Friday, September 30, 2011

The Beatles and Children's Literacy

I know it's 2 in the morning. I know I have to go to work tomorrow. But I was so blown away by this article that I had to mention it.

When I say blown away, I don't mean that the ideas in it are so revolutionary. In fact, they're so basic, so down to earth, and so obvious that it's just fantastic to me that people don't understand it.

Read it here.

No really, read it. It's a little long, but definitely not boring.

There were a few specific points that I particularly liked.

In case you're far too lazy and boring to click on my link, here's a paragraph from it that contains the gist of the subject.

Although I’m a passionate advocate of whole language I believe it’s perfectly possible for whole language to fail in the hands of a rude, thoroughly nasty teacher who hates children. Similarly, although I feel that the teaching of phonics outside meaningful texts is the least efficient way to teach reading, I believe absolutely that a joyful, enthusiastic, experienced teacher who uses phonics and only phonics, will nevertheless have a large measure of success in teaching her students to read. That’s the influence of the affective.

People have done so much research on methods, and had so many arguments about which way is better, that they've forgotten a kind of important aspect of learning to read: Passion.

Another part I liked:

The passion I am asking for from teachers is a passion beyond the pay cheque. It’s a passion for children’s books, as well as for their own reading, for if teachers don’t love to read why on earth should children?

Why should I learn to do math if the person who is teaching me hates to do math? What possible reason could I have to learn to play the trumpet if music is so hateful to the person I am learning from?

And this:

Asked to describe the year in one word Marian said: ‘Blah.’

‘Blah?’ I said. ‘Describe blah.’

‘Blah means all on one level. It means we had a steady, predictable routine. There were no dramas. There were no highs, no lows. We did lots of worksheets about nouns and adjectives and verbs and stuff and I guess we learnt it but we didn’t use it. We wrote very rarely—less than ten stories the whole year and when we did the teacher never got excited. She’d write: “This is a good story, Marian,” and you’d wonder what kind of good it was but she never said so you didn’t get excited about the next story. We wrote a lot of reports but they went nowhere, just sort of into the desk and you thought why make the effort? When we had to write she sat there eating and reading the paper. I guess she wasn’t a bad teacher it’s just the whole year was sort of grey and forgettable, like mud not fireworks.’

Mud, not fireworks. I've yet to hear a metaphor that describes the difference between a bad school year and a good one better than this does.

She associated books with cuddles on the rocking chair on her mother’s lap, sweetly learning to read first words, then pages, then whole stories in the happy relaxed knowledge that she was the centre of her mother’s focus and pride. Her emerging literacy was greeted with so much encouragement and praise, with so many and hugs and kisses, that she learnt to read fast, without a moment of strain or tension, doing her best to please her mother because it was so obvious that her mother adored her and was excited by her progress.

Duh. And yet, no one seems to get it. Thinking that worksheets and drills and stress are the best ways to accomplish things. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy anything that was stressful to learn about. Part of the reason I still can't play the piano, probably. It was work, not fun.

And my favorite line of all:

Their inherent passions and the love that flows through them freshen up an often dry and meaningless education system, enabling it to become more affectively orientated and therefore also ultimately more effective, by capturing hearts so minds will follow; they make a school year like fireworks, not mud;

By capturing hearts, so minds will follow. I can't say it any better than that.

The Beatles were almost right. (Almost) All you need is Love.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Things That People Should Remember Before Going to the Library:

1) Yes, we do put the books in order. (I know this may be shocking to some of you.)

2) The order we use is the alphabet.

3) Spanish books are not exempt.

3 1/2) The Spanish fiction is not exempt.

3 3/4) The Spanish non-fiction is not exempt.

4) Elevator buttons that say "staff" on them are for the staff.

5) Non-fiction items will have a Dewey Decimal number before the author label.

6) The order we use for Dewey Decimals is the number system.

7) 1 comes before 2, 2 comes before 3, 3 comes before 4....

8) The point of Dewey Decimals is to put all the books about the same thing into the same place.

9) The shelves that are labelled "Return shelf" are for returning books.

10) The floor is not a return shelf.

11) An arbitrary spot next to a random book is not a return shelf.

12) The toddler book bins are not return shelves.

13) A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

14) The spine of a book faces out.

15) The point of a library card is to bring it with you when you check books out.

16) If you really insist on searching every shelf in the building until you find the book you want, that's your prerogative. But you can just look up the author. They are in order, after all.

