The Internet, an adventure of books

Over the last 18 years, the Internet has been a boon for my reading. I still choose paperback and hardbacks, and I increasingly choose books from the public library rather than abebooks.com. I have made buying a book from an independent bookstore a simple act of selecting a sweet gift for a friend. (And, no, I don’t buy books from amazon.com as it cannibalizes the industries of writing.)

This morning, I had a fascinating 25 minutes as I sought the name of a young adult science fiction book that I read a couple of years ago. I could remember the name of one of the supporting characters, Dikeagou, because his name is a familiar and repeated name in our home. But, the book’s title escaped me. And so teh internet searches began (mind you through duckduckgo.com where they don’t track and store your searches like they do over at “do no evil” google).

It took multiple searches, and a few marvelous stops along the way that are sure to stoke my reading this winter are:

Oh, and the book I was looking for is listed on that third blog, 8 YA Books. It is The Shadow Speaker written by Nnedi Okorafor-mbachu, who lives and teaches in Chicago. Published in 2010.

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Instructions in Writing, week 2

What I heard and remembered to take notes on in Week Two of Fast Flash Fiction at the Santa Fe Community College were. Much of last night’s class was about editing one another’s work and what else to remember as I re-read and revise my own stories. Number 3-6 are cited from a handout given (citation needed):

  1. Anticipation | Hold someone on the edge of their seat until they are almost impatient.
  2. Beautiful moments | “I take out beautiful moments in each piece.”
  3. Personify objects/emotions | in ways that the reader won’t expect.
  4. Unfamiliar similes | will jump out at readers in positive ways.
  5. Conflicting images | take what readers expect in a character and turn it upside down by choosing conflicting images.
  6. Metaphors | are often what can propel or kill a story.
  7. Surreal | make it work.
  8. Stick to your core | “[There are] parts of your piece that you are going to hold onto with dear life. You have to remember that your voice is your voice.”

There were also a few quotes that resonated:

You want every paragraph to matter.

I create stories from what I remember in childhood, and change the ending.

Use adverbs sparingly. I love adjectives.

Instructions in writing, Week 1

I began my first writing class last week. The title is Fast Flash Fiction is a six-week course taught by Meg Tuite at Santa Fe Community College. Tuite, the instructor, cusses, inspires, and tells stories with plenty of tangents like thet legions of great storytellers that I know.

Tuite dispensed multiple dosages of simple truths in writing on the first night:
1) Read it out loud.
2) Keep your core.
3) Get it out | “I am not sure that I’ll call it vomit. Maybe, pink vomit.”
4) Deadlines are good.
5) Every page matters | in flash fiction where we have to condense our work.
6) Start thinking about the senses.
7) Brevity and ambiguity | These are essential in flash fiction, leaving the reader wanting to know more, to be taken along.
8) Gamble. That is where your voice is.

A couple of other choice moments were:
– “I get a lot of people published. Because you work hard in this class.”
– “Write about something that you are close to. Emotionally invested. Risk, risk, risk. The most exciting part of life –> getting close [to something].”

Lastly, there are three, simple questions to guide the workshopping and feedback shared with classmates are:
What do you love?
What makes sense?
What is confusing?

What qualifies as amazing

A friend asked me about “three things that you find amazing” and I replied with:

First thing that is amazing to me is the possibility that there is enough fresh water on this planet for all of us, just as there is enough sunlight and solar rays for all energy needs. We’ve been socialized to believe that there are finite resources and that they must be fought over, hoarded and controlled. I just said possibility, it may be more fitting to say notion or reality.
Second amazing thing is how I am allowing more and more of the illogical to pervade. I am in a new phase, the post-intellect, that is more aptly returning to how we as humans and nature fundamentally are. This is a condition that gives rise to the recent curiosity about freshwater.
Third amazing thing are the new experiences, new challenges and new learnings in my lived experiences. I have been baking one loaf of sourdough bread a week for much of this calendar year. I began taking a six-week, fiction writing class at the community college this week where I was exuberant as I walked the hallways towards room 571 and after the inaugural class. I learn, read and ruminate the animal totems that I encounter around me. This week alone, they have included magpie, praying mantis (a white, albino one), and deer.

Prompts can tremendously help me out. Amazing is enticing.

The Outline’s Role

Three days into NaNoWriMo yesterday, and I took a moment to see what the world wide web would provide when I asked about outlines for writing a novel. I encountered these three sites, which I have borrowed some elements of:

Today, I have learned of NaBloPoMo, shared with me by WordPress.

