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texting speak
Oct 28th, 2009 by Dr Karma

In the September 09 edition of Wired, Clive Thompson has a short article in which he basically cites and agrees with Andrea Lunsford (a writing teacher at Stanford) that our students are more literate in the age of facebook and texting–they actually write (even if it’s just tweets) when they aren’t required to by a teacher.

The argument further says that the students understand the idea of audience more because of the “life writing” they do.

I find the argument intriguing, but I have one quick bone to pick. “As for those texting shortforms and smileys defiling serious academic writing? Another myth. When Lunsford examined the work of first-year students, she didn’t find a single example of texting speak in an academic paper.”

Well, I’ve seen it. I’ve actually returned a paper to a student and asked him to spot the error in line four. Even when looking for it, he couldn’t see the “you” is not spelled “u” error because he was so used to texting. While texting speak in academic writing isn’t rampant, it happens.

I’m upset that we would declare something a myth because one teacher didn’t find an example of it from the papers she collected at Stanford. This is a hasty generalization–the sample size is too small and is perhaps not representative of the college population.

Just saying.

The article is here: http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/17-09/st_thompson

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Review of The Year of the Flood
Oct 25th, 2009 by Dr Karma

I actually finished this book a few weeks ago, but life has been even more busy than normal lately.

I didn’t want to let too much time go past, however, without mentioning it. (Bookgroup members: we will read this when Courtney returns, fear not).

The Year of the Flood does what no previous Atwood book has done before–it returns to pick up on another story. Oryx and Crake is a brillant piece of speculative fiction in which society’s trends (economic, entertainment, scientific, etc) come to a logical and frightening head. I’ve taught Oryx and Crake before, and my students are always surprised by how relevant the text is–once they start researching, they realize that many of the horrors Atwood seems to have invented are not fictional inventions at all.

Oryx and Crake ends at a crossroads after a cataclysmic event.

The Year of the Flood tells much the same story, but from other points of view. This story intersects with the Oryx and Crake tale in myriad ways, but only ends a short while after Oryx and Crake does (I’m happy to report that my pessimism about the end of Oryx and Crake was totally right!).

While I really enjoyed The Year of the Flood, it didn’t add much to the actual original story for me, with one exception–Atwood allows the new work to explore religion, cults, and community. I’m interested in these, but the world of science and the rise of corporations over governments explored in the earlier book were more intriguing.

The protagonist of the earlier book and one of the protagonists of this book were born about the year 2000, according to an Atwood interview. When you look at the “years” in the story, keep that in mind. Atwood is a great predictor of human behavior and social trends, and, as I’ve already noted, many of the scientific inventions have already come to pass. Luckily for us, however, we seem to be keeping our humanity for a little longer, at least in the developed world that we see from our privileged positions. This cautionary tale reminds us how much we stand to lose if we’re not careful.

Don’t misunderstand–I loved this book–I just love Oryx and Crake a little bit more.

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10 Thing Challenge Update
Oct 11th, 2009 by Dr Karma

Well, I have to be honest and report that very few things have actually left the house. I don’t want to throw away all of the useful things that I’m trying to detach myself from.

I’ve managed to consign a few things to the trash bin–chipped coffee mugs, underwear with holes. The rest of my things are in piles–books to be sold somewhere, jewelry that needs to go somewhere, clothes that can be donated.

I’m trying to remember the wise things I tell my students–that the best things in life make us happy and are useful. While it’s useful and happy to have a lot of books, for instance, each book does not necessarily share that status. I also keep asking myself–do I want to pack this and then unpack this later?

In other news, the job search is on. Pickings are slim and I’m anxious to the point of fleeting attacks. Whatever happens, this is going to be a year of great transition. I have a lot of absolutely wonderful things to look forward to.

All the more reason not to look back on a pile of things weighing me down. I would hate to turn to salt.

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New Column on Paul Rudd
Oct 7th, 2009 by Dr Karma

you can read it here: http://www.matchflick.com/column/2037

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The 10-thing Challenge
Oct 5th, 2009 by Dr Karma

Well, the book is submitted to the publisher, and it’s time to think about other things. I’m going to be moving sometime next summer (whether in town or out of town, it will be somewhere), so I need to think about all this crap I have.

When I teach writing, I advise my students to cut ten words per page. Tighter writing is stronger and I do this exercise myself. It can be painful, especially to more inexperienced writers, but it’s necessary.

Starting now, I am getting rid of ten things per week. They may be small, they may be big. Some things will be tricky–does one piece of paper out of a file count–should it be part of a long stapled document–does it have to be the whole file?

Food doesn’t count, nor do things I have that belong to other people (unless perhaps I’ve had them so long that the original owner never thought they’d get them back).

If I bring in new things (as I did yesterday–mostly socks and underwear), I have to cancel that out by getting rid of an equal number of things that week.

By the end of the quarter, I will be at least 100 things lighter, though it probably won’t show, as those things will likely simply appear from the backs of closets.

For the first week, ending yesterday, I got rid of books (actually, I haven’t actually had them leave yet, I’m not sure how I want to do that).

Cutting books is an extreme way to cut words out of my life, but I have to think about boxes and lifting and simplicity.

Anyone want to take the challenge with me?

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