Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cincy Highlights

Again the confluence astounds. Alaina blogs about STL* and Design*Sponge posts all the cool things in Cincinnati--for the arty designy people anyway. It's kind of amusing that they misspelled Cincinnati in the url. Anyway, I know at least a few Cincy people read this blog and they're much cooler than I am so they should click over and check off the stuff they've done.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Confluence of Blog Reading

Today my blog reading lead to an interesting thought. Track along with me if you will. First I came across this article on Kindle via Alaina. Actually I'll quote what she quotes. (Thanks for highlighting the pertinent parts of the post, Alaina!)
The Kindle does a fine job of being a book reader, and a horrible job of actually improving the act of reading a book. This is a surprising design choice, I think, and a mistake. Here are three simple examples of how non-fiction books on the Kindle could be better, not just cheaper and thinner:
--Let me see the best parts of the book as highlighted by thousands of other readers.
--Let me see notes in the margin as voted up, Digg-style, by thousands of other readers.
--Let me interact with hyperlinks and smart connections not just within the book but across books
I can think of ten others, and so can you. Instead of making this a dead end (like a book) they could have made it a connector (like the web).
Word processing didn't work because it was typing but a little cheaper. It worked because it was better than typing. Email didn't work because it was mail but a little faster. It worked because it was fundamentally better than snail mail...

So Kindle would work better if it revolutionized the way we read books, the way the internet and email have revolutionized their respective spheres. But should we do that to reading? Because here's what I came across a few blogs later (HT John Green). And I have to say I didn't even finish reading the article because it was too long with too many sections. I have all intents to read articles on the internet with the same depth of interest and attention that I do to books. And I haven't noticed too much trouble with attention span, but that's because I've always been aware of my inattention as a reader and if interest is lacking I tend to bribe myself with moralistic goal-setting (i.e. reading Crime and Punishment will make you a better person). But if we make books more interactive like Seth Grodin suggests, attention will have more chance to be diverted and successful completion (defined in part by retention) will become less and less plausible. And I don't know that that's a good thing.

And reading or lack thereof has been the rage today because there's also talk of books you despise (defined as books you can't finish) at Time online (HT Bookshelves of Doom).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Crime and Punishment Book 1

Hello intrepid blogosphere explorers and welcome to a new installment of the program!

Over the next few weeks (hopefully not longer than that) I will be blogging with M Lo on Panem et Circenses on the novel Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The novel follows the path of Rodya Raskolnikov as he academically works through the act and consequences of murder. (There will be spoilers for those who care.) I read the book back in my senior of high school of my AP English class, but with little interest or understanding. Since then I've read Notes from the Underground which lays the psychological foundation for Dostoevsky's anti-heros and featured the Grand Inquisitor chapter from Brothers Karamazov in my Religion and Spirituality in Literature class. So when M Lo decided to read the books she should have already read, I decided to join her for this specific one.

So without further ado, book 1 of Crime and Punishment:

I don't read this book with a blank slate. With the opening lines of the first chapter, I'm waiting for him to murder the old woman and be done with it. But he doesn't and other things catch my eye. For instance, in this passage on the first page: "He had become so completely absorbed in himself and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady but any one at all." We watched Spiderman 2 and they so parallel. Yes, Spiderman is good hero, but he avoids his landlord and the people he loves. He's completely isolated and is worse off for it. It also reminds me of my fantasy of living in a cabin by a lake all by myself for a year like Thoreau did. Oh my goodness, the thought of it sets my introverted heart to flight! But evidently too much alone-time is not good for the soul.

Chapter 2 would totally be a sidenote if I didn't know Sonia Semyononva was going to be important later on. Why do all the good killers develop consciences when in love?

Chapter 3 is the letter from Mom which totally throws a wrench into the whole alone and isolated story Raskolnikov's got going on. Moms have a tendency of doing that. :-) It really adds in the humanity Raskolnikov needs to stay grounded-food might help too.

