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Showing posts from March, 2014

Short Story #89: The First Days of May by Claude Veullot

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Title:  The First Days of MayAuthor:  Claude VeullotSummaryIt's only a few days after the landing of space crafts and the near obliteration of human life on Earth.  The narrator slowly makes his way through the city ruins in order to return to his home and find his wife, trying to avoid the insect-like aliens who use their supersonic shrills to disarm and destroy buildings, weapons, and people.  He encounters another human on his trek home who provides a little update about the state of affairs and things seem largely hopeless.  The narrator continues on towards home.  In his apartment, he encounters another man, who lived a few floors away before the Shrills showed up.  They discuss what's going on and the man knows nothing of about his wife.  The man explains that his wife like other humans is likely in the camp, where the humans are being held.  The narrator leaves to go find these camps.  He soon encounters a group of men with weapons who are more than happy to bring him t…

Short Story #88: Old Papa Johnson by Robert Graves

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Title:  Old Papa Johnson
Author:  Robert GravesSummaryWhile in a hospital, the narrator encounters a gregarious man by the name of Old Papa Johnson who seems to get along well with a nurse that few others seem to endure much.  The narrator befriends the man and he shares all sorts of things about his life with him, including a tale that connects him to the nurse.  He explains that a while back, he was the Crown Agent on an island near Antarctica which served as a drop off station and holding station for ships who were carting off and trading off whale oil and other goods to other parts of the world.  He was the sole inhabitant there and had to regulate the trade and keep things proper for the short-termers that came by.  One way of doing this was to illegalize alcohol on the island due to increasingly dangerous incidents among the crewmembers.  One day, two men arrive, Major Morgan and Professor Durnsford who are not part of the regular shipping activities but there on a mission to exp…

Short Story #87: You are With It! by Will Stanton

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Title:  You Are With It!
Author:  Will StantonSummaryAfter departing in the morning from his wife with her numerous reminders of things he needs to do, Stanley Dobbs arrives at the office where he encounters the Host, who speaks in grand and overdramatic language.  The Host tells him he's about to embark on an adventure and then the next thing Dobbs knows is that he's at a night club he runs and meeting with the Commissioner.  The Commission discusses a mission he will be sent on across the world to find the "Professor."  The deal is settled and next we see Stanley rushing off to work in the morning.  His wife gives him a list of things to do and he goes off to work, meeting up with associates from the night before.  The story switches back and forth like this until the Dobbs encounters a body with a to-do list in his pocket, quite similar to his.  Just because he can piece it together, the Host reappears and tells him the show has been canceled by the wife of the spo…

Short Story #86: Unhuman Sacrifice by Katherine Maclean

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Title:  Unhuman SacrificeAuthor:  Katherine MacleanSummary Two engineers take a preacher to a habitable planet with sentient life.  The preacher sets to inspiring the being with long winded lectures on his beliefs but the beings don't understand him.  The two engineers, Charlie and Henderson are still in the process of training the translator box.  Over the course of a few days, as they learn more about the inhabitants, the preacher insists on saving them from themselves and their rituals.  They discover that the beings are broken into two groups--adults and children, with the adults being worn down while the children do all the heavy lifting.  They befriend Spet, a child whom they poorly communicate with.  They realize that maturation process that he is about to enter can possibly kill him or turn him into one of the elders.  For different reasons, they try to conspire to keep Spet from suffering the ritual and try to bring him aboard before the flooding occurs (a part of ritual i…

Short Story #85: Day of Succession by Theodore L. Thomas

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Title:  Day of SuccessionAuthor:  Theodore L. ThomasSummaryWhen a spaceship crashes down in Pennsylvania, General Tredway is the first to respond, getting scientists and tanks to arrive before the ship opens up after landing.  He responds by completely destroying it.  He does the same for a second spaceship that lands in Pennsylvania.  However, he is called to Washington to a meeting with the President, Vice President, and others leaders who berate him for attacking.  They posit that the aliens may have been coming in peace to which the General asks why did they crash into a house and kill someone.  He insists that this was the only way.  While they debate, another spaceship lands and is allowed to open.  The alien that comes out begins killing everything in sight.  The leaders admit that the general knows what he is doing and ask him for what to do next.  He explains that because they screwed up and let one land, it will be doubly hard because more a landing.  His plan is to have eve…

