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All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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EdTech Update





Hardass view of reading

Boy, talk about being unsympathetic (but probably correct.) Penelope Trunk writes:

...If I tell people I’m a blogger, they say, “I don’t have time to read blogs.”

Here’s what I am going to start saying to those people: Only losers say they don’t have time to read blogs. Because everyone has the same 24 hours in the day. So it’s not that you somehow are more busy than everyone else – no one is actually too busy for anything – the issue is that reading blogs is not high enough on your priority list to read them.

So the real response, when I say, “I’m a blogger,” should be “I stay away from blogs so I can shield myself from alternative opinions to mainstream media.” ...

and she offers (and explicates) three ways to "a grip on your reading pile":

  • Stop talking about information overload. That term is for weaklings.
  • Stop talking about good and bad media. Just because you don’t read it doesn’t make it bad.
  • Stop talking about time like you need to save it. You just need to use it better.

I am not sure anything Penelope wrote will make me a better or more proficient reader, but it was fun to read her comments.

And sheepishly I have to admit that I got the link from a Tweet...


Oh, a recent telephone conversation:

Local Barnes & Noble: I'm sorry we don't have that book in stock, but we could order it for you and have it for you in about a week.

Me: Why don't you order it from Amazon and get it here in two days?

Local Barnes & Noble: We can't do that here, but I suppose you could yourself.


Twying again

At the AIMA Conference in Birmingham Monday, one of the media specialists attending more or less shamed me into trying Twitter again. I told her I feel bad, but not too bad, about having nearly 1,000 followers and never posting anything. She said I should feel bad. I was letting people down. My tweeps or twerps or whatever they are called. Maybe the third time using Twitter will be a charm.

So here is my two part plan:

1. On as regular a basis as possible, I will pick and share an interesting blog post, article or other information source that I'd consider "required reading." Here is what today's looked like:

doug0077 Good read: Shannon Wham on why you don't need a lid on a bucket of live crabs and how that applies to education

2. I will do a better job of building a list of those whom I follow. Here is my new strategy. I am going to add as many people as I can. Perhaps all my "followers" (I hate that term - it sounds positively Jim Jones-Charles Manson-Britney Spears-ish). And then drop them from my list so fast their heads will spin if:

  • They post something that sounds self-serving or self-referential (That's what blogs are for!)
  • They post something that deals with the daily minutia of their lives. (Being stuck at an airport, eating toast, feeling nauseated. I'd really like to care but...)
  • They just posts on things don't seem to have any professional benefit.

I suppose this sound like a pretty anti-social attitude for a person engaging in social networking. But I believe each of us has a different level of tolerance for what constitutes social learning and what is just socializing.

While I've thought about the importance of distinguishing between socializing and social networking when it comes to library use and library spaces (Jeff Utech does a nice riff on this here), it's really a factor in any learning situation - online, F2F, formal or informal.

At some point the value of interaction with others stops being helpful and starts being counterproductive. At least my world. And that point varies from person to person.

My tolerance is low. And my happiness with Twitter may lie in finding others whose point on the socializing/social learning scale is close to my own.

From <> I have no idea what this means.


Summer and the reading is easy

Suicide bombers are easy to spot. They give out all kinds of tell-tale signs. Mostly because they're nervous. By definition they're all first-timers.

So Lee Child begins his latest Jack Reacher mystery, Gone Tommorrow. Just finished it. Could be worse. But now I'm writing writing like Reacher talks. In bursts. It'll pass. Most things do.

Gone Tommorow is just one of the guilty pleasures I am planning to read this summer. The latest Michael Connelly, The Scarecrow, is on my dresser. (Jack McEvoy, not Harry Bosch is the protagonist.) Three Cups of Tea is there too, just to ease my guilt.*

One of my favorite genres is the mystery story in which the detective is working in a totalitarian state, usually at odds with his superiors. Smith's Arkady Renko from Gorky Park and sequels is the prototype. Now another Smith has a Russian detective working under an even more repressive regime, Leo Demidov from Child 44 - about as scary and bleak a setting, Stalin's Russia, as one can imagine. Demidov returns in The Secret Speech.

Also in that mode are James Church's Inspector O novels set in North Korea that I am looking forward to starting this summer. There will be new James Lee Burke and Daniel Silva books (from my list of Manly Authors). I hope to encounter a few happy surprises as well.

I expect a few historical fiction titles will sneak in. I want to re-read Dorothy Dunnett's outstanding retelling of the Macbeth legend in King Hereafter and I'll probably break down and get Dan Simmon's mixed-reviewed, Drood. (Mr. Simmons, your sci-fi fans miss your work. Come back!)

TeacherNinja has created a list of "authors that stick" and suggests his readers do the same. While I have also compiled a list of books that have been important to me, they've been all non-fiction rather than fiction. But here are a few fiction books that I remember as shaking up my world a little.

  1. Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski remains probably the most horrifying book I've ever read. Along with Styron's Sophie's Choice, I've never had the courage to go back and re-read.
  2. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy is still the best fantasy ever written. I read it in high school for the adventure story; in college for the political insights, and as an adult for the beauty of the writing.
  3. Of Mice and Men is still the best Steinbeck and Steinbeck is the best 20th century American author. Tell me about the rabbits, George.
  4. Just how did Orwell so uncannily foretell the future in 1984? I have a short list of science fiction stories that predicted the future for me here.
  5. Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime still has the most original detective ever conceived.
  6. Death of Salesman, Miller's play, has always made me nervous about success - what it means and how one acheives it.
  7. I read Roberts Northwest Passage 40 years ago and remember it being a huge surprise that people from the "olden days" had sex. But I believe it was Mary Renault's The King Must Die and The Persian Boy that convinced me that the best way to understand history is reading historical fiction. Gary Jenning's The Journeyer, a wild re-telling of Marco Polo's adventures, is still the best historical fiction ever written.
  8. Watership Down is on my list to re-read. I taught Adam's rabbit tales to HS juniors. I enjoyed the experience, but I am not convinced my students did.
  9. Holes is one of the best plotted books for either adults or kids around. (And the movie made from Sachar's book is great too.)
  10. Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis remains my favorite book of poetry, just to round out the list. Most writers just assume they will be cockroaches in their next incarnation.

I am sure that there are lots of other novels that ought to be on my list. But these are what come to mind. And it's nap time. Here's a favorite Don Marquis:

lesson of the moth, 1927

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself


* Kindle or paper? Those books I think the LWW, my mom and brother might like I buy in paper; the rest, when available, on the Kindle. On my two week trip to Cambodia/Thailand last month, the Kindle worked out great.