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Review: Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost

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Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost by Caitlin Zaloom My rating: 5 of 5 stars College affordability (or unaffordability) has been increasingly discussed in recent times and does not seem to be abating as costs go up, more loans are needed, and students upon graduating have jobs that do not pay as much to keep up with the interest. And that's where Zaloom's book hits hard with a critical exploration of how families try to afford college despite the legitimate obstacles in their way in general but also as a result of an educational financing system that works to undermine the middle class and poor families. Zaloom digs into this educational financing system, exposing how they prey on families' insecurities and vulnerabilities to put them in financially unstable situations while at the same time, casting a moral disdain for their inability to execute saving for college. She shows this in myriad ways including exploring how the Free Applicatio

Review: Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything

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Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by B.J. Fogg My rating: 5 of 5 stars Fogg--much like Charle Duhigg's Power of Habit or Jane McGonigal's Superbetter, provides an in-depth look at navigating goals for people by better understanding how motivation, environment, and triggers can be used effectively in small ways to guide people down paths they wish to go.  Whether it's addressing a habit one doesn't want, redirecting one's life to different goals, or just trying to be better at some aspect of life, Fogg helps readers understand that drastic changes rarely work but testing small adjustments coupled with reflecting can lead people to success in a variety of ways. Will-power and just motivation are not enough to do it and Fogg highlights why these are false hallmarks to embrace to make effective change in one's life.  Rather, he guides readers on the importance of creating extremely low stakes changes, stacking them over time, an

Review: Democracy in Danger: How Hackers and Activists Exposed Fatal Flaws in the Election System

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Democracy in Danger: How Hackers and Activists Exposed Fatal Flaws in the Election System by Jake Braun My rating: 4 of 5 stars Braun's work makes for a very uncomfortable read about the current state of affairs with the US election system.  He effectively captures the critical issues that permeate the technical and political infrastructure of the US election system to show how a perfect storm of events could easily undermine any sense of democracy and the belief in a democratically-elected government.  His evidence and his argument show how Americans are largely fooled by the current discourse on "hackers" interfering in our election to make us think it is a simple singular issue or two or that somehow, we'll actually know it happens.  Instead, he traces the many different entry points with Russia, China, or really, anyone could easily disrupt the process.  Often, these are small ways such as hacking the voter rolls and changing/removing 5%. That

Review: That Was Then, This Is Now

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That Was Then, This Is Now by S.E. Hinton My rating: 4 of 5 stars As a novel that takes place in the same world as Hinton's most famous novel, The Outsiders, it is also a compelling counterpart to that novel in big and small ways. The protagonist, Bryon like Ponyboy, is almost an orphan with his mother barely making ends meet and hospitalized throughout the novel, while his best-friend and quasi-brother, Mark. Mark's parents killed each other (or Mark had some role--we're never quite clear on that) and have lived with Bryon for years. However, it's a darker and bleaker coming-of-age story than what happens in The Outsiders. Bryon and Mark are slowly drifting apart, in part because while they are often witness to the same experiences (often even together), their understanding of what has occurs destabilized Bryon's understanding of the world while it reinforces Mark's amoral view. As Bryon participates in violence as well as becomes victim to it

Getting Ready for November 3rd

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Estimated Reading Time: 2.5 minutes Yesterday, I posted recommendations about how to get through this week in ways that have us turning away from news and into other things such as turning towards reflection, projects, or community.  My friends came up with a really great list of things to do that I'm sure many of us can appreciate and borrow from .   The list is great in terms of what to do instead but I also realized there were things that can be done to better ensure that I can actually do those things and not be distracted or sucked into the misinformation, disinformation, and free-association interpretation that passes for political discourse in various news outlets in both analog and digital formats.  So I thought I'd follow yesterday's list with a some specific actions that I'm taking to help with that.  I share these not because they are particularly new or innovative but to provide others with some ideas or specific actions worth doing.   1. I turned off social