17) Adult Romance and Junior Comics will not be in the same place.

18) A book by Mercer Mayer will be in the M's.

19) A book by Brandon Sanderson will be in the S's.

20) A book by Jane Austen will be... in the A's.

21) If you damage a book, you have to pay for it.

22) If you drop your book in the tub while you read, that counts as damage.

23) If you run over it with the car on a rainy day, that counts as damage.

24) If your child draws pictures, tears out pages, or pees on it, that counts as damage.

28) When a book says "checked out" it means that it is not inside the library building. Even if you ask 42 times.

25) Trading a new dvd for the one you lost doesn't trick anyone.

26) DVD trays are not return shelves.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In followup - Northanger Abbey

I actually did finish Northanger Abbey today.


-Much better than Pride and Prejudice. Maybe not in all ways. Its construction is obviously rougher. But the story is more fun.

-Mr. Tilney is vastly more amusing than Mr. Darcy. Especially how he's always making fun of her and his sister as a sign of affection. And that story he told her to freak her out. That was excellent.

-I think that the reasons I appreciate it are the same ones that make it one of the least popular of Jane Austen's books. Because it's kind of goofy and fun, but still about real things and real drama. As opposed to many of the others, which are so stereotypically romantic. They're straight up chick-flick drama from beginning to end. (Although, I suppose she did sort of help to create the stereotype...) Some people like that, but I can only handle so much.

-I did roll my eyes when she spent a chapter in lecturing us about how novelists work just as hard as any other kind of writer, and ought to be given much more respect. Sure, it might be true, but no one likes to be preached to in the middle of a story.

-I haven't ever seen the movies of it. (Hence my not knowing a single thing about the plot before hand.) I'm now wondering if they are any good at all, or if they tried to make them just as stereotypical (IE serious and romantic) as the others.

-The heroine is a tomboy with an overactive imagination, who liked to play cricket as a child instead of learning to play the piano. Who reads gothic horror novels. Who takes 3/4 of the story to start to pick up on common social nuances. I can't even describe to you how much I relate to this.

-Back to the overactive imagination... I have done that so many times. Not searched for ancient letters in a strange wardrobe, specifically. But sat there in the dark unable to sleep because my brain keeps making up more and more freaky stuff. But in her case, it was funny. Not rolling eyes funny, but amusing and relatable funny.

-Teenagers haven't changed a bit in 200 years.

-On principle, I refuse to marry a guy who is solemn and proper. Which rules out Mr. Darcy, Colonel Brandon, and, well, basically all of the other Jane Austen main guy crushes. Leaving Tilney as the sole main guy with any sense of humor at all.

- Hugh Dancy was right. In the movie of The Jane Austen Book Club, his character (which incidentally is also a dorky, but sweet and funny guy) says that the Mysteries of Udolpho sounded so cool and interesting that he read it too. I agree. It sounds really cool, (it was probably the conjecturing about a skeleton behind a mysterious black veil that did it for me) and I do plan to read it at some point. Sadly, the Provo Library doesn't carry it.

Well, those are my initial thoughts. That's all for now, folks. Especially considering that I have to get up in 5 hours. (Blech.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pride and Prejudice

Somewhere between 6 months and a year ago (I don't remember specifically) I finally watched the 6 hour Pride and Prejudice. You know, the A & E one with Collin Firth that's supposed to be this majorly big deal.

I think I mentioned it in some posts, but I was just talking about it with a friend and decided to expound.

The first thing you have to know is that, out of all the Jane Austen stories that I have read/listened to/watched/heard of, Pride and Prejudice is probably my least favorite.


There are two likely reasons. A) Because it's everyone else's favorite, and therefore severely overdone. B) Because I had to read it for 11th grade AP english. Summer reading, no less.

As for A, it's partly just my nature. The ones that everyone likes the most automatically get points against them. Weird, maybe, but that's how it's always been for me. Sense and Sensibility is also one of my least favorites.

As for B, well, that's not so unusual. A lot of people have trouble enjoying things that they are forced to read, even if it's something they'd like otherwise.

The second thing you have to know about Pride and Prejudice is that, even though I read it and watched a movie (the Laurence Olivier version I think), and even saw the Wishbone episode of it, I didn't understand it. I had no idea what the story was even about until I watched the Keira Knightly one that came out in 2005. Therefore, that one out of all has a special place for me.

Now that I know the story I've watched several other versions, and even read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.


