Friday, February 5, 2016

My Most Recent Reads - January 2016

January was another good month of reading.  Not great, but still I got through some good stuff.  I'm not totally in love with the readings this month.  Even the ones I selected, while I enjoyed, I found myself not as excited about these books as I have been with other titles of the previous few months.  

Tsundoku - leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books.
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
I really enjoyed reading this book.  It's a nice coffee-table book or just something to revisit.  Though I also feel like this could easily be a "word a day" calendar or a "word a day/week" app.  The illustrations were often cool and fun and the range of words offered were fascinating.  I had some issue sometimes with the font and script they used for definitions, but I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you are fascinated by language or art.  

Singers and Tales: Oral Tradition and the Roots of Literature by Michael Drout
I'm a huge fan of Drout's work.  This is his 8th or so Modern Scholar production and he's just a joy to listen to.  He's always excited and engaged with the course he is presenting and he has many different asides that make it feel like each lecture is a conversation.  This lecture series brings a lot of insight into oral tradition, what we assume about it, what it really is, and how it is different from and informs the written tradition.  What's great about Drout is that he covers a good range of literature and does his best to go beyond his own comfort zone of training to explore non-Western traditions of oral tradition.  

Here's my ongoing list of books read this year on GoodReads

BOOKS
  • Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
  • I Could Pee on This And Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano

AUDIOBOOKS
  • The Five Keys to Mindful Communication: Using Deep Listening and Mindful Speech to Strengthen Relationships, Heal Conflicts, and Accomplish Your Goals by Susan Gillis Chapman
  • Singers and Tales: Oral Tradition and the Roots of Literature by Michael Drout
  • NeuroLogic: The Brain's Hidden Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior by Eliezer Sternberg
  • The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
  • Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Orthberg
  • Spellsinger (Spellsinger, #1) by Alan Dean Foster
  • Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam

GRAPHIC NOVELS
  • Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 4 (Tokyo Ghoul, #4) by Sui Ishida
  • All-New X-Men Vol. 6: The Ultimate Adventure by Brian Michael Bendis
  • Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 3 (Tokyo Ghoul, #3) by Sui Ishida
  • Invisible Republic, Vol. 1 by Gabriel Hardman
  • Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 2 (Tokyo Ghoul, #2) by Sui Ishida
  • You Have Killed Me by Jamie Rich 
  • Naoki Urasawa's Monster, Volume 2 by Naoki Urasawa
  • Outcast, Vol. 2: A Vast And Unending Ruin by Robert Kirkman
  • The Divine by Asf Hanuka
  • Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 1 (Tokyo Ghoul, #1) by Sui Ishida
  • Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann



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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ruth's The Lost Boy threw me for a loop. I anticipated it to be just another graphic novel to enjoy but he craftily assembles a story that fits into the tradition of The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, or the Bridge to Terabithia. It is a typical fantasy coming-of-age story of a boy who moves into a house where he discovers that another boy has gone missing and gets entangled in finding out what happened to the "lost boy." I found the art and the story just well developed and engaging. I may have to go back and read some of his other stuff.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread— The Lessons from a New Science

Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread— The Lessons from a New Science Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread— The Lessons from a New Science by Alex Pentland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pentland paints a fascinating picture about the ways information moves in the world of big data and how we can use that to better understand how people act and influence one another. It's not the first book to talk about this idea but it does pull together the various research already done and the research he has done to understand the big underpinnings of this emerging science such as how to measure, how to understand cause, effect, and correlation in this new landscape. It's a great read that isn't too heavy but grounded in solid examples that can help people understand how new ways of knowing how people interact are emerging every day.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Article Summary #5: Digital Unity and Digital Divide: Surveying Alumni to Study Effects Of a Campus Laptop Initiative

Citation: Finn, S., & Inman, J. G. (2004). Digital Unity and Digital Divide: Surveying Alumni to Study Effects Of a Campus Laptop Initiative. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education (International Society For Technology In Education), 36(3), 297-317.

Word cloud of the article: Digital Unity and Digital Divide
Summary:  The authors examined Grove City College’s laptop distribution program by surveying the alumni class prior to the initiative start (control group), and two classes within the initiative (treatment groups) to explore the impact on their education, technological skills development, and preparedness for work. The survey (212 out of 600 returned) included questions addressing Kolb's Learning Style Inventory to understand overall learning styles with computers. Laptop initiative alumni were more positive about levels of campus technology, though all three groups were dissatisfied with the level of technology-supported classrooms.  Results relating to alumni's beliefs about the importance of technology has played in their professional lives was ambiguous. The results also indicated that the curriculum did not necessarily reflect the technological changes on campus. The authors explored gender differences in the computer usage, addressing a previously-established digital divide between men and women. The initiative did not change such divides in areas of spreadsheets, presentations software, the Internet, and computer games but notably decreased the difference in word-processing and email. The attempt to align learning styles with computer usage became more complicated with aligning fields of study with learning style scores, and computer usage with little significant results.  The initiative made students feel prepared for a technology-driven work life but it did not change teaching and learning. 

