Showing posts from March, 2017

Review: Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It

Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was always fascinated with but never got the chance to explore playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games. I did fall in love with role-playing games on video game systems and the fantasy genre for books, films, and comics so there was always a hope and interest in getting the chance to play, but the possibility never availed itself. So reading Ewalt's book on the topic was informative and inspiring for the most part. His history of the game from its birth to the current state of role-playing games coupled with his own personal journey towards, away, and back again to role-playing game made for a great story. He does slip, a bit problematically I think, into representing that game as borderline addicting, a cliche that is long overdue and annoying when it comes to games and gaming in general. But if you can disregard that element, the book has so…

Letter to the Editor: "Breaking News"

Here's another letter to the editor that I recently published. It's about the abuse of "breaking news" and its impact on eroding news.
"The media’s ability to command respect continues to dwindle for many different reasons. But one that the media must own up to is their editorial choices; media outlets must learn to be less complicit in overinflating, distracting and unnecessary news. Nowhere is this more evident than in the flagrant use of “breaking news.” The labeling of the mundane as “breaking news” continues to erode our faith in journalism. "
For the rest of the letter, feel free to go onto the Salem News website.
For a sense of what those "Breaking News" headlines were, here's the ones that I was referring to:
Theriault steps down as Danvers football coach after three seasonsRegistry of Motor Vehicles eyeing Route 1 siteMurder suspect Doughty arraigned today on carjacking chargesDoughty pleads not guilty in Peabody killingsPeabody crews …

Review: How Great Science Fiction Works

How Great Science Fiction Works by Gary K. Wolfe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a sucker for programs from The Great Courses. They are phenomenal primers on diverse subjects that provide listeners with a rich understanding of the topic. This production only reinforced my positive experience with them. Wolfe provides a complex and dynamic exploration of science fiction that traverses not just time but themes, styles, and formats of science-fiction. He knows his stuff and the complexity of it but provides easy-to-follow lectures that trace out different ideas within science fiction (e.g. time travel, alien invasion, evolution, etc) and some of the most know works grappling with those ideas. He also delves into issues of authorial influence, politics of the time(s), and the impact of publishing industry on the content. The over 12-hours of listening slipped by and I landed at the end wanting to hear more and with a "to-read" list 100 pages long!

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Navigating Privilege As a White Middle-Class Male

I live in a culture where aspects of my identity present me with concrete and abstract privileges that I am at times aware of and unaware of.  I'm a white, middle class, perceived-as-heterosexual, male.  Historically and to still today, this intersection of identity attributes represents one of the most powerful groups in our culture.  (If you are unfamiliar with what I mean by privilege, I recommend checking out Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" for a quick primer and there are several other useful knapsacks out there including ones on sexuality, sex, class, etc).  

Not all of these identity attributes operate at the same time or same level; the context of any given situation indicates just how much one will be more salient than any others.  Walking down the street in any part of the city, I am significantly less likely to be seen as a victim or perpetrator of robbery or sexual assault.  While driving, I'm not likely to be pull…

Review: SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient -Powered by the Science of Games

SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient -Powered by the Science of Games by Jane McGonigal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So I first fell in nerd-love with Jane McGonigal when she performed a TED Talk and wrote her first book (Reality Is Broken). SuperBetter is even better and there's also a great TED Talk to introduce it. Or rather, if Reality Is Broken gave readers a well-researched argument for why gaming is an important part of our human nature, SuperBetter gives us the guide on how to actually make life more like a game and improve mental, emotional, physical, and social health. She stacks the first half talking about the game she has devised (SuperBetter) and the research it has been built and tested upon. For the second half, she breaks down how you can play the game on your own and with friends. There is even an app and website you can log your gaming efforts into. What I like so much about McGonigal's prose is that it is ac…

The PhD Chronicles: PhD'ese

Here I am at the half-way mark of the final semester of my first year, almost done with my fifth and sixth course.  Things are going well and I'm enjoying the different challenges the program affords.  This semester's courses offer a bit more practical exploration, though still embedded in theoretical contexts, and I'm finding that a different experience from last semester which focused more on conceptual underpinnings of higher education (though still with practical considerations)  However, this week, I noticed at two different times when it was clear that my learning was kicking in.  