This is practice, by design.

some of the new normal

The New Normal means a few things, and in economic terms:

  1. those with mortgages, are likely underwater.
  2. exorbitant debt burdens for recent college students, both graduates and those who did not get a degree.
  3. social services cut, and a political paralysis and un-will to raise taxes.

In the nonprofit industry:

  1. money flows have changed.
  2. the support of individuals is tantamount.
  3. having 90% of revenue come from foundation grants is no-more. or a luxurious oddity.
  4. raising money is a 12-month, 365-day endeavor.
  5. programs need to run at cost, either covered by participant fees or with clear sense of where sponsorship and subsidization will come from. general support funding is not a long-term option.

 

Creative Destruction for the Education Industry

I read an intriguing article this morning on changes needed to 21st century education, by Harvard President Larry Summers. Despite my own misgivings, spawning a bias that speculated ‘what elitist notions would the controversial, tin-earred Summers’ put forward. To my delight, and my own reminder about not pre-judging someone today based on who they have been before, I found a lot in the article, which provides plenty of wise foreboding.

The article addresses changes in education. Changes to education. Changes that are coming. Inevitable change. Or change that depends on breaking through the status quo that serves plenty of existing, economic interests.

The business models of learning, education and schools (all related, distinct, and inter-dependent) are grappling with this lifeforce called the internet. The internet’s trends — five of which I can name: pervading our lives, mobility, decentralizing and distributing, multimedia, networks — are transforming how we learn, how we educate, and how our schools are designed. These trends diminish the old ways of doing things, where we needed the physical contact, of being in the same room at the same time. Being in the right place at the right time is less and less a concern with the growing ease of documentation — in words, videos, the triplet forms of summaries (email messages, tweets or google.docs) — of what happens.

What used to happen once, is capable of becoming infinite — if it can be found on the appropriate server or cloudware. But, as a friend said to me last night, “if it is unseen, then it may as well not exist.”

The six obser-dations (my compound word of observations + recommendations) in the article are:

  1. more accessing (or in his term’s ‘processing’ and ‘using’) and less about imparting knowledge.
  2. collaboration and ability to work with others.
  3. better presentation/design, provides for more time for discussion.
  4. active learning classrooms, rather than passive learning.
  5. “cosmopolitanism.”
  6. emphasis on the analysis of data.

#3 mentions “accelerated videos” (in a medical student example). I am not even sure what that is. Not having been to medical school, I have not watched one there. The question is, who else is already using ‘accelerated videos’?
#6 is  — a long-winded way of re-arranging the term “data analysis.” Yet, the inclusion of emphasis makes it a

Since I love/speak/think in math so frequently, my single favorite normative statement is one of the last line of #6: “Today, basic grounding in probability statistics and decision analysis make far more sense.”

###

A short while later, i glimpsed at Apple’s promotion for the iTunes U app:

an easy way to design and distribute complete courses featuring audio, video, books, and other content. And students and lifelong learners can experience your courses for free through a powerful new app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

As they state, “an entire course in one app.” It is not just the syllabus, but the reference DVD that i had to sit in the library with because i couldn’t leave the building with it. Not just the syllabus, but all of the handouts that would be given out in the course of a 13 week semester. And, video clips of any class that I might have missed due to illness or some outside obligation. All of those moments of my Spring 1997 semester would look radically different, which this app/store is intent on hastening. Or as Summers’ wrote:

A good rule of thumb for many things in life holds that things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then happen faster than you thought they could.

###

Lawrence Summers article opens with the stagnant learning environment, and the parameters of the academic semester. In the middle of the third paragraph, my mind was jumping ahead hypothesizing if the article was going to proceed with ways to dismantle the parameters of ‘four courses a term, three hours a week, one professor standing at the front.’ That isn’t where the article went. That mental jumping ahead is an instance of “the processes of human thought” that he mentions in item #4.

The following sentence states, “We are not rational calculating machines but collections of modules, each programmed to be adroit at a particular set of tasks.”

Adroit (adjective): dexterous, deft, or skillful. (h/t to wiktionary, wikipedia’s little sibling)

Those unique, distinguishing characteristics are what foster collaboration and the betterment of our days and lives by engaging in interdependence. Of inviting in more interaction rather than further individualism and isolation.

