November 27, 2004

A Book to Recommend

Rory Blyth is afraid of running out of authors to read.
"When I find an author I love, I'll read everything by that author, but I'll intentionally drag on the last book. I'm especially bad about this when I know that the author is dead. It's the knowledge that this author will never produce another work that causes me to slow myself down, savoring the last few bits I'll be able to extract from the author's gray matter by means of words on a page.

I've been through this with a few authors so far: Oscar Wilde, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, John Wyndham, and many more.

I'm hitting a stage now where I feel like I'm about to run out of authors again."

As soon as I saw this plea in Rory's blog, I remembered my latest favorite book, and I've recommended it to him and now to you. I picked up David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas: A Novel last September at the airport in Singapore, and finished it weeks later on the way to New Zealand. Those trips gave the book an extra relevance for me, as four of its six loosely linked stories take place around the Pacific. The book straddles a thousand years, starting near New Zealand in colonial times and ending up in a post-apocalyptic Hawaii centuries from now. The cleverness of the writing and architecture of the book just floored me, but what sticks with me is the bigger story it tells about the powerful and the powerless and the dubious idea of progress. I highly recommend it for any upcoming quiet reading time the holidays might bring.

Mitchell has written two other books, and I'm going to read them both.

November 25, 2004

San Diego Thanksgiving Day Run

Our holiday had a different start this year, with the three of us plus Alex's friend Michael heading down to Balboa Park at the dawn's early light to participate in the San Diego Thanksgiving Day Run. We walked, not ran, but it was still good exercise for the likes of us. We stayed in the back of the pack with the dogs and strollers and sauntered to the finish one hour, three minutes later, though for some reason we don't show up on the final tally.

Since the course ended up by Petco Park rather than looping back, it was in fact a 10K event. Those pre-burned calories allowed us to go back for seconds when we dined with the Kellys in the afternoon. Next year, maybe we'll run a bit.

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November 21, 2004

GPS In & Out of the Classroom

The last of my three 1-unit classes this semester finished up yesterday. It was the smallest class I've ever taught, but fun to prepare and carry out. EDTEC Saturday Seminar: GPS In & Out of the Classroom won't be offered again for another year at least, but I learned a lot putting it together.

We covered geocaching, travel bugs, and the use of software like Keyhole, Terrbrowser and MacGPS Pro along with websites and services like Geocoder and the Degree Confluence Project. We left the campus and found three geocaches and created one of our own to be hidden on campus next week. Good exercise for body and mind.

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November 10, 2004

Visited States

I know I blogged about a countries visited site once before. Here's the US equivalent showing the five states I haven't been to yet.



If I were starting all over in life, I'd seriously think about majoring in geography. I love maps and the kinds of things that computers can do with spacial data. If I had the time and talent, I'd tweak this map script so that the colors of the states were dependent on how much time you'd spent in each state. Mine would show 24 years in CA (red), 18 in CT (orange), 7 in MA (green), 5 in NY (green-blue), and and just a few days to a month or so in all the others (blue to purple). My 2 years in West Africa would go elsewhere. It would be interesting to take that information and calculate some kind of measure of nomadicness based on the dispersion weighted by the time spent. Would that number correlate with other things? I'll bet people who have lived more widely vote more liberally (or are on the run from the Law.)

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November 09, 2004

Catching Up

OK... Unless Shrub does something extremely egregious while spending his political capital, I'm probably not going to blog about politics much more for awhile. We lost it fair and square, though there's a rising buzz about irregularities in the scanned ballot tabulators. Enough. Back to life as we know it.

To fill in some of the missing data from my recently blogless month, here are some snapshots from my New Zealand jaunt, and here are pictures taken around my keynote at the IEARN-Pangea conference in Call˙s, Spain. And some more taken in Barcelona on the weekend that followed. It was my first trip to Espa˝a and I look forward to a return visit next June. Barcelona is beautiful, and the people I met were off-the-scale delightful and smart.

But the coolest picture I've taken lately is this one. What is it? Something I'd never seen until now: the back of Alex's head as he drives and I stretch out in the back seat. A few days after my return from New Zealand we decided to let him drive out to the desert to get some practice at freeway and small town driving. We ended up at the Salton Sea which, it turns out, is a lot larger than it looks on the map. Alex did very well, and his Mom was a patient coach. Pretty soon he'll be driving all the time and I'll be begging for the car keys. Another life milestone. More Salton Sea pictures here.

November 05, 2004

Unteachable Ignorance?

Here's the last part of Jane Smiley's contribution to a series of election postmortems in Slate. You should read the whole thing.

"The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful preyŚworkers and consumers. The architects of this strategy knew perfectly well that they were exploiting, among other unsavory qualities, a long American habit of virulent racism, but they did it anyway, and we see the outcome nowŚCheney is the capitalist arm and Bush is the religious arm. They know no boundaries or rules. They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant. Lots of Americans like and admire them because lots of Americans, even those who don't share those same qualities, don't know which end is up. Can the Democrats appeal to such voters? Do they want to? The Republicans have sold their souls for power. Must everyone?"

Seems a little over the top to me, but there's truth to it. As someone who teaches for a living, I don't much like the concept of "unteachable". Is it really that hopeless?

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November 02, 2004

Crap!

It's hard to believe. Who are the people who voted for this lying, C-student, sociopath? Idiots.

Our education systems have graduated far too many people without crap detectors.

How many more wars? How big will the deficit get? For how many decades will the Supreme Court be packed with ideologues? How much more quickly will global warming sink our coasts?

Am I a sore loser? Yup.

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November 01, 2004

A Blogless Month

What can I say. Ten days in New Zealand. Three days in and around Barcelona. Jet lag in two directions. A new course launched. Somehow the days passed without blogging. I've got pictures and words stored up to post later, but it's time to break the fast and get back online.

Hello again, world. Are you looking forward to tomorrow with the same mix of hope and dread?