere scale the mountain looking for Barzai and find nothing but a large stone symbol that also appears in the Pnakotic Manuscripts.


Reflection

It's a curious but simple tale warning to beware of the gods.  We never fully get attached to Barzai or Atal and therefore, their loss is interesting but not meaningful.  It feels a bit short and underdeveloped as tales go.  Lovecraft seems too interested in weaving a mythology for his readers--which is important and useful across his texts but in this one, the lack of real emotional pull toward the two men means what they experience seems less compelling.   

Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  I read this version  of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too).  However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Image of the Week #17: Prometheus UnPunned

The Wellesley News (05-27-1920)

What Is It

A joke from the Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, from the late 1910s. 


Why I Find It Interesting

I love me a good pun.  I remember always liking bad jokes but it was the language teacher in sixth grade who introduced me to the word, "pun."  I can't remember his name, but he gave us a potpourri of languages so that we could decide which language we wanted to pursue in 7th and 8th grade.  He took a particular liking/disliking to me since I was (to no one's surprise) a bit of a smart-ass.  After one remark, he made me go home and find out what "pun" means and I've been using it ever sense.  So, present me with a pun, and I'll be your new best friend.  Make that pun a reference to Frankenstein and it's like hitting triple word score on Scrabble (or Words With Friends for you, youngin's).  


This submission is part of the Image of the Week series.  For access to all photos, which are open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Reflections from Changing Lives Through Literature

In my two most recent sessions of Changing Lives Through Literature, I decided to have the participants do a reflection that I often do in my college courses that I teach.  On the last meeting, I asked all the participants to write a letter to themselves.  However, this wasn't a letter to their present self--but to the person they were months prior on our first meeting.  It's an interesting experience to watch participants struggle through this question and think about the ways they have (or haven't) connected with what's gone on in the course.  I also asked them to indicate if they would allow me to share out their letters (anonymously) to show other people their experiences.  While I will share them here in this blog post for others to read and appreciate, my favorite use of them is to show them to the participants in the next group as they get to hear from people at the other end at the very beginning. 

word cloud of post on changing lives through literature
It's a great exercise in coming full circle and feel free to use it with your group or in any other context. 

In reading the responses, I was so impressed with some of the different ways people embraced the experience and also in how they wanted to emphasize that change to themselves.  It's a pretty strong reward as a facilitator to seen the participants being such strong advocates. 

Participant #1
Hey, what's up!

You are going to enjoy it.  You need to be open to change.  You can't judge a book by its cover.  The stories need to be given a chance.  Don't be afraid and give them a chance.  I found myself reading the stories two or three times and learning a new thing every reread. Enjoy it!  It is not like school.  Plus you get $150 remitted off your fees.  Best of luck!

Participant #2
Dear Me

Hey man, how's life?  I just want to write to you to give you some advice about this course that I've taken.  It's called Changing Lives Through Literature.  It's a great class.  I have learned so many different skills in reading with the different stories and how to compare it to you and how it compares in life.  I will say, this class will give you a brand new view in life, like people have to go through difference obstacles just to get through or not get through the situation.  I will say, this class will change your life. 

Participant #3
Before class I was too quick to judge by not thinking before I acted.  Things just kind of ran together in my mind without though.  Over the course of the program, I realized a lot if I just thought things out.  The structure of the program also helped me think in a way where I can put things together a lot better in my head and my life has improved for the better.  If this was offered to me earlier on in life, things would have been different dramatically.  It will definitely last a lifetime with decision making. 

Participant #4
As I write this it is too late for me but maybe not for you.  Be aware of the various opinions and observations of the others in the class are not how you experienced the stories.  They all saw and felt something different.  They had and saw different things. 
            I was frustrated and wondered are they all blind or just different people who see and feel differently.  Does everyone experience everything so differently?

Participant #5
There are benefits to this class aside from the reduced probation time and fees.  Be sure to read each selection well in advance and be sure to reflect on the stories before class.  Think about how the different literary tools are used so you have plenty of points to bring up during the weekly discussions.

Participant #6
Please be as open-minded as you possibly can and consider where you yourself have been before placing judgment on things or people.  You can change and you can better yourself.  Even if it's small steps you take to progress towards chance, you are being pro-active in what you need to do. 
            Also and finally, advocate for yourself and ask for the help and resources if you need it.  Stay positive!

Participant #7
Dear Self,

This course is very helpful to be a part of.  It will help being in a group and sharing your thoughts with others as you discuss the readings assigned.  It will be fun to share in conversation about the readings and find others' opinions and ideas.  It will also help to open your mind through different characters in the stories and see through their struggles.  It will help you be more mindful about the days of your life as you move forward. 

Participant #8
Don't be so nervous and scared to be around new people.  It won't be as difficult as you may be thinking - stop thinking that everyone will judge you on what you have to say.  Realize what a great feeling it will be on your last day of class that you actually did it and followed through with a commitment.

Participant #9
Dear Me,

While recovering and thinking back on these 12 weeks of "Changing Lives Through Literature" I feel like a new individual.  This class is liberating, fun, and challenging but worth it all.  Please try hard and read twice, think deeper into the text; why and where and how are great questions to ask no matter what text, story or novel you are reading.  Try to have an open mind and enjoy.  I DID! XOXO

Participant #10
Dear Self,

Please come into this with a completely open mind.  That everything you know--everything you think you know best about--leave it at the door.  Be prepared to explore things about yourself you don't know anything about.  Be prepared to not always be right or that your opinion or ideas are not always right or the only way.  Be kind and generous to everyone you experiencing the adventure with.  That even when you think you are not able to relate to some of the stories or that they are so farfetched from who you are or what you have lived--changes are you haven't looked deep enough at yourself - so be open and willing to listen and learn from the stories and everyone in the class. 




Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: Elric of Melniboné

Elric of Melniboné Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So if you search through my Goodreads books, there is a good amount of fantasy in there but I had never picked up Moorcock's work. I actually liked this one and am tempted to read a few more. It's nothing great or inspiring but it had good progression to it--it didn't linger to long (I'm looking at you, late Robert Jordan). It reminded me a lot (for obvious reasons) of the DragonLance and Forgotten Realms series.

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.