These were curious self-aware moments where as I engaged in dialogue, I began to hear echoes of things discussed in class or recalled things that I had read.  My mind switched into the "what's the 360 degree higher education understanding of this subject?"  I have had these moments before when working on previous degrees but never taken the time to sit with them as I did this …

Goals Check-In 2017 - 2 Months In

March 1 marks the 2-month point into the year and rather than wait until next year to think about my progress (or digress?) from my yearly goals, I thought I'd take a gander at where I am today.  I put forward a good amount of goals for 2017 and well, I'm middle of the ground on progress on some of them and others, not as much.  2016 was a decent year in goal-setting and achieving and I'm hoping this year I will be able to do better. So let's do the run down:  

Complete a TriathlonOk, this goal hasn't been met and I haven't been swimming as much but now that I'm back into the rhythm of the semester and over a recent cold, I will be back on track with this, hopefully.  Ideally, the triathlon will be completed during the summer, so I've got some time on this.  

15000 a dayI deserve a gold star for this one.  Despite the busy schedule and getting a cold, I've hit 15,000 steps every day thus far for 2017.  

15 more poundsProgress is in the making.  I'm…

The PhD Chronicles: Dissertation Journal #3

So it's been longer than I wanted in terms of blogging about my dissertation thoughts but that's not because of an absence of thoughts but an absence of time to put them down on paper (or blog, I guess).  

In January, I was struck by a more specific idea about a potential dissertation topic after attending and presenting at a NERCOMP Event on OER.  It's been on my mind a lot and though there's a lot more I need to do with it, I figured I would take the time here to flesh it out so that I can discuss it further with some of my advisors and cohort members--as well as you, dear readers.

Development of Open Initiatives and Their Impact on Pedagogical ApproachesAt this workshop, we were discussing how the open education resources (OER) movement has been expanding and shifting language from OER to openness initiatives.  This is in part because there is a good discussion about it being more than just about resources but really thinking about what knowledge and learning can mean…

Review: Interactive Open Educational Resources: A Guide to Finding, Choosing, and Using What's Out There to Transform College Teaching

Interactive Open Educational Resources: A Guide to Finding, Choosing, and Using What's Out There to Transform College Teaching by John D. Shank
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, this book is a good introduction into the world of open educational resources and their implementation. it focuses on interactive open educational resources, which are free materials the require a bit more engagement from students. It's definitely a book geared towards instructors or instructional designers that have yet to really engage with OER as there are many sections that those familiar with OER will likely skim over. But where it's most useful is the guidelines, instructions, implementation and evaluation considerations it walks readers through to actually using iOER. It also has an abundance of resources that the readers will benefit from. It's definitely for the neophyte but even the seasoned OER person will find some good uses by looking through it.

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Short Story #408: The Adaptive Ultimate by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: The Adaptive UltimateAuthor: Stanley G. WeinbaumSummary: Dr. Daniel Scott has a theory about evolution and adaptation and he enlists his friend, Dr. Herman Bach to help him out.  He has created a serum from fruit flies (the supposed most adaptable species) that can heal illnesses in animals.  Now he needs a human to test it on.  Initially appalled, Bach does not look to actively help him but then a terminally ill patient with no chance of survival arrives at the hospital, Kyra Zelas.  They explain to her what they are going to try to do, explaining that it’s unlikely to be successful but she chooses to be a subject.  To everyone’s surprise, it works overwhelmingly well and she recovers full in a short time.  Upon release though she commits murder, with no justification other than to obtain the man’s wallet.  In the court trial, Scott and Bach expect they will need to help her but as she is described by witnesses, her appearance changes, leaving the court incapable of prosecuting…