Short Story #84: The Wind People by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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Title:  The Wind PeopleAuthor:  Marion Zimmer BradleySummary After eight months on a habitable planet, the crew are ready to go home but Helen, a doctor, has given birth one month premature to her baby boy, Robin.  The method of space travel is enough that it would kill the baby and so Helen refuses to go and stays on the planet while the others leave, knowing that there were be no one to return for decades.  The story jumps a few years and there, showing Robin, the child growing up as a solitary child with Helen.  However, slowly it is revealed that Helen was not impregnated by one of the crewmates but by someone on the planet (that they presumed is without intelligent life forms).  Helen refuses to believe that these people actually exist but Robin continues to hear and see them.  The strain of believe and disbelief builds between them and eventually, Eventually, Robin flees into the woods to meet the wind people and Helen pursues and gives in to the idea that they are real.  In the …

10 Ways Running Reminds Me of Learning

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Let's set the scene.

Here's me on Sunday, September 16, 2012.  I'm in the midst of running my first 30K Race.  That's right, I decided that what better way to spend the weekend just after my 33rd birthday, chugging over 18 miles on a warm Sunday afternoon.

Keep in mind:
There were no zombies chasing me.There was no grand prize for coming in among the last 1/3 of the herd.I had plenty of other things to do that Sunday.I paid to be here.Now, let's go back 15 months to June, 2011.  There are no pictures of me running.  Because up to that point, that is, the first 31 years and 9 months of my life, I did not run.  Let me rephrase that I ran only when ultimately forced to.  You know, like at gun point.  The fact is for 31 years, 9 months I had a HATE-HATE MORE relationship with running.  It didn't like me and I sure as hell didn't like it.  Like the student in class I repeated to myself and everyone that would listen, "I'm just not meant to be run.  I'…

Short Story #83: A Man May Not Marry His... by Robert Graves

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Title:  A Man May Not Marry His...Author:  Robert GravesSummary The story is an overheard conversation among several religious leaders within the Church of England trying to make sense of the issues surrounding transsexualism and how that would apply to marriage within the church.  The leaders explain the technicalities around whether it would be acceptable for someone to remarry within the church and how it is dependent upon how the the gender performance dynamics between the two.  The conversation covers under what elements it would be acceptable and unacceptable but at the end of all this discussing, the narrator asks a simple question, "off record" about what would an "ex-man" do if he wanted to be married in the church without fanfare to which the reply is for the person to find a parish that is far enough away to not know.   

ReflectionA curious story within this collection; that's for sure.  The language uses around transsexualism is clearly antiquated and…

Short Story #82: The Inmate of the Dungeon by W. C. Morrow

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Title: The Inmate of the DungeonAuthor: W. C. MorrowSummary At a parole hearing, one of the judges calls forward inmate No-14,208, much to the chagrin of the warden of that prison.  The prisoner comes into the course with ball and chain and clearly in rough shape.  The judge asks the man to explain why he has not asked to be paroled given that he is over due for it.  The man hesitates and the judge asks further about his experience.  The judge assures the prisoner that he is ok and further inquires into the man's history.  The man explains that he committed murder which there is no question about.  However, once in the prison, he aimed to do right and work hard, which he did for nearly ten years, doing all the work that was required and regularly doing extra.  As a large and strong man, he took advantage of extra jobs and the extra pay it afforded him.  One day while on a job, he got in line to get his pay and the warden scoff him off saying that he already was paid.  The prisoner …

Short Story #81: Pythias by Frederick Pohl

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Title: Pythias Author: Frederick PohlSummary Dick, the narrator from the beginning tells us that he committed the murder to which he is accused but he had to do it.  The man he killed was an old friend named Laurence Connaught, who actually saved his life shortly before Dick killed him.  In fact, Connaught is a successful scientist with many degrees while the Dick's life has led him to be security for a senator.  Dick explains that they happened upon each other during an event with the senator.  Terrorists arrived on the scene and while they are put down, one of them pulls a pin on the grenade and Connaught jumps on it, saving Dick's life.  Afterward, Dick needs to understand exactly how Connaught could have survived such a blast.  When he meets with to discuss it, Connaught explains that his scientific experiments have granted him superpowers such as pyschokinesis.  Dick doubts this but Connaught shows him some examples.  Without warning, Dick knocks out Connaught, ransacks hi…