As I said, I was discussing the 6 hour movie that was supposed to be this big deal. I really only watched it just to see what the hype was about.


There are several good things about it, I admit. For one, it is the version in which I am least annoyed by Darcy. Colin Firth does a really good job of playing the softer side of him in such a way that it's easier to forget the previously annoying stuff he did. Most of the other Darcys don't really succeed in that regard. At least not for me.

(I've been told that this is because I am the same as him. Good opinion, once lost, is lost forever, and all that jazz.)

But it was kind of disappointing, altogether. For two main reasons.

1) It was so long... oi. LOTR I can handle. Because there's lots of stuff happening. But 6 hours of a super mellow romance? No. Way. I very seriously doubt that I will ever sit through the whole thing all at once, ever again. I mean, there were so many scenes that were in there for realism or whatever, like that part when he's sitting in the bathtub. But were those really necessary? All they did, for me, was make it longer.

2) Lady. Catherine. As I said before, the first one I watched where I really got what was happening was the Keira Knightly one. In which Lady Catherine is played by Judy Dench. There is no one in the entire world who can play the regal, severe, intimidating older lady like Judy Dench does.

And so, when I saw the 6 hour one, Lady Catherine was just so.... disappointing. She was so weak and not at all intimidating. Therefore, the conflict was weak. I wasn't ever worried about what would happen because Lady Catherine was wussy.


No Contest.

So, as I said, all in all the 6 hour one was a bit of a disappointment, despite the couple of good things about it.

For anyone who cares, I like Emma and Persuasion the most so far. (But I am about to tackle Northanger Abbey, which I hear is darker and a little creepy, so I am quite interested.) I think that this is probably because the guys are just cool. Not secretly cool, so you have to dig away to find it, as in Mr. Darcy. And not cool but with certain frailties that are annoying and must be overlooked. As in Mr. Darcy. But just plain cool, end of story. You don't have to get over any weird issues before you start to like them.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

On Football and Aliens

I suppose that, in my quest to make people stop annoying me about stupid football games, I've given the impression that I hate sports.

I just wanted to mention that this is not the case. I shall explain.

A) I like playing sports. I always have. You may not be able to tell it now, by looking at my hermit-ish behavior, but when I was a kid, I spent most of my time playing outside. I just don't watch them. Or keep up with who's doing what in them.

B) When I am invested in the outcome of a game, I can even get excited about football, which is unquestionably my least favorite sport of all time. What do I mean by invested? I mean that I actually care about the people playing.

For example, in movies like Blindside, where it's a really great story, and winning at football is important to the characters, who are in turn important to us because of superior storytelling.

Or the Glee episode where they did the Thriller/Heads Will Roll mashup. (Judge me now, but I ain't ashamed of Glee.) They were at the championship game. And yeah, losing it wouldn't have been the end of the world. But we've spent many, many episodes getting attached to the characters, and winning the game, for them, was a really big deal. So when they were making the dramatic goal scoring run, I, by default, was arm pumping and cheering more than I have ever done for any real sporting event.

It didn't hurt that they were playing while dressed as zombies.

C) Different people get excited about different sorts of things. Rabid crowds of screaming people watching highly padded guys smash into each other... well that doesn't really do it for me, but to each their own.

I get just as excited about a long awaited movie premiere, or a new book coming out. So who am I to judge?

Conclusion: I understand about getting excited about sports, and I don't hate them.

Query: So why do I complain about every football game and make endless caustic remarks about it on facebook?

Answer: I don't hate sports in the general, all encompassing way that people think. But I do hate some specific things about the watching of sports.

A) Sports turn people from rational, high-functioning human beings into psycho-crazy heartless alien monsters. Players and fans.

If you need any further proof, I give you the famous hair pull:

Who does that?

Anyway, on to B.

B) When I was still a young college freshman, I was as yet un-initiated to the idea of schools having rivalries. How? I don't entirely know. Because I have since come to realize that VA tech vs. UVA is one such holy war.

Maybe it was because my high school didn't really have a rival. We had a bunch of schools we competed against, but the only one we really hated was JF, and it wasn't because they were our official rivals. It's because they were (mostly) rich and snobby, and everyone hates that. Except for the rich and snobby themselves.

Anyway, I didn't know this. And I had never even heard of the U of U as a school until I landed in the airport in 2003 to begin my college education.