Ideas for Getting Through November 2020

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Estimated Reading Time: 2.5 minutes Anyone who is paying attention to the world of 2020 US politics, knows that this week is going to be one more tense rollercoaster of angst, confusion, frustration, and anger for so many folks--regardless of where one sits politically.  Much of this is both a result of the way US politics have trended over the last 20 years, particularly influenced and made more extreme both by political partisanship, traditional media outlets (newspaper, television, radio), digital media (blogs, online news, Youtube, and much more), and social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, 4Chan).  Together, they are reinforcing different realities, amplifying misinformation, increasing disinformation, and festering the growth of conspiracy theories like never before.   Thus, we enter the final days of an election season that has felt like it has been running since 2016 in a year when we have been hit by a global pandemic, economic disaster, and a racial justice movement

Review: The Modern Cowboy

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The Modern Cowboy by John R. Erickson My rating: 2 of 5 stars There's a lot to like about Erickson's book in terms of getting a full and rich sense of the material culture, daily life, and challenges that embody cowboys' life--though as this is a book from 2004, it would be interesting to see how much more has changed since its republication. However, as a book to provide insight into life for modern cowboys working across the North American world, it seems to have a lot of strong knowledge and insight into what life looks like. This makes sense given that Erikson is a self-proclaimed cowboy and had been for many years (though admits he can't carry that title anymore since he owns land--a key difference he spells out between the day-workers and the land-owners). Beyond that, he relies on other nonfictional accounts and research to go beyond his experiences. In looking for a book to explain the world of the cowboy, one could certainly do well with this.

Review: Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers

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Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers by Jessamyn Neuhaus My rating: 4 of 5 stars Neuhaus's collection of thoughtful and insightful tips for instructors is a wide-range how-to and why-to that instructors of every kind will find useful with practical tips, research-related groundings, and places to find more knowledge on the subject of effective teaching. As a person who is clearly passionate about their field, Nauhaus knows that passion is useful and important but not enough to effectively teach because many instructors make a variety of mistakes when they step into the class. These include forgetting what it's like to be a non-expert in the field, determining that everyone must have the same passion for the subject as they do, and rethinking how one was taught with how one should teach. Neuhaus structures the book in a way that helps readers through the process of teaching. Initially, she explores w

Review: The AI Delusion

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The AI Delusion by Gary Smith My rating: 4 of 5 stars A.I. is the modern snake oil solution to all your work needs and it's likely to screw things up. Or at least, that's Smith's general argument as he breaks down the fundamental problems with artificial intelligence. One such problem is the fact that even labeling it "intelligence" tricks people into a false sense of security about what AI does. A.I. does not have intelligence or intention and therefore, its ability to do the things that so many people claim it can do is disconcerting and misleading. Essentially, Smith argues that most of AI works akin the Texas Sharp-Shooter sham wherein either a gunslinger shoots a bunch of holes into a wall and then puts the target over one of the shots and say "look, I got a bullseye" or points and shoots at a bullseye and misses, but then moves the target over. Because computers just crunch numbers without any sense of relation or meaning, the end resu

Review: Monument

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Monument by Lloyd Biggle Jr. My rating: 4 of 5 stars The people of Langri have the Plan. And the Plan will hopefully be their salvation, even if no one else actually understands what the plan is all about. Langri was a largely unexplored planet with a human population that lived a mostly primitive (at least by the Federation's standards) life. But somewhere along the way, a visitor gave them the knowledge to be prepared for when the Federation discovered their planet and wish to take advance of the near-paradise conditions. One such person does appear, Wembley, and he works ceaselessly and illegally to swindle the natives out of their land and resources. Biggle's novel is a fun story where the underdog, not only wins but knows they are going to win from the near beginning (ok, maybe about a third of the way). It has echoes to the present (some 40 years later) in the ways in which indigenous folk work hard to protect what is there and inevitably, businesses are al