Chapter 4 is where I decide Raskolnikov is psycho because he totally overreacts to his sister's engagement even when his mother warns him not to jump to conclusions in the letter. Now he just had the meeting with Marmeladov which paints a very poor outcome for marriage, but it looks really good and he finds all sorts of things wrong with it. Mostly I think he's just upset at the intrusion into his privacy. Of course his plans look ridiculous in the light of a loving mother and a sister who is moving to his city. You can't commit the perfect crime if you have too many loving people looking into your business. Note also the quote: "He took no part in the students' gatherings, amusements or conversations. He worked with great intensity without sparing himself, and he was respected for them, but no one liked him." Isn't that all UC's program is trying to prevent with their repeated encouragement to attends all social gatherings and to work in the library? We don't want another Raskolnikov on our hands. :-) Oh all things in moderation (including murder???).

Chapter 5: It. So up to this point if I had a blank slate with this book I'd have no clue what was going on except for suspicions of weirdness and suddenly he refers to "It". It is always sinister. It was in A Wrinkle in Time--again the idea that logic without heart ultimately turns evil... I found it interesting that he prays to be free of the obsession and he is for a little while until he gets the last piece of information he needs and he's sucked back in again.

Chapter 6 and the game's afoot. We get the background of how this plan came into being. R. is intrigued by the fact that "almost every criminal is subject to a failure of will and reasoning power" (57). Alas so true, even our beloved Raskolnikov isn't exempt as we see in the next chapter.

Chapter 7: he does it. And does it again. And almost gets caught. But doesn't. So the book should end right? Raskolnikov gets away and lives happily ever after as the secretary to his brother-in-law the nice politician, yeah? Oh there's several hundred more pages. Darn.

I don't know. I'm not engrossed like with Gossip Girl, but my heightened sense of moral duty and general feel goodness (yeah I was an English major) compel me to continue. It's kind of like listening to NPR except reading C&P is how one becomes intelligent.

What do you do?

One of my favorite comic strips. Unfortunately, I'm already in the last box of the strip. Maybe being in a program will help.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

NPR and Psuedointelligence

So I've been thinking about returning to my English major roots in graduate school form. I'm teaching a class in Literature. I like reading books, but I know librarianship is not for me so it's stepping it up a notch. However, after being asked what are my favorite areas of Literature (and knowing that I couldn't answer YA and fantasy), I was reminded of how I deemed myself a non-English major English major in undergrad.

And then I was driving to work listening to NPR discuss with an author the release of his new book and I was thinking normally I'd consider myself very smart and literary for listening to NPR and being up on the latest book release. But that's not what an English graduate program is about. NPR doesn't discuss the classics. The closest they get to classical literature is their classic radio programs which I turn off in favorite of Top 40. (Gosh first SATC and now Top 40, I'm going to lose all respect of my 5 blog followers).

I love NPR and I'm not ashamed to admit that I REALLY like saying that I love NPR. I feel connected to the world. I'm mildly up on current events (which never happened before). It's not all about Theology (which I think is not a bad thing at this current point of my life). But I also think that the headiness of being an "NPR listener" has gone to my head. I think it makes me feel like I'm smarter than what I learn from NPR warrants. And it's not all bad, because as listed above, I have grown in ways that I never expected. But I worry that I haven't grown in the direction I wanted to. I haven't been using tools like NPR and my book reading to help me reach my big life goals. But I've still maintained delight in my aura of intelligence.

Curse a little knowledge and a lot of dreams. It seems the perfect recipe for a psuedo intellectual. Want to know more? Here's my google search results:
Help me...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Asking Questions

So at almost the exact time I began teaching/guiding my online class, I started watching my series of Sex and the City in preparation for the movie, but also just because I love the series. (Yes, I know. I'm that girl. Judge me later.) I love Sex and the City for many reasons one of which is because I am crazy obsessed with watching writers write. Every episode as I watch Carrie sit down at her 2nd generation Macbook (the one before the pretty colors of the IMac), I live vicariously through her questioning.