So, my high school's colors were red and white. (The red devils. Creative, I know.) And I happened to have a letter jacket that was, you guessed it, red. I think you can see where this is going. So there I am, innocent, and extremely scared and shy, freshman chillin in the morris center cafeteria all by myself, wondering why the heck I am away from home and when I will ever make friends.

And some random stranger (also a freshman) walks right up to me and says with some disdain, "I really wouldn't wear that jacket if I were you."

First of all, there were two giant R's on it. Tell me where you see the R's in "Utah" or "Utes".

Second of all, it's one of the pet peeves that I share with most of humanity... I hate it when people tell me what to do in condescending ways. It brings out my rebel streak, and instead of being cowed into social submission, I fight back even harder than before.

Third of all, I was freaked out enough being away from home for the first time and not knowing anyone. That SO did not help.

If you want to endear someone like me to the idea of school loyalty in college sports, that is not the way to do it. It had rather the opposite effect. I made a conscious effort to wear my red jacket much more often than I otherwise would have.

I still haven't fully come to terms with the idea of why anyone should care about a school rivalry.

C) People treat me very disrespectfully if I happen to mention that I don't like football very much. Rude. And, again, creates a somewhat opposite reaction.

D) Traffic. Can I just mention how much of a pain in the butt it is to try to get anywhere in a college town during a big game? For someone like me who is usually clueless about when these things happen, this is especially inconvenient because I didn't have the chance to plan accordingly, I get stuck somewhere, run late for whatever I was doing, and end up wasting a lot of time dodging groups of cheering pedestrians who for some reason feel the need to dance or strut in the middle of the road. (Yes that has really happened.)

E) Last but not least, I have to admit that I'm a little bitter in one respect. Here's why.

People dress up like this for games:

Painting their entire bodies, wearing crazy wigs, acting psychotic, and generally looking downright retarded. (See below for a dude in a hula skirt and coconut bra).

So this is okay:

But this is not?

When I dress up for a movie premiere or book release, am SEVERELY judged. It's okay for deuschbag man-boys to run around in coconut bras in public, because it's a sporting event, but I can't wear a plain green cloak without being a complete freak, weirdo, or loser.

How is this fair?

Oh, and there's also a green kid and a guy who's spray painted gold and wearing a cape. Cape... cloak... not really different.

As I mentioned before, it's only a matter of getting excited about different sorts of things. Why should I be shunned and considered socially backward for acting more normal than someone else?

I happen to feel the same way about people painting themselves for a game as they do about me dressing up like Frodo. It's the same exact inability to understand why that's even interesting. So I get it that they think I'm weird. But don't be hatin. It's basically saying that my interests and hobbies are only valid if everyone else has the exact same ones.

And, to be honest, that's probably one of the biggest reasons why I have started a vendetta against college football.

Round Green Fruit with Spikes

I see these fruit things all the time while I walk home. They've always looked out of place. Like they belong in the rainforest, not in a desert.

They are weird looking too. Bright green with spikes. I was trying to decide whether they were transplanted Amazonian fruits that somehow adapted to desert life, or alien pods, planted on trees in order to await the right moment to leap down and attack.

Today, I learned what they are: Horse Chestnuts. Or more accurately, horse chestnut conkers. This is what wikipedia calls the nut. Conkers.

Yeah, weird. Behind that oh so exotic looking exterior is something very plain and common. Go figure.

I still think they're alien pods.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I had something to say.

The day started off normal. Everyone's did. Well, except for a few "pilots"...

The rumors started around lunchtime. Which, in high school, was more like 10:45 or 11. They were vague, and I didn't hear any directly. They just floated. Whispers from invisible mouths.

There was something about a bomb threat, but this was Rustburg, Virginia. It's not like that hadn't happened before. And no one ever followed through.

Just at the end of lunch, someone started panicking. Something about blowing up Lynchburg.

Why the heck would someone nuke Lynchburg, of all the places in the world?

After lunch I had history class. I would have been in 11th grade then, so it was Ms. Lipscomb. She took us into Mr. Singleton's room, but I still haven't figured out why. The tv was so snowy that, even if I had known what was happening, I couldn't have figured out what the reports were saying.

A lot of the kids didn't care. But the teachers didn't notice. They both sat, staring at the snowy screen, looking pretty grave about something.

The rest of the day was blurry. I think we stayed in history, but I don't really remember. I just know that no one in the school actually told us what we were supposed to be concerned about.