Why to Stop Saying Sorry

I have gotten into a new habit over the past year. It is a welcome habit, to discourage people from having to apologize to me. For months, I’ve been done with needing to hear “I’m sorry.” I am just choosing to sit down and blog-reflect on it this first weekend of the new year. (I could say that it is a 2012 resolution, but it’s a change in life that harkens back to summer 2011.)

Apologies are so pervasive that the two-worded combo is oftentimes an email’s first line, the first words of a phone call, and the s-word is what accompanies a hug or handshake when I see someone in person. I would much rather have you express the joy in your voice, or have you tell me what is genuinely on your heart or mind — than have you resort to an over-used refrain to apologize. Being hung up on how long it has been, what you haven’t done or what you should have done does not serve you or me. So let’s choose to be free from it in our vernacular. There are so many under-used and beautiful words, so please express something other than regret.

Apologies have became a de facto salutation in a culture, saturated with the twins of over-extension and assigning blame, which pervades our lives and our work. (Honestly, we are not just overdoing it in the professional realm, we are frantic in our weekends, sleeping patterns, eating and multimedia, too). Self-blame is the cultural triplet, but that writing — of punishing ourselves, or being nasty to ourselves in way’s that we would not dare do to others — is for some other day.

When I told one friend about it in the Fall, she remarked how i had become “the most radical person at this moment of [her] life.” It feels pretty simple. And it has altered how I listen to other people when they blithely state I’m sorry. I prefer to not have meaningless words exchanged if we do not mean what we say, and say what we mean.

I’ve changed my own habit in a few key steps:

  1. To catch myself before uttering the s-word.
  2. Sit with my own discomfort in the awkward silence that follows. It is doubly awkward in a period following that I must have done something to spur the impulse to apologize.
  3. In that in-between-quiet, notice what is actually happening for me.
  4. Then choose to speak or not speak based on what I feel.

These four steps have cleaned up a lot of my exchanges. I embrace silence much more. I no longer feel bad about quiet; oftentimes, it is a welcome relief especially in the presence of other humans. There is a different type of experience when we are in one another’s proximity without having to talk to, and talk at one another. Silence is not scary or awkward like I used to find it.

The times that I fuck up, I acknowledge it in more creative ways than that tired refrain of “I’m sorry.” Some of the different things that I do are that I sit in silence. Or I ask ‘How are you feeling by what I just said/did?’ or simply, “What’s going on for you right now?” Asking questions is a very different way to invite a response. I used to get defensive much more as I attempted to climb out of a hole, yet my talking only caused me to dig myself into a deeper hole.

****

Over the years, there were countless times that I have said, “Sorry.” and did not mean it one bit. There are instances when I have apologized because I felt that it was what I thought someone else wanted to hear. I had no clue what was going on inside of that another person, but I said it anyway. I was acting something out (of habit) because I had convinced myself that what I could say was what they wanted to hear. With no real sense that it was what they wanted, or needed, in that moment.

I realized that my apology-reflex over the years was serving me. There have been phases in my life where I was addicted to apologizing. It was the tail-end of a cycle of acting hastily, recklessly and absent-mindedly. Frequently, acting so absent-mindedly resulted in some action, behavior or words that I came to regret. Acting so hastily resulted in me saying more words per day, and being more hasty each day, too. With each day filled with more busyness, I increased the probability of having more things to regret. And regrets were followed by more apologies.

So many apologies that the short sentence of “I’m sorry.” became meaningless for me.

I am delighted that I have slowed that impulse to instinctively apologize. What was unseen and unexplored in my inner psychology has become much more visible than it used to be. I started with myself, and then begin to request it from others. I do not need your apology for what you did — even when it hurt, upset or even when you insult me. I would much rather have to sit quietly, and get to see what I choose to say (or not say) afterwards. In the meantime, if you feel compelled to speak tell me why you did/said/felt what you did then please do so.

Then we can go from there.

 

 

13 practices

What i have noticed, and what i identify within myself. If i do not note it, then does it exist?

1. 20 minutes of a.m. cleanup
2. 2 glasses of water when waking up
3. sitting
4. writing 3 pages of morning pages
5. sleep (as integration)
6. spending time outdoors, in the sun, prior to noon
7. drinking multiple cups of coffee, with soy milk or half-half but no sugar
8. gardening, weeding, watering, germinating
9. washing dishes rather than using the dishwasher
10. blogging
11. list building as a way of dreaming
12. reading on the internet, more words per day than ever in my life
13. dreaming