But this time around, the SATC episodes provided background noise to my own questions as I begin and guide online discussion boards. And I discovered my typing cadence took on a rather Carrie-like undertone. No, we haven't been having frank discussions of intimate relationships and their connection to religion and spirituality in literature. But Carrie's constant questioning has encouraged me to keep questioning, and it has kept me from answering too many questions. And I'm not totally sure that's a good thing.

The hardest thing about online discussion boards as a moderator is that things you meant to say in several posts at the beginning of the discussion often get casted away in the flow of the masses. And I'm not self-important to believe that I have the right answers and the right direction, but I did have certain goals and points I wanted to bring out. And as the professor, I should be held accountable for completing those goals in a timely fashion. But it kind of feels like using a little bucket to divert the Ohio River. In a classroom, you at least have proper dam building equipment... (way to stretch the metaphor too far) Alright I'm done now.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Religion and Spirituality in Literature

Okay so I think I want feedback. I'm about half-way through teaching this online class about Religion and Spirituality in Literature, and it might be the way to go. What I mean is that I normally consider myself a language person. I was the "Non-English major" English major. I enjoyed Linguistics more than Literature. I still love Hebrew and Ancient Near Eastern studies.

BUT well a) breaking into that field isn't going so well (but neither could the Lit. field); b) Hebrew and ANE are cool, people wow about them, but ultimately it's rather removed and studying Religion and Spirituality in Literature is something that can be done on many levels with many age groups; c) with Hebrew/ANE I have trouble conceptualizing where I fit, with RSL I could create a nice little niche for myself in the LCMS/Concordia System; I see several elective/IS classes focusing on RSL in the middle school classroom, authors like Lewis, L'Engle, maybe even O'Connor if I can convince students to like her, upper-level Lit. classes that really plunge into the doctrine; and it's been done before by Rev. Rossow at the Seminary and Gene Veith at Concordia Mequon; but it's all in the LCMS and there's no guarantee there will be openings like that for a while.

So as I begin to rise out of the hazy mist that is "too much time with online classes", those are some of the thoughts that I'm playing around with. I still need to pursue visiting student status for next year at Hebrew Union and University of Cincy. And I'll still keep my options open. Next year maybe be the year for Hebrew to finally take off for me again. But this may be okay too.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Too much online time

If you had asked me four weeks ago if there was such a thing as too much online time, I would have scoffed. Never! Blogging, reading blogs, checking out craft sites, reading up on theology, social networking, youtube, facebook(!)--they're all so interesting and exciting. I just can't get enough of them. And then I started teaching this online class. This intensive 15 sessions in 5 weeks class. I'm always checking discussion posts and putting up discussion topics and creating assignments and responding to emails and grading and grading and grading. It's so much that I'm actually I a little sick of the internet. It's sad really because I was just starting to twitter... Sigh.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ugh Overdues!

I don't talk about my job much on here, and that's because I'd really rather not be defined by it. It's not what I went to school for 6 years to do; it really doesn't require more than a high school diploma and a few organizational skills; it's not really my passion or my calling or anything higher than I'm good at it and it pays (some of) the bills.

I work in a library, a field which should be right up my alley. I love, LOVE, LOVE!!! trips to the library. I love skimming the books, finding new finds, finding old finds again. But man working in a library, it's a different story. You don't get to hang out with the books as much. Instead you have watch over an incessant pouring in of details. The worst of which is overdue books.

I understand why people let their books go overdue. In fact, I forgot to bring back the book I checked out from my library so I could try out our email notice service. And once I get the email service up, hopefully life will be wonderful, because I hate sending out overdue notices. I know most people don't think about their overdue library books, but I have a hyperactive guilt complex. I feel guilty for sending out the overdue notices because I am just sure that person has a perfectly legitimate reason. And then when I talk through it and really they probably don't have a perfectly legitimate reason, then I get mad. And all the emotions are all tied up with overdues. And it's dumb, I know, I shouldn't care, but I really really do.