Short Story #80: The French Thing by Robert Graves

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Title:  The French ThingAuthor:  Robert GravesSummary A doctor and his wife stumble upon a pornographic magazine or as they call it, a "French thing."  They determine that it is their likely their nephew that brought it in.  The wife, Bella, temporarily stores the magazine in a stack of magazines but in the confusion of a busy hospital, the pile gets taken away by the Reverend's wife who usually takes the magazine stacks.  The doctor and Bella are sent into a fit as they do not want the magazine traced back to them as it would certainly create a negative impression among their social circle.  They soon discover that the Reverend's daughter, Evangeline has found it and has been sharing it with the boys at church.  Bella attempts a plan wherein Evangeline will be doped up and need a doctor, so her husband is called.  In the Reverend's house, the doctor attends to Evangeline while Bella looks for the magazine.  Later, we find out that Evangeline was discovered by her…

Short Story #79: Kill Them! Kill Them! by Robert Graves

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Title:  Kill Them! Kill Them!Author:  Robert GravesSummary A man and woman discuss David, a soldier who died in battle (it's unclear of the relationship amongst the three--they seem familial but it's not entirely clear.  The man and woman are father and daughter).  They discuss some of the politics around an award David did not receive.  Their discussion reminds the father of a time when David was a child and saw a bunch of clergymen together and the child's response was to "Kill them!  Kill them!".  Jenny explains David's response was because it seemed impossible for there to be more than one clergyman and so a flock of them felt fundamentally wrong in contrast to other groups such as children or soldiers.  They also mention David's distaste for seedcake.  When they turn a corner with the car, they encounter a group of clergymen who are eating seedcake.  The father jokingly says, "Kill them, kill them!" 

ReflectionThis falls pretty short overall …

Short Story # 78: He Went Out to Buy a Rhine by Robert Graves

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Title: He Went Out to Buy a Rhine Author: Robert GravesSummary Mrs. Tisser is explaining the last time she saw her tenant who later ended up dead.  The Coroner has concluded suicide and is confirming it with Mrs. Tisser.  She admits to being surprised by this as he was overall a decent person but on the morning of his suicide, he did act weirdly.  He spoke some strange lines to her and later, went out to buy a "rhine."  Mrs. Tisser is also asked about his emotional life and she explains that he admitted to being in love with someone he had never met and never saw named Yma.  After her statements, the jury are in discussion about the events and one juror, Mr. Pink presents the case is very clear terms.  Yma is the name of a singer who has the most beautiful voice in the world, the juror explains.  He also explains that he saw the nostril of the victim and it was slightly discolored that he identifies as the use of errhine.  Mr. Pink believes that the man went out for "err…

Short Story #77: The Crystal Egg by H. G. Wells

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Title:  The Crystal EggAuthor: H. G. WellsSummary A Mr. Cave owns a curiosity shop filled with odds and ends.  One day, two gentlemen ask him about the price of a crystal egg within his store.  He hesitates and then asks for an exorbitant price.  When the two gentlemen agree to pay it, he delays longer and says that it has actually already been sold.  His wife comes out at this point and accosts him to sell them the egg because they could certainly use the money but he resists her berating.  After the men leave, Cave continues to hear it from his family about his failure.  Shortly after, the crystal egg disappears and Mrs. Cave makes note of this.  She asks Mr. Cave about it but he claims ignorance.  Again, the whole family gets in on the act and demands to know but he plays stupid.  We find out later that he had stored it away with an acquaintance, Mr. Wace.  Cave's reluctance has much to do with what happens when he looks into the crystal egg at the right angle and with the right…

Hybrid Fluxed #03: It Sure Is Easy to Bash the MOOCs Part 1

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A colleague brought this article to my attention on the concerns about MOOCs as apply to teaching history at the college level (and more than likely extend to many of us who teach in the Liberal Studies/Arts).  This article like so many written by people concerned about MOOCs are poorly constructed and limited in its value to the discussion.  While some of their claims are things we should be concerned about, others illustrate a failure to think flexibly or understand what they are actually discussing but feel more like reacting for the sake of reacting.  Such articles provide great opportunities to malign these new forms of technology and their impact on education, but do little to actually improve the situation.  In short, these articles are masturbatory acts that help no one when actually considering how to respond to the MOOCs.

The initial problem, I see is that the author, Jonathan Rees conflates the profession of history with the profession of teaching ("To me, Massive Open …