Keywords: Kolb’s Learning Style, laptop initiative, teaching with technology, learning with technology, initiative impact, survey, 



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Monday, February 1, 2016

Short Story #370: The Evil Clergyman by H. P. Lovecraft

Title:   The Evil Clergyman

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 is lead into a room by another man who explains he is not to touch the matchbox on the table and should just look around.  It is clear that the room held someone very troubling.  The narrator explores the attic room and sees various relics including a collection of magic books and other curious books.    The narrator ignores the advice of the man and touches the matchbox to ignite it.  Soon as he does, he notices another man, a strange man in clerical garb of the Anglican Church standing in the room--but the room is not quite the room, it feels like some surreal place.  Suddenly, the clergyman begins throwing his books into the fire and looks to a group of men who have also appeared and are dressed in clergy garbs.  The first man looks to them as they appear to decide something and then exit.  The first man begins to tie a noose and sets it up to hang himself.  The narrator steps forward at this point and the first man takes a devious interest in him.  Before the man can do anything to him, the narrator lifts up the matchbox, which strangely scares the first man  away.  After this altercation, the room returns to normal and the narrator goes back to the door entrance where people have gathered.  They see him and run in terror except for the man who guided him to the room.  This man tells the narrator to brace himself and brings him over to the mirror.  He explains that the narrator will need to leave the country and start a new life. When the narrator looks into the mirror, he sees that he has been transformed into the first clergyman he saw in the room. 


Reflection

This wasn't published until after his death and it was taken from a letter Lovecraft had written.  It feels a bit forced in that capacity and that's mostly because of the title.  Clearly, he didn't name it that as it feels too heavy handed and indeed, we're not really made to understand why the clergyman is evil.  While many of Lovecraft's titles has dark adjectives like horror or haunt, "evil" feels too easy for him.  Often, Lovecraft writes to the experience and feelings of the protagonist who is likely to feel horror or fear but rarely do his titles speak of "evil" or "bad".  Beyond that, the story is a standard switched identities tale though I'd be curious to see what they meant by a matchbox as it is not something I am familiar with--at least by the description and what I know to be a matchbox.    

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.


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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Image of the Week #5: Start Christmas Early!

The Wellesley News (11-13-1919)

What Is It

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


Why I Find It Interesting

We often talk about how Christmas seems so commercialized and how companies regularly try to push back the start of when they can advertise and nudge people to buy for the holidays.  This ad from November 13, 1919 shows that this is almost a century-old practice.  They even offer "Gift Cards."  Clearly, it's ads like these that remind me there is nothing new under the sun.


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.

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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human

Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human by Robert N. Minor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Minor's book is rather complex for the lay reader but extremely profound and useful for everyone as it identifies the elements of "straight culture" that reinforce a variety of expectations, demands, and problems in our culture. He teases out a variety of perceptions about how our culture pushes people towards being "straight." He's careful to distinguish between being heterosexual and being straight, seeing them as quite different. That is, heterosexuality is understood as the desire and attraction to members of the (perceived) opposite sex whereas "straight" is the ways that attraction is expected to be displayed. It's a powerful book that many could glean much from as it comes to how we understand our own and others sexuality.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: The Art of Darkness: Meditations on the Effect of Horror Fiction

The Art of Darkness: Meditations on the Effect of Horror Fiction The Art of Darkness: Meditations on the Effect of Horror Fiction by W J Renehan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Renehan provides a concise and clear discussion of horror and how it works. Drawing upon some of the greatest horror fiction and films as well as some of the best scholarship, he hits upon the major facets of horror. It's certainly a text I would consider for the next time I teach a horror-based course as it's brief but hits the major points that are worth noting about narrative that uses horror. It's a book I would recommend for anyone who doesn't get horror because Renehan breaks down the ideas that have long upheld horror into nice neat chapters.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Article Summary #4: The habitus of digital “strangers” in higher education

Citation: Czerniewicz, L., & Brown, C. (2013). The habitus of digital “strangers” in higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(1), 44-53. 

Word cloud of article: The habitus of digital “strangers” in higher education
Summary: This paper reported on phase three of ongoing research on “digital strangers” (college students under 22 lacking computer skills and out-of-school access), acquired through purposeful sampling for surveys and eventually, focus groups. The authors explored student's technological experience and usage through Bourdieu's concept of habitus, a frame that connects one's background with experiences to explicitly shape one's future. Since technology access impacts cultural and social capital, an absence of it, represents an absence of social and cultural capital. The group studied had access to cellphones but were rarely encouraged to view the cellphone as a learning tool. The authors illustrated that both within universities themselves and among students, the computer was given more respect than the phone (it holds symbolic and cultural value), though many functions can be completed on both.  Transference of skills and knowledge about the cellphone were typically not brought to the computer as participants first learned about and continued to use computers. The researchers advocated for institutions to optimize students' comfortability with phones to enhance learning and help students shift their cultural capital of their phones to computers. This report’s focus on transference still did not address the initial lack of access and skills. 

Keywordsdigital strangers, cultural capital, South Africa, transference, computer vs. cellphone, digital capital, habitus, Bourdieu



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Monday, January 25, 2016

Short Story #369: The Book by H. P. Lovecraft

Title:   The Book

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft

Summary:

Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The nameless first-person narrator encounters a book in an abandoned shack in the woods.  He can feel the menacing power of the book and is curious of it.  After he fails to sell it, he begins to explore it.  His first venture into the book changes the ways he sees the world.  He no longer just sees the normal world but other layers of mystery layered upon it.  This strange vision leads him to become more quiet and reserved as he begins to lose sense of where one begins and the other ends.  Later, he tries a ritual wherein he finds himself on an entirely different plane of existence and it is clear that there are dark things about as well as new knowledge to acquire.  In this world, he finds a city that he wishes to approach but as he does he is overcome with fear and awakes back in his room, realizing he has almost traversed into something from which he may not be able to return from. 


Reflection

Though this is known as an incomplete story, it still fits as a very short story.  It gives us enough to understand where it is going and the reader is ever-doubtful that the man will not return to the city in a different world.  It also has all the markings of a Lovecraft tale:  the knowledge-seeker, the book of powerful knowledge, the knowledge of worlds layered upon our own.  

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.


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