I only found out the details over the next few days, and not from school (ironically). By that point I was more annoyed about the hype than concerned with the tragedy. Who cares about a stupid tower in New York?

But I should have cared.

Only twice in the history of our country have we been attacked so blatantly, on our own soil. the first was Pearl Harbor. But at least then we had a face to go with it. Japan more than paid its dues.

Hundreds of people died for absolutely no reason. National security was breached in a major way. Money was siphoned. Equipment was destroyed. People were thrown into complete panic.

I should have cared. But I didn't.

Learning about all the people that died was like talking about Antietam in history class. The bloodiest day in the history of our country. 23,000 dead in one single-day battle. But it happened a week short of 139 years before 9-11. And I didn't know any of them. It was just a moment in history.

I didn't know anyone in New York. Or Pennsylvania. None of my family or friends were flying anywhere that day. The biggest effect it had on me was that school was practically empty for several days. Which was kind of fun.

I was 16. Old enough to take things more seriously. But I was too sheltered. It was too distant. Unlike so many other people in the country, I wasn't afraid to go to school, or to sleep at night. And I didn't really understand why I should be.

9-11 didn't really affect me at all. Not then, at least.

But ten years have passed since then. I've learned a few things over the years. That people can resolve their differences when something more important is at stake. About what patriotism means. That our country was strong, and wouldn't take such things lying down. About how quickly people forget...

People are back to their same old problems. Their same old arguments. Their same old complaints about the failings of America.

I don't think it will be too long before 9-11 day becomes just like Pearl Harbor day. Without cheating, how many of you even know what day that is?

Maybe I should have cared more. Been more concerned. Thought about the broader perspective. But I didn't. And I was okay.

Think about it. One of the biggest things that has ever happened to the American people, and how many of them didn't get hurt? How many didn't lose someone, didn't get stranded somewhere, didn't get too scared to sleep?

Even when we're in the middle of a direct attack on the people in New York City, we're still lucky. We're lucky that we have the freedom and safety to be complacent. We're lucky that we could just sit around not caring about 9-11, and nothing happened to us.

We didn't have to flee for our lives, or board our windows. We didn't have to suffer through hundreds of attacks.

We should care. I definitely should have. But I'm incredibly grateful to be living in a country where I'm safe enough and free enough to escape such a momentous event so completely unscathed.

Even if you take 9-11 for granted, don't do the same for our country.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Everybody Dance Now

Yes, I was just listening to that song. And totally looking absurd whilst jamming to it.

Afterward I watched some videos of Michael Jackson dancing, all the while wondering if he even had bones.

And I was just thinking about stuff. You know, dancing. And wishing I could do it. And I decided to make a goal for myself. It probably doesn't seem like much of a goal. Feel free to judge me.

My goal: To at least once in my life be able to dance in front of people.

We're not talking well. And we're not talking a lot of people. 5 or 6 would do. The point is just to be able to.

I can't really explain it. But I've tried a lot of times. I go to ward/stake dances specifically intending to actually dance at them. Every time I move to a new place, I try to make a new start. These people don't know me. I have a chance to be my real, absolutely crackpot self with them.

But I can't.

Not I'm scared to. I actually can't. My feet and my arms won't let me. And I don't get why. It's not like anyone else who dances at these things actually looks good. But I can't do it.

And then I look even dumber, because I'm that weird, obnoxious one that actually cares.

I hate it. But it's not something I've figured out how to fix.

So yeah. That's my goal.

In the mean time, enjoy the first ever moonwalk. (It's toward the end.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

James Bond vs. Scooby Doo

It's been months (since June) since I've had real internet, and two weeks since I've had internet at all. So I decided to do a short blog post in commemoration of finally having real internet that I'm actually supposed to use.

I was going to do one of my Picture of the Day posts, but I couldn't think of anything in particular, so I hit random article on Wikipedia for a topic. It was: The name of some Nissan car I don't care about. But it did give me an idea for a picture post.

So this one time I wrote a wicked awesome car chase scene. Not a typical action movie one with guns and 100 mph races down the highway. In this scene we had one of these:

In hot pursuit of one of these:

I know, right? How does that work? Well, it wasn't a long scene, but it involved some spectacular maneuvering followed by a full-throttle jump off of an overpass to the road beneath, where the van subsequently drove onto this:

and the Aston Martin passed them in the dark, and gave chase to nothing.

Well, I thought it was pretty awesome anyway.